This week has been a frustrating dance of juggling 7 people passing around two different illnesses, one a stomach bug and one a respiratory bug. It started with one with a sore throat and congestion, then two, then someone else started throwing up. By halfway through the week we had three down with the stomach bug and four with respiratory. Then things started trading and the people with the respiratory started getting stomach and then a couple days later vice versa. Sigh. This has meant no sleep for Daniel and I as we take care of everyone and are sick ourselves. It also meant doctor trips and also a hospital trip for the youngest due to his special medical circumstances. The house is a mess and we are just in survival mode. This too shall pass.
Meanwhile, that leaves very little to discuss about homestead since family survival mode generally means not much going on as far as the homestead.
Two Ducks A-Laying
Last week we started finding duck eggs in the nests, but didn’t know if it was one or both of the Welsh Harlequins laying. This week we got two eggs in one day, so that confirms it.
And Two Pregnant Nubian Does
The goats came back from the breeder, pregnant. It is so good to have them home. We really missed these sweet girls, their friendliness, their Roman noses and floppy ears, and their delicious milk. The transition back into the flock went super smoothly with no issues.
The cold snap and snow was VERY short lived, and we are back to t-shirt and jeans weather each day, which is just crazy for this time of year. But we are enjoying it and soaking it in before we are chased indoors for a few months by winter.
Root Cellar/Tornado Shelter
When we moved to the new property we noticed right away that we didn’t have a tornado shelter. We made it a priority to get our family a shelter since we live in an area that gets a lot of tornado activity. While we were working on it we had 3 different tornadoes come within 10-15 miles of us. Too close for comfort. It is one of those things you hope you never have to use, but want to have just in case. We also needed a root cellar to store our garden produce throughout the year. So, it made sense for it to be dual-purpose.
We finally finished it and have moved our root cellar racks into it. We have also started building shelves for the home-canned goods, though we haven’t finished those yet, they will go all the way to the ceiling. With no garden this last year, we don’t have much to put down there, but there is a small amount of stuff we were given from other’s gardens (what a blessing!), as well as the small (compared to other years) amount of canning we were able to do this fall (another blessing!).
It is going to be so nice in the coming years to be able to have a safe place to go if needed, and to have a place to put our garden produce and canning for the year.
Speaking of canning, we have been doing some pressure canning lately. We did pumpkin a few weeks ago. I was going to use a fresh pumpkin for the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie this last week, but our oven decided to act up and make Thanksgiving complicated, so I used some of the home-canned pumpkin instead. It turned out delicious! I was grateful I had it available. This week we have also been pressure canning turkey stock made from the carcass of the Thanksgiving turkey. I love homemade stock so much! And it is so healthy too. We canned 18 pints already, and I would say we have at least another 12 pints worth to can up today or tomorrow. Feels good to add more to those new root cellar shelves!
The does went to the breeder a few weeks ago and have been bred now. We are just waiting to see if they come back into heat so we can confirm they are pregnant before we bring them home. Hopefully they will be coming home very soon.
We are doing another round of pregnancy testing this week to see who got pregnant in October. We traded the ram’s crayons last week so we would know who was getting bred again. If they already had red marks on them, and then came back into heat and got bred again with the same color then we wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell that they had been re-bred. So we traded the red and blue to opposite rams in the two different breeding pens. So the ones getting re-bred are now getting marked with a different color. We are going to continue doing the blood tests every few weeks throughout the season as well to help us confirm which ones have been bred and whether they took. After last year’s major issues with infertile rams we are doing our best to not take any chances of being surprised this year.
One of our sweet Anatolian Shepherds was cuddling with the sheep the other day during what I call the sheep afternoon nap time, and I desperately wanted a photo, but of course if I approach she jumps up to greet me. So I ran right to her before she could get up and gave her some petting and tried to snap a photo. It only kind of worked. LOL.
Anatolians are such great Livestock Guardians. We love them and count on them to help protect our farm and stock. But there is one downfall – they love to dig. Up in the Rockies, at our previous farm, this wasn’t a big deal. We had some holes here and there, but never very deep and not really a problem. Well, we now live in the High Plains on sand. Sand, sand, sand. And we all know what that means – sand is SUPER easy to dig in. So the digging has taken on new, gigantic proportions.
