Sunday Homestead Update – New Life on the Farm

It has been an interesting couple of weeks of weather here, with warm sunny says in the high 50sF, down to cold, snowy days with several inches of snow falling and temps down to the teens at night.  Just when I start to get motivated and excited to do spring work outdoors, the snow flies again and I am trying to shift my focus indoors and stay warm by the fire.  It is an interesting situation.

Sheep

We have had a couple of sleepless nights as we have been dealing with making sure our new little ewe lamb is surviving the colder temps.  Mtn Man is such a trooper with going out to the barn in the cold and dark of night multiple times to check on her.  I am grateful that he does that part and just has me handle the alarm to get us up for each check.  Then I get to stay cozy and wait for the update from the barn.  🙂

Last night she made it fine through the night without any added heat source.  The weather is supposed to be much nicer the next several days, so it looks like we are in the clear with her.  We are definitely surprised at how she has so much less wool on her at birth than our wool lambs do.  Her mom has the most Lacaune in her lines of all our dairy sheep.  That is something we will be considering as we move forward with our selective breeding of these dairy sheep – we will want heavier wool so they can handle the climate here better.  It is going to be an interesting adventure.

Since the dairy sheep project is mostly Sunshine’s project, it made sense for her to get to name the first dairy lamb born on the farm.  She chose the name Twilight.

Twilight snuggled up for a nap right under where her mama was eating – leaving her with a nice blanket of hay.

Chickens

Cinnamon is set to hatch this week.  Since she decided to set during the rooster switch-around, the fertility was terrible on the eggs we gave her (only 5 fertile out of 12).  So we ordered some chicks to arrive this week and we will be putting them under her for her to raise with the chicks she hatches.  This is her first time hatching for us, so we are not sure how she will do with adopting chicks.  But we have successfully done it before with a couple other hens we have – so we are hopeful.  Obviously, if she rejects them we will put them in the brooder and brood them ourselves.  I will let you know how it goes.

Garden

It is feeling more and more like spring as far as gardening goes!  We harvested the first food from our garden – chives!  They are always something we can count on coming up very early and adding some flavor to our meals.

We have some other green things starting to poke out of the ground.  The strawberries are putting up leaves.

And the gooseberry bushes just barely have little leaf buds beginning.

 

The indoor garden lights have tiny seedlings coming up too.

Sewing

I think it is important that both my girls and my boys learn to use a sewing machine.  At least the basics.  The girls are both accomplished seamstresses and can use sewing machines very well.  Young Man was taught the basics when he was younger and can use one when necessary.  So now it was time for Braveheart to learn.

I like to teach them when there is something they WANT to do involving a sewing machine.  It makes the learning so much more fun and relevant, and it sticks better.  This is true for a lot of the learning in our lives, not just sewing.  Braveheart has a pair of parakeets and they make SO much mess with their downy feathers flying all over the place out of the cage.  Braveheart is responsible for cleaning up the mess a couple times a week.  So when I suggested that he sew a fabric guard for the cage that could contain the mess and keep him from having to clean so much he was totally on board.

He did a great job and learned the basics of the sewing machine, measuring, cutting, elastic, and ironing.  And he is very happy with the finished product, which is keeping the mess contained and manageable.

Sunday Homestead Update – Heat Wave! (kind of)

It was so beautifully warm this week!  After the snow early in the week it got sunny and each day was in the 50sF, which felt so wonderful in the middle of cold winter.  We took advantage of it and spent time outdoors soaking in fresh air and sunshine and getting things done.  It is awesome to be able to get some of our spring projects worked on, even though winter is far from done here in the high Rockies.

Salve

Monday, while the snow flew, the girls and I used the inside time to make a batch of salve.  Making your own herbal salve is so easy.  You just infuse olive oil with the herbs you want.

Strain it out.  Add beeswax to get the consistency you want (put a little on a plate in the freezer for a minute or two until it reaches room temp to test the consistency).

Then pour it up and let it cool.

We made 12 small tins (1.5 oz), 1 pint jar (for the barn), and 3 half-pint jars.

I did a post on making herbal salve here.

New Garden Compost/Barnyard Fence

With the warmer weather we were able to borrow a tractor/back-hoe and get the compost pile moved into the new garden boxes.  We were happy to see how far it went in filling in the boxes.  And now we know how much top soil we need to purchase to finish off filling the boxes.

