2020 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 son’s serious medical issues.  But despite that, we still are able to do some homesteading and it brings us stability and joy.  I used to do excellent record-keeping, but as each year has been harder and harder with Mr. Smiles, each year has thus been harder and harder to do good record keeping.  I am amazed I kept records at all this year!  But here’s what we have.

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

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Statistics

Chickens:

  • Started the year with 21 hens, 3 pullets, 3 cockerels (almost ready for butcher), and 1 rooster.  Plus 23 eggs in the incubator.
  • Did 1 incubation with 23 eggs.  22 were fertile, 10 chicks hatched and 10 survived.
  • Broody hen set 12 eggs, bad fertility (only 5 fertile), 3 hatched, we added 10 from the store and she accepted them, 5 from the store and 1 of hers died in the first few days, 7 survived.  Got 5 more from the store and put them under her. 4 of those survived.  So a total of 11 surviving chicks.
  • Purchased 16 more chicks to have shipped.  14 survived.
  • 2 more broody hens set, one set 10 eggs, 7 hatched and survived, the other set 14 eggs, 4 hatched, 4 survived.
  • We purchased 10 chicks and our best broody hen adopted them and raised them.  9 survived.
  • At the height of the season we had 25 adult chickens and 40 chicks –  total 65
  • Butchered 24 cockerels, 13 old hens, 1 rooster
  • Did not sell any chickens this year, but gave away 3 as a gift
  • 1 hen died of unknown causes
  • Ended year with 36 hens and 3 roosters.
  • Approximately 4,180 eggs laid (348 dozen)

Farm Dogs:

  • Anya, our 4.5-year-old Anatolian Shepherd continued to do well guarding the flock, even through the fire evacuations.  She has matured into an excellent LGD who loves her job and her flock.

Sheep:

  • Started year with 1 wool ewe, 4 dairy ewes, and 1 dairy ram
  • 4 ewes got pregnant, due in April & May
  • 1 ram lamb and 3 ewe lambs born, all survived
  • 72 gal of milk produced
  • 2 fleece shorn from our wool sheep, for a total of 8 lbs raw, skirted wool.
  • 5 fleece shorn from our dairy sheep, for a total of 10.1 lbs raw, skirted wool.
  • Total of 8,525 yds of various sizes and types of yarn made from all the fleece. Plus 3/4 lb of roving.
  • Sold 2 ewes and 2 ewe lambs
  • Purchased 1 BFL ram lamb, 1 Wensleydale ewe, and 1 Bond ewe (all wool breeds)
  • 1 wool ewe died unexpectedly
  • Butchered 1 ram and 1 ram lamb
  • Bred them in two separate groups, one group in September, and one group in October-December.  2 September ewes confirmed pregnant due in Feb.
  • Realized our new BFL ram was unable to breed the flock successfully Oct-Dec, quickly purchased a new Bond ram end of December and put him with the girls, hoping to get the last 3 pregnant.
  • Finished year with 2 wool ewes,  2 dairy ewes, 1 dairy/wool ewe lamb, and 2 wool rams

Goats:

  • Started the year with 1 Nubian doe, Pansy.  Pregnant and due to kid in April.
  • 1 doeling born, died at a couple weeks of age.
  • Pansy struggled for several months with undefinable illness.  The vet, breeder, and we tried everything to figure out what it was and tried treating for any possible thing.  The illness decreased her milk production and we ended up having to dry her off in October.
  • Due to Pansy’s struggles and drop in milk production, we added another Nubian doe to our farm in July, named Belle.
  • 75 gal of milk produced.
  • Rebred 2 does in Nov/Dec.
  • 2 does pregnant and due to kid in April.

Ducks:

  • Started the year without ducks.  Added them to the farm in July – our first ever ducks!
  • Started with 2 drakes and 2 hens
  • 1 hen set 12 fertile eggs, 5 hatched, 4 survived, all drakes
  • Butchered 5 drakes and 1 hen
  • Finished year with 1 drake and 1 hen

Garden (didn’t keep good garden records this year, but…)

  • Over 250 lbs of produce harvested
  • More seeds saved than ever before

Heritage Arts:

  • Completed knit projects: 6 hats, 2 pairs of mittens, 2 pairs of socks, 1 gator, 1 poncho, and 1 dress.
  • Completed sewing projects: 4 dresses, 5 skirts, 8 pajama pants, 3 nightgowns.  Plus innumerable amounts of mending and patching of clothes.
  • The girls did countless projects, each of them finishing more projects than I did.
  • We made 12 tins, 3 half-pints, and 1 pint of herbal salve.

