Sunday Homestead Update – Autumn

We had one day this last week that felt and smelled like autumn. It was wonderful! It was cool, with a nice breeze, but bright sunshine. The girls and I were able to spend some of the afternoon out on the back patio knitting and drinking hot tea – mmmm, yes – Autumn! It was nice to take a break from the busy-ness of farm life for a few hours and just enjoy time with each other. According to the weather reports, we should have even more days like that this coming week. So I guess autumn is officially here, just in time.

It definitely makes working on all the many things we are scrambling to get done a lot more comfortable when the weather is in the 70s, instead of the triple digits! We continue to plug away at the many many projects to get done before winter hits.

Poultry Barn

Phase one of the poultry barn build is underway. The barn will eventually have three indoor sections and several exterior pens. But for this first phase, to get us through this winter with the poultry we have now, we are just doing two sections and 2 exterior pens. This winter it will house the guineas and standard size chickens. The ducks will go in the house/pen that the chickens are currently occupying, and the bantam chickens will stay in their coop which we brought with us from our previous homestead.

Garden

We have started to build the garden for next year. We had planned to put it out near the poultry barn, but after watching the heat and sun cook all the plants in our container garden this summer, we decided the garden would fare better with some shade throughout the day. So we are putting it behind the mill. This will not only give it some afternoon shade, it will also mean less fences we need to build, and thus less money. The mill wall will be one side of it, and an existing wood privacy fence will be the other side. So we will only have to build two fences. At this point in our building-a-new-homestead-journey, anything that will save time and money is a huge plus. And we think the location will be better overall. The bantam chicken coop will also hook to the garden fence, making it so we can easily let the bantam hens out to work the soil in the garden when it is not growing.

We have been clearing the area of all the junk that was there, and leveling the surface since years of downspouts flooding it have left it a mess. Hoping to get part of the fence up this week after we finish leveling it.

Canning

The bounty of garden-fresh produce continues to come in from generous gardeners we have met that have too much to use themselves. What a blessing! I figured we would be completely skipping canning/preserving season this year since we didn’t have a garden, and yet here we are, canning and dehydrating and freezing like crazy. It is keeping us very busy, and we are very excited to have this blessing.

Quilting

I decided the best first-project for learning to use my treadle sewing machine would be a simple quilt with 4-inch squares. It will give me hundreds of start/stop opportunities on the machine, but still be nice simple straight lines, no backstitching, etc. I cut the fabric (a bunch of scraps) this last week and got started sewing it. I am already seeing a ton of improvement in my ability to use the machine and I am only about 1/4 of the way into the piecing process for this quilt. I am really enjoying using the machine and mastering the skills. Fun!

Sink Hole

A small sink hole showed up in our yard. It is about 4 ft. by 3 ft. and about 3 feet deep at its deepest spot. It is under the sidewalk. Strange. We think it has to do with an old tree that was by the sidewalk and was cut down before we moved in. It seems maybe the roots rotted and caused this? Not sure. But we have filled it in.

The smoke has cleared a lot with the shift in the weather and thus we have been able to see our beautiful mountain view a lot more the past few days. It has been wonderful! The sunsets over the mountains are breathtaking. My camera never catches it right, and definitely doesn’t show the true awesome-ness of it, but I still continue to try to photograph them.

Sunday Homestead Update – Treasure

We had an amazing find this week – a vintage, but still in excellent working order, cream separator. We haven’t had a chance to use it yet, but will definitely be trying it out this week. The separator wasn’t the only treasure…the people we bought it from were awesome and taught us how to use it and said we could call if we need help with it. Such a treasure.

Not only that, but they had a few apple trees that were overflowing with apples and they let us pick a bunch and take them and have invited us to come get more. So we have started in on them and will be busy canning applesauce, apples in honey syrup, and crabapple jelly this coming week. What a blessing!

