2019 Year-End Homestead Review

Looking back over the previous year on the homestead is an excellent practice because it helps us see what worked, what didn’t, and helps us plan for the future.  It is also always very encouraging to me because even when I feel like we didn’t have a very productive year, seeing it all written out shows me all that we accomplished.  Our homestead has had to take a backseat to other parts of our life over the last few years due to our baby’s serious medical issues.  This year more than ever.  But despite that, we still are able to do some homesteading and it brings us stability and joy.  I continue to hope to do better record-keeping, but as each year has been harder and harder with Mr. Smiles, each year has thus been harder and harder to do good record keeping.  I am amazed I kept records at all this year!  But here’s what we have.

To read previous Year-End Reviews Click the following links:

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Statistics

Chickens:

  • Started year with 28 hens, 1 chick, and 1 rooster
  • Purchased 7 cockerel chicks and 3 pullet chicks, all 10 survived
  • Did 1 incubation with 75 eggs.  65 were fertile,  35 chicks hatched and 34 survived
  • 1 broody hen set and quit, we finished the incubation in the incubator.  10 set, 8 fertile, 7 hatched, and 7 survived
  • At the height of the season we had 28 adult chickens and 52 chicks – 80 total – by far the most chickens we have ever had at one time before.  Too many for our farm.  Need to plan more carefully.
  • 1 broody hen set 7 eggs with a total of 3 chicks surviving, then she set again with 8 eggs and 6 survived
  • Butchered 28 birds
  • Sold 2 silky hens, six 1-year-old hens, and 15 pullets
  • 1 silky hen died from egg-bound, one chick died at week 5 for unknown reasons, 1 hen died from being bullied by the flock, 1 hen killed by a golden eagle
  • Ended year with  21 hens, 3 pullets, 3 cockerels (almost ready for butcher), and 1 rooster.  Plus 23 eggs in the incubator to hatch mid-January.
  • Approximately 3,700 eggs laid

Farm Dogs:

  • Anya, our 3.5-year-old Anatolian Shepherd, had her ups and downs.  At times she was an excellent guard dog, but she struggled a little with her first year of lambs.  When they were little, she left them alone because the mamas wouldn’t let her near them, but as they grew and the mamas weren’t so protective, she tried to wrestle and play with them and was too rambunctious.  She also had a couple times getting too rambunctious with chickens, but didn’t kill any.  So a few times she had to live in a separate pen from the flocks while we continued training with her.

Sheep:

  • Started year with 2 ewes and 1 ram.
  • Bred early in January
  • 2 ram lambs and 1 ewe lamb born, all survived
  • 3 Fleece shorn, for a total of 8.5 lbs raw, skirted wool
  • 800 yds (1.5 lbs) 3-ply worsted yarn from Fiona, 1500 yds (3 lbs) 4-ply worsted yarn from Fergus, and didn’t finish processing Rose’s yarn yet
  • Sold 1 ewe lamb, 2 ram lambs, and 1 ewe
  • Purchased 1 dairy ewe, 3 dairy ewe lambs, and 1 dairy ram lamb
  • Breeding season brought difficulties and aggression from our 2.5 year-old wool ram, ended up having to butcher him
  • 22 lbs of ground meat, 4 lbs of roasts, soup bones, and some dog food
  • Finished year with 1 wool ewe, 4 dairy ewes, and 1 dairy ram
  • Bred them all in November/December. 4 ewes pregnant, due in April/May.

Goats:

  • Started the year without any goats.
  • Mid-March added a Nubian doe to the farm.  We finally had fresh milk again!
  • 43 gal of milk for our family use between March and October
  • Dried her off (stopped milking) in November at breeding time for convenience and to give her a chance to regain her body condition.
  • Pregnant and due to kid in April

Garden:

  • The stresses of life this summer did not make it possible to weigh the produce this year.  A very cold spring gave us less than average on some things, but others gave us more than average.
  • We started building a second vegetable garden that will more than double our produce production.

Heritage Arts:

  • I completed the 19 knit projects: 9 pairs of socks, a Hoodie for Mr. Smiles, a sock yarn scrap afghan, a lace shawl, a hat, a textured shawl, 4 dishcloths, and a cabled cardigan.
  • I made a new bag for a standing knitting bag frame and 4 pairs of flannel PJ pants.  Plus innumerable amounts of mending and patching of clothes.
  • The girls did countless projects, each of them finishing more projects than I did.

