It has been a peaceful week on the homestead. No major events, good nor bad. Most often we blog and discuss the bigger happenings around the homestead, but the more important parts are the everyday tasks that could be considered mundane. But if one doesn’t enjoy these tasks, the ones that are done day after day, week after week, and the ones that are done less often but are still nothing special (like cleaning out a stall or a coop, or turning the compost heap), then one won’t enjoy homesteading at all. We love the everyday, repetitive tasks of the farm life. It gives a stable foundation to our life that we can count on. There are enough fun and exciting and different things peppered throughout our life to make it interesting, the everyday things make it steady.
So this week we are going to look around at some of the more “everyday” things that happen around Willow Creek Farm. So come on out to the barn with me, it’s time for morning chores.
First we are going to throw some hay to the sheep. They eat outdoors in the mornings and inside in the evenings. Uh-oh, there is some mold in this bale of hay…I keep digging down and find that half the bale is moldy and the other half is fine. Need to set aside the moldy part and only feed the good stuff. We will see if we find more mold as we work through this load and if there is a lot we will need to talk to the hay guy about a partial refund or trade out for the bad stuff. Half a bale in a whole load isn’t a big deal, but if there is a lot of mold in this load that is not ok. We used a new hay guy since we had to buy this mid-winter. I throw the good stuff to them in the outdoor rack. I do love these hay racks Mtn Man built. They work very well.As I am feeding them I notice that Fiona’s jacket is getting too small. As the wool grows on the sheep the jackets need to be changed out to bigger and bigger sizes. If they are left in too small of a jacket not only will it hurt the sheep and cause rub wounds to them, it will also felt the wool and ruin it. The point of jacketing is to increase the quality of the wool, so it would be pointless to ruin it. So Mtn Man comes out and catches her and changes out her jacket to a larger size.
Time to take care of the chickens. I go to collect the eggs and find 3 ladies settled in the nests working on their morning egg laying. There are a few eggs under them for me to collect. Thankfully none of these girls are the mean one. One of the red cochins is very mean and protective of the eggs under her when she is laying. She pecks and pecks at us when we try to take them. But these girls are nice and give up the eggs with no more than a few frustrated noises.
After we let the chickens out and make sure they have food we notice that the water trough needs refilling. This is a chore that needs to be done every 5-6 days. In the winter it is a bigger hassle because of freezing hoses. We run out the hose from the spigot, which is about 90 feet or so from the trough and fill it up with fresh water. Then we have to get the hose completely drained and blow it out before we hang it back up or it will be frozen. On very cold days we also have to thaw the hose bib before it will work. We (carefully) use a propane torch to thaw it out so we can get the water running. We need to replace it with a frost-free spigot one of the these days.
Now the trough is full and the chickens come for the fresh water. That downspout in the photo is protecting the water heater cord from Anya’s teeth. She has chewed up two different de-icer cords now, but this method seems to be working to keep her away from it.
Last night we poured a bag of shavings into the sheep stall to add to the deep-bed method we use in there. They started stirring it in last night with their moving around.
Now we head down to the lower coop where the silkies live. This is our smaller coop that is in the back yard. It is time for it to be cleaned out, which is needed about 4 times a year, and man-oh-man those silkies are messy with the food.
They like to dig in the feeder, which throws the food all over the floor and then it gets mixed in with the shavings. Darn birds. We need to fix that feeder so it is harder for them to dig in it. We will do that this afternoon. For now I get them a nice clean layer of shavings in the coop and the nest boxes. I love the feeling of cleaning out a messy coop or stall and then re-bedding it with fresh shavings. I wish this coop was big enough that they didn’t poo on the wall when they roost, but such is the situation with this small space. But it feels great to know the animals have a nice clean and dry place to live with new bedding.
We dump the mess from the coop onto the upper compost heap in the barnyard. The upper heap is the least composted, it is where we add stuff. The chickens up there will dig through and eat the food that is in it and the rest will get mixed into the compost and break down for our garden.
We need to get it raked back into a pile again, like this.
But since it is dug down so thoroughly, this is a good opportunity to dig all the way to the bottom and turn it over, moving it down the hill a bit. Then we will rake it all back onto the pile. This will ensure the the whole thing gets mixed and breaks down well. We rake the piles back up 1-2 times a month as the chickens dig through them and turn the pile for us. We only dig down all the way to the bottom a couple times a year.
Now that the morning chores are done we will head inside. Later today, when the sun is out more and it warms up a bit, we will figure out what to do about that chicken feeder in the lower coop and deal with the compost heap.
It’s later in the day now, the sun has warmed it up to about 45F and it is partly cloudy. Mr. Smiles is snuggled up warm in his stroller and the older kids are working on raking up that compost heap, laughing and talking to each other while they work. The rooster is watching over his dust-bathing beauties, feeling a bit nervous as the kids work shoveling the compost.
As I walk by the alley I see a buck mule deer at the end of it, “talking” with the barn cats.
After we enjoy that for a bit, we all get back to work. Mtn Man and I are going to rebuild this feeder in the lower chicken coop.
This is the first gravity chicken feeder he ever built on our farm way back when. It is a pretty good design, but there are some things about it that he tweaked when building the feeder for the upper coop later that made it work better. It is time to fix this one up and make it so the chickens don’t waste so much feed. Some things we want to change are to make it bigger so it holds more feed (the upper coop feeder holds an entire bag, this one only about 1/4 of a bag), and fix the angle of the gutter that holds the food so it is harder for them to dig it out and waste it.
A couple of the ladies sit on the roost outside while we work in their coop.
Using scrap wood we had laying around, plus most of the old feeder, Mtn Man fixes it up (I hold the tools, hand him things, and such to help out).
It will now hold about 2/3 of a bag of feed, and the bottom edge is slightly deeper to help prevent the digging the girls have been doing. If the bottom edge isn’t high enough we will add more of an edge to it in the future.
The kids are done and the compost heap is flipped and raked back up again. This picture shows all three heaps in the barnyard, they are each at different stages of composting.
Later, as the sun goes behind the mountain and the temperature drops quickly, we will head back out to do the evening chores and feed and tuck all the animals in the barn for the night.
We are so blessed to be able to live the homesteading life, with both exciting adventures AND the repetitive everyday tasks that come with it.