Kitchen:

  • Canned apples in honey syrup, green beans, and tomatoes.  Plus grape jelly.
  • Prepped and froze carrots and celery.
  • Root cellared garlic, onions, potatoes, and squash.
  • Made 68 lbs of aged cheese.  Mostly from sheep milk, a few from goat’s milk.
  • Made a lot of soft cheeses and dairy products, mostly from goat’s milk, some from sheep milk.

Year Summary

January was cold and dry most of the month.  We hatched out 10 chicks in the incubator, hoping to line the hatching up with chicks coming in the mail so they could brood together.  Unfortunately, the hatchery made a mistake and printed our shipping page but never shipped us the chicks.  So we decided to just raise the 10 we had hatched ourselves.  We pulled our first ever aged cheese out of the cheese cave and tried it.  It was Colby and we all liked it.  One of our younger ewes surprised us by getting bred late, bringing our total of pregnant sheep up to 5.

February made up for January’s lack of snow by snowing every few days and dropping into the negative temperatures.  We worked on indoor projects a lot, and Mtn Man finished his first-ever rectangular braided rug made from llama and alpaca fiber.  We took photos of our chicks each week as they grew and changed.  We got ourselves organized and planned out the gardens and planting schedule for the year, as well as all the livestock birthings and things we needed to prepare for related to that.  Since we kept more sheep than we originally planned to when we put up hay last summer, we had to buy some more and get it put away in the loft.

March started exactly the opposite of February, with a week of warm, dry, sunny weather.  We spent a lot of time outdoors, working on finishing the new vegetable garden in time for planting.  We got the lambing/kidding kit and vet kit re-supplied and ready for lambing season.  And we also finished the wooden barnyard fence.  Coronavirus spread over the world and we were isolated from socializing.  We were largely unaffected, until Mtn Man ran out of work in the mill and had to take an essential construction job.  Our stirred-curd cheddar cheese reached 3 months of aging, so we were able to take it out of the cheese cave and try it.  It was delicious!  We put part of it back to age more so we could see the difference.  Our hen, Cinnamon, decided to set a brood of eggs for us.  We finished shearing all the sheep and began processing their fleece, and we got excited as we neared our first lambs due on the farm for the year.

In April our first dairy lamb was born without issues.  We started milking our first dairy sheep – Autumn, and quickly realized it would go better with a milking machine.  A lot of work was done on finishing up our new veggie garden area, and improving and building new fruit garden areas.  We made progress on Mr. Smiles’ new play area too.  We were all excited when I was invited to blog monthly for Mother Earth News.  Cinnamon’s hatch had terrible fertility, and we only ended up with 3 chicks, so we bought some at the store and gave them to her to raise with hers.  Many were weak from shipping stress and died, so we bought some more.  Our wool ewe, Fiona, had a single ram lamb, in an uneventful birth that we missed seeing despite our hourly checks.  The end of the month was exhausting as we were up to the barn every two hours through the night awaiting the goats and lambs that were due to be born.  Daisy, a first-time-mom ewe, had a traumatic birth with a very stuck large single baby in her small inexperienced pelvis.  We were able to save both the ewe and lamb, but then Daisy rejected the lamb.  After working with her for a day, we decided to give up and bottle feed it.  Once they were separated and the other ewes came to visit the baby, Daisy suddenly decided she wanted to mother the lamb.  We were very relieved and did not need to bottle feed after all.

