When we first brought sheep to our farm we had fenced in a part of the hay field to create a safe and limited pasture for them. As our flock grew we fenced in more of the hay field so that we could move the flock occasionally giving each field a time of rest. As happens on a farm like ours, our flock continued to grow and we also added a cow and two donkeys to the fold. Ultimately we fenced in about 75% of our hay field to create 4 individual pastures to rotate our animals through.
Beyond good grass, there is one important item every animal needs and that is fresh, clean water. We have two rain collection tanks at the barn to provide the water to our animals. When there was only one field there wasn’t much of an issue as we could use a small hose to fill their trough. It became a little more challenging when we expanded to two fields and further still by the time we had four fields. Each field has a trough that must be filled each day.
For the past couple of years we have run about 300 feet of hose with diversion valves in order to get the water to each field. This worked pretty well the first year, but the relentless Texas sun dries them out over time and we began spending quite a bit of money on replacing hoses as they failed. Anyone who has priced a hose these days will agree that the price for a good 100 foot hose has risen considerably. We decided it was time to do something different.
The past two weekends we tackled the project of replacing those hoses with buried PVC pipes. The long run from the barn to the furthest point was about 250 feet. We planned this project for November because the temperature is typically cooler and the ground softer after Fall rains. Unfortunately we have been experiencing an incredibly dry Fall this year and the ground was the consistency of dried out play-dough. That is once we broke through the hard crust on the surface.
We don’t have trenching equipment and none could be found for rent anywhere nearby so we had to break through the surface crust with a pick-axe the entire 250 feet. To their credit, our oldest son and 8 year old both took their turns breaking the top crust along the fence line. I’m pretty sure it would have been a three weekend project had it not been for their tremendous effort.
I followed that long furrow with my cultivator to dig down a shallow trench about 4-5 inches deep. Once the trench was completed we glued and laid the pipe in the ground and installed the risers and valves that would bring the water to each trough.
When the glue dried it was time to test the system and thankfully within a few seconds of turning on the tank valve water flowed from each riser!
This year we did not plant pumpkins at all. We planted tomatoes, butternut and acorn squash, black eyed peas, brussel sprouts, kale, celery, jalapeno and bell peppers, basil and cucumbers (which the gophers really, really liked). We also enjoyed some wild plums and dewberries, wild grapes, which we made into jelly and even wine, and some blueberries and blackberries that are still growing in the garden.
But we did not plant pumpkins.
Some of the best things in life are not planned, or even wanted at first, and yet if we let them, just let them be and help them, help them along, they can become the most treasured.
I often feed the chickens spoiled things and the melon and squash seeds, it must have been from that, that this pumpkin plant began, all on it’s own, just outside the chicken run that wraps around our vegetable garden. It began pretty late , sometime in July if I remember correctly, and so we didn’t expect it to produce many, if any pumpkins, before it got too hot in the summer. But I was watering the vegetable garden with a sprinkler that sprayed a wide area in the garden and some outside of the garden and the pumpkin plant thrived. All-summer-long and even into the fall too. We canned a-lot of pumpkin back in late summer when we thought we were nearing the end of our pumpkin harvest and there was no room in the kitchen for anything else. (note: pumpkin/squash must be canned with a pressure canner)
We found a delicious honey pumpkin pie recipe, that you can find <here>, that is a-maz-ingly delicious, to use up some of our pumpkin. We also have an old favorite pumpkin soup recipe that we are looking forward to having again. Today I am making a Pumpkin Bundt Cake which we have not tried yet, for my Oldest sons birthday. He absolutely loves pumpkin anything, as do I, so we are looking forward to tasting this new recipe that we found <here>.
Since it is my oldest sons birthday today and pumpkin is his favorite vegetable, and since I noticed today that there were an abundance of pumpkins still growing on the vine. I decided to ask Liam to pick the rest of the pumpkins that were on the vine, and had a little orange on them. I told him I’d give him a “coin” for each pumpkin he picked.
He found enough for Joey to have one for each year he has been alive (29) and one to spare!
From one pumpkin plant!
We probably canned close to that many a few months ago, from the same plant!
Pumpkins can be left on the vine to ripen further, but once they begin to turn orange, they don’t get any larger and, if picked, can be saved from gophers, bugs and the elements, and they will complete the ripening process on their own. You see the nutrients that it has stored up in its stem continue to feed it for the remainder of the ripening process. The nutrients from the main tap root that were delivered to the pumpkin stem by the vine. This got me to thinking about how, like pumpkins, we are effected and changed, by our experiences, our friends, the shows we watch and the books we read, even the pictures we look at and the voices that we listen to, long after we have severed ties, turned off the movie, or closed the book.
