2017 Year-End Homestead Review

It always amazes me when we do our year-end review and look back over the past 12 months how much we have accomplished.  Even in hard years it is good because we can see that we really did a lot on the homestead despite everything we struggled with.

To read previous Year-End Reviews Click the following links:

2013

2014

2015

2016

Statistics

Goats:

  • Started the year with 2 pregnant does
  • One set of triplet doelings born, 2 sold as bottle kids, 1 sold as weanling
  • One doeling born breech, dead at birth
  • One doe sold, one butchered for dog food because she couldn’t be bred anymore and was very old
  • Purchased 2 new does in summer, fresh with milk
  • Sold does because of our need to be free from milking because of son’s continuing health issues and hospitalizations
  • 70 gallons of milk produced for our family use

Sheep:

  • Started the year with 4 pregnant ewes and 1 yearling ewe
  • 5 lambs born – 4 ewe lambs, 1 ram lamb
  • Twin ewe lambs bottle raised, sold as bottle babies
  • 1 ewe culled
  • 1 ewe butchered, 26 lbs of meat, 12 lbs dog food, plus stock bones
  • 2 fleece sheared off for a total of 11 lbs raw
  • Flock of 6 sheep sold at end of year because of son’s continuing health issues and hospitalizations

Chickens:

  • Started year with 7 hens
  • Purchased 33 chicks
  • 6 chicks died first week of life, 27 chicks survived – 20 pullets, 7 cockerels
  • Butchered 6 cockerels and 2 old hens
  • 1 pullet killed by LGD pup
  • Broody hen set on purchased hatching eggs, 3 chicks hatched and survived and sold
  • 5 pullets sold at point of lay
  • 2 different broody hens set on our fertile eggs, hatched 10, 9 survived, 3 cockerels will be butchered January, 2 pullets kept, the rest still too young to know
  • 1,858 eggs laid
  • 17 eggs set for hatching
  • 49 doz sold
  • 104 doz for our own use

Fiber Rabbit:

  • Oliver, our English Angora Rabbit, was sheared 4 times this year, produced about 8 oz of fiber this year.
  • Oliver died of complications of a wool block in October

Farm Dogs:

  • Started the year with our amazing 13-year-old farm dog, Tundra, working the barnyard alone because the OTSC dog, Finley, was clearly not going to work out as his replacement.
  • Bought a 10-month-old Anatolian Shepherd, Anya, in the spring to work with Tundra and be the future replacement LGD.
  • Tundra died of old age at the end of July.
  • Anya is continuing to mature and be trained to be our lead LGD.

Garden:

  • 314 lbs of produce harvested
  • Spent $112 on the garden this year, average of $0.36 per lb.

Heritage Arts:

  • I completed the following knit projects: 6 pairs of socks, 2 toddler size sweaters, 2 balaclavas, 1 hooded scarf, 3 stuffed Easter Bunnies, and a pair of hunting gloves.  And I extended the length of the Farmhouse shawl that I made last year.  I also made one felted Christmas ornament.
  • I sewed 10 skirts, 24 cloth placemats, 48 cloth napkins, 3 toddler bibs, finished 1 crosstitch bookmark, and we made one batch of coffee-ground soap.  Plus innumerable amounts of mending and patching of clothes.
  • The girls did countless projects, each of them finishing more projects than I did.  I didn’t keep track of them, but I do know they sewed those 12 quilted hot pad trivets to match my placemat/napkin sets, and 80 backpacks and 232 facecloth hygiene kits for Operation Christmas Child.

Kitchen:

  • We didn’t keep canning stats this year, we were just too busy.  But we did do some canning.  Definitely less than usual.

Year Summary

In January we stayed warm and cozy inside while the snow flew and the outside temps stayed low.  We did brave the cold to work on several barn projects, remodeling and making things better suited for our needs.  We started a no-pre-processed-food challenge.  We worked on many heritage arts projects, including sewing, knitting, and soap making.  We also prepared for our first goat kids to be born.

February brought the first goat kids to the farm.  Heidi kidded adorable, colorful, tiny, triplets.  The birth was an adventure, since the first kid was breech.  But they all survived and we enjoyed the adorable antics of three babies.  And those weren’t the only babies on the farm in February, our 33 chicks also arrived and we enjoyed having them in the brooder in the house.

