It is always hard to believe that yet another year has gone by, but it has! It is time for the end of year review again. This year the homestead stepped down the priority ladder a few rungs as we focused our resources (time, money, energy) on adopting our 5th little blessing. And once he arrived home it has taken a few more steps down as his medical needs are taking up space now as well.
Despite the homestead being somewhat demoted in importance, we are still really happy with what we accomplished this year, and at times were surprised by the success considering our lack of attention.
If you would like to read previous years’ end-of-year reviews for Willow Creek Farm, click these links:
We always start with statistics…
- We had anywhere from 16 to 53 chickens of all different ages on the farm this year
- 3,501 eggs were laid
- 165 dozen of those eggs were sold
- 120 dozen of those eggs were used by us
- 82 eggs were set to hatch
- 37 chicks hatched successfully
- 19 chickens were sold as layers for other people’s flocks
- 24 chickens were butchered for meat for us
- No chicks were sold right after hatch this year because of the adoption
- 3 hens died from hawk attacks
The chicken program has done pretty well this year. It was our first time only using hens to hatch chicks, and we were a bit disappointed with our hatch percentages. But despite that we were able to hatch out enough chicks to meet our needs. And selling eggs and pullets was profitable. We love having some livestock that more than earns its keep!
In July we re-started our meat rabbit herd. We bought 3 does and 1 buck. 2 of the does were old enough to breed right away. One of them came to us pregnant and we were able to breed the other to a friend’s buck and start producing from the get-go. Our buck and the third doe came into maturity at the end of the year and the buck has just recently proven himself and the doe is due to kindle this week.
- 3 breeding does, 1 buck
- 22 kits born
- NO kits died at birth (yay!)
- 1 weanling sold (traded for a stud fee)
- 13 rabbits butchered for meat for us
- 9 kits currently growing out
Oliver, our English Angora rabbit, continues to be a beloved pet and fiber producer. He has had 5 shearings this year. We have learned to shear much better and much less fiber is lost now that we know what we are doing. And Oliver has learned the routine and lays out nice and still for all of the shearing except his face (and who would blame him for not wanting his face messed with?).
This year was the first year we have done all of our shearing on our own instead of hiring it out. Husband has worked hard to learn and his shearing skills are improving. The sheep produced 4 fleece for us this year, for a total of 12 lbs of wool after washing (we forgot to weigh it raw).
- Started year with 3 pregnant ewes – each lambed 1 baby in April
- 2 ewe lambs & 1 ram lamb born
- Ram lamb died at 2 days old
- Butchered 1 adult ewe which provided 20 lbs of meat
- Ended year with 2 hopefully pregnant ewes and 2 ewe lambs
This was by far our best garden year, producing 269 lbs of produce.
For the specific garden statistics, read our garden review post here.
With the help of all the animals we continue to produce rich compost for use on our garden.
- I knit 1 sweater, 4 pairs of socks, 20 baby hats, 3 baby sweaters, a dinosaur Amish puzzle ball, a baby snuggle sack, a baby dress and matching socks, a hat, a child’s dress, a child’s cardigan, and a stocking.
- I sewed 1 child’s dress.
- My daughters sewed 20 flannel burp clothes, knit 2 pairs of baby socks, 3 pairs of adult socks, a baby cardigan, and numerous baby hats. They also did several embroidery and crosstitch projects. They crocheted a few amish puzzle balls, a play tea set, and several stuffed animals.
- I sewed a few children’s aprons and baby blankets.
- Oldest daughter and I mended innumerable pieces of clothing.
- I embroidered 1 gingham embroidery bread cloth.
In the Kitchen:
We canned over 124 quarts of food this year (some were pints, some half-pints, etc but we added it up to how many quarts of food it was). I stopped keeping track after I posted the 2015 canning review, but we have done more since then. You can read that review here.
We also froze 36 lbs of carrots from the garden.
And now for some highlights from the homestead in 2015:
In January we stayed cozy by the fire while the cold weather pressed in from outdoors. We opened our online shop selling homemade items from the homestead to raise money for our adoption. We had two broody hens hatch eggs, one successfully and one not very successfully. And our hearts broke when our sweet old chocolate lab, Holly, died.
