Sunday Homestead Update – Autumn

We had one day this last week that felt and smelled like autumn. It was wonderful! It was cool, with a nice breeze, but bright sunshine. The girls and I were able to spend some of the afternoon out on the back patio knitting and drinking hot tea – mmmm, yes – Autumn! It was nice to take a break from the busy-ness of farm life for a few hours and just enjoy time with each other. According to the weather reports, we should have even more days like that this coming week. So I guess autumn is officially here, just in time.

It definitely makes working on all the many things we are scrambling to get done a lot more comfortable when the weather is in the 70s, instead of the triple digits! We continue to plug away at the many many projects to get done before winter hits.

Poultry Barn

Phase one of the poultry barn build is underway. The barn will eventually have three indoor sections and several exterior pens. But for this first phase, to get us through this winter with the poultry we have now, we are just doing two sections and 2 exterior pens. This winter it will house the guineas and standard size chickens. The ducks will go in the house/pen that the chickens are currently occupying, and the bantam chickens will stay in their coop which we brought with us from our previous homestead.

Garden

We have started to build the garden for next year. We had planned to put it out near the poultry barn, but after watching the heat and sun cook all the plants in our container garden this summer, we decided the garden would fare better with some shade throughout the day. So we are putting it behind the mill. This will not only give it some afternoon shade, it will also mean less fences we need to build, and thus less money. The mill wall will be one side of it, and an existing wood privacy fence will be the other side. So we will only have to build two fences. At this point in our building-a-new-homestead-journey, anything that will save time and money is a huge plus. And we think the location will be better overall. The bantam chicken coop will also hook to the garden fence, making it so we can easily let the bantam hens out to work the soil in the garden when it is not growing.

We have been clearing the area of all the junk that was there, and leveling the surface since years of downspouts flooding it have left it a mess. Hoping to get part of the fence up this week after we finish leveling it.

Canning

The bounty of garden-fresh produce continues to come in from generous gardeners we have met that have too much to use themselves. What a blessing! I figured we would be completely skipping canning/preserving season this year since we didn’t have a garden, and yet here we are, canning and dehydrating and freezing like crazy. It is keeping us very busy, and we are very excited to have this blessing.

Quilting

I decided the best first-project for learning to use my treadle sewing machine would be a simple quilt with 4-inch squares. It will give me hundreds of start/stop opportunities on the machine, but still be nice simple straight lines, no backstitching, etc. I cut the fabric (a bunch of scraps) this last week and got started sewing it. I am already seeing a ton of improvement in my ability to use the machine and I am only about 1/4 of the way into the piecing process for this quilt. I am really enjoying using the machine and mastering the skills. Fun!

Sink Hole

A small sink hole showed up in our yard. It is about 4 ft. by 3 ft. and about 3 feet deep at its deepest spot. It is under the sidewalk. Strange. We think it has to do with an old tree that was by the sidewalk and was cut down before we moved in. It seems maybe the roots rotted and caused this? Not sure. But we have filled it in.

The smoke has cleared a lot with the shift in the weather and thus we have been able to see our beautiful mountain view a lot more the past few days. It has been wonderful! The sunsets over the mountains are breathtaking. My camera never catches it right, and definitely doesn’t show the true awesome-ness of it, but I still continue to try to photograph them.

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!

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.

Sunday Homestead Update – Use What You Have

Another scorcher of a week at the new property. But I think we are all beginning to acclimate and we still got a lot done.

Use What You Have

We have long wanted to be able to use a poultry tractor to graze our poultry, but it was unrealistic at our previous farm. The new farm is the perfect place to graze our poultry, and so building our first tractor was high on the priority list this summer. We ended up with an opportunity to get some ducks last week and jumped on it, so this week we got to work getting the tractor built.

There are so many designs for tractors (or any livestock housing for that matter). Our favorite way to do these things is to go online and look in books for all different ideas, tuck those in our heads, and then walk around the property looking at what we have as far as leftover supplies and “junk.” Then we build what we can with what we have.

That is exactly how we went about building this duck tractor. Steel scraps from the re-roofing of the house a couple years ago, PVC pipe, a roll of chicken wire, some plywood from a previous project, and leftover wheels from a wagon……we bought a few supplies to be able to make what we wanted, the rest were things we had around the farm.

The wheels are removeable so the tractor sits on the ground when not being moved.

Then we put electric chicken netting fence around the tractor to keep predators away at night. We can move the tractor twice before we have to move the fence, and we are finding it all goes quite quick and easy.

