Category Archives: Bees

Life Is Happening Faster Than I Can Write

There are so many things going on that I have wanted to write about but it seems there has little time left for writing. Thankfully I have been taking some pictures along the way to remind me of what I want to write. I have decided to combine many things into this post.

BREAD BAKING

I will start with an update on my sourdough bread making. IMG_4878

This loaf was made the same as my previous breads but I reduced the oven temperature to 425 degrees F and baked it covered for 35 minutes. I then removed the cover and baked it for about 25 minutes more. I am very pleased with the results. 🙂

SPRING AT THE FARM

It seems like a slow transition into spring but it may be better that way. When warm weather comes on quickly and all the plants begin to flower there is an increased risk of losing them to a spring freeze or heavy frost.  Here are some of my observations of our world awakening from it’s winter nap.

IMG_4853

The hickory buds are swelling.

IMG_4874

The maple trees are flowering. They provide pollen for the bees.

IMG_4876

The lilac buds are getting ready to open.

 

IMG_4877

The garlic is about three inches high.

 

 

IMG_4863

This time of year the back corner of our farm is a swamp. It becomes the noisiest spot as the chorus of frogs announce the arrival of spring. I love to hear the frogs sing 🙂

PLANTING

While it is way too soon to do any outdoor planting. We have a lot of stuff growing indoors.

IMG_4822

My husband started two varieties of tomatoes, five varieties of peppers, cabbage, basil and parsley.

IMG_4824

Several years ago we constructed this grow shelf by attaching florescent lights to the underside of  each shelf . As the seedlings begin to sprout we place blocks or boxes underneath their trays to get them closer to the light. We then gradually lower them as the plants grow taller.

IMG_4873

Having them closer to the light helps them grow stronger stems. We also have plants growing near many of the windows in our home.

While I normally don’t plant many annual flowers this year will be different.

IMG_4825

My husband took a job at a greenhouse for the season. They are a wholesale supplier of annual flowers. For various reasons not all of the plugs make the cut, so my husband has rescued many that would have otherwise been discarded.

We shared some with neighbors and family members and even donated several flats to our friends at Special Dreams Farm. Once the weather warms I will be planting Marigolds, Geraniums, and Phlox in our flower beds.

BEES

This year our son-in-law, Ken, decided to become a bee keeper. Since he does not have property of his own to set up a hive we welcomed him and his bees to our farm. Ken said he has been reading about and studying bee keeping for a couple of years now. After doing so he decided to design and build his own hive and feeders. I can’t describe all of the bee-friendly features that this hive has, but if it works out well perhaps Ken will do a guest post to share his hive design.

image1

He decided to keep Buckfast bees, a breed that we are not experienced with. His bees arrived on Saturday, April 6 and we were blessed with perfect weather for hiving bees. Since the Buckfast bees are known to be a gentle/non aggressive breed Ken was comfortable not wearing a full bee suit. (He only got stung once.)

My husband was there and walked Ken through the process of hiving the bees. When I spoke to Ken later he said that he was thankful for the help and probably the best thing my husband told him was to take his time. I understand this because standing amidst  10’s of thousands of bees can be unnerving.  It is important to stay focused and not to rush to get things done. That is how mistakes happen.

Our hive is doing well as evidenced by the number of bees coming and going on warm days. Since there is not much in blossom for the bees to forage my husband set up an outside feeder for them.IMG_4857

He poked small holes around the bottom of the ice cream bucket. He then put honey in the bucket. The honey is thick enough that it does not run out of the holes but the bees can suck it out.

We have ordered five packages of bees. They are scheduled to arrive on May 10th so I expect I will write a post about setting up five new hives.

CHICKENS 

I saved the best story for last.

Our first batch of chicks, the ones I said won’t be with us long, have moved to the farm. We had decided that once they were out of the brooder we would get a second batch. Rather than the Cornish cross chickens that we got the first time around and are normally raised for meat birds we decided we wanted a breed that would forage for it’s own food.  Jersey Giants was the breed we selected. I had spotted some recently at our local farm store. As their name suggests Jersey Giants are said to be the largest true breed of chicken. They are know as dual purpose birds being raised for either egg laying or as meat birds.

