Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Mid-Winter Homestead Update 2013

Despite little writing on the blog, homesteading continues at Sweetwater Farm. We've experienced some extremely cold temps, plenty of snow and rain, and very little sun... until this week. Thankfully, the good Lord has given us some lovely weather to help keep us going until spring... enough to motivate me to actually write a blog post! (I know... you probably gave up on me.)


I'm more than thrilled about my bees... elated is more like it They're still alive! After observing them out of the hive during the warm spell, I picked a warm sunny day with no wind to lift the lid and check on their candy board. Seems like the Carniolans don't eat much. I could hardly tell they had touched it. They probably have been eating the honey supers during December and January, but I didn't want to venture that far down yet just to satisfy my curiosity. My goal was to get a quick peek and shut it up again. 

I insulated their hive with a heavy duty sleeping bag (because it's all I had in a pinch one night when the temperature was dropping fast and I wasn't prepared as I should have been), along with several bales of straw. Only the south side was left open so they could get some sun and exit freely on good days. 

I have a pollen patty and some Honey-B Healthy ready to go as soon as warmer temperatures are here to stay. I don't want to get the queen starting up her brood laying too soon, but maybe around March.


The three does have been on a consistant regime of herbals for a couple of months now and are looking GOOD! I'm so pleased with their health. I dropped their mineral supplements and have elected not to give them a copper bollus (standard in goat care) in lieu of the herbal supplements and I am feeling very good about it at this time. Each goat receives the following each day/week:

• Fir Meadows Kop-sel (copper supplement)
Thorvin Kelp (selenium supplementation as well as other trace minerals, etc)
• Dairy grade alfalfa hay
• Orchard grass
Chaffhaye (evening supplement)
• Molly's Herbals Worming Herbs (weekly)
• Fir Meadows Milk Maid (one doe only)
• Milk stand ration of dairy pellets, barley, oats, BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds) if in milk
• Fresh water with Apple Cider Vinegar (enzymes, etc.)

I know this sounds like a lot, but it's really easy because it's an established routine. I feed as much variety as possible because goats are browsers and if they were out in a large pasture, they'd eat more than one thing and gather nutrients from a variety of sources. I plan to supplement soon with cuttings from the brush on our property that I've determine are non-toxic to goats; I just have to establish a routine for that.

I'll be scheduling their blood draws with a friend in order to complete our 2013 CAE/CL testing as well as preparing Frieda for breeding. In order to get her ready, I've made sure she is getting her kelp and worming herbs, but I'll be adding some red raspberry leaves, as well as Fir Meadow's CyclEase and God's Greens.


The girls suffered a laying slump this winter that we've NEVER experienced before with pullets. Like I said, the weather has been extra brutal this year and while we typically get very little sunlight in the winter, this year, we've had even less. I finally resorted to turning on the coop light for a few nights and that did the trick. Since then, we've only had the light on every other night and we'll probably start dropping it to every third night and so on. As of today, I'm getting at least a dozen eggs from 15 hens each day. 

Orders are being placed in the homesteading group for spring chicks, but alas, I've already missed out on my top choices. Many unusual breeds sell out quickly: Copper Marans in particular. I'm so sad about that. However, Gabbard Farms may have some hatching eggs at a later date.

For meat birds, we're going to try about 15 Rainbow Rangers this spring. My experiment with White Rock (not Cornish Cross) was a disaster. There is no perfect solution for meat birds, so one must compromise somewhere and I've decided that it will be in the area of a cross breed. (I could write a whole post on this, so I'll save that for later). I'm hoping that I'll time the meat chicks for the early spring grasses and that it will be warm enough for them to be out of the coop in tractors by their fourth week, but this is kind of like going to Las Vegas and gambling... our spring weather is totally unpredictable. 


We're still harvesting some kale while onions, garlic, parsnips, and carrots slowly grow, waiting for spring to take off. Actually, I should pull the parsnips and carrots and start new seeds. There are also a few other root vegetables sitting in the ground, but their status is iffy. The chard was doing great, but the plastic covers provided a tempting spot for some kind of black aphid and the chard became invested. Strange that the bugs totally ignored the kale right next to the chard, but they did. Anyway, the chickens were happy for the extra greens and insects.

Clean up is beginning on warm days to get the garden ready for an early planting of cool weather crops. And did I mention the 3 commercial truck loads of wood chips I scored for $50? Yeah, baby!! I have the Mt. Everest of wood chips just waiting to go down in the garden. Another spring workout for nice weather days just waiting for me. 

General Stuff...

Besides the garden and animals, I'm finally getting some time to work on my Family Herbalist Course from Vintage Remedies. My husband and I have tightened up on our eating habits (that had slipped just a bit) and we're getting some good exercise. Amazing how much difference this can make! I think I tend to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder when the days are SO dark, so I've made an extra effort to find the sunny spots in the day and get outside.

My youngest daughter and I have taken up archery (I used to do this as a child) and we have a fabulous instructor who is training us not only for target shooting, but for hunting! I'm so jazzed about this! Imagine being able to obtain food in the wild without alerting everyone around you. Preparedness continues on the homestead in various ways, including acquired skills.

I'll leave the update at this and hope I can actually pull together two posts this week! It's been good to take a break, but I miss the fellowship and accountability... you all inspire me to keep going.


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