It really matters what we give our attention to, it effects our attitudes, our perception of others, and ourselves, the way we treat others and so much more. I want to be careful who and what I tap into and give my attention to. I want to be careful and intentional about what I absorb, to be sure it will effect me in ways that help me become the person I want to be, and nothing else.
It also got me thinking about how grateful that I am for the people who have plugged into me, who have invested in me, cared about me and just been my friend. People who effect me in ways that help me become a better person, the kind of person I want to be.
It also got me to thinking how thankful that I am for Joey. You see Joey was unexpected too an unexpected surprise, when I was only 15. I am so thankful for the friends that encouraged me, plugged into me and helped me to carry him and give him life. I am thankful for all of the friends that helped me to be a better mother to him and all of the those that followed. I am thankful for Joey, he is a true treasure to me. I am thankful for his wisdom, his tender spirit and how he was taught me to be more considerate and understanding. I am thankful for all of the help that Joey is to me, with his younger brothers and all of the things on the farm right now, while he is living with us.
And I am thankful for abundant and overflowing pumpkins! Especially on his birthday!
“Wherever you are at this time in your life, do your best, give it your all, do it with your whole heart, be brave, courageous, strong, and be at peace. And if you find yourself discontent ask yourself why. You may, like me, be surprised to see how shallow the reason for your discontent is,… or maybe not. And then press on, in the direction that is best for this time, and in this season of life.”
If I told you that I believed that a married woman should stay home and take care of her family, and her family’s affairs, see to the children (if she as any) and manage the home; you might call me antiquated, old fashioned or maybe even sexist, or bigoted.
I believe nothing of the sort. However, I do believe there are great benefits, to a woman and her family, who lives this way under the right circumstances.
If I told you that I believe that women should work and have fulfilling careers. Because they owe it to the women who fought for equality and the right to vote and the right to an education, to be there in the work place, to show what women can do. That a woman should never depend on a man to take care of her and that staying home and not working is an offense to all women everywhere. You might call me progressive, modern, sexist, power hungry, selfish or strong, and courageous.
I don’t believe this. However, I do believe that there are great benefits to women, their families, the work place and society as a whole, under the right circumstances, to having women in the work place.
But did you know there is an unspoken, or maybe loudly spoken of at times, code? I realized this morning as I was considering our pastors’ sermon on ‘What is Your Cross?’ He asked “What do you hold high and lifted up?”, and “is it your career?” he said, among other things. (I wrote this one a Sunday afternoon).
As I considered this, I realized that I am still struggling with this, and that underneath this struggle is a desire to be seen as a career woman. To be seen as a woman who knows things and contributes, a woman who is honoring the suffragettes of the past by doing her duty in the work place. A woman with her own money, and all the conveniences and comforts it can provide and a woman of status, an important woman. I miss that identity.
You see, if you have followed our journey to the farm for a good while, you know that a big part of the plan, and even a big part of the reason for the farm, was for me (momma) to be home. When I was at work I enjoyed my work, and all of the ‘adulting’ and especially the money.
But I was always longing to be home. Home with just my home, so that I could clean it and put things away in it, and garden and cook in it and not be in a hurry
I wanted to be home with our son and teach him and watch every minute of his childhood and not let any of it pass me by. I wanted to have another child too.
We worked hard to pay off the debts and built a house that we hoped we could afford to maintain on just one income. During this time we tried for another child and lost him, tried again and then gave up. And then it was time. It was time to leave the work place. It was time to finally be home. But I just went to part time for a while to see how that worked and so we did that for, I think maybe a year. It was nice, more relaxed but still pretty busy and since we were already living in our new home, out in a rural area, it was a pretty long commute, for all of us.
So I did it. I quit, “retired” if you will and stayed home, full time. I was excited and apprehensive. I struggled to trust him to provide for everything we needed. I struggled to adjust what we “needed” and I struggled to not put all of my relational needs ‘adulting needs’ on him. My husband and I had driven to work together since we got married, for 8 plus years. It was a big change! Would we have enough time together to keep the flame burning?
Our relationship has had it’s ups and downs, as it did before I left the work place. But over all I think we are closer and I think that is due in part to my being able to have more mental energy to focus on caring and kindness and working out my ‘rough edges’. And the flame is still burning, warmer than ever,… most days I think. And well, we did have another child too, eventually, after we had given up trying;)
There have been times since I left the workplace that I have struggled deeply with returning to work, for want of money, for want of more adult time and out of concern that maybe the children would be better off with less of me, honestly.
But each time we talked and prayed about it, we came to the same conclusion; that we would all be happier and better off, if I continued to stay home.
