Sunday, May 31, 2020

A Tragic Week On The Homestead

Earlier this week I was feeding hay to the animals. The last cut has had me a bit concerned. It didn't seem to be curing out very well. The last few bales have been dusty. We started checking bales and discovered the moisture content is still way too high. This cut will be a total loss. 300 bales. We have never had this happen. Heartbreaking to say the least. 2020 is going to go down as one of the strangest years in my life.
The second heartbreaking blow came late yesterday afternoon. Last week we had 2 more sets of lambs born for a total of 6. Normally it takes the mom's a day or two to bring them down but I check everyday on them. So, yesterday afternoon hubby headed to the range and I was getting ready to catch up the blog with daily happenings here on the homestead. Just as I started to write I saw the sheep coming in. However, each ewe only had 1 lamb. I immediately put on my boots and went to check. I kept trying to convince myself that the others were napping somewhere. After walking every square inch of the pasture I found no signs of the lambs at all. At that point I knew in my heart we had lost them to a fox. I was (still am) beyond devastated. I spent the next hour securing all the animals in the barn. When Hubby got home I was still crying. Needless to say it was a long night and I didn't sleep at all. In 24 years of raising sheep I have only lost 2 lambs to outside predators and those were years apart. 3 lambs in one night ...
This morning we walked the fence line and found where it had dug under the fence. I got it repaired. The sheep will continue to stay in the barn at night until the lambs are big enough to not be attacked. Sometimes life is very hard on the homestead.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Pools And Poultry

Happy Memorial Day!
Up early to check the pool situation. We cleaned the pump filters, checked lines and turned it back on. It does not seem to be leaking and the water is circulating enough that I can begin to kill off the algae. There are still some issues going on and we will have to wait until repair people make it out. But for now it is limping along.

Then it was on to my next project, freezing the chickens butchered Saturday. This would not have taken 3 hours had I not kept having interruptions. The first was hubby. He needed lunch. The second was my favorite form of work stoppage, my granddaughter. They came in to pick up some of the chicken to cook tonight. At 15 months old she is a pure joy to be around. Then it was a phone call from my sister saying a neighbor needed some hay for their newly purchased horse. I finally got them done. We got right at 50 pounds of meat from the 15 birds. Half we left whole and the rest we cut up.
 We are extremely pleased with these birds. The last few times we have butchered we have been late getting to them and they were pretty big. Not a bad thing for a pot of dumplings but not the best for grilling.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

After breakfast this morning I headed to the garden. It has been a wet miserable week and I wanted to get in there and see what havoc Mother Nature had wreaked. Surprisingly things looked pretty good. A few green bean seeds had been washed up out of the ground. The strawberries of course were mostly rotten from all the rain. I don't imagine we will be picking many until we get a dry warm stretch of weather. The turnips are up as well as the  okra. I spent an hour or so weeding the potatoes.
Once hubby had finished his shop work, we loaded the Gator with our bee stuff. Today we are putting on the first super. The hives are doing great and have totally filled out 2 brood boxes.
We spent another hour or so tidying up the orchard. There were still some weeds around the base of the trees and bushes.
After lunch I put together some Chorizo baked black beans for a family get together this evening. We are looking forward to spending some time with family. It has been a while since we were all together. Even though we all live next to each other on the compound we have been careful of visiting with mom and dad who are both in their 80's.
I went ahead and did evening chores a bit early because we were off to the next big project. The pool. Sigh. Our pool is 12 years old and for the last 2 or 3 years it has been a pain to deal with. I have visions of turning it into a Tilapia pond or maybe an in ground greenhouse or heck just filling the darn thing with dirt! If it weren't for the kids that may well have already happened. I knew air was getting into the lines somewhere and thought I had it figured out. When I called to have someone out to repair it they told me it would be 3 weeks. Of course in the interim it was turning a more hideous shade of green daily. Doug agreed to humor me and take a look. We found 2 places where it was leaking and drawing air. We put some silicone caulk on it and shut it down for the evening.  We will know for sure tomorrow.
We took a quick shower and were off to have some fun. I love our family get together's. It is quite comical when everyone arrives on various ATV's and golf carts loaded down with food and coolers.
Four generations shared lots of laughter and love and food this Memorial Day weekend.
Life is good... on the homestead. 💖💖

Saturday, May 23, 2020

First Round -Chicken Butchering Day

We were up at daylight to process our first round of meat birds. We set up last night for the most part but still needed ice and to wipe down the sinks. Hubby went to get ice while I caught and loaded the birds in a smaller pen.
Sinks all clean, water heated up and we were ready to start.

