Sunday Homestead Update

We have had some different things going on around here this week.  Not your run-of-the-mill SHU.  Except for these strawberries, from the strawberry patch.  🙂

Natural Weed Control

We have some driveway and stair areas that  have all sorts of grasses and weeds growing in them that we would like to keep clear.  We do not want to use herbicides on our property that could potentially be harmful to our animals and our edible plants.  Mtn Man told me about a recipe for weed spray that uses vinegar, dish soap, and salt.  So we bought a pump sprayer and I gave it a try.  It is working beautifully.  It has taken a couple applications, but we are definitely seeing results.

Wild Foraging

We enjoy learning about the edible wild plants that grow on our property so we spend a lot of time through the summer and fall with our favorite edible wild plants book, “Best-Tasting Wild Plants of Colorado and the Rockies,” by Cattail Bob Seebck, in our hands wandering the property and examining the plants we find.  Little Miss is especially interested in this aspect of our homestead.

Last week she and Mountain Man worked their way around the property and gathered us a salad for our dinner that was completely wild foraged.  It included Lamb’s Quarter, Saltbrush (my favorite), Tumble Mustard, Tansy Mustard, Mallow, and Squaw Paint.  They also found a bunch of chamomile that we are drying for tea this winter.  It was a very flavorful and delicious salad.

Wild Visitors

We found this little guy on our rock wall one day.

He was about 2.5 inches long.  The kids are now talking about building a bat house to encourage them to “hang” around our property since they eat bugs.

We have a family of coyotes denning about 200 yards from our barnyard.  Mama coyote picked that as a good place to raise a family.  We hear them multiple times each day and night as they yip and yap to each other.  Thankfully, a well-built fence and Anya, the LGD, make it so it doesn’t have to be a concern to us for our livestock.  Whenever they get to yipping Anya likes to throw in her deep throated bark and remind them she is big and she is still here and still on guard.  Thankfully, they have not chosen to come by the barnyard, nor hang out around it the way we sometimes have coyotes do.

Heritage Arts

I haven’t had much time to knit lately, but I have made some progress on my Nightshift shawl.

Guess what made its way into the living room and got dusted off and put to use!?  My spinning wheel!  I haven’t spun since our almost 4-year-old was born.  Life has been so full with his medical stuff, plus just regular busy life, that there just wasn’t time for it.  But this week I got it out and started spinning.  I love spinning, it is super therapeutic for me and emotionally recharging.  It calms me and resets me.  But it is hard on my back, so I have to take it easy and not overdo.  It was really great to spend some time spinning again, and I am hoping to get back into doing it regularly.

Another heritage art that we have not done in awhile that came back this week was wool rug braiding.  Little Miss is braiding a rug for my parents.  She was working on her braid and laying it out on one of our old rugs to decide when to change colors.  it is coming along nicely.

Cheese Making

It was a week of bringing back some old homestead activities, for sure.  We haven’t made cheese in 4-5 years, and this week Little Miss and I decided to make some cheese with Pansy’s milk.  We made a goat’s milk Paneer.

It turned out well.  We used the cheese press Mtn Man built for me several years ago when we got our first dairy cow.

Next week we plan to make Feta.

Chicken Butchering

We had saved two of the Dark Brahma cockerels to raise up one of them for a breeding rooster.  We were waiting for them to get a bit older so we could pick the best one.  They started fighting this week, so it was time to choose.  Braveheart has helped with butchering many many times, and watched Mtn Man do the killing as well, but this time he decided he wanted to do the whole process all by himself.  So he killed and butchered the cockerel all on his own for the first time ever!  We were all very happy for his accomplishment, and I am sure the meat will taste all the more delicious to him knowing he did all the work himself.

Hot City

I had to go into the big city this week (Denver) and got stuck in bad traffic.  it was 101F outside, but because of all the idling cars crammed together and inching along the hot pavement, this is what my car said it was outside:

Eeeek!  Needless to say I was oh-so-happy to get out of the hot city and back up onto the homestead in the mountains.

Farm Therapy

What is it about a homestead that is so therapeutic?  Fresh air, sunshine, livestock, edible vegetation, providing for your own food needs, baby animal cuteness…?  All of those things, and more.

As we head into our youngest son’s 12th surgery in less than 4 years my heart is heavy.  I head out to the barnyard for my farm therapy.  I sit on a rock in the barnyard and listen to the sounds, breathe in the smells, and view the sights.

My immediate companion is the LGD, Anya, looking for some love.

Followed quickly by the goat, Pansy, who thinks she is an LGD too.

