Saturday, April 25, 2009

Back at the Homestead.....

First, I want to thank everyone for the prayers and well wishes. I am doing much better now. My leg still acts up if I over work, but it is improving more each day.

Recently, we learned a valuable piece of information about our sheep. During the times of year when grazing is plentiful, we only have feed on hand for the days when weather is bad or when we will be away from home for the day & unable to let the sheep graze. We give them a mixture of 14% creep and corn. In the winter, they also get hay to give them the bulk and roughage that they need.

Last weekend, the feed store we normally go to was closed by the time we arrived so we had to go to the other feed store in town to buy the creep. That is where we learned a hard lesson. The creep was a different brand than the one they are used to. Well, turns out that when you change feed brands or types the sheep don't always tolerate it very well. Both the ram & ewe became sick & were "off their feed" for a couple of days. They laid around, the ewe only standing up to nurse her lamb. We talked to a friend who let us know the change in feed was the problem. We stopped giving them the new creep and gave them corn and the creep brand that they were used to instead. Within a couple of days, they were feeling much better. After about 4 days of not trying to graze, they began grazing again and are now back to their healthy selves again.

When changing feed brands or types, it is highly recommended that you gradually mix in the new feed into their regular feed. Over a period of 3-4 days, you slowly increase the percentage of the new feed in the mixture until you are able to give them the new feed without the old type/brand mixed in. This allows their digestive system to become accustomed to the new feed without having a bad reaction.

In the garden: the seedlings are popping up very well. Some better than others, but the garden plants are starting to grow. I am looking forward to getting the rest of the seeds planted once the garden is tilled. Our neighbor is planning to come by with his farm tractor to make quick work of it for us. The main garden area is 108' x 88' in size. In addition, to that garden we will have the herbs planted in & around the front yard. I am looking forward to seeing how much we can produce from that garden area. It is the largest we have had to date.

In a couple of weeks, I am planning to have a canning spree. A friend who doesn't know how to can is wanting to learn. She is a single mom and we feel the canning will help her out quite a bit in saving money on her food budget each month. We are going to be canning a lot of meals in pint size jars for her to take home. This will give her a nice supply of quick to prepare meals to stock her pantry with. Homemade soups, stews, and such will be the main things canned. Over the week, I will get a jump start and do some of the canning ahead of time. The goal is to have a month's worth of meals canned for her to take home that day. While I am doing all that canning for her, I am going to be doing the same meals in quart size jars for our own pantry. Over the winter, our pantry became quite depleted, so I am anxious to get a good supply back in there. Having the easy to prepare meals canned and ready to use are a blessing once the garden starts being harvested and the canning from the garden is underway. Often, my Beloved will take a pint jar of a home canned stew or soup with him to work for his lunch. It gives him a break for having sandwiches all the time.

This year, I am going to do something new. I will be keeping an inventory list of all home canned foods that I do. This will hopefully be a help in the future when planning my garden and pantry in future seasons. I have always had a pantry inventory but this time along with the canning list, I am going to have notes tracking how much produce came from the garden and how much (if any) had to be purchased at a farmer's market. By tracking the amount of produce, I can better plan out the amount of garden seed I will need to plant to supply my family with the food we need for the winter. The goal that I have is to grow as close to 100% of our food as possible.

If you keep inventory of your pantry & canning, I would love to read your thoughts and ideas. Feel free to add a comment with your favorite tips for tracking your pantry inventory & garden planning or any questions that you may have. I will try to answer your questions next time I post.