Thursday, November 16, 2017

September to the beginning of November

We started out September with intentions to slaughter a steer (named September, LOL) for Eid ul Adha. Those plans changed when we couldn't catch him within the days of tashreeq. We slaughtered a lamb instead and put 61 lbs of meat in our freezer, al hamdulillah.

We finally lassoed September sixteen days later and embarked on the slaughtering, aging, and butchering of the largest animal we'd ever dealt with. Considering  he was quite small, only weighing around 1,000 lbs (453.6 kg), it was a practice run for when we slaughter Youngbul next year, when he will weigh around 2,000 lbs (907 kg), insha'Allah. Al hamdulillah, we managed it and filled our 14 cubic foot freezer with around 500 lbs (226.8 kg) of our own organic, grass-fed, zabiha beef.


It was also a month of gradual harvesting, bringing in quantities of tomatoes, hot peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, melons, corn, etc. We made batches of green tomato chutney, tomato and chili jam, sweet relish, sauerkraut, dill pickles, sun dried tomatoes, strawberry jam, and more. Al hamdulillahi Rabbil aal ameen.

Preserving also extended to our dairy, as we had up to a gallon of raw cream each day. We shook it into butter, froze some, and made jars and jars of clarified butter and ghee for shelf stable storage. We also rendered tallow and suet from the lamb and steer we slaughtered, al hamdulillah.

Early October brought freezing weather, so we gathered up our little pumpkins, dug up our peanuts, and started harvesting our potatoes. Garlic was planted out and most of the garden was cleaned up and prepped for a long winter's rest.

By the end of October we finished replacing the nine old windows in our mobile home with new thermal pane ones. This has made a huge difference to the insulation of our home, alhamdulillah.


We added two more solar panels to our array to beef up the system prior to winter. We now have 500 watts serving our main battery bank, powering our freezer, fridge, and other general needs. We have 200 watts powering our living room battery bank, which is only used for charging phones, powering computers and lights, etc. We also moved the bank of panels out 100 ft (30.48 m) to an area in the garden to enable them to get uninterrupted sunlight all day, all seasons.


Early November we brought Daisy and Azalea back over to the animal corral. This makes milking much faster in the  colder months and they have a barn for shelter in harsh weather. We also bought a new ram, who we've named Cyril the Magnificent, to service our four ewes.


We had a special order to bake a cake for a wedding celebration - a triple layered vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream and strawberries. Al hamdulillah, it was enjoyed by all and we received a lovely thank you note.



Stay tuned for an upcoming comparison between us and other homesteaders out there...

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Off-Grid Lighting

When we lived on the grid, we used to conserve energy by switching off the lights in the rooms we weren't occupying. Now we have lights on all over the house and farm all night long. Energy hog off-gridders?  No way, masha'Allah! 

We bought four 12 packs of outdoor solar lights ($9.97, Walmart) and two packs of screw-in hooks and light up our home from dusk to dawn. We have placed them throughout the house, so if anyone gets up at night they can see to walk around. It is soft lighting, so a couple in each bedroom serve as non-invasive night lights. To light up our whole home cost about $45 in solar lights and hooks. We simply put out the lights to charge each morning and bring them in before sunset.



We also have solar lights positioned on the main out buildings on the farm, along the driveway from the gate to the house, and other key locations. We even bought some solar motion detector alarms for the corners of our garden area that are still going strong over 4 years later masha'Allah.

We have a few solar charged LED lightbulbs that we use for bright light in the kitchen, living room, and bathroom. What happens if we have a couple of very cloudy days and they don't charge well? We have a couple of standing lamps which we plug into our inverter (running from the solar charged battery bank) for bright light.

No lighting bills, no continual expense for candles or oil for lamps, just light from the light Allah sends. Al hamdulillah!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Back to School

August 14th marked our first day back to homeschooling after our break for Ramadan and Shawwal, masha’Allah. We have a different schedule for Ramadan than the rest of the year, and this year we had some new books to work through. As a pre-Ramadan primer in the month of Sha’baan, we did Book 1: A Short Journey within the Work Al-Ibaanah Al-Sughrah, with Sheikh ‘Abdul-‘Azeez ibn ‘Abdullah Ar-Raajhee. This is from the 30 Days of Guidance Series, available from our dear friends at http://taalib.com.

Over Ramadan, we did Book 2: A Short Journey within the Work Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, with Sheikh Zayd ibn Muhammad ibn Haadee Al-Madkhalee, another in the 30 Days of Guidance Series.

