Sunday Homestead Update – New Year

Our year started with our first snow and very cold weather. We got about 3 inches of snow and temps down to -12F, with our high yesterday only in the teens. Brrrrr, a cold start to the new year, but it felt very past due with how warm and dry it has been this fall and winter.

Goals and Planning

We are getting back into routine life after the holidays. We like routine, although we enjoyed the time away from it as well. Our minds have shifted into planning mode as we face a new year at the new farm. We have so many visions and dreams for the place. There are so many things we want to do. We are working to prioritize and break it down so we don’t bite off too big of a piece. We need to be realistic about what we can handle and use our resources wisely. It can be hard to say that certain things will just have to wait, but if we spread ourselves too thin we won’t accomplish anything well and will end up with a bunch of half done projects.

So we have focused our plans on a few certain things for this year:

#1 Do well at managing what we already have. Keep working at our selective breeding, and keep all the animals healthy and productive. Continue to use the animals to feed our family with eggs, milk, and meat from our own farm.

#2 Continue to work at the intensive grazing and restorative agriculture plans with the hoofstock and poultry to improve the pastures.

#3 Make improvements to the animal housing, fencing, and human housing. We have a specific list of what projects we are taking on this year as far as this goes.

#4 Get the first vegetable garden built, planted, and producing (spring) and the second one fenced and start building it (fall).

#5 Add a few fruit trees and berry bushes.

#6 If possible after doing the above list, add heritage turkeys.

We were really hoping to add bees to the farm this spring, as well as raise a flock of meat-breed sheep from weaning to butcher, but those were a few of the things that had to be cut from the list and put on hold.

Poultry

This was the first snow and major cold for the guinea fowl and ducks. The guineas were very much not impressed. They decided to spend their day in the coop, warm and snug. Except first they kicked out the outcast.

As I have said before, there is one outcast guinea that is constantly a few feet from the flock. They won’t allow him (not sure if it is a girl or boy) to be with them. We don’t know enough about guinea behavior to know why. But since he is the only one we can tell apart from the others, due to the fact that he is constantly outside the group, we gave him a name. We call him Dino because he looks a little like a dinosaur because the feathers on his back are always ruffled up kind of like spikes. It seems to be because of the body posture he constantly keeps, as the outcast.

Anyway, they kicked Dino out of the coop. So Dino flew up on top of the coop and roosted there. By noon it was still only 10F, and Dino was still alone on the metal roof. So we decided to chase him in and close them all in for the day because we were worried Dino would freeze and die out in the elements alone. As we learned back when we first started free ranging the guineas…the only thing harder to herd than a group of guineas is a single guinea. A half hour later, and four freezing and frustrated humans finally got him in and closed the door. I guess we will learn from this and just keep the guineas indoors in inclement weather.

The ducks are also less than impressed with the weather. They came out, drank from their pond (we had a de-icer in it) and promptly went in to spend the rest rest of the day cozy inside.

Garden

We finished the year off by getting started on construction of the new garden. We got all the fence posts in, thanks to our neighbor bringing his tractor auger over for us. We wanted to get those done before the ground froze and made it impossible.

January Kitchen Project

Before we moved into the house, back in May, the girls and I gave the whole place a good scrub down. But we found that trying to clean the cabinets in the kitchen was nearly impossible. They had that build-up of greasy dust gunk that happens in a kitchen. You know, the stuff you find on top of your fridge if you don’t wipe it regularly. Plus just basic yucky dirt build-up around the handles etc. We tried a couple different cleaners, but it seemed that whatever we tried just made it sticky-er. We needed a major de-greaser to get the job done. But we were limited on time and couldn’t do it before the move. Then life went crazy busy. So, while it has been clean enough to be useable, it has been in the back of my head that I needed to really scrub and de-grease the cabinets and drawer fronts at some point.

The time has now come and I am making it my goal to do all of the kitchen by the end of January. I am doing it in small chunks so as not to overwhelm myself and so I can continue to focus on homeschooling and basic life (cooking, cleaning, etc). Daniel is taking the doors off for me, a couple at a time, in the morning before he leaves for work. When I have time during the day (or over a couple of days), I remove the handles and hinges, then give them a major scrubbing with degreaser (being careful not to overdo it and accidentally remove the finish on the cabinet), and then once they are dry they go back up.

