Sunday Homestead Update

Another beautiful summer week in the Rockies!  We have had highs in the 80s F and lows in the 50s with a lot of afternoon rain showers.  It has been lovely weather.

Knitting

I finally finished Mr. Smiles’ sweater!  I am very happy with how it turned out and can’t wait until he is big enough to wear it!

The pattern was Design B by Sirdar Spinning and the yarn was Knit Picks Swish DK in the color Squirrel Heather.

After that long project, that dragged on for months, I am in need of something fast, so I have started some simple socks using a self striping yarn.  I find that stripes always seem to make a project go faster because you are anxious to get to the next stripe color.

Sheep

The sheep are all doing well.  We have been given watermelon rinds for them several times a week this summer and they absolutely love them.  Agnes’ face is even stained pink!  Here is Toffee enjoying a rind:

We had a Winnie-the-Pooh sort of incident with the sheep.  We have a creep feeder for the lambs.  It is one of the birthing stalls that we secured the door open just enough that the lambs can get in but not the ewes.  That way we can feed the lambs extra grain and alfalfa so they can grow well without the ewes eating it and getting fat.  Late last night, as we were getting ready to go to sleep, we heard a sheep distress call over and over again.  The guardian dogs were not barking, just the sheep calling.  It was really strange, so Mtn Man immediately went out to the barn to see what was going on.  What he found was hilarious.  Our biggest lamb, Daffodil, who barely fits through the creep feeder door anymore, had gone into the creep feeder to eat and had eaten so much that her belly was too big for her to get back out!  Just like the Winnie-the-Pooh books our kids love, where Pooh is stuck in Rabbit’s doorway.  Mtn Man helped her get back to the flock and it gave us all a good laugh.

Chickens

Eve hatched out three chicks from the hatching eggs we bought her.  They are each different color and oh-so-cute with their mama.

We had a chicken accidental death this week.  I will discuss the details in an upcoming post.  It was my favorite of all the chickens, Amber, my only breeding Red Chantecler, which was such a bummer.  Now if I want to breed Reds I need to think about ordering some more chicks next year.

Garden

The garden continues to grow and produce beautifully.  We have finished harvesting all the cabbage for this year, with a total of 33.5 lbs!  That is about ten times what we have gotten in the past (yes, we have only gotten a few very small cabbages in the past), so we are very excited about it.  And usually we don’t harvest cabbage until September.  I think the tents we put them in definitely helped.

We made a big batch of sauerkraut and put it in the 3-gallon crock to ferment.

In about 3 weeks the sauerkraut will be ready to eat.

We also made some delicious, fresh, coleslaw.  We are all definitely enjoying all the yummy cabbage right from the garden.  And they are so much sweeter than store-bought.

Odds and Ends

This last weekend we decided it was time to take care of some odds and ends and finish some incomplete projects.

First, we clipped all the chickens’ wings.  We clipped them when we first started letting them out in the barnyard a couple of months ago, but since they are young, growing birds they grew back enough that lately they have been getting quite a bit of height when they try to fly over the barnyard fence.  We want them to stay in the barnyard, so we re-clipped their wings.

Then we fixed a couple of things that had broken from time, use, and animal destruction.  The small chicken door from their pen into the barnyard kept falling out of it’s slide, so it got fixed.

While we were working with the chickens we found our first pullet egg.  One of the Easter Egger pullets laid us a nice little blue egg!

The gate between the front and back barnyards had some bent and broken wires from Anya putting her feet up on it, so we added a diagonal wood bar to it to support it better.

And we put weaning devices in the lambs’ noses.  We have been waiting to see if the ewes would encourage it on their own, but they are letting them go longer than we wanted.  We want the ewes to be in good condition come breeding season, so it was time to wean the lambs.  The devices make weaning so easy – they block the lamb from being able to nurse, but they can still eat and drink.  And the lambs get to still live with their mothers, so it isn’t as stressful as separating them from each other.  We have found them to be very useful over the years with lambs and calves.  They didn’t work as well with the goats because their teats are longer and the goat kids could nurse from the side of their mouths.

They will stay in for a week or so, until the ewes’ udders dry up.  Then we can take them out.

Then we turned part of the compost pile.  Since the chickens were not out on in this last winter it hasn’t composted as well.  We need to do several turns before fall so that hopefully we can use it in the garden next spring.

After turning it we started a new pile by cleaning out the sheep stall.

Then we focused on making some more progress on a project we have been working on a long time…a little here and there.  The interior walls of the barn.  When we built the barn we hooked siding on the outside of the framing.  Then we put up foil bubble insulation that we had leftover from a different project.  Then, in the stalls we were able to put up board and batten interior walls over the foil.  But we didn’t have enough wood to do the rest of the inside of the barn.  Over time, when we have the wood, we have put up a section of wall here or there.  Last winter the wind blew down a big tree at a friend’s property and they said we could have all the wood if we hauled it off and cleaned up the area.  So we took the tree to the lumber mill and had them make it into boards for us.  We used some of it to build the fence earlier this summer.  And all that was left was one-by boards.  So we decided to use it to make more progress on the walls in the barn.

