To Save The Bees (Part I) Do Nothing

This was originally published two years ago. With readership growing and Spring arriving I thought it would be a good time to repost it. Look for part II and III later this week.

Don't Eat It! Soap and Skin Care

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Recently someone sent me an email which contained this picture. Her comment was, “I thought this was interesting”. Since she thought it was interesting I thought other readers might think so as well.

This is the time of year when people start itching to get outside and beautify their yards, so it’s the perfect time to write about it.  While I think the photo (above) is good, I’d like to offer some other thoughts, ideas and links for reference.

It you have access to pretty much any media source you have probably heard in recent years about the honey bees being in danger. There have been countless stories of mysterious bee die-offs and colony collapse disorder. When we tell people that we are bee keepers, we often get comments about the bees disappearing and people seem to have varying degrees of knowledge on the topic. Disturbing as it is, I won’t go into my thoughts on…

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Spring Has Sprung and The Chicks are On The Move

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This was what I saw when I looked out the window in the morning last Sunday, April 15. Ice coated the all of the windows on the East side of the house.

IMG_3901 When I looked out the North window I could see that most of the precipitation that had fallen was in the form of sleet and freezing rain. It felt very discouraging since we should be three weeks into spring by now. Thankfully the power was still on. We had prepared for a power outage by bringing extra firewood inside, making sure that there was oil in the oil lamps, checking flashlight batteries and making sure the freezers were full so that foods would stay frozen longer. When the freezers are only partially full of food I freeze blocks of ice in cardboard milk containers to fill the empty space. When warm weather comes, and we are spending days at the farm, we will use these blocks of ice in a cooler at the farm to keep drinks and food cold. Buying bags of ice everyday can get quite expensive.

My husband also added extra weight to the back of the van, for added traction, in anticipation of driving on icy roads.  We use to buy bags of sand every year to keep in the back of the van during winter driving season. Then last year we began taking a different approach – instead of buying bags of sand, that we really didn’t need, we began using things that we did need. Having several bags of chicken feed or a load of firewood in the back of the van can provide that extra traction just as well as sand bags.

Temperatures warmed slightly throughout the day, so even though it continued to rain the ice on the windows melted. We were fortunate that we were not among the 350,000 in South East Michigan that lost power due to this storm.

The rest of the week seemed to be a slow transition into spring. While daytime temperatures were above freezing most days the winds out of the North kept the chill in the air. It wasn’t until Friday that it felt like Spring had arrived. The day was partly sunny and it was comfortable to go outside with just a hooded sweatshirt rather than a heavy coat.

Saturday’s weather along with the rest of the 10 day forecast confirmed it. Spring has Sprung!!! We began doing the spring happy dance yesterday. 🙂 🙂 🙂 I find that garden and leaf rakes, pruning shears and a wheelbarrow make great dance partners when it comes to the spring happy dance, and popular dance moves involve raking last years leaves from the lawn and flower beds, and pruning dead foliage from perennial plants. My husband made a very bold move yesterday as he stored the snow shovel away for the season. He also discovered the very first dandelion of the year. There was only one but I am sure that in a week or so there will be yellow blossoms everywhere.

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The garlic has been slow to emerge but is now about three inches above ground.

The pond is pretty much as full as it gets. Very little of the beach is not under water.

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At this level it is seeping over the edge in a couple of places. This is a good starting point for spring, as we will use the pond for irrigating crops as needed.

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The chicks have moved to their stage-two brooder. They had begun getting their feathers and had become very curious about the world beyond the stock tank brooder. Flying up to the rim of the stock tank had become a fun adventure for them. Here is their new set up.

IMG_3885After assembling the hutch and putting in straw for bedding we use a zip tie to anchor the heat lamp in place.

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We put in food and water and a roost. Then put the chicks in their new home. They can now see the outside, and they can’t fly out of the brooder.

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We cover the hutch with a large piece of canvass. The canvass keeps water out and warmth in. The chicks regulate their body temperature by move closer or farther from the heat lamp as needed. We lift or lower the sides of the canvass as the weather gets warmer or cooler as well.

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Last night it was warm enough to watch a little chicken TV. As the chicks get the rest of their feathers and the temperatures continue to warm we will be transitioning them to stage three – at the farm. I’ll post about that soon.

