Summer was good to us this year. We had ample amounts of rain and the garden harvest was plentiful. The canning shelves were full by autumn. The meat chickens were butchered in late July and we filled our freezer with 24 free-range, Organic fed chickens. The hogs were slaughtered in early October and we had over 100 pounds of pork to feed us. We harvested about 4 gallons of honey from the beehives. My husband shot a deer in November and we butchered it in the garage, adding another 50-60 pounds of meat to the freezer. We are well stocked and feel wealthy beyond measure.
After all this hard work, we were tired. Down right exhausted. I feel like we've simply been trying to recover our energy for the last 4-5 months. While everyone else is complaining about winter and wishing for summer, I'm happy and content these days to burrow in my hole and hibernate. Oh, there is still plenty to keep me busy (animals still need to be cared for in the winter, meals need to be cooked and households managed), but I am moving at a slow pace these days and deliberately making time to rest, read and spend more time with my children (but if we have one more snow day, I might go crazy - 6 snow days already this year!).
I've also been trying to limit my time on the computer. It's so easy for me to sucked in and realize an hour later that I've completely neglected my daughter. Yes, she's more than happy to color quietly at the table by herself, but it's finally sinking in that next year she will enter kindergarten and be gone ALL DAY, EVERY DAY (8 hours a day, 5 days a week) instead of just going to preschool for 5 hours a week. My time at home with her is coming to an end and I'm mourning that loss already. So the computer is being shut off more often and I'm spending extra time with her... hence my lack of time for blogging. It's a good thing.
Here a few photos to recap our summer and fall. Enjoy!
Freedom Ranger meat chickens, almost ready to be butchered. We kept them in a movable coop (called a "chicken tractor"), which allowed us to keep them safe from predators, yet allowed the birds access to fresh grass and bugs to eat every day. By the time the birds were about 8 weeks old, we were moving the coop twice a day to make sure they had clean grass. They were butchered at about 11 weeks old.
Here is what our pasture looked like after moving the coop. The chickens make a mess in a hurry! We moved them up and down the pasture all summer and they spread their manure all over the grass, fertilizing it. A win-win situation! We get healthy, happy birds AND a healthy, happy pasture.
Some of the honey we harvested! We also ended up with lots of beeswax, perfect for making lip balm, like this recipe: Chocolate Peppermint Lotion Bar/Lip Balm
The hogs in their pasture, shortly before their slaughter date.
Peggy the pig doing what God designed hogs to do!! Hogs love to root around in the dirt and find worms, grubs and roots to eat.
Fluffy eating apples. We scavenged for dropped apples to feed to the hogs, so we could have "apple-fed pork".
Studly McMahon, our Silver Laced Wyndotte rooster. He almost ended up in the stew pot after attacking the children and I a few times, but we finally tamed him (which means we cornered him at night when he couldn't see and we cuddled with him. At first, he hated it, but he grew to like it and now he's a perfect gentleman). He is a good rooster, wooing the ladies and keeping a protective eye on them., unlike our previous roosters that harassed the hens to no end, chasing them around all day (some of the hens would actually play dead, in hopes the roosters would leave them alone!). The ladies adore this rooster and I can see why. He's quite the looker!!!
Our new additions to the farm! In late November, we purchase 3 new goats, all of them does (females). Gloria, the mother goat is mostly Boer, which is a meat goat breed (just like cows, goats are divided into breeds that excel in either meat production or milk production). Her twin daughters, Ruthie and Margie, are Boer/Nubian mixes. We purchased these gals because we enjoy having goats on the farm and would like to continue to keep selling them for meat, but purchasing goat kids to raise is expensive and negates any profits we could make. So we decided to buy does to breed and raise our own kids. Weathers (casterated males) will be sold for meat and does will either be kept for breeding or sold to someone else who wants breeding does. We bought the gals too late in the season to breed them (and the twin daughter were not old enough anyway), so we will breed them in the fall of 2014 and have kids in the spring of 2015. Someday, we might try our hand at milking goats, but not until my children are old enough to reliably help me with the milking.
Gloria, the mama goat. She is extremely gentle and docile.
We still have these 4 wethers that will sell for meat late winter or early spring. They were supposed to be ready to go by late fall, but they were not big enough (our buyers like the goats to be about 70 pounds). They are finally reached slaughter weight, so as soon as we get a break in this cold weather, we'll sell them.
Despite the 2-3 feet of snow outside my door, I know it will be spring soon. Seed catalogs have been arriving in the mail and my heart leaps with excitement when I look though those glossy pages full of promise and opportunity. Come March, I will be busy in my basement, starting seeds under the grow lights and plotting my crop rotations for the 2014 garden. In the meantime, I think I might just keep hibernating...