Sunday Homestead Update

As autumn barrels towards us, and the first frost is threatening to arrive any night, we are rushing to harvest the garden and trying to predict the weather enough to do what we can to frost protect the veggies when the frost arrives. The weather apps are notoriously inaccurate about our area as far as frosts go. I cant even count how many times now, spring and fall, we have had two different apps say the low would be 41 and we wake up to find we got to 32 and we have garden damage. I complain so much about them that the kids hung up a “Weather Rock” for me on the porch.

If the rock is wet, its raining.

If the rock is white, its snowing.

If the rock is swinging, its windy.

While I do love my weather rock, and smile when I see it, it is not exactly helpful to determine when it will frost. So we are doing our best to keep an eye on the weather apps, in conjunction with our own senses as we go do evening chores, to try to guess when the frost will come and protect the plants as much as possible.

Garden

We continue to struggle to grow potatoes. We have tried year after year. We have tried several different methods. We still are not very successful. We just harvested this year’s and again it was a small harvest.

But a lot of the other veggies are doing great. We harvested and canned 7 quarts of purple beans, plus another 10, 2-cup bags went to the freezer.

The bell pepper plants are producing great this year. Much more than last year. As are the peas. We have been enjoying them fresh and have frozen a lot of peas too.

Sheep

It was a hard goodbye yesterday as 2/3 of our flock departed to their new home. The person who bought them is very excited to add their genetics to their breeding flock though, so we are happy for that.

And on his way home from taking them to their new home, Mtn Man picked up the first of our new dairy sheep!

We are still working on a name for her.  She is an almost 2-year-old ewe, who has already lambed once.  She is 70% East Friesan and 30% Lacaune.

This is a very exciting new project for us.  We will be adding some more dairy sheep to the flock in September.

Chickens

Eves is now setting on fertile eggs. The first bunch of eggs we put under her was from the adult hens. Not one was fertile, proving the cockerel is not yet breeding the hens. But then we put a bunch of pullet eggs for setting, and it is clear he is doing his job with the younger pullets.  Out of 12 eggs, 9 were fertile and we had one early death.  So she is setting on 8 now.  In a couple of weeks we will have some chicks.

The Outcasts

Our current chicken flock is not very welcoming of everyone. This is the first year we have had the flock kill one of their own, and attempt to kill a second. We don’t like it, we don’t know why they are like this, and we don’t know what to do about it. We do a lot of integrating and switching around of pens and breeding groups and our methods have always been successful, for all these years, until this year. This year the flock will accept some birds, but not others.

This has left us with some outcasts. We didn’t know what to do with the outcasts besides butcher them. At least it would be better for them than the flock pecking them to death. But then I thought of the bantam flock in the lower coop. Maybe they would accept the outcasts into their little flock. It was worth a try. And it was successful! Over time they have now gathered three standard-size hen outcasts into their flock.

The most recent was Carrot, the hen that got attacked by the Golden Eagle. She has had a pretty miraculous recovery in the grow pen in the barn. But now it was time to try to figure out how to get her back with other chickens. Since she is still very thin, and needs more recuperation, I did not think it was a good idea to risk putting her with the big flock considering their behavior this year. So we moved her in with the bantams and the other outcasts. She has settled in nicely and seems happy to be in a bigger space with other chicken friends.

Heritage Arts

Little Miss wanted to try her hand at making a braided wool rug all on her own.  She has made them with Mtn Man before, but never by herself.  She finished it this week and it looks beautiful.

I am almost done with my cabled cardigan.  I just need to do the front bands and collar, plus finishing weaving in ends and it will be done.  I am really looking forward to having this done because it has been on the needles for over 18 months now and kept getting set aside for other projects.

Sunday Homestead Update

There is never a dull moment around our little farm.  Sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad ways.  We had an adventure with some Golden Eagles this week that ended badly.

Thursday our Anatolian Shepherd LGD, Anya, was barking like crazy.  Her, this-is-serious-bark.  I ran out to see what was going on.  She was focused to the north of us and all the hair on her back was up.  I looked and watched and didn’t see anything.  Then I saw a very large bird fly through the forest.  I couldn’t see what it was because of the trees, but I could tell it was BIG.  Much bigger than the Red-tailed hawks we normally see around here.  I praised Anya and felt good that she was dealing so well with an aerial predator.

