Sunday Homestead Update – “Before Winter Hits”

It seems that the arrival of autumn has us scrambling to finish SO many different things “before winter hits.” We say that term several times each day lately. Having moved to the new farm in early June, we spent summer working from sun-up to sun-down on different homesteading and construction projects. Now that we are back to school, we are all putting in nights and weekends, plus every extra second we can squeeze in when we finish school a little early. Daniel has been working full time in the mill the whole time while putting in nights and weekends on the homestead. Sometimes he will be working on the homestead and construction projects during the day because they require light and then he will be in the mill at night. There is never a shortage of things to do on a homestead, and now we are racing the calendar to get all humans and animals warm and secure housing for winter. The good news is that winter hits about a month later here than it did up in the high Rockies, so at least we have more time than our minds, after living our whole lives in the mountains, are telling us we have.

Sheep

Our new sheep have finished their quarantine. We did 21 days because that more than covers most all sheep communicable illnesses. We have settled on names for them all, even though they are very difficult to tell apart and we mostly have to look at their ear tags at this point. During quarantine, only Braveheart was caring for the sheep, and he didn’t go down to the other sheep barn at all. That way we didn’t risk any disease spread via our clothes or boots. So we haven’t gotten to spend much time with them except looking from afar. I know that as we spend more time with them, now that quarantine is done, we will get to know them better and be able to tell them apart. The ram has been named Wallace, and the ewes are Agnes, Lilian, and Bunny.

Now that quarantine is done we decided to start breeding season. We are going to breed them in three rounds this year to spread out the lambing since we have limited housing that is not really set up well for sheep yet. We don’t know what to expect from the weather here as far as lambing season goes either. So we are experimenting by doing 3 waves of breeding. We are also doing it because Nilsson was unable to get any ewes pregnant last year, but we are not sure if that had to do with him, or if it was too late in the season, or what. He is a proven ram, and he was breeding a proven ewe and an unproven ewe and we saw plenty of breeding take place, and yet no lambs. So we would like to give him another chance this year, but we don’t want to risk the ewes not getting pregnant at all, so we are giving him first go at some of them, and then we will follow him with Wallace and Orville so that if he is the reason and somehow is sterile we wont risk not having any lambs next year.

So Matilda and Freya have joined Nilsson in his pen and we will see how it goes. Breeding season has officially begun.

Chickens

Matilda (yes we have a chicken and a sheep both named Matilda), our bantam cochin hen, decided she wants to set. She has never set for us before, but our best broody hen, Eve, is starting to get older and we desperately want more hens that will set for us. Using a hen to raise chicks is so much better than doing it with an incubator and/or brooder. So, even though it is late in the season, we decided to go ahead and give her some eggs. Hopefully in 3 weeks we will have some more chicks!

We made final plans for the permanent poultry housing. It can be built in stages (a huge plus both financially and time-wise). We will be building part of it this fall, enough to safely house the chickens and keets through the winter. The ducks will move into the coop the chickens are currently living in because it is better suited for ducks. Then, at some point (maybe next spring?), we will build the second part of it and will have a very useable poultry barn with plenty of space for what we want to raise. The first step was to move the keet house we had started building to the new location as it will become part of the poultry barn. We got that moved yesterday and now can start working on what parts we need to accomplish before winter.

In the Kitchen

The garden bounty continues to come in, from other people’s gardens this year since we got here late in the season. We have been processing it all, mostly through canning. The canner is up and going at least every other day, sometimes days in a row.

We also have some apple scrap vinegar brewing from some of the apple scraps.

Heritage Arts

Surprisingly, I have had time to squeeze in some knitting lately. I am working my way down the sleeve of the sweater I am knitting for Braveheart. I haven’t finished the body yet, but I don’t know if I will have enough yarn to finish the sweater, so finishing the sleeve with confirm that one way or the other so that I don’t spend a ton of time knitting when I won’t be able to finish it.

