Sunday Homestead Update – Heat Wave! (kind of)

It was so beautifully warm this week!  After the snow early in the week it got sunny and each day was in the 50sF, which felt so wonderful in the middle of cold winter.  We took advantage of it and spent time outdoors soaking in fresh air and sunshine and getting things done.  It is awesome to be able to get some of our spring projects worked on, even though winter is far from done here in the high Rockies.

Salve

Monday, while the snow flew, the girls and I used the inside time to make a batch of salve.  Making your own herbal salve is so easy.  You just infuse olive oil with the herbs you want.

Strain it out.  Add beeswax to get the consistency you want (put a little on a plate in the freezer for a minute or two until it reaches room temp to test the consistency).

Then pour it up and let it cool.

We made 12 small tins (1.5 oz), 1 pint jar (for the barn), and 3 half-pint jars.

I did a post on making herbal salve here.

New Garden Compost/Barnyard Fence

With the warmer weather we were able to borrow a tractor/back-hoe and get the compost pile moved into the new garden boxes.  We were happy to see how far it went in filling in the boxes.  And now we know how much top soil we need to purchase to finish off filling the boxes.

This also made it so we could finish the permanent fencing on the bottom end of the barnyard, and thus gave the animals a larger barnyard again (they have been living in about 2/3 of the main barnyard since fall because we had fenced off the bottom part with the big compost heap to just let the compost sit for a few months without chickens “stirring” it).  We also used the tractor to scrape the barnyard thoroughly and thus make a new compost heap to start composting.

Here is the lower barnyard looking down from uphill before:

And here it is after:

And here it is looking up from downhill before:

And after:

So the entire permanent barnyard fence is complete except one thing – a gate at the bottom.  We want to have a large gate at the bottom so we can easily get the tractor in and out.  We didn’t have time or materials to complete that, so we just put one of our temporary panels across the bottom.  It feels so good to be so close to finally done with the permanent barnyard fence.  It has been a project that has dragged on for years now as we have waiting for the time and materials to complete it a little here and there.  We have been very grateful for the panels to use as temporary fencing while we built it.

In the winter the hay ends up covering the snow as the animals eat and it insulates the snow in one main spot in the barnyard by the feeders and in the shade.  This ends up to be about 2 feet of hard-packed ice/snow under the hay by the spring, which then slowly melts causing a deep mucky mess that can lead to leg injuries in the animals.  When Mtn Man scraped he worked hard to get a bunch of that out so we will hopefully not have such a bad mess.  Granted, we still have a lot of snow fall likely headed our way this winter before spring hits.  But any removal of it is good progress.  And the snow in the new compost heap that he scraped together will help add moisture and nitrogen to the heap, both good things.  The chickens enjoyed pecking at the snow he exposed when he scraped it away.

Sheep

We have sheared a couple more sheep.  I will post more about them specifically later this week.  The big news is that Sunshine decided she wanted to learn how to shear, so Mtn Man is teaching her and she has now sheared 2 sheep with his help.  I am so proud of her – shearing is a hard skill to learn and very physically taxing.

Sewing Clothing and Making a Cake

Little Miss and I have been sewing some clothing for her because she doesn’t fit well in store-bought, nor does any of it match her preferences of style.  We finished a nightgown, a dress, and a skirt last week, and have more to sew this week.

We also celebrated her birthday recently.  She desperately wanted me to make a cake that had her goat, Pansy, on it.  I love how my kids challenge me with their cakes each year to try to make harder and harder things.  I was skeptical about my abilities to do the goat cake, but was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out.

 

2018 Year-End Homestead Review

Looking back over the previous year on the homestead is an excellent practice because it helps us see what worked, what didn’t, and helps us plan for the future.  It is also always very encouraging to me because even when I feel like we didn’t have a very productive year, seeing it all written out shows me all that we accomplished.  Our homestead has had to take a backseat to other parts of our life over the last few years due to our baby’s serious medical issues.  This year more than ever.  But despite that, we still are able to do some homesteading and it brings us stability and joy.

