Sunday Homestead Update

This will be our last update for awhile.  Mr. Smiles is having another surgery and hospital stay, so farm life will be heading to the back burner for awhile while we spend our time caring for our family through this hard time.

We have been scrambling to get things in order around here so that everything will be as low-maintenance as possible during this.  Our friends and family are stepping in to help us with everything, which is such a blessing.

Barn Flood Aftermath

It has continued to rain quite a bit, but thankfully no more flood damage.  We have dug several new ditches around the property to try to force the water away from buildings and down the mountainside.

We also decided to re-do the barn floor with cement pavers.  We bought the first load and have started setting them.  We have been putting a few in here and there as we find time in all the busy-ness right now.


Our friends took the goats and are boarding them for us until this hospital stuff is all over.  They will milk them for us, which will take a huge load off of the chores around the farm.


We had two sheep we were planning to butcher later this fall, but we decided to go ahead and get one butchered now so that there were less animals to care for, and we didn’t have to try to squeeze it in later if things get rougher.  We got 26 lbs of meat, 12 lbs of dog food, and stock bones.  We started making the stock yesterday and will can it soon.

Making stock is really easy and it is so delicious and nutritious.  We put the bones on a broiling pan and brown them in the oven for about half and hour.

Then we add some veggies: carrots, onions, and celery – these were fresh from the garden!

We put it back in the oven until the veggies are brown.  Then we put all the bones and veggies, plus the drippings, and some herbs (some of those were fresh from the garden too!)

into a big pot with some water and simmer it for several hours.  Strain it and cool it, then skim the fat and pressure-can the stock.  It will be nice to have some more lamb stock in the pantry for this winter.  And it is exciting that the only things in it not from our homestead are the peppercorns and the bay leaf.


The chickens are in two separate pens, but there isn’t anything we can do about it at this point.  We have the upper coop and pen, which has all the hens and pullets, plus the two roosters in it.  Those chickens also have access to free range in the barnyard.

Eve and her three chicks are still in the grow-out pen in the barn.  It will be a few more weeks before she is done raising them and we can figure out the plan for what to do then.  For now, to make it easier to care for everyone, we are training them (or having Eve, their mama hen train them) on a drip waterer.  It is much cleaner and doesn’t have to be filled as often.  The other pen of chickens is already on a drip waterer, the chicks just hadn’t learned to use one yet.

That will make chicken care as low-maintenance as possible.


We have been harvesting and putting-up all that is ready to harvest in the garden.

Celery, beet greens, beets, cabbage sprouts, lettuce, spinach, and carrots.  We ate a lot fresh, and then froze the extra carrots and celery for soups and stews this winter.

We also got green beans and canned them.

Our first frost is likely to happen during all this craziness, but there isn’t much we can do except take it as it comes.  Hopefully we, or our friends who are helping us around the farm, will be around to quickly harvest all the green tomatoes and the last of the beans right before the frost hits so we don’t lose that part of the harvest.


I have been, surprisingly, getting a lot of knitting done during this busy time.  When I am anxious it makes me feel better to put my hands to some knitting.  So whenever I sit down to rest for a few minutes, or am waiting in the waiting room at yet-another doctor’s appointment, or am on the long drive to the specialists’ offices, I have been knitting.  I have a pair of socks, a shawl, and a hooded scarf all on the needles right now.


Please keep our family in your prayers.  This is Mr. Smiles’ 6th surgery in his very short 2 years of life.  Every time we have to do a surgery and hospital stay it is very difficult on him, as well as our whole family.  Our experience thus far does make it a little easier to prepare ourselves, and the homestead, to try to make it as easy as possible to get through.  But it is still quite a trial for all of us.

I hope to be back to posting later this fall with all things autumn-in-the-Rockies…my favorite time of year!

Sunday Homestead Update

Can you believe it is August!?  Where did July go?  Actually, July felt long, and short to us.  Long days, short month.  That is life – long days, short years.

We had a very chilly day this week for August, it didn’t get above 60F, and the night was cold, which was surprising.  But then it went back up to warmer again.  We continue to get a lot of rain.  We are digging ditches and trying to divert the water to keep another flood from happening as happened last week.  We are still deciding what to do about the barn flooring.  Paving stones definitely seem like the ideal option, just not sure if we can pull it off right now or not.


