Monday, May 31, 2010

Fencing

We spent the whole day rearranging our fencing in the yard.  And I'd like to say we accomplished other things, but that's about it.  But it was a lot of work and has been something we have been putting off for just that reason, so we're glad it's done.  And so are the goats and Troy.

We moved troy back 16 feet towards the woods, so he can get some real shade during the day.  He's been hanging out in the shade made by the calf hutches, but it just isn't the good cooling shade of trees...so now he has that and he is SO HAPPY!  (except for the damn deer flies that are trying to burrow into his head!!!)

The goat fencing got expanded by about double.  We also put a calf hutch in their run so they have another place to hang out in, since now we have all eight of the goats together in the barn and barn run.  They have much more space and more greenery, so they are so happy too.   Though they might all have stomach aches by the middle of the night from eating too much green stuff.

We also moved the baby chicks out of the dining room and into the barn.  They are still under a light and can't go outside, but they have more space to run about...and they aren't stinking up our dining room anymore.

And in amongst all that, we had a woman and her little girl come by to look at goats!  Don't know what will come of it, but I always love to talk 'farm' and 'goats' with people!

I ordered a sampler from theorganicgoat.com.  I'll let y'all know how we like it.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ajax

Ajax was sold this afternoon.

I got an e-mail from a woman who raises goats for milk to make soap asking about him.  She came by to see him this afternoon and said he was perfect and she was ready to take him home.  It was very sad for us to let him go; he's been our little buddy and is one of our favorites here.  But it's time for us to downsize a little bit, for a little while.

I feel really good about his new home and they promise to send pictures of him (and his future kids)!  And I like that it feels like we're helping out a small farmer making a business of her passion!

If you want to check out their farm and soaps for sale, check them out:  www.theorganicgoat.com

I can't wait to try out their soap!

Good luck Ajax!!

The Soap Rack!


My new soap rack!  The racks slide out so I can put soap (or home made paper--which is my next project...for one of these days) on it and slide the racks back in to dry!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Food in Jars

I was introduced to a very cool blog: foodinjars.com by a friend.  I have been checking out the site for a while now, and just tried the first recipe off of the blog.  Rhubarb Butter.

I made the first batch, and waited for it to thicken and develop a rosy red color.  It never did get a pretty rose color, but I did make a great batch of rhubarb wallpaper paste...so if anyone is looking for wallpaper paste with a great smell and taste, let me know.

I made another batch...and it is now pinging away in the kitchen as the jars seal (what canner does not LOVE the sound of sealing jars pinging?).  This time, I did not wait for a rosy red color, and stopped when I got to the desired butter thickness.  It's really yummy!  So, I hope foodinjars doesn't mind, but I am going to post the recipe here.  Please check out foodinjars.com if you are interested in canning and preserving.

Rhubarb Butter
4 c rhubarb
1 c sugar
1 c orange juice
1/4 c lemon juice (this I added for a little extra anti-botulism insurance)

bring to a simmer and then reduce the temperature to low and let it gently bubble.  stir every five minutes for about an hour (or more) until it has reduced to a butter preserve texture (if you have rosy red rhubarb stalks, you will get a pretty rose color).

pour into five or six 1/2 cup canning jars and boil in a water bath for fifteen minutes.

(if you are not familiar with canning methods, check out foodinjars.com for a more detailed recipe or consult a good canning book for the specifics of canning.  if you prefer not to can the butter, you can freeze it or keep it in the fridge and use it immediately)

I also made a batch of crackers today.  Who knew?  You can MAKE crackers!!!  Yum!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Guineas

We very impulsively bought a pair of guinea hens today. They are SO tiny compared to our baby chicks! We will keep you posted on updates...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Flower Full Moon

We survived those storms last night. Greenfield got clobbered and ended up closing our Meals on Wheels program because the outlying towns were a mess and the main office was without power and closed! I don't plan for a 'snow day' in late May--so I was completely unprepared for calling the day off! But we had no damages here, so we were able to get to our site and get some work done!

But our garden got watered and the well got a dose of water, so on a selfish note, I'm pretty happy about that!

And, on top of that, the local school busses were vandalized overnight and no school busses ran this morning! What craziness and excitement for out little town! Most definitely a full moon day.

