Sunday Homestead Update – First Snow

Well, finishing up our winter prep last weekend was just in time…we got our first real snow this last week, and we got down to the teens one night. Brrrr.

It wasn’t a significant snow, just a dusting that melted off before lunchtime. But it was snow, and it was fun to see our first snow at the new farm. This was SO much later than we are used to getting snow. Our previous homestead, up in the Rockies has already had several snows this year and much colder weather. We have been enjoying the longer fall and warmer weather here, especially as we scurried to get projects done. The long-time locals tell us this has been unseasonably warm and that this is almost a record breaking late-in-the-season date for the first snow.

Holiday Craft Fair

About 6 weeks ago, Sunshine and Little Miss were invited to participate in a holiday craft fair. It was the first time this specific craft fair was going to take place so we were unsure about how well it would go. But they decided to take the plunge and see. They spent weeks working on making items for their table. Everything turned out beautifully, and they were very excited when the day finally arrived.

It went very well and they pretty much sold out of all they had made!

It also got us all into the holiday mood, so we are pretty excited to be celebrating Thanksgiving this week, and then decorating for Christmas this next coming weekend.


I know this post didn’t include any homestead livestock or kitchen to speak of…I will update on all that next week.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday Homestead Update

We had a lovely and relaxing “vacation” week this week.  We took the week off from school and just hung out and had fun together.  Thanksgiving was delicious, and we enjoyed decorating and preparing for Advent and Christmas this weekend.


It is really fun when some (or all) of your Thanksgiving spread comes from your own farm.  My favorite item this year was a Red Kuri Squash Pie.  It tastes very similar to a pumpkin pie, but even better!  Yes, I realize the pie is in an apple-shaped pie pan – hehe.  We had some break this year and that is the only one I have left.  So an apple shaped squash pie is what we had.


I am continuing to work through the sheep milk we have frozen from the summer and make it into cheese.

I am trying different things, tweaking procedures and ingredients to try to make it less dry.  All the sheep cheese we have made thus far has been delicious and the flavor was spot on, but it has all been a little too dry.  We enjoy it and eat it, no problem, but I do want to perfect it and make it go from good cheese to amazing cheese.  🙂


The goats have always been somewhat hard on the fencing, whereas the sheep, for the most part, have not been.  The exception would be when our ram went crazy with testosterone rage and broke a fence in several place, and a gate.  Our new ewe, Freya, is a very big girl.  She is a beautiful Wensleydale and oh-so-sweet.  But she likes to use the wood rail of the fence to scratch her back, and her size is starting to damage the fence by bending the wire out.

We are making plans to spend some time soon doing some fence repair and reinforcement in various places around the barnyard both to fix this bending damage, and to do some better permanent repairs on the fence the ram broke that we just temporarily repaired.

OCC – Belated

I forgot to post earlier in November that we did our Operation Christmas Child boxes again this year.  We really enjoy supporting this ministry and packing shoe boxes with goodies each year.  If you have never heard of it, go check it out by clicking here.

Heritage Arts

Heritage arts projects are in full swing around here with the colder weather’s arrival and the fact that Christmas is coming.  I have been knitting hats, mittens, and gators for the kids per their specific requests.  I finished this hat for Mr. Smiles this week, made from Maggie’s 2020 lamb fleece.  It is SO soft and comfy.  I now have made 2 pairs of mittens (for Braveheart and Little Miss) and 2 hats (for Braveheart and Mr. Smiles) from that fleece, and there is still quite a bit more left!  I think what is left will become a pair of mittens for Mr. Smiles, and maybe a couple more hats.

I also made Mtn Man another hat from Autumn’s 2020 fleece.  It was a less soft fleece with more itch-factor, but Mtn Man loves the hat I had made him last spring.  He liked it so much he wanted a second one so he could have one for barnyard and dirty work and one for going places.  There is about one hat’s worth of yarn left from that fleece, we will see what I end up doing with it.  I am trying to work through all the yarn I have stashed from our farm before we make more with next spring’s shearings.

I have also been sewing skirts for the girls and I, and flannel PJ pants and nightgowns for everyone.

