Sunday Homestead Update

We have been oh-so-sick this week.  Croup, strep, and pneumonia.  Very.  Sick.  But thankfully everyone is improving and the terrible part is over.  By next SHU we should be recovered and doing much better.

Knitting

Mr. Smiles couldn’t sleep in any position except on our chests in the recliner for 4 days, so Mtn Man and I took turns overnight and Sunshine and Young Man also pitched in a few times during the day.  But for the most part he was in my arms or asleep on my chest all day for four days.  Thankfully, I was able to do some knitting when he was asleep, because I was getting very antsy and bored.

Dog Yarn?

We had an interesting “first” in the mill this week.  We made our first dog hair yarn.  The hair came from a standard poodle, and was mixed 50% with wool from a Lincoln Longwool sheep.  It turned out really cool.

The dog hair definitely needed plenty of support from the Longwool, but it is indeed possible to make dog hair into yarn.  It turned out pretty and is quite soft – softer than I expected.

Snow

We got a good 15-inch dump of snow this week.  It is safe to say fall weather is gone and winter weather has arrived here in the Rockies.  Last year was a very long, mild fall, this year it was short and colder.

We still really need to get the firewood chopped and stacked for the winter, but illness put that off for now.

Chickens

Mrs. Arabel successfully hatched out 4 chicks.  That is a pretty low percentage, considering she started with 10, but that sometimes happens with hatching, especially at high altitude.  And the cold weather could have something to do with it as well.

But I am happy about the four.  We don’t usually hatch in the fall, and with winter cold arriving early I think it will be good for her to only have four because it will be easier for her to successfully keep them all warm even as they grow.

Sewing

I have started working on the Winter/Christmas cloth placemat and napkin set.  Once I finish them I will have all four seasonal sets done!

While I have been working on those, Little Miss and Sunshine have taken it upon themselves to make matching trivet pads with the scraps from all the seasonal sets we have made.  When I cut the placemats’ corners off, we end up with a lot of little triangle scraps from the two different placemat fabrics for each season.

We felt like it would be wasteful to just throw those out, so the girls are piecing them together (there are a million different ways to arrange 36 triangles), adding a couple of layers of batting, using the larger scraps of fabric for the back, and making these cool trivet pads that will coordinate with each of my placemat/napkin sets.

Here is a peek at the Autumn/Thanksgiving set, which we are currently using.  These are the pads they made:

Which go with these placemats and napkins.  Left is Autumn, and right is Thanksgiving:

Once I finish the Winter/Christmas set, I will do a post that shows all four different sets, and the trivet pads that go with them.  If you are interested in finding out how we make these, you can click here for the post that shows how.

Sunday Homestead Update

Time for another update on the happenings around the homestead.

Chickens

Mrs. Arabel is happily setting on her eggs.  She still has one more week until hatch day.  Of the ten eggs under her 9 were fertile, and 2 died early in the process.  So she now has 7 live eggs under her.  Alice and her 5 chicks are doing great in the lower coop.  It is pretty fun to have chicks at this odd time of year.  We have never had chicks in the fall before.

The aggressive rooster is actually doing better lately.  We are hopeful that the aggression was just an overreaction to being the new head roo and that now that he has settled into his position a bit it wont return.  We found that squaring our shoulders to him and stomping our muck boots when he started challenging us causes him to back down.  Although we still haven’t let the kids in with him yet.

More Beautiful Yarn

I just had to share with you some of the beautiful yarn coming out of the mill this last week!  I wish the computer had a feature where you could reach through a feel the squishy softness of this yarn.

The first batch is a merino wool/silk blend.  It is the softest yarn I have ever felt.  Silky smooth, soft and squishy.

The next batch is CVM wool.  Obviously not as silky and soft as the silk blend, but soft in its own way and also squishy.  Plus, I absolutely love the color and luster, though the picture doesn’t do it justice.

Knitting

I am making some more Fish Lips Kiss Heel socks using the cardboard foot cut-outs.  I am experimenting with different toe increases and overall enjoying the method.

I have also made a lot of progress on my Let Go cardigan with my Sandstorm yarn that Mtn Man made me for our anniversary.  I am really excited about this cardigan – I love the cables.

I really need to get sewing on the Christmas/Winter placemat and napkin sets I am making, but it seems lately all I want to do is knit.  🙂

Sheep

Sheep breeding season has officially begun at Willow Creek Farm.  We had said November 1st, but decided to just do the moving around of pens this weekend.  So Fergus is in with the ewes and we are hopeful that we will have a successful breeding season despite his young age.

Fall Projects

We are continuing to try to get all our fall projects done before winter hits.  We had more snow this week already, and cold temps, but we have been able to continue to get stuff done.

