Starting a homestead has proven to be a whirlwind of activity! We’ve had some ups and some downs, a few things that didn’t go quite right, and a lot that did. For a year plagued with unusual difficulties and challenges, I’m pretty happy with the state of the farm and can only hope that 2021 will bring about a lot more positives for all of us. Homesteading has been both the culmination of a long journey and the start of everything.
Several years ago we found ourselves unhappy with our current lifestyle, we spent most of our time watching T.V or playing video games, we ate incredibly unhealthy food and exercise was basically nonexistent. We felt bad both physically and mentally and a change had to be made. The first change we made was starting keto, a completely different way of eating that banished sugar from the house. It was challenging but worth it and it allowed us to become healthy enough to take up running. Running took us outdoors and reminded us of our love of nature, we embraced hiking, training the dogs and little by little time indoors became something we did when it was too cold or rainy outside to do anything else.
When my husband got a job opportunity that would take us farther north and afford us the opportunity to leave behind suburban life we did so gladly and while this half-year on the homestead has been busy and challenging I can honestly say that this is the lifestyle we were meant to have – we just didn’t know it until now.
This has been a long introduction but it’s been a long year for a lot of us and with 2021 approaching I just want to tell all of you – embrace the changes you need, find whatever it is that will make you happy, and make 2021 the year we all hoped 2020 would be. Without further rambling, here’s what we have done while homesteading in November & December.
Homesteading, The Final Update of 2020!
Successfully Increased the Quail Flock
We have managed to successfully increase our quail flock to 16 birds. It remains to be seen exactly how many of the younger ones are male or female but I’m hopeful for a good mix! If even half of them are female our eggs will be increased significantly and the family has discovered that scrambled quail eggs are quite delicious!
Integrated All The Chickens Into One Large Flock
At the time of this writing, all of our chickens live together happily as one big flock. The only birds still separated are Shannon and Shelly, the Guinea’s, and they will be set loose within the week and we’ll cross our fingers and hope that that 8 weeks confined to the coop is enough time for them to imprint on it as home.
The four Black Copper Maran hens are all laying religiously, which is good because our original older girls have decided to take the winter off and have been laying sporadically. This is pretty typical for older hens and I expect them to pick back up come spring. Of the nine younger hens, five of them should be coming of age any day now while the last four are about 2 weeks behind age-wise. We will soon be swimming in eggs! Hopefully, they start holding the candling classes again soon so that we can get our license to sell them as part of our homesteading future, they have been canceled due to Covid since we moved here.
Our Roosters and Guinea’s have proven themselves quite useful and successfully warded off three hawk attacks in the last couple of weeks. With the colder temperatures and lack of leaf cover, it seems the local hawk population has started looking for easier meals. Poor little Cerberus, one of our younger hens, unfortunately, got pinned by a hawk in the first attack however the roosters have proven to be quite dedicated to their ladies, and by the time I got outside to see what the ruckus was about they had already chased it off. I guess five roosters charging it was too much for the hawk to deal with.
Cerberus ran and hid under the deck with her siblings for most of the day and it wasn’t until later that afternoon I was able to catch her and check for damage. She had a puncture wound on her wing but was very lucky as it missed the joint. I treated the wound with my favorite poultry wound spray and it has healed up nicely.
That first attack taught the whole flock a lesson however and they have been far more vigilant. The second and third attacks were several days later and everyone ran for cover with no injuries.
Bred The Rabbits
It turns out that I was right all those months ago and Blackberry is indeed a male. This is great as a trio is a perfect start to our rabbit herd. All three of our rabbits have sweet temperaments and beautifully soft fur, while they are a touch smaller than I would have liked this is a fairly common issue with Re rabbits and I can improve that as time goes on and I introduce bigger bloodlines.
In the meantime, they should prove to be a great start to our homesteading rabbit program and I’m anxiously awaiting baby bunnies of our homesteading journey near the 10th of January. Of course since North and Hazel are first-time moms there is a chance they won’t know quite what to do, there is even a chance they didn’t catch at all – we’ll know soon enough! In the meantime, we have purchased nest boxes for them and made plans for a grow-out cage – just in case!