After some love they clear out, well actually, the dog heads off to more interesting things and the goat continues to demand affection.  I eventually ask her to give me some space.  Then the chickens come over and peck around my feet, hoping maybe I brought food with me.

The sheep are content to lay in the shade, along with a chicken companion.

Something about the area brings peace.  It is calm, and steady.  It is natural.  I take a deep breath and take it all in.  My heart relaxes a little.  The farm cannot remove my concerns, but it has therapeutic powers – some that can be explained, and some that defy explanation.  It helps me face the next mountain.

Sunday Homestead Update

I can’t get my computer to upload photos this week.  So it will be a brief SHU without any photos.

Goat

Pansy is starting to show a difference in her coat from the copper bolus we gave her a few weeks ago.  The goat is Little Miss’ “niche” on the farm.  It is her goat, she milks her, she makes the dairy products, and handles all the goat related learning and care.  Little Miss had noticed Pansy’s coat was dull, had some brown tips, and was starting to get some bald and thin spots.  We learned she was copper deficient and gave her a copper bolus and it is nice to see her already improving.  Her coat is shiny, the brown is gone, and the thin and bald areas are filling in.  Little Miss is brushing her each day to help her skin and coat and is very happy with the improvements in her goat.

Sheep

The lambs are 5 weeks old now – hard to believe!  They are growing beautifully and doing very well.  Such a blessing after the rough start we had with the twins.

Garden

The cold weather we had this spring continues to effect the garden as everything is three weeks behind our usual schedule.  Three weeks might not sound like a big deal, but our growing season frost to frost is only about 10-12 weeks.  So we are looking at somewhere between 1/4-1/3 of our growing season lost.  That is a big deal.  We are hoping and praying that we have a late first frost this fall so that we can harvest from the garden before it freezes.

But, in good gardening news, we harvested garlic scapes this week.  It is our first time with successful garlic and we were very excited to get to harvest the scapes and eat them.  We tossed them in a bag with olive oil and salt and then put them under the broiler in the over for a bit.  They were delicious!  We all enjoyed them as a snack several different days.  What a fun early season treat from the garden!

Sunday Homestead Update

This week was our first full week of warm weather this year! Our days were in the 60-70s and nights in the 40s.

Life has been so very very busy both on and off the homestead. Here’s a peek into some of what happened this week.

Goat

We have been noticing some issues with Pansy’s skin.  She is started to get some thinner spots in her coat and has some dandruff.  She also has places where the black hair is turning brown/copper colored.  I called the breeder we bought her from, who is my go-to person for the goat since we are not super-educated about goats specifically.  She said definitely copper deficiency.

I have been trying to figure out how to handle the copper situation in a flock/herd/flerd mixed with sheep and a goat.  Goats need a lot of copper and can have a lot of issues if they don’t get enough, and sheep need barely any and can die with too much.  My goat breeder had an excellent answer that I had not heard of before – copper boluses for the goat.  It is a great way for us to give the goat the copper she needs without exposing the sheep to it.  Perfect!  So I ordered some goat copper boluses and a bolus gun.  We gave it to her and will continue to do that every 4-6 months.

Have any of you used copper boluses with your goats?

LGD

I have a story to share about our Livestock Guardian Dog, Anya.  This is her first lambing season, and so to protect our lambs from her potentially accidentally killing them, which can often happen with an LGDs first season with lambs, we separated her off in a pen with Pansy (the goat) and the chickens and had the ewes in a different pen that shared a fence.

When Fiona went into labor I think Anya could feel the excitement in the barn.  She was stuck out in her pen and desperately wanted to see what was going on.  When little Avalanche made his first bleating sound she started crying and whining and barking in excitement.  I went and got her and brought her into the barn to meet him through the fence of the jug.  Mama Fiona was not having it and made it clear she didn’t want her around.  But Anya got a good look and sniff.

Later, after we had seen that Avalanche was doing well and we had gone back inside, I looked out and saw that Anya was in the ewe’s pen, not in the pen we had put her in.  I went out to see what was going on and how she had changed pens.  I found that she had squeezed her 115 lb self through an 8×8 inch hole where she had broken the zip tie and bent the wire back.

It never ceases to amaze me how tiny of tight squeezes dogs can fit through when they want to.  And Anya has NEVER broken out before, which just shows how very much she wanted to get over to see what was going on.

Fiona and Avalanche were in one of the jugs and I had left the other jug door open so Rose could come and go from being near Fiona but still have access to the barnyard.  As I watched to see what Anya was doing I was amazed.  She was not going into Rose’ jug and excitedly bothering Fiona through the fence.  Instead she was timidly peeking around the corner to watch the baby.

