Sunday Homestead Update

We are buried in snow up here in the high Rockies!

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It is so beautiful, but also very cold. ¬†ūüôā

Early in the storm you could still see my container herb garden.

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But by the end we had 18 inches and the herb garden had completely disappeared.  It is to the right of the chicken coop in this photo.

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Everything was thoroughly buried.

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The goats were very unhappy about the situation…they stayed in the stall as much as possible and only came out to drink.

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The sheep, however, enjoyed a romp around in the snow before they went back into the stall.

img_3385By the end of the storm, however, it got really bitterly cold.

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And then the animals all stayed in the barn, which, with its insulation, plus the snow insulating the roof, and the body heat of the animals, was at 5F when it was -35F outside.  Everyone got extra feed, extra deep bedding, and indoor room-temp water.  Plus the chickens got hot mash morning and night.

The temps are starting to rise again, and are supposed to continue so that this week our daily temps will be in the 30s.  That will be nice.

Barn Remodel Phase 2

The cold weather and deep snow slowed down all our progress around the farm.  But we still finished phase 2 of the barn remodel Рthe upper coop.  We had previously moved the nest boxes so they were accessible from outside the coop.  This week we got the doors on the newly moved nest boxes, and then got the new feeder built and the new roosts in place.  The new feeder will hold an entire bag of feed, which will make caring for the chickens easier, just like being able to access the nest boxes from outside the coop will make collecting eggs easier.  The inside of the upper coop is now finished and ready for the chicks coming in February.

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The previous gutter-style feeder.

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The new gravity feeder that holds an entire bag of feed.

Heritage Arts

While it has been so cold outside it has been fun to work on some of our heritage arts projects.  Sunshine is doing an alphabet garden crosstitch.  It has different garden items for each alphabet letter.  And she is using the stand she got for Christmas.  She says it is very helpful and she likes using it very much.

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And I am continuing my progress on the sweater for Mr. Smiles as well as the socks for Mtn Man.

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It has been a blessed winter week on the farm!

2016 Year-End Homestead Review

Despite the struggles, life is always full of blessings, and as we finish off another blessed year on the farm we are happy to look back and see what happened on the homestead.

To read previous Year-End Reviews, click the following links:

2015

2014

2013

Statistics

Chickens:

  • We had anywhere from 7-21 chickens this year
  • We don’t have complete records of how many total eggs were laid, we are estimating from what records we did keep that the total was around 1,500
  • We kept approximately 78 dozen eggs
  • We sold approximately 47 dozen eggs
  • 7 eggs were set by our broody hen
  • 3 eggs hatched successfully
  • No chickens were sold
  • 14 chickens were butchered for meat for us
  • 1 hen died from being egg-bound and 1 hen was attacked by a hawk but survived

Rabbits:

  • 32 kits born live
  • 6 stillborn kits
  • 8 kits froze at a few days old
  • 17 rabbits butchered and sold for pet food
  • 7 rabbits butchered and canned for our own meat
  • 3 adult rabbits butchered for our dog food
  • 2 adult rabbits died
  • Angora rabbit sheared 5 times

Sheep:

  • Started the year with 2 pregnant ewes and 2 yearling ewe lambs
  • Twin ewe lambs born successfully
  • Second ewe miscarried and was replaced with a ewe lamb
  • Sold twin ewe lambs
  • Butchered one yearling – 20 lbs of meat
  • 6 fleece shorn this year – approx 18 lbs of wool after cleaning
  • Purchased 2 new bred ewes
  • Ended year with 4 pregnant ewes and 1 yearling ewe lamb

Goats:

  • Purchased 2 pregnant Nubian goats in the fall

Garden:

  • Between our vegetable garden and our berries we harvested 220 lbs of produce this year
  • We spent $80 on the garden this year, thus averaging $0.36/lb

Heritage Arts:

  • I knit 3 balaclavas, 1 ribby neckwarmer, 2 hats, 1 shawl, 1 infinity scarf, 1 hooded sweater (baby size), 4 pairs of socks, and 1 pair of reading mitts
  • The kids sewed 100 bandana backpacks for Operation Christmas Child
  • I altered 2 pairs of pajamas for Mr. Smiles to wear during his hospitalization and surgery
  • I sewed 24 placemats and 48 cloth napkins
  • Sunshine and Little Miss continue to be amazingly productive with heritage arts projects. ¬†I was unable to keep track of them this year, but they sewed, knitted, crocheted, crosstitched, and embroidered MANY MANY items.

