Archive for ‘plans’

January 13, 2014

Weekend = Greenhouse

Ahhh, always such great expectations as to what we can accomplish in one weekend. I will say that with really getting into a good cardio routine, I am feeling SO much better! I’m not waking up feeling like my back is about to break, no pain in my hips (probably because my legs feel like they’re going to fall off from the post-workout burn HA HA!) and around about the 3 o’clock hour when normally I would really want to take a nap I am feeling just as perky as the 10 o’clock hour. That coupled with our dietary changes, a week’s time has really made a difference! Thank heavens! Not to mention I am daily getting a good look at the fencing along the property line as I quickly make my way around. I always said I need to check it more. What was fun was seeing it with snow on the ground. There were so many different prints including a bobcat and from the looks of it, he/she was hot on the trail of a bunny.

That said, part of our weekend was taken up with a trip to town to the hardware store to gather a few things to fix up the greenhouse. We had also hoped to get wood splitting in there and while the weather was absolutely gorgeous, the prior evening’s rainfall coupled with the existing snow made for a bit of a small lake which made access to the green house a pain! The wood splitter and pile was still covered by snow too so Saturday was kind of a wash. I opted to clean the house instead. It was a good trade, I guess. Jeremiah visited the neighbor to weld a tow bar, I think. Although I think a lot of his time over there was spent chit chatting…and they say women yack a lot! Shew.

Sunday we made up for Saturday’s lack of outside work and we got to work ripping the 2×4’s to make the new greenhouse door, and what a mighty nice door it is. We unintentionally framed for a window when we originally built it but covered it up with plastic last year and did not opt for a window. I thought I might like to have a window this year so we can get a bit more air flow in there on the very warm days so we built one of those too.

The window isn’t completed yet. We ran out of screws to attach the strips (top and bottom).

The biggest issue with the greenhouse was the plastic being torn off the frame. We stapled it last year but the wind proved to be too much. Friends of ours mentioned putting up a high tunnel. I looked at the plans for it and took a queue on how their plastic was attached. (Here is the link if you’d like to check out the link on how to build an inexpensive high tunnel: http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Project-Products/Western-SARE-Project-Products/Constructing-a-Low-Cost-High-Tunnel. There is a PDF file that goes a long with it with a materials list and what not). I love this idea, I’ve seen a lot like them and we often think about putting something like this up for year round gardening. For the moment however, our little greenhouse is more than sufficient.

At any rate, they cut their plastic larger than the opening and rolled thin strips of lumber up in them and attached with screws. I think we had thought about doing that last year and we did along the bottom frame but ended up not on the upper portion. I’m convinced the strips are the answer.

We also cut a diagonal to go from the door frame to the top of the shelf just as a additional location to attach the plastic (not installed yet). It’s not needed for structural support. Hopefully this fix will last us a few years.

We never did get to the wood pile and the greenhouse isn’t completely put back together but hopefully after just a couple more hours and I’ll be ready to start seeds. Lots of other little tasks were completed though and I am grateful for that. The weekends pass by so quick and particularly this time of year, the weather can make or break it.

This spring-like weather has me feelin’ the spring fever. I think it does for a lot of people but there’s still a lot of winter yet left. Seeds still need to be planted soon though and it’s nice to think about spring being on its way anyway!

Have a great Monday!

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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!

 

September 9, 2013

Farm update: September

What a busy summer it’s been! Each morning as I begin l livestock chores there is almost a smell of fall in the air. It’s not quite here yet but I expect it very soon.

Garden:

The garden has done very well for us this year and continues to. This morning I cut the dying sunflower blooms off of their stalks and will dry them to use the seeds next summer. We had very lovely sunflowers this year!

Some of the heirloom tomatoes are just starting to ripen while the cherries, romas and “standards” have been producing for a while. In fact, I have a pot of water on the stove as I type this getting ready to sterilize some jars as I made tomato sauce on Saturday that I need to can. A friend of mine gave me a gallon of homemade grape juice from her own grapes that I will be making in to grape jelly too.  I intend to start a verde sauce today with the Anaheim chilies. The pepper plants did extremely well this year and we’ve been eating jalapeno poppers quite often which is quite OK by us, we love them!

We’ve been enjoying melons for several weeks and green beans and eggplant. The potatoes are ready to dig. I dug some about 2 weeks ago and we had tasty fried taters with steak that night!

The bugs have been very bad this year though, no doubt due to the all the rain we got in August. I lost most of the broccoli and cabbage but I left the plants and they seem to be coming back so I think grasshopper season has passed. We put “Turkena” the turkey in the garden and she did a good job keeping the bugs down but there’s only so much one turkey can do! The carrots are just about ready to pull up and they look really good. I planted them in May and just put another hand full of seeds into the ground for carrots later on. I should get some cabbage and broccoli and all the cool weather crops started soon too.

Growing the cucumbers and melons vertically this year turned out to be a very great thing! I was super happy with the results and it’s something I plan to do again next year.

The greenhouse will need a little help before next season, I think we’ll go ahead and board up the “front” and “back”. The wind was quite unkind to the plastic in that area but over the hoop it held up beautifully and it did such an amazing job for us getting our seeds started early.

