Sunday Homestead Update -Preparing for the Storm

We have what is predicted to be a big storm arriving today and lasting through Wednesday.  There is expected to be quite a bit of snow, and more importantly to the homestead – temperatures down to 0 (F)!  Brrrr!  This is very early in the season for us to get that cold, so we were caught of guard and have been scrambling to prepare the farm for it.

Water:

We had already put out some heated waterers and put the heater into the water trough.  But we finished up removing the un-heated waterers and getting them stored for winter, and added the last few heated waterers.  We filled all the waterers and blew out the hose.

Housing:

We cleaned out all the wet areas in the stalls and coops and added a lot of fresh bedding to give all the animals good, dry places out of the wind to bed down.

Garden:

We finished removing and storing all the trellises and cages.  As well as the last of the tents and frost fabric.

We harvested the last of the beets, radishes and celery that were still growing.  And removed the last of the dead plants that hadn’t been taken out and cleaned up.

Then we turned the top 2 inches of soil in the whole garden with a rake for pest control.  This good hard cold will help freeze and kill some of the eggs and larvae that pest bugs have left in the garden to torment us next season.  As we were raking we saw a lot of larvae and eggs.

House:

We put up some rubber door sealants around some of the doors where time and use had broken down the old stuff.  This ought to decrease the drafts around the doors.

We continued to work at chopping firewood.  We rented a splitter and worked on the piles of rounds we have.  Getting close to what we need to last all winter.

Heritage Arts:

So now that all our work is done and the snow is flying we can all have a nice relaxed Sunday by the fire.

Little Miss and Sunshine have been hired to knit some hats and a baby blanket, so they are happily working their way through those projects.

I am now weaving my second ever weaving project.  It is a set of 5 dishtowels.  I chose autumn colors – though the weather is making me feel more winter-y right now.

I started a knit-along with some friends this week too.  We are knitting the Match Play Poncho.  I am really looking forward to this.  I also cast-on some socks for Braveheart for Christmas, and a dress for Little Miss’s birthday.

My First Real Weaving Project

We have had a loom in the family for a few years now.  Little Miss and Young Man have been the resident weavers.  I wanted to learn, but have been too busy.  We recently sold the old, large floor loom and bought a smaller floor room that easily fits in the corner of the living room.  In plain sight, all day every day, the loom started calling to me.  So Young Man and Little Miss agreed to finish their projects by October 1st, at which point it was my turn with the loom.  It was finally time for me to learn!!!

I started by just practicing on some extra warp that Little Miss had left on the loom.  I got the hang of tension and such with that practice piece.  Then I was ready to jump in and do my first project.  I have a hand-woven kitchen dishtowel/handtowel that I really love and decided to copy that design and idea with my first project.  Mtn Man helped me with warping – and I am SO glad he did.  It was tricky to learn it for the first time and feel confidant as we went.  There were definitely some stressful moments, and I felt like it took FOREVER.  I am hopeful that we find the next warping to be less stressful and a little quicker now that we understand it better.  But I enjoyed watching the yarn pattern build up on the warping board.

Once we got it warped, I used some thicker waste yarn to make a header to finish tensioning the loom and give me a straight starting point, and then I took off with the weaving.  I am amazed at how fast weaving goes.  As a knitter, I am used to much slower progress.  Maybe I am a slow knitter but fast weaver…I don’t know.  But I felt like the project was flying along.

I was worried though, the fabric seemed quite open…more open than I had hoped.  But I knew that it would do some shrinking and tightening when it came off the loom and then was washed.  In what felt like no time at all, my towel was finished.  It definitely felt like weaving took about 1/3 the time warping did…but that is probably because since it was my first project I only warped for one towel, not multiples.

I hemstitched the ends (I did the first end after I had woven the first 3 inches or so, and the second end was done once the project was finished but still on the loom).

And I cut it off the loom!

Then I trimmed the tassels.  Maybe I should have waited until after washing to trim the tassels – I don’t know, but I was worried they would become a huge knotted mess in the wash if I didn’t.

It looked great, and I was so happy with it.  But now for the terrifying part…washing.  Images flashed through my mind as I set it into the washer – images of it unraveling and me pulling out a tangled knot of yarn mess…images of it being a messed up balance and coming out all waving and oochy and messed up.  I said a little prayer and pressed the start button…then anxiously waited the 50 minutes that my washer took to wash it.  I was so excited when I pulled it out and it looked great!

It had tightened and shrunk quite a bit, though I still found the weave to be looser than I had hoped.  But I love it!!!  Here it is next to the original that I had designed it after.

I like the size and colors better than the original, but I like the thickness of the original towel better than the new one.

First weaving project was a success!  Now time to warp again…this time it will be for several towels on one warping, not just one….that ought to make the warping time more efficient.

Sunday Homestead Update – Firewood & Dirt

This week’s focus was firewood.  We are terribly behind on putting up enough firewood to heat the house for the winter.  We have been blessed with an opportunity to gather already bucked-up rounds from someone’s property where they took out a bunch of trees several years ago to put in a road.  So we have been collecting those and bringing them to our property to split.  So far we have been hand-splitting with an axe because we didn’t yet have enough rounds to warrant renting the splitter for the weekend.  But we have now collected enough and next week we will split, split, and split some more…oh and stack too.  We need about 5 cords of wood to heat our house for winter.

