We are closing in on the start of birthing season on our homestead. I have posted an article over at Mother Earth News about what needs to be done to prepare starting at 6 weeks before delivery all the way up to delivery. Check out my Week-By-Week Guide to Birthing Season article to get your homestead ready too.
The latest issue of Mother Earth News has hit mailboxes and newsstands this week. I have another article in the “Ask the Experts” column. Get yourself a copy and check it out!
I often get asked how we are so productive with our homestead. Or I get comments about how amazing it is that we accomplish all the things we do. And how we do it while raising and homeschooling 5 kids, one of whom has special medical needs and spends a lot of time at the pediatric hospital.
A big part of the answer to our productivity is planning. We do a lot of planning and filling out calendars and lists. We not only decide that we want to do something, we then purposefully plan out how and when we are going to do it. That makes it MUCH more likely to actually happen, no matter what life throws at us.
I just posted a new article over at Mother Earth News sharing some details of how we plan our homestead year and ideas to help you plan yours as well. Check it out by clicking here.
At the end of each year I like to do a homestead review post where I sum up the year and give some statistics about each area of the homestead. It helps me see how we did, what we succeeded with, what we didn’t do as well as hoped with, etc. Usually, it encourages me because I realize we accomplished a lot despite potentially feeling like we didn’t as I lived in the day-to-day chaos of life.
To read previous Year-End Reviews Click the following links:
This year is quite a bit different. In January we started preparing our house to go on the market, and then the rest of the year was quite the whirlwind of selling, buying, moving, and settling at the new farm. So there were pretty much no records kept about the homestead the way I usually do. Plus, we did not have a garden, since we moved too late in the season to start it. So this year’s update will be a little different.
- Started the year with 36 hens and 3 roosters.
- Sold or butchered the flock down to 10 standard hens and 1 standard rooster, and 5 bantam hens for the move.
- Put 7 store-bought chicks under broody hen to raise.
- 1 bantam hen and 1 standard hen died.
- Ended year with 16 standard hens, 1 standard rooster, and 4 bantam hens.
- No idea how many eggs we got this year, but enough that we didn’t have to buy any and were able to sell some.
- Started the year with 1 drake and 1 hen. Both older.
- Butchered older drake and hen before the move.
- Purchased 10 Muscovy ducklings and 4 Welsh Harlequin ducklings to add to the new farm.
- Butchered 2 Muscovy drakes and 2 Welsh Harlequin drakes.
- Ended the year with 6 Muscovy hens, 2 Muscovy drakes, and 2 Welsh Harlequin hens.
- Not sure how many eggs we got, but the Harlequins started laying in about November and laid about 10 eggs each week between the two of them.
- Purchased 8 Guinea keets.
- Had some issues getting them free-ranging but were able to get it figured out. They roost in their coop overnight.
- 1 was killed by one of the LGDs.
- Ended year with 7 free-ranging Guinea Fowl.
- Anya, our 5.5-year-old Anatolian Shepherd continued to do well guarding the flock, even through the move to the new farm. She has matured into an excellent LGD who loves her job and her flock.
- Since the new farm had more space and created two flocks instead of just one, we added another LGD to the family. Ayla is almost 2 years old and is learning and growing into a good guardian dog. She is Anya’s half-sister.
- Started year with 2 wool ewes, 2 dairy ewes, 1 dairy/wool ewe lamb, and 2 wool rams.
- 1 ram lamb and 1 ewe lamb born, both survived.
- An unknown (because we didn’t keep track), but good amount of milk produced for cheesemaking.
- 4 fleece shorn from our wool sheep, for a total of 24 lbs raw, skirted wool.
- 3 fleece shorn from our dairy sheep, for a total of 14 lbs raw, skirted wool.
- We weren’t able to process many of the fleece due to how busy we were with the move, so we only processed one for a total of 600 yds of yarn.
- Did not sell any sheep this year due to the expanded size of the new farm and our desire to expand the flocks.
