Sunday Homestead Update – Thanksgiving and Sheep Issues

I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving (those of you in the US that celebrate it, that is).  We had a wonderful, full, white and snowy week, cozily spending our time at home together.

Before the storm hit, we wanted to get the medicinal herb garden finished for winter.  Because it is a relatively new garden space that we just built 2 years ago, the soil is still settling a lot.  It sunk 6-12 inches across the front of the garden bed.  So we hauled a bunch of compost and filled it in.  Then we planted some of the herb seeds that need to go in and freeze before they can sprout well.

We had to go to the city on Monday, and then the big storm moved in and covered us in beautiful white.  We got almost 2 feet of snow!  And the temps dropped down to -10F.

It meant extra barn chores as we needed to shovel paths through the snow from the stalls to the water trough and the gates.

Anya was loving it.  She was bounding/bouncing through the deep snow that was higher than her belly and tearing around the yard through it.  It definitely got her all frisky and riled up.

Plus, once the temp dropped, we left the livestock in the barn, so we had to haul water to them in buckets because they don’t have water in the barn.  Then it stayed cold, so it didn’t melt, and yesterday the wind blew like crazy, causing drifts everywhere.  Yup, its been kind of a mess.  But everyone survived it well, and we all enjoyed the snow.  The kids did a lot of playing in it and sledding since they didn’t have school this week.  Once the temp dropped though, outdoor play wasn’t fun anymore, and then it was indoor fun time.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and the weekend after is what we refer to as “Holiday Fun Weekend.”  We spend the time decorating and preparing for Advent and Christmas.  We get our tree, decorate, make Christmas candies, play games, watch movies, and just enjoy time together preparing for the Christmas season.  Mountain Man and the older two kids, Young man and Sunshine, go and volunteer at the Denver processing center for Operation Christmas Child one day each year, they did that this week.

Going Through & Cleaning Out

Sunshine and I finished all of our going through and cleaning out that I talked about last week.  What an awesome feeling to have the entire house sorted and organized!


Pansy was supposed to come home from the breeder this week, pregnant.  But she went back into heat.  So she has been bred again and we will wait another 3 weeks to see if she settled before we go get her.  Little Miss is really missing her goat, but we all agree we need to be 100% sure she is pregnant before she comes home, because a not-pregnant milk-goat is just a goat pet, and we don’t keep goats as pets.


We are thinking that maybe our little farm is not big enough to manage 2 rams.  We have had two breeding seasons with just Fergus, and no issues.  This is Fergus’ 3rd breeding season, and the first time that we have had a second ram (Remi, who was born this last spring).  We are having so much trouble with Fergus now.  First of all, he has been a lot more interested in ramming us.  He backs off as long as we give him back-off body language, but it seems to be getting excessive.  Secondly, he has been doing a bunch of damage to the fence between him and Remi.  First he bent the wire all along the fence line.  It is hard to take a photo of bent wire, but where you now see the extra new piece of wood was a series of ram-head-size dents in the wire.  Some of it was broken.  So we put that wood there as a temporary fix.

After that, we got 20 inches of snow, so Remi was keeping his ewes up in the stall where Fergus can’t really see them well.  This caused Fergus to ram the gate (that is the closest he can get to the stall they were in).  Again, ram-head-size dents and breaks in the wire.  Again, Mtn Man patched  over it with wood.

But the worst part is that he is being aggressive with his ewes.  Having only three, and having two on the other side of the fence that he can’t get to, seems to be causing him a lot of frustration.  He gets very upset with them if they go anywhere near the fence line, which is a problem because the water is there.  The water trough goes under the fence and is shared by both sides.  He bites them and paws at them and grunts at them and chases them away when they want to go that direction.  Most of his aggression was focused on Daisy, though we don’t know why.  It seems like maybe he is frustrated that she is close to mature, but not fully mature and thus not in full standing heat yet.  So we had started discussion options of what to do, and then yesterday when we went for evening barn chores Daisy was limping, really badly, and he was continuing to bully her around, maybe even worse because of her gait.  So we brought her in and separated him out from everyone.  It looks to be her shoulder, there is no heat or swelling in the leg.  It could have been the deep snow, or Fergus, or most likely, a combination of both.  if he was constantly bullying her through the snow she could have easily slipped or twisted it or something.

