Tag Archives: meat rabbits

Busy bees

Here is what we have been up to, not much farming but the fall rains are coming and we need to get the house in shape to live in safely… to prep for the electrician (complete rewire) and the plumber (complete replumb) we pulled trim and cut the lath and plaster at 40″ from the floor throughout the house.  Then we hired an amazing demo crew to come in and demo out the basement, the loft floor in the barn, and all the lath and plaster below our cut.  This will enable the electrician to get in and pull wire quickly, we also got a good look at the framing of the house (which looks amazing for 90 yrs old!), and made sure nothing else was living in walls besides the bees.  And we got those out too-took over a week and I almost got heat exhaustion, but it is done!  Oh, and we built a new set of stairs in the barn.

this fireplace is actually soapstone or marble painted to look like mahogany....it is a pretty good tromp l'oeil!

this fireplace is actually soapstone or marble painted to look like walnut….it is a pretty good trompe l’oeil!

found this beautiful floor under some gross linoleum in the bedroom with the bee closet.  I think we will clear coat and keep it as is.

found this beautiful floor under some gross linoleum in the bedroom with the bee closet. I think we will clear coat and keep it as is.

new barn stairs!

new barn stairs!

scary basement now significantly less scary...and we find out today hopefully if this old wood furnace is still useable...

scary basement now significantly less scary…and we find out today hopefully if this cool old wood furnace is still useable…

Huge huge thanks to Der Lovett deconstruction…they did a beautiful job with the demo and left everything spotless, and finished the house the basement and the barn in something like 14 hours.  They were awesome.  Now we are working on digging a ditch to the equipment shed for power, and hopefully if I get a chance building a colony for the rabbits…who do not seem to ever tire of blackberry canes for breakfast.  And did I mention?  Mustangs love thistles.  And generate a wheelbarrow full of ‘soil amendment’ every day while mowing. 

A spring in our step

A few signs of spring, and the beginning of the growing season:

Here is our newest doe Cookie, daughter of Snacks:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd here are a few of her babies, all black and brown:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn spite of my lack of farm, I have started my onions at least.  I think these are Red Long of Tropea….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI built a couple of 24″x48″ heat mats out of 1×2, plywood and incandescent rope christmas lights.  Economical (about a third of the cost of similar sized heat mats).  For seed starting in the basement they work great, in my tiny drafty greenhouse they need a little supplemental insulation or cover (I use plastic draped over the table) to stay warm in weather like we are having today (39 degrees and rainy).  Here is a link on how to build them (one edit:  I’d cut the 1×2’s to 44″, not 40″).  The downside of these is monitoring, they are not on any kind of thermostat, so the ones in the greenhouse will have to be monitored on warm sunny days.  Or I can put them on a timer once things start to warm up.

Unlike today, yesterday was beautiful, and the bees were flying.  I lost one hive this winter, but the other two look good!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the warre colony, they are on year 4!  But I shouldn’t speak too soon, we are not out of the woods yet.  I never really relax in spring until the maples bloom, but so far everyone has plenty of stores.

Hope your bees and seeds and babies are doing well!

Bee Season

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.bees closeup

BE AN AMBASSADOR FOR THE BEES

  1. Be courteous, calm, confident, and prepared to answer a lot of questions about bees.
  2. Don’t get in over your head.
  3. 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”.
  4. 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.
  5. 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….
  6. 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!).

SWARM KIT

 

  1. 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!
  2. Protective clothing:  I use a Tyvek suit tucked into boots, gloves, and veil.
  3. 1/1 sugar syrup spray in a spray bottle.  Mine usually has a few drops of lemongrass and mint essential oil.
  4. Ladder
  5. White sheet (lay this under the swarm and the swarm box to prevent bees from getting lost in the grass and stepped on)
  6. Time.  The process can take an hour or two, not including travel.
  7. Bee Brush, dust pan, sheetrock knife (this is less annoying to the bees than a brush if used gently).
  8. Duct tape (for sealing up box/hive body for transport).

    Swarm in my apple tree

    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

  1. Sure they are honeybees?  (not wasps, not bumblebees?)
  2. Sure they are swarming? (in a clump in a tree or on a fence etc, not an established colony in some cavity).
  3. 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!).
  4. 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).
  5. 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)
  6. 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.

bee fashionistas

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!

the gift of anticipation

“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).

sancho patrols the barn

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:

white bunnies

Purple peas are germinating in the greenhouse, soon to be planted in the garden.

purple peas

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).

cheesecake

Spring is just around the corner!  Hope you are enjoying the anticipation as much as I am…..cheers!