Our plan was to go last weekend to get some but that just didn’t happen, so when Monday came around I offered to go get them, “or we can go when I get home form work” my husband suggested. We eventually decided he would stop on his way home from work to get them. “How many should we get?” he asked. “Eight?” I said. “Eight sounds right,” he agreed.

IMG_4866

When he got to the farm store and found the brooder containing Jersey Giants he discovered there were only eight left. Perfect timing!

While he waited for the customer service person to assist him, he noticed a women holding a very small chick. “The others were picking on it,” she told my husband as she showed him the sore area on it’s foot where they had been pecking at it. “My husband won’t let me rescue it,” she said.

“My wife will,” he replied as he took the tiny bantam chick from her. “Let me take this one home,” he said to the store employee. She agreed.

We have never raised bantam chickens before so I had to do a little research to find out what we had. I learned that bantam chickens are small breeds. There are several breeds that are “true” bantams but each regular breed of chicken also has a bantam variety. Other than a small incredibly cute chick I still have no idea what we have. In fact these chicks are not sexed before sale so we may even have a rooster.

IMG_4871

It seems a dichotomy that this tiny little chick that was being abused by it’s peers has been accepted by this group that is 3 or 4 times it’s size.

“You get to name it,” my husband said to me.

“That is tough,” I replied “when I don’t know if it is a male or female.”

“Pick a name that could be either or,” he said.

After a few minutes of thought it came to me…

 

IMG_4882

Let me introduce you to Big Bird! LOL.

 

Do you also feel like time is flying by?

Are you experiencing nice spring weather and the beauty that comes with it?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks for reading.

 

Welcome Spring

This post is dedicated to my friend and fellow blogger Linda who blogs at Walkin’, Writin’ Wit and Whimsy. Linda, who takes readers along as she walks at various parks in South East Michigan and introduces us to the furry and feathered friends she meets along the way, has been as eager as I have for the arrival of spring. On occasion her posts reference classic songs – oldies but goodies –  leaving me with an ear worm for the day. As we welcome spring, Linda, I thought I’d return the favor.

So let me tell ya ’bout the –

BIRDS

Sunday morning as I walked out the door on my way to open up the chicken coop for the day I was greeted by the song of a robin. It is a sound I have become quite familiar with over the past few years as each spring a robin nests in the maple tree outside our bedroom window. He or she starts singing each morning long before the sun comes up, (sometimes as early as 3:30 a.m.) and long before my husband and I are ready to awaken. If the early bird catches the worm then this is one well fed robin.

In Michigan it is said that robins are a sure sign of spring but the truth is that some robins stay in Michigan throughout the winter. Robins that migrate south for the winter are doing so because of the limited food supply available this time of year, not because of the cold temperatures. During the winter those that stay will eat fruit and berries that are left on the trees/bushes.

As I arrived at the farm to open the chicken coop two robins flew swiftly past me. 🙂

Red winged black birds are also said to be a sign of spring.

 

IMG_4803.JPG

I spotted this one as Trooper and I walked the back field yesterday.

Our hens have been enjoying the weather and egg laying has increased – we are now averaging about 12 eggs a day from our 23 hens.

IMG_4800

Spring is also the time of year when baby chicks show up in the farm stores. Each year that I have been blogging I have shown pictures of adorable little chicks that will be raised on our farm. Thus far we have only raised egg layer but this year is a little different. These will not be laying hens.

IMG_4799It’s ok to say “awe, they’re cute” – just don’t get attached because they won’t be with us long. (That note is as much for me as it is for you).

and the BEES
Several days last week temperatures warmed enough for the bees to come out for a cleansing flight. We had just one hive going into winter and were relieved to see that they are still alive. It is not warm enough to open the hive yet and since nothing is in bloom they are still dependent on their winter food stores.

and the FLOWERS

Even more promising than seeing robins were the daffodils that have begun to emerge from their winter sleep.

