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