Sunday Homestead Update

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

Knitting

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

Dog Yarn?

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

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

Snow

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

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

Chickens

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

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

Sewing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Escape!

With a family of 7, juggling two businesses, a homestead, homeschooling, 4H, and many other outside activities, things can sometimes get overlooked, and accidents happen.

This week the barnyard gate was accidentally left unlatched.  Closed, but not latched.  At some point the wind blew it open enough that the sheep saw their opportunity for a little get-away.  They headed out into the world, which around here means forest and mountains, as well as roads and neighbors.  Somehow the gate closed before little Daffodil could follow the flock, and Fergus was in his own pen so he couldn’t follow either.  Both of them started bleating desperately for the rest of the flock.  Anya was also closed in her own pen, so she couldn’t do anything but bark like crazy.

Meanwhile, I was busy juggling life in the house, kids, school, etc.  I heard the barking but couldn’t stop right away to go see what was up.  Sunshine loaded up Mr. Smiles into his stroller to go for a walk and as she headed out the door she saw the flock on the opposite side of our property.  When they saw her they ran back towards the barn (thank goodness!).  She ran inside, yelling for help, and the older kids and I headed out.

Lately we have seen both bears and coyotes on our property during daylight hours, so the first thing I was worried about was predators.  They were headed up the mountain behind the property, so there wasn’t currently risk of the road.  I ran straight to the barn and got a bucket of grain.  The sheep haven’t had grain since spring – we only feed it during pregnancy and lactation.  So when I headed up the hill behind the barn toward the flock, shaking the bucket, at first they were not at all interested.  They were clearly riled up, and they were all just following Fiona, the head ewe, wherever she went.

Fiona looked at me as I was shaking the bucket, with no interest at all and went back to nibbling on a currant bush.  Then, like in a cartoon, a lightbulb went on above her head as she remembered what grain is, and she suddenly turned and ran full speed straight for me.  The rest of the flock followed, and, with a few sheep heads jammed into the bucket of grain, I lured them back into the barn and then into the barnyard.

Whew, situation handled, crisis averted.

Always an adventure!

 

Homestead Update – We are Back

It has been over a month now, a very long, VERY long month.  But here we are, still pressing on and finding the blessings in the everyday ups and downs that are life.  Mr. Smiles is not out of the woods yet medically, but we have a reprieve from doctors and hospitals for awhile.

It is fall and I LOVE fall in the Rockies.  The weather is crisp but still warm enough for jeans and a t-shirt.  The smell is beautiful, and the views are, as always, impressive.  Even the sounds of fall are great – especially the elk bugling.

Garden

The harvest has been bountiful.  We have been harvesting, canning, and freezing consistently for the last month.  Our first frost came through, later than usual, but still it meant we had to harvest all the beans and tomatoes.  The basement has tables full of green tomatoes that will ripen for us over the next few months and we canned all the green (purple) beans.  Our experimental drying beans produced well and we are looking forward to growing more in future years.

Because we have such a short growing season (approx 10 weeks frost to frost), we have to harvest our tomatoes green right before the first frost, and let them ripen in the cool basement.  They will ripen over the next few months and still taste just as good as fresh from the garden!  The first year they all ripened within about a month of picking, but we have been purposefully breeding a long-keeping variety of tomatoes and saving the seeds from the longest keeping ones to lengthen how long they last each year.  Last year in December we were eating “fresh” tomatoes that had been harvested from the garden in September and had taken that long to ripen.  The flavor was still amazing and we are hoping to continue to extend the length of time they keep so we can eat fresh tomatoes farther and farther into the winter.  It will be interesting to see how long they last this year.

We also have enjoyed eating fried green tomatoes a few times this month as well.

The new onion patch we built in the spring really paid off.  We harvested more than 30 lbs of big beautiful onions.  We braided some of them and hung them in the basement.  Others are stored in a crate in the basement and we have been using them a lot for cooking.  We are making more changes to the new onion patch this fall and next spring to make it even better.  More on that project later.

