Sunday Homestead Update – Need. Sleep. Please.

It has been a loooong week.  We are so exhausted.  The first few days of the week Mr. Smiles was having some medical issues and was waking up multiple times a night, crying, plus the every 3-hour birthing checks out to the barn.  Of course, the birthing check times did not line up with when Mr. Smiles was up, which resulted in very little sleep at all for a few days.  Then Daisy had her traumatic birth experience and the lamb rejection, so we didn’t really sleep at all that night.  Then we were back to 3-hour birthing checks every night since Blue and Pansy are both showing signs of birthing any minute, and especially since Blue is a first-time-mom we don’t want to risk another Daisy scenario.  We are so tired.  But we still love this homestead life!  Birthing season is just an exhausting time.

In addition to no sleep and all the birthings going on, we have had a VERY productive week with projects around the homestead and gardening.  Young Man goes back to work next week, but finished school last week.  So this week was a perfect opportunity to utilize his help with a lot of projects around here that Mtn Man doesn’t have time to get to, but that I need some extra muscles for.  So all the kids and I worked on stuff each day, and Mtn Man joined us all in the evenings after dinner while we still had some light.  One of our family’s favorite things to do is work on homestead project together, so it was a nice time of family togetherness all week.

Gardens

The new Lower Veggie Garden is done – we finished the gate, and it now has a functioning irrigation system.  The pea trellises are up and the hoop tents as well.  The Upper Veggie Garden has the irrigation system all set up for the year and we tested it.  We had to fix a couple burst pipe elbows – they always seem to keep some water in them and get frozen.  We got the pea trellises and the hoop tents up in that garden as well.  The Medicinal Herb Garden got new irrigation hoses all set up in it and tested out.  Then we planted our first seeds out in those gardens.  Peas, lettuce, spinach, and kale are all now in the ground!

The garlic is coming up, so we took the over-wintering straw off of it, got the irrigation lines laid out, and watered it.  And then planted the onions as well.

The Strawberry Patch has green leaves appearing all over, so we raked it out and cleaned out the dead stuff from last year.

We finished building the new Strawberry Terrace.  We will only be planting one level of it this year, and we will start hardening off and getting the strawberries planted this week.  The other two levels will be filled and planted next year.

 

The plants that over-winter in the ground are all starting to peek their heads up.  The chives are going strong and we have been using them a lot, and the rhubarb is getting almost ready for first harvest.  There is sage, oregano, and parsley that I didn’t bed-over for the winter and yet they survived and are all starting to get some green leaves on.  And the comfrey is just starting to put out some leaves.

Chickens

It was a big week for chicken butchering and shuffling.  We trap-nested and figured out how the adult hens were doing as far as laying goes.  A few were older and haven’t been laying at all through both of our last trap nestings, so they were butchered.  Plus we had the 4 cockerels from the January hatch to butcher as well.  I used my new Instant Pot to make broth from all the carcasses.  It turned out great!

Then we moved the pullets from the January hatch up and integrated them with the adult flock.

One of our very old hens, Clover, who had become a pet hen over the years, died this week from old age.  Since most of our chickens are livestock, not pets, this was the first time we had a bird die of old age.  We will miss her, she was a very pretty splash hen with a muff/beard and was always very sweet and friendly.

Sheep

The sheep are doing well.  We are continuing to work on integrating Daisy and Nora back into the flock, since Daisy is not protecting Nora and Autumn is being very aggressive.  Hopefully they will all settle in together soon.

The babies continue to give us hours of adorable play to watch.  Who needs TV when you are homesteading?

Nora is obsessed with the chickens.  The feeling is not mutual.

Blue is due late this week, though her ligaments have softened and she is looking like she will go early, like Daisy did.

Goat

Poor Pansy is now a week overdue.  Not sure what is going on.  Messed up dates?  We continue to wait and hope the babies come soon and healthy.  Pansy seems very miserably uncomfortable.

Between Blue and Pansy it is lining up to be a busy birthing week this week.  Can’t wait to see what they have!

Daisy’s Lambing – 2020 – Part 2

Read Part 1 about Daisy’s lambing by clicking here.

