Sunday Homestead Update – Spring Busy, But Calm

It has been a nice, calm, uneventful week here at WCF.  Just what we needed after several weeks of crazy.  We got some warm days and some rain – both good for our gardens full of new seeds and seedlings.

Garden Progress Update

We have done a lot of planting, hardening off of plants, transplanting, filling wall-o-waters, and general gardening this week.

Medicinal Herb Garden- The medicinal herbs are the last things to come up here, due to the cold climate.  So not much is happening in this garden.  The chives are up, as is the rhubarb.  The yarrow is just starting up.  The apple trees and the lilac bush are just barely starting to form leaf buds.

Garlic/Onion Patch- This year this is actually the garlic/potato patch, and I have spread the onions here and there and everywhere in my other gardens for pest control.  The Northern White garlic are up and going strong, the Spanish Roja are sparse and a bit behind, but this is what happened last year too and the Spanish Roja produced fine by the end of the season.  The potatoes are in the ground.

Upper Vegetable Garden- We have the tents and the Wall-O-Waters up to extend our season and get some plants in the ground early.  Our last frost of the season is still a ways away, and these make it so we can actually grow something in our short, 10-week frost to frost season.

We have tomatoes, squash, and peppers in the WOWs.  And there are cabbage seedlings in the tents, along with lettuce, spinach, kale, radish, and beet seeds in the ground.  The carrots and pea seeds are also in the ground.  We should have some tiny sprouts coming up all over very soon.

Strawberry Patch and Strawberry Terrace- The old strawberry patch is coming up nicely.  We finished the strawberry terrace and were only planting one level this year because we only had enough compost and soil for one level.  We were unable to find much in the way of plants at the garden centers around our area (coronavirus has everyone planting gardens), so I couldn’t find any new strawberries to put in that one level.  Then I decided to change the landscaping of the front edge of the existing patch.  It previously had a little wire decorative fence and some 2-inch thick bricks between it and the path.  This caused the strawberries to spill out onto the path, and the little fence was faded an breaking after only a couple of years of use.  I decided to use thicker bricks to hold it back better.  In the process of changing out, there were many strawberry plants crowded up at the front of the patch that needed to come out.  Most years I try to cut all the runners, but a few times in the last few years I was too busy in the fall with Mr. Smiles’ surgeries and hospitalizations to get around to cutting runners.  So the strawberries had run rampant and were overcrowded all along the front edge.  As I worked to take out the crowded berry plants I was shocked to find that after only being 1/4 of the way across the front I had filled the one terrace box I wanted to fill.  So then I put compost and dirt into the second terrace, and by halfway across the front of the patch I had filled the second terrace box.

The third terrace still needs more construction on it, so Little Miss and Braveheart found an area around the chicken coop where they wanted to make their own strawberry patch.  So they built that with some decorative bricks, and by 3/4 of the way across the patch I had filled their patch with berry plants.  I had no idea that my strawberries had gotten SO crowded!!!

The last 1/4 of the front edge gave me 15 plants, and I was out of space, so I was able to share that with a friend who gardens as well.  What a blessing!  Here I was trying to buy new plants, when I had plenty at my disposal.  Technically, the books suggest you don’t do what I did due to pests and disease, but thankfully, here in the high Rockies, pests and disease are not as big of an issue as other places due to our dry climate, and the fact that we get so very cold in the winter.  I think this will work fine and the strawberries will produce much better now that they have more space.  Now I just need to thin out the rest of the patch a little bit.  The front was definitely the worst, because it gets more sun, so they were reaching for it.  But the rest of the patch could use some help too.

Berry Bushes and Grape Vines- The grape vines are always late to get going due to the cold, so nothing is happening with them yet.  But the Gooseberry bushes and the Currant bushes are covered with leaves.  One Gooseberry bush has some flowers on it too.  We planted the new Gooseberry bush that was eaten by worms, and it looks like it is going to recover pretty well.  We also planted the Black Currant bush that surprised us earlier this year.  It has not been as happy with its transplant as the Gooseberry is, and we decided to put a Wall-o-water around it to help boost it along.

Lower Vegetable Garden- It is fun to begin to use our new vegetable garden, even if it is only 2/3 built.  Next year we will have the whole thing finished.  We have tomatoes in the WOWs, as well as lettuce, spinach, kale, radish, and beet seeds in the tents.  And carrot and pea seeds are in the ground as well.  Watching for the little seedlings to pop up!

