Friday, August 2, 2013

Local Dinner

You Can't Get More Local Than This!
Squash, potatoes and onion fresh from the Windwomen Farm garden...sweet corn from Stanton's Farm...butter made at Windwomen Farm from Meadowbrook Farm cream and pork from Cold Antler Farm...

It's Been Too Long...


August has arrived and it’s been too long since we have brought you any news from the farm.  It’s amazing how busy you get with school year endings, multiple trips to Texas, family reunions, unusually hot, humid temperatures, a plethora of chickens...life in general, I guess. We started a few blogs but we never finished them, so here’s one that is actually complete.

Both hives made it through the winter but didn’t survive the visits from the bear this spring and the resulting daily moves in and out of the garage, in the back of the truck...We thought we had it made when we built and placed them inside the “bearricade”. But, when we checked on them a week later, they had vacated the premises.  The “bearricade” structure won’t keep ursine prowlers out of the hives indefinitely, but at least we’ll hear
the cowbells that are hanging from the top before we hear the tell tale sound of breaking Styrofoam.  We’re guessing the bees moved on to more stationary homes.  We were lucky enough to get two packages of bees from Betterbee in Greenwich, NY, to replace them, so we do have happy pollinators buzzing around.  We started each re-populated hive with two frames of honey that the previous tenants had left.  We then harvested the remaining frames and collected about 4 gallons of liquid gold.  Now that the weather has become cooler and dryer, it’s time to once again check in on the buzzing hoards.

The laying hens have survived the heat with only two lost to a fox or coyote...disappeared without a trace...not too big a loss.  BUT...much to our dismay, two of the six Ameraucana chicks we purchased in April have announced to the world that they are roosters.  Too bad the mystery marauder didn’t take those guys instead.   Due to the unusual heat and the fact that some of our hens are walking around with canes, the coop egg production is lower than it was in the
winter.   Hopefully, cooler weather will restore egg production back to former levels, especially as the younger hens mature.
Our first foray into meat birds has come to a successful conclusion.  The freezer now has 24, 4-6 pound birds waiting for the the house chef to bring out the full flavor of our own yard raised birds.  MB is not the house chef...just sayin'. During the 12.5 week growing season, many discussions regarding the design of the chicken tractor took place.  A partial redesign is definitely needed.  Let’s just say the morning of July 18th was “sweet” because there was no need to get up at 5:00 am to let the chickens out and move the coop!!!  July 17th evening was rather nice too, because the chickens didn’t have to be “put to bed”.  Let’s hope, the satisfaction of enjoying delicious home raised meals overpowers the less glamorous aspects of raising the birds. 

The progress in the gardens has been hampered somewhat by the bizarre weather.  The cauliflower and broccoli never really had a chance, too hot, too fast.  The potatoes were growing along beautifully and all of a sudden, something turned the plants brown and stick-like.  But, thanks to our friend Jenna, we discovered that we still had potatoes underneath, albeit somewhat smaller than desired...

The tomatoes have finally started to kick it into gear.  There is nothing like fresh tomatoes from the garden.  They really are the taste of summer!!

The garlic was successfully harvested in mid-July.  Planted in November then left alone until the scapes begin to wind their way around and were cut (delicious!) and then it was left alone again until the bulbs were harvested.   It doesn’t get much easier than that.  A little bit of weeding and you are good to go.  The bulbs are drying in the greenhouse getting ready for their winter storage in the root cellar, aka basement.

Our trio of canine companions is now a duo.  The "big dog", Frannie, succumbed to fast acting cancer.  She enjoyed her 13 years living in the country, protecting her people and property from perceived threats.  She is missed. 



Emmett has recovered from a hot spot that slowed him down for a while and kept him inside during the heatwave.  He is now happily guarding the grounds from the marauding chicken hunter!!  Walker, the puppy, does her best to distract Emmett and get him to play with her.  When he is certain it’s safe for the chickens, Emmett will engage in playful activities, tug of war and play tag.  It is very thrilling to watch two dogs run all out in a playful game of "who's got the brussel sprout stem". 


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spoke Too Soon...