After we got Daisy and her lamb in a jug (small birthing/bonding stall), we took turns sitting up in the barn keeping an eye on them both and making Daisy stand still and let the baby nurse when she wanted to nurse.  After we got the children settled in for the night, Mtn Man and I were up there together trying to formulate a plan.

Daisy was acting very confused.  One minute she would be licking the baby and nickering to her.  Then she would turn away from the baby, take a few bites of food, and when she turned back around she would act like she had never seen the baby before in her life.  She would act surprised and check her out as if it was her first time ever seeing her.  It was like watching Dory on the movie Finding Nemo.  As this continued, she began to get irritated with the baby and tried to head-butt her.  We decided to give her another shot of oxytocin, because the vet said that might help if she was continuing to reject the lamb.  It didn’t help and at one point she went after her very aggressively, slamming her into the wall.  This had us very concerned.  We tried rubbing some molasses water on the lamb, which Daisy then licked off, but it didn’t do much for bonding at all.  We decided that it wasn’t safe to leave baby with her unattended over night.

We got a small metal crate and put the baby in it, in the jug with Daisy.  We planned to come up every 2 hours and let the baby out and hold Daisy still so the baby could nurse, and then put her back in the crate for safety between feedings.  When we put the baby in the crate, the baby started calling out, and Daisy got very upset and went to the crate and wanted her out.  She almost flipped it over in her attempts to get to the lamb, so we decided that would not work.  When we let the baby out she talked to it and licked it and seemed happy to have it back.  But then a few minutes later she was head-butting it again.  It was very frustrating.  So we decided to take turns staying with them preventing injury and holding Daisy for nursing.  I started the first shift, but then they both laid down and slept for an hour.  When the baby laid down, Daisy chose to lay near enough to reach out her head to sniff and lick her.  So we decided that as long as they were down and sleeping they were pretty safe, and we desperately needed sleep ourselves.  Plan shift…again.  The new plan was to go to the barn hourly, let baby nurse, prevent attacks, and once they settled back down to sleep we would come back to the house, sleep for an hour, repeat.  It worked pretty well.  But by morning Daisy was still going back and forth between attacking the baby and then wanting her.

Being that this was our first-ever rejected lamb, we called on people with more experience to give us advice.  Ultimately, after hearing the advice, we decided we should just bottle-feed the lamb.  So we took Daisy to the stanchion, milked her, and put her back in with the flock.  The lamb was crying, but she didn’t seem concerned.  We left the lamb in the jug in a way that the other animals in the barnyard could come meet her through the fence and visit her.  So when the other sheep and the LGD heard her crying they came to check out what was going on.  When Daisy saw the other sheep and the dog interested in her lamb she all of a sudden became frantic and wanted back in with her lamb.  Jealousy?  She just needed to feel a little jealousy?  Or protectiveness?  Not sure, but we decided to go with it, and we put her back in with the lamb.

The family, again, took turns watching them for the rest of the day.  She did not head-butt her anymore, and she allowed her to nurse without anyone having to hold her still.  She wasn’t very strongly bonded to her, but at least she was willing to feed her and not hurt her.

The next day was the same, so, late that day, we decided to let them out for a little while to play in the barnyard and get some fresh air and sunshine – with us overseeing it all.

Daisy was definitely not protective of the lamb, and often not very aware of her either.  When the lamb would wander off, Daisy didn’t care.  When the other sheep bullied the lamb, Daisy didn’t care.  When the dog wanted to give the lamb a good sniff and lick down, Daisy didn’t care.  She barely even seemed to notice.  These are all things that would definitely get a response from our other mother sheep.  They don’t let their lambs wander off for a few weeks.  They don’t let the dog even get a good sniff for several days.  And if the other sheep try to bully their lambs, they bully the sheep right back and protect them.  But Daisy doesn’t seem to care.

She wandered away from the lamb to investigate things and when the lamb called out for her she didn’t notice at first.  If the lamb kept calling, she would call back to the lamb, but she wouldn’t go to her.  But, when the lamb came to her to nurse, she let her.  Kind of an interesting situation.  She didn’t really reject her, but she isn’t very bonded either.  But we are glad we don’t need to bottle feed her.

