Sunday Homestead Update

Spring is such a full time on the farm.  It is the season for hatching, brooding, seed starting, garden prep, shearing, lambing, milking, kidding, vaccinating, de-worming, and spring cleaning.  It is a time that to me feels invigorating and productive.  I am ready to shake off the sleepiness of a long dark winter and get out in the sun and fresh air and work hard.  Our bodies are already in the spring sore phase as we have been out working on the garden and shearing.  But it is a good feeling of sore.  A strengthening of our muscles for the upcoming summer and fall seasons, which are very physically taxing seasons.

Spring also means crazy weather.  We have some days that are sunny and 60F, and then the next day we will have a foot of heavy, wet snow and be in the teens at night.

The Flerd

We finished shearing and preparing the fleece for processing.  We have re-jacketed Fergus and Fiona, but haven’t gotten to Rose quite yet.  We will remove the ewes jackets before lambing.  We don’t want the jackets in the way of the lambs nursing and such.  During shearing it was very clear that the girls are indeed pregnant.  We are looking forward to the arrival of adorable lambs at the end of May.  Meanwhile, it is time to switch their feeding program to help their bodies during the end of pregnancy, and to vaccinate them.

Pansy has continued to settle in with the farm.  Her milk production has stabilized as high as I think it will get for us this year.  The stress of the move definitely decreased it.  But we are happy to have some fresh goats’ milk at our farm again.

Heritage Arts

I finished my lace shawl!  It is very exciting because this is my first lace project, and because it has been sitting on the needles for a year now constantly being put off for more imminent projects.  The yarn is oh-so-soft and lovely.

Little Miss and Sunshine are constantly making as many projects as I do, but I don’t often get around to photographing them and putting them on the blog.  I am trying to change that and include more of their beautiful work too.

Little Miss loves to draw and color, so this week she made herself this cute roll-up case to hold her colored pencils.

Sunshine is really enjoying quilting more and more these days.  Right now she is working on a table runner that has sunflowers on it (her favorite flower).  She has one of the squares completed so far.

Sunday Homestead Update

We have had another full week on the farm.  Spring is trying to squeeze its way in with some days in the 50sF.  But we are also still getting snow and cold as well.  Nothing green is starting to peek out of the ground outside yet, whereas last year at this time we had quite a bit of green starting up.

Garden

We started our first seedlings inside…gardening season has officially begun!

More Chicks

Last week a setting hen abandoned her eggs that were 2/3 of the way to hatch.  We took the eggs and put them in the incubator, not sure if they would survive or not since they had been chilled.  Well, they survived and hatched this week.  There were ten eggs under the hen, two of which were found to be infertile when we brought them indoors.  The other 8 were looking good.  The hatch started on Thursday morning (day 20 – one day early) and by Friday morning we had 5 chicks hatched and 2 of the 3 remaining eggs pipped.  Those two chicks hatched, the third egg did not.  But 7 out of 8 is a great high-altitude hatch percentage.

Our bird numbers are higher than they have ever been.  Thankfully we have a lot of space for them all, so they are not overcrowded, but they would be if they all were full size adults.  But the numbers will be significantly decreased by then.  No more hatching until those numbers get more reasonable after some butchering and sales.  Of course I say that, and then one of my reliable broodies will probably decide to set this week.

Goat

Pansy has had some trouble settling in.  It seems she does not want to live with sheep.  But we really do not have the space, nor the desire for more than one goat.  Thankfully, she never stopped eating completely, like what happened to us a couple years ago when we tried to introduce one goat to the sheep flock.  By day 5 she finally started to relax a little and eat better.  She is still somewhat antsy and not completely relaxed, but we are seeing a lot of progress and expect her to settle fully over time.  Interestingly, she seems to be bonding to Anya, the LGD, more than any other animal in the barnyard.

We are still milking her twice a day while we wait for her to settle in.  We are going to move her to once a day milkings, but don’t want to risk a huge decrease in production because of the stress she is still feeling.  Once she seems more settled we will shift her over.