The chicken coop got a good cleaning and re-bedding.  It is always nice to have a freshly cleaned coop.  We also did some stall cleaning along with the shuffling of the sheep into different pens for breeding.

Wildlife

The wildlife are very actively through our property each day this time of year.  We are regularly seeing deer, elk, and the flock of turkeys.  We also see coyotes and bears occasionally.  And rarely, a bobcat.  It is such a blessing to be able to live in these beautiful mountains surrounded by all this wildlife.

Have a great week!

Sunday Homestead Update

Another beautiful week on the farm!

Sorry for the picture quality this week – something about the sun while we were working on outdoor projects made for some pretty badly lit photos.

Fall Projects

We have plenty of fall projects to get done before winter and we tackled some of them this weekend.  First we dealt with some small odds and ends that seem to always be building up on a homestead…fix this little thing or that little thing.

Then, since we are borrowing a tractor right now, we wanted to get around to finishing the big onion/garlic patch project by getting all the compost moved over into the patch.  The dirt and compost we put in there last year after building the new retaining wall had settled quite a bit.  In some places it was over a foot too shallow.

As often happens, this was one big project that actually morphed into three big projects as we went.

As we were getting started we realized that to get the tractor into the barnyard we would have to figure out a way to get around the shed.  It is hard to see in the pics, but there is quite an incline next to the shed, it drops about 2-3 feet over 5 feet, and we didn’t want the tractor to roll.

So to make a safe place for the tractor to drive we needed to build a little road with a little retaining wall (extra project #1).  So we needed dirt.

Living on a mountainside there are always ditches that need to be dug to try to keep the water flowing down the hill and away from roads and buildings.  So in order to get some dirt, we decided to dig a ditch (extra project #2) that needed digging to stop the water from the driveway from creating a big alluvium in our field.  So we dug the ditch.

And we used the dirt removed from the ditch to build the little road to safely get the tractor around the shed.

So that we could finally get back to the original project of moving the compost from the barnyard to the onion/garlic patch.  🙂

One scoop out of the pile, and into the patch…only about 20 more to go!

We were SO grateful for the tractor.  This job would have been a beast without it.  While the compost pile and onion patch are only about 50 yards from each other, because of fences, steps, rocky hillside, gates, and buildings, the path we have to take to go from the barnyard to the onion patch is probably about 175 yards including quite a steep uphill portion.  I can’t even imagine doing it with just wheelbarrows.

We got the entire pile moved into the onion patch, which felt great.  We still need to smooth it out and dig the holes for the apple trees going in next spring (while we still have the tractor to dig them with).  And some of the extra compost we have in there will need to be bucketed over into the veggie garden boxes.

There is still plenty to get done, and hopefully we will accomplish more in the coming weekends!

Chickens

Alice and her 5 chicks moved into the lower coop this week.  They love it!  The chicks are handling the ramp just fine, it just took a little coaxing from Alice and a little practice and now they are pros.  It is much nicer for them to live in this coop as opposed to the grow pen in the barn because it has an outdoor section and an indoor section so they can get plenty of fresh air and sunshine.  Plus, it is fun for us because it is just out the back door, so we get to see them a lot more….and no one can look at a mama hen with her chicks and not smile.  🙂

Knitting

I have been sick this week, which means a lot of knitting was accomplished while I tried to rest and recuperate.

I finished the Fish Lips Kiss Heel Socks and I wrote about them here.

I also finished this adorable little Christmas sweater for Mr. Smiles.  The pattern is Snow is Falling Junior by Melissa Kemmerer.  I purposefully moved the snowflakes up higher in the pattern so they would show better when the baby is sitting.  He can’t walk yet, and I didn’t want the pretty snowflakes lost in the rumples of the sweater at his waist while sitting.  So I moved them up.

Remember this hooded scarf I was making and then tore out…?

Well that is the yarn I used on the baby’s sweater.  It is yarn made in our mill, from our livestock (50% angora from our bunny Oliver, and 50% CVM from our ewe, Violet).  We lovingly call it “Violiver.”  It is super soft and very warm, AND…this little sweater is now officially the first project I have finished that is made from fiber from our farm AND was processed in our mill.  I have previously made items from our fiber, but it was hand-processed.  So this little sweater is a bit of a milestone for us, and very special.  I am sure Mr. Smiles will look oh-so-cute in it.

Squash

We cooked up the last of the squash from the pumpkin patch and froze it for delicious breads, cookies, and pies this winter.  We really like the Red Kuri squash.  The pulp and seeds are easy to get out and the ratio of good flesh to pulp is very good, with far more “meat.”  And the flavor is like a mixture of a pumpkin and a butternut squash.  The Golden Nugget squash grew good as well, but the ratio of flesh was not even close to as good, and the pulp and seeds were hard to get out.

