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!

Sunday Homestead Update – In the Farm Kitchen

We have had a busy week in the farm kitchen.

Garden’s Bounty-

We did not get to the new farm in time to put in a garden this year. But God’s provision never ceases to amaze me. Our very wonderful neighbors have been bringing us a bag of garden-fresh produce each week from their church’s community garden. It is wonderful to have this blessing each week, especially since we don’t have a garden this year. We have been careful to be sure that it doesn’t go to waste. We have canned dill pickles, made salsa, made our favorite fun appetizer of tomato, basil, and mozzarella cheese (the cheese is homemade from the goats’ milk), made many veggie side dishes and salads for our dinners, dried herbs so we have them to use all winter, and are dabbling in fermenting summer squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. It feels amazing to get to enjoy the blessing of fresh garden produce even though we can’t have a garden right now.

Fermenting-

Our sauerkraut finished up its fermentation this week. It turned out SO delicious. We had a meal of sausage and sauerkraut, and then put the rest in the refrigerator to use over the coming weeks. We are going to start another batch this week. We all got a stomach bug and it wiped out our digestive systems, so we are trying to get as much good bacteria back in and flourishing as we can. We continue to make smoothies with our kefir as well.

As I said above, we have been trying our hand at fermenting cucumbers, zucchini, and summer squash. I tried two different recipes, one molded, and the other was too salty. So this week I reset and tried a recipe that is somewhat in between the two as far as salt-level goes. We will see how they turn out. A friend also gave us a scoby, so we are trying our hand at making kombucha for the first time. A lot of fermenting going on…both things we have done before and things we have never tried before.

Herbal Medicine-

Some of the people in our family have seasonal allergies. They have been much worse this year. Not sure if it is the new location, or what. They were using the herbal allergy glycerite I make and have quickly used it up, so this last week I made a new batch. They are going through it so fast that I will be making another batch this coming week so we have plenty to get through the season.

Dairy Products

As always, we have been making all the fresh, raw milk into dairy products. We make goat’s milk mozzarella every week, and the last few weeks it has also been a tradition to make ice cream so that we can have a special treat in the very hot summer temps. Additionally, we made queso blanco this week.

We have continued to just freeze the sheep milk because I haven’t figured out yet how I will be making hard, aged cheeses in our new kitchen. The way I used to make them was to heat the milk by setting the pot in hot water in the sink. So that is the method that has been successful for me over the years. The new house has a tiny sink and the cheese pot doesn’t fit in it. So we have been watching for a new (used) sink at ReStore and online so we can replace this one.

Sunday Homestead Update: A Little Bit of Normal

This week definitely felt a little bit more “normal” than our life has felt for many months now. We are getting back into some of our normal activities and farm/homestead related projects. It was nice!

Back in the Kitchen

Canning…fermenting…dairy products….

During the packing, moving, and unpacking, kitchen time was kind of just for survival. We didn’t do anything that would be considered “extra” and above and beyond preparing 3 meals and day and snacks. But things have started to settle and we are getting back into the kitchen. This week we made goat’s milk mozzarella cheese, goat’s milk yogurt, and our first homemade goat’s milk ice cream of the season! I still think sheep’s milk ice cream is far superior to any other ice cream…but we had gotten behind on using our goat’s milk and it was building up so it needed to be used. We all really enjoyed the nice cold treat in the hot weather.

Mine had already melted some in the heat before I got to take a photo of it. But it was still cold and delicious!

We also got some fermenting going again. We filled the crock with sauerkraut and look forward to enjoying it in about 4 weeks.

Lastly, we were given an abundance of cucumbers from someone’s garden, and even though they are not technically pickling cucumbers, we made pickles. There was no way we could eat them all, and a cucumber is a cucumber…they all make pickles even if some are better suited.

Feels good to be back in the homestead kitchen!

Hay

It was time to put up hay for the year again. This year is a bit tricky, since we are increasing our flock size as well as the fact that we are unsure exactly how pasturing will effect the hay consumption. So picking our hay amounts was a bit of a guessing game. We guessed higher than expected, we can always use it next year if there is leftover and with droughts and shortages it is just wise to be careful. So we got about 1/3 of our hay purchased and stored for the year. We will keep plugging away at getting that job finished over the next week or two.

