July 2018

July was such a fun month thanks to gardening. It has been so much fun for all of us to walk out to the gardens and come back nearly every time with something to eat. The girls and I love snacking on cherry tomatoes and the boys rarely make it inside with the cucumbers they pick!

Paxton had his own section of garden this year and he has had fun harvesting cucumbers, carrots and flowers of his own. He has a cantaloupe that is just about ready and he is very excited about that harvest.

One of our herb harvests. We have had success with basil, sage, oregano, cilantro, dill and lavender this year.

My parents were here in early July and helped us to pressure can our first batch of green beans. This was our first time pressure canning anything and it’s a simple process!

We’ve canned 17 quarts of green beans this summer which isn’t a ton but it’s a good start. I already have plans to plant many more green beans next summer.

We had meat chicks hatch on July 2 and 3. We have 19 of them and they’re doing great, scheduled for processing at the end of August. Click here if you’re interested in purchasing Pasture Raised non-GMO Chicken.

We’ve been rotationally grazing our sheep and it’s so much fun watching them clear pastures. You can see in the above photograph where they had been the day before and how much they ate down.

Speaking of our sheep, which we love, we had a sad day on July 5 when Blossom died. We’re not entirely sure what happened, we found her one afternoon tangled up in the electro netting. All we can figure is she was attempting to escape (as she often did) and was shocked which scared her and she starting fighting the netting and somehow hung herself or maybe died of fright/exhaustion because it was a very hot day. I found her while the kids were inside and had a good cry and then broke the news to the kids. It’s never easy to lose an animal but it’s especially hard to lose your favorites and even harder when it’s a tragic death.

Sweet Cecilia cuddled up with me one afternoon and fell asleep. In moments like this, all the work can wait!

Another harvest! Our cherry tomatoes have done well this year – much better than our other tomatoes. We also had a beautiful patch of black eyed peas (pictured in upper right corner). The plants did great but they take up a lot of space for a fairly small yield so we don’t know if we’ll plant those next year.

One of our batches of salsa made with cherry tomatoes, jalapenos and cilantro from our garden.

Our tomatoes have not done great this year. The plants themselves were all fairly small but they actually put on a lot of fruit. However, the fruits just didn’t ripen well plus we have battled tomato sucker bugs which have damaged some of the tomatoes. We have only canned 7 quarts to date which is disappointing but that’s the reality of first year gardening on soil that needs more rich organic matter added to it.

The kids have been into art lately. It’s amazing what a pack of white copy paper can inspire. They’ve all been drawing all kinds of pictures and it’s been fun to see what they create. Paxton drew this cute picture of our family – including our dog and cat! Love it.

This year we have 2 gardens. We call them the upper garden which is the one in front of the house as you pull into the driveway. The other is called the lower garden which is located in a little valley between the house and barn.

Since this is our first year gardening more traditionally (we gardened in raised beds at our other house), there is a bit of a learning curve and we probably planted too much! But, we were excited and sometimes you learn more from your mistakes so it’s not the worst thing that could happen!

Anyways, I managed to keep the upper garden fairly decent through the beginning of July but the lower garden was nearly taken over by weeds. I worked all during July trying to reclaim the lower garden and it’s looking great but now the upper garden looks more like a weed patch than a garden! You win some, you lose some.

Weston on one of our evening walks to the garden and to visit the animals. He’s holding a basket with some fresh veggies.

On this evening, Weston, Laura and I were looking at the chickens and I looked over to see Cecilia with a pipe through the pig fence. It took me a second to realize that she was trying to scratch the pigs. I watched her for several minutes without saying a word. It was pretty cute. She succeed in giving both of the piglets a scratch.

Weston really enjoys helping me in the kitchen. We had a fairly decent banana pepper harvest that we were able to ferment. He helped me cut the peppers into rings which was a big help.

Zinnias are one of my favorite parts of July! We planted zinnias all over the gardens and property this summer and I just love harvesting them. I keep a fresh bouquet in the kitchen and have enjoyed giving some fresh flowers to friends and Weston’s egg customers.