Sheep

The new sheep are settling in. We did have a few incidents this last week with them getting their heads stuck through the fence reaching for plants through the fence, even though they had hay in their feeder. We had to cut the fence to free them. Thankfully, none were injured by it, but we did have to re-wire the fence. They are still growing, so in a couple of months their heads wont fit through those holes anymore. Meanwhile, we wired that section of fence with 2×4 wire, instead of the 6×6 field fence we have been using. We also decided to let them start pasturing on a small pen behind their barn. It is thoroughly overgrown, but they have been picking away at it.

Ducks

Ginger the Muscovy, who was attacked last week by some of the other Muscovy ducks, healed up and we put her back in with the group. The female and male who attacked her are still living with the Welsh Harlequins and doing fine. Once the Muscovies are butcher weight we will butcher the males (except one for breeding) and integrate all the ducks to live together in one of the pens.

Workshop

As I mentioned last week, the future workshop was a mess of tools and boxes that we hoped to someday get set up as a nice workshop with benches and tools all organized and useable. We decided to surprise Daniel for his birthday and get it set up. It was a lot of work, but oh-so-worth-it! He now has a useable workshop and all his tools are organized and accessible.

More Books

As I said in my last post, we are buried in books, both new ones from the library, and ones from our own homestead library that we have read previously. We are digging in and trying to learn how to be successful bringing life back to the farm we just moved to. Well this week we added a couple more to the pile we are reading from the library…

Pastured Poultry Profits, by Joel Salatin, The Beginner’s Guide to Beekeeping, by Daniel and Samantha Johnson, and Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden, by Jessica Walliser.

We are working on our plans for next year and how we will be managing our intensive grazing situation with both the hoofstock, and poultry. The book by Joel Salatin is helping us get new ideas for that.

Our entire property is out of balance. It was neglected for a long time and not managed in a way that promoted balance. So our pest bug situation is very unnaturally out of balance. We are studying ways to work on that without the use of pesticides and are really enjoying the beneficial bugs book.

And lastly….we have long thought about getting bees, but our location in the Rockies would have made it very difficult to do it successfully. So now that we are in a new location I am just barely starting to dip my toes into the shallow end of the pool of considering whether this is a new project we would like to take on next spring or not.

So there continues to be a lot of reading going on!

Sunday Homestead Update – Quarantine

No, we are not quarantined in the way that you are thinking. Interesting that about 18 months ago the word quarantine brought up very different thoughts than it does now. Well, those older images of quarantine are the ones that fit what is going on at our homestead.

Sheep

We added new sheep to the farm this week and we are keeping them quarantined for 3 weeks to be sure not to share any illnesses with the existing flock. At our previous farm we didn’t have space for proper quarantine, and more than once it led to close calls and worries about disease transmission from new animals brought to the farm. Thankfully, here we have two different loafing sheds and pens that are on opposite sides of the farm. Normally, we have the ewes and does in one, and the rams in the other. But this week we set up a pen over in the ewe barn area for the rams to live in temporarily, while the new sheep quarantine over in the ram barn. They arrived late last night, thus the dark picture.

These sheep are from a farm in Iowa and are registered Bluefaced Leicester (BFL). BFL fleece is a longwool that has surprising fineness and softness to it. It has a nice spring to the locks and is very versatile due to the fact that it is not coarse, yet is is very durable. It also has such a nice luster that shows through well in both the raw fleece and in the finished products made with it. Lastly, it blends well in the mill, and the BFL crosses well when breeding it to finewool breeds.

We have used BFLs in our breeding program before and have always really enjoyed the fiber and the fiber on the cross-breeds as well. We are now excited to start breeding purebred BFLs at our farm, focusing on beautiful luster, length and softness of the fiber. We will also be crossing them over some of our other wool sheep to create cross-breeds with excellent fleece qualities of length and softness.

Guinea Keets

To say that guinea keets are “flighty” is quite the understatement. These birds are SO wild and crazy and not at all tame. All chicks (from chickens) are a bit skittish at a month old, but these guys are nothing like that. They are so very very skittish that it makes it difficult to take care of them.