Pansy is Little Miss’ homestead project.  She loves goats, loves milking, and loves making dairy products.  She was the one pushing to get another dairy goat.  Mtn Man and I, of course, oversee the care of all the animals and would never leave a child 100% in charge of an animal.  But Pansy is her project and she does all the work related to her, with our guidance.  She has been doing all the milking, with Mtn Man’s help while she built up her muscles.  She was really excited when, at only day 5 of having the goat, she was able to milk her out all by herself without any help.

She has also been managing all the milk and was carefully saving up the cream all week so that she could make us all goat’s milk ice cream on Friday to go with out homemade pizza for movie night.  It was delicious!

We are all really enjoying having a dairy animal again and the fresh milk that gives the family.  And Little Miss is beyond ecstatic to be the “milk maid and dairy queen” again.

Heritage Arts

I know how to both knit and crochet.  But for me crochet is more a destination hobby – in that I do it for the finished product.  I only crochet when I want a specific item that is best crocheted.  Whereas knitting is more of a journey hobby – in that I do it because I enjoy the process of knitting as well as the finished product.  I always have at least one knitting project going.  I knit almost every day if I can.

A year ago I started an afghan using scraps of sock yarn I had leftover from all the socks I have made over the years.  I knit the squares (192 of them) over the last year and then this last few weeks have been working on the hooking-together of more than half of the afghan.  I found the best way to hook it together was to sew 4 of the squares together.  Then crochet a border around the edge of the 4 squares.

Then I hook those squares to each other with a single crochet from just one side, alternating back and forth left and right.

Once I have a whole row of them (which for my afghan was 6) I hook that row onto the afghan with the same method.

So I have been doing a lot of crochet the past two weeks and haven’t really knit at all.  I am getting burnt out on it and can’t wait to get back to some knitting projects.  BUT I am really excited about finishing this afghan and so I press on.

I have finished all the hooking together now.  All I have left to do is put a nice border all the way around the outside edge of the afghan and a year-long project will be complete!

Remodeling

We have a lot of house remodeling we are hoping to accomplish this year.  We have finished the basement, which is wonderful.  It had been torn apart during the flooding of 2013 and hadn’t been finished since.  It is now a super functional space that we are all enjoying.

This week we have been focusing on the dining room finish-work.  Last fall we replaced our wood stove that was inserted into a fireplace in a rock wall with a beautiful antique wood cookstove with no fireplace and no rock wall.  The old wood stove had two elbows in the stovepipe which caused it to not draft well and to back-puff often.  We really wanted a stove with a straight pipe that didn’t back-puff, and we wanted to get rid of the rock wall, and we wanted to find a way to incorporate the beautiful antique wood cookstove that has been sitting in our garage for years.  So we did!  The cookstove does an excellent job of heating that area of the house and looks so pretty too.  Plus, if we want to we can cook on it and bake in the oven.

But as is usual for us, once the major work was complete and it was use-able we got busy with other things and didn’t finish up the trim work and details that make things really look great.  So this week we finished all of that and we are really happy to have it complete and not only functional but also looking nice as well.

Here is the dining room before:

And here it is now:

I haven’t fully settled on mantle and wall decorations yet, but that will come with time.  I need to live with it for awhile to decide that.

Feels so good to be checking things off the list, and enjoying a nicer house each time we do!

Homesteading with Kids – Part 3 – Ages 12 and up

I often get asked how we do all the homesteading we do, while raising and homeschooling 5 kids.  Families with kids go perfectly together with homesteading!  I thought I would share some of the tips and tricks for how we accomplish it all and get the kids involved.

Read Part 1 – Birth to Six Years Old, by clicking here.

And Part 2 – Seven to Eleven Years Old, by clicking here.

Homesteading with teens has been so much fun!  I love watching them take charge of something and go with it, bringing in new ideas that I hadn’t even thought of and making everything even more productive and fun.  For the first 12 years they were following, and then they were able to start branching out and leading in their own ways.