Kitchen:

  • Canned quite a bit of food, not as much as last year.  Early fall stresses prevented me from keeping track of how many exactly of what we canned.
  • Made several different soft cheeses with goat’s milk.
  • Made a couple aged cheeses with store-bought cow’s milk to practice for next spring.

Year Summary

January rotated between warm sunny days in the 40sF, where we would get outside as much as possible, to bitterly cold snowy days below 0F that kept us by the fires and working to keep the livestock cared for and warm.  We spent a lot of time dealing with our son’s medical issues, with many doctor’s appointments.  We got our Livestock Record Book updated and ready for the new year, and got our school curriculum planning done as well as starting on our garden planning.  The sheep bred, giving us hopes for lambs in May/June.  The girls and I knit, crocheted, and worked on the hexagon quilt.  And we did several small fix-up projects around the farm and home, including building a new hay rack in the sheep stall and improving the gravity feeder in the lower chicken coop.  At the end of the month we collected eggs for a big incubation.

February started with us getting 75 eggs into the incubators for a hatch.  We struggled with illnesses and another hospitalization for Mr. Smiles.  We did a lot of knitting, cross stitching, and crochet by the warm fire while the bitter cold and wind settled in outside.  34 of our incubator eggs hatched and survived, and then we bought a few more chicks to add to the brooder so that we would have some new genetics for next year’s breeding program.  We also extended the hay loft in the barn to give us more hay storage space.

March was cold and wet.  We got a lot of snow and dealt with trying to keep animals dry and warm.  We finished remodeling our basement, which had been torn out after the massive floods of 2013 damaged it.  We added a new member to the farm – a Nubian milk doe named Pansy.  She was fresh and we were excited to have raw milk right from our own homestead again.  We had a hen decide to set eggs and then quit at 2 weeks, we put the eggs in the incubator and were surprised that they hatched, despite having been chilled from her abandonment.  We ended the month by finishing our dining room remodel project and I finished the scrap sock yarn afghan I had been working on for a year.

In April we started with shearing the sheep.  We also built up another section of the garden beds to be deeper for better growth of the plants and we hauled a bunch of compost from the barnyard and filled all the garden boxes with it.  Our 3-year-old had his 10th surgery and was pronounced healed from his very-rare bile duct/liver disorder that just a year ago we had been told would be fatal.  The weather continued to be cold and wet, setting our garden back more and more.  As we hit the 6-week out from lambing mark, we noticed that Rose seemed to be showing symptoms early and wondered if she was potentially due before we thought.  We changed the ewes’ diets in preparation for lambing.

In May things continued to be cold and wet.  We tried to work on the garden and get things going, but the weather continued to hamper our efforts.  We had several big snow storms.  Our 3-year-old has his first eye surgery, 11th surgery overall, and it was unsuccessful.  Eve hatched out 3 chicks, and the juggling of pens for all the many different chicks and chickens began to get complicated as they all grew.  We separated the ewes from the ram, goat, and Anya (the LGD) since it was Anya’s first lambing season and we didn’t want her to accidentally kill a newborn lamb.  Mtn Man finished spinning up the yarn from Fergus and Fiona’s 2019 fleece, and I tried my hand at dyeing Fiona’s yarn for the first time ever.  My parents moved in, with my Dad in his last few months of life.  My sister and I helped my mom care for him.  We ended the month with Fiona giving birth to her ram lamb on the 31st.

June started with Rose giving birth to huge twin lambs on June 1st.  It was a complicated delivery that I had to help with because both lambs were mal-positioned, and then their first week of life was touch and go because the ram lamb got pneumonia and Rose’s milk didn’t come in very quickly so we were supplementing them with bottles.  By three weeks of age both the ewe lamb and the ram lamb were thriving and doing well.  We continued to have cold weather, including two frosts over night that ended up killing some of our vegetable garden.  Anya integrated herself in with the lambs by breaking through the fence because she was so interested in being with the mamas and lambs.  She did great and was very safe with the lambs.  We did a lot more shuffling around of chickens, sold some pullets & hens, and butchered a lot of cockerels.  We realized the goat was copper deficient and we bolused her with a slow release copper capsule.  We found out, unfortunately, that our son’s rare bile duct/liver disorder had not been fixed back in April as we had been told and it reared it’s ugly head again, landing us back with tests, doctor appointments, and hospitals.

