Wednesday, April 30, 2008

another swarm

yesterday we had another swarm from the second hive. it is my own fault i know what to do and how to prevent them. i'm not lazy just swamped. we boggled yesterdays attempt. today tabitha witnessed another incarnation of that swarm and it landed much lower. i pulled a similar move to the first successful capture. get the hive body directly under the swarm and knock them in--cover them quick. here they are in all their haphazardness.

tabitha suggested that we name our hives so we know what to call them when talking about them. i suggested that we name them cool cities. paris, st. petersberg, london, ect... she said this one should be named emeryville;)

so now we have four hives. will we get any honey? i'm not sure but we have plenty of bees. the big issue is i don't have a proper suit. my mosquito net of a hood is near impossible to see out of. i have been stung several times. not that i really mind getting stung once in a while but it is very distracting when i am trying to accomplish hive improvements.

next week i'll get in there and tear into the hive mess.

after the swarm capture i tilled and amended more of the garden.

we need to plant squash, pumpkins and cucumbers. planting tomatoes are queued for this weekend. the little tomato plants are looking really good.

we'll need to trench and bury them to the very top again this year. the plants that we planted that way last year did the best.

tabitha coined a new phrase that were are using quite often around here. the phrase is "o'melay intensive." the definition will evolve but basically involves taking on too much and jumping in with both feet. the only difference between "o'melay intensive" and complete irresponsibility is, we are fast on our feet. tabitha is smart and informs herself amazingly quickly. i can build, make or brute force my way through most anything. is it frustrating but amazingly fulfilling.

the chicks are growing and looking healthy. we are expecting our second batch next week. i need to finish work on their chicken tractor and shore up the old one for the second batch. they will be out in the pasture soon.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

chicken tractor part 1

our chicks have arrived--25 broilers 6 hens. we are expecting another batch in a week or so. we only have one dilapidated chicken tractor. the old tractor served us well but there is lots of improvements that we have learned we need in the new one.

improvements are:
• less weight
• narrower
• higher
• support the horizontal wire better.
• make it completely from emt and other galvanized metal
• no goats

our past tense goats almost destroyed the old coop. it stood up fairly well considering the destructive nature of goats. i'll shore up the old one when this one is finished--just in time for the second batch of chicks.

the new tractor starts with new dimensions. eight by ten by two feet respectively. the new one needs to be narrower to get through our ten foot gate entrances. it wants to be taller cause we raise our birds to an excessive weight of 12 to 15 pounds. at that weight they get too tall for the old 18 inch height.

i use a standard emt 90° connector at all eight corners. i take off the cover plate and screw the verticals into them and re-assemble the 90°. rather tristan took them apart and re-assembled them. he was a huge help and the task was just perfect for him (righty-tighty, lefty-loosey).

he got frustrated very frequently but i had plenty to do and allowed him time to figure things out himself. he was so proud have taken apart every 90° and re-assembled the modified versions. home schooling lesson modified to be helpful--everybody wins.

i figured out a method of attaching the cross supports using a hole at the end of the pipe and a heavy gauge wire threading the hole and around the crossing pipe. this new technology (to me) affords the dismissal of pvc pipe supports.

after i assembled the skeleton i rolled out the 4' chicken wire for the top and attached it by twisting a light gauge wire around the pipe. i stretched the wire as best i could--it'll sag eventually. the largest unsupported span is 2.5' by 4'. that size will only sag minimally.

i then wrapped the side in 1/4" hardware cloth. standard chicken wire won't work on the sides since the chickens sleep next to the edges and raccoons can reach through the larger chicken wire and eviscerate the chickens. we have had this trouble in the past.

wiring the hardware cloth and chicken wire to the pipe is tedious but i simply went anal retentive on it. wiring took a very long time since i want this coop to stand up for many years to come. i figure one year of goat destruction equals ten years of regular use. but i still stepped up the frequency of wiring. this thing will rust into the ground before it fails mechanically. no more goat trampoline.

simple math skill seemed to allude me when i was compiling my parts list. i didn't purchase enough hardware cloth--fyi (2x8)+(2x10) doesn't equal 25:) the door and waterer are slated for today. i might build a feeder also since all purchasable ones don't meet our specific needs. the feeder needs to meet this formula--(3" per bird X (1/3 number of birds)the amount eating at any given time). the threes cancel and it is roughly one inch per bird--easy peasy, why didn't they just say 1" per bird? the feeder will have a hopper since we are lazy and only want to feed them once per day--when we move them.

