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 – “Before Winter Hits”

It seems that the arrival of autumn has us scrambling to finish SO many different things “before winter hits.” We say that term several times each day lately. Having moved to the new farm in early June, we spent summer working from sun-up to sun-down on different homesteading and construction projects. Now that we are back to school, we are all putting in nights and weekends, plus every extra second we can squeeze in when we finish school a little early. Daniel has been working full time in the mill the whole time while putting in nights and weekends on the homestead. Sometimes he will be working on the homestead and construction projects during the day because they require light and then he will be in the mill at night. There is never a shortage of things to do on a homestead, and now we are racing the calendar to get all humans and animals warm and secure housing for winter. The good news is that winter hits about a month later here than it did up in the high Rockies, so at least we have more time than our minds, after living our whole lives in the mountains, are telling us we have.

Sheep

Our new sheep have finished their quarantine. We did 21 days because that more than covers most all sheep communicable illnesses. We have settled on names for them all, even though they are very difficult to tell apart and we mostly have to look at their ear tags at this point. During quarantine, only Braveheart was caring for the sheep, and he didn’t go down to the other sheep barn at all. That way we didn’t risk any disease spread via our clothes or boots. So we haven’t gotten to spend much time with them except looking from afar. I know that as we spend more time with them, now that quarantine is done, we will get to know them better and be able to tell them apart. The ram has been named Wallace, and the ewes are Agnes, Lilian, and Bunny.

Now that quarantine is done we decided to start breeding season. We are going to breed them in three rounds this year to spread out the lambing since we have limited housing that is not really set up well for sheep yet. We don’t know what to expect from the weather here as far as lambing season goes either. So we are experimenting by doing 3 waves of breeding. We are also doing it because Nilsson was unable to get any ewes pregnant last year, but we are not sure if that had to do with him, or if it was too late in the season, or what. He is a proven ram, and he was breeding a proven ewe and an unproven ewe and we saw plenty of breeding take place, and yet no lambs. So we would like to give him another chance this year, but we don’t want to risk the ewes not getting pregnant at all, so we are giving him first go at some of them, and then we will follow him with Wallace and Orville so that if he is the reason and somehow is sterile we wont risk not having any lambs next year.

So Matilda and Freya have joined Nilsson in his pen and we will see how it goes. Breeding season has officially begun.

Chickens

Matilda (yes we have a chicken and a sheep both named Matilda), our bantam cochin hen, decided she wants to set. She has never set for us before, but our best broody hen, Eve, is starting to get older and we desperately want more hens that will set for us. Using a hen to raise chicks is so much better than doing it with an incubator and/or brooder. So, even though it is late in the season, we decided to go ahead and give her some eggs. Hopefully in 3 weeks we will have some more chicks!

We made final plans for the permanent poultry housing. It can be built in stages (a huge plus both financially and time-wise). We will be building part of it this fall, enough to safely house the chickens and keets through the winter. The ducks will move into the coop the chickens are currently living in because it is better suited for ducks. Then, at some point (maybe next spring?), we will build the second part of it and will have a very useable poultry barn with plenty of space for what we want to raise. The first step was to move the keet house we had started building to the new location as it will become part of the poultry barn. We got that moved yesterday and now can start working on what parts we need to accomplish before winter.

In the Kitchen

The garden bounty continues to come in, from other people’s gardens this year since we got here late in the season. We have been processing it all, mostly through canning. The canner is up and going at least every other day, sometimes days in a row.

We also have some apple scrap vinegar brewing from some of the apple scraps.

Heritage Arts

Surprisingly, I have had time to squeeze in some knitting lately. I am working my way down the sleeve of the sweater I am knitting for Braveheart. I haven’t finished the body yet, but I don’t know if I will have enough yarn to finish the sweater, so finishing the sleeve with confirm that one way or the other so that I don’t spend a ton of time knitting when I won’t be able to finish it.

Seven years ago, for our 15th wedding anniversary, Daniel got me a beautiful antique 1905 singer treadle machine with a beautiful table. It was in really good condition, but didn’t really work very well. We recently stumbled upon a guy who could maintenance it (thank the Lord for that not-coincidence coincidence). So we got it all fixed and in working order. I am so excited! I know some of you are thinking “Why would you want to use a treadle sewing machine when you have a perfectly good electric one?” But I also know some of you are getting me and know why I am excited. I am still grateful for my electric, but these types of old things are oh-so-fun for me.