To read previous Year-End Reviews Click the following links:

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Statistics

Chickens:

  • Started year with 20 hens, 9 young pullets and cockerels, and 1 rooster
  • Purchased 10 layer chicks and 41 meat chicks
  • 18 meat chicks died first couple of weeks, 1 layer chick died – 9 layers and 23 meat chicks survived
  • Because of large loss of meat chicks decided to buy 11 layer chicks to add to the brooder
  • 5 broody hen sets with a total of 15 chicks surviving
  • 1 cross beak chick had to be culled, 1 silkie hen licked to death by LGD pup, 1 hen killed by bobcat, 1 young pullet died for unknown reasons, and 1 hen died of egg bound
  • Butchered 23 meat chickens, 10 layer cockerels, 1 aggressive rooster, and 8 hens
  • Sold 9 hens
  • Ended year with 28 hens, 1 chick, and 1 rooster
  • Approximately 3,500 eggs laid

Farm Dogs:

  • Anya, our 2.5-year-old Anatolian Shepherd, is continuing to mature and be trained to be our lead LGD.  As a pup she accidentally licked a couple of chickens to death and therefore was living adjacent to the barnyard and continuing to be trained.  In December we were very excited to move her into the main barnyard and have her be mature enough to guard without any accidental killings.
  • We have had no bear break-in attempts on the barn since she took over.  The bears used to try to break into the barn multiple times each autumn, despite our previous wonderful guard dog living in the barn (he did keep them out and alerted us so we could chase them off, but they continued to try).  I am guessing it is the size difference, our previous guard dog was 55 lbs, Anya is over 100.  I think the bears can tell the difference when they hear her bark and such and they don’t think it is worth it to grapple with a dog that big.  Not sure what else would cause the change.

Sheep:

  • Did not have sheep most of this year.  Sold the flock December of 2017 due to son’s medical issues and hospitalizations.
  • Unexpectedly bought back three of our sheep a couple weeks before the end of the year!  2 ewes and 1 ram.  They are currently living together in hopes of squeezing in last-minute breedings for this year so we can have some lambs born this summer.

Goats:

  • No goats this year due to son’s medical issues.  Contemplating plans for a dairy goat in 2019, but have not decided yet.

Garden:

  • Over 490 lbs of produce harvested
  • Spent $134 on the garden this year, average of $0.27 per lb.

Heritage Arts:

  • I completed the following knit projects: 2 cabled hats, 1 cabled cardigan, 1 pair of flip-top mittens, 7 pairs of socks, 2 baby blankets, 1 baby vest, 1 shawl, 1 afghan and 169 squares for my scrap sock afghan.
  • I completed one cross stitch, and sewed 4 skirts for myself, 1 dress for myself, 4 skirts for the girls, 1 dress for Sunshine, 4 bibs for Mr. Smiles, hospital PJs for Mr. Smiles, several pairs of flannel PJ pants for everyone, and 3 flannel nightgowns for Little Miss. Plus innumerable amounts of mending and patching of clothes.
  • The girls did countless projects, each of them finishing more projects than I did.

Kitchen:

  • Canned over 350 jars of food this year.

Year Summary

January was much warmer than usual and we enjoyed the chance to get outside when we could, though the end was bitterly cold.  We spent a lot of time dealing with our son’s medical issues, with hospitals, surgery, and many doctor’s appointments.  We were able to get our garden planning and school curriculum planning done, along with building a new pantry area in the basement.

In February the girls and I spent the cold days working on my grandmother’s English paper piecing quilt, as well as a crocheted scrap afghan.  I also worked on finishing some of my crafty WIPs (works-in-progress) to get them out of storage and completed.

March brought a lot of garden prep work, building new garden areas, and remodeling older garden areas.  Our hatchery chicks arrived on the farm, including our first ever try with meat chicks.  We were very disappointed when a huge amount of the meat chicks died for unknown reasons.  It wasn’t our brooding techniques because none of the layer chicks being brooded with them died.  We also had our first hatch of the year under a mama hen.  We remodeled our bathroom, as well as a couple chicken housing areas in the barn.  And we enjoyed learning the art of dehydrating fruit.

In April we started plans for our medicinal herb garden, little green shoots started poking up their heads on our perennial plants in the garden, and our seedlings inside began taking over the house.  During the cold weather the girls and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, canning jam and homemade ketchup, as well as starting to work through the Little House Living recipe book.  And we spent some time sewing PJ pants for the family as well as some skirts and dresses.  At the very end of the month the swallows arrived a little early, signaling that it was time to put our first seeds in the ground outside.

