Homesteading

Happenings Around the Homestead- Life, Death and a New Goat

I really shouldn’t wait so long in between posts. There is so much I want to share about what’s been happening at the Fair Weathers Ranch. If I did write about all of it this post would never end. That’s how much has been going on around here. So, I am going just jump right in.

The Garden

It’s a-growin. Garden Area 1 is now full of growing onions, strawberries, garlic, peas, chard, bok choy and kale. This is the first year I have had a active garden so early in the season. Garden Area 2 is all planted and slowly growing. The first couple of weeks after transplanting are usually slow and uneventful. But, I got everything in and I am happy about that. I had been battling a pesky ground squirrel that was determined to eat all of my lettuce. Fortunetly that particular squirrel is not a problem anymore thanks to the Squirrelinator. The Squirrelinator is so awesome. I have caught 7 at one time. I usually catch around 20-30 in during the spring season. I think once the trap caught 14 in one day! If you have a ground squirrel problem, you need the Squirrelinator.

Gophers on the other had are a bit trickier to catch. My best defense against gophers is my cat, Nick. He thinks gophers are delicacies because he loves to catch them. Unfortunately, sometimes the gophers do damage before he finds them. Garden Area 1 lost several onions and a couple of garlic before we were able to get the gopher. I am trying out a gopher deterant that I hope will work. One of my neighbors uses it and say it works well in small areas. It’s called the Sweeney’s Mole & Gopher Sonic Spikes. It’s supposed to drive moles and gophers away by sending a sonic pulse into the ground. It claims that 2 spikes can cover up to 15,000 sq. ft. I highly doubt it works that well but I am hopeful that when I place it in an area where I know there is gopher activity they will leave my plants alone. We will see.

The Farm Critters

We have had lots of baby birds hatching this past month. So far we have 9 Chukar, 5 ducklings and 5 poults (turkey babies). I actually hoped for more chicks but sadly something went terribly wrong during incubation. And I hate to say it was probably my fault that 7 unhatched baby ducklings and 5 poults died. I don’t know for sure if all of them were my fault but I think most. I got confused about the humidity levels and I think they didn’t have enough air for hatching :(. It’s sad. After all the hatching was said and done I decided to do a egg autopsy on the remaining unhatched eggs. That’s when I discovered the 13 of my 15 eggs had dead chicks in them. Some were fully developed and others seemed to have died earlier on. So that’s the life and death part of the happenings around our homestead.

We still have the 5 chicks that I hatched for the purpose of meat. I am not sure if I mention this already but we purchased 11 chicks from a hatchery a month and a half ago. Two of the hatchery chicks died so now we only have 9. These chicks are now in the shed outside but all the other baby birds are inside. Well, the baby ducks spend the day outside and then we bring them in at night. On top of that, we have 16 chickens, 2 turkeys and 2 bunnies we taking care of for our friends while they are away for the summer. The bunnies are fun since we don’t have any of our own. My little girls is loving holding and feeding little bunnies.

I also  have more turkey and duck eggs in the incubator. I think this time things will go a lot smoother. At least, I hope so. Especially since I have 14 Muscovy ducks eggs that I bought off ebay in the incubator as well. I am really excited about these ducks because they are very useful for the homestead. They are excellent foragers. They eat FLIES! That’s enough reason for me but they also grow very fast and I have heard they taste like veal. One of our female Ancona ducks went broody so we may even have more chicks running around here too. 😉

Now about the new goat. We got a new LaMancha dairy goat and her name is Sweetheart. She really is a sweetheart too. Our BoPeep is giving us a consistent 1/2 gallon a day but we found ourselves in need of more milk so we bought a new goat. We were actually thinking about some how getting a Dexter cow but that didn’t work out. We may end up buying one next year but for now the goats are working out just fine. With our new Sweetheart we are getting 1 1/2 gallons of milk a day. Yes, that is a lot of milk but with my desire to make cheese, kefir and yogurt it is the perfect amount. Any extra milk we have we give to the animals. The chickens, ducks, cats and dogs love the extra milk.