shade/weather cover will be a piece of this heavy billboard tarp we have covering everything around here. the door will be a piece of scrap metal roof from the barn. the bucket waterer will sit on top of the door to keep it closed. the door frame/support must be robust. i have some scrap aluminum that will work for this. where the wheels slip on the ends i have to put a skirt that closely follows the ground since young small birds escape there all the time during moves.

i had an epiphany for the center support. i used a sweep emt 90° and made it swing to the ground but flexible enough to skid over stuff during any rough terrain moves. this structure is flexible enough to follow most contours on our property. this makes for a tight fit to the ground--especially since we put a heavy rock on each corner.

other news tabitha spent the day mowing and mulching. we are short of straw this year and we will suffer for it.

kids play on pile of chat.

tristan might be peeing in this photo.

i removed the long overdue bean arches and mowed up the seedy weeds. i used them as mulch around my bamboo. good luck competing with bamboo weeds..

Thursday, April 24, 2008

swarm capture part two

part one
it failed miserably. yesterday the robust hive swarmed and lit about thirty feet high on a cedar branch. i came home and tabitha relayed the crazy swarming highlights. the swarm was so high in the air that we had to set up a rube goldberg series of ladders. tabitha wielded the electric pole saw while i held a huge trash can underneath. part of the swarm fell into the trash can while the other part took flight. we set up a new hive bottom and encouraged them in. some of the went.. mostly they disappeared. later when i checked the new hive it was completely vacant. arrgh...

part two, day two

today tabitha found the swarm again. it was much lower to the ground. while i was at work tabitha pored over the internet regarding catching swarms. armed with new better information we prepared for the wrangling. we assembled the necessary wrangling equipment and costumes. the hive was entangled in the fence. internet instructions suddenly became defunct.
compelled by the recent failure to overcome we surmised a plan. tabitha, who was not in the proper costume, would hold a flat board against the swarm. i would then put the hive recepticle under them and shake the fence, post and cross member vigorously while she pushed on the swarm. i mean real vigorously. most of them fell into the hive receptacle.

i promptly placed the cover on top. we had them--the queen. the illustrious queen without whom a hive has no meaning. the rest of the bees wanted in. they squirmed and swarmed but still docile. i tenatively opened the bottom entrance screen hoping that the flow of bees would move in and not out. we want the bees in the hive. as luck would have it they moved in but only after several undulations that were not convincing me of inward progress. finally all but a hundred or so went in.

i took the screen and scraped most of them in and sealed the door. the few remaining bees were mad--they wanted in. i didn't care i had successfully captured thousands and thousands of bees and these few could just go back to the other hive.

the hive is successfully closed and i'll feed them sugar water for a few days. their scouts will have time to give up and stop trying to find better places than my intended hive. they will return to the old hive or die. the queen and bees will have plenty of time to settle into their new digs. at the end of the weekend i'll let them loose and they can start their new endeavor.

just before the bee wrangling tabitha found a frog in th field. he was huge. he looked tasty to me but i was the only one that really thought about eating his legs.

here is proof, besides me, that tabitha will kiss anything.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

root cellar progress - front wall

i worked on the root cellar today for the first time in recent memory. this project has been going on for almost three years. my back is sore.

my little truck was instrumental in making a serious leap forward. this root cellar is always the last thing that i get to work on in any given season. luckily i caught up on spring gardening earlier in the week--herbs, basil, cilantro, arugula, spinach, dill and tomatillos from sugar mtn.

the root cellar is made from earth bag construction. i got the poly bags as a mis-print cheap. the nice thing about this method is they breath proper humidity and don't require a poured foundation. i made the roof arch from ferocrete. it was really fun to do but very labor intensive.

today i made the door frame from pressure treated two by fours. i stitched the barbed wire through drilled holes. the barbed wire is laid between the bags and keys them together. this bonds the door jam to the bags nicely. i also drove re-bar across about mid way up as further structural integrity.

tomorrow i'll attach expanded metal lath to the door jam and wrap the walls. then i'll mix some stucco and cement and finish the front walls. at the end of the project i'll rock the face with this collection of rock that i have had laying around for almost two years. tomorrow should be another leap forward. a little more infill on the top and i'll be ready to cover the entire thing. the covering will be a water barrier (billboard tarp), a piece of old carpet and then the dirt. the dirt should mound clear up to the top of the pump house. i plan to put a living roof on the pump house. it will be dry/cool storage canning, cheese and stuff.

the solar hot water collectors will shade the pump house. so we'll grow violets on top of it and the root cellar. there will be violet jelly in my future.

once i'm done with the root cellar i can start the milking barn in earnest.

