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

Another blessed week on the homestead!

Garden

Our garden has been coming along nicely, albeit behind our normal schedule due to the cold weather and late spring.

We have been enjoying the asparagus and rhubarb harvests, eating the asparagus fresh and baking the rhubarb into Rhubarb Struesel Bread a few times a week.

The strawberries have put on flowers and the grape vines are putting out their leaves and buds now as well.

It looks like one of our new apple trees survived the winter as it has leaves on now. Still no flowers yet: will it have time to make apples before our first frost in the fall? Time will tell. The other tree has no leaves at all except around the base of the trunk. We don’t know what to do for that one. We need to buy a book about raising fruit trees and bushes. Anyone have any book suggestions?

The peas and carrots have tiny seedlings coming up and the beans are just beginning to sprout. The lettuce, cabbage, spinach, radishes, and beets are all doing well. Sunshine’s herbs are coming along, though the perennial ones in the garden are just barely starting to send out their green sprouts now since it has been so cold.

The big bummer is the tomatoes. They were doing beautifully and some had outgrown their WOWs so I removed them and caged them since the weather said we were not supposed to get another frost. Well, the weather was wrong, and Sunday night, June 8, we got a frost. I should have covered them, but I didn’t think it would frost. Big mistake. We were left with a tomato graveyard.

The tomatoes still in their WOWs were fine. But the rest…not fine.  A few years ago our tomatoes were stripped bare by hail early in the season.  We were shocked that they were able to come back from that strong and produce beautifully despite the early damage.  So we are going to try to bring these back.  Not sure if it will work.  We cut all the dead leaves off and put the stems back into WOWs for the extra warmth and protection.  We are hopeful they are not totally dead.  Time will tell.  If they are not starting to come back in a week or so we will pull them up and plant beans where they are.  It is too late in the season to put anything else in except lettuce, radishes, beets, and spinach and we already have enough of those in the garden.

Sheep

The ewes and lambs are all doing very well. It was a rough start with the twins but they are going strong now. We are still supplementing them with a bottle once a day just to be safe.

Watching the lambs antics is a favorite part of each day now. They are so adorable and fun.  All three of them play together and nap together, though occasionally Avalanche will choose to lay next to his mom instead of with the twins.

Fergus has settled into life as a bachelor in the back pen alone. He still gets a lot of interactions through the fence and can see the flerd clearly at all times. He will get to live with them all again once breeding season starts in November through lambing next year.  When we built that pen we built a cattle panel into the fence to be a feeder eventually.  This week we added the wood to hold the hay so now Fergus can have his hay up off the ground.

LGD

Our Livestock Guardian Dog, Anya, is doing excellent with the lambs. She has shown no signs at all of being interested in them in a dangerous way, and that is a huge blessing. It feels great to have everyone living together in their appropriate pens again. Ewes, lambs, goat, Anya, and chickens in the front pen. Ram in the back pen.

Chickens

We butchered several cockerels two weekends ago and several more this weekend.  We also separated off the pullets that are for sale.  Hopefully they will sell quickly so we can rearrange all the pens and make more space.

Heritage Arts

I finished the hat that I was making out of some alpaca yarn Mtn Man made.  He has a special way of blending the fiber to make it speckle and variegate.  I really love this yarn!  And the hat is super warm and cozy.

Last weekend was the Wool Market, which is our absolute favorite fiber event of the year.  I had egg money saved up and was able to splurge a bit and buy myself this awesome shawl kit from Greenwood Fiberworks.

The pattern is Nightshift by Drea Renee Knits.  And the yarn is the Yakkity Yak base from Greenwood Fiberworks.  I started knitting it up and am loving it!

 

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

Happy Resurrection Sunday!  We had a fun but busy Holy Week.  On Friday, the kids and I did our traditional hot cross bun baking and delivered them to friends and family that live in our area.  It is always a fun way to spend our morning, and we love bringing joy and smiles to people (along with delicious treats).

I love the wild pasque flowers we have growing in our area.  When they pop their pretty purple heads up each spring it makes me smile.

Spring Cleaning

I don’t know about you, but our barn gets so messy over the winter that come spring I am very anxious to get it cleaned out.  I think it is because of the cold weather – we don’t exactly want to spend extra time out there tidying and freezing while we work – it is more about get out there, quickly take care of the critters, and get back in by the fire to warm up.  So things don’t get put away and the floor doesn’t get swept and it just builds up and gets cluttered and super dusty.  So this last week we decided it was time to spring clean the barn.

It took me and 3 of the kids about 2.5 hours to really get it done.  But it felt oh-so-good when it was done.

Then we laid cement pavers to finish the floor in the barn.  A few years ago the barn flooded and the wood floor that was in there had to be torn out.  We were able to put cement pavers down on half the floor but couldn’t afford to buy more at the time.  Then time went by as it always does and it just was left half pavers half dirt for a couple of years.  We finally got around to buying the rest of the pavers and laying them this week.  It is so much nicer than the dirt and will help keep the dust down!  You can see in the photo the line of old pavers vs the new ones.

And while we worked this cutie pie kept peeking at us over the stall wall.

Chickens

We now have chicks that are 8 weeks old, up in the barn.  We are beginning to be able to tell some of the boys from the girls.

We also have 7 chicks that were just moved from the brooder bin up to the barn.  They are about to be 4 weeks old.  It was a little early to move them, but the bin was way overcrowded.  We gave them two of the ecoglow 20s and are hoping they will handle the change well.

In this pic you can see the younger chicks in the forefront top pen, and the older chicks on the ground in the pen in the background.  The foreground pen is cleaned and ready to move some other chickens into it in the next week or so as we organize and shift around the birds for spring.

Even though that is plenty of chicks for the year, our most successful broody mama hen has decided she wants to set.  So we gave her 8 eggs and she is happily incubating them.

Garden

There are finally some green things poking out here are there around the farm!  This is 4 weeks later than last year.  So we are very happy to finally be seeing some tiny green.

Rhubarb

Chives

Strawberries

Gooseberry Bush

Garlic

My Valerian is sprouting too, but it looks like there may be a problem.  I have two plants.  One is sprouting green leaves, and one is sprouting purple leaves.  Last year was the first time I ever grew Valerian (these are 2nd year plants) so I don’t know much about them.  But from what I can find the purple leaf one probably has a deficiency or a root disease.

The seedlings in the basement under grow lights are doing well.

Sheep and Goat Flerd

We made our first batch of goat’s milk butter for the year!  It was yummy, and I always forget how white it is when we haven’t had it in awhile.

Rose is giving us some confusing pregnancy symptoms.  She is supposed to be 6 weeks out, but she is already showing symptoms that our other sheep don’t show until 2-3 weeks out.  It is her first pregnancy, and often first-time mamas will show symptoms a bit earlier…but we have never had one show signs this much earlier.  Could we be having lambs sooner than we thought?  We are keeping a close eye on her and time will tell.

With the nicer weather this week I have taken some time to sit and watch the barnyard.  Such a peaceful relaxing way to spend some time.  It is so nice to finally have some signs of spring popping up!

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.