Seven years ago, for our 15th wedding anniversary, Daniel got me a beautiful antique 1905 singer treadle machine with a beautiful table. It was in really good condition, but didn’t really work very well. We recently stumbled upon a guy who could maintenance it (thank the Lord for that not-coincidence coincidence). So we got it all fixed and in working order. I am so excited! I know some of you are thinking “Why would you want to use a treadle sewing machine when you have a perfectly good electric one?” But I also know some of you are getting me and know why I am excited. I am still grateful for my electric, but these types of old things are oh-so-fun for me.

I have been playing with it just with scrap fabric to start to get the hang of how to treadle the right speed, start and stop, etc. I have made plenty of rats-nest-thread-knots as I have been learning due to improper treadling, but I am improving and it is fun. I decided I would like to make an easy quilt with basic squares as my first project on it because it will be straight lines and a lot of starting and stopping as I piece it, which is perfect for practicing and learning.

High-Quality Wool Production – Part 1

Raising excellent quality wool starts with the sheep. I just posted an article over at Mother Earth News teaching how to increase the quality of the wool you raise and thus increase the value of your wool and wool products, and your profits. Click here to read the article.

Sunday Homestead Update – Treasure

We had an amazing find this week – a vintage, but still in excellent working order, cream separator. We haven’t had a chance to use it yet, but will definitely be trying it out this week. The separator wasn’t the only treasure…the people we bought it from were awesome and taught us how to use it and said we could call if we need help with it. Such a treasure.

Not only that, but they had a few apple trees that were overflowing with apples and they let us pick a bunch and take them and have invited us to come get more. So we have started in on them and will be busy canning applesauce, apples in honey syrup, and crabapple jelly this coming week. What a blessing!

Sheep

The new sheep are settling in. We did have a few incidents this last week with them getting their heads stuck through the fence reaching for plants through the fence, even though they had hay in their feeder. We had to cut the fence to free them. Thankfully, none were injured by it, but we did have to re-wire the fence. They are still growing, so in a couple of months their heads wont fit through those holes anymore. Meanwhile, we wired that section of fence with 2×4 wire, instead of the 6×6 field fence we have been using. We also decided to let them start pasturing on a small pen behind their barn. It is thoroughly overgrown, but they have been picking away at it.

Ducks

Ginger the Muscovy, who was attacked last week by some of the other Muscovy ducks, healed up and we put her back in with the group. The female and male who attacked her are still living with the Welsh Harlequins and doing fine. Once the Muscovies are butcher weight we will butcher the males (except one for breeding) and integrate all the ducks to live together in one of the pens.

Workshop

As I mentioned last week, the future workshop was a mess of tools and boxes that we hoped to someday get set up as a nice workshop with benches and tools all organized and useable. We decided to surprise Daniel for his birthday and get it set up. It was a lot of work, but oh-so-worth-it! He now has a useable workshop and all his tools are organized and accessible.

More Books

As I said in my last post, we are buried in books, both new ones from the library, and ones from our own homestead library that we have read previously. We are digging in and trying to learn how to be successful bringing life back to the farm we just moved to. Well this week we added a couple more to the pile we are reading from the library…

Pastured Poultry Profits, by Joel Salatin, The Beginner’s Guide to Beekeeping, by Daniel and Samantha Johnson, and Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden, by Jessica Walliser.

We are working on our plans for next year and how we will be managing our intensive grazing situation with both the hoofstock, and poultry. The book by Joel Salatin is helping us get new ideas for that.

Our entire property is out of balance. It was neglected for a long time and not managed in a way that promoted balance. So our pest bug situation is very unnaturally out of balance. We are studying ways to work on that without the use of pesticides and are really enjoying the beneficial bugs book.

And lastly….we have long thought about getting bees, but our location in the Rockies would have made it very difficult to do it successfully. So now that we are in a new location I am just barely starting to dip my toes into the shallow end of the pool of considering whether this is a new project we would like to take on next spring or not.

