Sunday Homestead Update – Autumn

We had one day this last week that felt and smelled like autumn. It was wonderful! It was cool, with a nice breeze, but bright sunshine. The girls and I were able to spend some of the afternoon out on the back patio knitting and drinking hot tea – mmmm, yes – Autumn! It was nice to take a break from the busy-ness of farm life for a few hours and just enjoy time with each other. According to the weather reports, we should have even more days like that this coming week. So I guess autumn is officially here, just in time.

It definitely makes working on all the many things we are scrambling to get done a lot more comfortable when the weather is in the 70s, instead of the triple digits! We continue to plug away at the many many projects to get done before winter hits.

Poultry Barn

Phase one of the poultry barn build is underway. The barn will eventually have three indoor sections and several exterior pens. But for this first phase, to get us through this winter with the poultry we have now, we are just doing two sections and 2 exterior pens. This winter it will house the guineas and standard size chickens. The ducks will go in the house/pen that the chickens are currently occupying, and the bantam chickens will stay in their coop which we brought with us from our previous homestead.

Garden

We have started to build the garden for next year. We had planned to put it out near the poultry barn, but after watching the heat and sun cook all the plants in our container garden this summer, we decided the garden would fare better with some shade throughout the day. So we are putting it behind the mill. This will not only give it some afternoon shade, it will also mean less fences we need to build, and thus less money. The mill wall will be one side of it, and an existing wood privacy fence will be the other side. So we will only have to build two fences. At this point in our building-a-new-homestead-journey, anything that will save time and money is a huge plus. And we think the location will be better overall. The bantam chicken coop will also hook to the garden fence, making it so we can easily let the bantam hens out to work the soil in the garden when it is not growing.

We have been clearing the area of all the junk that was there, and leveling the surface since years of downspouts flooding it have left it a mess. Hoping to get part of the fence up this week after we finish leveling it.

Canning

The bounty of garden-fresh produce continues to come in from generous gardeners we have met that have too much to use themselves. What a blessing! I figured we would be completely skipping canning/preserving season this year since we didn’t have a garden, and yet here we are, canning and dehydrating and freezing like crazy. It is keeping us very busy, and we are very excited to have this blessing.

Quilting

I decided the best first-project for learning to use my treadle sewing machine would be a simple quilt with 4-inch squares. It will give me hundreds of start/stop opportunities on the machine, but still be nice simple straight lines, no backstitching, etc. I cut the fabric (a bunch of scraps) this last week and got started sewing it. I am already seeing a ton of improvement in my ability to use the machine and I am only about 1/4 of the way into the piecing process for this quilt. I am really enjoying using the machine and mastering the skills. Fun!

Sink Hole

A small sink hole showed up in our yard. It is about 4 ft. by 3 ft. and about 3 feet deep at its deepest spot. It is under the sidewalk. Strange. We think it has to do with an old tree that was by the sidewalk and was cut down before we moved in. It seems maybe the roots rotted and caused this? Not sure. But we have filled it in.

The smoke has cleared a lot with the shift in the weather and thus we have been able to see our beautiful mountain view a lot more the past few days. It has been wonderful! The sunsets over the mountains are breathtaking. My camera never catches it right, and definitely doesn’t show the true awesome-ness of it, but I still continue to try to photograph them.

Sunday Homestead Update – “Before Winter Hits”

It seems that the arrival of autumn has us scrambling to finish SO many different things “before winter hits.” We say that term several times each day lately. Having moved to the new farm in early June, we spent summer working from sun-up to sun-down on different homesteading and construction projects. Now that we are back to school, we are all putting in nights and weekends, plus every extra second we can squeeze in when we finish school a little early. Daniel has been working full time in the mill the whole time while putting in nights and weekends on the homestead. Sometimes he will be working on the homestead and construction projects during the day because they require light and then he will be in the mill at night. There is never a shortage of things to do on a homestead, and now we are racing the calendar to get all humans and animals warm and secure housing for winter. The good news is that winter hits about a month later here than it did up in the high Rockies, so at least we have more time than our minds, after living our whole lives in the mountains, are telling us we have.

Sheep

Our new sheep have finished their quarantine. We did 21 days because that more than covers most all sheep communicable illnesses. We have settled on names for them all, even though they are very difficult to tell apart and we mostly have to look at their ear tags at this point. During quarantine, only Braveheart was caring for the sheep, and he didn’t go down to the other sheep barn at all. That way we didn’t risk any disease spread via our clothes or boots. So we haven’t gotten to spend much time with them except looking from afar. I know that as we spend more time with them, now that quarantine is done, we will get to know them better and be able to tell them apart. The ram has been named Wallace, and the ewes are Agnes, Lilian, and Bunny.

