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Posts Tagged ‘Homestead’

Guinea Keets

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We have babies!

A few months ago one of our 3 guinea hens decided that she liked our neighbors much better and took off, leaving us with only 2 guineas. Then a little over a month ago, another one disappeared. We heard her, so knew she couldn’t be too far away, but she stopped coming around for food in the morning. We finally found her sitting on eggs. Normally we wouldn’t mind, but in this case we only have guinea hens, which means no fertilized eggs.

Being the resourceful person that he is, Eric went on craiglist and found fertilized guinea eggs. We put them under our hen and 28 days later, woohoo!

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We have 6 keets. The two females are raising them together, what a cute little family.

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Shearing Day

Although my daughter has been shearing lambs for a few years, this was our first go at it.

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Her 2 lambs were already at the farm, and they have shearing stands and shears, so we loaded up our other 2 lambs and headed up to the farm.

Me, drying a lamb

Me, drying a lamb

The first step is washing and drying the lambs. The dirt in their wool, will dull the sheers, so they’ve gotta be clean.

"Wrangler"

“Wrangler”

It’s quite a task getting the lambs up on the stand, but once you have them hooked in, they are fairly content. You have to watch them closely though, as they tend to slip off every now and then.

Aspen, shearing one of our girls

Aspen, shearing one of our girls

Eric, shearing Wrangler

Eric, shearing Wrangler

Of course, Aspen was great at shearing, but who knew Eric would be such a natural? He was such a perfectionist, we had to pretty much pry the shears out of his hands.

Look how fluffy and white!

Look how fluffy and white!

Exhausted from a busy day

Exhausted from a busy day

Overall, we did pretty well. We washed, dryed, sheared, and cleaned up in under 3 hours. We definitely got a better appreciation of what my daughter has been doing the last couple years.

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Homestead Update

So much has been happening, I don’t even know where to start …

Let’s start with, I do have a queen bee. Yea! I opened up the hive on Sunday afternoon and found capped brood. This means that eggs have been laid, and covered up. Unfortunately, with the heat, a piece of comb about 2X2, containing capped brood, melted off and fell to the bottom of the hive. When I talked to my bee-mentor, she said that if it’s a small piece, leave it, and the bees will recycle it. Lesson learned — don’t go in the hive in 90 degree weather, things are too fragile. On the bright side, the hive is buzzing along nicely, with plenty of honey and new babies coming soon.

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Berm my daughter made to try and keep the rain away

Berm my daughter made to try and keep the rain away

Next up … 2 new chicks and 1 new duckling. This is good and bad. For the chicks, Maribel was one several eggs and only one hatched. The second chick I found under where the turkey had been sitting, but apparently she up and abandoned it. I gave the chick to Maribel, and she has accepted it as her own – good mama. We had 2 ducklings sitting on large clutches of eggs, but only 1 live duckling. Our Peking, got scared off the nest and got up, the few viable eggs (with pips) dried up and the ducklings didn’t make it 😦 Our second duck, the Lavender Peking lost 4 chicks in the 5″ of rain a few weekends ago. Luckily, one had hatched before the majority of the rain came in. The others sadly drowned. It looks like we may need to incubate if we are wanting ducklings this year.

On to a happier note, the garden is coming along great. I am harvesting tomatoes, zucchini, butternut squash, okra, jalapenos, green beans, and tomatillos daily.

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I made this caprese salad with cherokee purple, wyche yellow, and emerald evergreen – plus basil from the garden.

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I’ve also starting this year’s canning, tomatoes, salsa, sweet pickles, and dill pickles.

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Due to the new induction cooktop, I had to get a new canner. Considering my other one was just a not-quite-big-enough-pot, this was not a huge sacrifice. Canning was so much easier with the large canner, and water that boils in no time.

We also just redid our kitchen, new counter tops, brick backsplash, farm sink and the afore-mentioned induction cooktop.

Before …

Double sink, difficult to clean large pots

Double sink, difficult to clean large pots

Split-Level island and centered cooktop took away all of my prep area

Split-Level island and centered cooktop took away all of my prep area

Crappy tile, which made rolling out dough a pain

Crappy tile, which made rolling out dough a pain

After …

New Farm Sink

New Farm Sink

New Island with so much prep area

New Island with so much prep area

Updated computer area

Updated computer area

We also have 4 new lambs. My daughter got her 2 FFA lambs, 1 medium wool and 1 southdown. We decided to replace our Dorpers with Southdowns. The Dorpers just weren’t very friendly and considering we will need to take them to see a Ram once a year, we didn’t want catching them to be a monumental chore. Plus, it is fun to have lambs come up to you and eat out of your hand, rather than take off in the other direction. The one negative is that we will have to sheer the Downs, but I know people who can turn wool into yarn. This weekend is sheering day, I’ll have to update on how it goes.

