Tag Archives: Homestead

Strawberry fields forever

Fifty strawberries out in the beds a few days ago. You’ll see nothing down the very center of the row: I’ll be putting sunflowers along that line. I have some mammoth gray seed that hopefully the bugs did not get to as it languished int he barn last year to use. Longtime readers of this here blog will have seen those before, towering nine or ten feet above the beds. They are truly impressive (both the longtime readers and the sunflowers, of course).

I cut down some of the cover crop in other rows and threw it into this row to act as a mulching agent. The sides will also be coming off this bed, as with all the others, to make it safe for the kidlets (and sometimes clumsy adults, aka, me, when I slice a finger or hand open on one because I’m not really paying attention).

I have another 25 strawberry crowns that arrived on Friday to put out, but they will go into the next bed (the one with the hoops at the top of the image). We are having a few days of “winter”, which to people in non-southern states might term “fall” or even “spring” because they live in weirdo land where stuff is frozen eight months of the year. I’m waiting for the temps to even out a bit so as to minimize transplant shock, even though strawberries seem not to care all that much. I care, and since it would be me out there in 50 degree temps doing it, what I say goes.

We went with June bearing varieties only in this order, as we like to be able to do the picking and processing all at once for efficiency reasons – because there is enough to pick on a daily basis when the season kicks in without having strawberries be part of that.  I do have some everbearing types still in the rows, so the kidlets – or adults who can eat – will have the chance to find a jewel  here or there and be able to taste a war strawberry, right from the plant.

I’m trying to determine a way to keep the strawberries off the ground that won’t involve spending a fortune on cutesy little plastic bowl type things and that will allow me to remove weeds that pop up. And they do pop up: the weeds had overrun this bed because I’d not gotten down any cover crop in it. Whatever I come up with, I’ll also be putting bird netting over the beds, to stop the birds – who literally have acres of other stuff to eat – from feasting on the berries.

I had the camera rolling while I put these in, but there were no incidents like me lopping off an appendage, so not posting it! All told, according to camera time, it took about half an hour to plant all fifty crowns, pick out the random weeds in the bed, and straighten the irrigation lines from the squirrels and birds walking/hopping through and disturbing the layout.

The above doesn’t look like much, but they now look like they’ve been there forever. Never fear: pics will follow. I didn’t have my phone on me (horrors!) when I was walking through the gardens with all the kidlets that were here the past couple days.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Asparagus

On one fine day, I went to plant, and carried with me six mesh bags,

Full of crowns, just slightly damp, of asparagus, and per their tags,

They were both green and purple, yes, these things exist.

The old ones failed, due to my illnesses, and yet I persist

In tilting at windmills season after season

And must, at times, seem bereft of reason.

 

OK, crappy The Raven homage pounded out in under five minutes aside, I did indeed finish putting out the new asparagus crowns today. I think there was a total of 80, in both green (Jersey) and purple (Pacific). A few of them had already started putting up tiny new stalks while I had them in a bowl, waiting for the weather to get better – we actually reached freezing the other overnight, just briefly. Yesterday,  I did a quarter of them, and today the remainder. The stuff in the row here is cover crop I cut and dropped, to act as mulch.

I worked around the asparagus still in this bed, including this wee asparagus stalk I found forming right at the next 18″ distance from the previous crown I had put in.

This is a purple variety, one of the survivors of two years of neglect while I was having my pneumonia festivities. In a couple of days, it should be big enough to snap off and let someone (mom!) eat it. Yes, we eat (well, they eat) raw asparagus here. Cooked, too, but there’s just something about stuff right out of the garden. Brush off a bit of dirt, and down it goes.

After this, I headed to the back garden to put in snap beans. Pics od that to come.

Tomorrow: 50 strawberry plants to put in beside those survivors, some of which are already putting out fruit. The blueberries started flowering about 10 days ago, so it won’t be wrong before we’re pulling off handfuls of berries from those.

Unless something changes drastically here, we’ve blown past “winter” with, I’d say, probably five overnights where the temps dipped to freeing or below for a significant period of time, and gone right into spring (and even summer, since tomorrow is forecasting a high of 87F).