I made several batches of soaps in July that will be ready to sell in August! I’ve been making soap for a year now and it’s the only soap we’ve been using in the shower and as bathroom and kitchen hand soap. I’ve even been experimenting with shampoo bars which I hope to be able to sell in the future.

I purchased new soap molds this month and am loving the fun flowers and the ability to make layered soaps.

If you’re interested in purchasing soaps, we have several different soaps available at different price points. All of these soaps are made using natural fats/oils and contain no artificial colors or fragrances.

Currently available:

  • Old Fashioned Lye  $3
  • Lye and Oatmeal $3
  • Coconut $4

Available in late August:

  • Honey Layers $5
  • Old Fashioned Lye Flowers $4
  • Milk Chocolate $4

 

We’re looking forward to all that August holds and planning our fall garden.

 

June 2018

June is such an exciting month – the garden really starts to take off and it’s just so exciting to watch plants rapidly grow and begin to fruit!

Laura has found our blueberry bushes and discovered that she loves blueberries – blue, pink or green! Yes, she was nibbling unripe berries and seemed to love them.

We planted several small blueberry bushes late last fall and allowed a few of the larger ones to fruit this summer (the majority of them we pinched blooms off of). In a few years, we should have abundant blueberry crops!

Weston was so excited to harvest some romaine lettuce. Love this little farmer boy!

John David found firewood from a family who cut down a few trees in their back yard. He  got one load and then the kids and I went back with him for another load. We’re thankful for free firewood!

We took a quick trip to East Tennessee to visit John David’s parents and Virginia in early June to visit Polyface. We enjoyed seeing the operation firsthand and loved meeting Joel Salatin!

On June 10, on our trip home from Virginia, we purchased 5 ewes. They had been raised on pasture at Foggy Knob Farm, a similar sustainable operation. They were reducing their sheep and needed to sell a few ewes. We were very excited to be able to purchase these lovely ewes. They’re Katadin/Dorper/Tunis crosses and are very docile.

Weston actually purchased Sunny (the black headed one) with his own money, increasing his sheep flock to 3 ewes.

We’re excited to have more ruminants out on pasture – we have so much grass that needs to be consumed!

It’s so relaxing to watch the sheep graze. They’re such calm and graceful animals.

On the morning of June 16th, Weston came running into the house shouting “Callie had her baby!! There’s a baby lamb!” His ewe, Callie, had lambed sometime during the night and there was an adorable solid white ewe lamb in the pasture!

Weston and his brand new baby lamb. He is so proud and now has a total of 4 sheep.

Farm Girl Cecilia bringing scraps out to the chickens in her bathing suit and pink rubber boots – she’s so girly yet enjoys life on the homestead too!

On June 21, we picked up our new kitten, Smokey. He was 8 weeks old that day, born April 26th. We decided to get a kitten so Cecilia would have a pet of her own to take care of, so Copper could learn to get along with cats and to hopefully keep mice/rats away from the house. He’s sweet as can be!

Cecilia and Smokey.

John David started assembling a woodshed on the side of our storage shed. We’re trying to make it out of as many salvaged materials as we can scrounge so it may take a couple of months to build but it’s exciting watching him build it and knowing that we should have it full of wood by the time winter arrives.

Laura is now 13 months old and seems to grow and change every single day. Once babies pass 12 months, they quickly turn into miniature people and it’s so much fun. With 3 older siblings, she’s tough and determined. She wanted on the swing and held on just fine – it was adorable!

My mom and dad stopped by in late June on their way to visit family in Virginia and my dad brought the girls these stools that he had made and etched their names in. Our boys have similar stools with their names that they were given several years ago but the girls didn’t. These are so nice and special. Both girls have already enjoyed using them.

Weston is such a big helper to his daddy and me. He’s my right hand man when it comes to managing our poultry and he enjoys helping his daddy move the electro netting for the sheep.

Can you see where the sheep have grazed? It’s so neat to see how quickly they can eat down a portion of pasture. We’ve been giving them small fresh paddocks so they can ‘mob graze’ – I call them a ‘mini mob’. Surprisingly they enjoy browse a lot more than I thought they would. I had been talking about getting a goat or two to help keep posion ivy in check but the sheep eat poison ivy too!

