It's a good day to write….

It’s freezing rain here…..actually we are in a complete weather warning system that includes….. Rain, freezing rain, snow, high winds, downed trees, power outages ( not for us 😁). It caused us to cancel our Christmas gathering with my in-laws and my husband to be called to work. It’s the kind of day you spend indoors by the fire with a hot cup of tea and a good book, gather round for a board game and a great day to eat soup. Sometimes I even like these kinds of days, they can be refreshing and good for the soul. I have also found this one to be a great lesson it what homesteading has provided us…..

We went grocery shopping yesterday afternoon after church, a regular occurrence for our family, this time just for the basics milk, bread, a quick put together lunch. It took FOREVER the line it went around the store, really around it. We took express ( less then 12 items) we started 7th in line….if this was a drive thru everyone would be mad. It was panicked hysteria, well maybe not that extreme but it was getting there. Everyone is worried, what if the power goes? What if we can’t get to the grocery store? What if we run out of gas? Water? and it makes me think what if?

What if we can’t draw water from the well? What if there is no gas, no groceries? What if we can’t keep our food cold? our houses warm? Turn lights on? I am not a prepper, I don’t stock up on anything. Our budget doesn’t allow it, our storage space doesn’t allow it and honestly it’s just not my thing we will figure a way to work it out and get through it….we always do.

It also caused me to reminisce, when I was a kid the power went out here all the time. We made do. No-one went with out, no-one rushed to the grocery store or the gas station or panicked. I remember the power being out for 8 days once, we had livestock then, we had a whole pack of rescue dogs then, everyone did fine at least by my childhood memory and no one was stressed about it, we coped, we used our skills and our available resources, we made do.

But we have lost so much of that, we rely so much on the “systems” on the things of convenience being there the skills are all but distant memories. How would we do here at Splitrock?……Honestly for a while I think just fine.

We have resources- wood, running water streams, cool places to keep food, food available, some we raise, some we can hunt, some although not a lot in this season some we can forage and we have the tools to do it.

We have skills- We can cook both on an open fire and a woodstove, we can hunt, skin, butcher, forage food. We can collect and boil decent drinking water. We can light a fire for warmth with just the resources the woodland provides with out using our wood supply. We can keep food cold, put snow in the fridge, suspend food in cold ponds. We can live here with out running water, with out power…we have done it.

Its why we do it, it’s why we are here. To stay connected to living and not just float through it. To know where our food comes from and what it takes. To feel closer to God and what he gave us. To be good stewards. To teach our children. I hope when they come back to visit in later years, they remember these skills, they hone them, they go out and practice them…. you never know when you might decide it’s just not worth waiting in line at the grocery store for.

Complete disclosure!

I’m trying to drink 1 cup of barely lukewarm coffee, watching the sun shine through the window and the blackflies beg to come in. I can’t wait to get back out there!

Then I look inside at my house ( which is just really the place where we sleep and collect stuff from the day before) and I see my misgivings, my admittingly horrible house keeping skills, my failure to provide a clean organzied home for my husband and my kids. I beat myself up for a bit then I remember…..

I’m a homestead mom ( although this doenst mean they all have messy houses)

Its 830 in the morning all ready I have, been outside for over an hour after I got the kids out the door I’ve ….

Hayed horses

Hayed goats

Watered pigs, horses, goats

Milked a goat, filtered the milk

Let out chicks and ducklings and fed and watered them.

I pet the barn dog

I told the baby all the things we need to plant in the garden as we picked weeds.

I had a conversation with both my boys before they left for school today

I am a mom of 4 completely different kids at different stages with different needs.

I run a business

I assist an aging lady close to my heart

We are involved in our marriage and in our kids, our kids are involved.

We have Church and bible studies, men’s group and youth group, farm associations, boyscouts and girl guides. Work, coffee house, youth hub…..

As I pour the rest of my now cold coffee down the drain add my mug to the ever growing pile of dishes, and start turning todays milk in yogurt I remind myself that I pour my house cleaning energy into the things that matter to me. So we live in a disorganzied messy house. But…

Our souls are nourished by nature

Our bodies are nourished by sunshine and rain dancing, bare feet, good homemade fresh food we are connected to, that we know where it comes from.

By conversations and tree climbs

Sometimes by hard work

And lets be honest our immune systems are nourished to.