We were hoping to have the guineas moved out to their permanent house by about 2-3 weeks of age. It is plenty warm out, and they feather out pretty quickly. But, life happens, and the house still isn’t done as they clicked past 4 weeks of age. They haven’t outgrown the brooder quite yet, and have enough space. However, caring for them in the brooder has become nearly impossible due to their “flighty-ness” and the design of our brooder. It is a large trough, and it has a lid over the whole thing that is wood framing with wire mesh. It has always worked great for chicken chicks. The problem with the keets is that the entire lid has to be lifted in order to feed and water them, and when it is lifted they all freak out and start flying around. We have been able to manage it, until this week, when half of them escaped from the brooder.

The brooder is currently being housed in what will in the future be our workshop. But right now it is just the place we store all the tools and stuff that we want in the workshop eventually. We dream about it being set up nicely someday with workbenches around all three walls and shelves and pegboards will all the tools nicely hung up and organized and accessible. But right now it is a huge mess of tools and such strewn about and piled on each other. Now, let’s set 4 keets free into that mess. Sigh. Catching them was….an experience.

Needless to say, work on the keet house was moved to the top of the list and we rushed to get it at least dried-in and able to house them.

Doesn’t look like much, but we will be finishing the siding and roofing, and adding an exterior pen soon.

Then came the problem of how to get the keets out there. Lifting the lid of the brooder would just let them all free into the future workshop again. But the brooder was too large to carry out to the keet house (didn’t fit through the doorways unless it is turned on its side). Thankfully, many hands made it so we could hold up the lid and not let any escape as we caught them and put them in a crate. The move went smoothly and they now live in their house.

Duck Attack

The electric fences are doing a great job of protecting the ducks from predators. But this week the ducks began attacking one of their own. We have heard of it before, but have never experienced it first-hand in all the years we have kept poultry, at least not to this degree. We had just moved the keets to their house and we heard a duck screaming. Little Miss went to check it out and found that two of the males and one female Muscovy were attacking another female and there was blood flying everywhere. She yelled and went in and saved the female. It looks like a little bit of feather picking at the new wing feathers coming in escalated to a bloody battle. Her wing had no feathers left and was bleeding quite a bit.

We sat there trying to decide what to do. Cull the attackers? Cull the injured one? How could we keep them all? We don’t have many female Muscovy in this group and thus did not want to cull a female, but the injured one was female, as was one of the attackers. We decided to put Ginger (the injured one) into the brooder the keets just evacuated so she could heal up….

I don’t think that brooder is ever going to be empty, just when we think we can put it away for the season, someone else needs it – first the ducklings, then the keets, now its a hospital room…

Anyway, then we decided to move the three that attacked her over in with the Welsh Harlequins because the Welsh are bigger and more mature, fully feathered, and it would be their territory, so we figured that would take the attackers down a notch and stop the behavior. We want them all integrated eventually, and we will be butchering most of the males eventually as well. So we figured this would be the best option. Thus far all is well with the new set-up and everyone is doing fine. Ginger is healing up well and we are discussing how to get her integrated back in with the Muscovy group.

Back to School

We started a new school year this last week. Grades this year are PreK, 8th, 10th, and 12th. Can’t believe another one is about to graduate! Kids grow up so fast. Blink and you just might miss it.

Sunday Homestead Update: A Little Bit of Normal

This week definitely felt a little bit more “normal” than our life has felt for many months now. We are getting back into some of our normal activities and farm/homestead related projects. It was nice!

Back in the Kitchen

Canning…fermenting…dairy products….

During the packing, moving, and unpacking, kitchen time was kind of just for survival. We didn’t do anything that would be considered “extra” and above and beyond preparing 3 meals and day and snacks. But things have started to settle and we are getting back into the kitchen. This week we made goat’s milk mozzarella cheese, goat’s milk yogurt, and our first homemade goat’s milk ice cream of the season! I still think sheep’s milk ice cream is far superior to any other ice cream…but we had gotten behind on using our goat’s milk and it was building up so it needed to be used. We all really enjoyed the nice cold treat in the hot weather.

