Uh hi… ummmmm… can I still call it a Weekly Wrap-Up if it’s been nearly three weeks since the last one? Time is flying in 2021. We’ve had a huge wind storm and 15-hour power outage (we were lucky… we had friends who were out for days and days), lots of sunny days, a bunny escape and retrieval, a new President, an 8th birthday, some garden progress and planning, an outdoor and socially distanced spinning and fiber arts fireside circle, and a whole bunch of “normal”, everyday stuff, too!
Kid and Family News:
Shaleigh is still loving her baking club! She and her cousin try to bake together during the week, and then they meet on Saturdays – all on zoom – to discuss how it went and eat their creation together. They’ve made layer cake, mug cakes, macarons, and last week was “choose-your-own-adventure blondies”!
Braden finished his slingshot and has been practicing like crazy… perhaps a little too crazy! 😊
He also turned 8 on January 23! He got to go duck hunting to a special place with his dad and our friend Wayne on his birthday. He woke up at 2:30 am to go and didn’t get home until about 2 in the afternoon.
Big, big awesome day for my boy!
Shaleigh’s one day a week class opens back up on February 2nd and she is thrilled that I’m letting her go. It is small classes, socially distanced and they have to wear masks all day, and it’s just for 2.5 hours, but she is so excited (and a little nervous) to see her friends after nearly a year of no school days because of COVID. I’m excited for her, too. She’s always been my very social kid – since she could talk, anyway. Every park trip or zoo trip or outing of any kind, she’d say, “Mama can I make a new friend?” and we’d talk about how to introduce yourself to other kids, “hi, I’m Shaleigh, what’s your name?” It’ll be so nice for her. Braden and I will do some fun hikes and outings while she’s there… things she doesn’t want to do! We’re making a list!
The kids were super happy to be able to go to the playground about 15 minutes away on Camano! It’s a great playground – really fun structure and lots to do! They particularly enjoyed the tire swing… they used to be able to go on it together, but they’ve gotten so big that they couldn’t fit! One at a time this time! It’s bittersweet to see how quickly they’re growing… They’re only 8 and 9 years old, which is still full-on kid, but they’re outgrowing most playgrounds! Seeing them swinging so high next to each other reminds me of the days that I had to lift them onto the baby swings next to each other – they could literally swing for hours as tiny kids, just people watching and giggling together… I remember it was a little bit of a break for me when they were tiny, they were entertained and contained, and I could breathe and not worry for a little while… until it was time to go and then there were tears and fighting and they were not happy!! Now, they push themselves, and go so high that they hop at the top, it’s a competition! Everything’s a competition!
I learned a new homesteading skill since last update!! We had a big wind storm and we lost power from around midnight until about 3 pm the next day. We are on a well, so we didn’t have water either – we have drinking water covered, but the toilet uses water to flush… and with a power outage that long and that time of day, there were definitely poopers (sorry!). I taught myself how to manually flush a toilet! In our family, when we do something like that, we call it “Farm Girl Up”, which means essentially “put on your big girl panties and do what needs to be done”. That works for yucky things, hard things, painful things, and so many other things here on the homestead. So, I Farm Girl’d Up and did what needed to be done, and got those toilets flushed with water from our rain barrels!! 😊 The kids were pretty excited for a little while to be “living like the pioneers did!” They played Lego by candlelight in the early hours of the morning (just like the pioneers!), and Braden helped me haul water from the lower part of our yard (in gallon milk jugs…again, just like the pioneers!). The kids and I also had some storm clean up to do… there were branches all over the front yard and under our big walnut tree, and a few in the sheep and alpaca fields. The kids don’t mind helping with branch dragging and got to show off their big, big muscles while they helped!
First, I have neglected to include our inside animals in my previous Weekly Wrap-Ups… so so sorry, Boys! We have a chocolate lab named Moose, a golden lab (golden retriever and lab mix) named Cotter, a long-haired dachshund named Chesney, and an old black cat named Buster (or Kitty or Kittrina).
Not much new to report with them, but here are their introductions:
Cotter was bred (not by us) for hunting and, even though he’s our most difficult (active, crazy, whiny, pesky) dog, he could be a star hunter. Carson has taken him to a couple of training sessions at a hunting club he knows and he really is amazing. He’s been working with him, and they’re finding a groove. Cotter is still very very whiny when he goes hunting and he’s not much fun to have in the blind (or so I hear!), he knows what to do and he does it well (mostly!).