We processed 15 birds. It took us 1 hour and 26 minutes from the time we killed the first bird until the last one went in the cooler.
Part of that time was waiting for a clean pot of scalding water to heat. I think  next time I will use the double burner and have 2 pots going to shave off some time. We also decided we need permanent lighting over the sink. It was cloudy this morning and since we enclosed the wall behind the sinks it was a little dark even though we mounted a make shift light.
We have 26 more to go in a few weeks and are deciding if we want to do a third round.
Not bad since we didn't process any last year and were a tad rusty!
After cleaning up I took a quick shower and was off to milk the cow and do early day chores.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Of Course She Would

Yep in the middle of the pouring down rain that has not let up all day our first Icelandic lambs were born. Thankfully mama had sense enough to bring them up to the barn. She was in no mood for newborn photos however.
A set of solid moorit lambs, 1 ewe and 1 ram.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Rainy Day Preserving

Oh and the rain has arrived. It poured all night long and has not let up today. Looks like afternoon chores will soggy for sure.
Today I needed to can some beef bone broth that I cooked in my roaster for several days. I had strained it well and put in the fridge to let the fat separate. When I started skimming I knew I could not toss all that glorious fat. It was so rich and lovely looking. Once the broth was in the canner I did a lazy version of rendering the beef fat or tallow. I melted it and let all the particles fall to the bottom and strained it as I ladled hot fat into hot jars and lids. I got 3 quarts of broth and 4, 1/2 pint jars of tallow.
I plan to have some country fried cube steak using this very soon. Yum.
Other preserving this morning was a batch of strawberry jam and 4 quarts capped and frozen for later use.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Today I spent a lot of time preparing for the upcoming rain. I opened up the barn so all of the animals would have ample space to move around since no sheep or goat in their right mind would stand out in the rain and the overhang would probably get a bit crowded! I scattered extra hay buckets to fill tomorrow and hope that everyone plays nice.
I also moved the second round of meat birds to the brooder. It has been so cool and windy I wanted them to have a little age on them before going out.

Late in the afternoon I was able to snap a couple of pics of the Canadian Goose babies that hatched a few weeks ago. We have a love hate relationship with them but it has been fun watching them grow. In all the years we have been here (29) we have not had any nest on our pond.
Every afternoon they bring the babies up to the barn to clean up any feed the goats have left.
Once the babies feather out and are big enough, I plan to let them know their lease is up and they need to move on!
Late that evening Hubby and I tag teamed the new orchard getting it mowed and trimmed before the rains came. However, the rains came early and we both got soaked. The orchard is settling in nicely and we even picked a handful of blueberries!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Hitting The Garden Hard

Next week the weather forecast is calling for 5-8 inches of rain. The spring has been so crazy with weather ups and downs we are behind in the garden. This was a must get her in kind of weekend.
Our original plan had been to plow in the rye cover crop in the upper field garden but we decided to hold off thinking it will probably dry quicker untouched. The old garden as we call it was our main focus this weekend.
First on the list was to stake and tie up tomatoes. We have 75 planted for our first crop. We will be starting more for the upper field garden for a later and continuous harvest.
Hubby mowed down the fall kale and the last of the chamomile to make room for peppers. We planted 61 various varieties. We will also be planting more in the upper garden as well. Our green beans are up but were a bit spotty in germinating, so I filled in between with more seeds. I planted a few turnips. We also planted okra, cucumbers and several kinds of squash. The rest of our time was spent weeding strawberries and cultivating between the rows.
We picked another 2 gallons of strawberries and broccoli. 

 Busy weekend and got a lot done. Garden looks lovely don't you think? ;-)

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Sad Hay Day

On Monday we mowed another hay field. This week was supposed to be cool but clear and sunny with the temps reaching mid 80's by baling day. Monday night we had the slightest of rain showers, So slight it was not wet under the trees. However, it was enough to affect the hay. Today we baled but noticed a lot of the beautiful green color was missing. We made the decision to only bale enough square bales to fill the barn since we will not market this hay for horses. We happened to have a fellow baling round bales on our road and he was happy to finish the field for us. We put up 344 square bales and he round baled another 14. We kept six and a person with cows was thrilled to take the rest off our hands. Good hay but not great hay. Hubby prides himself on his premium horse hay but once again Mother Nature let us know we are not in control!
And that is just another day of life on the homestead.

Guinea Fowl

Several weeks ago hubby said he wanted Guineas. My only question was WHY? I like Guineas he said. Don't you? Nope I don't. Well I'd like to have some. We used to have them. What happened to them. My answer. We ate them. They were loud, they were obnoxious, they were DUMB. And we ate them and they were delicious.
The next week he happened to ride with me to the feed store. Did you order my guineas he asked in front of the owner. No. Owner said we have them coming you want some? Not really. Hubby pipes up. Can't a man have some guineas for Father's Day? Seriously?? He pulled the Father's Day card on me?? Owner scribbled something down. Three weeks ago the feed store called and said Hubby's birds were here. Sigh. I went to pick them up and they had ordered me 12. TWELVE!
Hubby is so proud of his birds. Right now they are living in a cage inside a pen and being moved indoors at night. He thinks they are awesome. At this age they are kind of cute but don't think for a minute I don't have those recipe cards close by!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Rendering Lard

