Or, the tractor before the farm. We now own one of these…..
Leave it to my husband to think outside the box, but for our small, hilly property-to-be, I think this tool on most counts will be the right one. He uses one at work all the time, which is where he got the idea, for materials handling, removing blackberries, setting posts in hard to get at spots, etc.
We bought the dingo used of course, and the price was right (or at least way better than buying one new!). Plus it comes with several attachments: 3 sizes of auger, a loader, a trenching attachment, forks, and a really nice trailer. We can rent or buy a tiller for it too, though I want to try renting one first. My only hesitation on the tiller is that you have to walk backwards to till with it…but it has at least twice the hp of a big BCS type tiller, so should be easier on the user to operate (minus the crick in the neck). With the tracks it only compresses the ground at about 3.5 psi, the trencher will be awesome for laying out watering systems and redoing the spring supply line to the house, the augers will be great for setting fence and putting in orchard, the forks for moving things around and pulling old metal trash out of the ditch, the loader bucket for materials handling and compost turning, plus it is small enough to fit through a man-gate or turn around in a stall. We can run it safely anywhere on the property, and even if the ground is wet, as it will compress things less than I will. You can put a hitch on the front for parking trailers or moving pastured critter housing….
Where I think this tool is not going to shine is in the mowing department, as I don’t think it has a very fast operating speed, but hopefully we will have critters to take care of most of that. And if it doesn’t work out, we will sell it (though always easier to buy than to sell!). I am hoping to get my first tutorial next week! Next on the list: the farm truck…..
We went out to the bunion yesterday to visit and to do a little tending to the place. I pulled a gunny sack full of thistles, and slew many more with my hoe, but barely made a dent in the population. Some of the seed I tossed out has germinated, especially the clover, which is fantastic. After I could not stand to pull another thistle, I took the dogs for a walk in the woods to see what we could find. The first thing we found was a Great Horned Owl, who possibly is making a home in the barn. She conveniently sat on a low branch so we could get a good view of her. More wildlife pressure to add to the list….any poultry will have to live under lock and key, but I do love owls, especially big fierce Hooty ones. She or her relatives possibly inspired the mysterious owl shaped objects that have left ghost impressions on the wall in the kitchen.
I also found a few woodland wildflowers, in addition to the Oregon Grape and wild strawberries I found lots of Johnny Jump Ups
a very few trillium (trillia?), and lots of these lovely Ladyslippers
The fruit trees are in bloom, looks like there are two cherry trees (and they are small enough to possibly be Pie cherries, which would give me great joy), two walnuts, and the apple, which is in glorious blossom. It will be fun to try to figure out what kind of apple it is. One of my bait hives is stashed underneath it…no swarms yet. The cherries were humming with pollinators and the dormer bees were very busy.
I have to keep reminding myself that we still have a long wait and it is possible the deal will fall through. I sat in what is left of the pasture with the dogs and fell further in love with it anyway. The dogs don’t want to wait either…Katie fully approves of the Bunion.
After all of last week’s reminders that life is short I am also trying to remember that patience is a virtue, and having a year to sit with this land, albeit only occasionally, before I launch into farming it is a gift!
We had a great day out in Mcminnville at the Yamhill Valley Historical Center Farm fest and Plowing competition. The great Duane Van Dyke loaned us a team of shires, and Clare and Sara and Sarah and Lucy and I all plowed a demonstration plot together. Sara Van Dyke got us started and showed us how it is done (and took the edge off our team), and then Clare took over the lines for most of the rest of the day. Sarah H and Lucy and I all got to practice running the plow and also helped out as general swampers for One Mile Shires…Duane and his extended family had at least 4 teams in the competition. I had my hands too full to take pictures, but there are some great shots of our end of the field on Clare’s blog.
Many thanks to the Oregon Draft Horse Breeders Association and the Yamhill Valley Heritage center for putting on this great event. There were 1300 spectators that turned out to watch us plow!
There were a lot of great high points of the day, one of the best for me was when Lisa Hubbe from down in Scio won the Supreme Plowman award, as best teamster and team on the field. Clare calls her the Zen Master of draft horses, and she truly is masterful in the way she handles horses, she literally never raises her voice and her team would try to pull down the sky if she asked them to. She is also one of the most humble and kindhearted people one would ever care to meet. Another high point was helping Duane hitch six up to his double bottom sulky plow (including the team we used all day) and watch him finish out the plowing at the end of the day.
