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This Season On Chicken TV

Chicken TV – has become a spring/summer past time for us. That’s what we call the time we spend sitting in our camp chairs near the chicken coop watching the chickens as they peck and scratch and do what chickens do. It’s usually the last half hour or so before the chickens go in for the night. It really can be quite entertaining especially when they are young.

Our Buff Orpingtons are the friendliest of the four breeds that we have and Honey one of our oldest hens will usually sit on my husbands lap. Last year some of buffs that we raised as chicks would also sit on our laps or climb on our shoulders while we sat and watched the group.

This year we have decided not to get attached to the buffs that we are raising since we intend to butcher them before long. We didn’t hold or pet them even when they were  adorable little balls of fluff.

Saturday evening my husband got out my chair and put it near the chicken coop. He then asked for my camera and told me to sit down. I sat in my chair and before long I had chickens on my lap.

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“Close your eyes,” my husband warned me, “they will peck your eyes.”

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So while I sat there with my eyes closed, my husband snapped pictures and counted as each of the young buffs landed on me.

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Within about two minutes I played roost to all 10 young buffs and had become the star of Chicken TV.

My husband knew this was going to happen because he had the same experience the night before when I was not with him.

I don’t mind one or two chickens sitting on me but this was way too much, so he helped me clear them off and the he went about teaching them to use the ramp to get into the coop.  They were just about there but one just couldn’t resist saying a special good night to him.

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Removing A Splinter

Usually when one of us gets a splinter we first try tweezers to pull it out, but usually it is far enough beneath the skin that it can not be reached with the tweezers, so we sterilize a needle and perform minor surgery, digging a hole into the skin and poking around until we can fish the foreign object out.

A few weeks ago when I ended up with a wood splinter in the palm of my hand the first thing I did was ignore it. I was busy and didn’t feel like dealing with it. It wasn’t painful and I remembered my husband saying, “wood will always work it’s way out.” The following day it was still there. It still wasn’t painful, but after my husband asked me a couple of times if I had gotten it out yet, I decided I better try.

Instead of the usual means I thought I would try something that I had only read about – honey. I have read that honey will draw a splinter out. Since I was busy that day and did not have time to sit around with honey on my hand, I decided it would have to be covered. I put a small dab of honey on a band aid and put it over the splinter. I then put on a latex glove so I could go about my tasks without losing the band aid. Within a half hour I began feeling pain in the area of the splinter. It wasn’t severe pain, but when something touched that area of my hand it felt like, I don’t know, I guess it felt like there was a splinter in it.

After about an hour, when I removed the glove, the band aid wanted to come off too. I lifted one end and saw the area was now red and weeping a bit. The honey was apparently doing something. I took that band aid off and put another dab of honey on a second band aid and covered the area again. It was difficult to keep the band aid in place on the palm of my hand, and after about another hour that one, too, was ready to come off. The area was still red, and as I pressed on the area where the splinter had gone into my hand clear liquid came out along with the whole splinter.

Out of habit I thought I better clean the wound with hydrogen peroxide to prevent infection. Interestingly when I poured the peroxide over the area it ran off like water. There was absolutely no bubbling. I knew that honey was said to be antibacterial, and I believed that it was, but up until that time I had no proof. The redness gradually went away and my hand healed nicely.

Please don’t ask me how or why this works, I can only testify that it worked for me. 🙂

A Year In Growing Garlic (Part VII)

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If you planted garlic last fall, as we did, by now you should be seeing vigorous green top growth. How vigorous can depend on many things. Variety of garlic you planted, clove size that was planted and soil conditions are all major factors. If You are not seeing vigorous green growth you will probably need to add some nitrogen fertilizer to give it a boost. It is recommended that nitrogen only be given up until the time that the bulbs start forming. This article explains that bulbs start forming around the time the ground temperature reaches around 60 degrees. http://greyduckgarlic.com/Southern_Garlic_Grower_Guide.html  Another article I read said that bulbs start forming around Memorial day. That article I’m assuming was referring to growing garlic in a cooler, northern climate like ours.

This time of year it is also important to make sure that garlic is getting enough water. This year our problem has been too much water, since we have had “April showers” in January, February, March, April and the first part of May. Although our garlic has shown signs of being stressed with some yellowing of the leaves, due to too much water, we are optimistic that we will have a decent crop.

It is recommended that garlic receive 1 inch of water a week during dry periods up until about two weeks before harvest. At this time we have no intention of watering the garlic anytime soon.

Keeping garlic weeded is the other chore that needs to be done from now until harvest. “Weed early, weed often” seems to be a garlic growers mantra as I seen it written in more then one article that I’ve read about growing garlic. Last week my husband and I spent several hours on two separate days weeding the garlic. Weeding garlic is something that needs to be done by hand, especially if it is planted with several rows close together, like our is.  At this point the weeds were still small and with the ground being wet the weeds came out easily. I believe this is the reason for the “weed early” advice. As bulb formation begins making sure the garlic weed free is even more important, as garlic that is crowded by weeds or roots of weeds will produce smaller bulbs. I do expect that we will be on our hands and knees weeding the garlic a couple more times before harvest. 🙂

 

 

Bird Identification

Our farm is home to all kinds of different species of wildlife many of which my husband and I can identify by sight or sound. Occasionally something that we are not familiar with grabs our attention and we search our reference books and the internet to try to identify it.

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For the last two years this bird has lived in the area somewhere around our pond. We would often see it feeding on the edges of the pond. If we got to close it would usually fly up into a nearby tree. I have yet to see it this year.

After looking through our bird book and looking at various websites my best guess is that it is a Bittern.  I would love to hear from anyone who could possibly confirm this or make another positive I.D.