In May our stay-at-home orders were lifted, and the hospitals started performing surgeries again.  This meant that Mr. Smiles could now get the surgery he was supposed to have back in March, but it also meant that we would be gone to the Children’s Hospital during the height of our lambing/kidding season.  Thankfully, no one birthed while we were gone.  We continued to be exhausted from our nightly barn checks as Pansy the goat went well past her due date, whereas both our first-time-mom-ewes went earlier than their due dates.  Daisy was due in May, but had hers in April.  Blue went 4 days early, the day before Mr. Smiles’ surgery.  Thankfully, Blue’s birth was uneventful and we missed it despite hourly checks on her.  Finally, 9 days past her due date, Pansy gave birth.  She had ring-womb and it made for a traumatic delivery, but both mother and baby survived.  We were finally past our birthing season and could get some sleep – theoretically.  Our oldest son graduated from high school at the end of the month – our first child to graduate from homeschool.  His ceremony and party were canceled due to coronavirus, so we had a nice little celebration on our own.  And we added a new BFL ram to the flock.

June started with disease, pests, and late frosts.  It was a challenging month for sure.  Our youngest son had more trouble with his health, leading to 1 MRI under anesthesia, 4 more surgeries, 2 ER trips, and 9 days in the hospital.  Meanwhile, back at the homestead, the mice were reaching plague-like proportions, with us catching up to 35 per night in our traps, and the barn cats killing innumerable amounts, and yet they were still wreaking havoc in the gardens and barns.  We found out that our new BFL ram might have brought Orf to the entire flock, and anxiously waited the disease incubation period, hoping it wouldn’t prove to be true.  The goat and her doeling got lice, and we were busy treating them with a natural oil daily.  One of our hens hatched out 7 baby chicks, on the same day that the doeling very suddenly died of what was suspected to be enterotoxaemia.  We grew oh-so-weary with it all.  And then, during Mr. Smiles’ hospital stay and surgeries, Pansy became very ill.  We had the vet out multiple times, only to find no obvious cause and have no treatment we tried help.  As a last-ditch-effort, on our way home from the hospital we picked up a buckling to take home to see if it was emotional depression from the death of her doeling causing her physical illness.

In July we managed to avoid the pediatric hospital, but knew our time away was limited so we were super busy at the farm trying to deal with all the summer to-dos before we had to head back to Denver.  Pansy the goat was still sick for awhile, but eventually pulled through her mysterious health issue.  We traded the temporary buckling out for a new milk doe.  We weaned lambs, sold some sheep, and purchased a new breeding ram and ewe.  We also added ducks to the farm for the first time ever.  The mice and hail continued to plague the gardens, but some harvest began to come in as well.  With two goats, and the lambs not milk-sharing with us anymore, milk continued to flow in larger quantities than before, and thus we spent a lot of time making cheese and other dairy products.  We had to switch to a larger homemade refrigerator cheese cave, as the smaller one was full.  We also purchased two pigs and butchered them for our winter meat.  It was our first time ever butchering pigs as we usually have the butcher do the pigs for us but there was no butcher who could take them due to the pandemic.  It was a very busy and productive month on the homestead for sure.

August brought a lot of juggling of farm life and hospital life.  Mr. Smiles had 2 more surgeries, one scheduled and one unexpected.  Meanwhile we were trying to continue to process all the dairy products and harvest the garden.  We ate, canned, froze, pickled, fermented, and root cellared the produce as it was harvested.  We butchered some chickens, and one of our hens decided to set and hatch some chicks.  One of the new duck hens wanted to set too, so we bought some hatching eggs and put them under her.  As I continued to blog for Mother Earth News, I also had an article published in Chickens Magazine.  Our friends were evacuated due to a wildfire and their ducks and chickens came to live with us for what turned out to be several weeks.  It was kind of fun having a goose on the farm for a little while – we had never had one before and she was beautiful and fun.  We struggled with a couple of red-tailed hawks and a golden eagle who were hanging out trying to get an easy meal in our barnyard.  The chickens had to stay in their covered pen to keep them safe.

