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.

Sunday Homestead Update

What I love about our winters is that even though we will get down into the below-zero temps several times throughout the winter…we also have sunny days in the high 40s to low 50s F interspersed throughout the winter as well.  While most of the week was frigid with night temperatures below zero, yesterday was one of those warm days, which was wonderful because we were able to get out into the barn and barnyard and do some clean up and projects.

It is oh-so-wonderful to see all these creatures happily living in harmony in the barnyard now!  It brings us great joy to have the sheep back and to have Anya guarding everyone.

Anya has now made it several weeks guarding the animals without incident.  She is very content and happy doing her job and having the run of the barnyard.

The sheep have settled in and know the routine and the run of the place now.  Rose and Anya were both vying for my affection while we worked in the barnyard yesterday.

Sheep

We have been hoping the ewes would have another heat cycle yet this season, especially since they do come from breeds that breed out of season (regular sheep breeding season is Sept-Dec).  Thankfully, Rose came into heat this last week and Fergus has been breeding her.  So it looks like we will be having late May/early June lambs!  This will be very late for us, but since we didn’t get the sheep back until right before Christmas, there wasn’t much that could be done.  You never know, maybe we will like lambing later in the season…at least we wont have to worry about frigid blizzards happening at the same time as a lamb being born.  🙂  It is very exciting to know there are lambs on the way!

Due to overuse of de-wormers in sheep in America, many are now ineffective.  So the best way to handle parasites in sheep is by feeding them off the ground, and doing fecal tests yearly before using any de-wormers.

In order to feed our sheep and goats off the ground, a few years ago we made these built-in fence feeders for our outdoor feeding of hay.

And we made these quick and easy feeders for our indoor feeding of hay.

But the quick and easy feeders were somewhat short-lived.  The ones that we attached to the wall (like in the photo above) broke after several months.   Though the ones that are attached outside of our lambing jugs (three photos below) have worked great and not broken.

So we needed a new hay rack in the indoor stall so we could feed the sheep off the ground.  This weekend Mtn. Man threw together a rack for in the stall using some wood scraps and a cattle panel scrap.    He installed it on the half-wall of the stall that opens into the main barn so we can easily throw the hay over the wall and into the feeder without having to enter the stall.  We are very happy with how it turned out and it is working well.

Knitting

After knitting several large projects for Christmas presents, I am anxious to some quick small projects and get that finished satisfaction in a shorter amount of time.  And since I got this kit with 12 different colored sock yarns in it for Christmas…I am set to go on socks!

What I love about this kit is the variety of colors.  I am terrible at picking colors…for anything, not just yarn.  But with yarn I just stick with what I know and love – purples, blues, greens, dark colors, no brights.  So getting this kit really stretches my color comfort zone and helps me make some stuff with colors that are outside the box for me.

So I decided to dive right in with the bright colors and go for it.  So I am making very bold and bright striped socks using the Fibonacci number pattern of 3, 5, 8, and 13.

I have also cast on a second pair of socks.  These are just a basic sock, using a special toe pattern I do to custom fit Young Man’s feet, and I will use a Fish Lips Kiss Heel because that is currently my favorite heel pattern.  This yarn is a 3-ply sport weight yarn that Mtn Man made me in the mill using Fergus’ 2018 fleece blended with bamboo that had been dyed blue.  I don’t know if it will show on the computer screen, but the blue bamboo adds a cool subtle blue color to the dark grey of Fergus’ fleece.  I am enjoying working with it too.  Fergus has an excellent fleece, I am really glad we were able to buy him back.

Yay for knitting projects that are easy to transport and quick to finish!

2018 Year-End Homestead Review

Looking back over the previous year on the homestead is an excellent practice because it helps us see what worked, what didn’t, and helps us plan for the future.  It is also always very encouraging to me because even when I feel like we didn’t have a very productive year, seeing it all written out shows me all that we accomplished.  Our homestead has had to take a backseat to other parts of our life over the last few years due to our baby’s serious medical issues.  This year more than ever.  But despite that, we still are able to do some homesteading and it brings us stability and joy.