We are keeping them in the jug as long as we can (Blue and Pansy are both imminently due to have their own babies and will need the jugs).  We are letting them out daily for barnyard play time.  But when they are out, we are being very watchful to be sure that everyone is safe and the lamb doesn’t get hurt, since Daisy is not protecting her.  We set up some panels to separate off a section of barnyard to put Autumn in when Nora is out because Autumn is bullying her very badly right now.  The other sheep and the goat have accepted her fine and are being nice.  We will see how it all plays out.  But we are very happy that both of them survived, and that Daisy didn’t fully reject her.

Throughout all of this we have been trying to find a name for this new little ewe lamb.  We have tried out several options, and finally landed on Nora. 

She is so adorable with her big, somewhat floppy ears.  She kind of looks like Piglet, from Winnie-the-Pooh because her ears are pink and shaped like Piglet’s and kind of flop over.  Plus the fact that her nose is pink.  And just her overall look and movements remind us all of Piglet.  But she is not at all like Piglet in personality.  She is super independent, curious, and brave – which is good since she doesn’t really have a Mom that will give her confidence and comfort her.

Welcome to the flock, Nora!

Daisy’s Lambing – 2020 – Part 1

I love an uneventful lambing, and that is what Autumn and Fiona have given us this year.  Daisy, however, did not go that route.

Tuesday morning, 2 days before her due date, Daisy wouldn’t eat breakfast and was hanging out by herself in the far corner of the barnyard.  It was clear she was in labor.  We worked on the gardens and kept a close eye on her all morning.  After two hours of labor she still hadn’t started pushing, but with first-time moms that early stage can last up to 12 hours, so we weren’t worried.  She continued to hang out up in the corner, and then go into the stall, lay down, get up, and go back to her corner.  After 3 hours of labor I saw her give one push, while standing, but then nothing for an hour.  Then she did another sort of push, while standing.  And again nothing.  At this point I started to wonder.  We had a goat do this same thing, with random half-hearted pushing separated by 30-60 minutes with no pushing and she ended up having a breech.  So I knew that we were going to have to take some action if things didn’t start progressing soon.

At 1:30, which was 5 1/2 hours in, and 2.5 hours since she had started the random occasional half-hearted pushes, I decided it was time to see what was going on.  She had laid down in the stall, so we closed the door and Sunshine held her while I checked.  She was, by far, the most docile sheep I have ever checked and did not fight much at all.  As I put my hand in I immediately found a huge head.  No feet.  Just head.  And a very large head at that.  And Daisy’s pelvis felt tiny compared to the head.  I have re-positioned and delivered many babies over the years without the help of the vet, especially since our vet is an hour drive away.  But I knew as soon as I felt that head and the size of her pelvis that we were in big trouble and needed to get the vet on the way asap.  I called and found out that he was currently at another farm, but would head our direction as soon as he was done there, but that I obviously needed to keep working on getting the baby re-positioned and out on my own.  I called Mtn Man and told him that we had some major trouble and if there was any way he could get away from work and come home I needed help.  He said he couldn’t leave right then and encouraged me that I could handle this on my own with the kids’ help.

So Sunshine and I went back to it.  She made sure Daisy stayed down and didn’t kick too much, while I worked on figuring out the baby.  I pushed the head back in as much as I could and pretty easily found the first leg and got it in position.  But the second leg was another story.  It was SO TIGHT inside of her and I couldn’t find it anywhere.  I finally found it, but because everything was so tight I couldn’t tell if it was her leg or if it could possibly be a twin’s leg.  The angle it was twisted into made it feel like there was a hock (that it was a back leg not a front leg).  I kept running my hand along it, trying to figure out what it hooked into, all the while in the tightest womb I have ever been in, barely able to move at all.  It was taking a lot longer than I hoped and as the minutes ticked by I got more and more concerned for mom and baby.  Baby hadn’t moved or twitched at all the entire time and I was pretty sure it was dead.  And mom was clearly in a lot of pain and struggling.  At some point in this all Mtn Man arrived.  I was SO relieved.  Not because he could really help – he has big hands and arms and couldn’t get in there any better than me, and Sunshine was doing a great job of holding Daisy.  But just for the emotional support to help me get through the whole ordeal and whatever was going to happen.  He is my partner and best friend and I don’t want to homestead without him.

