Meet Briar

We welcomed a new little addition to the farm this last week. Belle had herself an adorable buckling that we named Briar.

He is growing daily, sometimes it feels like hourly, and getting stronger and more active. And he is SO cute. We are very happy for a safe delivery of this little guy and are looking forward to fresh milk for our family in the next week or so.

Sunday Homestead Update – Snowy Spring

It has been awhile since I took a break from blogging…so what have we been up to?

Our 5-year-old son had another ER visit, hospitalization, and surgery (his 24th). It continues to be a hard road with his medical issues. This round came on fast and strong and was pretty scary. But he is doing better now and we are thankful for that and hopeful to have a nice long break from the pediatric hospital.

We have had a wet, snowy spring. We had one big spring snow that buried us for a few days.  We played board games and stayed in our pjs, as well as bundling up to play outside and dig paths for the livestock to make it to the water trough.  And then we have had several weeks where we had snow off and on for days. The moisture is good, especially after last year’s bad fire season.

The big snow we had was deep and didn’t even begin to melt for over a week. During that time the predators started getting desperate and we had a mountain lion and a bobcat both looking to eat our livestock in broad daylight on two different days. Between our Livestock Guardian Dog and us humans we were able to keep them away and nothing bad happened.

Sheep

We got all the sheep sheared and are starting to process all the wool into roving and yarn in the mill.

Daisy’s twin lambs have thrived and grown so much! They are doing very well.

We have not been milking Daisy due to things going on in our life that are keeping us too busy right now. We might start milking her after the goat has her kids in the next few weeks since we will be milking the goat anyway. The rest of the ewes are due to lamb at the end of May and into June.

Goat

Belle is due to kid this week. She is looking very wide and we are expecting twins. It will be nice to have fresh goat’s milk again, not to mention the adorable kids bouncing around!

Chickens

We had a very cool visitor to the chicken pen the other night. It was a windy night and we didn’t latch the exterior pen (the chickens were all closed into the coop). The door must have blown open, allowing the visitor entrance, and then blown closed, trapping the visitor inside. When we came out in the morning we were pretty excited to get a close-up view of this beautiful Northern Saw-Whet owl. It was so tiny and seeing it from a few feet away was amazing! We looked at him/her and took photos for a couple of minutes and then opened the door. He/she flew off with no issues, glad to be free again.

Garden

In between snow storms we have prepared the garden soil and laid out drip lines for this year. We have also started seeds indoors and they are all sprouting like crazy. Hard to believe another garden season is starting soon – especially with all this snow.

Heritage Arts

I finished the sweater I was making for Mtn Man. We both love how it turned out and he has been enjoying wearing it through this snowy spring! I used yarn he made from a fleece from our ram, Fergus. It was a 4-ply worsted weight from his 2018 fleece.

This was my first time using my newly purchased book “The Knitter’s Handy Guide to Top-Down Sweaters” by Ann Budd. I have many of her books and love them all and this one did not disappoint. It is already one of my favorites and I know I will use it over and over again for years to come. I love the books she has written that make it so you can use any yarn and make any size because they have charts for all different gauges and sizes. Perfect for a family of 7 that I love to knit items for. And perfect for all the different gauges of yarn we make from our sheep fleece.

Writing

I have done some more writing for Mother Earth News and will share links and info as it becomes available. Watch for my article in the June/July print issue “Ask the Experts” column!

Sunday Homestead Update – Time for a Break

This will be my last post for a while.  We have a lot of things going on in our life right now, and I am finding that I need a break from blogging for a bit.  So I am hitting the pause button.  But don’t worry…I will be back soon, and I will have a lot to share as we enjoy spring on the farm.  Before I go, one final Sunday Homestead Update catching you up on each aspect of the winter homestead…

Sheep

Daisy and her lambs, Dusty and Dixie, are doing well.  She is producing LOADS of milk.  Much more than last year – which was her first freshening.  We have decided to just let her lambs have it all for the first 3 weeks or so before we start milking her.  But I am looking forward to seeing how her production compares to last year.  The lambs are so active that it is difficult to get photos in the little jug.  It has been too cold to let them out yet, but this week is supposed to be beautifully warm, so they are going to see the outside world for the first time tomorrow.

Freya either did not get pregnant, or she miscarried during the wildfire evacuations.  So there will be no lambs from her at this point.  We can hope that maybe she was bred by Nilsson in December or January and is due this summer.  Time will tell.  But for now, there are no more lambs due for our farm until the end of May.

Several sheep are desperately in need of shearing.  We have had some crazy busy-ness going on, not to mention bitter cold temps that make us not want to shear.  We will be shearing several of them within the next few weeks as it warms up.

