Thursday, January 30, 2014

Little Bit of Farm Work

Our weather here has been rather predictable . . .

cold.cold.cold.cold.cold.cold.cold.warmer day.cold.cold.cold.cold.cold.cold.warmer day.cold.cold. . . .

You get the idea. :) Mostly cold, but with a few warmer days scattered in here and there. On the rarer warmer days (upper-30's and sometimes even up in the 50's!), we have been working on various outdoor projects, and this week, Leah and I were able to get a big one accomplished. And just in time, too, before very strong winds and cold temps once again made their entrance!

That project was removing all of the old, worn tarps and putting new ones on each of the three hoop houses in our does' pens. Easier said than done, and especially so with eight curious goats wanting to be right in on the action!

Ebony and Lily getting into trouble :) . . . this time they were chewing on my coat! I had gotten warm digging through frozen ground, so had hung my coat up on a fence post outside of the pen, but they could still reach it. Now the zipper pull tab has permanent goat teeth marks on it. :)

Between goats trying to eat the old tarps as we were taking them off, laying on and rolling on the new ones as we tried to unfold them and attach them to the cattle panels, jumping on our backs whenever we bent over, and putting their noses right down where we were trying to work, there was certainly a lot to keep us occupied and entertained! Leah and I laughed so much thanks to their many antics, but I have to say, when the goats decided play time was over and it was time to gather in the sunshine and lay down, we didn't mind at all. :) Our work progressed much faster at that point!

"What do you mean we're in your way?!"

It took quite a few hours to have all three hoop houses re-tarped, and we were glad once we were finally finished. Our hands especially so as twisting off the 100+ old hog nose clips that attached the old tarps and putting on new clips to attach the new tarps was rather tiring!

It felt so good, though, to be outdoors doing a bit of physical labor, and Leah and I thoroughly enjoyed our time together. And I think the goats enjoyed all of the extra attention they got, too!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Springtime on My Mind

As the cold winds have blown this week, it has been warm and cozy indoors and I have enjoyed starting to plan and prepare for my favorite season and one of my favorite activities . . . spring and vegetable gardening!

First I tallied up all of the remaining canned goods we have left and figured out how much we have used so far in order to have a better idea how much to plant of everything this year. Once that was finished, out came the boxes which contain all of our seeds, and I began going through them, writing down which varieties we had seeds left of and how many, what year they were from, and what varieties we were out of.

A jumble of various seed packets waiting to be sorted through

The list in progress

We were pleased overall this past year with the varieties we grew, so I'm not sure if we'll be trying any new ones this year or not. I did see a few in the new Baker Creek catalog that I might like to try!

A page in the seed catalog

While planning what to plant, paging through the seed catalog, and sorting seed packets, I found myself looking forward to spring even more! And things such as this . . . 


. . . plants growing in the garden again, green leaves on the trees, green grass, working in the garden, listening to the birds singing, harvesting produce, feeling the warm spring breezes . . . happy sigh. 

Yet the calender and the weather forecast remind me that all of this is still quite a ways off . . . so as this long winter continues, I'll simply continue to anticipate the wonderful season of spring! And will be preparing for it . . . once the seed order is finalized (which should be soon!), the seeds will be ordered; we'll begin starting seeds indoors late February/early March; and the first plants should be going in the garden mid to late March (as long as we don't have a late spring again, that is!)

And in the meantime, I'll try to be patient :), and will continue to be filling my days with the abundance of winter projects!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Niobrara Farms on Facebook

To my blog readers who are on Facebook, I wanted to share with you that I now have a facebook page for my soap business Niobrara Farms! The page is in its beginning stages, and I have many plans for it and am excited to have it 'up and running' now.

So here is an invitation to you to visit and 'like' my page!

https://www.facebook.com/NiobraraFarms

Monday, January 20, 2014

Little Helper


All it takes is someone to start working in the kitchen, and Adelyn is right there, too! She'll go get 'her' chair, push it over to the counter or the sink, and help with whatever we are doing be it cooking, baking, or washing dishes. She especially loves helping with the dishes! 

Usually while I wash the bulk of the dishes, I'll give her a bowl and spoon as she likes to make 'soup' with the bubbles that she spoons out of the sink into her bowl. Then once the more breakable and sharp things are washed, I'll get her a rag, and she'll help me wash the rest of the dishes. She does such a good job, and we had so much fun together the day this photo was taken!