When I was girl my mom had a plaque on our all with a poem:

It now adorns the wall at my house as a reminder of what really matters…. One day it will adorn the walls of my children to remind them to.

For now I have a messy happy healthy in all the ways that matter to me home. And an amazing girlfirend that can’t come here and not start tidying up. Thank God for her, for sunshine for nature for the good stuff.

January- A Season of waiting…

Here at Splitrock January is for lack of better words stale, it is the month we hunker down to stay warm, the month we plan and reflect on the year before but mostly it’s the month of waiting.

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January can get cold here, frigid cold in our little valley in the highlands. We have seen -45 this January, school cancelled do to extreme cold. It is the month we keep the fires roaring, drink hot tea and get lost in good books, great conversations and our thoughts…mostly our thoughts.received_477177792792977.jpeg

January allows us time to reflect on the past year. Things we changed like the layout of the barn or the pig pen 3 times and not yet satisfactorily permanent. Things we did well milking our first time around, square-foot gardening and it’s abundant harvest. Things we royally failed at moving the chicken coop so it didn’t flood for the 3rd spring in a row ( which it will), doing the grand barn addition we planned and planned and planned….and put off save for a lean to off one side.Things we added Solar on the house only 10 days of generator power all month! A beautiful well natured cow, 2 horses a baby ( a human one). You win some you lose some you try again.20190202_174338.jpg

January is the month we make plans of the things we hope to do for this new year, Move the chicken coop!, add to the garden, fence the cow some good pasture. Dare I say a pumpkin patch is in the dream works. Raise some chicks and some ducklings, make more syrup. Dream realistically instead of outrageously ( at least out loud).Work out budgets and cash flow and time lines, scratch half the list and try again.20190113_150744~2.jpg

Mostly though I find we are stuck in waiting…. waiting for the goat to kid, waiting for the sow to farrow. Waiting at the window for the sun to peek out, for the temperature to rise. Waiting for there to be some color at the bird feeder, don’t get me wrong I love the chickadees ( we should have called this place chickadee ranch) but a little red or even a little blue  to stir up all the grey would be awfully nice right about now. We wait for the seed order to arrive, for the chicks to start hatching for the pantry to be stacked again. We wait for ours plans to unfold, for the windows to be open and the days to get longer, the hens to lay again. Waiting to start the work in February milking, pruning, wood stacking….A time to sit in the waiting and reflect, to remember we are blessed.

In the morning quiet

The silence is broken as the alarm sounds of in the darkness that is our bedroom.

It is 5:45 one of my days off as I have this week booked off from work. I have slept in till this point as normally I am already at work.

I let Amanda stay in bed this morning as she normally gets up to milk the rest of the week (even on days that I am home she typically gets up to milk and let’s me sleep in a little longer or just so we can hang out while we milk).

Our youngest got up to help me with milking (he enjoys the homestead life).

Once again the silence of the night is broken as the snow crunches beneath our feet as we walk towards the barn with milking bucket in hand.

As I enter the barn I am met with quiet darkness which is broken with a bleat from Millie and some answering bleats from her kids (who are in a separate pen over night).

I lead Millie over to the milking stand. She steps right up as she has become accustomed to our new morning routine. The sound of her hooves upon the wood disturbs the silence even further.

Our youngest is sure someone is at the barn door but it is just Blaze in the next stall over scratching his head on the partition wall.

Spray down Millie’s teats and udder to make sure she is clean the sound of the spray is loud in the stillness.

Pat her dry and place the milk bucket under her and gently milk her into a strip cup to check that everything looks good and she is healthy. The youngest takes a turn stripping out some milk from Millie into the bucket. We switch who is milking as his attention wains. The sound of the fresh milk against the side of the stainless steel bucket has a satisfactory ring to it and is almost relaxing as I get into a rhythm.

Millie relaxes as the swelling in her udder receds. She starts to munch away on her grain chewing loud enough that you know what she is doing even though her head is out of the circle of light produced from the flashlight.

Milk collected the youngest and I reunite Millie with her kids. Headed back to the house the snow crunches under our feet once again.

The house is quiet as everyone else is still sound asleep. The clock ticks on the wall. We get out the filters and the funnel. Put a filter into the funnel/strainer and pour the fresh milk through it sounds almost like coffee dripping in a brew cycle.