Inevitably it is always done right along the edges of buildings. They generally are digging to make themselves a cool den in the summer, and the coolest spots are along the outside edges of the buildings in the shade, and some on the inside of the buildings along the walls too. This is causing some trouble for us as they take out the support of the buildings and also create ways to get out of the buildings. Our younger LGD is causing the most trouble at this point. We are trying all different methods and doing our best to repair what she is doing. But it is definitely causing some headaches and extra work for us. Hopefully, as she matures and as the cold weather moves in the digging will decrease a little.
The guinea fowl are doing well. They continue to choose to hang out around the sheep pens, but thankfully we have not lost any more to the LGDs. We have noticed that there is a sad little outcast in the group. It is the smallest and ever since we let them out for the first time we notice that they keep him (or her) pushed out about 3-5 feet from the group at all times.
The chickens are doing fine. They are enjoying the compost we added to their run for them to work through. We continue to rake it into a pile every couple weeks for them and we add more as needed. They will be giving us a very nice pile of compost for the gardens next spring. We also integrated the 7 chicks from this last summer, that are now young adults, in with the main flock. We had hoped to maybe get them out on the barnyard to work on keeping the stalls maggot-free, but didn’t have time to build them a coop out there yet. So for now, they are living with the main flock and we are turning the stalls often. The cold weather has also helped get rid of the maggots. But we are hoping to have chickens on the barnyard by next summer, before maggots become an issue again.
All the adult hens are looking pretty be-draggled as they are molting.
The Welsh Harlequin ducks have started laying. We are not sure if it is just one, or both of them. But we are getting a duck egg almost every day. The Muscovies have not started yet. But all of them (Harlequins and Muscovies) were pretty late-season ducklings to expect them to lay before next spring anyway, so we are just surprised and happy by the eggs we are getting.
That’s the update from our little corner of the world!
We don’t raise pigs at our farm, but we love a good barter and one of our fiber mill clients raises Mangalitza pigs. So we get two pigs each fall for our family. This last week we butchered the pigs and got all the meat put up for the winter. The hams are curing and today I will be rendering the lard. While I am not a big fan of butcher days, it is always nice to have food put up for the winter.
We don’t keep bucks at our farm, so our Nubian does go and spend time at the breeder’s farm for 4-6 weeks each year to get bred. We dropped them off this last week. We sure are going to miss having those sweet girls around, not to mention their milk! With the move and all we didn’t freeze any goat milk to get us through this time, so we will definitely be missing them.
The Muscovies are pretty much fully mature now and we are really enjoying the beautiful colors and markings they each have. We also have 2 Welsh Harlequins living with them.
I have started in on making Christmas presents. Since many of the people getting the presents follow the blog, I won’t get to share much with you. But Mr. Smiles is too little, so I can show you what I am making for him. I am making him another hoody. I am using the yarn Daniel made me from MacDougal’s 2020 fleece. This is the third time I have used this same pattern to make him a hoody, it is called “Latte Coat.” We love these so much that each time he outgrows one I make him another.
Speaking of MacDougal, his eye healed completely and he can see fine now. He continues to be such a sweet and friendly guy.
As you know from following our blog, we are passionate about raising food from our land, whether it is vegetables, eggs, meat, or milk. We care about how our animals are treated and raised, and what goes into them and thus ends up in our food. We are also seeing so many shortages and rising prices that being more self-sustaining by raising our own food is important to providing well for our family. It feels so good to sit down to a meal around our table that has been completely raised on our property. We are also very passionate about raising our own wool, and then using that to create all sorts of items for our family from the high-quality fiber we are raising.
We love teaching and sharing all about how we do what we do, and helping others be successful in their homesteading pursuits. That is why we have this blog and why I enjoy writing for Mother Earth News and other publications about homesteading.
Soooo, I am very excited to tell you about this FREE 3-day event!
You can learn absolutely everything you’d ever want to know about the summit over here, but as a quick overview:
The summit will run from November 15 through November 17
Each day will be packed with amazing speakers who are ready to help you raise animals for food and make the most of your harvests
We’ve got a pop-up Facebook group where you’ll find accountability buddies, connect with other folks raising livestock, ask the speakers questions, and whatever else we come up with!