In May we didn’t get the big snows that we usually get towards the end of the month, which meant that our garden got a big head start over previous years.  We worked a lot in the garden and we butchered the first round of meat chickens and found the meat to be superior to the meat from our dual-purpose birds.

June was another month extra heavy on the medical stuff with our son.  We spent time in the ER, had unexpected hospitalizations and surgery, as well as many doctor’s appointments.  Somehow we were able to keep the garden going strong, started some harvesting, and butchered the last of the chickens.  And we squeezed in some sewing of bibs too.

In July we were busy gardening, harvesting, and started our canning season.  We had another 2 hens set and hatch chicks.  And the girls and I continued our sewing spree, making more skirts, PJ pants, hospital Pjs for Mr. Smiles, and a knitting bag.  We decided to try eating one of the silkie roos we butchered and were surprised to find their meat is black (more of a purple, really, but creepy nonetheless).  We wont do that again!  Our LGD had to spend some time indoors because of the flies eating her ears, but we finally found a repellent that worked long-term, after years of trying many many different things with no success or very short-lived success.  We also finished chopping and stacking all the firewood that we needed for the winter.

August was mostly focused on more of our son’s medical stuff.  But despite that we were able to continue with the harvest and canning, make herbal medicine, and we added our first root cellar veggie storage rack to the basement.  We competed in many ways at the County Fair and brought home a lot of ribbons and prizes.  We were surprised by a very early first frost.

September was so full of homestead work that I barely had time to blog.  We kept ourselves busy with gardening, harvesting, canning. freezing, hunting, and butchering – all things related to putting food up for the winter.  We added another root cellar veggie rack to the basement and really enjoyed using both the racks to put up the produce.  We also started remodeling one of our wood stove areas and had another hen set and hatch out chicks.

October was full of a lot of canning and we bought a new kitchen gadget to make it easier.  We filled the shelves in the basement pantry and used every empty jar we owned.  We wrapped up the gardening season and were really excited when we tallied everything and found that we had our most successful garden season ever.  I did some preliminary garden planning for next year while everything was till fresh in my mind.  And we also got our first snow of the season.

In November we stayed indoors while we had unseasonably cold weather outside.  We were able to put some more meat in the freezer through successful hunting and we made a lot of firestarters and a batch of hand-dipped beeswax candles.  We did our final chicken culling and re-organizing in preparation for winter, and we decided to try growing lettuce and spinach indoors under grow-lights for the winter months.

December brought a lot of Christmas candy making, as well as Christmas present making since we home-make almost all of our Christmas presents.  We said “no” to a lot of regular events and activities to keep a nice, calm, Christmas season and were so glad that we did.  I learned how to darn socks, and was able to fix several holes we had in some of our handmade socks.  We had two very exciting events happen for the homestead.  First, our LGD, Anya, was finally mature and trained enough to guard the livestock full time on her own.  And secondly, 3 of our sheep returned to the farm after being away for a year.  We ended the year with more medical issues, emergency rooms, hospitalization, and surgery, which will be pouring over into the new year as well.

Looking back we can see that it has been another very productive year full of blessings.

LHL Recipe Review – Dish Soap

We are working our way through the Little House Living book of recipes (by Merissa Alink) for bath, body, and household products, and kitchen mixes.  You can read previous recipe reviews by clicking on “LHL Recipe Reviews” in the category section on the right sidebar.  We are not affiliated with Little House Living, nor are they compensating us for this.  We just wanted to work our way through all the recipes because they all look so great, and thought it would be nice to take you along for the journey.  🙂  All recipes are rated on a scale of 7 thumbs up, since we are a family of 7.

Summer has been chaotic so we have not done many of these reviews lately.  But now that we are back on our school schedule and routine, Sunshine and I will be continuing to work our way through this book and I will be posting the reviews here.

This week we tried Dish Soap.

The dish soap was made with a few simple ingredients and very quick and easy to mix up.  It was very watery compared to store bought which is more of a gel.  It does make it a little trickier to squirt on things that were being held on an angle, but that didn’t bother me and it didn’t seem to effect anything.

I bought several different types of containers and bottles to use as we worked through this book and this type of bottle seemed best for the dish soap.  It even came with a screw-on funnel to help fill it without mess.