I have been shocked to see the difference it makes. The small section I did last week looks almost brand new! It will be a tedious project, but will definitely pay-off in the end.

2021 Year-End Homestead Review

At the end of each year I like to do a homestead review post where I sum up the year and give some statistics about each area of the homestead.  It helps me see how we did, what we succeeded with, what we didn’t do as well as hoped with, etc.  Usually, it encourages me because I realize we accomplished a lot despite potentially feeling like we didn’t as I lived in the day-to-day chaos of life.

To read previous Year-End Reviews Click the following links:

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

This year is quite a bit different.  In January we started preparing our house to go on the market, and then the rest of the year was quite the whirlwind of selling, buying, moving, and settling at the new farm.  So there were pretty much no records kept about the homestead the way I usually do.  Plus, we did not have a garden, since we moved too late in the season to start it.  So this year’s update will be a little different.

Statistics

Chickens:

  • Started the year with 36 hens and 3 roosters.
  • Sold or butchered the flock down to 10 standard hens and 1 standard rooster, and 5 bantam hens for the move.
  • Put 7 store-bought chicks under broody hen to raise.
  • 1 bantam hen and 1 standard hen died.
  • Ended year with 16 standard hens, 1 standard rooster, and 4 bantam hens.
  • No idea how many eggs we got this year, but enough that we didn’t have to buy any and were able to sell some.

Ducks:

  • Started the year with 1 drake and 1 hen.  Both older.
  • Butchered older drake and hen before the move.
  • Purchased 10 Muscovy ducklings and 4 Welsh Harlequin ducklings to add to the new farm.
  • Butchered 2 Muscovy drakes and 2 Welsh Harlequin drakes.
  • Ended the year with 6 Muscovy hens, 2 Muscovy drakes, and 2 Welsh Harlequin hens.
  • Not sure how many eggs we got, but the Harlequins started laying in about November and laid about 10 eggs each week between the two of them.

Guinea Fowl:

  • Purchased 8 Guinea keets.
  • Had some issues getting them free-ranging but were able to get it figured out.  They roost in their coop overnight.
  • 1 was killed by one of the LGDs.
  • Ended year with 7 free-ranging Guinea Fowl.

Farm Dogs:

  • Anya, our 5.5-year-old Anatolian Shepherd continued to do well guarding the flock, even through the move to the new farm.  She has matured into an excellent LGD who loves her job and her flock.
  • Since the new farm had more space and created two flocks instead of just one, we added another LGD to the family.  Ayla is almost 2 years old and is learning and growing into a good guardian dog.  She is Anya’s half-sister.

Sheep:

  • Started year with 2 wool ewes,  2 dairy ewes, 1 dairy/wool ewe lamb, and 2 wool rams.
  • 1 ram lamb and 1 ewe lamb born, both survived.
  • An unknown (because we didn’t keep track), but good amount of milk produced for cheesemaking.
  •  4 fleece shorn from our wool sheep, for a total of  24 lbs raw, skirted wool.
  •  3 fleece shorn from our dairy sheep, for a total of  14 lbs raw, skirted wool.
  • We weren’t able to process many of the fleece due to how busy we were with the move, so we only processed one for a total of  600 yds of yarn.
  • Did not sell any sheep this year due to the expanded size of the new farm and our desire to expand the flocks.
  • Purchased 1 East Friesian (dairy) ram lamb, 1 BFL (wool) ram lamb, and 3 BFL (wool) ewe lambs.
  • Breeding season Oct-Dec: confirmed 2 pregnant dairy ewes, don’t have confirmation on the rest yet.
  • Finished year with 5 wool ewes, 1 wool wether, 2 wool rams, 4 dairy ewes, and 1 dairy ram.

Goats:

  • Started the year with 2 pregnant Nubian does.
  • One doe died
  • 1 buckling born, sold at weaning.
  • Purchased fresh (milking) Nubian doe.
  • Unknown amount of milk produced, but plenty for our family through the year.
  • Re-bred 2 does in Nov.
  • Ended year with 2 pregnant does due to kid in April.