Kids, Family and Such

Our eldest daughter will be away living in the mountains for a few months at a summer job. She seems to be really enjoying herself. I do miss being able to call her though. Our son is being a teenage boy :). He still  loves listening to and playing music. We decided to keep him home at least part of the year next year. He was struggling in some of his classes. Not sure if it was the teachers, class sizes or laziness on his part but we have decided that he needs more one on one attention.  And little munchkin has been keeping me busy. We live in an area were there are few children her age so she is constantly asking me to play with her. Trying to come up with activities for her to do is going to be challenging. At least she has the animals to keep her  company ;).

Well, I think that’s all I will share for now. I have much more to share but I don’t want to “talk” your ear off  ;).

How are things at your homestead? Are you enjoying the summer?

Friendly Predators- Gopher Snakes

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I know this might freak some people out but snakes can be wonderful additions to your homestead. In our area there are two types of snakes that are the “good guys” to have around. The California King Snake and the Pacific Gopher Snake. Both are good for hunting mice and gophers but the king snake is my favorite because they also will deter and eat rattlesnakes. Since we also have rattlesnakes in our area, I welcome king snakes on our homestead. In fact, if we find a gopher snake or a king snake on the road somewhere we will catch it and bring it home to our property. Both of these snakes are usually docile. I have never met a mean King snake but I have encountered angry Gopher snakes.

I have always had a love for snakes. Yes, I am that strange girl that always jumped at the chance at holding the snake at the zoo field trip. I am not sure why I like them so much. They are easy pets to take care of and they don’t require much attention.  Growing up I had a gopher snake I named Gilbert. He was a nice snake. He ended up getting lost in our house once. I was so upset. Then my sister found him, caught him and put him back in his cage. It was very daring of her since she did not like snakes. I was so happy but Gilbert wasn’t. He turned mean for some reason. He would strike at me when I went to pick him up. I thought maybe he had gotten a taste of freedom and just didn’t want to be in captivity anymore. My mom and I took little Gilbert to a nice spot in the desert  and let him go. A few weeks later, I find another snake in my house and it was Gilbert! Turns out that snake my sister so bravely picked up wasn’t even my snake…lol. I love that memory. We lived across the street from a vacant field and sometimes critters would get into the house. Maybe Gilbert was really a Juliet and her Romeo was trying to find her :).

A few days ago my husband was mowing and nearly ran over this guy.

 

I am still that strange girl that jumps at the chance at holding snakes. While my husband starred at him from a distance, I grabbed him carefully out the hole he was trying to escape in to. My husband thinks I am strange too. I picked this guy up by the head because even though Gopher snakes are usually docile, I didn’t want to take a chance. A bite from him would have hurt. This is biggest Gopher snake we have seen in our area. A definite keeper for the homestead. I expect he can eat a lot of gophers, mice, squirrels and rabbits.

After taking a few pictures, explaining to our youngest the difference between a gopher snake and a rattle snake (reminding her to never pick up any wild snake because they can still bite) we measured him and let him go on our property. I hope he stays close by.

What are your feelings on helpful predators such as the gopher snake? 

 

Happenings Around the Homestead- Spring Has Sprung!

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It’s spring and I am so excited! I love spring! I really do. There has been much happening at Fair Weathers Ranch. Gardening season is in full swing. Poppies are starting to bloom and chicks have been hatching. That sure does sound like spring to me.

Tulips in the garden.

The Garden

Garden Area #1 is growing up very nicely. The garlic I planted last fall has proven to be a success. After researching how and when to harvest garlic, I planted for a decent harvest for this year. I also planted some carrot seeds a few weeks back and have onions growing. I have tiny Asparagus shoots coming up from the 12  crowns I planted a few months ago.

I planted a few seeds of German chamomile last year. I let all the flowers go to seed instead of harvesting any. I think just about every seed from that plant is a seedling now. I think I will have a good amount of chamomile this year if I can keep my chickens from eating it all. They love that stuff.

Tomato Seedlings

I have my seeds started indoors. So far I have tomato, broccoli, cabbage, artichoke, tamatilo,  bell pepper and cayenne pepper seedlings growing very nicely. My goal for this fall season is to have lettuce mix growing throughout the winter. I am sick of paying for lettuce. It’s one of the easiest things to grow and I don’t want to pay for it anymore.

