Sunday Homestead Update

We have had a super-productive summer week on the homestead.  We got a lot of odds and ends done, like staking the apple trees to help them survive the hurricane-force gusty winds we get in the winter, butchering an old hen that needed to go, cleaning up some chicken pens and moving some chickens to different pens, raking all the compost back into compact piles in the barnyard, and securing the bush beans that were falling into the garden path and getting damaged.

Livestock Guardian Dog

Our LGD, Anya, has been indoors a couple of weeks as we waited for her fly-eaten ears to heal.  They have now healed up, except for one tiny scab left on one.

So we put a new type of repellent on her that we haven’t tried yet (we have tried over 25 different things) and we put a new fly repellent collar on her (we have used those before with some good success, it just didn’t work earlier this summer), and we put her back out in the yard.  She was happy to be back out full time, and the chickens were equally happy to get to free-range in the barnyard full time as well.

We will see if this new combination of repellents works and we are very hopeful they do and she can stay out.

Garden

Harvesting continues….

Peas are being harvested and eaten fresh, as well as frozen for winter.

We have begun harvesting celery, chopping it, and freezing it for winter soups.  And we continue to eat fresh salad greens from the garden with almost every dinner meal.

The harvesting and drying of herbs is a continual process.  The more we cut, the happier they are, the more they grow.  We have been enjoying mint tea almost daily with fresh mint from the garden.  We planted a new variety this year, called Mountain Mint, and I absolutely love the flavor.  It is my favorite ever.  Which is a good thing because I put in quite a few plants in the Apple Garden and I am hopeful they will spread out nicely.  We have yet to have mint go crazy and take over any space, but there is a first time for everything and I know that is what it does for people in nicer climates.

About half of the cabbages were ready for harvest.  We got 18 lbs of them so far!  After making a big batch of cole slaw for the family to enjoy, we chopped up the extra, added other ingredients for sauerkraut and filled up our big 3-gallon fermenting crock.  In a month or two we will be enjoying some awesome homemade kraut!  We also made some into krautburger filling which we froze in portions for dinners.

The Red Lake Currants are ripe and ready to pick, so we have been making currant syrup to go on our pancakes and waffles.

For some unknown reason our Crandall Clove Currant bush did not put on any flowers or berries at all this year.  Strange.  The gooseberry bushes are full though and should be ready to harvest soon.

The dill was ready to harvest, which brought on our yearly dill pickle canning day.  We canned 46 quarts of dill and 5 pints of sweet pickles for the year.

 

We also tried a new rhubarb recipe this week that we saw on Little House Big Alaska blog for Rhubarb Bread with Streusel Topping.  It was oh-so-delicious and is now officially my favorite sweet bread.  If you have rhubarb go get the recipe and make it right now.

We continue to harvest peas, spinach, lettuce, kale, celery, and herbs.  The tomatoes, beans, carrots, and onions are all coming along nicely – looking to be a bumper crop this year!

One of the many wonderful things about living in the mountains is that everything cools down in the evening during the summer.  So mornings can be almost chilly enough to wear a hoody, even though it will get up to 80s and 90s during the day.  So I love going out in the early morning coolness to work in the garden, before the sun even comes over the mountain enough to touch the garden.  As the sun rises is the perfect time to harvest peas, because the sun shines through them and you can see if they are full and ready yet or not.

It is a peaceful and lovely time of day.  And just before I come in I grab a few mint leaves to make my morning tea.  What a blessed life!

Chickens

Last Monday was hatch day for our hens Batina and Eve.  Batina is a first-time mom, and Eve is a very experienced setter, this being her 8th or 9th hatch.  All the eggs were collected and started setting at the same time, but Eve’s spent their first week in the incubator inside before they went under her.  I had put them there as extras for Batina to make up for infertility and loss, but then towards the end of the week Eve decided she wanted to set too so we just gave all the extras to her so they would be on the same hatch day schedule.