Home Dairy

This week our aged cheddar was 5 months old.  We at half of it at 3 months, and then put the other half back in the cheese cave to try again at 5 months and 7 months.  This week we tried the 1/4 that has been aging for 5 months.

The flavor was excellent!  Better than the 3 month for sure.  So I think we will try to age all our cheddar to at least 5 months.  We will see in a couple of months what 7 months tastes like.

Now that we are getting plenty of raw milk, we have started making more and more of our homemade dairy products again.  Twice a week I am making a quart of sheep’s milk yogurt.  I am really enjoying how much easier my instant pot is for yogurt-making.  This week we also made some Paneer.  Paneer is an Indian cheese, and Sunshine has been trying out all sorts of Indian recipes lately and requested that we make her some.  I am planning to make some aged cheese this coming week, as well as Chevre now that we can drink the goat’s milk (because we had to assist with her birth she had to have an antibiotic shot, so we had to wait a week before we could drink the milk).

Sheep/Goats/Chickens

All the mothers and babies are doing well.  We are all enjoying the cuteness of the lambs and kid playing together – who needs TV when you have a barnyard full of fun?  The chickens are still not very thrilled with the new additions, especially Misty, who chases them constantly.  But they are settling in to the new situation.

We were gifted an old feeder that we are trying out for the sheep and goats, it seems like it is going to work very well.  As you can see, Pansy the goat can be quite pushy and in this photo has a whole side to herself, but Fiona the sheep is dominant over her, so Fiona keeps everyone moving around the feeder and makes her share.

We have been making a lot of breeding program decisions this week, now that all but one sheep have lambed.  Autumn and Twilight have been sold and left for their new home.  Remi has also been sold and will go to the same place as them, but not for a few more weeks.  Daisy and Misty will likely be for sale, and we have some people interested in them already, but we will not be making those final decisions until Maggie gives birth and we are closer to weaning all the lambs.  We did buy a new ram from out of state, and he will be arriving next week.  Fiona, Blue, and Nora are all guaranteed to stay here for breeding.  Time will tell who else will stay.

The two sets of baby chicks are growing well.  Our old broody hen, Eve, has decided to set again, so we gave her hatching eggs this morning and should have some more chicks in a few weeks.

Busy spring on the farm!

Sunday Homestead Update – a Full Homesteading Mom Life

I live a full life.  At times, it feels totally overwhelming and I have to stop myself and take a breath and just realize how blessed I am to have such a full life.  A life full of love, relationships, fun, noise, messes, craziness, (occasional) quiet moments, losses, success, failure, a never-ending list of things to do and get done, dishes, laundry, and more dishes…and so much more.  This week I actually found myself changing a diaper with one hand, while holding a baby chick in the other, and, as if that wasn’t challenge enough, my phone rang and it was an important call that I needed to take and could not ignore.  I just burst out laughing, looking at myself in this crazy situation.  Obviously there is a story there, but it is too long for me to get into why I was changing a diaper while holding a baby chick, but it was indeed a necessary situation and I didn’t have another choice in the moment.  Nonetheless, I am spending this Mother’s Day being loved on by the ones I love the most, and feeling thankful for all the crazy homesteading Mom moments that I am blessed to experience each day – even the ones that make me want to scream.  🙂

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there!  I hope you can feel thankful for all the crazy mom-ing in your lives too.

Our farm is currently overflowing with animal mothers and babies.  Spring in the Rockies!

Chickens

Our batch of purchased chicks arrived this week.  These are the chicks that we originally ordered to be delivered during our hatch in January so we could brood them together.  There was a mix-up at the hatchery and they printed our shipping label, but didn’t ship our chicks.  Since we already had our own newly hatched chicks in the brooder, we decided not to have them re-ship the next week.  Instead, we waited until we were ready to do another brooding…which is this week.

There were 16 of them, and 3 died right after arrival, the rest are doing well.

Goat

Pansy was due to kid on April 27th.  She finally kidded this week, 9 days late.  It was a complicated delivery, but both mom and doeling are alive.  And the doeling, named Pearl, is oh-so-cute.  I will share more about it later this week.

Sheep

We have a barnyard full of ewes and lambs.  Blue lambed this week, leaving us with just one pregnant ewe left for this season (Maggie).  Everyone is growing well, the lambs are playing and romping together, and the mamas seem happy to not be so very huge and pregnant any longer.  Maggie is not due until mid-june, so we have a break from birthing here for awhile.

