Last night as I lay in bed listening to the rain in the middle of the night, I couldn't sleep, I kept thinking about our last year, what happened, what we accomplished, and what we learned. I always review before I begin writing out my new goals. Here is a quick review of our family and farm and each area of interest over the last year.
Raising children establishes our life into routines, I work around my children's lives, their school, sports, driving them to games and practices, helping them with their personal growth and simply being there to talk with them. This last year I loved going to Tessa's track meets and High School soccer games. She was a top hurdler for girls in the middle school where she went, and then she went on to high school where she was a freshman soccer player. It was fun to watch her play with some of the girls she's played with since she was 7 years old, now they're all 15 and 16 years old. She continues to be in the honor's program and is planning for college at the University of Washington.
Kaley had fun running in races this year, she ran in the Hershey's Track and Field meet and won two local races for the 400 meter and 800 meter. She went on to state, where she finished 7th in the 800 meter, pretty good for only having a few races under her belt. She started middle school in the Fall and has to wait one more year to be able to play school sports. In our district the kids have to be in 7th grade to do track and cross country, which is what she wants to do. She worked hard to get into the honors program just like her sister, over the summer we got the letter we were waiting for, her acceptance into the honors program, it was a big deal in our family. We are all really proud of her work ethic in doing homework and reading good books, she also has plans on the horizon for college and wants to be a teacher.
Jason went to work on a ranch in Texas for over a month this past summer, when he came back he had a whole new independence and had grown up so much. He's halfway through his senior year now and is planning to go fishing in Alaska this coming year. He bought an old truck in the Fall and has been having fun rebuilding it. He also has a new girlfriend, his first, and we all just love her, her name is Taylor. It's hard to believe he'll be 18 tomorrow! I remember how cute he was running around as a little boy just like it was yesterday.
The real highlight of our year of course, was my oldest daughter Christina giving birth to our first grandchild, named Roman. This was a thrill of the highest kind, it changed our lives and took us into the realm of grand-parenthood. Watching him come into the world melted my heart and I fell in love instantly. He is the bright star in our family. Now seeing my daughter as a mother, I have come full circle, we have become closer and are working on craft projects together once a week. Becoming a grandmother was something totally unexpected at the start of last year, and one of the big surprises of the year! My daughter Christina is talking about getting her real estate license this coming year. She remembers me selling real estate throughout her childhood, I sold homes and land for 12 years and all my children remember going to work with me at different times, hanging out with me evenings and weekends when the office was quiet.
My second oldest daughter Heather continues to work as a barista and has plans for going to beauty school to work on becoming an estitician, she loves the fashion and make-up industry, and we celebrate her choice to follow her dream. It would be fun to go into her future shop and get a facial, yes, me the farm girl, who's never even been to see an estitician and am not sure exactly what they do. It sure is fun to have diversity within our family.
One of the biggest goals on our farm that my husband accomplished this last year, was our perimeter fence. He's been working on it off and on for 6 years, mostly weekends when he's not working, it was more complicated than a simple fence because of the sheer size of fencing 10 acres. He poured concrete fence posts and intermediary fence posts, and then buying the actual fencing we did in stages because of the cost. This was in addition to building the big goat pasture, along with the buck pasture. We now have our entire property fenced to keep deer and coyotes out, plus our dogs and goats in. I'm planning to do a post so you can see the fencing, posts, and gates along with how he built it all.
This last year has been a year of learning all about goats. I've been reading everything I can and familiarizing myself with all the different seasons of goat care. I milked Zolena through the winter and Joon for half the year, I'm still milking them both daily, they have been wonderful to milk and are real troopers no matter what the weather. Over the summer when I had an abundance of milk, so much I was practically giving it away, I needed to make cheese. I placed an order through Hoegger goat supply for cheese cultures in early July, then I waited and waited all through July and August, they kept telling me it would come, I was patient, then they said it was on back order, and this went on and on. Finally they refunded me, I asked why, I didn't want a refund, I simply wanted the cheese cultures. They did finally end up getting them to me in early September and sent them to me free of charge because of all the hassles. I started my Fall deworming program just as I received them, I was getting all the does ready for Fall breeding. So, basically during the months when I had so much milk I didn't know what to do with it all I didn't have the cultures to make the different types of cheese I was planning to make. I still have the cultures in the freezer waiting until this Spring when I have enough milk to start learning.