The carrots, turnips, beets, lettuce, peas, and spinach are still going strong in the garden.

The grape harvest this year was much bigger than ever before at 2 lbs.  Still not enough for a batch of jelly, but we are hopeful now that the vine is established we will be able to get more and more.

We harvested a lot of herbs before the frost as well, and they are hung all over the house drying.  Once dry we will crush them up and store them in jars, using them through the winter to season our food.

Bears

Fall does mean bear trouble in our area as the bears start to prepare for hibernation.  Every year we have barn break-in attempts made by bears, last year was the worst with 8 attempts between Sept-Nov.  They were stopped only by the barking of our LGD, Tundra, that woke us so we could chase the bear off.  Now that Tundra is dead, our new LGD, Anya, is holding down the fort.  We have been very surprised to have no attempts at all made on the barn this year by the bears.  We are not sure what it is that is different and making them not even try…is it Anya’s larger size and larger bark?  We are not sure but we are happy about it.

Unfortunately, the bears have been breaking into cars on our property.  In our area we have multiple generations of garbage-fed bears that don’t know how to eat naturally and only know how to eat from humans.  Last year they finally implemented a law forcing people to lock up their trash, which is good, but a bit too-little-too-late.  Now the bears are so desperate for food they are breaking into homes and cars because they can’t get trash from dumpsters anymore.  If a vehicle is left unlocked they will open it up and check it out, even if there isn’t any food in it.  They can actually operate the door handles.  And even when a car is locked they will often try to open it and leave nasty scratches all over the door.  Also, a friend left their car window cracked an inch while parked on our property over night and the bear grabbed it and busted it out.

Lastly, and definitely the least of the bear troubles, was a bear that decided to try out some of our squash.  Apparently it didn’t fit his tastes as he left it on the ground after tasting it.

Chickens

All the pullets are now laying and we are enjoying bountiful fresh eggs.

One of the two roosters we kept for breeding roos is getting pretty aggressive, so we will likely be butchering him soon and just keep the one.

One of the new laying pullets, a Partridge Chantecler named Alice, decided she wanted to set right away as soon as she started laying.  So we went ahead and gave her 7 eggs since the roos were mature and we had fertile eggs.  All seven were fertile and 6 of them hatched!  One died in the first day or so, which is not uncommon, so we have 5 adorable chicks with their mama hen in the barn now.

Sheep

We have separated the ram off from the ewes until November when we want them to breed.  He hasn’t shown signs of being mature enough yet, but we are hoping that he will be ready in the next month or so and we don’t want winter lambs being born.

I caught this pic of one of the chickens “grooming” the sheep by picking seeds out of the wool.  They do that often and I love it.

More updates coming later this week…

Sunday Homestead Update

This will be our last update for awhile.  Mr. Smiles is having another surgery and hospital stay, so farm life will be heading to the back burner for awhile while we spend our time caring for our family through this hard time.

We have been scrambling to get things in order around here so that everything will be as low-maintenance as possible during this.  Our friends and family are stepping in to help us with everything, which is such a blessing.

Barn Flood Aftermath

It has continued to rain quite a bit, but thankfully no more flood damage.  We have dug several new ditches around the property to try to force the water away from buildings and down the mountainside.

We also decided to re-do the barn floor with cement pavers.  We bought the first load and have started setting them.  We have been putting a few in here and there as we find time in all the busy-ness right now.

Goats

Our friends took the goats and are boarding them for us until this hospital stuff is all over.  They will milk them for us, which will take a huge load off of the chores around the farm.

Sheep

We had two sheep we were planning to butcher later this fall, but we decided to go ahead and get one butchered now so that there were less animals to care for, and we didn’t have to try to squeeze it in later if things get rougher.  We got 26 lbs of meat, 12 lbs of dog food, and stock bones.  We started making the stock yesterday and will can it soon.

Making stock is really easy and it is so delicious and nutritious.  We put the bones on a broiling pan and brown them in the oven for about half and hour.

Then we add some veggies: carrots, onions, and celery – these were fresh from the garden!