The garden continues to be the main topic of conversation this time of year.  It is doing beautifully and we continue to harvest from it.  Here is a picture comparison of the garden now, compared to earlier in the year.

The carrot harvest has started.  We tried a new variety this year and were not happy with it compared to the variety we did last year.  It did not germinate as well, several of the plants went to seed even though it is their first year, the carrots seem to go from under-ripe to over-ripe very quickly which makes harvesting timing hard, and they have very deep cracks in them that are hard to clean out.  So we will not be doing Royal Chantenay next year and will instead go back to St. Valery, which we love.   But nonetheless, we are harvesting them and enjoying eating them fresh as well as freezing them for the winter.

Carrot section of the garden, with celery in the front of the photo

The tomato plants are huge and there are a lot of green tomatoes on them and growing.

The peas are growing really well this year, which has not been the case previous years.  We have been eating them fresh so much and enjoying them that way that we have not been able to put any away for the winter.

The herbs are doing well both in the main garden and in the container herb garden.

We have tons of purple beans and purple bean flowers on, and the shelling beans climbing up the new arch and doing great as well.  We are discussing adding another arch or two next year.

A wonderful bountiful garden this year!

We had the opportunity to harvest some crabapples and are going to make them into jelly.  My favorite flavor of jelly by far!

We took 8 different veggie entries to the fair this year and did quite well with them – got a couple first places, a second, and a couple third…happy with that!  The kids’ 4H projects did very well at fair and will compete at state.  And we also entered a few items in the open class and we got several ribbons from those.  Overall an excellent County Fair experience this year.


I finished the “fast project” pair of striped socks that I started after my sweater.  I am really happy with how they turned out.  The self-striping yarn almost matched itself perfectly from one skein to the other.


The roosters are settling pretty well with the hens, although we have had some trouble with one of them trying to get aggressive with us humans.  If that continues it will be easy to choose which one will be our breeding roo – we don’t keep aggressive roosters.

I will leave you with a couple of cute pictures…first, our indoor kitty watching our barn cat through the window.

And Anya, our year-old LGD, laying on top of the compost pile looking oh-so-cute.  This continues to be her favorite game during our training sessions lately – she gets on top of the pile, digs, rolls down the side, repeats it, and then eventually just lays on top.  With her face like that she looks very puppy-ish to me.  It is sometimes hard to remind myself she is still a puppy since she is over 85 lbs now.

Sunday Homestead Update

Another beautiful summer week in the Rockies!  We have had highs in the 80s F and lows in the 50s with a lot of afternoon rain showers.  It has been lovely weather.


I finally finished Mr. Smiles’ sweater!  I am very happy with how it turned out and can’t wait until he is big enough to wear it!

The pattern was Design B by Sirdar Spinning and the yarn was Knit Picks Swish DK in the color Squirrel Heather.

After that long project, that dragged on for months, I am in need of something fast, so I have started some simple socks using a self striping yarn.  I find that stripes always seem to make a project go faster because you are anxious to get to the next stripe color.


The sheep are all doing well.  We have been given watermelon rinds for them several times a week this summer and they absolutely love them.  Agnes’ face is even stained pink!  Here is Toffee enjoying a rind:

We had a Winnie-the-Pooh sort of incident with the sheep.  We have a creep feeder for the lambs.  It is one of the birthing stalls that we secured the door open just enough that the lambs can get in but not the ewes.  That way we can feed the lambs extra grain and alfalfa so they can grow well without the ewes eating it and getting fat.  Late last night, as we were getting ready to go to sleep, we heard a sheep distress call over and over again.  The guardian dogs were not barking, just the sheep calling.  It was really strange, so Mtn Man immediately went out to the barn to see what was going on.  What he found was hilarious.  Our biggest lamb, Daffodil, who barely fits through the creep feeder door anymore, had gone into the creep feeder to eat and had eaten so much that her belly was too big for her to get back out!  Just like the Winnie-the-Pooh books our kids love, where Pooh is stuck in Rabbit’s doorway.  Mtn Man helped her get back to the flock and it gave us all a good laugh.


