Sunday Homestead Update

Happy Resurrection Sunday!  We had a fun but busy Holy Week.  On Friday, the kids and I did our traditional hot cross bun baking and delivered them to friends and family that live in our area.  It is always a fun way to spend our morning, and we love bringing joy and smiles to people (along with delicious treats).

I love the wild pasque flowers we have growing in our area.  When they pop their pretty purple heads up each spring it makes me smile.

Spring Cleaning

I don’t know about you, but our barn gets so messy over the winter that come spring I am very anxious to get it cleaned out.  I think it is because of the cold weather – we don’t exactly want to spend extra time out there tidying and freezing while we work – it is more about get out there, quickly take care of the critters, and get back in by the fire to warm up.  So things don’t get put away and the floor doesn’t get swept and it just builds up and gets cluttered and super dusty.  So this last week we decided it was time to spring clean the barn.

It took me and 3 of the kids about 2.5 hours to really get it done.  But it felt oh-so-good when it was done.

Then we laid cement pavers to finish the floor in the barn.  A few years ago the barn flooded and the wood floor that was in there had to be torn out.  We were able to put cement pavers down on half the floor but couldn’t afford to buy more at the time.  Then time went by as it always does and it just was left half pavers half dirt for a couple of years.  We finally got around to buying the rest of the pavers and laying them this week.  It is so much nicer than the dirt and will help keep the dust down!  You can see in the photo the line of old pavers vs the new ones.

And while we worked this cutie pie kept peeking at us over the stall wall.

Chickens

We now have chicks that are 8 weeks old, up in the barn.  We are beginning to be able to tell some of the boys from the girls.

We also have 7 chicks that were just moved from the brooder bin up to the barn.  They are about to be 4 weeks old.  It was a little early to move them, but the bin was way overcrowded.  We gave them two of the ecoglow 20s and are hoping they will handle the change well.

In this pic you can see the younger chicks in the forefront top pen, and the older chicks on the ground in the pen in the background.  The foreground pen is cleaned and ready to move some other chickens into it in the next week or so as we organize and shift around the birds for spring.

Even though that is plenty of chicks for the year, our most successful broody mama hen has decided she wants to set.  So we gave her 8 eggs and she is happily incubating them.

Garden

There are finally some green things poking out here are there around the farm!  This is 4 weeks later than last year.  So we are very happy to finally be seeing some tiny green.

Rhubarb

Chives

Strawberries

Gooseberry Bush

Garlic

My Valerian is sprouting too, but it looks like there may be a problem.  I have two plants.  One is sprouting green leaves, and one is sprouting purple leaves.  Last year was the first time I ever grew Valerian (these are 2nd year plants) so I don’t know much about them.  But from what I can find the purple leaf one probably has a deficiency or a root disease.

The seedlings in the basement under grow lights are doing well.

Sheep and Goat Flerd

We made our first batch of goat’s milk butter for the year!  It was yummy, and I always forget how white it is when we haven’t had it in awhile.

Rose is giving us some confusing pregnancy symptoms.  She is supposed to be 6 weeks out, but she is already showing symptoms that our other sheep don’t show until 2-3 weeks out.  It is her first pregnancy, and often first-time mamas will show symptoms a bit earlier…but we have never had one show signs this much earlier.  Could we be having lambs sooner than we thought?  We are keeping a close eye on her and time will tell.

With the nicer weather this week I have taken some time to sit and watch the barnyard.  Such a peaceful relaxing way to spend some time.  It is so nice to finally have some signs of spring popping up!

Sunday Homestead Update

We have had another full week on the farm.  Spring is trying to squeeze its way in with some days in the 50sF.  But we are also still getting snow and cold as well.  Nothing green is starting to peek out of the ground outside yet, whereas last year at this time we had quite a bit of green starting up.

Garden

We started our first seedlings inside…gardening season has officially begun!

More Chicks

Last week a setting hen abandoned her eggs that were 2/3 of the way to hatch.  We took the eggs and put them in the incubator, not sure if they would survive or not since they had been chilled.  Well, they survived and hatched this week.  There were ten eggs under the hen, two of which were found to be infertile when we brought them indoors.  The other 8 were looking good.  The hatch started on Thursday morning (day 20 – one day early) and by Friday morning we had 5 chicks hatched and 2 of the 3 remaining eggs pipped.  Those two chicks hatched, the third egg did not.  But 7 out of 8 is a great high-altitude hatch percentage.