This also made it so we could finish the permanent fencing on the bottom end of the barnyard, and thus gave the animals a larger barnyard again (they have been living in about 2/3 of the main barnyard since fall because we had fenced off the bottom part with the big compost heap to just let the compost sit for a few months without chickens “stirring” it).  We also used the tractor to scrape the barnyard thoroughly and thus make a new compost heap to start composting.

Here is the lower barnyard looking down from uphill before:

And here it is after:

And here it is looking up from downhill before:

And after:

So the entire permanent barnyard fence is complete except one thing – a gate at the bottom.  We want to have a large gate at the bottom so we can easily get the tractor in and out.  We didn’t have time or materials to complete that, so we just put one of our temporary panels across the bottom.  It feels so good to be so close to finally done with the permanent barnyard fence.  It has been a project that has dragged on for years now as we have waiting for the time and materials to complete it a little here and there.  We have been very grateful for the panels to use as temporary fencing while we built it.

In the winter the hay ends up covering the snow as the animals eat and it insulates the snow in one main spot in the barnyard by the feeders and in the shade.  This ends up to be about 2 feet of hard-packed ice/snow under the hay by the spring, which then slowly melts causing a deep mucky mess that can lead to leg injuries in the animals.  When Mtn Man scraped he worked hard to get a bunch of that out so we will hopefully not have such a bad mess.  Granted, we still have a lot of snow fall likely headed our way this winter before spring hits.  But any removal of it is good progress.  And the snow in the new compost heap that he scraped together will help add moisture and nitrogen to the heap, both good things.  The chickens enjoyed pecking at the snow he exposed when he scraped it away.

Sheep

We have sheared a couple more sheep.  I will post more about them specifically later this week.  The big news is that Sunshine decided she wanted to learn how to shear, so Mtn Man is teaching her and she has now sheared 2 sheep with his help.  I am so proud of her – shearing is a hard skill to learn and very physically taxing.

Sewing Clothing and Making a Cake

Little Miss and I have been sewing some clothing for her because she doesn’t fit well in store-bought, nor does any of it match her preferences of style.  We finished a nightgown, a dress, and a skirt last week, and have more to sew this week.

We also celebrated her birthday recently.  She desperately wanted me to make a cake that had her goat, Pansy, on it.  I love how my kids challenge me with their cakes each year to try to make harder and harder things.  I was skeptical about my abilities to do the goat cake, but was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out.

 

Sunday Homestead Update

Spring is such a full time on the farm.  It is the season for hatching, brooding, seed starting, garden prep, shearing, lambing, milking, kidding, vaccinating, de-worming, and spring cleaning.  It is a time that to me feels invigorating and productive.  I am ready to shake off the sleepiness of a long dark winter and get out in the sun and fresh air and work hard.  Our bodies are already in the spring sore phase as we have been out working on the garden and shearing.  But it is a good feeling of sore.  A strengthening of our muscles for the upcoming summer and fall seasons, which are very physically taxing seasons.

Spring also means crazy weather.  We have some days that are sunny and 60F, and then the next day we will have a foot of heavy, wet snow and be in the teens at night.

The Flerd

We finished shearing and preparing the fleece for processing.  We have re-jacketed Fergus and Fiona, but haven’t gotten to Rose quite yet.  We will remove the ewes jackets before lambing.  We don’t want the jackets in the way of the lambs nursing and such.  During shearing it was very clear that the girls are indeed pregnant.  We are looking forward to the arrival of adorable lambs at the end of May.  Meanwhile, it is time to switch their feeding program to help their bodies during the end of pregnancy, and to vaccinate them.

Pansy has continued to settle in with the farm.  Her milk production has stabilized as high as I think it will get for us this year.  The stress of the move definitely decreased it.  But we are happy to have some fresh goats’ milk at our farm again.

Heritage Arts

I finished my lace shawl!  It is very exciting because this is my first lace project, and because it has been sitting on the needles for a year now constantly being put off for more imminent projects.  The yarn is oh-so-soft and lovely.

Little Miss and Sunshine are constantly making as many projects as I do, but I don’t often get around to photographing them and putting them on the blog.  I am trying to change that and include more of their beautiful work too.