So that left us with a problem.  We have an injured ewe.  We have a ram that is not dealing well with the situation, we still have ewes that haven’t been bred (we are not ready to be done with breeding season yet), and we have only two pens and two rams (we do have panels to potentially create another pen).

So last night Sunshine, Mtn Man, and I talked through all the many options that we have.  The dairy sheep are Sunshine’s project, that is why she was involved in the decision making too.  We first came up with some “facts” we are not wanting to bend on.  #1, Fergus has SUCH an amazing fleece that we are not willing to get rid of him yet, and we do not want to whether him either.  #2 Daisy must be isolated in a jug and stay out of the snow and away from all males until her leg heals, BUT we really don’t want her to have to be completely alone in the barn either because that causes a lot of stress to sheep.  #3 Our priority purpose with the dairy sheep is for them to be in milk, not necessarily what babies they produce.  And we really want to see how each of the 4 ewes performs as far as lambing, mothering, and standing to be milked this spring so we can reduce the flock size to the best ones.  Therefore, we really want all the ewes to get pregnant this year.  #4 After #3, the next priority with the dairy ewes is to see how well they cross with Fergus, the wool ram.  And lastly, #5 We aren’t quite ready to get rid of Remi either, because he is a really nice looking dairy ram, he has great personality, and we aren’t totally clear on our dairy breeding plans yet because we are new to this, but keeping him around for at least another breeding season would be good.

It seems like Fergus’ issues are developing from not having enough ewes, ewes being split into two pens, and another ram having some ewes next to him.  It seems like maybe he would be nicer and do better if he had all the ewes, or couldn’t see Remi, or didn’t have any ewes at all and Remi had them all (although he would be frustrated, he couldn’t take it out on the ewes).

Considering all the above things, and talking it over for quite awhile, we came tot he following plan.  First, Daisy will be in one jug, with Remi in the jug next to her.  This will accomplish several things.  First, Daisy will get her healing and not be alone, but Remi can’t bug her because there is a wire wall between them.  Second, Remi will be out of Fergus’ sight.  And third, we wont be “wasting” one of the ewes putting her with Daisy to keep her company, thus Fergus has more ewes to juggle and theoretically wont single out one for bullying.  Then we put all the ewes, including the ones that were previously Remi’s, in the big pen with Fergus.

It has only been a day, so we aren’t sure if this is really going to work, and if not, we will likely give all the girls to Remi and make Fergus be on his own.

Autumn is already pregnant to Remi (she did not come back into heat this week, proving he settled her).  The main reason we gave Remi ewes to breed this year is we wanted to prove him as a breeding ram.  Plus, those will be full-bred dairy lambs, which should be pretty easy to sell.  So we accomplished that.  And then if this plan works the rest of them will be pregnant with Fergus’ babies, giving half wool/half dairy lambs, so we can see how those lambs turn out and then potentially breed back to Remi next year to see if we can get dairy ewes that have nicer, more use-able wool.  And, most importantly, everyone will get bred so we can see how the dairy ewes lamb, mother, and milk.

Time will tell, and I will keep you posted.  This is always a huge part of the homesteading adventure – learning through trial and error.  It is part of what we enjoy with all this.  Trying out new things and learning.

Jerry and Hazel

Our newly-retired-indoors barn-cat, Jerry, is getting quite friendly with our indoor dog, Hazel.  It is so cute, and I can’t resist taking photos of them.  They are constantly cuddling with each other, either by the fire, or in the sun puddles.

This warms our hearts because Jerry grew up with our previous LGD, Tundra.  Jerry joined the farm with his brother Ben when they were 8-week-old kittens.  Tundra was only a year old at the time.  After Ben disappeared at a year old, Tundra and Jerry became very good friends and stayed that way over all the many (12) years together.  They would cuddle together through the long cold winters in the barn.  And even though Jerry had other cats to cuddle with, he often chose Tundra instead.  Tundra died a couple years ago, and last winter was very hard on Jerry without him.  So it is special to see Jerry not only enjoying a winter indoors, but also making a new doggy friend and cuddling with her.  Hazel seems to like it too.