March had some gains and some losses.  We had a very sad and scary delivery for our goat Gretchen.  Her kid did not survive the ordeal, and we were barely able to pull Gretchen through it.  We sold two of Heidi’s kids as bottle babies and kept one doeling with her.  We began to get goat’s milk that we could use for our family, which was a huge blessing.  And our first lamb arrived earlier than we expected, but healthy and doing well.  She was the first second-generation lamb born on our farm.  We purchased her granddam, Daphne, who lambed her dam Violet for us, and then Violet lambed Daffodil.  It was a fun milestone birth.

April brought more gains and losses and was a very FULL month on the homestead.  We had twin ewe lambs born and sadly lost their mother right after birth, which left us with bottle babies.  We raised them a few weeks before selling them.  We also sold Heidi and her doeling, leaving us with one doe in milk.  We then had two more single lambs born, a ewe and a ram.  The chicks were big enough to integrate into the adult flock.  We started setting up the garden and had a ton of seedlings sprouting indoors waiting to go out.  We bought our new Livestock Guardian Dog, a 10-month-old Anatolian Shepherd puppy.  Tundra (our head LGD) helped us begin her training.  And we opened our new business – Willow Creek Fiber Mill.  Whew!  That was a super busy month!

In May I had trouble concentrating on work around the farm because the adorable antics of baby lambs in the barnyard made it hard for me to pull myself away from the fence.  Thankfully, I was able to resist the temptation enough to get some stuff done.  We got some seedlings moved into the gardens and spent a lot of time working on Anya’s training.  Mid-month we were buried in a deep, wet, spring snow.  It caused some damage to the berry bushes, but for the most part was just a fun distraction.

June weather meant that the last of the seedlings could move out into the gardens.  We were able to begin harvesting some herbs too!  We built some more fences and started battling the flies trying to eat the dogs’ ears.  We found the fly collars to be pretty effective, though short-lived.  The girls and I kept busy with sewing, knitting, and needle felting projects.  We attended some fiber festivals and enjoyed watching our fiber mill business grow.  And we had our first broody hen of the year start setting.

In July we butchered the cockerels, along with our older goat.  We got a new milk goat, which quickly turned into two new milk goats because she refused to eat from loneliness for one of her own kind.  The gardens started producing well and we were able to do some early harvesting.  We were surprised by how well our cabbages did and enjoyed an abundant harvest of them which we made into sauerkraut in our big crock, and coleslaw too. We did some more barn fixing up and remodeling.  The pullets started laying and our broody hen hatched out her chicks.  Towards the end of the month we experienced our hardest loss ever on the farm when our wonderful old lead LGD, Tundra, died.  He had been part of our family for 13 years, and was such an excellent farm dog.  It was a loss that shook us all.

Early August brought a terrible rain storm that flooded the barn.  We had to tear up all the floors and spent a lot of time digging ditches to help prevent future issues.  Our garden continued to produce well and we were busy harvesting and preserving the harvest.  We butchered one of our sheep and made broth with the soup bones, in addition to freezing a lot of great meat.  Our son’s medical issues came to the forefront and everything else was put on hold while we dealt with surgery, a hospital stay, and follow up appointments.

September was mostly focused on our son’s medical stuff.  But the coming of the first frost also necessitated a lot of garden work, harvesting, and putting up of the harvest.  We were very happy with the bountiful harvest we had this year, FAR surpassing all previous years.  We also had trouble with bears as they began their push to put on weight before hibernation.  Thankfully, none of our animals were killed by the bears.

October meant our gardening season came to a close.  But we were happily enjoying the fruits of our labors with delicious meals inside made completely from our farm.  We continued with Anya’s training (which had been going on since April).  I did a LOT of knitting and tried a new sock method.  And we had two more broody hens decide to set and hatch out chicks.  We worked on Operation Christmas Child projects and enjoyed preparing for the big box packing day in November.  Our sheep got loose and gave us an adventure, and at the end of the month we put our ram in with the ewes for breeding.

In November our sweet little Angora bunny, Oliver, died.  I continued my knitting spree and we made our first ever dog-fur yarn in the mill.  We all got very very sick with croup, strep, and pneumonia.  Somehow I found time to finish my last set of seasonal cloth placemats and napkins.

December started out unseasonably warm, with only two brief cold snaps, but ended with some bitterly cold days and nights.  We enjoyed working on homemade Christmas gifts and dealt with more medical crisis.  We made the hard decision to downsize the farm for the unforeseeable future while we continue to juggle our son’s medical issues – and thus we are down to just chickens, gardens, the guard dog, and barn cats on the farm.

