Where, oh where has the time gone? It’s May already?! Somebody pinch me, because I feel like I must be dreaming… time keeps slipping by so quickly. I feel bone-tired today. I’ve been feeling that way a lot these past few months. When I was ten years younger, I couldn’t understand that phrase. How can your bones feel tired? Well, they can, okay! It’s a real thing!
A year or so ago, we decided to try and truly take a day of rest once a week. It was a great decision. I can’t quite explain how utterly exhausted I am by the time Sundays roll around. We occasionally visit with friends or family or go to a park as a family, but mostly we rest. Today we had church and a First Communion for my niece, but I didn’t realize how beat I felt until I sat down in the comfort of my own home. I still had a few chores to do, but I struggled to get through them. I just wanted to sit down and rest. And now I’m sitting and relaxing, and FINALLY working on writing an update on what we’ve all had going on around here. It’s been about a month, so this could be long. Brace yourselves!
Well, I’m not sure where we left off, but about a month ago, Baby Cheeks was baptized. We were supposed to butcher the roosters either that weekend or the following weekend, but we ended up having to postpone it until just yesterday. I finished boiling off the maple sap… only I over cooked it and ended up making a large batch of maple sugar instead. I probably even over cooked that just a hair, because it tastes a bit more like molasses than maple. Oh well. I still ended up with maple product. I started cleaning up the mess right away, but it took me another two weeks to get it all cleaned up. I had washed buckets sitting in the hallway in the house that whole time.
I’m feeling slightly… I don’t know… panicked, perhaps, about the garden this year. I really want to have a great big garden, and I think we’ll be able to pull it off. But I feel behind. Nothing has gone like I expected it to, and I had allowed room for life to happen. I do have tomato plants started, and also a bunch of herbs, but I still don’t have my garlic planted or the kitchen garden prepped. The day I had my ruined-maple-syrup-turned-maple-sugar-moment, I was also working on moving the large black tarp that was prepping the ground for this year’s garden expansion. The kids and I moved the tarp and all of the tires, then moved the chickens, and within the week, we moved the straw bales that were insulators for the winter set-up, and I got both chicken tractors moved. I didn’t get a chance to move the chickens again this week to have them finish spreading out the straw because it rained too much, but I should be able to do that tomorrow, and then the garden should pretty much be ready for planting.
Speaking of chickens… we finally, FINALLY butchered the roosters we were supposed to butcher last fall. They were still kind of small last fall, so we decided to wait until spring, but then between having a new baby and several rounds of illness spreading through the house, it got put off and put off and put off. Even though I felt tired yesterday, I was determined to get them butchered. I have not been loving being woken up by a chorus of crowing from 18 roosters. That’s just a little much. We butchered 13, and we’ll be giving 2 to my brother. We’ll keep three for ourselves for now. It is a relief to be done with them.
The roosters were part of an experiment for raising dual-purpose birds. Until we cook them and taste them, the experiment isn’t complete. We need to see what we think when that’s all done. So far, these are my observations. 1) Start raising them as early in the spring as possible. We got ours in June because of the fire last year, so we were set back two months. 2) Butcher before they reach full maturity, if possible. The roosters crow and get obnoxious, plus then you are dealing with them and your hens, and their fighting with each other. 3) When you do butcher, know that their body cavity is much smaller than a Cornish Cross (these were ISA Brown roos). Taking out the lungs is always tricky, but this was hard because their ribcage was smaller. 4) I don’t know if it was age or breed or what, but these were much more difficult to butcher. Their skin was much tougher, and all of the connective tissue was a lot stronger. Also, I don’t know what contributed to this, but they didn’t pluck as well in the plucker.
Let’s see… Scott’s bees came in two(?) weeks ago. He initially ordered one package, and then ended up purchasing a second. We decided we’d try moving the hives closer, because even though we try walking our trails frequently, it was much more difficult for us to make our way over to check on the bees where they were. We picked a new location much closer to the house, and while I don’t think that alone will keep the bees alive, it could make a difference, so we’re trying it. Plus, then they’ll be a little closer to the garden and the current orchard, a perk for them and for us. I had hesitated to keep the hives too close to the house in the past, but I think the kids know enough to stay away now.
As for orchards, we are still hoping to do some expanding. Scott grafted trees a couple of weeks ago. We did several apple trees and a few peach trees. The grafts we did last year all looked like they were doing well, but we may have brought them outside a week too early. After they came outside, we had a dip in temperatures, so I hope we didn’t inadvertently kill them! There are at least two alive for sure, but if the others make it, I think we’ll have something like 15 more trees. I’m not sure when we’ll plant those… either very soon, or possibly in the fall.
