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!

A Great Find!

Don’t you just love it when you find something very useful that is unavailable in mainstream shopping experiences?  One of those thrift shop treasures that becomes one of your favorite things?  Or an out-of-print book that is just what you needed?  We had one of those this week and are so thrilled!

Ever since we purchased our sheep in the summer of 2013 we have been searching for a book about dealing with wool from sheep all the way to yarn.  Something with step-by-step details on how to do each process, as well as details about the different options for each part of the processes.  We have searched and searched and not been able to find what we are looking for.  We couldn’t even really find a good blog series on it.  We found pieces and parts of the process on blogs, online videos, and books, but never exactly what we wanted – which was the full process start to finish.

I have been surfing Etsy the last couple of weeks for some different Christmas ideas and somehow stumbled on this book.  I knew the second I saw it that we HAD to get it and I snatched it up as quick as I could before it was gone.  It was being sold for a library fundraiser, and in searching after I purchased it I found that it is indeed a rare book.  I was only able to find one available anywhere online and it is priced at $50 – WAY more than we paid for ours.

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The book is called “Wool Fibers” by Diane Betts and was printed in 1995.  It is dedicated to “…all of those who care about the land, the sheep, and the grades and qualities of our wool.”

This books starts with a little bit of history of wool fibers and production.  Then it goes into detail about selective breeding and managing sheep to produce desirable grades and qualities in the fleeces and the steps to shear a sheep and skirt a fleece.  It gives great detail on how to assess a fleece in every way possible, including the staple length, strength, and color and luster, including step by step tests to do on the fiber.

The last half of the book focuses on fiber preparations and yarns.  It teaches all the details involved in processing a fleece into yarn, and has many example drawings.  It goes into details about all the different methods for cleaning, carding, and spinning wool.  Including how to spin and ply all different sorts of yarn.  And, of course, finishing techniques.  As if that wasn’t enough, there are plenty of references to other books on the various topics that we will look forward to looking into in the future.

We are SO excited about this book.  It will definitely become a very important part of our homestead library, and a treasured secondhand find.

Summer Handiwork

Summer doesn’t offer me much time to get any handiwork done.  But I have been working on a few projects in small moments here and there and thought I’d share them today.

I finished my gingham embroidered bread cloth.  I really enjoy gingham embroidery, it is super simple, but looks very intricate.

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I decided to use the homespun merino/angora yarn that I made earlier this year to make a couple of earwarmer headbands.  The yarn is so super soft it just had to be made to touch the face.  Both of them are based on the pattern called Irish Hiking Earwarmers, but both deviate from that pattern.  One of the headbands in a bit narrower, and with the wider one I added a taper for the base of the neck so it won’t be so big underneath the hair.  I am really happy with how they turned out and can’t wait to try mine out in the cold weather this winter (not that I am wanting to rush the arrival of winter!).

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I have also been working on spinning the hand-dyed Superfine Merino my husband bought for me last winter.  I am really liking how the colors are coming out with the single-ply and I am hopeful when I double it I will still enjoy the colors.

100_1208I will continue my work on this yarn, as well as probably start a pair of knit socks.  It is nice to have a few things to work on when the thunderstorms come through, or the afternoon heat chases us inside.  Granted, up here in the mountains our concept of “afternoon heat chasing us inside” is nothing compared to what most of you deal with.  😉

 

A Tiny Room

I have a tiny room.  It is tucked in behind my laundry room.  It has a window that looks out on the back yard, so I can watch my kids play and see my chickens scratching around in their pen.

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It is my OWN space.  My heritage arts/crafting room.  I love this tiny space.  It holds all my favorite (earthly) things.  Like my sewing machine, serger, baskets full of yarn, an awesome set of drawers my husband made to hold all my tools and notions, spools of ribbon, piles of fabric, boxes of patterns, rubber stamps and card-making supplies, and more.  It is a perfect little space.

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The only problem is…it is yellow.  A completely tolerable color – and thus the reason it has stayed yellow this long…but not a color I am very fond of.

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So a few weeks ago, as we waited for warm weather to hit so we could be outside enjoying the farm, garden, and nature, we decided to take time to organize and paint my tiny room.  I picked a pale plum and a dark plum color because I love purple, and interestingly, one of the colors I chose happened to be called “inspiration,” which is exactly the feel I want in the room.

My awesome husband decided to build me a big, beautiful work table with some shelves under it.  It is a wonderful space for all the things I want to do in the room.

I still need to gather a few more baskets and bins to go on the shelves to organize all my stuff, but other than that it is finished!  And so much greater than before.

So, are you ready for the big reveal?  Drumroll please…

31 34 35 37 38 39Some of the pictures make the purple look pinker than it actually is, but you get the idea.

I have been loving my new tiny room where everything has a place and is organized and where the color feels great!

March/April Fiber Focus

This month’s Fiber Focus was a complete disaster.

My first attempt at knitting something substantial with my homespun has been a complete flop.  I was going to take my hand-dyed BFL that I spun back in November and make it into a scarf.  The pattern called for 196 yards, I had 222 yards.  My gauge was pretty close to what was listed, and since it was a scarf I didn’t think it mattered much to be off a little.  Well, I got it very close to done, and it wasn’t long enough!  It was about 10 inches to short to even be a short scarf.  I was so disappointed!  I tore it all out, and then redid it with different sized needles.  After about the first 10 inches it was clear that it still wasn’t going to end up long enough.  So I tore it out and decided I need to find a different pattern.  Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten it finished.  So my knitting focus – while I did focus on it and put in many hours, was a bust.

I did, however, finish a different knitting project that wasn’t my focus.  I have always wanted to try my hand at knitting flip top mittens.  So I made a pair to go with the scarf that I have to remake to give to my BFF who is moving to a colder climate soon.  The first pic shows them flipped as mittens and the second shows them when they are flipped back.

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As for my spinning focus – I was going to work on spinning the Lincoln Longwool my husband bought back in November.  I got it about 1/4 done and then tweaked my back and haven’t been able to sit at the wheel since.  I will say that the time I spent working on it was very different.  It has a very long staple length and a very hair-like texture, so it was completely different from anything I have spun before.  It took getting used to and I felt like I was back at the first day of learning to spin.  Towards the end of what I did get done I was starting to get the hang of it and it was becoming more even.  But the texture did not make spinning very enjoyable.  I am glad that our own Lincoln Longwool sheep’s wool doesn’t seem to have the same texture as this store-bought stuff.

So…..What do I have planned to focus on for April?

Well, I would like to try (again) to finish the homespun BFL scarf.

And I am not going to even try to spin until my back is better, so if I do get any spinning done in April it will be the icing on the cake.  No spinning focus this month.