Batina had started the hatch with 11 eggs, but 6 were lost to infertility and early death.  So she was sitting on 5 viable eggs by hatch day.  She started hatching early – by Sunday evening she already had a little yellow fluff ball under her, and by Monday night she was done – 4 out of the 5 eggs hatched.

Eve started with 7 eggs, and only 1 was lost to early death (all were fertile).  So on hatch day she had 6 viable eggs.  But hatch day (day 21) came and went without anything going on with Eve’s eggs.  Then day 22…then 23… then 24.  We have had eggs go until day 24 in the incubator before, but it was only once, very rare, and they didn’t hatch well at all.  So we decided that by the end of day 24, once it was dark outside, we would candle to try to figure out what was going on.  Eve had never had an unsuccessful hatch before.  However, she was setting in the nest box in the lower coop, and we have never had a hen set there before.  But that was the only difference.  Afternoon of day 24 was 95 degrees out (that is a scorcher for us here in the mountains), so I went around checking everyone’s water to be sure all was well with the livestock.  When I opened up Eve’s nest area I noticed she had changed positions from the flat spread out setting hen position to the puffed up mama hen position (those of you who have hatched chicks know what I mean).  Then I was surprised by a little chick peeking out from her wing!

I don’t know why she took those extra days, and it clearly effected her hatch rate, she only hatched 2 of the 6 eggs.  But we were all very happy she hatched at all.  We will avoid using that nest as a hatching nest in the future in case that was the problem.

Heritage Arts

I cast on the second pair of Watermelon Socks.  These ones are for Little Miss.  Sunshine has been wearing hers almost constantly since I finished them and loves them.  It is very fun to make something for someone that they love and use a lot.  I am knitting them holding my working yarn in my left hand (I usually hold it in my right).  I heard that knitting that way (picking or continental style) instead of my way (throwing or English style) is much faster.  I would love to knit faster if possible, there are so many projects and so little time.  So I agreed to try it on one project and if by the end of the project I felt like it would be faster then I will switch.  So the second pair of watermelon socks are what I chose to try it on.  So far it is much slower and I learn the new technique, and my gauge is a lot tighter too.  But its not terribly hard and I am interested to see if it really makes a speed difference for me.

 

Another blessed week on the farm!

Sunday Homestead Update

We are home from the hospital again and have had a lot going on this week around the farm to catch up.

We got to visit the flock of sheep we used to own and see all the lambs they had this year.  It was bitter sweet.  It was really great to see them and see how well our breeding choices turned out – but it was definitely hard to face that they weren’t ours anymore.  We desperately miss having the flock of sheep and the milk goats.  But with how many surgeries and hospitalizations Mr. Smiles has had this year (with another one coming up soon), and several of them were unscheduled and sudden, we know that right now we just can’t have that in our lives.  We need to focus on his needs.  And we are OK with that, but it did tug at our hearts to see our sweet flock.

Livestock Guardian Dog

Every year we battle the flies eating the LGD’s ears from mid-summer through to the first good frost.  It is so so frustrating.  We have tried over 25 different products/methods of repelling them.  Some work somewhat.  Some work great, but only for a short period of time.  Some don’t work at all.  It is such a battle.

Our Anatolian Shepherd, Anya, has had a little bit of a fly issue for the last few weeks, but we were able to keep it under control with a fly repellent collar and herbal bug repellent.  But then all of a sudden it went from doing OK to completely out of control in one day’s time.  Her poor ears are bleeding and scabbed and just a big mess.  One wound is about 2 inches in diameter, the other about 1 inch.  Either way it is too much and now that it is a bleeding wound the flies just go at it all the more.  So Anya has had to come inside until they heal up.  She is living in the mud room and the kids and I keep taking her out for play time in the yard, especially in the cooler evening and morning temps when the flies are not as active.

She is definitely not very happy with the situation – she really loves living outside and guarding the stock.  But there is no other good option at this point.