But being closed, I got home early, so we planted the rest of the garden!

We planted some more peppers and tomatoes. Lemongrass. Beets. Turnips. Spinach. Chard. Beans. Summer squashes. More radishes. Cucumbers. Eggplant. Okra (for the ONE batch of Gumbo we'll make later this year).

And by the way, on an aside Garden note: using those water towers worked out great for us. The tomatoes we put out under the towers are twice and big and tall and bushy and happy as the seedlings we didn't put under the towers...I'm gonna get me some more of those!

It's so awesome to have it all planted and now we can sit back and watch it grow!!

OK, and weed it. And chase bugs out of it. And cry over the eaten plants. And weed some more. And replant some more. And harvest. And weed some more. Chase bugs some more. Buy more plants. Mulch some more. Eat some. Weed again. Give up and shop at the Farmer's Market and swear that next year will be better.

It feels good. And something seems right about planting with the full moon!

Chalice

We have named our third hive. She is the swarm hive (who I believe is the hive responsible for my swollen finger!!).

Chalice is the name of a book by Robin McKinley. The main character is a beekeeper who is called upon to become the chalice keeper for her kingdom. She uses her honey for healing and magic within the Chalice she bears. It's a neat book. And Robin McKinley is one of my favorite authors. She also wrote Beauty, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which has become one of my favorite books of all time--definitely in my top five!

So, Chalice she is.




Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Nucleus Hive











Got up at 3:30 this morning, to be on the road at 4:00 to be at BetterBee at 6:30! Yikes.

I picked up my nucleus hive and my stuff (after some confusion about what exactly I ordered and what was in my pile of stuff). Then, the girls and I were back on the road and on the way home.

I got ALL my stuff together (and whoever said beekeeping was easy, has never suited up in 90 degree weather and tried to maneuver boxes and frames and smokers and tools and cameras--I was alone today so the pictures aren't that exciting this time) and headed over to my aunt's to look at the swarm hive and set up the nuc hive. The swarm hive has lots of little itty bitty eggs in it, so she either has a queen or a laying worker (which is pretty much doom for the hive as laying workers only lay drones, which are male bees, and are useless to a hive). But I'm gonna wait and see and HOPE she's a queen! That would be AWESOME!

The nuc hive, I set up beside the swarm hive (where the smaller swarm hive was before). I transferred the five frames into the middle of the deep super and put in five more empty frames on the sides of the five built up frames from the nuc box. I tried to dump all of the bees out of the nuc box into the hive, as you can not leave the nuc box in the bee yard or sometimes the bees move back into it--that was a challenge and some bee deaths inevitably happened. I just hope the queen is OK! I checked for larva and eggs, closed them up, and put on a feeder for them. Now, we just wait and see and check back.

So, it looks like we have two more hives for the season. The swarm hive is hive 'C' and the nuc is hive 'D'.

C names: Cookies, Camie, or Chalice...so far...
D names: Doughnuts...
HELP!!! Any thoughts? Ideas?

After I set up and looked at the hives at my aunt's, I got into the hives here. The picture on the bottom shows Avalon just barely beginning to build up some comb in the honey supers...but not much more is going on in there. You can see the empty frames inside the box, below the frame in my hand. I guess it takes a lot of work just to build up the wax framework for the honey, before they can even think about storing excess honey in there for us. It'll be nice when we have already drawn out comb to use in our honey supers. It'll save the bees a lot more time in the following seasons. I guess it's a hobby of patience...

but I am content.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Farm Store

My brother keeps tabs on the BumbleFarm store. If you'd like to see what's for sale, feel free to check us out on CafePress!

http://www.cafepress.com/BumbleChick

Nucleus Hive

We are picking up our Nuc tomorrow morning from BetterBee. After some games of phone tag and some confusion, we are finally ready. We have to be at BB between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. The plan is to pick up the bees and bring them back to my aunt's house and look into the swarm hive. If the swarm hive still doesn't have any eggs, we are going to combine the nuc onto it and have one BIG happy third hive.

