Animals

Sheep Shearing

We have been shearing our own sheep for a few years now. We use old-fashioned hand shears and a stanchion. It’s a rather time consuming process, but the sheep aren’t stressed because they are handled gently throughout the process.

One down…15 to go!

The finished product

We store our wool in cardboard barrels in hopes of learning to utilize it this fall. We hope to learn to clean, card, spin and felt the wool from our farm.

I sheared the one above by myself, but usually we both take an end. It goes a lot faster!

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From Hot Cocoa to Lemonade…Life’s Simple Pleasures

This morning we had temperatures in the upper 30s which warranted our new favorite our-cow-is-dry-so-we-have-no-milk drink. Hot cocoa made with dry milk powder.

Hot Cocoa Mix:

1/3 cup THM gentle sweet or powdered Monk Fruit sweetener

1/3 cup cocoa

1/4 cup A2/A2 milk powder

1/16 t. Himalayan Pink Salt

Combine and mix well. Add 2 T. to a mug and top with hot water. We don’t do super sweet at our house, so if you would like your cocoa sweeter, just increase the sweetener to your liking.

We warmed our water on our wood cookstove, topped our mugs with Dandies marshmallows (again no cream for whipping), and began our homeschool day together.

As afternoon approached, our temperatures were climbing into the 80s. This called for fresh-squeezed lemonade sweetened with honey.

Honey-Sweetened Lemonade:

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup honey

5 cups of ice water

Combine lemon juice and honey into pitcher and stir until honey dissolves. Add water and chill in refrigerator or serve immediately.

We tackled our science lesson on the front porch with a ice cold glass of lemonade and a handful of cats lounging and napping all around us.

Chance

What I’m Diffusing:

My favorite essential oil site oneessentialcommunity.com

California Coast:

2 drops cedarwood

2 drops orange

2 drops lavender

1 drop spearmint

1 drop frankincense

What I’m Wearing:

Happy Mama:

1 drop each

Peppermint

Patchouli

Lemon

What I’m Reading:

Anne of Green Gables-L.M. Montgomery

We are praying for rain here as we are as dry as we can possibly be here. My early garden is planted and growing, just waiting for some April showers. Hope your day is filled with simple pleasures too!

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The end of winter

You never know what the weather will bring here. We experienced a 90 degree day and woke up to giant snowflakes falling from the sky the very next morning. I love the changes in our weather. You never have the chance to grow weary of the same thing day after day. I love winter and the excuse to snuggle up with books and warm drinks, but I also look forward to spring and the May, one of the prettiest months here with the green wheat fields and all the trees and bushes coming back to life.

Canyon and Aspen
Maria and Aspen
Maria and Canyon

We enjoy some sunshine. We enjoy some snow.

Rachel, Aspen, and Canyon

On cold mornings, we snuggle.

And on sunny days, we play!

Kidding season at Dad’s.

All boys, the girls called them The Three Billy Goats Gruff

Our garden is nearly all in and growing now. I have cold-frames full of greens (kale, spinach, and lettuce). The raised beds are full with potatoes, peas, carrots, beets, and brassicas. We west garden is still waiting for warmth and then we hope to fill it with sweet corn and okra.

The season is slowly changing and with it our daily life will change. Our menu has already started to change to a simpler fair and things harvested from the garden. The asparagus is popping up, the lettuce is ready for picking, and the green onions are oh-so-close.

Happy Spring!

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Spring Chick Hatching

We decided this year we would try to hatch our own eggs instead of buying more chicks this year. We haven’t kept a rooster in a long time, but we took on a rooster from a friend who had way too many.

Walter

The girls and I were on our way home from a fun outing to a museum, in our “good” clothes, and decided it was time to stop by our friend’s house and grab our rooster. We had a shepherd’s hook, a large cat carrier, and determination. In a few minutes we had a barred rock rooster loaded in a cat carrier in the front seat of our car and off we went for home.

After 21 excruciating days of anticipation…a tiny Araucana/Barred Rock chick appeared in our incubator.