Joon had twins in May, a buckling Comet, and doeling Calypso, these were our first ever kids born on our farm and it sure was exciting! Over the summer we sold our wethers Stormy and Comet to a family who wanted pet goats to eat down their blackberries, they also had alpaca's and the last I heard they were happily settled in. Calypso was part of a trade for Cowboy and went to Rhododendron Ridge, a family farm nearby. Jersey who we hoped would be pregnant never did take, so this Fall I used the buck we have on site, a Nigerian and have now bred her for mini-Nubians, and Zolena for mini-Lamancha's. All the does are now bred for Spring kiddings beginning in the middle of March.
The Goldens and Sierra are the best family dogs we could ever have, they add so much to all of our lives. Their faithfulness, loyalty, and love are amazing. We didn't have any puppies this last year, but spent time working with Jesu and Josie the two puppies we kept out of the last litter, they have grown and developed into wonderful dogs. Jesu had an accident a couple weeks ago, just days before Christmas, he was hit by Jarin's slow moving truck, right in our own driveway. He saw him go one way and then he must have doubled back and ran under the back wheel. It was one of the worst moments of the year when I heard him (my husband) crying out, saying No, No, No! As I ran out and saw Jesu laying there looking bewildered, he never cried, there was no blood, but my husband knew he had run over him. It was terrible, not knowing how bad he was hurt, or if he would ever walk again. I said let's go get a blanket to put him on it and take him in to the vet. Before we could get the blanket, miraculously he got up and walked away to his bed. We layed hands on him and prayed for his complete healing, we basically asked for a miracle and prayed there was no internal damage.
Through it all we met a new neighbor just minutes away who is a vet, she looked him over and said he appears fine, he does have some fluid from trauma in the shoulder area, which is where he was run over. Somehow he was spared, and he's now recovering after 2 weeks of keeping him confined and keeping a close eye on him. We'd take him for slow walks to go to the bathroom and get some exercise, yesterday, we finally let him loose with the other dogs and he seems ok, he's running around just like normal and we feel he's truly a miracle dog!
The rabbitry grew by adding 2 new pedigreed American Chinchilla's, a buck and a doe. They were babies so they had to grow for 6 months before breeding could begin. I used the buck to breed Serendipity once, and I am still selling the last of her kits, 6 does and 1 buck. The young American Chinchilla wasn't ready before winter, but come early Spring I'll be hoping she kindles with our first pedigreed stock from the American Chinchilla's. The Champagne d' Argents rabbit breeding's didn't go as planned, Hazel, my pedigreed doe had 3 litters that she was unsuccessful with, the 4th accidental breeding she amazingly took care of them and raised them, there were 4 bucks. We have three that I am raising for meat, I've also been researching various ways to cure the fur and will write more about that later. This year I'm going into Spring with 3 adult does, 2 proven mother's and one that we'll see how she turns out.
The chickens have been easy to care for this past year, we've had plenty of eggs to eat for our family, and some to give to friends. We didn't have enough eggs to sell on a regular basis, but are hoping this year we will. We added 10 hens to the flock, some new Rhode Island Red's, Black Alstralorp's, a Barred Rock and Buff Orpington. The purebreds came from a friend that decided to get out of chickens, they are one year old. I also got back 7 pullets from the same friend, my manager at the nursery where I worked, Sharon. She got out of chickens and gave back the chick's that came from some of our fertilized eggs.
We've had our own delicious chicken meat to eat all year from the young roosters, and the Cornish cross chickens we raised. We've had eggs for almost the entire year except for buying 2 dozen over the holidays for baking when the eggs were dwindling. The chickens are still not laying many eggs per day due to the lack of light, we're getting about 3 or 4 per day. Come the end of February we may well be up to 2 dozen per day. Right now we're at 27 hens, one rooster, plus two young roosters that Henrietta hatched out in early Fall. Feeding chickens in the winter is an act of faith and takes money. Faith that they'll begin to lay again soon, and money to keep the food coming, they continue to eat almost as much as normal only they rarely lay an egg. If I put lights on they would continue to lay, I choose to let them naturally slow down their egg laying during the coldest and darkest part of the year and lay more naturally as the light increases. I'll let them be layers for 3 to 4 years this way, verses say 2 years if I put a light on them in winter. After that time it doesn't pay to feed an older hen that slows down laying and eats the same.
