Categories
Finnsheep Sheep

Finnsheep Wool Products Now Available!

Our wool has been processed and added to our online store and Etsy shop! This has been over a year in the making and to say that we are excited is an understatement! Learning the differences between the Finnsheep and our hair sheep, while learning to manage for those differences has been a learning experience.

We are excited to share that we have yarn and roving available for your fall and winter fiber projects! Finnsheep fiber is beautifully soft and most people would consider it suitable for next to skin wear. For more information about Finnsheep fiber and see each listing, you can visit our store at http://14handsranchks.com/product-category/finnsheep-yarn-roving/

I wanted to share a few photos of the year long process it has been to get from purchasing our first Finnsheep flock to being able to offer our own line of Finnsheep wool products.

all the natural colors of our yarn
All the natural colors of our yarn
Finnsheep in the pasture
Our sheep all live on pasture or hay only the entire time they are in our care.
shearing a brown ewe
We had the sheep sheared in March. You typically want to shear approximately one month before lambing.
brown fleece on the ewe
Brown fleece on the ewe.
Finnsheep ewe and three lambs
Finnsheep ewe and three lambs.
sheared fleece
Sheared fleece
Finnsheep in the pasture
Finnsheep in the pasture
Jada and a brown Finnsheep ewe
Jada and a brown Finnsheep ewe
brown roving
Brown roving
Grey roving
Grey roving

Categories
Agriculture Winter

Winter Around the Ranch

Until a couple of weeks ago, we have had a very mild winter. This week temperatures won’t even get above 15 degrees Fahrenheit with windchills below zero. This coming weekend they are forecasting -30 windchills! It appears that all of our winter is happening within a few weeks!

Even though it is frigid outside the animals all still need to be fed and watered daily. We are thankful for warm clothes and a warm house to go into after chores!

I thought I would share some photos from the last couple of weeks. The cold doesn’t seem to impact the animals as much as it does us, as long as they have plenty of food and a place to get out of the wind, so you will see them out in the weather. It really is amazing how God designed each of them perfectly.

And remember, if this cold weather has your skin dry and itchy, we have plenty of our goat milk soap, lotion, & lip balm to help you out in our Ranch Store. We are always making more small batches of soap to try and keep your favorites in stock!

Categories
Book Lists Homeschool

Winter Books

Post does contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

We finally had our first measurable snowfall Monday & Tuesday! However, they were predicting 8-12 inches and we only received maybe an inch of snow along with a little ice under it. It was enough for the kids to have a snowball fight though so they were happy.

This week we are studying snow for science so I thought it was the perfect time to share our favorite winter books. Most of the books are winter picture books. I also included some chapter books for reading aloud or older readers and a few books for the grown-ups too.

Just click on a book and it will take you directly to the Amazon link for the book.

Winter Picture Books

 I LOVE this book.

 Obviously, we love Jan Brett books!

 There are several gingerbread books by Jan Brett.

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Chapter Books 

 This one is for older readers/listeners.  It does talk quite a bit about good versus evil and magic.

Books for Grown-ups to enjoy
 This is my all-time favorite book series.  I like to read at least one of them, if not more every winter.

 I have learned so much about homemaking from Sally.  I always pull this one and the one below out every fall or winter.  When the weather turns colder, I tend to look around our home more and seek out ways to make it more comfortable or “us”.

Happy reading!

~Jada

Post does contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Categories
Agriculture Goat Milk Lotion Goat Milk Soap Goats Made In Kansas

Why We Made The Switch to Goat Milk Soap & Lotion

It’s been almost two years since we made the switch to using goat milk soap and 9 months since we started using only goat milk lotion. Today, I want to share some of the reasons we now only use goat milk soap and lotion. We had slowly been trying to switch over to more natural products for our home and skincare, as well as, eating more whole foods.

As I was researching natural soaps and skincare, it was pretty easy to conclude that we needed to pay more attention to what we put ON our bodies just as much as it is what we put IN our bodies. Goat milk soap kept coming up as a recommended soap in the articles I was reading. Since I had a deep freezer full of goat milk I decided to give goat milk soap making a try. We had originally saved the milk for any bummer lambs or kids that we might have but hadn’t needed it. The goats were also due to start kidding soon so I wasn’t worried about needing the milk for anything other than soap making experiments. My sister-in-law had made some soap as well and she reassured me that I could do it too!