We put it back in the oven until the veggies are brown.  Then we put all the bones and veggies, plus the drippings, and some herbs (some of those were fresh from the garden too!)

into a big pot with some water and simmer it for several hours.  Strain it and cool it, then skim the fat and pressure-can the stock.  It will be nice to have some more lamb stock in the pantry for this winter.  And it is exciting that the only things in it not from our homestead are the peppercorns and the bay leaf.

Chickens

The chickens are in two separate pens, but there isn’t anything we can do about it at this point.  We have the upper coop and pen, which has all the hens and pullets, plus the two roosters in it.  Those chickens also have access to free range in the barnyard.

Eve and her three chicks are still in the grow-out pen in the barn.  It will be a few more weeks before she is done raising them and we can figure out the plan for what to do then.  For now, to make it easier to care for everyone, we are training them (or having Eve, their mama hen train them) on a drip waterer.  It is much cleaner and doesn’t have to be filled as often.  The other pen of chickens is already on a drip waterer, the chicks just hadn’t learned to use one yet.

That will make chicken care as low-maintenance as possible.

Garden

We have been harvesting and putting-up all that is ready to harvest in the garden.

Celery, beet greens, beets, cabbage sprouts, lettuce, spinach, and carrots.  We ate a lot fresh, and then froze the extra carrots and celery for soups and stews this winter.

We also got green beans and canned them.

Our first frost is likely to happen during all this craziness, but there isn’t much we can do except take it as it comes.  Hopefully we, or our friends who are helping us around the farm, will be around to quickly harvest all the green tomatoes and the last of the beans right before the frost hits so we don’t lose that part of the harvest.

Knitting

I have been, surprisingly, getting a lot of knitting done during this busy time.  When I am anxious it makes me feel better to put my hands to some knitting.  So whenever I sit down to rest for a few minutes, or am waiting in the waiting room at yet-another doctor’s appointment, or am on the long drive to the specialists’ offices, I have been knitting.  I have a pair of socks, a shawl, and a hooded scarf all on the needles right now.

 

Please keep our family in your prayers.  This is Mr. Smiles’ 6th surgery in his very short 2 years of life.  Every time we have to do a surgery and hospital stay it is very difficult on him, as well as our whole family.  Our experience thus far does make it a little easier to prepare ourselves, and the homestead, to try to make it as easy as possible to get through.  But it is still quite a trial for all of us.

I hope to be back to posting later this fall with all things autumn-in-the-Rockies…my favorite time of year!

Barn Flood

What started out as a rainstorm the other day turned into a gully-washer.  The rain was coming down so fast and hard that the gutters couldn’t even hold it and there were waterfalls coming off every roof.  Add to that the fact that we live on a mountainside, and thus all the water up the mountain was coming at us.  We ended up with flooding in the barn and in the mud room in our house.

None of the animals were harmed – we got up to the barn in time to find the mama hen and baby chicks standing in 2 inches of rising water, and we quickly moved them to “higher ground.”  Thankfully, all our hay is up in lofts, so it didn’t get damaged either.  But we had about 6 inches of standing water in the barn at the high point of it all.  And about 3 inches of water in our mud room.

During the chaos I was too busy trying to deal with everything to take pics, but as everything started receding I got some photos.

That dog crate is up on 2x4s, and the wood floor under the 2x4s has 2×4 framing under it sitting on the dirt ground…so you have some perspective.

 

You can see the water line on the walls.

The mud room floor is tile, and we were able to vacuum the water out quickly with a shop vac, so there wasn’t damage there, just some water marks to parts of the walls.

The stalls are just dirt floor, and then there are sections of the barn floor that are cement paving stones, and sections that are wood flooring.  5 years of hay has been falling through the cracks in the wood floor, so we had to rip up all that floor in order to clean out all the wet hay and prevent mold.

It took hours to get everything dealt with and start the drying process.

We are now deciding what to do with the barn floor…leave it dirt, put down the wood again (which would be very difficult), or get paving stones and do the whole floor in paving stones.