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!