February weather was quite mild compared to what it usually is. We had another hen set on eggs and we spent a lot of time making items to add to our store.
March was exciting as we prepared ourselves for our first lambing. We watched the ewes’ bellies swell, put together a lambing kit, and built jugs (lambing stalls) in the barn. We also started our garden seeds indoors using a grow-light shelving unit for the first time. We lost two hens to hawk and owl attacks and put up a fishing line web above the barnyard to deter them. We learned that using chicken nipple waterers in the winter was increasing the frostbite on our chickens’ combs and wattles. And we had another broody hen hatch a somewhat successful hatch.
In April we had our first lambs ever born on the farm! Two ewe lambs and 1 ram lamb. Sadly, despite our best efforts to save him, the ram lamb died after only two days of life. We learned how to dock lamb tails and how to milk sheep. Stella became a great milk sheep for us and we enjoyed the milk we got from her.
In May we celebrated our third year anniversary on the farm. We moved seedlings out into the garden in wall-o-waters for protection. Two more hens hatched chicks, this time much more successfully, and they even agreed to raise them all together in the same pen without fighting with each other. We turned the lambing stalls into a creep feeder and enjoyed watching our lambs grow and play.
June brought a lot of growth, in the garden and from the lambs and chicks. We let two more hens set eggs to finish off the breeding year and had successful hatches. And we adopted Bella, a beagle, to be our indoor pet dog. She also turned out to be excellent vermin patrol in the back yard. Our farm life started to really take a backseat as we officially started our wait for an adopted baby match.
In July we brought meat rabbits back to the farm. We bought three does and a buck. One doe was pregnant at purchase and we were able to have our first litter born right away. Husband built a beautiful path in the back yard made with pallet wood. We made the hard decision to butcher one of the ewes. And we began harvesting the garden and canning. We had another hawk attack a chicken, despite the fishing line web above the back yard, so we improved the web even more.
August was spent harvesting and canning. We were shocked at the large production of the garden. Our second litter of rabbits for the year was born. And we borrowed a back hoe and began work on some big digging projects around the farm, including a smoke house and root cellar. Our adoption plans took a turn and we settled into the idea that it was going to take another year or two to be matched with a baby.
In September a bear tried to break into the barn. It was a hard blow when our recently adopted dog, Bella, died unexpectedly. We continued to harvest and the tomato harvest especially surprised us by being so huge. We continued our big digging projects as well. Then, very suddenly and somewhat out of nowhere, we were matched with our new baby son. And in 8 days time we went from expecting a long wait to having a baby in our arms. Life on the farm kind of screeched to a halt as we soaked in our newest blessing.
Oldest son filled his first ever hunting tag in October with a doe mule deer and the filling of the freezer with meat began. He later filled his other two tags with a buck mule deer and a cow elk. We finished up the harvest and began butchering chickens and rabbits.
In November the ewes headed off to the breeder. Because of our baby’s health issues we decided to stop the chicken breeding program and selling eggs, and cut the flock back to just what we need to provide us with eggs. We sold several hens, butchered some older ones, and butchered a bunch of cockerels. We decided to keep a rooster so that we can still hatch small clutches under broody hens when we want to. The cold weather hit, and we added another Old Time Scotch Collie, Tess, to the farm to live indoors with the family.
December was a whirlwind. We had a wonderful Christmas season and worked to juggle family life, farm life, and pediatric hospitals and doctors.
What an exciting year we have had! We have been so surprised by what we accomplished despite putting the homestead down farther on the priority list. We never expected to produce and accomplish what we did this year around the farm.
As we look forward to 2016 it has a lot of unknowns in it. With the baby’s health issues we don’t feel like we can make a homestead plan like we usually do the first week of the year. We are having to live life more on the fly and less planned out than ever before. We have no idea what this year will bring as far as new projects, new life on the farm, expansion, or any of that. But based on this last year we feel that even without a set-out plan we will be able to look back on the year and see that we were able to accomplish a lot more than we thought…just like this year. We have several homestead projects in mind that we would like to do, but we are flexible on whether or not they will happen this year.
So we head into 2016 ready to do what we can, wondering what the journey will bring us, and so blessed to be doing it as a family of 7 now.
Always an adventure….Happy New Year!