We thought about buying a queen to put into the swarm hive. Or giving them eggs out of one of our established hives for them to build a queen, but in the grand scheme, it seems to make the most sense to combine the hives together. It would have been great to have four hives, but we can't get greedy! And besides, maybe we'll open up the swarm hive tomorrow and she will have eggs!!!

We've also got a big order of STUFF from BetterBee to pick up. We've ordered our extracting equipment for our community of beekeepers to use and in great hopes of lots of honey from all these big happy hives we've all got. If any of you local beekeepers need anything and want us to pick it up...you'd better let us know by 4:00 tomorrow morning!!!

And we need your help. So far, the only name offered up for our 'c' hive is Cookies. And Camie. Help us think of names! If you can find a theme, we have Avalon and Bree....and 'C--'

Some of our peppers seem to be making a comeback. We (being Paul) planted some new plants we bought at the Farmer's Market between them. But maybe, those peppers will grow big and strong and sturdy after a good scare with Death and we'll be inundated with peppers this year. Wouldn't that be AWESOME!?

~Home~

It's so nice to come home after a weekend away. Everything is growing in the garden, including the weeds, so we need to get to work on that. And it's time to plant the last of the seeds for the summer!

The roosters are a-crowing.

The bees are buzzing away.

The milk's a-producing.

The asparagus plants are absolutely HUGE this year--that gives me big hopes for harvesting next year.

The peppers are greening up...and maybe a few of my killed plants will make it through. Hopefully before the killing frost in the fall.

And we're hoping to pick up our bees in the next day or so.

Everything looks good.

And life is good.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hive Names

We had our first suggestions for 'c' and 'd' names: Cookies and Doughnuts with the suggestion that we label the hive boxes in really big letters with their names! Almost as good as Beer and Soda!

Guess we still have to wait and see how our swarm does before we start naming her...or maybe we should name her for good luck.

We have a little chick with serious poopy butt. I think we might switch them over to organic chick starter, which I made the mistake of not buying in the first place because where we bought the chicks didn't have any. I notice a huge difference in the growth and smellyness of chicks raised on organic starter. And I have never had a poopy butt issue before...maybe it was just our time, but it makes me wonder. I guess this is reinforcing my belief that starting them on organic feed is worth the money, even if they don't stay on it (though our adult chicks are on organic feed too!).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Swarm Hive(s)


We looked at the swarm hives today. We had to get feeders onto them before it rains, so while we were bothering them, we figured we'd just take a peek.

The smaller swarm had ZERO bees...I am not kidding you, NOTHING. But it had a little bit of comb and some eggs.

The bigger swarm had TONS AND TONS of bees, but no eggs. So we combined the hives, adding the frame of eggs to the full hive and closed up. We will check again for eggs soon, and if there aren't any eggs, we will try to steal some frames of new eggs from one of our established hives and hope they make a queen. We're still hoping that if they are queenless they will make a queen with the eggs from the smaller swarm, but I am worried that the eggs might be too old and not cared for...but I guess we will just wait and see. In any case, we have the feeder on the hive, so we can still get them food if it rains.

Lesson learned: with a new hive establishing itself: PUT THE HIVE TOP FEEDERS ON!!!! (Dummies)

And we're going to need names for hives soon! Start thinking! We have Avalon, Bree, we'll need a 'C' name, and a 'D' name when this swarm hive gets growing!

Happy Beeing!

Farm Visitor

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bree

was still in the tree when we left for dinner tonight. It's dark, but it looks like she has moved on and not into the boxes I put out for them. Though there is a HUGE garden spider on the box...I hope she's not thinking about moving in.

The honeybees at my aunt's are doing great. I just put out another feeder for them tonight. This is the fourth gallon feeder we've put out. They are hungry little buggers!

I must say, I do love the smell of Honey B Healthy, which we have been mixing with the sugar water for the new bees.

Bree Swarms






Tried to give you some pictures of Bree as she swarmed to give you an idea of what it looks like. The pictures don't do it justice, but they help. And the noise they make is unbelievable. And then, everything is quiet when they settle somewhere.

You can see the swarm really high in the tree behind the hives. There was no hope of getting to them, so we put out a make-shift hive to try to entice them into. I brushed the frames inside with sugar water and HoneyBHealthy, so it should be enticing, but they tend to do what they want to do, not what I want them to do.

