Sunday Homestead Update – Planning

I am such a planner.  I love calendars, lists, spreadsheets, and everything like that.  I love to make goals and plans and then go for them and tweak things along the way and really it doesn’t matter as much whether it was a success or failure but that I enjoyed the planning of it.  So the start of a new year, and the beginning of winter, is always a fun time for me because it is a great excuse to do all sorts of planning!

Garden Plans

I pulled out the colorful seed catalogs, and my garden binder, and started the garden planning for this next season.  We are trying some new stuff, sticking with old reliable stuff, and everything in between.  One of the things I am most excited about will be the addition of the two apple trees.  We have been tweaking, rebuilding, and preparing the Onion/Garlic patch for a few years now, and last fall we removed the pine trees there that were causing too much shade and way too many pine needles and cones on the gardens.  We will be replacing them with apple trees that will provide leaf mulch for the gardens, apples for us, and just the right amount of shade on certain parts of the gardens.

I am bummed we didn’t get to plant garlic last fall in the newly fixed Onion/Garlic patch, but we will fill it with onions this season, and get the garlic in next fall.  The deeper soil, awesome compost from the barnyard, and lack of pine trees should really make this area super-productive this year.

Not much will change in the main veggie garden, except we will be making a few boxes deeper and adding some compost because of our “miracle box” situation last year.  I have planned out the crop rotation for this year, as well as the varieties we will be planting.  We are also going to build another bean trellis archway, like the one we made last year from a cattle panel.  It worked great and looked nice too, so I want another one.

Last year we got our rain barrels set up with hoses that I could easily run to the berry bushes.  This year we will get a drip system hooked up to the berry bushes, the strawberry patch, and the container herb garden that will be fed from the rain barrels.  This will make for less work and more thorough watering of those areas, and we wont be using purchased water, which is awesome.

Lastly, with no sheep in the barnyard this year, we are planning to fence off the bottom half and plant a corn “field” again.  We tried this two years ago and it was mildly successful, but because we didn’t irrigate it well enough, and because the sheep broke into the area and destroyed everything, it didn’t really work.  We would like to run water from one of the rain barrels down there and without the sheep breaking in maybe we can grow some grains on our little farm!

Previous attempts at a corn field – before it got ruined.

 

School Curriculum Plans

This is also the time of year I sit down and work on our school curriculum plans for next year.  Summer is way too busy for me to do any school planning, and by January we have done enough of the current year for me to be able to see where we will end up, what is working, and what is not working.  So I sit down and plan out curriculum for each kid and then we usually purchase it in the spring.  Then it only takes me a week or so at the end of the summer to go through everything that I already planned and get us up and going for a new year.

Going along with our plans of simplifying our life for 2018, I am switching curriculum for next year.  We have used the same one for 5 years now, and we love it, but it is definitely more time consuming and teaching intense than some of the other ones.  With 4 kids in school, plus a special needs toddler, we all need something a little simpler that requires less time and intensity.  So I have found what I will be using with each of the kids, and we are all looking forward to a bit of a change and a simplified school year.

I have also made some changes and tweaks to this year to make the second half more simple and fun than the first half has been.  We have already implemented it and it is going well.

Chicken Breeding Plans

The kids have completely taken over the care of the chickens now, so I decided that it is their choice if, when, and how they want to breed them.  They are working together to formulate a breeding plan for the year and they will get to keep all the money they make from any sales of chicks and pullets.  I am looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

It is fun to look ahead at a fresh new year and make some goals and plans for what we hope to accomplish!

Homemade Christmas Presents

Each year the seven of us make homemade Christmas presents for each other.  Well, I guess technically six of us make homemade gifts for all seven, since Mr. Smiles isn’t quite up to the task yet at just 2 years old ;-).  Occasionally someone decides to buy a present if they see something they really think fits, but for the most part they are homemade.  So this post is to show off all the wonderful homemade presents from this year!

It was a year of sock-giving for me, I knit socks for Young Man, Sunshine, Braveheart, and Mtn Man…

For Mr. Smiles I made this sweater:

And for Little Miss and Sunshine I made Balaclavas:

Young Man (14) made this wooden doll cradle:

He also found a hatchet head on our property that was in good condition, but the handle was broken.  So he made a new handle and gave it to Mtn. Man.

Sunshine (12) made these gifts:

Crochet tea set

Sunshine leathercrafted this dog collar for Mtn Man’s dog, Finley.

