Sunday Homestead Update – First, Mice…Now, Lice!

Last week I discussed our current infestation of mice, and now, this week, we found that our goats have lice.  Sigh.  How did our goats get lice?  We have not brought in any new goats (these lice are species-specific).  The only time they left the farm was in November when Pansy went to get bred.  I have contacted the breeder and she says none of hers have lice.  Strange.  Little Miss spends large amounts of time brushing and grooming and petting and loving on her goat, and definitely would have known if the goat had lice before now.  A few days after the doeling was born, Little Miss found one bug on her.  We checked her and mama over thoroughly and didn’t find anything else, so we didn’t think much of it.  Last week, Little Miss didn’t have time to brush and love on Pansy and baby Pearl much, so several days went by without the normal grooming.  Then, early this week, she went back to her grooming routine and found them both totally infested with lice.  Eeeeek!  and ICK!  Maybe Pansy had a low-grade infestation all along but the grooming kept it under control?  Maybe they got them from the wild deer and elk in the area? (the vet said that is not possible).  I just don’t get it, and that is frustrating because if we don’t know how they got them, how do we prevent it from happening again?

Pansy, wet from her lice treatment

Anyway…I did some research on the internet about goat lice, and man-oh-man this is one of those topics that everyone has their own opinion on and no one seems to agree and I feel like I can’t trust anything I am reading because everyone is so differing in their opinions.  So I decided to try something altogether different, but that my gut was telling me to do.  We have a natural spray that I have used for bug repellent before.  It is an off-label use.  The main ingredient is tea tree oil and our friend uses the spray as an udder wash on her dairy goats, as well as a bug spray for them, and has never had any issues with it.  It is safe for them, even though this use is definitely off-label.  I felt like I should try it out before we went to the usual vet treatments.  Little Miss and I sprayed both of them down and rubbed it well into their fur down to the skin (with a rubber glove on).  We did it at about 10am and we saw millions of lice.  That evening, at barn chore time, we examined them (in the dark of the barn) and could only find 1 moving lice.  The next morning, we sprayed them down and worked it to the skin again.  When we were doing that, we saw that there was a huge decrease in lice, exponentially less.  We are conitnuing the treatments every day or two.  The life cycle is 22 days, so we will just continue this way for awhile and hope that it works.

As far as the mouse infestation goes…we continue to catch 12-15 mice daily.  Every.  Single.  Day.  I find this crazy and don’t know how to get ahead of this issue.  It seems they are multiplying faster than we can catch them.  We will press on and hope that the numbers start decreasing soon.  One benefit of the mouse overpopulation is that the barn cats are so busy with the mice that they haven’t had the time or energy to bother the swallows.

Gardens

We had a couple of hard frosts this last week.  All but the newest 2 of the Gooseberry and Currant bushes had put on flowers.  So we blanketed the flowering ones to help keep the flowers alive and increase our harvest.

It worked well and everything survived.

That was likely our last frost, but we are still being careful with putting frost protection on anything we put out because last year we had a surprise frost June 9th.  We have continued to plant and transplant new veggies this week.  We have also been harvesting and using the rhubarb, chives, and asparagus.

The robin population is booming and they are eating our newly planted bean and pea seeds, as well as digging up the Medicinal Herb Garden in search of worms.  The Medicinal Herb Garden doesn’t start really sprouting until mid-June, and all those seeds went in in the fall.  So I am concerned all this robin digging is messing them all up and they wont sprout.  So we put bird netting over that garden.  The robins are none too pleased with the new scenario.  But hopefully we will have some herbs start sprouting in there soon.

Speaking of the Medicinal Herb Garden…that is where our apple trees are planted.  We planted two apple trees in there 2 years ago.  After the first winter, one had died down to the root stock, but started sending up branches from there.  We decided to let it do that.  This last winter was their second winter.  The one that had survived the first winter died down to the root stock, and the other one died BACK down to the root stock again.  It seems these varieties, even though they are supposedly able to survive our cold climate, can’t survive here.  And we have had two very mild winters in a row – so if they can’t handle that, they definitely won’t make it long-term.  So we are re-thinking the apple tree plans now.

Sheep

Votes are in and it was pretty clear what our new ram’s name is…MacDougal.  MacDougal is settling in very well.  He and Remi are living in the bachelor pen together.

