Sunday Homestead Update (a day late)

Not much going on around the homestead this week.  Tried to lay low and get caught up on basic life.  Animals are all doing well, weather has rotated between nice sunny 40sF to -10F and snow…typical winter in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Garden

Mountain Man and I went around and pruned the berry bushes in preparation for next year.  We need to do some more studying up on this process, but we understand the basic concept and do our best each year and it seems to work well.

While we were out and about around the gardens we found a small problem.

We use a 8-foot tall deer proof fencing around our gardens to keep the deer out.  It is made of plastic mesh, which is nice because it doesn’t block the view the way other fences do.  We use chicken wire on the bottom 2 feet of the fence, and bury it out a foot under the ground along the outside of the fence to keep out rabbits and digging critters.

Last year we built the new Apple Garden, which includes our two apple trees and the new medicinal herb garden.  We didn’t get around to reinforcing the bottom of the deer fence, and thankfully it didn’t matter through last summer.  But it seems a bunny has discovered the lack of defense and chewed a hole through the fence into the Apple Garden.  We will need to get the bottom reinforced before spring when there will actually be something in there for the bunnies to damage.

Knitting

I finished the very bright Fibonacci stripe pattern socks!  I am happy with how they turned out.  This sock yarn from knitpicks was a different texture than any sock yarn I have used before, so it will be interesting to see how they wear.

Due to all the big projects I knit for Christmas and thus the desire for smaller, fast-to-finish, portable projects – plus the fact that I got a ton of new sock yarn for Christmas – my sock knitting spree has continued.  The ones made from the Fergus/Bamboo yarn are coming along as are a new pair I cast on.

These use Serenity Sock yarn in the colorway Borealis and I am doing a combo of the construction of the Fish Lips Kiss pattern mixed with the textured pattern from Hermoine’s Everyday Socks pattern.

 

Sunday Homestead Update

What I love about our winters is that even though we will get down into the below-zero temps several times throughout the winter…we also have sunny days in the high 40s to low 50s F interspersed throughout the winter as well.  While most of the week was frigid with night temperatures below zero, yesterday was one of those warm days, which was wonderful because we were able to get out into the barn and barnyard and do some clean up and projects.

It is oh-so-wonderful to see all these creatures happily living in harmony in the barnyard now!  It brings us great joy to have the sheep back and to have Anya guarding everyone.

Anya has now made it several weeks guarding the animals without incident.  She is very content and happy doing her job and having the run of the barnyard.

The sheep have settled in and know the routine and the run of the place now.  Rose and Anya were both vying for my affection while we worked in the barnyard yesterday.

Sheep

We have been hoping the ewes would have another heat cycle yet this season, especially since they do come from breeds that breed out of season (regular sheep breeding season is Sept-Dec).  Thankfully, Rose came into heat this last week and Fergus has been breeding her.  So it looks like we will be having late May/early June lambs!  This will be very late for us, but since we didn’t get the sheep back until right before Christmas, there wasn’t much that could be done.  You never know, maybe we will like lambing later in the season…at least we wont have to worry about frigid blizzards happening at the same time as a lamb being born.  🙂  It is very exciting to know there are lambs on the way!

Due to overuse of de-wormers in sheep in America, many are now ineffective.  So the best way to handle parasites in sheep is by feeding them off the ground, and doing fecal tests yearly before using any de-wormers.

In order to feed our sheep and goats off the ground, a few years ago we made these built-in fence feeders for our outdoor feeding of hay.

And we made these quick and easy feeders for our indoor feeding of hay.

But the quick and easy feeders were somewhat short-lived.  The ones that we attached to the wall (like in the photo above) broke after several months.   Though the ones that are attached outside of our lambing jugs (three photos below) have worked great and not broken.

So we needed a new hay rack in the indoor stall so we could feed the sheep off the ground.  This weekend Mtn. Man threw together a rack for in the stall using some wood scraps and a cattle panel scrap.    He installed it on the half-wall of the stall that opens into the main barn so we can easily throw the hay over the wall and into the feeder without having to enter the stall.  We are very happy with how it turned out and it is working well.

Knitting

After knitting several large projects for Christmas presents, I am anxious to some quick small projects and get that finished satisfaction in a shorter amount of time.  And since I got this kit with 12 different colored sock yarns in it for Christmas…I am set to go on socks!

What I love about this kit is the variety of colors.  I am terrible at picking colors…for anything, not just yarn.  But with yarn I just stick with what I know and love – purples, blues, greens, dark colors, no brights.  So getting this kit really stretches my color comfort zone and helps me make some stuff with colors that are outside the box for me.