It has been an exhausting but productive year.  We hope that our move towards downsizing and simplifying the homestead for 2018 will bring peace and prosperity to our family as we continue to battle the unknown of our son’s medical issues.  We look forward to another year full of adventures, productivity, and good memories.  We are blessed.

Life

It’s been a while since I posted.  Life has been overwhelming lately.  This blog focuses on our little homestead.  I generally stay away from discussing the rest of our life because I just want this to be about our homestead.  But because homesteading is a lifestyle sometimes there is no way to not bring other topics into the light.

If you have been following for long you know that our baby has struggled medically for two years now.  He has had 6 surgeries and hospitalizations in his very short life, as well as countless appointments, tests, and procedures.  All of which occurs at least 2 hours away from our home, sometimes farther.  The solidity of the homestead has been helpful through this time.  The homestead stays the same, shifting routinely as the seasons change, in a way that is comforting.  We know lambs will arrive each spring, along with chicks and higher egg production.  Shearing happens towards the end of winter.  Planting and harvesting come and go on the same cycle each year.  And those things have given us a solid footing when the rest of our life is shifting and changing almost daily.  When the prognosis for our son changes drastically before and after each surgery, the homestead is still there, staying the same.  We love homesteading.  It is so fulfilling.

But it is also a lot of work.  The homestead can’t be put on hold.  Animals must be fed, chores tended to, twice a day, every day, no matter the weather, no matter our health, it must be done.  If we need to be at the children’s hospital someone must be here to tend to things.

Our son has an extremely rare condition.  There are only 14 documented cases ever in history.  12 of those kids died.  2 are still alive because their bodies somehow healed the issue on their own.  And then there is our son, he is number 15.  And they don’t know how to fix it.  That is scary to say the least.  At first we weren’t truly able to understand what this would mean for our life, and really neither could the doctors.  We tried juggling the homestead and the medical stuff, along with regular life.  We tried downsizing this or that.  We tried changing how we did things to make them easier.  And not knowing how long this would last made us hold desperately to the dream of our solid, comforting homestead life.  Will they be able to fix it this week?  Or next month?  Or a year from now?  When will we have our stability back?  We don’t know.  We don’t know how long this will go on.  And that is very hard.

It is apparent now that our previous homesteading lifestyle is not longer a possibility and that we need to shift and accept the new situation we are in.  We cannot do all that we used to do and do it well.  We have stretched ourselves too thin over the last two years because we just didn’t know how long this would last or what it would be like.  So we needed to make decisions to help our family get back to a place of peace and thriving instead of just surviving each day.  So we made the very difficult decision to significantly downsize the homestead for the indefinite future so that we can devote all our time to our family, businesses, and to this medical stuff.  We need to simplify our life as much as possible and still find ways to enjoy each day and do the things that bring us joy.

First the milk goats were gone, milking being one of the most time-consuming aspects of the farm.  Since we had only had them a short time, that felt pretty easy.  And we can buy from the same breeder in the future.

But then it was time to sell the flock of sheep.  This was much harder.  We have been building this flock for 4 years now and selectively breeding and buying to build just the right fiber-producing flock with a perfect variety of textures and colors.  We were very attached to each individual sheep.  We are happy that they were able to go together as a group to a farm not far off.  We know they will have a good home and in the future when we re-build up the livestock on the homestead we will be able to buy sheep from their lines.  But it was a very hard day on the whole family when they left.  There were definitely tears.  But both Mtn Man and I believe that it was the right decision for where we are now and what we are facing.

More decisions need to be made.  But for now we are living with the new situation and seeing what we think of it.  We are desperate to find a way to keep our sweet LGD Anya.  We have put a lot of effort into training her and we are all very VERY attached to that sweet girl.  However, if we remove everything she guards I think she will be unhappy and bored out of her mind.  We have contemplated bringing her indoors and making her a pet, but that seems pretty unlikely to work for many reasons.  So for now we have rearranged the chickens to make them as easy as possible to care for, and she is guarding them.  We will see how this goes.  We might need to downsize the chickens to just a few in the lower coop and shut down the barn completely.  But that would mean decisions about what to do with Anya.  So for now we wait, and pray, and we will see what happens.

