Winter Farm Update

Perhaps this post should be sub-titled “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” because we have seen a bit of each this winter.

Chickens

The chickens mostly fall in good category. Egg production slowed down in late November as usual and we were only getting 2-4 eggs a day, but as the hours of daylight have been getting longer egg production has been gradually increasing. We are now gathering between 7-10 eggs a day. We had more than enough eggs for us, so we didn’t have to buy any this winter. The lack of snow this winter has made the chickens happy because they tend to stay inside when there is snow on the ground.

The bad, or at least sad, part is that our rooster died on Thanksgiving. He was one of three birds left from our first batch of chicks we got in 2013. Toward the end of summer we noticed that old age seemed to be catching up to him, so we were not surprised by his death. So far the flock seems to be doing well without him. I was never especially close to Cocky because he seemed to feel that he had to protect his flock from me. I did learn, after being spurred in the leg by him a couple times, not to turn my back on him. We sparred many times over the years, but I did respect him as protector of our flock. While I don’t miss having to look over my should when I’m in or around the chicken yard, I do miss hearing his Cock-a-doodle-do’s.

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Cocky and Honey

Bees

Bees fall into the UGLY category. At the end of summer we had eight hives most of which seemed to be thriving. Over fall and winter we have lost all of them. We are baffled as to why the bees are dying. Every hive has had lots of honey in it, the hives have top ventilation to prevent moisture build up and our winter temps haven’t even been that cold so it doesn’t make sense that they are freezing to death. Some even died before temperatures got cold.

It is sad and it is frustrating to have so many losses, but we have decided not to give up yet. We have ordered three more packages of bees to arrive in May so we can try, try again.

Garlic 

At this time it seems that the garlic falls into the good category. The new location seems to be good since despite lots of rain and snow melt we have not had any flooding in that area.

The main reason that I am including garlic in this update is because several readers were interested in knowing how the weed guard that we used when planting the garlic worked out. (You can read about it here.)  Unfortunately it did not work out as we hoped it would. All was well until after the first big snow storm in early November. We then had a warm up, and as the snow melted, the weed guard became saturated. Then we began seeing rips in it. It seems the wind was getting under the exposed edges and ripping the wet paper. It became so tore up that we ended up removing it completely and mulching the garlic with straw before the ground froze.

If we use this product in the future we now understand it is important to make sure all of the edges are secured – perhaps by burying them in the soil.

Hoop House

This is another one for the good column. This new addition is currently under construction. It has come a lot farther since this photo was taken last week. Our plan is to have it ready so we can start our garden plants in it this spring. I plan to write a post on it’s design and construction once it is complete and will likely write about it’s uses in the future as well.

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The Boys

The boy’s also fall into the good category. Most of our time at the farm this winter has been spent with the boys, more specifically training Ranger.  This pup has so much energy that it is important that he get out and use it up. We have found that he requires a minimum of two hours a day outside, but on most day it’s three or more hours of walking, running and hunting.

We have been using a training collar that has three settings – a beep, a vibrate, and a shock. The collar, along with voice commands, is working well with training him to stay on our property, but it is going to take a lot more training and time before he can be trusted not to leave the farm. Beagles have a strong hunting instinct and if they pick up the scent of a rabbit or other small animal (there are many on our farm) it is difficult to call them off.

We are not hunters so we will not be training to hunt rabbits or squirrels.

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He and Trooper do enjoy hunting for field mice together. This is something that Scout and Trooper would do for hours at a time and we are happy that Ranger has become Trooper’s new hunting buddy.

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Watching the boys hunt mice can get a bit boring, but it is interesting to observe how they work together.

Trooper who is mostly a watch dog uses both his nose and eyes for hunting.

IMG_6222Ranger, who is a hunting dog, primarily uses his nose.

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So while Ranger has his nose buried in the dirt trying to sniff out his prey Trooper might capture it as he sees it trying to escape.

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Now what do I do with it?

After consulting with our vet we did have the boys immunized against diseases that they could catch from mice.

I think it is largely as a result of all this outdoor activity that Ranger has become such a great house dog. While at home is is content to settle into his or our bed for a nap, or he might seek out a little cuddle time from one of us. If he does get bored he will find a rawhide to chew on or bring his ball for a game of catch. He does however let us know when it’s time to get out a expend some of the built up energy.

A couple of weeks ago we decided to put him to the test. We needed to go grocery shopping so thought we would see how well he would behave if we left him out of his crate for a couple hours while we were away. Our strategy was to make sure he was tired out first, so my husband took the boys to the farm for about an hour before we went shopping. Before we left for shopping we also made sure that some of the things that might be tempting to a puppy (shoes, slippers, books) were out of his reach.

We were so happy when we returned home and found the house in the same condition that we left it in. The Boy’s, especially Ranger, were rewarded with lot’s of “good boy’s” and another nice long walk (run, play, hunt) at the farm. We have since left him  on three more occasions and have come returned home each time to find that he was a “Good Boy”. 🙂 It may be time to get rid of the crate.

Thanks for reading.

How has your winter been so far?

