State of the Homestead: January 2019

State of the Homestead, January 2019

Winter on the homestead is the time of year that tests your mettle. It’s easy to get your chores done when the weather’s nice, but when an icy wind bites your face off it makes you rethink your retirement plan.

The weather keeps waffling between 70 degrees and hard freezes. That’s normal for us. Mother Nature never makes up her mind in January…or February.

I don’t mind the freezes (too much) as long as they’re short. A hard freeze kills off many bad bugs and larvae, and keeps scorpions in hibernation. But it’s tough on us if we have to haul water by the bucket to the animals.

We watch the weather closely this time of year because it can shift within hours. Since our infrastructure is geared more for hot weather than cold, we have to drain outdoor water pipes, shutter chicken coop windows, and bring out more hay–hay that is precious right now because I don’t think we have enough to last until the first harvest.

Animals need more feed in the winter. During a prolonged freeze (more than a day) we have to check on animals frequently and bring them warm water.

Come March, nature changes rapidly. Within a week you can go from bare trees to blossoms. Another week and everything turns green. Then it’s a rush to get the garden planted.

Goats: All my does should be pregnant. No one has returned to heat, so I’m going to assume everyone is in a family way. We should be getting babies in March.

I decided too late in the year that I needed to sell goats. Long story, short: I couldn’t make a decision which way to go. Should I raise Nubian, Boer or both? Should I keep bucks? I’ve often fancied buying sperm straws and artificially inseminating the does myself. It sure would be easier than keeping a male year round.

After the babies are weaned I am selling all but four goats. Four is what we need to keep our agricultural exemption and that’s all we want to handle. I’m still not sure which breed is right. Each has its merits. But I have my favorites so that’s how I’ll decide who to sell.

Chickens: We had to start anew. We still had two Marans (hens) who somehow survived the slaughter of 2018. To regrow the flock, I bought two sets of Americauna from two different people.

The first set was bought at Canton Trade Days. I won’t do that again. I think we were sold crosses. They do not lay the blue/green eggs I was looking for. Buyer beware.

For the second set we traveled to the other side of Dallas. (A long way from us!) The man was asking half a king’s ransom but they were the prettiest birds I had ever seen. It was a trio, a rooster and two hens. Pure bred and nice enough to win ribbons at the fair. I wasn’t looking for blue ribbon birds, but my chances of finding any Americaunas at all had become slim.

None of the birds I bought were old enough to lay eggs so I bided my time. I got down to my last egg and was forced to buy a carton of eggs from the grocery store. Oh, the shame!

Not a week later, the white Americaunas started laying beautiful greenish-blue eggs. Americaunas are not known as super layers, but these girls are. I suspect they’ll slow down in their second year though.

I have some family business to take care of in February and March and then I’ll concentrate on incubating some eggs for chick sales later this year.

Quail: A funny thing happened when we raised quail last year. What with all the predator attacks, we had a heck of a time keeping them alive. To rebuild our stock we incubated eggs and got a nice batch of chicks. By then though, we were sick of the extra work involved to keep them safe so we decided to put them in the freezer rather than keep them for 2019.

Lo and behold they were delicious! I understand now why restaurants charge so much for them. After we finished our last batch, I turned to Greg and said maybe we ought to try quail again. I wouldn’t mind buying a few birds, hatch eggs, and then harvest the whole lot before the year’s end. This way we don’t have to keep them over the winter.

Thanks to Carole West’s instructions from GardenUpGreen, they were incredibly easy to dispatch and dress. Much easier and quicker than chickens. And the taste is superb. We really enjoyed them. I think the next time we head to Canton, we’ll pick up some more birds.

Garden: I’m too tired to think about the garden just yet. I plan to refresh every raised bed this year. The ph could be a little lower, and I’m sure they all need fresh nutrients and compost. I’m waiting on my soil test kit so I can test the rest of the beds.

Dog and Cat: Nana and Jammy. They’re fine. But I’ll be honest, we feel a big hole in our lives since losing Iko. I was reading someone else’s account on Facebook about a coyote attack on his German shepherd. I recognized the wounds immediately. It looked just like Iko’s. I don’t think his dog made it either. I never saw an update.

It’s been an exceptionally hard time for us. I’m angry and I feel defeated. Iko was so close to getting past all this. He was such a brave boy.

Maybe later this year, once we take care of family issues and get the homestead off to a good start, we can start looking at adopting another dog. Since Jammy is here, we’ll probably look for a puppy this time. Jammy’s nervous around big dogs and strangers. A puppy might be more his speed. Someone he can boss around and train.

On a more morbid note, Greg keeps telling me that whatever dog we get will probably be the last in his lifetime, so I want him to choose. I want him to have what he wants.

It’s a sobering feeling to make end-stage plans, but that’s a post for another day. Those of you my age or older know what I’m talking about. We might be fit and agile now, but past a certain age, these things can evaporate in an instant.

Even I can see that I’m looking for ways to lighten my workload. If Greg decides to exit this life first, I need to be able to do things for myself until I can move to a smaller place.

