It’s been a busy week around here (with lovely summer weather I might add) and thus left little time for reading or writing. I did however manage to put together this fun little post from some pictures I had previously taken.
Before we get to the fun and games I will mention our two big accomplishments this week. The first was getting the other three hives of honey harvested. We were blessed with a wonderful harvest this year with the four hives yielding more than 40 quarts of beautiful, delicious honey.
The second was getting the garlic cleaned and sorted. You may remember that we had a small crop this year (somewhere around 400 bulbs) so cleaning and sorting went much quicker than in years past. I spent about 2 hours on each of two consecutive evenings clipping and cleaning. As I worked I sorted the larger bulbs that we will use for seed from the smaller ones. When all was done we ended up with about 160 seed bulbs that we will plant this fall. I expect they will yield between 1000 and 1200 plants. Perfect!
Let The Games Begin
While looking at some of the photos I have taken recently a couple of childhood games came to mind.
Hide and Seek
It seems we often find ourselves searching for fruits and vegetables amongst the foliage.
The grapes are only visible by pushing the leaves aside.
Likewise with pumpkins and squash
The other game we play a lot is peek-a-boo.
This sunflower was peeking at me between the corn stalks
And the Black-eyed Susan’s were peeking out from under the spruce tree.
Frogs love to play peek-a-boo!
and even the full moon this month was peeking out from behind the clouds.
Thanks for playing and have a great weekend!
Now tell me do you have a favorite childhood game?
Each year after the garlic is harvested I let out a big “WOO HOO!” and my husband and I each sigh in relief because it is such a laborious task. This year, however, the harvest went so quickly and easily that I thought it hardly worth a mention.
For the sake of keeping a record of it I decided to write about it anyway.
We harvested the crop on Friday, July 10. It was hot and humid in the morning when I got started, but I thought it would be good to get it out of the ground before the rain and storms, that were predicted for later that day, arrived. I began digging the bulbs up like we normally do but quickly discovered that the soil was moist enough that I was able to pull the bulbs out without breaking the stems. This saved much time and energy. After 40 minutes or so I had about 1/3rd of the crop harvested but my body was telling me I needed to get out of the sun.
We decided to go home for a break and lunch. Then, despite the fact that it was raining, my husband returned to the farm that afternoon to finish the harvest. While we ended up getting a decent rain that day we did not get any of the storms that surrounding area experienced. After my husband harvested the rest of the garlic he bundled and hung the bulbs that I had pulled earlier. Later that evening I bundled the rest of the bulbs that he had pulled. We ended up with around 400 bulbs total (our smallest crop ever) and plan on saving at least 150 bulbs for seed to plant in the fall.
The garlic is now hanging upstairs in the barn where it will cure for at least three weeks before being cleaned.
NOTE: For anyone thinking about growing garlic, in the U.S. now is the time of year to start looking for seed garlic. I have never seen seed garlic it sold in stores or garden centers but an internet search should produce many options. In northern parts (colder climates) fall is the time of year for planting garlic (about 6 weeks before the ground freezes). Then it should sprout up in the spring around the time the daffodils and other bulbs start sprouting.
According to almanac.com the dog days of summer run from July 3 through August 11 which is normally the hottest and most humid time of year in the northern hemisphere. Around here every day is a dog day. Just ask Ranger and Trooper. But, yes, the HEAT IS ON and it is accompanied by a dry spell so keeping the gardens watered has been the main focus for the past week or so. If you are curious about how we manage that on our off-grid farm you can check out our off-grid irrigation system here.
In the mean time I put together a collection of pictures that I’ve taken over about the past few weeks to share with you.
This is how Ranger cools off on these hot days. (Did you know beagles can swim?)
and Trooper enjoys laying on the beach after a swim in the pond.
The grandbabies love the water as much as the dogs do.
Dragonflies are yet another creature that appreciate the pond.
This one is drinking water from the sand. Check out the honey bee (on the left) that photo bombed this shot. She too was coming to the beach for a drink of water.
This beauty hung out with us on the beach, for a couple of hour yesterday evening, fluttering about and pausing now and then to rest or perhaps get a sip of water.
One last pond picture because we can never have too much cuteness. LOL.
Speaking of cuteness, here is a double dose – twins.
The lavender is gorgeous this year and the bees and butterflies are all over it.
We have transitioned from strawberry season to blueberry season. On the same day that my husband, and (daughter) Kara, picked the last of the strawberries, I took (daughter) Tina, and Jackson and Addy into the blueberry patch to pick the first ripe berries. While Kara took her 3/4 of a basket of strawberries home. Addy couldn’t wait, so she ate all of the blueberries we picked while they were still at the farm.