Eve hatched out three chicks from the hatching eggs we bought her.  They are each different color and oh-so-cute with their mama.

We had a chicken accidental death this week.  I will discuss the details in an upcoming post.  It was my favorite of all the chickens, Amber, my only breeding Red Chantecler, which was such a bummer.  Now if I want to breed Reds I need to think about ordering some more chicks next year.


The garden continues to grow and produce beautifully.  We have finished harvesting all the cabbage for this year, with a total of 33.5 lbs!  That is about ten times what we have gotten in the past (yes, we have only gotten a few very small cabbages in the past), so we are very excited about it.  And usually we don’t harvest cabbage until September.  I think the tents we put them in definitely helped.

We made a big batch of sauerkraut and put it in the 3-gallon crock to ferment.

In about 3 weeks the sauerkraut will be ready to eat.

We also made some delicious, fresh, coleslaw.  We are all definitely enjoying all the yummy cabbage right from the garden.  And they are so much sweeter than store-bought.

Homestead Update

Farm life and regular life continues to keep us very busy…too busy to post much lately.  Let’s see if I can catch you up on some of it.

The County Fair is closing in on us faster than we can get ready.  The kids all have their 4H projects for fair, and several of us are also entering things in the open class.  We are excited, but also a little rushed to complete everything this year.


The garden is going so well this year!  The vegetables that have done not-as-well in previous years are doing very well this year, and most of the veggies that normally do very well are still doing very well this year.  The three veggies not doing as well this year are carrots, lettuce, and spinach.  The carrots are not doing well because I used some seeds I had saved and apparently they didn’t get saved properly because they had terrible germination.  And the lettuce and spinach aren’t doing well because one of the drip lines broke and they didn’t get the water they needed.


The cabbages are absolutely loving the pest control tents, and the compost-filled place they were planted.  Normally, we don’t harvest cabbage until September, and even then they are only about 1.5 lbs each.  We have already started the cabbage harvest and they are all in the 3-lb range, with the biggest being 3.5!  There are still several that are not ready yet, which is good because we don’t really want all of them at the same time.  We will be making a big batch of kraut in the fermenting crock this week with these cabbages.

We harvested our first beet as well – again, normally we don’t harvest beets until later in the year.

We have been getting a handful or more of strawberries each day for a couple of weeks now.  They are so delicious!  Very sweet and juicy.  And bigger than previous years by far.  A few are growing some strange shapes that are fun for the kids.

We had quite an aphid infestation on the currant bushes, and it was spreading to the tomatoes as well.  We decided to try ladybugs, which we had never tried before.  We got a cup that said it had over 1,500 in it and put them by the infested plants during a cool/cloudy time of day per the instructions.  It really helped with the infestation and we are happy with the results.

The three-year-old grapevine is doing extremely well this year.  It is vining all over the lattice and has numerous clumps of grapes on it.  As long as the critters don’t steal any, I expect we will have a great harvest of grapes this year as well.

The peas are doing much better this year than in previous years as well.  We have harvested mostly snap so far, but the shelling peas are coming along well too and should be ready very soon.  All the tomatoes are flowering and the earliest one has some tiny green fruit on it already.  The beans are growing so fast that each time we go out in the morning we can actually see the difference in size.

We left the WOWs on the squash, pumpkins, and melons longer than usual, which helped keep them a bit warmer and protected them from the June hail storms.  A couple of WOWs are still on.  So the pumpkin patch is looking very good this year and we are hopeful for a good harvest there as well.

We should have some zucchini ready very soon.

The Red Kuri squash leaves curl in on the edges, which looks really cool.


Three weeks ago I put some hatching eggs I bought under our little silkie hen, Eve, so she could set and raise some chicks.  She is currently hatching them out, we have seen two chicks so far and she still has two viable eggs left.

New Goat

We tried to sell our old milk goat, Gretchen, since she can’t be bred again.  But not many people are looking for an old nanny goat that can’t be bred, so after trying for a month we decided we just needed to butcher her.  We will use the meat for dog food.

