Sunday Homestead Update

There is never a dull moment around our little farm.  Sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad ways.  We had an adventure with some Golden Eagles this week that ended badly.

Thursday our Anatolian Shepherd LGD, Anya, was barking like crazy.  Her, this-is-serious-bark.  I ran out to see what was going on.  She was focused to the north of us and all the hair on her back was up.  I looked and watched and didn’t see anything.  Then I saw a very large bird fly through the forest.  I couldn’t see what it was because of the trees, but I could tell it was BIG.  Much bigger than the Red-tailed hawks we normally see around here.  I praised Anya and felt good that she was dealing so well with an aerial predator.

We have had problems with aerial predators before, specifically a Great-horned owl that over time killed 4 of our chickens.  This was back when we had our previous LGD, Tundra.  He was an excellent LGD, but he was getting old and slept a lot.  The owl would wait until he was asleep, then come down on a chicken, then Tundra would wake up and go after the owl.  The owl never got away with a bird, but they died anyway from the wounds from being hit by the owl.  We haven’t had any issues with aerial predators since Anya has been on guard.  She is very aware of them and young and always on the look-out.

Friday the kids brought me outside because they were seeing a large bird fighting with a Red-tailed hawk and they were hearing a lot of loud bird calls that were not familiar to them.  Throughout the day all of us got glimpses of the large bird but couldn’t figure out what it was.  And we heard the loud screeching all day.  Anya was on edge and barking a lot.  We kept a close eye on the barnyard and all seemed to be going well with Anya on duty.  When it would come near she would bark and all the chickens would run into the safety of their pen.

Mid-afternoon heat the activity in the sky calmed down and everything got quiet.  In the heat of the day the sheep, goat, and Anya all head into the barn to lay in the cool shade with the cross breeze blowing through.

What happened then wasn’t figured out until later in the day when we investigated everything, identified the large bird, and put all the pieces of the puzzle together in our heads.  From what we can tell, Anya was in the barn with the livestock and the chickens were in the barnyard scratching around.  A female Golden Eagle, with two fledglings to feed, waited for her opportunity patiently, and when Anya was in the barn she struck one of our Easter Eggers and started eating on it.  Anya figured out what was going on and came running out of the barn at the eagle, chasing it off.  Too late for the chicken, unfortunately.

The mom and the fledglings continue to hang out around our property, so we have kept the chickens closed in their pen until they move on to a new location.  And we are keeping our eyes on everything in the barnyard because although we don’t think she would go for a lamb, especially with the fact that Anya went after her, we are still being cautious.

I find it interesting that it was an Easter Egger, because last December when we lost a chicken to a bobcat, because Anya was in a different pen, it was an Easter Egger too.  We only have a couple in the flock of over 20 birds, so it seems too coincidental that they were both EEs that got killed.  I am guessing they don’t have as much predator instincts as the rest of the flock.  Especially because on Friday when the eagles were around we kept seeing the flock run into their pen throughout the day whenever they thought there was danger.  So I am guessing the EE didn’t run in when the rest of them did.

Putting Up Hay

Our property doesn’t have pasture, so we have to feed hay year-round.  Because hay is so seasonal in Colorado, and prices and availability change drastically based on the season, we try to fill the loft of the barn with all the hay we need for an entire year during the summer months.  We put up our first load this week.  We will probably be getting two more loads before the end of August.

Garden

Medicinal herbs can be hard to get going from seed.  This is our second year for the medicinal herb garden and things are starting to go pretty well.  We have two types of chamomile, one that we transplanted from the wild into the garden, and one that we planted.  Both are doing very well.  The yarrow is also starting to take off.  The lemon balm looks pretty good, and the echinacea are working on putting out some leaves.

Hopefully in a couple of years this is a beautifully full garden.

The celery harvest has started.

We also harvested our first 4 cabbages, for a total of 16 lbs.  We made cole slaw and started a big load of sauerkraut fermenting in the big crock.

I love fresh coleslaw in the summer!  And we will have plenty of sauerkraut for the fall and winter.

