Last Week On The Homestead: Making Soap And A Coop Door Update


October 29- November 4, 2023

Hello!  I hope this finds you doing well!  Sweater weather has officially arrived.  We've had a couple light frosts and a hard frost (26 degrees Fahrenheit) and highs ranging from 41 - 55 degrees this past week.  

As I type, I have split pea soup cooking away in the slow-cooker, spelt bread dough rising in the warmth of the pellet stove, and a hot turmeric latte next to me.  It's one of my favorite things to drink in the cold months.

November and December seem to fly by, unfortunately.  I try to take the time to enjoy the beauty and spend some time outside, but my days are filled with making and packaging products for our business in order to have enough inventory for the holiday shopping season.  We've had many people shopping early and, due to many requests, made our winter holiday products available last week.  One of our holiday soap scents, Farmhouse Christmas, is almost sold out already!  We've never had that happen before with a holiday soap - that's a lot of soap!  We try to make enough of the winter limited-edition soap scents to last through the middle of December.  Sometimes they even last through Christmas.  It's hard to know for sure.  We let our soap cure for about 4 weeks after making it which is why we have to use our best guess at how much to make - it's not a quick turnaround. 

Our official holiday shopping season, for our business, usually starts the weekend after Thanksgiving.  We also stock our products for this season at a local non-profit museum, so I have to make up enough of everything for them as well.  Our products are their top seller for their holiday Artisan Market which is such an honor!  We are so happy that we have a loyal following who choose to purchase our products each year for their gift-giving.  I try to stay on top of their inventory, so I have goals set for each week of how much lotion, deodorant, lip balm, shampoo bars and soap batches to make in an effort to avoid (hopefully) all-nighters and emergency product-making nights.  We've been there and done that.

Because of the frosts we've received, the only things currently growing/living in our garden is kale, arugula, and chives.  I will continue to harvest from them as long as I can and then hope they will return in the spring.  The fruit has been picked off of all trees and either eaten or preserved, the garden has been put to bed, the compost bins are full, next year's garlic has been planted, and we are doing one last leaf clean-up throughout the yard for the season. 

The coop girls are doing good. We are still seeing some feather loss, so the annual molt is not quite over. I will be cleaning out their coop today and am hoping that most of the feather loss has happened, so it won't be full of them again. We are receiving no eggs. The younger 7 girls may start again in the next month or two, but I doubt the rest of the flock will provide any until spring.

I previously wrote about an automatic chicken coop door we received in exchange for an honest review.  We have loved the door however, we can no longer recommend it without a simple warning.  You cannot count on it to open and close every day.  I know that sounds strange since that's its purpose.  Here's the explanation.  

It was working absolutely fine until the last week in July.  Since we've had the door, I'm not in a hurry to go out and check on the chickens in the morning.  I usually get out there around 9 now instead of first thing.  Well, on this particular morning, I hadn't even realized that I didn't see one chicken as I walked past windows.  Finally, when I was about to head out to the coop I thought, well that's odd that I haven't seen any of them.  Initially my gut reaction was that a wild animal got to them, which made me very concerned.  So, I rushed out and when I looked at the coop, realized that the automatic door was closed.  I thought maybe the battery had died.  It had not (the battery is estimated to last a very long time).  I pushed the override to open it and it made this awful noise but wouldn't open.  I did this again and then realized something must be stuck in the track.  Eventually I got it open which is when I saw that a tiny chunk of dirt was in the track and the doors got stuck.

Here's the problem.  The track that the doors slide on is on the bottom.  This is where the chickens walk and, if you've ever had chickens, you know how much stuff they can get on their feet, especially after it rains or snows.  If anything gets in that track, the doors can't open and close properly until the track is cleared.  

We are still using it.  I try to check the track every couple of days in the evening, and I make sure they are out in the morning.  It's helpful for winter so I don't have to go out early (especially if it's icy or snowy).  The problem will come when we go away for any length of time.  We won't be able to count on it.  It's too bad because it's a great size, seems to be made well, is very easy to program/reprogram, and (so far) has a great battery.

My thought is, if you are looking for an automatic chicken coop door, look for one that opens from the top down that might have the working tracks for the door to slide on the sides.  This way, it doesn't have anything on the bottom that can get clogged.

**Coop door update 11/23 - it is now getting stuck for no apparent reason at all so we are removing it.**

On the menu for this week:

Chickpeas & Dumplings (vegan version of chicken & dumplings)
Creamy Mushroom & Wild Rice Soup
Split Pea Soup
Tofu "Egg" Salad Sandwich

Salisbury Steak with Rice
Arroz con Pollo
Pork Chop with Apples & Stuffing
Cajun Chicken Pasta
Slow-Cooker Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes & Gravy
Spaghetti Pie
Creamy Chicken, Veg, & Rice (like a stove-top chicken pot pie but with rice)

I'm hoping you are able to slow-down and take a few moments each day to enjoy the season.  I'm trying to remember to do this as well!


  1. That's really good to know about the chicken door, as we've talked about trying one. As these mornings turn colder, it would be lovely to not have to get out there first thing. The chickpeas and dumplings sounds yummy. Your holiday soaps are beautiful! It really is a guessing game, to determine how much to make each year, though I've greatly simplified my seasonal offerings, and kept just the best selling one. Doing a recent little inventory, I realized I have a few jars of split peas. Soup may be on the menu soon. Have a beautiful week!

    1. The winter mornings is why I was most excited about the automatic coop door! Making soap is a guessing game indeed. Thanks so much Laurie!

  2. Ooh, look at those festive soaps! I can’t imagine how you soap makers figure out how many products you’re going to need.

    We have an Omlet door on one of our coops and we love it. Once in a while, something will make the door close, but overall, we are quite happy with it.
    Enjoy the season!

    1. Thanks Daisy. I've heard from a few others who are also very pleased with their Omlet coops and doors. It sounds like a great set-up!


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