Sunday Homestead Update

Life is beginning to slow down a bit around the homestead, which is so nice and much-needed.  We have sold off some of the extra stock, which decreases the work load, and the Mill is up and running now so the crazy-busy of getting the new business going is subsiding a bit.

Garden Signs

When we first moved to WCF there was a big scrap wood pile here.  Most of it was rotten and not usable, but there were a few “treasures” buried in it.  One of which was some old shingles that I used to paint some old-farm-style signs to put up around the garden.

I am all for the worn-out old-time look, but over the years they have become so faded that it has passed that point.  So we took them all down and I re-painted them.  It is nice to have them back up and freshened up.

Heritage Arts

Sometimes my heritage arts projects never get photographed and thus don’t get shared.  Here are some from the last couple months that I forgot to share.

I made Young Man some hunting gloves for his birthday.  He specifically requested gloves with no tips on the pointer or thumb so he could keep his hands warm while hunting but still be able to safely load and shoot.

And for Easter I made the kids these cute little bunnies.  They were super easy, actually just a knit square that you origami sew into a bunny.  Their bodies were full of candy.  The pattern was Easter Bunnies by Geraldine Allemand.

Sheep

The sheep are doing well.  We sold the bottle babies, so there are only two lambs in the barnyard right now with their mothers.  Our last ewe due to lamb is still pregnant and has us wondering what is going on.  She is ten days past her ultrasound due date estimate, which has not happened to us before.  The ultrasound due date estimates have always been pretty darn spot on.  But I guess it can’t always be right.  She will lamb when she is ready.  Meanwhile, we wait.

Toffee is very curious and friendly, always wanting to check everything out.

On my way outside I caught these two cuties cuddling.  Sorry for the fence and poor photo quality, I knew once I approached they would get up and so I was attempting to get a photo before they did.  This is Tundra, our wonderful old Livestock Guard Dog and Rose our little moorit lamb.

Goats

Now that the bottle lambs are gone we also sold one of the milk goats.  We want to just keep one milk goat due to our limited space – since sheep and chickens are the main focus for our farm, but we like to have fresh raw milk.  So we sold Heidi but still have Gretchen, since she is so old and the vet recommended she not be bred again we figured no one will want to buy her.  She is super easy to milk, even though she doesn’t make as much as we would like for our family.

We will be getting a new replacement goat later this summer, a well-bred, high-quality registered Nubian doe that is lactating currently.  She will produce enough milk to provide for our family without us needing to own more than one goat, and we have set up with her breeder to take her to the buck each fall for breeding.

More Cloth Napkin/Placemat Sets

I am working on finishing up the Spring/Easter cloth napkin/placemat sets.  I have a goal to have a different set of cloth placemats/napkins for each season for our family.  This makes the third set out of the goal of four.  Next fall I hope to make the winter/Christmas set and then they will all be complete and I will be able to change out our table decor seasonally.

I like to make the placemats reversible, with one side seasonal and the other side holiday.  But I don’t like the napkins to be reversible so I make a separate set of napkins to match each side of the placemats.

Here are the newest additions:

Spring

Easter

I think that the spring set is my favorite of all the sets I have ever made!

 

Here are the other sets I have made so far:

Summer/Independence Day

Autumn/Thanksgiving

Sunday Homestead Update

This week Mtn Man made a good analogy of what our life feels like lately – he said it feels like every day we start competing in a new episode of American Ninja Warrior.  We are constantly facing one obstacle after another and have to decide how best to conquer each one quickly, but effectively.  But in our daily life version of the show if we fall in the water we aren’t done…we just have to continue on with the rest of the obstacles while sopping wet.  And at the end of the day we are anxious to just slam down on that buzzer, celebrate that we survived, and collapse into bed exhausted.  It seemed very fitting to me when he described it.  So, needless to say, we are in a busy season right now.  But we are getting through it well, with only occasional sopping wet moments, and a lot of good buzzer moments to look back on.

The loss of Gretchen’s doeling and the stress of the ordeal surrounding it has been hard on the family this week.  But the morning that she died, as I walked out to the barn at 5:30am, I saw this amazing sunrise. It was even better in person…I find that my phone camera never does justice to a sunrise or sunset.  But it helped give me perspective on how blessed we are despite the loss.  And I will continue to choose the homesteading lifestyle even though it sometimes breaks my heart.  Because really, every version of life will break your heart at some point, and we love all the blessings that come with the homesteading life.

 

Goats

Heidi and her baby, Fern, are doing well.  Fern is oh-so-cute bouncing around the barnyard.  She loves to play king-of-the-mountain on top of the compost pile.  Her ears are pretty funny – since her father was a Nigerian Dwarf (upright ears), and her mother is a Nubian (droopy ears), she has these in-between ears that kind of stick out to the sides most of the time, but also go up a lot.  Very cute.  She is anxious to have someone to play with, so I hope our first lambs arrive soon.

Gretchen is recovering from her delivery.  Her milk amounts are slowly increasing, but are way below what we expected.  We don’t know why she has such low production.  Maybe her old age?  Maybe the trauma from the delivery?  Maybe the meds she had to take afterwards?  We still can’t drink the milk until Monday because of the meds.  We haven’t decided what we will do with her yet.