I have been playing with it just with scrap fabric to start to get the hang of how to treadle the right speed, start and stop, etc. I have made plenty of rats-nest-thread-knots as I have been learning due to improper treadling, but I am improving and it is fun. I decided I would like to make an easy quilt with basic squares as my first project on it because it will be straight lines and a lot of starting and stopping as I piece it, which is perfect for practicing and learning.

Sunday Homestead Update

We are definitely settled in at the new farm and while there is still craziness and busy-ness…it is the type that we always have, not the kind related to the move.

Goats

Our new Nubian doe arrived. She is taking some time to settle in, but overall is doing well.

She waits her turn while Belle is being milked, eating some grain while she waits. She is under-weight, so the extra grain ought to help get her back up to a healthy weight.

We are really enjoying having the new milking parlor. No flies, no kicked buckets, easy to keep clean, just the right space for our two stanchions…love it!

Heritage Arts

Little Miss has been growing like crazy during this whole move and we haven’t had a chance to make her any new skirts. We finally got around to it, and while we were at it we made a new one each for Sunshine and I too. It felt really nice to be at the sewing machine again!

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 – Snowy Spring

It has been awhile since I took a break from blogging…so what have we been up to?

Our 5-year-old son had another ER visit, hospitalization, and surgery (his 24th). It continues to be a hard road with his medical issues. This round came on fast and strong and was pretty scary. But he is doing better now and we are thankful for that and hopeful to have a nice long break from the pediatric hospital.

We have had a wet, snowy spring. We had one big spring snow that buried us for a few days.  We played board games and stayed in our pjs, as well as bundling up to play outside and dig paths for the livestock to make it to the water trough.  And then we have had several weeks where we had snow off and on for days. The moisture is good, especially after last year’s bad fire season.

The big snow we had was deep and didn’t even begin to melt for over a week. During that time the predators started getting desperate and we had a mountain lion and a bobcat both looking to eat our livestock in broad daylight on two different days. Between our Livestock Guardian Dog and us humans we were able to keep them away and nothing bad happened.

Sheep

We got all the sheep sheared and are starting to process all the wool into roving and yarn in the mill.

Daisy’s twin lambs have thrived and grown so much! They are doing very well.

We have not been milking Daisy due to things going on in our life that are keeping us too busy right now. We might start milking her after the goat has her kids in the next few weeks since we will be milking the goat anyway. The rest of the ewes are due to lamb at the end of May and into June.

Goat

Belle is due to kid this week. She is looking very wide and we are expecting twins. It will be nice to have fresh goat’s milk again, not to mention the adorable kids bouncing around!

Chickens

We had a very cool visitor to the chicken pen the other night. It was a windy night and we didn’t latch the exterior pen (the chickens were all closed into the coop). The door must have blown open, allowing the visitor entrance, and then blown closed, trapping the visitor inside. When we came out in the morning we were pretty excited to get a close-up view of this beautiful Northern Saw-Whet owl. It was so tiny and seeing it from a few feet away was amazing! We looked at him/her and took photos for a couple of minutes and then opened the door. He/she flew off with no issues, glad to be free again.

Garden

In between snow storms we have prepared the garden soil and laid out drip lines for this year. We have also started seeds indoors and they are all sprouting like crazy. Hard to believe another garden season is starting soon – especially with all this snow.

Heritage Arts

I finished the sweater I was making for Mtn Man. We both love how it turned out and he has been enjoying wearing it through this snowy spring! I used yarn he made from a fleece from our ram, Fergus. It was a 4-ply worsted weight from his 2018 fleece.

This was my first time using my newly purchased book “The Knitter’s Handy Guide to Top-Down Sweaters” by Ann Budd. I have many of her books and love them all and this one did not disappoint. It is already one of my favorites and I know I will use it over and over again for years to come. I love the books she has written that make it so you can use any yarn and make any size because they have charts for all different gauges and sizes. Perfect for a family of 7 that I love to knit items for. And perfect for all the different gauges of yarn we make from our sheep fleece.

Writing

I have done some more writing for Mother Earth News and will share links and info as it becomes available. Watch for my article in the June/July print issue “Ask the Experts” column!