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

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Statistics

Chickens:

  • Started year with 20 hens, 9 young pullets and cockerels, and 1 rooster
  • Purchased 10 layer chicks and 41 meat chicks
  • 18 meat chicks died first couple of weeks, 1 layer chick died – 9 layers and 23 meat chicks survived
  • Because of large loss of meat chicks decided to buy 11 layer chicks to add to the brooder
  • 5 broody hen sets with a total of 15 chicks surviving
  • 1 cross beak chick had to be culled, 1 silkie hen licked to death by LGD pup, 1 hen killed by bobcat, 1 young pullet died for unknown reasons, and 1 hen died of egg bound
  • Butchered 23 meat chickens, 10 layer cockerels, 1 aggressive rooster, and 8 hens
  • Sold 9 hens
  • Ended year with 28 hens, 1 chick, and 1 rooster
  • Approximately 3,500 eggs laid

Farm Dogs:

  • Anya, our 2.5-year-old Anatolian Shepherd, is continuing to mature and be trained to be our lead LGD.  As a pup she accidentally licked a couple of chickens to death and therefore was living adjacent to the barnyard and continuing to be trained.  In December we were very excited to move her into the main barnyard and have her be mature enough to guard without any accidental killings.
  • We have had no bear break-in attempts on the barn since she took over.  The bears used to try to break into the barn multiple times each autumn, despite our previous wonderful guard dog living in the barn (he did keep them out and alerted us so we could chase them off, but they continued to try).  I am guessing it is the size difference, our previous guard dog was 55 lbs, Anya is over 100.  I think the bears can tell the difference when they hear her bark and such and they don’t think it is worth it to grapple with a dog that big.  Not sure what else would cause the change.

Sheep:

  • Did not have sheep most of this year.  Sold the flock December of 2017 due to son’s medical issues and hospitalizations.
  • Unexpectedly bought back three of our sheep a couple weeks before the end of the year!  2 ewes and 1 ram.  They are currently living together in hopes of squeezing in last-minute breedings for this year so we can have some lambs born this summer.

Goats:

  • No goats this year due to son’s medical issues.  Contemplating plans for a dairy goat in 2019, but have not decided yet.

Garden:

  • Over 490 lbs of produce harvested
  • Spent $134 on the garden this year, average of $0.27 per lb.

Heritage Arts:

  • I completed the following knit projects: 2 cabled hats, 1 cabled cardigan, 1 pair of flip-top mittens, 7 pairs of socks, 2 baby blankets, 1 baby vest, 1 shawl, 1 afghan and 169 squares for my scrap sock afghan.
  • I completed one cross stitch, and sewed 4 skirts for myself, 1 dress for myself, 4 skirts for the girls, 1 dress for Sunshine, 4 bibs for Mr. Smiles, hospital PJs for Mr. Smiles, several pairs of flannel PJ pants for everyone, and 3 flannel nightgowns for Little Miss. Plus innumerable amounts of mending and patching of clothes.
  • The girls did countless projects, each of them finishing more projects than I did.

Kitchen:

  • Canned over 350 jars of food this year.

Year Summary

January was much warmer than usual and we enjoyed the chance to get outside when we could, though the end was bitterly cold.  We spent a lot of time dealing with our son’s medical issues, with hospitals, surgery, and many doctor’s appointments.  We were able to get our garden planning and school curriculum planning done, along with building a new pantry area in the basement.

In February the girls and I spent the cold days working on my grandmother’s English paper piecing quilt, as well as a crocheted scrap afghan.  I also worked on finishing some of my crafty WIPs (works-in-progress) to get them out of storage and completed.

March brought a lot of garden prep work, building new garden areas, and remodeling older garden areas.  Our hatchery chicks arrived on the farm, including our first ever try with meat chicks.  We were very disappointed when a huge amount of the meat chicks died for unknown reasons.  It wasn’t our brooding techniques because none of the layer chicks being brooded with them died.  We also had our first hatch of the year under a mama hen.  We remodeled our bathroom, as well as a couple chicken housing areas in the barn.  And we enjoyed learning the art of dehydrating fruit.

In April we started plans for our medicinal herb garden, little green shoots started poking up their heads on our perennial plants in the garden, and our seedlings inside began taking over the house.  During the cold weather the girls and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, canning jam and homemade ketchup, as well as starting to work through the Little House Living recipe book.  And we spent some time sewing PJ pants for the family as well as some skirts and dresses.  At the very end of the month the swallows arrived a little early, signaling that it was time to put our first seeds in the ground outside.

