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.

New Additions to the Farm

We have had three new additions to the farm in the last few weeks.  All are sheep and wool production related additions.

First, we got a wool picker.  This will make it so we can easily take our washed wool fleece and remove all the leftover bits of VM (vegetable matter), and open it up to prepare it to be carded.  This is the Oak wool picker made and sold by Kaydessa.

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AND, even more exciting…we finally got a drum carder!  We have been wanting/needing one for a few years now so that we can process our own wool.  Up until now we have used a mill to process our wool, except a little bit we processed with the hand cards on our own.

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We chose the Elite Convertible hand-crank drum carder from Clemes & Clemes.  That way, while I have lots of helpful little hands we can have a nice quiet hand-crank, and later when my nest is empty I can buy the motor and have an electric if I want.

Now, with the wool picker and especially the drum carder we can do anything and everything we want to with the wool.  We can card it into bats, or roving.  We can blend our angora rabbit wool in with our sheep wool and then make bats or roving too.

We have been really enjoying playing with our new tools!

We have already made bats of our white CVM/Merino wool and also silver Lincoln Longwool, and roving from the Lincoln as well.  We have also made bats of our English Angora rabbit wool.

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We have found it quite easy to learn how to use these tools and the more we work with them the better our skills are becoming.  I can’t wait to share with you as we process our own wool.  What a great addition to our farm tools!

The other new addition to the farm is our newest sheep – Toffee!

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She is a light Moorit colored CVM/Merino weanling ewe lamb.  Her wool gets darker as it goes closer to her skin.  It will change shade during her first year of life.

She is replacing our previous breeding ewe, Stella, because Stella wasn’t able to breed successfully for us.  So we now have Toffee, Fiona (a white, 3-year-old, CVM/Merino), and Violet (a black, 1-year-old, CVM/Wensleydale) as our breeding ewes.  Toffee may or may not be able to breed this fall, it depends on how quickly she grows and matures, but we are hopeful by November she will be ready.  We have always wanted to have the moorit color in our flock and are very excited to have her!

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Sunday Homestead Update

It’s been COLD here lately.  Most mornings this last week we woke up to temps in the area of -10F to -18F.  Makes for some cold barn chores.  When it is that cold we leave the animals inside the barn and coops.  We hot mash them all (except the sheep, but they get a luke-warm bucket of water to drink).  And we can usually let them out by noon when it warms up a bit.  Our daily temps have been in the 20s.  All the animals have been holding up well to the cold.  And this week we are supposed to warm up to the high 30s during the day and teens at night…rocky mountain heat wave!

Rabbits

Justice was due for her first kindling this week.  She was due Wednesday.  Monday she began to build an elaborate nest with hay and fur pulled from her belly.  She continued to make it bigger and refine it through Wednesday…still no babies.  By Thursday night when there was still no kits and yet she was nesting like crazy we knew there was trouble, we have had this happen before.  Sure enough, Friday night she kindled 5 dead kits.  She did a wonderful job of putting them in the nest and covering them up, but they were all born dead.  We have had this happen one time before where a doe’s labor dragged on and on and by the time they were born they were dead because the labor took too long.  We aren’t sure if the cold temps made her body hold on to them too long, or if the first kit got stuck for awhile, or what.  It was a bummer.

We are glad she is now a proven doe, and has shown that she knows how to kindle and tuck them into the nest.  We will re-breed her in the next few weeks once her lactation dries up and she seems healed from the delivery.  Meanwhile, we will check her mammary glands twice a day for mastitis as she dries up and keep a close eye on her for any complications from the delivery.

Indy’s kits are a week old now and doing great.  Growing and thriving.  There turned out to be 9 of them.  She is such a great producer…our best doe at this point.  She is a great mother as well.

We wanted to breed our third doe, Liberty, this last week.  But she was not receptive to the buck at all, probably because of the cold weather.  We will try again this week during our spurt of warmer weather.

Sheep

Fiona and Stella have returned from the breeder.  We are discussing option for preg-checking them.  If the price is reasonable we might go ahead and have them ultra-sounded because it gives us a much better time frame of when they are due (within a week or two) and will tell us how many lambs they are carrying.  But if it is too expensive we will just do a blood test, which will tell us whether or not they are pregnant.  In that case we will have a 45-day window of when they could be due, starting the second week of April.  It is fun to think about spring lambs again this year!