We decided to try to elevate her rear end up on a bale of shavings and see if the repositioning helped.  It did not, it actually made it harder.  So we went back to on her side with the stuck leg on the upper side.  I went back to work on it, decided that it had to belong to this lamb because the lamb was so huge.  I finally got it to come around.  As it was coming around I felt something give and there was a gush of blood.  I was afraid that I might have torn her uterus and had a total rush of anxiety and fear.  But I had both legs in position and the head in position, whether I tore her or not, it was time to get this baby out!

In the past, once I have the baby in the correct position, it has always come right out easily.  I eased the legs out and got to about the knees, with the tip of the baby’s nose barely visible.  And then it just totally wedged in place.  She was pushing, I was pulling, and it wasn’t moving even a tiny bit.  The head was very big, her pelvis was small, and it was stuck fast.  I tried pulling one leg, then the other, to wiggle the shoulders – nope.  I tried pulling it to the right and then to the left to try to change the angle a bit – nope.  All the while pulling down towards her hocks (never try to pull a baby straight outward – always downward towards the hocks).  The baby was very very stuck.

At this point the vet called.  He was done at the other farm, and headed our way.  It would be at least an hour until he got to us.  I updated him on the situation and he said to just keep working at it, that as the baby sat there things would hopefully continue to stretch out.  He said if there was any way to get some leverage behind the head with a pull rope or something to try to get something around behind the head.  There was no way my hand could fit to do that, everything was way too tight.  So I just kept trying to stretch the opening out, and pull on the baby.  The minutes ticked past.  The baby continued to be stuck.  Mama continued to push.  I continued to pull.  It felt so hopeless.  But then the nose twitched.  Two little twitches.  It was alive!  We all had renewed energy to get this baby out before it died.  I was already afraid we were losing mama, and I wanted to have at least one of them survive this.

After about 30 minutes of working on it, the baby finally budged.  Just a tiny little bit, but it was definitely moving outward.  I pulled even harder and did the wiggling of the shoulders again, and yes – it was ever-so-slowly making progress.  By now all the children were in the barn with us and I called for someone to grab towels and the bulb syringe and for Mtn Man to prepare to resuscitate the baby.  It took awhile, and it move so so slowly, but once the head came free, the rest of the baby followed quickly.

The first thing that we noticed was that she was covered with meconium.  Meconium is the first poop a baby has and if they are stressed during delivery they will poop it out while still inside mom.  This can cause issues because it is very tar-like and if the baby inhales it with their first breaths it can cause major breathing problems.  And there was tons of it.  The baby was theoretically white, but we couldn’t really tell because everything from her neck back was completely coated in the meconium.  But that was actually a good thing…in that her head didn’t have any on it – she didn’t poop until after her head was thoroughly stuck, so her head was clean, so her first breath was clean.

As Mtn Man worked on rubbing the baby and making sure she was breathing, I turned my attention back to Daisy.  She had gone completely unresponsive.  She was laying there, limp, with a terrible, labored, gasping, breathing pattern.  Her eyes were open, but they were not blinking and were unresponsive.  I picked up her head and talked to her, trying to get her to come to, but she wouldn’t.  At this point all the stress and adrenaline of the last hour and half just overwhelmed me and the thought of losing Daisy was too much and I just broke down bawling while sitting by her head.  Mtn Man called to me and I looked over at him.  He had the lamb on his lap and she was breathing and her head was up and she let out a little baby bleat.  She was alive and talking!  We got Daisy into a sternal laying position to help with her breathing and put the baby right by her head.  It was calling out and she immediately started coming to and reaching out for it.  She very quickly revived her sense and was talking to the baby and licking it and it was talking back.  We all started smiling and laughing as relief washed over us.

The lamb is the mini-me of her mother, a white ewe lamb with big, somewhat floppy, pink ears.  She is the last lamb from our wool ram, Fergus, and is a very important sheep to our new dairy-sheep breeding plans.