Meanwhile, while dealing with all these decisions and changes, and an extra dose of medical stuff lately, we are also taking time to slow down and enjoy our Advent season.  We are concentrating on remembering the promises that led up to the birth of our Savior.  We are looking forward to a nice, calm, and restful Christmas this year to rejuvenate us before another slew of medical stuff hits soon-after.

I plan to keep blogging about the homestead, but I don’t totally know exactly which direction it will take.  As our life journey shifts so does our homesteading adventure and the story of us.  I don’t know exactly which parts will make it to the blog and which wont…we are just taking it one day at a time right now.

Sunday Homestead Update

This will be our last update for awhile.  Mr. Smiles is having another surgery and hospital stay, so farm life will be heading to the back burner for awhile while we spend our time caring for our family through this hard time.

We have been scrambling to get things in order around here so that everything will be as low-maintenance as possible during this.  Our friends and family are stepping in to help us with everything, which is such a blessing.

Barn Flood Aftermath

It has continued to rain quite a bit, but thankfully no more flood damage.  We have dug several new ditches around the property to try to force the water away from buildings and down the mountainside.

We also decided to re-do the barn floor with cement pavers.  We bought the first load and have started setting them.  We have been putting a few in here and there as we find time in all the busy-ness right now.

Goats

Our friends took the goats and are boarding them for us until this hospital stuff is all over.  They will milk them for us, which will take a huge load off of the chores around the farm.

Sheep

We had two sheep we were planning to butcher later this fall, but we decided to go ahead and get one butchered now so that there were less animals to care for, and we didn’t have to try to squeeze it in later if things get rougher.  We got 26 lbs of meat, 12 lbs of dog food, and stock bones.  We started making the stock yesterday and will can it soon.

Making stock is really easy and it is so delicious and nutritious.  We put the bones on a broiling pan and brown them in the oven for about half and hour.

Then we add some veggies: carrots, onions, and celery – these were fresh from the garden!

We put it back in the oven until the veggies are brown.  Then we put all the bones and veggies, plus the drippings, and some herbs (some of those were fresh from the garden too!)

into a big pot with some water and simmer it for several hours.  Strain it and cool it, then skim the fat and pressure-can the stock.  It will be nice to have some more lamb stock in the pantry for this winter.  And it is exciting that the only things in it not from our homestead are the peppercorns and the bay leaf.

Chickens

The chickens are in two separate pens, but there isn’t anything we can do about it at this point.  We have the upper coop and pen, which has all the hens and pullets, plus the two roosters in it.  Those chickens also have access to free range in the barnyard.

Eve and her three chicks are still in the grow-out pen in the barn.  It will be a few more weeks before she is done raising them and we can figure out the plan for what to do then.  For now, to make it easier to care for everyone, we are training them (or having Eve, their mama hen train them) on a drip waterer.  It is much cleaner and doesn’t have to be filled as often.  The other pen of chickens is already on a drip waterer, the chicks just hadn’t learned to use one yet.

That will make chicken care as low-maintenance as possible.

Garden

We have been harvesting and putting-up all that is ready to harvest in the garden.

Celery, beet greens, beets, cabbage sprouts, lettuce, spinach, and carrots.  We ate a lot fresh, and then froze the extra carrots and celery for soups and stews this winter.

We also got green beans and canned them.

Our first frost is likely to happen during all this craziness, but there isn’t much we can do except take it as it comes.  Hopefully we, or our friends who are helping us around the farm, will be around to quickly harvest all the green tomatoes and the last of the beans right before the frost hits so we don’t lose that part of the harvest.

Knitting

I have been, surprisingly, getting a lot of knitting done during this busy time.  When I am anxious it makes me feel better to put my hands to some knitting.  So whenever I sit down to rest for a few minutes, or am waiting in the waiting room at yet-another doctor’s appointment, or am on the long drive to the specialists’ offices, I have been knitting.  I have a pair of socks, a shawl, and a hooded scarf all on the needles right now.

 

Please keep our family in your prayers.  This is Mr. Smiles’ 6th surgery in his very short 2 years of life.  Every time we have to do a surgery and hospital stay it is very difficult on him, as well as our whole family.  Our experience thus far does make it a little easier to prepare ourselves, and the homestead, to try to make it as easy as possible to get through.  But it is still quite a trial for all of us.

I hope to be back to posting later this fall with all things autumn-in-the-Rockies…my favorite time of year!