During my research I learned that goat milk is rich in fatty acids that make it a gentle cleanser and moisturizer. The cream in goat milk has an anti-inflammatory effect. These fatty acids help to lock in moisture and nourish your skin. The lactic acid in goat milk also acts an exfoliate helping to keep your skin clear. Your skin is the largest organ on your body – what you put on it matters! Take a look at the ingredients list on a normal bar of soap or bottle of body wash, how many of the words can you pronounce and do you even know what most of the ingredients are? Goat milk is mild and gentle enough that even people of all ages and with very sensitive skin can use it without having it dry out or irritate their skin.

I tried a few different recipes and our family started using the soap. It was important to me as I started making soap, and later lotion, that only natural, easy to pronounce ingredients were used. As our family switched to goat milk soap no one ever complained about it – and in a large family that’s a big deal! In fact, they liked it. The kids liked that we could customize the scents as well. The final thing that convinced me that goat milk soap was the best for our family, was when we went through the entire winter last year and no one complained of dry itchy skin like they usually would.

Ironically, after switching to goat milk soap, lotions started to make me itch, especially after shaving. It didn’t seem to matter what kind of lotion (I was already using a fairly natural lotion) or shaving cream I used, it always felt like my skin itched underneath. I’m not really sure why it took me so long to think of it but after a few months of this, a light bulb went off and I decided that I should probably try making my own goat milk lotion as well. After making and using goat milk lotion for a few days the itching went away and hasn’t came back!

Our family now uses our goat milk soap for face wash, body wash, and I use it for shaving as well. We also use the lotion whenever our hands start to feel a little dry from all of the hand washing. Our goat milk lotion is a great allover moisturizer. I have used the unscented and lavender lotion on my face without it causing a breakout.

Switching our soap and lotion to natural products has led to using more natural candles and other cleaning products but thats another post for another day!

If you are interested in trying any of our goat milk soaps or lotions head over to our Ranch Store. Or if you have been using our products and enjoy them, please leave a review and share our page with others. You can also subscribe to our newsletter so you will always be the first to know when products are restocked – just scroll down to the bottom of any of our pages and you will find the box to enter your email.

As always, please contact us with any questions you might have!

~Jada

Categories
Agriculture Fall Finnsheep Goats Hair sheep Livestock Projects Sheep Uncategorized Winter

Fall/Early Winter Update

I have sat down several times to update everyone about what we have been up to this past fall but wasn’t ever able to get this post finished. Well, here we are in the middle of January and I finally have an update for you! This update will be told in photos because that’s the only way I can remember what we have all done!

I plan to do more regular updates this year to help everyone follow along with what we do. This will also allow us to better share our story with you.

*Lotion will be restocked on Friday! There will also be new lotion scents and lip balm added soon!

We are so grateful to all of our customers who supported us this past holiday season and we look forward to serving you in 2021!

Post does contain affiliate links. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

The pond in September. It has been dry this fall and the pond was already getting low. It is a couple of feet lower now.

We’ve had two litters of piglets this fall.

It was warm enough in September and October that Colton had to keep the pigs mud hole filled with water. They love to lay in it when it’s hot outside.

The sheep & goats do an excellent job of cleaning up poison ivy and other unwanted plants under the trees along our dam.

The goats always prefer to eat the weeds, trees, or poison ivy before the grass.

It doesn’t seem to matter if its human or animal mama’s – they just can’t eat or drink in peace!

Some of the fungus we found in an old tree stump during one of our nature studies.

I dried some marigolds and pokeberries for dying yarn later. If anyone has recommendations on books to read about naturally dying wool please share them with me! The only book I have right now is Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes

We also made a marigold garland. It was pretty above the kitchen sink.

Goat Milk Lotion was added to the store in November! It will be restocked on Friday (1/15/21).

Hailey ran at State Cross Country. Hailey and Cody both had a great season in high school cross country. In addition to helping with the farm and being a full-time independent insurance agent, Lance is the head cross country coach for our local high school. He is also an assistant track coach in the spring. Yes – we are busy!