But I still have struggled with this longing, or maybe nagging desire to return to my career and lately I have been asking myself why.
Today I think I realized why. I believe the bottom line reason why; is because there is at this time and place in our world an unspoken code. A code that says that women who stay home aren’t smart, aren’t courageous or driven, they aren’t hard working and respectable, they aren’t valuable, progressive or powerful. I want to be all of those things!
But at the same time I realized; I am all of those things, right here at home. I am! And it doesn’t matter if my career driven comrades in gender, feel that way about me. I am! I don’t need to drive 3 hours (or more) a day, pack (or buy) lunches and struggle to make healthy meals while working and creating and making money and making my mark in the work place, to be those things. I am those things, right here at home. And (as I realized a few months ago) my value is not tied to how clean and tidy the house or children are either.
And yes, you can be all of those things and manage your career too and there is nothing wrong with that. That is needed and valuable and wonderful too.
But right here, on my little 23 acre farm, where I am making just barely enough money, off of my farming ventures (see our Whirldworks Wares), to pay for said farming ventures (for the first time this year). I am powerful, strong, brave courageous, valuable and worthy of respect, whether you or anyone else thinks so, or not. And so are you.
And this, staying home and tending the animals, people and home, is the right thing, under these circumstances, at this time, for me.
Wherever you are at this time in your life, do your best, give it your all, do it with your whole heart, be brave, courageous, strong, and be at peace. And if you find yourself discontent ask yourself why. You may, like me, be surprised to see how shallow the reason for your discontent is,… or maybe not. And then press on, in the direction that is best for this time, and in this season of life.
Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1Cor 10:31
My first exploration of dying wool was with RIT Dyes on Debouillet roving. While the temperature that I dyed at did not exceed 140 degrees because I was afraid of felting the wool, the results were still pretty nice. I had found that mixing colors together would give me interesting color combinations with streaks of different colors throughout the braid. I hadn’t quite understood why though until I set out to dye the Debouillet wool that I had spun into yarn at the mill. I found an article that said that presoaking the wool in vinegar would actually create that marbled color effect! So now I know what caused it, and how to prevent it when I don’t want it.
On this yarn I had decided I wanted a deep wine red color and I wanted it to be pretty consistent throughout. I had some Jaquard dyes in primary colors and mixed 3 tsp red 618, with 1/8 tsp of sun yellow 601 and 1/4 tsp of turquoise 624, in 28 cups of tap water in a blue enamel pot, to get my dark red.
This time I presoaked the skeins of yarn in water alone and placed them in the dye pot when it was 150 degrees. I maintained a temperature between 150 degrees F and 185 degrees F. When I removed the yarn because the color saturation was as dark as I wanted it to be, I placed them immediately into another pot of water about the same temperature that had 1-1/2 Tbsp of citric acid mixed into the water. and let it soak for 10 min. After the acid soak I placed the hot wet skeins into the tap water in the sink and let them set until cooled, this last step may have been repeated a few times until the water ran clean.Then I pressed the water out with pressure no wringing and took them to the clothes line on the back porch to dry in the sun.
I had quite a bit of dye left in the pot. So I added another 8 skeins of yarn to the dye pot and removed it when it was a pretty raspberry pink color. and repeated the steps mentioned above, with this batch. There was still dye left on the pot at this point, but not too much, so I found 5 oz of roving and put it in the pot until all of the dye was soaked up. The roving came out a really pretty dusty pink rose color.I wrapped some netting around it to dry out side because the bugs really like to get nestled into the roving when I leave it out to dry.
I placed the roving in the dye pot loose and unbraided to get color throughout and color was very consistent. The skeins of yarn, however were tied in three places and when I went to use them I could see that, where it had been tied, was left a slightly less saturated with color than the rest of the skein. But this adds an interesting color variation and I am still very happy with the results.
It was an amazing experience to use wool off the sheep that I care for every day to make slippers and a blanket and other things. I look forward to making many more beautiful things with it (once my sprained finger is healed! It’s been 5 weeks and its healing soooo slowly) not being able to crochet is making me grouchy;p Check out out Whildworks Wares pages to see all of our lovely wool creations. Here the beautiful pair of Slippers and ear warmer headband set that I made with some of the raspberry colored yarn. And here is the gorgeous baby blanket and headband set that I made with all of the red. There is still raspberry pink yarn and dusty rose roving in stock for your to make your own beautiful things! Let us know what you think!
We were gifted this Silky/ Cochin hen, as a six week old chick in 2017 (I think) by Rachel and James Cubas from the Cochin hen at their school; Marimont Montessori in Pflugerville TX. Liam went to school there, for about two years, before mamma retired to stay home and become fully dedicated to farming and being mamma.
