Sunday Homestead Update – Treasure

We had an amazing find this week – a vintage, but still in excellent working order, cream separator. We haven’t had a chance to use it yet, but will definitely be trying it out this week. The separator wasn’t the only treasure…the people we bought it from were awesome and taught us how to use it and said we could call if we need help with it. Such a treasure.

Not only that, but they had a few apple trees that were overflowing with apples and they let us pick a bunch and take them and have invited us to come get more. So we have started in on them and will be busy canning applesauce, apples in honey syrup, and crabapple jelly this coming week. What a blessing!

Sheep

The new sheep are settling in. We did have a few incidents this last week with them getting their heads stuck through the fence reaching for plants through the fence, even though they had hay in their feeder. We had to cut the fence to free them. Thankfully, none were injured by it, but we did have to re-wire the fence. They are still growing, so in a couple of months their heads wont fit through those holes anymore. Meanwhile, we wired that section of fence with 2×4 wire, instead of the 6×6 field fence we have been using. We also decided to let them start pasturing on a small pen behind their barn. It is thoroughly overgrown, but they have been picking away at it.

Ducks

Ginger the Muscovy, who was attacked last week by some of the other Muscovy ducks, healed up and we put her back in with the group. The female and male who attacked her are still living with the Welsh Harlequins and doing fine. Once the Muscovies are butcher weight we will butcher the males (except one for breeding) and integrate all the ducks to live together in one of the pens.

Workshop

As I mentioned last week, the future workshop was a mess of tools and boxes that we hoped to someday get set up as a nice workshop with benches and tools all organized and useable. We decided to surprise Daniel for his birthday and get it set up. It was a lot of work, but oh-so-worth-it! He now has a useable workshop and all his tools are organized and accessible.

More Books

As I said in my last post, we are buried in books, both new ones from the library, and ones from our own homestead library that we have read previously. We are digging in and trying to learn how to be successful bringing life back to the farm we just moved to. Well this week we added a couple more to the pile we are reading from the library…

Pastured Poultry Profits, by Joel Salatin, The Beginner’s Guide to Beekeeping, by Daniel and Samantha Johnson, and Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden, by Jessica Walliser.

We are working on our plans for next year and how we will be managing our intensive grazing situation with both the hoofstock, and poultry. The book by Joel Salatin is helping us get new ideas for that.

Our entire property is out of balance. It was neglected for a long time and not managed in a way that promoted balance. So our pest bug situation is very unnaturally out of balance. We are studying ways to work on that without the use of pesticides and are really enjoying the beneficial bugs book.

And lastly….we have long thought about getting bees, but our location in the Rockies would have made it very difficult to do it successfully. So now that we are in a new location I am just barely starting to dip my toes into the shallow end of the pool of considering whether this is a new project we would like to take on next spring or not.

So there continues to be a lot of reading going on!

Read it Again

There are so many really great books on homesteading. We have built our collection over the years and have a constant wish list of ones we want to add. We use our public library regularly to access books as well. Often, the books we are adding to our wish list are ones we borrowed from the library and decided would be a good addition to our homestead library.

Now that we have moved to a completely new microclimate and new farm situation, we have been buried in books trying to learn ways to be successful in our new location.

First, we are reading some of our old favorites, with a new perspective. One of my all-time favorite books on raising chickens is Harvey Ussery’s “The Small-Scale Poultry Flock.”

I first read this book back in 2012 and it helped shape our methods for raising our chickens at our 3-acre mountain homestead. Now that we are living on 30 acres in the High Plains, I am seeing a lot of different methods that we can utilize in our new location that we couldn’t use previously. Re-reading the book with a new perspective, a new location, and 9 years later, makes it almost like reading it for the first time. I am excited to learn from a new angle.

“The Have-More Plan,” is another one of my favorites. Reading now with so much more space than we used to have is definitely making me see it with different eyes.

In addition to reading some of our old favorites, we are digging into some new ones we have never read before.