Put the milk into the fridge and wash everything up.

The youngest decides to go back to bed. I sit down to drink a cup of coffee.

Finally some quiet in the morning.

Tapped in!

Sugar bush time is upon us! I have tapped our pipeline (which is a first for us). Up until now we have always used buckets. Mind you up until now we have lived in town. Last year we tapped with just a few buckets because that is what we had on hand.

This year we will use those same few buckets and the small pipeline we have set up. The reason we went with a pipeline for sap collection is simply less work and less loss of sap. Buckets can only hold so much and then they overflow (this isn’t a major issue if you have time to collect throughout the day). Where a pipeline pipes the sap to a larger tank so as long as you size it accordingly to the amount of taps, in theory you won’t lose a drop of sap.

Now we didn’t tap lots just a large handful as this year we have been busy doing all sorts of things and there is no point in putting out so much effort to not collect the benefits of it. So by limiting our taps we can add to it next year and the year after and continue to do so until we reach the number of taps that we decide we are able to do and willing to do.

This will be an interesting year as we have a better boiling system (Thanks Dad). I will highlight the evaporator system we have when we start boiling in a separate post.

Happy sugaring everyone!

Milk…it is a journey

Well this morning we milked Millie for the first time. We have stripped her out here and there just to make sure she was used to the idea and to make sure that the kids were able to get the milk that they needed.

To get to this point has been a journey.

Last year we got a miniature horse (who isn’t a mini now but not a pony…probably a class all of his own… if you remind me I will write a post about that another time lol). Now you can’t have a horse (mini or pony or whatever he may be) and not let him have a friend. So we got a few bottle baby goats. We had them wethered (castrated) and brought them home. We had them castrated so we wouldn’t be dealing with a Billy/buck who can be real jerks. After a few months it was evident that one of the two had been missed for castration.

What do you do with an intact Buck? You find him a girlfriend. Along came Millie. We had chickens at this point and I know we had some bees bumbling around…so after some conversations I am sure that the goats must of had with the birds and the bees…we ended up with kids…

Now that we have kids we have a supply of milk.

We have built a milk stanchion. (I found plans for this at fiascofarm.com).

This stanchion is a well thought out plan all the designers ask is for a donation for using the plan (which I still need to send to them).

We have left the kids with Millie up to this point. Now that we are going to be milking her we will be separating them overnight. This allows her to bag up so we have a supply of milk in the morning to tap into. Once we are done we put her back with the kids for the day and we will separate them again in the evening.

This morning we went out and put Millie on the milk stanchion and washed her uder and teats with a wash solution. A solution that Amanda made from a recipe she found from 104homestead.com.

We put the milk bucket under her and started milking…if only it was that easy. She was a little nervous being a new thing for her but with a few close calls of hooves and buckets we managed not to loose any milk.

We came in from the barn complete with a milk pail of fresh milk and smiles upon our faces.

We filtered the milk through a stainless milk strainer with filter that we purchased on line at shenandoahhomesteadsupply.com.

And now we have milk cooling in the fridge.

This is just a quick overview of how things went. There is more to the process of milking and at some point I may write a detailed post about how to milk. There is lots of good information around sometimes it is just weeding it out.

We have used fiasco for information as well as https://www.weedemandreap.com

Once again there is always information to be had you need to sift through the information and make the best choice for yourself and for your family and animals. I don’t know everything even with Google.

Have a great day everyone and happy milking!

Proud to Announce!!

Mervin (our buck) and Millie (our doeling) are the proud parents of two little kids a little buck and a little doeling.

Mom is doing well.

The babies are doing well.

Yesterday Amanda and I went to look at a horse a few hours away. When we got home Amanda was headed towards the barn to put everyone in for the night. She was talking on the phone with a friend who had just called upon walking into the barn she heard a little cry and immediately said I will call you back I have baby goats. She hung up and yelled for me to come.

Millie had twins but being a new mom we wanted to spend some time to make sure everything was good. (Which is a good practice regardless of how many they have had). She was spending time with the little buck but not so much with the little doe. We watched to see what she would do. After a little while we went into the pen with her and tried to get the little ones to nurse. She wasn’t having anything to do with that. So we dried the little doe off a little more as it was a little cool out yesterday. After she was dry Amanda and I worked on getting Millie to allow the littles to nurse. I stripped (a milking term for pulling milk from a teat on an goat or cow) about 15 to 20 strips to make sure she was able to provide the milk she had produce. Once we had her realize that she did much better with everything.

