Sunday Homestead Update – Time for a Break

This will be my last post for a while.  We have a lot of things going on in our life right now, and I am finding that I need a break from blogging for a bit.  So I am hitting the pause button.  But don’t worry…I will be back soon, and I will have a lot to share as we enjoy spring on the farm.  Before I go, one final Sunday Homestead Update catching you up on each aspect of the winter homestead…

Sheep

Daisy and her lambs, Dusty and Dixie, are doing well.  She is producing LOADS of milk.  Much more than last year – which was her first freshening.  We have decided to just let her lambs have it all for the first 3 weeks or so before we start milking her.  But I am looking forward to seeing how her production compares to last year.  The lambs are so active that it is difficult to get photos in the little jug.  It has been too cold to let them out yet, but this week is supposed to be beautifully warm, so they are going to see the outside world for the first time tomorrow.

Freya either did not get pregnant, or she miscarried during the wildfire evacuations.  So there will be no lambs from her at this point.  We can hope that maybe she was bred by Nilsson in December or January and is due this summer.  Time will tell.  But for now, there are no more lambs due for our farm until the end of May.

Several sheep are desperately in need of shearing.  We have had some crazy busy-ness going on, not to mention bitter cold temps that make us not want to shear.  We will be shearing several of them within the next few weeks as it warms up.

Goats

Belle is continuing to do very well with the loss of Pansy.  She seems to be fitting in fine with the sheep and is kind of making friends with the wether, MacDougal.  Not to mention the bond she has always had with Anya, the LGD.

We are drying Belle off (gradually ceasing to milk her and stop her milk production) this week in preparation for her kidding coming in April.

Chickens

The chickens have done an excellent job of laying through this cold winter, especially considering the stress the wildfire evacuation put on them back in October/November.  All is well with them and there is not much to report.

Ducks

Our first winter with ducks has gone better than expected.  We had planned to just give them a chicken waterer and no pond throughout the winter.  But we have found that with a trough heater in the bottom of their pool, it stays thawed and they really enjoy swimming in it and they don’t seem negatively effected by the cold.  We do not let them have it when the temperature is below about 15F.

Heritage Arts

I am about halfway down the length of the sweater I am making for Mtn Man.  He tried it on and it looks like it will fit great.  I am very excited and hope to get this done before it is too warm for him to wear it this winter season.

I finished the first side of my summer poncho.  I started the second side, but I am trying to work less on this as it can wait to be worn until summer, and focus more on Mtn Man’s sweater.

Sunshine recently took a colorwork knitting class and learned the basics of colorwork through making this hat.  There were many ups and downs for her, as it is pretty difficult to learn the right tension for colorwork.  But I think the hat looks amazing!

Hazel and Jerry

I can’t leave, even for a short break, without giving you all some pics of Hazel and Jerry.  Every day they are cuddled together in a new, cute position.  Love these two!

Sunday Homestead Update – Almost Back to Normal

I can’t get my photos to upload…so sorry – no photos this week.

Wildfires

The wildfires have calmed way down and are much more contained now.  There are a couple of hot spots that could be concerning, but we are supposed to get precipitation and cold temps this week, which will hopefully put an end to it all.  Meanwhile, we are trying to get back to normal as much as possible around the homestead, while still having it kind of hang over us that there is an active wildfire within striking distance.

Sheep

The sheep came back to the farm last Tuesday.  When we evacuated them, the place where they stayed couldn’t keep the ram separate from the ewes.  So our breeding season started a month early this year.  That will mean March lambs, which will mean cold, snowy weather.  Such is life.  We will deal with it when it happens.  Since they were together already for two weeks, we decided to just leave them together since we are only a week or so out from our planned start to breeding season.  So they are all living together, which means easier barn chores with one less pen, so that is nice.

Chickens and Ducks

Now that the fire containment lines have stood the test of winds, we brought back the chickens and ducks.  It feels so great to have the farm animals all back! (Except the goats…see below)

It was very funny – when we first put the chickens back into the barnyard the sheep acted like they have never seen them before and were kind of scared of them.  LOL!  A little over two weeks of being separate, after being together for over a year, and all of a sudden they are strange aliens.  Silly sheep!

The bantam chicks have grown and changed a lot.  They are almost completely feathered – but still look like teenage chickens.  The ducklings, on the other hand, all look like fully-grown, fully-feathered adult ducks.  The change was shocking!  While they were away they also got old enough for us to be able to tell what sex they were.  When we got them home, we checked, and ALL four are males!  That is statistically pretty startling.  But we did it by the book, both with the voice and the vent, and they all came up as male.

Goats

Pansy and Belle did not come home from evacuation because they were evacuated to the farm that they usually go to for breeding in November.  So they will be staying there for several weeks to be bred.  We look forward to having them come home around Christmas time – pregnant.