This is housing just to be used during the warm weather when we want them grazing and foraging. We will be building permanent housing to be used for winter. For now, the 4 Welsh Harlequins are in the tractor, since they are a bit older and have feathers. The Muscovy’s are still in the brooder until they get more feathers. We are working the tractor around the area we hope to make into the veggie garden for next year. They are grazing on the weeds and grass and eating the bugs, plus adding in their fertilizer. We have LONG wanted to try this out, so this is fun and exciting to see in action. Another tractor is already in the works to hold the Muscovy’s when they are ready, and to use for chickens in the future too.

Chickens

Our 8-year-old, excellent, broody mama-hen, Eve, wanted to set eggs again. This time, instead of giving her our fertile eggs, we gave her fake eggs and then purchased some chicks and put them under her after a couple of weeks. She accepted them beautifully, and now we have 8 chicks being raised by her.

Sheep and Goats

Seeing the sheep and goat on pasture just makes me smile. It is so satisfying. We always wanted to pasture our livestock, but it was not possible at our last farm. So it is a dream a long time coming to watch them eat their way around the property. The electric net fencing is working great. We move it every 4 days or so. They are getting “free” nutrition, and they are improving the soil in the pastures as they go. Win-win.

Heritage Arts

Summer generally is not a big heritage arts time for our family because we are outside so much. But with this super-hot weather, I am finding myself stuck inside more and thus have gotten back into my knitting and crochet projects. I finished the Shimmering Nights Poncho this week and I am very happy with it.

I used the yarn that Daniel made from Freya’s fleece. It is a 2-ply sport weight, and 100% Wensleydale wool. I love how Freya’s yarn keeps the same character that her beautiful locks have when they are on her. It is very drape-y and still looks a little curly.

It felt good to complete a project that has been in the works for awhile due to being set aside during the move.

Garden

Up in the high Rockies we did not deal with many garden pests. The High Plains is a completely different story. We have immense amounts of bugs all wanting to eat our garden. We used some hoop covers to protect some of our container garden, but this week we found that bugs killed our Red Kuri squash.

We found them on the Golden Nugget squash and the cucumber too. So we have covered all of them and are picking the bugs off twice a day in hopes that we can keep it under control and not have them die. We have also left the Red Kuri squash for now, in hopes it might be able to pull through and survive. Time will tell. But finding the bugs on the outside of the tents and finding less and less inside each day is promising. So hopefully the cucumber and Golden Nugget will make it, even if it is too late for the Red Kuri.

All this experience is keeping our minds going as we think and plan for our big veggie garden build for next spring. We are learning what it will take to be successful here, which is good so that we can really plan the garden more carefully and not have to make as many changes later. I am so glad we did some amount of gardening this year, despite the move, so we could see and experience what it is like while we plan the big garden. With the amount of bad bugs we are dealing with, I expect our garden will include a lot of pest control tents, which will also help with the bad hail storms we get out here. But managing them with the wind will be tricky.

The never-ending puzzle and adventure of homesteading! We love it!

Sunday Homestead Update: Weeds and Landscaping

Happy Independence Day! We are celebrating our first holiday since we settled in at the new farm. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were both consumed by the selling-the-house and moving stress, so this is really our first one settled. We are having fun making new memories in our new location.

Landscaping

Our current project continues to be weeding and landscaping the areas around the house.

The gravel areas have been neglected for years and thus there is a lot of weeding to do. We are trying to get it all done before they go to seed and dry out, which will just multiply our work in the future. One of the most troublesome weeds we are dealing with is what I think are referred to by a lot of people as “goat heads.” They are weeds that create these very prominent thorn seeds that get stuck in the bottom of your shoes, tires, and dogs’ feet (poor dogs!). So we are really wanting to remove all of those around the buildings so we can all walk in peace.

We have also done some pruning of the few trees we have. They are all more bushy than tree, but we are happy for whatever shade we can get and we are adding more and more trees. The ones that were here when we got here are, I believe, cottonwoods. They have a lot of dead branches and trunks mixed in with the live parts. And they have a lot of suckers at the base. We have been cutting out all the dead stuff.

Garden

Even though we don’t have time to get our big veggie garden up and going this year, we are still anxious to grow some food for ourselves. It has been such a part of our lives for so many years that it is hard to think about going without it. So we have continued adding on to the container garden as we find more containers in the junk around the farm and add them to the containers we already had growing and planted.

Each container has been planted, is sprouting, or has a growing plant in it. We have two types of squash, a tomato, a pepper, chives, valerian, comfrey, peas, strawberries, spinach, lilac, rhubarb, basil, rosemary, savory, cilantro, and thyme growing. We have also planted oregano, sage, lettuce, carrots, and some flowers. Next, I want to add nice gravel around the containers to clean up the area and keep the weeds down, and add a drip system to water it all.