Friday, October 29, 2010
The cows had seen me and were jogging toward me to be fed. I ran to get them some hay to keep them occupied so they wouldn't step on any other chicks. Then I scooped up an armful of chicks, raced to the coop and dropped them inside, ran back and nabbed Lacey and the rest of the chicks.
It was very cold last night, too cold even inside the coop for these tiny chicks, so I put them in a cardboard box inside a large dog crate and let them stay in my office overnight. Lacey seemed to like this royal treatment and has been purring over her eleven chicks all day. She has never seemed like the most clever of chickens, but she does seem to be an attentive mother.
This weekend is supposed to be a bit warmer, so I will move them all to the coop if I can devise a way to keep them cozy and safe. With days so short now they won't have as much feeding time and with temps so cold they will use up most of their energy keeping warm and may not thrive. I will have to provide heat and light.
I don't know whether to be annoyed or charmed by Lacey, this hen who was so determined to raise a family. She tried to hatch several clutches of eggs unsuccessfully last summer. A month ago I took away her nest of eggs because we didn't want any more chicks, especially with fall coming. She seemed to adjust, then disappeared. I was sad, resigned to the fact that the owl must have gotten her. But no! She was hiding her nest--it was so well hidden I still don't have a clue where it was.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
We have enjoyed a long, sweet autumn. So sweet, we have been lulled into a false sense of there being plenty of time to prepare. It is hard to conceive that winter is imminent. But today, a fierce wind blasted in. Temperatures dropped. Tonight the wind is still roaring outside. It feels like the beginning of winter. I can't help but feel a bit wistful.
I truly love winter, once it actually gets here. But between fall and winter there is a season of impending that feels unsettled and a bit melancholy.
I guess it is a sense of loss---loss of the chorus of summer birds and insects, loss of vivid colors - especially my favorite vibrant green. Loss of ease. No more lying on the hammock on a warm summer night watching the meteor showers with your sweetie, or running out to the garden to harvest a salad for supper or a handful of flowers for the table, or drinking morning coffee outside on the patio.
At least not for about the next 6 months.
Monday, October 25, 2010
The plant in the foreground is a banana tree. (It was only $2!)
Now I am picturing taking a luxurious bath in the bathroom conservatory full of exotic tropical plants...this could work!
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Good Food Store Co-op. I love this photo taken at the end of the class because it looks like everyone had fun!
first cheese we ever made using Barbara Kingsolver's instructions in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
first cheese we ever made using Barbara Kingsolver's instructions in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
Rog built three wonderful new compost bins outside of the loafing shed. Last year, we realized that siting the compost bins a shovel's throw away from the source would be much more convenient and better for the back than hauling wet animal bedding across the farm! (unless, perhaps you have a front end loader.) Plus, I plan to move the cow feeding station to the spot where the compost bins are currently so I won't have to haul hay so far through the snow this winter.
Later, when we let the cows back into this yard when we were done, they were absolutely goofy--very curious about the new compost bins, rubbing on them, climbing inside, racing in circles around the yard. I think it met with their approval.
(My normal a camera lens is broken; I need a wider angle lens to capture the entire inside of the coop, but with the telephoto lens I could get the coop windows, propped opened to let the breeze dry everything.)
What a productive and satisfying weekend. In addition to these projects, Rog baked a batch of sourdough bread, I mowed the lower pasture, Rog performed music Friday and Saturday nights. Sunday evening, our friends Tom and Jean came over for wood-fired pizza and we relaxed.
A few more weekends like this and we'll be ready to hunker down for winter!
Thursday, October 14, 2010
|2010 Honey Harvest! The bee art is a linoleum block print by Cadence.|
We have a honey harvest!
I wasn't so sure we would. My bees had several setbacks this year--first they swarmed in May, then I lost my queen and all the brood. I got a frame of brood (the developing eggs and larvae) from another beekeeper and from that my bees raised a new queen, but queens raised this way are not as productive as hybrid queens.
Last week my beekeeper friend Sue helped me check out my hive. Darn, we found NO honey in the super, the top box of frames supposed to be full of honey intended for the beekeeper. But in the deeps, the bottom boxes with larger frames for brood and honey stores for the bees, there were many heavy frames of beautiful capped honey. Sue thought there was plenty for me to remove a couple frames and have a small harvest and still leave enough for the bees this winter.
After two days I got impatient with gravity and I scraped all the comb off the frame, squeezing the honey out of it as well as I could. This was much faster. And stickier -- by the time I was done, I managed to get the entire kitchen sticky.
After squeezing the honey out of the wax, I washed the wax in a bowl of clean, warm water; I can use the wax to make candles (someday!) and I will feed the honey-water to my bees. I didn't wash the sticky frames --I reinserted them into the hive and the bees will clean them up (they never waste a drop of honey) and start constructing new comb on them.
