Alaskan Hen House

  (wasilla, Alaska)
backyard alaskan farming
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Yep, winter is finally over!

Our snow and ice is completely gone. But we are deep in mud right now. It seems to be everywhere and completely unavoidable. Cleaning up the pen yards has been trecherous with it being so wet but a definite necessity. Our teens and their friends are making good money helping to clean up what the break-up has revealed.

We've had a few hatches of chicks, ducklings and goslings already over the last couple months. Our fertility has been great in the eggs with reports of 100% although I've had at least 2 clear (out of 42) in every batch I've started here.

We had all three of our sheep sheared last month. Woohoo, more wool to spin. It was exciting to watch this done for the first time by a local school nurse slash sheep shearer. She did an exellent job with our sheep and look forward to having her do them next year too.

We are also anxiously awaiting the arrival of our new lamb/s but our only expecting ewe seems to be holding out on us. Every day we think, this must be it, better keep a close watch. But nothing comes of it other than a lot of sleepless nights. We are hoping we have a black or at least a very dark colored lamb to add variety to our flock.

We set our honey bee hives last week. Our first attempt at beekeeping. It is a very exciting and long awaited project here. The bees were very dosile when installed into the hive, not one sting, phew!

We got taps into our birch trees and they are producing about 1 1/2 -2 gallons of sap a day per tap. I heat the sap up first in the house then transfer it to a pot outside for processing. It smells so sweet in the house right now, yummy.

We started 3 flats of corn, 2 flats of brocolli, 2 flats of cauliflower, 1 flat of dill and zuccini, cucumber and tomatoes last month. The've already been transfered into larger pots and this coming weekend we will start a second batch. Our rhubarb is budding out of the ground in areas that were not covered deeply in wood chips that kept the ground frozen.

Yep, winter is finally over!

 
 

False Springs

After weeks of 20 below temps our crazy temps bounced back, but way above normal. Pouring rain and 40-50 degree temperatures closed our schools and left a lot of folks unable to get to work for days.

Giant puddles were breaching walls into the barn causing interior puddles leaving no dry ground to bed down on, except on the rubber mats. I watched the goats and sheep carefully to make sure they weren't catching a cold or worse. So we drug out a submersible sump pump and lots of hoses to help relocate the water before it refroze into ice rinks. A visit from our manure pickup guy, commented that his apple trees were begining to bud. Yikes! After a week of these warm temps all was refroze and our temps have returned to normal. But not without making me feel more anxious for spring. It sure was nice getting to go out without being so tightly bundled but Liza (my daughter) didn't find delight in falling and getting so wet all the time. She must have slipped a dozen times but luckily no broken bones.

On the plus side, the girls (chickens) were also fooled. Our egg count doubled and our ducks started laying. I let them out during the warm spell to forage in the now exposed ground and so the ducks and geese could play in the puddles. And play they did! Nothing more entertaining than watching ducks play. Bobbing their heads, flapping their wings, dunking in the water and sporadically dashing this way and that. LOVE IT!

 

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Alaskan winter hobbies

Having just purchased our first sheep in spring of 08, the desire to spin wool even more than before has become very aparant. The spinning of wool became a fun, relaxing activity on them cold winter nights a few years ago using a drop spindle. This year I buckled down and bought a used spinning wheel. Yes, it has a squeek in the foot pedal but it's a rythmic sound that is actually quite relaxing.

With the birth of our first son in 85, I learned to crochet and was really good at it. But I never picked up the nack of knitting. So...I got a simple weaving loom and a knitting loom also this year. I made many gifts for christmas this year using the knitting looms but am still struggling with the weaving loom. 

Another favorite hobby this time of year is carving eggs. I use a dremel tool, draw out a pattern on a blown out egg with a pencil and just start carving. I'm not real intricate yet and yes i've wasted a few more shells than i've completed but I know the Lord will provide more supplies for me to work with in the spring.

 

Chilled to the bone

Oh yes, now I remember. This is Alaska and it's suppose to be like this, right? No. We have had a really really long cold snap this year. And an early one to boot.

Keeping water bowls thawed has become a full time job around here. It's been hitting -20 for weeks now and it doesn't help at all when the wind occassionaly joins in. Usually with the wind comes a rise in the temperature making it easier to hide from the cold. But not this year.

The windows inside the house are laden with ice from boiling water on the stove all the time. But it's the only way to keep thawed water outside. Not to mention all the moisture in the air sure helps my skin feel better and the kids can't shock me so well when they drag their feet across the carpet. I keep promising the girls (farm animals) that it really will warm up soon. After all just how long can this cold snap hold on?

So far all the critters are holding well. I've only had a few frozen eggs that the ladies have mistakenly laid on the ground. I've actually been surprised the ladies are still giving me eggs in this frigid of weather.

On the plus side of the weather it has given me lots of extra time to work on spinning my wool. making different weights and plys and been interesting. I've also been whipping up items (hats, scarfs, face masks, slippers) and tearing them back apart. Learning as I go.

 
 

Thanks to my ancestors

It's all about family and how we are who we are. No matter what type of life we currently have or are living, we can not deny our ancestors. Their fight to survive and thrive are the only reasons that we exist.

 For me I think back to my great grandparents who had 13 children in a small cabin in Montana. Surviving through the long cold winters in such economic hard times was not for the faint of heart. Farming for them was not a hobby as many of us now do, it was a fact for survival. Chores were completed with out complaint as it also helped to keep them warm.

I recall one story of an extremely long harsh winter and how they hadn't even enough flour to make bisquits and how the church folks pulled togethering a basket of food and dropped it off at their door.

When i see our table laden with pretty dishes flowing with foods it sometimes brings a tear to my eye to think how fortunate we are. To be able to put clothes in the washer and walk away or the dishes into the dishwasher. How nice it is to be in a warm bathroom and be able to take a shower. Or just to simply turn on the lights, sit in a comfy upholstered chair and flip the tv channels or surf the internet.

For all these things and much much more, I am forever grateful to my ancestors, for we are surely blessed.

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to hatch or not to hatch, that's a tough question

How do I choose which eggs we eat and which eggs we don't. Every time I pick up an egg it happens. Hard boiled egg or broiled chicken?

Does the egg go into a carton and put into a frig for later consumtion ...or... do I put it into an incubator and raise more birds for meat. Fried eggs or fried chicken?

I've had poultry for many years but only having purchased an incubator a few years ago, this additiction of hatching eggs is hard to fight. Quiche or roast? 

Even when the freezers full there's a mental debate going on in my head every time i hold that egg. Egg salad or chicken salad?

The economy doesn't help me make that choice either. Friends and family are experiencing hardships these days and are affected by our choices too. Omlete or barbque?

At this time the choice is made by our alaskan winters and incubator space.

 
 
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