“Growing Food God’s Way,” by David Devine.

Growing Food God's Way: How Paul Gautschi Takes Us Back to Eden and Beyond by [David Devine, Joel Salatin, Paul Gautschi]

The challenges we are facing with gardening here are completely different than what we faced in the mountains. We generally use a combination of gardening methods, and now with new challenges we are anxious to learn new methods that might help us be successful as we work to overcome those things and have a productive garden.

We are also studying intensive grazing methods to bring life back to our pastures and land. The current book we are reading about that topic is “Managing Pasture” by Dale Strickler.

Managing Pasture: A Complete Guide to Building Healthy Pasture for Grass-Based Meat & Dairy Animals by [Dale Strickler]

I have also been expanding my fermenting knowledge and skills, and even though I am not a beginner fermenter, I am enjoying the basic and easy ideas in “Fermentation for Beginners” by Drake Press as I experiment with some new-to-us ferments.

Fermentation for Beginners: The Step-by-Step Guide to Fermentation and Probiotic Foods by [Drakes Press]

To see some of our favorite homesteading books check out our Homestead Library.

What is in your homestead library? What is your favorite homesteading book? Or what are you reading about homesteading right now? Please share down in the comments…we are always looking for another great homesteading book!

Sunday Homestead Update – Quarantine

No, we are not quarantined in the way that you are thinking. Interesting that about 18 months ago the word quarantine brought up very different thoughts than it does now. Well, those older images of quarantine are the ones that fit what is going on at our homestead.

Sheep

We added new sheep to the farm this week and we are keeping them quarantined for 3 weeks to be sure not to share any illnesses with the existing flock. At our previous farm we didn’t have space for proper quarantine, and more than once it led to close calls and worries about disease transmission from new animals brought to the farm. Thankfully, here we have two different loafing sheds and pens that are on opposite sides of the farm. Normally, we have the ewes and does in one, and the rams in the other. But this week we set up a pen over in the ewe barn area for the rams to live in temporarily, while the new sheep quarantine over in the ram barn. They arrived late last night, thus the dark picture.

These sheep are from a farm in Iowa and are registered Bluefaced Leicester (BFL). BFL fleece is a longwool that has surprising fineness and softness to it. It has a nice spring to the locks and is very versatile due to the fact that it is not coarse, yet is is very durable. It also has such a nice luster that shows through well in both the raw fleece and in the finished products made with it. Lastly, it blends well in the mill, and the BFL crosses well when breeding it to finewool breeds.

We have used BFLs in our breeding program before and have always really enjoyed the fiber and the fiber on the cross-breeds as well. We are now excited to start breeding purebred BFLs at our farm, focusing on beautiful luster, length and softness of the fiber. We will also be crossing them over some of our other wool sheep to create cross-breeds with excellent fleece qualities of length and softness.

Guinea Keets

To say that guinea keets are “flighty” is quite the understatement. These birds are SO wild and crazy and not at all tame. All chicks (from chickens) are a bit skittish at a month old, but these guys are nothing like that. They are so very very skittish that it makes it difficult to take care of them.

We were hoping to have the guineas moved out to their permanent house by about 2-3 weeks of age. It is plenty warm out, and they feather out pretty quickly. But, life happens, and the house still isn’t done as they clicked past 4 weeks of age. They haven’t outgrown the brooder quite yet, and have enough space. However, caring for them in the brooder has become nearly impossible due to their “flighty-ness” and the design of our brooder. It is a large trough, and it has a lid over the whole thing that is wood framing with wire mesh. It has always worked great for chicken chicks. The problem with the keets is that the entire lid has to be lifted in order to feed and water them, and when it is lifted they all freak out and start flying around. We have been able to manage it, until this week, when half of them escaped from the brooder.