September was beautiful, except for the large amounts of smoke from the wildfires.  We worked hard harvesting and preserving the harvest from our gardens.  The pullets began laying, so we had some fun new egg colors and sizes.  We were able to can our produce, despite supply shortages, thanks to our reusable canning lids.  We got an early hard freeze along with three days of snow that surprised us and brought the garden harvest to an end quickly.  Thankfully, we got all the produce out in time.  The snow also helped suppress the wildfires, for a little while.  We tried a new breeding plan for the sheep on the farm, and bred three of the ewes during September, planning to breed the others in December to divide up our lambing season.  We also butchered the ram lamb.  The duck hen successfully hatched her ducklings and we really enjoyed the new adventure of that.  We were able to put some more meat in the freezers when Mtn Man and his father hunted elk.  Sadly, our matriarch ewe, the first ewe we ever purchased for the farm, died unexpectedly – it was heartbreaking and a very difficult loss.

October was full of fall productivity.  We worked at getting, splitting, and stacking firewood to heat the house for the winter.  We continued to work on cleaning up the gardens and putting up the seeds for next year.  We finished several heritage arts projects, and built new feed bins for the barn.  We butchered more chickens and a ram, plus a couple of ducks.  The freezers were filling up fast for winter!  We were excited to learn that one of my blog posts for Mother Earth News was chosen to be published in their e-newsletter.  The Cameron Peak wildfire moved closer and closer to us, putting us on edge and prepared for evacuation.  We had a mountain lion hang out around our property for a few days, which kept us on edge as well.  Two more wildfires started near us, and ash and smoke started making life complicated.  Then, in one days time, one of the fires grew over 100,000 acres and traveled 35 miles, closing in on our home.  We were evacuated, and had to quickly get 64 animals and 8 humans off our homestead.  We were so blessed to have friends, acquaintances, and strangers reach out to us and take in our animals and our family.  The animals were spread over 5 different farms.  After 5 days, our family was able to go home, but the fire loomed and threatened and we had to stay prepared for fast evacuation, so we did not bring the farm animals back for a few weeks.

As we headed into November we continued to watch the wildfires and wait for the OK to bring our livestock back to the farm.  We cleaned and prepared the barn, and worked on some heritage arts projects.  As the containment lines grew, we started bringing animals back.  First the sheep and LGD came home.  Then the poultry.  The goats were evacuated to the farm that they go to every November/December for breeding, so we left them there for the breeding season.  It felt great to have the animals back at the homestead!  Since the ram had to be with the ewes during the evacuation – thus starting our breeding season earlier than planned, we decided to just leave him with them and let them breed.  We added a new, Bond ewe named Matilda to the farm.  We also spent a lot of time in the kitchen, canning and cheesemaking.  We scrambled to get things done around the farm before winter really hit since the evacuation had put us behind on all our fall projects.  We were surprised to find out that our two hatches from September, one duck hatch and one chick hatch, that each had 4 babies survive, had all males.  Not exactly what we were planning, but more meat in the freezer.

December brought both very low temperatures (-10F) and unseasonably high temperatures (55F) to the farm.  We used the warm days to finish fixing some fences and the path out back, and spent the rest of the time cozy by the fire working on heritage arts projects for Christmas presents.  It was a pretty laid-back, low-key month and we all enjoyed the break and rest.  Then, in the last few days of the month, we realized that our new BFL ram was not getting the ewes pregnant.  We quickly purchased a new ram, a Bond, and put him with the girls, hoping we could get the last 3 ewes pregnant before their breeding cycles stopped for the season.

 

It is good to look back, but can also be hard to look back as well.  I remember that in last year’s homestead review I said that it was by far the hardest year in our lives.  Good thing I didn’t know what was to come.  This year has by far been the most challenging year of our lives.  We had so many losses in our personal lives and on our homestead.  At the homestead we battled the weather, pests, birthing complications, and illnesses in the livestock.  Our youngest son had 8 more surgeries this year, along with many hospitalizations, ER visits, and doctor’s appointments.  His last surgery was his 23rd in his 5 years of life.  It was definitely challenging.  Through it all we continue to focus on our many blessings and trust in God as He carries us through the ups and downs.

Sunday Homestead Update – Livestock Shuffle

It has been a cooler week this week, which has been very nice.  We have had a busy week getting all our livestock changes lined up for a short period of time to reduce stress on the animals, and streamline it for us too since we have more medical stuff with Mr. Smiles coming up.

