Sunday Homestead Update

More Snow!  We got more snow this week, this time it was about 5 inches and it stuck around for a couple of days.  It was pretty and we enjoyed being cozy by the woodstove through it.  But this continuous rain and snow pattern we have had the last 3-4 weeks has made the barnyard into a gooey mess and leaves the animals with few places to stand that aren’t mucky.  Hopefully things will dry up a bit in the coming weeks.

The day after the storm a flock of wild turkeys marched through our property.  They used to not live in this area at all, but in the last few years we have been seeing them occasionally, which is fun.

Knitting

I finished another project this week.  It is a balaclava for Little Miss.  I made three of these last year, one each for Little Miss, Braveheart, and Mr. Smiles.  They absolutely love them and wore them all winter.  But Little Miss’ head has grown and hers doesn’t fit her for this winter.  So I made her another one for Christmas.  I love the color of the yarn, it is Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick and Quick in the colorway Wild Strawberry.  The pattern is the Bailey Balaclava.  It is a super fast knit, and it is fun to knit something that I know will get so much use.

I am really enjoying the “Fish Lips Kiss Heel” pattern and method.  I plan to do a review on both the heel and the method in a future post.  For now, I have made it to the leg of the sock.

The Problem With Roosters

Because we have 5 kids and the kids love being involved in the farm, it is very important that the animals we keep are not aggressive.  Whenever we raise up breeding roosters we let them mature and then pick our favorite two (taking into consideration conformation as well as behavior).  Then we let those two mature even more and cull the most aggressive one.  That usually leaves us with a nicely tempered breeding rooster.  But every-so-often it doesn’t work, and here is why…sometimes when there are two roosters with the flock and one seems nice and sweet and the other is the boss and aggressive, when you remove the aggressive one and the sweet one is left all alone to take the dominant position in the flock, he all of a sudden decides he needs to be aggressive because there is no one else filling the job.

Unfortunately, that has just happened to us.  We have had two roosters for a couple months now and one was significantly more aggressive than the other.  So we butchered the more aggressive one this week.  The next morning all seemed fine, but the morning after that, when we opened the coop to let the chickens out, the previously submissive roo blew right out of the coop and attacked me.  Most times when a roo gets cheeky with me if I go after him aggressively with my big black muck boot he backs off.  Not so with this guy…he got more upset and attacked me more when I tried to get him away from me.  He is acting even WORSE that the one that we butchered earlier this week.  😦  And he is the only rooster we have left.  Sigh.  Sometimes homesteading just doesn’t work the way you hope no matter how hard you try to plan and prepare for it to go well.

Soooooo, I don’t know what we will do now.  At least for the time being no kids will be allowed in the chicken pen.

The hens on the other hand….are doing beautifully.

Alice and her 5 chicks are doing well.  We are hoping to move them to the lower coop soon, so they can have some fresh air and sunshine.  We are just waiting until we feel like the little ones can handle the steep ramp that the lower coop has.  Maybe this week…

One of our other Partridge Chanteclers is wanting to set now too.  We don’t normally let them set in fall, but we decided to go ahead and go for it, especially since we might not have a roo soon.  So we put 10 eggs under Ava today, and in 21 days will hopefully have another set of chicks running around.

Garden

We are finishing up the garden year.  We have beets and turnips still in the ground under the frost fabric tunnels, but everything else is done for the year.  I am hoping to get around to tallying up the harvest amounts this week.

The Gooseberry bush is turning a beautiful purple/red/brown color.

And the strawberry leaves are turning red and starting to lay down for the winter.

Sunday Homestead Update

We got our first snow this week!  Just a couple of inches that melted off fast, but it was fun nonetheless.  Fall is in full swing.

Garden

We harvested the last of the carrots and got them frozen for winter soups.  The peas have officially finished their ability to produce with the frosts we have been having, so we are tearing those vines out of the garden and feeding them to the livestock before they fully die.  And I have been saving seeds from my tomatoes as the nicest ones ripen in the basement.  I ferment them with their goo in a cup, then rinse and drain them.  Then I put them on a labeled paper towel to dry, before they go into envelopes and into storage for next year.

The pumpkin/squash patch is thoroughly done for the season.  So we brought it all in and are letting some finish ripening indoors.  The Red Kuri squash produced very well, and we also got a few acorn squash and a few small sugar pumpkins.  In our climate, without a greenhouse, it is a blessing if we get ANY pumpkins and squash at all.

We have been cooking up the ripe ones and either eating them, or freezing them for future use in pies and breads.  We specifically have frozen and set aside the best ones for our Thanksgiving pies.  And we roasted the seeds for a yummy snack.

All that is left in the garden now are some turnips and beets in frost tents.  We will see how long they can make it.

Too Many Craft Projects!