Lily and Violet seemed very happy to have their mamas home, and we like looking out and seeing a flock of 4, instead of just 2.

In the Farm House

We have been enjoying a lot of wool-related activities inside this week.  The girls are enjoying their new loom, we are spinning both with a spinning wheel and the hand spindles, plus there are knitting and crochet projects going on.  I am close to done with 3 different projects – looking forward to posting pics as soon as I finish.

Sunday Homestead Update

We have had a wonderful December around here.  There have been ups and downs, but we continue to enjoy the journey.  I have been so busy with Christmas knitting, the homestead, and the children that there hasn’t been any time to catch up the blog.  I will try to sum it all up in this post.

The baby continues to have health issues and we have spent much of December, and will spend much of January, at the children’s hospital in Denver.  It is a long drive from where we live, which has caused some life adjustments, but we are so thankful to have good medical care for our little guy.  We are hopeful he will be doing a lot better by the end of January after he has some surgeries and procedures done.

I FINALLY finished the Christmas dress I started knitting for my daughter back in July.  Glad I started back in the summer!  I was able to give it to her Christmas Eve to wear to the church service.  She really loves it, and it looks wonderful on her, which makes all 75,000+ stitches worth it!

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The pattern was Goldilocks by Justyna Lorkowska on Ravelry.  The yarn was Deborah Norville Serenity Sockweight in Burgundy.  I am really happy with it, and glad I tackled such a huge project, but must admit that I am going to be doing a lot of smaller projects for a while.  I like to have the satisfaction of a finished project faster than 5 months, and with the baby my knitting time is limited.  So lots of socks, hats, cowls, will be my focus for the next several months.  And I am also sitting down to the spinning wheel now that Christmas presents are done.  I have a spinning project that has been on the wheel for a year or more now because I haven’t spun much at all this last year.  I am almost finished with it and hope to get it done soon.

I also finished socks for oldest son for Christmas.  I tried the OMG Spacious Heel pattern for the first time.  I tried it on (his feet are the same size as mine now) and did not like the feel of the heel.  But he absolutely loves the feel of it.  So I will continue to use it for his socks in the future, but stick with the OMG heel (not spacious), or my basic heel for my own socks.  This yarn was Patons Kroy Socks FX in the colorway Cascade.  I continue to love using Patons Kroy for socks.

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Rabbits

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Indi

Our young buck, Uncle Sam, has proven himself!  Indi (our proven Rex x Silver fox mix doe) kindled a litter last night.  She is such a great mom, she put all the kits in the nest and covered them up with plenty of fur, which is good because we were down to 0F last night.  Because it is so cold we didn’t dig around much in the nest, but it looks to be a litter of 6 or 7 healthy kits.  We will take a better look in the next few days when we find a warmer moment to look.

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Justice

Justice (our other Rex x Silver Fox mix doe) is due to kindle her first litter this week.  We hope she took and successfully puts all the kits into the nest.  We purposefully bred her close to the same time as Indi so that we can foster if needed since she hasn’t proven herself as a mother yet.

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Liberty

We will be breeding Uncle Sam to Liberty again this week.  Last breeding of that pair didn’t take because Uncle Sam hadn’t figured it all out yet.  But now that he is proven we will try them again.

It is fun to have some new life on the farm, especially during the winter when it is rare.

Sheep

Fiona and Stella will be coming back from the breeder this week.  Hopefully they both got pregnant.  We haven’t decided yet if we will splurge and get the ultrasounds or just do blood draws.  We weren’t able to get in on the breeders ultrasounds this year because of timing.

It will be nice to have the full flock back together again.  The ewe lambs have done well without their mamas, but I think they will be very happy to have them back.

Chickens

We finished butchering the cockerels and are down to only two males.  We put those two in with the flock of hens and pullets and are watching and waiting to decide which one gets to stay and be our new breeding roo.  We are watching for how well they treat the hens, their behavior with humans, their breeding abilities, and how their conformation finishes up as they fill out into their adult size.

It has been really nice to only have one pen and coop of chickens.  Especially with the cold weather it makes caring for them so much easier.

