I have decided to do weekly updates about activities and projects here on the homestead! I’ve narrowed it down to a few categories: family and kid news, animal news, garden news, farm stand news and product news. Some will be shorter and some will be longer based on what’s happening here, how much I can think of to say, and how much time I have, but I think it’ll be fun to review the week… I hope it’s fun for you, too! 😊
But first, this week’s sunrises:
And, now, here’s this week’s wrap-up!
Family and Kid News:
We had a lovely, quiet Christmas celebration. We usually host our Christmas Eve gathering, so we’re always rushing around cleaning and setting up and cooking food and making sure everything is ready. (Side note: one thing that Braden has said is good about this year is that he’s actually gotten to see us and be together on the holidays because it’s just us and we’re not busy doing other things.) This year, it was just the four of us at the house, and we Zoomed with extended family in the afternoon and exchanged gifts with my brothers and their families and our parents from safe distance later in the week!
On Christmas day, we watched the new Pixar movie, Soul, and I forced myself to have a mostly lazy day by starting a puzzle… when I start, I can’t stop until it’s finished! I did farm chores and made mashed potatoes for dinner, and worked on the puzzle the whole rest of the day! It was pretty fun!
We were all very happy with our gifts – from each other, friends and family, and, of course, Santa! I should clarify that Carson was not as thrilled with his present from us… a Doggy Dooley dog poop composter! He says it’s more of a family/homestead gift… hmmm, and it required him to dig a four foot hole. We (mostly he, but I did help haul buckets full of gravel and water from different parts of the property, and I cheered him on!) got that installed yesterday… I’ll let you know how it works! Don’t worry… I fixed it and got him something else, too. New shoes! This is adulting… when new shoes are your favorite gift and feel like a dream come true!
Shaleigh is so far most excited about her new doll house and camper play house thing… she’s spent hours setting them up and even gets Braden into playing with them. She also got a vet kit from their sweet “aunts” with real-life veterinarian clinic stuff, and a really great backpack to carry it all around in! She has started a zoom baking club with her cousin – this week’s topic is cupcakes, and she couldn’t be more excited.
Braden is super happy about his new handheld gaming console… it’s a generic one, since it’s his first, and since he doesn’t really know or care yet.
We think it will help with his fine motor skills and perhaps his constant motion, too! It seems to calm his brain and give his body something to focus on. We limit time and he has to earn it, which is nice, too! The dishwasher gets unloaded and laundry gets folded and put away with little complaint!
Quarantine has been hard on the kids. In so many ways, we’re lucky… we already homeschooled so that wasn’t an adjustment, we have tons of land, and they have bikes, skates, a trampoline and swing set, and animals and room to roam. But they miss their friends and their activities. They miss family and field trips. They miss hugs. I am amazed, though, at how they’ve grown in their imaginative play. Some days, they’ll play together for the entire day. The house gets messy but I love to hear the worlds and lives they create together. They’ve learned to compromise on their play preferences. Shaleigh likes to play family and vet and Braden likes action and hunting… their games involve a little of each now, and I love it! They’re also really loving to research things… we watched Hamilton this summer and we listen to the soundtrack nearly constantly… ON THEIR OWN, they have researched all kinds of things related to Hamilton and his family and cronies, and early American history. It’s astounding how much they know, and it’s not because I taught them or assigned them the research project… it’s because they were curious! That is the very best way to learn, in my opinion!
Earlier this year, we learned that we can give our alpacas evergreen tree branches – like, say, Christmas trees – and they love it! I had no idea! We took down our Christmas tree yesterday and I couldn’t wait to get it down to them. They were curious at first… then took a few nibbles but walked away. It wasn’t as fun and exciting for them (and me) as I thought it would be. Maybe over the next couple of days, it’ll be better.
The sheep shelter is near the lowest part of our non-woods yard, and with all of the rain we’ve been getting and the high water table, everything was soggy soggy soggy… including inside their shelter where they spend the majority of the hours of the day because of the decreasing daylight. We knew that we needed new gravel in their shelter but we were trying to hold off until the weather was better or we had a little more of slush fund built up, but last week, we had to do it! We had five yards delivered on Tuesday and Wednesday, things had dried up enough that it wasn’t all sludge and we got in there and cleaned out the shelter and laid the new gravel! It’s amazing the difference it makes!! I am always surprised at how clean and dry things feel afterwards! The sheep seem happier, too!