For various shall we say “predatory reasons” she is the only one left out of 9 that we originally had received. At the time we recieved the Silky/Cochin chicks we were having problems with an aggressive rooster (named Mr. Rogers,- oh the irony) so we gave several of the chicks to our neighbors. This was their first attempt at any kind of farm animals at their homestead (A Shaffer Homestead) and they built an incredible chicken coop and took great care of them.
After about 8 months one of them, that they had named, Bell became broody (when a hen won’t leave the nesting box to eat, or poo, or scratch, she wants to hatch chicks and she is called broody) and she raised up a brood of 10 chicks, hatched with minimal human assistance at my neighbors homestead.
That fall for “predatory reasons” they were down to a handful of chicks and grown Silky/Cochin hens and roos and then found that they need to be away for an extended period of time. So,.. they returned the rest of them back to our farm.
Right now we only have two left; Bell and Galadriel. Galadriel is one of the chicks that Bell raised two years ago.
So this spring Bell started getting Broody again and after a few weeks of forcibly removing eggs from under her and taking time to (hopefully) fill in all of the gaps in our brooder coop, we were convinced that she was serious about hatching some more eggs and we put her in the nesting box, with hay.
We started giving her all of the eggs we collected each day for almost a week…
…and then they all fell down and broke:(
So we added a little lip to the nesting box
,…and started once again to give her all of the eggs we collected each day for one week
and then let her be…
The way that she spreads her wings out over all of the eggs to keep them warm reminds me of Psalm 91:4 “And under His wings you may seek refuge;” and of how God cares for those who seek refuge in Him.Gods love and care for us is reflected in every aspect of nature and the life that He has created ans we miss so much of that in our “civilized” and “technologically advanced” society, sighs…
but back to Bell;)
Over the nest almost three weeks we brought her bits of fruit and and vegetables, since she didn’t seem to be getting up to feed herself as far as we could tell,
and we began counting the days!! 🙂
We expected to start seeing chicks hatch by the 24th
but the 24th came and went, and no chicks
and the 25th, no chicks,
the 26,… still no chicks, maybe it was too cool, or maybe the eggs weren’t fertilized…
the 27th we – didn’t – even – check-
But on Sunday hurray our first chick hatched. It is sooo cute.The little peeps and so tiny and fluffy!
We did a little research and apparently it is important to get the chicks drinking water so we are working out how exactly to do that, in this little nesting box. Maybe next time we will be more prepared. For now we are just refilling a tiny cup of water, as needed.
There are TEN more eggs in there and we could hear more than one little chick peeping this morning when we did our “well check”.
Also a few of the eggs we bobbing around a bit, so we expect to see more tiny babies very soon!
It is so exciting to have baby animals around at different seasons of the year.
We may have to figure out a way to have some fall babies of some kind this year, lol!!!
This has little to do with homesteading or husbandry, but I am very excited about this launch today. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s there was a lot to be excited about space. The possibilities and adventure didn’t escape me at my young age. I still remember sitting in the crowded library at Norman Rockwell Elementary in 1981 with all eyes focused on the television waiting for that gleaming white space shuttle to launch into space for the very first time.
When those powerful engines ignited and it lifted off, my dreams went soaring with it. The videos of astronauts in space, doing work inside and outside the shuttle amazed me. I loved the shuttle program and wrote letters to NASA regularly. In response they often sent inspiration letters back to me and each return letter included pictures of space shuttles, rockets and astronauts. I dedicated an entire wall of my bedroom to NASA, including a scale replica model of the Challenger that I painstakingly put together and hung from the ceiling.
Over the years there was a dream in my mind of reaching the stars. Obviously I never made it there though. I slowly came to the realization as I advanced through school that science and math were not my gift. The dream was never crushed by that as I accepted that some are meant to reach the stars while others can be inspired and be an inspiration to others to keep dreaming big.
Like many Americans I was shocked and dismayed when the shuttle program was shut down only to discover that after decades of investment and research, the United States had no other viable means of getting humans into space.
Then, several years ago, a private company named SpaceX appeared from the shadows with an incredible mission. They not only dreamed of returning Americans to space from American soil, but their end goal is to take humans to Mars. I can’t say that I have followed every step of SpaceX, but I have payed quite a bit of attention to what they have been doing over the years. The very first time they successfully launched a rocket and then returned the booster to land on a ship floating in the ocean was an absolutely amazing feat.