We also built a wall and a big sliding door on the front of the hay barn. It previously had a tarp over it. It is really nice to have a working door now and a solid wall.

Another Duck Tractor

We built another “use-what-you-have” duck tractor using up the sheet metal scraps, PVC pipe, wire, hinges, latches, and plywood we had around. All we had to buy was the wood for the base framing and 4 more wheel “axles.” Both trailers can share the same 4 wheels since we can just hook them on and off and they don’t have to be on both at the same time. We did a little different of a design for this one, putting the end door on the end that has the roof, making it more closed in. Not sure which we like better yet.

So with the addition of the second tractor, we have moved the 10 Muscovys out of the brooder and in one tractor, and the 4 Welsh Harlequins are still in the other one. They are both surrounded by the electric netting chicken fence to keep predators out at night, which is a good thing because we have had a fox coming through every night, and I am sure it would be happy to dine on the ducks.

Guineas?

It was good timing that the Muscovy ducklings moved out of the brooder, because we were surprised with 8 guinea keets this week, which went right into the newly-vacated brooder.

We originally planned to take it slow with livestock additions at the new farm, but situations keep falling in our lap and so we are just going with it. We have never raised guineas before and are interested to see how they do helping with the bug problem, and with snakes. Now a guinea roosting house is on the list to build in the next few weeks.

Milking Parlor

Anyone who has milked an animal in the heat of summer knows how very VERY awful it can be with the flies. We have been milking in one of the stalls of the ewe barn and it is wide open to the world and all the flies. We had several fly traps situated around the area, but despite the fact that they were full, they were not making even a dent in the numbers. After 4 days in a row of the goat kicking the milk bucket over during milking, and thus no milk for us, we decided it was time to do something.

There is an old shed out by the ewe barn. It was used for hay storage. It has two old, broken front doors…

And one big back door that is screwed in place with no hinges and no latch.

And it is located just a few feet from the fence line of the pasture transition pen out by the ewe barn.

Perfectly set to make it a milking parlor!

So we screwed the broken doors shut and put a piece of plywood over them on the inside, sealing that mess off. We will replace them someday, but for now we just wanted to hurry up and get the milking parlor set up. So, sealing that end off was the best idea. Then we put hinges and a latch on the big door, and we opened up the fence line and attached it on each side of the shed. And in about half a day’s work – we had a milking parlor!

It has about 3 flies in it at any given time, and it is making milking SO much more pleasant for both the animals and the humans involved. Over time, we plan to fix it up even more with electricity and better doors and such. But this is such a great start!

LGD

Our new LGD has found her favorite place to lay…a nice soft bed of hay.

She also dug herself a den underneath the feeder for the worst of the heat, you can kind of see the entrance in the photo. She is doing great with the rams and has proven to be a good guard thus far. She is also growing a lot even in just the month of being here.

2020 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 son’s serious medical issues.  But despite that, we still are able to do some homesteading and it brings us stability and joy.  I used to do excellent record-keeping, but as each year has been harder and harder with Mr. Smiles, each year has thus been harder and harder to do good record keeping.  I am amazed I kept records at all this year!  But here’s what we have.

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

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Statistics

Chickens:

  • Started the year with 21 hens, 3 pullets, 3 cockerels (almost ready for butcher), and 1 rooster.  Plus 23 eggs in the incubator.
  • Did 1 incubation with 23 eggs.  22 were fertile, 10 chicks hatched and 10 survived.
  • Broody hen set 12 eggs, bad fertility (only 5 fertile), 3 hatched, we added 10 from the store and she accepted them, 5 from the store and 1 of hers died in the first few days, 7 survived.  Got 5 more from the store and put them under her. 4 of those survived.  So a total of 11 surviving chicks.
  • Purchased 16 more chicks to have shipped.  14 survived.
  • 2 more broody hens set, one set 10 eggs, 7 hatched and survived, the other set 14 eggs, 4 hatched, 4 survived.
  • We purchased 10 chicks and our best broody hen adopted them and raised them.  9 survived.
  • At the height of the season we had 25 adult chickens and 40 chicks –  total 65
  • Butchered 24 cockerels, 13 old hens, 1 rooster
  • Did not sell any chickens this year, but gave away 3 as a gift
  • 1 hen died of unknown causes
  • Ended year with 36 hens and 3 roosters.
  • Approximately 4,180 eggs laid (348 dozen)