Thankfully, we only have chickens on the farm right now, so she doesn’t HAVE to be outside because I can leave the chickens in their enclosed pen instead of letting them free range and they are safe in there.  So her being indoors is not putting any livestock at risk, except at night when the bears try to get in the coop or barn.  However, she can see and hear the barn area from the mud room, so we expect she would probably bark and alert us if there is trouble.

Chickens

We have two setting hens that are ready to hatch tomorrow.  We are excited for some adorable baby chicks under mama hens.  We candled the eggs to clear out the duds before hatch.  Eve started with 7 eggs and had one dud.  Batina started with 9 eggs and had 4 duds.  Batina had been given the smaller eggs, which mostly means from the younger hens, so the difference in duds makes sense to me.  Eve was given the bigger eggs which are mostly from the adult hens, not the pullets.  So we have the potential for 11 chicks…although you know the saying.  🙂  I should have pics of cute chicks under Mama hens for next week’s update.

We got a straight run of 8 Silkie chicks and 1 Frizzle last spring.  They are now closing in on maturity and we have 2 for sure roosters.  Statistically it seems we should have more, and maybe there is another one (or more) that just isn’t showing roo characterstics yet, but it really looks like the rest are hens.  The two boys were starting to fight, and the crowing wars were getting out of control.  So we decided which one to keep (for now) and butchered the other one.  We have never butchered a Silkie before and were very surprised when we started butchering.  Yes, we knew their skin was black, but we did NOT expect their meat to be black, nor their bones.  Kind of creepy.  But it is food.

We brined it for three days and ate it at our meal last night, along with some of our meat chicken meat (one silkie is not enough meat for a meal for 7).  It tasted just the same, of course, but it was a bit strange to look at.

Heritage Arts

I finished the first pair of watermelon socks!  Perfect summertime socks – they have a short cuff and what is more summer than watermelon?

Sunshine loves them, and Little Miss is anxious for me to get hers going and finished soon too.  I used the Fish Lips Kiss Heel, Judy’s Magic Cast on, Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off, and knit them two-at-a-time, toe-up, on magic loop.  The yarn is Biscotte sock yarn.

I also made another 15 squares for the sock scrap afghan, 52 grams of yarn.  I want to make 15 more before I start hooking them on again.

I have wanted this type of old-fashioned knitting bag for a very long time and I was really excited to get one this week.  A friend bought it at a thrift store and gave it to me.  I love the style of bag, but I was not thrilled with the fabric.

So I decided to remake the bag part with fabric I like.  I careful took apart the bag with a seam ripper, used the fabric pieces to make pattern pieces, and then made the bag with the new fabric.  I found the construction of the bag itself to be very difficult.  I have no experience making bags, but I have a lot of sewing experience and I am sure there must be a better way, I just don’t know what it is.  So I followed what they did exactly even though it was very difficult.  But it was SO worth it.  I LOVE the new bag.

I love how it stands up and holds itself open for easy use while knitting.  It also can close and be carried.

The original had two pockets inside, but I added two more to mine.

And it is SO roomy.  I have been surprised at how much it can hold.  I have my partially finished afghan in the bottom, 10-12 scrap skeins in there, all the extra squares I have knit but haven’t hooked on, and all my knitting tools for that project.  It is awesome.

The girls each want one now, and Mtn Man thinks he can pretty easily make the frame.  But I am not sure about making the bag part.  I need to find a better and easier way to make it if we are going to make more.

Garden

The garden is looking awesome!

This is how it started this spring:

We have been harvesting and enjoying lettuce, spinach, kale, peas, broccoli, strawberries, and a lot of different kitchen herbs too.

Sunshine got a book at the library called The Kitchen Garden Cookbook by Caroline Bretherton.  There was a pea soup recipe in there we decided to try.  I have never liked pea soup.  I have had it from a can from the store (ick), and I have had some homemade at some point, but I didn’t like it.  So it was kind of going out on a limb to let Sunshine use 2 lbs of our precious peas to make soup.  But I figured it was worth a try.

