Our first Sunday Homestead Update from the new farm!
Whew! Moving has been a crazy, stressful, rollercoaster with many bumps and crashes along the way. But we are here, and we are beginning to settle in.
We are quickly learning that new location doesn’t mean less challenges, it means different challenges. I figured that homesteading in the high-altitude Rockies had more challenges than the high plains…but I think I was wrong. We are quickly learning about all the challenges we will be facing here on the plains.
- Sand. Our soil is not soil, it is sand. Like a beach. Very very sandy. Good thing we learned so much about amending soil and using raised beds when we lived on the side of a rocky mountain! We will need those skills here too. In addition to bringing in compost and doing raised beds for the gardens, and amending the soil around where we plant fruit trees and bushes, we will also need to figure out how to bring some life to the pastures and amend their sand. The previous owners did some manure spreading on the pastures, but there is still a lot of work to do. Cheat grass and some weeds are currently growing in the pastures. We are researching and learning about intensive pasture grazing and plan to get that started with the sheep asap to help the soil.
- Hail. Like big and bad and damaging hail. The roofs on our buildings have been replaced twice in the last 10 years due to hail. So that is some pretty bad hail. We will need to figure out ways to protect the plants. We are working on plans for dealing with this issue.
- Salty well water. Our water source is a well and the water has pretty high levels of sodium. They are not too high for animals to drink. And us humans are using a reverse osmosis system under the sink. But plants don’t do well with water that has sodium in it. The salt gets up into their roots and binds them up so they can’t absorb water. It dehydrates and kills them. We are learning about using gypsum on the soil before watering to help this issue.
- Grasshoppers. In very large amounts, that eat all the plants you worked so hard to grow. Plans for this problem are in the works.
Those are just a few of the challenges we have recognized thus far. I am sure that as we go we will continue to find things we need to overcome. But, we are perseverant and worked very hard to build our homestead in the Rockies. We can do it here as well.
Besides unpacking and trying to settle, we have begun some homestead projects.
First, every farm needs a tractor. So we purchased our first ever tractor! We have borrowed tractors as-needed for our little homestead in the mountains. But with 30 acres and a lot of projects in mind, a tractor was a necessity here. And now we own one. We have named him “Sven.”
We are planning to build our big veggie garden and berry garden this fall, for planting next spring. But we love gardening too much to just give it up completely for a full season. So we are figuring out what we can do this year, even though it is late in the season. We are starting to build a container garden. We brought my claw-foot tub planter with us, with chives and peas already growing in it. We also brought the washtub planter with established comfrey in it. And the wheelbarrow container with rhubarb in it. Then we brought several pots of herbs, a couple of squash in pots, a tomato in a pot, and some lilac bushes in pots. It is fun to bring some of the plants from our previous homestead to the new one to get started. So we are working on arranging those all in a container garden area, and have found a few old “containers” around the new farm that we are filling with compost and planting in too. There are several troughs and broken wheelbarrows.
BUT, before we can water anything we brought, and before we can plant new stuff, we need to mitigate the salt damage our water will do to the plants. I will be posting more details about that later.
We also bought a few trees, some strawberry plants, a grape vine, and a berry bush all on end-of-season sale and are working to get them all planted and settled in.
The sheep are settling in well, though we are definitely wondering what this sand will do to their fleece. We keep going back and forth about whether jacketing them would help or hinder the situation. Time will tell and we will be learning through experience.
We have a new addition to the breeding flock, a dairy ram we have named Orville. I will share more about him when I can. The farm has two livestock housing areas, we are calling them the Ewe Barn and the Ram Barn. Over in the Ram Barn we currently have Nilsson, our adult breeding ram, as well as the two weanling ram lambs, Dusty (from our milk ewe Daisy), and Orville the future dairy breeding ram.
Over in the ewe barn we have Freya (Wensleydale ewe), Matilda (Bond ewe), Blue (milk ewe, due to lamb soon), Daisy (milk ewe, lambed twins in Feb), Nora (yearling milk/wool cross ewe), and MacDougal (BFL wether). Plus the goats (see below). We are milking Daisy once-a-day, while milk-sharing with her ewe lamb Dixie. Daisy is giving about 1/2 gallon of milk a day, while still feeding her 4-month-old ewe lamb. That is twice as much as she gave last year as a first freshener, so we are very happy with that production. We are freezing the milk until we have more time to make cheese. Freya miscarried her lamb(s) during the fire evacuation last fall, and Nora and Matilda didn’t get pregnant. That would make this breeding season our worst ever as far as ewes not lambing. Hoping for better numbers next year.
We are working to get the sheep out on pasture later this week. This will be our first experience pasturing livestock, so it is all a learning experience and I am sure the learning curve could be steep. But we can’t learn anything if we don’t just jump in and give it a try. So we are reading, talking to people, and then jumping in.
We currently have Belle (Nubian doe) and her buckling Briar. We are milk-sharing with Briar and milking Belle once-a-day and getting about 6 cups of milk. Briar will be leaving to go back to Belle’s breeder this weekend to be sold. We have purchased another Nubian doe, Solace, and she will be joining the farm, fresh in milk, at the end of the summer.
We brought the smaller coop from our previous home with us along with 5 bantam hens to live in it. During the move one of the hens get heat stroke, it was touch and go for awhile, but we were able to revive her. Very glad she is doing fine now.
We also turned a shed on the property into a coop for the standard size chickens and built an exterior pen for them attached to it. We covered the pen with netting to protect them from aerial predators since they are not living with the LGD for protection. We brought 10 hens and our rooster. They are all settling in pretty well, though the heat is challenging for them, they are not accustomed to it at all coming from the mountains.
We did not bring any ducks with us. However, a friend just had a hatch of ducklings and we plan to add them to the farm in a month or two. So we will be building housing for them before they arrive.
Livestock Guardian Dogs
Anya is living with the ewes and doe and settling well. We decided with all this space and two flocks we wanted another LGD. So this weekend we are adding a new LGD to the farm. She is a 1-year-old Anatolian/Great Pyrenees cross. She is half-sister to Anya and we are looking forward to getting her finished off with her training and having another great LGD.
I am very sad to report that our 15-year-old cat, Jerry, passed away right before the move. I am glad for the timing, in that he did not have to endure the stress of a move at such an old age. But it was a very hard loss for the whole family. He had been part of our family since he was a kitten, and thus most of the kids don’t even remember life without him. He was older than 3 of the kids. So it was hard. He was also very close friends with our dog, Hazel, and she misses him too.
It still hurts and probably will for quite awhile.
Our two barn cats came with us and we kept them in an outbuilding for several days before we started to let them out. Thus far they are doing well. There are a few stray or roaming cats that are frequenting the property. So far they all seem to be getting along ok and we haven’t heard or seen any evidence of them fighting with our cats.
So that is the short update of everything here. We are putting in long hard days to get the mill up and running and get started on making this homestead what we want it to be.