We have had problems with aerial predators before, specifically a Great-horned owl that over time killed 4 of our chickens.  This was back when we had our previous LGD, Tundra.  He was an excellent LGD, but he was getting old and slept a lot.  The owl would wait until he was asleep, then come down on a chicken, then Tundra would wake up and go after the owl.  The owl never got away with a bird, but they died anyway from the wounds from being hit by the owl.  We haven’t had any issues with aerial predators since Anya has been on guard.  She is very aware of them and young and always on the look-out.

Friday the kids brought me outside because they were seeing a large bird fighting with a Red-tailed hawk and they were hearing a lot of loud bird calls that were not familiar to them.  Throughout the day all of us got glimpses of the large bird but couldn’t figure out what it was.  And we heard the loud screeching all day.  Anya was on edge and barking a lot.  We kept a close eye on the barnyard and all seemed to be going well with Anya on duty.  When it would come near she would bark and all the chickens would run into the safety of their pen.

Mid-afternoon heat the activity in the sky calmed down and everything got quiet.  In the heat of the day the sheep, goat, and Anya all head into the barn to lay in the cool shade with the cross breeze blowing through.

What happened then wasn’t figured out until later in the day when we investigated everything, identified the large bird, and put all the pieces of the puzzle together in our heads.  From what we can tell, Anya was in the barn with the livestock and the chickens were in the barnyard scratching around.  A female Golden Eagle, with two fledglings to feed, waited for her opportunity patiently, and when Anya was in the barn she struck one of our Easter Eggers and started eating on it.  Anya figured out what was going on and came running out of the barn at the eagle, chasing it off.  Too late for the chicken, unfortunately.

The mom and the fledglings continue to hang out around our property, so we have kept the chickens closed in their pen until they move on to a new location.  And we are keeping our eyes on everything in the barnyard because although we don’t think she would go for a lamb, especially with the fact that Anya went after her, we are still being cautious.

I find it interesting that it was an Easter Egger, because last December when we lost a chicken to a bobcat, because Anya was in a different pen, it was an Easter Egger too.  We only have a couple in the flock of over 20 birds, so it seems too coincidental that they were both EEs that got killed.  I am guessing they don’t have as much predator instincts as the rest of the flock.  Especially because on Friday when the eagles were around we kept seeing the flock run into their pen throughout the day whenever they thought there was danger.  So I am guessing the EE didn’t run in when the rest of them did.

Putting Up Hay

Our property doesn’t have pasture, so we have to feed hay year-round.  Because hay is so seasonal in Colorado, and prices and availability change drastically based on the season, we try to fill the loft of the barn with all the hay we need for an entire year during the summer months.  We put up our first load this week.  We will probably be getting two more loads before the end of August.

Garden

Medicinal herbs can be hard to get going from seed.  This is our second year for the medicinal herb garden and things are starting to go pretty well.  We have two types of chamomile, one that we transplanted from the wild into the garden, and one that we planted.  Both are doing very well.  The yarrow is also starting to take off.  The lemon balm looks pretty good, and the echinacea are working on putting out some leaves.

Hopefully in a couple of years this is a beautifully full garden.

The celery harvest has started.

We also harvested our first 4 cabbages, for a total of 16 lbs.  We made cole slaw and started a big load of sauerkraut fermenting in the big crock.

I love fresh coleslaw in the summer!  And we will have plenty of sauerkraut for the fall and winter.

Cheesemaking

We made our first ever feta from our raw goat’s milk.  It turned out very yummy, except we over-salted it.  We are anxiously saving up milk to make another batch this week, without too much salt.

For the feta we needed a double boiler set up that could hold a gallon of milk.  Our double boiler isn’t even close to that big.  But Little Miss thought of this idea to use a big stainless steel bowl with butter knives on each side to suspend it a bit over the pot of boiling water.

Heritage Arts

I finished my Nightshift Shawl!  The pattern is by Andrea Mowry, and the yarn is Yakity Yak by Greenwood Fiberworks.  I am very happy with it.

Sunday Homestead Update

We have had some different things going on around here this week.  Not your run-of-the-mill SHU.  Except for these strawberries, from the strawberry patch.  🙂

Natural Weed Control

We have some driveway and stair areas that  have all sorts of grasses and weeds growing in them that we would like to keep clear.  We do not want to use herbicides on our property that could potentially be harmful to our animals and our edible plants.  Mtn Man told me about a recipe for weed spray that uses vinegar, dish soap, and salt.  So we bought a pump sprayer and I gave it a try.  It is working beautifully.  It has taken a couple applications, but we are definitely seeing results.