In May we didn’t get the big snows that we usually get towards the end of the month, which meant that our garden got a big head start over previous years.  We worked a lot in the garden and we butchered the first round of meat chickens and found the meat to be superior to the meat from our dual-purpose birds.

June was another month extra heavy on the medical stuff with our son.  We spent time in the ER, had unexpected hospitalizations and surgery, as well as many doctor’s appointments.  Somehow we were able to keep the garden going strong, started some harvesting, and butchered the last of the chickens.  And we squeezed in some sewing of bibs too.

In July we were busy gardening, harvesting, and started our canning season.  We had another 2 hens set and hatch chicks.  And the girls and I continued our sewing spree, making more skirts, PJ pants, hospital Pjs for Mr. Smiles, and a knitting bag.  We decided to try eating one of the silkie roos we butchered and were surprised to find their meat is black (more of a purple, really, but creepy nonetheless).  We wont do that again!  Our LGD had to spend some time indoors because of the flies eating her ears, but we finally found a repellent that worked long-term, after years of trying many many different things with no success or very short-lived success.  We also finished chopping and stacking all the firewood that we needed for the winter.

August was mostly focused on more of our son’s medical stuff.  But despite that we were able to continue with the harvest and canning, make herbal medicine, and we added our first root cellar veggie storage rack to the basement.  We competed in many ways at the County Fair and brought home a lot of ribbons and prizes.  We were surprised by a very early first frost.

September was so full of homestead work that I barely had time to blog.  We kept ourselves busy with gardening, harvesting, canning. freezing, hunting, and butchering – all things related to putting food up for the winter.  We added another root cellar veggie rack to the basement and really enjoyed using both the racks to put up the produce.  We also started remodeling one of our wood stove areas and had another hen set and hatch out chicks.

October was full of a lot of canning and we bought a new kitchen gadget to make it easier.  We filled the shelves in the basement pantry and used every empty jar we owned.  We wrapped up the gardening season and were really excited when we tallied everything and found that we had our most successful garden season ever.  I did some preliminary garden planning for next year while everything was till fresh in my mind.  And we also got our first snow of the season.

In November we stayed indoors while we had unseasonably cold weather outside.  We were able to put some more meat in the freezer through successful hunting and we made a lot of firestarters and a batch of hand-dipped beeswax candles.  We did our final chicken culling and re-organizing in preparation for winter, and we decided to try growing lettuce and spinach indoors under grow-lights for the winter months.

December brought a lot of Christmas candy making, as well as Christmas present making since we home-make almost all of our Christmas presents.  We said “no” to a lot of regular events and activities to keep a nice, calm, Christmas season and were so glad that we did.  I learned how to darn socks, and was able to fix several holes we had in some of our handmade socks.  We had two very exciting events happen for the homestead.  First, our LGD, Anya, was finally mature and trained enough to guard the livestock full time on her own.  And secondly, 3 of our sheep returned to the farm after being away for a year.  We ended the year with more medical issues, emergency rooms, hospitalization, and surgery, which will be pouring over into the new year as well.

Looking back we can see that it has been another very productive year full of blessings.

Sunday Homestead Update

It has been a crazy couple of weeks.  Surprisingly, not with the busy-ness of Christmas, but instead just with things here on the homestead.  We cut back a lot of Christmas gatherings this year and thus have had a very nice, laid-back and fun month, which I am so glad for.  So what has been going on around the homestead that is crazy?

Anya, our LGD, has been living in the back barnyard, a pen adjacent to the main barnyard, because she was still maturing and had accidentally licked to death a couple of different chickens last year as a pup.  For the most part this guarding situation worked fine.  Her presence and barking kept everything away even though she wasn’t in the same pen with the chickens.  Well, we noticed that her digging and barking started getting out of control in November.  LGDs like to dig nests and dens to lay in, which doesn’t bother us, but she was starting to boredom dig and her pen looked like a disaster area.  In addition, she was barking incessantly.  Previously, she only barked when there was a reason, and yet she had started to bark a lot more and we couldn’t decide when it was necessary and when it wasn’t.  At the time we didn’t know why she was barking so much.  But now in hindsight we are able to see that she was feeling like she couldn’t do her job of guarding thoroughly since she wasn’t in with the chickens, and so she was making up for that by barking extra trying to keep things away and protect the chickens.  And that was made worse because there was a bobcat hanging around.