When the goat pasture was finished last Spring we opened a small hatch to the chicken coop, after realizing almost all the chickens time was spent out in the pasture on the edge of the forest, we took down the covered apiary. It was a real eye sore and we needed the 70 metal fence posts that I had used to build it to finish the perimeter fence. The chickens are happy and have survived very well with the new set up, we've only lost one to a hawk or owl, we're not sure who dove in, but the chickens are all in tune to the birds of prey in the air, the rooster or a hen let's out the screaming alarm and everyone runs for cover. Over the summer we had a problem with chicken fleas, I had never experienced them in the 5 years we've been keeping chickens. To remedy this itchy situation I got a 50lb bag of diotomaceous earth and then cleaned and disinfected the coop completely, this was at the same time we took down the apiary. The diotomaceous earth seemed to cure the flea situation. I also used it on the goat stalls and on the goats themselves since they seemed itchy too.
The honeybees were another failure this year, I haven't written about it because it was discouraging for me to have this happen two years in a row. I had one hive left going into the Fall, it was the one I captured that swarmed, it seemed like it would make it through the winter but when I went to look at it the other day, I know it's not strong enough to make it through. I will definitely try again this Spring and will be diligent about weekly checks and preventing swarming. Beekeeping is a learned art, with lots of failure if you're not diligent. No excuses, I'll just keep trying. The good news is they did pollinate the fruit trees and the garden when I needed them to.
Our orchard is growing year by year, this was by far the most fruit we've produced. The Honeycrisp apple tree was the super star along with the Italian Plums and the Bartlett pears. In September we had a bull dozer in to grade the area behind the garden for the greenhouse and for another area to plant fruit trees, we keep expanding every year and someday I expect we'll have more fruit than we know what to do with.
My vegetable garden wasn't as good as some years, but it did produce plenty of food for our family. Some crops failed and other's thrived. I worked on it throughout the summer and have renewed energy now to work on it smarter this year, with more amendments and more mulch, pathways shade-clothed and mulched and beds edged regularly. The real gardening success I had was in my ornamental plants and trees, I created new beds, one very large one, and I bought 8 new Bloodgood Japanese maples at a great price. From the nursery where I worked I got a variety of hosta's, grasses, hydrangea's and some other ornamentals, and I worked on a simple design for my front rockery beds incorporating them. The patio plants this year were my best, I'm saving them over the winter to plant out again this year.
I worked weekends from Spring through Fall with several weeks off in mid August and early September. I worked for my second year in a row at a wholesale plant nursery selling plants. I had fun meeting new people and working on landscape designs. I helped the owner and manager Sharon in whatever way I could, often that included weeding when no customers were present. I was incredibly thankful for the job and the extra money for our family, but I didn't like working on Sundays, now that I'm done working there I'm glad I finished my commitment.
Throughout the Fall I worked on our house,taping the sheetrock, texturing and painting, whenever I could get an extra 3 or 4 hours I would devote to Tessa and Kaley's rooms. I got Tessa's room finished before school started in September and Kaley's I finished the day before Christmas. That's 3 rooms that are now finished in our big house, right now I'm focused on getting our kitchen and dining room completed. Over the next month I'll be taping, texturing, sanding, cleaning, and painting. Each area we'll have to tarp to keep the rest of the house clean. Why didn't I get more done last year? I think the mess I knew I'd be creating in my home deterred me. This is one of those things that my husband doesn't have the time to work on. So, the finishing of the walls inside our house is my project, I'm making this my main focus of the coming year, finishing the interior walls and staining the wood.
As we move onward to our new year I wonder what surprises will unfold. I'm praying that we all stay healthy and whole, that all our needs will be met, and that we'll all grow in wisdom and Godliness...that prayer includes you dear readers as well. Thank you for following along on our adventures!