June was a fun month and we’re looking forward to harvesting lots of vegetables – especially our tomatoes – in July!

 

Visiting Polyface

On June 9, we made the trip to Swoope, Virginia to visit Polyface Farm. We were ‘introduced’ to Joel Salatin and Polyface several years ago and since then have read several of Joel’s books and watched several videos and documentaries about what the Salatin’s are doing at Polyface.

We have been wanting to go for a few years now and finally just bought tickets for a Lunatic Tour and decided to make it happen.

We brought both boys and John David’s dad on the tour. John David’s dad has a small beef cattle operation and we wanted him to join us!

We had an idea of what the farm was like and were familiar with the way they managed their animals but we just wanted to see it for ourselves.

Here’s the barn where they feed cattle for the winter. Joel is describing the way they feed their beef cattle and the value of the manure to the fertility of the farm.

I was most excited about seeing the egg mobile first hand. Here’s a glimpse inside the Polyface Egg Mobile and several of Polyface’s happy and healthy hens.

One of the things we love about the Salatin’s operation is that they are thrifty. They don’t have the newest, shiniest, latest and greatest things for their farm. They are very practical and frugal because it helps make a farm profitable.

Some of the Salad Bar Beef at Polyface.

Paxton purchased a Polyface Coloring Book with his own money and was excited to have Joel sign it for him!

The boys with Joel. Weston was more excited than his expression would lead you to believe.

We were excited to be able to meet Joel. He is an amazing communicator and educator, an inspiration to so many and is so kind to the people who visit his farm.

The boys are already talking about taking another trip to Polyface one day so Cecilia and Laura can see the operation first hand. I love that they want their sisters to visit Polyface too.

We left the visit inspired. While our little homestead cannot be compared to an operation like Polyface, we realize that there is so much potential on our 5 acres. We just have to dream, plan and do the work!

We’re so thankful for pioneers in sustainable agriculture like Joel Salatin.

 

“I’m a Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-lunatic. It’s a humorous way for me to describe that I’m not stereotypical.”  – Joel Salatin

 

“The shorter the chain between raw food and fork, the fresher it is and the more transparent the system is.”  – Joel Salatin

 

“Amazingly, we’ve become a culture that considers Twinkies, Cocoa Puffs, and Mountain Dew safe, but raw milk and compost-grown tomatoes unsafe.” –Joel Salatin

May 2018

May was a full month. On May 2, we celebrated one year of living here on Arrow Hill Homestead. It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year – such a full and fun year that we’ll never forget. I’m still pinching myself that this is real – that we have 5 acres, livestock and plenty of room to grow crops and for our children to explore!

We spent quite a bit of time prepping our garden beds as well as planting. We planted tomatoes, peppers and a few herbs that we purchased but the bulk of the garden was planted from seed. I love planting time!

It seemed like we had about 2 weeks of spring this year. It went from cold in early April to feeling like summer in May. We went swimming for the first time on May 3rd and the kids were so happy! We were not looking for a home with a pool but it’s a nice little perk to have one – especially on the hottest days of our Georgia summers.

Here’s Weston holding one of my California White Roosters. I purchased 6 straight run California Whites and ended up with 4 roosters…of course! I love having Weston’s help managing our poultry flock. He owns several of his own chickens but he knows all about his as well as mine.

We built a small pen near the house as an extra holding pen for when we need it. Blossom was the first resident. Cecilia enjoyed visiting her to give her bottles.

Too much sweetness not to share this gem of sweet Laura. She’s such a good little napper – none of my other babies have been good nappers but she naps every afternoon and it’s such a blessing.

A portrait of Copper, our Australian Shepherd.

Laura turned 1 on May 12! She’s walking, babbling and yelling like crazy and is one busy girl who is into everything. Even though she’s my fourth baby, I’m still just in awe of how much babies change in 365 days. It’s amazing and such a gift to witness them growing from a helpless newborn into an active toddler.