Garden

As we finish up the holidays and close in on a new year we have already begun discussions about next year’s garden plans.  It is fun to start thinking about it, even though we still have months of cold weather before we get to start.

I am hoping to get our Year End review done this week so we can look back and see what our homestead has accomplished this year.  It is always fun to look back, and then look forward and make goals.

Merry Christmas….and Happy New Year!

 

2014 Year-End Homestead Review

It is time for the end of year review again! It has been a great year, full of successes, failures, and plenty of learning and adventure. It was great to look back at the last year at the homestead.

First, some statistics…

Chickens:

  • We had anywhere from 26-65 chickens of all different ages on the farm this year
  • 3,548 eggs were laid
  • 164 dozen of those eggs were sold
  • 109.5 dozen of those eggs were used by us
  • 283 eggs were set to hatch
  • 122 chicks hatched successfully
  • 19 chickens were sold as layers for other people’s flocks
  • 35 chickens were butchered for meat for us
  • 66 chicks were sold right after hatch
  • 1 hen died from being egg-bound

The chicken program has done excellently this year.  Gotta love the livestock that more than earns its keep!

Rabbits:

In January we had several deaths in the rabbitry that took us back to square one as far as building our meat rabbit herd.  So we decided to stop with meat rabbits for the time being and get back into them sometime in the future.

In June we added Oliver, an English Angora, to the farm as both a pet and a fiber producing animal.  He has had 3 shearings this year that produced 2 ounces of use-able fiber.  A lot of fiber was lost to us learning how to properly manage and shear his coat.

Cows:

We sold our milk cow in January.

We butchered our 8-month-old JLow bull calf and got 102 lbs of meat (steak, roast, ground, & stew meat), 22 lbs of soup bones, and 10 lbs of dog food.  This year my dad requested organ meat, so we also had 6.6 lbs of meat organs

Sheep:

The sheep produced 4 fleece for us this year, 2 of which were first fleece and 2 adult fleece, for a total of 24 lbs of raw wool.  We also got 1 sheep hide from our ram lamb.

We butchered our first ever ram lamb (purchased as a weanling, not born on the farm).  We got 30 lbs of meat, 4 lbs of soup bones, 4 lbs of dog food, and 7 lbs of fat to render.

Garden:

The gardens did very well this year, producing about 150 lbs of produce for us.

For the specific garden statistics, read our garden review posts here, here, and here.

With the help of all the animals we continue to produce large amounts of very rich compost for use on our garden.  We have also had enough to share with friends.

Heritage Arts:

  • I knit 1 infinity scarf, 1 cowl, 3 scarves, 1 hat, 4 pairs of socks, 1 pair of mittens, 2 ear-warmer headbands, 1 sweater, 1 cell phone case, 1 skirt, and 2 neck/face warmers.
  • I sewed numerous cloth napkins for our family use, 1 gathering apron, 2 summer dresses for daughters,  6 pairs of kids’ flannel pajama pants, 4 pairs kids pajama shorts, 2 nightgowns, 1 pair of adult flannel pajama pants, numerous hen jackets, 15 napkins and 5 placemats for a gift with 3 coordinating quilted hot pads, and 1 single-sized quilt.  Plus tons of mending, mostly patching jeans.
  • I embroidered 1 gingham embroidery bread cloth.
  • I took a class in needle tatting and made one heart bookmark using that method.
  • I spun 145.5 yards of worsted weight 2-ply merino/angora yarn, a small amount of single-ply Lincoln Longwool, and I am about half-way through spinning 4 ounces of hand-dyed superfine merino.

In the Kitchen:

We canned the equivalent of 172 quarts of food this year (some were pints, some half-pints, etc but we added it up to how many quarts of food it was).  They included: whole peaches in honey syrup, peach jam, salsa, sliced dill pickles, dill spears, sweet spears, mixed berry jam, blueberry pie filling, plum jelly, crabapple jelly, apples in honey syrup, strawberry jam, cherry jelly, chicken stock, turkey stock, beef stock, and lamb stock.

We also froze 30 lbs (72 cups) of carrots and 30 lbs (77 cups) of green beans from the garden.

