It has been another few weeks of busy-ness around here. Sorry for the absence. I realized I haven’t even taken any photos! To catch you up a bit, though…
Building: I built more shelves. Lots of shelves. I will die happy if I never build another shelf, but unfortunately, I have at least 3 more to finish, which means planing, installing, painting, you get the idea. I got a little help on a couple of projects from an in-law who lives close by and is very good with construction, I finally have desks, shelves, and a reading closet in both the girls’ and boys’ room, plus a new “activity counter” with 2 more desks and some shelves in our loft. I promise photos soon. I have a little more tweaking to finish it all.
Unpacking: I’ve been slowly unpacking for almost 4 months. Every move in the past has taken 2-3 weeks, tops. Every house in the past, though, has had shelves and not been a farm when we moved in. This house had almost no shelves, hence all the building. Trying to move a family of 7 with a large homeschool library into a 3 bedroom, 1900 square foot house with little storage was challenging to say the least. I’m getting there, though. My upstairs still has paths, but the paths are widening by the day. I’m almost there.
Visiting: Nana (my mom) heard my inner plea for help, and came to stay for a while. She has been here about 2 weeks so far, and has been a tremendous help. She is filling my normal domestic and mommy role to a great extent, while I focus on finishing many of these necessary outdoor and construction projects.
Homeschooling: We started our school year the last week of August. N is K4, A is K5, M is 2nd grade, and JR is 4th grade. And I still haven’t taken their annual school pictures. Add that to my list of “to-do’s.” We are doing Abeka Academy again this year, and loving it. N and A take a lot of focus, which Nana is mostly handling right now. Once she leaves, the first half of my day will mostly be spent sitting beside them as they work. JR and M are totally independent, though. R is always into things, so that’s why God gave mommies (and Nana’s) eyes in the back of their heads.
More visiting: S came home!!! Only for a quick visit, but it was great! I had a short list of projects he worked on for me, the kids got their “daddy-fix” while wrestling, jumping on the trampoline (oh, yeah, I spent 2 days assembling that thing!), and just being with him. Then I got my time with him when Nana agreed to watch the kiddos while we headed over to a Bed and Breakfast for the night.
Goats: I’m trying to sell my 2 remaining goat kids, but I’m finding dairy goats are not as popular here as they were in CO. It’s a much harder sell around here. In the mean time, I have had to move poor Pride (our buckling) out with the pigs, to ensure he doesn’t breed Caramel (our too-small doeling). To reduce my workload, I’ve also gone to once a day milking. I’m not exactly sure how the milk will hold up, especially since I’m considering milking through rather than breeding this fall, but I’ll just play that one as the time passes.
Cattle: Red Bull finally went home. He was sweet and never gave me a days trouble–unless you count the time he somehow got into an adjacent paddock to the cows, the other time when he bred my dairy heifer without permission, or the time when he decided to scratch on an old fence and succeeded in knocking it down, releasing all the cows into the pig forest. No biggie, though. They were still inside the perimeter fence. I just set up a water trough down lower in the pasture so they had to come out of the woods periodically so I could check on them. It actually made my day easier temporarily, and started some clearing in the next section the pigs will move to. That all being said, the day finally arrived for the sweet bull to go home. As soon as he saw his owner approaching with the halter, he turned into a beast. He completely mangled a 5 foot cattle panel as he lept over it (trying to get AWAY from his owner), then easily cleared 3 hot wire fences. Watching a 1,000 pounds of pure muscle soar gracefully over a fence without hardly touching it is a very impressive sight indeed! I was finally able to halter my jersey, Abbigail, and lead her to a stall in the barn, and that finally got Red Bull distracted enough to follow her so he could be confined and caught. Once caught, he walked out of the barn and hopped up in that trailer with a grace and timeliness that would shame any horse.
