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.  🙂

Sunday Homestead Update

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  We really had a great one.  Delicious food, nice fellowship, and thankful spirits.  We have found that a thankful spirit and attitude is the key to peace and joy in life, so we don’t just focus on thankfulness on one holiday a year – we make a constant practice of it every day.  We have a chalkboard up in our living room that is our “Counting Every Blessing” board.  Whenever someone thinks of something to be thankful for they go and write it on the board.  Once it is jam packed full we erase and start over.  It has really helped us keep good perspectives on life, especially through the hard times.

Christmas Candies

As is our tradition, we made Christmas candies the weekend after Thanksgiving while we decorated the house for Christmas.  Caramels, Old-Fashioned Hard Candy, Fudge (butterscotch and eggnog), and peppermint bark.  We will continue to make more throughout December and give it to friends and family and take it to Christmas gatherings that we attend.

Caramels

Old Fashion Hard Candy

Peppermint Bark

Eggnog Fudge

Butterscotch Fudge

Basement Garden

The lettuce and spinach in the basement garden under grow lights have sprouted.  We planted another tray so we can have succession plantings.  We are hoping for fresh salad through the winter from this basement garden since we have been very disappointed in the quality of greens we are finding for sale at the stores.

Advent

Advent starts today.  It is a way that we acknowledge and celebrate the promise that God gave to send a savior, and the time of waiting before His arrival.  Mtn Man made us a pretty log advent wreath many years ago that we love.  Each night we light a certain amount of candles and do a Bible reading and short study on different aspects of the promises about the messiah.  My favorite is Christmas Eve when we light all the candles – it is so pretty and meaningful!  Here is a pic when it is all lit:

Knitting and Sewing

I am still busy knitting Christmas gifts, hoping to complete them all in time.  But I made a goal for myself back in the spring to complete 15 squares on my scrappy afghan each month.  So I took a short break from the Christmas knitting this week to complete the 15 squares for November.  I am not hooking them on, just getting them knit up.  I now have 150 of the 192 squares I need.  If I keep up with my goal I should complete the squares in February, and then hopefully get it all hooked together and complete by March.

I figured out how to darn socks this week.  I have been putting it off because I had no one to teach me, but it got to the point that it had to be done.  Hand knit socks get holes just like other socks and it is much easier to darn them than knit a new one.  I do find that by reinforcing the socks I knit we have minimal holes, but they still occasionally happen – especially when one steps on the transitions strip between carpet and wood flooring and the screw tops snag the sock.

So I decided to go for it.  I knew the basic principal – weave a patch so there aren’t any lumps and bumps to be uncomfortable on the foot.  I got out my darning egg – I inherited this one from my great-grandmother in her sewing basket.

I put the sock on there and then cleaned up the edges of the hole a bit.  This was before I cleaned up the edges.

First I wove in vertically.

Then I wove across those horizontally.

 

I am not sure if that is the right way, or how long it will last…but it felt good on his foot and looks fine, so I am hopeful.

Every year I make the kids flannel pajamas and they give them to them on Christmas Eve.  I purchased all the needed flannel this week and am starting to cut them out and sew them now.  I am also sewing myself a special winter skirt that I will share more about later.

Fun and productive start to winter 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!