On the left you are seeing one of the walls that just has insulation over the siding.  On the right is a wall with board on it.  Still needs it’s batten, but looks much better!

And here is that same area after we finished the board and batten on it.  It is so nice!

Each section we add helps close up the cracks and keeps drafts out of the barn, thus making it better for the animals through the long cold winters we have.

I love how the barn and property just keep getting nicer and nicer the longer we live here and the more we work on it.  The first year or so it looked like shanty-town, but over time with a lot of hard work, patience to wait for the right materials to come along, and a lot of dreaming about what we want it to be – we have been able to slowly turn it into exactly what we want and make it nicer and nicer.  What a blessing!

Homestead Update

Farm life and regular life continues to keep us very busy…too busy to post much lately.  Let’s see if I can catch you up on some of it.

The County Fair is closing in on us faster than we can get ready.  The kids all have their 4H projects for fair, and several of us are also entering things in the open class.  We are excited, but also a little rushed to complete everything this year.

Garden

The garden is going so well this year!  The vegetables that have done not-as-well in previous years are doing very well this year, and most of the veggies that normally do very well are still doing very well this year.  The three veggies not doing as well this year are carrots, lettuce, and spinach.  The carrots are not doing well because I used some seeds I had saved and apparently they didn’t get saved properly because they had terrible germination.  And the lettuce and spinach aren’t doing well because one of the drip lines broke and they didn’t get the water they needed.

 

The cabbages are absolutely loving the pest control tents, and the compost-filled place they were planted.  Normally, we don’t harvest cabbage until September, and even then they are only about 1.5 lbs each.  We have already started the cabbage harvest and they are all in the 3-lb range, with the biggest being 3.5!  There are still several that are not ready yet, which is good because we don’t really want all of them at the same time.  We will be making a big batch of kraut in the fermenting crock this week with these cabbages.

We harvested our first beet as well – again, normally we don’t harvest beets until later in the year.

We have been getting a handful or more of strawberries each day for a couple of weeks now.  They are so delicious!  Very sweet and juicy.  And bigger than previous years by far.  A few are growing some strange shapes that are fun for the kids.

We had quite an aphid infestation on the currant bushes, and it was spreading to the tomatoes as well.  We decided to try ladybugs, which we had never tried before.  We got a cup that said it had over 1,500 in it and put them by the infested plants during a cool/cloudy time of day per the instructions.  It really helped with the infestation and we are happy with the results.

The three-year-old grapevine is doing extremely well this year.  It is vining all over the lattice and has numerous clumps of grapes on it.  As long as the critters don’t steal any, I expect we will have a great harvest of grapes this year as well.

The peas are doing much better this year than in previous years as well.  We have harvested mostly snap so far, but the shelling peas are coming along well too and should be ready very soon.  All the tomatoes are flowering and the earliest one has some tiny green fruit on it already.  The beans are growing so fast that each time we go out in the morning we can actually see the difference in size.

We left the WOWs on the squash, pumpkins, and melons longer than usual, which helped keep them a bit warmer and protected them from the June hail storms.  A couple of WOWs are still on.  So the pumpkin patch is looking very good this year and we are hopeful for a good harvest there as well.

We should have some zucchini ready very soon.

The Red Kuri squash leaves curl in on the edges, which looks really cool.

Chickens

Three weeks ago I put some hatching eggs I bought under our little silkie hen, Eve, so she could set and raise some chicks.  She is currently hatching them out, we have seen two chicks so far and she still has two viable eggs left.

New Goat

We tried to sell our old milk goat, Gretchen, since she can’t be bred again.  But not many people are looking for an old nanny goat that can’t be bred, so after trying for a month we decided we just needed to butcher her.  We will use the meat for dog food.

Our new milk goat, Fern, arrived at the farm this week.  She is a registered Nubian with excellent udder confirmation and is very easy to milk.  She is currently fresh.  We are glad to be back into milking and having fresh milk.

LGDs

Anya has an interesting habit of burying her food before she eats it.  She uses her nose to push whatever is available over the food and the dish.  Then she paces around, then digs it up and eats it.  It is very cute.  She is continuing to do well with her training and excel as a guardian dog.  She is doing well with all the animals now, including the chickens.  We still are not leaving her alone with them yet, since she is only a year and the lambs are not full size yet, but whenever we are out and can keep an eye on things we put her with the livestock and when we are not around she is in the back pen by herself and can interact with them through the fence.

Tundra, our head LGD, is not doing so well.  He is 12 and 1/2 years old now and his age is getting the best of him.  I don’t think he has long left.  He has been such an amazing guardian dog all these years and truly loves doing his job.  We are hoping for an easy and peaceful passing for him.  It is going to be very hard on the family, but there is nothing that can be done about it.  I often wish dogs lived longer.

Knitting

I always knit socks, sleeves, and mittens two-at-a-time because I hate having to do another one after I have just finished one.  Well, for the first time ever I learned why it might be beneficial to only do one-at-a-time.  I was almost done with both sleeves for Mr. Smiles’ sweater and then I realized that I had done the increases wrong and had to completely take them out.  Taking out and re-doing two is definitely more work than just one.  😦

But I got them fixed and am about half done with them again.  I can’t wait to assemble this sweater!  It is so cute with the cables up the front.