She kept coming the check on the baby in that fashion, and then would go into the barnyard and do her rounds, and then come back and check on the baby again.  She was very respectful of Fiona’s space and didn’t stress her out.  After a while she just lay down right outside the door to the jugs.

It seemed like the perfect mix of behavior for an LGD to have about a lamb…respect for the mother and her space, but also feeling protective and wanting to be nearby enough to protect them.  It made us very pleased.

Since then the ewes and lambs have been integrated back in with Pansy, Anya, and the chickens. We spent several days having someone always out there watching to be sure Anya was being safe with the lambs. If someone couldn’t be out there we put them back in the jugs. Anya did excellent and they are now all living together with no issues.

Sheep

The biggest news on the farm continues to be the new lambs.  And why not!?  They are so adorable!

We docked their tails on day 3.  You can read about how we dock tails here.  We started letting them out into the barnyard with the LGD and the goat on Day 4 of life, with human supervision for safety with the LGD until we are sure she is going to be good with them.

Avalanche and Fiona are doing great with the transition.  Fiona is a protective mama, but does let the goat and dog sniff him.  But she chases them off if she thinks it is getting to be too much.  Avalanche loves the outdoors and has been having fun exploring this new world that includes chickens, sun, wind, new sights and smells, plus the dog and goat, and other baby lambs.

He decided his favorite place to nap is in this “box” that used to be a small retaining wall to hold the water trough but has since become a big hole surrounded by 4x4s because the chickens like to dust bathe in it.

Anya happens to like the “box” too…though she doesn’t barely fit.

And Avalanche really likes the chickens. His curiosity about them leads to some hilarious interactions.

Rose and her twins, Tornado and Stormy, were still struggling early in the week.  Rose’s udder was large and full, but the lambs seemed to not be getting much to eat.  They would go back to her udder every few minutes and only nurse for 10-15 seconds at a time.  We checked and she did not have mastitis nor edema.  We are able to squeeze milk out.  But it does seem like her teat orifice is very tiny.  So maybe it is just too much work for them to get it out.  Rose’s condition also started declining and she is looking skinny despite being given free choice alfalfa and a pound of grain a day.  Her ram lamb, Tornado, was not doing very well either.  He was sleeping a lot and wasn’t very vigorous, and he started to get congested.  So we called the vet and started using some udder cream on Rose, and gave Tornado an antibiotic shot on Wednesday. We had been supplementing the twins with a bottle since the day after they were born. We also were giving all three of them nutridrench to boost them.

By Thursday they started to perk up and seemed to be doing better, except Tornado still had a cough. But they were living out with the flerd and enjoying the outdoors.

They continue to improve and we are slowly decreasing our supplementation of them.

Heritage Arts

With warm weather and super busy-ness of spring there has not been many heritage arts projects getting work lately.

The other day when I was watching the lambs and making sure Anya was learning proper interaction with them I did sneak in a little work on this alpaca hat I am making.

 

We live a very full life. Sleep is scarce and go, go, go is plentiful. There is joy and there is sorrow. But man, it is such a blessed life.

Changing a Doe’s (or Cow’s) Milking Schedule

How do you change a doe or cow’s milking schedule?

 

We recently bought Pansy, our newest milk goat.  She was being milked twice a day.  We wanted to be able to just do morning milkings since our evenings are not as routine as our mornings and we can’t always be guaranteed to be able to milk at the same time each evening.  This has happened to us several times before, when buying dairy cows or dairy goats that were not on the milking schedule that we needed for our lifestyle.  It is pretty simple to change, but it takes some patience and time to do it without hurting your gal’s milk supply.

 

We were milking Pansy at 7:30 am and pm.  We want to switch it to just 7:30 am.  To do this we will slowly move the evening milking later by 30 minutes each day until we get to midnight.  Yep, those late night milkings were not very fun, but we really want to maintain a good milk supply through the switch, so it is worth it.  Once we reach midnight, we do one more night where we milk at 2am, and then we are done and only do the 7:30am milkings.

Depending on your specific animal, and what you hope to attain, you could speed this schedule up and move it by an hour each time.

With Pansy, her milk production was already lower than we hoped because of the stress of moving to the farm and not having other goat friends, so we are very careful with the transition because we want to keep every ounce of production that we can.

When switching to once-a-day from twice-a-day milkings, production will be a little less for the whole day, but it shouldn’t be a full half the previous amount as long as you are careful to transition her properly.