It turned out so very yummy!  We all loved it and devoured it.  It seems that anything made from something directly from the garden tastes better.  This makes five things now that I have been convinced are delicious simply by eating them fresh from the garden – brussel sprouts and kale (don’t really like them…except when they come right from the garden), tomatoes (used to avoid them like the plague, until I tried one right from the garden), tomato soup (a couple years ago we tried a recipe with our garden tomatoes and now it is a seasonal favorite and we eat it all through the fall)…and now pea soup!

The cabbages are almost ready too, so we will be harvesting some this week and starting some kraut in the fermenting crock.  And the dill is ready, so I will be heading to the farmers’ market to get some cucumbers and we will be canning dill pickles this week too.

Busy time on the homestead!

Sunday Homestead Update

Very productive week here on the farm.

Knitting

I finished hooking on the third row of my Scrap Sock Yarn Afghan!

There will be 8 rows total to make it lap-sized for our living room.  So I am about 40% done.  Maybe I will be able to get it done by winter and we can cuddle up under it on cold winter days.  I am really happy with how it is looking.

I also finished my Purple Toe and Heel Socks!  I used the Fish Lips Kiss Heel socks pattern for the heel and sizing, and Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off at the end.  The yarn is from MarigoldJen.

I recently bought some really fun sock yarn and was waiting to finish the Purple Toe and Heel socks before I cast on with it.  That helped push that sock project to completion because I was so excited to cast on with this Watermelon self-striping sock yarn from Biscotte.

I am really having fun with it, making socks for Sunshine and if there is enough hopefully a pair for Little Miss too.  The picture doesn’t do the colors justice, they perfectly match watermelon colors – so much so, in fact, that while I am knitting I can practically smell the watermelon.  There’s a new thought – scented yarn.  Hmmm, I don’t think so.

And I couldn’t resist trying out the yarn to see what a scrap square for the afghan would look like, and I sure wasn’t disappointed, it turned out very cool!

Chickens

We collected hatching eggs for our hen, Batina, to set on.  Since our fertility rate was very low last time we decided to increase our chances for a good hatch amount by putting some extra eggs in the incubator, that way we can replace the infertile or dead eggs under Batina with good ones from the incubator as needed.  So we put 9 eggs under the hen and another 10 in the incubator.  Of the 10 in the incubator, 3 had air cell issues and were thrown out.

Meanwhile, Eve decided she wanted to set too.  So we began collecting hatching eggs for her to set as well.  But then when I checked the fertility on Batina’s eggs I found 100% fertility.  So we decided to just give the incubator eggs to Eve, and leave Batina’s with her.  That way they are both set to hatch the same day.  So in a few weeks we should have some adorable chicks with mama hens here on the farm!

Farm Kitchen

The girls and I have been continuing to make freezer meals to stock up.  We also refilled a bunch of our jars of mixes from the Little House Living book of recipes we have been trying out.

With the garden kale growing like crazy, we have also been freezing up cubes of our green base for our smoothies.

Garden

The cabbage, Brussel Sprouts, and Broccoli are very happy in their pest control tents this year, and they have big beautiful leaves without any of the cabbage worm holes in them.

The tents are such a great non-pesticidal option.  But they do take some maintenance.  The weight of the fabric when they get rained on can start to knock the arches over, and the wind likes to wreak havoc on them as well.  This year we are using clothespins to hold the fabric on the arches and that is working very well.

But this year we are using the taller arches because they are spanning a 4-foot wide box instead of a 2-foot wide box.  And we have found the taller arches to be trouble as far as falling over goes.  So Mtn Man found some metal scraps and made some braces for the end arches and that has helped a lot.

Sunday Homestead Update

This week we got a break from the pediatric hospital and were able to focus on the homestead and get caught up around here.

Gardens

We got all the gardens weeded and did a little harvesting.  Strawberries are coming on nicely.

Normally, winters are too harsh to overwinter herbs in the garden, even with straw protecting them.  So each year we start new sets of herbs, even the perennial varieties.  Last fall we were busy with Mr. Smiles’ medical stuff and I never got the herbs pulled out of the garden.  Then we had a very mild winter.  We were very surprised this spring when we found a sage plant that had survived and come back.  It is now 4 times as big as it was before and is going strong!