The yard as a whole has been under quite a transformation process (one that is still underway). We had to cut down 4 of our apple trees, and do some heavy pruning on several of the other apple trees. Last year’s fire killed two of the big trees, and two of the other big trees sustained some damage. We couldn’t tell how bad things were last year and just had to wait to see what would come of it. The other two trees that were cut down were some smaller trees that we had planted a couple of years ago. They were both scraped pretty badly by something. With all of the trees that were cut down, we are crossing our fingers and hoping and praying that they will regrow. There is a decent chance, especially with the younger two, that they will send off new shoots.
As I said, the trees were in range of the burned coop. We’ve been trying to work at cleaning up all of the messes from the fire. Scott pulled up nearly all of the old chicken run, and we worked on cleaning up as much of the mess on the north and east sides of the building. We have been burning debris from the old building when the weather permits, and we’ve made a nice dent in the mess. After the two sides of the concrete slab were cleaned up and the fencing removed, Scott took the mower deck through and cut down all of the growth from that area, and we will be converting that into an orchard/garden/yard area. I can’t really explain it properly, but I hope to share pictures over time.
We are nearly finished cleaning out the old building. There are still some things to pull out, but it was only two weeks ago that everything was finally completely rid of ice. And the day after Easter, we caught a stomach bug, were sick for a week, and then we spent the past week just trying to catch up on house work and school work. Hopefully we will be able to make some good progress outside this week!
The garden shed still isn’t completed, but it’s at a point that’s “good enough” for right now. I had intended to do a lot of work outside two weeks ago, but I hadn’t intended on getting very sick for a whole week. We were actually going to take a “spring break” from homeschooling so that I could focus on getting work done outside and also make time for some fun stuff with the kids, but alas, that is not how things worked out. But the garden shed has been working out nicely. The best part is having a lock on the door. Yesterday, while I was waiting for the giant pot of water for scalding the chickens to reach the right temperature, I actually cleaned and sharpened 4 shovels! Now I only have about 30 more tools to clean and sharpen. Yaaay!
I don’t think I shared this or not, but some of the kids ended up purchasing some chicks and ducklings. Right now we have 6 of each. I am going to have to figure out what our next step for housing them will be, because they are pretty much out of room in the brooder. I had intended to work on that issue the week we got sick, but…
This spring has been all about clean up. There have been so many things that needed taking care of, and we’re finally getting around to it all. Scott has made many trips to the dump, and we’ve had several fires to help us clear out things like furniture that was in utter disrepair. We turned a pile of furniture into a bonfire on Friday night, our first of the year! I admit that some days, I feel like it’s hopeless. There is just so much to clean up. And the grass is really starting to grow now, and I’m two weeks behind on outdoor work after that stomach virus. But it’s like I said last time. I’m just doing my best to take it all one step at a time, and I know we’ll get there.
This past week, my mom came over to lend a hand with the kiddos. She had planned to come over the week prior, but we postponed because of the illness. I spent the day trying to catch up on housework and simultaneously, make sure the kids got their school work done. The basement and my sewing room had both taken a turn for the worse, and I needed to rein in the terror. I’m happy to say that they both look better now. Not perfect, but better. Now I should be able to get back on track with my normal deep cleaning routine for the house.
Homeschooling has been going pretty well, and we’re basically where we want to be on most things. Sure, there is some stuff we’d like to be further ahead on, but I know that we’ll get there when we need to. The kids have been enjoying the fact that I’ve been spending more time on “other” subjects with them, instead of focusing so much on the “3 R’s”. We’re studying botany, and it’s been interesting for all of us. We’ve been studying ancient civilizations, and are currently learning about the Greeks. We’ll be starting book 6 of The Chronicles of Narnia series, and we just read the “Kit” series from American Girls. Those books are so great for getting the kids interested in history. I am currently hunting out a good book on the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl for my own reading purposes (non-fiction), so if you have any recommendations, please, leave a comment!
And if you are wondering, yes, it’s been a crazy two months since Baby Cheeks was born. There were so many things that I did prior to his birth to help make life manageable once he arrived, and I am so incredibly thankful that I had the foresight and ambition to do that. Because it’s been a challenge, even after all of that prep work. Getting the garden ready was easy. The basement was already set up for starting plants, and I had figured out what to plant and when last year. We’ve been able to work through school work pretty easily. The kids know what is expected of them both in terms of school work and chores, and every time we implement another small change, life gets a little easier. But our house is loud. Really, really loud. And it can get messy so crazy fast. (That’s a post for another day.) And so does the yard. Despite those challenges, and the challenges of having a new baby, life is definitely moving in the right direction. Here’s to hoping it doesn’t take another month for me to get a post up!
What have you been up to this past month?