But they weren’t out of the woods yet.  Daisy continued to be very weak as the lamb started working on standing.  After about 30 minutes we finally got Daisy up, but she was super wobbly and weak, and started to not really care much about the baby.  We tried to get the lamb to nurse, while holding Daisy still, but the lamb was pretty weak too and wouldn’t suckle.  Then the vet arrived.  He cleaned up Daisy and checked to see if I had torn her and to be sure everything inside was OK.  She was OK, and I had NOT torn her!  He gave her some banamine for pain, oxytocin, and antibiotics.  Then we tried to get the baby to nurse.  She nursed a little, but not much.  So we milked Daisy and he tube fed the baby.  After the tube feeding the baby really started to perk up and with Daisy out of pain she seemed better too.  Things were looking up!  The next 24-72 hours would be the test of how everyone would recover.

But, Daisy still wasn’t really caring about her baby.  She didn’t seem very interested in her.  And she didn’t really want to let her nurse.  The vet, who has raised sheep for 25+ years, seemed very concerned that she was not going to accept the lamb.  We have never had a mom reject her lamb before, so this was new territory for us.  We got them both into the jug together, set Daisy up with food and water, and took turns sitting out there watching them and forcing Daisy to let the baby nurse every hour or two.  We settled in to see what the next few days would bring us.

We had gotten the female that we desperately wanted from this breeding.  But would they both survive and recover the birth?  Would Daisy reject the lamb?  We didn’t know.  But we were determined to do everything we could to achieve a good outcome for both of them.

Sunday Homestead Update – So Much to Talk About

Sometimes there is so much going on at the farm that the weekly post gets very long and full – this is one of those weeks.  So settle in with some coffee or tea – we have some interesting stories.

Gardening

There really never is a dull moment around here.  Life is a constant adventure.  And just when we think we might be about to have a dull moment, something happens.

A couple of weeks ago, Mtn Man bought our new strawberry and raspberry plants, and another gooseberry bush.  Since we are still pretty far out from planting them outdoors, we set the gooseberry bush in the dining room next to the black currant that I talked about last week.  They were both doing well in the sunshine from the glass door.  Then one morning (just when I thought we might have a dull moment), I walked by and noticed that there was a big mess all over the floor under the gooseberry bush.  It was sitting on a white plastic trash bag, and the bag was covered with what looked like dirt.  I moved closer to inspect the issue and was horrified to see that the bush, the pot, and the floor around it was covered with hundreds of little green worms, and the “dirt” I thought I was seeing was their droppings.  ~insert horror flick scream~  There were some worms starting to try to climb up on the black currant bush too.  And almost all the leaves on the gooseberry were gone – totally destroyed and eaten.  It seems the worms had hatched on the gooseberry bush a day or so ago, had eaten until there was nothing left to eat, and pooped all over the place, and they were now jumping ship and heading out to find more food.

I called for the kids and we all immediately jumped into action.  Little Miss, who is the most squeamish about these things, decided to help by taking Mr. Smiles to another room to play, since his presence would have been less than helpful – and really, her presence would have been as well as she would have been squirming and squealing every few seconds.  Young Man took the plants outside and sprayed them thoroughly with neem oil.  Braveheart, Sunshine, and I proceeded to painstakingly clean up every single worm by sweeping and picking them up with tweezers and putting them into a little plastic container.

It was so gross.  They were everywhere.  They were climbing up the legs of the dining room table and chairs.  They were under the hutch, they were all over the floor and in the door jam and every nook and cranny that could be found.  We had to take all the dishes out of the hutch and move it so we could get under it.  And it seemed the more we cleaned up, the more there were.  Some were so tiny you couldn’t barely see them with the naked eye.  Others were more obvious.  The kids stopped counting after we got to 350.  After an hour of cleaning we had gotten the majority of them.  We continued to find them randomly here and there for the next few days (eeek, gross!)  After we cleaned up we looked online to try to figure out what they were.  They were Imported Currant Worms.  Our bush came from the store thoroughly infested with them.

Braveheart was pretty happy when were finished, not only because we were finished, but because he was excited to take the container of worms out to feed to his chickens.  They got a nice meal from our misery.