Our Livestock Guardian Dog is struggling again this year with the lambs, like she did last year.  She is just about to turn 4-years-old and I think it continues to be a maturity thing.  When the lambs are tiny, and stay close to their moms, and the moms are very protective, she is fine with them.  In fact, she is excellent with them.  She will belly crawl over submissively to sniff them and check them out and respects the ewes.  But as they get bigger, and start to run and play, and the ewes are not very protective anymore, then she starts to get into trouble.  She can’t resist the running, bouncing, playing lambs (who could!?) and wants to run and play with them (heck, I want to run and play with them too!).  The problem is that she is 110 lbs of dog, and wants to play like a dog, and they are much smaller lambs, who play like lambs.  The main issue is that she grabs one of their back legs and holds it, while they run along.  She is gentle and doesn’t break the skin or anything, but this has led to some limping lambs, both last year and this year.  The limp goes away after a couple of days, but it is still not good.  So we have been spending extra time training with her this week and teaching her this is not OK.  And she has also had to spend some extra time living in the back pen with the males when we can’t be keeping an eye on the situation.  Overall, she is an amazing LGD, and we fully expect her to grow out of this and not have this issue every year.  The training this week has shut it down…for now…but we will keep an eye on things.

Is Marigold pregnant?  Or not?  We are not sure.  She is supposedly 10 days from her due date, but we are not seeing very clear signs to support this.  We are wondering if she didn’t take, or if she didn’t take and then got bred at a later date than we thought.  We are keeping an eye on her, and we have her on the end-of-pregnancy diet just in case.  But I am guessing we are done lambing for the season.  Time will tell…she might surprise us.

Chickens

Our very awesome, sweet, friendly rooster, Ben, had moved into the bachelor pen because we can’t use him for breeding anymore since we kept him so long and now would be doing some major inbreeding if we kept using him.  But he is so great and gentle that it seemed a waste to eat him.  So we decided to separate him out for now, and let our new roo, Nilo, do a year or two of breeding and then bring Ben back once we had less of his daughters and grand-daughters in the flock.  Well, some friends came by to drop off fiber at the mill and look at our sheep and they saw Ben and heard his story.  They have a flock of free-ranging hens and would like to have a rooster to protect them, but have had trouble with mean roosters and didn’t want to deal with that.  So Ben has now moved on to live with them.  He seems happy to have a flock to look after again, and it will be a very nice home for him.

Ben the rooster, with the flock last year

The oldest hen on our farm, a Silkie named Eve, has been setting eggs and raising chicks for us for many years now.  She is 7 years old and still lays 4 eggs a week when she is not brooding.  She raises anywhere from 1-3 clutches of chicks for us every year.  What a great hen!  Well, she is at it again, setting on 6 eggs.  I put another 5 in the incubator because she can raise more chicks than the amount of eggs she can fit on (she is a bantam), and it will make up for any loss we have too so she is raising a full clutch.  All 5 eggs in the incubator are fertile (good job, Nilo!) but I haven’t gotten around to candling the ones under Eve yet.  I expect they are all fertile too.  They will hatch out next week.

Eve

In the Farm Kitchen

We have continued making dairy products with all this fresh goat and sheep milk.  This week we made more yogurt, mozzarella, and our first batch of chevre.

I have also been making some herbal medicines this week.  I made an Arnica/Comfrey salve, and a liver cleanse tincture.

Sunday Homestead Update – Need. Sleep. Please.

It has been a loooong week.  We are so exhausted.  The first few days of the week Mr. Smiles was having some medical issues and was waking up multiple times a night, crying, plus the every 3-hour birthing checks out to the barn.  Of course, the birthing check times did not line up with when Mr. Smiles was up, which resulted in very little sleep at all for a few days.  Then Daisy had her traumatic birth experience and the lamb rejection, so we didn’t really sleep at all that night.  Then we were back to 3-hour birthing checks every night since Blue and Pansy are both showing signs of birthing any minute, and especially since Blue is a first-time-mom we don’t want to risk another Daisy scenario.  We are so tired.  But we still love this homestead life!  Birthing season is just an exhausting time.

In addition to no sleep and all the birthings going on, we have had a VERY productive week with projects around the homestead and gardening.  Young Man goes back to work next week, but finished school last week.  So this week was a perfect opportunity to utilize his help with a lot of projects around here that Mtn Man doesn’t have time to get to, but that I need some extra muscles for.  So all the kids and I worked on stuff each day, and Mtn Man joined us all in the evenings after dinner while we still had some light.  One of our family’s favorite things to do is work on homestead project together, so it was a nice time of family togetherness all week.

Gardens

The new Lower Veggie Garden is done – we finished the gate, and it now has a functioning irrigation system.  The pea trellises are up and the hoop tents as well.  The Upper Veggie Garden has the irrigation system all set up for the year and we tested it.  We had to fix a couple burst pipe elbows – they always seem to keep some water in them and get frozen.  We got the pea trellises and the hoop tents up in that garden as well.  The Medicinal Herb Garden got new irrigation hoses all set up in it and tested out.  Then we planted our first seeds out in those gardens.  Peas, lettuce, spinach, and kale are all now in the ground!