There are some dishes I always hand-wash and others I put in the dishwasher.  So first I tested this on Mr. Smiles’ sippies and bottles (yes, Mr. Smiles’ is almost 3, but he is still on bottles because he has aspiration issues and thus can’t always safely and successfully swallow from a sippy).  I usually rinse the bottles and sippy right after use and then just let them sit until I have several to wash at once.  The nipples and rubber straws are usually somewhat greasy from whatever else was being eaten at the time he was drinking.

She warned in the book that this soap wouldn’t be as sudsy as one expects dish soap to be, and she was right.  I must admit, something about the suds makes one feel like it is doing its job and getting stuff clean, and the lack of suds had me wondering.  But everything came beautifully squeaky clean.

Next I washed a very greasy frying pan.  Here was the true test – could the soap cut the grease and really get it clean?  Yes indeed it did!  It too came squeaky clean.

So, the homemade dish soap gets a 7 thumbs up!

LHL Recipe Review – Hamburger Help Mix

We are working our way through the Little House Living book of recipes for bath, body, and household products, and kitchen mixes.  You can read previous recipe reviews by clicking on “LHL Recipe Reviews” in the category section on the right sidebar.  We are not affiliated with Little House Living, nor are they compensating us for this.  We just wanted to work our way through all the recipes because they all look so great, and thought it would be nice to take you along for the journey.  🙂  All recipes are rated on a scale of 7 thumbs up, since we are a family of 7.

I have a little secret.  Shhhhhh, don’t tell anyone.  When I first got married I had no idea how to cook and everything I cooked came out of a can or box.  I know, it’s surprising since now not only do I cook almost everything from scratch and avoid pre-processed foods like the plague, but I also grow and raise my own fresh food.  Big changes.  Life can change you.

But I must admit I was pretty well intrigued when I saw the Hamburger Help Mix recipe in the Little House Living book because we used to eat the store bought version out of a box often in our early years of marriage and I liked it.

We could tell by the recipe that one batch was not going to be even close to enough for our family.  So we quadrupled it.  The 4x batch fit nicely in a half-gallon jar in the pantry.

We cooked up half of it using her dairy-free instructions, and we cooked the other half with milk as per her instructions.

Both versions were quick and easy to throw together for dinner by just taking the jar from the pantry and adding a few wet ingredients to them.  It made for a great meal for those evenings when I just don’t have the time or energy to put together a whole meal from scratch.  And it was nice to know exactly what was in the mix and that it wasn’t anything that would be bad for my family.

Everyone loved it!  Both versions were delicious and there wasn’t a speck of food left when we were done.  We all went back for seconds and some thirds as well.

7 thumbs up!

LHL Recipe Review – Pancake/Waffle Mix

We are working our way through the Little House Living book of recipes for bath, body, and household products, and kitchen mixes.  You can read previous recipe reviews by clicking on “LHL Recipe Reviews” in the category section on the right sidebar.  We are not affiliated with Little House Living, nor are they compensating us for this.  We just wanted to work our way through all the recipes because they all look so great, and thought it would be nice to take you along for the journey.  🙂  All recipes are rated on a scale of 7 thumbs up, since we are a family of 7.

We love pancakes and waffles in our house, and I have sometimes made up the dry ingredients of the pancake recipe I use ahead of time so that I can more quickly and easily make them in the morning.  But we decided to try out the LHL recipe and see what we thought.

The dry mix makes about a half-gallon jar worth of mix.  We tried it as both pancakes and waffles.

Pancakes

The pancakes were good, but they were not as good as the pancakes we normally make.  They were a bit chewy instead of fluffy.  We all ate them and finished them all, but everyone agreed that my regular recipe for pancakes had better texture and flavor.

4 thumbs up for the pancakes.

Waffles

The waffles were delicious!  We cooked them with our electric waffle iron and they were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and very very yummy.  We only made one batch and it definitely wasn’t enough.  In the future we need to triple the batch.  Everyone was very pleased with the waffles.

7 thumbs up for the waffles!

So I think we will be making this mix and labeling it “waffle mix” and then I will take my regular recipe and use the idea of pre-mixing all the dry ingredients ahead of time to make them easier to make.