Unfortunately, the neem oil did not seem to have any effect.  We knew we would have to bring the bushes in before dark or they would freeze outside.  But they were still covered with worms.  So I decided the best place for them would be in the bathtub.  That way, any mess that was made could be washed down, and if any worms came off them, they couldn’t climb the smooth walls.  So we brought them back in and checked on them every so often to be sure no worms were “escaping.”  Sunshine took it upon herself to battle the worms – every couple hours she would go in and use tweezers to pick the worms off one at a time until she was bored of it.  She did an excellent job and by the end of the day none of us could find any more.  But we knew there was no way we had gotten them all, so we left them in the tub.  After a few days of finding and removing the few stragglers, we moved them back to the dining room.

The once fully-leafed gooseberry is now almost bald from the invasion.  It will need a lot of recuperating.

Goat

Pansy is about ready to pop.  Yesterday was her due date, though her previous owner told us she generally goes late.  She dropped significantly Wednesday and has been miserably uncomfortable ever since.  I feel ya, girl.  I know exactly what that feels like.  LOL.  By her size I am guessing it has got to be twins.  Any day now.

Unlikely Roommates

We have an interesting living situation going on right now.  Normally, the ram lives in the back pen during the day and the smaller stall at night.  The ewes, lambs, chickens, and Anya (the LGD) live in the big barnyard during the day and the large stall and jugs at night.  Because the large stall is getting more crowded lately, Anya has been living in the big barnyard with the ewes, lambs, and chickens during the day, but then sleeping in the ram’s stall with him at night.  When we have an extra rooster we have one rooster living with the flock in the big barnyard and coop, and then one rooster living in one of chicken pens in the barn.  We generally only have two roosters for shorter amounts of time because I don’t like keeping any animals in tight quarters.  So I don’t want either rooster stuck in the indoor pen for longer than a few weeks at a time.  It is plenty of space, technically, but we like our livestock to have plenty of space, sun, and fresh air.

Right now we are having some rooster issues and need to make decisions.  But until we get around to that, Ben has been stuck inside and will be for who-knows-how-long.  So Sunshine suggested we try letting him live with the ram: in the back pen during the day, and then in the ram stall at night.  We moved him and he seems very happy.  The ram seems to like having a companion too.  It’s kind of funny – like a “bachelor” pen – ram and rooster.  And at night, the two of them, plus Anya in one stall is kind of funny too.  They each make their own little “nest” and bed down in the hay near each other.  The rooster has the option of sleeping on a roost, but for some reason he prefers to just cuddle down in the bedding.

Unlikely roommates, but everyone seems happy, and I am happy the roo isn’t closed in the small chicken pen all alone.

Sheep

Twilight has reached the age now where she is closed off from Autumn at night for milk-sharing.  That, plus the fact that we are now using an electric milker, have made it so we are getting enough milk from Autumn to start making yogurt.

It has been years since we had sheep’s milk yogurt and we were all very excited to make some.  We did it differently than we used to in several ways.  First, we used a culture powder from New England Cheesemaking Supply Co.  We chose the “Sweet” one.  Secondly, I was borrowing an Instant Pot from a friend, so we used it to make it instead of a pot on the stove and a cooler (more on that below).

It turned out SO good.  So creamy, and just super delicious.  We set aside 2T of the fresh yogurt to use to make the next batch.  You can take 2T out of each batch and use it to culture the next batch for about 8-10 times before you need to use the powder culture again.  I keep it in a small jar in the fridge.

Blizzard and Twilight are both growing like crazy and doing very well.  It is so fun to sit by the barnyard on the warm afternoons and watch them play.  There are SO many adorable pictures I can’t barely narrow it down of what to share with you all.

We have been busy training Daisy and Blue to the stanchions.  Daisy has now earned the name “Lazy Daisy” because she absolutely refuses to jump up on the stanchion, and even once she has been lifted up she lays down.  But we are making progress.

Daisy is the next sheep due, and she is due this week.  She has quite a belly going.  Looking forward to finding out how many are in there.  She will be giving birth to the last lambs ever from our favorite ram, Fergus.  So this is a pretty important birth for us.