Sunday Homestead Update

These two sure know how to find the warmest spot to rest each day!  Morning fire and afternoon sun puddles.

We got some snow this last week, along with colder temps.  So we focused on indoor projects.

Going Through and Cleaning Out

Throughout my life I have seen people I care about being controlled by their stuff (material possessions).  The amount of stuff they have hangs over their heads constantly and it “controls” them and effects their decisions and relationships.  They are constantly burdened by the need to deal with their stuff and get it under control.  It makes me so sad, and I don’t like seeing them struggle with that issue.  Early on in life I decided I was never going to let my stuff have control.  As a child that meant that I went through and cleaned out my personal stuff and my personal space 1-2 times a year.  As an adult it means I go through my personal stuff, as well as the household stuff 1-2 times a year as well.  Going through and cleaning out means evaluating everything we have and deciding if we need to keep it and then getting rid of it if we don’t, and neatly organizing it if we are keeping it.

Sunshine, who is coming up on 15 years old now, shares my enjoyment of going through and cleaning out.  Over the years she has helped me more and more with it.  This year I am just totally shocked at how fast we can get it done when working together.  We are an efficient, well-oiled machine of going through and cleaning out.  🙂  You aren’t going to believe how much we have gotten done the last 2 weeks – while living our normal life too!

We have gone through and cleaned out:

  • The living room – game cabinet, bookshelves, blanket chest, video drawers.
  • The kitchen – all cabinets and drawers
  • The school room bookshelves (almost the whole room is shelves)
  • The dining room – hutch and china cabinet
  • 2 linen closets (one bathroom linens, one bedroom linens)
  • The laundry room shelves
  • The main bathroom – all cabinets and drawers
  • Mr. Smiles’ Stuff – clothes, toys, books, and closet
  • The closet under the stairs (that’s where all our snow gear is)
  • The root cellar/extra large pantry
  • The storage room
  • We have each done our own clothes and closets
  • Sunshine has done all her personal belongings in her bedroom

We have had a huge amount of items to take to the thrift store.  Probably about 8-10 kitchen size trash bags full.  It feels SO good to get rid of stuff we don’t need.  And then we know what we have, why we have it, and where it is.

What we hope to finish before Thursday:

  • My personal belongings in my bedroom
  • Our craft room (was done somewhat recently so should be fast and easy)
  • The den area
  • The mud room shelves
  • The master bathroom cabinets and drawers (might wait on this one until the shower remodel is done because this bathroom is currently a construction zone).

Once we complete those spaces, we will have gone through the ENTIRE house! (excluding everyone else’s personal belongings/spaces and clothing).  I have never been able to do a really thorough go-through of the entire house in one swoop like this.  Usually I do half of it in spring and half in the fall.  Having Sunshine helping me and her being older and pretty much able to do it on her own has made such a difference.  It was like having two of me.  And we both enjoy it very much so it is a happy, fun time of working together.


The sheep breeding season is moving along.  Remi has bred Autumn, and Fergus has bred Fiona.  We will be watching this week for Autumn to go back into heat.  If she doesn’t go back into heat then we know she got pregnant.  Fiona was just bred this last week, so we have a few weeks before we can confirm her pregnancy.  The younger ewe lambs haven’t gone into heat yet, they may or may not mature in time for this breeding season.  We are planning to leave the rams in with the girls until right before Christmas.

Heritage Arts

I am moving along, slowly but surely, on my Match Play poncho knit-a-long.  I really like how it is turning out.

Sunday Homestead Update – Ram Safety

As the weather is getting colder, we are winding down with all of our outdoor fall projects on the homestead.  This week we finished patching the shingles on the mill roof and split and stacked more wood.  All that is left for outdoor projects is to continue with the last splitting and stacking of firewood.

Hazel and Jerry are loving the sun-puddles in the house as the weather outside gets colder.