I think I have gotten a little ahead of myself in the knitting projects.  This week I had 7 WIPs (work-in-progress), which is unheard of for me.  2, maybe 3 is my usual way to be.  But I have so many cool Christmas presents I am making, plus the items I am working on for myself, and I just kept casting-on new projects, and all of a sudden it got up to 7.  Add to that the sewing projects I have waiting and it is a bit crazy.  So I have been working on the items that are closest to done, or fastest to finish, so I can get some off the needles.

I finished the extension of the Farmhouse Shawl I made last year.  One more skein added about 4 more inches to its length and I am happy with that.

Here it was before:

And here it is now:

I added one more line of rib and then just went until I ran out of yarn.  It is a super cozy wrap for the cold days of winter!

I had made it a few inches down the second scarf side of my hooded scarf and tried it on and while I LOVE the feel of the yarn, the hood looked very silly on my head.

So I took out the hood part and am trying to decide what to do now.  Just finish it as a cabled scarf?  Figure out a different way to do the hood?  I like the idea of a hooded scarf, but I am just not sure.  So that will be going on hold for an unknown amount of time while I decide what to do.

Meanwhile I keep knitting away at all my other WIPs and I need to get to the sewing machine too.

Onion/Garlic Patch

Last fall and spring we re-built the retaining wall on the onion/garlic patch to make the area bigger and make the soil richer and deeper.  We had been unable to grow anything in that area because of the terrible soil that was there, and there was no way to amend it much because of how shallow the area was.

Before:

After:

It really helped and this year our onions grew very well!

Now we are continuing with phase 2 of the plan of fixing up that area.  It had 3 Ponderosa pine trees at the back of it that were between it and the main vegetable garden.  The trees were causing a lot of trouble in the gardens because they drop millions of pine needles each year, as well as small very spiky pine cones and larger cones too.  Each spring we were having to clean the needles out of the garden and the onion patch and throw them away because they are very acidic and not good for the soil.  But it was nearly impossible to get them all, and the needles and small cones left would stab us when we were working in the gardens, which was unpleasant.  So we decided to remove the trees, and in the spring we will be planting apple trees in their place.  This will give us some food-producing trees, and we can rake the leaves up and add them to the compost pile.  Any leaves that are left will be good for the soil.

We got the trees down:

And then tried to pull the stumps out with the tractor….which was impossible.  Didn’t even budge them an inch.  They are firmly gripped into the rocky mountainside.  So we cut them down as low as possible.

In the past several months since we built the retaining wall and added the soil to the onion patch everything has settled and the dirt has ended up about 18 inches lower than it was.  So this weekend we are using the tractor we are borrowing to get the compost from the barnyard and dump it into the patch, filling it back up.  This will also cover what is left of the stumps so we can set the old bathtub and the metal water trough over where they used to be.

Once that is done it will be ready for spring planting next year – of onions and garlic, AND of our two new fruit trees!

Sunday Homestead Update

It has been a wet week around here.  A lot of rain and drizzle and fog.  When it hasn’t been raining it has been beautiful crisp fall weather.  It has been nice to use the wood stove again and sit by the fire knitting with hot tea.  We are supposed to be getting our first dusting of snow this coming week, which will be fun.

We have continued to work on outside fall projects when the weather cooperates.  When it has been raining we have been inside canning and organizing.  I decided we needed a full-house go-through.  We have gone through all the closets, cupboards, drawers, toy boxes, etc.  We have gotten rid of things we don’t need or don’t use, and have thrown away all trash and broken items, and organized the things we kept.  It feels SO good to know exactly what he have and why we have it and where it is.  We completed clothing drawers and closets for each family member (7 total), all the kids toy boxes, all the kids bookcases, two linen closets, the storage room, under all the beds, and the winter outerwear closet.  I would still like to do my craft room (the girls already did their craft area), the laundry room shelves, the bathroom cabinets and drawers, and the kitchen cabinets and drawers.  But I am not sure we will have time with all the other fall projects we are working on.  And that is OK, because the stuff we already dealt with was the most important and needed going through more than what is left.  And the amount we got rid of and threw away was HUGE.  It feels great!

Garden

We are continuing with fall garden chores.  Harvesting what has survived the cold weather thus far, putting it up for the winter by canning, freezing, drying, and root cellaring.  It makes me smile to see the braided onions hanging in the basement and the rows of jars of home-canned garden veggies.

We decided to split the chives this year.  Their location in the garden was not optimal, and they had gotten quite big.

So we dug up the whole plant and root ball, used the shovel to cut the root ball in half, and replanted the two halves in different places.  One is still in the garden, but in a different box, and the second is in an old bathtub that is part of the decorations in the onion patch.  I am looking forward to seeing the pretty purple chive flowers in the spring.