Farm Dogs:

  • Anya, our 4.5-year-old Anatolian Shepherd continued to do well guarding the flock, even through the fire evacuations.  She has matured into an excellent LGD who loves her job and her flock.

Sheep:

  • Started year with 1 wool ewe, 4 dairy ewes, and 1 dairy ram
  • 4 ewes got pregnant, due in April & May
  • 1 ram lamb and 3 ewe lambs born, all survived
  • 72 gal of milk produced
  • 2 fleece shorn from our wool sheep, for a total of 8 lbs raw, skirted wool.
  • 5 fleece shorn from our dairy sheep, for a total of 10.1 lbs raw, skirted wool.
  • Total of 8,525 yds of various sizes and types of yarn made from all the fleece. Plus 3/4 lb of roving.
  • Sold 2 ewes and 2 ewe lambs
  • Purchased 1 BFL ram lamb, 1 Wensleydale ewe, and 1 Bond ewe (all wool breeds)
  • 1 wool ewe died unexpectedly
  • Butchered 1 ram and 1 ram lamb
  • Bred them in two separate groups, one group in September, and one group in October-December.  2 September ewes confirmed pregnant due in Feb.
  • Realized our new BFL ram was unable to breed the flock successfully Oct-Dec, quickly purchased a new Bond ram end of December and put him with the girls, hoping to get the last 3 pregnant.
  • Finished year with 2 wool ewes,  2 dairy ewes, 1 dairy/wool ewe lamb, and 2 wool rams

Goats:

  • Started the year with 1 Nubian doe, Pansy.  Pregnant and due to kid in April.
  • 1 doeling born, died at a couple weeks of age.
  • Pansy struggled for several months with undefinable illness.  The vet, breeder, and we tried everything to figure out what it was and tried treating for any possible thing.  The illness decreased her milk production and we ended up having to dry her off in October.
  • Due to Pansy’s struggles and drop in milk production, we added another Nubian doe to our farm in July, named Belle.
  • 75 gal of milk produced.
  • Rebred 2 does in Nov/Dec.
  • 2 does pregnant and due to kid in April.

Ducks:

  • Started the year without ducks.  Added them to the farm in July – our first ever ducks!
  • Started with 2 drakes and 2 hens
  • 1 hen set 12 fertile eggs, 5 hatched, 4 survived, all drakes
  • Butchered 5 drakes and 1 hen
  • Finished year with 1 drake and 1 hen

Garden (didn’t keep good garden records this year, but…)

  • Over 250 lbs of produce harvested
  • More seeds saved than ever before

Heritage Arts:

  • Completed knit projects: 6 hats, 2 pairs of mittens, 2 pairs of socks, 1 gator, 1 poncho, and 1 dress.
  • Completed sewing projects: 4 dresses, 5 skirts, 8 pajama pants, 3 nightgowns.  Plus innumerable amounts of mending and patching of clothes.
  • The girls did countless projects, each of them finishing more projects than I did.
  • We made 12 tins, 3 half-pints, and 1 pint of herbal salve.

Kitchen:

  • Canned apples in honey syrup, green beans, and tomatoes.  Plus grape jelly.
  • Prepped and froze carrots and celery.
  • Root cellared garlic, onions, potatoes, and squash.
  • Made 68 lbs of aged cheese.  Mostly from sheep milk, a few from goat’s milk.
  • Made a lot of soft cheeses and dairy products, mostly from goat’s milk, some from sheep milk.