The garlic is coming up, so we took the over-wintering straw off of it, got the irrigation lines laid out, and watered it.  And then planted the onions as well.

The Strawberry Patch has green leaves appearing all over, so we raked it out and cleaned out the dead stuff from last year.

We finished building the new Strawberry Terrace.  We will only be planting one level of it this year, and we will start hardening off and getting the strawberries planted this week.  The other two levels will be filled and planted next year.

 

The plants that over-winter in the ground are all starting to peek their heads up.  The chives are going strong and we have been using them a lot, and the rhubarb is getting almost ready for first harvest.  There is sage, oregano, and parsley that I didn’t bed-over for the winter and yet they survived and are all starting to get some green leaves on.  And the comfrey is just starting to put out some leaves.

Chickens

It was a big week for chicken butchering and shuffling.  We trap-nested and figured out how the adult hens were doing as far as laying goes.  A few were older and haven’t been laying at all through both of our last trap nestings, so they were butchered.  Plus we had the 4 cockerels from the January hatch to butcher as well.  I used my new Instant Pot to make broth from all the carcasses.  It turned out great!

Then we moved the pullets from the January hatch up and integrated them with the adult flock.

One of our very old hens, Clover, who had become a pet hen over the years, died this week from old age.  Since most of our chickens are livestock, not pets, this was the first time we had a bird die of old age.  We will miss her, she was a very pretty splash hen with a muff/beard and was always very sweet and friendly.

Sheep

The sheep are doing well.  We are continuing to work on integrating Daisy and Nora back into the flock, since Daisy is not protecting Nora and Autumn is being very aggressive.  Hopefully they will all settle in together soon.

The babies continue to give us hours of adorable play to watch.  Who needs TV when you are homesteading?

Nora is obsessed with the chickens.  The feeling is not mutual.

Blue is due late this week, though her ligaments have softened and she is looking like she will go early, like Daisy did.

Goat

Poor Pansy is now a week overdue.  Not sure what is going on.  Messed up dates?  We continue to wait and hope the babies come soon and healthy.  Pansy seems very miserably uncomfortable.

Between Blue and Pansy it is lining up to be a busy birthing week this week.  Can’t wait to see what they have!

Sunday Homestead Update

There is never a dull moment around our little farm.  Sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad ways.  We had an adventure with some Golden Eagles this week that ended badly.

Thursday our Anatolian Shepherd LGD, Anya, was barking like crazy.  Her, this-is-serious-bark.  I ran out to see what was going on.  She was focused to the north of us and all the hair on her back was up.  I looked and watched and didn’t see anything.  Then I saw a very large bird fly through the forest.  I couldn’t see what it was because of the trees, but I could tell it was BIG.  Much bigger than the Red-tailed hawks we normally see around here.  I praised Anya and felt good that she was dealing so well with an aerial predator.

We have had problems with aerial predators before, specifically a Great-horned owl that over time killed 4 of our chickens.  This was back when we had our previous LGD, Tundra.  He was an excellent LGD, but he was getting old and slept a lot.  The owl would wait until he was asleep, then come down on a chicken, then Tundra would wake up and go after the owl.  The owl never got away with a bird, but they died anyway from the wounds from being hit by the owl.  We haven’t had any issues with aerial predators since Anya has been on guard.  She is very aware of them and young and always on the look-out.

Friday the kids brought me outside because they were seeing a large bird fighting with a Red-tailed hawk and they were hearing a lot of loud bird calls that were not familiar to them.  Throughout the day all of us got glimpses of the large bird but couldn’t figure out what it was.  And we heard the loud screeching all day.  Anya was on edge and barking a lot.  We kept a close eye on the barnyard and all seemed to be going well with Anya on duty.  When it would come near she would bark and all the chickens would run into the safety of their pen.

Mid-afternoon heat the activity in the sky calmed down and everything got quiet.  In the heat of the day the sheep, goat, and Anya all head into the barn to lay in the cool shade with the cross breeze blowing through.

What happened then wasn’t figured out until later in the day when we investigated everything, identified the large bird, and put all the pieces of the puzzle together in our heads.  From what we can tell, Anya was in the barn with the livestock and the chickens were in the barnyard scratching around.  A female Golden Eagle, with two fledglings to feed, waited for her opportunity patiently, and when Anya was in the barn she struck one of our Easter Eggers and started eating on it.  Anya figured out what was going on and came running out of the barn at the eagle, chasing it off.  Too late for the chicken, unfortunately.