Kitchen:

We canned over 118 qts of food this year –

  • 20 Qts Green Beans
  • 9 Pts Pear Sauce
  • 5 Qts Pears in Honey Syrup
  • 9 Qts Applesauce
  • 18 Qts Apples in Honey Syrup
  • 4 Qts Plum Syrup
  • 8 Qts Plum Jelly
  • 22 Qts Nectarines in Honey Syrup
  • 28 Qts of broth (some chicken, some lamb, and some beef)

We froze 28 lbs of carrots.

We made several pints of syrup from our gooseberry and currant bushes.

Highlights

January through June our life revolved around surgeries, hospitalizations, and specialist visits, for our baby, hours from our home.  Life continued on the farm, and the routine and rhythms of the farm was a healing balm to us during a trying time.

June brought a terrible hail storm to shred our young, newly growing garden plants.  I also finished our first set of seasonal placemats and cloth napkins.  We had some visits from bears, and one chicken was attacked by a hawk, but survived.  We sold our twin ewe lambs, and replaced one of our breeding ewes with a new breeding ewe lamb.

July included unseasonably warm weather, and the start of the harvest from our garden and berry bushes.  We painted the exterior of all the buildings on the property, and we had another bear incident.

In August we enjoyed participating at County Fair and bringing home many ribbons and prizes.  The garden harvest continued, and canning season started.  We continued to have bear struggles, including a break-in to our camper.

September brought another surgery and hospitalization for Mr. Smiles.  The Pediatric PJs I sewed him worked wonderfully to allow all the tubes and wires to be accessible.  Despite the time away from the farm, we were still able to have a very productive month with harvesting, seed saving, canning, freezing, and working on starting to build the ram shed, and building the root cellar, a new gate, and the smokehouse.  The adventure was never-ending when our farm dog partially amputated his toe, and we continued to have bear problems Рour worst year ever for bear issues by far.

In October we added two milk goats to the farm and did a bunch of winter prep and building projects.  We put the garden to bed, and filled the freezers by both butchering livestock and hunting.  We finished the smokehouse and root cellar.

November included a lot of building projects, including new hay racks indoors and out for the sheep and goats.  We took down a few trees and we finished the new retaining wall on the onion/garlic patch.  The sheep went to the breeder and we smoked our first meat in the smokehouse.  And Little Miss took quite a ride when the goats broke out of the yard!

December was filled with working on homemade Christmas presents and making Christmas treats while we celebrated advent and awaited the chance to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  We purchased two new breeding ewes which are pregnant to provide us with our future flock sire ram and we prepared for the upcoming births of anywhere from 11-14 lambs and kids this coming winter and spring.  I got my livestock record book in order and ready to keep better records in 2017 and we planned for more chicks this spring as well.  We finished phase 1 of the barn remodel, and were shocked to still be enjoying fresh tomatoes from our harvest in September!

 

What an amazing year we have had here at Willow Creek Farm!

 

 

Homemade Christmas

I hope that all my readers who celebrate Christmas had a lovely one yesterday!  We really enjoyed our time together eating delicious food and giving homemade gifts to each other.

Speaking of Christmas gifts…

I can now finally share all the knitting I have been doing!

First are these socks for Young Man. ¬†He LOVES home knit socks, which makes it all the more fun to make them for him. ¬†These are made from Patons Kroy Socks in the colorway grey brown marl. ¬†I used the OMG Spacious Heel pattern (Young Man’s favorite sock pattern) and did them toe-up two-at-a-time on two circulars. ¬†The lighting in the photo gave everything a blueish tint, so it’s not a completely accurate color.

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For Sunshine I made this hat.  It is a slouchy hat, so it looks strange flat on the ground but on her head it looks great.  The pattern was Oxalis by Calliliau Berangere on Ravelry.  The yarn was Yarn Bee Soft Secret Solids in Hot Turquoise.

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Little Miss got two knit gifts this year since she will be milking the goats this winter and I wanted her to have something super-warm for her head.  So her milk-maid apparel is this balaclava.  It is the pattern Bailey Balaclava by Jenny Nicole on Ravelry.  I used Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick Solids yarn in peacock and fig.  It is super warm and cozy and will be perfect for milking out in the barn in -20F temps.