Well...after the wonderful day of spring, winter has reared it's cold, ugly head again...we have seen rain, ice and snow squalls over the past few days...there were a few sun sightings, but not enough to offset the damp, gray, drabness that is the first two weeks of April.

MB and I decided a while back to expand our farming experience to include meat chickens.  In anticipation of their arrival and building on the knowlege base we acquired putting together our first coop, we began construction of a meat bird B&B last weekend.  It's a smaller version of the large, fixed in place, structure that we built for the laying hens several years ago...a 10' x 10' hoop coop on wheels...an official chicken tractor.  We planned to complete it this weekend in time for the arrival of 25 cornish cross chicks.  An added bonus was the arrival of MB's niece...she's always willing to pitch in and help wherever needed.  Little did she know...in fact, neither did we...

Saturday morning we awoke to find one of the bee hives "tunckled" over and we quickly righted and restacked the hive bodies and looked for clues to who the culprit was.  Other than being gnerally in an upside down state, there wasn't too much mass destruction of frames and hive bodies and there was a nice trail of frames heading out towards the eastern woods...a few of the frames had the wax, pollen and honey licked off of them, but no real chewing marks.  Because of the minor manifestation of mayhem, we decided it must've been a raccoon and strapped the hives to the boards and blocks they were sitting on so that the coon couldn't tunckle things over again...

WRONG AND WRONG AGAIN!!!!!

We went back to working on the chicken tractor and after putting in a long day of that and other chores, we settled in for an evening of Downton Abbey reruns.  Two episodes into season one, I was ready for bed and left MB and niece finishing the second episode.  Emmett was outside being the guardian farm dog as he usually is in the evening and early morning and I heard him barking and growling in a way that said, "This ain't no deer!  Pay attention!"...then I heard the sound of a styrofoam beer cooler falling off of a table...

"Something's knocking over the beehives!!!!"

MB and niece ran out the backdoor with flashlights in hand as I grabbed the .22 and ran downstairs...when I got there, MB said that a bear was there standing next to the downed hives and when they came out it looked at them and ambled off, "like a black shadow in the night."...it didn't amble too far or too fast enough for us because Emmett was still keeping up his fuss...and frankly he's our only barometer...

Eventually, we decided it was safe enough to focus on the damages...Two hives upended and very high likelihood that ursa major would return.  What to do...?  We decided that since the hives had to be righted and restacked...yet again...that we would bring the truck around and put the hives into the back of the truck...besides, it would be good to have a truck between us and the bear...we could then park the truck with the hives in the garage safe from further predations.  In the morning the truck could be pulled out of the garage...before the bees started flying around...and we could reassess the situation...GOOD PLAN...the challenge...it's 10 pm, it's dark as a cavern, the hives are upside down and the bees are pissed...

To make the saga short...we did it!  And Emmett quit barking...



Now we have a hive trolley so that we can bring the hives into the garage at night and put them back out in the morning...until we finish building a hoop coop to put them in...



A bearricade of sorts...

;))

Officially...

Officially, Spring began about three weeks ago. Mid-week it finally decided to show up...All the snow was finally gone, even in the shady spots on the north side of the house, and the piles made by the plow. There was still ice in the rain barrels, but the hand pump should be able to go in it anytime now. No more schlepping it from the house to the coop through the snow...yahoo!

The beehives have made it through April 12th....once spring bear season slacks off and the nectar flow begins it will be safe to say they really made it. Until then it’s day to day.


Another true sign of spring is sprouting garlic. Such an easy plant to grow and care for...put the cloves in the ground in the fall...harvest the scapes in the spring...harvest the heads in July...



Happy Spring to all...the dogs are certainly enjoying it!




Monday, April 1, 2013

March Is Over! WAHOO!!!!

It's all half frozen mud and clouds that block both sun and stars....leaving you barely hanging onto the hope of Spring by the time all 31 days are gone....

But...it really makes you grateful when the sun hits you full in the face!

Monday, February 25, 2013

They're Peeking!

Look what I found in the greenhouse today...








Kale, spinach, lettuce and radishes are all peeking....

The carrots are a little shy though...