Blue’s little girl got a name, finally.  It took us awhile – I think the spring lambing/kidding season sleep-deprivation added to the delay.  But she is now known as Misty.  She is almost 1 week old now.

Daisy has continued to become more bonded to little Nora, she is turning into a good mom.  I believe that she will be a fine mother in the future, and that the traumatic birth is the cause of these issues.  We are just so glad that we didn’t have to bottle feed her.  Nora is almost 2 weeks old now.

Blizzard is a ball of energy.  He is always wanting to play and run and head butt with the other lambs.  Typical boy.  He also has decided that the LGD is his BFF, which is cute.  We constantly find them cuddled together, or if Anya is running around, Blizzard will be running right behind her.  Fiona is the attentive, but also laid-back, experienced mom of the group, and seems happy to let Anya (the LGD) babysit for her.

Blizzard is 3 1/2 weeks old now.

Twilight is the oldest lamb, and that lends itself to her being kind of a bully to the others.  She is so much bigger than the new babies and she uses it to her advantage, pushing them around when she can get away with it.  But she is a beautiful ewe lamb and nice with the humans.  She is 5 weeks old now.

We are working on weaning all the babies to a 12-hours-off, 12-hours-on milk-sharing schedule.  Twilight and Nora are already there, and we are getting the younger ones there as well in the next couple of weeks.  It is nice to have so much milk now that they are getting older and we can take a good share of it.  We are making dairy products in the kitchen and really enjoying it.

Gardens

It is crazy to me that we are already putting seeds and seedlings outside.  This week has been full of planting and gardening.  Time is flying by me this spring!

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 – So Much to Talk About

Sometimes there is so much going on at the farm that the weekly post gets very long and full – this is one of those weeks.  So settle in with some coffee or tea – we have some interesting stories.

Gardening

There really never is a dull moment around here.  Life is a constant adventure.  And just when we think we might be about to have a dull moment, something happens.

A couple of weeks ago, Mtn Man bought our new strawberry and raspberry plants, and another gooseberry bush.  Since we are still pretty far out from planting them outdoors, we set the gooseberry bush in the dining room next to the black currant that I talked about last week.  They were both doing well in the sunshine from the glass door.  Then one morning (just when I thought we might have a dull moment), I walked by and noticed that there was a big mess all over the floor under the gooseberry bush.  It was sitting on a white plastic trash bag, and the bag was covered with what looked like dirt.  I moved closer to inspect the issue and was horrified to see that the bush, the pot, and the floor around it was covered with hundreds of little green worms, and the “dirt” I thought I was seeing was their droppings.  ~insert horror flick scream~  There were some worms starting to try to climb up on the black currant bush too.  And almost all the leaves on the gooseberry were gone – totally destroyed and eaten.  It seems the worms had hatched on the gooseberry bush a day or so ago, had eaten until there was nothing left to eat, and pooped all over the place, and they were now jumping ship and heading out to find more food.

I called for the kids and we all immediately jumped into action.  Little Miss, who is the most squeamish about these things, decided to help by taking Mr. Smiles to another room to play, since his presence would have been less than helpful – and really, her presence would have been as well as she would have been squirming and squealing every few seconds.  Young Man took the plants outside and sprayed them thoroughly with neem oil.  Braveheart, Sunshine, and I proceeded to painstakingly clean up every single worm by sweeping and picking them up with tweezers and putting them into a little plastic container.

It was so gross.  They were everywhere.  They were climbing up the legs of the dining room table and chairs.  They were under the hutch, they were all over the floor and in the door jam and every nook and cranny that could be found.  We had to take all the dishes out of the hutch and move it so we could get under it.  And it seemed the more we cleaned up, the more there were.  Some were so tiny you couldn’t barely see them with the naked eye.  Others were more obvious.  The kids stopped counting after we got to 350.  After an hour of cleaning we had gotten the majority of them.  We continued to find them randomly here and there for the next few days (eeek, gross!)  After we cleaned up we looked online to try to figure out what they were.  They were Imported Currant Worms.  Our bush came from the store thoroughly infested with them.

Braveheart was pretty happy when were finished, not only because we were finished, but because he was excited to take the container of worms out to feed to his chickens.  They got a nice meal from our misery.