Wooden/antler/leather toy dagger and sheath for Braveheart.

Gingham Embroidery bookmark

Flannel doll PJs

Flannel PJ pants

Knit hat for Mr. Smiles

She also has a huge bin of all sorts of lego pieces gathered from different sets over the years.  She took the pieces and built a couple of cool vehicles out of them, and then made them into custom lego kits to give to Young Man.  She made the boxes, and they even have directions just like a real lego kit.  I thought this was such a great idea of a way to reuse something she didn’t need anymore and make it into a cool “new” toy.

And she made these cute cat toys for her pet cats, she even filled them with catnip.

Little Miss (10) made these gifts:

Hot pads/mits

Sewing machine cover

Crochet pear and snail. Snail can go inside of pear.

Knit crab

Crochet winged dragon

Crocheted puzzle ball for Mr. Smiles

Braveheart (9) made these:

Wooden toy sword with leather wrapped handle

American Flag rug hook wall hanging (need to frame it)

Everyone had so much fun thinking up great ideas for gifts for one another, and then hand-making them.  And then we all enjoyed getting all the wonderful gifts too!

In addition to the homemade gifts, there were a few store-bought that are homestead related…

We can never seem to have enough books, so books are always appreciated.

And knitting and crochet goodies…you will see these yarns in future projects, using the new hooks and needles!

I have already started knitting my gauge swatch for the project I will be making with that oh-so-soft dark purple merino/silk.

We had a fun Christmas season putting all these gifts together and it all ended beautifully with a wonderful Christmas Day together as a family.  I hope you had a meaningful day as well.  Merry Christmas!

Life

It’s been a while since I posted.  Life has been overwhelming lately.  This blog focuses on our little homestead.  I generally stay away from discussing the rest of our life because I just want this to be about our homestead.  But because homesteading is a lifestyle sometimes there is no way to not bring other topics into the light.

If you have been following for long you know that our baby has struggled medically for two years now.  He has had 6 surgeries and hospitalizations in his very short life, as well as countless appointments, tests, and procedures.  All of which occurs at least 2 hours away from our home, sometimes farther.  The solidity of the homestead has been helpful through this time.  The homestead stays the same, shifting routinely as the seasons change, in a way that is comforting.  We know lambs will arrive each spring, along with chicks and higher egg production.  Shearing happens towards the end of winter.  Planting and harvesting come and go on the same cycle each year.  And those things have given us a solid footing when the rest of our life is shifting and changing almost daily.  When the prognosis for our son changes drastically before and after each surgery, the homestead is still there, staying the same.  We love homesteading.  It is so fulfilling.

But it is also a lot of work.  The homestead can’t be put on hold.  Animals must be fed, chores tended to, twice a day, every day, no matter the weather, no matter our health, it must be done.  If we need to be at the children’s hospital someone must be here to tend to things.

Our son has an extremely rare condition.  There are only 14 documented cases ever in history.  12 of those kids died.  2 are still alive because their bodies somehow healed the issue on their own.  And then there is our son, he is number 15.  And they don’t know how to fix it.  That is scary to say the least.  At first we weren’t truly able to understand what this would mean for our life, and really neither could the doctors.  We tried juggling the homestead and the medical stuff, along with regular life.  We tried downsizing this or that.  We tried changing how we did things to make them easier.  And not knowing how long this would last made us hold desperately to the dream of our solid, comforting homestead life.  Will they be able to fix it this week?  Or next month?  Or a year from now?  When will we have our stability back?  We don’t know.  We don’t know how long this will go on.  And that is very hard.

It is apparent now that our previous homesteading lifestyle is not longer a possibility and that we need to shift and accept the new situation we are in.  We cannot do all that we used to do and do it well.  We have stretched ourselves too thin over the last two years because we just didn’t know how long this would last or what it would be like.  So we needed to make decisions to help our family get back to a place of peace and thriving instead of just surviving each day.  So we made the very difficult decision to significantly downsize the homestead for the indefinite future so that we can devote all our time to our family, businesses, and to this medical stuff.  We need to simplify our life as much as possible and still find ways to enjoy each day and do the things that bring us joy.

First the milk goats were gone, milking being one of the most time-consuming aspects of the farm.  Since we had only had them a short time, that felt pretty easy.  And we can buy from the same breeder in the future.