 

Gracen is getting to be quite a little helper, too, though it will be a little while yet before she'll be able to help with the dishes! She keeps us entertained with her sweet and adventurous little self such as here when she was trying to put her shoes on. :) She worked and worked and while she remained unsuccessful, she certainly had fun trying!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Another Load of Hay

An afternoon this weekend, found my Dad and I headed out in the truck, pulling the trailer, and on our way to pick up more hay. It was a glorious day with a warm south wind and the temperature climbing all the way up to 66 degrees! 75 degrees warmer than what it had been less than a week before. :) It felt like spring!

It was a beautiful drive, and we had a wonderful time talking together 
on the way and enjoying the scenery.

A view from the front window

Once we arrived at the farm, Dad and the man we get our hay from talked for a bit before he loaded the bales onto our trailer . . .


Three big round bales which should last us until spring! While he loaded them, I enjoyed the beautiful view . . .


It was so pleasant being out there on the hill, gazing across the fields while the strong winds blew, and listening to all of the sounds including a tractor which was running in the distance (and one nearby, too, while our hay was loaded up. :)

After the hay was on the trailer, Dad strapped it down and meanwhile, we all talked about cattle, haying, farming, etc. The man we get our hay from raises cattle and sheep, and his children show their sheep, too. He's also using some aspects of the Management Intensive Grazing method which Dad is interested in as well so it made for some interesting and fun conversation!
 
Two horses grazing in a nearby pasture

The drive back was again an enjoyable one . . . I love times like this spent with my Dad!

Once we got home, I checked on the beehives, and all of them are still alive! With the weather being as warm as it was over the weekend, each hive was very busy with bees coming in and out at a fast pace, and it was encouraging to see how high the numbers were. 

I suited up and looked inside each of the hives (which the bees did not like!), and put more dry sugar on the tops of their inner covers as the bees had either eaten or removed a fair amount of the sugar. I was pleased to see that the sugar is doing well one of its jobs of absorbing excess moisture . . . it had turned into an almost candy-like consistency!

I think this is about the earliest in the year I have checked the hives before, and they seem to be doing really well . . . the bees look healthy, the hives are still heavy, and the numbers seem good . . . here's hoping all five will overwinter successfully!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

My Homesteading Binder

For anyone who knows me well, they know that I am an organizer . . . I really like to-do lists, schedules, planning, organizing, and systems! (And as a little side note, I think that is even one reason why I am drawn to certain types of antique furniture such as writing desks and hoosier cabinets as they have so many little drawers and cubby holes! Perfect for organizing. :)

As much as I appreciate lists and schedules, though, I am not a 'hard-liner' in that they have to be strictly followed. For me, they are simply guides . . . they help me to stay focused, they inspire me, and they can help prevent wasting time, as instead of wondering 'what to do next?', I have a plan.

Random scraps of paper are often what I have been writing lists down on . . . reminders, ideas, tasks to be done, etc.  . . . Leah sometimes teases me with how I often I make lists! :) Yet there was one area that I had never really organized, and that was our 'homesteading' ventures. Our little farm has kept growing, yet other than our goat and rabbit health/breeding/kidding records (which Leah has done a great job with!), we didn't have any kind of plan or record system set up.

I couldn't resist putting in a spring photo :) . . . it's only January, but I'm already looking forward to things being green again!

Quite some time ago, when visiting two blogs that I enjoy reading, I found that both had posts about their homesteading binders. What a great idea! Why hadn't I thought of that before?!

Last year made me especially realize how helpful something like this could be. With being out of commission for about two months with the tick-borne illness (and during our busiest season!), once I got back to 'regular' life again, it felt like I was always a step behind and trying to catch up and I also had difficulty getting back into rhythm again. (Though my family did an incredible job helping to take care of the tasks I normally would do during this time - they were amazing! - but it really changes things when one person is missing!)


 There were many things that I had wanted to do last year (especially in the fall) that didn't get done . . . like putting cold frames over the lettuce/spinach/etc. that I had planted (some of which is in the above photo), but then unexpected cold weather found me unprepared and my fall crops frozen. Or hauling compost to the garden . . . again, time got away from me and our piles were frozen before I was able to haul even one load.

Granted, life is busy, and I can have a tendency to over-plan :), so if things happen to not get done, I don't stress about it! (or at least I try not to. :) Yet I realized how advantageous a plan and system could be, and how it might help to prevent certain things from slipping through the cracks.