Mine had already melted some in the heat before I got to take a photo of it. But it was still cold and delicious!

We also got some fermenting going again. We filled the crock with sauerkraut and look forward to enjoying it in about 4 weeks.

Lastly, we were given an abundance of cucumbers from someone’s garden, and even though they are not technically pickling cucumbers, we made pickles. There was no way we could eat them all, and a cucumber is a cucumber…they all make pickles even if some are better suited.

Feels good to be back in the homestead kitchen!

Hay

It was time to put up hay for the year again. This year is a bit tricky, since we are increasing our flock size as well as the fact that we are unsure exactly how pasturing will effect the hay consumption. So picking our hay amounts was a bit of a guessing game. We guessed higher than expected, we can always use it next year if there is leftover and with droughts and shortages it is just wise to be careful. So we got about 1/3 of our hay purchased and stored for the year. We will keep plugging away at getting that job finished over the next week or two.

We also built a wall and a big sliding door on the front of the hay barn. It previously had a tarp over it. It is really nice to have a working door now and a solid wall.

Another Duck Tractor

We built another “use-what-you-have” duck tractor using up the sheet metal scraps, PVC pipe, wire, hinges, latches, and plywood we had around. All we had to buy was the wood for the base framing and 4 more wheel “axles.” Both trailers can share the same 4 wheels since we can just hook them on and off and they don’t have to be on both at the same time. We did a little different of a design for this one, putting the end door on the end that has the roof, making it more closed in. Not sure which we like better yet.

So with the addition of the second tractor, we have moved the 10 Muscovys out of the brooder and in one tractor, and the 4 Welsh Harlequins are still in the other one. They are both surrounded by the electric netting chicken fence to keep predators out at night, which is a good thing because we have had a fox coming through every night, and I am sure it would be happy to dine on the ducks.

Guineas?

It was good timing that the Muscovy ducklings moved out of the brooder, because we were surprised with 8 guinea keets this week, which went right into the newly-vacated brooder.

We originally planned to take it slow with livestock additions at the new farm, but situations keep falling in our lap and so we are just going with it. We have never raised guineas before and are interested to see how they do helping with the bug problem, and with snakes. Now a guinea roosting house is on the list to build in the next few weeks.

Milking Parlor

Anyone who has milked an animal in the heat of summer knows how very VERY awful it can be with the flies. We have been milking in one of the stalls of the ewe barn and it is wide open to the world and all the flies. We had several fly traps situated around the area, but despite the fact that they were full, they were not making even a dent in the numbers. After 4 days in a row of the goat kicking the milk bucket over during milking, and thus no milk for us, we decided it was time to do something.

There is an old shed out by the ewe barn. It was used for hay storage. It has two old, broken front doors…

And one big back door that is screwed in place with no hinges and no latch.

And it is located just a few feet from the fence line of the pasture transition pen out by the ewe barn.

Perfectly set to make it a milking parlor!

So we screwed the broken doors shut and put a piece of plywood over them on the inside, sealing that mess off. We will replace them someday, but for now we just wanted to hurry up and get the milking parlor set up. So, sealing that end off was the best idea. Then we put hinges and a latch on the big door, and we opened up the fence line and attached it on each side of the shed. And in about half a day’s work – we had a milking parlor!

It has about 3 flies in it at any given time, and it is making milking SO much more pleasant for both the animals and the humans involved. Over time, we plan to fix it up even more with electricity and better doors and such. But this is such a great start!

LGD

Our new LGD has found her favorite place to lay…a nice soft bed of hay.

She also dug herself a den underneath the feeder for the worst of the heat, you can kind of see the entrance in the photo. She is doing great with the rams and has proven to be a good guard thus far. She is also growing a lot even in just the month of being here.

Sunday Homestead Update – Use What You Have

Another scorcher of a week at the new property. But I think we are all beginning to acclimate and we still got a lot done.