It was really cute when we started letting Heidi and Fern back out with the flock.  Gretchen was so happy to have them back.  She definitely does not like hanging out with the sheep and is adamant that she is a goat and needs to hang out only with goats.  Her and Heidi were rubbing on each other with their heads, kind of like cats do.  Clearly happy to be back together and able to form their own little group separate from the sheep.

We made our first batch of Chevre this week with the goat milk.  It tasted good just plain, but we are also experimenting with adding different herbs and such to the cheese.

Sheep

We are closing in on our first sheep lambing due dates.  Rianna’s udder is starting to bag up quite a bit, and her babies have dropped.  So we are expecting hers this week.  We are struggling to keep weight on her because #1 she is old and her back teeth are not good, #2 her babies are taking up space so she can’t eat as much, and #3 she is the bottom of the pecking order and always being chased away.  We have been putting her in her own stall to feed her and we are giving her as much grain as we can safely give her, plus almost unlimited alfalfa, but she is still underweight.  We are contemplating getting her some alfalfa cubes and moistening them to see if that makes it easier for her to eat.  This is definitely her last year as a breeding ewe.  We bought her a few months ago, already bred, to hopefully sire the future breeding ram for our flock.

Violet is the next one due and she is a first-time mother.  Her udder is bagging up just a little at this point.  Agnes is starting to bag up as well, and might be due sooner than we expected.  Fiona is the last one due – mid april – and she is the flock matriarch.  She is getting quite overweight in our efforts to keep everyone else up to weight.  So we are contemplating ways to be sure she doesn’t get any fatter because it can effect her ability to give birth safely.

Managing the flock has been a bit high-maintenance lately, as you can see, but we are really excited for all the upcoming lambs.

Chicks

The chicks have left the fluffy stage and are in the half-fluff/half-feather stage.  They will likely move up to the coop, with their heaters, sometime in the next week or so.

Barnyard Maintenance

We don’t have any pasture since we live on a rocky mountainside.  So all of our animals live in the barnyard.  The main key to making that live-able and clean is to be very careful not to over-crowd the space.  We keep our number of animals low so that all the animals have plenty of space and the area stays cleaner.  A few times a year we rake all the barnyard mess (droppings and leftover hay) into the compost piles in the center of the yard so it can mix with the stall scrapings and break down into compost for the garden.  It helps keep the ground cleaned up for the animals too.  The chickens and Mountain Man stir and turn the piles throughout the year to help them break down.

We had some really nice weather this week, after the winds died down, and we used the opportunity to do a barnyard cleaning.  As we raked the spots that had a lot of hay on them we found a layer of snow and ice under the hay that hadn’t melted because it was insulated by the hay.  So raking it up will help that melt as well.

Heritage Arts

Despite the crazy busy life lately, I still am working on my heritage arts projects – they are my sanity :-).

I finished a cross stitch bookmark for Little Miss:

And I am now working on this cross stitch pattern called “Market Carrots.”  I have never done a project on black Aida cloth before.

And I am also working on serging the edges of the new spring/Easter placemats and cloth napkins I am making.

Plenty going on around here!

Homestead Update

Whew!…it’s been a little while since I have posted.  Life is going full blast in all good directions, but it leaves little time for the computer, which honestly, since I was born a century too late, doesn’t bother me much.

Here’s an update of what’s up at our homestead.

Goats

Heidi and her doeling, Fern (the kids changed the doeling’s name), are doing very well.  The other two doelings were sold as bottle babies.

But before we sold them we had the vet out to do the dreaded dis-budding and teach Mtn Man how to do it so we can do it on our own next time.  It was NOT a fun process and we are so glad it is over.  If we didn’t have a mixed flock we would likely leave the horns, but since none of the rest of our flock have horns, we didn’t want to keep a goat that had them and have them become a bully or injure the other flock members who don’t have the same weapons on their heads.

We are getting about 1/2 – 3/4 gallon of milk from Heidi, milking twice a day, while still leaving Fern with her mom full time.  We were planning to close kids off at night and just milk once a day in the morning once Gretchen had her kids, but as you will see below, that wont be happening.  It is too cold to close Fern off on her own at night, and since there are no other kids to be with her we are just milking twice a day and sharing Heidi with Fern.  We are really enjoying having fresh, raw milk again.

Gretchen, sadly, had a very rough delivery last Friday/Saturday.  We were able to save her, but not the doeling that she was carrying.  It was a very stressful and sad ordeal for the whole family.  A hard reminder that this lifestyle includes painful losses right along with all the wonderful life and joy.  It also made us all the more grateful that Heidi was able to safely deliver her triplets despite the first one being breech.

Gretchen is currently on antibiotics and meds to help her heal from the ordeal, and time will tell what we are going to do with her.  The vet made it out the farm after I finally got the baby out (one of the drawbacks of living over an hour from the nearest large animal vet) and he said he believes Gretchen is older than we were told she was when we bought her and that she is too old to breed again – it would be too dangerous for her.  In addition, she isn’t making much milk yet.  We don’t know if that is from the stress and strain of the birth, or what.  We can’t drink the milk anyway, because of the meds she is on.  So we will see if she is able to produce a good lactation or not and that will help decide what we will do with her.