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Then I also made her, with the same yarn, this adorable owl hat using the pattern Owl Be There by Lauren Riker. ¬†This is for her to wear when we go out and about – not in the barn. ¬†ūüôā

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Braveheart also got two knit gifts because he will be learning to milk this year too!  So he got the same balaclava with the same yarn but a different colorway.

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And he also got a Ribby Neckwarmer made with Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash brown, that matches a hat I made him last year.

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I shared last week the balaclava I made for Mr. Smiles.

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So as you can see I did a lot of smaller projects for gifts this year. ¬†I think last year’s dress for Little Miss knit out of sock weight yarn kind of overwhelmed me to the point of fear of doing something too big. ¬†But it was worth it – she still loves to wear it to this day!

In addition to what I made, I want to share some of the wonderful things the rest of my family made as well.

Sunshine and Little Miss worked together to make this adorable full set of Winnie the Pooh crocheted stuffed animals for Mr. Smiles.  Tigger is not quite done yet.

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Mtn Man and Young Man made this wonderful wooden cross stitch stand for Sunshine.

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Little Miss crocheted this Amish Puzzle Ball Elephant for Sunshine.

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Sunshine embroidered and made this Embroidery Envelope for Little Miss to keep her sewing tools in.

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Mtn Man made me a Chinese Checkers board.

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Sunshine made me this knitting needle organizer for my circular needles.

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And though it isn’t homemade, it is homestead related so I’ll share it. ¬†Young Man and Little Miss went in together and purchased Mtn Man and myself this awesome 3-gal fermenting crock. ¬†We are very excited to put it to use!

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Sunshine also sewed these PJ pants for Mtn Man, Young Man, and Braveheart.  She even used the serger for the first time to make nice inside seams!

 

 

Making homemade gifts for everyone makes our Christmases so special.  We all enjoy the build-up to the season as we spend late fall secretly constructing thoughtful presents for those closest to us.  And the children are just as excited, if not MORE excited, about giving that special present they spent so much time making as they are about getting gifts.  What a blessing!

2015 Year-End Homestead Review

It is always hard to believe that yet another year has gone by, but it has!  It is time for the end of year review again.  This year the homestead stepped down the priority ladder a few rungs as we focused our resources (time, money, energy) on adopting our 5th little blessing.  And once he arrived home it has taken a few more steps down as his medical needs are taking up space now as well.

Despite the homestead being somewhat demoted in importance, we are still really happy with what we accomplished this year, and at times were surprised by the success considering our lack of attention.

If you would like to read previous years’ end-of-year reviews for Willow Creek Farm, click these links:

2013

2014

We always start with statistics…

Chickens:

  • We had anywhere from 16 to 53 chickens of all different ages on the farm this year
  • 3,501 eggs were laid
  • 165 dozen of those eggs were sold
  • 120 dozen of those eggs were used by us
  • 82 eggs were set to hatch
  • 37 chicks hatched successfully
  • 19 chickens were sold as layers for other people’s flocks
  • 24 chickens were butchered for meat for us
  • No chicks were sold right after hatch this year because of the adoption
  • 3 hens died from hawk attacks

The chicken program has done pretty well this year.  It was our first time only using hens to hatch chicks, and we were a bit disappointed with our hatch percentages. But despite that we were able to hatch out enough chicks to meet our needs. And selling eggs and pullets was profitable.  We love having some livestock that more than earns its keep!

Rabbits:

In July we re-started our meat rabbit herd. ¬†We bought 3 does and 1 buck. ¬†2 of the does were old enough to breed right away. ¬†One of them came to us pregnant and we were able to breed the other to a friend’s buck and start producing from the get-go. ¬†Our buck and the third doe came into maturity at the end of the year and the buck has just recently proven himself and the doe is due to kindle this week.

  • 3 breeding does, 1 buck
  • 22 kits born
  • NO kits died at birth (yay!)
  • 1 weanling sold (traded for a stud fee)
  • 13 rabbits butchered for meat for us
  • 9 kits currently growing out

Oliver, our English Angora rabbit, continues to be a beloved pet and fiber producer.  He has had 5 shearings this year.  We have learned to shear much better and much less fiber is lost now that we know what we are doing.  And Oliver has learned the routine and lays out nice and still for all of the shearing except his face (and who would blame him for not wanting his face messed with?).

