Sunday Homestead Update

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

If the rock is wet, its raining.

If the rock is white, its snowing.

If the rock is swinging, its windy.

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

Garden

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

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

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

Sheep

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

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

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

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

Chickens

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

The Outcasts

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

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

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

Heritage Arts

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

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

Sunday Homestead Update

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

Natural Weed Control

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

Wild Foraging

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

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

Wild Visitors

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

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

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

Heritage Arts

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

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

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

Cheese Making

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

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

Next week we plan to make Feta.

Chicken Butchering

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

Hot City

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

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

Sunday Homestead Update

Winter continues in the Rockies, but we are headed into a warmer spell where we are expecting 40sF during the day, so that will be nice.  Maybe it will melt off some of this packed snow and we can have clear paths and roads for a bit until the next snow.

Final Kidding Prep

We finished up the final kidding prep and are ready for those babies to be born!  We ordered a few milking supplies that we needed to replace from milking the cow.  But for the most part we had the supplies we needed.  We also ordered disbudding supplies (not looking forward to that part of having goat babies – but feel it is necessary).

We also have put the finishing touches on the kidding/lambing stalls, and the goats have started sleeping in them at night.  We bedded them with their first layer of shavings.  We will add more shavings as we get nearer to birthing, and then add straw right before they give birth.

We also decided to use the cement mixing container hay rack idea to build low-waste hay racks on the kidding/lambing stalls.  Because the walls were already the 4×4 livestock panels with the thick gauge wire all we had to do was cut the hole in the top and hook them to the outside of the fence.

img_3515 img_3517img_3516

The person we purchased the goats from said that last year Heidi had triplets and Gretchen had quadruplets.  It is too soon to tell with Gretchen since she isn’t due for another month, but Heidi is not looking very big to me.  I will be surprised if she has more than twins in there.  I am kind of wondering if she even has twins or if it is just a single.  She still has about 2 weeks till her due date, so maybe she will widen a lot by then.  This is our first time with goats, so I don’t really know – but if she was a sheep I would definitely be saying it is just a single.  Do any of you readers with goat experience have a guess?  Time will tell, I guess.  She is starting to bag up.

img_3510 img_3509

Gretchen is now getting her feed in the stanchion to get her used to it.  We also put a bucket under her and handle her udder while she eats.  We have been doing this with Heidi a few weeks already now since she is due first.

img_3508

Can’t wait to be posting about our first kids being born!

Incubation

Our incubation is supposed to start later this week, but I heard from the person we are getting the hatching eggs from that the girls stopped laying and she hasn’t been able to collect any eggs.  So it looks like it wont happen.  But we still have chicks coming from the hatchery late February, so we will have chicks anyway.  Maybe later in the year if I have a hen go broody we can put some of those hatching eggs under her.

Knitting and Sewing

I have been working on two knitting projects for a few weeks now, socks for Mtn Man made from wool from our own sheep, and a sweater for Mr. Smiles.  Both are at tedious boring parts and thus I am not working on them much and progress feels incredibly slow.  All the skirt sewing has also taken me away from knitting.  But this week I decided to cast on a new project to give me more options of what to work on and change it up a bit.  It is a dish towel knit with cotton yarn – the pattern is from Kerin Dimeler-Laurence on ravelry.   I have made both crochet and knit dishcloths/dishrags before, but never dish towels.  I am interested to see if I like the feel and function of it.  If so, I will make myself more.

img_3502

The girls and I are continuing our progress on skirts.  We are done with 3 for Sunshine and 3 for me, this week we will hopefully finish a few for Little Miss.  Here is my favorite that I made for myself.  It lands just below my knees and will be nice for warm weather.  I like the fabric, length, and that it has pockets.  The pattern called for a tie waist, but my shirts cover the top of all my skirts so I figured it would be easier and more comfortable to just do an elastic waist and not have the bulk of a tie under the front of my shirt.

img_3518

Rag Rug

I have this awesome rag rug from my grandmother.  It is large, about 5ftx9ft.

img_3500

It is over 70 years old.  My “Nana” braided it with strips of wool fabric leftover from wool skirts, jackets, and such that she had made for her family.  It has lived a long and happy life and now it lives at our house and we love it.  I know to some it might look shabby and the colors might seem a bit crazy, but we love the old-fashioned feel of it and we love that our Nana, who is gone from this life now, made it and used it for so long.  But all the use has left it a bit ragged and fraying in spots.

img_3499

We want it to continue to last, so Mtn Man, who has braided many beautiful wool rugs for our family and thus is the family braided rug expert, did a little research and figured out how to patch it.  Nana also left us a bag of wool fabric scraps that we could use to patch it.  So Mtn Man and Little Miss pulled out the bag of fabric and patched it.  First they cut the snarled parts out.

img_3514

Then they braided strips that fit the spaces and sewed them in place.  There wasn’t any matching wool for the patches, so they are pretty obvious, but that is fine with me, I am just glad it is fixed and can continue to live on our floor safely for years to come.

img_3519