 

 

Operation Christmas Child

We are packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child again this year with our church.

This will be the second year the kids are making these bandanna backpacks.

And they are also sewing facecloths into little cases to hold the hygiene items we are putting in (soap, toothbrushes, combs, etc).

It is kind of hard to see, but the cases have three pockets inside of them.

“Old Man of the Farm”

I will leave you with a picture of Jerry, our barn cat.

Since our LGD, Tundra, died in July, Jerry is now the “Old Man of the Farm.”  Meaning that he is the oldest of the farm animals, at almost 11-years-old.  He and Tundra were actually best friends and grew up together.  At times we wondered if Jerry thought he was a dog, and if Tundra thought he was a cat.  During the long cold nights of winter the two of them would snuggle up in the hay to sleep cuddled together.  It was so cute.  I am not sure who Jerry will be cuddling with this winter.  Maybe the other barn cats.  I am guessing Anya, the new LGD puppy, is too rambunctious for him.

Sunday Homestead Update

More Snow!  We got more snow this week, this time it was about 5 inches and it stuck around for a couple of days.  It was pretty and we enjoyed being cozy by the woodstove through it.  But this continuous rain and snow pattern we have had the last 3-4 weeks has made the barnyard into a gooey mess and leaves the animals with few places to stand that aren’t mucky.  Hopefully things will dry up a bit in the coming weeks.

The day after the storm a flock of wild turkeys marched through our property.  They used to not live in this area at all, but in the last few years we have been seeing them occasionally, which is fun.

Knitting

I finished another project this week.  It is a balaclava for Little Miss.  I made three of these last year, one each for Little Miss, Braveheart, and Mr. Smiles.  They absolutely love them and wore them all winter.  But Little Miss’ head has grown and hers doesn’t fit her for this winter.  So I made her another one for Christmas.  I love the color of the yarn, it is Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick and Quick in the colorway Wild Strawberry.  The pattern is the Bailey Balaclava.  It is a super fast knit, and it is fun to knit something that I know will get so much use.

I am really enjoying the “Fish Lips Kiss Heel” pattern and method.  I plan to do a review on both the heel and the method in a future post.  For now, I have made it to the leg of the sock.

The Problem With Roosters

Because we have 5 kids and the kids love being involved in the farm, it is very important that the animals we keep are not aggressive.  Whenever we raise up breeding roosters we let them mature and then pick our favorite two (taking into consideration conformation as well as behavior).  Then we let those two mature even more and cull the most aggressive one.  That usually leaves us with a nicely tempered breeding rooster.  But every-so-often it doesn’t work, and here is why…sometimes when there are two roosters with the flock and one seems nice and sweet and the other is the boss and aggressive, when you remove the aggressive one and the sweet one is left all alone to take the dominant position in the flock, he all of a sudden decides he needs to be aggressive because there is no one else filling the job.

Unfortunately, that has just happened to us.  We have had two roosters for a couple months now and one was significantly more aggressive than the other.  So we butchered the more aggressive one this week.  The next morning all seemed fine, but the morning after that, when we opened the coop to let the chickens out, the previously submissive roo blew right out of the coop and attacked me.  Most times when a roo gets cheeky with me if I go after him aggressively with my big black muck boot he backs off.  Not so with this guy…he got more upset and attacked me more when I tried to get him away from me.  He is acting even WORSE that the one that we butchered earlier this week.  😦  And he is the only rooster we have left.  Sigh.  Sometimes homesteading just doesn’t work the way you hope no matter how hard you try to plan and prepare for it to go well.

Soooooo, I don’t know what we will do now.  At least for the time being no kids will be allowed in the chicken pen.

The hens on the other hand….are doing beautifully.

Alice and her 5 chicks are doing well.  We are hoping to move them to the lower coop soon, so they can have some fresh air and sunshine.  We are just waiting until we feel like the little ones can handle the steep ramp that the lower coop has.  Maybe this week…

One of our other Partridge Chanteclers is wanting to set now too.  We don’t normally let them set in fall, but we decided to go ahead and go for it, especially since we might not have a roo soon.  So we put 10 eggs under Ava today, and in 21 days will hopefully have another set of chicks running around.

Garden

We are finishing up the garden year.  We have beets and turnips still in the ground under the frost fabric tunnels, but everything else is done for the year.  I am hoping to get around to tallying up the harvest amounts this week.

The Gooseberry bush is turning a beautiful purple/red/brown color.