It didn’t hurt that there were lots of beautiful teams to admire, and it was very exciting to work with full sized drafts (and pretty snorty ones at that) after working with haflingers.
This week is the Small Farmers Journal Auction in central Oregon….if you love farm equipment, work horses, and the best collection of characters the Pacific Northwest has to offer, you should head over to Madras and check it out. I will be there for sure next year (assuming the auction continues), possibly looking for a draft pony of my own. Or at least a good looking cowgirl hat.
Hummer will be back next year! (those are some of Duane’s shires in the background).
The cart has been completed, and is now out at Square Peg Farm for testing. It is very light and well balanced, and turns on a dime. I think the flexibility of it will be very useful, and am already envisioning add ons like a drop in frame of expanded mesh or screen for harvesting and cleaning root vegetables like carrots and parsnips.
Here is the completed cart: I used two 26″ mountain bike wheels/tires for the wheels.
Here it is being transported on the rack of my Civic Hatchback…it fit just perfect.
Here is how I reinforced the corners, as I was using a smaller tubing for the handle and was worried it wouldn’t be sturdy enough for regular farm abuse:
Here it is with the drop in plywood top for hauling flats, amendments, harvest tubs, etcetera. These may need some additional work to keep things from sliding off in transit.
I also took some seed balls out to The Bunion (the little farm). Seed balls are very fun to make, and even more fun to distribute. I went through my seed stash and made up a mix of red clover, white clover, hulless oats, native wildflower seed, with a few brassicas tossed in for good measure (mostly kales). I then mixed this with dry red stoneware clay, compost and a little water, and then formed up the seed balls and let them dry. Here they are in a bucket (parents, this would be a super fun project for kids, though adults should do the materials mixing as powdered dry clay is hazardous to your health). Here is a seed ball recipe for those who may be interested, or have some old seed to distribute.
At 1 1/2 inches in diameter and several ounces each, these are super fun to toss out into a field or any site you are interested in introducing guerrilla seed to. I am interested in replacing the clovers in this pasture that were killed by the broadleaf herbicides used by the timber company when they planted the field in doug fir seedlings, and in increasing the diversity of the plants there. I don’t know if any of it will ‘take’, but that will be fun to see down the road! To distribute the balls, you just walk merrily about the site hucking balls in all directions until you run out or feel seeds have been appropriately distributed. The seed ball in theory, helps protect the seeds from predation and desiccation, until conditions are right for germination.
Since then, the thistles have made their appearance in spades. I will have my work cut out for me trying to reduce their presence without cultivation. A second seed ball application in conjunction with a lot of hand pulling is in order for the next two months. I also got my swarm bait hives in place, at last! We will see how they do. We finally saw the colony that lives in the house in action, they seem to be thriving and live in the corner of the N dormer.
Put this on your calendar: next saturday is the Mcminnville Historical Society farm fest and plowing competition. I will be helping with a team of Shires this year, which should be very exciting. Lots of old tractors and other equipment, plus plowing demos and competition with some of the best draft teams in Oregon. Hope to see you there!
The grass is growing, the bees are flying, the trees are budding, the spring chinook are in the river, and that all spells one thing to this beekeeper. Swarm season! I plan to stash a couple of swarm traps out at the little farm-to-be this week (which is late! I should have them up already!). The earliest swarm I have heard of around here was on Easter Sunday, and that is next weekend!
For those of you new to beekeeping, swarm catching is a great way to expand your apiary. It is also good to know how to catch your own bees if/when they swarm. If you have never done it before, go with an experienced beekeeper once or twice to see how it is done. I often teach a swarm catching class this time of year, but thought I would post for the world at large my swarm kit and some good basic recommendations for the would bee swarm catcher. All of this is common sense information, but good to refer to when bee fever is in full swing. A few good questions at the start can save you a lot of time and gas money.
BE AN AMBASSADOR FOR THE BEES
- Be courteous, calm, confident, and prepared to answer a lot of questions about bees.
- Don’t get in over your head.
- Don’t commit to removing the bees unless you are absolutely sure you can, and don’t feel obligated to put yourself in unnecessary danger. You are a volunteer, not a superhero. Tell people you will do your best, but make sure they know that you can’t fly, for example, and that those bees 40 feet up in a tree really pose no threat to anyone. Use phrases like “I will check it out and remove them if I can” instead of “I will take care of those bees for you”.