So what does homesteading with teens look like?  As I discussed in the previous post in this series, towards the end of the 7-11 year old age range the kids begin to find their niche on the homestead – the things around the home and farm that they like the best and are interested in – and we encourage them in those directions.  We also start to include them in decision-making and researching things that we need to learn about.  Those things continue in a bigger way into the teen years.

Since our teenagers know how to do all the different tasks around the home and farm due to being with us through their younger years learning them, we pretty much let them focus just on their niche tasks from here on out.  If we need help with something, it is all hands on deck (or whatever hands are available at the time) no matter what niche it is.  But for the most part the teens get to do their specific thing.  For example, Sunshine loves gardening, especially the herb garden.  So last year I gave the whole project to her.  She got to decide how much to plant, what to plant, where to plant it, when to plant it, how and when to water it, etc.  And then she carried out her plans.  In the process she also saw a way we could better use the container herb garden space and she made a plan for remodeling it, got permission to carry it out, and then did it on her own.  We had BY FAR the most productive kitchen herb garden we have ever had on this property.  And for the most part, when we were gardening, she got to work on that and rarely had to help us in the main garden because she had enough to do with her own project.  There is less side-by-side and more on-their-own at this age.  But there is more discussion as they bring their ideas to us and ask what we think.  So the relationship still continues.  And often WE are the ones being their “little helpers” to help them make their project ideas a reality.

We also bring a lot more of the economic aspects of homesteading to their attention and ask them to think it through and make decisions to make the homestead more productive.  We include them in the bigger decision making and research learning projects as we decide to add or remove some aspect to or from the homestead based on finances and productivity.  Our farm is not a hobby farm, per say, everything needs to be as productive as possible and we don’t keep livestock that don’t earn their keep – we just can’t afford it.  So bringing the teens in on the finances and helping them see the big picture helps them understand why we make the decisions we do and will help them when they need to make similar decisions in their adult life.

An example of this is that Little Miss (who is just below this age range) is pushing for us to get back the milk goats.  So I had her put together the start-up costs and maintenance costs and then figure out milk production and how long it will take the goat(s) to “pay-off” their start up costs (while maintaining their maintenance costs) with the milk we get from them that we don’t have to buy at the store or milk-share.  It helped her see the costs and benefits of having the goat(s) so she had a more realistic view of whether or not that was a good decision for the family and farm.

Homesteading with teens is fun because they bring their own ideas to the table and can work independently and take responsibility for things that they find interesting and fun.

We have now discussed all ages of children, from birth to teens, and how our kids participate on our homestead.  As you can see, homesteading with kids makes it all the more fun, and helps build strong family unity.  It also teaches the kids many practical skills, along with the love of learning and how to learn and teach yourself, responsibility, respect of animals, understanding of food and the work involved in producing it, good character traits, and self-esteem.  When done with relationship as the top priority, it is a beautiful thing.

Homesteading with Kids – Part 2 – Ages 7-11

I often get asked how we do all the homesteading we do, while raising and homeschooling 5 kids.  Families with kids go perfectly together with homesteading!  I thought I would share some of the tips and tricks for how we accomplish it all and get the kids involved.

Read Part 1 – Birth to 6 Years Old, by clicking here.

In part 2 we will be discussing the age range from 7 years old to 11 years old.  These age ranges, of course, are variable depending on the child.

As I said in the previous post, the main focus is building a strong relationship with my children by keeping them with me as I work on the homestead.  I am not leaving them in front of a screen while I work.  I am not sending them to do the work for me.  We are working together, side-by-side – building a relationship, making memories, learning, and having fun while we do.

This age range lends itself to some more independence and responsibility.  Since my kids have been with me working around the home and farm since they were born, by the time they are 7 and older they are very capable of doing most anything around the place that is safe for their size.  But we still work together as a team, just with less instruction from me.  Constantly micro-managing and nagging a kid who already knows how to do something will just lead them to dislike helping and working around the homestead.  Also, expecting too much and being too critical will squash them as well.  We all make mistakes, there is no need to get all worked up about an honest mistake.