So this fall we are going to do our best to try to overwinter some of the other herbs, just in case it is another mild winter.  If we could get them established then they would probably be able to keep overwintering even when it got colder.

After 6 years of dreaming the first two apple trees have been planted at Willow Creek Farm!!!  Took us long enough – but with a farm there is always something higher on the to-do list it seems.  The two varieties we got are Red Prairie Spy and Sweet 16.  Should be a good combo if they can survive our climate.  There are a lot more factors to consider here than just lowest winter temp.  We have a very short season, only 10-12 weeks frost to frost.  So will the trees blossom in the spring and then get frosted and survive but never produce?  Will they produce but never get to harvest because of fall frosts?  Time will tell, but we desperately want apple trees here, so we are giving it a try.  They are settling in nicely so far.  We are watering them weekly with root stimulator and we pulled all the tiny baby apples off of them so they can focus on their roots.  Next year we are supposed to be able to get a 10% harvest and take the rest off to help it establish, and then in 2020 we should be able to get our first real harvest!

Heritage Arts

I have knit 15 more scrap squares for my sock scrap yarn afghan.

I am hoping to get the third row of squares hooked onto the afghan this week.

The girls and I have also been sewing a lot this week.  Sunshine finished her first-ever quilt made all by herself.  Little Miss made another toddler bib.  And I worked on some more hospital clothes for Mr. Smiles.

Chickens

The silkies are getting old enough that we can now tell most of the cockerels from the pullets.  We are trying to figure out what to do with the cockerels.  We want to keep one for breeding, but will the rest be worth butchering?

We are collecting the fertilized eggs for Batina’s set this weekend.  Hoping to get them underneath her tomorrow and start the 21 day countdown to chicks!

Another beautiful week on the farm!

Sunday Homestead Update

Life has been rough around here lately.  Mr. Smiles’ medical issues have landed us in the ER and Pediatric Hospital and left us scrambling to manage regular life.  Plus, one of our indoor cats is seriously ill and we have been nursing him through with daily fluid and antibiotic treatments.  Between the two we have barely had time to keep up with the farm.

Hospital stays do give me some time to knit though, and I have gotten some stuff done.  First, I finished the purple Alpaca/Bamboo yarn socks I was making.  They are thick, cozy, warm winter socks and I look forward to wearing them this winter.

The pattern was the Fish Lips Kiss Heel sock pattern with some basic K2P2 ribbing on the top of the foot and along the leg.  The yarn was some specialty yarn that Mtn Man spun for me in the mill.

I have also made more progress on my sock scrap afghan.  I am happy with how it is progressing.

Garden

The garden is thriving despite our somewhat sporadic watering schedule lately and the competition with the weeds.

The gooseberry bushes and grape vines are doing very well this year – it is their third and fourth year and they are really getting established now.

Chickens

Our young hen Batina has decided she wants to set.  She is tucked away in the dark and quiet broody nest.

So we put the rooster, Ben, back in with the flock so we can have some eggs to give her to hatch.  We had taken him out to give the hens’ backs a break from his affection.  Next weekend he will have been with them long enough to establish fertility and we will collect some eggs and give them to Batina to hatch for us.

Walk Abouts

Mr. Smiles and I like to take walks around the farm each day that we are able, checking on the animals and gardens.  One of the barn cats, Midnight, likes to walk right next to the stroller and follow us around as we go – a lot like a dog would.  It is fun to have his company and Mr. Smiles loves to pet him from the stroller.

We have had a really bad pine pollen season this year.  We had about three weeks of dry hot weather while the pollen was flying and it thoroughly coated everything.  When the wind would pick up it looked like fog it was so thick.  Yesterday we finally got a good rain and it started the process of washing it all away.  We are so glad.  Now it lines the edges of ditches and pools where the rain collected it.  A few more good rains and it will be gone.