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Learning by doing

For some of the things you do in life, it’s far easier to learn by doing than it is to learn by theory  by reading blog posts or by watching videos. This is not to say these things are not helpful, because they are, but sometimes you don’t get the little nuances unless you’ve done the Thing, whatever the Thing may be.

I think this is true of processing meat bird chickens. Raising them is quite easy, and that part can be learned by watching videos or reading instructables (note: I’ve no idea if there are instructables for raising meat bird chickens, but there are for just about everything else).

But videos of the processing  of chickens doesn’t always includes all the steps. Some people don’t put in the dispatching of the chickens, or the evisceration. I’m not sure why that is, really: people should know how their food gets to their table, and while people like me, who process far smaller numbers than the big ag providers, have a slightly different process,  our methods are – or should be – as humane as we can make them.

I took video last year as I was processing the meat birds I had raised. I did two batches: one in October and one in December. The first batch I did just to prove to myself that I could do it to feed my family. The second batch I did to feed my family and also see if I could trim some time off the processing of each bird, as I was going through the entire process by myself: none of the family wanted to be involved in it, although my mom did take the chickens out of their ice water bath I had plopped them in as I finished each one, weighed them, and got it into the fridge, ready to be broken down.

It took me about 19 minutes to go through the entire sequence of steps , from catching the live bird, to the processed bird resting in cold water.

All of this is just a big ol’ roundabout way to say I documented the chicken butchering process on video, and you can watch it if you want to. I put it after the fold, as I don’t want people showing up and then possibly being grossed out.

Continue reading Learning by doing

Wabbit season

No, it is not wabbit season. Or duck season. It’s bee season!

Spring is a busy time for managing bees – especially if you’re in a place where winter has never really arrived. In cases like that, the bees start ramping up their numbers fairly quickly, and that means we beekeepers will spend quite a lot of time on management. You’ll forgive me, I hope, for often rattling on about bees here in the blog.

I find it quite relaxing to just sit and watch the bees go about their business. That also allows you to get shots like this:

Look at the bee in the very center of this. She has been rooting around in flowers so much, she has pollen all over her, in addition to the pollen she has in the pollen baskets on her legs. That is true dedication.

“So what about that project you mentioned yesterday, Captain?”

That was the reason I was whacking yesterday (and how I took a stinger to the face): I was clearing a lane to lay out weedblock and pavers so I could move hive stands to that lane. Keeping the weeds and grass down under the hives is important, as it helps stop small hive beetles from getting back into a hive when they have been ejected by the bees.

That meant whacking down a lane, rolling out weedblock, hauling pavers to weight it, and then pinning it with landscape staples. It looks like this:

I plan to cover the rest of the weedblock with river stones, with diatomaceous earth under those. That way, the small hive beetles that fall through to the bottom will have  a not so great experience, all around.

After I pulled the stands up where the grass and weeds had chained them down, I cleaned them off and did some minor repairs on a few of them. Once done, I moved them over to sit on top of the weedblock. This should make everyone happy. Especially me, since I won’t have to whack down weeds under their stands, something that inevitably pisses them off.

What it looked like before I got the weedblock  down:

 

Today I got this finished before the rain finally came and dumped a half inch on us. Working, suited up and crawling around, in the heat took its toll and I am exhausted. So I’ll end this one here, and bid everyone a good evening.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

4 w

To split or not to split

No, I am not handing out tiny eviction notices to the bees, although some days, they make it difficult to coexist.

That is a bee stinger in the bridge of my nose.  I’ve been stung plenty of times, including just under one of my eyes, but I have to say that having a sting where it’s primarily cartilage hurts quite a bit more than the others I’ve had.

It’s amazing that something this small can be so painful.  I feel like I’ve been punched in the face. Between the sting and the walk back in from the beeyard, my nose was already swelling, as you can see there, and it took a little work to get the stinger out of my face. It’s still swelling, and it won’t be long before I can’t breathe out of my nose. Fun times with bees!

How’d I get stung? I foolishly thought – on an overcast kind of day – that my using the whacker to cut grass, etc., down to the dirt (for reasons I’ll make clear) would be fine without a suit, as I was well away from them.