This is our upper garden on May 12. The first bed is a small herb garden planted with lavender, rosemary, sage, cilantro, dill and flowers. The next 6 beds are tomato and pepper plants and beyond those we’ve planted some lettuce, green beans and black eyed peas.

Our lower garden on May 12. The far right bed is a row of strawberries, the second row contains flowers, lettuce, kale and radish and the other beds were just prepped and ready to plant.

Our kiddos finished up their AWANA year on May 16th. We were so proud of all three of them for finishing up their books and earning awards. We’re so thankful for AWANA!

Paxton was baptized at a local farm during our church’s creek baptism on May 20th! It was such a special moment to watch him be baptized.

On May 20th, Weston’s broody hen hatched 6 chicks. We had never hatched chicks but she was broody and we had fertilized eggs so he decided to give it a try. He picked 8 of his eggs and sat them under her. Two of the 8 were cracked within the first 3 days but she sat on the other 6 and all 6 of them hatched! We were so excited to find a baby chick when we got home from church that afternoon. We were able to watch a couple of them hatch and we even picked up one egg before it hatched and could feel the baby chick moving around inside of the egg!

It was so amazing watching the chicks hatch. There is nothing like witnessing the miracle of new life.

This hen did such a good job sitting and has been such a good mama to these babies. Weston has renamed her Brooder – very original!

Our little boy pig, Deer, is getting friendlier. He’s finally letting John David and Weston pet him.

We’ve found that pigs love having their backs scratched. It’s amazing how quickly baby animals grow – these two are a few days shy of 3 months old!

Our upper garden on May 26th – so much growth in such a short time.

One of our first spring harvests – romaine lettuce. It was our first time growing romaine and it was delicious!

On May 25 and 26, we processed chickens with friends. We had our basement set up with all of the processing equipment and we all worked together processing our birds and theirs. Slaughtering chickens can be somewhat enjoyable when friends join in!

Paxton is putting one of the birds on ice here. The boys are learning about chicken processing and are quite helpful. I anticipate that in a year or two, they’ll play an important role in slaughter days.

On May 27th (which was our 12th anniversary!), we left for St. Augustine, Florida. John David’s parents invited us to join them and we had a lovely time.

We managed to fit the entire family into a selfie! The children all loved the beach. Both boys enjoyed boogie boarding while Cecilia and Laura enjoyed splashing in the water, playing in the sand and picking up sea shells.

 

One of the nights we were there, John David and I got away for a little date to celebrate 12 years of us. We enjoyed dinner out, stopped by a Tractor Supply (we can’t get away from farm things for too long!) and had ice cream.

We ended May driving home from St. Augustine, celebrating John David’s 32nd birthday and looking forward to June!

April 2018

April started off with Easter services at church! John David is employed at our multi-site church as the Weekend Services Coordinator. We don’t typically go to church together since he is usually at different campuses but we did manage to take a family Easter picture after service!

I made several batches of lye soap this month. Since we have a lot of lard from our pigs, I made simple soaps made with just lye and lard. I experimented with adding oats and salt to the basic lye soap recipe and have been pleased with the results. I’m selling the lye soap for $3 a bar and other soaps which are made out of other oils like coconut oil, cocoa butter and such are $4 a bar.

I started making soap late last summer and it’s so neat using soaps that I made – we have them in our bathrooms for showering and hand washing as well as in the kitchen. I also love giving soaps as gifts!

Sweet little Laura is my chore tag along most of the time. I’m so thankful for a comfortable baby carrier that allows me to wear her on the front or back.

John David built a smoker for smoking hams and bacon! He built it using salvaged materials.

On April 10, some friends had a baby lamb that the mother wouldn’t accept so we acquired our very first bottle lamb. The kids love her and have named her Blossom. She spent several nights in the dog crate near the wood stove but has since been moved outside. She’s a sweet little lamb.

April was gardening mode month – we got our garden beds prepped and paths chipped. The local FFA chapter had a plant sale on April 13th and we purchased a lot of tomatoes, peppers and some herbs for the garden. We had to wait several days before getting everything planted because April was pretty chilly.