Little Miss has taken out the special, 5-generation, hand-sewn hexagon quilt and has been making progress on it.

Mtn Man has been braiding rugs and Sunshine has been crocheting kitchen scrubbies and dishcloths for gifts.  A lot of indoor projects being worked on!  Meanwhile, I will leave you with a cute picture of what our dog and cat spend their time doing while we are busy with our homestead…

…sun puddle cuddles.

2019 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.  I continue to hope to do better record-keeping, but as each year has been harder and harder with Mr. Smiles, each year has thus been harder and harder to do good record keeping.  I am amazed I kept records at all this year!  But here’s what we have.

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









  • Started year with 28 hens, 1 chick, and 1 rooster
  • Purchased 7 cockerel chicks and 3 pullet chicks, all 10 survived
  • Did 1 incubation with 75 eggs.  65 were fertile,  35 chicks hatched and 34 survived
  • 1 broody hen set and quit, we finished the incubation in the incubator.  10 set, 8 fertile, 7 hatched, and 7 survived
  • At the height of the season we had 28 adult chickens and 52 chicks – 80 total – by far the most chickens we have ever had at one time before.  Too many for our farm.  Need to plan more carefully.
  • 1 broody hen set 7 eggs with a total of 3 chicks surviving, then she set again with 8 eggs and 6 survived
  • Butchered 28 birds
  • Sold 2 silky hens, six 1-year-old hens, and 15 pullets
  • 1 silky hen died from egg-bound, one chick died at week 5 for unknown reasons, 1 hen died from being bullied by the flock, 1 hen killed by a golden eagle
  • Ended year with  21 hens, 3 pullets, 3 cockerels (almost ready for butcher), and 1 rooster.  Plus 23 eggs in the incubator to hatch mid-January.
  • Approximately 3,700 eggs laid

Farm Dogs:

  • Anya, our 3.5-year-old Anatolian Shepherd, had her ups and downs.  At times she was an excellent guard dog, but she struggled a little with her first year of lambs.  When they were little, she left them alone because the mamas wouldn’t let her near them, but as they grew and the mamas weren’t so protective, she tried to wrestle and play with them and was too rambunctious.  She also had a couple times getting too rambunctious with chickens, but didn’t kill any.  So a few times she had to live in a separate pen from the flocks while we continued training with her.


  • Started year with 2 ewes and 1 ram.
  • Bred early in January
  • 2 ram lambs and 1 ewe lamb born, all survived
  • 3 Fleece shorn, for a total of 8.5 lbs raw, skirted wool
  • 800 yds (1.5 lbs) 3-ply worsted yarn from Fiona, 1500 yds (3 lbs) 4-ply worsted yarn from Fergus, and didn’t finish processing Rose’s yarn yet
  • Sold 1 ewe lamb, 2 ram lambs, and 1 ewe
  • Purchased 1 dairy ewe, 3 dairy ewe lambs, and 1 dairy ram lamb
  • Breeding season brought difficulties and aggression from our 2.5 year-old wool ram, ended up having to butcher him
  • 22 lbs of ground meat, 4 lbs of roasts, soup bones, and some dog food
  • Finished year with 1 wool ewe, 4 dairy ewes, and 1 dairy ram
  • Bred them all in November/December. 4 ewes pregnant, due in April/May.


  • Started the year without any goats.
  • Mid-March added a Nubian doe to the farm.  We finally had fresh milk again!
  • 43 gal of milk for our family use between March and October
  • Dried her off (stopped milking) in November at breeding time for convenience and to give her a chance to regain her body condition.
  • Pregnant and due to kid in April


  • The stresses of life this summer did not make it possible to weigh the produce this year.  A very cold spring gave us less than average on some things, but others gave us more than average.
  • We started building a second vegetable garden that will more than double our produce production.

Heritage Arts:

  • I completed the 19 knit projects: 9 pairs of socks, a Hoodie for Mr. Smiles, a sock yarn scrap afghan, a lace shawl, a hat, a textured shawl, 4 dishcloths, and a cabled cardigan.
  • I made a new bag for a standing knitting bag frame and 4 pairs of flannel PJ pants.  Plus innumerable amounts of mending and patching of clothes.
  • The girls did countless projects, each of them finishing more projects than I did.


