This year has been an interesting year to say the least. Our little farm has been through a few ups and downs over this last year. Although going through a pandemic has made life a little different for us humans for the most part the animals don’t care. It is interesting to look back on the year to see what we have accomplished (or not) and put it into a list.
Farm in General
This year was our year of big improvements. Here is a quick list of our big projects:
Our kids have grow quite a bit over the last year and although they missed out on a few of our regular activities they have been handling pandemic changes with the grace of children. Lucian is 6 and this year he learned how to milk our goat Nora, improved his reading, learned how to shoot a bow, and is learning how to skate. Fiona is 4 and this year she started pre-K, mastered her colors, and mastered potty-training. Penelope is getting closer to 2 and this year she learned how to walk, run, talk, mastered the word “No”, and learned the joy of coloring. They enjoyed our trip to Washburn to play by Lake Superior and visit their Aunty Jessica while we picked up round bales of hay for the horses.
This year I was able to ride my horse almost every weekend June-August which was GREAT! I was hardly able to go riding at all last year and I missed it quite a bit. We worked with our new horse, Melody, and learned much more about her personality. We also discovered that Jack, my 24 year old Appaloosa, has developed a heart murmur which makes it hard for him to maintain his weight. (Check out Jackson) In early August we had a hot week and Jack dropped a lot of weight which is why I stopped riding him for a while. He is back up to his normal weight now and I’m looking forward to riding in the spring when it isn’t freezing outside.
This year between our two does we had a total of 5 goat kids. There were 3 bucks and 2 does. (Check out Almost Easter Kids) All the bucklings were sold when they were between 8-12 weeks old. The two doelings are still here at the farm waiting for their new home. I made a lot of fresh goat cheese which is delicious when spread on crackers. I was having trouble making other types of cheeses this year and will be investing in new cheese making supplies next year. Our son Lucian learned how to milk Nora and was an amazing helper. We decided it was time to sell our buck, Franky, a Toggenburg/Alpine cross. He was still friendly towards us but he was getting very destructive to our barn and fences. After Trenton had to rebuild his house for the second time we decided to sell him in December after we were done breeding. He was Lucian’s goat so he got his first ever pay check from the sale barn (minus trucking costs). Franky was 130 Ibs and he would have sold for $187.50 but he was a handsome fellow so he was bid on and sold for $243.75. It was more than we expected and too much fun money for an almost 7 year old so we put half of it in his savings account and he wants to buy a deer target for shooting his arrows into with the rest.
This year we incubated a batch of eggs at home due to the stay-at-home act. (Check out Easter Chicks) I usually hatch eggs at the school I substitute for as a 4th grade science project but things were a little different this year. We started with 37 eggs and I took 7 out that were either infertile or had stopped developing and 22 hatched but 1 died soon after hatching. Out of the 21 chicks 11 of them were roosters which I sold for $1 a chick when they were old enough to spot their combs. This may not have been the best homesteading practice but I didn’t want to butcher chickens this year. This fall our egg production was booming with the new pullets and my sister, who manages a golf clubhouse, sold about 4-6 dozen eggs a week from August-October. We had a few older hens die or were eaten by the fox who hangs around so our flock is holding at about 20 hens and 1 rooster.
We also added two ducks to the farm. We have tried ducks before and found them to be very messy and loud but we think 2 ducks instead of 10 is better. They are Welsh Harlequin ducks and we purchased one hen and one drake. The hen laid almost an egg a day between October and the beginning of December. I like having the duck eggs for baking and I have been baking an awful lot of pumpkin bread lately.
We bought two piglets from my dad in March and butchered them in October. We sold one pig to my sister to pay for our processing costs and the other is in our freezer. It is nice to have pigs while we are milking goats because there is no waste from dumped milk or whey from cheesemaking.
We lost our old guy Harley this March. He was a Lab/Rottweiler mix of some sort that came to us in 2012. Before that he was an acquaintance’s dog and before that he was in the humane society. He was somewhere between 13-15 years old. His passing was hard for us, especially the kids, and we miss him. Our other dog, Piper, an Australian Shepherd/Border Collie/German Shepherd mix, did not handle it well. She was very depressed and was not adjusting well. After about two months of her depression we brought home a puppy. Phoebe is a Lab mix of some sort and just like a Lab puppy she chews on everything. Piper is no longer depressed and back to being her helpful herding self. She is excellent at herding the goats and is one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever had.
Our garden was much more productive this year. I experimented with a different garden layout that didn’t necessary work out well. (Check out Jungle Garden) I canned two flats of 1/4 pint jars of tomato jam, which I had never tried to make before. I like it but I think I’m the only one. It was a good use for the cherry tomatoes when they were getting out of hand because I put all types of tomatoes in the blender and cooked them into jam. I also made a few big batches of tomato sauce and roasted tomato ravioli which is a summer favorite of mine. I was looking forward to one more batch of tomato sauce but the goats broke into the garden and demolished the last of it. I was not very happy with goats for a while.
Our pumpkin plants were huge this year and yielded a bumper crop of nice pie pumpkins. We cooked down and froze about 40 cups of pumpkin to be used for pies, bread, and soups this winter. We also cooked down roughly 10 cups of squash and froze about 15 quart size bags of green beans. I also experimented with canning dilly beans and pickled radishes this year. I like the dilly beans but do not like the radishes. I’m going to have to find someone who does. We missed out on apple picking this year so I only made about 6 half pint jars of apple butter.
This year was a much better year for syrup for us. (Check out Cooking Sap) Last year Penelope was a newborn and I wasn’t up to hauling her through the woods and Trenton wasn’t feeling too ambitious due to lack of sleep. This year we were able to cook down about 1 1/2 gallons of Maple syrup. It was enough for our family for the year and a little to spare for Christmas baskets. We will be syruping in March again and I look forward to early spring walks to collect sap.
This year has been a great year because we accomplished so much that we haven’t been able to get to in previous years. I have worked more in schools this year then I ever have. I have taken on three long-term substituting positions this year alone from February to April I taught Kindergarten, from August to October I taught 4K, and from November to March I am teaching middle school English/Language Arts. No matter how busy we are we are glad to have our farm which offers us stability and food for our family.