Multi-Cooker

My slow cooker stopped functioning properly.  As I was looking to replace it, I remembered that my friend had recently been telling me about multi-cookers and that I should consider getting one.  So I started doing some research on them and found that they are supposed to be able to pressure cook, rice cook, slow cook, and make yogurt.  We have always had a rice cooker and a slow cooker.  I have previously made my yogurt on the stove and fermented it in a pre-heated cooler set in hot water.  And while I have a large pressure canner that I use, I have never pressure cooked anything.  But I had heard that pressure cooking is a great way to cook a tough old hen or rooster – which we have often around here.  So it seemed like the ideal thing to buy to replace what I already had, as well as adding more.  And since my slow cooker just broke, it was a good time to do it.  But I was reluctant because I was a bit skeptical that it could do all those things well.  So my friend let me borrow hers for a few days.

I started with pressure cooking a tough old hen we had in the freezer.  It turned out wonderfully!  The texture was better than most of the other ways I have cooked them before.  Then I put in a pork loin and BBQ sauce and slow cooked it.  Again, great results.  Then I tried the sheep’s milk yogurt, and as I said above it was much less work for me and turned out great.  The next thing I tried was the rice cooker function.  The rice turned out less-soft than we prefer, but it seemed to me that the water/grain ratio was the problem.  They suggested in the directions a 1:1 ratio, and that was just too dry.  So I think the machine would work great for rice cooking once I had the right ratio.  The last thing we made in it was a meatloaf on the slow cooker setting.  Again, wonderful results.

So I guess I will be getting one of these amazing contraptions!

Chickens

Mama hen, Cinnamon, is doing well with her chicks.  It has been kind of an interesting situation that resembles a crazy math problem.  Cinnamon started with 12 eggs, but due to a rooster issue we had at the time only 5 were fertile.  3 hatched, and then we purchased 10 more and gave them to her to raise.  She happily accepted them, but due to shipping stress 5 of the purchased ones died, plus one of her original 3 died as well.  The store gave us 5 more to replace the ones that died since they knew that they were weak when they sold them to us.  Then one of those died.  So now she has 11 chicks that are doing well.  12-8=5-2=3+10=13-6=7+5=12-1=11.  We are used to infant mortality, having a farm means you have to be used to it.  But this has been quite a chick roller-coaster.  Hopefully it is done and the rest will survive.

For some reason this batch of chicks really loves being on their mama hen’s back, which is just adorable.  But mama’s aggressive protectiveness makes it difficult to get good photos.

Homestead Projects

Because we are in the early stages of our dairy sheep breeding program, we are currently keeping more sheep than we usually do so that we can select the best ones for our purposes and sell the others.  Since we have more sheep than we are used to housing, we needed another feeder in the big stall to help spread out the eating and be sure the sheep lower in the pecking order still get enough food.  Mtn Man and Braveheart built it pretty much the same as our last one, just on the other side of the stall.

It turned out great and the sheep were happy to check it out.

Then Anya, since she is part of the flock and might think she is a sheep, had to check it out too.  🙂

Heritage Arts

I finally grew overwhelmed and bored with my two knitting projects on the needles because they are both so big and so far from done.  I desperately needed something new to work on, and something that would give me the satisfaction of finishing something.  Mtn Man had requested a simple ribbed hat made from the yarn he made from Autumn’s 2020 fleece.  So I whipped that up for him in a couple of days.

I felt better, but still needed something new.  So I cast on (and hooked on) two new projects.  One is the Windswept Shawl, by Paulina Popeolic, made with some oh-so-soft and drape-y alpaca yarn Mtn Man made me.

And the second is a crocheted sock scrap yarn afghan.  I love the afghan I made last year from my sock scraps.  But I still have a ton of scrap sock yarn.  I decided to go with a wave crochet pattern for this one.

Work continues on the dress for Little Miss, and the Match Play Poncho as well.  But I definitely needed a little break from them.  The dress is now 418 stitches in one round, and continuing to increase fast, so it takes forever to do one round.  And I have a LONG way to go on it because she wants it calf-length.

I finished the front of the Match Play Poncho, and have just barely started the back.

Milk-Sharing

I am excited to announce that I am now blogging for Mother Earth News.

I am looking forward to this opportunity to share some of what we learn here at Willow Creek Farm through a new platform.  I will also, of course, continue blogging here as usual.

Head on over to Mother Earth News to check out my latest post, Milk-Sharing: Milk a Dairy Animal Without Removing the Baby, where I share how we manage our dairy animals more naturally by leaving the baby with the mother, and still get milk for our own use.