Thursday, June 26, 2008

data collection on bees

warning boring post ahead

tabitha's hive (double swarm)
mostly friendly
2 full hive bodies (they'll likely make it through winter)
empty super (foundationless)
perfect brood comb (brood surrounded by honey)

swarm hive (single swarm)
very passive
two full hive bodies except two frames of top body
(they'll also likely make it through winter)
needs super (another hive body)
doing surprisingly well since they don't seem as active.

drone hive
passive (much more passive then last visit)
two full hive bodies and
one and an half frames full in super
building comb from bottom
foundation wrinkling causing them trouble
(note to self, never use foundation again)
lots of bees not so many drones
obviously has queen now
they got a late start it took their queen a while to get going

karl's hive (or africanized bees)--just kidding;)
very active almost aggressive
2 full hive bodies
one super full of honey
second super 2 frames full from foundationless frames
beautiful natural comb built from wedge attached to frame

i didn't really "dig in" to the hives. it was just a look see to see if everyone has room for honey. we need one hive body for a super for the (single swarm hive) i pulled some frames to see how they are doing. showed tabitha beautiful natural comb. it really is amazing.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

the jury is still out

only three chickens died total. our prompt measures worked on the still living ones. we separated the new pullets from the broilers and have tried to integrate them into the hens. they still try to get back in with their respective broilers. chickens are such creatures of habit. it'll take a few more days of catching them in the evening and putting them in the laying coop.

the garden is another matter. onions are in need of harvesting and storing (dehydrating, freezing and canning) no long term storage onions can be attempted. the tomatoes are not completely ruined. over the next month they will suffer having so many open sores. they will likely succumb to aphids and early blight.

we will do what we can do. at least we'll be able to eat some fresh tomatoes. we probably won't can too many though. last year tabitha put up over 500 pounds of tomatoes and we ran out over a month ago. we'll likely never reach that mark--which we were well on our way towards.

pumpkins and squash also got hit pretty badly. they might not make either. it might be a blessing since tabitha will have just had the baby and won't feel the pressure to can a huge bounty.

with food prices the way they are i'm not sure what the future holds for the unprepared. we'll just do the best we can.

thanks to you all, my blog friends. it seems the collective prayer has helped--at least with my state of mind.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I Smite Thee

saith mother nature.

it hailed golf ball sized hail and rained about seven inches all last night.

garden ruined.. tomatoes pelted to oblivion, onions will not be able to be dry stored. we'll have to can them or use them up.

several chickens dead in broiler coop due to drowning--if you can imagine. others might die soon. we have a heat light on their shivering bodies to try to rescue the rest of them from hypothermia.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

meals off wheels or local harvest

we still don't make our own tortillas. everything else is local. the most exciting part is the pico de gallo. this salsa isn't true pico de gallo but it is close enough to get me through the next few weeks.

tomatillos are a blessing and we plan to plant them regularly. they are a nice substitution for regular tomatoes for the next little while. the kids love tacos and using store bought salsa is a crime this close to tomato season. tristan is especially fond of fresh salsa.

today is kassi's birthday celebration. we are having a few friends over for home made ice cream and cake. she has been a very lucky girl--almost everyday there has been a package delivery for her. tabitha made her a new blue dress and we got her some little ponies. they are high quality cast plastic. normally we shy away from plastic toys but there are some things that there are no substitutes for this quality and durability.

tristan is THROUGH with kassi's extended birthday celebration. his graciousness has all but run out.

i wanted to build the gate for boca's pen but haven't had the opportunity. i have been picking away at little indoor projects. more bathroom work mostly. it is hard to get anything done when regular maintenance is more than a person can do.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

i'm beaming with pride

my son is reading harry potter. it is magic to sit and listen to him. he reads aloud. he is only 10 or 15 pages in but he's reading it.

baby makes pasta

he likes to crank it really fast.