 

 

36 thoughts on “Winter Farm Update

  1. That is very sad to read about your rooster and especially the bees because that is scary. Old age is one thing but all those bees, frightening. We also lost our bees. They made the best honey. Our neighbor who used to be right next door to us was very upset when she heard we had 1 beehive and even complained about it but the bees never bothered anyone. She started spraying a really harsh and well known pesticide around her yard (next to ours) and when my husband said that was dangerous to both humans and insects she did not care. A little over a year later she got cancer and for the next few months it was very sad to see, she had no children. I always brought cookies and little holiday cards to her . I don’t know how she got sick, it just happened and it seems to be happening more. The littlest creatures out there are trying to warn us all, they are our canaries.

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    1. We suspect it might be a mite problem with the bees and will be looking into natural treatments and watching them closely this year. Wow, It’s sad that someone would be that vindictive to intentionally poison your bees but good for you for not holding a grudge. Your last statement is correct – we really need to be paying attention.

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    1. Thanks Michelle. I really thought Ranger was full grown when we got him but he has gotten bigger. I hope he doesn’t get too much bigger because he does love sitting on our laps and 25 lbs is big enough for that. LOL!

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      1. Thanks Caz. Ranger is quite a challenge to photograph – every time he sees the camera he moves toward it LOL. I have to catch him when he is not paying attention. They are lots of fun. 🙂

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  2. I am do sorry that you lost all of the hives this year.I’m glad you are not giving up.If anyone can figure out what’s going on will be the two of you. I’m glad the collar is helping Ranger. Hounds are tough to train it is just their nature. They are extremely smart and determined. I wouldn’t pack up the crate just yet .

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    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence. 🙂
      I’m not sure where we/he would be without the collar. I’m so glad we have it and he mostly responds to it. If we do pack up the crate it will still be handy if we need it.

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  3. That was an interesting update ~ I researched keeping bees a few years ago because I thought we might like to do that but I read and warched so many hives not make it and how disappointed people were (of couse) and it seemed to take a lot of learning and time so I decided against it but in my research I came across attracting and keeping solitary bees which I found really interesting so I’m going to pursue that. They are great pollinators ~ no honey rhough ~ I still have a lot of research to do.

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    1. Thanks. We have focused a lot on growing things for our bees to forage. Some are things that we have planted and others are things that grow wild that we have preserved and encouraged. As a result they also attract other pollinators.
      I think a lot of people are under the impression that the honey bee is the only one that matters and it is simply not true. Many other insects act as pollinators but for many of the same reasons they might be in jeopardy.

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      1. Yes, I am really focusing on what’s best to plant for pollinators this year. I was going to go all out on the veggies but I think for now I’ll concentrate on flowers.

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  4. The dead bee phenomenon is sweeping the world. The scientists and people who study such phenomenon don’t seem to be able to figure out why the bees are dying off, but it ought to be a huge red flag. No bees – no vegetables or fruit. No pollination. I do hope they figure it out and right soon! For myself? There’s always a lot of dandelions and other bee friendly plants in my ‘garden’ in the spring. I try to do my part.

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    1. I am certain there are many factors that are contributing to the bee die off’s so finding the answers will be difficult. I do believe that some of the things we can all do are avoiding the use of insecticides and herbicides and growing bee friendly plants. I love that you have dandelions! They are, at least here in Michigan, one of the earliest foods for the bees in the spring. 🙂

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      1. I wonder if shelter dogs are easier to train just for that reason Ruth … they will always be eager to please the people who rescued them? You said Scout and Trooper were both rescue dogs weren’t they?

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      2. We got Trooper about two years after Scout. My husband was away and the girls were at school most of the day so it was just me and Scout most of the time and he seemed to be bored unless we were going for a walk. I thought maybe he needed a playmate. I asked my husband if we could get a puppy and he said as long a we got one from the shelter. So I watched their website and when I saw Trooper (they called him Jack) I decided to go meet him. They said he came in as a stray and thought he was about 6 months old (still a puppy). When he sat down and gave me his paw then looked deep into my eyes I knew I had to take him home.
        My husband was excited to hear we got a puppy thinking he would be a cute cuddly little thing that he could hold in his arms and shocked when he saw that this “puppy” was 40lbs and nearly as big as Scout. LOL. We still laugh about it.

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      3. That is a funny and heart-warming story Ruth. Who could not take home a “pup” after that kind of introduction? Did you hear on today’s news about the new program here in Michigan with inmates and shelter dogs and they are interacting with one another. It is done in other states and the program is called “A New Leash on Life” and benefits both the dogs and the prisoners

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      4. Saint Clair county animal control/ animal shelter is run by the sheriff department. I don’t know how long they have been doing it but I know they have been using trustees to help care for the animal (at least clean cages and such). When my daughter was volunteering there she said when she would take dog out for a walk/play a trustee would come in and clean up.

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      5. I see – they said that they had so many dogs in the shelter and they needed interaction and to be walked/played with so this was good for both … I have read that using troubled teens for caretaking of pets in shelters made a real difference in their lives as well.

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