Cecilia loves Blossom.

On April 14, I was in our upper garden working on prepping the garden beds and I looked up to see our pigs running around in their pen. It was unusual because they usually move very slowly and are quite calm. I started walking towards the pen to see what was going on and saw two pit bulls chasing them down. I started yelling at the dogs to stop and for John David (who was off but inside taking a nap because he’d spent all morning prepping garden beds). I got down to our basement area and both dogs were attacking our mama pig. I yelled at them, got their attention and she managed to get away. At that point, I was scared for my own safety so I ran up the basement stairs inside the house and to get John David up.

I ran back outside. He gets up, grabs a gun and heads outside. When I get back around, the dogs have attacked one of our baby pigs and a neighbor comes running through the woods since he’s heard me yelling.

The dogs killed one of the baby pigs and the other two babies, the mama and our other pig, Evergreen, ran away. The only pig left on the property was our boar.

A few minutes later we heard a gun shot and our neighbor said “I bet someone just shot one of your pigs.” Sure enough, he was right. Another neighbor shot Evergreen. (He said he thought she was a wild boar.)

To make a long story short, we called the police and filed a report because this was the third time these dogs have attacked (they killed several chickens at our neighbors on two separate occasions). We ended up with one baby pig killed by the pit bulls and a sow shot by a neighbor. Another neighbor found our injured mama pig and we were able to get her home safely and treat her wounds and the other two baby pigs came home at sunset that evening.

It was a traumatic and scary day, hearing that baby pig killed was horrible but I was just so, so thankful that it was just a pig that was killed and not my children. My children play in those woods. We felt so very safe here on our property and let the big kids roam freely and even let baby Laura play outside. Things could have been so much worse.

(And, I’ve always been pretty neutral regarding pit bulls until now. They wanted to kill. Our Australian Shepherd sometimes enjoys chasing our chickens and would probably enjoy chasing our pigs if allowed the opportunity BUT she has never, ever tried to kill any of our animals – much less take on a 150 pound plus pig.)

After the pit bull attack, we had another pig to process. We were able to get her within 10 minutes of being shot so thankfully there was no waste. It was an unplanned slaughter and we just made a lot of sausage instead of curing anything or doing any specialty cuts. The kids were big helpers when it came time to package the sausage. Cecilia loves putting labels on the packages.

The boys both do a good job working the grinder.

The kids were so helpful making sausage. They helped their daddy with the grinding, mixing in seasonings and packaging from start to finish.

Our kiddos are growing too. This picture was taken April 22. Cecilia is 4, Weston is 6, Laura is 11 months and Paxton is 8 (as of April 16th!)

On April 27th, we put our meat birds out on pasture. They have done very well. Aside from the few losses we had during the first couple of days, we didn’t lose any other birds.

We had 40+ broilers this time so we divided them between two chicken tractors.

Laura loves Blossom. She has enjoyed feeding her the bottle. We’ve been pleased with how well Blossom is doing. We have never raised a bottle lamb and we were very excited that she survived the first week.

There’s a lot to look forward to in May – a first birthday for Laura, chicken processing and watching the garden grow!

March 2018

March arrived and was still pretty chilly here in North Georgia. We were all anxiously looking forward to spring and happy to see the grass starting to turn green.

With the chilly days, we were still keeping the wood stove burning most nights. The kiddos enjoyed riding in the cart while daddy was getting a load of firewood.

Our piglets were kept cozy on the chilly days and nights thanks to a heat lamp, deep bedding and their mama. They’re so little and so cute.

I woke up one morning and found Weston snuggled up asleep next to the woodstove. This boy likes to stay cozy and found the warmest spot in the house!

Laura and I bundled up to do chores. John David’s coat fits perfectly when Laura is snuggled up in the baby carrier.

Weston was bundled up too on this cold March morning to help me with chores. We spent several weeks in March trying to figure out which of our hens were laying and which ones needed culled. He was such a big help and I realized how much he knows about chickens – especially the little details about our chickens – their eggs, laying habits and such.

