Odds and Ends

This last weekend we decided it was time to take care of some odds and ends and finish some incomplete projects.

First, we clipped all the chickens’ wings.  We clipped them when we first started letting them out in the barnyard a couple of months ago, but since they are young, growing birds they grew back enough that lately they have been getting quite a bit of height when they try to fly over the barnyard fence.  We want them to stay in the barnyard, so we re-clipped their wings.

Then we fixed a couple of things that had broken from time, use, and animal destruction.  The small chicken door from their pen into the barnyard kept falling out of it’s slide, so it got fixed.

While we were working with the chickens we found our first pullet egg.  One of the Easter Egger pullets laid us a nice little blue egg!

The gate between the front and back barnyards had some bent and broken wires from Anya putting her feet up on it, so we added a diagonal wood bar to it to support it better.

And we put weaning devices in the lambs’ noses.  We have been waiting to see if the ewes would encourage it on their own, but they are letting them go longer than we wanted.  We want the ewes to be in good condition come breeding season, so it was time to wean the lambs.  The devices make weaning so easy – they block the lamb from being able to nurse, but they can still eat and drink.  And the lambs get to still live with their mothers, so it isn’t as stressful as separating them from each other.  We have found them to be very useful over the years with lambs and calves.  They didn’t work as well with the goats because their teats are longer and the goat kids could nurse from the side of their mouths.

They will stay in for a week or so, until the ewes’ udders dry up.  Then we can take them out.

Then we turned part of the compost pile.  Since the chickens were not out on in this last winter it hasn’t composted as well.  We need to do several turns before fall so that hopefully we can use it in the garden next spring.

After turning it we started a new pile by cleaning out the sheep stall.

Then we focused on making some more progress on a project we have been working on a long time…a little here and there.  The interior walls of the barn.  When we built the barn we hooked siding on the outside of the framing.  Then we put up foil bubble insulation that we had leftover from a different project.  Then, in the stalls we were able to put up board and batten interior walls over the foil.  But we didn’t have enough wood to do the rest of the inside of the barn.  Over time, when we have the wood, we have put up a section of wall here or there.  Last winter the wind blew down a big tree at a friend’s property and they said we could have all the wood if we hauled it off and cleaned up the area.  So we took the tree to the lumber mill and had them make it into boards for us.  We used some of it to build the fence earlier this summer.  And all that was left was one-by boards.  So we decided to use it to make more progress on the walls in the barn.

On the left you are seeing one of the walls that just has insulation over the siding.  On the right is a wall with board on it.  Still needs it’s batten, but looks much better!

And here is that same area after we finished the board and batten on it.  It is so nice!

Each section we add helps close up the cracks and keeps drafts out of the barn, thus making it better for the animals through the long cold winters we have.

I love how the barn and property just keep getting nicer and nicer the longer we live here and the more we work on it.  The first year or so it looked like shanty-town, but over time with a lot of hard work, patience to wait for the right materials to come along, and a lot of dreaming about what we want it to be – we have been able to slowly turn it into exactly what we want and make it nicer and nicer.  What a blessing!

After the Storm

Thursday and Friday we had over 3 feet of very wet, heavy, spring snow dumped on us.  It has been melting pretty fast and we are down to about a foot or less in shady places, and the sunny spots are either completely melted or very close to it.

The barnyard is a terribly wet, mucky mess.  I feel bad for the livestock because after being unable to leave the barn for three days because of the deep snow, they are now unable to leave because they don’t want to slop through the deep mud.  Hopefully the next couple of sunny days will finish the melting and dry it out enough to get them back outdoors.

The berry bushes are not happy at all.  They look downright terrible.  But upon close inspection I don’t see any broken branches, just super soggy branches bent down to the ground by the weight of the snow and the fact that they are so wet they bend easily.  I am hopeful that as the snow melts and they dry they will stand back up.

The Rhubarb and Lilac bush are also smooshed.

So far the garden looks to have survived.  The tomatoes were protected by the WOWs over them.  And the cabbages were protected by the frost fabric tents over them.  The carrots, lettuce, turnips, beets, peas, and spinach were all tiny seedlings just sprouted.  Once the snow melts we will see if they survived it.

