Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Just Enough To Be Dangerous Pt 1

Because once you've taken a 10-week course, had 2 field days (or a field day and a hive removal at one of the instructor's houses), passed a written and a practical test and trolled all the facebook Beekeeping forums that'll have you, you obviously know tons jack shit.

I think at one point my facebook status read something along the lines of 'I hope passing a certification test in beekeeping is more helpful than High School French was in France'. Totes magotes. I know *just* enough to be dangerous.

I was SO EXCITED to get my bees. Finally the day I had been waiting for had arrived! Weeks of anticipation on top of 4 years of wanting to had finally come down to one day in which I would go to work at 6am (where we were down a person) on 2 hours of sleep, dip out at 9:20, get my bees, drive them home, go back to work by 10:30, stay until 5pm, go home, feed childs and manchild and the menagerie, and then! Oh! And then! INSTALL MY BEES.

Oddly enough all of *that* part went off without a hitch. Seriously surprised the shit out of me that it did. I left my bees under (what will be) our back porch so they could stay cool and wait for dusk.

Adorable! This is what 6lbs of bees comes in!
Wait. Hold up.

A few days BEFORE the arrival of my bees, because I've totally reinvented myself this year into a planner/organizer extraordinaire, I actually set up the hives outside where they're going to be. The phone call that day to the Redneck went something along the lines of "...oh. yeah. I set up the hives.......Where did I set them up?......You remember where we talked about them going? Where I showed you?.....Yeah, I didn't put them there." Thankfully he is amazeballs awesome and this is a typical conversation for us.

So I actually had them all set and ready to go for bee arrival day.

If my life were an old book, this plate would read "where we find that the Element, indeed, acts as a farm truck"

SO MUCH HELP hauling heavy-ass cinder blocks and commercial pallets. Sidenote: that was the pallet the cinder blocks for our house foundation got delivered on, so pretty damn sturdy methinks.

Because CUTENESS! And ready for BEES!
There's a lot of equipment involved in setting up your bees. And I'm not even talking frames and supers and whatnot.  Syrup to feed them, syrup to spray them (so they can't fly AND so they're distracted while you're shaking them around in a box they've been cooped up in during transport for 2 days....), protective gear, rubber bands (!), the list goes on and on.....

Checking the equipment.
But I had help.
Bee buddies!
First thing you do is check the queen cage to make sure she's alive and kicking.
The queen in her cage with her attendants
video

Yay for 10 year-old videographers.

Then you get her situated on the frame. She'll stay like this for a few days while she and the other bees chew through the candy plug that's keeping her prisoner. Then she'll get to the business of laying eggs as soon as she can. The hope is that by the time she gets out (3 or so days) the hive has accepted her as their queen and they have drawn enough comb for her to have somewhere to lay said gazillion bajillion eggs. The game here is to boost the population enough that they store a LOT of food for the winter and so that they still have an OK population to start out with next spring.

Queen cage installed onto frame. Note the super professional rubber bands. Next up: install the rest of the bees!

The Acorn's fancy shmancy shot
Needless to say at this point I kinda screwed some shit up that took another day to fix. But that is another story for another blog post.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Spring!

So excited to see spring springing. I was talking to my dad on the phone the other day, and as I was gushing on and on about the first leaves popping out on the apple trees I bought and planted, he responded with a "what did you expect to happen?". So he's not the most outwardly sentimental of folks, but dammit if nature doesn't surprise the shit out of me every year when it does EXACTLY what it's supposed to. I don't feel like I emerge from single digit temps as enthusiastically as my plants do - I seem to have to spend some time licking my wounds and reminding myself that it's a whole 9 or 10 months until I have to go through that again. Our plants, with their lack of dwelling on the past, just burst forth and make the most of the turning tides of weather. Gosh darn it I gotta take a hint.

But I'm trying. I almost finished hemming in our meadow garden this year, although putting in 3 rows is more than enough (so says my back) for now. My trapezoidal gate is awaiting chicken wire and then it's done. The onion starts are ready to go in the ground, and I've got rabbit-poopy hay to go between the rows and mulch/fertilize. My starts up in flats are ready to be joined by more starts of the warm-weather variety. Holy hell it's gonna be a busy growing season!

Handsome dog amongst the flowers
Embarrassed to say I'm not sure what this sweet little white flower is. Damn you eastern flora!!
Three rows. 3!! About 10 more to go...
Not everyone has a trapezoidal garden gate. BOOM. Lucky girl, this one.
Red maple.
Bradford pear.
Vinca.
Daffodils + vinca = Spring!
Onions!!



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

(almost) wordless.

Ume.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Preparing for Bees....

I am so so so very excited to be getting bees this year. And so so so very excited to cross #2 on my list off for the year.

I mentioned that I had like a 1 in 4 chance of getting a cost share - AND I DID!! Whoopee!!! The list of things they give you is long so I won't list it here.... suffice it to say that I really just need protective gear, a smoker, and a bee brush. And so many people have come out of the woodwork to give me old equipment they found or no longer use, or whathaveyou. Which means I have to find a bee brush and some leg bags and possibly an old white shirt.... and then I'm good. Everything else has been supplied through the Farm Bureau's cost share, or friends. AMAZING. Thank you thank you thank you!!