Moose has also had some hunting training (not by us) but he’s more of a homebody, love pup – especially now that he’s 8 years old! He’s the sweetest boy and he loves to take a car ride and, even as big as he is, he loves to snuggle on the couches and beds!
Chesney is our love! Carson wanted a long-haired wiener dog for his 50th birthday present (who knew?!) and I questioned it a million times – “are you sure you don’t want another lab? A wiener dog, really?” – but he was sure! He said, “they’re so smart and have tons of personality… I’ve always wanted one!” And so we found Chesney… and Carson was right… he is hilarious… and lovey and smart! We definitely love our little baby boy, and I’m sure we’ll have another wiener dog at some point!
And, our crazy, crazy cat Buster… I’m not really a cat person – my family was allergic to cats so we never had one, and though I have loved other people’s cats, I never expected to have one of my own. Buster was Carson’s cat when we met 12 years ago, and Carson thought he was about 2 years old then… so now he’d be 14! (You’re welcome for the math lesson… I teach homeschool, everyone!). He was king of the neighborhood in Seattle – he was the boss of all of the other cats, and he was an excellent hunter. When we moved to our acreage in Stanwood, he was afraid to leave the porch for at least a year! He got into a groove, though, and found his mice and moles and good hiding spots… but now he’s old, and it’s really just easier and more pleasant to stay inside. We got a litter box in hopes he’d go potty there, and not all over the mud room… and it’s worked okay, buuuuuut we have a litter box in the mudroom/guest bathroom, and I am not a fan!!!! It’s a good thing we love him, and he’s been around so long!!
The other animals are doing fine… they managed the wind storm just fine, thankfully, and have been okay through the last week or so of freezing nights and cold days! The sheep spend their nights inside their three sided shelter and I think they stay pretty dry and warm in there… the alpacas, however, CHOOSE to stay outside in the elements most of the time. On the really, really cold mornings, they’ll have frost on their backs.
They, too, have a three-sided shelter where they can easily get some protection, but they don’t seem to mind the cold and wind most of the time. They just hunker down!
The alpacas are normally pretty standoffish around us… they love kids and will come up and say hi to the kids, then go about their business of grazing. It’s always fun when they decide to be interested in me when I’m cleaning up poop… when they get within three feet of me, I get so excited and stop what I’m doing and just try to enjoy it. This week, Zoe, the hardest one to please, actually tapped me, which is kind of like a kiss… you have to pretend you don’t know it’s happening, but she got right in there!! So fun!!!
Midori (the brown one) was known as “the spitter” by passersby at her last home. They loved her, if course, but she did spit… I think it was just a defense mechanism… when she was nervous, she’d spit. She’s never done that to me… I try really hard to respect her space and let her come to me! Phoebe (on the left above) is the most friendly and most often comes to the fence to tap me, but she gets in trouble from Zoe when she’s too friendly, so she has to keep track of where Zoe is!
I worried most about the bunnies in the cold weather, but they apparently adjust better to the cold than to the hot weather, from what I’ve read and learned from veterinarians. Last year, when it was going to be really cold, Carson and I covered the back of their hutch with a down alternative blanket covered by a tarp, and that made a huge difference – it just insulated the hutch where they sleep. They don’t seem to have a problem, thankfully! I usually have to change out their water in the morning because it’s frozen, but that’s no biggie!
We had a bit of excitement last week when Rosie got out of her bunny run! The gate latch on their run is a little iffy with cold weather and apparently, I wasn’t very careful that morning about making sure it was latched. I was throwing the ball for the big dogs and walking Chesney around the yard in the afternoon, and Chesney was pulling on the leash. He spotted Rosie, who was munching on grass and blackberry leaves all around the hutch… the gate was wide open. Ugghhh. Pippa, who was a house bunny before she came to the homestead, was being good girl (probably actually freaking outand worried about her friend) in the upper part of one of the hutches. The last time Rosie got out, it literally took three days, a fishing net, and several adults to catch her… I started to get worried, but I stayed calm and walked toward Rosie… she froze and let me pick her up!!!! MIRACLE. She scratched the crap out of my hand and arm when I carried her back to her home, but I got her there… another one of of those FARM GIRL UP moments!
The chickens have been playing with different sleeping scenarios. It used to be that six chickens (Nolan, our first rooster, and our four original hens) all crowded into a little 2.5 foot by 2.5 foot house that Carson made for just Nolan. And Sparkle (the second rooster) slept in a much smaller house that Carson built just for him, and our newest batch of seven hens slept in the coop, which has room for about three more chickens. Now I think at least two of the original hens have migrated over to sleep in the nesting boxes of the coop – they never learned to roost like “normal” chickens so they just snuggle up on each other on the floor of the coop while the other ones roost above them.