Goats

Belle is continuing to do very well with the loss of Pansy.  She seems to be fitting in fine with the sheep and is kind of making friends with the wether, MacDougal.  Not to mention the bond she has always had with Anya, the LGD.

We are drying Belle off (gradually ceasing to milk her and stop her milk production) this week in preparation for her kidding coming in April.

Chickens

The chickens have done an excellent job of laying through this cold winter, especially considering the stress the wildfire evacuation put on them back in October/November.  All is well with them and there is not much to report.

Ducks

Our first winter with ducks has gone better than expected.  We had planned to just give them a chicken waterer and no pond throughout the winter.  But we have found that with a trough heater in the bottom of their pool, it stays thawed and they really enjoy swimming in it and they don’t seem negatively effected by the cold.  We do not let them have it when the temperature is below about 15F.

Heritage Arts

I am about halfway down the length of the sweater I am making for Mtn Man.  He tried it on and it looks like it will fit great.  I am very excited and hope to get this done before it is too warm for him to wear it this winter season.

I finished the first side of my summer poncho.  I started the second side, but I am trying to work less on this as it can wait to be worn until summer, and focus more on Mtn Man’s sweater.

Sunshine recently took a colorwork knitting class and learned the basics of colorwork through making this hat.  There were many ups and downs for her, as it is pretty difficult to learn the right tension for colorwork.  But I think the hat looks amazing!

Hazel and Jerry

I can’t leave, even for a short break, without giving you all some pics of Hazel and Jerry.  Every day they are cuddled together in a new, cute position.  Love these two!

Sunday Homestead Update – Death and New Life

No one said homesteading was easy.  It is much easier to go buy a neatly packaged pile of meat from the store and not think about the fact that the meat used to have fur or feathers.  It is much easier to buy a carton of eggs and not think about the fact that some had poop on them originally.  It is much easier to get nicely bundled veggies than to think about the fact that 3/4 of the crop was lost to frost and pests.  And it is much easier to not have to deal with the inevitable unexpected death that comes with raising animals.  But….you miss out on so many amazing and good things as well.

As hard as it is sometimes, I would never trade this lifestyle.

As we awaited the birth of Daisy’s lambs, Monday brought us unexpected sorrow.  Our goat, Pansy, died.

We bought Pansy two years ago as a birthday present for Little Miss.  She had wanted a dairy goat of her own SO badly, and we decided she was ready.  She immediately bonded to Pansy and they became good friends.  Pansy quickly ascended from livestock to more of a pet status on the farm.  Last year, Pansy had a very difficult delivery.  She had ring womb – where the cervix doesn’t dilate during delivery.  We were able to save her and the doeling, but she was never really the same.  Her doeling died a few weeks later and Pansy’s health quickly declined.  We had the vet out over and over again.  We talked to goat experts.  We ran tons of tests and tried anything and everything that “might” fix the unknown illness.  Over the last several months she has had periods where she seemed fine and like whatever it was had resolved, and then she had periods where she would start to decline again.  We wrestled with the decision of whether to breed her or not.  During November and December she was doing really well, so we went ahead and bred her.  The last couple of weeks she had started to decline again.  By Monday she was suffering.  The vet said it was time, and we made the very hard decision to end her suffering.  Little Miss is heartbroken.  We all are.  She was a wonderful dairy goat, and pet, and we will all miss her very much.

We were very concerned about how our other dairy goat, Belle, would handle the loss.  We have found that generally one goat living with our flock of sheep is rarely happy – they usually need a goat-friend to keep them happy.  But, surprisingly, Belle has done fine.  It was strange, it was almost like she knew that it was best for Pansy.  I know that sounds weird, but it feels true.  They were very close friends and Belle would call for Pansy any time Pansy was out of her sight.  And yet Belle didn’t even call once after Pansy died.  It is a blessing that we don’t have to rush to find a friend for Belle and can just work through our loss for now.

Meanwhile, Daisy did not lamb yet.  Last year, she had her lamb within a few hours of her milk coming in.  Typically, milk coming in means the ewe will lamb in about 12-48 hours.  We have had a couple of ewes that went 3-4 days after their milk came in.  But that has been rare in our flock.  Well…just when we think we know what to expect from this homesteading life…we are proven wrong.  Daisy has been in milk for 8 days now.  She is hugely pregnant and groans when she moves, she has continued to have all the symptoms of imminent delivery…and yet…she is still pregnant.  So we continue to watch and wait.

We never saw her bred, so we don’t have an exact date, but we saw her and the ram being very friendly one day and guessed that as her date, which is the 19th.  But when she got her milk in we decided we must have been wrong.  You never know, maybe our previously thought due date is indeed the right one and we still have over a week – LOL!

Homesteading life has constant ups and downs.