Friday, August 2, 2013

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 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". 

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