Odds and Ends

This last weekend we decided it was time to take care of some odds and ends and finish some incomplete projects.

First, we clipped all the chickens’ wings.  We clipped them when we first started letting them out in the barnyard a couple of months ago, but since they are young, growing birds they grew back enough that lately they have been getting quite a bit of height when they try to fly over the barnyard fence.  We want them to stay in the barnyard, so we re-clipped their wings.

Then we fixed a couple of things that had broken from time, use, and animal destruction.  The small chicken door from their pen into the barnyard kept falling out of it’s slide, so it got fixed.

While we were working with the chickens we found our first pullet egg.  One of the Easter Egger pullets laid us a nice little blue egg!

The gate between the front and back barnyards had some bent and broken wires from Anya putting her feet up on it, so we added a diagonal wood bar to it to support it better.

And we put weaning devices in the lambs’ noses.  We have been waiting to see if the ewes would encourage it on their own, but they are letting them go longer than we wanted.  We want the ewes to be in good condition come breeding season, so it was time to wean the lambs.  The devices make weaning so easy – they block the lamb from being able to nurse, but they can still eat and drink.  And the lambs get to still live with their mothers, so it isn’t as stressful as separating them from each other.  We have found them to be very useful over the years with lambs and calves.  They didn’t work as well with the goats because their teats are longer and the goat kids could nurse from the side of their mouths.

They will stay in for a week or so, until the ewes’ udders dry up.  Then we can take them out.

Then we turned part of the compost pile.  Since the chickens were not out on in this last winter it hasn’t composted as well.  We need to do several turns before fall so that hopefully we can use it in the garden next spring.

After turning it we started a new pile by cleaning out the sheep stall.

Then we focused on making some more progress on a project we have been working on a long time…a little here and there.  The interior walls of the barn.  When we built the barn we hooked siding on the outside of the framing.  Then we put up foil bubble insulation that we had leftover from a different project.  Then, in the stalls we were able to put up board and batten interior walls over the foil.  But we didn’t have enough wood to do the rest of the inside of the barn.  Over time, when we have the wood, we have put up a section of wall here or there.  Last winter the wind blew down a big tree at a friend’s property and they said we could have all the wood if we hauled it off and cleaned up the area.  So we took the tree to the lumber mill and had them make it into boards for us.  We used some of it to build the fence earlier this summer.  And all that was left was one-by boards.  So we decided to use it to make more progress on the walls in the barn.

On the left you are seeing one of the walls that just has insulation over the siding.  On the right is a wall with board on it.  Still needs it’s batten, but looks much better!

And here is that same area after we finished the board and batten on it.  It is so nice!

Each section we add helps close up the cracks and keeps drafts out of the barn, thus making it better for the animals through the long cold winters we have.

I love how the barn and property just keep getting nicer and nicer the longer we live here and the more we work on it.  The first year or so it looked like shanty-town, but over time with a lot of hard work, patience to wait for the right materials to come along, and a lot of dreaming about what we want it to be – we have been able to slowly turn it into exactly what we want and make it nicer and nicer.  What a blessing!

Homestead Update

Farm life and regular life continues to keep us very busy…too busy to post much lately.  Let’s see if I can catch you up on some of it.

The County Fair is closing in on us faster than we can get ready.  The kids all have their 4H projects for fair, and several of us are also entering things in the open class.  We are excited, but also a little rushed to complete everything this year.

Garden

The garden is going so well this year!  The vegetables that have done not-as-well in previous years are doing very well this year, and most of the veggies that normally do very well are still doing very well this year.  The three veggies not doing as well this year are carrots, lettuce, and spinach.  The carrots are not doing well because I used some seeds I had saved and apparently they didn’t get saved properly because they had terrible germination.  And the lettuce and spinach aren’t doing well because one of the drip lines broke and they didn’t get the water they needed.

