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January 1, 2018

Mystery Solved! The 2017 Homestead Year in Review



I solved a mystery! I wondered for months (seriously, MONTHS) why this pair of ducklings are black and white when their parentage says they shouldn't be. I finally found the answer while writing this post, and I'm smacking my head. Read on to find out - you'll laugh too, I'm sure.

As always when the new year approaches, I look back over the previous months. Did I reach my goals? Did I finish the projects on my to-do list? Sometimes I hit a stumbling block and fell short, and in that case, do I want to continue working on that goal or let it go? Other times we've been given an opportunity and decided to go for it, which might have set another project back a bit as our time and attention were given to the new opportunity.

It's also easier to see patterns or themes after some time has passed. It's as though you can see the "whole" instead of the pieces, sort of like that "you can't see the forest for the trees" saying. While a single incident might not seem significant, later on you might see that it was one event in a chain of blessings.

The 2017 Homestead Year in Review - and a mystery solved!

One of my 2017 goals was to start keeping bees. In January I took an excellent beginning beekeeping class at a local college. I didn't know there was so much I didn't know! But I was excited and encouraged and I ordered my bees from the instructor, to be picked up later in the spring. Here are four tips I learned about ordering bees.

In February I stopped drinking Coke. This was huge for me. I'd finally decided to confront my addiction, and I stopped cold-turkey. I missed it, especially the fizziness. I'd made my own natural ginger ale occasionally in the past with success, so I've been making that when I need "bubbles." I'm proud to say that I haven't had a Coke or other cola in ten and a half months!

The 2017 Homestead Year in Review - and a mystery solved!
The crib quilts - finished!

In March I traveled to visit two of our children who live out of state. I started on my crib quilt project. Then we traveled to visit a daughter in another state. The equine dentist came out; our old gelding Splash really needed some work. He's put on more weight since then and looks much better, but he is beginning to show his age (even though we don't know exactly how old he is).

The big day came in April when hubby and I picked up my package of bees. I installed them in their hive and began checking on them regularly, watching as they built comb, made honey and increased in number. They are fascinating!

The 2017 Homestead Year in Review - and a mystery solved!

We also had two hatches of Muscovy ducklings, 33 babies in all, and I brought home 25 Rhode Island red chicks from the post office. Honestly, I was completely overwhelmed with birds for a few weeks. I planted potatoes in a trash can and sweet potatoes in a sink, and was successful with both crops for the first time. Sometimes it pays to be quirky. And while I hoped for as many hummingbirds as we'd had last summer, we only had a few this year. I loved watching the half dozen or so of them through the kitchen window.

In May we celebrated my eleventh blog anniversary. And then I lost all of the cabbage plants to cabbage worms.

I moved the Rhode Island red chicks from the brooder to the coop in June, putting them in a temporary pen in the corner so the "big girls" couldn't bully them. One mean ole hen killed a total of nine chicks anyway, somehow reaching in through the cage wire or attacking them when they stuck their heads out. Also in June I finally made my first batch of shampoo bars, after saying "I'm going to do that" for at least a year.

July marked three months with the bees. My summer garden looked amazing, but was soon overtaken by blister beetles. Fighting those took a lot of time and energy.

The 2017 Homestead Year in Review - and a mystery solved!

And then, here's that mystery I spoke of. Cora, the chocolate-and-white Muscovy duck hen, hatched just two of the eggs in her summer clutch. Since their father was Frank, my all-white male, I assumed that the ducklings would be chocolate and white, but as they grew and their feathers came in, it was apparent that they are both black-and-white females. As I said, I've been stumped by this for several months.

August brought our granddaughter's annual visit. We are so blessed that her mother makes certain she spends time with us. The garden suffered in the August heat and I lost all of my squash plants to squash bugs.

In September we had a preparedness challenge on the blog, discussing evacuation scenarios after the devastation from the hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. What would you do? Organizing our household's important documents and storing water for emergencies rounded out the challenge. Also in September hubby and I celebrated our new grandson's birth.

The 2017 Homestead Year in Review - and a mystery solved!