  • Canned quite a bit of food, not as much as last year.  Early fall stresses prevented me from keeping track of how many exactly of what we canned.
  • Made several different soft cheeses with goat’s milk.
  • Made a couple aged cheeses with store-bought cow’s milk to practice for next spring.

Year Summary

January rotated between warm sunny days in the 40sF, where we would get outside as much as possible, to bitterly cold snowy days below 0F that kept us by the fires and working to keep the livestock cared for and warm.  We spent a lot of time dealing with our son’s medical issues, with many doctor’s appointments.  We got our Livestock Record Book updated and ready for the new year, and got our school curriculum planning done as well as starting on our garden planning.  The sheep bred, giving us hopes for lambs in May/June.  The girls and I knit, crocheted, and worked on the hexagon quilt.  And we did several small fix-up projects around the farm and home, including building a new hay rack in the sheep stall and improving the gravity feeder in the lower chicken coop.  At the end of the month we collected eggs for a big incubation.

February started with us getting 75 eggs into the incubators for a hatch.  We struggled with illnesses and another hospitalization for Mr. Smiles.  We did a lot of knitting, cross stitching, and crochet by the warm fire while the bitter cold and wind settled in outside.  34 of our incubator eggs hatched and survived, and then we bought a few more chicks to add to the brooder so that we would have some new genetics for next year’s breeding program.  We also extended the hay loft in the barn to give us more hay storage space.

March was cold and wet.  We got a lot of snow and dealt with trying to keep animals dry and warm.  We finished remodeling our basement, which had been torn out after the massive floods of 2013 damaged it.  We added a new member to the farm – a Nubian milk doe named Pansy.  She was fresh and we were excited to have raw milk right from our own homestead again.  We had a hen decide to set eggs and then quit at 2 weeks, we put the eggs in the incubator and were surprised that they hatched, despite having been chilled from her abandonment.  We ended the month by finishing our dining room remodel project and I finished the scrap sock yarn afghan I had been working on for a year.

In April we started with shearing the sheep.  We also built up another section of the garden beds to be deeper for better growth of the plants and we hauled a bunch of compost from the barnyard and filled all the garden boxes with it.  Our 3-year-old had his 10th surgery and was pronounced healed from his very-rare bile duct/liver disorder that just a year ago we had been told would be fatal.  The weather continued to be cold and wet, setting our garden back more and more.  As we hit the 6-week out from lambing mark, we noticed that Rose seemed to be showing symptoms early and wondered if she was potentially due before we thought.  We changed the ewes’ diets in preparation for lambing.

In May things continued to be cold and wet.  We tried to work on the garden and get things going, but the weather continued to hamper our efforts.  We had several big snow storms.  Our 3-year-old has his first eye surgery, 11th surgery overall, and it was unsuccessful.  Eve hatched out 3 chicks, and the juggling of pens for all the many different chicks and chickens began to get complicated as they all grew.  We separated the ewes from the ram, goat, and Anya (the LGD) since it was Anya’s first lambing season and we didn’t want her to accidentally kill a newborn lamb.  Mtn Man finished spinning up the yarn from Fergus and Fiona’s 2019 fleece, and I tried my hand at dyeing Fiona’s yarn for the first time ever.  My parents moved in, with my Dad in his last few months of life.  My sister and I helped my mom care for him.  We ended the month with Fiona giving birth to her ram lamb on the 31st.