IMG_4793

Soon we will be seeing their smiling yellow blossoms at various places throughout the farm. 🙂

and the TREES:

We decided not to make maple syrup this year but if  you are interested in how we do that you can check out my posts from previous syrup seasons 2018, 2017 , 2016 and 2016. Based on temperatures that we have had last week and this week I suspect that had we tapped our trees this year we would be cooking syrup this week.

In the past few years it has been my observation that the first trees to bud in our area are the poplar trees. Their flowers, that actually look more like caterpillars, provide resin that is collected by honey bees and used to make propolis.

The maples seem to bud out next and while this triggers the end of the syrup season it is good for the bees as the flowers of the maple trees seem to be their first source of food in the spring.

and the Moon Up Above

Last night my husband mentioned that the moon was close to being full. This morning, before daybreak, the sky was clear and the moon was bright. This year spring is being ushered in by the full moon.

IMG_4805

 

and a Little Thing Called Mud

IMG_4792

As the snow melts and the ground thaws there is no avoiding it. When you live in the country mud is more than a “little thing”. Water + dirt = MUD. Lots of mud. You learn to deal with it. For us that means wearing a pair of rubber boots and rinsing off our boots and the boys paws with a garden hose before we go into the house.

Over the past 8 years we have learned that starting the year with this kind of moisture in the ground is more of a benefit than a nuisance. By mid June we often find ourselves in a dry spell and are using the pond water to keep our gardens alive.

 

If there is one this that is certain about spring in Michigan it is that the weather is extremely uncertain. Currently our day time temperatures are getting above freezing while the nights drop back below freezing. Today as I look at the 10 day forecast it shows that trend will continue for about the next week. Tomorrow when I look at the forecast that might change. It’s not surprising to have snow storms and freezing temperatures well into April and even May. On the other hand summer weather might show up at anytime and be here to stay. For better or worse the calendar says spring is here.

WELCOME SPRING! (Happy Dance 🙂 )

What is your favorite season?

 

 

 

 

My Thoughts About Bee Keeping and Honey

We started our bee keeping ventures in 2013 and to date it has been the most frustrating farming activity we do. Hive losses are heartbreaking and we have had many. Probably our worst experience was when the bees we ordered did not even make it to our farm alive. You can read about that here. If you read that article you may understand when I say that bee keeping is also one of the most thrilling and rewarding activities that we do. Capturing swarms, observing the bees while they forage and pollenate our crops, harvesting honey and wax all make this so.

As with everything we do our bee keeping efforts are done on a small scale. We often use the word boutique to describe our farm. Since we started bee keeping we have maintained at least one hive and at times had as many as seven hives. Each year we have harvested honey and for the last 4 or so years we have harvested and processed our own wax as well. If you are interested in learning how I filter bees wax you can  read about that here.

IMG_4097

Beekeeping has given me a whole new understanding and appreciation of honey. Most of my life I have used store bought honey and never thought much about it. The color and flavor were pretty consistent. Honey was just honey. It wasn’t until we started harvesting our own honey that I realized that honey is not just honey. In fact we have yet to have any two honey harvests where the honey tasted the same.

When people find out that we are beekeepers they often have many questions. Below are some of the points I make when talking about bees and honey.

  • Each honey harvest is (should be) a wonderfully, unique blend of nectars and pollen from various plants that have been in season.
  • The color and flavor of honey should vary between harvests.
  • Mono cropping, the practice of moving bee hives to a particular location where a specific crop is in blossom in order for the bees to pollinate that crop, may be detrimental to bee health. (how well would you fare if you only ate one food for the majority of your life?)
  • Feeding bees sugar syrup is probably not good for the bees.
  • Local honey may or may not be effective as a treatment for allergies depending on what the bees were foraging to make their honey.
  • In the U.S. honey suppliers are required to put their address on the honey label. Buying honey that has a local address does not necessarily mean you are buying honey that was produced locally.
  • Raw honey is honey that has not been heated above 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Honey can be stored at room temperature and has an indefinite shelf life.
  • Honey might crystalize but it is still good.
  • Honey that has crystalized can be turned into liquid again by slowly heating the jar in a pan of water. Do not microwave!
  • Because the honey may crystalize and you may want to heat it to make it liquid again do not buy honey in plastic bottles.