So I decided to dive right in with the bright colors and go for it.  So I am making very bold and bright striped socks using the Fibonacci number pattern of 3, 5, 8, and 13.

I have also cast on a second pair of socks.  These are just a basic sock, using a special toe pattern I do to custom fit Young Man’s feet, and I will use a Fish Lips Kiss Heel because that is currently my favorite heel pattern.  This yarn is a 3-ply sport weight yarn that Mtn Man made me in the mill using Fergus’ 2018 fleece blended with bamboo that had been dyed blue.  I don’t know if it will show on the computer screen, but the blue bamboo adds a cool subtle blue color to the dark grey of Fergus’ fleece.  I am enjoying working with it too.  Fergus has an excellent fleece, I am really glad we were able to buy him back.

Yay for knitting projects that are easy to transport and quick to finish!

2018 Year-End Homestead Review

Looking back over the previous year on the homestead is an excellent practice because it helps us see what worked, what didn’t, and helps us plan for the future.  It is also always very encouraging to me because even when I feel like we didn’t have a very productive year, seeing it all written out shows me all that we accomplished.  Our homestead has had to take a backseat to other parts of our life over the last few years due to our baby’s serious medical issues.  This year more than ever.  But despite that, we still are able to do some homesteading and it brings us stability and joy.

To read previous Year-End Reviews Click the following links:

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Statistics

Chickens:

  • Started year with 20 hens, 9 young pullets and cockerels, and 1 rooster
  • Purchased 10 layer chicks and 41 meat chicks
  • 18 meat chicks died first couple of weeks, 1 layer chick died – 9 layers and 23 meat chicks survived
  • Because of large loss of meat chicks decided to buy 11 layer chicks to add to the brooder
  • 5 broody hen sets with a total of 15 chicks surviving
  • 1 cross beak chick had to be culled, 1 silkie hen licked to death by LGD pup, 1 hen killed by bobcat, 1 young pullet died for unknown reasons, and 1 hen died of egg bound
  • Butchered 23 meat chickens, 10 layer cockerels, 1 aggressive rooster, and 8 hens
  • Sold 9 hens
  • Ended year with 28 hens, 1 chick, and 1 rooster
  • Approximately 3,500 eggs laid

Farm Dogs:

  • Anya, our 2.5-year-old Anatolian Shepherd, is continuing to mature and be trained to be our lead LGD.  As a pup she accidentally licked a couple of chickens to death and therefore was living adjacent to the barnyard and continuing to be trained.  In December we were very excited to move her into the main barnyard and have her be mature enough to guard without any accidental killings.
  • We have had no bear break-in attempts on the barn since she took over.  The bears used to try to break into the barn multiple times each autumn, despite our previous wonderful guard dog living in the barn (he did keep them out and alerted us so we could chase them off, but they continued to try).  I am guessing it is the size difference, our previous guard dog was 55 lbs, Anya is over 100.  I think the bears can tell the difference when they hear her bark and such and they don’t think it is worth it to grapple with a dog that big.  Not sure what else would cause the change.

Sheep:

  • Did not have sheep most of this year.  Sold the flock December of 2017 due to son’s medical issues and hospitalizations.
  • Unexpectedly bought back three of our sheep a couple weeks before the end of the year!  2 ewes and 1 ram.  They are currently living together in hopes of squeezing in last-minute breedings for this year so we can have some lambs born this summer.

Goats:

  • No goats this year due to son’s medical issues.  Contemplating plans for a dairy goat in 2019, but have not decided yet.

Garden:

  • Over 490 lbs of produce harvested
  • Spent $134 on the garden this year, average of $0.27 per lb.

Heritage Arts:

  • I completed the following knit projects: 2 cabled hats, 1 cabled cardigan, 1 pair of flip-top mittens, 7 pairs of socks, 2 baby blankets, 1 baby vest, 1 shawl, 1 afghan and 169 squares for my scrap sock afghan.
  • I completed one cross stitch, and sewed 4 skirts for myself, 1 dress for myself, 4 skirts for the girls, 1 dress for Sunshine, 4 bibs for Mr. Smiles, hospital PJs for Mr. Smiles, several pairs of flannel PJ pants for everyone, and 3 flannel nightgowns for Little Miss. Plus innumerable amounts of mending and patching of clothes.
  • The girls did countless projects, each of them finishing more projects than I did.

Kitchen:

  • Canned over 350 jars of food this year.