We literally all worried.

Laila

The cheeping was almost to much for her. She just couldn’t quite figure out why the box was cheeping.

We ended up with 13 adorable little chicks and couldn’t be happier with the experience. We are already talking about hatching more in the fall.

We don’t know if they will end up being roosters for hens, but hopefully they are mostly hens. Some of our hens are really old, so this will help our egg production having some younger hens coming up the ranks. We also are trying to focus on breeds that are good foragers since the cost of grain and the availability of feed is so hard to predict for the future. We want hens who not only can forage, but prefer to forage over bellying up to the food trough.

We had hoped to purchase:

Leghorns, Black Minorcas and/or Light Sussex

But do to cost, availability, and the Avian flu just decided to try hatching our own. We are so glad we did. What a fun experience for our whole family!

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What we are reading and watching

This is an ever-changing list, but thought I would give you a glimpse of what our library hauls and book shelves consist of at the moment.

I am reading:

Bible (KJV) and Devotional

Right now the devotional I am using is:

Mom Heart Moments by Sally Clarkson

Beside my bed to read at night:

Surviving Off Off-Grid by Michael Bunker

First We Have Coffee by Margaret Jensen Hands down my all-time favorite book. I read this book at least once a year.

Library Haul:

The girls:

The Action Bible

Aspen:

Christie’s Old Organ

Canyon:

By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Read Alouds:

Choose Kindness: 3-Minute Devotional Inspiration for Kids

Cheaper by the Dozen by Gilbreth, Frank B., Carey and Ernestine Gilbreth

In the evenings when the wind is blowing and the temperature has dropped. We snuggle up and watch Superbook together.

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The last two weeks around the farm

The kindness of neighbors…

Aspen & Canyon

Our neighbors have an old camper they are gutting and turning into a trailer. So, they offered us the appliances inside if we wanted them. We spent the day taking out the fridge, stove, kitchen sink, and shower basin for our school bus. We didn’t know if we would put a kitchen in our bus because of the cost, so this was such a blessing.

Our “neighborhood” is just a wonderful group of people who help each other out. There are just a handful of us, but work together to keep things moving along smoothly. Sometimes I think that is slipping away in the world, but so grateful it still exists here.

Laila

Besties…

Dharma and Lexi

We finally got a little bit of moisture, in the form of snow.

Lexus
7:30 am

What a difference a couple of hours makes here.

1:30 pm
Sandplums from the freezer for jelly
Apple pie

I canned apple pie filling in the fall which made it really easy to whip up an apple pie for the weekend.

Snickers

We have two of Dad’s billy goats here at the moment and took on a stray black cat the girls named, Wolfgang. These two have become the best of friends. This billy goat lets Wolfgang wrap himself around his legs and the billy gentle licks and nibbles at the cat. So sweet!

Another neighbor came down over the weekend to take a look at our pond to get a plan together for getting it cleaned up and stocked. We will hopefully spend a great deal of time down here through the spring, summer, and fall. We love to hike through the trees in the winter, but the ticks are already out in full force, so this was probably our last tromp under the trees.

We worked at the pond to clear a spot for the picnic table mom and dad got for us as a Christmas gift.

Before
After

We also planted some zinnias and hollyhocks. We hope to put up some hanging ferns and solar/battery lights.

While we worked…Willie Nelson napped in the garage.
Chance & Max

When we stopped breeding and raising sheep to raise our girls, we held onto the last of our old ewes as pets. Our oldest ewe just passed away at the age of 15.

Ebony

We now have Buddy as one of our oldest ewes at 14. She has lost all her teeth, so she gets to go into a special pen everyday for alfalfa, beet pulp, and sheep pellets. Keeping them into old age has been hard in so many ways, but I just love sheep. They are so lovable and personable it is worth the extra effort physically and emotionally.

Buddy

The nice thing about the weather here is the fact that it is everchanging. You have very little time to get tired of the weather before it changes on you. We had snow this week and we had sunny days in the 70s. The sandplums and peaches are blossoming, so we are praying temperatures don’t dip below freezing again. We would love to have peaches from our tree this year!