June started with Rose giving birth to huge twin lambs on June 1st.  It was a complicated delivery that I had to help with because both lambs were mal-positioned, and then their first week of life was touch and go because the ram lamb got pneumonia and Rose’s milk didn’t come in very quickly so we were supplementing them with bottles.  By three weeks of age both the ewe lamb and the ram lamb were thriving and doing well.  We continued to have cold weather, including two frosts over night that ended up killing some of our vegetable garden.  Anya integrated herself in with the lambs by breaking through the fence because she was so interested in being with the mamas and lambs.  She did great and was very safe with the lambs.  We did a lot more shuffling around of chickens, sold some pullets & hens, and butchered a lot of cockerels.  We realized the goat was copper deficient and we bolused her with a slow release copper capsule.  We found out, unfortunately, that our son’s rare bile duct/liver disorder had not been fixed back in April as we had been told and it reared it’s ugly head again, landing us back with tests, doctor appointments, and hospitals.

In July we were busy with visitors and medical appointments.  We headed in for yet another emergency surgery for Mr. Smiles, which was his 12th surgery overall and his 4th this year – but who’s counting?  The homestead brought us comfort through the hard times though, and sitting out enjoying the livestock and working in the garden is always good emotional therapy.  We still managed to be productive around the farm, butchering some more chickens, getting the chickens sorted into new pens and organized for future breeding plans, making goat cheese, braiding a wool rug, and getting out my spinning wheel for the first time in 4 years.  We saw results from the goat copper bolus, as Pansy began to gain weight and her coat condition improved immensely.   The garden continued to progress, though still behind about 3 weeks from usual due to the cold spring weather.  As the lambs grew and their moms were less protective, Anya struggled with being too rambunctious with them in play and had to be moved to the back pen with the ram.

August brought the start of school and the start of harvest.  We sold 4 sheep and purchased our first dairy sheep.  We sold our large floor loom and purchased a smaller one that fit nicely in our living room.  Mr. Smiles had his 13th surgery, the most major surgery he has had to date at 7.5 hours long, and my father, who was living with us, passed away that same day.  The surgery was an immense success and the recovery was much better than anyone had expected.  It looks like his bile duct/liver issue is now fixed (as of December 31), and though he might have more complications farther down the road, for the meantime he should be stable.

September was hard.  We were busy with Mr. Smiles’ recovery, grieving my father’s death, and planning, preparing, and hosting his funeral.  We were also trying to continue with our homestead plans and projects.  We added 4 more dairy sheep to the flock, and our best broody hen, Eve, set another clutch and hatched out 6 adorable chicks.

October was full of “normal” fall homestead work for us, which was so wonderful after such an “abnormal” and difficult summer season.  We built about 2/3 of the raised bed boxes for our second veggie garden.  We moved the kids playhouse out of the back yard and turned it into a gardening shed, and then built a retaining wall in the area where the playhouse used to be that will be Mr. Smiles new safe, flat, outdoor play area next summer.  We hauled and chopped a lot of firewood, and canned quite a bit of produce from our own property, and some purchased as well.  I began the adventure of learning how to weave, and also finished several knitting projects.  We got our first snow of 6 inches and a huge drop in temperatures.  Our old barn cat, Jerry, retired in the house and became our indoor kitty.  We found out that the eye surgery that was done in conjunction with Mr. Smiles’ bile duct/liver surgery back in August was not successful and decided to wait until spring to do another eye surgery because our family desperately needed a break from surgery and hospitalization, as did Mr. Smiles.  The bile duct/liver part of the surgery was still looking very good and successful.

In November we took our milk goat, Pansy, to the breeder and left her there to get bred.  We also started our first-ever sheep breeding season with two rams.  We separated the ewes up with the two rams and were excited to see how it went.  Unfortunately, our older ram, Fergus, had trouble with the new situation and also was coming into full maturity and thus started having aggressive behavior with humans and the ewes.  We struggled into December trying to keep everyone safe, get the ewes bred, and decide what to do with Fergus.  I continued to enjoy weaving and finished more weaving projects.  Sunshine and I did a massive go-through and clean-out of the house.  We did a lot more chopping and stacking firewood for the winter, and had quite a bit of snow and cold weather.  The weather pushed us to indoor projects and we tore out the master bathroom shower.

