Friday, April 27, 2012

BEES!!

Welcome to my bees - we picked them up last night from the bee association president.

The Bee Master guy Ed was so nice - he picked up the Carnolian bees in Michigan. I guess when he arrived at the bee company, out of 201 cages 30 were already dead! I thought that was shocking but I guess it happens frequently. Ed thought it was due to the queens having died within the cage. The bee company replaced the cages with live bees and Ed was on his way transporting them back to Indiana.

Ed asked me if I ever installed bees before and I told him no. I told him I felt ready, I have read everything a couple times and watched many different styles of installation in YouTube. Ed looked at me a little doubtingly (LOL) and he gave me a personal tutorial on easy installation. I am so glad that he did that because he reinforced my type of installation as the perfect method! Ed is VERY knowledgeable and I think he has been doing this for about 70 years! It's all about installing the bees gently and the less traumatic method! Ed sent me on my way with a few marshmallows for the Queen and we headed home with the bees!!

So anyway I'm psyched - installation will happen later today out at the farm. I'm going to try my hand at adding video footage to my blog! So stay tuned!!

Here's the girls:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

2012 Inventory

Anyone else having a lot of trouble with posting?  I am...please bear with me!
Well first let me apologize for not posting regularly the last week or so. I have been recovering from a bad jaw infection due to a failed root canal! I'm on the mend now after a retreatment and more antibiotics. Very glad and thankful to be feeling better once again!

Anyway, I thought I would update on all the projects that we have completed and/or working on for 2012. It's always a work-in-progress - and NEVER a dull moment.  We are getting closer and closer to the big move to the country and I am always working towards the goal!  Here's all the updates:

Seedlings (Heirloom)


Started tomatoes (brandywine, cherry, beefsteak, romas), peppers (habaneros, thai, mixed, wonders), cucumbers, luffas and tomatillos indoors. All of these plants are doing well. I probably started them a little early but live and learn (they are HUGE right now). I lost a few for unknown reasons but all in all the remainder are doing well and I really didn't expect this many to do so well. I've been trying to harden them off outside but the weather has not been cooperating very much! The indoor greenhouses worked out great!

Garden Preparation


Tore down the deer fence on the West garden and prepared the soil accordingly. Added manure and compost.

Planted two new horseradish plants (2011 horseradish plant coming back on left) (see new 2012 plant below) in a new location (so far so good). Planted onion sets (red, white and yellow), radish and more lettuce. Garlic (see photo on right before we got rid of the pine needles) that was planted last Fall is doing awesome.


Since we removed the deer fence it has made it much easier to tend to the blackberries. Have really been working with them to train them up the trellis. They look really healthy and seem to be going crazy growing!  Let's hope for a great harvest!  Blackberry jam is calling my name!

Strawberry beds were cleaned up early by removing the straw. They are coming along nicely as well.  Growing and spreading like crazy - since this is the 2nd year we're hoping for a good harvest!


Orchard

Apple, pear, cherry and peach trees blossomed early and there was a few frosts so no telling how they are going to do but since it is just the 2nd growing season for them I wasn't really expecting too much yet.
Long term expectations are high though!

 


Harvest

Since our Winter was so mild this year we have had a few items that survived so we have been harvested early this year! For instance, lettuce, asparagus, and herbs (chives, mint, thyme, and rosemary).

Beekeeping

I (ok my fabulous husband) has finished putting together my 10 frame beehive. We've painted it and it's ready to be added to my newly constructed bee garden. My bee garden will have lots of flowers to last from early Spring to late Fall. I will be moving a windmill and birdbath from the city out to the farm to complete the bees new home. I don't have a definite date yet for the bees but I'm ready! It should be late April to early May - excited for their arrival!


New Home for 2012 Bees - WELCOME!

Beekeeper's Suit models - aren't they cute??