 

The cabbages are absolutely loving the pest control tents, and the compost-filled place they were planted.  Normally, we don’t harvest cabbage until September, and even then they are only about 1.5 lbs each.  We have already started the cabbage harvest and they are all in the 3-lb range, with the biggest being 3.5!  There are still several that are not ready yet, which is good because we don’t really want all of them at the same time.  We will be making a big batch of kraut in the fermenting crock this week with these cabbages.

We harvested our first beet as well – again, normally we don’t harvest beets until later in the year.

We have been getting a handful or more of strawberries each day for a couple of weeks now.  They are so delicious!  Very sweet and juicy.  And bigger than previous years by far.  A few are growing some strange shapes that are fun for the kids.

We had quite an aphid infestation on the currant bushes, and it was spreading to the tomatoes as well.  We decided to try ladybugs, which we had never tried before.  We got a cup that said it had over 1,500 in it and put them by the infested plants during a cool/cloudy time of day per the instructions.  It really helped with the infestation and we are happy with the results.

The three-year-old grapevine is doing extremely well this year.  It is vining all over the lattice and has numerous clumps of grapes on it.  As long as the critters don’t steal any, I expect we will have a great harvest of grapes this year as well.

The peas are doing much better this year than in previous years as well.  We have harvested mostly snap so far, but the shelling peas are coming along well too and should be ready very soon.  All the tomatoes are flowering and the earliest one has some tiny green fruit on it already.  The beans are growing so fast that each time we go out in the morning we can actually see the difference in size.

We left the WOWs on the squash, pumpkins, and melons longer than usual, which helped keep them a bit warmer and protected them from the June hail storms.  A couple of WOWs are still on.  So the pumpkin patch is looking very good this year and we are hopeful for a good harvest there as well.

We should have some zucchini ready very soon.

The Red Kuri squash leaves curl in on the edges, which looks really cool.

Chickens

Three weeks ago I put some hatching eggs I bought under our little silkie hen, Eve, so she could set and raise some chicks.  She is currently hatching them out, we have seen two chicks so far and she still has two viable eggs left.

New Goat

We tried to sell our old milk goat, Gretchen, since she can’t be bred again.  But not many people are looking for an old nanny goat that can’t be bred, so after trying for a month we decided we just needed to butcher her.  We will use the meat for dog food.

Our new milk goat, Fern, arrived at the farm this week.  She is a registered Nubian with excellent udder confirmation and is very easy to milk.  She is currently fresh.  We are glad to be back into milking and having fresh milk.

LGDs

Anya has an interesting habit of burying her food before she eats it.  She uses her nose to push whatever is available over the food and the dish.  Then she paces around, then digs it up and eats it.  It is very cute.  She is continuing to do well with her training and excel as a guardian dog.  She is doing well with all the animals now, including the chickens.  We still are not leaving her alone with them yet, since she is only a year and the lambs are not full size yet, but whenever we are out and can keep an eye on things we put her with the livestock and when we are not around she is in the back pen by herself and can interact with them through the fence.

Tundra, our head LGD, is not doing so well.  He is 12 and 1/2 years old now and his age is getting the best of him.  I don’t think he has long left.  He has been such an amazing guardian dog all these years and truly loves doing his job.  We are hoping for an easy and peaceful passing for him.  It is going to be very hard on the family, but there is nothing that can be done about it.  I often wish dogs lived longer.

Knitting

I always knit socks, sleeves, and mittens two-at-a-time because I hate having to do another one after I have just finished one.  Well, for the first time ever I learned why it might be beneficial to only do one-at-a-time.  I was almost done with both sleeves for Mr. Smiles’ sweater and then I realized that I had done the increases wrong and had to completely take them out.  Taking out and re-doing two is definitely more work than just one.  😦

But I got them fixed and am about half done with them again.  I can’t wait to assemble this sweater!  It is so cute with the cables up the front.

That brings you up-to-date about most of the going-ons around the homestead!  I will leave you with a picture of the beautiful wildflowers that are blooming along the path to the barn.  There were even more of them in bloom a week ago, but you can still see how pretty they are.

Sunday Homestead Update

Feels like summer around here!  Beautiful sunny days, early afternoon showers, and cool, fresh evenings.  We are enjoying all our regular summer activities – gardening, animals, popsicles, sprinklers, hiking, crafts, farm projects, reading, visitors, outings….etc.