So what does this age range look like on a day-to-day basis?  We are working as a team, but they have more independence and responsibility and less instruction.  An example would be, “We need to weed the garden, which section do you want?”  They already know how to weed, and don’t need me teaching them, so I give them their choice of area and then we go to work.  Me in my area, they in theirs, and we are chatting and singing and having fun as we go about our work.  If they have a question I am right there and ready to answer.  When we are doing something new I include them in the learning process with me.  I share with them the article or book I am learning from and then we go and learn through experience together.

Little Miss, who is 11 years old, is my main helper with this incubation we are doing right now.  She was much smaller the last time we did an incubation, so this is really her first time learning how to do it and handle it on her own.  We knew I would be gone for a few days during the incubation and she would be responsible for the incubators while I was gone since grandma doesn’t know how to do it.  So to prepare for this, we started by checking the incubators together each day and then I would tell her what we need to do and why and show her how to do it.  After the first week I started having her check them on her own once a day and report back to me what the status was and what she did with them.  Then we check them together the other times that day.  When we candled the eggs she was right next to me and helping me mark down how the eggs were doing.  After the first few I stopped telling her which ones were fertile and infertile and instead asked her to tell me.  When I was gone she did beautifully at keeping the humidity right throughout the day and checking on the incubators.  And she felt proud of herself because I trusted her with an important job.

This age range is fun because you start to be able to let them do things on their own and see them feel good about a job well done.

Towards the end of this age range I also start letting them find their niche.  At younger ages they participated in anything and everything I was doing – which was everything.  But as they get older they start to see which parts of the home and farm are their favorites and I let them do more of those things and ask them to less of the things they don’t like as much.  This does not mean getting to do the fun things and ignore the not so fun things (ie feed the livestock but not have to clean up their poop).  It means getting to pick the types of livestock they like best or areas of the garden they like best.  For example, Little Miss loves chickens and milk goats.  So as she gets older she can take on more and more responsibilities in those areas, while not working as much with other things that she doesn’t have as much interest in.  The great thing about a family as big as ours is that everyone seems to favor different things than everyone else.  Sunshine would much rather spend her time working in the garden or with the sheep than with the chickens and goats, so the two girls like the opposite things.  It is still important to me that each child learns how to do every different part of the farm, but as they get older they begin to be able to focus more on the things that interest them the most.  And they are still working side by side with Mtn Man or I, for the most part, so we are continuing to build that relationship.  They really like getting to be specific helpers for certain things.  Like Little Miss being the milking helper and the incubator helper.

As they reach the end of this age range we also start including them in the decision making and research when we need to learn something new.  For example, if Little Miss and I go to milk and notice something different with the goat’s udder I will discuss it with her and ask her what she thinks might be going on and what we should do.  Then we will go to the goat book and look it up together and read about it and then do what is needed to treat it together.  This builds knowledge and confidence in them that will serve them their whole lives.  It also builds problem solving skills.  Knowing how to find the information you need and then put it into practice is an excellent life skill.  And it leads them to start recognizing what needs to be done and occasionally doing it on their own when needed.  They are proud to come and tell me that they noticed that something was wrong with one of the chickens so they caught her, saw that she had some string around her foot, removed it, and then came to tell me about it.  I can then praise them for seeing the problem and taking care of it without help and they feel a self-confidence that can only be created by actually doing something you know deserves praise.

And of course, it is important that they are not tackling just any task on their own.  They know when they need to come get help and when they can handle it on their own.  They know the ram is off limits, that they are not allowed to catch the rooster and can’t climb into the barn loft without an older sibling or parent, etc.  They have a good respect for the dangers around the farm and the dangers of certain animals and are careful by this age to come get help when needed.  They know these things because we have been working side by side with them for 11 years and they have seen the good and the bad – the safe and the dangerous.  They have seen a rooster attack me and the bruise it left.  They know they don’t want to get hurt like that.  And we are still close by to be sure they are making good choices – they aren’t just given the run of the place constantly.  They do get to go off and do a quick job on their own, but we are keeping tabs on them and making sure all is well.