Year Summary

January was cold and dry most of the month.  We hatched out 10 chicks in the incubator, hoping to line the hatching up with chicks coming in the mail so they could brood together.  Unfortunately, the hatchery made a mistake and printed our shipping page but never shipped us the chicks.  So we decided to just raise the 10 we had hatched ourselves.  We pulled our first ever aged cheese out of the cheese cave and tried it.  It was Colby and we all liked it.  One of our younger ewes surprised us by getting bred late, bringing our total of pregnant sheep up to 5.

February made up for January’s lack of snow by snowing every few days and dropping into the negative temperatures.  We worked on indoor projects a lot, and Mtn Man finished his first-ever rectangular braided rug made from llama and alpaca fiber.  We took photos of our chicks each week as they grew and changed.  We got ourselves organized and planned out the gardens and planting schedule for the year, as well as all the livestock birthings and things we needed to prepare for related to that.  Since we kept more sheep than we originally planned to when we put up hay last summer, we had to buy some more and get it put away in the loft.

March started exactly the opposite of February, with a week of warm, dry, sunny weather.  We spent a lot of time outdoors, working on finishing the new vegetable garden in time for planting.  We got the lambing/kidding kit and vet kit re-supplied and ready for lambing season.  And we also finished the wooden barnyard fence.  Coronavirus spread over the world and we were isolated from socializing.  We were largely unaffected, until Mtn Man ran out of work in the mill and had to take an essential construction job.  Our stirred-curd cheddar cheese reached 3 months of aging, so we were able to take it out of the cheese cave and try it.  It was delicious!  We put part of it back to age more so we could see the difference.  Our hen, Cinnamon, decided to set a brood of eggs for us.  We finished shearing all the sheep and began processing their fleece, and we got excited as we neared our first lambs due on the farm for the year.

In April our first dairy lamb was born without issues.  We started milking our first dairy sheep – Autumn, and quickly realized it would go better with a milking machine.  A lot of work was done on finishing up our new veggie garden area, and improving and building new fruit garden areas.  We made progress on Mr. Smiles’ new play area too.  We were all excited when I was invited to blog monthly for Mother Earth News.  Cinnamon’s hatch had terrible fertility, and we only ended up with 3 chicks, so we bought some at the store and gave them to her to raise with hers.  Many were weak from shipping stress and died, so we bought some more.  Our wool ewe, Fiona, had a single ram lamb, in an uneventful birth that we missed seeing despite our hourly checks.  The end of the month was exhausting as we were up to the barn every two hours through the night awaiting the goats and lambs that were due to be born.  Daisy, a first-time-mom ewe, had a traumatic birth with a very stuck large single baby in her small inexperienced pelvis.  We were able to save both the ewe and lamb, but then Daisy rejected the lamb.  After working with her for a day, we decided to give up and bottle feed it.  Once they were separated and the other ewes came to visit the baby, Daisy suddenly decided she wanted to mother the lamb.  We were very relieved and did not need to bottle feed after all.

In May our stay-at-home orders were lifted, and the hospitals started performing surgeries again.  This meant that Mr. Smiles could now get the surgery he was supposed to have back in March, but it also meant that we would be gone to the Children’s Hospital during the height of our lambing/kidding season.  Thankfully, no one birthed while we were gone.  We continued to be exhausted from our nightly barn checks as Pansy the goat went well past her due date, whereas both our first-time-mom-ewes went earlier than their due dates.  Daisy was due in May, but had hers in April.  Blue went 4 days early, the day before Mr. Smiles’ surgery.  Thankfully, Blue’s birth was uneventful and we missed it despite hourly checks on her.  Finally, 9 days past her due date, Pansy gave birth.  She had ring-womb and it made for a traumatic delivery, but both mother and baby survived.  We were finally past our birthing season and could get some sleep – theoretically.  Our oldest son graduated from high school at the end of the month – our first child to graduate from homeschool.  His ceremony and party were canceled due to coronavirus, so we had a nice little celebration on our own.  And we added a new BFL ram to the flock.