Garden

  • No garden this year, but we were blessed with a lot of produce from other people’s gardens.
  • We did bring our container herb garden with us, and expanded it.  We harvested a lot of fresh herbs as well as harvesting and drying them.
  • Brought cuttings from our Lilac bushes with us and planted those.
  • Gifted an apple tree which we planted and it survived.
  • Purchased comfrey roots and planted several of those for next year.
  • Gifted some garlic and planted it for next year.
  • Started construction on the new vegetable garden for next year.

Heritage Arts:

  • There was a lot of knitting and sewing done, but I did not keep good track this year, so I have nothing to report here.

Kitchen:

  • Canned apples in honey syrup, applesauce, pickles, and crabapple jelly.
  • Root cellared garlic, onions, potatoes, pumpkins, and squash from a barter with someone.
  • Made quite a bit of aged cheese.  Mostly from sheep milk, a few from goat’s milk.
  • Made a lot of soft cheeses and dairy products, mostly from goat’s milk, some from sheep milk.

Year Summary

January was busy with house remodel projects to prepare it to go on the market.  I did some knitting and spinning, and we made firestarters to help keep the firemaking easy as we used them to warm our house.  We wethered our infertile BFL ram, and were excited to add a new breeding ram to the farm – an American Bond.  Unfortunately, he would later prove to be infertile as well.

February started with a hard loss – our sweet goat Pansy died after a long struggle with medical issues.  We had a deep freeze with days barely in the single digits and nights well into the negative numbers.  One of our dairy ewes, Daisy, gave birth to twins – a boy and a girl.  Her milk production was even better than last year (last year was her first freshening).  We decided to just let the lambs have it as we were up to our eyeballs with getting ready to sell the farm.  I did some knitting and decided to take a break from blogging as we were closing in on listing the homestead on the market.

I didn’t blog in March or early April.  But life kept marching on (of course).  Our house sold, with the stipulation that we find a suitable place to buy.  We looked and looked, but didn’t find anything during this time.  Our 5-year-old son had more liver issues, an ER visit which led to another hospitalization and his 24th surgery.  We continued to watch for our new farm.  The market was crazy with very little inventory, very high prices, and offers being placed and accepted in less than 24 hours.  It was easy for us as sellers, but hard as buyers.

In late April our Nubian doe delivered a buckling.  And we finished shearing all the sheep.  Just a few days before the contract on our previous house was going to expire, we found our new farm and our offer was accepted.  It was official – we were leaving the Rockies we had called home for many decades and heading to the High Plains.

In May we got really sick as we scrambled to pack and prepare to move a family of 7, plus grandma, a school, a business with large machinery, and a farm full of animals.  Thankfully, we were healthy in time for closing on both places and at the very end of May we signed all the papers and started the move.  Sadly, one week before the move, our sweet 15-year-old kitty, who we had owned since he was a kitten, passed away.  In hindsight, I am glad he didn’t have to go through the stress of the move at his old age, but we still miss him very much to this day.

June was crazy.  We spent two weeks prepping the new farm for us, the animals, and the machinery, then moving everything, and trying to somewhat settle in.  We saw our first tornado, way too clearly, on the third day we were here.  We added a new LGD to the farm family and she got right to work guarding one of the flocks (now that they were split into two at the new place with more space).  We started pasturing the sheep and goats and learning the ins and outs of intensive grazing with electric netting fence.  We started putting together a container garden with what we brought from our previous farm, plus some additional containers left on the new property.  Fencing the perimeter of the property with field fence to keep dogs out and sheep, goats, and dogs in became a priority, and big project, that wouldn’t fully get finished this year.  We also spent a ton of time weeding.  Weeding, weeding, and more weeding.  The area around the house that was covered in gravel was a jungle of weeds to the point you couldn’t see the gravel at all in some places.  We got a safe play area built for our youngest son.  Through it all, we were learning the new climate, the new views, the new landscape, the new wildlife….everything was new and different!  I continued to write online for Mother Earth News through the whole year, and I was really excited when I had my first article ever to make it into the print edition of the magazine printed in the June/July issue.