Celebrated an At-Home Christmas
Just like Halloween, we chose to celebrate Christmas at home this year, while we originally planned to spend some time with the Grandparents in a small gathering of just us and them our oldest came down with a stomach bug a day before so we called it off as we are unwilling to put them at risk for anything that may send them to the doctors or other places that could increase their chances of catching Covid.
The girls still had a pretty awesome Christmas however, with cookie decorating for Santa and Holly the Elf’s antics! We even made sure that they got to visit Santa through Bass Pro Shops Christmas workshop. The event included temperature checks, chats, and pictures through plexiglass (don’t worry they put their masks back on as soon as the pictures were done). The kids loved it even if it was different from normal but the kids, in general, have adapted to this year’s changes far more easily than some of us adults I think!
Finished Out Deer Season
Hunting might be a controversial subject but we felt it should be an important part of our homesteading journey. The deer in our part of the state are quite overpopulated and without hunting, they would soon suffer from disease or starvation as the land simply can’t support them. We want both our woods and our deer to be happy and healthy. We plan on planting some food plots this spring as well as provide them with a water source and minerals to ensure healthy fawning and growth over the summer. But, just like the domesticated animals on our homestead, there is only enough room to support a certain population and without wild predators to do that job it falls to people.
Harvesting and processing meat that comes directly from your backyard brings about a whole new appreciation for where it comes from. The deer meat in our freezer was taken from our woods and processed 100% by us. It was hard and time-consuming work but it also means we are less dependent on factory-farmed cattle just as our hens make us less dependent on store-bought eggs. This lowers our grocery bill and teaches our kids a valuable lesson about where their food comes from – something that I think is lacking for a lot of children these days where packaged meat at the grocery store is as close as they will ever come to the food chain.
Both of our kids voluntarily came out to see the deer we brought in, they witnessed the skinning and processing and have happily eaten the meat once cooked. My oldest even elected to sit in the deer stand a couple of times with her father. I wasn’t sure how they would handle it at first but we made it completely their choice and they weren’t bothered at all. In fact, it led to quite a few educational discussions – such as why we have to trim the goat’s hooves when the deer hooves are so perfectly worn down all on their own.
Homesteading, Where Do We Go From Here?
2021 will hopefully be an exciting year for homesteading. We will hopefully be launching a website devoted to the farm (still working on a logo) but never fear Tales From Home won’t be going anywhere – the farm website will have an entirely different focus! Of course, with the upcoming spring, we will have the opportunity to expand in ways we missed out with in the past year. Here are a few of our goals fo 2021:
- Finish Fencing in the bigger Pasture – An ongoing goal that is going to take some time as the current price of lumber and wire goods is quite high.
- Build A Chicken Coop – Same as above, this project will be slow until prices return to normal for materials.
- Start The Garden – we missed out on starting a decent garden last year as it was the middle of the growing season when we moved. Although we got some berry bushes started nothing else really flourished. However, we now have a sizable compost pile and hopes for the spring.
- Breed The Goats – Cera and Luna will be of age this spring which works out for a fall kidding. I am unsure yet if we will be buying our own Buck this season or attempting to find someone willing to breed for a stud fee. Long term our own buck is more self-sustainable when it comes to homesteading but it also requires significant investment as he would need his own area to live in when separated from the girls. Opting to pay a stud fee comes with both the difficulty of timing the visit just right and the potential for disease/worm spread. Both have pro’s and con’s and we haven’t yet decided!
- Increase the Ducks – Currently, we have only three female ducks, I would like to get some more to round out our numbers and increase the potential for duck eggs. I also want to move away from Pekins due to leg issues. At the moment two of our Pekin drakes are slated for the freezer.
- Turkeys? Geese? – Maybe! Both are animals we have talked about trying out on the homestead. It’s possible we will dip our toes in this spring and see how it goes. We are going to have a lot of birds!
- Improve the Woodlands – While our woods are not in terrible shape they could use a bit of work. We need to remove a good bit of deadfall and some of the undergrowth to improve browsing. We also want to plant some food plots and install a water source for our wild critters.
- Learn to Tan Hides – I saved one of the deer hides so that I could learn how to tan them.