Unfortunately it all came to a head when the bobcat jumped into the barnyard, grabbed a hen, and took off with her while poor Anya was freaking out not even 5 feet away but unable to do anything because she was not in the same pen.  Clearly, the bobcat hung around for long enough to figure out that Anya wasn’t in the same pen and couldn’t get to it.  And then it picked the farthest corner from her and from the house, which still wasn’t far from her at all, and waited for the chickens to be over in that area.  We found the spot where it took the chicken and ate it, not 50 yards from the barnyard.

So we were in a pickle because the bobcat now knew that he had an easy source of food, and poor Anya was out of her mind frustrated at the whole thing because all her instincts were telling her to guard and she couldn’t.  So we closed the chickens in their enclosed pen for a week to protect them while we figured out what to do.  Meanwhile, we let Anya live in the main barnyard during that time.  We were surprised to see that her inappropriate digging and barking behavior stopped immediately.  Which is what led us to believe what I said above about the cause of those behaviors being her frustration at not being able to do her job.  She was content and happy and went back to lazing around in the sun and watching over everything.

Since she is now 2.5 years old we decided it was time to give it another try with her living with the livestock.  Our previous attempts had gone pretty well, except that she still had too much puppy behavior and wanted to play with the chickens, leading to them getting killed.  She never killed a chicken to kill or eat it, she just held them down and licked them to play with them.  So we were confidant that she would be able to be a reliable LGD once she matured.  We carefully began putting them back together.  First with us in the barnyard, then with us around but not right there in the yard, then with us checking on the situation often but not being outdoors the whole time.  I am happy to report the transition has gone beautifully.  She is happily living in the main barnyard with the flock of chickens and guarding them well without playing with them nor hurting them.  She has more space to live, the big soft compost piles to lay on, and more sunshine in the cold winter months (the back pen is on the north side of the barn and doesn’t get much sun).  She seems completely content to live with them and do her job guarding them – no digging, and no excessive barking.  I love seeing a dog happily doing the job they were bred to do and fulfilling their purpose.

So if you have a young LGD that has made some mistakes…don’t give up hope!  Keep training them and keep giving them time to mature and they will most likely come around.  It is what they were bred to do.

 

The second thing that has been crazy on the homestead was the sudden and unexpected return of three of our sheep to the farm.

In December of last year we made the heartbreaking decision to sell off the last of the livestock – our flock of 6 sheep – and just keep chickens, because our son’s medical issues and hospitalizations had us weary, exhausted, and unable to keep up the care of the livestock and still give our family what it needed.  You can read about it by clicking here.  It was a hard decision, but a good one.  This year has been a very hard one as far as the medical issues and we had unexpected hospitalizations and surgeries along with a scheduled hospitalization and surgery, plus many medical appointments far from home – it was very nice to not have the livestock back home to worry about during it all.  But not having the livestock also took a part of the joy of the homestead with it, and we all missed them desperately.

 

Our son’s situation and prognosis have not changed.  What HAS changed is that we have been able to do a lot of emotional healing this year.  And we have found a new level of acceptance of the situation as it is as well as acceptance of the unknown to come in the future.  In that healing and acceptance we also realized that this could go on for many years and we don’t want to miss out on living the homesteading life that we love so much because we are “waiting” for things to get better when they likely are not going to get better.  We didn’t wait for “perfect”timing to start the homestead, we just started it.  And we love it and it is such a blessing.  It is kind of like waiting to have kids until the “right” time.  If we had waited to have kids until the “right” time we never would have had kids.  Life is a constant ride of ups and downs and if we wait until it feels stable to live the life we want to live, then we will never live the life we want to live.

We needed the rest and healing that we gained this year.  And we don’t regret the decision to sell them all.  We needed it.  And we don’t want to take on more than we can handle and do poorly at it because we are overdone.  But we were starting to feel ready to get back some livestock and get back to living the homestead life we loved despite the other things in our life that made it harder.  And then the opportunity to get our sheep back was dropped in our lap.  Isn’t it wonderful how those things happen at just the right time?  The people who bought them had their own life situations going on and were cutting back the flock.  Did we want to buy back any of our sheep, or their offspring?  Yes we did!