Unfortunately, the neem oil did not seem to have any effect.  We knew we would have to bring the bushes in before dark or they would freeze outside.  But they were still covered with worms.  So I decided the best place for them would be in the bathtub.  That way, any mess that was made could be washed down, and if any worms came off them, they couldn’t climb the smooth walls.  So we brought them back in and checked on them every so often to be sure no worms were “escaping.”  Sunshine took it upon herself to battle the worms – every couple hours she would go in and use tweezers to pick the worms off one at a time until she was bored of it.  She did an excellent job and by the end of the day none of us could find any more.  But we knew there was no way we had gotten them all, so we left them in the tub.  After a few days of finding and removing the few stragglers, we moved them back to the dining room.

The once fully-leafed gooseberry is now almost bald from the invasion.  It will need a lot of recuperating.

Goat

Pansy is about ready to pop.  Yesterday was her due date, though her previous owner told us she generally goes late.  She dropped significantly Wednesday and has been miserably uncomfortable ever since.  I feel ya, girl.  I know exactly what that feels like.  LOL.  By her size I am guessing it has got to be twins.  Any day now.

Unlikely Roommates

We have an interesting living situation going on right now.  Normally, the ram lives in the back pen during the day and the smaller stall at night.  The ewes, lambs, chickens, and Anya (the LGD) live in the big barnyard during the day and the large stall and jugs at night.  Because the large stall is getting more crowded lately, Anya has been living in the big barnyard with the ewes, lambs, and chickens during the day, but then sleeping in the ram’s stall with him at night.  When we have an extra rooster we have one rooster living with the flock in the big barnyard and coop, and then one rooster living in one of chicken pens in the barn.  We generally only have two roosters for shorter amounts of time because I don’t like keeping any animals in tight quarters.  So I don’t want either rooster stuck in the indoor pen for longer than a few weeks at a time.  It is plenty of space, technically, but we like our livestock to have plenty of space, sun, and fresh air.

Right now we are having some rooster issues and need to make decisions.  But until we get around to that, Ben has been stuck inside and will be for who-knows-how-long.  So Sunshine suggested we try letting him live with the ram: in the back pen during the day, and then in the ram stall at night.  We moved him and he seems very happy.  The ram seems to like having a companion too.  It’s kind of funny – like a “bachelor” pen – ram and rooster.  And at night, the two of them, plus Anya in one stall is kind of funny too.  They each make their own little “nest” and bed down in the hay near each other.  The rooster has the option of sleeping on a roost, but for some reason he prefers to just cuddle down in the bedding.

Unlikely roommates, but everyone seems happy, and I am happy the roo isn’t closed in the small chicken pen all alone.

Sheep

Twilight has reached the age now where she is closed off from Autumn at night for milk-sharing.  That, plus the fact that we are now using an electric milker, have made it so we are getting enough milk from Autumn to start making yogurt.

It has been years since we had sheep’s milk yogurt and we were all very excited to make some.  We did it differently than we used to in several ways.  First, we used a culture powder from New England Cheesemaking Supply Co.  We chose the “Sweet” one.  Secondly, I was borrowing an Instant Pot from a friend, so we used it to make it instead of a pot on the stove and a cooler (more on that below).

It turned out SO good.  So creamy, and just super delicious.  We set aside 2T of the fresh yogurt to use to make the next batch.  You can take 2T out of each batch and use it to culture the next batch for about 8-10 times before you need to use the powder culture again.  I keep it in a small jar in the fridge.

Blizzard and Twilight are both growing like crazy and doing very well.  It is so fun to sit by the barnyard on the warm afternoons and watch them play.  There are SO many adorable pictures I can’t barely narrow it down of what to share with you all.

We have been busy training Daisy and Blue to the stanchions.  Daisy has now earned the name “Lazy Daisy” because she absolutely refuses to jump up on the stanchion, and even once she has been lifted up she lays down.  But we are making progress.

Daisy is the next sheep due, and she is due this week.  She has quite a belly going.  Looking forward to finding out how many are in there.  She will be giving birth to the last lambs ever from our favorite ram, Fergus.  So this is a pretty important birth for us.