Baby Chicks

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hive Pics



Showers at BumbleChick Farm

I spilled sugar water on myself at my aunt's house when I was checking on the bees. The bees are ALL OVER the feeder and the sugar water is about half gone. So, I had to put out another feeder. I have never seen so many bees all over a feeder. I might HAVE to put the 'real' top feeder on the hive to keep up with them.

So, I came home and took a shower to get all the yummy sugar water off of me. And when I get out of the shower, I just get a towel on my hair and the dog starts going nuts. I grab another towel and check it out. There are Max feathers everywhere and Troy is going crazy. So, I wrap myself in a towel and run out in my yellow lady bug garden slippers to let Troy out. Let's just say, it's a good thing we live so far back from the road.

I did throw clothes on before I went after Max. I could hear Max crying and was afraid Troy would try to 'help' him. But Troy was off trying to find the fox. Max was limping back home, letting out the most pathetic cry with each step. It was awful. Limp, limp, peep. Limp, limp, peep. Limp, limp, peep. But he made it home and croaked at his girls. He is definitely traumatized. He can only croak now. And Dinner is enjoying being the lone crower right now. But I think Max will be all right. Troy and I hung out in the yard for a while and by the time I went in, everyone was huddled under the rose bush for safety.

Life on the Farm.

Pictures of Swarm





After we left last night, Mark cut down the tree that some of the swarm was still clinging to and shook the rest of the bees into the hive. They closed up both of the hives for the night and tied them up. We moved both hives to my aunt's house this morning.

The full hive looks very happy and healthy and big.

The smaller hive isn't showing mush activity and when I peeked under the lid, there were quite a few bees, but they were all huddled on one side of the box and there were not a lot of them. If there is a Queen with them, they will be fine, if not...

We set both hives up on a pallet we grabbed off the side of my aunt's garage and set up a feeder for them. This is our first use of HoneyBHealthy. We'll see if we notice anything other than just how yummy good it smells in the sugar water!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Swarms

Just boxed up a pair of swarms today!

Got home from work and Laura e-mailed me to tell me that their hives had swarmed. I asked if she wanted me to come by (since I have tons of excess equipment and her husband was still at work). So, I grabbed a few hive boxes and tops and bottoms and my husband and headed over.

We managed to get the smaller swarm into the box fairly easily, by cutting the branches off the pine they had settled into. And they seem to be crawling into the box...we just hope they're going to settle in and that they have a queen.

The bigger swarm (which was buzzing about right where the school bus stops and right when the school bus stops) settled onto and around the trunk of a small pine. We weren't sure how to handle that, as we could not take down the tree to shake them into the box. So, I suited up, and set another box under the bush and went in. I tried to shake a bunch of bees onto frames and put the frames into the hive box. Then I shook the tree to get them out of the cluster and onto the ground. They would start to head into the box with the others. I shook and bothered the swarm off the trunk a few times and it seems that a lot of the bees ended up in the box...though there was still a decent sized cluster on the trunk when we left.

Now, it just a matter of waiting to see if the bees stay in the boxes. And waiting to see if they have laying queens. I'm worried that the smaller cluster is a part of the big cluster that broke off and so it won't have a queen and so it won't survive. But we figure if there are no eggs in a few days in one of the boxes, we'll just combine the two into one hive.

Maybe we've got a couple of free hives!
Maybe they'll take off and find a better place to live (maybe they don't like purple--the color of some of the boxes)
Maybe, maybe, maybe.
We will keep you posted and the pictures coming!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Milking

I am afraid to say this, but for the first time, we have hit 4.8 ounces of milk out of Annie. We have been sitting in the two ounce range (when we're lucky!). Phew. She has been milked completely out the last three times we've milked which is good for her. And she is still fussy, but we are moving slowly forward to a better place. Keep your fingers crossed and prayers to the goat milking gods flowing though. We can still use them.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

professional help

I have resorted to seeking some professional help. Annie is such a crazy lady on the milk stand that we are coming into the house with half the milk we should be (on a good day) and more often than not a pail of milk fit only for the dog by the time Annie's stepped into it several times. I wouldn't even make soap out of it. So, after another crying fit this afternoon, I e-mailed a local Nigerian Goat farmer who is going to give me a call. She assures me that it's not us, and that there might be something wrong with Annie.

