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.

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

Feels like summer around here!  Beautiful sunny days, early afternoon showers, and cool, fresh evenings.  We are enjoying all our regular summer activities – gardening, animals, popsicles, sprinklers, hiking, crafts, farm projects, reading, visitors, outings….etc.

Garden

June is the time of year for hail in the Rockies.  Knowing this, I have left my WOWs on the tomato and squash plants longer than necessary just to try to protect them from the hail as long as possible.  This week we had a doozie of a storm, and thankfully there was very little garden damage because of the WOWs, plus the pest control fabric over the cabbage, lettuce, spinach, turnips, and beets.  We were home when it happened, so we ran outside and threw sheets over the strawberry patch, the few tomatoes that were unprotected, and the celery.  So almost everything was spared from the storm.  The rhubarb and beans did sustain a lot of damage, as well as many of the herb seedlings we had just put out into the garden.  Thankfully we still have several herb seedlings indoors under the grow lights.  We will put them out in a few weeks when the major hail danger has passed.

Thankfully, somehow the grapevines didn’t get hurt.  I think the angle of the hail was slanted enough that the patio roof protected them.  The older vine is doing SO well this year.  It has about 50 flower clusters on it.  Hopefully, some of those will turn into grapes for us.  Our goal for the younger vine is just for it to grow and spread this year, it is still very small and not doing as well as the older one.

I love the purple chive flowers each year – so pretty!

The cabbage are all very happy in their tent tunnels.  The fabric and arches for the tunnels have been quite an annoyance and need constant upkeep, but they seem to be helping thus far and they definitely protected them from the hail damage.

Heritage Arts

The girls and I decided to clean out and organize the craft room.  In the process we found several half-finished projects and a lot of mending.  So we set to work on all of it.  I am teaching Little Miss how to use the sewing machine, and she wanted to make curtains for her playhouse, so we did that.  We mended several pairs of pants and a couple of shirts.  We finished the last of the Spring/Easter cloth placemat and napkin set.  And now we are left with two bigger projects that we are working on.

First, we are making some cloth bibs for Mr. Smiles.  I will post more about that this week.

The second project has to do with some leftover scraps from the cloth placemats we made.  When we cut the corners off the placemats we were left with a lot of fabric triangles.  We didn’t want to just throw them away so we have been piecing them together and have been putting together different pattern ideas to make them into hot pads/trivets to go on the table under hot dishes.  It will be nice because they will match the placemat/napkin sets for each season.

Hopefully we will get those done this week.

In addition, we have found a new hobby (like we needed another hobby!) – Needle Felting.  Sunshine was the first one to have interest in it, but now Little Miss, Braveheart, and I have joined in the fun.  I bought this kit from the Felted Dog and made this cute Christmas ornament.

Chickens

The cockerels are 17 weeks this weekend, which is usually when we butcher them.  But we decided to wait another week because a couple of the ones we need to butcher are a little smaller than we hoped.  We did assess them all (there are 8) and begin the process of deciding which will become the future breeding rooster for the flock.

LGDs

Anya has now accomplished the next step in her training – she has been allowed to meet the chickens off-leash and spend time with them in the barnyard.  We still wont leave her alone with them for awhile since she is only a year old and still has some puppy behavior, but so far she has shown no signs of wanting to hurt them and has done very well hanging out with them.

Tundra’s Defy the Fly collar is definitely losing its potency already.  It has only been a week and the flies are beginning to get at his ears again.  They have also added his nose to the menu since it is farther away from the deterrent collar.  We still have the collar on him and have also been rubbing some human spray bug repellent on him to boost the fly control.  The flies are just terrible this year already, much worse than normal for our area.  They are bothering the goat and even the sheep.  We have never had the flies go after the sheep before.

The Fiber Mill

The Mill has been getting very busy, which is such a wonderful blessing.  Mtn Man is making all sorts of amazing yarns and fun blends.  He has been working with Navajo Churro and several other types of wool, Alpaca, and Goat Mohair.  Some of the blends include silk, bison, and merino into a few of the Alpaca and Mohair yarns.  So many options…so much fun!

