Archive for ‘bees’

May 8, 2014

May already

Is it nearly May already? May 6th 7th 8th! I figure some day I may get this post up! It’s sad to say I started writing this the last part of April! About a week ago I was probably sitting by the wood stove keeping warm on a below average temp. day and yesterday I was sitting by our kitchen window drinking (eating?) a smoothie trying to keep cool!

One day has turned into another, as it usually often does. It’s been a whirlwind of activity around here!

Our (human) kids are almost out of school, it was one field trip or assembly or end of the year project(s) and goals to be met along with regular chores and kiddings and cold weather turning to warm.

We are done with kidding this year and all of our fresh does are milking well. We had 3 does kid in a single Saturday giving us 6 kids between them. Dawn had triples boys early one Saturday morning followed by Mags with a very good size flashy buck and doe out of Storm and Mischief ended the day with a single buck kid out of Andy.

Mischief and her buck kid and Morgan went on to their new homes the week before last. Several of the buck kids have found new homes and there are several individuals who are currently up for sale. The doe count wasn’t high this year but there are several that I would very much like to keep.

The count was:

Em: triplets (2 bucks & 1 doe)

Pejamy: twins (1 buck & 1 doe). Sadly Pejamy passed away one cold night. From what we are unsure, but given how quickly she went it’s probable it was pneumonia.

Flicker: twins (1 buck & 1 doe)

Ann: quads (3 does & 1 buck)

Apricot: twins (1 doe & 1 buck)

Dawn: triplets (3 bucks)

Mags: twins (1 buck & 1 doe)

Mischief: single (1 buck)

Melody: triplets (2 bucks & 1 doe)

Granite: single (1 doe)

March and April had us building a milk machine for a customer and dis-budding a lot of goat kids!

All but 2 of the piglets have gone on to their new homes. The smallest piglet developed a naval hernia and completely weaned herself from the sow when she was being offered a bottle twice a day, that turned into 3 times a day once she decided the bottle was better. I tried fixing the hernia several times with a few methods I read about online to no avail, she was just too small for it to work well. She was gaining weight but the amount of bottle feeding necessary was a lot of work. She habitated with the sows and her siblings fine but in the end, I felt she’d do better with more frequent feedings so she went to a home with lots of kids who could give her more attention than I could devote.

We’re keeping 2 piglets to raise up to butcher this fall. One’s for us, the other will be sold. Having piglets in February was a challenge and a learning experience but we got through okay. The hay usage for the goats was quite a lot more than usual and that tells me quite a bit about how “bad” the winter was. May 1 I had a fire in the wood stove to take the chill off Last year it snowed on May 2! However we’re in to thunderstorm season two Sunday’s ago it was sure nice to lay in bed an listen to the thunder roll through and the rain pour down.

The skeleton for the new milk barn was delivered and the metal roof went on the weekend before last (right after a storm and the sky offered the most beautiful backdrop!) . We were fortunate in that a neighbor (and master carpenter) generously helped us put up the trim pieces and what a hoot to watch him work knowing where to cut and bend the metal in all the places so it fit like a glove. It’s amazing how much faster the work goes when you’ve done it a time or two (or 500)! The work they got done in half a day surely would have taken Jeremiah and I at least 2!

 

Our bee hives are almost finished! Jeremiah and I built two beautiful top bar hives. Picking up the bees, however, has been put on hold. Apparently with the cold winter, separating the colonies has been delayed about 4 weeks which is just as well. I put a nice coat of linseed oil on the outside of the hives on Sunday to protect them from the weather.

Top Bar bee hive

 

We had a hard freeze come through about a week in to April which was about the same time last year as that ice storm we had that killed some of our newly planted fruit trees.  Those have since been replanted save for the apricot tree which we cannot find any locally! We put sheets around those that had blossoms this year and they seemed to fair very well. The pear and plum trees were loaded with fruit, I picked most of them so the tree puts nutrition into growth. We want big strong trees and not a lot of fruit the first couple of years.

I bought some heated seed mats in March to try out and suffice to say I wish I had gotten them sooner! What a difference in germination time they made! After using both cold frames to keep plants and the greenhouse we put up last year, I will say starting seeds in the cold frames had much better results. It may have been because the winter I used the cold frames were a lot less harsh than the past 2 (particularly this past winter), but it probably also had a lot to do with area. The cold frames did not loose the heat near as much as the greenhouse.