We also lost all of our pepper plants we've been nurturing since February. I covered them last night under the cold frame and tucked them in nicely like a good Mommy. They were fine this morning, but this afternoon...well, it'll be a miracle if any survive. Well, that's not true...there is ONE that might make it. They even had little buds on them. (maybe it's a good thing I don't have 'real' children).

I am so very sad, I can't stop crying...and for all you men folk out there: no, it's not that time of the month. It's just very sad...a lot of work lost and I'm still feeling quite a bit like a failure, despite Pat's reassurances!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Freeze

WE are preparing for another cold night. I just put the plants in the garden to bed under the cold frame and tucked the tomatoes in teepees for the night. I've got row cover going over the plants on the porch. Hopefully this will be the last cold night for the season. That would be nice.

And, I must admit, I built a small fire in the wood stove tonight. I had to use all the wood left in t he house from the winter, after all. It wasn't because it's cold and I'm a chilly willy!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Plants that Make the Bees Happy!

I have had several people ask for my notes from the Bee Plant class from Bee School, so I decided to post them on the blog so that whoever wants them can take a look. (I hope Bee School doesn't sue me for using notes from class on my blog).

Smaller flowers and more flowers are more useful to honeybees

Photosynthesis = Nectar

Sunlight, moisture, and soil contribute to the quality of nectar

How good it is as a source depends on
1. quantity of the nectar
2. the availability of lots of plants
3. that the honeybees can get at the nectar
4. the type of nectar

I've put in BOLD the most important plants for happy bees!

SKUNK CABBAGE has lots of pollen but only for a short time
PUSSY WILLOW pollen plant and some nectar
CROCUS pollen
RED MAPLE pollen and some nectar
POPLARS (lindens and aspens) pollen
SHADBUSH (serviceberry) pollen and nectar
DANDELION a lot of surplus nectar; good hive stimulus (good honey to make mead with)
GROUND IVY nectar and a pleasant honey - lots of vitamin C
VIOLET some nectar but honeybees only go to if there is nothing else
APPLE HUGE boost to hive and honey; get honey supers on...3-10 # of honey a day if near an orchard--there is often swarming around apple blossom time
PEACH not as many flowers but good
PLUM AND CRAB pollen and nectar
AZALIA concern with these plants as toxic to humans
ROSA MULTIFLORA nectar and pollen ('real' roses don't have nectar)
BLUEBERRY honeybees prefer low bush; bumblebees prefer high bush
CRANBERRY makes a beautiful RED honey
STRAWBERRY nectar and pollen
BRAMBLES are all good
BLACK LOCUST excellent nectar
HONEYSUCKLE you want 'tartarian' type for pollen and nectar
SAGE good, cut back after it blooms for nectar and pollen
FEVERFEW has NO nectar or pollen
ELDERBERRY pollen
MTN LAUREL nectar and pollen; toxic to bees in high quantities?
CLOVER nectar and pollen
white=pollen and some nectar
'alsike' is pale white and purple and is best!
white sweet and yellow sweet are awesome
yellow hop clover makes a lighter nectar
red clover sometimes good, but sometimes hard for honeybees to get to nectar
ALFALFA pollen and nectar, but depends on when farmer cuts it
SWEET PEPPER BUSH bees are all over it!
'clethra olnifolia' is the type your want, enjoys damp areas and is a good cut flower too
BORAGE bees love the flowers and it blooms into september
ECHINACEA bees love it
QUEEN ANNE'S LACE pollen
MUSTARD thin honey but dependable for nectar
MILKWEED nectar and honey, great yields
JAPANESE BAMBOO is invasive, but bees like it
RAPE SEED good nectar
BUCKWHEAT bees love it and it's good for the soil; the nectaries close in the afternoon and this makes the bees cranky!
SUMAC comes at a good time of year
FIREWEED nectar and pollen
CHICORY nectar and it has a long bloom
PLUME POPPY can be invasive but bees like it (grows 6-8 feet tall)
CALENDULA not good
PURPLE LOOSESTRIFE nectar and some pollen; invasive
ANISE HYSSOP wonderful bee plant and blooms for a long time
MINTS are great for bees
ST JOHNS WORT bees like it, but not a prevalent plant
CUCUMBER nectar
BROCCOLI nectar and the bees love it; let a few go to flower
ONIONS nectar
CELOME nectar
DELPHINIUM nectar
KNAPWEED star thistle-nectar and pollen
SUNFLOWER nectar
JOE PYEWEED wet land; some nectar, lght pollen
GOLDENROD often starts blooming when taking off honey supers, so good for bees to winterize; smells wonderful as bees fan it off
FALL ASTER winter stores!! it is greatly affected by soil and weather