We slaughtered a second pig on March 14 thanks to the cold nights. This second pig was smaller than the first so it was an easier job. We made a lot of sausage.

We had our first double yolk egg laid here on the homestead!

Cecilia turned 4 years old on the 20th – the first day of spring. She wanted princess everything for her birthday – she had two princess cakes (one from her nana and one that I made) and received a new dress, gloves, shoes and even a crown. She was delighted!

On March 29th, we received our batch of broiler chicks. We started out with 50 and lost a couple within the first few days. It’s fun watching the baby chicks!

Now that spring is here and it’s finally starting to warm up, we’re excited about starting to garden!

February 2018

February was an exciting month for us! We had nearly a week of wonderful, spring like 60s and 70s weather and the kids were outside for hours a day. It also rained quite a bit which showed us some areas where we need to make improvement in drainage.

We have a low area that’s downhill from the house and the barn that we call our lower garden that drains poorly. It rained fairly heavily throughout the night in early February and we woke up to a lot of standing water and our chicken tractor was in right in the middle of it.

When I went out to move the chicken tractor, I was so worried they were going to be soaked, cold and would get sick. (These 2 hens and rooster are a few months old, our neighbor gave them to Weston and we were keeping them separate from our layer flock.)

They are smart and all 3 were up on the feeder which is where they like to roost so they were dry and healthy. I moved the tractor to dry land and we learned that it may be best to not run the chicken tractor in some areas so this won’t happen again.

These 3 love books and they enjoyed looking through a Christian Book kids catalog one rainy day. They even color coded the things they circled. Cecilia was pink, Weston was blue and Paxton was green. I love the little organizational skills that are emerging.

We spend a lot of time reading both for homeschooling lessons as well as just for fun. It’s one of my favorite ways to pass cold, rainy days!

Two of my agriculture reads for February:

The Good Life by Scott and Helen Nearing. The Nearings were homesteaders who lived a very simple, sustainable and self-sufficient life. It was interesting reading their story about their two different homesteads – the first in Vermont and the second in Maine which still operates as The Good Life Center even thought the Nearings have both passed.

The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman is a wealth of information. It’s like a text book for organic gardening. It’s one of those I may end up purchasing for our home library.

Both of these were checked out from the library thanks to Georgia’s interlibrary loan system. I am so thankful for the public library and that I can easily access so many wonderful books from across the state.

On February 22nd, we bought baby chicks at Tractor Supply’s Chick Days. Weston has been eagerly anticipating chick days. The kids and I picked out various breeds. I have 6 California White, Cecilia has 2 Bantams, Paxton has 3 Production Reds and Weston got 2 Bantams, 3 Golden Comets, 2 Barred Rock and 1 ISA Brown.

One of Weston’s bantams died within hours of bringing him home so I think he was unwell when purchased or was injured while being transported home. It was sad but I had reminded all of them before we bought the chicks that they all may not live because sometimes things happen when raising baby animals. He was sad but not heartbroken.

We spent the last weekend in February outside because it was beautiful. John David plowed a swale for drainage at the end of the lower garden where the water tends to accumulate to help the water drain out of the garden. We have plans to plant flowers and vegetables on the swale.

The kids loved the swale. They pretended it was a half pipe for snowboarding (they were very inspired by the Winter Olympics). Laura had fun playing in the soil. They all were covered in dirt but they had a blast.

Laura took a little afternoon nap in her porch swing after playing in the soil. So sweet!

It rained pretty heavily February 25th so we were able to see how our swale helped the area. There was less standing water in the areas that normally flood. It hasn’t completely solved the problem, we think we need to expand it more on the drainage end but it was a step in the right direction.

February 26th was a very exciting day – we had piglets born. Clover had 5 babies (2 didn’t survive the night) but we’re thrilled with 3 healthy, happy little piglets. She’s a good little mama to these sweet babies.

Mama Clover and her babies. We have 2 boys and 1 girl. The boys names are Deer and Pink Pig and the girl is Twitch. Cecilia named Pink Pig which is why it’s such a girly name for a boy.

We’re looking forward to what March holds – the beginning of spring and gardening especially!