They hadn’t been bred yet though, and we don’t want to miss a year of breeding, and the end of their breeding cycle is fast approaching.  Most sheep are able to breed from about September through the end of December, though some breeds can breed out of season.  Our ewes are of breeds that breed out of season, but we had never tried past December.  In addition to the fact that the later they are born the younger they will be next year when winter hits, and we don’t want to go too far into that.  So time was running out quickly to get them bred.  Because of that, in a whirlwind and only 3 days from when we were offered them, we had three of our sheep back on the property!  We decided not to get back all 6 because we want to keep things easier and more manageable since our son’s medical situation is still an issue.  Plus, once they lamb we will have more sheep on the property for half the year or so, and thus we like to keep the base breeding flock down to 3-4 sheep.  We carefully discussed and selected who to bring back so that we would have the best wool flock possible, plus body size for meat as well since we butcher some of the offspring.

In the end we decided to bring back Fiona, our flock matriarch and the first sheep we ever owned.  She is a Merino x CVM cross, with a shorter fine-wool white fleece (which gives us options of dyeing the yarn).  She is an excellent mother who has had twins.  Here she is back in 2017.

And Rose, who was born on our farm in 2017 and is such a sweet girl with a beautiful medium staple, moorit-colored, fine-wool fleece.  She is a purebred CVM.  She has not given birth before, but her mother was an excellent mother who also twinned.  Here is Rose as a lamb (and with Anya as a pup) and now as a grown ewe:

And Fergus, who was also born on our farm in 2017.   He is a 1/4 Merino, 1/4 CVM, and 1/2 BFL, with a soft and yet long-wool silver and black fleece.  We used Fergus for our breeding ram right before we sold them and we were able to see the offspring from the matches we made and they turned out very nice.  This is Fergus as a lamb and as he is now.

We have a nice range of colors and textures in our little flock, plus good size for meat.  They are all living together and we are hopeful (and expecting) the girls will still have another heat cycle and they will get bred.  It will mean the latest lambs we have ever had – May/June birth estimates.  But better late than never!  And it will be a nice change to lamb in reasonable weather, since we normally are lambing when it is oh-so-cold.  You never know, we may like the change and keep it in the future.

Chickens, sheep, and guard dog all in the same barnyard together again…it feels so balanced and just right.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday Homestead Update

We have had a super-productive summer week on the homestead.  We got a lot of odds and ends done, like staking the apple trees to help them survive the hurricane-force gusty winds we get in the winter, butchering an old hen that needed to go, cleaning up some chicken pens and moving some chickens to different pens, raking all the compost back into compact piles in the barnyard, and securing the bush beans that were falling into the garden path and getting damaged.

Livestock Guardian Dog

Our LGD, Anya, has been indoors a couple of weeks as we waited for her fly-eaten ears to heal.  They have now healed up, except for one tiny scab left on one.

So we put a new type of repellent on her that we haven’t tried yet (we have tried over 25 different things) and we put a new fly repellent collar on her (we have used those before with some good success, it just didn’t work earlier this summer), and we put her back out in the yard.  She was happy to be back out full time, and the chickens were equally happy to get to free-range in the barnyard full time as well.

We will see if this new combination of repellents works and we are very hopeful they do and she can stay out.

Garden

Harvesting continues….

Peas are being harvested and eaten fresh, as well as frozen for winter.

We have begun harvesting celery, chopping it, and freezing it for winter soups.  And we continue to eat fresh salad greens from the garden with almost every dinner meal.

The harvesting and drying of herbs is a continual process.  The more we cut, the happier they are, the more they grow.  We have been enjoying mint tea almost daily with fresh mint from the garden.  We planted a new variety this year, called Mountain Mint, and I absolutely love the flavor.  It is my favorite ever.  Which is a good thing because I put in quite a few plants in the Apple Garden and I am hopeful they will spread out nicely.  We have yet to have mint go crazy and take over any space, but there is a first time for everything and I know that is what it does for people in nicer climates.

About half of the cabbages were ready for harvest.  We got 18 lbs of them so far!  After making a big batch of cole slaw for the family to enjoy, we chopped up the extra, added other ingredients for sauerkraut and filled up our big 3-gallon fermenting crock.  In a month or two we will be enjoying some awesome homemade kraut!  We also made some into krautburger filling which we froze in portions for dinners.