Use What You Have

We have long wanted to be able to use a poultry tractor to graze our poultry, but it was unrealistic at our previous farm. The new farm is the perfect place to graze our poultry, and so building our first tractor was high on the priority list this summer. We ended up with an opportunity to get some ducks last week and jumped on it, so this week we got to work getting the tractor built.

There are so many designs for tractors (or any livestock housing for that matter). Our favorite way to do these things is to go online and look in books for all different ideas, tuck those in our heads, and then walk around the property looking at what we have as far as leftover supplies and “junk.” Then we build what we can with what we have.

That is exactly how we went about building this duck tractor. Steel scraps from the re-roofing of the house a couple years ago, PVC pipe, a roll of chicken wire, some plywood from a previous project, and leftover wheels from a wagon……we bought a few supplies to be able to make what we wanted, the rest were things we had around the farm.

The wheels are removeable so the tractor sits on the ground when not being moved.

Then we put electric chicken netting fence around the tractor to keep predators away at night. We can move the tractor twice before we have to move the fence, and we are finding it all goes quite quick and easy.

This is housing just to be used during the warm weather when we want them grazing and foraging. We will be building permanent housing to be used for winter. For now, the 4 Welsh Harlequins are in the tractor, since they are a bit older and have feathers. The Muscovy’s are still in the brooder until they get more feathers. We are working the tractor around the area we hope to make into the veggie garden for next year. They are grazing on the weeds and grass and eating the bugs, plus adding in their fertilizer. We have LONG wanted to try this out, so this is fun and exciting to see in action. Another tractor is already in the works to hold the Muscovy’s when they are ready, and to use for chickens in the future too.

Chickens

Our 8-year-old, excellent, broody mama-hen, Eve, wanted to set eggs again. This time, instead of giving her our fertile eggs, we gave her fake eggs and then purchased some chicks and put them under her after a couple of weeks. She accepted them beautifully, and now we have 8 chicks being raised by her.

Sheep and Goats

Seeing the sheep and goat on pasture just makes me smile. It is so satisfying. We always wanted to pasture our livestock, but it was not possible at our last farm. So it is a dream a long time coming to watch them eat their way around the property. The electric net fencing is working great. We move it every 4 days or so. They are getting “free” nutrition, and they are improving the soil in the pastures as they go. Win-win.

Heritage Arts

Summer generally is not a big heritage arts time for our family because we are outside so much. But with this super-hot weather, I am finding myself stuck inside more and thus have gotten back into my knitting and crochet projects. I finished the Shimmering Nights Poncho this week and I am very happy with it.

I used the yarn that Daniel made from Freya’s fleece. It is a 2-ply sport weight, and 100% Wensleydale wool. I love how Freya’s yarn keeps the same character that her beautiful locks have when they are on her. It is very drape-y and still looks a little curly.

It felt good to complete a project that has been in the works for awhile due to being set aside during the move.

Garden

Up in the high Rockies we did not deal with many garden pests. The High Plains is a completely different story. We have immense amounts of bugs all wanting to eat our garden. We used some hoop covers to protect some of our container garden, but this week we found that bugs killed our Red Kuri squash.

We found them on the Golden Nugget squash and the cucumber too. So we have covered all of them and are picking the bugs off twice a day in hopes that we can keep it under control and not have them die. We have also left the Red Kuri squash for now, in hopes it might be able to pull through and survive. Time will tell. But finding the bugs on the outside of the tents and finding less and less inside each day is promising. So hopefully the cucumber and Golden Nugget will make it, even if it is too late for the Red Kuri.

All this experience is keeping our minds going as we think and plan for our big veggie garden build for next spring. We are learning what it will take to be successful here, which is good so that we can really plan the garden more carefully and not have to make as many changes later. I am so glad we did some amount of gardening this year, despite the move, so we could see and experience what it is like while we plan the big garden. With the amount of bad bugs we are dealing with, I expect our garden will include a lot of pest control tents, which will also help with the bad hail storms we get out here. But managing them with the wind will be tricky.

The never-ending puzzle and adventure of homesteading! We love it!