Think that should about do it for today …

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beesuits

Last month we took our hands-on bee class from Bee Friendly Austin. Chuck and Tanya are so knowledgeable and helpful. After the class I felt very comfortable, and confident that I could do it.

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We also had Chuck build our top bar hive for us.

On May 17th we picked up our package of bees from Beeweaver.

That was an adventure in itself. Beeweaver is northwest of Dripping Springs. I drove past the place a few times, as it is unmarked, with only a mailbox, with very faded numbers. Once you decide to just go for it and turn down the driveway, it’s probably a quarter mile in before you see any signs of civilization.

Once I got the bees home, I put on my suit and did all the prep work. I made up the sugar water, added the divider, set the queen excluder, and attached some old comb to the first two bars with some fishing line. I then took out the queen cage and laid her back under the combs. Next, I took the cover off of the package and set it in the hive. I then closed everything up.

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The next day I freaked out! I opened up the observation window and saw tons of dead bees and a completely empty quart of sugar water. I ran to the house to put on my suit, grabbing another quart of sugar water while yelling to my family “I’ve killed all my bees!!!”

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Well it turns out I didn’t kill all the bees, but probably at least a thousand had died. When I did some research on beeweaver and other websites, it seems this is common. You are expected to lose a large number of bees. I’m surprised I hadn’t read this before, when I’d been doing my research.

After my first scare, things didn’t get easier.

The fourth day, the queen still had not gotten out of the cage. I had to poke a hole in the marshmallow, being very careful not to poke a hole in the queen.

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That evening, I came home to see the hive in disarray. It appeared that all of the bees were on the outside of the hive! The queen excluder was still on, so only worker bees can get in and out. I frantically called Chuck and Tanya. They suggested that there was a traffic jam and the bees could not get in and out. I should put a box under the hive and push all the bees into it, then dump that box into the hive.

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Well that is not what a new beekeeper wants to hear. It was getting dark at the time, so I waited until morning. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night, anxious about the task ahead. It went pretty smoothly, and as you can see, by morning the number of bees had dropped significantly.

After getting a good amount of bees in the hive, I decided (foolishly) to open up one of the corks so more bees could get in and out. I then headed off to work.

Chuck checked in on me to see how the bee wrangling went. We talked and he mentioned that the queen was probably a little unhappy with her new home and had most likely blocked the entrance, keeping the worker bees from getting inside. Oh no! I had just opened up the cork, allowing my “unhappy queen” access to the outside. All beeweaver queens have clipped wings, so Chuck said the worst case would be that a cluster of bees would be on the ground when I returned home that evening.

Well as my bee luck has been so far, there was a large cluster of bees on the ground when I got home. The only positive, was that the box was still under the hive. The majority of the cluster was on the box, so I was able to dump the cluster into the hive (I already had practice with this task). The ones on the ground I stirred up a bit, to make them fly. I then scanned the ground to see if any bees were left crawling around. I couldn’t find any, so had to hope that the queen was in the original cluster and had been dumped back into the hive.

Since the queen does not go out at night, I closed the cork, but opened the queen excluder to allow drones through. I didn’t want them all stuck outside. After dark I turned the queen excluder back on and crossed my fingers.

I decided to leave everyone alone for a few days, meanwhile having no idea whether or not I had a queenless hive.

One last bit of drama occurred on Sunday. We threw a pool party and I don’t know if it was the noise, the smoker or what, but suddenly it looked like the bees were swarming. There was a huge tunnel of flying bees. I was convinced that the queen was gone and that they were all flying away. About 15 minutes later they settled down and were back on the outside of the hive.

This afternoon I decided to check the bees. I didn’t get far enough in to see if there were eggs (the sign that the queen is in there — aside from actually seeing her of course). The bees looked happy. They were clustered on the 1st though 4th bars, which means they are frantically building comb.

I’m hoping to be through with the first round of drama. I’ll go looking for the queen and eggs in a few days to know for sure. Wish me luck!

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Today ended up much chillier than I anticipated, and with the drizzle, I wasn’t feeling too motivated to garden.

