We have been really enjoying the farm babies this last week (see previous post). And we have been very busy with a lot of things going on that are not related to the homestead. But we did manage to get a few homestead-related things done.
Managing Winter Stalls
Last weekend we did our winter stall cleaning routine in both of the bigger stalls and the lambing/kidding stalls.
We use a deep bedding-type method in our barn stalls during the winter. Since we live in the mountains with a lot of predators constantly interested in our livestock, all the animals are closed inside our big barn every night year-round. This is not an option, it is a requirement if we don’t want to lose them to mountain lions, bears, bobcats, etc. In the winter, they also spend a lot more time in the barn because in bad weather we feed them indoors, and on really bad days we keep them in the barn with the barn closed up completely. This means that in the winter the bedding in the stalls gets a lot more use and needs more care to keep the ammonia away.
Preparation for winter deep bedding starts in the late fall. On a warm dry day in November we scrape out the stalls completely to the floor and let them dry out for a day. In our very dry climate just a day is enough time to get a lot of drying out. Then we bed them with about 12 inches of pine shavings. Over time a bunch of hay gets mixed in as well because we feed them in the barn at their evening meal. It all gets packed down pretty well and the waste is mixed in. About monthly, more often if necessary, we dig around and remove all the very wet stuff (probably about 20% of the entire amount in the stall). We throw it all out on the compost pile in the barnyard to eventually become our garden soil. Then we stir around the rest of the now-composting bedding that is a range from moist to semi-moist to dry. Then we add another layer of shavings over the top – this layer is usually about 2 inches or so over the whole stall. Then we let it all go for a month or so until it needs another work over. If at any point we start to smell ammonia we immediately clean out all the wet parts thoroughly, but that doesn’t usually happen at all as long as we are working it over often enough based on how many animals are using how much space.
The lambing/kidding stalls are different since they are so small. When one of our sheep or goats is 2 weeks or so from delivery we usually close her into one of the lambing/kidding stalls each night. Usually about half the used bedding in the lambing/kidding stalls needs to be removed every two weeks or so if they are being lived in every night. That much of it is quite wet. We leave the wet areas uncovered all day to dry, then push the dry-but-used shavings over the wet area and add another layer of fresh new shavings. When one of our animals is giving birth we throw down a thick layer of straw over the shavings, which we promptly remove any wet/messy parts of afterwards.
Jeans to Skirts
We made some skirts for Little Miss this week out of some old jeans that used to be Sunshine’s. They were her absolute favorite jeans because the waist band was so comfortable So she wore them until they had holes in the knees, then I patched them and she wore them until the patches had holes. Then she outgrew them. Theoretically one would throw out jeans with holes in the patches, but Little Miss tried them on and loved the comfy waistband too, so we cut off the legs and made them into skirts for her.
I realize the waistband doesn’t match the skirt – but she wears all her shirts un-tucked, so it will always be covered by a shirt and wont matter.
These skirts are super-simple and fast to make. I easily did two in a couple of hours. I just have her put on the pants and I measure up from the ground and mark with a sewing pen that same height all the way around so I can cut it and have it even length. Then I make a short vertical cut up the crotch seam so I can overlap it and make it flat – otherwise the small amount of crotch seam left sill stick out. Then I cut a rectangle of fabric, gather it, and attach it. Sometimes she likes more gathers – thus a longer rectangle of fabric, and sometimes she wants less gathering – so I cut a shorter rectangle.