You can attend the summit absolutely free, but you can choose to grab the All Access Pass at any time. The All Access Pass will give you an all-access pass to the summit (meaning you get all the videos for life), and exclusive speaker bonuses including mentorships, digital guides, and more! ***The All Access Pass is currently being offered at a special price, and it will disappear for good once the summit is over, so start thinking about now!
I am honored to be included as one of the expert speakers, and I will be speaking about raising sheep for high-quality wool on Tuesday afternoon, November 16th.
Head over to the website to learn more and grab your free ticket. More information will be sent straight to your inbox afterwards.
I will be ready to chat and answer your questions during my presentation…hope to see you there!
It has been a week with all three – life, illness, and death.
Our family has been passing around a nasty cold this week. It is working its way through each person, no one got to skip this one. Ugh. But despite being ill, the animals still need tending, winter is still barreling towards us at a very fast rate, and life goes on. The weather has been much cooler and very pleasant and autumn-like this week. We have enjoyed that.
Matilda the bantam cochin hen had been setting her 7 eggs beautifully. She got off the nest daily to eat and drink and relieve herself, and spent the rest of the time happily incubating her eggs. When we changed her food and water she puffed up and growled at us – just as she should. Everything was going great for a hatch later this week. She was fine Friday night at chore time. Saturday morning at chore time she was dead. Setting on her eggs with her head in a natural sleeping position. Just gone. It was shocking, we have no idea what happened. It appears she died in her sleep. At least it was peaceful, that makes it a little easier. We thought to put the eggs into the incubator, hoping maybe they were still warm from her being on top of them, but it was clear she had died early in the night – both her and the eggs were cold. A hard and confusing loss.
The “Poultry Palace,” as the kids have labeled it, is coming along. We are hoping to get the chickens moved in later this week, freeing the chicken coop up to have the ducks move from their tractors into it. At which point…I have been informed…it will become the “Quack Shack.” 🙂 I love my kids and their fun, creative minds.
Our ewe lamb, Dixie, suffered some sort of poisoning this week. It is unclear exactly what happened. But a call to the vet revealed her symptoms to be related to either a poisonous bite, or eating something poisonous. We could not find any evidence of a rattler bite or a black widow bite on her at all. So it seems she might have eaten a toxic plant. But she didn’t have any diarrhea, which would have likely been present if she had eaten something like that. It is another mystery, we really don’t know. The vet said that there wasn’t much we could do by that time and that she would either pull through, or she wouldn’t. We watched her closely and prayed she would make it. After two days of not doing well, we were happy to see a little improvement on day 3 and each day since. She is still not totally normal, but continues to improve. We have kept the whole flock off the pasture since she got sick. We were pretty much done with pasturing for the year at this point anyway and were planning to stop soon. This just brought it on faster.
Our wether also has been dealing with health issues. He got an ulcer on one of his eyes. The vet said it was likely he got poked in the eye with something, a prickly seed or grass or something. We have given him a couple of antibiotic shots to keep an infection from happening and we have been watching and waiting. He has been slowly improving, but he is currently blind in that eye.
Lilian, one of our new BFL ewe lambs, has a funny habit of standing in the feeder. The other sheep just eat around her, but Solace, one of the goats, head butts her whenever she wants to eat in that area.
Speaking of Solace the goat, we decided to dry her off (stop milking her) until next spring when she kids. She had trouble keeping weight on with her twins nursing this year and came to us pretty underweight. We have been able to increase her weight some, but not as much as we hoped. Heading into winter with her underweight (and breeding season in November/December) doesn’t seem like the best thing for her. We have Belle giving enough milk for our basic needs, so we will dry off Solace and let her regain her condition before kidding next year. That way she will be going into kidding and milking at a good, healthy weight and will hopefully be able to be milk the full season next year.
Mother Earth News
The October/November edition of Mother Earth News has hit newsstands and mailboxes. I have another “Ask the Experts” column in this edition. Check it out!
Views From the New Farm
When we lived in the Rockies we constantly had people telling us how beautiful it was where we lived. And, it really was (is). But we have been continually amazed at the beauty we see out here on the High Plains. Especially the sky. In the mountains the sky is smaller (due to the mountains all around you). Here the sky is such a huge expanse. And the way the sun and clouds play together and create light, dark, shadows, and colors of all different shades is pretty amazing. We are really enjoying the beauty of the High Plains.