So we have now moved indoors for winter-weather projects.  I have been doing a lot of sorting, cleaning, and organizing of closets, drawers, and cabinets.  I have gone through all of Mr. Smiles’ toys, books, and clothing and gotten rid of anything we don’t need/use/doesn’t fit.  I also went through all my own clothing and got rid of extras and unused items.  The girls and I went through the two linen closets, the main bathroom cabinets and drawers, and the whole top level of cabinets in the kitchen.  We are really making some major clean-out progress!  We have more plans to continue with that this week.  We also canned raspberry/blackberry jam this week.

The other indoor project we started this week is the remodel of our master bathroom shower.  The first time I ever took a shower in there, tiles started falling off the wall.  That was 7.5 years ago.  We have been limping it along all this time with plastic and duct tape and it went pretty well.  That is one of the troubles with buying a fixer-upper house…you have to deal with the very imminent things first and work your way through the list.  But when it is a super-duper fixer upper, many things are very imminent and yet have to be left for awhile until you can finally get to them.  Well it is finally time and we tore out the shower this week.  Not a moment too soon, in fact, because our defenses had started to fail and there was moisture in one section of the wood.  But it is torn out and gone now and we can start fresh and dry.

Ram Safety

Keeping intact male livestock has it’s benefits, for breeding obviously.  It also has its risks.  Male animals tend to be very single minded and usually at least somewhat aggressive.  It is how they were created to fulfill their purpose in life.  But it brings with it special management considerations to keep the animal and yourself safe.

For a long time we didn’t keep any male livestock except the occasional rooster.  And even with the roosters we had specific rules for the kids to follow and if a rooster was ever overly aggressive we got rid of it immediately.

We hauled our cows, ewes, and does down to be bred at other farms where the males we wanted lived.  But then our sheep breeder moved out of state, and we had a beautiful ram born, and thus started the chapter in our farm life where we are keeping our own rams.  This is our 3rd breeding season with our own ram, and our first ever breeding season with two rams.

Even when it is not breeding season we have set rules and ways of doing things to keep everyone safe around the rams.  The kids (except Young Man, who is 16) are never allowed to be in a pen that includes a ram unless they have an adult with them.  And when in a pen with a ram, whether you are an adult or a kid we have a strict rule of NEVER take your eyes off the ram(s).  NEVER trust them.  And during breeding season the kids are not allowed to go into a pen with a ram even if there is an adult with them.  We want this adventure to continue to be fun and safe, and it just makes sense to set up rules and procedures to keep everyone safe.  LOL, “procedures” sounds so corporate, but it is the only word I could think of.

Also, we don’t keep aggressive rams.  There is definitely a difference between a ram that you need to keep your eyes on because he will take a shot at you if he has an opportunity because your back is turned, but that will back off if you ask him to, versus a ram that will actively go after you no matter what you are doing nor what body language you are giving him.  Our rams both back off if we give them back-off body language.  If that were not the case we would not keep them.  And if it ever changes, we will get rid of them.  There is no way we can win against 300 lbs of muscle with a thick skull front – if he wants to actually hurt us, he will.  We have no interest in keeping (or breeding and passing on genetics of) an animal that we will constantly be dodging and fearful of, and that we can only safely handle through chutes.  That is not safe for a small homestead with kids.

So, I made a mistake this week.  Totally my fault and I feel sheepish (pun intended ha-ha) about it.  I was feeding the sheep one morning and Fergus was revved up on hormones and morning excitement.  I was doing everything “right” and safe and it was all going smoothly.  I had already fed Fergus and his ewes, but had to walk through their pen carrying hay to feed the back pen sheep.  Fergus came towards me with some attitude wanting the hay and I chased him off.  He was headed towards his food and his ladies several yards away so I thought he was done with me and then I broke the rule that I am always ingraining in my kids’ heads (NEVER take your eyes off the ram).  I turned slightly to the side, taking my eyes off him for a split second and putting my armload of hay between us because I thought he was going to keep heading away from me.  Then I saw him out of the corner of my eye coming after me and it was one of those “oh-no-I-can’t-move-in-time” moments where life kind of goes into slow motion and you know you are about to get hurt.  He rammed me on the side of my thigh/hip, throwing me about 5 feet and I landed with my opposite hand/wrist hitting the ground first in at attempt to break my fall.  I immediately jumped up, out of instinct and fear he might ram me again on the ground, which would be a lot worse.  And I went after him aggressively yelling.  He took off in fear of me (which is what I wanted because I wanted to show him that he was not boss over me even though he had the upper hand for a second there).