We started bale grazing November 1st. I will be sharing a post about bale grazing and what we are learning about regenerative agriculture in a later post.

Lane does an excellent job of caring for his chickens and ducks.

This girl is so sweet. She always wants a chin scratch. Finnsheep were definitely the right choice for our family.

I can’t wait to shear the sheep this coming spring and see what we can have done with all of the fiber! I’m hoping to have combed top as well as yarn made this year.

I will never tire of watch a Kansas Sunset. The top of our hill is the perfect spot to watch it.

Due to a freak accident, we had to buy a new Finnsheep ram. Lance and I traveled to Iowa to purchase one the day after Thanksgiving. He is gorgeous, both in confirmation and fleece. It will be fun to see what kind of lambs we get in the spring.

Isn’t he lovely?!?

The second litter of piglets – they are now weaned and available for purchase as feeder pigs. Just contact us if you are interested in purchasing one!

Lane’s chickens and ducks have started laying eggs. I have yet to capture a good photo of the blueish/green eggs.

I made Hailey pose for a picture after we finished putting straw out in the barns in November.

The Chicken Palace received a new sign and barn light! When it warms up the doors will also be painted.

We were blessed to be able to attend a couple of different vendor days locally. Our new lip balm will be added to the store within the next couple of weeks.

Very grateful that Lance can usually take my ideas and make it a reality when it comes to building things. I showed him a picture of a display shelf and tried to explain how I wanted to change it a little. Somehow he was able to figure out what I wanted and made these great little shelves!

At least one Saturday a month (more if cold weather is on the way) is spent replenishing straw in all of the barns. Even Kinzie helps put new straw out.

The rams were pulled out of the ewe flocks this past weekend. They didn’t want to get along at first (hormones….) so they got to spend a couple of days in a very tiny space. This allows them time to get acquainted but without the fighting. If we didn’t put them in this small pen, they would have just spent hours or days backing up to get a running start and head butting each other. We use the small pen to keep them from hurting each other.

I’ve also been crocheting in the evenings! This is a wool/acrylic blend yarn (Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick and Quick Yarn(3-Pack) Hudson Bay 640-610). I love the variegated colors and this simple, single stitch I’m using on this afghan really shows the color pattern nicely. I spent most of November and December crocheting a shawl to give as a Christmas gift to someone.

We hope you all have a wonderful and blessed 2021! Thank you for being a part of 14 Hands Ranch.

~Jada

Post does contain affiliate links. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Categories
Book Lists Christmas Homeschool

Christmas Books

Post does contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Over the years we have put together a fairly large collection of Christmas picture books. Every year it grows by a few books. I love children’s books and our Christmas collection has some of my favorite books.

The kids and I enjoy reading a few books everyday from advent until epiphany and then they get put away again. I usually keep the books in baskets around the Christmas tree. When the kids were little, this helped to keep them out of the tree!

My sister asked me for a list of “must have” Christmas books. She is starting to collect picture books for their son. I decided that it would be easier for her to find them all here rather than text her a million pictures of books! So here is my “Must Have Christmas Books” and I added a few books at the end for mom’s too.

All photos of the books are Amazon links – just click the picture!

Picture books that the whole family will enjoy:

  

For Older Readers or Family Read Aloud

For Mom

This isn’t all of our books but these are the ones that we tend to read over and over. If you have any Christmas books that I haven’t listed please add them to the comments section of this post. I love to learn about new Christmas books to add to our collection.

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Categories
Beekeeping Bees Honey

First Honey Harvest

Taking the wax cap off of the honey.
Extracting the honey from the frames. They boys loved cranking the extractor!
Honey from the extractor then went into a bucket with a cloth strainer to catch any wax bits that might have been in it.
Bottling the honey into quart jars from the bucket.
After bottling we had 3.5 quarts of honey. When the wax finished draining we had almost 4 quarts of honey!

We had our first honey harvest on September 28th. It was a very exciting afternoon! Lane, Colton, and Kinzie all helped with the extraction and bottling part of the process.