Animals:

2 of the does were bred last month for late January kids but after reading the Farmer’s Almanac Prediction for this winter I have to wonder if holding them to kid in July may not be better =). The first fresheners who kidded in June are producing beautifully. We weathered all the kids and I think I will try to see if I can keep them in milk over Christmas when we go to California so we have milk again when we come back. Though it does mean I won’t get a break except while we’re gone and I really enjoy that break! I guess we’ll play that by ear.

The piglets are growing so well, this weekend the boys who are not going to breeding homes will be castrated and next week they will head off to their new homes. I have really enjoyed them tremendously…so active and lively. Ann has been such a great mother and milk producer and it’s just been such a wonderful experience. I really look forward to another litter some time next year.

We have a fox back that has taken a few chickens. One morning about a month ago I was enjoying coffee at the kitchen table looking out onto the back yard around 6:30 in the morning and saw one jet across the yard with a chicken nearly in its jaws. I screamed bloody murder at it waking the entire house and it was either do that and have it run away or not scream at it and have it run away with my hen in its mouth…either way there was little chance we’d get a shot off. It stood there for a while and looked at me like ‘what did I do?’.

Jeremiah has been calling it in for several mornings now and saw it yesterday but it’s was just dark enough he couldn’t tell for 100% certainty that it was indeed a fox so he left it be and it’s not responded to the call since,  little bugger.

We’ve scheduled to butcher up this second batch of meat chickens for several weekends now but it’s just been so hot that it wouldn’t be at all fun but temps look like they’ll be in the 80’s this coming weekend and it’s now or never. They are small turkeys at this point and need to be processed. They all still look fantastic though and I was happier with this batch over the last and I was really quite happy with the last batch too! But I think with all the rain we had in August, the grass was so green and there were so many bugs these grew so very well. It’s definitely something we’ll do again next year and I even considered doing another batch this summer/fall because I had more customers than I had birds but I worry about volatile weather and the grass is starting to turn and I think it’s just best if we call it a summer on those.

Speaking of this weekend though, it’s the dairy goat show at the Kansas State Fair. We’re not going. I was worried I’d be sad that we weren’t but to be truthful, it’s a huge relief! We’ve just been busy and thinking about clipping everyone up again is just not on my top list of things I want to do. Everyone is milking well and I’d like to keep it that way. Not to mention the cost involved and the running back and forth and hugely early mornings and late nights, I’ll be happy to be the spectator and the helper, if it’s needed…if we even get down there for the show once all the chickens are done and there’s a lot of them…for us anyway, over 60 but we’ll have a butchering trailer this time with chicken plucker. I don’t mind plucking and it doesn’t take me very long but if I can save my hands and joints the work for as inexpensive as it is to rent, I’m all for that.

Rachel wanted specific chickens to raise for 4-H this year and after a few delays our local farm store finally got their chicks in this past Friday. I went down there and picked out 6 for her- 3 buff orpingtons and 3 barred rocks. I also have a batch in the incubator right now that will be ready to go on lock down tomorrow. I put in 16, one didn’t look to be fertile after a week and another just quit growing so of the 16, I have 14 left and they all look very good. Each new batch seems to better and better in the incubator and maybe this time we’ll be close to 75% hatch rate. I like raising chicks this time of year because it’s still warm enough most days not to need a heat lamp and by the time it turns cold they are ready to be outside with the other chickens.

General:

I’ve chosen a design for the new milk barn and we intend to start on that once the weather turns a bit cooler. I don’t know that we’ll get it done before winter but the mere fact the water and electric is in was one big step for us.

All this work around the farm means sometimes the house goes to the wayside and we’re always in a constant state of remodel. Several weekends ago I drug out the paint brush and paint and got to work putting high gloss white on baseboards and trim. We completely gutted and remodeled a 2 bedroom rental house in town and after painting nearly that entire thing alone, I seriously have a bad taste in my mouth for painting and have a hard time bringing myself to even think about putting a drop of pain on anything! But, I figure if I do a little at a time eventually it’ll all get done….maybe! Maybe though the stuff that was painted a long time ago will need to be RE-painted again! UGH!

We’ve been talking for the past couple of years of putting in one of those really large stand alone wood stoves  and piping it into the house via the existing duct work. This may be the fall to really do it instead of just talking about it.  As October approaches we start to think about wood cutting and splitting and that’s a chore that will be upon us soon. We had very little left last season. It seems we went through quite a bit and by all accounts I think it was a pretty mild winter…long, but mild. After taking a weekend in March and gathering rounds and logs from the woods and putting them in our wood cutting area, it’s all ready to go into the wood splitter.

The children went back to school just after Labor Day and I am back to being alone during the day, it’s a little lonely but I get a lot more sewing done. I am back to quilting on Rachel’s quilt and have just the smallest amount left to do. Then I can bind it and it’ll be ready! It should serve her well if it’s real cold this winter. The batting I used was bamboo fleece, it’s a heavy quilt! Several other project have been keeping me busy along with the cloth diapers.

Well, I promised the children I’d take them to the fair today and tonight is the demolition derby we intend to watch with friends. I don’t understand how people can visit the fair every day but it seem there are lots and lots of people who will go nearly everyday. It’s just too hot and crowded for me to do that more than once!

I suppose that’s about all for now. The pressure cooker is whistling at me so I need to start timing my ‘mater sauce and switch over the sprinkler for the garden. I hope you have a wonderful rest of the week!