Saying Farewell to 2015, when it had been such an incredible year, is difficult to do. I can’t even begin to describe the level of gratefulness and gratitude that we feel, or tell you the level of support we received, not to mention the encouragement we received from the followers and friends to our site. Normally, people are ready for the year to end and begin a new chapter of a new year. For us, we have had such an amazing 2015 that we don’t see it as a year ending, but an extension into another year – simply continuing the journey!
Where do we start to describe how full this past year had been? I guess we should start with the adoption of two female goats ( a mother and her 6 month old kid), from Puget Sound Goat Rescue, in January. Penelope and Piper were brought to the property to work the land with our wethered males, and between the four of them they have done amazing job on clearing the blackberry and salmonberry vines that grew on our lower lot. Many have asked if we will used them as milking does, but because we are unsure of their breed we do no want to venture in mating and producing unknown breeds. However, if we were to guess, we believe them to be Saanen mixed with Nigerian Dwarf. Penelope and Piper have found their forever home with us, and if the time should ever come for us to adopt again there would be no hesitation to go through PSG Rescue.
Birth is one of the most amazing occurrences that can happen, and in April we were privileged to have a few of our hens go broody and hatch eggs. This was a first for this homesteading family and definatley not the last! We selected breeds specific for egg color from our friends over at Just Fowling Around, a small family owned farm, chicken bloggers, and some of the most informed chicken people in the Pacific Northwest. The fertilized eggs arrived safely packaged and we had a 100% hatch rate of 24 eggs! In 2015 we welcomed Cream Legbars for blue eggs, French Black Copper Marans for the much prized chocolate color eggs, and the much desired Lavender Orpingtons for a dual purpose breed and the beautiful slate coloring of their feathers.
But what was even more incredible was our group of broody hens. For our first experience in this adventure we could have not asked for kinder broodies, and our Mottled Java Justine reached fame status in her own right. She was watched from the moment we placed the eggs under her, throughout the 21 days she sat, the world then watched as her first chick hatched, and we listened as vocal communication was established between mother and chicks. She was a kind broody, allowing us to pet and talk to her, she left the nest daily to eat, dust bath and poop just to quickly return to her eggs. People fell in love with Justine and asked about her in private message, or left comments wondering how she was doing. We are happy to inform that Justine shall be the first on the list for when we hatch out eggs.
Shortly after Justine hatched her clutch we had two more hens go broody, and if you have never experienced co-parenting among chickens I will send every good vibe that you shall one day get to experience this. Our two hens Nellie and Ms. Betts co-parented a group of 12 chicks, the story of how this occurred was incredible and a huge lesson was taught to all not only us, but many who followed us…the power and desire to be a mother runs strong through many, including a chicken hen.
Due to Ms. Betts level of aggression towards the chicks she hatched, they were removed from her and given to Nellie to raise; I sadly realized that great broodies do not always make good mothers. Ms. Betts became so depressed that she sat outside the brooder box making motherly noises to the chicks for almost two days. I couldn’t take her level of sadness any longer so I took a gamble and placed Ms. Betts into the brooder with the others. At this point anything could have happen. Ms. Betts could have continued to be aggressive towards chicks, or Nellie could have become an protective mother and forced Ms. Betts away from her and her brood, but the most incredible thing happened. Ms. Betts was content with BEING THERE, just to be a part of the group, to be close to Nellie and the chicks, she was happy to be sitting in the same space!
Ms. Betts became the aunt and Nellie remained the mother; teaching Ms. Betts how to become a good mother. They co-parented together to the end, and it was Nellie who left the group first allowing Ms. Betts a chance to be mother hen for week prior leaving the young pullets. This was an experience that melted the heart and educated not only my family, but others who had never experienced co-parenting among hens.
Egg production on our little homestead helped us to break even on feed cost as well as cover all additional supplements that we provide for our flocks. The opportunity to help educate families in regards to the importance of farm fresh eggs and purchasing from small family farms has been a blessing. We look forward to continue to service families in our area, and to help spread the importance of humanely raised livestock and the product they produce.
In mid-May we added 4 new ducks to the homestead, one being a 2 year old Cayuga drake named Cayu. He was brought to us because he was being bullied by another drake at his previous home. Most of the feathers on his back had been plucked clean, and the stress of being bullied wore heavy on him. Within a few short weeks his feathers began to grow back and a beautiful iridescent shine returned to his body.
We fell in love with the Welsh Harliquin breed when we brought Mallow to the property in 2014. Welsh Harlequins are currently considered a critical breed on the Livestock Conservancy list and were once a popular heritage breed for many homes and farms. They are also great layers and excellent forages – a true independent breed. We decided that if we were to breed any water fowl on our property it would be the this breed. To begin our breeding program we added another 3 Welsh Harliquin ducklings to the property, and we are excited to see the stock that comes from Graham, Mallow, Little Miss Sunshine, and Sweet Petunia!
In May we adopted again, this time we brought home an 8 week old Mastiff-Pitbull mix, and named her Miss Harley Quinn.
The world watched her daily and saw her transform from an adorable little pup into a working farm pup. We have had a few mishaps along the way, but we know that having a farm dog means working together daily to better the relationship between homesteader, dog, and livestock. As this blog is being written she will be turning 9 months old and has a long way to go in order to become a working farm dog, but with our love and guidance we know she will get there.
As a family we have had such an amazing adventure over the summer! We explored the western side of WA state as a family – hiking, visiting various lakes, river tubing, and camping.
We visited various abandoned barns in our area wondering what the history of these once amazing building once were.
But the best moments occurred here on our little homestead. We gardened, harvested the bounty, split & stacked wood, and cared for our animals – together.
We learned that with life comes death, causing us to lose two members from our orignional flock; one to prolapsed vent and the other due to respiratory issues. Culling an animal on your homestead is the most difficult thing one can deal with, and when you spend time trying to nurse them back to health it makes it even more difficult to put them down. We say our final good-bye to our Sweet Liberty and Black Beauty, and have learned that humanity and love occurs whether you are raising poultry as pets or as meat animals.
Our gardens produced enough food to feed our family through the entire summer, and we miss it terribly!
The farm kids could often be found in the garden grazing from it throughout the day, and they learned the importance of growing your own food. We spent this summer teaching them how to prepare simple meals, and to enjoy eating fresh.
They helped to start seeds, transplanted the starts into larger containers, watered the garden beds, and helped to close out the beds at the end of summer. This has been such a year for them, and we truly hope they continue to remember the tools that we are trying to teach them; taking it with them once they have grown and ventured off to begin their own lives.
We filled our canning pantry with food from our garden as well as from local farms around us. We put up favorite items, tried new recipes, canned meats and soup, and are currently enjoying the labors of our hard work. Nothing warms our hearts more than seeing our children ask for items from our pantry.
A goal of our is to begin learning herbal remedies, items to help improve the health of our family, and fire cider was the first natural wellness item I made. My farm guy and I consume this daily, helping us to naturally boost our immune system and guard us from getting a cold and the flu. I am excited to learn additional natural methods to help our family stay healthy.
We ended the year learning how to make kombucha, a fermented tea, which has helped aid in digestion and gut health; 2016 will bring us to experimenting with flavors. I am extremely thankful that my family has embraced it and actually enjoy the flavor!
It has been such an amazing year, one definitely for the record books. The plans for 2016 will only be better, but only time can tell and we hope you will join us on this journey to living a self sustaining life.