Friday, June 25, 2010

This week

Canned up some gooseberry and some cherry pie filling - so maybe I can make pies in the winter this year.

Steven got the garage all patched up with new lumber in the weaker areas, and then sealed. Now it is ready to paint as soon as I can purchased paint. We are trying to do what we can to keep our old outbuildings from deteriorating any further by doing some maintenance/fix-up/restore on them now.

Been a very hot week, but that has helped with all around us who are cutting wheat. I think the wheat harvest is about all done for our area. I did some mowing last night, but it was really tall stuff out by the orchard trees, and I think it 'did a number' on my sinus', the way I'm feeling this morning. But it needed done.

Tonight is the poultry auction, of course.

Oh - and I forgot to add -- one of our hens hatched out a new batch of chicks yesterday! *smile* We have three hens 'setting' and this was one of the three. Should have more on the way soon.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


It is June. That means gooseberry picking time!

We have both gooseberries and currants growing on the farm (thanks to my English-heritage grandmother who planted them years ago and allowed them to spread through the wooded areas). So every June the fruits begin to ripen, and it is a race to get them before the birds.

Gooseberries and Currants are somehow related, you can tell immediately by looking at both plants - the leaf shape and structure are the same, the conformity is very similar. But there is one big difference - gooseberry bushes are very very thorny, whereas our black currant plants are not. (We are not sure what variety/type of currants we have. They could be jostaberries) The gooseberries bloom with white flowers, the currant blossoms are bright yellow and smell very spicy.

Most of our currant bushes are planted up near the house, and frequently fall victim to wayward goats, who love the bushes (I'm sure they would decimate the gooseberry bushes as well, if they could get into the lower pasture where they are).

I actually don't care much for the sour taste of gooseberries (you have to add a lot of sugar to them when making a pie or jam) - however, my son loves them. (He likes more sweet-tart plants, like rhubarb and gooseberry). It is somewhat a family tradition in our household to go gooseberry picking at least once per year. It takes the full year to get over remembering how painful the previous picking episode was. *smile*

So as Steven, Amanda and I picked and talked, you could often hear "Ow!" "Ouch!" "Ooooo" and we weaved our fingertips between the thorny branches to try to grab the berries. This is not an easy task. Yes, I have tried it with gloves on, but you need the nimbleness and dexterity of a gloveless hand to have success. The berries hide in the underside of each branch and are actually quite hard to spot at first, but as you gently find a thornless spot on the branch to hold and lift to look underneath, you see loads of gooseberries ready to pick. This year has proven to be an especially bountiful year for everything fruit-bearing at the farm (peaches, berries, pears, etc. - all bloomed heavy and are loaded with fruit). We didn't get very far through the half-mile hedgerow where the bushes reside down in the shade of the osage orange trees, before our buckets were filling up fast, and our backs were aching from bending over to pick.

After nightfall, Steven sat in the living room removing the tips and tails (bits of stem on either end of the berry).

Tonight, I suppose, I will bake a pie.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bee Swarm

Well, late last week our bees decided to break off some to begin a new colony (swarm) and we weren't really prepared.

And now we know that Steven definitely is not allergic to bee stings.

When a hive population starts to grow beyond the capacity of your hive box, bees will choose to raise up a new queen, and the new queen and a portion of the bees will break off (swarm out) to go find a new place to live. It is bee population control.

It is also a great way to get a new hive. If you are prepared, have another hive ready, you can help them with the move, or you can capture them after they swarm and 'show' them their new home.

We weren't prepared for them to swarm because when we checked them in April, the hive numbers seemed small. They must have had a very good spring.

They swarmed last week - gathered first in a tree just a few feet from the hive, but very high up in a locust tree. This is where Steven first saw them. Thinking perhaps he could just drop the swarm in temporary box, he got out the extension ladder, extended it all the way out (it still didn't reach the swarm). And prepared to climb to get 'his bees."

He chose, for some yet unknown reason (probably the heat) to not wear any bee gear. At all. Gloves, mask, suit, etc. Nada. After all, we've had bees two years and he hadn't yet been stung even once. They seemed very cooperative in our little hive.

Well he made it up the tree (he can climb better than a monkey) and got to the swarm. Snipped off the branch to drop the swarm into the big bucket he had taken up to capture it. That's when the trouble started.

After the bees began physically protesting all over his face and upper body, his attempts to put the lid on the bucket failed. So he simply dropped the bucket (bees and all) to the ground; (it only stunned them); jumped to the ground, and went to the house. Went out later to retrieve his glasses, his bucket, his ladder, and his dignity. LOL Bees had long since found some other place to go hang out.

He picked stingers out of his skin most of that day. Next day he ran a low-grade fever (probably from the sheer number of stings) and felt pretty crummy. Day after that he broke out in a red rash all over. But the following day all was back to normal. His body successful in warding off the attack.

So the swarm was missed this time. Learning experience for next time. Would be nice to capture a swarm and put a new hive out closer to the orchard.

I also told his grandmother that I need to buy her a video camera for any future episodes like this. I would love to have seen this one in replay.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The List

On our home computer, we have a Microsoft Word document that opens every time we boot up. I purposefully saved the file into startup for just that reason. As soon as we turn on the computer, before we get sidetracked by Facebook and forums and other peoples' wonderful blogs -- we see our farm "to do" list.

The List has morphed some over time, but here is what I like best about it: nothing ever falls off the list. Originally it was a simple reminder list of some things that needed doing. To that we sporadically added some almost wish-list types of things that need to be done, but are bigger and need more money. Fifteen items, then 20, then more... but early on, I set the list standard by deciding to never remove items from the list. When we accomplish a listed task, we simply use the strikethrough font to show it as done.

Why is this important? Because work on a farm is never done. And sometimes you can get very overwhelmed with the feeling of "so much to do!" that you forget to step back for a moment and see how far you have come, and how much really has been accomplished.

After awhile, the list was a random jumble of strike-through lines and non-striked, so I began making the "to do" ones in red font, and the completed, striked-through in black. This helped us see at a glance what the possibilities were for the day.

The List has big projects and small ones. Ones that will take minutes and ones that will take months. "Mulching the potato patch" to "building a new lean-to shed".

Currently, there is around 170 items on the list - only about 30 or so are in red. This makes me feel good. I can look at not only what lies ahead, and the potential, but also how far we've come.