June started with disease, pests, and late frosts.  It was a challenging month for sure.  Our youngest son had more trouble with his health, leading to 1 MRI under anesthesia, 4 more surgeries, 2 ER trips, and 9 days in the hospital.  Meanwhile, back at the homestead, the mice were reaching plague-like proportions, with us catching up to 35 per night in our traps, and the barn cats killing innumerable amounts, and yet they were still wreaking havoc in the gardens and barns.  We found out that our new BFL ram might have brought Orf to the entire flock, and anxiously waited the disease incubation period, hoping it wouldn’t prove to be true.  The goat and her doeling got lice, and we were busy treating them with a natural oil daily.  One of our hens hatched out 7 baby chicks, on the same day that the doeling very suddenly died of what was suspected to be enterotoxaemia.  We grew oh-so-weary with it all.  And then, during Mr. Smiles’ hospital stay and surgeries, Pansy became very ill.  We had the vet out multiple times, only to find no obvious cause and have no treatment we tried help.  As a last-ditch-effort, on our way home from the hospital we picked up a buckling to take home to see if it was emotional depression from the death of her doeling causing her physical illness.

In July we managed to avoid the pediatric hospital, but knew our time away was limited so we were super busy at the farm trying to deal with all the summer to-dos before we had to head back to Denver.  Pansy the goat was still sick for awhile, but eventually pulled through her mysterious health issue.  We traded the temporary buckling out for a new milk doe.  We weaned lambs, sold some sheep, and purchased a new breeding ram and ewe.  We also added ducks to the farm for the first time ever.  The mice and hail continued to plague the gardens, but some harvest began to come in as well.  With two goats, and the lambs not milk-sharing with us anymore, milk continued to flow in larger quantities than before, and thus we spent a lot of time making cheese and other dairy products.  We had to switch to a larger homemade refrigerator cheese cave, as the smaller one was full.  We also purchased two pigs and butchered them for our winter meat.  It was our first time ever butchering pigs as we usually have the butcher do the pigs for us but there was no butcher who could take them due to the pandemic.  It was a very busy and productive month on the homestead for sure.

August brought a lot of juggling of farm life and hospital life.  Mr. Smiles had 2 more surgeries, one scheduled and one unexpected.  Meanwhile we were trying to continue to process all the dairy products and harvest the garden.  We ate, canned, froze, pickled, fermented, and root cellared the produce as it was harvested.  We butchered some chickens, and one of our hens decided to set and hatch some chicks.  One of the new duck hens wanted to set too, so we bought some hatching eggs and put them under her.  As I continued to blog for Mother Earth News, I also had an article published in Chickens Magazine.  Our friends were evacuated due to a wildfire and their ducks and chickens came to live with us for what turned out to be several weeks.  It was kind of fun having a goose on the farm for a little while – we had never had one before and she was beautiful and fun.  We struggled with a couple of red-tailed hawks and a golden eagle who were hanging out trying to get an easy meal in our barnyard.  The chickens had to stay in their covered pen to keep them safe.

September was beautiful, except for the large amounts of smoke from the wildfires.  We worked hard harvesting and preserving the harvest from our gardens.  The pullets began laying, so we had some fun new egg colors and sizes.  We were able to can our produce, despite supply shortages, thanks to our reusable canning lids.  We got an early hard freeze along with three days of snow that surprised us and brought the garden harvest to an end quickly.  Thankfully, we got all the produce out in time.  The snow also helped suppress the wildfires, for a little while.  We tried a new breeding plan for the sheep on the farm, and bred three of the ewes during September, planning to breed the others in December to divide up our lambing season.  We also butchered the ram lamb.  The duck hen successfully hatched her ducklings and we really enjoyed the new adventure of that.  We were able to put some more meat in the freezers when Mtn Man and his father hunted elk.  Sadly, our matriarch ewe, the first ewe we ever purchased for the farm, died unexpectedly – it was heartbreaking and a very difficult loss.

