Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Cinco de mayo, the year of Corona...

Well, it's day 40 something of quarantine, I think... I've lost count... it doesn't matter... because my life has hardly changed.

Here is how it HAS changed... no going to church, no going to the gym, masks required in stores by the dictatorial governess, Dan is taking a pay cut.  That's it.

Certain people are upset by this.  Well, I'd be more sympathetic to them if I hadn't spent the last 25 years of my life prepping for this, because it looked inevitable to me in one form or another (not necessarily a pandemic, but that was certainly near the top of my list).  This is actually quite a bit LESS serious than what I thought would happen.  That's a good thing, because it is now blatantly obvious where we have flaws in our planning and preps for unusual situations...

Starting with simple preps - we were set for most foods, except milk (which of course got rationed, so I had to make MORE trips to the grocery store than I would have otherwise) and unbleached whole wheat flour for bread, and yeast.  Well, sourdough takes care of the lack of yeast (good thing everyone likes it), but I'm laying in a better supply of the flour we use for making bread (which only half the family can eat anyway, so it's not on my list of absolutely mandatory items for TEOTWAKI).  Anyway, we have two freezers full of meat and more living in the coops, cages, and swamp down near the river.  And a reasonable amount of canned goods, although some items were running low because last year was a terrible year for cukes and maters (looking at you, salsa and relish and chutney!).  This year,  I will can three years worth of everything, and continue do that on a schedule that means we are never below one year's worth in storage.

The second major flaw was the seed issue - I saved some seeds last year, but due to the lack of cuke and mater harvest, I didn't save anywhere near everything we would normally eat.  I had ordered my seeds in December, as usual, and received most of them by February, so this was not a major problem, except for potatoes, which ordinarily arrive at the beginning of April...  I only got an email from the company yesterday, informing me they were not coming.  I had gotten impatient with their lack of communication a week earlier and ordered some from another company, but they haven't arrived yet, either, although their website did say the 40# bag I ordered was in stock.  In a moment of paranoia back in February, I had bought a small bag of organic potatoes on sale at the grocery store because they had started to sprout (At less than half price!  Silly people!).  Ultimately, I planted most of them, along with part of another bag.  It is nowhere near enough to feed us for the year, much less have any seed potatoes for the following year (usually, we have some taters left, and some sweet potatoes, to plant the following year, but we never have enough for a large enough crop to do more than just feed us, meaning by year three,  I have to order seed potatoes again,  and sweet potato starts.  Obviously, this means I need to plant more, but for that I need more space to plant taters and sweet potatoes.  I waited too long to order sweet potato starts, so I will only be planting the ones I started myself from the remaining sweet potatoes from last year.

Anyway, I realize I need to save enough seed for TWO plantings (at least) of most veggies, in case the first one fails for some reason (like oh, this week the temps are going down to 20F at night which is going to play havoc with any newly germinated seeds not covered, and even some things that ARE covered.  While we are not past our usual last frost date, the 20F temps predicted are not typical.  Some things it's worth taking a chance to get an early start and harvest, but not when you cannot acquire more seeds if that planting fails...

Flaw #3 related directly to the impact this pandemic is having on our supply chains worldwide, and on the economy going forward.  I believe the price of clothing will increase by fall, so I had the kids go through their clothing and tell me what they needed immediately, and what they would need by fall... so underwear, socks, pants, t-shirts, long sleeve shirts, etc... all ordered and received as of today.  I need one more pair of pants (thank you, Duluth, for fitting right out of the bag).  Then no one  should need any clothes til next year... which is good, since pay cut means budget cut.

Minor issues included acquiring more canning jars, because I've given away so many half-pints.   I realized I had hardy any left when I went to can some jam from the berries in the freezer we picked last year that I never got around to "jamming."  I now have enough for this year, but not for three years worth.  I don't expect to be seeing those at garage sales this summer, so I will pick up another dozen whenever I run into them while shopping.  I have enough pints and quarts, thanks to my fabulous former neighbor who gave hers to me before she moved away :(  I am missing her already and she has only been gone a week.