In the mean time I hope that, if you too have been waiting on spring, your Spring has Sprung. Thanks for reading and have a beautiful day.

National Garlic Day – Really?

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When I got out of the shower this morning I discovered that I had a voicemail from my dad wishing me a “Happy National Garlic Day”. I honestly had no idea it was National Garlic Day. It wasn’t marked on my calendar and our local news show had failed to report it.

I decided to do an internet search to learn more.

According to this National Garlic Day is celebrated every year on April 19, and it should be celebrated by eating lots of garlic and learning about the benefits of eating garlic. The page notes that the origin of this “National Day” could not be determined and that there was no evidence that it had ever been recorded by congress or proclaimed by the president as such. Sorry, if you were hoping to get holiday pay I am afraid you are out of luck. However, if you decide to begin your celebration early with a garlic omelet or smoothie for breakfast your boss just might decided to give you the day off. 😉

Now I am not usually a person to rant, so this is probably the closest you will come to reading a rant on my blog. I just want to know who comes up with this stuff??? As a garlic grower I certainly support celebrating garlic by eating lots of it and learning about the health benefits, and if it takes a designated day to get people to do that then so be it. The thing that I am not ok with is the USA celebrating National Garlic Day in April!

April is probably the WORST time of year to celebrate “National Garlic Day”. Maybe you never thought about it because when you go to the grocery store you can usually buy fresh bulbs of garlic anytime of the year, but the truth is most of the garlic sold in the United States is imported. If we are celebrating “National Garlic Day” shouldn’t we be celebrating by eating garlic that is grown in the USA???

In the USA garlic is generally planted in the fall and harvested in summer (mid to late July in our area). After it is harvested garlic is generally cured or allowed to dry for several weeks before it is sold. This is when it is freshest. If garlic is properly cured and stored it will remain fresh for between 3 and 8 months depending on the variety. As garlic begins to shrivel or sprout it is still edible but I certainly would not consider it fresh. Unless you grow your own garlic it would be very difficult to find USA grown garlic this time of year. So why on earth are we celebrating National Garlic Day today? The only thing we are doing with our garlic crops right now is praying for the weather to warm up and dry up so that we may have a bountiful crop this year.

In my opinion, if anyone cares, the optimal time to celebrate “National Garlic Day” would be in early September, when most growers in the USA have had time to harvest and cure their garlic and are then able to take it to market. Garlic growers could then use the “Holiday” to teach people about how garlic is grown, about different varieties of garlic, about ways to cook with garlic, as well as the health benefits all while selling fresh locally grown garlic. Doesn’t this make more sense???

I’m am certain my rant is not going to change anything but thanks for listening and I sure would like to hear what you think.

 

What I Have Learned About Raising Chickens – Peep, Peep, Peep-Peep

If you walk into the local farm store this time of year you can generally hear them before you see them. Peep, Peep, Peep-peep, peep, peep-peep…………………………………It’s such a precious sound you can’t help but go take a look. If you are not in the market for chicks taking a look might not be a good idea because when you see how cute they are you will certainly want to take one or a dozen home.

Buying chicks from the farm store was actually what my husband planned when he went there on Tuesday. After some debate we decided to replace part of the flock we  lost. Even though the remaining flock is currently giving us between 8 and 12 eggs a day, far more than we need for our own use, most of the hens that remain are between 3 and 5 years old. The main reason we did decide to get more is because for about 6 to 8 weeks during the winter egg production slows down substantially. This past winter we observed that it was primarily our first year layers that were still laying eggs. During that time period they continued to give us enough eggs to meet our needs.  In looking ahead to next winter we decided that getting more chicks now was a good move.

He had to go to two different stores in order to find the breed(s) we wanted.

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Our first choice was Buff Orpingtons. Of the four breeds that we have raised so far these are our favorite. In addition to being a hardy breed, good layers and good foragers, they are docile and friendly.

They can be quite entertaining when we opt for an evening of chicken TV.

We also decided on a second breed that we have never raised before.IMG_3856Black Australorps. This breed is supposed to be much like the Orpington except harder to spell. Just kidding, they supposedly lay more eggs than the Orpington. They certainly are adorable chicks.