Sheep:

This year was the first year we have done all of our shearing on our own instead of hiring it out.  Husband has worked hard to learn and his shearing skills are improving.  The sheep produced 4 fleece for us this year, for a total of 12 lbs of wool after washing (we forgot to weigh it raw).

  • Started year with 3 pregnant ewes – each lambed 1 baby in April
  • 2 ewe lambs & 1 ram lamb born
  • Ram lamb died at 2 days old
  • Butchered 1 adult ewe which provided 20 lbs of meat
  • Ended year with 2 hopefully pregnant ewes and 2 ewe lambs

Garden:

This was by far our best garden year, producing 269 lbs of produce.

For the specific garden statistics, read our garden review post here.

With the help of all the animals we continue to produce rich compost for use on our garden.

Heritage Arts:

  • I knit 1 sweater, 4 pairs of socks, 20 baby hats, 3 baby sweaters, a dinosaur Amish puzzle ball, a baby snuggle sack, a baby dress and matching socks, a hat, a child’s dress, a child’s cardigan, and a stocking.
  • I sewed 1 child’s dress.
  • My daughters sewed 20 flannel burp clothes, knit 2 pairs of baby socks, 3 pairs of adult socks, a baby cardigan, and numerous baby hats. ¬†They also did several embroidery and crosstitch projects. ¬†They crocheted a few amish puzzle balls, a play tea set, and several stuffed animals.
  • I sewed a few children’s aprons and baby blankets.
  • Oldest daughter and I mended innumerable pieces of clothing.
  • I embroidered 1 gingham embroidery bread cloth.

In the Kitchen:

We canned over 124 quarts of food this year (some were pints, some half-pints, etc but we added it up to how many quarts of food it was).  I stopped keeping track after I posted the 2015 canning review, but we have done more since then.  You can read that review here.

We also froze 36 lbs of carrots from the garden.

And now for some highlights from the homestead in 2015:

In January we stayed cozy by the fire while the cold weather pressed in from outdoors.  We opened our online shop selling homemade items from the homestead to raise money for our adoption.  We had two broody hens hatch eggs, one successfully and one not very successfully.  And our hearts broke when our sweet old chocolate lab, Holly, died.

February weather was quite mild compared to what it usually is.  We had another hen set on eggs and we spent a lot of time making items to add to our store.

March was exciting as we prepared ourselves for our first lambing. ¬†We watched the ewes’ bellies swell, put together a lambing kit, and built jugs (lambing stalls) in the barn. ¬†We also started our garden seeds indoors using a grow-light shelving unit for the first time. ¬†We lost two hens to hawk and owl attacks and put up a fishing line web above the barnyard to deter them. ¬†We learned that using chicken nipple waterers in the winter was increasing the frostbite on our chickens’ combs and wattles. ¬†And we had another broody hen hatch a somewhat successful hatch.

In April we had our first lambs ever born on the farm!  Two ewe lambs and 1 ram lamb.  Sadly, despite our best efforts to save him, the ram lamb died after only two days of life.  We learned how to dock lamb tails and how to milk sheep.  Stella became a great milk sheep for us and we enjoyed the milk we got from her.

In May we celebrated our third year anniversary on the farm.  We moved seedlings out into the garden in wall-o-waters for protection.  Two more hens hatched chicks, this time much more successfully, and they even agreed to raise them all together in the same pen without fighting with each other.  We turned the lambing stalls into a creep feeder and enjoyed watching our lambs grow and play.

June brought a lot of growth, in the garden and from the lambs and chicks.  We let two more hens set eggs to finish off the breeding year and had successful hatches.  And we adopted Bella, a beagle, to be our indoor pet dog.  She also turned out to be excellent vermin patrol in the back yard.  Our farm life started to really take a backseat as we officially started our wait for an adopted baby match.

In July we brought meat rabbits back to the farm.  We bought three does and a buck.  One doe was pregnant at purchase and we were able to have our first litter born right away.  Husband built a beautiful path in the back yard made with pallet wood.  We made the hard decision to butcher one of the ewes.  And we began harvesting the garden and canning.  We had another hawk attack a chicken, despite the fishing line web above the back yard, so we improved the web even more.