*Disclosure – This post does contain affiliate links to products we use and want to share.

January 2018

January was a fun and productive yet cozy and relaxing month on the homestead. We started the new year off with planning for 2018, watching a little football and staying warm inside.

Weston’s hen from Draw Write Now Book 1 which teaches kids how to draw simple farm animals – it has quickly become a favorite!

We made a batch of sauerkraut (I’ve made it before but it’s been several years ago) Weston was my kraut making helper. This batch turned out a little salty but I was pleased with it. One of our goals for 2018 is to add in more fermented foods to our diet.

January is a perfect time for getting cozy with a book. I am an avid reader with a wide variety of books I’m reading at any given time! My favorites are the Bible, biographies, parenting books and agriculture related reading.

Here’s a few of the books I read in January:

A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elizabeth Elliot

Little House in the Ozarks: The Rediscovered Writings by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson

The Market Gardener by Jean-Martin Fortier

I’ve been experimenting with second ferments of Kombucha and getting pretty consistent with carbonation! It’s fun, yummy and we’re getting more probiotics in our diet.

I’ve been making elderberry syrup to help keep us healthy through the cold and flu season. So far, we’ve not gotten the flu and the colds the kids have have been very mild, only lasting about 2 days.

The most exciting thing for January was we installed a woodstove! It has been a dream to have a fireplace or woodstove in our home – so we finally made it happen. John David laid the brick hearth and installed the stove. It’s so cozy and quaint.

We had several very cold days in January so we spent quite a bit of time in the living room near the stove.

We had one weekend with spring like weather so we moved the pigs and John David created a separate stall in the barn in anticipation of piglets.

Weston is completely in his element. This is one of his Olive Egger hens that he raised from a baby chicks.

John David smoked one of the hams he had cured and it was absolutely delicious – the kids were all eagerly awaiting their first bite of ham! There’s nothing quite like quality food that you know the source of.

We had a few days of lovely weather and the kids harvested carrots that were planted in early fall. The carrots were very good.

This post is mainly a highlight of the good things that happened in January but there was some sadness. Our baby pig that was born back in September got out of his pen and fell into a watering trough and drowned on January 27. It was a very sad day for us all. Life and death are part of life on a homestead but there is a difference between purposeful slaughter and untimely death.

*Disclosure – This post does contain affiliate links to products we use and want to share.

2017 on the Homestead

2017 was a full yet wonderful year for our family. We purchased our homestead on May 2nd and started the process of moving in.

That was quite the adventure due to the previous owners selling the home ‘fully furnished’. This meant they just chose to only take the things they wanted and left us with over 50% of their belongings (including furniture, dishes, junk and even trash!) We basically had to move them out before starting to move our belongings in. And, I was 37 weeks pregnant at the time. But, that nesting energy had me moving fast and we got quite a bit accomplished in a short amount of time.

By May 3rd, our bedroom and kitchen were mostly unpacked and somewhat organized and I was beginning to feel ready to welcome a baby. Our kitchen is one of my favorite parts of this house – it’s a bit dated but I really enjoy having a large kitchen.

Our very first addition to our homestead was a hive of bees. We had ordered them back in the winter and were planning to start keeping bees at our former home. We picked them up May 6th, just 4 days after moving in!

On May 12th, we welcomed our fourth child, Laura Kathryn. My labor was very slow but I went through transition and delivered in a span of about 15 minutes so she was born into her daddy’s arms without our midwife present. It was a definitely an experience we’ll never forget.

On May 15th, Weston purchased 10 Olive Egger chicks with his own money. He was so excited and proud to finally have his own chickens. He ended up with 4 hens and 6 roosters from this batch of chicks. Weston is our second child and he is our little farmer – he loves farming, animals and nature.

John David’s parents brought our chicken coop back to us (we had built it back in 2013 for the hens we had at our former home before we found out we couldn’t legally have them where we were living). We made a little chicken pen for the chicks and were given a 6 hens and a rooster from a family who were relocating.