And the strawberry leaves are turning red and starting to lay down for the winter.

Homestead Update – We are Back

It has been over a month now, a very long, VERY long month.  But here we are, still pressing on and finding the blessings in the everyday ups and downs that are life.  Mr. Smiles is not out of the woods yet medically, but we have a reprieve from doctors and hospitals for awhile.

It is fall and I LOVE fall in the Rockies.  The weather is crisp but still warm enough for jeans and a t-shirt.  The smell is beautiful, and the views are, as always, impressive.  Even the sounds of fall are great – especially the elk bugling.

Garden

The harvest has been bountiful.  We have been harvesting, canning, and freezing consistently for the last month.  Our first frost came through, later than usual, but still it meant we had to harvest all the beans and tomatoes.  The basement has tables full of green tomatoes that will ripen for us over the next few months and we canned all the green (purple) beans.  Our experimental drying beans produced well and we are looking forward to growing more in future years.

Because we have such a short growing season (approx 10 weeks frost to frost), we have to harvest our tomatoes green right before the first frost, and let them ripen in the cool basement.  They will ripen over the next few months and still taste just as good as fresh from the garden!  The first year they all ripened within about a month of picking, but we have been purposefully breeding a long-keeping variety of tomatoes and saving the seeds from the longest keeping ones to lengthen how long they last each year.  Last year in December we were eating “fresh” tomatoes that had been harvested from the garden in September and had taken that long to ripen.  The flavor was still amazing and we are hoping to continue to extend the length of time they keep so we can eat fresh tomatoes farther and farther into the winter.  It will be interesting to see how long they last this year.

We also have enjoyed eating fried green tomatoes a few times this month as well.

The new onion patch we built in the spring really paid off.  We harvested more than 30 lbs of big beautiful onions.  We braided some of them and hung them in the basement.  Others are stored in a crate in the basement and we have been using them a lot for cooking.  We are making more changes to the new onion patch this fall and next spring to make it even better.  More on that project later.

The carrots, turnips, beets, lettuce, peas, and spinach are still going strong in the garden.

The grape harvest this year was much bigger than ever before at 2 lbs.  Still not enough for a batch of jelly, but we are hopeful now that the vine is established we will be able to get more and more.

We harvested a lot of herbs before the frost as well, and they are hung all over the house drying.  Once dry we will crush them up and store them in jars, using them through the winter to season our food.

Bears

Fall does mean bear trouble in our area as the bears start to prepare for hibernation.  Every year we have barn break-in attempts made by bears, last year was the worst with 8 attempts between Sept-Nov.  They were stopped only by the barking of our LGD, Tundra, that woke us so we could chase the bear off.  Now that Tundra is dead, our new LGD, Anya, is holding down the fort.  We have been very surprised to have no attempts at all made on the barn this year by the bears.  We are not sure what it is that is different and making them not even try…is it Anya’s larger size and larger bark?  We are not sure but we are happy about it.

Unfortunately, the bears have been breaking into cars on our property.  In our area we have multiple generations of garbage-fed bears that don’t know how to eat naturally and only know how to eat from humans.  Last year they finally implemented a law forcing people to lock up their trash, which is good, but a bit too-little-too-late.  Now the bears are so desperate for food they are breaking into homes and cars because they can’t get trash from dumpsters anymore.  If a vehicle is left unlocked they will open it up and check it out, even if there isn’t any food in it.  They can actually operate the door handles.  And even when a car is locked they will often try to open it and leave nasty scratches all over the door.  Also, a friend left their car window cracked an inch while parked on our property over night and the bear grabbed it and busted it out.

Lastly, and definitely the least of the bear troubles, was a bear that decided to try out some of our squash.  Apparently it didn’t fit his tastes as he left it on the ground after tasting it.

Chickens

All the pullets are now laying and we are enjoying bountiful fresh eggs.

One of the two roosters we kept for breeding roos is getting pretty aggressive, so we will likely be butchering him soon and just keep the one.

One of the new laying pullets, a Partridge Chantecler named Alice, decided she wanted to set right away as soon as she started laying.  So we went ahead and gave her 7 eggs since the roos were mature and we had fertile eggs.  All seven were fertile and 6 of them hatched!  One died in the first day or so, which is not uncommon, so we have 5 adorable chicks with their mama hen in the barn now.

Sheep

We have separated the ram off from the ewes until November when we want them to breed.  He hasn’t shown signs of being mature enough yet, but we are hoping that he will be ready in the next month or so and we don’t want winter lambs being born.

I caught this pic of one of the chickens “grooming” the sheep by picking seeds out of the wool.  They do that often and I love it.

More updates coming later this week…