Its snowing again here in the Rockies! But not terribly cold, so that is nice.
The homestead has been very productive the last couple of weeks despite the ram issues. Since all I shared about last week was the ram rollercoaster, I have a lot of other things to get caught up on this week.
Busy in the Farm Kitchen
We spent so much time in the kitchen this week. In fact, I barely left it at all from Monday through Thursday.
We made turkey stock from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass and froze it. We ended up with about 8 Qts of stock. We also made mutton stock from half of the long bones from butchering Fergus. The other half of the bones we froze to make more stock in the future. We used some of the stock plus some meat to make a delicious mutton stew. Then, I made chicken stock with the rooster carcass. So we have a lot of stock put up now.
We have quite a bit of experience making all different soft cheeses, but we have never tried our hand at aged cheeses. Since we will hopefully have an abundance of sheep and goat milk this spring, Little Miss and I decided to practice some aged cheeses with store-bought milk this winter so we kind of had the hang of it before we start working with our own raw milk. We started that adventure this week.
We made two rounds of the same recipe of colby cheese. We made several learning mistakes the first try, so we wanted to try again right away and fix the mistakes to help us learn more and cement it better in our brains. Plus, if the first one didn’t turn out well, we are hopeful the second did. We will know in about 6 weeks.
We converted a little fridge into a “cheese cave” – although we can’t get it to hold exactly the temp we are going for, but it is closer than any other option at this point. We are researching ways to get it closer to the temp and humidity we want and I will share what we learn.
We have been making our own ketchup and BBQ sauce for a few years now. We make huge batches and can it so it lasts about 6-9 months before we use it all up and need to make more. We made both of these this week. We ended up with 11 Qts of ketchup, plus the ketchup needed to make the BBQ sauce (12 cups!). We made 11 pts of BBQ sauce. It feels good to have that stocked back up – and it tastes great too!
I also tried two new dinner recipes this week. One was a tuna noodle casserole that was a hit with everyone. The second was me trying to copy the creamy artichoke Parmesan soup that Mtn Man and I had at a fancy restaurant on our romantic getaway last week. It turned out just as good as the restaurant and everyone loved it too! Two for two with new recipes!
Sensory Play Bins
I made some sensory play bins for Mr. Smiles. He loves them and they are great for neurological development, and motor development, and help with sensory issues. Braveheart and Little Miss have been enjoying playing in them too. Currently, I have been working with Mr. Smiles with the rice bin. I take his foam bath letters and bury them and he digs them out and says their sound and then re-buries them. It can definitely be messy, but we are working on “keep the rice in the bin” and he is doing very well with it.
We are closing in on the last chicken butchering of the year. Eve’s 6 chicks are coming up on 16 weeks old and at least 3 of them are roosters that need to be butchered. In addition, since we have had a very low number of eggs compared to our numbers of hens, we decided to trap nest this week to figure out who is laying and who is not.
We shared our trap nest design in this post back in 2013. Over the years the system has worn out and and isn’t working as well, so we re-vamped it to use dowel props to hold the doors open for entry. As the chicken pushes in the dowel falls and the door falls behind them. Our smallest hen doesn’t get trapped by this system, but the rest do, so we are happy with it. After trapping for a week we found out who was not laying and made decisions. We ended up butchering 7 hens (in addition to the roo who was being aggressive last week, see below). Then we moved the other roo and the group of 6 young birds, plus 3 hens that had been put in the lower coop last summer because of bullying all in with the main flock up in the upper coop. We find that the shuffling goes better if we do it all at once, so pulling out those 7 hens for butcher, and then adding in the roo plus 6 young ones and 3 other hens, causes a big enough stir to keep the bullying to a minimum during the transition.
We also placed a layer chick order this week. We will have some laying hen chicks coming our way in January to re-stock the flock. We are also planning an incubation to line up with the order arriving so we will be brooding both groups at the same time.
It was a week for aggressive males I guess, as one of our roosters, Boaz, decided to get aggressive this week too (in addition to the ram). So he was butchered, brined, and put in the freezer. Ben continues to be a docile rooster – I hope it stays that way – we have had enough male aggression to last a good long time.
Fiona did not come into heat again, so we now have two ewes confirmed pregnant (Autumn and Fiona). Daisy has been bred but it hasn’t been long enough yet to confirm it. Blue was bred this week by Remi, so in three weeks we will know if she settled. Maggie still has not come into her first heat and thus has not been bred. The flock is so very peaceful now that Fergus is gone. It is sad, but it sure is nice to go back out to a peaceful barnyard again. We haven’t had that in over a month now and we didn’t realize how much stress it was causing until the stress was gone. Everyone is a lot happier now.
Hazel and Jerry
It seems that I end every post lately with a picture of these two, but I just can’t help it, their cuddling is getting cuter and cuter each week. They started out weeks ago laying in proximity of each other, then next to each other, then touching backs or legs, then spooning, then Jerry draped over Hazel’s legs, and now this:
They are so adorable with each other!