So there continues to be a lot of reading going on!

Sunday Homestead Update – Quarantine

No, we are not quarantined in the way that you are thinking. Interesting that about 18 months ago the word quarantine brought up very different thoughts than it does now. Well, those older images of quarantine are the ones that fit what is going on at our homestead.

Sheep

We added new sheep to the farm this week and we are keeping them quarantined for 3 weeks to be sure not to share any illnesses with the existing flock. At our previous farm we didn’t have space for proper quarantine, and more than once it led to close calls and worries about disease transmission from new animals brought to the farm. Thankfully, here we have two different loafing sheds and pens that are on opposite sides of the farm. Normally, we have the ewes and does in one, and the rams in the other. But this week we set up a pen over in the ewe barn area for the rams to live in temporarily, while the new sheep quarantine over in the ram barn. They arrived late last night, thus the dark picture.

These sheep are from a farm in Iowa and are registered Bluefaced Leicester (BFL). BFL fleece is a longwool that has surprising fineness and softness to it. It has a nice spring to the locks and is very versatile due to the fact that it is not coarse, yet is is very durable. It also has such a nice luster that shows through well in both the raw fleece and in the finished products made with it. Lastly, it blends well in the mill, and the BFL crosses well when breeding it to finewool breeds.

We have used BFLs in our breeding program before and have always really enjoyed the fiber and the fiber on the cross-breeds as well. We are now excited to start breeding purebred BFLs at our farm, focusing on beautiful luster, length and softness of the fiber. We will also be crossing them over some of our other wool sheep to create cross-breeds with excellent fleece qualities of length and softness.

Guinea Keets

To say that guinea keets are “flighty” is quite the understatement. These birds are SO wild and crazy and not at all tame. All chicks (from chickens) are a bit skittish at a month old, but these guys are nothing like that. They are so very very skittish that it makes it difficult to take care of them.

We were hoping to have the guineas moved out to their permanent house by about 2-3 weeks of age. It is plenty warm out, and they feather out pretty quickly. But, life happens, and the house still isn’t done as they clicked past 4 weeks of age. They haven’t outgrown the brooder quite yet, and have enough space. However, caring for them in the brooder has become nearly impossible due to their “flighty-ness” and the design of our brooder. It is a large trough, and it has a lid over the whole thing that is wood framing with wire mesh. It has always worked great for chicken chicks. The problem with the keets is that the entire lid has to be lifted in order to feed and water them, and when it is lifted they all freak out and start flying around. We have been able to manage it, until this week, when half of them escaped from the brooder.

The brooder is currently being housed in what will in the future be our workshop. But right now it is just the place we store all the tools and stuff that we want in the workshop eventually. We dream about it being set up nicely someday with workbenches around all three walls and shelves and pegboards will all the tools nicely hung up and organized and accessible. But right now it is a huge mess of tools and such strewn about and piled on each other. Now, let’s set 4 keets free into that mess. Sigh. Catching them was….an experience.

Needless to say, work on the keet house was moved to the top of the list and we rushed to get it at least dried-in and able to house them.

Doesn’t look like much, but we will be finishing the siding and roofing, and adding an exterior pen soon.

Then came the problem of how to get the keets out there. Lifting the lid of the brooder would just let them all free into the future workshop again. But the brooder was too large to carry out to the keet house (didn’t fit through the doorways unless it is turned on its side). Thankfully, many hands made it so we could hold up the lid and not let any escape as we caught them and put them in a crate. The move went smoothly and they now live in their house.

Duck Attack

The electric fences are doing a great job of protecting the ducks from predators. But this week the ducks began attacking one of their own. We have heard of it before, but have never experienced it first-hand in all the years we have kept poultry, at least not to this degree. We had just moved the keets to their house and we heard a duck screaming. Little Miss went to check it out and found that two of the males and one female Muscovy were attacking another female and there was blood flying everywhere. She yelled and went in and saved the female. It looks like a little bit of feather picking at the new wing feathers coming in escalated to a bloody battle. Her wing had no feathers left and was bleeding quite a bit.