There have been many other incredible firsts for SpaceX, but today’s launch is something I and millions of other Americans have been waiting for. The return of Americans to space, from American soil, on American rockets is very exciting in itself, but if you spend a little time on the SpaceX website you will realize that the technology these people have developed (and are developing) is light years beyond what we are used to seeing from our traditional space programs.
If you’ve ever watched a space flight in the pat, you may remember seeing a crew cabin stuffed with knobs, dials and switches with just a little bit of room left for the astronauts. The SpaceX Dragon Crew Capsule looks like nothing we’ve ever seen before. There are no visible wires, switched or any other ugly control boxes or surfaces. The capsule can be configured to carry between 4 to 7 astronauts and the only control surface in the craft is a touch-screen panel. I’m still not sold on the idea of replacing all controls with a touch-screen only approach, but if anyone can sell the advancement of technology it is SpaceX. I imagine in 10-15 years I won’t even remember thinking this approach was questionable.
At any rate, I am hoping to be able to watch the launch live today and I hope, if you are able, to watch it too. The time to tune in is 4:33pm Eastern Time (3:33pm Central Time). There are many places online to watch it, but I plan to watch it on YouTube:
Even though I never made it to space, the wonderful view of the stars we have in the country still reminds me that God is an awesome creator and His heavens are both an inspiration and that He is vastly more than we often give Him credit.
We were scheduled to be vendors at the Texas Yarn Lovers event this weekend, but alas, as with all else, the event was cancelled. However, you can still have the opportunity to view all of the vendors who had planned to participate through Texas Yarn Lovers Virtual Vendors online event.
Tune in to our live fiber show on Instagram @whirldworksfarm today from 2-3pm. We are located in a rural area so connectivity can sometimes be an issue. If our live feed bugs out, click to our YouTube channel on our bio page for the recorded version of the live show (as soon as we can upload it) and other videos of the goings on at our farm. You can place orders live during the show by sending messages or by sending us an email: email@example.com
Here is a schedule for the other vendors:
The mask thing wasn’t something I was eager to participate in. We are, after all quite isolated as it is. What use would we have for such a thing? But my grandparents asked if we could find them a few on Amazon and order them as they aren’t all that savvy when it comes to internet shopping. I looked on Amazon to see what they had…and wasn’t impressed. So I looked for an easy pattern to follow to make them some masks myself. We have a pretty slow internet connection, and not very much data, so we subscribe to YouTube to download videos in the early morning hours when we have a more generous streaming allowance. I found a pretty simple instructional that got me a basic mask but then I decided to add a pleat at the nose and the chin for more protection and better fit and I thought , why not use some wool? So I did! The result is a pretty stout little mask with a measure of air filtration sewn in. It is NOT hot by the way. One common misconception about wool is that it is hot, but truly some of the virtues of wool are that it is a great insulator to keep you warm when it is cold and it breathes very well to also keep you cool, other wise our sheep would die of heat stroke in the hot Texas sun.and the generation of mankind that only had clothes made from wool and had NO air conditioner would not have been able to wear it. It is also antimicrobial, antibacterial and naturally flame and moisture resistant. <https://skeinyarn.com/blogs/blog/34415044-10-wondrous-properties-of-wool> So if you haven’t explored wool, there is no better time than now. And of course if you need some wool send me a message and I’ll let you know what I have in stock. Also if you’d like to order a mask from me, made as shown in the tutorial, I’ll try to make you one. I’m charging $12 for these but I have limited materials, thread and fabric choices and fabric stores are a bit slower and lower in inventory than normal. Send me a message and I’ll make as many as I can! Here is a link to my tutorial. This is my first attempt at making an instructional video with text and music. There is a little bit at the end where you can heal my 7yo doing school work 😉 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXaCHi38FZQ>
In these crazy times of ours there are still moments of beauty and amazement. I will try to catch up on all the fun and wonderful times we’ve been having on the farm even in the midst of this terrible pandemic. For now though, I wanted to make a special post announcing the arrival of our first calf this morning.
We now have a few years of lambing under our belt, but the prospect of bringing a new calf into our lives has been something that has brought us some uncertainty. The sheep have been so easy and we’ve never had to intervene. We have heard many stories of difficulties cows can have during birth.
Due to this we have been keeping a very close watch on Ada, the cow. We were pretty sure yesterday that calf day was very close. I checked on her several times and tried, without success, to keep the guardian dogs out of her pasture.
This morning we checked on her first thing, but no calf. We got the boys up, dressed, and began making breakfast. Before we ate I ran out for one more check. There, standing next to Ada, was her brand new baby boy! It was such an exciting moment we left the start of breakfast on the counter and everyone rushed out to see the new addituon to our farm.
He’s a big, strong British White calf whi, for now, is just as frindly and sweet as his momma.
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