Now that quarantine is done we decided to start breeding season. We are going to breed them in three rounds this year to spread out the lambing since we have limited housing that is not really set up well for sheep yet. We don’t know what to expect from the weather here as far as lambing season goes either. So we are experimenting by doing 3 waves of breeding. We are also doing it because Nilsson was unable to get any ewes pregnant last year, but we are not sure if that had to do with him, or if it was too late in the season, or what. He is a proven ram, and he was breeding a proven ewe and an unproven ewe and we saw plenty of breeding take place, and yet no lambs. So we would like to give him another chance this year, but we don’t want to risk the ewes not getting pregnant at all, so we are giving him first go at some of them, and then we will follow him with Wallace and Orville so that if he is the reason and somehow is sterile we wont risk not having any lambs next year.

So Matilda and Freya have joined Nilsson in his pen and we will see how it goes. Breeding season has officially begun.

Chickens

Matilda (yes we have a chicken and a sheep both named Matilda), our bantam cochin hen, decided she wants to set. She has never set for us before, but our best broody hen, Eve, is starting to get older and we desperately want more hens that will set for us. Using a hen to raise chicks is so much better than doing it with an incubator and/or brooder. So, even though it is late in the season, we decided to go ahead and give her some eggs. Hopefully in 3 weeks we will have some more chicks!

We made final plans for the permanent poultry housing. It can be built in stages (a huge plus both financially and time-wise). We will be building part of it this fall, enough to safely house the chickens and keets through the winter. The ducks will move into the coop the chickens are currently living in because it is better suited for ducks. Then, at some point (maybe next spring?), we will build the second part of it and will have a very useable poultry barn with plenty of space for what we want to raise. The first step was to move the keet house we had started building to the new location as it will become part of the poultry barn. We got that moved yesterday and now can start working on what parts we need to accomplish before winter.

In the Kitchen

The garden bounty continues to come in, from other people’s gardens this year since we got here late in the season. We have been processing it all, mostly through canning. The canner is up and going at least every other day, sometimes days in a row.

We also have some apple scrap vinegar brewing from some of the apple scraps.

Heritage Arts

Surprisingly, I have had time to squeeze in some knitting lately. I am working my way down the sleeve of the sweater I am knitting for Braveheart. I haven’t finished the body yet, but I don’t know if I will have enough yarn to finish the sweater, so finishing the sleeve with confirm that one way or the other so that I don’t spend a ton of time knitting when I won’t be able to finish it.

Seven years ago, for our 15th wedding anniversary, Daniel got me a beautiful antique 1905 singer treadle machine with a beautiful table. It was in really good condition, but didn’t really work very well. We recently stumbled upon a guy who could maintenance it (thank the Lord for that not-coincidence coincidence). So we got it all fixed and in working order. I am so excited! I know some of you are thinking “Why would you want to use a treadle sewing machine when you have a perfectly good electric one?” But I also know some of you are getting me and know why I am excited. I am still grateful for my electric, but these types of old things are oh-so-fun for me.

I have been playing with it just with scrap fabric to start to get the hang of how to treadle the right speed, start and stop, etc. I have made plenty of rats-nest-thread-knots as I have been learning due to improper treadling, but I am improving and it is fun. I decided I would like to make an easy quilt with basic squares as my first project on it because it will be straight lines and a lot of starting and stopping as I piece it, which is perfect for practicing and learning.

Sunday Homestead Update – Apples & Foraging Chickens

As I said last week, we were given the opportunity to pick apples from someone’s farm. They invited us to come back and we ended up getting about 200 lbs of free apples. What a blessing! And it was a blessing to the owners too since the trees were breaking from the weight of the apples on them. Gotta love a win-win situation!

So we have had a sticky, apple-filled week as we have been processing all of them. We picked three different kinds of apples: crabapples, a golden delicious type, and a gala type. We made the golden delicious type into applesauce and canned it, we made the crabapples into jelly and canned it, and we made the gala type into apple slices canned in honey syrup.

Chickens

At our previous farm we kept a mixed livestock barnyard and put our compost heaps in the middle of the barnyard. We did this so the chickens could free range safely in the barnyard, protected by the LGD, and they could eat off the land so-to-speak as they picked through the compost heap and the livestock bedding etc. We don’t really like to keep chickens in a dry-lot pen. You can read more details about how we used to keep the chickens and make compost by clicking here.

At the new farm we are not set up in a way that makes it so we can keep the poultry in the barnyard with the other livestock. There was a shed when we moved in that we very quickly converted into a coop and an enclosed exterior pen for the chickens to keep them safe from predators (mainly aerial ones). We sold most of our flock so we were down to just 10 standard chickens and 5 bantams to make the move easier and so they would fit in the smaller housing. The standard chickens live in the bigger shed coop, and the bantams are living in their smaller coop which we brought with us from the other farm. This is all a temporary situation as we figure out how exactly we want to handle our poultry housing here.

