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.

Training Our LGD (Livestock Guardian Dog)

Anya, our Anatolian Shepherd, came to us at about 10 months of age.  We were blessed that her previous owners had given her a good foundation of socialization with both people, and livestock, and had started her well on her way towards becoming an excellent Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD).

Almost all LGDs go through a stage between about 6 months and 1 year of age where they want to play with the livestock like they would play with another puppy or dog.  At this point most Anatolians are about 75-100 lbs, and this behavior is not only inappropriate for any size dog, but at that size it is also dangerous for the livestock.  During this stage it is really important that an LGD pup get consistent training to learn not to do this.  This is the stage Anya was at when we got her.

Phase 1 of training her through this stage was for her to live in a pen adjacent to the livestock pen.  She shared a fence with them, and could interact with them through the fence, but couldn’t play with them or hurt them.  It also gave her a chance to watch our experienced LGD, Tundra, as he cared for the livestock and learn from his behavior.  During this time we would go out and spend 1-2 hours each day training with her.  It is very important that they get regular and consistent training with humans during this stage.

For our daily training sessions, we would put the other LGD away, let her into the pen with us and the livestock and then give her a chance to interact with the livestock.  If she began to get playful with the sheep and goats I would give her the command to stop (“Anya, No!” – note the exclamation point means a firmness and seriousness in my voice and tone, it does not mean yelling.).  I was very happy to see that thanks to her previous owners’ work with her, most of the time she would stop immediately and come right and sit next to me.  I would then praise her and pet her and then let her go back to exploring and interacting.  If she hadn’t stopped when I asked her to then I would have put her on a long line leash so I could physically show her what I wanted her to do by pulling her away from the livestock.  All dogs are different, and other dogs will not necessarily react how Anya does.

We continued with her living adjacent to the livestock and we continued letting her be with them 1-2 hours a day BUT ONLY with Mtn Man or I present and watching.  She did great, and with more and more lambs being added it was fun to see her interact with them and be gentle.

Despite her good behavior with them, we would still never leave her with them alone at this age and stage in her life.  It would be setting her up for failure.

After about a month of phase 1 we felt she was ready for phase 2.  Phase 2 is to let her live with a grouchy/bossy/alpha sheep or goat that wont bully her, but also that wont put up with her playing with them or roughing them up.  At our farm the perfect choice was our old nanny goat, Gretchen.

We put Gretchen into the back barnyard with Anya during training time a few days in a row, while we stayed outside the fence and watched.  We were able to see a few interactions where Anya tried to play with Gretchen and wrestle her, and Gretchen did not tolerate it and went right in to head butting her.  Anya immediately backed off and stopped.  After seeing that a few times in a few days without us having to say or do anything we felt she was ready to live with Gretchen without humans present.  They did very well together, and Gretchen continues to put Anya in her place when she starts getting rough, and Anya continues to back down when Gretchen does that.

That is where we are at this point in the training.  Anya lives in the back barnyard with Gretchen the grouchy goat, which is adjacent to the main barnyard and shares a fence with it.  So she can still see the sheep, lambs, and the other LGD, but she still isn’t allowed to live alone with them.  And we continue to have our daily training time, where she gets to come into the main barnyard with the sheep and lambs and interact with them with Mtn Man or I present.  Sometimes we are in the barnyard with her and pet her and interact with her.  Other times I will sit in a chair just outside the barnyard and knit so that she can get the feeling of being alone with them in there, but I am still right there to correct her if she starts getting riled up.  Her need for verbal corrections has gotten fewer and farther between and she hasn’t really needed any verbal corrections for over a week now and is doing really well.

We plan to continue this same set-up through summer.  At some point we will add our grouchy older sheep, Fiona, in with her and Gretchen to get her living with a sheep, and with more than one livestock.  Then, this fall, when the lambs are at least 3/4 the size of the adult sheep, we will start letting her have longer and longer times living with the entire flock each day, and with less and less human help.  Our goal for her is that by early winter (December) – at which point she will be 18 months old – she will be able to safely live with the entire flock of adults and young adults all the time without humans.  Then, come next lambing season, we will need to go back to her only interacting with lambs with Mtn Man or I there until she proves that she can be completely trusted with them no matter what.  By then she will be about to turn 2 years old.  Most LGDs fully mature by about 2, and it isn’t until then, along with appropriate training, that they can be trusted with lambs and goat kids.

We are so blessed to have found Anya, and we are enjoying helping her become the excellent LGD that we know she can be.  It is a lot of work to properly train an LGD through puppyhood, but once they are mature and properly trained they become a priceless addition to the farm.