The chickens’ egg production has slowed with the fewer hours of daylight… we have 12 hens and we’re getting one to four eggs per day! In the fall, we were up to 9 to 11 per day. We’ve been selling eggs at our friend’s farm down the road so the pressure is on a little bit to keep it up. (Only in my own head, not from my friend!) We barely clear two dozen eggs per week. I’m looking forward to longer days when we get back to the higher numbers… I like to be able to have extras to share and to not feel like I have to limit Shaleigh’s baking urges because we can’t spare eggs! 😊
Last week, I went down to do evening farm chores and when I got to the chickens, I realized that Windy, our Wynadotte had gotten herself stuck in the chicken wire surrounding the chicken run and she was hanging upside down by her spurs… poor chickie!! I was happy to see that she was alive because she was pretty tired and looked like she might not be. I had to “farm girl up” as we say around here and help her get down… it’s only scary because I knew she was going to start flailing and flapping around as soon as I touched her. She did, of course… but once I got her unstuck, she walked away from me and went straight to bed. The chickens have this weird line up thing they do for going to bed… someone always blocks the door to their house and they have to stand on their little ramp waiting for that one to move, or until someone pushes them along… part of the pecking order, I’m sure. Someone was standing there when Windy got to the door, but they immediately jumped out of the way and let her go in first. She’d had a hard day and they knew it! Thankfully, she seems unscathed… her spurs might be a little twisted, but I can’t remember how they were before… she walks fine and no one seems to be picking on her, so that’s good!!
The bunnies are doing their bunny thing… not much new for them! They don’t seem to be affected by the cold weather, which surprises me… I usually put a little extra straw in their hutch to help them stay warm, but they don’t hang out in it… they just snuggle together to keep warm. Last year when it was in the teens at night, we put them in a dog kennel and moved them into the barn… but when it’s in the 30s, they seem just fine. The rain doesn’t seem to bother them either… they just spend more time inside their hutch area. They definitely seem like our most vulnerable animals, but they are tougher than I think!!
I planted garlic in mid-November – a little bit later than I intended but I think it’ll be just fine… and I was surprised to see that some of the garlic from last year was coming up… I guess I missed some heads when I dug them up in June! It’ll be fun to see what comes up in the Spring!
A friend gave us some artichoke plants, which I didn’t think could grow here! She said she got 20 beautiful and delicious artichokes last year so I guess I was wrong! They are my favorite vegetable. We dug the plants up from my friend’s garden and when we got them home they were pretty beat up and limp from the whole process, but I put them in the ground and covered them with straw and they are looking so great! I cannot wait to have an artichoke from my own garden!!!!!
We planted fall carrots and cabbage, too. The cabbage got destroyed by the slugs…. Again!!! But the carrots were looking good!! Hopefully those will be fruitful!
I’m getting so excited about the spring garden! We’d originally intended to build a new greenhouse this year, but I think what it really needs is to be cleaned up and shored up and have the plastic replaced… oh, and the fan needs to be replaced or repaired and making the electrical a little bit safer… hmmm…. It seemed like less work to shore it up than to replace it but now that I list all of the needs, it feels overwhelming!
I can’t wait to start my veggie seeds and I’m going to start planning my new, expanded garden this week! I have a plan to keep the bunnies out of the garden this year! I’m going to fence the whole area with chicken wire! I can’t believe I didn’t think of that before! The bunnies and cats should stay out. The next struggle is slugs!! Bunnies and slugs destroyed my garden last year and I gave up pretty early on… I’m looking forward to winning the battle this year!
I’m also planning more flowers – mostly medicinal, and definitely colorful and happy!!! I cannot wait! I have amazing friends who have shared their seeds and some volunteer plants that I will plant in various parts of the yard. A big part of the front yard is landscaped and barked but we don’t do a very good job of maintaining it… I’m hoping to do a better job this year. We have other areas that I’m hoping to clear out for flowers. I can’t wait to see them grow!
Farm Stand News:
We spread some new gravel around the farm stand this week, too! There are some places where a mini-lake forms when it rains… and that’s not very welcoming! We have more places to fill in but it feels better when you pull up already!
I’m excited about getting the Farm Stand up and running again next year! I really want to have a bunch of produce, and my friend BriAnn will have even more flowers and seeds! We’ll also still have some handmade gift and home décor items! This is such a fun time of planning for growth!!! Can’t wait to share our plans and progress!
Homestead Product News:
Dryer balls continue to be our best seller here on our homestead – both alpaca and wool!
Carson is starting to think about his cedar planters and trellises which were a big hit at the farm stand last year. I’ll be working on the nesting balls made from left over or mistakenly felted fiber and wool for birds building their nests! We have several hanging in our yard and it’s been fun to watch the birds find them!
It’s kind of like our Makers and Growers Market from the days of yore (you know, 2019), but online! We have 21 registered vendors – including Stevens Homestead – with all handmade products! Lots of my holiday shopping was done through the vendors, and I know there’ll be spring stuff coming soon! Definitely check it out if you haven’t already.
Thank you for reading this far! I promise they won’t all be this long! 🙂