Meanwhile, while we were focusing on firewood, a surprise came our way.  Last weekend we finished the retaining wall for Mr. Smiles’ play area.

We were surprised to see how huge of an amount of fill dirt we are going to need to fill in what is a pretty shallow hill grade.  But we weren’t planning to deal with filling it until spring, so we figured we needed to start saving up and would deal with it later.  Then very suddenly on Tuesday, Mtn Man came upon an opportunity for some free fill.  He called and told me to get ready because it was coming that afternoon.  We were able to fill about 1/3 of the area with the free dirt!  What a blessing!  He also arranged for us to hopefully get some more free fill over the next few months to finish it off.  That will be so wonderful!

I wanted to put a pic here with the dirt fill in the play area, but wordpress keeps giving me errors when I try to upload them.

And then we got a couple more surprises that changed our plans – we filled two of our buck tags for the year.  All of our red meat to feed our family comes from hunting deer and elk, so that was a nice step towards having the meat we need for the next year.  We stopped our firewood efforts to deal with butchering those and getting them in the freezer.

Garden

We have been working on using the lumber from the huge trees we took down for someone to build the raised beds for the second veggie garden.  We were able to finish about 2/3 of the boxes with the lumber we have.  Next spring we will fill it with soil and compost and get the wildlife fence up around it and start using it.  At some point, when we get some more lumber, we will finish building the rest of the boxes.

Again, was going to put before and after pics here, but for some reason wordpress won’t upload those specific pics.  I’ll share them in a future post.

This new garden will more than double the amount of vegetables and herbs we are growing to feed our family.  What a blessing!

Sheep

We had a breakout this week.  Someone forgot to caribener the gate latch and one of the animals got it open.  The LGD, sheep, and goat all got out.  Thankfully, the goat and sheep were happy to start grazing right outside the barnyard, and with 5 of us we were able to get them back into the barnyard.  The LGD, however, was another story.  She took advantage of her new found freedom and followed her nose on an adventure.  Thankfully, we found her pretty quickly over in the forest behind our neighbor’s house.  It was a pretty stressful adventure, that I hope we can avoid repeating.

Heritage Arts

I finished another pair of socks this week.  These are again, the Fish Lips Kiss Heel pattern.  They are done with some yarn Mtn Man made me with CVM wool and dyed Bamboo.  They are bulky and cozy winter socks for Young Man, and I am happy with them.

I also finished my first ever weaving project, and I am starting to warp the next one.  More on that in a coming post.

Pine Seeds are Falling

Something interesting that happens every two years up here in the Ponderosa Pine forests is the pine trees release their seeds.  The trees are covered with beautiful cones right now.

Some are still closed tight, but they are currently all opening and releasing their seeds.  In this pic you can see the closed ones on the left, and the opens on the right.

And here is a close up that shows both closed and open.

The seeds have little sails on them to carry them through the air.

And they are EVERYWHERE.  All over the ground, all over the cars, all over the buildings.

What I love most about this aspect of nature is listening to hear the cones open up.  If you just rush through your day and don’t stop and listen you wont even notice them.  In fact I lived here for YEARS and never heard them.  And I have talked to many people who have lived here for YEARS and never heard them.  It is that subtle.  But if you take time to stop, be quiet, and listen, you can hear the cones opening.  It is a very quiet crackling popping kind of sound.  So I have been making sure to take the time to stop and listen to the trees this week.

Sunday Homestead Update

Our first snow of the season hit this week, and it hit pretty hard.  We normally get a few small dustings of a couple inches before we get a lot.  This week we got 6 inches, and the temperatures dropped from highs in the 50sF with lows in the 30s to highs in the 20s and lows in the single digits, all in less than 12 hours.  It was a fast one.  Since we knew it was coming, we scrambled to prepare – covering what is left in the garden with a couple layers of frost fabric (not knowing if t would work, but trying anyway), and getting all the livestock water heated.  Plus chopping and stacking firewood to keep the house warm through the storm.  The day before was beautifully sunny and 68 degrees.  Hazel and Jerry enjoyed the sun puddle warmth.

And the barnyard was busy with activity.

And then that night the snow hit, and morning felt a lot different.

Jerry was very happy to be indoors.  Yes, retirement suits him just fine.

Canning

This week I had finished up all the fresh produce canning, so I moved on to the frozen grape jelly juice I had made from our grapes earlier in the season but didn’t have time to process.  I thawed it and canned 8 half-pints of delicious grape jelly.

Heritage Arts

I finished Mr. Smiles’ Christmas socks.  I used the Fish Lips Kiss Heel pattern and the yarn was the leftover delphinium colored Knit Picks yarn from the socks I finished last week.

I have been learning how to weave and practicing a lot – trying to learn tension and keep my selvages even and practice warp-faced and balanced weave, plus changing weft yarn.

