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

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.

Incubating Chicken Eggs – Day 18 Through the Hatching Process

This is the 3rd and final post in our Incubating Chicken Eggs Series.  Read the first two posts by clicking the following links:

How to Prepare for an Incubation

Incubating Chicken Eggs – the First 17 Days

Once you have candled on day 17 and removed any obvious dead eggs you prepare for “Lock-Down.”  You need to remove the egg turner (if you have one) and set all the eggs on their sides flat on the bottom of the incubator.  You also need to raise the incubator humidity up to about 65-75% (lower for high altitude).  During the days that follow you need to open the incubator as little as possible, only when absolutely necessary to maintain the humidity (thus the term “lock-down”).  If the water reservoirs in your incubator are not enough to keep the humidity up you can add wet paper towels to the incubator.  I ball them up loosely and then put them in and pour water on them.  I continue to wet them as needed.  Do not use small containers of water because your chicks could drown in them after hatch if you aren’t careful.

Now you wait in excited anticipation for the hatch to begin!  Keep the humidity up while you wait and through the entire hatch.  The first chick can pip anywhere from day 20-24ish, but most hatches take place on day 21.  It can take about 24-72 hours for the hatch to complete (from the first chick to the last chick).

Let’s look at the hatching process.  This is a repost from my blog a few years ago…

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The Hatching Process

I always thought that a chick just hatched.  It just busted out of the egg in a big spurt of energy.  Like one minute inside the egg, the next minute broken egg with chick out.  Silly I guess, but true.  It has been fun to learn about how a chick hatches, and especially to watch it first-hand.

Here is how a chick hatches:

1.  Internal Pip – the internal pip is when the chick uses it’s beak to break through the membrane into the air cell in the fat end of the egg.  It will take its first breath and start breathing regularly and even cheeping once this happens.  You can’t see anything from outside the egg, but you can hear it cheeping from inside the egg.  The egg often wobbles around a lot too during this time as the chick wiggles.

2.  External Pip – the external pip is when the chick uses its beak to break through the shell, leaving one little crack or hole.  This happens after it has already broken into the air cell and started breathing.  As you can see in the pictures, sometimes a pip is actually a hole and the shell falls off there, sometimes it is just a few cracks in the shell and it sticks out a bit.

photo 10Sometimes, as in the second picture above, the chick does not get into proper position inside the egg to perform an internal pip into the air cell first.  It is called a mal-positioned chick and it performs a mal-positioned external pip, and no internal pip.  A mal-positioned pip usually takes longer to get out because it is just taking its first breaths at the time of the external pip and thus is combining the time for internal and external into one time.  Sometimes, they don’t survive at all.

3.  After the external pip there is often a long period of time with little to no activity with the egg.  If the pip is a hole you can see the beak inside the hole moving a bit, opening and closing, and cheeping occasionally.  During this time the chick is absorbing all the blood from the vessels in the membrane of the shell, as well as absorbing the yolk into its abdomen.  This is why chicks don’t need to eat right away, because they have the energy from the yolk to live on.

4.  Zip (or unzip) – Once the chick has absorbed everything it needs to absorb it will start to “unzip” its shell.  It makes a line of pips about 3/4 of the way to almost all the way around the egg, creating kind of a cap.  Here are some examples of zips.

h1 h2.5 h25. Kick and Hatch – when the chick has finished unzipping the shell it begins to kick its feet and push with its head over and over again, slowly (or fast, depending on the chick) breaking off the cap and getting out of the shell.  The chick in the pictures below actually got its toes out the crack a bit during kicking.

h3 h4 h5 h6 h7 h8 h10When the chick comes out it is wet and pretty tired.  Most of them lay around for a bit, but some get right to the business of learning to walk.

The time frame on all the above steps varies SO much between chicks.  Our two quickest chicks went from pip to hatch in only 3 and 4 hours.  Our two longest, both mal-positioned pips, took 24 and 27 hours.  Most of the chicks went from external pip to hatch in about 12-14 hours.

It is such an amazing process and our family has enjoyed watching it SO much.  It never got boring, even by the 23rd hatch we still came running when someone yelled “chick hatching!”

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When the chicks start hatching and learning to walk they will be jostling the other eggs as they scramble around the incubator.  We have found that it is best to leave them in the incubator until they are fully dry, even though they are jostling the other eggs.  Sometimes we use one of our incubators for hatching and the other for drying, this decreases the jostling.

Once a chick is fully dry we open it quickly and get them out and put them in the brooder.  We go quickly so as not to let too much humidity out since it is important for the hatching ones to still have plenty of humidity.

We have now discussed the entire incubating and hatching process!  I hope you get the chance to enjoy watching this miracle in action at some point.

Sunday Homestead Update

We continue to battle illness here, but homestead life doesn’t just stop because everyone is sick, so there is still some productivity going on.

Hatch

Our hatch this week surprised us by starting a day early.  Friday was day 21, but Thursday afternoon my daughter, Sunshine, was sitting near the incubators and called to me…”Mooommmmmmm!  I think I hear cheeping!”  We all hurried over in excited anticipation and sure enough, we found that there were a few eggs that had external pips on the shell.  Then the waiting began….it is always so hard to wait.  🙂

By Saturday night 35 chicks had hatched!

They are all very light colors.  The rooster is white, so it looks like that came through strongly.  There are a couple we think will be blue, and several chipmunk stripes, but even the chipmunks are light.  There are only about 4 that look to be darker colors.

We have them in two brooders, using our ecoglow 2Os to heat them.

Chickens

We moved Lily and her one chick back into the bantam coop.  The chick is about 8 weeks old, so it was time to get them re-integrated after hatching and brooding.

Heritage Arts

I have continued to work on the hoody cardigan for Mr. Smiles.  I am about halfway done with the bands, which is the last thing before adding buttons and being done.  So I expect to finish this week.  There are some cute pockets that can be added, but I am running short on yarn and Mr. Smiles wont use them anyway, they would just be decorative.

Sunshine made these kitchen towels to go with the dishcloths and scrubbies I showed you a couple of weeks ago.

Loft Extension

Because our property doesn’t have anywhere we can graze the livestock we have to feed hay year-round.  Since hay prices are much better in the summer and fall we like to buy a full year’s worth of hay then to save us money and make the farm more efficient financially.  But that means we need storage space for that hay.  Our barn has two hay lofts, one on each side over the stalls.  You can see them in this picture (we are enjoying the panoramic setting on our phone cameras that makes it easy to get these types of pics).  On the left is the sheep stall with a hay loft, on the right is the secondary stall and chicken pens with a hay loft over them.  And in the center are the lambing jugs, one of which is full of hay right now.

The two lofts give enough space for about 100 bales of hay, which is about enough to feed 3 adults and a couple of babies through the year (sheep and goats).  We often have more than that, and thus have to store the extra hay in random places.  So we decided to extend the loft across the center of the barn.  The new section does not go all the way to the back wall.  We wanted to still be able to use that window for air circulation in the summer, and that is the cat feeding area, so we didn’t take the loft all the way back.  We went about 3/4 of the way and put up a railing to keep the hay from falling off the back.

We still need to add some lights under the new loft to light the jug areas for birthing, and we need to build the ladder (we usually monkey our way up the sides of the stalls and jugs to get up there, it would be nice to have an actual built-in ladder).

With this new section we should be able to store another 25-30 bales, which will help a lot with us not having to store hay in random places.