Now, we are in full swing for homeschooling and our schedule is as follows:

Time
Sun
Mon
Tues
Wed
Thurs
Fri
Sat
9:00 – 10:00

Shuayb:
Reading, 
Math, 
Arabic
Shuayb:
Reading,
Math,
Arabic
Shuayb:
Reading,
Math,
Arabic
Shuayb:
Reading,
Math,
Arabic


10:00
Hifdh
Hifdh
Hifdh
Hifdh (test)
Hifdh
Surah 
Al-Kahf
Hifdh
10:30
Quran (Eng)
Tajweed
Qur’an (Eng)
Tajweed
Tafseer


11:00
Hadeeth
Aqeedah
Hadeeth
Aqeedah
Hadeeth


11:30
Prophets
Fiqh
Prophets
Fiqh
Prophets




Break
Break
Break
Break


1:30

Math
Math
Math
Math


2:00

Arabic
Arabic
Arabic
Arabic


2:30

Science
Science
Science
Science


3:00

English
English
English
English


3:30

History
History
History
History



For our Qur’an reading in English, we use The Noble Quran, by Hilali/Khan.

For the Tajweed classes, we use the books by Kareema Carol Czerepinski: Tajweed Rules of the Qur’an Parts One, Two, and Three.

For Tafseer, we use Tafseer Ibn Kathir.

For the Prophets classes, we are learning the stories of the Prophets in the Qur’an and memorizing the du’a they made. This is being developed into a card game to match up du’a with each Prophet, including the meaning in English, the situation they were in when they made that du’a, and the Surah/ayah where it can be found.

For the Hadeeth classes, we are reading Al-Hadeeth Al-Qudsiyah.

The science curriculum is the Permaculture Design Certification course that we took a few years ago.

Of course, this schedule is surrounded by our running of the farm, household, and outside work. After Fajr prayer, the girls go to milk the cow, then they feed the livestock guardian dogs (Snow and Ice) and the chickens. 

Mai puts out the solar lights, tends to the garden – watering and harvesting where appropriate - and prepares breakfast. Dishes, cooking, meals, laundry, evening milking, and egg collection are all slotted into the mid-day break and after school until we all fall in bed after the ‘Ishaa prayer. May our busy days be a pleasure to our Creator and a benefit to our aakhirah – ameen!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Shaaban – Ramadan 1438

Before planting this year, we tested our soil for ph and other nutrients. We have soil with a ph between 6.5 – 7.5, so we don’t have to amend it for acidity or alkalinity, but simply continue enriching it with organic matter, alhamdulillah.

Mid-May was the last frost date for our area, and we were busy preparing our garden area. We used our enclosed 8’x8’ area that had been buried in the straw and bedding from cleaning out the chicken coop and the rabbit cages for over a year to plant our broccoli and cabbage starts. We removed about half of the composted material for use around the garden and then planted in the rich soil, mulching with sawdust.

Last year, we tilled and deep mulched rows, a crazy loop, and some different shapes and squiggly lines. This year, we came up with a plan to protect the plants from the wind, create a micro climate for each plant, and make use of old tires. We lay tires all over the mulched crazy loop, dug a small hole in the center of each, and dumped in some rabbit poo. Then we ensured that all were adequately mulched, using sawdust where the straw was lacking. Once we had done all 125 tires, we did a few around the rectangle we designated to be our melon patch. From the third week of May, we started planting out our tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, straightneck squash, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, pumpkins, melons, and corn. It was a process that took a couple of weeks. We stacked tires two high for the larger tomato plants, providing support for them and eliminating the need for staking. We also planted our first batch of peanuts, started growing potatoes in large trash cans in sawdust, and planted green beans, beets, turnips, and carrots in large tubs along with pepper and strawberry transplants. The peanuts are, by far, the cutest plants we are growing. We are propagating new strawberry plants from selected runners in new tubs, ready for next year.
 
For the most part, we watered each morning unless it rained, throughout the hottest part of the summer – the last two weeks of June and first two weeks of July. After that, monsoon season kicked in with a vengeance and since then we have just watched the garden grow, by the Power, Will, and Mercy of Allah Alone. We fertilized the plants regularly with whey and soured milk (the tomatoes and peanuts love it!), rabbit poo water, and a simple fertilizer made from putting weeds, grass clippings, and some raw composting scraps into a 5 gallon bucket with water and letting it ferment for a few days. We call it the stinky bucket, LOL.

The garden is thriving and we are gradually harvesting increasing amounts each day, masha’Allah.  We have a bumper crop of cabbages, hot peppers, and hundreds of tomatoes from cherry and roma to heirloom black streaked Vernissage, setting fruit. Battered squash flowers have become our new snack of choice, we pick a cabbage and pull a carrot when we want to make egg rolls, put together a mélange of snow peas, zucchini, broccoli, and greens for a stir fry, and enjoy a handful of sweet, red strawberries on a regular basis, alhamdulIllah. We chose everbearing strawberries so we could enjoy them for a much longer growing season.




















