Sunday Homestead Update

Garden

We had wonderfully warm weather this week, which was very much appreciated after the snow last week.  Everything is starting to green up and grow like crazy.

The warmer weather helped get some things done around here.  Most of the garden is planted now, with the seedlings inside their protective Wall-o-Waters and frost fabric tunnels.  I am also trying a new season extender option this year – they are called plant accelerators.  They are similar to the WOWs, but there is not water involved and they are bigger and can stay on the plant longer.  I bought three of them for the trial, if they work well we will get more in the future.

Pretty much all that is left are the things that can’t be planted until after the average last frost, which for us is still another month away.

Barn Cat Issues

We love having bird houses and feeders and attracting birds to our property.  We have quite a colony of violet-green swallows that return each year and help keep the bug population under control around the farm – which we are very grateful for.

The problem we are having is that one of our barn cats, Midnight, is an avid hunter and literally the most athletic cat we have ever seen or owned.  He can jump and climb in ways that seem impossible and we are always amazed and shocked when we see him move and how agile he is.  The other two cats are just basic barn cats, who do great at catching rodents and such but don’t go out of their way to do crazy stunts or catch birds.

These skills make Midnight quite the bird predator.  He can catch them in mid air as they fly by, as well as climb the trees and get to their nests.  Every time we see him with one we catch him and take it away from him – whether it is dead or alive we take it away because we are trying to teach him to leave them alone.  Last summer this “training” seemed to be helping.

Because of him last year we took down all our bird feeders and just left up the bird houses because we didn’t want to lure the birds to their death.  We trimmed all the branches around a couple of the bird houses, to see if it would help because he couldn’t sit on them to get to the bird house.  The problem is that he is so athletic that he just climbs the trunk and sticks his paw right in the house while clinging to the trunk.

Last year we hung several bird houses on the side of the mill building, this worked great because he definitely can’t climb the wall to get to them.  But we still have a lot of houses on trees that the birds love and we need to find a way to keep him from them.

So our latest attempt at thwarting him is to put sheet metal around the trunks just below the birdhouses.  We picked a type that will rust, which I think will look nice and blend in with the trunk.  We put them up this week, since the swallows have returned and are beginning to nest.  Time will tell if he is athletic enough to figure out how to get around them.  But for now, the birdhouses are safe.

It is a hard spot to be in, we need the barn cats for rodent control, but we do’t want them to kill the birds.

Goat’s Milk Ice Cream

The warm weather made us feel summer-y and we decided to make our first ever goat’s milk ice cream.  I was able to skim the cream off the milk, albeit just a little bit off each jar since it naturally homogenizes.  It took several days, but we were able to get a quart of cream saved up and we made our basic ice cream recipe with it.  It was delicious!  And Braveheart and Little Miss, who can’t have cow’s milk, were able to enjoy some ice cream for the first time in a long time.

End of Lambing/Kidding Season 2017

Fiona was our last ewe due this year.  Her ultrasound put her due date eleven days ago, and we have been anxiously waiting and wondering what was taking so long.  Apparently she just had her own timing as she had a perfectly healthy delivery this morning.

We had bred her to a white BFL ram.  It was our first time trying out a BFL.  Fiona herself is also white.  The ultrasound said she had twins and she has been very large the last few weeks (though her wool makes it a bit hard to really tell), so we were expecting white lamb twins.  We were very surprised when the first feet began to appear and they were black.  And even more surprised when no second lamb followed after the first.

She gave a us one single, large, healthy, pewter-colored ram lamb!  His coloring is beautiful, with a dark silvery/grey body, black legs and head, and some pretty white and grey markings on his face.  He is a big boy, our biggest baby of the season.  His wool is longer than the wool of the other lambs (because of the BFL) and we are really excited to see how it turns out.  Fiona is a CVMxMerino and has very fine-wool.  So he is a BFL/CVM/Merino, which should be a cool combination and create a nice wool.

We finally got the ram lamb we have been anxiously hoping for!  After EIGHT females were born this year!  Whooohooo!  He will likely be our future flock sire.  But he was born too late in the year to breed this coming breeding season, so we will likely buy another ram as well to service the flock this season, and to give us another year breeding Fiona (his mother – since he can’t breed his mother).

He is up and nursing and doing well so far.  He is even doing a bit of bouncing and playing, which we don’t usually see in our lambs the first day.  So I would say he is strong and vigorous!

That finishes off lambing/kidding season for us.  It has been a wild ride this year, with many highs and lows.  Quite a rollercoaster of a season for us that started way back on February 14.  We had 4 goats kids born (one breech stillborn) and 5 lambs, and there were 8 females and 1 male.  The most babies we have ever had born in one season before this was 3, so 9 is a big jump in “production” for our little farm.  Quite an adventure!  We are beginning to discuss who will stay and who will go, but the final decisions wont be made for a couple of months at the earliest because we will leave all the lambs with their mothers until 10-12 weeks at least.  So for now we can just sit back, relax, and enjoy watching the bouncing babies in the barnyard.  😀

Sunday Homestead Update

Life is beginning to slow down a bit around the homestead, which is so nice and much-needed.  We have sold off some of the extra stock, which decreases the work load, and the Mill is up and running now so the crazy-busy of getting the new business going is subsiding a bit.

Garden Signs

When we first moved to WCF there was a big scrap wood pile here.  Most of it was rotten and not usable, but there were a few “treasures” buried in it.  One of which was some old shingles that I used to paint some old-farm-style signs to put up around the garden.

I am all for the worn-out old-time look, but over the years they have become so faded that it has passed that point.  So we took them all down and I re-painted them.  It is nice to have them back up and freshened up.