Chickens

Well the chickens are holding their own and my Uncle has done an awesome job with them. They really love him and follow him around like he's the pied piper. They love to free range and dig for bugs and worms. Egg production has been down but hopefully with the weather changing things will change a little. Look at that anti-social chicken up in the wall?!


 
After completion of the barn, and we rearrange some items out of the barn where the chickens are housed we plan on creating an area for starting our meat chicken production and piggies.

Barn Raising

The new pole barn has been ordered and should be delivered at the beginning of May.  The barn should look similar to what's above but color will be white with green trim.  also the door will be relocated. 

The husband, my uncle and a good friend are going to be in charge of this big project!  To the left is the proposed area for the new barn...which will be started in a couple of weeks!  Yippee - another exciting project! 








 

Herb Garden

After my Uncle painted the barn where the chickens are housed (he did a fabulous job) - we added a new raised bed herb garden. Again the weather is holding me up but I plan on planting: basil, rosemary, oregano, mammoth dill, chives, etc. etc.  (Below is the beginning stage of the new herb garden).


East Garden

Well this garden had been an adventure this year! It will be a work in progress for a couple years I'm sure - it has gone from a farmer's field (my cousin) to a homestead field. The ground needs lots of help but we were able to disc it up and till here and there. We've planted two batches of potatoes, rutabaga, carrots, beets and sadly our cabbage patch did not make it. So I will be adding a new cabbage patch, pumpkin patch, spaghetti squash, winter squash, popcorn, zucchini, cukes, pickles, chick peas and peanuts. Peanuts and chick peas are experimental...again I'm waiting on the weather!

Composting

We also created our new composting bins. What can you say about compost - its a dirty job but someone has to do it! Lol - lots of nutrient filled compost is being created as I type this post!

Potting Bench Project

The new potting bench has not been assembled yet but there's no rush - here's the inspirational photo. I found a porcelain wash basin at an antique store that will be inserted into the potting bench and the hand pump - so it should all come together like the below photo.  It's hard to see all the details but there's a wash basin in the center and a hand pump on the right hand side.  On the back side there's a window with a curtain and a shelf over the window.  I am going to use the window inside our barn to re-create this look...  I'm not sure if we are going to be able to add running water or not to the hand pump - but it sure is cute.
  


Phew - WOW - we did a lot already!  I can't believe we have gotten so much done already!  Enjoy the remainder of your weekend!  :-)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday Snake!!!!!

Ok I have to say a word! SNAKE!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

BEE and HERB GARDEN - Part Two

Here's the latest photos of our Herb Garden and Bee Garden. A lot of hard work went into these areas last weekend. Let me know what you think. I can't wait to be able to add herbs and flowers to these areas - and of course my bees!! Bzzzzzz

We will have to add a short gutter too above the herb garden area - otherwise the roofline will flood my boxes.

Guess what project is next??? The barn - dun dun dun - stay tuned!

Friday, April 13, 2012

PHOTO FRIDAY

Courtesy of Joani Schofield "Farm Friends" On Pinterest...love these little guys!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

WORDLESS WEDNESDAY


Photo Courtesy of Christy Thomas on Pinterest

Monday, April 9, 2012

NEW HOMEMADE COMPOSTER

Well another project was completed last weekend. I didn't expect it at all, as it was already a very busy weekend with the holiday, but what a fabulous surprise!  A new homemade composting system!  This composting system replaced a composting bin that we built last year...and I think we've perfected it a little more.  I was able to get about a half a wagon full of fresh compost to add to my smaller garden, in the process of tearing down the old composting bin. 

We constructed the new composting bins out of 7 recycled pallets.  Two fence posts one on the left-hand side and one on the right-hand side (for stability) and we just lined up the rest of the pallets and screwed them all together.  It really was that easy.  There should be plenty of air flow and the bottom pallets had a smooth top for ease of removal of compost.  There are many examples of pallet composters online - but we pretty much winged it and it came out just fine.