In July we were busy with visitors and medical appointments.  We headed in for yet another emergency surgery for Mr. Smiles, which was his 12th surgery overall and his 4th this year – but who’s counting?  The homestead brought us comfort through the hard times though, and sitting out enjoying the livestock and working in the garden is always good emotional therapy.  We still managed to be productive around the farm, butchering some more chickens, getting the chickens sorted into new pens and organized for future breeding plans, making goat cheese, braiding a wool rug, and getting out my spinning wheel for the first time in 4 years.  We saw results from the goat copper bolus, as Pansy began to gain weight and her coat condition improved immensely.   The garden continued to progress, though still behind about 3 weeks from usual due to the cold spring weather.  As the lambs grew and their moms were less protective, Anya struggled with being too rambunctious with them in play and had to be moved to the back pen with the ram.

August brought the start of school and the start of harvest.  We sold 4 sheep and purchased our first dairy sheep.  We sold our large floor loom and purchased a smaller one that fit nicely in our living room.  Mr. Smiles had his 13th surgery, the most major surgery he has had to date at 7.5 hours long, and my father, who was living with us, passed away that same day.  The surgery was an immense success and the recovery was much better than anyone had expected.  It looks like his bile duct/liver issue is now fixed (as of December 31), and though he might have more complications farther down the road, for the meantime he should be stable.

September was hard.  We were busy with Mr. Smiles’ recovery, grieving my father’s death, and planning, preparing, and hosting his funeral.  We were also trying to continue with our homestead plans and projects.  We added 4 more dairy sheep to the flock, and our best broody hen, Eve, set another clutch and hatched out 6 adorable chicks.

October was full of “normal” fall homestead work for us, which was so wonderful after such an “abnormal” and difficult summer season.  We built about 2/3 of the raised bed boxes for our second veggie garden.  We moved the kids playhouse out of the back yard and turned it into a gardening shed, and then built a retaining wall in the area where the playhouse used to be that will be Mr. Smiles new safe, flat, outdoor play area next summer.  We hauled and chopped a lot of firewood, and canned quite a bit of produce from our own property, and some purchased as well.  I began the adventure of learning how to weave, and also finished several knitting projects.  We got our first snow of 6 inches and a huge drop in temperatures.  Our old barn cat, Jerry, retired in the house and became our indoor kitty.  We found out that the eye surgery that was done in conjunction with Mr. Smiles’ bile duct/liver surgery back in August was not successful and decided to wait until spring to do another eye surgery because our family desperately needed a break from surgery and hospitalization, as did Mr. Smiles.  The bile duct/liver part of the surgery was still looking very good and successful.

In November we took our milk goat, Pansy, to the breeder and left her there to get bred.  We also started our first-ever sheep breeding season with two rams.  We separated the ewes up with the two rams and were excited to see how it went.  Unfortunately, our older ram, Fergus, had trouble with the new situation and also was coming into full maturity and thus started having aggressive behavior with humans and the ewes.  We struggled into December trying to keep everyone safe, get the ewes bred, and decide what to do with Fergus.  I continued to enjoy weaving and finished more weaving projects.  Sunshine and I did a massive go-through and clean-out of the house.  We did a lot more chopping and stacking firewood for the winter, and had quite a bit of snow and cold weather.  The weather pushed us to indoor projects and we tore out the master bathroom shower.

December brought Christmas candy making, Advent, and more work, but also relaxation and fun family time together.  We continued to struggle with the ram aggression issue and it all came to a head in one crazy dangerous interaction.  We ended up butchering our wool ram, Fergus because of his aggression.  It was hard, but the peacefulness of the barnyard afterwards re-affirmed our decision.  We used our trap nests to figure out which hens were laying and which weren’t, and did our last chicken butchering of the year.  Little Miss and I started trying our hand at learning the art of making aged cheeses and we used an old fridge to make a cheese cave.  We made huge batches of ketchup and BBQ sauce and canned them for our family use.  We continued to dig ourselves out of the snow that kept falling throughout the month.  Lastly, we finished the remodel of the master bathroom shower.