The greenhouse does a great job once the seeds have germinated. I started half of the seeds in the greenhouse this year and half in the house. Of those I started in the house, the 2nd half (mostly melons, squash, herbs and a few tomatoes and peppers) were started on the heat mats and compared to everything else seemed like light years faster. From now on I’ll start everything on the mats and move them out to the greenhouse at a few days old.

Unfortunately, our kitchen window is north facing and if not moved out fairly soon after germinating, even when rotated on the shelf, they can get “leggy” but once they germinated I’d move them into the greenhouse within a day or so. As long as the nights didn’t fall well below freezing, the greenhouse does very well for us. On the vry cold nights, I cover everything with additional plastic and sheeting right over the top of the plants. Additionally, it’s really nice to be in the the greenhouse when it’s chilly (and windy) outside. I found myself at times stopping off on the way to the barn to step inside and warm up! Planting seeds in there early spring is really nice.

Not knowing what the germination would be on some of my seeds, I over planted putting 2-3 seeds per pot. You’re supposed to pick/pull the smaller of the plants and allow the more growthy one to continue to grow in single pots but I can’t bear to sacrifice plants like that so the tomatoes and the tomatillos I  separated and transplanted. I completely forgot to even start tomatillos last year. This year I planted 40 seeds hoping to get a few (the seeds were 3 years old and last year I wasn’t all that careful about how I kept my seeds), 36 germinated! There’s a lot of tomatillos!!! I always go overboard with the tomatoes too. My Mom send me home at Christmas with 3 heirloom varieties to try I planted those along with several of my favorites including Kellogg’s Breakfast (a HUGE meaty yellow tomato).  The jalapeno seeds must have been no good because not a single one germinated so I started some from new but I don’t think they’ll be big enough to plant for a while. Everything else looks great though and I am really excited about the lemon grass that I started from seed. I’ve never grown lemon grass.

It’s almost time to put the majority of the plants in the ground. “Back Home” in Northern Cal. we aimed to have everything in by Mother’s Day. I aim for the same here see as how the last frost date is 2 weeks in to May. Nevertheless, the spring onions are ready for picking anyway and that has made me feel less like I am “behind”. Just this morning I got the entire garden tilled. After a few scoops of some compost that’s been “cooking” for a year and another till, we’ll be all set to plant Saturday.

We’ve decided to put drip irrigation in the garden. We’ll plant the entire garden and then install the hoses and drippers/sprayers so we’ll know where to place them. We really ought to do something like that for the fruit trees too. I water every Saturday as it is. I think the drip irrigation would save a lot of water. We get some pretty high winds here and I don’t always have the time to water everything by hand when the wind takes the sprinkler water and waters everything BUT the garden. It should be such a time saver!

The “meat chicks” arrived a week ago Thursday! They’ll be out on pasture in about 2 more week!

Well, I am sure I could go on and on about the goings on around here but I’ll end for now. Happy May!!!

 

 

 

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January 21, 2014

A week in photos

It was such a busy week! I managed to finish Rachel’s quilt for her 10th birthday, a project that’s been 2 years in the making. I fall into UFO (unfinished object) funks and quilts in particular fall to the wayside unfortunately but finishing it has given me renewed vigor to finish a few that have been on the back burner.

This was a sentiment I heard at one time. I don’t know the author to credit but suffice to say, these are borrowed words.

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King and Snow doing what King and Snow do. The sun’s out and it’s day time which means they snooze and relax and keep watch.

king

snow

Sunday was gorgeous and the goats were thoroughly enjoying the sunshine. We finally got the round bales off the trailer. The girls had pretty much eaten one entire bale down to 1/4 of what it started as. We unloaded it into the barnyard so they could munch on it. Most of them just turned in into a cozy bed . Most of the does are bred, some further along than others. It’s a time of growing good healthy babies!

Mother Daughter Flicker and Bourbon

Mother Daughter Flicker and Bourbon

hay bale free for all

Granite

Granite

While there isn’t a whole lot to eat from the looks of it, the pigs enjoy nibbling the grasses and rooting up tasty things. Ann is due to farrow around February 14.

Ann

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The chickens still range in the winter and find tasty tidbits to eat, there was still a little snow on the ground last week.

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Sunday Jeremiah and I finished the greenhouse by installing the back window and the plastic on front and back. we also put pipe insulation over the end of the panel and maybe that will cause a little less wear and tear. The strips of lumber that the plastic is rolled up in seems to be doing a good job. We had some pretty forceful winds last night and all it all looks good.I am so eager to start seeds. I went through what I saved from last year and what was left over. I hope to start a lot of flower seeds this year along with all the veg.