this is our pasta machine. we use it heavily. these are egg noodles. we like to use our eggs.

tabitha is putting extra noodles in the freezer for after rome is born.

this is our zero mile local meal.

the carrot raised bed was a huge success. the carrots turned out fabulously.

locally produced pasta. imported flour (in bulk--lower carbon footprint)

the kids are always drawing pictures of our family.

see the baby in tabitha's belly? see all the smiles? happy family..

this is kassi's version.

they decide their own themes.

kassi got new hair clips.

she squealed the dolphin squeal when she first saw them. dogs are still howling in the distance.

she had to wear them all at once.

toothy boy

boca enjoying her new pen.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

new calf pen out of pallets

kassi and i went to the local lumber yard and asked if we could have their old pallets. they had a large pile but they were mostly of different sizes. i sorted and measured to find a few groups of similar sizes. i managed six of one size, three of another and some random other sizes of good quality wood. we knew roughly where we wanted the pen but the logisics of putting it there were a bit tricky--i was fenced out of that area with no gate in sight.

i backed my little truck to the edge of the fence near the intended spot and threw a few of the odd sized ones over the fence for a step-over of sorts. i set out all the tools that i thought i might need on the back of the truck so i could reach them form the other side of the fence. having studied ron's technique and sizing up the task ahead i sullied forth. i decided that i didn't want to dig a trench. i also thought that if i were to suspend the pallets on a small piece of pressure treated landscape timber they'd probably last longer. my only concern was how to keep the proposed fence in place attached to the ground. i decided to drive some cedar posts at fencing intervals and attach the pallets to them.

pallet fence secure to the ground, rot and bug susceptible wood off the ground and my area laid out i started attaching the pallets together. this would have been easier with a second person but tabitha is busy nesting and keeping the house from internal collapse. i like to screw things together instead of nailing wherever i can afford. screws afford me the luxury of changing things fairly easily if necessary.

i just fenced in the brush that was there cause the cow will happily eat it--it'll give her something different to do. here is what i came up with.

there is no gate yet that will happen over the next few days.

initially the pen will hold boca. she is a fairly content cow and mostly eats and chews her cud. the suspended pallets should work fine. especially since they are on the low side of a slope and drainage could become an issue. after we send her to the butcher we hope to raise pigs. this could be the spot. as ron pointed out in his hog pen they like to root under fences. i'll likely run a hot wire from our fence charger around the perimeter at a low (rooting height) level. our fence charger is frighteningly strong--it kills plants that touch the wires. a little monitoring and shoring where necessary should suffice beyond that.

some storms rolled in and suggested that i needed a break, thanks. i did need a break. kassi and toly like playing in the rain.

kassi turned four years old yesterday. she is such a wonderful princess.

the tomatoes really liked the rain.

the loofah sponge squash have finally started to come to the front. this is where we plan to plant our grapes next year. this is also the spot that broke my tiller.

scrub, scrub, scrub

these are wild black raspberries that we transplanted from the woods. they are so tasty. as you can see the kids already cleaned them out. there aren't many, just enough for a tasty daily treat for the kids--this year.

we had our first salsa from the garden today. i made pico de gallo with tomatillos instead of tomatoes. we picked that black pepper, pulled an onion and chopped some fresh garlic. oh how i missed pico de gallo. tristan did too. he ate the lions share of the small bowl i managed to make. tomatoes are a few weeks away yet. this pico was an excellent substitute until the real thing is available.

milking shanty

this is basically six by six by six cube--with a little roof.

it is made from entirely recycled materials. the local contractors are always giving me stuff. that, plus all the crap i can collect makes for good fodder for building stuff with.

cute family, no?