In July we thought we might just die of the heat.  We had more days in the triple digits than not, and several days got up to 108/109.  It was miserable for us as we had previously lived in the cool, high-altitude Rockies and had never experienced temperatures like that before, and certainly not day after day.  We continued to do what we could with the little container garden, but the temperatures were not helping.  Plus, pest bugs started killing everything we were working so hard to keep alive.  One of our sheep bloated, and we successfully tubed him and saved him since the vet couldn’t come.  We added ducklings, some chicks, and guinea keets to the farm.  By the end of the month the ducklings were out grazing in duck tractors we had built from odds and ends around the farm.  Milking the sheep and goat in the open with the flies and wind and heat was getting miserable, so we converted an old shed into a wonderful milking parlor.  Lastly, we built a door for the hay barn in preparation to put up hay for the year.

In August we started to feel somewhat settled at the new farm.  We added another Nubian milking doe and 4 Bluefaced Leicester sheep to the farm.  We did a lot of fermenting and canning.  Now that we had a couple of months under our belts, we were reading books like crazy and doing research to try to figure out how we want to manage and build the new farm in so many different areas – livestock, gardens, etc.  We started a new school year, our first and the new farm.  Sadly, our sweet, old house-rabbit, Wilbur, passed away.

September included a lot of illness and some death among the livestock, as well as illness among the humans.  We enjoyed a drop in the very hot temperatures and found we were able to spend more time outside.  I got my antique treadle sewing machine fixed and started to learn how to use it.  We built the poultry barn and moved around all the poultry to new housing.  We started to feel a bit overwhelmed as we tried to get to everything we needed to get done before winter hit.

October was full of guinea fowl adventures as we attempted to get our guineas to free-range but stay on our property and go indoors to roost at night.  I had another article published in the October/November print edition of Mother Earth News magazine.  Our youngest son had another round of liver issues with hospitalization and surgery.  I also spent a lot of time sewing on my antique treadle machine, making a quilt and aprons for gifts.  By the end of the month I felt completely proficient on the machine and it became my go-to sewing machine for most all my projects.

In November I was excited to be able to speak at the Homesteader’s Livestock Summit.  The whole family helped with my presentation and we all really enjoyed the opportunity to share what we love and teach about raising sheep for high-quality wool production.  The Nubian does headed to the breeder’s farm to get bred, since we don’t keep a buck for breeding.  Our sheep breeding season was proving challenging and we decided to try using ram harnesses with marking crayons to help figure out what was going on.  We finished all our “before winter hits” projects in time, including a root cellar/tornado shelter.  The girls had a very successful booth at a Christmas craft fair in the area.  And we got our first dusting of snow at the new farm.

December was shockingly warm, and we enjoyed it.  We also enjoyed the slower pace from a year of crazy busy.  We stopped all “projects” and just spent time enjoying our family.  We all got sick with a nasty cold, but it helped keep us slowed down, at home, and resting for the first time in a very long year.  The ducks started laying, and the goats came home pregnant.  We made our final plans for next year’s vegetable garden, and started working towards making it a reality.

It has been a crazy year of change and so much hard work.  But it is all a blessing and we are glad for the move and all that we have gone through.  We are looking forward to 2022 being our first full year at the new farm.  We are excited to see what every season is like here.  And we are busy dreaming and planning as we build this new homestead out on the High Plains.

Sunday Homestead Update – Root Cellar/Tornado Shelter

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.

Canning

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!

Goats

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.

Sheep

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.

LGDs

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.

Poultry

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!

Sunday Homestead Update – More Adventures with Guinea Fowl

We spent last week unexpectedly in the hospital and this week with homecare stuff for our son. This was his 25th surgery – he is 6 years old and has a very rare liver disorder that causes him to get infections and sepsis. It came on very fast this time, like last time, and got life-threatening within 12 hours. He was fine one day and in emergency surgery the next. It never gets easier. It is familiar, VERY familiar, but not easier. One thing that was easier was that we live so much closer to the pediatric hospital now. That was easier and we were glad for it. We are now in recovery mode and trying to transition back into our life around the homestead as cold weather is starting to set in here.