Onions and garlic in the snow.

The weather has been changing back and forth. One day we will have sunny summer weather next it will be snowing. Thankfully,there are lots of plants that are not affected by it.

Strawberry plant blooming.

The Farm Critters

"I'm a chicken too!"

My two “baby” LaMancha’s are growing up so fast. They are technically yearlings but we still call them babies. They seem to be taking advantage of my daughter more and more. Their size and the stubbornness is making them hard for her to handle. So I have decided to start working with them to get them ready for showing. Not sure if we will be able to show them this year but I still need to get started on that. They are both very sweet but they ARE goats.  I am probably going to sell my little Kinder. As much as we love her we have too many goats and she is not really producing much milk anymore. With three LaMancha does in milk I will never be out of milk. Unless they are all pregnant at the same time which I hope to work it out so that never happens. I am still getting around two quarts a day from Bo Peep.

The horses are enjoying the little bit of grass to graze they have right now. Our grass season is very short because of the dry climate we have. It would be nice if we could graze them year round but then that would be we would have rain all the time and I really like our sunny California weather :).

I recently decided to let the ducks free range. I found out recently that free range duck eggs are more nutritious than chicken eggs. I am not exactly sure why but I think it has to do with the what the ducks forage. The reason I hadn’t let them free range before was because I was worried that they would fly off or roam the neighborhood. After remembering why I chose the Ancona duck, I remembered one of their good traits was that they stay close to home. They seem to be staying on our property and have no interest in flying.

The chickens are chickens and they are everywhere. They follow me everywhere and the poo everywhere. Since we don’t have fencing in our backyard to keep them off the porch there is always little chicken poos all over the place. They wait for me to come outside and feed them some goodies. They look through the french doors to see if I am coming. It’s quite comical but I could do without the little packages they leave for me by the door. We hope to get some kind of fencing up this summer.

Hatching chicken eggs.

To my surprise we successfully hatched out nine chicken eggs. We had gotten such a rough start with the temperature in the beginning I thought for sure we were not going to have any success. The first six chicks hatched looked great and are doing fine. For some reason the last three chicks that hatched all had some kind of defect. I think it has to do with how long it took them to hatch or maybe they already had problems and that’s why it took them so long. I don’t know. Anyway, we had to put down the last chick that hatched because it was in bad shape.  The second to last hatched chick might not make it as well. It’s having a lot of problems with it’s legs. Oh, I guess that’s the way of the farm. I have lost chicks before and it’s always sad.

Mixed breed chicks.

The Healthy Living Journey

Over the past few weeks I have changed my diet a lot. I am dealing with some tooth decay issues that I am trying to resolve naturally. I am currently reading the book, Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel. His book follows the research done by West A. Price and other dentists who believed that it is possible to heal tooth decay with nutrition. I am just about finished with the book and it’s fascinating. I have already noticed a difference in my teeth since following the diet recommended in the book. I removed grains and sweets (including most sweet fruits) from my diet. I also added or increased highly nutritious foods like liver, heart, raw milk, duck eggs and butter. The nightly pain I was dealing with before changing my diet is gone. I am so excited! I will keep you updated.

It was a real test for me this past weekend to see how committed I am to healing my teeth through nutrition. I went on a weekend women’s retreat with the ladies at my church. As you can imagine, there were all kinds of sweets and breads. I was able to eat the meats and vegetables so it’s not like I was starving but I should have brought my own snack foods. There were times it was very difficult to resist the food temptations. However, I did resist. 🙂

That’s about all I have to share today. There is lots more happenings I could share but I will have to do some other time. How are things going at your homestead? Are you enjoying spring?

 

 

Learning From Past Farmers and Housewives

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I have acquired a new obsession. If you are not a fan of Healthy Homesteading’s facebook page you might not know about it yet. A friend of mine introduced me to a English television series called Tales from the Green Valley. The series is like a reality show and  history show all rolled into one and it’s fascinating.