We've been inside staying busy since it's too windy and cold to work outside,


and with the frost warnings for the next few nights, we're going to wait on getting any more of the plants into the garden. So, this is what we did today instead. I am hoping we can make a cube with scrap pieces of wood and put slats in it for racks of drying soap (stole the idea from Hames and Axle Farm, where we took a soapmaking class). But I am not quite sure how to work with the pieces I have yet. But we are working on it.

We're still milking our little goat away. And whoever said farming is easy needs to try to milk a reluctant goat...even if she is only a little thing, it's still quite a battle. Troy tends to get the last of the milk, when she's gotten so restless she's stuck her foot into the milking cup. I've transitioned from my old milk 'pail' to a pyrex measuring cup. The metal of the cup was odd, and reacts weird when it soaks, and I think it has aluminum in it, so to be safe, I'm going to use nice, safe glass.

WindyFields Farm has finally kidded this morning. That was their mother's day gift, so I am hoping they'll have extra milk for us to purchase...since they have a far better milker than we do...or maybe it's that they are better milkers than we are.

We have been putting together plans for a Canning Coop between nearby friends. We're hoping it will encourage us to actually get canning this year and with sharing with a group, we'll get more variety for our work. Each person in the group is planning to make two different canned items and share two jars of each item with everyone else in the group. We had to limit our numbers, so that it was possible to actually make enough to share with everyone. So, we'll have to see how it works out. We have some planning to swap frozen goods as well. So it should be an interesting experiment in cooperative 'farming'.

The bees are quiet. It's been chilly and windy, so I think they are cozied up inside with cups of honey tea, waiting for warmer days. I did finally place my BetterBee order for supplies for this summer, including the extractor for honey harvest in the fall. I am very excited for that! I'm figuring on doing it in the evening, into darkness, outside, so that the mess will be outside, but it will be late enough that the bees won't come by and try to help! And my Nuc of bees is scheduled to come at some point mid to end May! Hopefully it won't fall on Camp Weekend.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Milking


So it's slow going, but we are very slowly working with Annie to train her on the milk stand. It's a challenge, but we're getting there...at least, that's how it feels today. We'll see how we feel about it tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day, full of it's own challenges and blessings! Tee hee.

Sorry for the back end view of the picture, but well, it shows the milking process best, including a measuring cup with actual milk in it!

Planted the asparagus in the rain today.

Worked on the shelf in my closet today with Paul--he loved it!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Bee Larva


You can see the bee larva in the honeycomb cells of the frame. This is a conventional hive and it is much easier to see on the black frames! (again, you should be able to enlarge the photo by clicking on it)

Top Bar Hive Pics

These are pictures from Katie's top bar hive as we snuck in for a peek. It's quite an amazing little hive!





Notice the queen in this picture. She is a Buckfast Bee and marked with a blue dot. Notice her size and shape compared to the rest of the bees! (you should be able to enlarge the photo by clicking on it)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Garden

Came home from work today and spent the afternoon in the garden. I had to get some of those plants in the ground before they die!

Planted the peppers and okra and eggplants and covered them, to protect them from the wind. I also planted the artichokes...my awesome sister bought me a couple of plants from Fedco and they look much better than my poor little guys. But I planted them all and we'll see what happens. Potatoes went in today. Lettuce and celery and a couple more strawberry plants. And I got the cold frame up and over the parts of the garden that need the most coddling! So, we're moving forward. Tomorrow, I need to fix the fence I threw up around the asparagus and get the rest of the asparagus planted.