Monday, April 14, 2008

see our bees

i got into the bees today for the first time. it was a huge adrenaline rush. their buzzing was so captivating surrounding me that i could hear nothing else. it was kinda like fear and intrigue blended into a meditative curiosity.

i treated them with toms natural mite remedy.
the recipe for part one follows:
2 pounds of powdered sugar
5 jars of garlic powder 2.5 ounces each
mix completely with a whisk.
package and store in the fridge.
pour 1 cup of the mix over top of the bees in the hive and close it up.

part two is incorporated in the smokers tinder.
recipe for part two is:
dried sumac berry clumps
dried pine needles
build the smoker as follows. cover the bottom with a few clumps of sumac fill the center with pine needles and light to a hot flame shove another thick layer of sumac berries on top and get burning until the berries pop. cover the smoker and squeeze a few test puffs. smoke the bees as normal to get them to settle down. after all bee work is finished puff six or seven times into the closed hive and let them recover.

this is the lessor hive. i was amazed how many bees there were.

this is the more robust hive. bees were just pouring out of the thing.

here is a step by step slide show of the entire experience.

now that i have gotten over my initial fear--just a quick visit to medicate them. this weekend i will replace their bases with the new ones that i just purchased. the new bases have screened bottoms. this serves two purposes. if there are any mites they occasionally fall off. when they fall they fall through the screen and cannot crawl back to another bee. there is a catch tray that is easily pulled out from the back of the hive. this affords easy monitoring of any mite trouble. additionally having a screened bottom allows for better ventilation. during the extreme heat of missouri summers they spend tons of energy trying to cool the hive.

bees are such great fun. i am so glad that we got them.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

damn damn dam

it is going to freeze pretty hard over the next three nights. we covered the beets.

we covered the cabbages and broccoli.

we covered the trees.

this might not work? i plan to light a candle in a bucket under the peach tree on the third night if it survives the first two. that night is supposed to be still--worst threat yet.

this is the thrift store where we got the sheets $1 each. toly said he needs a driving thingie like this. tristan always heads straight for the most gun like toy. what gives?

we are having a huge flood in the area right now.

this is what the local dam usually looks like. there is a huge one up stream and another huge one down stream from us.

here it was today. where those people took that photo from is under water.

this road drives right into the water--but not normally.

this is shadowrock park. they usually hold the forsyth fair here. all of the building are under water except the really tall arena--huge tractors usually fit under that roof.

the bridge to bobs is way above it's old high water line on the piers. more water to come.

another building peak on the high-ground side of the park.

this is one of those floods that they'll talk about for years to come.

Friday, April 11, 2008

great news

the final test from toly's hospital visit came back. they tested his small intestine to see if it was making lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose. he tested positive, that he doesn't produce lactase. all in all it is good news.

we know whats wrong with him and we can correct the problem. effectually we are naturally are migrating to the solution as a family anyway. fresh raw milk, that hasn't been pasteurized or homogenized, contains the proper amount of lactase to help digest lactose. milk, a food in perfect balance before industrialization messed with it.

no more eating out when we go anywhere--that'll save money anyway.

rori the new cow, is up to two gallons of milk per day. that is plenty for our needs. tabitha can make all the cheese, sour cream and butter we need from that amount.

the cat is flipping out on hormones. she is such a great mama. tabitha called the vet because she was acting so weird.

the local lakes are flooding like crazy. tabitha's grandma is being evacuated from her house lake levels have never been as high as they are predicting. tourist hot spots in branson are flooding. in my opinion mother nature could smite that abomination and cleanse it from the ozarks--i'll miss silver dollar city though.

we almost finished the final leg of the fence yesterday. my hands and arms were ruined by the end of the day. we are going out there right now to complete the final touches before we can turn the cows out there. i'll post photos (in this entry) this evening.

the kids playing on a pile of clay.

the cow are out in the new paddock. the wind is whipping the clothes dry today.

nearing sunset. the cow really like their new paddock.

the light is really beautiful. i am standing on the back step to the house.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


hermione-underfoot has just given birth.

two tailless like her and a third with a tail. they all seem to have her tabby coloring. we are going to keep them all and have a sign carved in granite "free kittens". this might seem irresponsible but we live on a road that is notorious for killing every animal that you cared about.

besides there is plenty of work around here for good farm cats. if her kittens take after her we'll be in the business of raising great mousers.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

farm update

the new cow is officially named Rori. all other names were rejected. she is producing a gallon and a half per day. we have ordered feed from a grain mill in Clever, MO. i'll have to make the drive tomorrow and pick it up. leaving after work means that i'm well on my way there already.