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Peep, peep, peep-peep, peep,peep, peep-peep, peep……………………………………

Acting as surrogate parents we got out a galvanized stock tank that works well as a brooder for the first couple of weeks. We used wood shavings for bedding and gave them food and water. I dipped each beak in the water because I was not certain if they had learned to drink yet. We use a heat lamp clamped to the stock tank to keep the chicks warm enough. I also checked each chick’s butt to see if they had poop on it. This is a condition called pasty butt, and if the poop blocks the chicks vent it can cause death. I did find two of the buffs with this condition, so I used a warm wet washcloth to soften the dried poop and remove it.

My husband always likes to make the chicks a little playhouse out of a Silk carton. He cuts a hole in a side so the chicks can go in and out. So far this group seems more fascinated by pecking at it. It’s pretty amazing how much noise those little beaks can make when they are pecking on something hard. It can actually sound like someone knocking on the door. They have started to hop on top of the carton, and I’m sure it won’t be long before the venture inside. It’s surprising how many of them can cuddle up inside that carton.

In about 2 weeks I expect we will see the peepers craning their necks trying to see the world beyond the stock tank. They will also have a lot of their feathers and be discovering their wings. They will be able to get on top of the container that holds their water and attempt to fly out of the brooder. Some might succeed. At this time we will have to move them to what I’ll refer to as our second stage brooder. I don’t have any pictures of this so I will give you an update with pictures when the move occurs.

Full Circle

A few months ago I was making popcorn balls for my husband and I discovered that my old Betty Crocker cookbook actually had a recipe for making popcorn.

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I pointed it out to my husband and we laughed about it. I don’t ever remember needing a recipe for making popcorn. I was quite young when I learned to make popcorn by watching my parents make it – they made it in a pan on the stove – much like the method described in the cookbook.

I think I was probably in my early teens when we got our first electric popcorn popper. It was a metal pan with a plastic handle and a cord to plug it in . You could just put the oil and popcorn in it and let it pop. No shaking required – how convenient was that?

Then when I was a young adult we got a hot air popcorn popper. This machine was so cool. You could pour the popcorn into a small compartment on one side and it would fall down into the middle where the hot air would pop it up and it would fall back down and continuously pop up and down until it became hot enough to pop. Once it popped it was light enough to blow out of the chute on the opposite side and into the bowl you had placed below the chute. This was so much fun to watch, and it was said to be a healthier option since no oil was needed to cook it.

When microwave popcorn came on the market it seems that all other forms of popcorn making became obsolete. We bought the bags that concealed the popcorn, oils and whatever flavoring might be added. We put it in the microwave for a few minutes and walked away, only to return to a delicious treat. Bonus – we didn’t even have to dirty a dish; we could eat it right out of the bag.

We have now come full circle. It’s now been several years since we have bought and made microwave popcorn. We once again buy a bag of unpopped popcorn, get out the stainless steel dutch oven, put in some oil, heat the oil, put in some popcorn, shake the pan a little bit while the popcorn pops, and in a few minutes the popcorn is ready. This is just like I learned from my parents when I was young. The advantages to this are that it is less expensive than microwave popcorn, I do not have to buy and store extra equipment that has only a single purpose, and I know what is in the finished product.

Thinking about all of this made me wonder, over the course of a lifetime how much of our time and resources are spent (or wasted) in search of things to make life better, when in the end we learn that what we had in the beginning was the best option.

I then began thinking about a story that my husband showed me several years ago. We found this story quite inspirational, and I think it has had an impact on many of the decisions we have made in the last few years. I will share it with you.

The Fisherman and the Businessman – a classic Brazilian story.

There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village. As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite a few big fish.

The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?” The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”

“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished.

“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.

The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”

The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”

The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman. “I am a PhD in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”

The fisherman continues, “And after that?”

The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”

The fisherman asks, “And after that?”

The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”

The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?

http://www.greatest-inspirational-quotes.com/fisherman-and-the-businessman.html

I think the world needs both “businessmen” and “fishermen”. We have chosen a simpler life much like the fishermen. I hope that if you too are searching for a simpler life you may find some inspiration here.