 

 

And now for some highlights from the homestead in 2014:

In January our life was dominated by the huge kitchen remodel project.  On the farm we had our first incubation of the year and had our first-ever broody hen successfully set and hatch eggs for us.  I learned how to knit socks two-at-a-time on 2 circular needles.  And we made the difficult decisions to end our rabbitry for the time being as well as sell our JLow milk cow, Violet.

February brought record-breaking cold weather.  On one of our last days with our milk cow in early February the milk froze on the side of the pail. We butchered our beef calf, continued with the kitchen remodel, and collected eggs for our 2nd incubation.  I focused on knitting and spinning quite a bit.

March added two new sheep to the farm; weanling lambs Daphne and Duncan.  We did all our garden planning and the second incubation of the year hatched.  Our second broody hen, Eve, began setting her first hatch.

In April we began work on building the last garden terrace and we started many seeds indoors.  Eve hatched her first brood of chicks and we incubated our largest incubation ever and sold all the chicks to a friend.  We also remodeled my little craft room.

In May we celebrated our second year anniversary on the farm.  We installed our garden drip system and planted six berry bushes.  I resorted to putting clothing on livestock when I figured out the pattern for chicken jackets and used them to protect my hens’ backs from the rooster’s claws.  We had a deep wet spring snow mid-month that stopped our spring productivity for several days.  Banana hatched her second brood of chicks for the year, and Ruth began setting for the first time.  We moved seedlings out into the garden in wall-o-waters for protection.  Lastly, I tried my hand at making my own body products.

June was a full month!  We battled aphids and flea beetles in the garden.  We made the hard decision to butcher our favorite roo, Boaz, since his foot injury (frostbite from the winter) made it so he couldn’t successfully breed anymore.  We added Oliver, our English Angora rabbit, to the farm.  Our ewe lamb, Daphne, gave us a big scare when she had an anyphalactic reaction to a vaccine, but thankfully she survived it with an epinephrine shot.  Mid-month we had a terrible hail storm that caused a lot of damage in the gardens.  We installed more permanent fencing around the barnyard and expanded its size.  At the end of the month Ruth hatched her first clutch of the year and Eve hatched her second.  That ended the hatching season for our breeding program.

In July we did Oliver’s first shearing.  Eve and Ruth were the first hens to share our “Mama Hen Pen” and raise their chicks together.  We enjoyed harvesting strawberries, peas, and greens from the gardens.  Our farm dog, Tundra, struggled with flies eating his ear and we tried everything possible to stop them and heal the wound.  We also started our canning season with cucumbers made into pickles in July.

August was spent harvesting, canning, harvesting, canning, and more harvesting and canning.  It was a wonderfully productive month of “puttin’ up.”  We also agreed to run an incubation to sell chicks again for someone.  Lastly, I started knitting my first-ever sweater.

In September we finished the last incubation of the year and sold all the chicks right after hatch.  We continued harvesting and canning.  We were very sad at the loss of our barn cat, Mattie.  The one-year anniversary of the flood and evacuation occurred and we were able to see the progress and acknowledge the blessings that occurred despite the disaster.  We butchered our first ever ram-lamb and enjoyed the meat it provided for our family.

We took a break from technology in October and didn’t blog.  During that month we finished up our canning and butchering season, filling the shelves and the freezer.  We started work on all the home-made Christmas presents.  And we added a new farm dog in-training to the farm – our Old-Time Scotch Collie pup, Finley.

In November we took the sheep to the breeder and left them there for 40 days with hopes for a spring full of lambs.  We harvested the last of the greens out of our screened planting box that we had put frost fabric over.  We had a bear attempt to get into our chicken coops 5 different times – thankfully he was unsuccessful and eventually went into hibernation.  We continued work on homemade gifts for Christmas.  And for Thanksgiving we had our first ever naturally raised turkey that we bought from a friend’s farm.

December brought a lot of treat making, and more working on Christmas gifts.  We had a big scare when our Silkie hen, Eve, almost drown in the new water trough.  Thankfully, she survived.  We were so excited for the opportunity to have the sheep ultra-sounded when we went to pick them up from the breeder.  We found out that Stella and Fiona are both pregnant and Daphne is most likely as well.  And even more exciting than the addition of lambs this spring is the addition of a new little someone to our family through adoption in 2015.

It has been such an amazing year full of blessings and adventures – and we are so excited for all the blessings and adventures to come in 2015!

Happy New Year!