More minor issues... needed more cans/tanks to store rec gas for the equipment that takes it, also diesel, kerosene, and regular gas.  Some of that has been taken care of, but not all.

I want to sell all the motorcycles, because they cost us $750 a year in insurance and no one rides the darn things because there are too many idiots texting while driving today.  Youngest daughter needs to be motivated to fix the fuel system on mine before sale... hubby told her she could have the money if she did that and it sold.  Well, I would have given her HALF the money, but that's just me, 'cause it's my bike.  If she doesn't get it done by August, I'll just do it myself, and then I'll get ALL the money...

Anyway, we are doing fine here in the farmette, except that the daughters are going a bit stir crazy and are highly negative about all things related to the state government... but Whitless is a whole 'nother post for a day when I want my blood pressure to go up...

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

New Deep on the New Hive

I slapped a second deep on the hive of the swarm I caught last month.  Apparently, they've been building comb like crazy because it was ENTIRELY full.  I guess they've had nothing better to do since the rain has kept them in so many days.  I should have checked it two weeks ago.  Anyway, I'll check this again in two weeks to see if I can get a super on it.  It would be nice to get some honey off a new hive.  I don't always... some years it is all they can do to fill two deeps before winter.

On the old hive, I was going to pull the super today, but didn't get to it.  I'll do it tomorrow after I get back from hauling the youngest daughter to town for a doctor appt.  It isn't supposed to rain til Friday, so that should work.  I also have to figure out where my hive tool has gone... couldn't find it yesterday, and ended up using my pocket knife, which is somewhat less efficient...

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Ridiculous rain and overwhelming lettuce

I have four tires of lettuce, four different kinds.  They have all absolutely adored this cold and rainy non-summer we have had up to now.  I have been harvesting it by the cut-and-come-again method (meaning the outer leaves only so it keeps making more).  I have never had lettuce that is three feet tall before.  It has always bolted or simply melted from the heat before this.  I have so much I've been giving it away and feeding it to the rabbits as treats... and the kids got sick of salads for a bit so I had to take a week off that.  It's too bad there is no good way I know of to preserve this bounty.  I also have a stunning amount of cilantro and dill.  And the carrots are awesome.  This is the first year I have EVER gotten carrots, and this year they did fabulous both in the hoop house and in the tire.  I wish I had planted more.  I would have canned a bunch for soups in the winter.  Heck, I might plant another tire as soon as I have an empty one just in case the luck continues.  The potato plants in the straw bales outside are trying to take over the world.  The ones in the hoop house not so much. Only three grew there, so I planted more, but I don't know if it will be too hot there for them or not.  I'm  worrying about it since the ones outside have grown so wildly.  The sweet potatoes are slowly getting planted in the straw bales as the slips in the house get long enough and have roots.  I have one to plant today, and 6-8 more that are very long but have no roots yet, so won't go in for a few more days.  I don't think the outdoor ones will have a long enough season to produce much, if anything.  I hope the ones in the hoop house bales produce, at least.

However, the cold has really slowed the cukes.  Even the longest cuke vine is only a foot long, and there is no sign of flowers.  The tomato plants are smaller than normal, too, for the end of June.  Some of them have flowers and a few small green maters.  The pepper plants are also stunted by the cold, although the ones in the bales inside the hoop house have done slightly better than the ones in the ground.  It may not be a fair comparison, since those were planted before all the others.  I will harvest the last of the beets today.  The turnips are done/harvested until the late planting.  In the future I will plant more beets in the spring.  The greens are decent in salad when they are young and tender, but I need some baby beets for the tater/beet/horseradish salad that we all liked, and some larger beets for the pesto recipe.

It's just the beginning of summer and I am already making plans for next year's garden.  I am nuts.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Missed a swarm catch, but got a lot of broccoli

The old hive threw another swarm on Tuesday.  They were wrapped around a tree trunk, with branches intervening, so there was no easy way for me to get to them.  I set up a nuke with lure in it at the base of the tree, but no joy.  They were all gone the next day.

