I love the pattern of the seasons on a homestead. Each season has its own particular work. Winter means things outside slow down and gives us time for more indoor projects and to plan for the coming busy seasons. It is hard to believe as we are buried in snow and cold that we need to get going on plans for spring. But it is time!
We have a lot going on at our little homestead this spring, with 5 pregnant ewes (4 to be milked), 1 pregnant goat (to be milked), chicks, a new garden to finish building, filling with soil, fencing, and irrigating in time for planting, plus prepping the regular gardens as well, and finishing up the barnyard fencing. It is going to be a very busy spring, summer, and fall! I am a little nervous we might be in over our heads. But here we go anyway. 🙂
Sheep (and Goat)
We need to start getting the lambing/kidding kit together and gather the meds we need to have on hand in case of trouble. It is time to start shearing the first two ewes that are due, and in a few weeks we need to do vaccinations and wormings.
Mtn Man and I sat down with our calendars/planners and wrote down what needs to be done and when for birthing this year. Normally we clump the chores together based on average due dates (ie. vaccinate all at the same time approximately the right distance from due dates), but this year the dates are so wide spread that we decided to just deal with each ewe individually as far as shearing and vaccinating goes, and then have two different clumps of animals for diet changes/management.
Our schedule for birthing includes:
Shearing – we shear approximately 6 weeks before the ewe is due so that we have the nicest fleece possible and to prevent her getting too hot during birthing. Birthing and early lactation cause a break in the fleece (a weak spot) and we don’t want the weak spot to be in the center of the fiber, we want it to be at one end. Also, if a ewe is in full fleece when she gives birth she may decide to go lay in a pile of snow to cool off during labor, which can lead to death in the lamb. Lastly, it gives us a chance to assess her body condition (which is difficult with a full fleece on) so that we can plan her late pregnancy nutrition accordingly.
Vaccinations – We vaccinate the ewes with CD&T about 4 weeks before their due date.
Diet Changes – Depending on the condition of the ewe, which we can easily gauge right after shearing, we will transition her off of her just-grass-hay diet onto a combination of alfalfa, grass, and grain. Fiona is a super easy-keeper, which is a nice way of saying that she easily gets fat, so we have to be more careful about giving her too much alfalfa and grain than we have to be with the dairy sheep who will need the alfalfa and grain in order to lactate well. All ewes need some alfalfa within the month before delivery or they are at risk for pregnancy toxemia. Sadly, we have seen this kill sheep on a couple farms nearby, and are thus very careful to be sure the ewes get good nutrition in the last month-6 weeks of pregnancy. We would rather have Fiona a little overweight than have her get PT. But, of course, obesity in the ewe can cause major lambing issues too. It is a hard balance with Fiona, but easy with all the other ewes (and Pansy the goat).
I finished up the garden plans and ordered my seeds this week. The maps are looking great and it is fun to dream of the gardens growing full of food for us. The lower garden is the new garden this year, and it is only about 2/3 built. I planned for just that finished section (it still needs soil, fencing, and irrigation, but the boxes are built). If we happen to be able to finish more of the garden before planting, I will just figure out at that point what we want to put in that section.
First, I figured out what we wanted to plant. Then I mapped it out on the garden maps and thus figured out how much of each type and variety we wanted to plant.
Then I went through our stored seeds and inventoried what we had and what we needed. I ordered seeds from my all-time favorite seed company Seeds Trust. They are a small business located in Colorado and have a special collection of high-altitude cold-climate seeds that have worked wonderfully for us over the years.
Lastly, I caught up our garden journal with all the accurate dates and times to plant what we are planting so I know when to do what. I shifted things quite a bit this year due to the very late frost we had last year that negatively effected our garden. I am trying to go kind of in the middle to hopefully prevent too much loss again this year.
I shared more about how we use our garden journal in this post.
Little Miss is taking over the container herb garden this year. She and I decided that we would go ahead and start the herbs now so that they can move out from under the lights to the living room window in time for me to have plenty of space under the lights for the veggie seed-starting. She got those all planned out and freshened up their soil and planted them.
Mtn man finished an amazing braided wool rug this week that he was commissioned to make. It is the first time he has ever made a rectangle shaped one, and it is the largest rug he has ever made (which made it tricky to get a good photo too). The finished size is about 5f tx 8ft and it turned out so beautifully! It was hard to get a perfect phot angle from above, it looks like one end is narrower than theother – I assure you they measure the same. 🙂
The buyer asked us to make this rug out of her llama and alpaca fiber. We have never done a rug out of that type of fiber before and it was an interesting learning process to work with something other than wool. The fiber definitely did not felt the same, and the rug wants to shed a lot. I am assuming that the shedding will decrease over time and use, but we are not sure because we don’t have any experience with it.
I am continuing to knit on the dress for Little Miss…
the ribbing looks strange lying on the ground, but when she tried it on it looks really great. She is super excited for me to finish it, which will be awhile since I am using fingering weight yarn and it is over 200 stitches around and increasing significantly as we go so that it will flare out nicely.
I am also still working on the Match Play Poncho, but the progress is not worth photographing.
Neither is moving very fast because I have been very busy helping with other things the last few weeks. I plan to cast on Young Man’s birthday socks this coming week.
I’ll leave you with some pictures of Jerry – he continues to love his new retired indoor life and I can’t resist taking photos of him.