Guinea Fowl

The guinea fowl have been the main topic of conversation around the homestead the last couple of weeks. They have been getting into trouble lately and causing us extra work. Everything was going well, as I said the last time I discussed them, and they were hanging out around the property and putting themselves to bed in the coop each night. Then one day we didn’t see them at all for the whole day. Late afternoon our neighbor pulled in to ask if we had lost some guinea fowl because they were all over at his place. We headed over and there they were – apparently in love with their turkey. The neighbor has some chickens and a duck and a turkey all living together, and the guineas had zeroed in on the turkey, and the turkey seemed happy about it too. Maybe it was the naked heads? LOL. So we herded them back over to our place and put them to bed for the night, hoping it was a one-time thing. Of course it wasn’t, and they continued to head straight over to their turkey friend every morning when we let them out. We would herd them back in the evening and put them to bed. The interesting thing was they didn’t have access to water over there, the only water they could get was in their coop, and each night they drank and drank like crazy when we brought them home. I was surprised they wouldn’t be drawn back to the water on their own out of sheer desperation. We decided to see if they would come home on their own for the water and the roost at night, so one night we didn’t herd them back. Nope, they slept over outside the house of their turkey friend. Sigh.

Our plan is to fully fence the entire perimeter of the property with field fencing to keep the predators (stray dogs, coyotes, etc) out and our sheep/goats/livestock and dogs in. We finished two of the four sides of the perimeter this summer, but haven’t finished the rest. When we herded the guineas home from the neighbor’s, they were going through a 4-wire barbed-wire fence and every time we got to it they acted like they couldn’t get through. They had no problem going through in the morning headed to their friend, but when we were trying to herd them back home at night it is apparently a solid wall to them with no way around. So we decided that if they are that silly about just a wire fence, then maybe if we put up the field fence across that neighbor’s side it would keep them home. Yes, they can fly over it, but they are kind of weird about flying over things and don’t seem to like to do it. So we were hopeful. Young man spent two days fencing that line for us, and sure enough – it worked! The guineas stopped visiting the turkey at the neighbors house.

As they were now staying on the property, they started hanging out over in the ewe barn area, where some of the sheep, goats, and the livestock guardian dog (LGD) are living right now. One day, when they came back to the poultry barn late afternoon, there were only 7 of them, instead of 8. When we went to do barn chores we found the remains of the 8th one – just feathers – in the ewe barn area. The LGD in that pen has lived with chickens for years and not killed them. We are assuming she saw the guineas as wild birds, not like the chickens she guards, because they live outside her fence and they act wild and different. So when one of them somehow got in there with her, she killed it. Sigh.

We figured that watching their guinea-friend get killed would keep them away from that area, but nope. They still head over there and hang out along the fence lines. So we have started training the LGD that they are like chickens and not to kill them. Thus far, they have stayed out of the pen, and thus far, we have not lost any more. Though I don’t think the LGD is trustworthy enough yet as far as the guineas are concerned to not kill another if they chose to go in with her. But we will continue working on it.

Heritage Arts

Adjustable hemmer foot – where have you been all my life?!?!? Have you ever heard of or seen an adjustable hemmer foot? I never had, though I desperately wish I had all these years of sewing. My antique Singer treadle machine came with a few different feet, of which I could not recognize even one. Well it turns out that one of them is super useful and now my favorite sewing tool. As I was working on the aprons for my sisters I discovered this gem. You set the measurement on it to the size of hem you want, and then you feed the fabric into it folded at the hem and as it runs through it, the foot folds the edge under just a little and sews it just perfectly along the edge. Creating a perfectly beautiful hem every time!!!

If you like to sew clothes, aprons, curtains, anything with a hem, and haven’t used one of these yet – get your hands on one! I know they make them for modern machines too, because I looked it up since I had never heard of them before. It can be tricky to figure it out at first, but after playing with it on a few scraps of fabric I got it going and it worked great.

I have finished all the aprons for my sisters and now consider myself completely adept with the treadle machine. It doesn’t feel foreign anymore – treadling just comes naturally now. I love it! It took one lap quilt and three aprons to fully get the hang of it. It was totally worth it and I am enjoying using it for most of my sewing now. There have been a few things I have brought out my modern electric machine for – button holes (and other zig-zagging), and quilting (because the antique machine can’t handle the thickness). Other than that, this machine is my go-to machine now.

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.