This was made up for by a beef stir fry full of broccoli and asparagus from the garden last night.  There is a bit more asparagus to harvest, and a bit more rhubarb, today.  And a lot more broccoli.  This is Sessantina Grossa Broccoli, which is actually a raab type. The heads are small - 1-2 inches - loose, and the reason I'm getting so much is that they are doing their best to flower since the weather heated up this past weekend.  The entire plant is edible - heads, leaves, stems - the directions say to harvest before they bloom, but I've eaten both closed heads and blooming heads, and they taste the same... broccoli with a hint of mustard (sensible since they are in the mustard family).  Of course, if I wanted a mustard with a hint of broccoli taste, I would just eat the "heads" of the brown mustard plants growing adjacent... it's a bit strong for me, though.  I have NEVER had any luck with broccoli in my garden - something else has always eaten it before there was any head to speak of.  I may try some other raabs next year, just to see how much difference there is between them.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Hens to the processor

Due to the number of half grown chicks we need space for, and the number of setting hens, I took 9 older layers to the processor today (this was the appt I made when I thought I would be taking the 3 roosters, too - because I don't really want to drive all the way out there for fewer than a dozen - I'd rather just process them myself and save the gas and money).  This will seriously reduce the number of eggs we are getting per day to something more reasonable for us to eat or pickle.  I took the ones with single combs, since they are far more likely to get frostbitten in winter than the breeds with rose combs.  I did make exceptions for Chiquita (our only remaining hen from the original batch 6 years ago) and Speckles (because she is the friendliest and everyones' favorite).  Now I just have to start training the half-grown chicks to use the larger coop, instead of the small on (which I need empty for the next batch).  I need to remember to set up an appt for the beginning of October for all the extra roosters from the two batches of incubator chicks, and any that the hens hatch and raise themselves.  That's a month longer than necessary for the first batch, but it will be the right amount of time for the second batch, and I only want to make one more trip this year.

Monday, May 27, 2019


I was watering veggies in the hoop house when I noticed an increase in pitch and volume of the buzz from the hive next to the hoop house.  I don't know whether I am annoyed that on a day when I already had 100'+ of fencing to put up, and nine million other things to do, that the hive decided to throw a monster swarm.  Or maybe I'm grateful I was right there when it happened, so I could follow them to the tree they decided to hang out in, or more accurately, the tree they moved to, after the first tree proved unsuitable for whatever reason.  Anyway, they started 30' up a cherry tree, where there was no way I could reach them, but then they moved to 4' off the ground in one of the pear trees I planted a couple years ago.  It was the biggest swarm I've seen - I decided to put them into a deep instead of a nuke, just because it was such a large swarm... think 2+ footballs worth... or a ridiculous 5# worth of bees.  I had to cut the branch off the pear tree, but it needed to be pruned anyway because of the downward curve it was growing in.  It wasn't the smoothest transfer I've ever made because I had to cut with my right hand, and hold the small end of the branch with my left - the branch was too thick to cut further back so I could hold it between the tree and the bees.  But the ones that fell outside the box all headed inside afterward, so apparently the queen was inside.  I hope they stay there.  I'll move them to the other side of the hoop house tonight... when my bee suit is dried out from all the sweating I did in it while doing this.

In case any beekeepers are wondering, the deep has five frames with partially built comb in it, and I will add the other five when I take the branch out tonight, since by then the bees will have crawled off that in favor of the comb.  I like this trick for hiving packages without shaking them, too - just stick them in a hive with some built out frames and they leave the box on their own.  Then take away the empty box on top that makes room for the branch/box they were on/in, and everyone is happy.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

First Setting Hen for 2019

She has hatched six little chicks, of the nine eggs she was setting on.  I released her from the dog crate so I could put the second hen that was trying to set into it (because the other chickens kept chasing her off her nest on the floor of the coop, and messing it up, and laying more eggs in it, and basically making the whole exercise pointless for her.  If it stops raining, I'll go outside this afternoon and get some pics...