Wild Foraging

We enjoy learning about the edible wild plants that grow on our property so we spend a lot of time through the summer and fall with our favorite edible wild plants book, “Best-Tasting Wild Plants of Colorado and the Rockies,” by Cattail Bob Seebck, in our hands wandering the property and examining the plants we find.  Little Miss is especially interested in this aspect of our homestead.

Last week she and Mountain Man worked their way around the property and gathered us a salad for our dinner that was completely wild foraged.  It included Lamb’s Quarter, Saltbrush (my favorite), Tumble Mustard, Tansy Mustard, Mallow, and Squaw Paint.  They also found a bunch of chamomile that we are drying for tea this winter.  It was a very flavorful and delicious salad.

Wild Visitors

We found this little guy on our rock wall one day.

He was about 2.5 inches long.  The kids are now talking about building a bat house to encourage them to “hang” around our property since they eat bugs.

We have a family of coyotes denning about 200 yards from our barnyard.  Mama coyote picked that as a good place to raise a family.  We hear them multiple times each day and night as they yip and yap to each other.  Thankfully, a well-built fence and Anya, the LGD, make it so it doesn’t have to be a concern to us for our livestock.  Whenever they get to yipping Anya likes to throw in her deep throated bark and remind them she is big and she is still here and still on guard.  Thankfully, they have not chosen to come by the barnyard, nor hang out around it the way we sometimes have coyotes do.

Heritage Arts

I haven’t had much time to knit lately, but I have made some progress on my Nightshift shawl.

Guess what made its way into the living room and got dusted off and put to use!?  My spinning wheel!  I haven’t spun since our almost 4-year-old was born.  Life has been so full with his medical stuff, plus just regular busy life, that there just wasn’t time for it.  But this week I got it out and started spinning.  I love spinning, it is super therapeutic for me and emotionally recharging.  It calms me and resets me.  But it is hard on my back, so I have to take it easy and not overdo.  It was really great to spend some time spinning again, and I am hoping to get back into doing it regularly.

Another heritage art that we have not done in awhile that came back this week was wool rug braiding.  Little Miss is braiding a rug for my parents.  She was working on her braid and laying it out on one of our old rugs to decide when to change colors.  it is coming along nicely.

Cheese Making

It was a week of bringing back some old homestead activities, for sure.  We haven’t made cheese in 4-5 years, and this week Little Miss and I decided to make some cheese with Pansy’s milk.  We made a goat’s milk Paneer.

It turned out well.  We used the cheese press Mtn Man built for me several years ago when we got our first dairy cow.

Next week we plan to make Feta.

Chicken Butchering

We had saved two of the Dark Brahma cockerels to raise up one of them for a breeding rooster.  We were waiting for them to get a bit older so we could pick the best one.  They started fighting this week, so it was time to choose.  Braveheart has helped with butchering many many times, and watched Mtn Man do the killing as well, but this time he decided he wanted to do the whole process all by himself.  So he killed and butchered the cockerel all on his own for the first time ever!  We were all very happy for his accomplishment, and I am sure the meat will taste all the more delicious to him knowing he did all the work himself.

Hot City

I had to go into the big city this week (Denver) and got stuck in bad traffic.  it was 101F outside, but because of all the idling cars crammed together and inching along the hot pavement, this is what my car said it was outside:

Eeeek!  Needless to say I was oh-so-happy to get out of the hot city and back up onto the homestead in the mountains.

Sunday Homestead Update

We have had a cold wet week here in the mountains.  Last night we got down to 34…eeek!  Today we have a fire going to keep the house warm.  I don’t ever remember having a fire this late in the summer before.

Sheep

The lambs tails fell off.  I could tell we were getting close on Wednesday when I was surveying the livestock.  They get this strange stiffness to them right before they fall off.

We saw they were gone the next morning, except for Stormy’s. Hers took a couple extra days.

LGD

We had an incident with our Livestock Guardian Dog this week.  I was out near the barnyard and thought I saw her go for a chicken out of the corner of my eye.  But when I turned and looked fully it looked like she was just sniffing towards one of the hens that had just been put out with the flock that morning when we were shuffling birds around to make space.  A few minutes later I saw the other one that had just been put out that morning and I clearly saw Anya go after it, aiming for a full two front foot pounce right on it.  Thankfully, she missed, and I yelled “no” at her and she tucked tail and came to me submissively.