Just another day homesteading in the Rockies!  🙂

Buried in Snow

Wednesday the kids were riding their bikes, I was gardening, and it was warm and sunny.  By Thursday we had two feet of snow.  By Friday morning we are above 3 feet and it is still coming down.  Everything is white.  May in the Rocky Mountains!

I’ve included old photos of the same areas to give some reference.

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to all my readers who are mothers.  I hope you are all being loved on and appreciated today.

My family has been loving on me and spoiling me like crazy.  I feel very blessed.  The kids made me more birdhouses and we promptly hung them all up outside.  The violet green swallows immediately began inspecting them and deciding if they want to use them this year for their nests.

This bouquet is a tradition my husband has done for me since my first Mother’s Day.  There is a different type of flower to represent each child, and the number of that flower is how many Mother’s days I have been their mother.  So the two roses are for Mr. Smiles, then there are 8 irises for Braveheart, 11 of those pretty purple flowers along the bottom of the arrangement (I don’t know what type those are) for Little Miss, 13 carnations for Sunshine, and 15 daisies for Young Man.  So sweet!

Sunday Homestead Update

Garden

We had wonderfully warm weather this week, which was very much appreciated after the snow last week.  Everything is starting to green up and grow like crazy.

The warmer weather helped get some things done around here.  Most of the garden is planted now, with the seedlings inside their protective Wall-o-Waters and frost fabric tunnels.  I am also trying a new season extender option this year – they are called plant accelerators.  They are similar to the WOWs, but there is not water involved and they are bigger and can stay on the plant longer.  I bought three of them for the trial, if they work well we will get more in the future.

Pretty much all that is left are the things that can’t be planted until after the average last frost, which for us is still another month away.

Barn Cat Issues

We love having bird houses and feeders and attracting birds to our property.  We have quite a colony of violet-green swallows that return each year and help keep the bug population under control around the farm – which we are very grateful for.

The problem we are having is that one of our barn cats, Midnight, is an avid hunter and literally the most athletic cat we have ever seen or owned.  He can jump and climb in ways that seem impossible and we are always amazed and shocked when we see him move and how agile he is.  The other two cats are just basic barn cats, who do great at catching rodents and such but don’t go out of their way to do crazy stunts or catch birds.

These skills make Midnight quite the bird predator.  He can catch them in mid air as they fly by, as well as climb the trees and get to their nests.  Every time we see him with one we catch him and take it away from him – whether it is dead or alive we take it away because we are trying to teach him to leave them alone.  Last summer this “training” seemed to be helping.

Because of him last year we took down all our bird feeders and just left up the bird houses because we didn’t want to lure the birds to their death.  We trimmed all the branches around a couple of the bird houses, to see if it would help because he couldn’t sit on them to get to the bird house.  The problem is that he is so athletic that he just climbs the trunk and sticks his paw right in the house while clinging to the trunk.

Last year we hung several bird houses on the side of the mill building, this worked great because he definitely can’t climb the wall to get to them.  But we still have a lot of houses on trees that the birds love and we need to find a way to keep him from them.

So our latest attempt at thwarting him is to put sheet metal around the trunks just below the birdhouses.  We picked a type that will rust, which I think will look nice and blend in with the trunk.  We put them up this week, since the swallows have returned and are beginning to nest.  Time will tell if he is athletic enough to figure out how to get around them.  But for now, the birdhouses are safe.

It is a hard spot to be in, we need the barn cats for rodent control, but we do’t want them to kill the birds.

Goat’s Milk Ice Cream

The warm weather made us feel summer-y and we decided to make our first ever goat’s milk ice cream.  I was able to skim the cream off the milk, albeit just a little bit off each jar since it naturally homogenizes.  It took several days, but we were able to get a quart of cream saved up and we made our basic ice cream recipe with it.  It was delicious!  And Braveheart and Little Miss, who can’t have cow’s milk, were able to enjoy some ice cream for the first time in a long time.