Our bird numbers are higher than they have ever been.  Thankfully we have a lot of space for them all, so they are not overcrowded, but they would be if they all were full size adults.  But the numbers will be significantly decreased by then.  No more hatching until those numbers get more reasonable after some butchering and sales.  Of course I say that, and then one of my reliable broodies will probably decide to set this week.

Goat

Pansy has had some trouble settling in.  It seems she does not want to live with sheep.  But we really do not have the space, nor the desire for more than one goat.  Thankfully, she never stopped eating completely, like what happened to us a couple years ago when we tried to introduce one goat to the sheep flock.  By day 5 she finally started to relax a little and eat better.  She is still somewhat antsy and not completely relaxed, but we are seeing a lot of progress and expect her to settle fully over time.  Interestingly, she seems to be bonding to Anya, the LGD, more than any other animal in the barnyard.

We are still milking her twice a day while we wait for her to settle in.  We are going to move her to once a day milkings, but don’t want to risk a huge decrease in production because of the stress she is still feeling.  Once she seems more settled we will shift her over.

Pansy is Little Miss’ homestead project.  She loves goats, loves milking, and loves making dairy products.  She was the one pushing to get another dairy goat.  Mtn Man and I, of course, oversee the care of all the animals and would never leave a child 100% in charge of an animal.  But Pansy is her project and she does all the work related to her, with our guidance.  She has been doing all the milking, with Mtn Man’s help while she built up her muscles.  She was really excited when, at only day 5 of having the goat, she was able to milk her out all by herself without any help.

She has also been managing all the milk and was carefully saving up the cream all week so that she could make us all goat’s milk ice cream on Friday to go with out homemade pizza for movie night.  It was delicious!

We are all really enjoying having a dairy animal again and the fresh milk that gives the family.  And Little Miss is beyond ecstatic to be the “milk maid and dairy queen” again.

Heritage Arts

I know how to both knit and crochet.  But for me crochet is more a destination hobby – in that I do it for the finished product.  I only crochet when I want a specific item that is best crocheted.  Whereas knitting is more of a journey hobby – in that I do it because I enjoy the process of knitting as well as the finished product.  I always have at least one knitting project going.  I knit almost every day if I can.

A year ago I started an afghan using scraps of sock yarn I had leftover from all the socks I have made over the years.  I knit the squares (192 of them) over the last year and then this last few weeks have been working on the hooking-together of more than half of the afghan.  I found the best way to hook it together was to sew 4 of the squares together.  Then crochet a border around the edge of the 4 squares.

Then I hook those squares to each other with a single crochet from just one side, alternating back and forth left and right.

Once I have a whole row of them (which for my afghan was 6) I hook that row onto the afghan with the same method.

So I have been doing a lot of crochet the past two weeks and haven’t really knit at all.  I am getting burnt out on it and can’t wait to get back to some knitting projects.  BUT I am really excited about finishing this afghan and so I press on.

I have finished all the hooking together now.  All I have left to do is put a nice border all the way around the outside edge of the afghan and a year-long project will be complete!

Remodeling

We have a lot of house remodeling we are hoping to accomplish this year.  We have finished the basement, which is wonderful.  It had been torn apart during the flooding of 2013 and hadn’t been finished since.  It is now a super functional space that we are all enjoying.

This week we have been focusing on the dining room finish-work.  Last fall we replaced our wood stove that was inserted into a fireplace in a rock wall with a beautiful antique wood cookstove with no fireplace and no rock wall.  The old wood stove had two elbows in the stovepipe which caused it to not draft well and to back-puff often.  We really wanted a stove with a straight pipe that didn’t back-puff, and we wanted to get rid of the rock wall, and we wanted to find a way to incorporate the beautiful antique wood cookstove that has been sitting in our garage for years.  So we did!  The cookstove does an excellent job of heating that area of the house and looks so pretty too.  Plus, if we want to we can cook on it and bake in the oven.

But as is usual for us, once the major work was complete and it was use-able we got busy with other things and didn’t finish up the trim work and details that make things really look great.  So this week we finished all of that and we are really happy to have it complete and not only functional but also looking nice as well.

Here is the dining room before:

And here it is now:

I haven’t fully settled on mantle and wall decorations yet, but that will come with time.  I need to live with it for awhile to decide that.

Feels so good to be checking things off the list, and enjoying a nicer house each time we do!