December brought Christmas candy making, Advent, and more work, but also relaxation and fun family time together.  We continued to struggle with the ram aggression issue and it all came to a head in one crazy dangerous interaction.  We ended up butchering our wool ram, Fergus because of his aggression.  It was hard, but the peacefulness of the barnyard afterwards re-affirmed our decision.  We used our trap nests to figure out which hens were laying and which weren’t, and did our last chicken butchering of the year.  Little Miss and I started trying our hand at learning the art of making aged cheeses and we used an old fridge to make a cheese cave.  We made huge batches of ketchup and BBQ sauce and canned them for our family use.  We continued to dig ourselves out of the snow that kept falling throughout the month.  Lastly, we finished the remodel of the master bathroom shower.

Looking back on this year is kind of hard for us.  Between Mr. Smiles having 5 surgeries this year, my father living with us for the last 3 months of his life and passing away, plus many other challenges that I didn’t share on the blog, it was by far the hardest year of our lives.  But we can also see SO many blessings, gifts, and miracles laced through it all.  God really carried us through, and leaning on Him was the only possible way I could handle it.  The homestead continued to be one of the blessings as it brought us emotional therapy and kept us busy so we didn’t have too much time to sit and stew over all the stresses.  And despite all the crazy life things we were going through separate from the homestead, we still had a pretty darn productive year providing food for our family.  For that we are very grateful.

Sunday Homestead Update

We have had a very productive week around the homestead.

Outdoor Project Day

Throughout the winter we occasionally get days that are 45+F and sunny.  These are good opportunities for us to work on projects outdoors while we can, and we take advantage of them as much as possible.  We had one this week and were able to get some things done.

Our lumber was finished early, so we picked it up and used it on the projects.  This lumber is from several trees we had to cut down last year and we took it to the local mill to have it made into 4×4, 2×6, and 1x lumber.

We split up into three groups, working close to each other, but on separate projects.  Young Man and Sunshine built the onion patch retaining wall.  It backs up to the main garden, but is on the outside of the fence since wildlife don’t bother the onions.  Here is the before picture from the onion patch side:

And the after picture:

And here it is from the garden side, before and after:

Braveheart worked on our mantle log.  It is a large aspen log…

…that needs to be stripped and sanded so it can become our mantle.

Mtn Man and I ripped logs, with Little Miss helping gather the wood scraps for the kindling pile, and Mr. Smiles in his stroller watching us all.  The bark slabs from the outside of the trees are cut off as they make it into lumber.  We find these slabs very useful for our version of a privacy fence – a Rocky Mountain solid fence.  The slabs are all different widths and have uneven edges.

We run them through the table saw to get the edges mostly even so they fit nicely together.  It is not a perfectionist thing…we want it to have some character, but still fit pretty well.  Depending on the fence, we are more particular or less particular.

We used it to build the 3 foot garden fence many years ago.

But this week we were using it to attach to a section of the barnyard fence.  We first hooked up a big canvas tarp along the fence, and then put the slabs over it.  This will make for a nice windbreak for the upper corner of the barnyard.

Most of our fencing is not solid, but when we do want some that is I really like this look because it blends in with the area well.  I don’t like buildings and fences in the woods that stand out from everything.


We started our incubation!  We are using both of our incubators this time because we wanted to set a large amount of eggs.  Hatching at high-altitude is complicated, especially when the birds laying the eggs didn’t themselves hatch at high altitude.  Although studies show that hens laying at high-altitude lay eggs with less pores to make up for some of the challenges caused by the altitude.  But we have found that our first generation of birds always have very low hatch rates, and our hatch rates go up as we get into the next few generations of birds that have been selected and hatched at altitude themselves.  Because we had to cut our flock way back due to our son’s medical issues, we are now starting back at square one so-to-speak with our breeding and hatching program, so most of the breeding birds come from lower elevations and are our first generation.  In the years to come our hatching success should increase with the second and third generations of high-altitude birds.  Because of all that, we will likely have a low hatch rate.  Thus we wanted to set as many eggs as possible to make up for the lower hatch rate.

We were able to fit 75 eggs in the two incubators.  We have a Hovabator 1588 and a Top Hatch TH130.  We prefer the Hovabator, but they both perform pretty well.  And when we want to set a lot of eggs it is nice to have them both.