I feel totally stupid for taking my eyes off him, especially when I tell the kids that rule so often.  You can bet I won’t do it again.  And I came away with a sore, but not seriously hurt wrist, and a big purple/black/blue bruise from his head.  Lesson learned…the hard way.  Practice what you preach.  🙂


Eve’s last hatch of 6 chicks are now 10-weeks-old and we are beginning to be able to tell the males from the females.  There are 3 for-sure females, 2 for-sure males, and one that we aren’t sure about.  I am really happy with the female colors, especially the blue because I want to breed more blue into the flock.  We are planning to butcher the males at 16 weeks.

Heritage Arts

I took my weaving off the loom this week.  It is one super-long piece of fabric that I will be cutting into 5 dish towels and hemming today.  I am really excited to see how they turn out.

Little Miss and Sunshine were hired by one of our mill clients to knit 10 adult hats and one baby blanket before Christmas.  So they have both been busy busy knitting away.  Little Miss finished the baby blanket this week.


Sunday Homestead Update – November?

Wow, it’s November.  That one really snuck up on me.

The winter storm hit us hard last week, bringing our temps down to -3F at night and single digits during the day.  The animals did great and everything went fine.  It was fun to be snuggled up indoors for a few days.


Pansy has gone to the breeder to spend time with a buck.  Little Miss is definitely missing her, as am I, surprisingly.  I didn’t realize how attached I was to that goat.  Once the breeder sees her get bred we will wait at least 21 days to be sure she doesn’t come back into heat, and then we will go get her and bring her home.  Here she is with the buck:


Our sheep breeding season will start later this week as well.  We have decided which ram will go with which ewes and will split them up on Saturday.


The firewood chopping and stacking continues as we prepare for keeping the house warm this winter.

Heritage Arts

I am continuing to work on my second weaving project – a set of 5 dish towels.  I am getting close to done and am excited to see them off the loom!

Sunday Homestead Update -Preparing for the Storm

We have what is predicted to be a big storm arriving today and lasting through Wednesday.  There is expected to be quite a bit of snow, and more importantly to the homestead – temperatures down to 0 (F)!  Brrrr!  This is very early in the season for us to get that cold, so we were caught of guard and have been scrambling to prepare the farm for it.


We had already put out some heated waterers and put the heater into the water trough.  But we finished up removing the un-heated waterers and getting them stored for winter, and added the last few heated waterers.  We filled all the waterers and blew out the hose.


We cleaned out all the wet areas in the stalls and coops and added a lot of fresh bedding to give all the animals good, dry places out of the wind to bed down.


We finished removing and storing all the trellises and cages.  As well as the last of the tents and frost fabric.

We harvested the last of the beets, radishes and celery that were still growing.  And removed the last of the dead plants that hadn’t been taken out and cleaned up.

Then we turned the top 2 inches of soil in the whole garden with a rake for pest control.  This good hard cold will help freeze and kill some of the eggs and larvae that pest bugs have left in the garden to torment us next season.  As we were raking we saw a lot of larvae and eggs.


We put up some rubber door sealants around some of the doors where time and use had broken down the old stuff.  This ought to decrease the drafts around the doors.

We continued to work at chopping firewood.  We rented a splitter and worked on the piles of rounds we have.  Getting close to what we need to last all winter.

Heritage Arts:

So now that all our work is done and the snow is flying we can all have a nice relaxed Sunday by the fire.

Little Miss and Sunshine have been hired to knit some hats and a baby blanket, so they are happily working their way through those projects.

I am now weaving my second ever weaving project.  It is a set of 5 dishtowels.  I chose autumn colors – though the weather is making me feel more winter-y right now.

I started a knit-along with some friends this week too.  We are knitting the Match Play Poncho.  I am really looking forward to this.  I also cast-on some socks for Braveheart for Christmas, and a dress for Little Miss’s birthday.