Saturday, November 5, 2016

Adventures in Milking

I don't have goats, but in an effort to learn whether or not I would like them, I've volunteered to take care of a neighbor's when he travels.  This means milking them.  Last month, I milked them for a week for him, twice daily with the electric milking machine.  It's way cool and doesn't take long - about 10 minutes per goat.

Today, however, things did not go quite as planned... I went to milk the goats with the electric milker, but it wouldn't start. So I thought I'd just hand milk them.  Goat #1 wanted nothing to do with my plan; she put her foot in the bucket and eventually kicked it over and began the "You can't milk me!" dance, (so I put her away and went on to #2). When I finished #2-4 (all far more cooperative, even though it took me an hour, being an utter noob at this), I finally had the brilliant idea to follow the extension cords through the barn to see if a line got chewed or something... only to discover at the end of the lines that one of the dry does or dueling had UNPLUGGED the milker. So #1 got milked the way she likes it. The chickens got the milk (we're not drinking it after the goat put her foot in it), and I had to laugh at myself all the way home. Always blame the goats first!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Honey and the Hoop House

I got the last of the honey off the hives (now I just have to find time to extract it).  However, some time later yesterday afternoon, the wind tore a 20 foot long tear in the plastic cover on the hoop house, too high for us to tape.  We got 5 years out of the cover, though, and it was rated for 4 (yes, it has lots of tape on it), so I shouldn't complain too much, except that I now have to find time and a non-windy day to replace the cover (we have a spare, thank goodness).

We lost a chick to a hawk (from the second to last hatching) and now the last hatching chicks are wandering around outside... I hope the hawk doesn't come back.

I went bow hunting last weekend, from the tree sling, and saw 2 does and 2 fawns, but nothing with a clear firing line to shoot.

Harvested a handful of purple beans (they turn green when you cook them), more zukes, and a bag of green maters to make piccalilli from the hoop house after I noticed the tear (figure it'll be too cold for everything inside soon, due to the tear).

I have a last batch of applesauce to can, maybe today if I'm lucky.

I should post more, but I'm too busy.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Bee update

Stupidly didn't get supers on beehives 2 weeks ago - when I checked yesterday the super on the old hive was full, and the deeps on two of the four other hives were also full, and the third had only one empty frame.  The fourth hive is the nasty one that only had one deep because they spend so much energy stinging things they are slow to bring in honey (that's my theory anyway).  But they had finally filled their one deep.  Sooooooo they got a second deep that I hope they will fill in the next 4-6 weeks, before everything stops blooming.  I do NOT want to have to feed those little jerks.  The other  hives all got new supers (and three of those were brand spanking new woodwork with brand spanking new frames not filled out, bummer).  Well, I'll get at least one full super of honey to add to the super full I've got in the cooler in the house.  If nothing else I'll hope the other frames get filled out to save time next year.  I am somewhat aggravated that I'm going to have to treat the old hive for varroa, since I saw three bees with mites in the beard at their entrance yesterday.  This confirms what MSU entomology has been saying - treat your hives or they will die off their second winter.  I'm not going to treat the new ones - they were all swarms, so they should have a reasonably low mite load.  But the two year old hives are getting treated with something the first week of Sept.  I haven't decided what to use yet.  I talked to a commercial beekeeper yesterday and he has gone to oxalic acid.  Have to check on availability and price (the local bee store doesn't have it in stock) online.  Something else to do this upcoming week...

Monday, July 25, 2016

Chickens in the heat

Egg production here is WAAAAY down due to the setting hens and the heat.  I have one hen that is being followed around by 8 little chicks that hatched 5 days ago, including the one whose scalp I had to superglue back on after it got pecked by another setting hen.  I sprayed it with veterycin and superglued it and let it rest for the day in my room (that was the day of thunderstorms).  Then I put it back under its mother.  It is moving and eating and drinking just fine, but I'm not sure it actually has any eyesight on one side... that side is still rather swollen, though it did seem less this morning than yesterday.  Anyway, if it survives this, we are still going to eat it in three months.  No more keeping the injured as pets (do you hear me, children?).