I don't know yet who my mentor will be, but I know a lot of the members that live near me, so very excited. A bunch of really cool people.

OOOH. And one of the women working in the county planning and inspections office put this little map together that shows all the locations of beekeepers in the county with a one mile radius around them, emulating the bees' range. SO COOL. I grew up in a household with maps in the bathroom, and now that I am going to have 2 GINORMOUS bathrooms, I ordered a 38 x 48 copy.

Starting on hive bodies!

Finished hive bodies!

SO. MANY. EYELETS.

25 done. 15 to go....

Couldn't resist getting started on these. Such a yummy yummy smell.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lift off!

We have lift off, folks. I was going to do it last weekend, but the damn snOMG 2105 screwed all that up. And I was freaking out because I didn't want to plant seed trays only to have them reach -3 Fahrenheit in an un-insulated shed, but I didn't want to keep the lights on 24/7 to keep the trays warm enough..... duh. Idiot. We're not living in it yet, but we (more or less) have a HEATED HOUSE. Idiot.

So this weekend.... I planted (what will be) our garden.

I feel so very (overly) organized this year. I used a planner and planned both the back garden with raised beds and the meadow garden with rows. I calculated the numbers of each plant that I want. I tried to put friends with each other and keep plant enemies separated. I incorporated pollinator and pest attracting flowers in the plans. I got soaker hoses for the blueberries (they have been in my car for a week now, and will continue to rattle around in there most likely until our first drought-like conditions, thankyouverymuch). I am prepared. I hope I don't fuck it up.

Planning his own garden. Or world domination. Or just destroying a new notebook we (thought we'd) hid

Supplies!

Almost...

Ta da!!!

Monday, February 09, 2015

Blink and You'll Miss It

...so there went that plan. It really does seem that farmsteading, and life these days in general, is all about taking a giant leap forward, and then getting knocked several steps back. It's frustrating, it's annoying, it's heartbreaking, and the few victories that you have (however brief) are so addicting you go back for more. In this day and age it would be easy enough to hide my head in the sand and not do ANY of this. No garden, no chickens, no rabbits, no house building... just do what 99% of our countrymen and women do - work, pay rent, watch TV, sleep, rinse, wash, repeat....

But I can't. I'd be miserable. I have been miserable without my garden DESPITE my being preoccupied with being pregnant, giving birth, and not sleeping taking care of my baby. I've been miserable not PRODUCING anything here off the property, so I have chickens, a rabbit and will put in the garden this year. All is peachy.

Except this morning, when I went to check on the rabbit and chickens in the pre-dawn gloom... no bunny. Wide gaping hole in the side of the pen, and a few tufts of fur. I'll save you the gory details, but it wasn't our dogs, although it was something comparable in size and potentially smarter. (Sorry guys)

Got back to down where our dogs are, and the wall of skunk smell hit me. Looks like Luke got skunked, although it's still fresh enough it could be either of them - you can't tell. And then I saw a small body in the driveway behind my car. Obviously my first thought was that it was the bunny and something and dragged her 1000ft down the driveway and left her behind my car. Upon closer inspection, it was a possum. I sat and tried to tell in the light of the flashlight on my iPhone whether it was dead or just playing dead.... it was dead. No idea by what. Dogs won't go near it, but Zora is walking very stiffly this morning which usually means she ran hard the previous day. her poor old arthritic bones can only take so much....

We will rebuild and try again. I feel terrible about the rabbit. It is so easy to get lulled into a false sense of safety... we've been so lucky so far. The only animal massacre we've had was in broad daylight when a fox (we think) got several of our chickens and our poor dogs were tied up and couldn't get to them... and our chickens have always been secure in their coop. But just because they have been safe doesn't mean they ARE safe. We will persevere. Lesson learned.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Thank you for indulging me last time. I really did rant, but I really did need to. Sometimes if I don't let it get to a boiling point, I don't do it. I know. But I learned to procrastinate at one of the BEST schools ever.

See?

But I'm excited. Progress is being made. I can cross #3 OFF my 2015 to do list!
 And it's only February! FUCK YEAH!!

A THIRD kind of animal has taken up residence here at Stoneyhaw - The Rabbit. She is a (just shy of a) year-old French/German Angora Rabbit. However, I noticed today in the daylight that her ear has a breeder's tattoo, so I might see if I can find out any further background info on her. She's a very warm light brown, with grey guard hair. She looks like she needs to be groomed soon...

The meat/fiber production adventure has begun.

We still owe her a box/shelf/shelter, but the tote will have to suffice for today. I wish we had something more substantial than chicken wire for the 'walls', but feeling good about the hardware cloth underneath the bunny butt, so that's a start.

And she needs a proper name...

Bunny feet!

"You assholes better finish my palace soon..."

THIS was NOT the agreement

Inspected by the Chicken Mafia. Bunny doesn't even flinch.

Tub is temporary. Bunny is pissed...

She found a way, despite inadequate 'shelter'