Bees are happy!
Doggie is happy!
Chickens are happy!
Goats are happy...though anyone want a goat in milk? I'll sell her for a really good price (the BRAT).
Cats are happy too!

People to!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bees and Gardening

I spent the day up in Maine, helping my sister look into her Top Bar hive to see how things were coming along after hiving a package of Buckfast bees earlier this week. Man, these girls are hard workers and build up fast. It's amazing. We even saw the queen!.

We also peeked into her overwintered conventional hive to take a peek at how everyone was doing and to make sure that the queen was laying and performing her duties. We also rearranged some frames to try to encourage the girls to build up and fill the boxes before moving up in the hive. Things are looking good in her hives. It's kind of scary that I am becoming the local bee-keeper-helper--I'd better keep learning, so I can keep my post!

I will try to have pictures up soon!

Her garden looks great...I'm feeling very far behind now, especially after bringing home piles of seedlings and plants and seeds to be planted here! Strawberries (which I had just put in the ground, turned around to grab the hose and came back to chickens digging up the plants), potatoes, asparagus, horseradish, artichokes, clover, lettuce, asters, brussel sprouts...yikes, yikes, yikes. Guess I know what I am doing when I get home from work tomorrow.

And when we came home, we milked a very full Annie and now have 3/4 of a cup of milk to show for it! Yay. I really hope to keep her going for a while and maybe have some milk to share. Paul seems to have a touch with Annie and she seems to like having him milk her more than she does me...so I am hoping he will keep helping me keep the milk coming. I don't want to waste this opportunity! And I am hoping this time, with only her to milk, we can train the temper out of her (and me).

My Guess

My guess is that Willa has been nursing a bit off of Annie all along.

We noticed the other day that Annie's udder is swelling up. We're pretty sure she isn't pregnant, but it's farming, so I don't rule anything out. But she was so full last night that I said if she was still full this morning, we were going to try to milk her and see what's going on. And lookie there: WE HAVE MILK!!! I don't know if we can keep it going, but we're going to try...

How cool is that? Milk. And no babies to worry about.

Sorry, WindyFields, I was making jokes that'd we'd be milking before you guys...I really WAS kidding about that!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Top Bar Hive


I helped a friend hive up her first package of bees into a top bar hive. It was very cool to work with a different type of hive. These are pretty cool hives. I think they are perfect for the backyard beekeeper interested in keeping bees for the good of the bees and only planning to take some honey out for themselves. Or for someone more interested in the benefits of pollination than the keeping of bees for honey.

Though, honestly, I think it's more the techniques of the beekeeper that makes the most difference in the care of the honeybee. But, if I was just starting out, I think I would seriously consider the Top Bar Hive.

I will keep you posted in the future about the Top Bar Hive as I watch others testing them out.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pretty Picture

Avalon Bee Share Update--May 2010

Hive Notes from BumbleChick Farm
May 2010

As I am writing this, the bees are happily buzzing away in and out of their towers of boxes. The dandelions are out in full force and the apple blossoms are opening up and welcoming the honeybees to their folds.

We completed our spring inspection of the hive yesterday. This is our most invasive look inside the hives for the year. We pulled both of the winter supers off of the hive, down to the base to get a good look at everything and clean things up, if needed. The bees are doing a great job of keeping things in order, so we didn’t need the help them, except that they were growing into the tops of the bars in each of their boxes and that needed to be scraped away. Unfortunately, some of that had growing bee larva, so we sacrificed some younguns for the good of the hive.

In the winter, the bees work from the bottom box, up into the top box, so often in the spring the bottom box is empty while the top is filling up. To make more room and encourage the bees to utilize both boxes instead of just moving up into honey supers, we can reverse the boxes so that that emptier box is on top. We would have done that, but the queen had part of her brood nest in that bottom box, and we did not want to break that up. So after looking for larva and eggs and signs of good growth in Avalon, we put things back together the way we found them, added a queen excluder to keep the queen from laying eggs in the honey supers and then we popped on TWO honey supers. If all goes well (pray for a good summer and happy bees) we should come away with some decent honey this fall. Whoo hoo.