Cool weather sowing has been done for a few root vegetables, crucifers, and greens. As for our indoor growing, while we breathed a huge sigh of relief to have hundreds of plants finally transplanted outside, we still have flourishing hanging baskets with strawberries gracing our home. We also have a variety of herbs, hot peppers, greens, and beautiful ginger and turmeric plants.
As for what grows naturally:

- a wide variety of grasses including oat and wheat grass. We harvested a few oat and wheat grains last year, but for the most part let them reseed. We now have large areas of wheat grass, masha’Allah. 
- thousands of sunflowers. If someone were to look, they would think we had planted them in specific places for landscaping, but Allah is our landscaper!

- millions of wildflowers. Without planting a single seed, we have a wide range and a stunning array of colors from over 50 different wildflower species. Favorites include Scarlet Gaura, Blue Flax, Lacy Germander, Sweet White Clover, Dakota Vervain, James Penstemon, and Scarlet Globemallow. Scarlet Globemallow makes a rare and delicious honey that rivals some of the best honeys we have ever tried, so we are especially blessed to have so much of it.


 

Every day is a continuous stream of wonder and gratitude to Allah, Ar-Razzaaq, for all He blesses us with. Stay tuned for a separate post on other big events in our lives, inshaa Allah.

The County Fair

Every year we get the booklet for the Harding County Fair. This is the first year that we were settled enough to think about participating. Ahlaam had virtually memorized the whole book and was planning what she would enter. Then a little confusion got in the mix. Shariyf came home telling us that the entries had to be in by 11 a.m. Friday. Ahlaam said the booklet stated all entries should be in by noon on Thursday. Only on Thursday morning, after fajr prayer, did we look at everything and realize that it was the pie contest that was on Friday, and that our entries needed to be in by noon that Thursday.

Needless to say, our morning was madness. The girls rushed to finish milking and feeding the chickens and came back to try to prepare anything to enter into the fair. Ahlaam made a lime buttermilk pound cake and wholewheat buttermilk dinner rolls. Khulood made brownies. Mama Mai made wholewheat bread and chocolate peanut butter cookies. The problem was having enough time to bake it all. In addition, Khulood sat down with an old sandal, drew it, and stuck it in a frame. Mai and Ahlaam grabbed a cabbage, strawberries, cayenne and jalapeno peppers, parsley, and oregano from the garden. This was not all they could find, but simply the nice-looking things that came quickly into sight.

The baking was precarious; Mai dropped Khulood’s brownies while taking them out of the oven. The bread was still too warm to seal up in a plastic bag, and with just 20 minutes to go before the noon deadline, Ahlaam’s cake was not finished. They piled into the car, leaving the cake in the oven and forgetting the oregano, to just make the deadline for entries. Although not expecting much with such a haphazard collection of entries, it was more about being a part of the event and having some fun.

Judging was from noon-7 p.m. and we figured we’d find out what happened on Saturday when we went to pick up our entries. However, Shariyf went after the judging to take pictures for the County website, and called to tell us the results for our entries. To our amazement, Khulood won a first-place ribbon for her drawing and second place for her fallen brownies. Ahlaam won first place for both her strawberries and dinner rolls. Mai won first place for her cookies, parsley, and cabbage, with the cabbage taking the big purple grand champion ribbon! The bread took second place, the peppers fourth and sixth place, masha’Allah. We realized afterwards that we mistakenly chose peppers that were smaller with beautiful form, but the larger ones were the ones that won. Point noted for next year. We already have ideas of a much wider variety of entries for next year, and hope to plan in advance for it.




The fair is probably the one yearly event that involves all the people who ranch, homestead, farm, and are avid homemakers. It was a huge confidence booster and motivator for our children.  We are, as always, grateful to Allah for the bright, cheerful blessing He brought into our lives through it. Allahu Akbar wa l’Illah il hamd! 



We are family

Ramadan started with a week of activity, with Shariyf flying to Pennsylvania to help load up two moving trucks.  June 3rd he set out in one of the two trucks, his sister Monica driving the other, to move his mother, aunt, sister, and nephew (Tagshier)  to Roy. They arrived on June 5th, and after two years living on our farm, Allah has blessed us with all Shariyf’s immediate family living within 5 miles of us, al hamdulillah! Each family member owns their own land or property in the village of Roy. His mother bought 5 lots for $5000 and placed a 4-bedroom mobile home on them.