That brings you up-to-date about most of the going-ons around the homestead!  I will leave you with a picture of the beautiful wildflowers that are blooming along the path to the barn.  There were even more of them in bloom a week ago, but you can still see how pretty they are.

Sunday Homestead Update

Sunday Homestead Update

BBQ Sauce for the 4th

We are hosting a BBQ at the farm for our extended family this year on the 4th of July.  We have been busy preparing, cleaning up and organizing the farm, crafting decorations, and cooking.  I decided to make this delicious BBQ Sauce recipe, from the Humble Food Snob.   I have made, and canned, this recipe before and our family loves it.  I decided to make a huge batch so that we would have some for the 4th, but also so I could can some for us to use in the coming months.

We ended up with 2 quarts to use for the BBQ, and in the coming weeks, and I canned 9 pints.  YUM!

Heritage Arts

I frogged the Reyna shawl that I started last week.  I felt like the pattern looked very pretty in the variegated yarn in the pattern photo, but in my solid-colored yarn the pattern seemed boring.  I wanted something with more pizzazz.  So once I took apart the Reyna, I cast the yarn on with the Swallowtail Lace Shawl pattern by Evelyn Clark Designs.

Chickens

Last week we bought 12 hatching eggs so that our broody hen, Eve, could set.  I started them in the incubator because she is too small to set 12.  At day-3 candling 1 was rotten, 2 were infertile, 5 were fertile and looked healthy, and 4 looked questionable.  So we put the 5 good ones under Eve and took away her ceramic ones.  I threw away the rotten one and the infertile ones.  And I left the 4 questionable ones in the incubator until Friday, when I found that of the 4 questionable eggs was infertile, 1 was good, and the other two were early deaths (blood ring).  So Eve is now happily setting on 6 eggs, and the incubator is back in storage.

And then there were three…We started with 8 cockerels and butchered 2 a couple weeks ago.  This week we butchered another 3, leaving 3 for me to pick from for next year’s future flock breeding roo.  We have been rating them on the qualities we are looking for and watching them as they mature in order to decide who will stay and who will go.  In this batch of 3 that we butchered we had quite a size difference between the smaller two and the largest one.

This time around the older two kiddos wanted to see if they are able to do the whole process of butchering on their own.  So Mtn Man did the first one, then Young Man and Sunshine each did one on their own after that.  It is pretty exciting that our older kids are now capable of butchering a chicken start to finish on their own.

In another month or so we will likely butcher the final two, leaving just one breeding roo for next year.

That’s the update on what has been going on around Willow Creek Farm this week.  🙂

Sunday Homestead Update

We had a somewhat calm week here on the farm.  Calm compared to the busy-ness of late.  It was hot for our area, so the animals all mostly laid around in the shade trying to stay cool, and us humans spent a lot of time indoors.

Heritage Arts

When we cleaned out the sewing room, I found a pair of socks, hibernating, that I had started March of 2016.  I decided it was high-time to finish them.  I made them summer-length, so it didn’t take long to finish them up.  These were my first socks made with hand-dyed yarn.  I knit them 2-at-a-time, from each end of the skein, and found that the coloring is slightly different on each.  I guess one end of the skein was a bit different in color than the other because of the hand-dyeing.  But I like them nonetheless!  I always wanted to make socks with different colored toes/heels/cuffs – and this was my first pair doing that.  I am very happy with them.

I am also continuing to press on with the sweater for Mr. Smiles.  Still on the sleeves and at that boring part in the middle of something easily repetitive where it feels like you are not making any progress at all.

And since I got those socks off the needles, and am at the boring part in Mr. Smiles’ sweater, I had a strong desire to cast something new on.  🙂

So I got out the baby alpaca/silk/cashmere oh-so-soft and luscious fingering weight yarn that Mtn Man bought me at Fiber Train a few weeks ago and cast on a shawl.

We didn’t get to any sewing this week except more mending, mostly patching pants.

Impromptu Hatch

Eve decided she wants to set, and since I haven’t let her set and hatch eggs since January of 2016, it was time to let her have a go.  I want to continue to encourage her to brood and raise chicks, and not get rid of that tendency in her.  She is an excellent mama hen.

Being that she is a Silky, she can only handle about 6 regular-sized chicken eggs under her.  I bought hatching eggs for her since our roosters are not ready to breed quite yet, and they came by the dozen.  So I put the eggs into the incubator, and put ceramic eggs under Eve to keep her in the mood.  Once the eggs are in the incubator 5 days I will check fertility and put the fertile ones under her.  If there are more than 6 fertile then I will leave some in the incubator and add the incubator chicks to her chicks after they all hatch.  Even though she can only set about 6 eggs, she can raise 10 or so chicks.

We moved her to the broody coop to set and hatch.

The hatching eggs are just some random mixed breeds, nothing we are interested in keeping, I just needed something to put under her so she could go through the process.  We will sell and butcher them when they are big enough.