The mom and the fledglings continue to hang out around our property, so we have kept the chickens closed in their pen until they move on to a new location.  And we are keeping our eyes on everything in the barnyard because although we don’t think she would go for a lamb, especially with the fact that Anya went after her, we are still being cautious.

I find it interesting that it was an Easter Egger, because last December when we lost a chicken to a bobcat, because Anya was in a different pen, it was an Easter Egger too.  We only have a couple in the flock of over 20 birds, so it seems too coincidental that they were both EEs that got killed.  I am guessing they don’t have as much predator instincts as the rest of the flock.  Especially because on Friday when the eagles were around we kept seeing the flock run into their pen throughout the day whenever they thought there was danger.  So I am guessing the EE didn’t run in when the rest of them did.

Putting Up Hay

Our property doesn’t have pasture, so we have to feed hay year-round.  Because hay is so seasonal in Colorado, and prices and availability change drastically based on the season, we try to fill the loft of the barn with all the hay we need for an entire year during the summer months.  We put up our first load this week.  We will probably be getting two more loads before the end of August.

Garden

Medicinal herbs can be hard to get going from seed.  This is our second year for the medicinal herb garden and things are starting to go pretty well.  We have two types of chamomile, one that we transplanted from the wild into the garden, and one that we planted.  Both are doing very well.  The yarrow is also starting to take off.  The lemon balm looks pretty good, and the echinacea are working on putting out some leaves.

Hopefully in a couple of years this is a beautifully full garden.

The celery harvest has started.

We also harvested our first 4 cabbages, for a total of 16 lbs.  We made cole slaw and started a big load of sauerkraut fermenting in the big crock.

I love fresh coleslaw in the summer!  And we will have plenty of sauerkraut for the fall and winter.

Cheesemaking

We made our first ever feta from our raw goat’s milk.  It turned out very yummy, except we over-salted it.  We are anxiously saving up milk to make another batch this week, without too much salt.

For the feta we needed a double boiler set up that could hold a gallon of milk.  Our double boiler isn’t even close to that big.  But Little Miss thought of this idea to use a big stainless steel bowl with butter knives on each side to suspend it a bit over the pot of boiling water.

Heritage Arts

I finished my Nightshift Shawl!  The pattern is by Andrea Mowry, and the yarn is Yakity Yak by Greenwood Fiberworks.  I am very happy with it.

Sunday Homestead Update

First Snow!

Feels more like winter than fall this week.  We have had snow off and on all week – our first of the season.  It has been fun to have it, though I am hoping for some more of the warmer fall weather and I am hopeful that winter isn’t here early this year.  We still have some things to get done before winter sets in.

Our Anatolian Shepherd, Anya, loves the snow.

 

Canning

Our canning season is winding down.  We have finished everything except the tomatoes.  They are continuing to ripen in the basement.  As they ripen we will can them into marinara sauce.

We got the apples done into apples in honey syrup, applesauce, and apple butter.  We haven’t done apple butter in many years, so that was fun to bring back.

We also did the peaches in honey syrup, and then decided to try something new – peach butter!  We weren’t sure how the new sauce maker would handle it, but we decided to just pit and quarter the peaches, leaving the skin on, then boil them a little until soft, and then put them through the sauce maker.  It worked beautifully!  We ended up with a nice peach puree and the warm skins were given to the chickens, which made them happy in the cold snow.

So far, we have canned over 300 jars this canning season.  By far our largest amount in one season ever!

Garden

The garden is done for the year, and we are cleaning it up and putting it to bed.  This year we are planting fall garlic, which is one of the reasons I am hoping it will warm up a bit.  The garlic places ship mid-October, which is a bit late for our climate.  But I am hopeful it will still work out well and from now on we can plant our own in late September each year instead of waiting for the shipment.  It is supposed to arrive this week, so we will get it in asap once it arrives.  We added some compost to the area to prepare for planting it.

We are also putting straw over some of the newer perennials to help them through the winter.  And we are planting medicinal herb seeds and covering them with straw.  We learned this spring that many of the medicinal herbs grow better when the seeds are put in the ground in the fall.  Hopefully this will help our new medicinal herb garden really get going next year.

Chickens

Most of the older hens are finishing their molt, with just a few still at it, but their egg laying is still pretty non-existent.  The young silkie pullets are laying like crazy though, so we are overflowing with tiny eggs.

We even decided to try out pickling some.  We have never done this before and don’t know if we will like them, so we only did 3 jars.  We will open them up and try them in a month or so, once the full flavor can set into them.