His sister bought 4 lots with a 2-bedroom mobile home on them for $5000. For $600, his nephew bought two lots, to develop at a later time. 


His aunt bought a lovely 1-bedroom house on 3 lots for $10,000.


The ensuing two months have been busy getting everyone unpacked and settled into their respective homes. Monica and Tagshier have both started working in Roy School. We have company, support, and people to help us use all the milk and eggs, al hamdulillah!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

How do you name your animals?

People often ask us, "how do you name your animals?" Well, here's our secret... for the bulls and steer, we call them what they will be in the future or their slaughter month (Barbecue & November), we use flowers for our dairy cows, cute cuddly names for our ewes (female sheep), variations of the word ram for our rams, and the chickens are a toss up! Our livestock guardian dogs are named Snow and Ice. They are pure white Great Pyrenees.

Presently, we have Youngbul, Barbecue, November. On the dairy end we have Daisy and Azalea (the youngest). The sheep's names are Honey, Honeycup, Sweetie Pie, Honeydew, and Rambunctious.

The chickens are: Amak (rooster), Huffy, Smallie, Truck, Uduf-wuduf, Wanlinda, Daty-Daty, and many more.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

January to May 2017

How the winter passed and we found ourselves in the midst of spring, only Allah knows! While we had less snow and roller coaster weather over the winter, we kept busy with a variety of things masha'Allah. We decided to do some indoor planting in January so we could enjoy fresh produce earlier. We planted strawberries in stacking planters and hanging baskets. We planted lettuce and mesclun mix, spinach, kale, and two types of chard in stacking planters and pots. We planted parsley, oregano, sage, three types of basil, cilantro, thyme, chives, garlic chives, and spring onions in stacking planters and pots. Then we planted cherry tomatoes, jalapeno and cayenne peppers. When we ran out of pots and planters, we planted in old wellies. We planted snow peas, sugar snap peas, ginger, turmeric, and micro-greens. We planted and Allah grew those seeds! While others decorate their homes with ficus trees and spider plants, we have 5' tall cherry tomato plants with basil surrounds and hanging baskets of ripening strawberries and fresh cilantro. Al hamdulillah. While people spend hundreds of dollars for oxygen therapy, we have it free by filling our home with hundreds of edible plants.




By early March we were enjoying fresh salads and herbs, pinching off flowers from the strawberry plants, and moving plants into larger and larger pots. By mid spring we planted out broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower transplants, lettuce, greens, and radishes in our cold frames, carrots, turnips, radishes, rutabaga, potatoes, beets, and more snow peas in big tubs outside. That is the tip of the iceberg. We have  trays of strong, healthy plants ready for transplanting once we pass our last frost date.  Meanwhile, our hot peppers are fruiting, cherry tomatoes are ripening,  greens are readily available, and we have all the fresh herbs we need al hamdulillah.

The  chickens increased their laying by February and we became egg tycoons, masha'Allah. 15 hens keep us on our toes trying to use and store eggs. We are freezing them, making homemade egg pasta and noodles, whipping up meringues, lemon meringue pies, raw ice cream, quiches, mayonnaise, and a plethora or egg-rich dishes and desserts. Needless to say, it's eggs for breakfast! With over 25 dozen eggs a month, the chickens earn their keep and add value. Al hamdulillahi Rabbil al ameen!


March 24th our oldest ewe, Honey,  lambed. Our girls were there to watch and assist. She had a boy and a girl, named Rambunctious and Honeydew. Our other two ewes, being younger, are not expected to lamb until this month insha'Allah.


With his job finished and a need for new bloodlines, Rambo became dinner. We hung him in a walk in cooler for 16 days and enjoyed roast lamb for our Jumuah dinner. We have 51lbs of meat from him, masha'Allah. We do economic analyses for our farm and only get 10lbs more meat on a one year ram than a 6 month old. Although it was a different situation for Rambo because we kept him for breeding, it is most economical to slaughter at 6 months, meaning each lamb costs $5-$23 to raise. Pretty marvelous when the price for lamb starts at $10 per lb, and that's not organic, zabiha, or exclusively grass-fed like ours! Al hamdulillah!