Hello Hello

pretty washington county

pretty washington county

 

So, turns out looking for property can be pretty stressful and distracting….who knew?  We are meeting with some sellers this very afternoon about a property that is pretty unique….if the meeting goes well I promise to post more details, I just want to save you all the roller coaster ride of hopes lifted, hopes dashed.  The real estate market has slowed for the holidays, so not much new will come on the market until after the new year I am guessing.  Stay tuned….hopefully we will be out of the hunt by then :).

In other updates…since my last posting in October (yikes!  Where have I been?) Momma’s kits have grown up and will be harvested this week.  Snacks had 8 babies, one of which didn’t make it, but the other seven are in the three week old super adorable stage and are healthy and hoppy.  Two are darker shades of silvery brown, a really unique and beautiful coloring similar to their mama’s, but with black points instead of tan, and more of the silver coloring of Snacks’ Champagne D’argent heritage.  She will have raised 17 kits to Momma’s 20 for the year.

The garden is soggy and sad, but still producing some arugula and other greens, though I am not picking much now as growth has slowed to almost nothing.  Once the days start to lengthen in January and Feb we should be back in some salads from the cloches.  Cover crops all look good, and I also expect them to take off once the days start to lengthen.  The bees are tucked in their hives for the winter, taking cleansing flights and hanging out on the landing board when weather permits.  We still haven’t had a real hard frost in Portland yet, so there are unbelievably still some yellow jackets about, and the Dahlias and asparagus ferns have not yet died back.

I wish everyone the happiest and healthiest of holidays!  Here is my eggnog recipe, in the spirit of the season.

This serves 10-12.  Make sure you have a generous punch bowl to serve it in, as it triples in volume to about a gallon and a half.

12 dozen eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

6 cups whole milk

2 cups cream

2 cups bourbon

3/4 cup brandy

2 tsp nutmeg

Separate the yolks from the eggs, and beat the yolks and sugar together in a stand mixer for about 10 minutes until the consistency of butter.  S-l-o-w-l-y mix in the bourbon and the brandy.  Put in the fridge to chill.  About a half hour before you plan to serve, stir in the milk and the nutmeg.  Put the egg whites in the stand mixer and beat until stiff peaks form.  Fold into nog.  Put heavy cream in stand mixer and beat until peaks form.  Fold into nog.  Serve immediately garnished with freshly grated nutmeg on top.

Ho Ho Ho!

Heartbreak, and updates.

Wow, I really thought we had found the farm and was hoping this would be The Post…..then the deal started getting weird and then it fell through.  Looking for property is  just like dating.  You are initially attracted, and see the potential.  You get a little closer and see the flaws, and second guess.  Then at some point you either don’t call back or you start to fall in love and jump in.  If you do jump in and get rebuffed….Ouch!  Most likely we dodged a bullet, the sellers were suddenly in a big hurry to sell the place, so who knows if there were outstanding liens, or the house was about to fall down (didn’t look like it to me, and I used to carpenter), or a LNG line is aimed down the driveway, or they just got a better offer and handled it poorly.  Anyway, we are back in the hunt.  It definitely feels like the market is warming up, which is not reducing my desire to find it any, but the good news is that means it will be easier to sell the house in town. I learned quite a bit in a short time about what it might take to transfer Points of Diversion (ie get the irrigation right applied to the well on property from the well off property), finding well logs, and what to expect and what the pitfalls might be if the seller offers to carry the note on a property, and who I might use as a real estate lawyer/pump service/well driller if I might need one.  Mainly, it was a good reminder not to panic if things start to go south or the deal starts to smell rotten.  With any transaction, you have to be able to walk away.   It will be interesting to see if the property comes back on the market, or actually sells.  Kudos to my husband, who is as disappointed as I am, for helping me keep my head and being willing to talk things through on short notice in the middle of a busy work day.  Ugh.  I do hate Drama.

 

On to happier stuff:  The garden is mostly put to bed and cover crops are in, though I am waiting for a frost to dig up the Dahlia bulbs.  I also need to put the cloches on the beds of greens and radishes.  The rains have come at last, but possibly too late for much of any mushroom hunting.  Fall break was last week and that is my usual Chanterelle picking window, and I spent it chasing farm rainbows and talking to county Watermasters.  We will have to check the Bolete patch, see if anything is doing there.  Davey went salmon fishing for the weekend in Tillamook, landed a gorgeous 16 pound hen and 12 giant Dungeness Crab (!!).  We have been pretty crabby the last few days, with Crab for dinner on Sunday, Salmon with Crab hors d’oevres on Monday to celebrate our farm joy when we thought we had an accepted offer, and Crabbit deluxe last night to soothe our farm woes.  Dungeness may be replacing Rock Lobster in my heart as Preferred Crustacean (sorry Mom!  But when in Rome….).

