Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Update Coming, I Promise!

Life has been crazier than ever, but I promise to update tomorrow, after I bake Taylor's birthday cake while he's at his Hunters Safety Course.

Monday, October 10, 2011

New Kids On The Block

We decided that we wanted to add a few chickens to our flock.  We have been very happy with our 7 laying girls, but we built the coop and run to hold the legal limit, which is 12 chickens.  We found a local farm, Just Struttin' Farms, and went over to check out what she was selling.  I was totally overwhelmed by the sheer variety of the birds.  I happy to see such clean and well-maintained conditions, and I knew that we were going to get healthy birds.  We chose a Leghorn, because we wanted to add a large white egg to the clutch.  She looks exactly like our Leghorn/Delaware mix, except Big Spoon, the o.g. of our flock, has one black feather in her mix and she lays a cream colored egg.  Next we picked up the most beautiful Golden Laced Wyanodette.  Her coloring is absolutely gorgeous as she looks like she has black feathers with brown tips.   And the third girl we picked up is a Silver Laced Pencil Rock, and she has the most amazing black and white geometric markings.  (Pictures coming soon.)

The Tomatoes Just Keep On Coming

We  have done two major harvests off the tomato plants, and the fertile plants just keep going and producing fruit.  We have made and canned two batches of tomato sauce, each batch yielding around 10-12 pints.  We made and canned some green tomato pickles, yielding around 8 half pints.  We are now facing a fourth harvest of both ripe tomatoes and another batch of greenies.  We have saved the seeds off of the most impressive tomatoes so we can revisit this sweetness next summer.  All in all, our tomatoes, which were planted straight into 100% homemade compost, have surpassed my expectations both on quantity level and sheer life span.  As our nights are getting cooler and our days are growing shorter, I can see their lives coming to end soon, but for now, I will continue to bask in the delicious glory of our tomato plants.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Our Bee Situation

So about a month ago Taylor mentioned to me that he noticed a large cluster of bees massed around the bottom of one of our bee hives.  I went and checked it out and indeed there were about 2,000 bees huddled in a small cluster on the bottom of the wiring of one of the hives.  At first we thought that they were going to swarm, but as the weeks passed, they didn't.  After troubleshooting on our own and talking to a beekeeper, we decided that we needed to add another super.  The conclusion we came up with is this:  the first two supers were designated for the queen to lay her brood and for the workers to make honey.  We placed a queen excluder over the top of the second bee super so the third super would be strictly for honey.  What seems to have happened is the queen ran out of space to lay her eggs, so she has been hanging out on the bottom of the hive, and hundreds of her workers have been surrounding her for protection.  That is our best educated guess.  So, Taylor and I trekked up to BeeKind and bought two more supers to add to the bee hives.  In order to add the super which was going to serve as another place for the queen to lay her brood, I had to go in to the hive boxes, remove the top box which was designated for honey, add the empty 'brood' box, place the queen exluder over that, and top it off with the 'honey' box.  The first replacement took place seamlessly, no problems.  I was suited up, confident, and timely.  When I went into the second hive, I wanted to see an example of the honey they had been making.  I smoked the little ladies and pulled out one of the frames.  What I saw was a dark, concentrated honey.  It weighed about 5-7 pounds.  I put the frame back into the box with as much delicacy as possible.  I noticed a few bees on my arm and instinctively brushed them off.  That was my BIGGEST mistake.  The brushed off bees released their alarm pheromone and much, much more started to swarm me.  I was fine as I was wearing my bee suit that covered my upper body, but my jeans offered no protection against the angry stingers of the guard bees.  I ended up getting stung four times around my upper thighs, front and back.  I had to place the upper hive box on with much haste, not being able to spare the bees that probably got squished on impact.  All in all, huge learning experience to not brush away bees that are not hurting me.  So far as I can tell, there are only about 300-500 bees still outside the hive, but I am hoping the rest of them will migrate into the bee supers.  For now, it's all about neosporin on my little stung areas.  Nothing like the life of a homesteader.

Picture to Come