So I determined to make a Homesteading Binder and had the goal
of having it finished at the start of 2014.


And . . . I met that goal! It was fun to make and while much of it won't be able to be used until spring, it has already proven helpful and inspiring. Here is a glimpse into what it is like . . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The first section is miscellaneous items which includes:

I had never planned out the more routine monthly tasks like this before, but already it has been helpful! I tried to think month by month which tasks needed to be done, though I only got as far as June and will plan in more detail when we get closer. Hopefully this will help me to not get behind in certain things!

This will be a running list of tasks that need to be done outdoors


Since our rabbit breeding records are in a different binder, this is the only chart 
needed for rabbits so I put it under the miscellaneous section.

The other page in this section is:

-- 2014 Honey Harvest

The next section in the binder, and by far the largest!, is for the garden: 

The cover page 
(all of the cover page images that I used are ones I found online)

Just for clarification on this chart, the "seeds planted" column is for writing 
in the quantity of seeds planted (i.e. two oz., a pound, etc.)



As I put the binder together, I went through Scripture to find applicable verses in order to add them to some of the pages. This really added a lot to the binder! As not only do I desire it to be helpful with the physical tasks and records, but also to encourage my heart and to remind me of why I am doing what I am doing and Who it is I am serving. Reminders that I often need!

In the garden records section is also all of the information that I have compiled regarding gardening such as this page on companion planting.

Other pages in this section include 2014's:

-- Vegetable Seed Order
-- Pest and Disease Problems and Solutions
-- Fruit Harvest
-- Freezing Produce Record
-- Seed Saving Record

Since most of our goat records are in another binder, all that is
in mine are the milking and butchering records . . .

The cover page . . . even though I have read the Bible through many times, this verse was one I had never really 'noticed' until I went looking for farm/garden related verses!

Typically milk records are by weight, but since I think in 
cups/quarts/gallons, I put that on the chart, too. :)

The last section in the binder is for the chickens which at this point, includes the egg laying production and egg sales records as well as butchering records.


Filling in egg production for January (and the number in parenthesis is for how many of the eggs were green/blue . . . we have two Araucanas which lay these colors of eggs so this way I can track their specific egg production.) 

So there is a glimpse into my homesteading binder! And I am sure more sections will be added as time goes on . . . I've already thought of a couple of things to add! Now I'm hoping that I'll actually consistently use it, and that it will truly prove to be a help. :)

And now with this binder finished, I'm inspired to revamp my homemaking binder!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wintertime on Our Little Farm


It seems like the past several days the majority of my time has been filled with simply taking care of our animals! That's what bitterly cold temperatures, snow, and strong winds can do. :) Monday morning was our coldest of the days with a temperature of -9 and a wind chill of -32 . . . and the high for the day: 0! Even with watering everything with warm water, it didn't take long at all for waterers to freeze.

Looking towards our small barn

Winter days like what we've been having at the start of this week find us doing chores three times a day . . . bundling up, tromping through snow, breaking ice out of water buckets/tubs, hauling warm water out to the animals, haying, etc. etc.

Then when you add in the regular household tasks of the day, making dinner in the evening, etc., there hasn't been a great deal of time for much else! Though I have been fitting in at least some time for sewing and reading which has been nice. :)

The rabbit bottles filled once again with warm water and ready to be given back to the rabbits

Enjoying the warm water!

Willow and Dixie eating their evening meal of grain and alfalfa pellets

Sierra did not want her photo taken, but stood on the fence and wanted to be petted instead. :) I obliged her after snapping this quick one!

Four of the five beehives . . . I am really curious to know how they are all faring so far. As soon as we get a day in the 50's, I'll be taking a quick peek inside!

Lily and Sierra having fun playing together and head butting

Thankfully it has started to warm up again, and the low 30's we had yesterday felt warm! And our extended forecast looks wonderful . . . after tomorrow, highs in the 40's! 

Some of the hens nestled down on the roosts in their coop

Eggs in the nestbox . . . the egg laying has been poor since sometime towards the beginning of December, and it is just recently beginning to pick up again. We have eighteen hens and have been getting about four to six eggs a day now for the past two weeks or so except for yesterday when we got only one!

I am already beginning to anticipate spring which is partly attributed to the fact that I have already been doing a fair bit of thinking and planning in preparation for it. I am thankful, though, that we still have a few months before then as there is a lot I hope to accomplish before springtime activities resume again!