The Red Lake Currants are ripe and ready to pick, so we have been making currant syrup to go on our pancakes and waffles.

For some unknown reason our Crandall Clove Currant bush did not put on any flowers or berries at all this year.  Strange.  The gooseberry bushes are full though and should be ready to harvest soon.

The dill was ready to harvest, which brought on our yearly dill pickle canning day.  We canned 46 quarts of dill and 5 pints of sweet pickles for the year.

 

We also tried a new rhubarb recipe this week that we saw on Little House Big Alaska blog for Rhubarb Bread with Streusel Topping.  It was oh-so-delicious and is now officially my favorite sweet bread.  If you have rhubarb go get the recipe and make it right now.

We continue to harvest peas, spinach, lettuce, kale, celery, and herbs.  The tomatoes, beans, carrots, and onions are all coming along nicely – looking to be a bumper crop this year!

One of the many wonderful things about living in the mountains is that everything cools down in the evening during the summer.  So mornings can be almost chilly enough to wear a hoody, even though it will get up to 80s and 90s during the day.  So I love going out in the early morning coolness to work in the garden, before the sun even comes over the mountain enough to touch the garden.  As the sun rises is the perfect time to harvest peas, because the sun shines through them and you can see if they are full and ready yet or not.

It is a peaceful and lovely time of day.  And just before I come in I grab a few mint leaves to make my morning tea.  What a blessed life!

Chickens

Last Monday was hatch day for our hens Batina and Eve.  Batina is a first-time mom, and Eve is a very experienced setter, this being her 8th or 9th hatch.  All the eggs were collected and started setting at the same time, but Eve’s spent their first week in the incubator inside before they went under her.  I had put them there as extras for Batina to make up for infertility and loss, but then towards the end of the week Eve decided she wanted to set too so we just gave all the extras to her so they would be on the same hatch day schedule.

Batina had started the hatch with 11 eggs, but 6 were lost to infertility and early death.  So she was sitting on 5 viable eggs by hatch day.  She started hatching early – by Sunday evening she already had a little yellow fluff ball under her, and by Monday night she was done – 4 out of the 5 eggs hatched.

Eve started with 7 eggs, and only 1 was lost to early death (all were fertile).  So on hatch day she had 6 viable eggs.  But hatch day (day 21) came and went without anything going on with Eve’s eggs.  Then day 22…then 23… then 24.  We have had eggs go until day 24 in the incubator before, but it was only once, very rare, and they didn’t hatch well at all.  So we decided that by the end of day 24, once it was dark outside, we would candle to try to figure out what was going on.  Eve had never had an unsuccessful hatch before.  However, she was setting in the nest box in the lower coop, and we have never had a hen set there before.  But that was the only difference.  Afternoon of day 24 was 95 degrees out (that is a scorcher for us here in the mountains), so I went around checking everyone’s water to be sure all was well with the livestock.  When I opened up Eve’s nest area I noticed she had changed positions from the flat spread out setting hen position to the puffed up mama hen position (those of you who have hatched chicks know what I mean).  Then I was surprised by a little chick peeking out from her wing!

I don’t know why she took those extra days, and it clearly effected her hatch rate, she only hatched 2 of the 6 eggs.  But we were all very happy she hatched at all.  We will avoid using that nest as a hatching nest in the future in case that was the problem.

Heritage Arts

I cast on the second pair of Watermelon Socks.  These ones are for Little Miss.  Sunshine has been wearing hers almost constantly since I finished them and loves them.  It is very fun to make something for someone that they love and use a lot.  I am knitting them holding my working yarn in my left hand (I usually hold it in my right).  I heard that knitting that way (picking or continental style) instead of my way (throwing or English style) is much faster.  I would love to knit faster if possible, there are so many projects and so little time.  So I agreed to try it on one project and if by the end of the project I felt like it would be faster then I will switch.  So the second pair of watermelon socks are what I chose to try it on.  So far it is much slower and I learn the new technique, and my gauge is a lot tighter too.  But its not terribly hard and I am interested to see if it really makes a speed difference for me.

 

Another blessed week on the farm!