Year Summary

January was much warmer than usual and we enjoyed the chance to get outside when we could, though the end was bitterly cold.  We spent a lot of time dealing with our son’s medical issues, with hospitals, surgery, and many doctor’s appointments.  We were able to get our garden planning and school curriculum planning done, along with building a new pantry area in the basement.

In February the girls and I spent the cold days working on my grandmother’s English paper piecing quilt, as well as a crocheted scrap afghan.  I also worked on finishing some of my crafty WIPs (works-in-progress) to get them out of storage and completed.

March brought a lot of garden prep work, building new garden areas, and remodeling older garden areas.  Our hatchery chicks arrived on the farm, including our first ever try with meat chicks.  We were very disappointed when a huge amount of the meat chicks died for unknown reasons.  It wasn’t our brooding techniques because none of the layer chicks being brooded with them died.  We also had our first hatch of the year under a mama hen.  We remodeled our bathroom, as well as a couple chicken housing areas in the barn.  And we enjoyed learning the art of dehydrating fruit.

In April we started plans for our medicinal herb garden, little green shoots started poking up their heads on our perennial plants in the garden, and our seedlings inside began taking over the house.  During the cold weather the girls and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, canning jam and homemade ketchup, as well as starting to work through the Little House Living recipe book.  And we spent some time sewing PJ pants for the family as well as some skirts and dresses.  At the very end of the month the swallows arrived a little early, signaling that it was time to put our first seeds in the ground outside.

In May we didn’t get the big snows that we usually get towards the end of the month, which meant that our garden got a big head start over previous years.  We worked a lot in the garden and we butchered the first round of meat chickens and found the meat to be superior to the meat from our dual-purpose birds.

June was another month extra heavy on the medical stuff with our son.  We spent time in the ER, had unexpected hospitalizations and surgery, as well as many doctor’s appointments.  Somehow we were able to keep the garden going strong, started some harvesting, and butchered the last of the chickens.  And we squeezed in some sewing of bibs too.

In July we were busy gardening, harvesting, and started our canning season.  We had another 2 hens set and hatch chicks.  And the girls and I continued our sewing spree, making more skirts, PJ pants, hospital Pjs for Mr. Smiles, and a knitting bag.  We decided to try eating one of the silkie roos we butchered and were surprised to find their meat is black (more of a purple, really, but creepy nonetheless).  We wont do that again!  Our LGD had to spend some time indoors because of the flies eating her ears, but we finally found a repellent that worked long-term, after years of trying many many different things with no success or very short-lived success.  We also finished chopping and stacking all the firewood that we needed for the winter.

August was mostly focused on more of our son’s medical stuff.  But despite that we were able to continue with the harvest and canning, make herbal medicine, and we added our first root cellar veggie storage rack to the basement.  We competed in many ways at the County Fair and brought home a lot of ribbons and prizes.  We were surprised by a very early first frost.

September was so full of homestead work that I barely had time to blog.  We kept ourselves busy with gardening, harvesting, canning. freezing, hunting, and butchering – all things related to putting food up for the winter.  We added another root cellar veggie rack to the basement and really enjoyed using both the racks to put up the produce.  We also started remodeling one of our wood stove areas and had another hen set and hatch out chicks.

October was full of a lot of canning and we bought a new kitchen gadget to make it easier.  We filled the shelves in the basement pantry and used every empty jar we owned.  We wrapped up the gardening season and were really excited when we tallied everything and found that we had our most successful garden season ever.  I did some preliminary garden planning for next year while everything was till fresh in my mind.  And we also got our first snow of the season.

In November we stayed indoors while we had unseasonably cold weather outside.  We were able to put some more meat in the freezer through successful hunting and we made a lot of firestarters and a batch of hand-dipped beeswax candles.  We did our final chicken culling and re-organizing in preparation for winter, and we decided to try growing lettuce and spinach indoors under grow-lights for the winter months.

December brought a lot of Christmas candy making, as well as Christmas present making since we home-make almost all of our Christmas presents.  We said “no” to a lot of regular events and activities to keep a nice, calm, Christmas season and were so glad that we did.  I learned how to darn socks, and was able to fix several holes we had in some of our handmade socks.  We had two very exciting events happen for the homestead.  First, our LGD, Anya, was finally mature and trained enough to guard the livestock full time on her own.  And secondly, 3 of our sheep returned to the farm after being away for a year.  We ended the year with more medical issues, emergency rooms, hospitalization, and surgery, which will be pouring over into the new year as well.

Looking back we can see that it has been another very productive year full of blessings.

Sunday Homestead Update

A frigid winter week on the farm meant checking on critters often and spending a lot of time by the fire working on Christmas presents.