We had expected to have at least 7-8 frames of honey to extract between the two hives based on my hive inspection the week before. However, when we went to collect the frames we found that the hive with the most honey had been completely robbed! There was absolutely nothing left in the frames of the honey supers. Thankfully, my mentor was with us to help and was able to explain what had happened and how to tell. Basically, in the fall stronger hives will rob weaker hives of their honey. This occurs because there isn’t as much for the bees to eat this time of year. When a hive is robbed the robbers come in and eat everything that they can. Luckily, the robber bees had not touched the frames in the big boxes the bees have stored for winter.

We ended up only getting 4 or 5 frames that had honey we could harvest. Most of them were only partially filled and capped so I am very happy with our 4 jars of honey.

Our first honey harvest on 14 Hands Ranch was celebrated at dinner that night with our favorite thing to eat with honey – homemade biscuits!

The rest of the fall I will be feeding sugar syrup to all three bee hives. This will help to ensure that they have enough honey stored up to make it through the winter. The first two hives are going through one quart jar of sugar syrup about every 3 days. The swarm hive is getting their jar refilled every day. They still have a few frames to fill before winter so I am feeding them as much as they can eat.

I have learned so much about beekeeping and bees in general this year. Next spring, I plan to split any of the hives that survive the winter as a more economical way of adding hives. If none of them survive winter, I will have to purchase all new bees. I am hoping to have 8-10 hives within a couple of years. This would hopefully give us enough honey for our family as well as leave some to sell. As with anything, I am sure that I will continue to learn more about bees and beekeeping summer. And next year, I will have someone else come take photos for me when we harvest our honey! I had my good camera in the garage but my fingers were so sticky that I didn’t dare use it!

Categories
Goals Hair sheep Livestock Sheep Sheep

Meet our Flock

The other day I realized that I have never shared much about our flock of sheep! Since the sheep are big part of our ranch, I feel like they should have their own post.

Our flock started with two registered Dorper ewes in 2015. These were a Christmas gift to Hailey from her aunt. They were named Daisy and Tulip. Daisy was always very friendly and the leader of the flock. Tulip never did like to come very close to us but she was always a good mama. Sadly, we lost both of them this summer.

After a couple of years with Daisy and Tulip, Hailey applied for a starter flock through the Kansas Sheep Association. She was selected to receive 6 ewes from a local producer that raises hair sheep. Most of his sheep are a breed called Easy Care. This is a composite breed of white Dorper, Khatadin, and Romanov sheep.

Dorpers and Easy Care sheep are both Hair breeds. This means that they will shed their wool in the spring/summer months, leaving only hair. Some hair sheep will have a “mat” of wool left on their back, only shedding the sides and belly wool. The sheep that completely shed do get a little bit of a sunburn at the first of the summer but are then fine.

The hair sheep flock are all Hailey’s. It provides a little income for her, as well as, teaching her valuable lessons in responsibility, caring for others, and is something that she can continue to do as she goes on to college and beyond.

This past winter I began exploring the idea of purchasing a wool breed for Lance & I to raise. I have always been fascinated with wool breeds and love yarn and wool products so I thought it would be a good fit. I did quite a bit of research on breeds and wool. Lance said that I had to prove that it would be profitable to raise wool sheep before he would agree to buying any. So in my effort to prove to him that it was a good idea, I called wool mills and spoke with people already in the fiber world. Once I had narrowed down my list of possible breeds to two, I called and messaged several breeders and spoke to them about their sheep. Luckily, everyone I talked to said it was a “no brainer” to have a flock of wool sheep that produced a finer fleece for making yarn and combed top.

When my research was complete, I decided that Finnsheep would be the best fit for us. They are very friendly and produce a beautiful fleece. Finnsheep are also known for being very prolific (they can have 1-5 lambs in one breeding) which is great for quickly building up a flock.

Using the Finnsheep Breeders Association, I found a breeder in Missouri. This was the closest one that I was able to find. In July, Lance & I went to pick up 10 ewes and 1 ram. I am happy to report that I am in love with them! They have the sweetest personalities and their fleece feels wonderful! I can’t wait for our first shearing next spring to see what we get.

I am hoping that by next summer or fall, we will have some wool products to offer to our customers, as well as lamb meat for local customers.

While being a shepherd is a lot of work, there isn’t much better than standing out in your pasture surrounded by your flock.

Categories
Faith Family Livestock Projects Uncategorized

Who’s Well Done Are You Looking For?