I didn't realize how many "rules and regulations" apply to composting - it's a fascinating process.  Here's what I learned already:

Getting Started

Choose a container that’s constructed of wood (or other sturdy material).  The container should be at least about three by three feet. You should place it in a shady spot in your yard with good drainage. Start adding waste material in a ratio of three “browns” to one “green.”  Browns are considered carbon-rich materials and include:  wood chips, straw, branches, and leaves.  Greens provide nitrogen and include:  grass clippings and kitchen scraps, like eggshells and carrot tops. When you’re adding new material, it is suggested, that you dig a hole in the pile and stir the new stuff in so it gets coated with the old mixture.                        

Maintaining the Pile

Composting can be a smelly process. The process involves the breaking down of food and yard waste.  But it shouldn’t be so offensive that the neighbors complain.  Thankfully we are far enough away from any neighbors.  But if you notice a stinky smell, make sure you have enough browns in the pile.  If it’s too dry, let rain (or add water) to even out the moisture. If it’s too wet, add a few more browns.  The pile should not be soaking wet but more like a wrung out sponge.                   

Compost Is Ready

When your compost is ready for use, which could take anywhere from a few months to a year, compost looks and smells like very dark fluffy soil. If you’re unsure, I've read that there's a baggie test:  Place a small amount in a plastic bag and take a whiff before sealing. Then place the bag in a drawer for a few days. When you open the bag, the sample should smell the same as it did before. If it smells worse, your compost needs more time in the pile.

Here's some photos of the new homemade composting bins (in various stages):


Saturday, April 7, 2012

TACO DIP APPETIZER

You have got to try this appetizer - it is really easy and yummy! I made this recipe this morning to hold us over until our Easter dinner.

Here are the ingredients you need:

1 - 8 oz. package cream cheese (softened)
1 - 16 oz. container sour cream
1 pack of taco seasoning (or 3 tbsp. of homemade taco seasoning)
1/4 head shredded iceberg lettuce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 chopped tomatoes
1 chopped green bell pepper
1 can sliced black olives (drained)


In a mixing bowl, combine your cream cheese, sour cream and taco seasoning.



Spread the above mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 13 casserole dish.




Top the mixture with lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, bell pepper and black olives.




The recipe is supposed to serve 25 - but in our family it goes pretty quick!



Serve with tortilla chips (or more cut up veggies) and ENJOY!


HAPPY EASTER!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Photo Friday....

Photo courtesy of Billy Jacobs entitled "Grandma's House"...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Buzzing in my head....bzzzzz


Today I am thinking about designing my new home location for my honey bees.  From what I've read, there are four essential elements for designing a bee garden:

1. Choose plants that are best suited for attracting bees in your region.
2. Limit the use of insecticides that are toxic to bees and other beneficial pollinators.
3. Provide shelter in your garden from elements such as wind, rain, or cold.

After a ton of research, I think I found the perfect location for the new habitat of bees.  Hopefully it will support their entire life cycle of the pollinator from egg to larva to adult. 

However, this was not an easy task on a couple of acres.  Below was our first location that we ultimately decided would not work (sorry about the fuzzy photo).  Location was too close to the farmer's field, too shady, and no exposure to the Northeast sunlight.



Drum roll please - here is the final pick for the new habitat.  Below is the "BEFORE" picture:

As you can sort of see above, this location has a Forsythia bush (which just finished blooming) behind it on the Northwest side and a huge Pine tree on the Southwest side leaving the Northeast sun exposure area wide open.  Great protection from the farmer's fields that surround our property.  The concrete pad is almost level and used to be a foundation to an old milk house.  This year the Forsythia bloomed really early so I think the bees will enjoy that in early Spring next year.  Now across the old "lane" there will be a new barn constructed in about a month - far enough away to not block the sunlight but close enough to provide some more shelter from the winds.  To the South of the newly constructed barn is our orchard (another bee friendly area).
I imagine that I can create quite the bee garden once I clean up this location (where's the chickens when I need them - the little slackers LOL).  I think I will leave the picnic table nearby as I can put some flowers up on the table.  The table looks broken in this photo but its not - it must be the angle of the photographer.  To the left of the picnic table is a water pump.