today i am off to get pallets to build another calf pen. i got the idea from ron. he has built some amazing stuff from pallets. in fact i think one of his topics should be "pallets." if you have never visited his blog i highly recommend it. i found him not too long ago and have had a compelling ride in voyeuristic fun ever since.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

canner test

tabitha canned three full canner loads of chickpeas--54 pints. we buy them in bulk dried. she soaks them over night and pressure cans them the following day--today. they are so yummy. we usually eat them straight from the jar for a week or so--that is several jars. i love to take a jar for lunch--and thats all.

this is a great way to test the proper workings of our pressure canners. they have a serious term of duty ahead and we need them in tip top shape. for those of you who are scared of your pressure canners this is a great way to get over it. the recipe is at the garlic pimpernel

today i built most of a shelter for tabitha to milk under for the coming months. i still need the ridge cap and to set it on posts. the truss structure is self contained so i'll be able to use it as-is for something else once the milk-barn is done. it might keep our wood pile dry this winter or shelter some hogs who knows. the idea is to make it useful for anything that might present it's self. i'll take photos tomorrow.

we ate a wonderful meal from the garden. a vegetable medley if you will. the freshly canned chick peas were the main course--a big hit. beets, carrots, onions, garlic, broccoli and zucchini stir fried with minimum of spices. what a rich wonderful flavor. the season of eating mostly form the garden is at hand--my favorite time of year.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

first harvest of the year

when i say harvest i mean put a substantial amount of food up for winter stores. friday we braided the garlic. we pulled and set it out to dry a few days earlier. here it is hanging in the laundry room.

notice the two pressure canners. they are checked and queued for their term of duty.

i am making a new label "pantry 08". i'm doing this cause we are trying to track exactly what we need to make it through the winter. we'd like to stay away from the grocery store as much as possible--who can afford that place anyway? last year we did pretty good but didn't document anything. we are starting fresh--with a plan.

i didn't get to work on the root cellar this weekend. i was thwarted by a crazy stomach virus. bed ridden for the whole day saturday and still feel like crap today.

we did manage to harvest some swiss chard.

tabitha picked while i washed every single leaf--both sides.

tristan watched and kept pestering me to stop and thumb wrestle for a while. funny boy.

tabitha blanched and packaged the chard in large freezer bags.

can you believe it took about four bushels to make fourteen three p0und bags?

we'll amend the plants with a special brew--compost tea.

our beans are finally starting to climb the arches in earnest.

here is one of our hungarian black peppers.

isn't she beautiful.

look at the size of these broilers.

they are eight weeks and about 9 pounds.

somewhere during this week (not saturday) i hung this feeder and built the catch trough.

i built the trough today. those cows were waisting our pricey square bale hay. between the three of them they eat a bale a day. one dollar per day per cow. yikes.... ok ok boca will be butchered in three months. and we'll have a freezer full of beef. nimue will freshen in a week or so. we are going to try to sell some milk to offset the other two cows.
lets see..
hay 1 dollar per day per cow
grain 1 dollar per day per cow
that is 4 dollars per day total.
can we sell five gallons of milk per week at six dollars per gallon? we sold about six gallons per week when nimue was fresh before. i hope so.

tabitha just brought in three tomatillos. i wonder what i'll do with them?

14 three pound bags of chard
7 braids of garlic

Friday, June 13, 2008

just some photos

i know that i'm not national geographic. these are our flowers in bloom right now.

meet henry and luna

henry has the brown spot on his head. the kids love them. they will be farm dogs and live with the cows and chickens. we hope to sell milk and other excesses. tabitha had trouble with a local pervert and has been traumatized ever since. i hope big scary dogs that are very protective will turn the tide in her sense of security.

boca burgers the non vegetarian kind. i mucked out her pen today.

we have been struggling as what to do with boca. she would make a good mama in a herd but any amount we could sell her for wouldn't cover the cost of naturally farm raised beef. we could raise her up and get her bred back and sell her with calf. that might cover the amount of the beef we could get out of her in a few months. if we raise her to be a mama that would take over a year. we need the meat in our freezer now. so the decision has been made for us.

our tomatoes are really taking off.