On the Bunny front, Momma had her last batch of kits for the year, 5 adorable fuzzballs. 2 black, 2 spotty, and one Blanc de Hotot.  The black ones have adorable little white stars on their foreheads.  She is a good producer, this makes 20 kits for the year!

Snacks was also (finally!) mated for the last time, and should be due in about 3 weeks.  I have converted a pet carrier into the Dating Cage, and it works great.  She hopped right in, I left her in the Buck’s cage in her carrier for a few hours to get reacquainted, and then let her out for about 10 minutes.  The bunnies had their fun, then I brought back the carrier, she hopped right in, and back to the home cage she went, no muss, no fuss.  And no scratches on my arms, either.  I didn’t really want to wait this long to breed her again but she was pretty thin after the last big batch of kits….so I fed her up for a couple of additional weeks to get her back in condition.  We will see if she kindles, and if so how many.  She is the nicer rabbit, but this year so far has only produced 10 kits.  She typically cranks out 8 or 10 per kindle in high season (late spring and summer), she may take another break with a small batch this fall, we will see how she compares with Momma when all the chips are in.  Cute and sweet as Snacks is, I may have to use Momma’s offspring for future breeders over hers if we do ever expand the bunny operation.  Although really I should also weigh all the fryers before I make any final judgements.
I can tell winter is really on its way, the gas fire place is the first place I go to warm up when I get home and I have a new gallon carboy bubbling away on top of the fridge.  This time it is fermenting hard cider from the home tree.  Happy almost Halloween!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall is the time for apples

you can guess how long an apple tart lasts around my house

We had a great crop of apples this year, in spite of the long wet spring.  A lot of trees in the neighborhood got pretty scabby, and I had my first instance of fire blight that I have ever seen (in my vast 12 year experience with two apple trees).  In spite of the disease pressure, the intense insect pressure (my neighborhood was formerly an orchard, and there are a LOT of old untended fruit and nut trees) and the cold spring we had a perfect weather window for pollination.  The Prima apple, which has a tendency to bear biannually anyway, was loaded with fruit, and I thinned it 3 times.  I still can’t make use of all the apples unfortunately, in spite of canning applesauce, freezing slices for future pies, and pressing 100 pounds for cider, I still have ground up 6 five gallon buckets worth of windfalls.  The bunnies get apples every three days or so, and so did the chicken until I “passed the salt” last week to Square Peg Farm.  It makes me wish we had a pig to finish.  The Prima is a very disease resistant early-midseason (early Sept) apple that makes fair to middlin’ pie, sauce and cider.  It is ok to eat out of hand, but nothing special, and it doesn’t keep for very long.  My other apple is a mid season (mid-late September-early October) called Fall Russet.  It is supposed to be an excellent eating and cider apple, though this is the first year it has borne any kind of harvest.  The apple is small, homely, with a rough potato like skin, and it browns almost immediately upon cutting, but it tastes beautiful (which is why I planted this variety in the first place).

Fall Russet apple

This tree is more susceptible to scab and other apple plagues, and my insect pressure is so high it is hard to keep apples for any length of time unless they have been footied to keep the apple maggots out or chilled to keep the bugs dormant.  I footied a few, we will see how they do.

Fall russet with footie

Of all the things I have tried to grow using organic methods, I have to say apples are far and away the hardest.  The list of viruses, fungal infections and pests for this fruit are legion.  It doesn’t help that there are a hundred trees within a few blocks that are acting as annual breeding sites for all of these pests….it is almost pointless for me to try to trap, spray, and keep my mini orchard free of windfalls.

sorry this is blurry but you get the picture. The apple on the left was ‘footied’, the apple on the right was not.

The next generation only has to fly a few hundred feet to find my trees.  That said, I love apples with all my heart, and can’t wait to plant a pie, winter keeper and cider-focused orchard!  We keep visualizing our little farm….and are going to a big harvest party this weekend where we will spread the word about our quest to 150-plus fellow revelers.  I will try to harvest the russets this weekend, and maybe press some more cider (and make my husband some birthday pie).  The Comice pear also bore a small harvest, but the tree has gotten so tall and out of hand (I have not kept up on pruning it like the apples) that most of the fruit is out of reach of my pickin’ pole.  For some reason, the bugs don’t really bother this winter pear, which is another reason to love it.
And now…bunny pics.

a good indicator of pregnitude….a well stuffed bunny nest

Snack’s last batch of kits growing quickly!