Looking back on this year is kind of hard for us.  Between Mr. Smiles having 5 surgeries this year, my father living with us for the last 3 months of his life and passing away, plus many other challenges that I didn’t share on the blog, it was by far the hardest year of our lives.  But we can also see SO many blessings, gifts, and miracles laced through it all.  God really carried us through, and leaning on Him was the only possible way I could handle it.  The homestead continued to be one of the blessings as it brought us emotional therapy and kept us busy so we didn’t have too much time to sit and stew over all the stresses.  And despite all the crazy life things we were going through separate from the homestead, we still had a pretty darn productive year providing food for our family.  For that we are very grateful.

Sunday Homestead Update – Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!  We hope you all have a wonderful week of celebrating with those close to you.

This last week has been more laid-back for us than the previous very full weeks.  But still pretty full.

Shower Remodel

Mtn Man has been working hard to get the shower remodel done for us before Christmas.  He is very close, just need to grout and seal it, and then install the door.  I will share pics when it is done.

Heritage Arts

I am scrambling to finish my last Christmas present – socks for Braveheart.  Hopefully I will get them off the needles in time.

The girls finished their hat order – ten hats and one baby blanket completed and sent off.  They all turned out so great, we are going to copy some of them for our own use because we liked them so much.

Cheesemaking

Little Miss and I tried another aged cheese this week – Stirred-Curd Cheddar.  So now there are 3 cheeses in the cheese cave.  One of these days I will get around to doing a full post on what we have learned so far with our aged cheesemaking adventure.

Chickens

The chickens have all settled well since the butchering and switch around.  Everyone is happy and they have figured out their pecking order, so that is nice.

We will be starting the incubation on Christmas Eve so that the hatch will line up with our chicks arriving in January so we can brood them together.  We have collected eggs from 3 specific hens by trap nesting them.  One is our 4-year-old that we hatched here at WCF.  She is still laying 4 eggs a week, in winter, at age 4.  So we definitely want some of her genetics (plus she is blue, which is my fave color of chicken).  We are also collecting from our other blue hen, who is laying very well right now, and from our two green egg-laying hens – because they are laying well through winter and to add more color to our egg cartons and more blue feather genetics to our flock.  We currently have 20 eggs to set, there should be a few more before Tuesday.

Sheep

We are still waiting for Maggie to come into heat.  We had planned to pull the ram out Christmas Eve so that we didn’t have later lambs because Young Man is graduating this spring and we didn’t want lambing to interfere with that.  But we would really like to leave the ram with them to confirm that Daisy and Blue are pregnant. If they are in  the same pen with him we will be able to tell if they go back into heat.  If they don’t go back into heat then they are pregnant.  It will save us having to blood test, ultrasound, or not know if they took.  So we are trying to decide how we want to manage this situation.  I think we will probably just leave him with them, and if Maggie lines up with graduation then we will just close her in the jug and let her lamb on her own.  We like to be there when our lambs are born, in case they need any help (we have had to rearrange lambs and kids in-utero during labor before because they were stuck).  But a lot of sheep lamb on their own just fine and we are probably a little too involved anyway and need to relax about this some more.

Jerry and Hazel

Jerry has decided that Hazel’s crate is his new favorite place to be in the mornings.  Hazel is not too sure about this new plan.  But I fully expect, based on their previous behavior, that they will be cuddling in there together in no time.

Sunday Homestead Update

Its snowing again here in the Rockies!  But not terribly cold, so that is nice.

The homestead has been very productive the last couple of weeks despite the ram issues.  Since all I shared about last week was the ram rollercoaster, I have a lot of other things to get caught up on this week.

Busy in the Farm Kitchen

We spent so much time in the kitchen this week.  In fact, I barely left it at all from Monday through Thursday.

We made turkey stock from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass and froze it.  We ended up with about 8 Qts of stock.  We also made mutton stock from half of the long bones from butchering Fergus.  The other half of the bones we froze to make more stock in the future.  We used some of the stock plus some meat to make a delicious mutton stew.  Then, I made chicken stock with the rooster carcass.  So we have a lot of stock put up now.

We have quite a bit of experience making all different soft cheeses, but we have never tried our hand at aged cheeses.  Since we will hopefully have an abundance of sheep and goat milk this spring, Little Miss and I decided to practice some aged cheeses with store-bought milk this winter so we kind of had the hang of it before we start working with our own raw milk.  We started that adventure this week.