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Carrots

The girls and I got so tired of pulling carrots in the fall that 1/3 of the raised bed still had carrots in it this spring wintered over from last summer. As we started digging them up, we realized, they were still perfectly fine. We’ve left carrots before and they have become bitter or soft in the ground, but these were crisp and sweet.

I ended up saving the little ones for the girls to munch on and canning the rest. I ended up with 13 quarts of carrots I didn’t expect to harvest.

Canning Carrots:

  • Carrots
  • Canning Salt
  • Water

Wash carrots and cut off top and bottom end. I do not peel, but you can if you would like to.

Cut into fairly large chunks, 1-1 1/2 inches.

Pack into hot, clean canning jars.

Add 1 tsp of salt per quart.

Pour boiling water over carrots. I use a large 1 gallon kettle. Leave 1 inch headspace.

I use a chopstick to slide down the side of the jar to remove air bubbles.

Place lids and rings on. I used Harvest Guard reusable lids and have been really happy with them. I just washed all my lids and rings and warmed the rubber seal slightly to soften.

Process in a pressure canner at 10 lbs pressure for 30 minutes. Follow your pressure canner instructions and remove jars to cool once it is safe to remove lid.

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January and Winter Food

It is winter here on the homestead and we have gone weeks without a trip to the grocery store. Our Jersey milk cow, Lexi, is giving around 2-2 1/2 gallons of milk a day. Our free-range hens are giving around 8 eggs a day. We also have shelves of canned produced from the garden and a freezer full of local beef, pork, chicken, and venison.

With the milk, I have made cheese, such as: Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Parmesan, and a Farmhouse Cheddar. We make yogurt, kefir, and lots, and lots of pudding. With the cream I make our own butter, ice cream, cream cheese, and sour cream. I also have raised two bottle calves and four savanna goats on her milk.

Aspen and Helen, named after James Herriot’s wife

I froze eggs by the dozen for scrambled eggs and in twos in snack bags for baking in anticipation of our hens not laying through the winter, but that hasn’t really happened yet. However, this gives me the ability to use stored eggs and sell any excess.

We use Azure Standard for our organic feed for our milk cow and to buy a lot of things in bulk. While I haven’t gone to the grocery store, I do meet the Azure truck once a month to maintain our feed and dry good supply.

We are at the end of our milking season and hope to begin drying Lexi off in a month or so. We are looking forward to the break, but already worried about not having milk. We will freeze some in gallon jugs and make up plenty of dairy items to freeze to get us by. We are facing four months without milk and still have a bottle goat who will need fed for about two of those months. We are planning a produce pickup in the next week or so for some fresh food. We have eaten all the apples from fall picking and ready for something fresh and juicy.

local apples

It is and always will be a work in progress here. Planning and preparing ahead of time is always a priority when you are trying to grow food for yourself and cooking from scratch. It becomes a routine and a rhythm that becomes as natural as running to the grocery store is for most. The girls and I would much rather be home tending to the animals or working in the garden as opposed to driving two hours roundtrip for groceries whenever possible. It definitely calls for creativity sometimes!

Happy homesteading!

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We bought a School Bus

We needed something portable, wouldn’t flood, could hold out the Kansas wind, and sleep at least 4 and a dog. We also needed it to be inexpensive! We looked at yurts, but the wind and rodents were a concern. We looked at campers, but too boring and expensive. We even seriously looked at a houseboat, but the logistics of moving it in was just too much for me to process. So, school bus it is!!

We took it out on the road for the first time with family and had the very best time.

It was one of the most fun days we have had in a long time. The girls absolutely LOVE their cousins and look forward to their visits all year long. Randy and I too love our time together with them.

Randy is working a ridiculous amount of overtime right now, but hopefully on nice days we will begin to convert it to a livable space. We hope to repurpose as much material as we can. I will try to post any improvements on here. It will be a slow restoration, I am sure, but initially, we just want it sealed up and cozy so we can camp in it.