I was pleasantly surprised to end up with 2 quarts of honey from the two frames! The honey is a beautiful amber color, and a bit cloudy. The cloudiness is caused by tiny bits of pollen, wax, and propylis suspended in the honey. I could clarify it by further filtering and pasteurizing it, but heating would destroy all the micronutrients that make raw honey so nutritious.
This honey is most scrumptious that has ever touched my tongue. I can taste the prairie wildflowers from which it was made! It is also the most extravagantly expensive honey I have ever tasted -- not counting my time, my cost has been well over $100 per pint. However, in future years my costs will be much less and I expect to become a much better beekeeper. Plus, the value of the bees is much more than the honey they produce-- they also pollinate our vegetables and flowers and provide much enjoyment.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Last spring Rog, removed the four most deteriorated barn doors in order to install new posts and beams to shore up the sagging barn roof on the north side. After fixing the roof structure, we left the barn doors off all summer and had sort of a porch effect, but we need to be able to close up this end of the barn this winter. Rog cut off the bottom foot from each door where the wood had rotted away and built new frames around them.
I am so impressed with my husband's carpentry talents! The barn looks snug and secure now.
I have been keeping my eyes out for some item I could creatively recycle for feeding the cows hay outside, but finally I just bit the bullet and bought a horse feeder from Fleet Farm. The hay needs to be kept up off the ground or else they trample it and soil it and waste a big portion of it. There is a trough below the hay rack (intended for grain) that also catches some of the fallout hay and keeps it clean. I like that this feeder is heavy and sturdy enough that they won't tip it over, yet manageable to drag to a new site. It didn't occur to me that LaFonda would risk getting her horns tangled in the bars, but after a couple meals she has figured out how to avoid getting them caught.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
We spent a lot of time, effort and money trying to to keep them in the yard, however. There is a fence around the pasture, encircling about half the perimeter of our farm, but they can squeeze under almost anywhere. We installed wireless fencing around the back yard with radio collars but they endured the shock to go out into the woods after a squirrel - and then were unwilling to come back into the yard. We tried putting up a plastic garden fence with electric wires at the top and bottom, a totally ineffective effort. I guess they have figured out that shocks are only a momentary discomfort.
Finally we just gave up on the dog fencing. They learned the approximate boundaries of our land and never bother the neighbors or their livestock. Most of the time they stay in the yard, responsibly protecting the chickens and watching over the farm. They do cross the gravel road to check on the rabbit situation, however and we worry about cars, but we are apparently poor dog trainers -- Nutmeg, especially, is totally recalcitrant when it comes to rabbits.
We had come to a guilty acceptance of the risk of our dogs crossing the road. But then two weeks ago, our farmer neighbor's son stopped by and mentioned that in order to protect the pheasant population, they were inviting a trapper to trap coyotes in the ditch and the adjacent prairie, so we might want to keep our dogs tied. I asked him what kind of traps? "Snares."I asked him when he would be trapping? "October through March." Six months!
I looked up info on coyote traps and called a trapping supply dealer and learned that the snares are baited, attractive to all canines, and generally fatal to both coyotes and dogs. It sounds like a horrible death -- as the animal struggles to get away, the snare tightens around its neck and strangles it. Even being extremely vigilant, at some point in six months our dogs are going to get out, no doubt. If they smell a good, stinky bait smell, they are going to investigate it. My heart was in my throat. I dearly love these dogs and am sickened by the thought of them getting into one of these traps. (I am also sickened by the thought of a coyote getting into one.)
Finally, we decided our best option was to install a metal garden fence around the back yard. Rog was skeptical, but it had worked to keep our dogs out of our garden so I thought it was worth a try. It is affordable (compared to chain link fence) so we could fence in a large area--a size that would be paradise for normal dogs not used to running on 10 acres. Plus it is easy to install and move. We got 350 feet of fencing; by incorporating our buildings, patio fence and cattle gates we could enclose a 100 x 200 foot area.
We attached garden fencing to the bottom of the cattle gates to deter the dogs from squeezing under. One of our patio gates opens into the dog yard so when we let them out at night or in winter, we can just open the house door and they can access the yard (we know, we are kind of lazy and wimpy.) We still have to figure out a dog -proof closure for the front gate to the patio.
Curiously, Nutmeg and Cocoa somehow seem to have intuited our concern about leaving the property. Although they have gotten out a few times, they have stayed in the yard and have not once attempted to cross the road. We are also working very hard on getting them to respond more obediently by providing lavish praise and tasty treats. They are not very happy about being restricted, as you can see by their expressions in the top photo, but all the extra attention and treats must be some consolation.