So, everything is back together and the bees are happily enjoying this beautiful spring day. As we hope for a great summer, the bees are busy preparing for winter…and with any luck, they’ll prepare well enough to give us lots to share!

Thank you for participating in our Bee Share program at BumbleChick Farm. As you know, you were all guinea pigs in sponsoring our program and none of us could know how it would turn out, so we are happy that you had faith enough in us to join us on the journey. We hope you enjoyed coming along with us as much as we have enjoyed keeping and learning about bees.

With this update, ends our first two years together—can you believe it? And we would like to invite you to continue on with us and Avalon. To continue your sponsorship of Avalon from this point on will cost $25.00 a year, due after the Dandelions bloom in the spring and the beekeeping season starts (that would be by the end of May). This money helps to fund the needs of the apiary and the needs of Avalon and supports local beekeeping in our area!!

We will be making some changes to the sponsorship. Instead of quarterly updates, we will be doing more frequent and more up-to-the-moment updates on our farm blog: bumblechick.blogspot.com. We will still include a yearly written update with your fall shares of (hopefully) honey and any other goodies we pull out of Avalon! And we will send out a reminder in the spring to update your sponsorship of Avalon, if you choose to continue with us each year.

Again, thank you for joining us on this journey. We do ask that you respond by May 31st, if you would like to continue. This gives us a chance to invite other sponsors to take your place should you choose not to continue with us.

Thank you Everyone! This has been wonderful! And Happy Beeing!

Best Friends

Yesterday afternoon, I spent sitting on the back deck working on the laptop while Troy lounged in the yard ten feet away. We had some lovely quiet time together and I chattered away to him. He particularly likes the sound of Windows starting up on the computer and he cocked his head to the side in that cute doggy way while he tried to figure out what the noise was. He didn't have much to say vocally, but he had a lot to say by just being there.

I was thinking about how much we humans never shut up and often have so little to say. And how our pets vocalize so little, but communicate so much. Even sitting alone with Troy I had to open my mouth and talk to him. It struck me. So, I started thinking (and talking to Troy about it) and thought that it would be a really cool fundraiser to commit to not talking for twenty-four hours to raise money for Best Friends. It would be quite a challenge to not talk, so people could sponsor your silence by donating a certain amount of money per hour in that 24 hour period that you did not talk. (I figure some money would be made just in the time that each Silencer is sleeping), but the rest would be a challenge and the persons sponsoring you could take a gamble and raise the stakes if they don't think you can really shut up for 24 hours! So, say $1.00 per hour...if you don't talk for the whole 24 hours, you'd make $24 dollars. Someone who sponsors you but doesn't think you can shut up for that long could gamble and offer more per hour knowing that the person they are sponsoring is going to talk some of those hours...like me!

Anyway, it was a thought and all money raised could be sent to Best Friends Animal Society where we volunteered last month. I thought it was a cool idea. I even went so far as to figure out when Best Friends really started, but they've existed and morphed and grew into Best Friends over years that the best date I could find was when Best Friends got her name on May 4th, 1986. But May 4th is only two days away and stretching it to get anything started for fundraising...

Egg Totals for April

231 Eggs for the Month of April.
No milk.
No honey (for us).
Lots of rhubarb.
And a few stalks of asparagus--which would do better if the chickens stayed out of it.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Paul got a lesson in plumbing today...we bartered eggs for

the lesson and in the bargain also now have a working outdoor faucet! Yay...I can water the garden easier now. Though I still have to be careful with the water use...we do have a dug well. But we learned that to be a 'real' farmer, we need to know how to do some basic plumbing.

I began the Bee Update and it is almost done, but then spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with a neighbor while Paul got his lesson. So, I should have the update done and going out by Monday...that is the plan anyway.

Made frozen rhubarb cubes. I put chunks of rhubarb in a saucepan with some sugar and water and let it simmer for an hour or so. I then cooled them and now they are freezing in ice cube trays. I can add them to add flavor to smoothies, and pies and other baked goods, and over ice cream. And maybe on a crazy cooking night, figure out how to use them in an entree...hmmm.

Paul just found out I froze all the rhubarb and he's very bummed...he wanted some on ice cream tonight!

We don't have any ice cream anyway.