Sunday Homestead Update

Its been a chilly week here as we close in on the end of the year and head into the hardest part of winter.

Knitting

I continue to work on my cabled cardigan.  I am to the sleeves now!  I love how it is turning out and cannot wait to see it finished and blocked (blocking will stretch out the cables and help it not be so scrunched up).

Heritage Arts

There are so many awesome projects going on around here as everyone makes homemade Christmas gifts for eachother.  But I can’t show you any yet.  Sorry.  I will post tons of pics of everything after all the gift giving is done so as not to ruin the surprises.

The Smokehouse

We have had a successful year of hunting and we are now preparing the latest Elk for the smokehouse.  Mtn Man took the ribeye and is curing them.  They stay in that for 21 days and then will head into the smokehouse for a day.  We are excited to use it again, this will only be our second try at it.  We are making changes based on our learning curve from the first try and are hopeful it will be even better this time.  We will let you know how it turns out!

Life

It’s been a while since I posted.  Life has been overwhelming lately.  This blog focuses on our little homestead.  I generally stay away from discussing the rest of our life because I just want this to be about our homestead.  But because homesteading is a lifestyle sometimes there is no way to not bring other topics into the light.

If you have been following for long you know that our baby has struggled medically for two years now.  He has had 6 surgeries and hospitalizations in his very short life, as well as countless appointments, tests, and procedures.  All of which occurs at least 2 hours away from our home, sometimes farther.  The solidity of the homestead has been helpful through this time.  The homestead stays the same, shifting routinely as the seasons change, in a way that is comforting.  We know lambs will arrive each spring, along with chicks and higher egg production.  Shearing happens towards the end of winter.  Planting and harvesting come and go on the same cycle each year.  And those things have given us a solid footing when the rest of our life is shifting and changing almost daily.  When the prognosis for our son changes drastically before and after each surgery, the homestead is still there, staying the same.  We love homesteading.  It is so fulfilling.

But it is also a lot of work.  The homestead can’t be put on hold.  Animals must be fed, chores tended to, twice a day, every day, no matter the weather, no matter our health, it must be done.  If we need to be at the children’s hospital someone must be here to tend to things.

Our son has an extremely rare condition.  There are only 14 documented cases ever in history.  12 of those kids died.  2 are still alive because their bodies somehow healed the issue on their own.  And then there is our son, he is number 15.  And they don’t know how to fix it.  That is scary to say the least.  At first we weren’t truly able to understand what this would mean for our life, and really neither could the doctors.  We tried juggling the homestead and the medical stuff, along with regular life.  We tried downsizing this or that.  We tried changing how we did things to make them easier.  And not knowing how long this would last made us hold desperately to the dream of our solid, comforting homestead life.  Will they be able to fix it this week?  Or next month?  Or a year from now?  When will we have our stability back?  We don’t know.  We don’t know how long this will go on.  And that is very hard.

It is apparent now that our previous homesteading lifestyle is not longer a possibility and that we need to shift and accept the new situation we are in.  We cannot do all that we used to do and do it well.  We have stretched ourselves too thin over the last two years because we just didn’t know how long this would last or what it would be like.  So we needed to make decisions to help our family get back to a place of peace and thriving instead of just surviving each day.  So we made the very difficult decision to significantly downsize the homestead for the indefinite future so that we can devote all our time to our family, businesses, and to this medical stuff.  We need to simplify our life as much as possible and still find ways to enjoy each day and do the things that bring us joy.

First the milk goats were gone, milking being one of the most time-consuming aspects of the farm.  Since we had only had them a short time, that felt pretty easy.  And we can buy from the same breeder in the future.

But then it was time to sell the flock of sheep.  This was much harder.  We have been building this flock for 4 years now and selectively breeding and buying to build just the right fiber-producing flock with a perfect variety of textures and colors.  We were very attached to each individual sheep.  We are happy that they were able to go together as a group to a farm not far off.  We know they will have a good home and in the future when we re-build up the livestock on the homestead we will be able to buy sheep from their lines.  But it was a very hard day on the whole family when they left.  There were definitely tears.  But both Mtn Man and I believe that it was the right decision for where we are now and what we are facing.

More decisions need to be made.  But for now we are living with the new situation and seeing what we think of it.  We are desperate to find a way to keep our sweet LGD Anya.  We have put a lot of effort into training her and we are all very VERY attached to that sweet girl.  However, if we remove everything she guards I think she will be unhappy and bored out of her mind.  We have contemplated bringing her indoors and making her a pet, but that seems pretty unlikely to work for many reasons.  So for now we have rearranged the chickens to make them as easy as possible to care for, and she is guarding them.  We will see how this goes.  We might need to downsize the chickens to just a few in the lower coop and shut down the barn completely.  But that would mean decisions about what to do with Anya.  So for now we wait, and pray, and we will see what happens.

Meanwhile, while dealing with all these decisions and changes, and an extra dose of medical stuff lately, we are also taking time to slow down and enjoy our Advent season.  We are concentrating on remembering the promises that led up to the birth of our Savior.  We are looking forward to a nice, calm, and restful Christmas this year to rejuvenate us before another slew of medical stuff hits soon-after.