Wrong. Clearly.

This is how it looks right now.

My eye is not swollen shut (yet),  but the color is creeping into it and I would not be surprised to find it that way in the morning. Or maybe I’ll get lucky and the swelling will go down ovenrnight. Who can say?

So what was I doing? Sorry, that will have to wait until tomorrow when I complete the project.

Until then, peeps: be well.

 

 

Spring cleaning

It is not yet spring here, if you go strictly by the calendar. If you go by the weather, however, Mother Nature is telling a far different tale.

This is not to say she won’t change her mind about bypassing winter entirely here. It’s possible she will bring some random freeze and drop it on our doorstep with the same pride a cat has when it brings a dead critter home. Our forecast for the next ten days, in fact, has a random evening with a forecast overnight temperature of 34F. This is mildly concerning to me, as I have directly sowed some things, and if they have germinated and are up, it is possible they could get zapped by a sustained freeze (or even frost, in at least one case).

I’m not going to worry about that, though – I can sow those same seeds again, as they are plentiful and cheap. I sowed them early because that allows me to get them out of the way of when transplant time comes. That’s a very busy time for me, both in the gardens and in the bees. Anything I can knock out of having to do then is a plus.

Right now that means weeding and cleaning out hives that are not in active use. I lost some colonies in 2018, and also have other gear that needs to be cleaned, so I got to it.

Hives to be tidied
Cleanup time!

 

One of the things that happens as you are recovering from a couple of years of constant pneumonia and being in and out of the hospital, and then a year of recovery from that,v is that some things miss the boat as far as getting done. This didn’t rank high on the list, and what happens is that wax moths will move in and start using brood comb for their grossness. I got a late start (in the afternoon, as the rain that was forecast never quite made it) and managed to get three stack done.

As part of that doneness, I picked out some of the larvae so the girls (and Sir) could have some nice extra (live!) protein in their diet.

They loved these. I’m sure I’ll have more for them as I move through the rest of the hives to clean them. The best thing is that when I give them food – this or other food – they transform it into eggs for my family.

The hive cleanup is one of the items on the bees section of attractions on Todo Lake, and while I did not get through all of them today, I got a start, and that is what matters. It isn’t always the doing that is the difficult part. The difficulty is in the starting. Then it’s just a matter of allowing momentum to take over to power through, as many of the things on my list are not things that can be done in one sitting.

Once I get the hives cleaned and the frames and foundation dealt with, I’ll need to repaint a few of these hive bodies. And then, these condos will be ready to be put back into service by some of the new bees I’m getting and from the splits I’m going to have to make from the existing hives, as they continue their population levels. Except for a few packages, the rest are varieties I’ve never had before: Russians, Buckfast, and Carniolan. It is going to be fun learning the traits of these newbees in my beeyard.

The other day, I pulled some weeds in the rear gardens as I continue the race against “No Winter”and schedule my transplants.

One row was infested with lesser swine cress. Nice rosette pattern. Deep taproot, though, so it’s a hard one to get out completely, and if you want it done well, you cannot half-ass it.

Even the baby ones have long roots.

 

Tomorrow – as long as the rain holds off, or at least whatever time I have before it arrives for a visit, I’ll be continuing my bee gear clean up adventure.

That’s it for today, peeps. Until next time:  be well.

Feeding

Generally, the meaties are well-behaved as they run to the feeder each morning.

From time to time, there will be a little squawking at one another if they can’t quite figure out there’s an entire area available and choose to try to muscle in on an existing arc of the circle there.

Sometimes, their laziness is so pronounced, they may choose to sit and just eat what the others are knocking out of the trough, like the meatie at seven o’clock here:

In the end, though, they all get to eat, and boy, do they eat.

The layers seem to be settling into a routine of an afternoon nap. For three days straight when I’ve headed out in the afternoon to check them, they’re all under the front of the coop near the ramp.

I can’t fault them for that – i deem naps a Very Good Thing.

At some point this coming week, I will get some hay into the nesting boxes at the back of the coop so they can start getting used to being in them. I’d prefer not to have to chase eggs everywhere when they begin to lay.