Knitting And Sewing

I finished all the Christmas Eve flannel PJs!  4 pairs of flannel pants and one nightgown.  I purchased Mr. Smiles’ PJs because he still isn’t quite big enough for the flannel PJ pants to work for him.  So all that is left is PJs for me.  Hopefully I will get to that in the upcoming weeks.  Sorry, I don’t have any pics because they all got wrapped before I could photograph them because I didn’t want anyone to accidentally see them.

But mostly I have been knitting, knitting, knitting like crazy trying to finish the on-second-thought-maybe-I’m-in-over-my-head projects I chose to make for Christmas presents this year.  The good news is that I finished one, which leave only two more to complete.

I asked Mtn Man to delete this post from his email and not read it so I could show you his present, which is the one I finished this week.

It is an afghan that I partially designed by taking the pattern Stag Head Pullover by Nora Gaughan and making it into an afghan (instead of a sweater) and rearranging the antlers to make them look more like the mule deer in our area.  I used “Everything Yarn” that Mtn Man made in the mill.  I am SUPER happy with how it turned out and cannot wait to give it to him.  I think he will love it.

So now I just need to finish the dress for Little Miss and socks for Young Man.  I am hopeful no one will have to get their Christmas presents still on the knitting needles, but I am accepting that it might happen that way.  Time will tell…for now, I need to get back to my knitting.  🙂

Sunday Homestead Update

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  We really had a great one.  Delicious food, nice fellowship, and thankful spirits.  We have found that a thankful spirit and attitude is the key to peace and joy in life, so we don’t just focus on thankfulness on one holiday a year – we make a constant practice of it every day.  We have a chalkboard up in our living room that is our “Counting Every Blessing” board.  Whenever someone thinks of something to be thankful for they go and write it on the board.  Once it is jam packed full we erase and start over.  It has really helped us keep good perspectives on life, especially through the hard times.

Christmas Candies

As is our tradition, we made Christmas candies the weekend after Thanksgiving while we decorated the house for Christmas.  Caramels, Old-Fashioned Hard Candy, Fudge (butterscotch and eggnog), and peppermint bark.  We will continue to make more throughout December and give it to friends and family and take it to Christmas gatherings that we attend.

Caramels

Old Fashion Hard Candy

Peppermint Bark

Eggnog Fudge

Butterscotch Fudge

Basement Garden

The lettuce and spinach in the basement garden under grow lights have sprouted.  We planted another tray so we can have succession plantings.  We are hoping for fresh salad through the winter from this basement garden since we have been very disappointed in the quality of greens we are finding for sale at the stores.

Advent

Advent starts today.  It is a way that we acknowledge and celebrate the promise that God gave to send a savior, and the time of waiting before His arrival.  Mtn Man made us a pretty log advent wreath many years ago that we love.  Each night we light a certain amount of candles and do a Bible reading and short study on different aspects of the promises about the messiah.  My favorite is Christmas Eve when we light all the candles – it is so pretty and meaningful!  Here is a pic when it is all lit:

Knitting and Sewing

I am still busy knitting Christmas gifts, hoping to complete them all in time.  But I made a goal for myself back in the spring to complete 15 squares on my scrappy afghan each month.  So I took a short break from the Christmas knitting this week to complete the 15 squares for November.  I am not hooking them on, just getting them knit up.  I now have 150 of the 192 squares I need.  If I keep up with my goal I should complete the squares in February, and then hopefully get it all hooked together and complete by March.

I figured out how to darn socks this week.  I have been putting it off because I had no one to teach me, but it got to the point that it had to be done.  Hand knit socks get holes just like other socks and it is much easier to darn them than knit a new one.  I do find that by reinforcing the socks I knit we have minimal holes, but they still occasionally happen – especially when one steps on the transitions strip between carpet and wood flooring and the screw tops snag the sock.

So I decided to go for it.  I knew the basic principal – weave a patch so there aren’t any lumps and bumps to be uncomfortable on the foot.  I got out my darning egg – I inherited this one from my great-grandmother in her sewing basket.

I put the sock on there and then cleaned up the edges of the hole a bit.  This was before I cleaned up the edges.

First I wove in vertically.

Then I wove across those horizontally.

 

I am not sure if that is the right way, or how long it will last…but it felt good on his foot and looks fine, so I am hopeful.

Every year I make the kids flannel pajamas and they give them to them on Christmas Eve.  I purchased all the needed flannel this week and am starting to cut them out and sew them now.  I am also sewing myself a special winter skirt that I will share more about later.

Fun and productive start to winter on the farm!