We sat there trying to decide what to do. Cull the attackers? Cull the injured one? How could we keep them all? We don’t have many female Muscovy in this group and thus did not want to cull a female, but the injured one was female, as was one of the attackers. We decided to put Ginger (the injured one) into the brooder the keets just evacuated so she could heal up….

I don’t think that brooder is ever going to be empty, just when we think we can put it away for the season, someone else needs it – first the ducklings, then the keets, now its a hospital room…

Anyway, then we decided to move the three that attacked her over in with the Welsh Harlequins because the Welsh are bigger and more mature, fully feathered, and it would be their territory, so we figured that would take the attackers down a notch and stop the behavior. We want them all integrated eventually, and we will be butchering most of the males eventually as well. So we figured this would be the best option. Thus far all is well with the new set-up and everyone is doing fine. Ginger is healing up well and we are discussing how to get her integrated back in with the Muscovy group.

Back to School

We started a new school year this last week. Grades this year are PreK, 8th, 10th, and 12th. Can’t believe another one is about to graduate! Kids grow up so fast. Blink and you just might miss it.

Sunday Homestead Update – In the Farm Kitchen

We have had a busy week in the farm kitchen.

Garden’s Bounty-

We did not get to the new farm in time to put in a garden this year. But God’s provision never ceases to amaze me. Our very wonderful neighbors have been bringing us a bag of garden-fresh produce each week from their church’s community garden. It is wonderful to have this blessing each week, especially since we don’t have a garden this year. We have been careful to be sure that it doesn’t go to waste. We have canned dill pickles, made salsa, made our favorite fun appetizer of tomato, basil, and mozzarella cheese (the cheese is homemade from the goats’ milk), made many veggie side dishes and salads for our dinners, dried herbs so we have them to use all winter, and are dabbling in fermenting summer squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. It feels amazing to get to enjoy the blessing of fresh garden produce even though we can’t have a garden right now.

Fermenting-

Our sauerkraut finished up its fermentation this week. It turned out SO delicious. We had a meal of sausage and sauerkraut, and then put the rest in the refrigerator to use over the coming weeks. We are going to start another batch this week. We all got a stomach bug and it wiped out our digestive systems, so we are trying to get as much good bacteria back in and flourishing as we can. We continue to make smoothies with our kefir as well.

As I said above, we have been trying our hand at fermenting cucumbers, zucchini, and summer squash. I tried two different recipes, one molded, and the other was too salty. So this week I reset and tried a recipe that is somewhat in between the two as far as salt-level goes. We will see how they turn out. A friend also gave us a scoby, so we are trying our hand at making kombucha for the first time. A lot of fermenting going on…both things we have done before and things we have never tried before.

Herbal Medicine-

Some of the people in our family have seasonal allergies. They have been much worse this year. Not sure if it is the new location, or what. They were using the herbal allergy glycerite I make and have quickly used it up, so this last week I made a new batch. They are going through it so fast that I will be making another batch this coming week so we have plenty to get through the season.

Dairy Products

As always, we have been making all the fresh, raw milk into dairy products. We make goat’s milk mozzarella every week, and the last few weeks it has also been a tradition to make ice cream so that we can have a special treat in the very hot summer temps. Additionally, we made queso blanco this week.

We have continued to just freeze the sheep milk because I haven’t figured out yet how I will be making hard, aged cheeses in our new kitchen. The way I used to make them was to heat the milk by setting the pot in hot water in the sink. So that is the method that has been successful for me over the years. The new house has a tiny sink and the cheese pot doesn’t fit in it. So we have been watching for a new (used) sink at ReStore and online so we can replace this one.