Cheesemaking

We made our first ever feta from our raw goat’s milk.  It turned out very yummy, except we over-salted it.  We are anxiously saving up milk to make another batch this week, without too much salt.

For the feta we needed a double boiler set up that could hold a gallon of milk.  Our double boiler isn’t even close to that big.  But Little Miss thought of this idea to use a big stainless steel bowl with butter knives on each side to suspend it a bit over the pot of boiling water.

Heritage Arts

I finished my Nightshift Shawl!  The pattern is by Andrea Mowry, and the yarn is Yakity Yak by Greenwood Fiberworks.  I am very happy with it.

Farm Therapy

What is it about a homestead that is so therapeutic?  Fresh air, sunshine, livestock, edible vegetation, providing for your own food needs, baby animal cuteness…?  All of those things, and more.

As we head into our youngest son’s 12th surgery in less than 4 years my heart is heavy.  I head out to the barnyard for my farm therapy.  I sit on a rock in the barnyard and listen to the sounds, breathe in the smells, and view the sights.

My immediate companion is the LGD, Anya, looking for some love.

Followed quickly by the goat, Pansy, who thinks she is an LGD too.

After some love they clear out, well actually, the dog heads off to more interesting things and the goat continues to demand affection.  I eventually ask her to give me some space.  Then the chickens come over and peck around my feet, hoping maybe I brought food with me.

The sheep are content to lay in the shade, along with a chicken companion.

Something about the area brings peace.  It is calm, and steady.  It is natural.  I take a deep breath and take it all in.  My heart relaxes a little.  The farm cannot remove my concerns, but it has therapeutic powers – some that can be explained, and some that defy explanation.  It helps me face the next mountain.

Sunday Homestead Update

We have had a cold wet week here in the mountains.  Last night we got down to 34…eeek!  Today we have a fire going to keep the house warm.  I don’t ever remember having a fire this late in the summer before.

Sheep

The lambs tails fell off.  I could tell we were getting close on Wednesday when I was surveying the livestock.  They get this strange stiffness to them right before they fall off.

We saw they were gone the next morning, except for Stormy’s. Hers took a couple extra days.

LGD

We had an incident with our Livestock Guardian Dog this week.  I was out near the barnyard and thought I saw her go for a chicken out of the corner of my eye.  But when I turned and looked fully it looked like she was just sniffing towards one of the hens that had just been put out with the flock that morning when we were shuffling birds around to make space.  A few minutes later I saw the other one that had just been put out that morning and I clearly saw Anya go after it, aiming for a full two front foot pounce right on it.  Thankfully, she missed, and I yelled “no” at her and she tucked tail and came to me submissively.

She has been living with the chickens for 7 months now without any issues.  We weren’t sure why she was all of a sudden going after them.  It seemed notable that she was going after the two that had just been added into the barnyard flock that morning.  I don’t doubt she knows each chicken and knew they were new.  But why try to pounce on them?  Just to be safe, we decided to close the flock into their enclosed exterior pen for a few days and not allow them to free range in the barnyard.  We were hoping that maybe after a couple of days living with the flock those two wouldn’t be so obviously different to her for whatever reason.  We let them all back out to the barnyard two days later and so far everything seems fine with her and them.

We have more chicken shuffling around to do in the coming weeks as the pullets mature, so we will keep a close eye on her through the changes.

Garden

Yes, indeed, one of our apple trees did not survive the winter.  Bummer.  Since we only have two, that means that we will not have apples this year as the other one doesn’t have a cross-pollinator.  We will be buying another replacement tree this year, and hopefully they will both make it through.  Our climate is questionable on apple trees.  There are a sparse few that I know of that have survived in our area.  We are hopeful to be able to get at least two successful trees going on our property.

The kids got Mtn Man The Fruit Gardener’s Bible for Father’s Day.  He has been pouring over it and learning all sorts of good things about our fruit trees and bushes.  It makes us excited as we dream and plan about ways we want to expand our fruit production in the future.

Our area had the coldest May on record in over a century and we have had three times as much moisture in the first 6 months of this year as we had in the first 6 moths of last year. So it has indeed been a very cold, wet spring.