August was spent harvesting and canning.  We were shocked at the large production of the garden.  Our second litter of rabbits for the year was born.  And we borrowed a back hoe and began work on some big digging projects around the farm, including a smoke house and root cellar.  Our adoption plans took a turn and we settled into the idea that it was going to take another year or two to be matched with a baby.

In September a bear tried to break into the barn.  It was a hard blow when our recently adopted dog, Bella, died unexpectedly.  We continued to harvest and the tomato harvest especially surprised us by being so huge.  We continued our big digging projects as well.  Then, very suddenly and somewhat out of nowhere, we were matched with our new baby son.  And in 8 days time we went from expecting a long wait to having a baby in our arms.  Life on the farm kind of screeched to a halt as we soaked in our newest blessing.

Oldest son filled his first ever hunting tag in October with a doe mule deer and the filling of the freezer with meat began.  He later filled his other two tags with a buck mule deer and a cow elk. We finished up the harvest and began butchering chickens and rabbits.

In November the ewes headed off to the breeder. ¬†Because of our baby’s health issues we decided to stop the chicken breeding program and selling eggs, and cut the flock back to just what we need to provide us with eggs. ¬†We sold several hens, butchered some older ones, and butchered a bunch of cockerels. ¬†We decided to keep a rooster so that we can still hatch small clutches under broody hens when we want to. ¬†The cold weather hit, and we added another Old Time Scotch Collie, Tess, to the farm to live indoors with the family.

December was a whirlwind.  We had a wonderful Christmas season and worked to juggle family life, farm life, and pediatric hospitals and doctors.

What an exciting year we have had!  We have been so surprised by what we accomplished despite putting the homestead down farther on the priority list.  We never expected to produce and accomplish what we did this year around the farm.

As we look forward to 2016 it has a lot of unknowns in it. ¬†With the baby’s health issues we don’t feel like we can make a homestead plan like we usually do the first week of the year. ¬†We are having to live life more on the fly and less planned out than ever before. ¬†We have no idea what this year will bring as far as new projects, new life on the farm, expansion, or any of that. ¬†But based on this last year we feel that even without a set-out plan we will be able to look back on the year and see that we were able to accomplish a lot more than we thought…just like this year. ¬†We have several homestead projects in mind that we would like to do, but we are flexible on whether or not they will happen this year.

So we head into 2016 ready to do what we can, wondering what the journey will bring us, and so blessed to be doing it as a family of 7 now.

Always an adventure….Happy New Year!

Handiwork Update

Despite the busy time of year in the garden, barnyard, and around the homestead, my daughters and I still always have handiwork that we are working on.

My knitting projects right now are bigger more complicated ones than usual, so they will take a while to finish.

First I am making the Hitofude Cardigan by Hiroko Fukatsu.

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I am really enjoying how the yarn is shifting color.  And I am excited to see how the lace looks once it is blocked out.  Currently it is so squished up that it is hard to really see the pattern.

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Earlier this summer I finished a Goldilocks dress by Justyna Lorkowska in the 9-month-old size that I absolutely loved.  So I decided to make another one for youngest daughter for Christmas.  This one will be the 9-10 year-old size.

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I also have a couple of smaller projects I have been doing. ¬†First, I just finished this “Antler Hat” pattern by tincanknits. ¬†It is currently blocking.

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And I always have a pair of socks on the needles Рsocks are my favorite.  These are just basic plain socks with a k1p1 ribbing for the leg.  I normally line up the yarn striping so the socks match, but for this pair I decided to just go with the yarn exactly how it came of the ball and see how they look.

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Youngest daughter just finished crocheting an “Olaf” doll.

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She is my daughter that always has 100 different projects going at once.  So I just grabbed one of the many things she is working on to show you, these adorable baby socks.

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While oldest daughter does enjoy knitting and crochet, they have never been things she truly loves to do.  She recently tried her hand at cross stitch and has really found her passion.  She just finished this bookmark.

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And she has now started a large wall hanging. ¬†It has every letter of the alphabet with garden items at each letter that start with that letter. ¬†She hasn’t gotten far yet, but it is turning out nice so far.

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That’s a little peek into the handiwork the girls and I have been working on in the last month or so. ¬†I can’t wait to show you the finished pieces!