October was full of fall productivity.  We worked at getting, splitting, and stacking firewood to heat the house for the winter.  We continued to work on cleaning up the gardens and putting up the seeds for next year.  We finished several heritage arts projects, and built new feed bins for the barn.  We butchered more chickens and a ram, plus a couple of ducks.  The freezers were filling up fast for winter!  We were excited to learn that one of my blog posts for Mother Earth News was chosen to be published in their e-newsletter.  The Cameron Peak wildfire moved closer and closer to us, putting us on edge and prepared for evacuation.  We had a mountain lion hang out around our property for a few days, which kept us on edge as well.  Two more wildfires started near us, and ash and smoke started making life complicated.  Then, in one days time, one of the fires grew over 100,000 acres and traveled 35 miles, closing in on our home.  We were evacuated, and had to quickly get 64 animals and 8 humans off our homestead.  We were so blessed to have friends, acquaintances, and strangers reach out to us and take in our animals and our family.  The animals were spread over 5 different farms.  After 5 days, our family was able to go home, but the fire loomed and threatened and we had to stay prepared for fast evacuation, so we did not bring the farm animals back for a few weeks.

As we headed into November we continued to watch the wildfires and wait for the OK to bring our livestock back to the farm.  We cleaned and prepared the barn, and worked on some heritage arts projects.  As the containment lines grew, we started bringing animals back.  First the sheep and LGD came home.  Then the poultry.  The goats were evacuated to the farm that they go to every November/December for breeding, so we left them there for the breeding season.  It felt great to have the animals back at the homestead!  Since the ram had to be with the ewes during the evacuation – thus starting our breeding season earlier than planned, we decided to just leave him with them and let them breed.  We added a new, Bond ewe named Matilda to the farm.  We also spent a lot of time in the kitchen, canning and cheesemaking.  We scrambled to get things done around the farm before winter really hit since the evacuation had put us behind on all our fall projects.  We were surprised to find out that our two hatches from September, one duck hatch and one chick hatch, that each had 4 babies survive, had all males.  Not exactly what we were planning, but more meat in the freezer.

December brought both very low temperatures (-10F) and unseasonably high temperatures (55F) to the farm.  We used the warm days to finish fixing some fences and the path out back, and spent the rest of the time cozy by the fire working on heritage arts projects for Christmas presents.  It was a pretty laid-back, low-key month and we all enjoyed the break and rest.  Then, in the last few days of the month, we realized that our new BFL ram was not getting the ewes pregnant.  We quickly purchased a new ram, a Bond, and put him with the girls, hoping we could get the last 3 ewes pregnant before their breeding cycles stopped for the season.

 

It is good to look back, but can also be hard to look back as well.  I remember that in last year’s homestead review I said that it was by far the hardest year in our lives.  Good thing I didn’t know what was to come.  This year has by far been the most challenging year of our lives.  We had so many losses in our personal lives and on our homestead.  At the homestead we battled the weather, pests, birthing complications, and illnesses in the livestock.  Our youngest son had 8 more surgeries this year, along with many hospitalizations, ER visits, and doctor’s appointments.  His last surgery was his 23rd in his 5 years of life.  It was definitely challenging.  Through it all we continue to focus on our many blessings and trust in God as He carries us through the ups and downs.

Sunday Homestead Update

There is so much going on around the homestead this time of year that it makes it hard to fit it all in an update post.  Better get right into it.

Sheep

Oh my goodness, Freya is settled now and she is SUCH a big teddy bear!  She loves being pet and scratched.  Each morning, when we throw the food, she doesn’t go down to eat with everyone until she has had her morning loving.  She first gets Mtn Man to pet and scratch her, then she goes over to find Braveheart as he is leaving the chicken pen and gets him to pet her, then she heads down to eat breakfast.  She is so so sweet!

Breakfast at the fence feeder

Ducks

The ducks started laying last Monday!  Little Miss ate the first duck egg, since they are her project.  She asked me to make her an egg-in-a-frame (egg fried in the center of toast), which is her favorite way to have eggs.  She loved it!  I took a taste and liked it as well.  Some people say duck eggs can taste pond-y, but we didn’t think it did.