these are the omar's lebanese.

here are our cherokee purple.

pumpkins, the eating kind.


swiss chard

long haired boy.

one of eight in the entire state.

want some tea?

the blue twisty is for decoration.

we ate our first summer squash this morning for breakfast. in the next few days we'll become inundated. the next thing should be cucumbers. then comes the holy grail of the garden--tomatoes. aah glorious tomatoes..

ok i'm back now... i drifted off for a minute there.

we ordered two hundred and fifty gallons of propane today. it should be delivered next week. we'd have liked to order another hundred gallons but the price is crazy. we use it only for cooking and the seldom emergency drier run. tabitha has many many loads of laundry and puts all of them on the line. she saves us tons in propane bills. we heat exclusively with wood. so that saves us even more. i don't know how many people are gonna make it this winter. we are so lucky to have our wood stores.

i hope to work on my root cellar this weekend. i have moved most of the rock laid out next to it. it was in the front yard--some of it still is. i bought some cement dye to color the mortar. i plan to keep it deeply hidden--deep mortar joints. there is always some mortar that shows so i hope to color it similar color to the rock. i have a small stomach ache and don't feel up to lifting heavy rock right now.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

dead battery

i saw so many wonderful possible photos this evening. alas the camera battery was dead. the elephant garlic is blooming magically. i have never seen it bloom before. it might be one of my favorite flowers. romneya being my most favorite though. i'd like to try to grow it here someday.

new puppy photos are a must. yes we got new dogs. two great pyranees puppies. Luna and Henry are the latest additions to the pile. their parents are huge easily 120 lbs and skinny. these puppies should grow to great dane size--especially the boy.

they will be livestock and family guardian dogs. the guy said be careful on letting them bond too much with the kids. you'll never be able to get after them again. i said "we don't get after our kids" thinking of spankings which are prevalent in these parts. he said "no, not that. you won't be able to raise your voice to them." hummm, not really a bad thing i guess. i thought to myself.

i hope they get that protective of tabitha too. she would feel much better around here while i'm at work. not that i'm gone very much but i do leave for eight hours at a time two days a week.

photos coming..

Thursday, June 05, 2008

in the bees

bee suits not just a sexy fashion statement.

that lower white box is completely full of honey. i had to add this top box pronto.

in an effort to be lazy we are trying to go foundationless. in a normal apiary wax sheets with comb impressions are put on each frame so the bees can extrude them out in the right place. we had horrible luck keeping the foundation in place. the second time we got into the bees there was huge crumples of foundation and comb haphazardly extruded everywhere. we decided to just put thin strips across the top to get them started. that effort worked marvelously. then we had to add frames in a hurry without any foundation to keep crazy hives from swarming. they built out the comb perfectly and filled it with babies. we started to wonder why should we bother with the wax foundation at all. we don't have any plans on using an centripetal extractor so there is no need for reinforcement wire or anything.
anyway, we are trying a huge experiment. michael bush of bush bees has a huge site dedicated to lazy beekeeping. rather, letting the bees be bees and trusting nature. he has an example of a little triangular addition to the top bar. this allegedly lets the bees know this is where to begin. harvesting this honey could really suck if this experiment goes badly. the risk is huge but the reward might be that we never have to buy foundation again. not that the wax foundation sheets are very expensive but anywhere we can cut costs means more "hookers and gin" for me.

here is another view of the addition "v". i am holding the frame upside down for better shading.

i also purchased a little brad pusher--six bucks. it makes assembeling these frames and new addition triangle. easy.

all of these bees were chasing me down just a few minutes after this shot.

when they have a ton of honey the get really protective. poised on the front porch looking for trouble.

other farm news

our first cow is looking really healthy. she gets a daily dose of kombucha too.

this is rory she is kinda bossy

i, finally after three years, put cabinet fronts on tabitha's cupboards. she loves them. easy to please isn't she?
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