- Purchased 1 East Friesian (dairy) ram lamb, 1 BFL (wool) ram lamb, and 3 BFL (wool) ewe lambs.
- Breeding season Oct-Dec: confirmed 2 pregnant dairy ewes, don’t have confirmation on the rest yet.
- Finished year with 5 wool ewes, 1 wool wether, 2 wool rams, 4 dairy ewes, and 1 dairy ram.
- Started the year with 2 pregnant Nubian does.
- One doe died
- 1 buckling born, sold at weaning.
- Purchased fresh (milking) Nubian doe.
- Unknown amount of milk produced, but plenty for our family through the year.
- Re-bred 2 does in Nov.
- Ended year with 2 pregnant does due to kid in April.
- No garden this year, but we were blessed with a lot of produce from other people’s gardens.
- We did bring our container herb garden with us, and expanded it. We harvested a lot of fresh herbs as well as harvesting and drying them.
- Brought cuttings from our Lilac bushes with us and planted those.
- Gifted an apple tree which we planted and it survived.
- Purchased comfrey roots and planted several of those for next year.
- Gifted some garlic and planted it for next year.
- Started construction on the new vegetable garden for next year.
- There was a lot of knitting and sewing done, but I did not keep good track this year, so I have nothing to report here.
- Canned apples in honey syrup, applesauce, pickles, and crabapple jelly.
- Root cellared garlic, onions, potatoes, pumpkins, and squash from a barter with someone.
- Made quite a bit 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.
January was busy with house remodel projects to prepare it to go on the market. I did some knitting and spinning, and we made firestarters to help keep the firemaking easy as we used them to warm our house. We wethered our infertile BFL ram, and were excited to add a new breeding ram to the farm – an American Bond. Unfortunately, he would later prove to be infertile as well.
February started with a hard loss – our sweet goat Pansy died after a long struggle with medical issues. We had a deep freeze with days barely in the single digits and nights well into the negative numbers. One of our dairy ewes, Daisy, gave birth to twins – a boy and a girl. Her milk production was even better than last year (last year was her first freshening). We decided to just let the lambs have it as we were up to our eyeballs with getting ready to sell the farm. I did some knitting and decided to take a break from blogging as we were closing in on listing the homestead on the market.
I didn’t blog in March or early April. But life kept marching on (of course). Our house sold, with the stipulation that we find a suitable place to buy. We looked and looked, but didn’t find anything during this time. Our 5-year-old son had more liver issues, an ER visit which led to another hospitalization and his 24th surgery. We continued to watch for our new farm. The market was crazy with very little inventory, very high prices, and offers being placed and accepted in less than 24 hours. It was easy for us as sellers, but hard as buyers.
In late April our Nubian doe delivered a buckling. And we finished shearing all the sheep. Just a few days before the contract on our previous house was going to expire, we found our new farm and our offer was accepted. It was official – we were leaving the Rockies we had called home for many decades and heading to the High Plains.
In May we got really sick as we scrambled to pack and prepare to move a family of 7, plus grandma, a school, a business with large machinery, and a farm full of animals. Thankfully, we were healthy in time for closing on both places and at the very end of May we signed all the papers and started the move. Sadly, one week before the move, our sweet 15-year-old kitty, who we had owned since he was a kitten, passed away. In hindsight, I am glad he didn’t have to go through the stress of the move at his old age, but we still miss him very much to this day.