But then it was time to sell the flock of sheep.  This was much harder.  We have been building this flock for 4 years now and selectively breeding and buying to build just the right fiber-producing flock with a perfect variety of textures and colors.  We were very attached to each individual sheep.  We are happy that they were able to go together as a group to a farm not far off.  We know they will have a good home and in the future when we re-build up the livestock on the homestead we will be able to buy sheep from their lines.  But it was a very hard day on the whole family when they left.  There were definitely tears.  But both Mtn Man and I believe that it was the right decision for where we are now and what we are facing.

More decisions need to be made.  But for now we are living with the new situation and seeing what we think of it.  We are desperate to find a way to keep our sweet LGD Anya.  We have put a lot of effort into training her and we are all very VERY attached to that sweet girl.  However, if we remove everything she guards I think she will be unhappy and bored out of her mind.  We have contemplated bringing her indoors and making her a pet, but that seems pretty unlikely to work for many reasons.  So for now we have rearranged the chickens to make them as easy as possible to care for, and she is guarding them.  We will see how this goes.  We might need to downsize the chickens to just a few in the lower coop and shut down the barn completely.  But that would mean decisions about what to do with Anya.  So for now we wait, and pray, and we will see what happens.

Meanwhile, while dealing with all these decisions and changes, and an extra dose of medical stuff lately, we are also taking time to slow down and enjoy our Advent season.  We are concentrating on remembering the promises that led up to the birth of our Savior.  We are looking forward to a nice, calm, and restful Christmas this year to rejuvenate us before another slew of medical stuff hits soon-after.

I plan to keep blogging about the homestead, but I don’t totally know exactly which direction it will take.  As our life journey shifts so does our homesteading adventure and the story of us.  I don’t know exactly which parts will make it to the blog and which wont…we are just taking it one day at a time right now.

Sunday Homestead Update

We have been oh-so-sick this week.  Croup, strep, and pneumonia.  Very.  Sick.  But thankfully everyone is improving and the terrible part is over.  By next SHU we should be recovered and doing much better.

Knitting

Mr. Smiles couldn’t sleep in any position except on our chests in the recliner for 4 days, so Mtn Man and I took turns overnight and Sunshine and Young Man also pitched in a few times during the day.  But for the most part he was in my arms or asleep on my chest all day for four days.  Thankfully, I was able to do some knitting when he was asleep, because I was getting very antsy and bored.

Dog Yarn?

We had an interesting “first” in the mill this week.  We made our first dog hair yarn.  The hair came from a standard poodle, and was mixed 50% with wool from a Lincoln Longwool sheep.  It turned out really cool.

The dog hair definitely needed plenty of support from the Longwool, but it is indeed possible to make dog hair into yarn.  It turned out pretty and is quite soft – softer than I expected.

Snow

We got a good 15-inch dump of snow this week.  It is safe to say fall weather is gone and winter weather has arrived here in the Rockies.  Last year was a very long, mild fall, this year it was short and colder.

We still really need to get the firewood chopped and stacked for the winter, but illness put that off for now.

Chickens

Mrs. Arabel successfully hatched out 4 chicks.  That is a pretty low percentage, considering she started with 10, but that sometimes happens with hatching, especially at high altitude.  And the cold weather could have something to do with it as well.

But I am happy about the four.  We don’t usually hatch in the fall, and with winter cold arriving early I think it will be good for her to only have four because it will be easier for her to successfully keep them all warm even as they grow.

Sewing

I have started working on the Winter/Christmas cloth placemat and napkin set.  Once I finish them I will have all four seasonal sets done!

While I have been working on those, Little Miss and Sunshine have taken it upon themselves to make matching trivet pads with the scraps from all the seasonal sets we have made.  When I cut the placemats’ corners off, we end up with a lot of little triangle scraps from the two different placemat fabrics for each season.

We felt like it would be wasteful to just throw those out, so the girls are piecing them together (there are a million different ways to arrange 36 triangles), adding a couple of layers of batting, using the larger scraps of fabric for the back, and making these cool trivet pads that will coordinate with each of my placemat/napkin sets.

Here is a peek at the Autumn/Thanksgiving set, which we are currently using.  These are the pads they made:

Which go with these placemats and napkins.  Left is Autumn, and right is Thanksgiving:

Once I finish the Winter/Christmas set, I will do a post that shows all four different sets, and the trivet pads that go with them.  If you are interested in finding out how we make these, you can click here for the post that shows how.