For both sets of birds, starting tomorrow, they will diverge from their feed type. The meaties will get a feed specifically for meat birds, and the layers one specifically for them, although I expect, now that they are out and foraging that they will eat less feed.

Another no-rain day here at the ranch. I guess Mother Nature is giving it some time to try to shrink some of the puddles that are still around so she can refill them.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Pasture day!

The meaties went out on pasture after their second week in the brooder, for a couple of reasons. First, they are eating machines, and often crowded out the layers for awhile at each refresh time. Second, by that time, they were already twice the size of the layers, who are not bred to pack on so  much weight in a short period of time. Third (and these items are in no particular order), to be frank about it, their poop really, really stinks. I suppose this is a byproduct of an animal specifically bred to gorge itself. But they are gaining size nicely, and will be ready for processing the first week of October, if we stay on track.

In any case, I moved the layers out to the chickshaw last week, and kept them locked up in the coop for a few days so they would understand this was now their home. Monday, I set up the poultry fence – kind of misnamed, really, as it’s designed to keep predators out, not chickens in, given that they can fly and sometimes even remember this fact – closing in their chickshaw and an area around it, and let them out on the grass.

One of the black ones that has been my pal since they were in the brooder was, of course, the first one to take those first steps down the ramp and into the great outdoors. Once they all got out, they acted just like chickens do: they roamed around  (not far from the chickshaw, though) ate some grass and whatever else was there, tried to do a little dirt bathing without a lot of success.

We’ve simply had too much rain for that, so I’m going to get them a tub for inside the chickshaw, with sand (and DE mixed in) so they’ll have somewhere for a dirt bath.

I popped out there about half a dozen times today, to make sure they were all still alive and inside the fenced off area. At one point today, I let the dogs come out, too. While Mickey, my big, goofy border collie didn’t really care all that much about them, Einstein, my other dog, did. He’s a terrier mix, and assumed the hunter pose, one leg raised, body taut, when he realized those things smaller than him were something he wanted. Although I warned him away, he stuck his nose on the energized fence and got a quick lesson that these birds were not for him.

In a few months, these girls should start laying. For now, they need to get used to being out in the day and in the coop at night, safe from the critters that roam in the darkness.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Calling the season

It’s official: I’m calling it a season in the gardens.

For the fourth year in a row.

This does not make me happy. On the other hand, in previous years I was going through yet another bout of pneumonia. This year, it was just a sinus infection – but recovering from it took a month and a half. That month and a half is arguably the most important time for the gardens, as it took over May-June. If you get behind right there at the beginning of the real season, it’s likely you will never catch up, and indeed I did not. The plants I’d managed to transplant suffered, the plants I had yet to set out remained in their flats far too long, and the weeds absolutely strangled everything.

So as I looked at the gardens as I mowed today, despite that little voice telling me that yes, I could in fact get that next round of tomatoes planted and have them bear fruit as the calendar season closed out, I realized it simply was not going to happen.

Instead, what I’m going to do is just put the rest of the plants out of their misery and pull them for the compost heap (which, I might add, has a very thick layer of pine shavings and chicken poop on it now). And then: pull the weeds. Go to battle once more with the wisteria, which is well on its way to taking over the entirety of the east to northeastern corner of the front gardens. Take the metal sides off the rows and just have them as regular raised beds. Scoop all the rubber mulch out of the walkways in the gardens (and figure out what the hell to do with it all afterward). Lay down the commercial weedbarrier in the walkways, the same weedbarrier that covers the frames as they are right now, which is effective, although inevitably there will be weeds wherever there are holes in it, like where holes have been cut to do plantings or where the landscape staples puncture it. Get the cover crop seed in place so it can establish before we go into “winter” (I have half a row already germinated and really thick; the buckwheat came up first and has delightful little flowers on its tops.) Check all the grow light fixtures and toss the dead ones, order new ones.

There is more, of course. There is always more. There are still chickens to take care of (and one set to butcher around the first week of October) and bees to maintain. But when the list looks a bit overwhelming, I just take a deep breath and think: one step, then another. It can be done.

Until next time, peeps: be well.