Canning

We have been canning some this last week.  We got the last of our garden tomatoes canned, plus some more apples in honey syrup.  We are going to continue with more apples this coming week.  Feels good to be putting up for winter.

Look Who’s Home!

As the containment lines on the fires grow each day, we are starting to bring back our livestock to the farm.  First to come were the sheep and the Livestock Guardian Dog, yesterday.  Happy dance!

If we need to evacuate again, this group of animals can be quickly loaded and removed along with us humans and the few pets we have home.  We are waiting for more containment, and/or a wind event that tests the containment, before we bring back more livestock.

It feels so good to have some life on the farm again!  They all got a lot of petting and back scratching when they got home.  We all missed them so much.

Preparing Your Homestead For an Evacuation

Early in October, when the wildfires were farther away from us, but heading our way, I started writing a post for Mother Earth News about how to prepare your homestead for an evacuation.  When we were evacuated, it seemed as good a time as any to finish that up and publish it.  The plan we had made ahead of time really helped us when it came time to evacuate.    Click here to read about how to put together a good evacuation plan for your farm.

Sunday Homestead Update – Sleeping Wildfire

Time change again already?  AND November!?  Those seriously snuck up on us this year.  The wildfire has consumed all our attention and we didn’t see it coming.  Yeesh.  Where has fall gone?

Wildfires

The wildfire update is constantly changing – daily, sometimes hourly.  Just when we think we know what is going on, something changes.  It has made for quite the emotional rollercoaster over the last 10 days, and it isn’t over yet.  As of now, the snow is melting and almost gone and we are watching and waiting to see what the fire does.  It is still burning, but they don’t expect it to move for a few days.  There is definitely potential that later this week, or next week, it could move again and we would be evacuated again.  We are anxious to get our animals back home, but we don’t want to bring them back and then have to remove them again.  It is a strange limbo to be living in, at home trying to somewhat live normal life, with no animals to care for, while the fire kind of hangs over our heads and we need to be prepared to leave at any moment.  An emotional rollercoaster of waiting and watching.

When we got home, our very old and leaky windows all had ashes all over the window sills from the fire.

This reminded me that it is time to seal the windows for the winter using that plastic that you heat with a hair dryer.  We got half of them done this week, and will finish the rest soon.  Someday, we really need to replace these super inefficient old windows.  Just think how much cold is coming in if that much ash can come in!?

We decided to get the barn and coops all cleaned out and ready for animals to come home – whenever that may be.  They were due for a cleaning, and then the rush of getting everyone out in such a hurry caused a lot of mess too.  It is now all clean and just awaiting the day we can bring our critters home to it.

It was interesting cleaning without them there.  We have never done that before.  On one hand, it was kind of nice to clean without them underfoot and in the way.  But stronger than that was the sadness and empty feeling of not having them there.  We stop to pet them and love on them while we clean usually, and their absence was very obvious as we worked.  We miss them so much.  We are blessed that they are all well taken care of in the places they are staying.  We got this photo from where the goats and the LGD are staying.  It was nice to see them, even if it is just in a photo.

Fire Mitigation

Our property is pretty well fire-mitigated, but there is always a little extra here or there that can be done.  And when a wildfire is headed for you, it brings to mind all the little things you can do extra.  So we decided to use yesterday to do some more fire mitigation around the buildings, making sure everything was as safe as we could make it.  We moved the firewood splitting area and firewood pile farther away from the structures.  We took down one of a few trees that are probably too close to our house and are contemplating the other three.  We made sure that all the trees within 100 feet of the structures are limbed up 10 feet on their trunks (or 1/3 of the way for smaller trees).  All this in hopes that if a fire does come through, our home and structures might be able to survive it.  Apparently, if you can keep the fire from going up the trees, having it stay down on the ground level in grasses etc, then you have a much better chance of your buildings surviving.

Garden?

Our garden season is long over.  However…we have an accidental pepper plant indoors that has ripening peppers on it.  In the spring, we start many of our plants under grow lights since our growing season outdoors is oh-so-short.  Then we move them outdoors when it is safe.  Somehow, this pepper plant stayed inside.  I don’t know if it wasn’t mature enough, or if we didn’t have space, or probably both…but it stayed indoors.  I didn’t even know it existed, but the kids have been keeping it under the grow light and watering it.  And here we are with a mature pepper plant.  The first pepper to ripen was very small, but a beautiful chocolate-colored sweet pepper.

Heritage Arts

Mtn Man finished another rug order.  This was a first for him in two ways: #1 it was his first circle, and #2 it was his first time dyeing roving and using color (other than natural fleece colors) in a rug.  It is a 5-foot diameter, alpaca fiber rug.  It turned out great!  He was glad the customer wanted color and a circle because it challenged him to try new things and see the results.

I finally finished the poncho I have been working on for over a year now.  It has been set aside over and over again for other knitting projects.  Well, it is done now and I love it.  The pattern is called Match Play Poncho and the yarn is Haiku Sueno.