Knitting

I am working mostly on Christmas present knitting right now, so I can’t show much because I want to keep them a surprise.  But since Mr. Smiles’ doesn’t read the blog yet, at 3 years old, I can show his present.  It is a blankie that I made using the Plymouth Yarn Hot Cakes in Denim Mix.   It turned out nicely, with a good amount of cozy squish to it.

 

Wood Stove Remodel Project

We got the antique wood cook stove hooked up to heat the dining room.  The remodel still isn’t finished, but it is complete enough that we can use the stove for heat now, which is good because we have definitely needed it this week.  We are learning the ins and outs of this particular stove and how to make it do what we want heat-wise.  There is always a learning curve with a new wood stove.  But overall it seems like it will heat wonderfully with the added bonus that it looks beautiful in and I could cook on it if I wanted.  Plus, it doesn’t back puff, which is why we did this remodel in the first place – because the last stove had to have 2 elbows in the pipe and thus back puffed terribly.

Sunday Homestead Update

We had a beautiful, sunny, warm week.  We had snow one day, but the rest were clear!

Garden

We got our first seeds in the ground outside this week.  Whoooohooo!  We put in some lettuce, spinach, kale, onions, carrots, and peas.  We also were excited to start some seeds in our NEW medicinal herb garden.  We planted yarrow and red clover in that garden.

The Vegetable Garden – looks bare right now – but there is hope planted in that soil.

We also got a temporary retaining wall up between the onion patch and the main garden because it was time to plant the onions but we weren’t ready to buy the wood for the real retaining wall.  We just used some plywood scraps and it is ugly, but it works for now.

Once that was up we were able to finish prepping the soil, stretch out the drip hoses, and plant the onions.

We also moved a bunch of seedlings up to the living room window from the grow lights downstairs.  This is the first step in hardening them off in preparation for them moving outside.

Sewing

The girls and I shifted from the kitchen (where we have been doing projects the last few weeks) to the sewing room.  We sewed flannel PJs for everyone, and made some skirts and dresses as well.  We need to make more in the coming weeks as we find time.

We also spent time sewing on a project we are doing for Operation Christmas Child.  I will show that in a future post.

Knitting

I started a new scrap knitting project.  I am making an afghan of squares made with sock yarn scraps.  I am doing a simple mitered square pattern with 40 stitches to start (20 each side).

Chickens

The Red Ranger meat chicks…

…are very big compared to the layer chicks…

It is interesting having the comparison.  That second picture also has the Silkie chicks in it and the Frizzle that I got as a last minute addition.  You can see the Frizzle is the small black one in the front – and it is not at all Frizzle-y.  I don’t know anything about Frizzles and how many of them in a batch don’t actually Frizzle, but clearly this one didn’t.

The meat chicks are aggressive and constantly fighting each other.  They only have 4 weeks left before butcher day, thank goodness.  We switched them to finisher ration today.

We had a hen that wanted to brood so we put our older rooster, Abraham, in with the hens to start working on some fertilized eggs for the broody hen.

He has been getting more and more aggressive in the last couple months and after only two days out with the girls he attacked me quite viciously.  I fought him off without any injury, but since our kids are heavily involved around the farm we do not keep roosters that attack humans.  In our experience they attack based on size, so if they will attack the adult-sized human then they are even more apt to go for the smaller humans.

So he was butchered today which was a bummer because he was a really beautiful Buff Chantecler.  But thankfully, we have one of his sons and he is also very nicely built and has an even smaller comb and wattles – which we really want in our roos because of our cold winters.  So we put the younger rooster in with the hens.

We also have an egg eating hen, and one of the hens is laying super thin-shelled eggs.  The egg eater is only targeting those eggs, not regular eggs.  It could be the same bird, two different birds, or multiple birds.  We are working to figure out what the answer is.  We found one sitting on the broken egg with yolk on her beak.  She did not lay it, because we know she lays green eggs and the eaten egg was light brown.  So that hen is the eater, but not the layer.  We pulled her from the group and put her in her own cage for now while we watch and see if there are any others eating them and try to figure out who is laying the super thin shells.

4-5 times a year we go through the entire flock, check each bird over carefully for lice and any other issues, make sure they still have their leg band on, clip wings on the ones who have grown back in, and update all our flock tracking paperwork.  We did that this weekend and moved some of them around to different pens and such as well.  We have had a really bad time with lice this winter.  I don’t know if that is because it was such a mild winter, or maybe because we didn’t let them free-range as much, but it has been more prevalent than previous years.  So we dusted them all.  It feels good to be all caught up on those regular chicken maintenance chores.

And that is the update from our little farm in the mountains!