All Around Homestead Update

All Around Homestead Update

It’s been a little while since we’ve been on here last thanks to a stomach bug that ripped through our household last week. Only Rachel made it through unscathed on that one. The boys and I got walloped pretty bad. Daniel was the toughest. Daniel doesn’t have the self awareness the older boys do to get to the bathroom in time, so wherever he happened to be was precisely where he would get sick. Consequently, we put about 2,000 miles on our washing machine in just a 3 day period.

Also this past week: Daniel turned FOUR! Fortunately all household illnesses were over by the time his birthday happened.

The farm and all the critters are doing well, albeit (mostly) nonproductive. Here’s what’s going on:

1. No Eggs

Or sometimes 1 egg. The chickens slow down production during the darker months of the year, and now is it. The ducks haven’t been giving us eggs at all. It’s not because they’ve stopped laying, it’s because they’re EATING THEM! They need to go – be productive or be food.

These guys are basically freeloaders at this point. Unless something changes – fast – they won’t be around much longer. Egg eating habits can be broken (no pun intended), but it’s not easy.

2. Flora is Dry

Yesterday was her last milking before she freshens in about 8 weeks. We’re left with just Pepper’s milk for now. We actually *gasp* have a milk SHORTAGE! In the last ten months we’ve had so much milk that we’ve been giving it to the cats and chickens to avoid it from going bad. This means no more cheesemaking for a couple of months.

This is what happens to raw milk when left out – it doesn’t go bad, it sours and then clabbers. It certainly doesn’t look attractive, but this is actually highly nutritious chicken feed.

3. Is she or isn’t she?

Flora is bred, I’m near 100% confident on that. So we’ll have at least 1 milking goat this year. We still aren’t sure about Pepper. I think she’s getting bigger, but it could just be me fooling myself. The difficult thing is that does carry their pregnancies differently just like human mothers do. Flora carries all over: you can see her abdomen busting out on all sides and she’s starting to waddle like a penguin. Pepper just gains a little bit of circumference around her middle while her sides remain sleek and lean – which makes me wonder whether she’s carrying at all. I remember MaryAnn on Gilligan’s Island once saying that farming is “One part soil, two parts water, three parts sunshine, and four parts prayer.” You can say that again! *Please, let Pepper be pregnant*

You can see from the top that she’s still nice and lean. As opposed to Flora….
… whose pregnancy is becoming increasingly evident by the day. See the definite bulging at her sides?
Then again, Pepper DOES seem like she’s carrying a bit more weight at her underside. Maybe she’s just good at hiding it like she did last year. Or maybe she’s not pregnant at all. Hmm….

4. Prepare for the Bees!

We’re not planning on starting many new initiatives this year (somewhere along the line we happened across a stroke of sanity) but we are getting into a few things, such as honeybees. At the moment preparation is less about building hives and more about researching and finding credible sources to purchase our first colonies from. I’m about 90% certain that we want Italian bees, and finding them is proving to be a bit of a challenge. We may have to settle for something different, but we’ve found that settling for anything less than what we want doesn’t wind up working out very well. So, we will continue with the search!

Photo Credit here

5. What to do about Peony?

I just don’t know what’s up with this little doe. She is not a dwarf goat, but she is the size of one. She’s really sweet and I like having her company, but I’m starting to wonder if her size will preclude her from ever becoming a milker; likely she’ll always be a pet. If we do breed her for milking we will probably have to find someone with a Nigerian Dwarf buck, as I don’t see her ever being large enough to safely deliver standard size kids. I’m loathe to keep an animal for the sole purpose of being a pet, but it might just happen.

Peony beside Pepper for comparison. Pepper is easily twice her size. This little girl is petite.

6. Maple Sugaring is right around the corner!

After that nasty cold snap a few weeks ago we’ve had a couple of nice thaw that have made Spring feel tantalizingly close. It’s clearly not; we’ve still got at least 3 months before we can safely say that the warmer weather is here to stay. Still, the first sign of Spring is the sap run – and that’s only 2-4 weeks from now. Our goal is to make enough syrup to last us through the year. Last season it only lasted us about 6 months. However, now we know what we’re doing and we have the equipment on hand, so the sap run won’t catch us by surprise like it did last year.


All that aside, we’re enjoying the ‘slower’ part of the year. We’ve been knitting, reading and have caught up a ton on homeschooling. Gabe’s goal is to be doing third grade work before his second grade year is completed. He came up with this idea entirely on his own without any prompting from us. So, during this period of hygge and dormancy on the homestead, full steam ahead inside!

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