Front

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back

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greenhouse window from inside

Em kidded on Sunday while we worked on the greenhouse. I checked on her every so often. The first kid (boy) was totally breech but he delivered fine. The 2nd kid (doe) was still encased in her sack. I am glad I was there. Usually they are not delivered in their sack and there is no obstruction. When they are, if the doe is not attentive or there isn’t anyone there, they generally suffocate. The 3rd kid (a buck) was delivered about 20 minutes later without incident and Em looks fantastic. Shes enjoying a stall to herself to get to know her kids. I’ll post more photos later, these kids are super flashy!

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The following photo was not taken last week, but it is a reminder that we have our nuc colonies ordered from Butler Bees. Jeremiah and I are going to tackle the top bar bee hives and leave the langstroth hives to the construction class.

Well, there it was. We were at an auction Saturday and managed to bring home a pretty decent haul of lumber, a huge miscellaneous lot of trim/moulding/baseboards, 125 sheets of sheet rock and 13+ new bundles of shingles. I haven’t yet decided if we’ll shingle the new milk house, I’ll have to chew on that some more. We’re trying to stay somewhat color & material coordinated, the shingles on the house are brown, everything else is metal. We’re going with metal.

January 7, 2014

Honey Bees

We’re beginning our bee keeping adventure. The hives are being started in February (made locally) and we are researching in depth all about bee keeping and ordering!

We’re very excited!

I’ll be keeping  running tally of some of the websites I have found that have been helpful in our research and I’ll update as I sift through information out there. Bee keeping is so fascinating to us. I feel like a kid in a candy store with each new website I visit. There’s so much to be decided on, so much to learn, so much to think about, so much to pick brains about =).

This is by no means an all inclusive list, just a few sites that I have bookmarked.

An all inclusive site: http://beekeeping.glorybee.com/content/beekeeping-101

http://www.backyardbeekeepers.com/facts.html

General info & some Kansas swarm removers: http://www.bees-on-the-net.com/kansas-beekeepers.html

Nuc colonies vs. Packages: http://www.honeybees4sale.com/NucsvsPackages.aspx

K-State’s list of swarm catchers: http://entomology.k-state.edu/extension/current-topics/honey-bee-swarms.html

Supplies: http://www.heartlandhoney.com/

Parts of the Langstroth  hive: http://www.almanac.com/sites/new.almanac.com/files/images/langstrothHiveIllus.gif

Trapping swarms with Saul Creek Apiary: http://saulcreekapiary.com/swarm%20trap%20use.htm

I was thinking on what one of the guest speakers at the Mother Earth News Fair in Lawrence said back in Oct. While some may think that the “country” would be a great place to raise bees, often times it may not be. Lack of flowering plants & trees (with flowering trees in particular making up a HUGE portion of a honey bees diet if given the opportunity) make them especially great for cities and towns, however.

That said, I got to thinking about what we may have here within a 1-1.5 mile radius (what was said to be a bee’s territory). Alfalfa fields? Probably. Natural pastures with flowering plants? Yep. Gardens? A few, particularly our own (though I doubt it’s big enough to support a colony over a period of time). Fruit trees? More than likely (our own included). Trees? I got to thinking…our overabundance of black locust trees bloom heavily in May-June (when we don’t get a late April ice storm like in 2013, that is!). That got me looking for black locust trees (which are quite different than honey locust) and I feel like I hit the jackpot! While not always a very strong producer every single year, much like fruit trees continually have an ebb and flow harvest, it seems black locust make some outstanding sought after honey! Cha ching, Lordy knows the amount of black locust trees around here could keep us in firewood for decades without needing to reproduce. But reproduce they do, well…and quickly!

Not only are they great for honey production apparently, but because they are a legume (like beans and alfalfa and clover) they affix nitrogen in the soil. They also reproduce easily by sending out shoots (like Bermuda grass) and sometimes in some very unwanted places (like my garden or the middle of the back yard)! That said, we haven’t found they do extremely well in the weather, they can break easily, probably due to the fact they grow very fast but they do make great hard & hot burning firewood and we’re happy to have the quick renewable resource at our disposal. Let’s hope they help make some healthy bees too!

One of these days soon (a nice sunny day!) we’ll take a drive as the crow flies 1-1.5 miles out as best we can and put our honey bee caps on and try to see the world through their eyes.

Now it’s time to get back to the world wide web and research hives and hive plans a bit more before sending over thoughts and blueprints over to our hive maker(s) so we can be ready come April-June for bees!