Sometimes an emergency comes up and the confidence that has been built helps them to think fast and do their best to remedy the situation.  The story that comes to mind is of the time that the goats got loose and were heading up into the forest.  I heard the guard dog barking and sent Little Miss out to see what was up.  Usually, when I send one of the kids to see what the dog is barking at they are out and back in within a minute or two to report what the issue is.  But after about 2 minutes Little Miss had not reappeared and the dog was still going crazy.  I was up to my elbows in meatloaf (isn’t that always when these types of things happen?) so I sent Young Man out to see what was up.  He took two steps out the back door and immediately came back in and yelled for me that the goats were out.  I ran outside right on the heels of Young Man, hands covered with raw meatloaf.  You need to understand that Little Miss was about 9 at the time and is the skinniest little thing you have ever seen.  A stiff breeze will blow her all the way to Kansas.  As I came out the back door I saw her and our bully of a nanny goat, Gretchen, making their way up the mountain.  Little Miss had both arms wrapped around Gretchen’s neck, holding on for dear life and digging her heels into the ground trying to stop the goat from moving forward.  Gretchen, who outweighed her by an easy 100 lbs, was marching on up the mountainside to freedom and adventure.  But Little Miss was not to be dissuaded, and she was slowing the goat down considerably.  She pulled and wrestled that goat as Young Man and I ran towards them full speed, with me yelling “You are doing great!  Don’t let go!!!”  Our other goat, Heidi, was still standing just outside the gate watching the whole thing.  As soon as she saw Young Man heading her way she went right back into the barnyard as if to say “I TOLD you we weren’t supposed to leave the yard, Gretchen!”  I passed Young Man as he closed the gate behind Heidi and caught up with the still-wrestling Little Miss and Gretchen.  I grabbed a hold of her and the two of us managed to get her turned around and back into the barnyard.  We closed the gate and collapsed together in a heap outside the gate, completely out of breath.  Then we started laughing hysterically together.  If Little Miss hadn’t latched on to that goat she would have been long gone by the time we got out there because she was eager to run full blast into the forest.  Little Miss slowed her enough that we weren’t out all day trying to get her back home.  She wouldn’t have had the confidence to do that if she hadn’t been handling the goats with us all along with us teaching her and praising her for a job well done.  And now she loves it when I tell that story to people because she knows she did something great and helpful.

Even if our kids never have their own homesteads or use these specific skills, they are building good character traits, a love of learning and the knowledge of how to be self-taught, and self-confidence that will spill over into whatever they do.  And the relationships we all have from working together are strong and priceless.

I will finish up this series with Part 3 – 12 years old and up.

Sunday Homestead Update

It has been a nice quiet week on the farm.  Not much going on – it is always nice to occasionally have some weeks like that.

Incubation

We are now on day 9 of our incubation.  We candled eggs and had 10 infertile out of 75 (87% fertility) which isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible either.  We have had 9 early deaths so far, which seems very high for our norm, but we are dealing with first-generation birds from low-altitude hatching at high altitude and we found previously that our hatch rates are much lower with the first generation than with later generations.  So that leaves us with 56 eggs still alive in the incubators.

Basement

We have an unfinished basement and we are beginning to slowly work at finishing it how we want it.  This week we started by building the first wall of the pantry/larder/root cellar area.  Last year we built some really nice shelves in this area

then in the fall we added the root cellar veggie racks…

and now we are working to close the room in.  We got the first wall up and hope to get the next wall and door in soon.

Heritage Arts

The girls and I have continued forward with our projects.  I have been knitting some dish cloths, and Little Miss is making matching scrubbies to go with them.

Little Miss is also cross stitching a bookmark.

And Sunshine is working on a long-term cross stitch project of a garden ABC sampler.

Yay for nice laid-back winter weeks!