Other than that, the outdoor garden has gotten away from me again.  Going on vacation always lets the weeds take over.  Next year, I'm not going on vacation.  I have harvested a bunch of garlic and kale and cabbage, and have lots more of all three.  Also, I started broccoli for a fall harvest (I'm hoping it does better than the spring starts, which were mostly eaten by the groundhogs.  The Matt's Wild Cherry Tomatoes are ripening (I keep sneaking them off the vine), but the Hillbillies are still green.  I'll replant the beans this week(now that we are down one groundhog) and see if I can still get a harvest in the time left - maybe in the hoop house if nowhere else).  Gotta do something with the basil, too, before it all goes to seed.

It's a banner year for blackberries - I have 18 jars of jam done, and 5 more bags (enough for another 9  jars if I'm so inclined, which I am not) in the fridge.  I think I'll try some other recipe(s) with those.  Did a batch (8 jars) of black raspeberries yesterday.  There are a lot of berries but they are tiny this year, I'm assuming from the lack of rain... at least until this week.  I still have a tray of strawberries in the freezer to can into jam.  And I'm going to pick up 10# blueberries from the u-pick farm later this week (I'm not picking them this time, since the price difference is only $4).

My other MUST DO job this week is getting the last of the bee boxes assembled, painted, and on the hives.  And slapping a few more supers on top so I might actually get a reasonable amount of honey this year.

The fun never stops.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Bees and such

I worked 5 of the 6 hives yesterday - one of the old ones got honey super, one of the new ones in a deep got more frames (fixing an oops on my part), one new one  got its second deep, and one of the new ones in a nuc got moved into a deep (doubling its space).  Then there was the last one in a nuc.  You know you are in trouble when 5 seconds after you open the cover, you smell bananas.  Wow, those bees were mad.  They had drawn wavy comb, not straight.  They had capped brood, but they hadn't bothered to draw out the last two frames at all.  And they stung my suit and gloves a lot.  I very quickly shut them back up and wandered off to do something else.  I'll take care of them later today, but I can't say I like them much.  If they don't calm down, they might just get their queen's head popped off and replaced with a new, calmer mommy.

Ha. I'm not new, but I'm slightly calmer now than I was at 5AM this morning when I was hearing bad noises from the chicken coop.  I grabbed the shotgun and investigated.  Discovered what better be the last egg sucking raccoon in the coop.  He is no more, but he destroyed all the eggs my setters were on before I could get into a position where I could kill him without potentially killing any chickens.  In the process I realized I might just have to attach my ear protection to that shotgun, because I didn't have it on this morning, and I couldn't leave the coop after I got there to go get them, because the coon would have escaped.  So my head is ringing.

Today I'm going to fix all the automatic crap (doors, waterer) down at the coops, in the hopes that there will be no coons or possums to trash them (just in case I actually get to go on vacation).  I've been trying to get this down for weeks now, but something part is always missing, or some other emergency comes up that must be solved sooner.  My only emergency for today better just be catching the duck and getting more antibiotics into her eye.  Because I'm about out of energy and it's only 6:15AM...

Friday, May 27, 2016

Gardening Record and demise of coon #1

The regular (orange) sweet potatoes are in the outdoor straw bales now.  The Kentucky Wonder green pole beans are in the dirt outdoors (breaking my June 1 rule, but I think it'll be okay, since it's 87 degrees) where the taters were last year (hence the few taters I missed digging are coming up there now too).  I ordered some of the stuff I'll need for irrigation while I'm on vacation next month.  I still have to find a place to kennel the dog, though.  The cukes were sown in the hoop house a couple days ago (not up yet).  And I managed to shoot one of the two stupid raccoons in the tree above the chicken coop.  The other was not at an angle/height I could get to, so he'll live a little longer (on my duck eggs, the jerk). I did this with the Mossberg 590, which I hadn't shot before.  I must say for a 12 gauge, it has no kick.  And the ghost ring sight is sweet.  I still have to get the last of the Adirondack Blues planted in the tires, and the runner beans and bush beans, and the beets, parsnips, gourds, (those are all soaking tonight) zukes, watermelon, pumpkin, and I'm sure there is stuff I'm forgetting. All this while trying to keep the house from falling in, and convincing Younger Daughter to DO HER JOB and weed whack the yard and garden area.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Well, that was fun! Swarm #4!