Multi-Cooker

My slow cooker stopped functioning properly.  As I was looking to replace it, I remembered that my friend had recently been telling me about multi-cookers and that I should consider getting one.  So I started doing some research on them and found that they are supposed to be able to pressure cook, rice cook, slow cook, and make yogurt.  We have always had a rice cooker and a slow cooker.  I have previously made my yogurt on the stove and fermented it in a pre-heated cooler set in hot water.  And while I have a large pressure canner that I use, I have never pressure cooked anything.  But I had heard that pressure cooking is a great way to cook a tough old hen or rooster – which we have often around here.  So it seemed like the ideal thing to buy to replace what I already had, as well as adding more.  And since my slow cooker just broke, it was a good time to do it.  But I was reluctant because I was a bit skeptical that it could do all those things well.  So my friend let me borrow hers for a few days.

I started with pressure cooking a tough old hen we had in the freezer.  It turned out wonderfully!  The texture was better than most of the other ways I have cooked them before.  Then I put in a pork loin and BBQ sauce and slow cooked it.  Again, great results.  Then I tried the sheep’s milk yogurt, and as I said above it was much less work for me and turned out great.  The next thing I tried was the rice cooker function.  The rice turned out less-soft than we prefer, but it seemed to me that the water/grain ratio was the problem.  They suggested in the directions a 1:1 ratio, and that was just too dry.  So I think the machine would work great for rice cooking once I had the right ratio.  The last thing we made in it was a meatloaf on the slow cooker setting.  Again, wonderful results.

So I guess I will be getting one of these amazing contraptions!

Chickens

Mama hen, Cinnamon, is doing well with her chicks.  It has been kind of an interesting situation that resembles a crazy math problem.  Cinnamon started with 12 eggs, but due to a rooster issue we had at the time only 5 were fertile.  3 hatched, and then we purchased 10 more and gave them to her to raise.  She happily accepted them, but due to shipping stress 5 of the purchased ones died, plus one of her original 3 died as well.  The store gave us 5 more to replace the ones that died since they knew that they were weak when they sold them to us.  Then one of those died.  So now she has 11 chicks that are doing well.  12-8=5-2=3+10=13-6=7+5=12-1=11.  We are used to infant mortality, having a farm means you have to be used to it.  But this has been quite a chick roller-coaster.  Hopefully it is done and the rest will survive.

For some reason this batch of chicks really loves being on their mama hen’s back, which is just adorable.  But mama’s aggressive protectiveness makes it difficult to get good photos.

Homestead Projects

Because we are in the early stages of our dairy sheep breeding program, we are currently keeping more sheep than we usually do so that we can select the best ones for our purposes and sell the others.  Since we have more sheep than we are used to housing, we needed another feeder in the big stall to help spread out the eating and be sure the sheep lower in the pecking order still get enough food.  Mtn Man and Braveheart built it pretty much the same as our last one, just on the other side of the stall.

It turned out great and the sheep were happy to check it out.

Then Anya, since she is part of the flock and might think she is a sheep, had to check it out too.  🙂

Heritage Arts

I finally grew overwhelmed and bored with my two knitting projects on the needles because they are both so big and so far from done.  I desperately needed something new to work on, and something that would give me the satisfaction of finishing something.  Mtn Man had requested a simple ribbed hat made from the yarn he made from Autumn’s 2020 fleece.  So I whipped that up for him in a couple of days.

I felt better, but still needed something new.  So I cast on (and hooked on) two new projects.  One is the Windswept Shawl, by Paulina Popeolic, made with some oh-so-soft and drape-y alpaca yarn Mtn Man made me.

And the second is a crocheted sock scrap yarn afghan.  I love the afghan I made last year from my sock scraps.  But I still have a ton of scrap sock yarn.  I decided to go with a wave crochet pattern for this one.

Work continues on the dress for Little Miss, and the Match Play Poncho as well.  But I definitely needed a little break from them.  The dress is now 418 stitches in one round, and continuing to increase fast, so it takes forever to do one round.  And I have a LONG way to go on it because she wants it calf-length.

I finished the front of the Match Play Poncho, and have just barely started the back.

Sunday Homestead Update – Brrr, Brrr, Brrr

It has been a long, cold week, with a lot of snow.  It made for a lot of extra barn work, especially since Fiona was due to lamb this week.  The cold moved in on Sunday evening, and lasted through until Friday morning.  Our nights were in the single digits and teens, with one night going down to -2F.  And our days were in the teens and twenties.  We also got 9 inches of snow from a storm early in the week, which only partially melted off, followed by 18 inches of snow late in the week.  Which all means, lots of deep snow to wade through, livestock staying in the barn, and hauling water to keep everyone hydrated.