Do you have any questions or thoughts about honey bees or honey? Leave me a comment and I will be sure to get back to you.

Thanks for reading and have a great day! 🙂

 

 

 

As Summer Comes To A Close

We are (too) quickly approaching the Fall equinox and it seems that Summer and Fall have been duking it out. Some days we have had cooler fall-like temperatures but on other days have been hot, reminding us that it is still summer.

I thought I would share some of my observations from my morning walks at the farm on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tuesday morning was warm and humid. As I arrived at the farm a bunny, who was sitting in the driveway, scampered away. When I exited my van two deer, who were near the pond, made a quick exit into the woods as well. As the sun rose, burning off bits of fog, the dew was still heavy and glistened on blades of grass and clover leaves. My rubber boots were soaked but my feet were dry as I walked the path around the back field.

IMG_4455

While most of the sunflowers have gone to seed, we still have one patch that are smiling brightly with their faces turned toward the rising sun.

IMG_4458

We had planted sunflower patches several times throughout the spring and summer and this last patch is now being enjoyed by our bees and many other pollinators.

IMG_4457

Apple picking is not far off. We have tasted a few apples but have decided they needed a bit more time to ripen.

 

IMG_4460

I saw and heard many birds this morning, but this one seemed to be posing for me.

IMG_4464

The wild flowers in the field are in transition. Thistle and Queen Anne’s Lace have all gone to seed and Golden Rod is fading, but Asters are now blossoming. The bees will forage the Asters into the fall while they continue to build their stores for winter.

IMG_4472

The Maple trees are beginning to change color, ushering in the new season, yet the Hibiscus continue to bloom, holding tight to these last days of summer.

Wednesday morning was cooler. The sun was shielded by a thick blanket of clouds. I did not spot any rabbits or deer which is somewhat unusual. Although I wore my rubber boots, the ground was not wet and my farm shoes probably would have kept my just feet dry.

IMG_4479

The sunflowers seemed to be searching for the sun, their heads turned in various directions.

The air was still as I walked the path around the back field, but I was amused seeing the  weeds wiggled as grass hoppers jumped on them or hit them on their way by.

I didn’t hear the song birds like the previous morning instead I heard crows and then turkeys. I heard the turkeys several times as I walked the path across the field but I did not spot them until I reached the wood line.

IMG_4477

There was a flock of them in the neighbors yard – I would have liked to get a better shot but they seemed disturbed and had I gone any closer they would have scattered.

It seems that Summer has passed way to fast this year, and as she travels south for the winter I bid her farewell.

We’ll welcome fall with hopes of many pleasant days, as there is still much work to do before winter arrives.

How about you? Has summer seemed short to you? Are you looking forward to the change of seasons? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Thanks for visiting. 🙂

 

Spring Happenings

The last weekend in May is known as the unofficial start of summer and the weather last weekend played right along. Temperatures were around 90 degrees Fahrenheit for several days. Time seems to being going so fast that I am wondering how I missed spring.

I went back and looked at some of my photos from the last few weeks for a reminder.

IMG_4094The fruit trees, including apple, pear, and tart cherry all blossomed and are now setting fruit. Berry bushes, including our blue berry, raspberry, currant and grapes are setting fruit as well.

IMG_4091The dandelions blossomed and my husband helped me pick a bunch for soap making before they went to seed. I have enough for two batches of sweet dandelion soap. Trooper didn’t help pick dandelions but he enjoyed being there.