Chickens

The chickens haven’t gotten much press lately on the blog.  We have 3 different age groups of chicks that are still in the growing stages.  This week we did a shuffle around of the chickens, integrating the 16-week-olds and 13-week-olds in with the main flock.  Eve has some 8-week-olds that are not ready to integrate into the big flock yet, but they moved away from their mom (in the bantam pen) up to one of the grow pens to grow out.

We have been butchering cockerels as-needed over the last few months as the different groups have grown up.  We also did a trap nesting week this week to find out who is laying well, but also to catch an egg-eating culprit.  We have two zero-tolerance policies for chickens at WCF that will get them a one-way ticket to the stew pot: #1 aggressive roosters and #2 egg-eating hens.  We caught the hen and now we don’t have to worry about her teaching the habit to others.

One of the younger hens, Dahlia, has decided to set.  Since we were planning to butcher our rooster this week, we decided to collect eggs for her while we were trap nesting and let her set so we can get one last batch of chicks out of that rooster.  She is a first-time broody hen, so we are hopeful she will stick it out and prove herself to be a good mama.  So far, so good.

It has been a very productive chicken year thus far, which is funny because last fall/winter we had said we were focusing on the new dairy sheep and the new garden this year and were not going to do a lot with the chickens.  But then Braveheart took over the chickens and he has done very well with managing them, and they have been VERY productive this year – a lot of meat in the freezer and plenty of eggs.

Egg Thief

Besides the egg-eating chicken, we caught a different egg thief this week as well.  Can you believe that this innocent face had anything to do with it?

Keeping a mixed-livestock barnyard, which includes hoof stock, chickens, and a Livestock Guardian Dog all living together lends itself to the fact that at some point the LGD will get to eat some eggs.  We expect it and are not upset about it.  Occasionally, a hen will not go to the nest boxes to lay, but will instead find a corner somewhere in the barnyard or sheep stalls to lay an egg.  When that happens, our Anatolian Shepherd, finds the egg and eats it.  No biggie.

However, we were surprised to learn this week that apparently our 100 lb LGD is a contortionist that can fit through a hole that is 9 x 13 inches.  Last spring, we found her able to get through a 12×12 inch hole in the fence and were shocked by that.  But this hole is 3 inches narrower!  While we were trap nesting, and thus going up to the coop about every 30-60 minutes to check the traps, we caught her INSIDE the coop!  She squeezed through TWO tiny chicken doors that are only 9×13 inches.  We are pretty shocked.  this is a very large dog, but apparently she can twist and bend herself in surprising ways to get through the door.

Mtn Man narrowed the more exterior door with small strips of wood, and hopefully she can’t get through it now but the chickens all can.

Gardens

The gardens are really hitting their stride now and are full of green.  We are still battling rodent pests, but overall they are doing well.  The new veggie garden is doing pretty well at keeping up with the old garden, even though it doesn’t have as nice of soil.

The squash in the upper garden are climbing the arch, which is fun and pretty.

Cheesemaking

We finally got the large refrigerator made into a cheese cave.  We had to be quite creative to get the humidity up, but it is up now and I have plenty of space to make more and more cheese.  I looked at my records and so far I have made 23 lbs of aged sheep cheese, and 2 lbs of aged goat cheese.  Plus all the many soft cheeses and dairy products we are making each week as well.  Yippee for raw milk on the farm!

Heritage Arts

Summertime doesn’t lend itself to much time for heritage arts.  But Little Miss was growing faster than I have been knitting on her dress and I knew I better get the thing done so she could wear it before she outgrew it.  So I finally finished it this week.  It looks so lovely on her, and she loves it!

The pattern is Ribbed Dress for Little Miss (so funny because I made it for my “Little Miss”) by Raimonda Bagdoniene.  The yarn is Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in the colorway Deep Waters.

Since that project is all I have allowed myself to work on for the last couple of months because I wanted to get it done before she outgrew it, getting it off the needles made me excited to cast on some new projects.  This week I cast on a hat and some socks, plus I already had the crochet sock yarn scrap afghan and the poncho – both of which have been in progress for a long time but have been ignored so I could finish the dress.