We made two rounds of the same recipe of colby cheese.  We made several learning mistakes the first try, so we wanted to try again right away and fix the mistakes to help us learn more and cement it better in our brains.  Plus, if the first one didn’t turn out well, we are hopeful the second did.  We will know in about 6 weeks.

We converted a little fridge into a “cheese cave” – although we can’t get it to hold exactly the temp we are going for, but it is closer than any other option at this point.  We are researching ways to get it closer to the temp and humidity we want and I will share what we learn.

We have been making our own ketchup and BBQ sauce for a few years now.  We make huge batches and can it so it lasts about 6-9 months before we use it all up and need to make more.  We made both of these this week.  We ended up with 11 Qts of ketchup, plus the ketchup needed to make the BBQ sauce (12 cups!).  We made 11 pts of BBQ sauce.  It feels good to have that stocked back up – and it tastes great too!

I also tried two new dinner recipes this week.  One was a tuna noodle casserole that was a hit with everyone.  The second was me trying to copy the creamy artichoke Parmesan soup that Mtn Man and I had at a fancy restaurant on our romantic getaway last week.  It turned out just as good as the restaurant and everyone loved it too!  Two for two with new recipes!

Sensory Play Bins

I made some sensory play bins for Mr. Smiles.  He loves them and they are great for neurological development, and motor development, and help with sensory issues.  Braveheart and Little Miss have been enjoying playing in them too.  Currently, I have been working with Mr. Smiles with the rice bin.  I take his foam bath letters and bury them and he digs them out and says their sound and then re-buries them.  It can definitely be messy, but we are working on “keep the rice in the bin” and he is doing very well with it.

Chickens

We are closing in on the last chicken butchering of the year.  Eve’s 6 chicks are coming up on 16 weeks old and at least 3 of them are roosters that need to be butchered.  In addition, since we have had a very low number of eggs compared to our numbers of hens, we decided to trap nest this week to figure out who is laying and who is not.

We shared our trap nest design in this post back in 2013.  Over the years the system has worn out and and isn’t working as well, so we re-vamped it to use dowel props to hold the doors open for entry.  As the chicken pushes in the dowel falls and the door falls behind them.  Our smallest hen doesn’t get trapped by this system, but the rest do, so we are happy with it.  After trapping for a week we found out who was not laying and made decisions.  We ended up butchering 7 hens (in addition to the roo who was being aggressive last week, see below).  Then we moved the other roo and the group of 6 young birds, plus 3 hens that had been put in the lower coop last summer because of bullying all in with the main flock up in the upper coop.  We find that the shuffling goes better if we do it all at once, so pulling out those 7 hens for butcher, and then adding in the roo plus 6 young ones and 3 other hens, causes a big enough stir to keep the bullying to a minimum during the transition.

We also placed a layer chick order this week.  We will have some laying hen chicks coming our way in January to re-stock the flock.  We are also planning an incubation to line up with the order arriving so we will be brooding both groups at the same time.

It was a week for aggressive males I guess, as one of our roosters, Boaz, decided to get aggressive this week too (in addition to the ram).  So he was butchered, brined, and put in the freezer.  Ben continues to be a docile rooster – I hope it stays that way – we have had enough male aggression to last a good long time.

Sheep

Fiona did not come into heat again, so we now have two ewes confirmed pregnant (Autumn and Fiona).  Daisy has been bred but it hasn’t been long enough yet to confirm it.  Blue was bred this week by Remi, so in three weeks we will know if she settled.  Maggie still has not come into her first heat and thus has not been bred.  The flock is so very peaceful now that Fergus is gone.  It is sad, but it sure is nice to go back out to a peaceful barnyard again.  We haven’t had that in over a month now and we didn’t realize how much stress it was causing until the stress was gone.  Everyone is a lot happier now.

Hazel and Jerry

It seems that I end every post lately with a picture of these two, but I just can’t help it, their cuddling is getting cuter and cuter each week.  They started out weeks ago laying in proximity of each other, then next to each other, then touching backs or legs, then spooning, then Jerry draped over Hazel’s legs, and now this:

They are so adorable with each other!

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!

Goat

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.

Sheep

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.

Sheep

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.