We continue to do research and discuss plans. We have built two duck tractors and have been working them across one of our fields and seeing what the results are like. They will need something more substantial as far as housing goes before winter hits. We are building a guinea house in hopes that once we release the guineas to free range the property they will still come home at night to roost. If not we plan to use that house for turkeys. And meanwhile, our chickens are living in a dry-lot enclosed pen all summer. We throw them kitchen scraps and the kids catch grasshoppers for them, but we really would love it if they could be foraging more and working on our soil. We could just free range them. But our neighbors started the summer with over 20 free-ranging chickens and now only have 2 left because of aerial predators. We don’t want to risk losing the few chickens we have right now.

Additionally, we continue to battle weeds all around the house and buildings and everywhere we walk. We have been pulling them all summer and they continue to come back. Mostly goat heads. We realize that this is going to be a long battle that takes us years to win. For now, we continue fighting them.

The other night, Daniel and I were discussing the chickens and we decided to try something out. This area around the chicken coops is overgrown with weeds and driving me crazy.

We decided to put up a temporary barrier, using some of our panels that have wire on them. And we put up a gate in the smaller opening.

Then we opened the door of the exterior pen and let the standard chickens out to forage. Their wings are clipped, so hopefully they won’t jump the shorter gate. And we are hopeful that the contained feeling of the area, with the building all around, will keep the aerial predators away. Our goal is to let them forage and eat, while getting all these weeds under better control for us. We will see how this experiment turns out.

Sunday Homestead Update – Treasure

We had an amazing find this week – a vintage, but still in excellent working order, cream separator. We haven’t had a chance to use it yet, but will definitely be trying it out this week. The separator wasn’t the only treasure…the people we bought it from were awesome and taught us how to use it and said we could call if we need help with it. Such a treasure.

Not only that, but they had a few apple trees that were overflowing with apples and they let us pick a bunch and take them and have invited us to come get more. So we have started in on them and will be busy canning applesauce, apples in honey syrup, and crabapple jelly this coming week. What a blessing!

Sheep

The new sheep are settling in. We did have a few incidents this last week with them getting their heads stuck through the fence reaching for plants through the fence, even though they had hay in their feeder. We had to cut the fence to free them. Thankfully, none were injured by it, but we did have to re-wire the fence. They are still growing, so in a couple of months their heads wont fit through those holes anymore. Meanwhile, we wired that section of fence with 2×4 wire, instead of the 6×6 field fence we have been using. We also decided to let them start pasturing on a small pen behind their barn. It is thoroughly overgrown, but they have been picking away at it.

Ducks

Ginger the Muscovy, who was attacked last week by some of the other Muscovy ducks, healed up and we put her back in with the group. The female and male who attacked her are still living with the Welsh Harlequins and doing fine. Once the Muscovies are butcher weight we will butcher the males (except one for breeding) and integrate all the ducks to live together in one of the pens.

Workshop

As I mentioned last week, the future workshop was a mess of tools and boxes that we hoped to someday get set up as a nice workshop with benches and tools all organized and useable. We decided to surprise Daniel for his birthday and get it set up. It was a lot of work, but oh-so-worth-it! He now has a useable workshop and all his tools are organized and accessible.

More Books

As I said in my last post, we are buried in books, both new ones from the library, and ones from our own homestead library that we have read previously. We are digging in and trying to learn how to be successful bringing life back to the farm we just moved to. Well this week we added a couple more to the pile we are reading from the library…

Pastured Poultry Profits, by Joel Salatin, The Beginner’s Guide to Beekeeping, by Daniel and Samantha Johnson, and Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden, by Jessica Walliser.

We are working on our plans for next year and how we will be managing our intensive grazing situation with both the hoofstock, and poultry. The book by Joel Salatin is helping us get new ideas for that.

Our entire property is out of balance. It was neglected for a long time and not managed in a way that promoted balance. So our pest bug situation is very unnaturally out of balance. We are studying ways to work on that without the use of pesticides and are really enjoying the beneficial bugs book.

And lastly….we have long thought about getting bees, but our location in the Rockies would have made it very difficult to do it successfully. So now that we are in a new location I am just barely starting to dip my toes into the shallow end of the pool of considering whether this is a new project we would like to take on next spring or not.

So there continues to be a lot of reading going on!

Canning Lid Shortages

Canners continue to run into canning lid shortages this year, just like last year. Thankfully, it hasn’t effected our canning because we use reusable lids. There are several of benefits of using the reusable lids. Check out my article over at Mother Earth News about it.

You can also read my previous posts, reviewing Tattler Lids back when we first got started using them by clicking here.