I got up in the middle of the night to check and make sure they were doing well. Amanda got up in the early hours to check in on them to make sure they were doing well. So today they are 24 hours old and have a better idea of what their feet are about.

It is so nice to see littles come into the world here at Split Rock Heritage Homestead. Looking forward to our goat herd growing.

The great pig dilemma

I have a confession to make, I’m addicted to the cute irresistible sight of pig snouts! I love pigs. The one animal we always new we would have on the farm, in fact we had an adorable potbelly as a pet when we lived in town.

We researched pigs before the sale was final, before we ever picked up the keys from the lawyer, we new the perfect breed.

Berkshires, a heritage breed from England reaching north America as early as 1823. A large black pig with white feet, nose and tail tip. Black pigs are better for pasture their dark skin protects them from sunburn. Berkshires have an up turned snout which means they do slightly less deep rooting in the fields. They produce a richly flavoured dark red marbled meat. But the selling factor for me I think is their docile personalities at 600 lbs you don’t want a pig that doesn’t want to be your friend pushing you around.

I spent a large amount of time looking for these special pigs, although the Berkshire is making a comeback pure pigs in general are fading away, for quick cheap easy mixed breeds that are ready for market faster, and no one’s knows anymore your grocery store pork doesn’t say Berkshire or duroc. The delectable pork you picked up today may not be available at your local grocer tomorrow and you would never be able to pinpoint the difference if it was. I contacted a lot of people, claiming to have Berkshires only to be disappointed by thier spotted red piglets. I contacted registered breeders but they didn’t have litters last year. We looked and looked until it was getting to late in the season to buy piglets and we settled on the much enjoyed Seven and Ate that taught us such great lessons and have feed my family well all winter.

One lesson we learned from Seven and Ate was you have to get pigs early. Or you feed them when they eat the most long after the feed is supplemented by “free ” pasture feed. So I have been on the prowl for my dream pigs again.

Meet 22117-69 now known as Thelma. And her darling sister Louise the formally 22117-70.

We found them!

3 hours away in a little town called Parham with a wonderful couple at Tryon Farms. The whole experience was wonderful. The couple was great informative and shared not only the long search for their berks but the love for them as well, we pet all the “big pigs” and walked right in with mommy and her piglets, she wasn’t the least bit upset to share her babies with us and came over for some loving of her own.

The next dilemma…… We are going to keep Thelma and Louise as breeding stock so I’m not quite sure what’s going in the freezer…..

Bacon and eggs!

Mornings on Split Rock are not like they were when we lived in town. In town we had to feed the dogs and cats…here in Split Rock our mornings involve mucking out the animal stalls and adding bedding where and when needed, hauling water to the animals as we don’t have running water in the barn (believe me it is on the list of wants and dreams). Mornings involve feeding the animals and putting them out for the day. 

Some mornings (many mornings) Amanda does the majority of the chores with help from the kids as I am out the door well before the sun even considers breaking over the horizion. I pitch in when I can and where I can. I know the work that she puts in here in the homestead. I know the work that I put in and the work that out kids (sometimes willingly sometimes not so willingly) put in to help. Regardless of who put in the work it is nice to reap the benefits of what have been sown. It is nice to see some of our dreams come into reality.

Well today dreams became reality! We ate breakfast (closer to brunch time as I got called in to work for a few hours this morning). Now eating breakfast isn’t new here on the homestead nor would it be new when we were in town. The difference is that we had on our plates our very own eggs (which we have already had over the summer) but what goes amazingly well with eggs…that’s right! BACON! But bacon that we raised here on Split Rock Heritage Homestead! 

What a great taste left on the tastebuds of bacon and eggs…bacon that has been fed organic feed and no garbage…eggs that have come from our own free range chickens…yolks so bright that it reminds you of the sun coming up…our chickens are free range and get grained with organic feed as well.

All in all it was a great meal. This morning was a realization of a dream. It was hours of work put into caring for these animals that give some much back to our family. It was a lesson learned by our kids that hard work pays off. 

I am inspired from this mornings meal to work harder to continue to chase our dreams of being self sufficient. 

What a great meal!

Shane