Sheep

Two of the sheep are now in their last month of pregnancy and we have shifted their feed and given them their CDT vaccinations.  No worming this year because we opted to do fecal tests instead and everyone came back worm free.  The other two pregnant sheep are still about 6 weeks out.

Chickens & Chicks

My hens are doing fine, nothing new with them.  The chicks are growing fast – as always.  They are starting to get their feathers.  They will stay in brooders another week or so and then move up to the upper coop.  After my last post we still had more chicks die – all of the same breed from the same hatchery.  The other chicks of that breed that came from a different hatchery, as well as the other breeds from a different hatchery all survived fine.  I think that is pretty strong evidence that it has to do with the hatchery and either their breeding stock, or their handling of eggs and chicks.  Thankfully, all the remaining chicks are strong and healthy and I think we are through with having chicks die.

Garden

We are closing in on time to start seeds indoors in a couple of weeks.  I am beginning to prepare my seed starting supplies and finalize my plans.

Heritage Arts

My knitting has taken a back seat lately as I have been in the mood to cross stitch.  I have also been working on finishing up the last few skirts I am making for myself and the girls.  And I am starting to work on the spring/Easter placemat/napkin set I am making to add to my seasonal placemat/napkin goal for this year.

 

I haven’t had time for photos recently, but hoping to get some photos up in the next week or so of all the things going on around here.

Sunday Homestead Update

 

We have been really enjoying the farm babies this last week (see previous post).  And we have been very busy with a lot of things going on that are not related to the homestead.  But we did manage to get a few homestead-related things done.

Managing Winter Stalls

Last weekend we did our winter stall cleaning routine in both of the bigger stalls and the lambing/kidding stalls.

We use a deep bedding-type method in our barn stalls during the winter.  Since we live in the mountains with a lot of predators constantly interested in our livestock, all the animals are closed inside our big barn every night year-round.  This is not an option, it is a requirement if we don’t want to lose them to mountain lions, bears, bobcats, etc.  In the winter, they also spend a lot more time in the barn because in bad weather we feed them indoors, and on really bad days we keep them in the barn with the barn closed up completely.  This means that in the winter the bedding in the stalls gets a lot more use and needs more care to keep the ammonia away.

Preparation for winter deep bedding starts in the late fall.  On a warm dry day in November we scrape out the stalls completely to the floor and let them dry out for a day.  In our very dry climate just a day is enough time to get a lot of drying out.  Then we bed them with about 12 inches of pine shavings.  Over time a bunch of hay gets mixed in as well because we feed them in the barn at their evening meal.  It all gets packed down pretty well and the waste is mixed in.  About monthly, more often if necessary, we dig around and remove all the very wet stuff (probably about 20% of the entire amount in the stall).  We throw it all out on the compost pile in the barnyard to eventually become our garden soil.  Then we stir around the rest of the now-composting bedding that is a range from moist to semi-moist to dry.  Then we add another layer of shavings over the top – this layer is usually about 2 inches or so over the whole stall.  Then we let it all go for a month or so until it needs another work over.  If at any point we start to smell ammonia we immediately clean out all the wet parts thoroughly, but that doesn’t usually happen at all as long as we are working it over often enough based on how many animals are using how much space.

The lambing/kidding stalls are different since they are so small.  When one of our sheep or goats is 2 weeks or so from delivery we usually close her into one of the lambing/kidding stalls each night.  Usually about half the used bedding in the lambing/kidding stalls needs to be removed every two weeks or so if they are being lived in every night.  That much of it is quite wet.  We leave the wet areas uncovered all day to dry, then push the dry-but-used shavings over the wet area and add another layer of fresh new shavings.  When one of our animals is giving birth we throw down a thick layer of straw over the shavings, which we promptly remove any wet/messy parts of afterwards.

Jeans to Skirts

We made some skirts for Little Miss this week out of some old jeans that used to be Sunshine’s.  They were her absolute favorite jeans because the waist band was so comfortable  So she wore them until they had holes in the knees, then I patched them and she wore them until the patches had holes.  Then she outgrew them.  Theoretically one would throw out jeans with holes in the patches, but Little Miss tried them on and loved the comfy waistband too, so we cut off the legs and made them into skirts for her.

I realize the waistband doesn’t match the skirt – but she wears all her shirts un-tucked, so it will always be covered by a shirt and wont matter.

img_3599 img_3607

These skirts are super-simple and fast to make.  I easily did two in a couple of hours.  I just have her put on the pants and I measure up from the ground and mark with a sewing pen that same height all the way around so I can cut it and have it even length.  Then I make a short vertical cut up the crotch seam so I can overlap it and make it flat – otherwise the small amount of crotch seam left sill stick out.  Then I cut a rectangle of fabric, gather it, and attach it.  Sometimes she likes more gathers – thus a longer rectangle of fabric, and sometimes she wants less gathering – so I cut a shorter rectangle.