the other cows are jealous of rori getting milked. the ration of food that the cow gets while being milked is a coveted thing. they stand around at the entrance and try to get in while tabitha is milking. we need to re-think the entrances. maybe a dutch door will be in order.

tabitha and i scooped all the manure from the field today. i had to construct a compost bin from pallets. we filled the entire thing--many many wheel barrow loads. i make a little rampart from a flat board and drive the wheel barrow up and tip it in. it saves scooping the manure from the wheel barrow to the bin. we cleared the entire loafing area next to the milking shed.

we then forked ruined hay from the last round bale and scattered it around the loafing area. it makes for nice bedding especially during the impending rainy days ahead. we also put some of the driest stuff in the milking shed floor--cozy.

nimue, since her illness has been growing deformed hooves. we have tried to find a farrier without success. finally tabitha and i decided to try to cut them ourselves. i have some flush nail cutting pliers that are just like hoof trimmers. i held nimue while tabitha clipped. we only did a little and will do a little more in a few days. it was hard work even with tabitha's milk-maiden hand strength. nimue would lean all her weight onto me as i lifted each leg. what fun, we are proud for the progress and attempt.

i went to MFA and picked up more woven wire fence and another roll of gaucho barbed wire. we'll be able to finish the lower paddock this weekend. we also need to surround the bees with fence from the cows. we also plan to get another hay delivery of two round bales into the lower paddock. this should go a long way to getting them improving the soil in there. while the cows are in the lower paddock i plan to reseed the the barren areas with clover. we also hope to treat all the cows with whole grain oats while they are down there. this will encourage the chickens to spread the manure into the pasture.

three cows are pushing the bounds of our property. tabitha calls it o'melay-intensive. we collect the manure for our garden and improve the soil using the broiler chicken tractor. the areas where we moved the tractor the last two years are strangely free of weeds and healthy with grass that we never planted. we'll continue these measures until we need to expand further into the "way-back" beyond the ravine. i'll start cutting paths and getting fire wood from there next year. i have been contemplating what sort of vehicle i'll need to get in and out of the "way-back" with wood.

now to answer questions:

wendy, lisa, tansy, suzanne, beth, thank you we have been busting our butts. hard work feels good when you have so many aspirations.

nt moore, if you saw the soil here you'd not believe it. it is mostly rock. digging with a shovel is often impossible. we dig our holes with a HEAVY steel pointy rod. it is used to break the soil (clay and rock) like a pick and scoop it out of the hole usually by hand. even augers mounted on tractors are useless in these parts.

lisa, the kids slept the-sleep-of-the-just both nights.

donna, cedars are weeds in these parts. they are feral and invasive. they are habitat for ticks and chiggers. the "way-back" is filled with cedar. it is just a pain in the ass dragging them to where we can use them.

madeline, hot baths--yummy

hillbilly, still sore today--maybe even worse.

cat, tabitha is due july 24th.

danielle, yes tabitha is a superwoman. passion drives you to take your body further than you thought you could.

note to self: fix roof leak above laundry room.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

muscle fatigue

the parade of chickens.

we fenced for two days. my hands are sore the most. my whole body is sore but i can barely type. we are two thirds the way done fencing in the paddock to the ravine.

this is what we started on the first day.

this is the second leg of the first day--yesterday.

here is one of the corner posts next to the rocky crossing.

here is the view from below up the second leg. it curves around the ravine a bit.

this is a view from above. it looks a little messy cause i had to cut that huge looming tree and it took out several other trees when it fell. so i have a bit of a mess to clean up yet.

here tabitha is digging the holes for the third leg. can you see the kids playing in the woods in the background?

here is kassi climbing a tree. in this photo she is about 6 feet off the ground.

tristan is playing on some vines near the creek.

here they both are. i love seeing my kids playing in the woods.

this is what we have to to the second day.

this is what we did the second day. the second post is the one tabitha was digging in the earlier photo.

we only had to put in two post on the right side. the approach to the rocky crossing is a bit tricky.

this it the furthest corner on our second leg--only one more leg to go.

here is the view toward the rocky crossing. that is a cattle panel acting as a gate at the end of this run.

this is my two wheeled dolly. this is indispensable in the ozarks. i don't have a tractor so when i do stuff it is all by hand. this tool carries rocks that i can't lift and fence posts that are too heavy to shoulder.

just a nice photo of the girls. they were following me around thinking i should feed them--i did. they are like pets with benefits. they are pleasant to be around and feed us at the same time.
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