Sunday Homestead Update: The Flock is a Flerd Again

A lot of fun on the farm over the last couple of weeks, so this is a pretty full post.

In my last Sunday homestead update I shared that we had new livestock coming to the farm.  Gardeningwithalex’s guess in the comments was right…

Look who joined the farm!

This is Pansy.  She is a 4-year-old Nubian doe.  She is currently fresh and filling our fridge with healthy, delicious, raw milk!

When she first saw the sheep I’m pretty sure she thought they were aliens – she freaked out.  But we spread out some hay across the barnyard to lighten things up and they slowly got to know one another.  She actually came from the same farm where we got our LGD, Anya.  So she and Anya are doing fine with each other because she is used to Anatolians.  And she and the chickens are fine with each other as well.  Over time we expect her to settle into the sheep flock and be fine with them as well.

It is SO wonderful to have fresh milk again.  It has been 18 months since we last had a dairy animal on the farm and we missed it.

We have had goats and sheep together in the past at our farm.  A group of sheep is a flock, and a group of goats is a herd.  So when we have them living together, we like to call it a flerd.

Welcome to the flerd, Pansy!

Spring Snow

We had a big wet spring snow.  We got about 18 inches of very wet snow and the kids had a lot of fun playing in it.  We had snow forts and snowball fights, and sledding going on for 3 days in a row.

It is mostly melted at this point.  That is the difference between Colorado snow and snow in most other cold states – we have SO many days of sunshine each year that our snow does not stick around.  It falls, melts, falls, melts, etc.  There is occasionally some build-up of snow on the north side of buildings, but nothing compared to what other states experience.

The Bears Are Awake

Despite the big snow, we have had some warmer days in the 40sF this week.  We started saying to each other…I bet the bears will be out soon.  And sure enough, we had a bear visit.

This one obviously had a very big appetite because he broke the bear-proof dumpster and made a big mess.  The bent piece of metal in this pic:

is supposed to be straight like the one in this pic.

So we had quite a mess to clean up.  But a new bear-proof dumpster is in place and we should be fine for the rest of the season.  They rarely are able to break them.

Coyotes

Speaking of predators at the homestead…we are still having issues with the coyotes and bobcats this year.  We haven’t had many problems the last few years, they mostly just move through the property occasionally and don’t cause trouble.  But this year they are continuing to hang around the property and not move through.

Friday I heard Anya barking and went to look out the window.  I saw a coyote running north of the barnyard and around the back of the barn.  I ran out to see what was going on and chase it off.  I found our barn cat, Midnight, up in a tree with his fur puffed up bigger than I’ve ever seen.  The coyote had treed him.  It took off when I got there and I stayed for awhile to be sure it didn’t come back.

And the latest snow showed us footprints that show that there is a bobcat spending time here and hanging out in the large pile of boulders just 30 feet from our barnyard fence.  A bobcat got one of our chickens in early December, when Anya was in a separate pen from the chickens.  Thankfully, she is now living with the chickens, so we hopefully wont have any problems.

I don’t know why the coyotes and bobcats are hanging out.  It makes me wonder if it has been a lean winter for them.  Maybe the rabbit population is down or something, although we have seen plenty of sign of rabbits around.  Hopefully as spring comes they will move on.

Chickens

The chicks are now 4 weeks old and have moved up into the barn.  It is SO wonderful to not have them in my mud room anymore making impossibly thick layers of dust on everything.  This is why I only wanted to do one incubation and brooding this year…because I really dislike the dust mess of brooding.  I would much rather have the hens set their own eggs and raise the chicks in the barn – SO much lower maintenance.

So two weeks ago when our hen Betsy decided she wanted to set I was totally on board.  We put her in the broody coop, 10 eggs went under her, and she settled in beautifully.

She is a first-time setter and did great…until a couple days ago when she decided she was done.  We found her off the eggs and desperate to get out of the broody coop.  The nest she had built was right under the heat lamp (only 100 watt), so I was hopeful that the eggs might not be dead yet.  I quickly collected them up and took them to the house.  The kids held them against their tummies keeping them warm while I quickly set up the incubator and got it warming and hydrated.  Then I quickly candled them because I had not yet candled for fertility.  2 were infertile, but the other 8 were looking great and I even saw some movement, indicating they were alive at that point.  We put them in the incubator and time will tell if they survive.

