I breed new varieties of winter squash. We LOVE squash, and so do the cats. That’s sun-loving Rosie with me.
Unlike many breeds of sheep, Shetlands climb very well. Also unlike most other sheep, they are browsers, not grazers.
In the foreground, Ruby, a Shetland ewe, and her two ram lambs.
That’s Buster in front, half a year later. The smaller sheep are the Shetlands. They are small from centuries of living on the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland.
This young Icelandic rooster is one of the residents of the Conestoga wagon. Icelandic chickens were isolated from all other chickens for about 1,000 years. They are small, extremely hardy and excellent foragers. They take both cold and heat very well.
This Conestoga wagon built on an old hay wagon makes a great home for some of our chickens. It’s covered with a tarp from a billboard. The advertisement is on the inside.
On a farm or homestead with twice-daily animal chores, “Winter is not a season, it is an occupation.”
A few weeks later, Sweetie taking a ride on mom.
Little Sweetie was born on a cold morning in early April. She was the first born of kid triplets and got a bit cold waiting for mom to get to her to dry her off, so I cleaned her up and kept her in my jacket for a while.
Chickens are very friendly if you spend time with them from the time they hatch.
Three of six chicks Sara brooded. The others are under her wings. Sara is a Dorking, a breed so old that Julius Caesar kept some. They are one of five breeds that have an extra toe. The Romans thought that was lucky. Guess Caesar needed more of them.
The barn in progress in summer of 2012.
Our hens, of several breeds, lay eggs of different colors and sizes. The egg at the far right is from a guinea hen.
We say hallelujah! Homestead life is great.
Buster and Angelica were born on the last -20 day of 2014. They were in the house for several days, with visits to mom to nurse.
Hunting cat Kiri here, hanging out with me while I husk some corn. It’s just the lighting that makes her appear to be missing an ear. She does have just one functional eye, since a too-close encounter with a great-horned owl, but it has not affected her hunting ability.
After looking for several years for a good place to homestead, we settled on the Driftless Area in SW Wisconsin. The glaciers did not pass over this part of the state, so the land has many hills and coulees. (Some coulees are small valleys, some are deep ravines. Many properties include both.) The ridge tops tend to be planted in corn and soy, corn and soy, corn and soy, but the coulees below them were formed by creeks that wind this way and that and have shaped the land into small meadows and hillsides amenable only to small farms and homesteads.
We finally found our place here, and purchased it, in the fall of 2011. The old barn had been torn down, so we had an Amish family cut some of the pines on our hill, mill them with their portable mill, and build our small barn. We also hired some work done on the house, which included adding a root cellar, a small, attached greenhouse, a PV solar system and a wood-burning cook stove in a new kitchen area.
By the spring of 2013 it was time for me to get moved here, as I had committed to taking two dairy goats in milk and two sheep before June. Leaving Daniel to get our previous place ready to sell, I moved at the end of May. Those first animals moved in the next day, and the action has been nonstop here ever since.
We have Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats, Icelandic and Shetland sheep and chickens of several heritage breeds. We also have two fine cats, one of which patrols for small rodents, while the other enjoys sitting in the sun. Assorted wild animals – including deer, turkeys, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, coyotes, red-tailed hawks, both barred and great-horned owls and the occasional bald eagle – also call the hills home or pass through. Coyote tracks in the snow in the front yard in winter, turkies and deer in the meadow anytime.
We have planted quite a few chestnut, walnut family and hazel nut trees, in silvopasture fashion, meaning that the meadow most of these occupy is also a pasture for the animals. We put in a small fruit orchard, several raised vegetable beds, and several large permanent beds where I grow the winter squash in my breeding project as well as things like corn, potatoes and sweet potatoes. We own no tractor-pulled implements, nor a tiller. The beds are tended by hand.
I share our experiences in a series of Homestead Letters, which you are welcome to subscribe to.
Because homestead animals are a wonderful example of the exponential function, this website was created to offer some of our animals for sale. Please see the "For Sale" page to see what animals are presently available.
All our animals are fed organically and are on pasture when it is available. Our original chicks came from Sand Hill Preservation Center. Both our sheep and goats have been tested for diseases common to them, and all have a clean bill of health. It is our understanding that animals raised in a natural manner, eating what nature designed them to eat, have superior health.
– Shivani Arjuna
Below are some photos taken around our homestead.