I started brewing Kombucha once again in June after nearly a year off due to weeks of morning sickness, pregnancy tiredness, moving and having a newborn. I quickly got back into the routine of brewing and we’ve been enjoying probiotics in our diet ever since.

We put in a small garden this year but between settling into our new home, having a new baby and traveling for nearly two weeks in June, it was quite neglected. We did manage to harvest a few things – our okra did pretty good until the deer found them, we had a pretty good crop of squash and zucchini and our cucumbers did very well.

We made a couple batches of Garlic Dill Refrigerator pickles which all of the children love – it’s so much fun to preserve our own food.

In July, we ordered Silver King meat birds. It was so exciting to have baby chicks arrive. We got them settled into their brooder and enjoyed having chicks.

We started our homeschool year on July 31st. Paxton started second grade, Weston started Kindergarten and Cecilia is preschool age. I jokingly refer to it as farmschool because living on a farm presents constant learning opportunities.

In early August, we purchased a couple pigs and a goat. Our favorite is Wilbert, he’s a black and white spotted boar and is as sweet as can be. He loves having his back scratched!

John David and the boys built a chicken tractor and got the meat birds onto pasture in early August.

We all shared responsibilities of moving the tractor and feeding the birds. They were very friendly chickens and we enjoyed caring for them and watching them grow.

Weston harvested a beautiful pumpkin that he grew from seed – he was very proud of this pumpkin and has hopes to grow an even bigger one next year.

In August, I started making soap. I’ve wanted to try soap making for years since I prefer buying soaps from artisan makers instead of store bought soaps. I finally decided to give it a try and am really enjoying the making process and having homemade soaps to use.  I’ve made several batches since then and have given several bars as gifts and even sold a few bars.

On September 19th, we had a baby pig born. That was an exciting day and the kids named him Wilbert Junior – he is very healthy and thriving!

In early October, my grandparents gave Weston a katahdin sheep from their farm. He was so excited to have his very own sheep. Since she has calico markings, her name is Callie.

In mid October, Weston purchased another sheep so Callie wouldn’t be alone. He named this one Ginger. Both Ginger and Callie are doing very well.

In late October, we harvested meat birds with the help of our neighbors (we have been blessed with amazing neighbors here!) All 26 of the baby chicks we started out with survived. (Yay for a 0% mortality rate!!) The result was delicious meat and bones that make a very gelatinous broth.

On December 8th, it snowed! The homestead was so pretty covered in snow and our children had a blast playing outside.

Sweet baby Laura’s first snow!

We enjoyed the month of December, John David had several vacation days left that he took in December so we enjoyed being together at home and working on some projects around the home and on the homestead.

We ended 2017 with a hog killing. John David has been studying butchery via online courses and resources. John David, along with his dad and our neighbor, slaughtered and butchered one of our pigs. The result was delicious pork, an abundance of lard, ham and bacon that are curing and a satisfaction of learning a new skill.

2017 will definitely be a year that we remember with much fondness and we’re looking forward to what 2018 holds on our homestead.

-Rachel

Welcome to Arrow Hill Homestead

Welcome to Arrow Hill Homestead. As I write these words, I can’t help but smile. We’re finally living our dream.

Owning a small farm has been a dream of ours since we were married in May of 2006. We were both in college studying agriculture and had a shared dream to one day own a little piece of land where we could raise our children, raise livestock and have large gardens.

Over the next decade, we moved several times, changed jobs and had 3 children but never gave up on our little homestead dream.

In March of 2017, after a few years of looking at multiple properties, we found 5 acres. It wasn’t perfect – no white farm house, beautiful barn and fenced in property ready for livestock – but it was less than 20 minutes from my husband’s job, was in our price range and had wonderful potential.

We closed on the property May 2, 2017 and welcomed our 4th child into our family just 10 days later.

We’ve added several hens, pigs and two sheep to the homestead.

2017 was an absolute whirlwind of a year, full of many changes but we’re excited about what 2018 holds both for our family and for Arrow Hill Homestead.

This blog is intended to be a record of our homestead happenings for us to look back on and remember and to share with family and friends and any new friends we may meet via this blog, our Instagram feed or Facebook page!

-Rachel