My garden is a solid 3 weeks behind where it was this time last year, but overall it is doing well.

Last week we put WOWs back over the frosted tomato stems in hopes that some might come back to life. Some did!

And some did not.

Overall we are down 7 tomato plants out of 25. So we have 18 left. I am somewhat bummed about losing so many, but at the same time I do see a good side to it. We save our own seeds, so the seeds we save this year will be from plants that were able to survive a frost and therefore will make for more frost hardy plants in the future. So its a selective breeding through natural selection.

We are enjoying delicious lettuce and spinach from the garden.  The plants out in the garden are coming along pretty well.  The beans are just up and seem to have some bugs working on them, which is not good. But the garlic and onion patch is growing wonderfully. We are winding down on rhubarb and asparagus harvest.

One of the most exciting things is that we are in our second year of trying to get the medicinal herb garden going and we are seeing more and more little sprouts out there. We have valerian, thyme, and mint all established from last year. We now have new chamomile, lemon balm, and echinacea. Still cant get the red clover nor the desert parsley to go, but at least we are making some progress.

Heritage Arts

I finished the second sleeve of my cabled cardigan.  Now back to the main body again.

Sunday Homestead Update

This week was our first full week of warm weather this year! Our days were in the 60-70s and nights in the 40s.

Life has been so very very busy both on and off the homestead. Here’s a peek into some of what happened this week.

Goat

We have been noticing some issues with Pansy’s skin.  She is started to get some thinner spots in her coat and has some dandruff.  She also has places where the black hair is turning brown/copper colored.  I called the breeder we bought her from, who is my go-to person for the goat since we are not super-educated about goats specifically.  She said definitely copper deficiency.

I have been trying to figure out how to handle the copper situation in a flock/herd/flerd mixed with sheep and a goat.  Goats need a lot of copper and can have a lot of issues if they don’t get enough, and sheep need barely any and can die with too much.  My goat breeder had an excellent answer that I had not heard of before – copper boluses for the goat.  It is a great way for us to give the goat the copper she needs without exposing the sheep to it.  Perfect!  So I ordered some goat copper boluses and a bolus gun.  We gave it to her and will continue to do that every 4-6 months.

Have any of you used copper boluses with your goats?

LGD

I have a story to share about our Livestock Guardian Dog, Anya.  This is her first lambing season, and so to protect our lambs from her potentially accidentally killing them, which can often happen with an LGDs first season with lambs, we separated her off in a pen with Pansy (the goat) and the chickens and had the ewes in a different pen that shared a fence.

When Fiona went into labor I think Anya could feel the excitement in the barn.  She was stuck out in her pen and desperately wanted to see what was going on.  When little Avalanche made his first bleating sound she started crying and whining and barking in excitement.  I went and got her and brought her into the barn to meet him through the fence of the jug.  Mama Fiona was not having it and made it clear she didn’t want her around.  But Anya got a good look and sniff.

Later, after we had seen that Avalanche was doing well and we had gone back inside, I looked out and saw that Anya was in the ewe’s pen, not in the pen we had put her in.  I went out to see what was going on and how she had changed pens.  I found that she had squeezed her 115 lb self through an 8×8 inch hole where she had broken the zip tie and bent the wire back.

It never ceases to amaze me how tiny of tight squeezes dogs can fit through when they want to.  And Anya has NEVER broken out before, which just shows how very much she wanted to get over to see what was going on.

Fiona and Avalanche were in one of the jugs and I had left the other jug door open so Rose could come and go from being near Fiona but still have access to the barnyard.  As I watched to see what Anya was doing I was amazed.  She was not going into Rose’ jug and excitedly bothering Fiona through the fence.  Instead she was timidly peeking around the corner to watch the baby.

She kept coming the check on the baby in that fashion, and then would go into the barnyard and do her rounds, and then come back and check on the baby again.  She was very respectful of Fiona’s space and didn’t stress her out.  After a while she just lay down right outside the door to the jugs.