I plan to keep blogging about the homestead, but I don’t totally know exactly which direction it will take.  As our life journey shifts so does our homesteading adventure and the story of us.  I don’t know exactly which parts will make it to the blog and which wont…we are just taking it one day at a time right now.

Sunday Homestead Update

Happy Thanksgiving to my readers from the US.  I hope you all had a nice day with your loved ones.  We had a wonderful day with great food and great fellowship.  We follow Thanksgiving day with a tradition we call “Holiday Fun Weekend” where we decorate for Christmas, make Christmas candies, play games, watch movies, start our advent celebration, and just have a laid-back fun time together as a family.  We decided not to put up the tree quite yet this year, and since Advent doesn’t start until next weekend we held off on most of the Christmas decorating.  But we did put up a few things.  And we made some yummy candies and enjoyed games and time together.

It was our first time trying maple sugar candy.  We didn’t have any molds to pour into, so we poured into cupcake liners and then broke it into chunks.  Not as pretty, but still delicious!

We also made our traditional Old Fashioned Christmas Candy, and some eggnog fudge.

Raspberry Flavored Old-Fashioned hard candy

Root Beer Flavored Old-Fahsioned Hard Candy

Eggnog Fudge

Garden

The last of the tomatoes have ripened and been canned this week.  Last year my longest keeping variety lasted until Christmas, but this year they didn’t keep quite as long.  I have been saving seeds from my Long Keeper variety for a few years now – saving from the ones that lasted the longest each year.  But it is clear that they cross pollinated last year, because they are supposed to be a red tomato, and as you can see, they are not.

That might have added to why they didn’t keep as long.  So I need to see if I still have seeds from two years ago, before they crossed, and I can start again with those.  Or I could keep going with this variety – the color is pretty cool with the yellow and blush stripes – but I think I really want to keep going with more pure strain that keeps longer.  I am saving seeds from these anyway, but I am going to mark them as a cross-breed.

Knitting

I am chugging along on my cardigan.  Almost done with the body, then on to the neck and front band, and then the sleeves.  I am really happy with it thus far, and I know it will look much better when it is blocked.  Can’t wait to finish it!

Chickens

Mrs. Arabel and her 4 chicks are doing well.  We finally got some pictures of them.  Two are looking to end up white and one brown and one buff.  They are oh-so-cute.

I know this is a terrible picture because it is through the wire, however, the chicks are so cute when they poke their heads out from under their mom and they never do it when the door is open so the only way to see it is through the wire.  Can you find all three?

Sheep

Well, the sheep breeding adventure is definitely turning out to be an interesting learning experience.  As I discussed in this previous post, this is our first year using our own ram for breeding, and our ram is just on the edge of being old enough to breed, so we didn’t really know how it would go.

We have been keeping a close eye on the barnyard and the sheep for five weeks now since we put the ram in with the ewes.  The first 12 days or so were very uneventful.  Then we saw that Agnes was in standing heat.  Fergus was trying to breed her, but we didn’t see anything we considered successful breeding.  I noted it on the calendar and marked the date she should come back into heat if she wasn’t pregnant.  Then we went a couple of weeks with nothing happening at all.  Then we saw Toffee in standing heat and saw him again attempting, but it didn’t look successful.  We marked it down and marked when her next heat should be.  Meanwhile, the last mature ewe, Fiona, at no point showed any signs of heat, despite the fact that we had put the ram in with her for over 4 weeks and a ewe’s heat cycle is approximately 17 days.  The two younger ewes shouldn’t be mature enough to breed yet, but we did see him attempting to breed Daffodil, though she wouldn’t stand for him, so I guess we just don’t know.

Last weekend we arrived at what should have been Agnes’ second heat cycle, but she never went back into heat.  That was surprising.  So it seems that the only thing we can guess from that is that she did get pregnant, even though it didn’t seem like it was successful.  We will continue to watch Toffee to see if she comes back into heat or not, she is due to come back in the 3rd.  And we are continuing to try to figure out why Fiona hasn’t shown any signs of heat at all.

Hopefully all of them are getting pregnant.  Time will tell.  We will preg test them all in the next couple of months.

Homesteading is a constant learning process and a constant adventure.  🙂

Seasonal Cloth Placemat and Napkin Sets

This whole idea started back in June of 2016.  I love to decorate my house in little ways to match the seasons.  One of those ways is by decorating the dining room table.  I had always wanted to have a set of placemats and napkins that matched each season.

So in June of 2016 I decided to start working towards that goal.  Each set was made with the placemat being reversible, and a different napkin to match each side of the placemat.  And then, because there were a lot of little triangle shaped scraps left from cutting the corners off of the placemats, Little Miss and Sunshine made trivet pads with the scraps to match the sets as well.

I made a Summer/4th of July set first.

Then I made the Autumn/Thanksgiving set.

I skipped Winter/Christmas that year for several reasons, and in the spring of 2017 made the Spring/Easter set.

Then I just now finally finished the last of the sets with the Winter/Christmas set.

It is so great to have all the sets done!  Our whole family really enjoys having the table decorated with each season and holiday and I am so glad I made all these.  They will last for a long time and we will have many family memories shared while using them.

If you want to read the post about how to make these, click here.  With all the fabric choices out there you are sure to find something that matches your style just right.  They make great gifts, too.