Mice

We broke our previous record this week with the most mice caught in one night – 45!  Yes, we caught 45 mice in one night.  19 were all in one bucket trap.  We are closing in on 3 months of trapping every single night.  We have averaged anywhere from 10-20 per night this entire time.  Our previous high was 30.  This is SO crazy and has never happened before.  Big year for mice, that is for sure.

Gardens

The gardens are looking better and better despite the rough start.  The squash are doing beautifully and promise to fill the root cellar with their Red Kuri winter squash.

The grapes vines are covered with clusters – grape jelly here we come!

We are finally starting to harvest snap peas and enjoy them as snacks and in our garden-fresh salads.  And the sweet peas are coming on beautifully.

And, very surprising to us, are the cucumbers.  I tried to grow cucs in our climate for YEARS and failed over and over.  So a few years ago I gave up.  But then, a friend who lives in our area gave me a cuc from her garden to save seeds from.  I did, and I planted them last year.  Only one plant survived and only one cuc on it produced.  I tried again this year and all of a sudden they are doing amazingly well.  I have about 10 plants and we have already started to harvest off of them and they are covered with more.

Seed saving has always been something we do here and are continuing to expand.  But this year it seems even more important, with all the seed shortages this last spring.  We walked the gardens this week and marked off which plants will be used for seed saving so we are careful not to harvest them.  Some types of veggies we will decide on later, but some need to be marked now.  We will be saving from cucumbers, peas, beans (green and drying), tomatoes, squash, peppers, lettuce, and hopefully parsley and carrots that are in their second year.  We also replant our own garlic bulbs, and we will see how the potatoes go and how they keep.

Sheep Cheese

Last winter, Little Miss and I tried our hand at making aged cheeses using store-bought cow’s milk.  We wanted to figure out how to do it and prefect the cheese cave before we had a bunch of sheep’s milk that we wanted to make into cheese this spring.  We enjoyed eating those cheeses this spring and early summer, and we started making cheese from our sheep milk as soon as our sheep lambed this spring.

Well, our first aged sheep cheese from our farm was ready this week!  It was a Colby and it was delicious.  Our cheddar will be ready this coming week and we are all looking forward to trying it out too.

The cheese cave is almost full, and I have plenty more milk and cheeses to make.  So we found a full-sized refrigerator for sale at a nice, low price and we are converting it into a cheese cave so we can have enough space for all this amazing sheep and goat cheese we are making this year.  So fun!

 

Sheep and Goats

There has been a lot of livestock shuffling going on this last week and more this coming week too.  We sold Maggie (yearling dairy ewe) and Misty (dairy ewe lamb)…

…and they went to their new home together this last week.  They will be part of a dairy flock at a farm that makes sheep cheese.  And our new wool ewe arrived at the farm the same day.

This coming week the buckling goat will leave and the new dairy doe (a Nubian goat) will be arriving.

I will post an update, introducing the new livestock to you later this week.

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.

Sunday Homestead Update

Hard to believe it is November…and the time change already too!  It has continued to be snowy here, although we have had a lot of nice fall days in between the snows as well.

Driveway

When you live on a rocky mountainside, maintaining a dirt driveway can be quite a chore.  Thankfully, we have access to a tractor and Mtn Man knows how to use it to fix up the road.  So he has been working on that project.  He got a couple of loads of road base and added them and got it all smoothed out and the water running off properly to the ditches.  He also fixed up the ditches.  So that is done for another year until next fall.

Hunting

Mtn Man and Young Man have done some more hunting the last couple of weeks and put more meat in the freezer.  They each filled their buck mule deer tags, so we spent a couple of afternoons butchering those.  Mtn Man’s buck was a smaller one, we got about 30 lbs of meat and 5 lbs of dog food off it.  Young Man got a pretty good size one and we got 50 lbs of meat and 10 lbs of dog food from it.    It feels great to have all that meat in the freezer to feed the family this winter.

Our dog, Hazel, has a very important job during butchering…keeping the floors clean so no one steps in little chunks of meat that accidentally fall.  She takes this job very seriously and stares intensely at the floor so she can immediately clean up anything that falls.