It seemed like the perfect mix of behavior for an LGD to have about a lamb…respect for the mother and her space, but also feeling protective and wanting to be nearby enough to protect them.  It made us very pleased.

Since then the ewes and lambs have been integrated back in with Pansy, Anya, and the chickens. We spent several days having someone always out there watching to be sure Anya was being safe with the lambs. If someone couldn’t be out there we put them back in the jugs. Anya did excellent and they are now all living together with no issues.

Sheep

The biggest news on the farm continues to be the new lambs.  And why not!?  They are so adorable!

We docked their tails on day 3.  You can read about how we dock tails here.  We started letting them out into the barnyard with the LGD and the goat on Day 4 of life, with human supervision for safety with the LGD until we are sure she is going to be good with them.

Avalanche and Fiona are doing great with the transition.  Fiona is a protective mama, but does let the goat and dog sniff him.  But she chases them off if she thinks it is getting to be too much.  Avalanche loves the outdoors and has been having fun exploring this new world that includes chickens, sun, wind, new sights and smells, plus the dog and goat, and other baby lambs.

He decided his favorite place to nap is in this “box” that used to be a small retaining wall to hold the water trough but has since become a big hole surrounded by 4x4s because the chickens like to dust bathe in it.

Anya happens to like the “box” too…though she doesn’t barely fit.

And Avalanche really likes the chickens. His curiosity about them leads to some hilarious interactions.

Rose and her twins, Tornado and Stormy, were still struggling early in the week.  Rose’s udder was large and full, but the lambs seemed to not be getting much to eat.  They would go back to her udder every few minutes and only nurse for 10-15 seconds at a time.  We checked and she did not have mastitis nor edema.  We are able to squeeze milk out.  But it does seem like her teat orifice is very tiny.  So maybe it is just too much work for them to get it out.  Rose’s condition also started declining and she is looking skinny despite being given free choice alfalfa and a pound of grain a day.  Her ram lamb, Tornado, was not doing very well either.  He was sleeping a lot and wasn’t very vigorous, and he started to get congested.  So we called the vet and started using some udder cream on Rose, and gave Tornado an antibiotic shot on Wednesday. We had been supplementing the twins with a bottle since the day after they were born. We also were giving all three of them nutridrench to boost them.

By Thursday they started to perk up and seemed to be doing better, except Tornado still had a cough. But they were living out with the flerd and enjoying the outdoors.

They continue to improve and we are slowly decreasing our supplementation of them.

Heritage Arts

With warm weather and super busy-ness of spring there has not been many heritage arts projects getting work lately.

The other day when I was watching the lambs and making sure Anya was learning proper interaction with them I did sneak in a little work on this alpaca hat I am making.

 

We live a very full life. Sleep is scarce and go, go, go is plentiful. There is joy and there is sorrow. But man, it is such a blessed life.

Sunday Homestead Update

Another winter week on the homestead.  Thankfully, we have not been dealing with the bitter cold that everyone else has, just our regular cold winter weather.

Garden

I ordered our seeds for 2019!  We saved a lot of our own, but we also needed to order several different varieties.  We order almost all of our seeds from Seeds Trust because they have high-altitude cold-climate varieties suited for our area.

Sheep

The ewes have not come back into heat and it has been 24 days since they were bred (ewe heat cycle is 17-19 days).  So that means that either we missed the breeding season (which is unlikely because they are breeds that breed out of season) or, the more likely option is that they are both pregnant!  Yay!!!  They are due to lamb at the very end of May.

Chickens

We normally work on our chick plans in November or December, but this winter has been crazy and we didn’t get around to it.  So we finally figured out our chicken breeding and purchasing plans for 2019.  We will be doing one large incubation plus whatever broody hen-setting that naturally happens.  We will also be buying a small group of male chicks to give us new genetics for 2020 breeding.

In order to have our chicks hatch in a time that will start them laying this fall – thus keeping our egg production up while the hens are molting and through next winter, they need to hatch in February or March.  So we decided we will set the incubation to start Feb 1st, hatching out Feb 22.  We have started collecting eggs and I will get the incubators out and running early this week so they are calibrated and ready by Friday.  It will be fun to have baby chicks in a few weeks!