 Lily really enjoyed the warmer temperature last evening and was 
racing all around. It was fun to watch her!

Hope you all who have been affected by this cold snap have been staying safe and warm!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Drive through the Countryside

The last day of 2013 found us all busy with various projects when my Dad spontaneously asked if we would like to go for a drive. That question was met with a resounding 'yes'! And somewhere along the line, the drive morphed into visiting a few antique stores along the way as well. :)

I love driving in the country . . . especially on out of the way roads with farms scattered throughout, rolling hills with cattle and horses grazing, and big old barns and farmhouses. It is always so restful and peaceful and puts me in somewhat of a nostalgic mood. While we didn't venture down any of these particular types of roads this time, I enjoyed our drive down in the river bottoms . . . another beautiful area.

The fields that not long ago were tall and green are empty now . . . quietly resting until spring discing and planting shall begin again . . . .

 Long lines of irrigation systems sitting in empty fields

I always enjoy seeing the old grain elevator in the distance! I believe, it sits right by where railroad tracks used to be. It makes one wonder what it would have been like when it was being used!

Crossing over the river

We had a wonderful time not only during the drive, but walking through the two antique stores we visited . . . admiring different pieces, wondering at some of them ("what could this possibly be?" :), and simply enjoying time together. One of these days I need to bring a camera along into the stores and give you all a taste as to what our antiquing ventures are like!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Welcoming a New Year

Today marks the beginning of a New Year! 2014 . . . 365 days of blank pages just waiting to be written on . . . what story will they tell by the time it comes to a close? I am excited to see. :) This past year was full of learning and growth for me, and there is much that I am eager to either begin or continue implementing and working on in the months to come!


Spring

Around this time would usually find me pausing to reflect on the year just finished, to plan for the coming year, and to set goals for what I hope to do/accomplish/overcome in the year that is yet to be lived. This past year, though, saw this happening every few months or so! It seems like I have been in a nearly continual season of self-examination, goal-setting, and seeking to grow more in the Lord in certain areas.

One of these times was about a month ago when Leah and I had another of our wonderful heart-to-heart talks together. The end result of this was writing down a list of personal goals . . . spiritual, character (which in a sense is spiritual! :), and more.

We each picked out several of the areas that we saw most important for us and committed to working on those first. Then, we've been helping to keep each other accountable and to encourage one another as well. What a blessing it has been to do this together! Already I can see good fruit being borne from it, and I am looking forward to seeing what progress will be made over this next year.

 So as the chapter closes on 2013, I am so thankful for it . . . it was a very different type of year for me, yet it was a wonderful and a growing one. A year full of the Lord's abundant faithfulness and mercies . . . even through the difficult times.


Summer

Sometimes the path the Lord leads us down is joy-filled and easier to walk . . . sometimes it is hard and full of what may seem to us, many twists and turns . . . sometimes growth in Christ comes easily, and it feels like progress is made quickly . . . other times it feels like a difficult upward climb over sharp rocks, and we can't seem to gain any ground, or perhaps, we even lose ground . . . sometimes it can be very humbling when He helps us to see the areas we are weak in and struggling in!

Yet all of these times, no matter how difficult or 'easy', can be used as stepping stones to bring one closer to the Lord and to help one to mature in faith, grow in character, and more. That is what I want this past year with all of its various circumstances to be for me . . . a stepping stone.

--A stepping stone to deeper fellowship with Christ and a more obedient walk with Him.

--A stepping stone to a more servant-hearted and joy filled life.

--A stepping stone to wiser use of time and productivity.

--A stepping stone to a more organized, more efficient, and hence, less busy life.
(I have been in planning stages with something related to this in regards to our farm, and there will be more about that in a later post!)


Autumn

So this is some of what is on my heart as we say goodbye to 2013 and welcome in 2014. I'll close with a couple of Scriptures that really spoke to me this past week as I read through Colossians and which fit well with some of what I am earnestly desiring for myself in this next year. I hope that they will be a blessing to you as well!

". . . that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience . . . ." Colossians 1:9-11

"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." Colossians 3:1-2

"Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person." Colossians 4:5-6

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Winter

May the Lord guide each of your footsteps in Him this next year and
may it be a wonderful and blessed year for you!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

(The photos shared in this post are some of my favorites taken in each season of 2013.)