Heritage Arts

Sometimes my heritage arts projects never get photographed and thus don’t get shared.  Here are some from the last couple months that I forgot to share.

I made Young Man some hunting gloves for his birthday.  He specifically requested gloves with no tips on the pointer or thumb so he could keep his hands warm while hunting but still be able to safely load and shoot.

And for Easter I made the kids these cute little bunnies.  They were super easy, actually just a knit square that you origami sew into a bunny.  Their bodies were full of candy.  The pattern was Easter Bunnies by Geraldine Allemand.

Sheep

The sheep are doing well.  We sold the bottle babies, so there are only two lambs in the barnyard right now with their mothers.  Our last ewe due to lamb is still pregnant and has us wondering what is going on.  She is ten days past her ultrasound due date estimate, which has not happened to us before.  The ultrasound due date estimates have always been pretty darn spot on.  But I guess it can’t always be right.  She will lamb when she is ready.  Meanwhile, we wait.

Toffee is very curious and friendly, always wanting to check everything out.

On my way outside I caught these two cuties cuddling.  Sorry for the fence and poor photo quality, I knew once I approached they would get up and so I was attempting to get a photo before they did.  This is Tundra, our wonderful old Livestock Guard Dog and Rose our little moorit lamb.

Goats

Now that the bottle lambs are gone we also sold one of the milk goats.  We want to just keep one milk goat due to our limited space – since sheep and chickens are the main focus for our farm, but we like to have fresh raw milk.  So we sold Heidi but still have Gretchen, since she is so old and the vet recommended she not be bred again we figured no one will want to buy her.  She is super easy to milk, even though she doesn’t make as much as we would like for our family.

We will be getting a new replacement goat later this summer, a well-bred, high-quality registered Nubian doe that is lactating currently.  She will produce enough milk to provide for our family without us needing to own more than one goat, and we have set up with her breeder to take her to the buck each fall for breeding.

Easy Way to Heat a Chilled Lamb or Goat Kid

Living up in the high altitude Rockies leaves us with kids and lambs being born during cold weather most of the time.  We usually breed for April babies, but even in April we still get below freezing most nights.  This year we have had many chilled babies, so I thought I would share how we warm them back up.

There is a quick and easy way to remedy a chilled kid or lamb, and it uses items most every household has.

Supplies:

  • Cardboard box big enough to accommodate goat kid or lamb
  • Towel
  • Hair Dryer
  • Knife or scissors

How to Build the Hot Box:

  • Using scissors or knife, cut holes in two adjacent sides of the cardboard box.  They need to be big enough to accommodate your hand or the end of the hair dryer that blows the hot air, whichever is largest.
  • Put the towel in the bottom of the box.

How to hot box a chilled lamb or goat kid:

  • Put the box near an outlet and plug in your hair dryer.
  • Put the lamb or kid into the box and hold or fold the top closed.
  • Stick the hair dryer in one of the holes, and your hand in the other.  Turn on the hair dryer and blow the hot air into the box.  The purpose of your hand being inside is to be sure you don’t burn the lamb.  You don’t want the hot air blowing directly on their body – just into the box.  So use your hand to make sure it doesn’t move over into the blowing air and that it doesn’t get too hot.  We usually have the hair dryer on for a minute or so, then off for 15 seconds, then back on, and off, etc. to keep the box very warm, but not too hot.  It doesn’t usually take very long to warm up the lamb/kid.  When they start getting exuberant and trying to get up and get out they are likely warmed up enough.  If they were hypothermic we use a thermometer to check their temperature when we think they are done so we don’t put them back with their mother until their body temp is for sure up where it needs to be.

Sunday Homestead Update – on Monday :-)

Sorry for the lack of blogging…living the homestead life, along with everything else, has been enough to keep me busy and away from the computer lately.  Lots of good things are happening…there is just a really lot of them.  🙂

Garden

Indoors, under the grow lights, the garden seedlings are looking lush and green.

Outside, the garden itself is looking pretty barren and a bit torn up from the winter.  But that will be changing soon enough.

And when you know where to look, you see the little signs of green here and there, coming back to life.  The strawberries are beginning to poke through.  This is my first year not putting straw over them to insulate for winter, and I am happy to see they survived the cold experiment.

And the chives are back and growing like crazy.

Sheep

The two bottle lambs are doing well and we take them out to the barnyard daily to be with the flock and get some fresh air.  We are hoping to move them out there permanently this week.  They met one of the barn cats today during their time out…it was cute.

Our last two ewes are due this week and then we will be done with lambing season.  One looks to be ready to lamb in the next couple days, the other seems a bit farther out.

Goats

Our last doeling was sold this week and went to her new home.  It was a very good match for her and I think she will live a good and happy life there.

We have had to separate the goats from the sheep because the goats started aggressively bullying the sheep a couple of weeks ago.  It wasn’t just regular pecking order fighting where when one submits the other stops hassling them.  They were constantly bullying and attacking the sheep over and over again even when they submitted.  Gretchen even gave poor Agnes a bloody nose and hit her eye so bad that her eye swelled shut and had a big split on the eyelid.  We have no idea why this shift in behavior happened.  They have lived in perfect harmony for 5 months now, and then it suddenly shifted.  But we couldn’t just leave it alone.  So the goats have their own pen now, attached to their stall.

Agnes’ eyelid is healing, but it still looks pretty bad.  Poor girl.

Chickens

The chicks are 8 weeks old now and we have started letting them out into the exterior pen for fresh air each day.  So far they are pretty timid and don’t really want to go outside because they are scared.