I’ve also noticed that Nolan (the first rooster) has learned how to fly up to Sparkle (the second roosters) spot and eats his food and checks out his bed – probably leaves some poop up there for him, too! I have to make sure that Sparkle always has food up there because I’m not sure what he’s actually eaten vs what’s been eaten by the others who have figured out how to fly – and the wild birds take their share, too!
The chickens really are a constant source of entertainment and wonder for me… I love to see how they work out all of their weirdnesses.
We also had some wild animal fun since last time. The kids and I had to go to the post office a couple of weeks ago and we got there just in time for it to close for lunch (gotta love small town post offices!)… we decided to take a little drive while we were waiting for it to open again, and we found swans! Every year, these Trumpeter Swans come to the Skagit Valley for the winter… they are huge and so pretty. We parked on the side of the road and listened and watched them.
They were making this gross slurpy noise when their heads ducked in the mud… I got some good pictures with my phone… I wish I had my fancy camera with me, but these are better than nothing!
We have a coyote that’s been hanging around for a few months. We’ve spotted him running up and down the alpaca fence… it makes me nervous but they can’t jump or climb the fence and we haven’t found any dig marks, and we’d only seen him alone (not with a pack) so I think the ‘pacas are okay. In fact, the girls aren’t afraid of him… they run right up to him on their side of the fence, sometimes doing their alarm call. Eventually he gets bored or scared and runs away. In the past week or so, I’ve seen him hunting in the fields next door, but he doesn’t seem to care about any of our animals so it doesn’t bother me!
We have a trail cam set up in our woods and we checked it this week and discovered there are actually two coyotes traveling together… it’s strange that we only see one.
We’ve also caught a beaver, racoon and opossum on the trail cam… oh, and a squirrel! 😊 (ignore the dates and times on the photos… they are not accurate!)
I love that we can spy on the animals and catch them doing their normal things!
When I started the weekly wrap ups, I thought that it’d be fun to see what happened on the homestead week to week, but it had another benefit… when I started drafting the last one – right on time, initially – I realized that I didn’t have any garden news (again!) and I didn’t want that to be true, so I headed outside to make some garden news! So it works both ways… makes me feel like I accomplished something, and gives me inspiration to get something done so I can share!
Since that last still-unpublished draft, I’ve done a lot of planning and had conversations with Carson about the garden, I worked on clearing some of the blackberries INSIDE the greenhouse – yikes! I missed some of last year’s garlic from the garden last year and those heads were starting to grow, so I had to divide them and then cover them with straw so they had a good chance to grow even in freezing temps!
We will have so much garlic this year (this is just a small selection of the garlic I’ve planted!) because I’d already planted a bunch of garlic in November! I cannot wait!! Hopefully I’ll have some to share at the farm stand, too!
We also mapped out all of our fruit trees, and decided to buy four new Frost Peach trees, two cherry trees and two apricot trees for our lower orchard! We are so excited!
Carson’s Planters: He finished a selection of cedar planter sizes, and they are so pretty!
Small – 18″ x 14″ x 11″ raw $20, stained $25; Medium – 21″ x 9″ x 7″ raw $25, stained $30; Large – 25″ x 13″ x 11″ raw $40, stained $45
**He’s absolutely willing to make other sizes so please send us your custom orders!!**
Dryer Balls and Great Balls:
I’ve been hard at work washing, drying, and carding fiber, and then making it into dryer balls and Great Balls of Fiber Freshness. We have a cool new dark dark dark brown alpaca fiber from a nearby farm and I love the contrast of it with our other colors… it’s been great fun making the solid dark balls and then combining it with the other colors!
Dryer Balls are $20 for a set of three ($25 shipped) and Great Balls are $5 for a set of three mini fiber balls with a sample of my favorite essential oil blend in a small organza bag for easy storage or hanging!
Last year, I started learning about, growing and making things from medicinal herbs. Lemon balm, calendula, and plantain (which is actually a weed!) are some of my favorites, and all of them are helpful for skin conditions – dry skin, chapped lips, cold sores, insect bites and bee stings, cuts, burns, bruises… you name it! I have made two salves so far – Lemon Balm and Plantain – and I cannot tell you how much I love them! They have helped us so much in my house. I have some extra, and I’d love to share! (Better labels and photos are coming – these are our tins and you can see from the dents and fingerprints that they get used!! Ha!)
$8 per 2 oz tin!! Let me know if you’re interested!
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