In another disrupted plan to get the taters planted, I caught a fourth swarm and spent the remainder of my afternoon dealing with that.  We were pulling into the library parking lot when I drove through a cloud of bees.  That says SWARM! to me, so I went into the library, picked out my books, put them in the truck, and then wandered around to see if the bees had landed.  Yes they had - in a pine tree at the apt complex next to he library.  I went to the apt office and politely informed the property manager that she had a swarm of honey bees on one of her trees, and could I pretty please take it home?  She was quite happy for me to do so, so I went home, grabbed my bee suit (which I didn't need, but makes people feel better) and a  kitty litter box (because my nukes are already full), and then drove back to pick up the bees.  Fifteen minutes later I had the bees in the box, my suit off, and I was driving to ICA to pick up the Pirate.  Another easy capture, standing on the ground instead of climbing a ladder or a tree!  When we got home, I dropped off the Pirate, and the bees, and drove to Dadant's in Albion to get more deeps (I only had  enough for the 4 swarms to have one apiece instead of the two they need) and more frames (I admit I got the pre-assembled ones because I just don't see myself having time to put together 50 frames before the Poland trip).  Now all I need to do is assemble the deeps, covers, and bottom boards.  And paint them.  But I WILL plant those stupid taters FIRST.  REALLY.

I am quite glad about the bees, in any case.  I am back up to 6 hives, and it didn't cost me the $100 per pkg that I would have had to pay had I ordered them instead of catching them.  Yea!  If I could get up to 10, then I would stop.

Not really, it's an addiction you know.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


It snowed on Sunday morning.  WTH Michigan?  It's a week past my last frost date!  The maters and basil seem to have survived (both those in the hoop house and those in the bales outside), so I'm not going to complain much.  Also, the day before that,  I captured three swarms from the feral hive in my old barn.  This was not what I was planning to do with my afternoon (that was planting taters), but when you walk by a tree with big blobs of bees just hanging from it at a height you can reach FROM THE GROUND (!?) well, I'll take them and be glad, especially since I was down to two hives.  There was one huge swarm that I put in a full deep, and two smaller swarms that went into nuts.  There was a fourth little bitty (softball size) clump, but they were gone by the time I finished the other three, and I expect they actually belonged with the bunch they were hanging closest to.  I left that nuc open until evening to catch the stragglers and then carried them all up the hill to the apiary.  I used ratchet straps to hold everything together, which turned out to be a good thing when I fell down on top of the deep. Since I stumble in that stupid hole on a regular basis, I think I'll try to fill it this week before I really hurt myself...

Friday, April 29, 2016

Lilacs are blooming!

The sand cherries are done, but the pear trees are at the height of bloom.  The apples are about to start, and the lilacs opened this morning, which made everything smell wonderful - I had to walk all around sniffing things until I figured out that's what it was.  We've eaten a handful of asparagus and a dish of rhubarb cobbler, with much more to come.  Almost finished off the red radishes, but several rows of white icicle await.  The maters on the outdoor straw bales appear to have survived the little cold snap and rain this week.  And I chainsawed a respectable amount of black walnut left by the loggers and most of that stacked behind the house.  Also chainsawed half of the rails making up the old paddock - I still need to remove those and figure out what to do with the wire preventing me from taking down the rest of the rails.  I am feeling I managed to accomplish a reasonable amount of work outdoors before the rain showed up.  While it rained, I sewed - working on some quilty UFOs that have been hanging about for far too long.  I have 8 tops that need to go to the long-armer, and 8 more that are small enough for me to quilt on my own sewing machine.  Then I have about a dozen more UFOs to finish (yes, that's terrible).  After that, I'll start sewing for an Etsy shop to make a little cash. That is the plan, anyway.  If the weather and life cooperate.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Went for a walk down to the river to clear my head and spooked 5 turkey and 6+ rabbits.  Also some cranes.  The frogs were VERY LOUD.  The spring beauty is blooming, along with the bloodroot, dandelions, dead nettle, one small clump of swamp buttercup, and some little purple flower whose name I don't know which the honeybees were ALL OVER.  It was the most relaxing, pleasant half hour I've had in awhile.  Probably because I was ALONE, except for all the blooming plants and wildlife.  Just me on a boulder, observing the world and trying not to think.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Last blast of winter?