The brooder is currently being housed in what will in the future be our workshop. But right now it is just the place we store all the tools and stuff that we want in the workshop eventually. We dream about it being set up nicely someday with workbenches around all three walls and shelves and pegboards will all the tools nicely hung up and organized and accessible. But right now it is a huge mess of tools and such strewn about and piled on each other. Now, let’s set 4 keets free into that mess. Sigh. Catching them was….an experience.

Needless to say, work on the keet house was moved to the top of the list and we rushed to get it at least dried-in and able to house them.

Doesn’t look like much, but we will be finishing the siding and roofing, and adding an exterior pen soon.

Then came the problem of how to get the keets out there. Lifting the lid of the brooder would just let them all free into the future workshop again. But the brooder was too large to carry out to the keet house (didn’t fit through the doorways unless it is turned on its side). Thankfully, many hands made it so we could hold up the lid and not let any escape as we caught them and put them in a crate. The move went smoothly and they now live in their house.

Duck Attack

The electric fences are doing a great job of protecting the ducks from predators. But this week the ducks began attacking one of their own. We have heard of it before, but have never experienced it first-hand in all the years we have kept poultry, at least not to this degree. We had just moved the keets to their house and we heard a duck screaming. Little Miss went to check it out and found that two of the males and one female Muscovy were attacking another female and there was blood flying everywhere. She yelled and went in and saved the female. It looks like a little bit of feather picking at the new wing feathers coming in escalated to a bloody battle. Her wing had no feathers left and was bleeding quite a bit.

We sat there trying to decide what to do. Cull the attackers? Cull the injured one? How could we keep them all? We don’t have many female Muscovy in this group and thus did not want to cull a female, but the injured one was female, as was one of the attackers. We decided to put Ginger (the injured one) into the brooder the keets just evacuated so she could heal up….

I don’t think that brooder is ever going to be empty, just when we think we can put it away for the season, someone else needs it – first the ducklings, then the keets, now its a hospital room…

Anyway, then we decided to move the three that attacked her over in with the Welsh Harlequins because the Welsh are bigger and more mature, fully feathered, and it would be their territory, so we figured that would take the attackers down a notch and stop the behavior. We want them all integrated eventually, and we will be butchering most of the males eventually as well. So we figured this would be the best option. Thus far all is well with the new set-up and everyone is doing fine. Ginger is healing up well and we are discussing how to get her integrated back in with the Muscovy group.

Back to School

We started a new school year this last week. Grades this year are PreK, 8th, 10th, and 12th. Can’t believe another one is about to graduate! Kids grow up so fast. Blink and you just might miss it.

Where are the Bears?

I lived in the Rocky Mountains pretty much my entire life, until our recent move to the High Plains. There are things about life that you don’t fully realize were an everyday part of your thoughts and actions until they are gone. I realized that dealing with bears was something I was used to from always living in the mountains. But until we moved, I didn’t realize HOW MUCH living with bears changed my thoughts and actions and were just a normal part of my existence. As we begin to turn the corner into fall, the void of bears on the High Plains is becoming even more evident as that is their most active time of the year. They keep coming to mind and I realize that they are not something I need to think about anymore.