Garden

June is the time of year for hail in the Rockies.  Knowing this, I have left my WOWs on the tomato and squash plants longer than necessary just to try to protect them from the hail as long as possible.  This week we had a doozie of a storm, and thankfully there was very little garden damage because of the WOWs, plus the pest control fabric over the cabbage, lettuce, spinach, turnips, and beets.  We were home when it happened, so we ran outside and threw sheets over the strawberry patch, the few tomatoes that were unprotected, and the celery.  So almost everything was spared from the storm.  The rhubarb and beans did sustain a lot of damage, as well as many of the herb seedlings we had just put out into the garden.  Thankfully we still have several herb seedlings indoors under the grow lights.  We will put them out in a few weeks when the major hail danger has passed.

Thankfully, somehow the grapevines didn’t get hurt.  I think the angle of the hail was slanted enough that the patio roof protected them.  The older vine is doing SO well this year.  It has about 50 flower clusters on it.  Hopefully, some of those will turn into grapes for us.  Our goal for the younger vine is just for it to grow and spread this year, it is still very small and not doing as well as the older one.

I love the purple chive flowers each year – so pretty!

The cabbage are all very happy in their tent tunnels.  The fabric and arches for the tunnels have been quite an annoyance and need constant upkeep, but they seem to be helping thus far and they definitely protected them from the hail damage.

Heritage Arts

The girls and I decided to clean out and organize the craft room.  In the process we found several half-finished projects and a lot of mending.  So we set to work on all of it.  I am teaching Little Miss how to use the sewing machine, and she wanted to make curtains for her playhouse, so we did that.  We mended several pairs of pants and a couple of shirts.  We finished the last of the Spring/Easter cloth placemat and napkin set.  And now we are left with two bigger projects that we are working on.

First, we are making some cloth bibs for Mr. Smiles.  I will post more about that this week.

The second project has to do with some leftover scraps from the cloth placemats we made.  When we cut the corners off the placemats we were left with a lot of fabric triangles.  We didn’t want to just throw them away so we have been piecing them together and have been putting together different pattern ideas to make them into hot pads/trivets to go on the table under hot dishes.  It will be nice because they will match the placemat/napkin sets for each season.

Hopefully we will get those done this week.

In addition, we have found a new hobby (like we needed another hobby!) – Needle Felting.  Sunshine was the first one to have interest in it, but now Little Miss, Braveheart, and I have joined in the fun.  I bought this kit from the Felted Dog and made this cute Christmas ornament.

Chickens

The cockerels are 17 weeks this weekend, which is usually when we butcher them.  But we decided to wait another week because a couple of the ones we need to butcher are a little smaller than we hoped.  We did assess them all (there are 8) and begin the process of deciding which will become the future breeding rooster for the flock.

LGDs

Anya has now accomplished the next step in her training – she has been allowed to meet the chickens off-leash and spend time with them in the barnyard.  We still wont leave her alone with them for awhile since she is only a year old and still has some puppy behavior, but so far she has shown no signs of wanting to hurt them and has done very well hanging out with them.

Tundra’s Defy the Fly collar is definitely losing its potency already.  It has only been a week and the flies are beginning to get at his ears again.  They have also added his nose to the menu since it is farther away from the deterrent collar.  We still have the collar on him and have also been rubbing some human spray bug repellent on him to boost the fly control.  The flies are just terrible this year already, much worse than normal for our area.  They are bothering the goat and even the sheep.  We have never had the flies go after the sheep before.

The Fiber Mill

The Mill has been getting very busy, which is such a wonderful blessing.  Mtn Man is making all sorts of amazing yarns and fun blends.  He has been working with Navajo Churro and several other types of wool, Alpaca, and Goat Mohair.  Some of the blends include silk, bison, and merino into a few of the Alpaca and Mohair yarns.  So many options…so much fun!