Tales from the Green Valley is only one of a series of great films about farm life of long ago. There is also Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm. All three of these shows have the same three people living the life of the time (Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands, Peter Ginn ), wearing period clothes and using period tools. Tales from the Green Valley also has historian Stuart Peachey and archaeologist Chloe Spencer but for some reason they are not in the other shows.  Ruth Goodman, a domestic historian, is my favorite of the team. I just love watching her work with period tools for cooking and cleaning.

I didn’t think I was going to like Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm  as much as Tales from the Green Valley but I ended up liking them just as much.  Watching the films in order helps to see the progression of time and industry. Throughout all of the films they refer to books of that period. In the Victorian Farm, the book of reference for farm related tasks was The Book of the Farm. I made sure I wrote down all the book titles mentioned on the shows. I was excited to find out that most of those books are still available. Even better, I found The Book of the Farm Henry Stephens available for free download from Google books. I also found for free download a book called Manual for the Apiary by Albert John Cook. This book was not mentioned in any of the films but is very similar to book that was mentioned in the Victorian Farm called The Apiary: A Book of Bees, Beehives and Bee Culture by Alfred Neighbour. I also found a book that Ruth referred to called The Family Save All by Robert Kemp Philip in the free download section of Google books.

If you are the least bit interested in homesteading, farming, gardening, animal husbandry or domestic living, I would highly recommend watching these shows. In this technology age it is very easy be unaware of simplicity at it’s finest. Generations and generations of people functioned very well without many of the things we “can’t live without”. It’s not like I want to go back to using outhouses or wood burning ovens but I do appreciate seeing how things were done in a simpler time.  By understanding skills used in the past, I can understand why we do things they way we do them now. Not only that, some of the skills and methods used 400 years ago are far better than the methods we use now. Learning about how farmer’s wives prepared and preserved foods when there we no refrigerators or freezers is fascinating to me. Most food preparation and preservation methods were healthier and safer than our modern factory processed food industry. Did they fear having “pink slim” in their meat ? I think not ;).

Tales from the Green Valley

The Setting

Tales from the Green Valley, explores life on a British farm in the 17th century. This 12 x 1/2 hour television documentary, produced and directed by Peter Sommer, attracted large audiences and wide critical acclaim. Tales from the Green Valley follows the five as they labor for a full agricultural year, getting to grips with period tools, skills, and technology from the age of the Stuarts, the reign of James I (1620).

Everything must be done by hand, from plowing with a team of oxen using a replica period plowing and thatching a cowshed using only authentic materials, to making their own washing liquid for laundry and harvesting the hay & wheat with scythes and sickles. Each of the 12 half-hour programmes, made by Lion TV for BBC Wales, follows a month in the life of the farm situated on the Welsh borders. Source

Victorian Farm

The Setting

Historical observational documentary series following a team who live the life of Victorian farmers for a year. Wearing period clothes and using only the materials that would have been available in 1885, historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn are going back in time to relive the day-to-day life of the Victorian farmer.

The project is based on the Acton Scott estate in Shropshire – a world frozen in time, lost in Victorian rural England. Its buildings and grounds are cluttered with antique tools and machinery collected by the Acton family, who have lived on the estate since the 12th century.

Working for a full calendar year, Ruth, Alex and Peter are rediscovering a lost world of skills, crafts and knowledge, assisted by an ever-dwindling band of experts who keep Victorian rural practices alive. Source

Edwardian Farm

The Setting

Following life on the farm over a whole calendar year, Edwardian Farm goes deep into a lost rural world where life was tough and working together was the only means of achieving anything.

Setting up home at Morwellham Quay, in Devon, the trio have to get to grips with the trials and tribulations of life at the turn of the 20th century. This was a time of great social change and tumult – a time when farming was becoming increasingly mechanized.Source


My obsessive nature often takes me on rabbit trails where I discover all sort of great resources. After watching these films I plan to continue my entertaining educational journey with the following list of films. I have always been fascinated with history but have never committed myself to learning more of it. I hope to find time to start reading historical fiction books to help with my pursuit of educating myself. In the mean time, I am going to watch these next set of shows.

1900 House

Texas Ranch House

Frontier House

 

Are you a history lover? Do you have any historical fiction books you would recommend me starting with? 

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