I am loving it!  But I finally decided, enough practice, let’s do a real project.  It wont be perfect, but no first project ever is, and I am ready for something productive.  So Mtn Man has been helping me get the loom warped with my new project.  I am excited to share more with you in the next few weeks.  Here is a pic of the warping board with the yarn I am going to use prepared on it – I love the color combo and pattern!

Sunday Homestead Update

Fall is moving right along here at Willow Creek Farm – it is a very busy season, but my very favorite season.  We have had a couple killing frosts, so the gardens are emptying quickly and the canning jars and root cellar racks are filling up.  I love my root cellar racks.  This is our second year with them and they are awesome.

We have harvested all the purple (green) beans and canned them.  We have harvested all the tomatoes and they are ripening in the racks.  We harvested all the squash as well and they are in the root cellar racks.  We harvested and ate all the peppers.  The peas and carrots are all harvested and frozen.  We harvested all the grapes and made them into jelly juice which we froze.  We will make that jelly and can it when we have time in the next coming weeks.  This week we harvested all the drying beans and they are finishing their drying in the racks.  And we also harvested all the celery and chopped and froze it.

All that remains in the gardens are onions, lettuce going to seed, cabbage that has been harvested and is sending up the second sprouts, beets, and radishes.

We purchased apples this week and have been canning applesauce.  We still really love the “Squisher” that we bought last year (fruit press), it makes the process go much faster.

The root cellar feels and smells amazing with all the full jars and the produce.

Livestock

It is always an adventure when you are homesteading, and this week was no different.  During morning barn chores the rams got in with the ewes.  Sunshine was chasing them around, trying to keep them from breeding, while yelling for Little Miss (who was milking Pansy) to run and get help.  Mtn Man came out and helped her separate them off.  But during the process Fergus mounted Autumn three different times.  They were running at the time, because Sunshine was chasing them, which just goes to show how strong hormones are.  So we are not sure if Fergus was successful in his endeavor or not, as the ewe was running full blast and he was also running, but only on his back two legs – LOL.  It was quite a funny incident.  Unfortunately, if he was successful, we will be having some February lambs – which in our cold climate is not a good thing.  We have marked the calendar and will keep an eye on the situation.  We might do a blood test in a month so that we really know what to expect.

We originally thought that the rams breaking out of their pen was a freak accident, like the gate didn’t get fully latched or something.  But we quickly learned that was not the case.  Fergus had figured out how to open the gate.  First he would head butt it several times in a row to jiggle the latch open.  The gate has spring loaded hinges, so it naturally stays closed.  It opens towards the rams.  He figured out that if he hit it again and bounced it open a little, he could get his head through and then the rest of him….And people say sheep are dumb.  I guess they haven’t met our testosterone-driven ram.  LOL.

So we adjusted the latch so he can’t do that anymore and the rams and ewes are securely separated until November when our breeding season starts.

Homestead Building Projects

Fall is our big time for outdoor homestead building projects, and this fall has some big ones.  We are scrambling to get them done before winter hits since we lost most of September to Mr. Smiles’ surgery and recovery and my father’s funeral.

The two main projects we are focusing on right now are building a safe play area for Mr. Smiles, and building a second raised-bed vegetable garden.

Mr. Smiles’ Play Area

Mr. Smiles has special needs and cannot walk on anything but flat, smooth surfaces.  We live on a mountainside in a forest…our ground is anything but flat and smooth.  So we picked an area in the back yard and we are going to build a retaining wall, bring in dirt and fill it in to make it level.  Then we are going to put down synthetic turf over the dirt.  We will put in a play set and he will have a safe place he can move and play without us having to hold his hands and steady him.

This week we moved the large play house that was in that area.  It was quite a job since the house was 12ft x 6ft.  This week we will begin building the retaining wall.

The Second Veggie Garden

We have a nice big garden, and it is super productive, but we are feeding 7 people from it and could always use more.  In August we took down some beetle kill trees for someone and had them made into lumber.  We are now using that lumber to build another terraced, raised-bed vegetable garden.  The new garden will be a little bigger than the current one, so we should more than double our production.  We are very excited about this new project.  We started building the raised beds this week and are about 1/3 done with that part of the project.  I will follow up with photos and more info on the process in future posts.

Heritage Arts

I finished a pair of socks this week.  I used a self-striping yarn from knit picks called Felici in the colorway Beyond the Wall and the Fish Lips Kiss Heel pattern.

This month I am embarking on a new learning journey – I am going to learn to weave!  We had a large floor loom for the last couple of years and Young Man and Little Miss were the ones who learned how to use it and used it.  I was too busy with Mr. Smiles’ medical stuff to feel like I could learn something new.  This summer we sold that loom and bought a smaller one that fits nicely in the living room.  Little Miss has been using it and every time I go into the living room it has been calling to me.  I have always wanted to learn to weave, and now I am going to.  Little Miss agreed to finish her project by October 1st and I could use the loom for the month of October, and longer if needed.  So I am reading the book Learning to Weave by Deborah Chandler.  And this week I will start weaving on the loom.  I am really excited!