Our new milk goat, Fern, arrived at the farm this week.  She is a registered Nubian with excellent udder confirmation and is very easy to milk.  She is currently fresh.  We are glad to be back into milking and having fresh milk.


Anya has an interesting habit of burying her food before she eats it.  She uses her nose to push whatever is available over the food and the dish.  Then she paces around, then digs it up and eats it.  It is very cute.  She is continuing to do well with her training and excel as a guardian dog.  She is doing well with all the animals now, including the chickens.  We still are not leaving her alone with them yet, since she is only a year and the lambs are not full size yet, but whenever we are out and can keep an eye on things we put her with the livestock and when we are not around she is in the back pen by herself and can interact with them through the fence.

Tundra, our head LGD, is not doing so well.  He is 12 and 1/2 years old now and his age is getting the best of him.  I don’t think he has long left.  He has been such an amazing guardian dog all these years and truly loves doing his job.  We are hoping for an easy and peaceful passing for him.  It is going to be very hard on the family, but there is nothing that can be done about it.  I often wish dogs lived longer.


I always knit socks, sleeves, and mittens two-at-a-time because I hate having to do another one after I have just finished one.  Well, for the first time ever I learned why it might be beneficial to only do one-at-a-time.  I was almost done with both sleeves for Mr. Smiles’ sweater and then I realized that I had done the increases wrong and had to completely take them out.  Taking out and re-doing two is definitely more work than just one.  😦

But I got them fixed and am about half done with them again.  I can’t wait to assemble this sweater!  It is so cute with the cables up the front.

That brings you up-to-date about most of the going-ons around the homestead!  I will leave you with a picture of the beautiful wildflowers that are blooming along the path to the barn.  There were even more of them in bloom a week ago, but you can still see how pretty they are.

Sunday Homestead Update

Sunday Homestead Update

BBQ Sauce for the 4th

We are hosting a BBQ at the farm for our extended family this year on the 4th of July.  We have been busy preparing, cleaning up and organizing the farm, crafting decorations, and cooking.  I decided to make this delicious BBQ Sauce recipe, from the Humble Food Snob.   I have made, and canned, this recipe before and our family loves it.  I decided to make a huge batch so that we would have some for the 4th, but also so I could can some for us to use in the coming months.

We ended up with 2 quarts to use for the BBQ, and in the coming weeks, and I canned 9 pints.  YUM!

Heritage Arts

I frogged the Reyna shawl that I started last week.  I felt like the pattern looked very pretty in the variegated yarn in the pattern photo, but in my solid-colored yarn the pattern seemed boring.  I wanted something with more pizzazz.  So once I took apart the Reyna, I cast the yarn on with the Swallowtail Lace Shawl pattern by Evelyn Clark Designs.


Last week we bought 12 hatching eggs so that our broody hen, Eve, could set.  I started them in the incubator because she is too small to set 12.  At day-3 candling 1 was rotten, 2 were infertile, 5 were fertile and looked healthy, and 4 looked questionable.  So we put the 5 good ones under Eve and took away her ceramic ones.  I threw away the rotten one and the infertile ones.  And I left the 4 questionable ones in the incubator until Friday, when I found that of the 4 questionable eggs was infertile, 1 was good, and the other two were early deaths (blood ring).  So Eve is now happily setting on 6 eggs, and the incubator is back in storage.

And then there were three…We started with 8 cockerels and butchered 2 a couple weeks ago.  This week we butchered another 3, leaving 3 for me to pick from for next year’s future flock breeding roo.  We have been rating them on the qualities we are looking for and watching them as they mature in order to decide who will stay and who will go.  In this batch of 3 that we butchered we had quite a size difference between the smaller two and the largest one.

This time around the older two kiddos wanted to see if they are able to do the whole process of butchering on their own.  So Mtn Man did the first one, then Young Man and Sunshine each did one on their own after that.  It is pretty exciting that our older kids are now capable of butchering a chicken start to finish on their own.

In another month or so we will likely butcher the final two, leaving just one breeding roo for next year.

That’s the update on what has been going on around Willow Creek Farm this week.  🙂