We will candle for fertility later this week and see how our roo is doing at his part of the job.

English Paper Piecing Quilt

The EPP hexagon quilt has come out to be worked on again.  I talked about how special this quilt is and what it is about in this post last year.  Because the pieces are so tiny, and it is completely hand stitched, the girls and I only work on it for a few weeks at a time and then put it away and bring it back out later.  It has been almost a year since we worked on it though!  How time flies around here.  But Little Miss was in the mood for it so she dug it out and the two of us have started working on it again.  We will see how much progress we make this time before our hands get tired of all that tiny stitching.

How to Do Hand-Stitched English Paper Piecing

As I posted last week, my grandmother taught me how to do hand-stitched English Paper piecing quilts when I was a teenager.  She shared with me a box of diamonds made from hexagons that she and my great-grandmother had made for years from clothing scrap fabric.  My daughters and I are now using those pieces, along with new ones we are making from our scrap fabric, to make a quilt.

There are a few different ways to do paper piecing, I am sharing how I was taught by my grandmother, which is how she was taught by her mother.  There are many different shapes you can use, and sizes of shapes.  The hexagons we are making are very small – only an inch across.  I would suggest starting with something bigger – while these look really great, it is quite a tedious and time-consuming project to complete a quilt made with tiny hexagons.  I have previously made a Christmas tree skirt with 4-inch hexagons and it was a much faster and easier project.

First, how to make the hexagons.

You will need hexagons made from sturdy paper, and fabric cut into circles big enough to wrap the hexagon in.  When my grandmother taught me, she was hand-cutting each paper hexagon using a cardboard pattern.  It was tedious and man it is tough to get a hexagon just exactly even!  I was very excited when I found that you can get die-cut paper pieces online.  I happily bought a package of hexagons that are each the same and I don’t have to do any cutting.  My personal favorite is the store Paper Pieces.

You take the fabric circle and carefully start wrapping it around the hexagon, one side at a time, being sure you are getting it tight along the straight edge and keeping the corners nice.

Then, using some cheap thread, you baste the fabric onto the paper hexagon with a few stitches.  You want it held firmly, but you will remove these later so you want them big and easy to get out.

Now it is time to hook the hexagons together.  You can obviously do this in any number of patterns using different fabrics etc.  My grandmother and great-grandmother made diamonds out of 9 hexagons, making the center hexagon a solid complimenting color.

I decided to hook them together with white hexagons in between as a border for a simple vintage look.

To hook them together, you place two hexagons right-sides together and whip stitch along the straight edge, being careful to grab a little of each fabric but not the paper that is inside of each piece.  I occasionally grab a tiny bit of the paper, it is bound to happen, just try to not stitch to far onto the paper and not too often.

When you are finished, do not tie off or cut your thread.  As you see when you open it up one side is now attached.

Turn the pieces right sides together with the next side that needs to be attached and continue your whip stitching along that side.  Repeat for as many sides as need to be attached for that piece.

In this example I am attaching the white border pieces to my already in-process quilt.  As you can see, I keep attaching white borders along the edge of the colorful diamond.

Once they are in place I attach another diamond set.

It is done like the single hexagons, one edge at a time, working my way around all the edges.

Then I add more white and so forth and so on, building the quilt up a little at a time.

It is important not to remove any of the paper until a piece is sewn on all edges, because the paper holds the shape for you.  As you can see here, I have removed all the basting stitches and paper from all the interior pieces, but the border pieces that are not surrounded fully yet still have their basting stitches and papers.

To remove the paper you just clip the basting stitches, turn to the back, gently open the fabric and pull out the piece.

Some methods of putting the fabric on the paper leaves a lot less fabric on the back than this method.  However, I am trying to copy the method used to make all the diamonds, so I am doing it this way.  I think it will add some nice bulk to the quilt and make it warmer too.

That’s all there is to it -the basics of how to do hand-stitched English Paper Piecing Quilts.  I find them very enjoyable, and I love that they are a craft that is mobile – in that I can take it places to work on it or work on it in a recliner, as opposed to being at a sewing machine.  Try it out yourself!