 

Fiona was due on Wednesday, but has gone up to 2 days early and 3 days late in the past.  This meant that she could potentially have her lamb from Monday through Saturday.  Because of this, and the bitter temps and snow, we had to do a lot of checking on her to be sure her baby survived delivery and didn’t freeze.  Since she was in the barn all week, this meant that someone went up to the barn for hourly checks from morning barn chores through to evening barn chores, and then we checked every two hours all night.  It made for a LONG week.  But I am happy to report that she lambed a beautiful, healthy ram lamb for us on Thursday night.  I will post that story and pictures later this week.

Besides that, there is not much to update for this week, since we were buried in snow and cold.  But, as I said last week, we had been making a lot of progress on outdoor projects and I didn’t have space to post it, so I will update on all of that.

Vegetable Gardens

The new veggie garden that we started building last fall is coming along nicely and will be ready to plant come May when it is time.  We have finished the fencing, including chicken wire on the lower part and buried out to keep rabbits out.  We also have the irrigation lined installed and ready.  We have been very happy with these type of drip lines in our other gardens.  They are priced well and very easy to install.  You can read a previous post on how to install them by clicking here.

There are still a few things to be finished, including a gate, but it is coming along nicely.  As you can see from the pics, not all the boxes are finished being built because we ran out of wood.  We will be using it 2/3 finished this year, and hopefully will be able to come up with the needed wood to finish it for full use next year.

Fruit Gardens

Last year, while we were digging out the terracing for this new garden, we found a small black-currant bush in our way.  There are two currant bushes that grow naturally in our area.  First, the wax currant, which is not very tasty and has a weird texture.  These, of course, flourish all over our property.  Secondly is the black currant, which is sweet and delicious and very useful.  I have tried many times over the years to get a black currant going for us.  I have tried everything from branch cuttings, to seeds, to digging them up by the roots.  It never works and I had given up.  But since this little bush was in our way and would have to be removed, the kids really wanted to put it in a pot and try to get it going.  I had little hope for it, but helped them dig it up and put it in a pot.  It then got put in the garage and everyone completely forgot about it.

This week I was out in the garage getting something from the freezer and I happened to notice out of the corner of my eye the color green.  I think this time of year I am so desperate to see growing green that it catches my eye wherever I go.  Lo and behold, there was the pot that we had put the bush in, and it was GROWING!  It had been completely ignored, not watered, and had living in the dark garage all winter, getting down below freezing, and yet…it was growing!  I happily brought it indoors and gave it some water.  We are looking forward to planting it in our berry bush area and hopefully harvesting off it for many years to come.

Last week we decided it was time to feed the berry bushes with a layer of compost.  The bushes had been planted a few years ago and we had yet to re-compost them, which is not good.  When we planted them we put down a ring of weed fabric around their bases, and then put some decorative edging bricks around the ring.  They had grown so much that the rings were much too small and the surrounding grass was causing troubles.  So we were going to pull up the bricks and fabric, give them a good dressing of compost, and then put down new fabric and more bricks in a bigger circle.  Here we are mid-process…

But as we got going with one of the areas we decided to completely change it instead.  So we tore out some wild raspberry bushes that were an experiment that never produced, as well as our Red Lake currant bush that never produced and we decided to completely change up the landscaping arrangement in that area.  Here is the new area:

The blank spot in the back is where the new black currant bush that I spoke about above will go.  The front left bush is a Pixwell Gooseberry, and the front right is a Crandall Clove Currant.  The front left landscape area where it touches the path is not finished, we have more plans for right there that we haven’t gotten to yet.  We all like this area SO much better.  And it will be much easier to harvest and keep weed free, plus the grass wont take over.

We have been doing a lot of reading up on fruits and decided it was time to do something for the strawberry patch.  It is 6 years old now, and thus we really need to change-out the berry plants to increase production again.  Technically, we are supposed to completely move them to another area and let that area rest for two years as well, but with our space constrictions that is not going to happen.  We don’t want to go without strawberries every 4-6 years, so we decided we would start a new strawberry area and thus have two areas that were on a rotating replacement schedule.  That way we never will go without.

After walking around looking at different placement options, we decided to turn this hill behind the berry bushes into terraced planting boxes.  We had already removed some of the rocks that held the hill up when I took the photo.

We started on it right before the snow hit and have the first level done now.  We will continue once the snow melts.

A lot of spring projects going on around the farm this year, keeping us plenty busy.