Start them off young – that’s my motto. They posed for a group photo then dad took Jackson and Addy, one at a time, for a ride on the tractor.
The garden is flourishing. I have harvested basil and calendula flowers twice so far.
We have green tomatoes, peppers starting to develop, blossoms on the eggplant,
blossoms on the green beans and the corn is knee high.
We cut garlic scapes (check out this post to learn more about scapes) about two weeks ago and will be digging garlic soon.
It seems that every summer our back field is dominated by different plants. This year it is full of clover and birdsfoot trefoil and I think it is just gorgeous. It’s also great bee food.
I’ll leave you with one last photo of this pair who stopped by our deck for a short visit last week. They were kind enough to stay so I could get a photo then they hurried on their way.
Thanks for visiting and remember – stay hydrated, breathe deep and stay well.
Several blogs that I have seen this morning have reminded me that it is Earth Day. In fact it is the 50th year that this day has been celebrated. It is really just a coincidence that I have prepared a post with lots of pictures of our little piece of this earth but I invite you to have a look around.
Even though we lost all of our bees over the winter we still have two hives that have some honey in them. On the days that are warm and sunny they are being visited by what we assume are wild honey bees. Since there is little available for them to forage this early in the year these bees are eating the honey that remains in the hives. It is good to know there are still honey bees in the area.
Daffodils are blossoming and the bushes in the background are forsythia just beginning to bud out. We have never had the forsythia blossom so fully. Last year we decided not to prune them but to wait until after they are done blossoming this spring. It seems to have worked.
Yellow is a happy color. 🙂
It shouldn’t be long before the forsythia is fully blossomed. I think it will be a stunning backdrop for the pond.
These small daffodils and white hyacinths were planted 5 years ago in memory of my husband’s mother. My husband had bought them for her to brighten up her room when she was in the hospital. After she passed away we brought them home and planted them in the prayer garden. They are the first daffodils to blossom every year.
The garlic is doing well. I love seeing them come up in neat, orderly rows.
These small red shoots are a peony bush the I planted last year in memory of my Aunt Shirley. I am so happy to see it coming up.
I spotted the first dandelions to open. They were growing in the middle of my oregano patch so I will likely dig them out. Personally I love to see dandelions in bloom they just don’t belong in my oregano patch.
Above are cosmos and below are primrose. Both were added to the prayer garden last year. They were given to my husband by a lady whose home he was working at while he was working the landscaping job.
The cosmos continued to flower all last summer and were not touched by the deer, but the top growth on the primrose died off after being transplanted. They then formed new leaves but did not flower. I guess I will find out this year if they are deer candy or not.
A cardinal was visiting the chicken yard. This is not unusual. Many birds (and rabbits, and squirrels and even deer) visit that area since there is always food available.
Blue berry bushes are beginning to bud out as are apple trees (below).
We witnessed something we have never seen before on Sunday. Honey bees were foraging in the daffodils.
We have had daffodils growing since before we began keeping bees and if you have been following my blog for very long you know that I always watch to see where the bees are and what plants they are foraging.
This is the first time in eight years that we have seen the honey bees collecting daffodil pollen. Since I am not skilled enough as a photographer to get a picture of the pollen attached to their bodies you will just have to take my word that they were collecting pollen to take back to their hive.
As I was working at the farm on Monday I noticed this egret land near the pond. He or she quickly swooped up a tasty treat. I’m not sure if it was a frog or a fish.
It then continued to make it’s way around the edge of the pond.
It was about 45 minutes later that I saw it fly away so I can only assume it left with a full belly.
Not everything that is happing at the farm is as passive as this appears.
On Sunday I decided it was time to start preparing the ground around the apple trees for the companion plants I am going to put in.
Since my husband was working in a different area, we put Ranger on a tie near where I was working. When he saw me digging in the dirt he decided to come and help. I have to admit that he was much more efficient digging with his paws than I was with a trowel. Unfortunately after digging for a short bit he sniffed the area and realized there were no mice hiding in that ground, so he was done.
I finished removing the grass and top layer of soil around the base of the tree – only six more to go. I will then be planting chives which are said to ward off insects and prevent apple scab and nasturtiums which are also reported to repel insects. We won’t know until summer if these methods are working but lets all hope that I’ll be posting pictures of beautiful apples later this year.
Now this post is getting long and we’re heading out to work in the asparagus patch (it should be coming up soon) so I’ll save the information about the work we are doing there for another post.
Perhaps this post should be sub-titled “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” because we have seen a bit of each this winter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ranger, who is a hunting dog, primarily uses his nose.
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.
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.