Sunday Homestead Update

It has been a hard week.  The chicken accident was upsetting, and then the death of our LGD, Tundra, has knocked the wind out of all of our sails.  But despite that, we are trying to get up and keep going and work on what needs working on.

Garden

The garden is beautiful and bountiful.  We will be entering some of the awesome veg from it into the county fair this week.  Last year our carrots won first place at fair, which makes us pretty happy because we are growing our garden at a much higher elevation and harsher climate than most all of the competitors at our county fair.  This year we will be entering more than just carrots and we will see how it goes.

I made and froze some green base this week since we had an over-abundance of spinach.  Green base is orange juice blended with spinach in a food processor or blender.  We use it in our smoothies.  About 3 times a week we have goat’s milk kefir smoothies for our morning snack.  Our favorite recipe is bananas, mango, green base, raspberries, blackberries, and kefir.  During the growing season we use fresh spinach from the garden to make the green base, but in the winter I use frozen green base that I make and freeze in ice cube trays during the summer.  It is nice to get some of that put into the freezer for later.

Anya

Our one-year-old LGD pup has continued to do well with her training since the chicken accident.  While Tundra’s absence leaves a hole in the barnyard, Anya’s presence does somewhat soothe that pain and fill the hole a little, especially when she is being silly and cute and we can’t help but smile at her.  The other day she got on top of the compost heap, dug a little, and then rolled down the side of the heap sideways, then ran back up and did it again.  She just kept rolling down the side like a little kid playing.  Then she dug herself a nest on top, and plopped down in it.  It was so cute.

As hard as it is to lose Tundra, it is very relieving to have Anya and know that our livestock are still going to be safe and protected.  We really can’t keep livestock up here in the mountains without something to protect them.

Goats

The new goats, Fern and Clover, are settling well and their milk production has actually gone up quite a bit from the first stressful days of them being here.  Clover is definitely more laid back, and Fern is kind of high strung.  We are happy to have fresh milk again, and made mozzarella this week for our Friday-night-homemade-pizza-and-a-movie tradition.

Chickens

And then there were two…we butchered another cockerel and are down to only two now.  We put them both out with the flock of girls and will watch them in the coming weeks to see which one we like better to keep as our breeding roo.  If they can get along and not beat up the girls too much we might keep them both.

We now have three pullets laying.  We get two little green eggs and one little brown one, in addition to the hens’ larger eggs each day.

Sheep

The weaning nose rings worked and about 8 days after we put them into the lambs’ noses, the ewes’ udders were dried up and we could take the rings out of the lambs’ noses.  The lambs are none the worse for the wear and all is well.  We really like using those for our weaning.  Now the ewes can gain some weight and be ready for breeding season late this fall.

One Goat Becomes Two Goats

The plan was to just have one goat for milk, plus the flock of sheep.  That was the plan last fall when we decided to get a milk goat, and then we ended up with two.  It was also the plan when those two didn’t work out and we found a new goat to replace them.  But, alas, apparently we are meant to have two goats, not just one.

Our new (planned to be the only) goat, Fern, arrived Wednesday afternoon and was definitely a bit put-off by the sheep.  But we figured she would settle in as the previous goats have.  But by Friday she had stopped eating completely, was constantly pacing the barnyard crying, and was downright miserable.  We took her temp and called the vet and we all determined it was stress and loneliness, not some illness.  What to do?  What to do?  We tried tempting her to eat with all sorts of yummy offerings, but she still wouldn’t eat.

The concern with ruminants (animals who have a rumen-based digestive system, includes cows, goats, sheep, etc) is that if they stop eating the bacteria in their rumen gets out of whack and their rumen stops working.  Once it stops working they can’t digest anymore and will die.  So ruminants can’t go long without eating, you need to keep the rumen going.  The vet said if she didn’t eat by Saturday morning we needed to call him back.

We called the breeder and all decided the answer was that she needed a goat friend.  We could send her back, but we really want a milk goat.  So, to make a long story short, we bought her 2-year-old daughter and put her with her Friday late afternoon.

It was quite adorable because they were rubbing all over each other like cats and Fern definitely seemed happier.  By dinner Friday they both were munching happily on some hay.

The kids named our new goat addition Clover.  She is currently milking, so we have even more fresh milk, which is nice.

So, yet again, the plan of one goat turned into two.  Two new goats in a couple days time.  But two milking goats is better than none, and sometimes our plans don’t go as we expected.  Always an adventure!