Heritage Arts

When I first learned to knit socks I used the basic flap-type heel taught in Ann Bud’s sock knitting book that I used to learn how to do socks.  Then I found the OMG heel and the Spacious OMG heel, both by Meghan Williams.  I really liked that method and have been using it ever since.  But I continue to be interested in different options for knitting heels.  This week I saw the “Fish Lips Kiss Heel” on the blog All She Wants to Do is Knit.  It looked interesting and after looking into it further I found that it isn’t just a heel pattern, but also a method for making sure your hand-knit socks fit just right.  So I decided to give it a go and see how I like it.  Today I did step one, which is to get cardboard foot patterns for each member of our family.  Obviously, I will start with one pair, and thus just need one cardboard pattern, however I figured while I had all 7 of us together and was tracing feet, I might-as-well just do everyone’s foot in case I like this method and want to make more soon.  I even did Mr. Smiles’ little foot, although I am not sure if it really matters with baby socks, but I guess I might find out.

 

Back on the needles….

Last year I made this wonderful Farmhouse Shawl from our homespun yarn from our ewe Fiona.

While I absolutely love the cozy feel of the shawl, I have found that it is too small for my liking.  So I took off the tassels and put it back on the needles.  I have one more 170yd skein of that homespun yarn, so I am going to lengthen it until I run out of yarn and then put the tassels back on.  Hopefully I will be happier with the size after adding that skeins’ worth of yarn.

I bought several balls of yarn, as well as some fabric, all for Christmas present making and Christmas crafting.  I have some presents done already, but still have several more to complete.  I am also going to make the last set of cloth placemats and napkins for my seasonal placemat project.  I found some winter and Christmas fabric for them and will get started as soon as I can.  I want them done by the weekend after Thanksgiving, which is when we decorate for Christmas.

 

Homestead Update – We are Back – Part 2

After a full month of no blogging, there is quite a bit to catch up on…the update continues…with all things fiber-related!

Willow Creek Fiber Mill

Our business, Willow Creek Fiber Mill, which we opened in May of this year, is doing very well.  Mtn Man absolutely loves processing all the different fibers into beautiful roving and yarn for customers.  It is so amazing to be able to go to work and create something beautiful and love every minute of it each day!

In the last couple of weeks we have had several large deliveries of fiber to be processed.  It is fun to see all the different fleece that come through.

We have been able to attend, and will continue to attend, several fiber festivals this fall around the western part of the country, which has been very fun.  We have met a lot of great people, picked up a lot of great fiber, and made some great business connections.

Alpaca Yarn

Alpaca Yarn

Lately, Mtn Man has been running a lot of alpaca and goat mohair through the mill.  So many beautiful skeins of yarn!  It is fun to see each fleece as it becomes the yarn it is going to be…different colors, textures, thicknesses…each is unique.

Angora Goat Yarn

We have a lot of very nice fleece come through, but occasionally there is one that I absolutely fall in love with.  One of those that I loved was called “Sandstorm” and was from a sheep raised at Notlwonk Springs farm in Idaho.  Mtn Man, being the sweet guy that he is, contacted the owner and for our wedding anniversary bought me a fleece from them and then said he would process it however I wanted it.  What a great gift for a fiber-lovin’ gal!

I perused a lot of patterns and decided to make it into a cardigan, using the pattern called Let Go by Joji Locatelli.  So I told him what weight yarn I needed and he made the yarn for me.  He just finished it this week and I ended up with 11 skeins of DK weight yarn.  The skeins are 250 yds each, so when I am done I will have enough for another project as well, or I might sell it.

I am really excited about starting this project.  I made a gauge swatch and hope to start knitting this week.  I love the sandy color of the yarn, and the luster is beautiful.  Photos don’t do it justice.  The photos with the gauge swatch in it are closer in accuracy to the color of the yarn, but the other two photos show its luster better.

Knitting

I have been playing around with the Fibonacci stripe pattern on a couple pair of socks lately.

The first pair is for my friend.  The stripe pattern didn’t show up very clearly because I used a variegated yarn as one of the stripe colors.  But I still feel like they ended up bright and fun!

The second pair started out as a basic Fibonacci stripe pattern on the leg, but since I was making them for Little Miss, and she absolutely loves toe socks, I decided to try my hand at making some toe socks for her.  I took my glove pattern and tweaked it here and there and ended up with some adorable toe socks that Little Miss is crazy about!

I have been working on making the Heel Head Scarf pattern by Carissa Browning using some yarn that came from our farm and was processed in our mill!  This will be the first item I will finish making yarn that is not only from our livestock, but also was processed here at Willow Creek Fiber Mill.  I have made items before from our own wool, but it was handspun yarn.  This yarn was made from wool from our black CVM ewe, named Violet, and white fiber from our English Angora rabbit, Oliver.  We call the yarn “Violiver” after both of them. 🙂

I have one side of the scarf and most of the hood done, I am almost to the other side of the scarf.  It is going to be SO warm and oh-so-soft!  I can’t wait to wear it this winter.  I love the simple cables that go along it.

Sunday Homestead Update

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

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

Barn Flood Aftermath

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

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

Goats

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

Sheep

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

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

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

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

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

Chickens

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

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

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

Garden

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

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

We also got green beans and canned them.

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

Knitting

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

 

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

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