I'm still working on freezer space for the chickens.
Today I rendered lard. I have done it several different ways and tried a new one this time. I did it stove top in cast iron and heavy stainless steel pots. This is the way I'll be doing it from now on. It was the quickest and produced the most beautiful end product. I cut up the slightly frozen leaf lard fat into small cubes and put it over very low heat. Some people add water, I did not. After it started to melt I adjusted to temp to keep at a very low simmer.
I let it simmer until most of the fat was melted out, stirring occasionally. The picture below is about halfway through the process.
It took about 2 hours for it to render. I didn't wait for the cracklings to get totally crispy. I strained it and put it in hot jars with hot used lids and rings. They all sealed and are just lovely! Though it should be shelf stable I will be keeping it in the fridge because my pantry can get a little warm during the summer. Today's yield was 4 pints. I will let you know how the biscuits turn out!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Miss Violet is loving being moved onto the freshly mowed hay field. She spends her days quietly chomping on grass and making lots of creamy milk. Every morning she blesses us with 2 gallons.
This week I made more clabber cheese and vanilla yogurt.
 The strawberries are beginning to ripen. Soon I will be having dessert for breakfast!

Monday, May 11, 2020

Got The Beef!

After morning chores Mom and I headed off to pick up the beef we had processed a couple of weeks ago. We are extremely pleased with our end product. Milk raised, grass fed and finished on a small amount of organic feed.
We ended up with 275 lbs of actual meat. It took quite a bit of arranging to get it all in the freezers! This should see us through the next year or so and that includes sharing with family.

Steaks are on the menu for tomorrow night.

Next chore... make room for chickens that are slated to be butchered in two weeks!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Mowing Hay

The last few days we have been busy mowing and baling hay. Almost 800 bales this cut. The fields were lush and beautiful this year.
Monday we mowed.
Tuesday we teddered. This process spreads out the hay and helps it dry a little faster.
Today we baled.
It was picked up and in the barn it went!

Friday, May 1, 2020

Let's Catch Up Part 4 - April

This was an interesting month for sure. To be quite honest not much changed in my world except for the fact I wasn't leaving to work my dogs each week. I stayed busy learning new skills in the kitchen. I helped my sister in the greenhouse. We plotted and planned our garden this year. We have plans to add a new one. I placed a couple of online orders for fresh produce a time or two. I made two trips out to the feed store.

Meanwhile, back on the homestead...
The first weekend of the month my new bees were set to arrive. I got the hives ready and waiting.
We got the new asparagus bed done and planted 70 crowns. To the right of the beds in the first pic will be the high tunnel hoop houses. THIS is FINALLY the year! Yay! there will be 2 each will be 14 feet wide and 36 feet long.

 Our last goat kidded and blessed us with 2 beautiful does!
The boys got the chicken tractor fixed. The meat birds were moved out of the brooder.
The strawberries, blackberries and blueberries are loaded with blooms. I think it is going to be a bountiful year.

I have been harvesting greens from the pots planted last month and the garden is coming along nicely.

We dropped the bull at the end of the month and should have him back in about 2 weeks.
Life is good... on the homestead.

Let's Catch Up Part 3 - March

March is the month that the homestead start picking up pace. Garden prep gets started. Early plants and potatoes go in the ground. Very busy times for sure.
The new layer chicks arrived the first part of the month. 8 speckled sussex are set to join the flock later this spring.
Our first set of lambs were born. They are a suffolk/icelandic cross. A ram and a ewe. They are pretty stinking cute and were born with short tails. No docking needed!
I attempted to make Brie cheese.
Sadly, it was an epic failure. ;-( But I will try again!

Towards the middle of the month things in the world were getting a little strange.  (aka "the virus")
I started to feel the need to stock up on livestock and dog food. I added several hundred pounds to our normal amount. I ordered some extra seafood from our local guy to freeze. I usually buy fresh each week but he said he wasn't sure what was coming or even if he could get any later on.

Towards the end of the month there was talk of a "stay at home order" being issued.  Every time I went out I felt a sense of panic in people. It was very unsettling. The shelves at the grocery stores were beginning to look bare. On the 25th of the month I had to pick up a prescription for one of my dogs at the grocery store pharmacy. When I walked in I was shocked. The shelves were empty, things were piled high in carts and panic mode was in full force. I felt sorry for so many. I could not leave that place fast enough.
On the 26th the meat birds came in. I picked them up with a little more extra feed, got them home and settled. That evening the order was handed down to start on the 27th at 5 p.m.

That weekend instead of planting flowers in my pots I planted food. Lettuce, green onions, kale and arugula.
 I also made homemade hamburger buns.
These small things brought peace to my heart in what I felt was a brewing storm.