I don’t know how long she had been off the nest, but it was awhile.  They may survive to hatch, they may not, but I had to try.  I do not want to have to do another brooding, but I just couldn’t let them die when I have the incubator and therefore have the means to give them a chance to live.  So, this Friday is their theoretic hatch day, although with being chilled they might take a little longer…or not hatch at all.  We shall see.  And Betsy is definitely off the list of broody hens and wont be allowed to try again unless I have another hen setting at the same time to adopt the eggs should she quit again.

Knitting

I have been focusing on finishing my scrap sock yarn afghan which I started last spring.  I have finished all the squares now and all that is left is to finish hooking them together.  The picture is dark, but I will get better ones when it is done.  I am very happy how it is turning out.

Sunday Homestead Update

We have had a full week here at the homestead.  Our basement has been unfinished since we tore it all out after the 2013 floods damaged it.  We are finally finishing it and it looks so great!  We have been working on it evenings and weekends for a couple weeks now.  We are almost done, just the flooring left.  Hoping to finish that up by next weekend.

We also got the lights installed under the new loft in the barn.  So we can see well in the lambing jugs and stalls now.

Chickens

The new chicks are doing great!

We picked up the 7 cockerel chicks this last week.  We purchased them with the plan to keep the best one to be a breeding cockerel next year and add to our genetic diversity.  While picking them up, Mountain Man couldn’t resist and threw in three pullet chicks too.  One Blue Wyandotte (I love Wyandottes and I love the blue colored birds, but don’t have a Blue Wyandotte in my flock yet, so I was particularly pleased with this addition), one Speckled Sussex (we have never had these and he wanted to try one out), and one Easter Egger to replace the EE we lost to a bobcat in December (hoping she lays green eggs).  So we now have 44 chicks.  They outgrew the brooder bins, so Mtn Man built them a brooder in the mud room they can live in for the next few weeks without outgrowing it until they move to the barn.

We had to add a heat lamp to the set up because the mud room is very cold and the brooders wouldn’t have been enough heat. Plus with forty-four 2-week-old chicks, the two ecoglow 20s are not enough for them all to fit well.

The cold weather and snow and sleet we have been having for a couple of weeks now has made the chickens choose to spend more time in the upper coop…which means it gets a lot messier a lot faster.  Plus the chickens have been damp because of the weather and that gets tracked into the coop too.  So it was in desperate need of a full clean-out.  We got that done and now they are enjoying a nice coop with clean, dry shavings.  And the compost pile just got a lot bigger from what we cleaned out.

Heritage Arts

I finished another project using Fergus’ 2018 fleece.  The sweater I showed you last week used up all the worsted weight yarn Mtn Man made with the fleece.  But he also made me some fingering weight yarn with it.  So I used some of the fingering weight to make these socks for Young Man.  More projects knit from yarn from a fleece from a sheep born right here on our farm – SO fun!

Last fall I re-made the bag on a framed standing knitting bag for myself so that it was more my style.

The girls loved it and wanted me to make them each one too.  So this week I made one for Little Miss.  This is the fabric it had before:

And here it is now:

The coloring didn’t turn out true in the photos.  But it is very pretty.

Surprise

We have new livestock joining (or really re-joining) the farm this next week.  Any guesses what it/they might be?

Sunday Homestead Update

We had a little warm spurt this week, getting up to 45 during the day a couple of days.  It was a nice break from the cold.  We continue to lay low with illness.  Hope it will be done soon!  But with 7 people it takes time for it to work its way through.

Chickens

The chicks are doing well.  We have now made it past the first week of life, which is when we generally have the highest loss, and we still have only had the one that died right after hatching, so we have 34 chicks left.  They are so adorable and we are all enjoying watching them in their brooders.

We also will pick up our hatchery rooster chicks this week.  We bought 7 Dark Brahma roosters to bring in new genetics for breeding next year.  Will add them to the brooder tomorrow.

Heritage Arts

I finished the hoodie cardigan for Mr. Smiles.  I am very happy with how it turned out.  It is super soft, warm, and comfy.

There is something very special about this hoodie that makes me smile every time I see it.  The wool comes from our ram Fergus.  His mother, Fiona, was the first ewe we ever owned.  We lambed out Fergus right here on our little farm in 2017.

And now he is a beautiful full-grown ram, and our breeding ram.

And his fleece from 2018 was made into yarn by Mtn Man, and then I knit that yarn into this cute little hoodie for Mr. Smiles.

It is a really cool picture of something coming full circle on the farm, and that concept always makes me smile.  The cycle of a farm is so awesome to experience.