 

Sunday Homestead Update

Wow, it has been 4 weeks since I did a Sunday Homestead Update!  Life is just a bit crazy around here with warmer weather, gardening, animals, tying up the end of school, the fiber mill getting busy, attending and preparing for fiber festivals, family coming to town to visit…the list goes on and on.  I am so busy living the homestead life that it is hard finding time to document it in photos and blog posts.

Gardening

The garden is going well.  Since the update I posted a couple days ago we have gotten the new pole bean arch built and up and planted the seedlings by it.

Mtn Man made this out of part of a cattle panel.

The last of the seeds and seedlings are all in the ground, so the main part of planting season is officially over.  I will still plant succession lettuce and spinach, and I also will plant a few things later for fall crops.

Fiber Mill

The fiber mill is starting to get busy, which is so wonderful!  Mtn Man attended the FiberTrain Festival in Idaho to promote our mill.  He took Young Man with him and they met a lot of great people in the fiber industry.  They also were sweet enough to bring me back something pretty:

I am beginning to dream of what to make with them.

Heritage Arts

I have just finished up the front of Mr. Smiles’ sweater.  I am now starting on the sleeves.  I am really happy with this pattern so far and think it will be adorable when finished.

Sheep and LGDs

The lambs are growing fast.  Fergus especially.  He is now as big as the ewe lamb that is a month older than him, and is getting close to as big as Tundra.  Tundra is about 55 lbs.

Tundra and Anya continue to do their job well now that the bears are out of hibernation.  We have had a couple of bear visits.  Anya’s bark seems to have a better effect on the bears than Tundra’s has – they have high tailed it out of here faster than usual.  It also might have to do with two dogs barking as opposed to just one.  But Anya does have a very deep, very BIG dog bark that would send me high-tailing it out of here too if I was the one she was barking at.

Chickens

We integrated the older hens in with the young pullets in the upper coop and are letting them free range in the barnyard while Anya gets used to them.  We also moved the cockerels down into the lower coop.

Farm Projects

We got some work done on some of our farm projects this weekend too.

We finished the ram shed, which is a three sided shelter in the ram pen that we framed with pallets, stuffed with raw wool skirtings, and sided with rough sawn board and batten from the tree we took down last fall.  Eventually, the ram will live in the back barnyard during the day and this shed will be his shelter.  At night he will be closed in his own stall in the barn for safety from predators.

The second project we did was put in the permanent fence to separate the front barnyard from the back barnyard.

It was previously separated by horse panels with wire attached.

Before:

After:

Before:

After:

Before:

After:

Sorry for the light difference in the photos, one was the early morning light before we started, and the other is the early evening light when we finished.

We built in a section of the fence to be a feeder similar to our other fence feeders, we just didn’t finish it yet.  We also built in a section where the water trough can be under the fence and thus shared by both barnyards.

Sorting Chickens

Our chicks are now 10 weeks old and we are getting ready to integrate the females in with our older hens and separate out the cockerels into their own coop/pen.  Since we are selectively breeding our chickens, we keep close track and records of each of the birds.  So in preparation for the integration we banded each of the chicks and added them to the flock tracking sheet.

My favorite type of bands are these colored and numbered ones from Strombergs.  I use the color to indicate which generation they are, and the number is for the individual bird.  They stay on quite well, though we do occasionally find one off.  And they come in a good variety of sizes.

10-week-old Silkie

We also clipped the left wing on every bird because we will be free-ranging them in the barnyard and we do that to keep them from flying up and over the fences.

We decided to use an alphabetical naming system this time around, since we are just getting back into breeding.  So all the first generation birds are names that start with “A” – second generation will start with “B” – and so on.  So the kids had fun coming up with “A” names for all the chicks.

10-week-old Salmon Faverolles Pullet

10-week-old Partridge Chantecler Pullet

We ended up with 27 surviving chicks – 7 cockerels, 19 pullets, and 1 unknown.  The cockerels are all Buff Chantecler.  We will pick the best one or two and keep them as breeding roosters, the rest will be butchered once they are big enough.  There are 4 Buff Chantecler, 4 Partridge Chantecler, 1 Red Chantecler, 5 Easter Egger, and 5 Salmon Faverolles pullets.  The last chick is a beautiful Splash Silkie.  We are not sure yet if it is a male or female.

L to R: Buff Chantecler, Partridge Chantecler, Salmon Faverolles