I've read that some of the flowers that honey bees enjoy are: Alyssum, Ornamental Strawberry, Marigold, Zinnia, Bottlebrush, Lavenders, Valerian, Buckwheat, Salvias, Eucalyptus Ficifolia "Red Flowering Eucalyptus", Native Eucalyptus, Wild Mustard, Flowering Plum, Flowering Pear, Sage, Toyon, Escallonia, Cotoneaster, Orange tree, Lime Tree, Lantana, Ceanothus, Hibiscus, Albizia Julibrissin "Silk Tree", to name just a few.  

The flowers I plan on surrounding the beehive with are:  Zinnias, Marigolds, Salvias, Lavender, Bee Balm, Black Eyed Susans, Shasta Daisy and purple Coneflowers to name a few. This will be a big transplant job for most of the above from the city to the country.  If you have any ideas I would love to hear them! 

So when I get this project completed, I will re-post with an "AFTER" photo.  I have 3,000 bees arriving at the end of the month!  Time to get moving along with this project so to not disturb the bees too much once they are hived.

Have a great day!  Beeeee happy!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

MOTIVATED BY CHICKENS...

Funny thing happened last weekend as we were working in the garden and fields.  We had the chickens free-ranging around the property.  They absolutely seem to love free-ranging and they seem to be getting bolder and bolder and further and further away.  Every where I looked, there they were scratching and pecking, pecking and scratching, digging and exploring.



I was minding my own business…gardening, weeding, planting, etc. etc.  Suddenly I hear some ruffling of leaves on the North side of the garage and I take a peak around the corner and there are quite a few of the chickens…scratching all the Fall leaves that had gathered amongst a few items that were being stored on the side of the garage.  It was like they were saying “come on now – let’s get this side cleaned up”.  In a manner of 5-10 minutes (as I am sneak watching them from the garden) they had totally cleared out all of the accumulated wind-blown leaves and brought them out and away from the garage.  They didn’t even need a rake – LOL- there little chicken feet were their built in rakes.


I felt like telling them “alright already” – I’ll get that cleaned up just as soon as get my own “to do list” done….move along now chickens…find another area to clean up!  J

Monday, April 2, 2012

Playing in Dirt…and…HORSERADISH


Had another wonderful day out at the farm again last weekend.  It was a VERY productive day we got lots done again and things are coming together quite nicely (especially with it being so early in the gardening season).

We started out the day by working in the smaller garden.  Planted some onion bulbs (red, yellow and white).  Also harvested some mixed greens (that were very yummy).  Then we planted some more lettuce (caesar and mixed greens).  It seems the smooth leaved lettuces work a little better for us - sandy soil gets a lot of sandiness on the leaves that it difficult to get off and makes for a gritty salad!  LOL 

Next, we added a trellis to the sugar snap peas and planted another row on the reverse side of the trellis.  Oh I can't wait for those to get growing!  I love these trellis too and plan on using them for my cucumbers!


Stopped by a small little country store (my new favorite) and saw many things that I was interested in and thanks to one of the owners, I stumbled upon a fabulous horseradish plant that I added to my garden.

Here’s a picture of my horseradish coming back from last year….looks a little sad right now - but it's still early.


Here’s a picture of my new horseradish plant (what a difference):!! 



I’m worried that I didn’t plant the horseradish correctly though and I might have to dig it back up next weekend – we’ll see.  I need to investigate this a little further. 

Has anyone else transplanted horseradish from a container into the ground? Should I break up the roots and/or leave it all in one clump and let it spread out on its own?  Any help would be appreciate!

Have a great day.  :-)