That settles it. I’m writing a post on exits next month! πŸ˜€

So how is your winter shaping up? Are you cocooning, or making new plans for your home and homestead this year?

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  1. Maria just like doves quail were so numerous when Karl and I grew up in South Texas we took for granted eating these delicacies. Last time I can remember munching down on fried quail was in the late 80’s when Karl shot some at his grandparents farm in Kenedy. Good does not begin to do their taste justice because it was a long and active day outside so between the quail, fried pork chops and whatever I had fixed us to eat that night everyone was a happy camper when done with the meal!

    As far as our winter it has been like yours up and down with the weather, mostly nasty weekends and some gorgeous weekdays mixed in together.

    Karl is planning on planting a few things this year for the first time in forever and am looking forward to some fresh produce this summer.

  2. You made me smile when I heard you were going to give them another try. The bobwhites taste even better a little game flavor and bigger. Look on craigslist because there is a guy in Sulphur Springs that sells for a good price.

    My chickens started laying and my rooster is an ass. Beautiful but so tired of his attitude so he’s going to be on the next available weekend.

    Right now I’m in the middle of clearing brush so we can cut trees and perhaps get the rest of the property fenced, seed and perhaps animals. We shall see.

    • Carole: Thanks for the tip on the Sulphur Springs guy. I will definitely look for him. Greg had mentioned too about trying bobwhites, so I think that’s what we’ll do.

      re: rooster
      Every once in a while we come across a rooster with an attitude. I get rid of them right away. I will not suffer an insolent bird.

  3. This winter has been a cold one for us, so I’m already hankering for Spring. I don’t mind cold as much as damp cold, and yesterday it rained almost nonstop from dawn to dusk. I refuse to let the weather run my life, so we braved it to go visit our college kid and cook dinner at her place. I can make bistec de palomilla under virtually any conditions. πŸ™‚

    We’re looking at what major household equipment we need to replace this year right now. The A/C unit before summer, definitely. Our unit dates back to 1997 and is showing signs of getting ready to crash and burn. Our hot water heater is just as old, and we want a more energy-efficient model that will save us about $300.00 per year on energy costs.

    I got a jump on Spring cleaning this year, but I also want to get us both out of the house a little more often. We went to an antique car show on Saturday and just walked around to admire the old beauties. One vintage Corvette (in immaculate condition) was up for sale for basically a song, but the insurance would be astronomical. I think my sports car days are over. πŸ™‚

    • Lynn: Yeah, once houses go past the 20 year mark, you can expect things to break down. Greg’s been keeping our AC system alive for a couple of years now. It’s just a matter of time before it needs replacing.

      We replaced the hot water heater last year I think. I got sticker shock. It’s been so long since we bought one.

      re: sports cars
      I miss mine. LOL! It’s impractical for so many reasons, but it was an awful lot of fun.

  4. We are in the hard part of winter here up in Canada, and we are bracing for yet another big snow storm coming in to drop another foot and half on us.. my fences are getting shorter and shorter with the snow drifts, good thing no one wants to “get out”

    I am going to be adding in some meat programs but also cutting some of my numbers as well.. hubby is hoping for a new job soon and it will involve more travel then he does now, and I want him to be happy but I know that at least in winter, I want less, not more if I am totally on my own doing it all

    I am looking forward to the new year, so many new things being done this year coming.. crazy amount of work but also some fun mixed in for sure.

    • Farmgal: I feel for you. Canada is beautiful, but I could not handle the winters. I grew up in Chicago and I was never more happy to move south.

      I hear you on having to do things for yourself. I spent nearly 15 years apart from my hubby, seeing each other only once a month for a few days at a time. It’s tough. And it’s hard on both people because we were always playing catch up.


    I’ve had quail one time…on a cruise. It was definitely delicious but man how I wanted more lol!

    Winter in the city, rather, small town city, has been a rollercoaster of weather. Freezing morning one day. Next day, back into shorts. The backyard needs help so I have a call to make.

    As for Iko, well, no defeat there, Maria. The real tragedy would have been if he didn’t have loving fur parents like you and Greg to fight the good fight with him until his fight was done. But he did have you, and he knew love, true and wonderful love.

    • Angela: It’s true. There’s not much meat considering the price. It comes down a little more reasonably if you raise your own.

      Re: Iko
      Thank you. I’m trying to look at the positives. The vet keeps telling me there was nothing else I could do. It just seems so unfair to our poor boy.

  6. You comment about the next dog likely being Greg’s last struck a cord. I came to the same realization when I bought my car a couple years ago. The car I had before it, I kept for 14 years (and only gave it up then because Drake was turning 16 and I’d promised him he could buy it from me). Fourteen years from now, if I’m still here, I doubt I’ll be driving. It’s a sobering thought.

    • Linda: I find myself thinking in terms of what time I have left or what time “we” have left. I’m so used to doing without or sacrificing for the future when I should be thinking of using what I denied myself for so long.

      It’s sobering but also a part of life.

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