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!

Sunday Homestead Update

We continue to be busy with medical stuff for Mr. Smiles.  But we are fitting summer productivity in between doctors and hospitals.  Not much to post though.

Heritage Arts

I finished sewing Mr. Smiles’ hospital PJs.  They are similar to these ones I did when he was very little.

I also sewed myself a summery denim skirt.  The denim fabric is lighter weight and I made it to end just below my knee, which is a nice summer length for me.  I don’t have a pic, but I am really enjoying wearing it.

I had some fabric left over and Little Miss loves tiered gathered skirts, so I made her one with the extra denim and some eyelet lace I had.  It is really cute on her.

Little Miss and Sunshine have both been sewing too.  They are working on getting the whole family caught up with flannel PJ pants for the winter, and PJ shorts and capris for the summer, which is no small task.

Garden

The garden continues to do well.  It is has been extra hot lately, so I have watered more than usual.  Everything seems to be growing well except the peppers.  This is our first year trying peppers.  I have been treating them similar to how I treat our tomatoes, but they don’t seem to be very happy.  We will see what happens as the season continues.

Chickens

Eve and Batina are both happily settled on their eggs.  Hard to believe only one more week and we will have baby chicks!

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

A lot going on around here!

Chickens

This week we will finish butchering the final 11 meat birds.  It is nice to have so much meat in the freezer!  We also canned chicken stock from last week’s butchering, and we are making another batch of stock from this week’s.  We were able to get 7 qts of stock canned last week and there is a lot more to do.

A couple weeks ago we integrated the layer chicks (at about 11 weeks old) and Mrs. Arable and her three chicks (about 8 weeks old but with their protective mother) all into the laying hen flock.  The transition went smoothly and they are all living together in harmony now as one flock.  The 8 Silkie chicks and non-frizzly Frizzle chick (all about 10 weeks old) were put with our Silkie hen, Eve, and moved into the lower coop.  We have identified 2 roosters for sure, and potentially a third among the Silkies.  I think the non-frizzly Frizzle is also a roo.  We did a little research on Frizzles and found out they don’t all show the frizzly feather characteristics.  From our research we also determined that the Frizzle is just a feather characteristic bred into other breeds.  The chick we have is a bantam Cochin frizzle.

Heritage Arts

The girls and I have been using our extra time now that school is out to work in the kitchen and the sewing room (when we aren’t in the garden or barnyard).  We tried out a few more Little House Living recipes, which will be reviewed later this week.  We also have been sewing bibs for Mr. Smiles.

These bibs are easy to make and so very useful.  You can read about how to make them by clicking here.

 

I have made another 15 squares for my scrap afghan, bringing the total of squares to 60 out of 192.  I also figured out how I want to hook them together and started hooking some together.

 

I completed a pair of socks for myself using the Fish Lips Kiss Heel method and heel pattern for them.  These are the first pair I have made for myself with that method.  I previously made a pair for Young Man with it and he loved the fit, so I wanted to try it for myself.  I LOVE the fit too.  The yarn is Serenity Sock Yarn in the colorway Violas.

After finishing those I immediately started another pair, using the sock yarn that Mtn Man made for me in the mill.  This yarn is a mix of wool from our CVM/Merino ewe Fiona and purple bamboo.