  • In the mountains, trash is always locked up. And even then, you have the concern that bears will break in the garage to get it, or break the “bear-proof” dumpster to get it. We had both happen to us over the years. This is true from about March through November, but is especially true when they are preparing to hibernate in the fall.
  • Here on the plains our trash is not even kind-of locked up. We don’t even always close the dumpster. So strange.
  • In the mountains, bird feeders are brought in each evening, or hung where there is no way a bear can reach them.
  • On the plains we can feed the birds all we want, night or day…no issues.
  • In the mountains, all our livestock housing was built to be bear-proof. The doors, windows, and even roof and walls had to be as sturdy and tight as possible to keep our livestock from being bear food. Our friends had a bear rip the roof right off of their chicken coop like a sardine can and then killed all the chickens.
  • As we have been building new livestock housing down here on the plains, we keep finding ourselves making plans that are over-kill in the security department, and then realizing “there are no bears here, we don’t have to build it like that.”
  • Whenever exiting the house in the dark up in the mountains we were alert to the chance that there is a bear right there, or just around the corner. And during the fall we even had them in our yard during broad daylight. Night barn checks meant a big bright flashlight, and I would “talk” to the bears on my way to the barn to be sure that any bears would hear me and I would see them.
  • Down here on the plains, I catch myself starting to “talk” to the bears as I exit the house in the dark, and then realize I don’t need to be making sure they hear me and I see them. Because…they aren’t here.
  • In the mountains, specifically in certain towns where bears have become accustomed to eating from humans, we had to keep our cars and house locked at all times, with windows closed (car and house windows), otherwise a bear could (and would) break in. We had our cars broken into, and our camper as well, even though neither had a scrap of food in them. Our extended family had their home broken into and their kitchen destroyed by a bear. There was only one window on our house that we dared leave open at night to let in that beautiful mountain breeze, and that was because it was second story with no deck or way for a bear to climb up.
  • Down here on the plains, locking the car doors and house doors at all times is not an issue. Humans are more the worry, not bears. And we can leave the windows open and let a breeze blow through with no worries.

Speaking of breezes…where are the mountain breezes? Sigh. Still getting used to the new location. Pros and cons no matter where you live. I feel like I need to live a full year here and see all the seasons before I will really start to get used to it. Everything is still very new and different.

Sunday Homestead Update – In the Farm Kitchen

We have had a busy week in the farm kitchen.

Garden’s Bounty-

We did not get to the new farm in time to put in a garden this year. But God’s provision never ceases to amaze me. Our very wonderful neighbors have been bringing us a bag of garden-fresh produce each week from their church’s community garden. It is wonderful to have this blessing each week, especially since we don’t have a garden this year. We have been careful to be sure that it doesn’t go to waste. We have canned dill pickles, made salsa, made our favorite fun appetizer of tomato, basil, and mozzarella cheese (the cheese is homemade from the goats’ milk), made many veggie side dishes and salads for our dinners, dried herbs so we have them to use all winter, and are dabbling in fermenting summer squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. It feels amazing to get to enjoy the blessing of fresh garden produce even though we can’t have a garden right now.

Fermenting-

Our sauerkraut finished up its fermentation this week. It turned out SO delicious. We had a meal of sausage and sauerkraut, and then put the rest in the refrigerator to use over the coming weeks. We are going to start another batch this week. We all got a stomach bug and it wiped out our digestive systems, so we are trying to get as much good bacteria back in and flourishing as we can. We continue to make smoothies with our kefir as well.

As I said above, we have been trying our hand at fermenting cucumbers, zucchini, and summer squash. I tried two different recipes, one molded, and the other was too salty. So this week I reset and tried a recipe that is somewhat in between the two as far as salt-level goes. We will see how they turn out. A friend also gave us a scoby, so we are trying our hand at making kombucha for the first time. A lot of fermenting going on…both things we have done before and things we have never tried before.

Herbal Medicine-

Some of the people in our family have seasonal allergies. They have been much worse this year. Not sure if it is the new location, or what. They were using the herbal allergy glycerite I make and have quickly used it up, so this last week I made a new batch. They are going through it so fast that I will be making another batch this coming week so we have plenty to get through the season.

Dairy Products

As always, we have been making all the fresh, raw milk into dairy products. We make goat’s milk mozzarella every week, and the last few weeks it has also been a tradition to make ice cream so that we can have a special treat in the very hot summer temps. Additionally, we made queso blanco this week.

We have continued to just freeze the sheep milk because I haven’t figured out yet how I will be making hard, aged cheeses in our new kitchen. The way I used to make them was to heat the milk by setting the pot in hot water in the sink. So that is the method that has been successful for me over the years. The new house has a tiny sink and the cheese pot doesn’t fit in it. So we have been watching for a new (used) sink at ReStore and online so we can replace this one.