Speaking of Sweet Dandelion soap, I had just made a batch in May when I received the Mother’s Day gift my girls bought for me. It is a soap stamp. So I began playing with it as this batch was curing.IMG_4128It will be tricky to figure out when the soap is the correct degree of hardness for the stamp to work just right and challenging learning to apply the right amount of pressure to the stamp so I don’t squish the soap. I thought about using some type of coloring to add contrast, but it has to be something natural since I do not use artificial coloring in my soap. In the above photo I used cinnamon in one and turmeric in the other. Learning to use this will be a lot of trial and error.

The dandelions have now gone to seed and last week when I was mowing the lawn I was getting bombarded with dandelion seeds. They were flying everywhere and they were stuck to my clothes and in my hair. I told my husband I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up with dandelions growing out of my ears. He thought they would probably grow from my belly button because “you know everyone has a little dirt in their belly button.” LOL!IMG_4106We have been hearing  pheasants a lot on the farm and in the neighboring field and every now and the we get a glimpse of one. We are glad to see them as it had seemed that the pheasant population had all but disappeared over the last thirty or so years.

IMG_4102We have spotted many new nests around the farm this spring mostly they have been empty when we looked but one had robin eggs in it and I did spot this momma sitting on hers.

IMG_4127We also have a pair of ducks who have been frequenting the pond this spring. My husband and I agree that we will not be surprised if we find out that they have a nest in the woods next to the pond. I guess we will know if they show up with babies.

IMG_4097This past winter was a bad one for bees in our area. We lost four of our five hives so we bought two more packages and installed them into hives. Since my husband installed them on his own I didn’t get any photos.

The garden has been planted. We have tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, egg plant, potatoes, cabbage, cucumbers, cantaloupe, water melon, lettuce, Swiss chard, celery, basil, parsley, carrots, beets, green beans, corn, winter squash and pumpkins.

Along with the hot weather came a dry spell – we weren’t really expecting it because the weather forecasters had predicted that we would get rain and storms as the remnants from tropical storm Alberto made it’s way North into our part of the country. Somehow all that rain missed us.

IMG_1233Fortunately my husband had put the pump in the pond and we were able to take advantage of the wind that we had last week to get the tanks filled and keep things watered as we awaited the rain.

IMG_1281

We finally got rain this morning and what a blessing it is. Not only will it give all of our crops the boost that they need right now, and give us a break from watering, it makes pulling weeds much easier. Pulling weeds is one of the thing we have been spending much time doing this past week as weeds were threatening to take over the strawberry patch, the garlic field and the asparagus patch. Pulling weeds out of dry clay soil is next to impossible so that task will go much quicker now.

IMG_4124.JPGSince the temperatures were so warm (hot) I did spend some time last Friday raking the beach area. If I have to work on a hot day cleaning the pond is the perfect job. 🙂 After I raked the leaves out of the beach area and used our small rototiller to rough up the sand we set up our beach chairs and umbrella. Woo hoo we are ready for summer!!!

The following day when the sun was high in the sky and temperatures soared, a dip in the pond was a refreshing treat.

Thus far we have picked and eaten and froze lots of asparagus and I picked some rhubarb and put several packages in the freezer as well. When I was freezing the rhubarb I discovered one small package of rhubarb from last year. I decided I needed to use it up. I also found the last of my strawberries from last year – another small package. Since there were only about a cup of each there was not really enough to make this into a pie or crisp, so I decided to make strawberry-rhubarb sauce. I put both the strawberries and the rhubarb in a sauce pan then added a bit of water – maybe a half cup. I wasn’t too worried about having too much because I could cook it off to get the sauce to thicken. I simmered this until the fruit was soft. I then mashed the mixture with a potato masher. I continued cooking it until it was thick and added sugar to taste. I can’t really tell you how much sugar to add because everybody likes a different degree of sweetness and some strawberries are much sweeter than others. I just started with a couple tablespoons and tasted until it was right. While this fruity dessert was good eaten plain, my husband used some as an ice cream topping and I mixed some with some vanilla yogurt as well.

They say that time flies when you’re having fun, and I have always believed that time seems to go faster as I get older, so I think both of these combined explains why it is June already and I feel like I missed Spring. Thanks for sticking with me for this recap.

Just curious – does time seem to be flying by for you as well?