I took pictures instead (and attended a hands-on a bee class – post to come later)

My MIL worked tirelessly last weekend and this Saturday helping me clean up around the yard. Last weekend was the vegetable garden.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Onions, Carrots, Lettuce, Melons, Squash, Peppers

Onions, Carrots, Lettuce, Melons, Squash, Peppers

Newly planted pepper bed

Newly planted pepper bed

First Squash - pass-along from Ms. Black, my daughter's FFA teacher

First Squash – pass-along from Ms. Black, my daughter’s FFA teacher

First Tomato

First Tomato

Beans and corn planted yesterday

Beans and corn planted yesterday

Yesterday was the back yard, weeding, raking, and general cleanup.

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Finally got my garden gates back from the powder coater, just in time for my climbing rose to take off.

Finally got my garden gates back from the powder coater, just in time for my climbing rose to take off.

Grape Hyacinth

Grape Hyacinth

California Poppy - I miss these from Phoenix, and finally have my own

California Poppy – I miss these from Phoenix, and finally have my own

Next I took a tour outside the fence, trying to capture wildflowers

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Our lambs grazing in the background

Our lambs grazing in the background

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My garden helpers — These guys follow me around everywhere. The guineas are usually in 3s, but today she was off wandering.

Carl

Carl

Guinea Hen

Guinea Hen

Checking on some of the poultry …

Our 3 peafowl, we don't know the sex yet, no full tails until 2 years of age

Our 3 peafowl, we don’t know the sex yet, no full tails until 2 years of age

Gobbling with me ... a favorite pasttime

Gobbling with me … a favorite pasttime

Waiting for scratch?

Waiting for scratch?

And on to the orchard

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First peach!

First peach!

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As a family we have made huge steps in the past 3 years.

We have a large vegetable garden where we get the majority of our veggies. I have planted several fruit trees, so in a few years our fruit situation will be much better. This spring all of the compost for my beds came from my own pile, this is the first season I’ve had enough.

We raise chicken, turkey, quail, rabbit, lamb and pig for meat, along with venison from hunting.

We have rain water collection, however, I need more barrels.

We are working hard to become debt free. We were doing much better until that new car — oh well a work in progress.

We have improved in the amount of things we buy, but still have a long way to go.

I’ve been adding more blogs to my list that are dealing with being more self sustainable. One blog I recently found practicingresurrection had some words from Granny Miller, another big self-sustainable blogger. There is a list of things you need to do, the most important being giving up your television. Wow! I am really not ready to do this, but I can see why it is true.

There are so many things I’d like to do, but I don’t have enough time. My house is too messy, but I just don’t have time on the weekend. I just didn’t make it to the gym, or I really should get those seedlings started. I should go to the grocery store, make homemade bread … the list goes on.

I’m thinking if I just cut back on my TV til after 9pm, I could get a lot of things done. I am thinking of putting a list together of things I’d like to try.

Make venison jerky (The seasoning just arrived from amazon)
Learn to Knit (not counting the unfinished scarf in the tv room with a giant hole in it)
Try making cleaning supplies
Make candle melts, lip balm (once bees/beehive arrive in May)
Grow more flowers from seedling (so far I’ve only done veggies)
Fruit canning (aside from preserves)
Start making my own granola (this looks so easy and way better than store bought)
Start growing fodder for poultry/lambs
Make my own tea (really need to start using that dehydrator)

I hope to check things off the list and add more.

My husband suggested we do a project a week. First I’m thinking granola.
Here’s the one I’m thinking (minus the candied ginger)
From onehundreddollarsamonth

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Just a Normal Thursday

Not that I’m complaining, but my normal everyday after-work routine can be a little hectic.

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On my way home from work I stopped real quick at The Natural Gardener (luckily on my way home) and grabbed some Juliet’s, since I didn’t grow these from seed, some basil and a few silver pony foot. By stopping today I don’t have to fight the weekend crowds.

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After arriving home, I filled up the feed buckets and fed Marshal and the Lambs (still no names). I threw the ball around with Marshal for about 10 minutes as well.

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While out there, I filled up my bowl with greens, radishes, and carrots for tonight’s salad.

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I reset the traps with peanut butter and dog food.

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I then migrated to the chicken area to spray some antibiotic on our chicken with an eye infection. I set a few traps in the chicken area as well.

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And gathered eggs

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I then pulled out a lamb roast for dinner.

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All the while, pet Frankie and say hello to Rose and Carl. Carl makes it easy since he follows me around everywhere.

Now off to cook dinner.

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