June was crazy. We spent two weeks prepping the new farm for us, the animals, and the machinery, then moving everything, and trying to somewhat settle in. We saw our first tornado, way too clearly, on the third day we were here. We added a new LGD to the farm family and she got right to work guarding one of the flocks (now that they were split into two at the new place with more space). We started pasturing the sheep and goats and learning the ins and outs of intensive grazing with electric netting fence. We started putting together a container garden with what we brought from our previous farm, plus some additional containers left on the new property. Fencing the perimeter of the property with field fence to keep dogs out and sheep, goats, and dogs in became a priority, and big project, that wouldn’t fully get finished this year. We also spent a ton of time weeding. Weeding, weeding, and more weeding. The area around the house that was covered in gravel was a jungle of weeds to the point you couldn’t see the gravel at all in some places. We got a safe play area built for our youngest son. Through it all, we were learning the new climate, the new views, the new landscape, the new wildlife….everything was new and different! I continued to write online for Mother Earth News through the whole year, and I was really excited when I had my first article ever to make it into the print edition of the magazine printed in the June/July issue.
In July we thought we might just die of the heat. We had more days in the triple digits than not, and several days got up to 108/109. It was miserable for us as we had previously lived in the cool, high-altitude Rockies and had never experienced temperatures like that before, and certainly not day after day. We continued to do what we could with the little container garden, but the temperatures were not helping. Plus, pest bugs started killing everything we were working so hard to keep alive. One of our sheep bloated, and we successfully tubed him and saved him since the vet couldn’t come. We added ducklings, some chicks, and guinea keets to the farm. By the end of the month the ducklings were out grazing in duck tractors we had built from odds and ends around the farm. Milking the sheep and goat in the open with the flies and wind and heat was getting miserable, so we converted an old shed into a wonderful milking parlor. Lastly, we built a door for the hay barn in preparation to put up hay for the year.
In August we started to feel somewhat settled at the new farm. We added another Nubian milking doe and 4 Bluefaced Leicester sheep to the farm. We did a lot of fermenting and canning. Now that we had a couple of months under our belts, we were reading books like crazy and doing research to try to figure out how we want to manage and build the new farm in so many different areas – livestock, gardens, etc. We started a new school year, our first and the new farm. Sadly, our sweet, old house-rabbit, Wilbur, passed away.
September included a lot of illness and some death among the livestock, as well as illness among the humans. We enjoyed a drop in the very hot temperatures and found we were able to spend more time outside. I got my antique treadle sewing machine fixed and started to learn how to use it. We built the poultry barn and moved around all the poultry to new housing. We started to feel a bit overwhelmed as we tried to get to everything we needed to get done before winter hit.
October was full of guinea fowl adventures as we attempted to get our guineas to free-range but stay on our property and go indoors to roost at night. I had another article published in the October/November print edition of Mother Earth News magazine. Our youngest son had another round of liver issues with hospitalization and surgery. I also spent a lot of time sewing on my antique treadle machine, making a quilt and aprons for gifts. By the end of the month I felt completely proficient on the machine and it became my go-to sewing machine for most all my projects.
In November I was excited to be able to speak at the Homesteader’s Livestock Summit. The whole family helped with my presentation and we all really enjoyed the opportunity to share what we love and teach about raising sheep for high-quality wool production. The Nubian does headed to the breeder’s farm to get bred, since we don’t keep a buck for breeding. Our sheep breeding season was proving challenging and we decided to try using ram harnesses with marking crayons to help figure out what was going on. We finished all our “before winter hits” projects in time, including a root cellar/tornado shelter. The girls had a very successful booth at a Christmas craft fair in the area. And we got our first dusting of snow at the new farm.
December was shockingly warm, and we enjoyed it. We also enjoyed the slower pace from a year of crazy busy. We stopped all “projects” and just spent time enjoying our family. We all got sick with a nasty cold, but it helped keep us slowed down, at home, and resting for the first time in a very long year. The ducks started laying, and the goats came home pregnant. We made our final plans for next year’s vegetable garden, and started working towards making it a reality.
It has been a crazy year of change and so much hard work. But it is all a blessing and we are glad for the move and all that we have gone through. We are looking forward to 2022 being our first full year at the new farm. We are excited to see what every season is like here. And we are busy dreaming and planning as we build this new homestead out on the High Plains.
I just published another article over at Mother Earth News. This one has all sorts of ideas for Christmas gifts you can give from your homestead. Go check it out by clicking here!