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Home Sweet Home (Hiving Honey Bees)

We are convinced that bee keeping is part art, part science and part luck. We have read many books and websites and there are so many ways of doing things and reasons behind doing things that it is really up to each bee keeper to decide what works best for them.  Experienced bee keepers may read this and identify 5 or 10 things that they think we did “wrong”. New bee keepers should not use this as their “bee hiving bible”, but study different methods and decide for themselves what will work best. With that being said this is our story of hiving our bees this year.

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Saturday morning we had perfect weather for putting our new bees in their hives. The sun was shinning, the temperature was in the low 60’s and the wind was clam. It was in February, after we realized the loss of two out of our four hives, that we decided to order two packages of bees.  Since we had such a tragic experience last year when our bees were delivered by U.S. Mail https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/05/17/beware/ we knew we would never do that again. Fortunately last August at the Saint Clair County Farm Museum’s Harvest Days we met Scott and Jen from Osage Farms  http://www.osagebees.com/ . They are building an impressive business which includes managing their own bees and bee products along with selling beekeeping products and packaged bees. They don’t raise and package the bees. Their supplier is out of Georgia and Scott personally makes the trip from Michigan to bring back a truckload of bees. We decided to order our bees from them.

We knew the bees would be arriving sometime on Saturday and when we got the news from Jen on Saturday morning that we could pick them up anytime after 9:00 a.m. we headed out the door. Their location in Avoca, Michigan is less than a 20 mile drive and we were back home and getting our bee suits and bee kit ready before 10:00 a.m.

Our bee kit contains the tools that we use when working in the bee hives – hive tools, bee brushes, a couple of small nails that are used for poking a hole in the queen candy to help the workers release the queen from her cage. It also has things like a mirror, flashlight and guitar strings that are handy at times but were not used for hiving the bees. I also made up a spray bottle of light sugar syrup.

When we got to the farm my husband organized all of the hive pieces that we were going to need. He had already in place a bottom board, a deep hive body with 10 frames, a medium hive body with two frames removed from the center, and a medium hive body with all frames removed, for each of the two new hives. Next to each new hive he had set out an inner cover and an outer cover.

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Having everything organized is extremely important when hiving bees because you don’t want to be searching for missing pieces once you get that package of bees open.

Once we had everything in place we put on our bee suits. We don’t have full suits, just the hooded jackets and gloves. We wear blue jeans and pull our sock up over our pant legs so bees do not have an entryway.

Wearing a bee suit can be an encumbrance, the added layer of clothing can be hot and bulky, the screen can make it difficult to see clearly, and the gloves can interfere with manual dexterity.

My husband tends to only wear his suit when it is really necessary and he decided early in the hiving process that it was not necessary. Honey bees are generally not aggressive and only use their stinger as a defense mechanism. At this point they had no food to defend, so unless he accidently put his had on one it is not likely he would get stung. He stopped me before I opened the package and said “This is just in the way,” while taking off his hooded jacket. The picture of him below is much later in the process since I could stop to take his picture while we were busy with the bees and there is no way I would have been able to press that little camera button with those bulky gloves on.

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Usually my husband opens the package, dumps the bees, and deals with the queen cage while I stand by to quickly put on covers or hand him things he might need. This year he  walked me through the process as I did more of the work.

Before we began opening the packages I sprayed them with the sugar water. I used a mixture of 1 part sugar to two parts water. Spraying the bees is said to calm them. I’m not sure if it does.

I started by using the hive tool to pry off the wooden cover that was stapled to the top of the package. When that was removed it exposed the top of the feeder can. I then used the tool to pry up the edge of the feeder can and loosen the plastic tag that held the queen cage in place. Once the feeder can was removed my husband took the queen cage out of the package and I quickly placed the wooden cover back over the hole in the package to keep the bees inside. We inspected the queen cage to make sure the queen was alive. Each queen cage had a queen and three or four attendants with her. It had queen candy on one end and a small cork to plug the hole that would expose the queen candy. My husband removed the cork then took a small nail to gently puncture a starter hole in the queen candy. He then used a slightly larger nail to make the hole bigger all the time being careful not to hit the bees with the nail. This will make it easier for the workers to release the queen from her cage.

My husband then set the queen cage in the hive, in the space where the two frames had been left out of the medium hive body. It was sitting on top of the frames in the bottom hive body.

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Once we had the queen cage in place it was time to shake the rest of the bees into the hive. I let him do the first one but I decided I would do the second one. Even though I have watched my husband do this quite a few times, I didn’t realize how tough you have to be with them. After giving the package several good shakes into the hive with a cluster of bees dropping into the hive each time, and shaking them first to one end then to the other then out the center, and hitting the ends of the package to get them clustered and out, there were still a lot of bees clinging to the screened side of the packages. My husband then took the package from me and gave it a couple good slams on the wooded work table, then shook most of the rest of the bees into the hive.

All this time there were thousands of bees flying around us but I honestly didn’t pay them much attention. My focus was on the task at hand and  thinking about what we needed to do next.

After most of the bees were out of the package he put the package on the ground near the hive entrance so the rest of the bees could find their new home when they exited the package. We brushed a few bees off the lip of the hive box as we slid the inner cover in place, then we put on the outer cover.

As far as feeding these new bees we decided not to use a feeder on the hive. We stopped feeding our bees sugar water several years ago and began making sure they have enough honey to keep them going. We are able to use honey that was in the hives we lost over the winter. Rather than putting it inside the hives my husband has it set up on the bench directly outside the hives. (see photo with my husband in it above).

By afternoon the bee activity had settled down quite a bit and there were bees coming and go from  both of the new hives.

It was a good day. 🙂