Chickens: While S was home, our biggest project was harvesting our 25 Cornish Cross meat birds. We used our new Featherman Pro chicken plucker too. Can I just say, THAT. WAS. AWEWOME!!!!! Expensive, yes, but totally awesome. We may decide to rent it to other home poultry raisers to try to help pay for it. Otherwise, it’ll take like 50 years to pay the thing off. But, then again, when I consider the fact that I will never have to pluck another bird, I realize it is priceless! We did 25 birds in about 3 hours, but that includes all the stops and distractions we had with the kiddos and lack of preparation here at this new farm. The replacement pullets are growing well. They still live in the barn, but free-range the pastures all day. Our layers are also doing well. We’ve had one go broody on us, so I got smart and decided to get some fertile eggs from a friend. Unfortunately, at the same time she went broody, another has become an egg-eater. I have no idea which girl it is, but in addition to eating 1 or more of our eggs each day, she has also destroyed 6 of the 8 fertile eggs. I’m not sure any will survive to hatch. Other hens are randomly kicking the broody hen off her nest each day to lay their eggs, and one of them is eating some while doing so. I tried moving the broody hen into the barn, but she refused the new nest, and after 24 hours, I released her, only to have her run straight back to her original nest in the coop. Oh well. I guess she’ll just have to go through the natural cycle for a while, and then we’ll try again next year when our new roosters can ensure all our eggs are fertile. In addition to losing eggs to an egg-eating hen, we are also losing a few chickens lately. The girls–both the older ones, and the younger replacement ones, have begun doing some foraging deep in the woods, outside of the main pasture and perimeter fence. There are openings on one side of the perimeter where the hens can get through, but the dogs and other animals can’t. Obviously, the dogs can’t protect the girls on that side of the fence, so some of them never seem to make it back up. I remain hopeful that one or two may have gone broody and are just hiding down there. Realistically, though, I’m pretty confident they were some wild critter’s lunch. We’ve lost 4 older hens and 5 little ones. There isn’t much I can do about it right now, except hope that the remaining ones will learn and stay in the fence. Only time will tell.
Rabbits: Nothing too new there, other than the fact that we harvested our summer litter. That takes us back to our one mature doe, 2 mature bucks, and 2 young does that that we brought with us from CO, and will be ready for breeding in December.
Donkey: The only farm vehicle I have around here is a 4-wheeler. I use it to haul supplies down to the pig paddocks, to move my portable shelters, to haul wagon loads of dirt, to haul fence posts, and to have fun. Before we left CO, S and I decided that Shiloh, the donkey would help earn her keep by becoming a work donkey. We bought a little homemade driving cart to start out with. After we moved, I ordered her a custom donkey harness. With the number of projects I had this summer though, I never really had a chance to teach Shiloh to drive. Then, my 4-wheeler–long over-due for a tune-up and basic maintenance–essentially died on me. While it’s waiting for a ride to a shop, I’ve had to get creative. There are still water buckets, feed, dirt, and fencing that has to be hauled. Time for Shiloh! I reviewed the basics of long-reigning I had taught Shiloh in the past, spent a few days reviewing all her basics and getting her accustomed to her new harness, and then took full and total advantage of her being a calm and laid back donkey rather than a flighty horse, and hooked her up to the cart. Since Nana was here at that point, she offered some assistance for safety in the early stages, but Shiloh took to it with ease. She still has a little trouble turning in the cart, but that is likely due in great part to the fact the shafts on the cart wound up way too big for her. Now, I have my first real equine-power on the farm. I can hitch her up to the cart, and then use the cart to haul all the buckets, feed bags, materials, etc, she can drag small logs, and more. Eventually we will get new shafts that fit better, but I use these in the mean time. Pictures will follow as soon as I get the chance.
Dogs and cats: Due to the unintended and unexpected increase in cats around here, I wound up rehoming our barn cat, Katie, and her litter of 6 kittens. A new farm was looking for a whole slew of cats to stock their barn with, and they jumped at the chance when they heard about her. That leaves us with Sarah and her litter of 5 kittens, and she is much better mannered as a house cat, so I have a better chance of keeping her indoors until she can be spayed. The only cat outside at the moment is Shadow. Callie is still inside, as always. Will, the house pet, has loved having all these cats around. He has discovered there is always a dish of cat food sitting around somewhere, and has become quite adept at finding all my hiding spots. As a result, he has gained somewhere between 5 and 10 pounds over the last 6 weeks. At this point, my hiding places are getting higher and higher up on shelves, in an attempt to keep them accessible to the cats, but well out of Will’s reach. Iris and Athena are doing great. In fact, Iris has entered her fall heat cycle, and I am debating breeding her this fall or waiting until spring. I finally found the (hopefully) perfect stud dog. He is in the next state, so quite a drive, but he is of the Colorado Mountain Dog breeding and quality I am looking for, and has already proven himself as a guardian and homestead-type dog. As usual, we’ll see how this plays out.
Pigs: The pigs are growing well on their forest forage diet. I continue to supplement with excess milk and eggs (though the eggs are few and far between with an egg-eating hen on our hands!), and occasional organic grains. I am working on setting up their next paddock this weekend. I estimate their weight to be around 100 lbs. now, so I think they are growing well. I should research and find out averages for this breed so I have something to compare to. Whatever the weight, they are big enough now that the kids don’t really go in the paddock unsupervised. The pigs are very friendly, and in their quest for attention, plenty big enough they could easily knock a child down.
That pretty much brings you up to speed for now. There’s never a dull moment around here, that’s for sure!!