Little Miss loves to draw and color, so this week she made herself this cute roll-up case to hold her colored pencils.

Sunshine is really enjoying quilting more and more these days.  Right now she is working on a table runner that has sunflowers on it (her favorite flower).  She has one of the squares completed so far.

Sunday Homestead Update

We have had a full week here at the homestead.  Our basement has been unfinished since we tore it all out after the 2013 floods damaged it.  We are finally finishing it and it looks so great!  We have been working on it evenings and weekends for a couple weeks now.  We are almost done, just the flooring left.  Hoping to finish that up by next weekend.

We also got the lights installed under the new loft in the barn.  So we can see well in the lambing jugs and stalls now.

Chickens

The new chicks are doing great!

We picked up the 7 cockerel chicks this last week.  We purchased them with the plan to keep the best one to be a breeding cockerel next year and add to our genetic diversity.  While picking them up, Mountain Man couldn’t resist and threw in three pullet chicks too.  One Blue Wyandotte (I love Wyandottes and I love the blue colored birds, but don’t have a Blue Wyandotte in my flock yet, so I was particularly pleased with this addition), one Speckled Sussex (we have never had these and he wanted to try one out), and one Easter Egger to replace the EE we lost to a bobcat in December (hoping she lays green eggs).  So we now have 44 chicks.  They outgrew the brooder bins, so Mtn Man built them a brooder in the mud room they can live in for the next few weeks without outgrowing it until they move to the barn.

We had to add a heat lamp to the set up because the mud room is very cold and the brooders wouldn’t have been enough heat. Plus with forty-four 2-week-old chicks, the two ecoglow 20s are not enough for them all to fit well.

The cold weather and snow and sleet we have been having for a couple of weeks now has made the chickens choose to spend more time in the upper coop…which means it gets a lot messier a lot faster.  Plus the chickens have been damp because of the weather and that gets tracked into the coop too.  So it was in desperate need of a full clean-out.  We got that done and now they are enjoying a nice coop with clean, dry shavings.  And the compost pile just got a lot bigger from what we cleaned out.

Heritage Arts

I finished another project using Fergus’ 2018 fleece.  The sweater I showed you last week used up all the worsted weight yarn Mtn Man made with the fleece.  But he also made me some fingering weight yarn with it.  So I used some of the fingering weight to make these socks for Young Man.  More projects knit from yarn from a fleece from a sheep born right here on our farm – SO fun!

Last fall I re-made the bag on a framed standing knitting bag for myself so that it was more my style.

The girls loved it and wanted me to make them each one too.  So this week I made one for Little Miss.  This is the fabric it had before:

And here it is now:

The coloring didn’t turn out true in the photos.  But it is very pretty.

Surprise

We have new livestock joining (or really re-joining) the farm this next week.  Any guesses what it/they might be?

Sunday Homestead Update

A frigid winter week on the farm meant checking on critters often and spending a lot of time by the fire working on Christmas presents.

Knitting And Sewing

I finished all the Christmas Eve flannel PJs!  4 pairs of flannel pants and one nightgown.  I purchased Mr. Smiles’ PJs because he still isn’t quite big enough for the flannel PJ pants to work for him.  So all that is left is PJs for me.  Hopefully I will get to that in the upcoming weeks.  Sorry, I don’t have any pics because they all got wrapped before I could photograph them because I didn’t want anyone to accidentally see them.

But mostly I have been knitting, knitting, knitting like crazy trying to finish the on-second-thought-maybe-I’m-in-over-my-head projects I chose to make for Christmas presents this year.  The good news is that I finished one, which leave only two more to complete.

I asked Mtn Man to delete this post from his email and not read it so I could show you his present, which is the one I finished this week.

It is an afghan that I partially designed by taking the pattern Stag Head Pullover by Nora Gaughan and making it into an afghan (instead of a sweater) and rearranging the antlers to make them look more like the mule deer in our area.  I used “Everything Yarn” that Mtn Man made in the mill.  I am SUPER happy with how it turned out and cannot wait to give it to him.  I think he will love it.

So now I just need to finish the dress for Little Miss and socks for Young Man.  I am hopeful no one will have to get their Christmas presents still on the knitting needles, but I am accepting that it might happen that way.  Time will tell…for now, I need to get back to my knitting.  🙂