She has been living with the chickens for 7 months now without any issues.  We weren’t sure why she was all of a sudden going after them.  It seemed notable that she was going after the two that had just been added into the barnyard flock that morning.  I don’t doubt she knows each chicken and knew they were new.  But why try to pounce on them?  Just to be safe, we decided to close the flock into their enclosed exterior pen for a few days and not allow them to free range in the barnyard.  We were hoping that maybe after a couple of days living with the flock those two wouldn’t be so obviously different to her for whatever reason.  We let them all back out to the barnyard two days later and so far everything seems fine with her and them.

We have more chicken shuffling around to do in the coming weeks as the pullets mature, so we will keep a close eye on her through the changes.

Garden

Yes, indeed, one of our apple trees did not survive the winter.  Bummer.  Since we only have two, that means that we will not have apples this year as the other one doesn’t have a cross-pollinator.  We will be buying another replacement tree this year, and hopefully they will both make it through.  Our climate is questionable on apple trees.  There are a sparse few that I know of that have survived in our area.  We are hopeful to be able to get at least two successful trees going on our property.

The kids got Mtn Man The Fruit Gardener’s Bible for Father’s Day.  He has been pouring over it and learning all sorts of good things about our fruit trees and bushes.  It makes us excited as we dream and plan about ways we want to expand our fruit production in the future.

Our area had the coldest May on record in over a century and we have had three times as much moisture in the first 6 months of this year as we had in the first 6 moths of last year. So it has indeed been a very cold, wet spring.

My garden is a solid 3 weeks behind where it was this time last year, but overall it is doing well.

Last week we put WOWs back over the frosted tomato stems in hopes that some might come back to life. Some did!

And some did not.

Overall we are down 7 tomato plants out of 25. So we have 18 left. I am somewhat bummed about losing so many, but at the same time I do see a good side to it. We save our own seeds, so the seeds we save this year will be from plants that were able to survive a frost and therefore will make for more frost hardy plants in the future. So its a selective breeding through natural selection.

We are enjoying delicious lettuce and spinach from the garden.  The plants out in the garden are coming along pretty well.  The beans are just up and seem to have some bugs working on them, which is not good. But the garlic and onion patch is growing wonderfully. We are winding down on rhubarb and asparagus harvest.

One of the most exciting things is that we are in our second year of trying to get the medicinal herb garden going and we are seeing more and more little sprouts out there. We have valerian, thyme, and mint all established from last year. We now have new chamomile, lemon balm, and echinacea. Still cant get the red clover nor the desert parsley to go, but at least we are making some progress.

Heritage Arts

I finished the second sleeve of my cabled cardigan.  Now back to the main body again.

Sunday Homestead Update (a day late)

Sorry, we are a day late, and there aren’t pictures…living life has used up every second the last few days and I just couldn’t get around to blogging and photos about living life.

We had some snow earlier last week, but then the warm weather finally arrived!

Here’s a shout out to all the people dealing with wet, mucky, muddy barnyards right now.  Ah yes, the spring barnyard muck.  Put on your rubber boots or else.  Not great for the livestock’s feet.  Seems to never dry up.

The good news is that our barnyard is on a mountainside, so it is quite a slope.  Therefore we do have dry places in it and the critters choose those spots to hang out.  I feel bad for those of you who have completely flat barnyards and the entire thing is a soupy mess with your critters up to their knees.

Sheep

The biggest news this week was that both our ewes gave birth to their lambs.  I posted Fiona’s story on Friday, you can read it here. She and her ram lamb, who the kids named “Avalanche” are both doing well.

Rose gave birth Saturday afternoon and it was quite a complicated delivery that I do not want to repeat again.  I will post that story for you all tomorrow.

And I promise, photos of lambs will be coming as soon as I can get to it.

Chickens

Saturday we did some chicken sorting.  We went through the entire group of hens (and the rooster) and clipped their nails, dusted the ones that had lice (need to repeat in 10 days, we had several with bad lice), clipped their wings, and tried to figure out who is laying and who is not because we need to cull some of them to make space for the up and coming pullets.

Then we went through the 14-week-old chicks and found 8 cockerels that were already large enough for butchering.  That was nice because it made some space in the chicken pens, and is putting some meat in the freezer – we ran out of last year’s chicken meat about a month ago.  The meat is in the brine for a few days before we freeze it.

Garden

We are, theoretically, past our last frost of the season now.  So we worked on getting more seedlings into the garden, and we planted all the bush bean and shelling bean seeds as well.  We did a bunch of weeding too and got the garden all cleaned up.

Heritage Arts

I finished one of my cardigan sleeves and I am working on the other.  The cold weather meant more knitting because we were stuck inside.  Glad I got as much done as I did before the warm finally hit.  Knitting will not be happening as often with the Summer work outdoors.