It is exhausting work…

Earlier this fall Young Man filled his cow elk tag (125 lbs of meat), and we were gifted meat from another cow elk someone we know hunted (125 lbs of meat).  So we now have meat from 2 cow elk and 2 buck mule deer in the freezer.  We don’t buy red meat, so whatever we hunt is what we get for the year.  If we get less (like last year) we have to ration more strictly and don’t eat as much meat.  When we get more we eat more meat.  Mtn Man still has a cow elk tag, and if he is able to fill that we will for sure have enough to make it until next fall eating plenty of red meat, and probably even be able to bless some other families with some meat as well.  He has until January to fill that tag.

Gardening/Canning

We planted the garlic and put straw on the over-wintering plants.  I am trying to overwinter celery for the first time this year in an attempt to get celery seeds to save next year.  I have been able to do it successfully with carrots, so I am hopeful this will work too.

The tomatoes continue to slowly ripen in the basement root cellar racks.  As they ripen we use them and can them.

Besides the tomatoes the gardening and canning season is officially over for us.  We are having hard frosts often and a lot of snow already.  I am contemplating planting some lettuce and spinach under grow lights in the basement to grow us some fresh greens this winter.  I need to get that planned out and started.

Heritage Arts

I continue to work on Christmas present knitting.  I also got another 15 squares done for my scrap square afghan.  This makes a total of 135 out of 192.  I am getting there!

I also have some sewing projects in the works.  First I had to finish the items we were sewing for Operation Christmas Child boxes this year.  I am now done with that and can get to some of the other projects that have been waiting.

Sunday Homestead Update

This always happens in the fall – I am so busy enjoying living the homestead life that I don’t take time to blog about it.  I guess it is a good problem to have!  We have really been enjoying soaking in fall homestead life lately.  It is plenty full of things to do – harvesting, hunting, butchering, canning, freezing, and other winter prep…all done in the most perfect type of weather…but we really enjoy them all so while it is physically exhausting it is emotionally uplifting.  Autumn is by FAR my favorite season, and getting to enjoy it on our little homestead is just the best.

Another Root Cellar Veggie Rack

Grandpa and the kids built the second root cellar veggie rack.  We made some changes now that we have seen the veggies in the first rack.  We realized we could make the drawers a lot shallower and still fit the tomatoes in it, and then use the first one with deeper drawers for the big onions and squash etc.  With the drawers being more shallow they were able to get 14 drawers instead of 10 in about the same height, which makes it an even more efficient use of space.

The first rack (on the right) boasts 50 square feet of storage space, whereas the second one (left) has 70 square feet of storage space with the same footprint.  Both will be useful, because the deeper drawers can hold the bigger items.

We also added some 3×5 card holders to the front of each drawer so we can label what is in each.  This helps with my seed saving plans.

We had made these drawers with the plans for them to hold mostly tomatoes and onions, plus some squash.  We realized they are also convenient for doing the finishing drying of the shelling beans.  They dry mostly on the vine, but some are brought in that still need some extra drying so we have been putting them in the drawers for that.

The kids also noticed that the one with deeper drawers can hold pint jars, so when they are not in use over the late winter, spring, and summer, we can store the empty canning jars in them.  Then canning season will start before we need to put the veggies in them, so it will be perfect timing.

Overall I am so so happy with these drawers, they are proving very useful for the homestead.

Canning

We are continuing to be in full blown canning season, and there is no end in sight yet.  We are hoping to put up more this year than ever before, which is exciting.

The tomatoes are quickly ripening in their drawers (you can see how empty the drawers are, they all started out full), so every few days we go down and load up all the ripe ones to do a canner load (or two…or three!).

We are canning whole tomatoes for use in soups and stews and we are canning marinara sauce which we use on our weekly homemade pizzas when we do Friday night family night with pizza and a movie.

The red in these pics are Mountain Roma, and the yellow are Russian Yellow.  Both excellent varieties for our cold climate and short season.

We are also starting to can peaches and apples.  Those are not grown on our homestead (though the apples will be very soon!), so we wait and buy them when their price is good at the discount store.

