Rooster On Guard

I was sitting out on my back patio this week enjoying the homestead.

As I sit in the shade I can look at the grape vines woven into the lattice of the patio.  I can see the strawberry patch, with white flowers beginning to pop up everywhere.  I watch Mrs. Arable and her three chicks sunning themselves in the pen of the lower coop – the chicks occasionally having a scrap about who is bigger and stronger.  And I can see the hens and the rooster in the barnyard, scratching and pecking their way around, the guardian dog, laying in the sun watching over it all from her pen next to the barnyard.

The sounds include the many different songs of the wild birds, the clucking announcement of a hen that just laid an egg followed by the chorus of other hens joining her, and the buzzing of a fat bumblebee heading for a strawberry flower.

Then I hear a different sound.  The special call of the rooster to warn his hens of danger.  All the hens quickly dart through the small door into their enclosed pen attached to their coop.  The rooster watches them each go through and then goes through himself, after they are all in.  Just as he ducks through the small door and shadow crosses over the barnyard and the guard dog starts growling and barking towards the sky.

I look up, and there is a bald eagle flying low over the barnyard.  A beautiful sight to be sure.  Stunning, majestic, and surprisingly large when seen at this closer distance.  The stark contrast of the bright yellow beak to the white head and tail and the brown/black body almost takes my breath away.  It is such a beautiful creation – but not something I want to see dining on my chickens in the barnyard.

I am grateful that the rooster is being such a good guardian of his hens.  Watching over them and doing his best to protect the flock.  It can be a hassle having a rooster with the hens – no matter how many hens he has he always has his few favorite wives and their backs get torn up badly.  But there are definitely benefits too, like him guarding them from aerial predators.

Sunday Homestead Update – Garden Tour

Spring has really officially sprung here and it is so fun to see all the new life in the gardens.

Peas sprouting

This Lilac bush has been on the property for over 30 years and has NEVER bloomed because the deer always come along and eat the buds off of it.  Over the 6 years that we have been here we have watered it and added good soil around it and tried to help it along, but it still never bloomed.  We just recently put a fence around the garden that it is in because we are adding fruit trees, and lo and behold…it has buds on it!!!  I can’t wait to see it in full bloom, finally, after all these years.

 

The peppers and tomatoes are happy down inside their wall-o-waters.

The cabbage seedlings are happy inside their tent.

It is time to harvest rhubarb.  We have a new recipe we are trying out this year for rhubarb syrup.  Can’t wait to see how we like it!

PIC

We have already been harvesting a few asparagus.  But most of the plants are only a year old so we need to leave them and not harvest this year.

The grapevines have buds on them!

The currant and gooseberry bushes have flowers on them.

Only a few more weeks until our last average frost date!  Then we will get the garden fully planted and shift to just watching everything grow and weeding.

Crockpot Freezer Meals Made Easier

I love using crockpot freezer meals.  If I have had a long day working around the homestead, or to town running multiple errands, the last thing I want to do when I arrive home late is try to figure out and put together a meal for the family’s dinner.  Eating out is a rarity for us, a very special treat, so that is not an option on those days.  And the last few years, with Mr. Smiles in and out of the hospital often – sometimes unscheduled, sometimes we know ahead of time – it makes it even more necessary to have some easy meals on hand.

I used to take a full Saturday to make 20-30 crockpot freezer meals to get us all stocked up.  That way any day that I needed to I could easily grab a frozen meal in the morning, throw it in the crockpot on low, and by dinner it was ready for us.  But lately it is harder and harder to come by a day that I can spend doing freezer meals.  So I have come up with a new plan to keep freezer meals handy and ready for us.

Every time that I am making a meal for the family that is one that works well as a freezer meal I purposely buy extra ingredients and while I am cooking I put together 2-5 freezer bags of the meal as well.  I am already dealing with all the ingredients, multiplying them and putting them into bags barely takes any extra time at all.  And it spreads out the cost of the extra meals too.

This week I was making chicken fajitas for dinner, so I made two extra bags of them to freeze for future dinners.

By doing this regularly we continually have a supply of easy freezer meals for our family, without too much extra work.

Sunday Homestead Update

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers!  I am spending mine being loved on by my 6 most favorite people in the world.  🙂

We have had a nice week here with beautiful weather, including some rain.  We have used the time to work in the gardens getting odds and ends done.

Gardening

We put out tomato and pepper seedlings in their Wall-o-Waters for protection.

We also got the cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli seedlings out in the hoop tent.

This is a bigger hoop tent than last year because last year’s was on a 2-foot wide box and this one is over a 4-foot wide box.  We had great success with last year’s tent so we are hopeful that this one will do well too.  We are trying a different way of securing the fabric this year – clothespins.

We also got the celery seedlings out in the garden.

The rhubarb is growing well and we are looking forward to harvesting in the next few weeks.

The first seedlings to emerge from the soil in my new medicinal herb garden are Red Clover.  The onion sets are also sprouting now.

We also got the new medicinal herb garden deer fence up.  I was finding deer prints in it each morning and didn’t want to give them a chance to eat things once they really start sprouting.  We still need to get the fence rabbit-proofed, but we are halfway there.  We are calling it the Apple Garden now, because once we get past our last frost we will be putting two apple trees in that garden.

We used cattle panels for that fencing and Mtn Man made me another arch for my veggie garden out of the scraps we cut off.

It has been so fun to be out in the sun working in the garden again!

Chickens

The meat birds are 2 weeks from butcher.  We are rationing their food as instructed and when we feed them there is a mad dash for it.

It will be nice to have freezers full of meat, and to be able to move the layer pullets and Silkies into the bigger pen that the meat birds currently occupy.

LHL Recipe Review – Non-Petroleum Jelly

We are working our way through the Little House Living book of recipes for bath, body, and household products, and kitchen mixes.  You can read previous recipe reviews by clicking on “LHL Recipe Reviews” in the category section on the right sidebar.  We are not affiliated with Little House Living, nor are they compensating us for this.  We just wanted to work our way through all the recipes because they all look so great, and thought it would be nice to take you along for the journey.  🙂  All recipes are rated on a scale of 7 thumbs up, since we are a family of 7.

This time we tried the Non-Petroleum Jelly recipe.  We don’t use petroleum jelly ourselves, but Pops (grandpa) uses it every day and after reading about how it is made in the factory and how questionable it is to use it on your skin, we decided to make some for him to try out.  This recipe says that not only does it not contain the negative ingredients of regular petroleum jelly, but it also helps heal the skin, not just provide a moisture barrier.

One batch fit nicely in one 250 ml short, square Ball jar.  We like this type of jar for the lotion we made because it is easy to access what is in it because of the wide mouth and the shape of the jar.  The texture felt very similar to regular petroleum jelly.  We closed it up and sent it off to be tested out by Pops.

Here is what he had to say about it:

“I love it!  It is way better than store-bought and I have places that are healing so fast now.  I started using it for the dryness on my face, which is how I was using the store-bought, but it felt so good and worked so well that now I use it on my arms and legs too.  It is working so great to moisturize and heal my skin.”

Another success!  7 thumbs up!