Meet Fiona

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Our newest acquisition (catquisition?) to the farm – Fiona. She simply appeared in the driveway one afternoon and hasn’t left (or stopped eating) since. Thankfully, she has all of her claws, although by her behavior, she was an indoor cat – she’s very loving, and isn’t afraid of dogs (she head-booped one of the Goldens, to his great surprise). Fiona is also quite chatty – I’m hungry, pet me, feed me.

We’re currently at 2 indoor cats, and I really didn’t want a long-haired indoor cat, so she now eats and relaxes in the pottery studio – the hair will burn out when I fire the pots! She stays outside most of the time, though, and follows me around pretty much everywhere.

Did it myself

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This is one of our new mineral feeders for the cows. We were looking at purchasing one, but they run about $150 or more for a decent one. My reaction? There must be plans out there to build your own, and for much cheaper. And – I was right!

Don’t be afraid to ask around to see if people have stuff lying around that they want to get rid of for free or cheap – I called our local tire repair place to ask about the tires (fully expecting to pay for them), and he said come take as many as I wanted for free. He has to pay to have them hauled off, so that was money he would save. That sure beats $30 each on Craigslist – and having to drive to Ft. Loramie!

Moral of the story? If you even think there might be a way to do it yourself – there probably is. Do the research to see if you have the time, skills, tools to make it, and compare that to what it would cost to go buy the same thing. Sometimes you’ll make it yourself, and sometimes it’s more economical to go buy it (I bought my beehives, because I don’t have the woodworking skills yet to build them).

COST BREAKDOWN:

Blue barrel – $10 off Craigslist (plus driving to Englewood)

24.5″ semi tire – free (plus driving to Covington)

4 bolts/4 nuts/8 washers – about $15 (plus driving to Menard’s, buying the wrong bolts, and stopping by the hardware store in Covington on my way home from teaching)

Labor – about 1 hour for 2 feeders

A little bit of electricity to drill 4 holes in each barrel, and to cut out the 18″ hole

Instructions – YouTube

 

A breakthrough

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Yes, that is Lucy. Outside. Without a leash.

Lucy loves to be outside, preferably in an area that has no fences around it to impede her progress. With a road, river, neighbors, and coyotes, this was a problem – she would bolt through the door and be on her merry way, with us slogging after her. She would eventually come back, but it wasn’t a good situation.

After a visit to Skyview K9, we learned a few things to help calm her down, and added those to our own things that were working. And since it’s warming up out, and we are outside working, it was the best time to start the experiment.

One morning, I let her out, went about the morning chores, started doing some other work. She was tearing around the fields, and I noticed she would stop and look for me, or even come up to where I was working – just checking to see if I was still there.

We’ve been doing this almost every time we are outside and it’s been going great. She’s getting to run around, we don’t have to chase her down – winning on all sides. I keep a pocket full of little dog biscuits (yes, homemade!) as an occasional reward, as well.

She’s still hyper, but we’ve noticed a definite increase in calmness – she knows she’ll be able to go outside and run around.

Dogs can learn. Even hyper, baggage-laden ones like Lucy.

Happy BEE-day!

Many people will spend their birthday at a nice restaurant or receive a nice pile of presents from loved ones. Me? I drove to Tipp City to pick up 2 packages of bees for the farm, but that’s just fine with me. I like someone else to do the cooking and getting a pile of loot, don’t get me wrong, but I guess as I become more “mature” (stop laughing…), the practical/useful stuff can be the best stuff. That’s why my Amazon wish list has things like small amber jars for making herbal tinctures/salves. But I digress.

This is the only picture I have of today’s bee installation, because I was too busy doing it to take pictures! After reading several books, watching YouTube videos, and talking with experienced beekeepers, it was go-time. I chose to don the bee veil and gloves just as a precaution, because these bees had been in the package for a while, and I know I’d be a bit irate in that situation.

I chose to (mostly) follow the information found at www.olddrone.net (the man I bought the packages from) – it seemed straightforward and the least likely to rile the bees. And he was right. The bees were calm in the package after I misted them with sugar water, and when I released them, they flew, but not angrily. They lit on my gloves (I did spill some sugar water on the gloves, so I’m sure that was a factor), and simply crawled around, then flew away.

I’ll check on them later today to see how things are going, then again tomorrow to remove the screened package and check on the queen (queens come in their own little cage, and the other bees have to eat through a candy “plug” to release her. That gives them all time to become acquainted,  then they can get to the business of getting the hive going.

Will there be honey this summer? I don’t know – most sources say don’t count on it, since the bees need to have enough honey to survive the winter. Stay tuned!

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Hives – complete

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After re-pinning the fence behind these hives because the cows had worked it loose from the posts – because look at all that grass!!!!

I did find a couple bricks to put on top of the covers, just to weight them down. We don’t want the cover to blow off in a wind!

Shaded by the fruit trees, close to water, pretty much centrally located on the farm to take best advantage of all the flowers for pollen, out of the way of most human activity – let’s start the experiment.

Almost ready for the bees

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Took a few hours on Saturday afternoon to get the beehives painted. I’ll be picking up the bee packages on the 30th, and everything needs to be ready to go by then! I’m going to put one more layer of paint (there are 2 on in this picture) today – there will be a need at some point to touch up or re-paint them, but I’d rather have it done before there are happy little bees living inside!

After the last coat of paint, the next step is to re-assemble the hives in their new home in the chicken yard. That may sound a little strange, but it really is a good location! There are 3 fruit trees that are less than 10 feet away, and water is close by. The chicken house is a good distance away, and very few of the hens hang around the chicken yard anyway – there are too many other good places to roam on the farm.

I’ll put the hives up on cinder blocks to keep them off the ground – damp is not good for the wood or the bees, and it will give good circulation on all sides of the hive.

Here goes with another “farm experiment” – and hoping we’ll get some good honey out of it as well!

Back to work

After several weeks of illness, we are (mostly) back in the saddle, just in time for the warm weather!

Lots of things start happening in the spring – clearing bits of tree that have fallen off over the winter, chainsawing scrub trees and bushes that are in the way (especially in the way of where my new herb garden will be!), planning the garden and making sure to have the seeds we need, gearing up for the summer market season, brushing the Pyrs (they have a *very* thick winter coat to shed out), and continuing work on cleaning up inside buildings. It’s a lot of work, but the warmth and sunshine really do make it more tolerable.

It truly seems that we’ve had more flooding over the last year – this is from our latest flood in early April. The river has gone down to a more normal level, but the ground is so saturated that we still have large “ponds” in the low fields. Thankful that it didn’t get higher than what you see here!

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