In October we loaded up the Rhode Island red cockerels and took them to Oklahoma's only state-inspected poultry processor. When we picked up the finished birds, we had the opportunity to order 25 Cornish cross chicks and pick them up later in the week. We'd been planning to raise meat chicks early next year, but we decided to take advantage of this opportunity and moved the project up in our calendar. Since I'd raised both this year, I compared heritage breeds and meat birds in this post.

Mystery Solved! The 2017 Homestead Year in Review

In November Sharon, the black-and-white duck hen, hatched one lone duckling from her fall clutch of just two eggs. "Buddy" is a fine-looking female and I'm again astounded at how fast Muscovies grow, especially the males. I finished the last of the crib quilts, traveled to the East Coast to visit more family, and celebrated the birth of another granddaughter.

On one December morning I fed and watered the laying hens and found a possum sleeping in the corner of the coop. I knew that he'd be back if I just chased him out, now that he knew how to get inside, so I took care of that situation. Sorry, Mr. Possum. We fixed the ventilation hole in the coop eaves that must have been his entrance.

We took the meat chicks to the processor, filled our freezer, and now my workload is lighter. I'm looking forward to fewer livestock chores over the winter. The bees are hopefully warm and happy in their hive; I'll feed them regularly {on warm days} since it's their first winter and hope they'll be alive in the spring. They've been more work than I expected, but I still find them fascinating and plan to continue "keeping" them if they survive the winter.

Oh, that mystery I told you about. While I was writing this year-end review I read entries in my weekly planner, where I write down my homestead notes. I found this, written in July:
"The Muscovies are laying eggs again, but something is eating the eggs in the black-and-white ducks' coop. A snake? A rat? I'm still not sure, but something is squeezing through the 2x4-inch spaces in the fencing and eating the eggs. The chocolate-and-white hen's eggs in the other coop - which is lined with hardware cloth - are unmolested, so I've taken a couple of the black-and-white ducks' eggs and added them to Cora's clutch."
Those two sweet black-and-white ducklings, protected and nurtured by Cora even now at five months old, must be Sharon's babies! No wonder they're black and white, the same color as their real parents. I'd completely forgotten that I gave Cora a few eggs from Sharon's nest in the other coop. At least this mystery won't keep me awake at night anymore.


Cora's dedication to protecting and caring for her daughters reminds me of the Lord's love for me. He protects and teaches and guides me just as a mother hen (duck hen, that is) does for her chicks. In the good times and the not-so-good times, He watches over me. He comforts me, and He works in me for His own purposes. He also, I'm sure, overlooks my memory lapses.

Over the past year I've been "finding joy," looking purposefully for those things that bring a smile to my face, fighting the doldrums in which I've found myself following hubby's medical problems. New babies, finished quilts, ducklings, fuzzy chicks, sunrises and so much more are all blessings from the Lord, meant to be noticed, marked and savored.

Don't let the troubles of this life overpower the simple, everyday joys, my dear friends. I know we're not all exactly where we want to be, living a "perfect" life. The Lord has a purpose for each of us; I pray that we can all find joy in the small things of this life He has given us.


May Your unfailing love be my comfort, according to Your promise to Your servant.



Previous years:
2010 in Review
2012 in Review
2013 in Review
2014 in Review
2015 in Review
2016 in Review



This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at:
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6 comments:

  1. You’ve had a very productive year, and reading about it has inspired me. I’m glad you solved your sisters. It’s funny how we can totally forget doing something like that. If you didn’t keep a journal, the mystery would probably go unsolved. I’m thinking I need to try to keep one myself for that reason.

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    1. Thank you, Michelle. I'm embarrassed that I didn't remember doing that. Today's a great day to start. :-)

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  2. Seems like it was a pretty successful year for you! Any learning and progress that can be made is good, and I still think it's great that you were able to complete all of those quilts!

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  3. I envy all that you do...what a satisfying life you have...living in the city doesn't give these opportunities. God bless and good luck on all your upcoming projects and adventures! norma

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    1. Thank you, Norma. Hopefully you have enough room in the city to have a garden. :-) Sometimes I wish my to-do list were shorter, for sure. Happy New Year!

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