- Save yourself a lot of unnecessary driving around by asking a lot of questions before you go (see below). Ask the property owner to call you if the bees leave before you arrive.
- Make sure the relationship is clear. There are some kooks out there that want to charge You for removing their bees for them. If people offer money I often suggest they make a donation to Zenger Farm or the Xerces Society if they want to help bees. Or you can accept it to cover some of your costs….
- Carry some printed information to hand out to people if they want it. Make sure your contact info is on there, as other swarms may occur in the same area (or you might have left something behind!).
- Ventilated cardboard box or spare hive body. Make sure it has a bottom, lid, and an entrance/exit that you can seal up for transport! I use #8 (1/8th inch) hardware cloth and duct tape to seal the entrance….make sure the bees get plenty of air!
- Protective clothing: I use a Tyvek suit tucked into boots, gloves, and veil.
- 1/1 sugar syrup spray in a spray bottle. Mine usually has a few drops of lemongrass and mint essential oil.
- White sheet (lay this under the swarm and the swarm box to prevent bees from getting lost in the grass and stepped on)
- Time. The process can take an hour or two, not including travel.
- Bee Brush, dust pan, sheetrock knife (this is less annoying to the bees than a brush if used gently).
- Duct tape (for sealing up box/hive body for transport).
Swarm in my apple tree
Non essentials that are nice to have:
9. Benadryl and Epinephrine just in case….
10. Loppers/pruners/pruning saw.
11. Long handled broom.
12. Bait for the box: lemongrass essential oil, old brood comb.
13. Assistant (if possible).
14. Referral Cards and Information handouts, these bees may swarm again!
15. Cell phone.
16. Bee Vac/extension pole with bucket or net/other tricky high swarm gear
QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE YOU GO
- Sure they are honeybees? (not wasps, not bumblebees?)
- Sure they are swarming? (in a clump in a tree or on a fence etc, not an established colony in some cavity).
- How large is the swarm clump? (if they are the size of a lemon, it may not be worth your time, if they are the size of a soccer ball then…Bonanza!).
- How far off the ground? (people are terrible at judging this, but if it sounds like you need wings then don’t go unless they have a cherry picker to loan you).
- How long have they been there? Minutes? Hours? Days? (This question will often sort out the swarms from the structural removals and established colonies in bee trees)
- Location: Street address, contact person’s phone number, description of exact location (“in the apple tree in the front yard right at eye level”) if the property owner cannot meet you there.
Don’t forget to ask that they call you back if the bees leave before you get there!
This information is only partial, I would take a class or at least have a good handle on bee behavior and the biology behind swarming, and go with someone who has experience a few times if possible. I am currently reading the book Honeybee Democracy by Thomas Seeley, which I would say is a must read for anyone wanting to set up swarm traps or bait hives. Here is another excellent reference on catching swarms (and I think Matt has now caught more than anyone I know!) from the Beethinking Website.
And finally, of course, you must be fashionable when catching swarms. Diamonds are perhaps a bit much, but pearls (and cowgirl boots!) go with any occasion.
In other news: the cart is finished, it turned out great and is currently being tested out at Square Peg Farm. I will post about that soon…like when I relocate my camera. Also, we got our first batch of baby bunnies last week! So far I have counted seven, but they should be out and hopping about in a few days. Happy bee chasing!
I went to the Small Farms Conference in Corvallis last weekend, and was once again inspired and edumacated….one of the best things about farming for me is there is so much to learn! There were definitely more breakout sessions that I wanted to attend than I could fit in the schedule. My friend Amy had reminded me of Josh Volk’s cool farm cart plans a couple of weeks earlier, turns out he was a presenter at the conference and also happened to be delivering a couple of the carts to farms in the area. So I got to see one, and give it a good hard look, and even chat with him a bit about it in the lunch line. The design is very simple, and I realized I probably had all the scrap I needed to build one in my shop at work. I took inventory in all the scrap bins on Monday and sure enough, all the parts were there. Most were rusty, some were coated with paint, none had been even looked at by a student in at least a decade. So, a few mornings after I set up the welding shop and before the students arrived to work, I ‘tested out’ some of my grinders, saws and welders to make sure everything was working properly. They were. I got the main frame cut, ground and put together in probably less than three hours over a few days as I had time and space.