I sure hope so.  We got 3-4 inches of snow last night. which made driving home from church real interesting.  I got home late and went down to the coop to put the ducks in and discovered the raccoon that escaped me on Thursday night had apparently come back and taken one of the ducks.  So now I have one lonely duck left.  In the future, we will only raise ducks for meat, no matter how much the kids beg to keep some for eggs (which really means pets, because they don't even like duck eggs).  Too many varmints around here for ducks when we don't have a pond they can use to escape.

In garden news, I moved a bunch of volunteer dill in the hoop house and weeded half of one side, in a t-shirt.  Then I went outside to discover the beginning of the snow.  The bales outdoors are much slower to condition than the ones in the hoop house due to the cold.  I've added a few days to the planting schedule to account for this.  I hope it isn't overly optimistic to hope I can get them all planted by next weekend.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

So much for Spring

Yes, there is now an inch of snow on the ground.  I stayed inside and cleaned house instead of doing the gardening work I had planned.  And to cheer everyone up, I made crab salad for supper.  I had to brave the wind to go out to the garden and knock the snow off the chives, because the recipe called for scallions but I was out of them.  The chives worked just fine.  And it amused me to be harvesting in the snow.  To cheer myself up after that, I made cookies.  And fed the fire to keep us warm.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Little bit of gardening done today. Very little.

Black carrots (east end) and Osmin basil (west end) went in bale 4 (direct seeded) in the hoop house today.  Tomatoes (18 Matt's Wild Cherry/18 Hillbilly) and orange peppers (16) started indoors.  Mtn mint and Roman chamomile are up (indoors).  Supposed to snow tomorrow and Sunday, because this is Michigan in April.  Will wait to feed the bees till later in the week when it warms up again.  I think I can still check the deaders that were being robbed to see if they are  empty yet.  Sigh.  I so wanted to get outdoor garden chores done tomorrow.  I guess I'll just clean house.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Garden Records March 2016

Warmest March ever.  Loving this.  In the hoop house, the radishes (Shogoin, white icicle, cherry belle) are up, along with the spinach (experimental and bloomsdale) and arugula.  The kale, broccoli, and cabbage transplants are in the ground and doing mostly okay, since I put down row covers to keep them from being eaten (chickens? voles? mice?).  These are experiments comparing seeds of two different suppliers, because I'm just curious if there is any difference.  Obviously there is, since the plants look NOTHING alike - color and leaf shape are radically different.  More on that later.  I need more row covers.  Tomorrow after kettlebell class, I will stop at the Hobbit Hole and see if they have row covers and the larger peat disks for my starting trays.  Then I must make room on the indoor greenhouse racks for another two trays of starts, and set up my last light fixture and mail back the one that does not work.  That'll be enough to do, I think, in between doing homeschool with homeschool kid and picking up charter school kid at ICA.

Straw Bale Spring

This has been the warmest March I can remember.  And so I've used the weather to advantage... I bought 26 bales of wheat straw from a local farmer (it was Round-up Ready Wheat; I will look for organic this fall).  I set up bales in the hoop house for straw bale gardening.  That means a layer of weed barrier, a layer of hardware cloth, and then aligning the bales cut side up, with T-posts (I screwed up and bought  5 U-posts, but I'll be using T-posts ransacked from the old garden fencing for everywhere else) every 2-3 bales.  It's 2-3 bales because 2 bales are 6' long and 3 are 9' and that means either cutting down an 8' 2"x4" or finding a 10' and cutting it down.  I have found 5 that are 8' long, and 1 4"x4" that is 10' and 1 1"x6" because what the hell, I might as well use it, too.

ANYWAY, there are 6 bales set up in the hoop house in the process of conditioning (apply fertilizer at specific intervals and wet down the bales daily).  This weekend we (mostly me) got 14 more bales set up in two rows in the outdoor garden.  I will put 3 more bales in the hoop house when I have time to level the ground where El Jefe removed my remaining fig monstrosities.  And the last three will go... somewhere.  Outside for sure, since there won't be anymore room in the hoop house.

I am all excited about experimenting with the straw bale gardening, primarily because if production is the same, and weeding is reduced, my life will be SO MUCH MORE PLEASANT.  Not that I dislike weeding.  I actually enjoy it.  There is just too much garden for me to keep up with it in the time I have available.  And that is true of so much of life...