Another Silky died.  😦  It looked like she was egg-bound.  She was fine – eating, drinking, acting normally at morning chores.  Then she was dead on the floor of the coop at evening chores.  That leaves only 3 silky hens left from the 8 we bought as chicks last spring.  I don’t know if it is poor breeding on the hatchery’s part or what, but it is really frustrating that they keep dying for reasons that look to have nothing to do with anything we can control or change.

The rest of the chickens are doing great.  Egg laying has been very productive this winter since we timed the young pullets to start in the fall and thus lay through the winter.  They are happy to be out free-ranging with Anya guarding them.

Coyote

Speaking of Anya guarding…this week we had a coyote incident.  We heard her barking like crazy and I ran to see what was going on.  There was a huge lone coyote sitting not even 20 feet from the fence taunting her.

She had chased all the chickens into the coop and the sheep up into the stall and was at the fence growling and barking at him all hair on end.  She responded perfectly to the situation.  But he was WAY too comfortable checking her out and just hanging out and not moving along.  They normally move through the property quickly and are skittish to the human smells and the guard dog, so it not minding was very concerning.

I ran to get Young Man to kill it, since he has a license to do so.  Whenever they start getting too comfortable around our property with all the people and dog smells we hunt them and it is amazing how just taking one will keep them all away for many months.  They are pretty smart to that.  But by the time he got to where he had a safe shot the coyote had sauntered off….yes sauntered, not run.

So we will be keeping our eyes out to be sure this coyote doesn’t keep hanging around the property.  And with as big as he is I am going to be more vigilant about the kids playing outside of the fences.  It is coyote breeding season, so they act different this time of year.  Hopefully it was a one-time thing and he will move on.

Hauling Logs

We live in a Ponderosa pine forest, and most of the area around us is as well.  Last year the fierce winds we get knocked a huge tree over in our neighbors yard, splitting their shed in two and taking out the power for the area as well.  Ugh.  Thankfully it didn’t start a fire when the electric lines went down.  So they decided to take down some other trees that were threatening structures and power lines, as did our other neighbor.  We helped out and were able to keep some of the wood.  The trees were huge, so loading and hauling was not possible for us last year for various reasons.  But we have some projects in mind for this spring and summer that we need the wood for.  So this week Mtn Man and Young man loaded and hauled the trees down to the lumber mill to be cut up into lumber.  It works out well because we end up using the entire tree – nothing goes to waste.  It is cut into 4x4s, 2×6, and 1x, and we even take back the outer bark edges they cut off and use them.  Anything that isn’t useful for building is used to heat our home through the winter in our wood stoves.

In a few weeks they will be done milling and we will get to go pick up a huge load of lumber for this year’s building projects!

Knitting

I have something strange to tell you about myself – I don’t like hand-knit socks because the soles of my feet don’t like the texture of the purl bumps on the inside.  So every time I make myself socks, I end up not wearing them and instead pass them down to Sunshine.  A friend told me to try wearing my hand knit socks inside-out so that the smooth stockinette side was against my soles.  I tried it and it felt so much better on my soles!

So I decided to try to make myself a pair with inside-out soles so that I could wear them right side out and have a nice pattern showing on the top and the leg, but still have the purl bumps on the outside along my sole.  I did it and for the most part it worked!

I uses Serenity sock yarn in the color Borealis and used the Fish Lips Kiss Heel construction along with the texture pattern from Hermione’s Everyday Socks on the top of the foot and up the leg.

I did purl stitch on the sole half of the sock, with 3 knit sts on each side before the purls and I did the bottom half of the heel with the purls out and the top half with the purls in.  It worked pretty well, but I want to try again and make some changes.  Changes I will make next time will be to only have 2 knit sts on each side of the purl sole to make it a bit wider, and I will do the entire heel in purl all the way until I start the leg pattern.

I have already started the next pair to try out the changes and see how it goes.  I am just doing a basic pattern of stockinette on the foot, the FLK heel, and haven’t decided yet what I will do for the leg.