yet another fine use for 5 gallon buckets …and scrap marble slabs
I am at a stopping point here, I really need the wheels on before I set the handle angle (and thus handle height). Josh is a lanky 6’1″, and I am a much more efficient 5’4″, so a comfortable height for him is likely too high for me. Happily there is a good chance I can score a couple of 26″ bicycle wheels from the campus bike co-op, which is what the design calls for. My handle material is a little smaller and lighter than the specs call for, so I will have to beef up the handles some with additional crossbars or corner braces (or both). Josh’s commercially produced carts are adjustable in width, height, and handle angle. The only adjustment I would say looks really useful (assuming one’s bed widths are all the same) is the one that adjusts handle height. The wheels on this cart are set at a 36″ distance, which should easily straddle a 30″ raised bed (which just happens to be the width of the tiller I intend to use). Not yet having a farm, this cart may go out to my friends at Square Peg for a trial season. Amy is about my height so hopefully if I set the cart up for myself it should work for her, though I think her beds may be a bit wider.
playing with handle angle/height
The other thing that occurs to me is that this cart would be much more transportable if the handle was removable, as it doubles the length of the cart. If the handle was removable I could also make it adjustable….hmmmm. An all welded cart would be stronger, and there would be no hunting for thumbscrews in the long grass when you really need to be doing something else, like using the cart….so I will ponder that awhile. I think I will also put an additional tube in the middle of the cart for added strength, which also could be used for some on farm MacGuyvered (maybe I should say MacColeman’d) bed markers or seeders or cultivators that can clamp or strap to the frame. A plywood platform that drops in for carrying flats or amendments or pulled weeds or totes full of produce is also part of the game plan. I will also most likely tack something on to the bottoms of the legs so they don’t stuff full of dirt. The proof will be in the pudding, or use, of course, but so far this has been a very satisfying project! It has me thinking about other things I could build while I still have a welding shop to play in, like a horse drawn stone boat. I will be curious to see how the bicycle wheels hold up in a farm environment. Would solid wheels make more sense? They would certainly add weight, and if made of something like plywood, eventually rot, while a bike tire is easily replaced. Just thinking what a drag it is to have to pump up or replace wheelbarrow tires, and how solid ones seem much more sensible for that application…..also thinking of my friend’s Garden Way Cart that uses similar wheels that has lost its tubes and tires and whose rims have been stuffed with walnuts, making it jarring to use. Maybe it will just depend on whether or not the farmer is also a bike person, who has all that stuff lying around. Bike tubes and tires are certainly universally available and easily obtained, and rims still roll even with flat tires or stuffed full of walnuts, so there is that.
The tools required for this project: mig welder, 4.5 inch angle grinder with cutoff wheel and flap disc, metal cutoff saw, Vise grips, magnet clamps, 5 gallon buckets or other props, tape measure, sharpie pen, drill and 3/8″ metal bit (I used the drill press, because I had one, but the holes could be drilled by hand). Safety gear: welding hood, safety goggles, earplugs, fireproof clothing, leather gloves
once wheels and handle are attached, this view could become familiar
Important note! Having just looked at Josh’s cart again I see I have set up the handle backwards, thank goodness nothing is welded yet! I can put the handle parts together before I decide how and where to attach it, so that will be the next step. Please check out Josh’s website, he posts all kind of useful small farm info, links, spreadsheets and ideas free on the web. His drip-tape roller is another really brilliant idea you may want to look at. I will have to kick down a few bucks to him for the use of his cart plans. Thanks Josh! ( And let us know when you design that lie-down pedal-powered one person transplanter….)
“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.
A. A. Milne
It is almost March, and western Oregon, bless it, brings spring early. I can smell it, even before the viola odorata blooms in my local park. Here are a few things I am already enjoying, by looking forward to them:
Giving this old barn and pasture some critters to shelter and feed (well patrolled by Sancho).
A new batch of baby bunnies (Momma buns had her first date of 2013 two weeks ago…Snacks is next.) In a month I should be enjoying views like this:
Purple peas are germinating in the greenhouse, soon to be planted in the garden.
And, I bought a spring form pan! I literally have never owned one. Looking forward to lots of tasty tarts in future. This is my first ever cheesecake. It was lemon, and excellent. (Apologies for the terrible flash photo).
Spring is just around the corner! Hope you are enjoying the anticipation as much as I am…..cheers!