 



We calculated that as long as we get $180 worth of milk from Daisy (our A2A2Jersey cow), she is covering her costs over the winter when we have to feed her hay. What we actually get is anywhere between $300 - $1200 worth or organic milk from her, depending on her stage of lactation. That is in addition to a calf each year that can be sold for considerable profit once weaned insha'Allah. We are increasing our ways of using our dairy by making mozzarella, yogurt, and more frozen yogurt & ice cream. We hope to get a cheese press soon, so we can start producing our own hard cheeses properly, without the whole family taking turns standing on makeshift cheese pressing contraptions.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

So so sorry

We know we are extremely late with our post. So many things have been happening, but we will try to post by April 1st. Snack on some of our homemade mozzarella until then.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Rabi' Al Awwal 1438 December 2016

December 2nd brought about an inch of snow, masha'Allah – our first snow on the ground this season.


On December 6th, we sold our third cow, Primrose, leaving us fully downsized with just Daisy for milk. We have Azalea, who should be bred next summer and be providing milk by spring 2018. We have Youngbul, our steer who is scheduled for slaughter in autumn 2017. Barbecue is our upcoming bull for breeding next year. Rambo is doing his job, so insha'Allah, our three ewes will be lambing in April/May 2017.


We downsized our chickens again, selling another 10 and keeping just 15 plus our rooster. Calculations are three chickens per person, so we have the exact amount for our family. All the chickens have finished their molt and are in their beautiful winter coats, back to laying on a less frequent winter schedule al hamdulillah.

Funnily enough, we have brush rabbits running around all over the farm, so while we are no longer paying to raise meat rabbits, we have them running wild to shoot whenever we feel like a rabbit stew or pot pie – free!

Focus is on stocking up on wood to get us through the winter, cataloging our seed stock and adding where necessary, and setting reachable goals for our future projects. 2017 is our year for focusing on growing – for us and our animals, insha'Allah and adding extra fencing to our barbed wire on two sides of our 28 acre plot so our sheep and chickens can free range. 2018 is our goal for our own bee hives, ducks, and geese insha'Allah.

 
 

We have over the past couple of months added 3 more 100 amp hour, sealed lead acid AGM solar batteries to our bank, upgraded to a 40 watt MPPT charge controller, MT50 meter, and changed out our cables to 2 gauge, 9 inch ones. This gives us maximum efficiency from our main solar power set up, masha'Allah.

 
 
 

December 12th was a beautiful day for cooking, as we prepared all our meals on top of the wood stove. From griddle scones, oatmeal, and tea to chicken, broccoli au gratin, and potatoes, we never turned on our gas stove once. We even made healthy chocolate peanut butter cups on the wood stove, masha'Allah! It also was the day we received a gift of a pressure cooker – another time and energy saving appliance that will reduce our use of propane to nearly nothing insha'Allah.

 

December 16th we had clear skies and up to 60mph winds, which blew the roof off our milking shed masha'Allah. We could only say Allahu Akbar wal hamdulillah, as we needed to redesign it anyway. Now we will be focusing on doing the roof a bit higher and setting it up for water catchment, channeled into a 1650 gallon tank. The tank will be used for water for the livestock and guardian dogs, and will be a part of the design to insulate and heat the milking shed. Creativity and design details are flowing as we plan our future milk shed refit.

 
 

December 17th brought about three inches of snow, up to 40mph winds, and temperatures that never exceeded 10 degrees Fahrenheit. We hit a low of -15 that night, the coldest it has been since we moved here masha'Allah. Needless to say, we were all extremely grateful to be safe and warm inside, taking the chance to make a fresh stock of salves and whipping up some healthy homemade peppermint patties!


December 22nd we started collecting stones for the base of our cob pizza oven from the neighbors land.


December 26th we set up a couple of bathtubs we picked up for free. One will be used as a cold frame, the other for worm composting. We also brought all the plastic tubs we had prepped during the summer with straw, fertilizer, and dirt along our fence line, to be used for planting.


December 28th we ventured outside after dinner to look up at our dazzling New Mexico skies and see Venus and Mars. New Mexico has the darkest night skies and light pollution laws in effect to safeguard them masha'Allah. We can, on most nights, see all the constellations clearly – truly a dazzling display of Allah's Majesty and Power!

December 30th was our monthly shopping trip. We usually try to stop into a thrift store in Las Vegas, NM on the way and pick up whatever is good. One fantastic thing is that the children's books are only 5 cents each. As it is a college city, we have found many good homeschooling books and boxed sets of school books for the children. A few nice books the children have been enjoying from these trips, and as loans from friends, are: Kidnapped by the Taliban, Ishi, A Buffalo in the House, There's a Seal in my Sleeping Bag, The Pioneers, Winterdance, Black Elk Speaks, The Alamo, World War 1 Heroes, Your Chickens – a kids guide to raising and showing, and some nice animal and nature books masha'Allah.

Next month we will be starting our growing – inside and out, insha'Allah. With snow on the forecast, we hope to post some photos of a winter wonderland.