“Who’s well done are you looking for? The world’s or God’s?” I have been mulling this phrase over in my head for weeks now. I first heard it on a podcast that I was listening to about parenting/homeschooling and then a visiting priest said almost the same thing during Mass last Sunday. Several weeks ago, I wrote it on our quote board and keep thinking about it as we make decisions about what our fall will look like.

If Covid-19 has done anything, it has given us time to evaluate what is really necessary and important to our families. When everything was shut down we had a lot of time on our hands. We had been running to activities and meetings at least 4-5 days/evenings a week, sometimes in two or three places at once. It was crazy and exhausting!

When all of that came to a halt overnight it was a big change. Like many people, we used all of the extra time to get a lot of projects done around the house and farm. As summer approached, a few things started up again such as baseball. We decided not to sign any of our kids up so that we could have a summer of “nothing” and just spend it together as a family. Since this will probably be the last summer we ever have with all of the kids home and nothing on the calendar we took advantage of it!

With summer coming to an end and school starting, Lance and I have had several conversations about kids activities and school this fall. I have thought of this phrase every time we have this conversation. I think it’s important to think about why we are committing to certain activities. Are we doing it because it fulfills us or our family enjoys it? Or are we doing it because it looks good to others or on a resume? Are we trying to “keep up with the Jones’?” Or are we doing it because we feel called to do it and it is the best thing for our family right now?

I think that most of us, at one time or another, do something because everyone else around us is doing it. It’s hard to be different. As we have made some decisions about what things will look like for our family this fall, it has helped to keep in mind that we aren’t trying to please the world. The only one that we need to hear “well done” from is God.

Categories
Agriculture Beekeeping Bees Kansas

Bees!

Last week, we embarked on a new adventure. We bought bees! We have talked about getting bees for years but never took the leap. Well, on Thursday we finally officially started beekeeping! We are starting with two beehives but I can already see how this can easily turn in to several more beehives over the years

A local beekeeper, Nikki, has been keeping a beehive at our house for the last couple of years. This has given us the opportunity to observe the bees and get comfortable with having them around. I called her this past winter with a long list of questions about beekeeping. After patiently answering all of my questions, she graciously offered to mentor me if we bought bees. After visiting about it and weighing out the pros and cons, Lance and I decided that it would be a good fit for us to get bees this year.

Nikki gave me a list of items that we needed to purchase. I was able to get almost everything we needed but I am still waiting on my pants and smoker because they were backordered. We purchased our hives and bee colonies from her since she had extras available. We are using 8 frame Langstrom Hives.

After placing the bees in their new hives, I made a mixture of sugar water to feed them. This will help them to have plenty of food while they are getting their hives started. There isn’t a lot of things blooming yet so this is also a good supplement for them. After they had been in the hives for two days, I opened it up and checked how much sugar water they had left. Surprisingly, they both still had half to three-quarters of a mason jar full. This indicates that the bees have been successful in finding pollen sources.

Currently, there is yellow clover, white clover, dandelions, my strawberries, and some wildflowers blooming. It’s still too early for all of my planted flowers and garden vegetables to be blooming. Adding the bees though is an excellent excuse to plant more flowers than I already have! I have a lot of zinnias, marigolds, and purple coneflower planted as well as other flowers and herbs. For the past few years, I have always tried to plant pollinator friendly flowers and herbs just because we enjoy watching the pollinators.

There is so much to learn about beekeeping and bees in general that I am enjoying the challenge of learning a new skill. I have been reading Storey’s Guide to Beekeeping, joined groups on Facebook, and followed pages on instagram. However, I think that the biggest help will be having someone to mentor me and teach me the craft over the next year or two. I have a feeling though, that just like with any type of livestock or farming, there will always be something new to learn with bees!

We are hoping to have our first honey harvest sometime in July. Our family loves honey so we are all excited to hopefully have some that “our” bees made! Taking photos is one of my hobbies so be prepared for lots of bee and flower photos over the summer!

Photo by Kim Simon
A fun fact I have learned about bees is that a colony can have 10,000 – 60,000 bees living in it!
In this photo I am putting the bees into their hive. Photo was taken by Nikki.
Putting sugar water in the hives.
The following photos were taken by Lance’s aunt, Kim Simon.