Gardening

The garden has gone from overflowing jungle…

to pretty barren in just a few short weeks (with a LOT of work). 

The frosts have been moving the harvest along quickly this year.  I have some pepper plants left in a tent, a few cabbage, the brussel sprouts, some carrots, and some shelling beans still out there.  But the large majority of everything is gone now.

 

We are really excited at our first successful pepper harvest!  Earlier in the year I had mentioned they didn’t seem to be doing well and one of you commented that you always feel like they have a slow start and then they grow like crazy and that maybe that would happen to us too.  Well, that is exactly what happened!  A few of the plants had shadier garden spots and didn’t really produce at all.  But the ones that got good sun produced beautifully.

Since this is our first time actually getting them to grow, we are trying out a few different ways of dealing with them.  Some were harvested and are indoors now, but some were left on the plant under a tent to see if we can get them more ripe before frost completely kills them.  We have tried peppers before but they never worked in our cold, short season climate.  I bought these from a specifically high-altitude cold-climate seed company called Seeds Trust, and they sure did work well!

We harvested the onions this week.  They set in the sun to cure and then went into the veggie rack.

Hunting

Hunting seasons have begun and we were desperately in need of meat so it couldn’t have come soon enough.  We ran out of red meat at the end of July.  Last year we didn’t have as successful of a hunting season as normal so we didn’t quite get enough meat for the full year.  So we have been going without red meat and mostly eating chicken, pork, and beans lately.  We were all very excited when 2 of our cow elk tags were filled last week!  That will fill up the freezers plenty enough to last us while we continue to fill the other tags through the fall and early winter.  We usually like to wait until the weather is colder to hunt, for several reasons.  But since we were out of meat we wanted to hurry up and get some at the beginning of the season this year.

Chickens

The chickens are all doing well.  With the spring chicks now laying pullets we have an abundance of eggs even though the older hens are molting.  Man, chickens look awful when they molt – don’t they?  It is a pretty sad sight.  We removed the rooster from the flock during the molt so the girls could grow back their feathers without him tearing them out with his “affections.”

We had our final hatch of the year.  I am always surprised at the low hatch rate of birds at high-altitude that haven’t been hatched at high-altitude.  We learned this years ago, and if you are interested you can read about it in the chicken breeding program category, but I had gotten so used to the good hatch rates of our flock of high-altitude birds that I had forgotten how bad it is with the birds that didn’t hatch up here.

All that to say that only 3 of the ten eggs hatched and survived (2 more hatched but the chicks died right away).  This year most of the eggs in our hatches have been laid by the low-altitude chicks we purchased in 2017.  Very few were laid by our high-altitude breeding stock.  I don’t know the exact science behind it, although I know some of the science behind it, but it is a fact:  Hens that themselves hatched at high-altitude lay eggs that hatch better at high-altitude.  And hens that hatched at low-altitude, when brought up to high-altitude, lay eggs that don’t hatch well at high-altitude.  I am looking forward to getting back to a flock full of 2nd+ generation high-altitude hatchers.  Then our hatch rates will be much much better.

Knitting

I continue to work away on Christmas presents, which means I wont have much to show you all because they are surprises.  But I am still trying to be sure to knit 15 more scrap afghan squares each month in order to finish the afghan this winter.  So I got 15 more done, and I am starting to figure out the layout and hook them on to the afghan.

I am more than half done!

Wood Stove Remodel

We are continuing to work on the wood stove remodel I discussed last time.  We are hoping to get the stove area fully tiled and the stove hooked up and usable by the end of the week.  It is getting chillier and chillier at night and we have already begun using the living room wood stove to warm the house each morning.  Once we complete that part, all that will be left is getting the tongue and groove wall done and putting up the mantle log, and that can all be done later this fall because it is necessary for us to be able to use it as a heat source.

We also got another exciting addition for our dining room this week.  Completely unexpected, a family we know with more kids than us needs to upgrade to a larger table to meet their ever-growing family’s needs.  So they gave us their beautiful log-style dining table with chairs and benches!  Grandpa is refinishing the top for us so it will look good as new.  Between the new beautiful antique wood cookstove and a new (used) log dining table, our dining room is getting quite the makeover!