 

Defy the Fly

If you have been following us for awhile you know that each summer we struggle with flies biting the ears of our LGD, Tundra.  We have tried everything and nothing has worked for more than a few hours.  The poor guy spends the summer with gaping wounds on his ear, and us scrambling to find any way to help him.

Normally the struggles don’t start until the end of July and they run through September.  But this year the flies are out and working on his ears already.  On top of that, they have decided they like our new LGD, Anya’s ears too.  On both dogs they bite the back of the fold of the ear, the soft and tender part.  Poor puppies!  They definitely are torturing Tundra more, and the poor dog is constantly rubbing on the fence, and rubbing his ears with his paws trying to get away from them.

We found something we hadn’t tried yet.  Defy the Fly dog collars.  They are a collar the dog wears that is supposed to repel flies for up to two months.  We decided to try it and ordered them right away.  Tundra’s arrived Monday and we put it right on him.  It smells like a citronella candle.  We were so happy (as was Tundra) when we saw immediate results.  The flies stayed away from him completely, especially his head.  Sweet relief!!!

I have no idea how long they will actually last, but at about $9 each I am willing to keep replacing them as needed to keep the dogs’ ears healthy and keep them from being driving mad by the constant pestering of the flies.  I will let you know how long they last and if we are still happy with them as the summer progresses.

Sunday Homestead Update

Wow, it has been 4 weeks since I did a Sunday Homestead Update!  Life is just a bit crazy around here with warmer weather, gardening, animals, tying up the end of school, the fiber mill getting busy, attending and preparing for fiber festivals, family coming to town to visit…the list goes on and on.  I am so busy living the homestead life that it is hard finding time to document it in photos and blog posts.

Gardening

The garden is going well.  Since the update I posted a couple days ago we have gotten the new pole bean arch built and up and planted the seedlings by it.

Mtn Man made this out of part of a cattle panel.

The last of the seeds and seedlings are all in the ground, so the main part of planting season is officially over.  I will still plant succession lettuce and spinach, and I also will plant a few things later for fall crops.

Fiber Mill

The fiber mill is starting to get busy, which is so wonderful!  Mtn Man attended the FiberTrain Festival in Idaho to promote our mill.  He took Young Man with him and they met a lot of great people in the fiber industry.  They also were sweet enough to bring me back something pretty:

I am beginning to dream of what to make with them.

Heritage Arts

I have just finished up the front of Mr. Smiles’ sweater.  I am now starting on the sleeves.  I am really happy with this pattern so far and think it will be adorable when finished.

Sheep and LGDs

The lambs are growing fast.  Fergus especially.  He is now as big as the ewe lamb that is a month older than him, and is getting close to as big as Tundra.  Tundra is about 55 lbs.

Tundra and Anya continue to do their job well now that the bears are out of hibernation.  We have had a couple of bear visits.  Anya’s bark seems to have a better effect on the bears than Tundra’s has – they have high tailed it out of here faster than usual.  It also might have to do with two dogs barking as opposed to just one.  But Anya does have a very deep, very BIG dog bark that would send me high-tailing it out of here too if I was the one she was barking at.

Chickens

We integrated the older hens in with the young pullets in the upper coop and are letting them free range in the barnyard while Anya gets used to them.  We also moved the cockerels down into the lower coop.

Farm Projects

We got some work done on some of our farm projects this weekend too.

We finished the ram shed, which is a three sided shelter in the ram pen that we framed with pallets, stuffed with raw wool skirtings, and sided with rough sawn board and batten from the tree we took down last fall.  Eventually, the ram will live in the back barnyard during the day and this shed will be his shelter.  At night he will be closed in his own stall in the barn for safety from predators.

The second project we did was put in the permanent fence to separate the front barnyard from the back barnyard.

It was previously separated by horse panels with wire attached.

Before:

After:

Before:

After:

Before:

After:

Sorry for the light difference in the photos, one was the early morning light before we started, and the other is the early evening light when we finished.

We built in a section of the fence to be a feeder similar to our other fence feeders, we just didn’t finish it yet.  We also built in a section where the water trough can be under the fence and thus shared by both barnyards.