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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
The heat wave has left our area (sorry to those in the Pacific Northwest who are in one right now). We had very nice weather this week that made working outdoors much more pleasant.
The first project we are focusing on is fences. The property has a lot of fences already in place. They are T-post fences with 3-4 wires that are either barbed or smooth depending on which area of the farm. They were used for horses and cattle. For our sheep and goats we are going to use field-fencing. On the perimeter it will also have one strand of barbed wire along the top.
We got one pasture field-fenced and are also using electric net fencing to keep them grazing more intensely in smaller areas at a time in that pasture.
Now that they are out on the pasture, the next thing is to get the entire perimeter of the farm field-fenced. This serves several purposes…keeping coyotes and dogs off the property, and keeping our sheep, goats, and dogs on the property.
Another thing we are working on right now is weeds. The areas around the house are landscaped with gravel. But it hasn’t been maintained for a long time, so it is overgrown with weeds. We are weeding those areas and would like to get it done before they all go to seed. It looks so much better each time we finish an area – very satisfying.
There are many things we would like to change about the house…but those projects will be spread over several years. We already ripped out all the flooring except the kitchen and bathrooms, installed carpet in the bedrooms and click together laminate in the rest of the house, and we painted about half of the house (indoors). The bathrooms desperately need remodels, and we would like to do the kitchen at some point too. But, while we wait, there is a pretty inexpensive way to give a kitchen a quick face-lift…change out the handles and hinges on the cabinet doors. I was able to change out the handles on our doors (not the hinges yet) and it made a big difference.
We need to do an addition on the house, because it is pretty darn small for our family of 7 to squeeze into. So we are working on getting the permits started and hope to begin that addition in a few weeks. It will include a bedroom and an office/school room area.
I feel like we have accomplished an immense amount in a very short amount of time, so that is good. So many fun new things going on!
We have been very busy lately. Usually, winter is a time of rest and planning – a slowing down of life for a few months. Like these two:
Not so for us this year. I have been so busy with other stuff that I still haven’t gotten around to the garden and curriculum planning I usually do in January, nor the sewing projects to get our clothing caught up. I have barely made any progress on any of my heritage arts projects. Oh well, just keep doing the next thing on the list. I will get to it all eventually.
A big chunk of our time has been spent on house remodel projects. But around the farm, this is what we have been doing…
Lambing season is fast approaching for our homestead. Our breedings this year were all very different timing than we usually do, for many reasons. Our first two ewes are due mid-February. They are starting to build their udders, and both are looking round. We had recently sheared Freya because she is a long wool. So, since she was shorn already, she didn’t need our typical 6-weeks-before-due-date shearing. And because these lambs are due so early in the year, and thus it is still very cold, we decided we didn’t want to fully shear Daisy yet, due to the stress it could cause her in the cold. So we just “crotched” her, which means we sheared around her back end, and around her udder. This will help keep her from having birthing mess all stuck in her back-end wool which could potentially cause her skin issues. It will also make sure the lamb(s) can easily find her udder and don’t end up sucking on wool tags and such.
At six weeks out we also start slowly increasing their feed intake – transitioning them over to alfalfa from grass hay, and eventually, as we get closer to lambing, giving them some grain too. So we started that process. This week was 4 weeks out, so they each got their dose of CD&T vaccine.
Since we aren’t 100% sure on the due dates, just to be safe, we moved the ram to the back pen and moved Daisy and Freya up front so we can see them easily and so they can sleep in the birthing jugs. This will also make it easier to feed them their end-of-pregnancy rations while the rest of the ewes get regular rations. Moving the ram officially ends our breeding season. We are not sure if the youngest ewe, Nora, got pregnant or not. But the rest did.
It is hard to believe we are less than 4 weeks from our first lambs of the year! There are still things that need to be done to prepare, and we will get to those in the coming weeks.
One thing I want to get more done on before lambing is using the frozen sheep milk from last year for cheesemaking.
I have been working through the freezer the last several weeks, and have about 5 more batches of cheese I can make. I would like to get at least 3 of them done before the ewes lamb, because we are planning to milk both ewes, so once they lamb we will have more milk to work with, and I don’t want the frozen amounts to get out of control.
I am finally really starting to get the hang of the ins and outs of sheep cheese. A lot of the cheese I made in the beginning was good flavor, but very dry. It is understandable, since sheep milk is so different from other milks, that it would take time to work out the exact recipes. This last batch we just opened up was just right and not too dry at all. So I am happy about that. I will continue to learn the art, and science, of making good sheep cheese.
It is also time to prune the berry bushes and grape vines. Mtn Man has been working on that this week.
Always plenty to do!
I better get back to work…or maybe I will just curl up with this guy…