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 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.
new barn stairs!
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.
view of the barn
swamping out the barn
Bees moved too!
shoring up the old coop
coop swampers extraordinaire
As you can see, we have switched out of neutral and into high gear. Getting on the land so late means we can mostly focus on infrastructure for animals and the garden now, plus get the house liveable and functional in time for winter (we have swifts in the chimney, bees in the closet, and I don’t wanna know what might live in the basement…..). Here we go! The dingo and Large Marge the farm truck are already getting put to heavy use. So far we are having great fun, and at the end of the day we all look like this:
tired farm dog
Those of you who keep bees on natural comb and like to harvest the wax as well, as well as do it yourself on the cheap, here is a super simple, practically free solar wax melter. It works anytime the temps are above 75 degrees or so.
piece of recycled glass or old single pane window
large yogurt container (or two or three, depending on the size of your box)
wax cappings and comb from honey harvest or other beekeeping activities
Take the box, line it with tinfoil. Fill the yogurt container halfway with tap water, and top with a piece of cheesecloth. Tie the cheesecloth on with a piece of string (rubber band work too, but the heat will degrade them in a day or two) and make an indentation in the middle of the cheesecloth top with your hand. Pile wax cappings and bits as high as you dare, place in the box. Place glass on top and leave in a sunny location. It helps to prop up the box on one side to tilt it slightly towards the sun. As the wax melts and filters through the cheesecloth, you can add more. Every day or two remove the filtered wax that is floating on the water in the yogurt container and repeat the process until you are out of wax. Works great, even in cloudy W. Oregon!
Make sure you have rinsed all of the honey out of your cappings and comb first (you can strain this and use the honey flavored water for making lemonade….delicious!). And don’t use brood comb-it doesn’t work well, it has too little wax left in it (use that for fire starter when you go camping, it is awesome! Or put it in your compost). I use my wax to make hand dipped candles and lip balm.
The blackberry is just beginning to bloom around here, that is the main honeyflow in our area! Summer is just around the corner….
The start sale was a roaring success, I came very close to hitting my sales target (which I honestly had no expectation of actually doing), and I feel like I have gotten a huge vote of confidence and a boost of energy to get this venture launched. Riding that wave I went ahead and registered my business name with the Oregon Secretary of State, and opened my business bank account. Whoohoo! A few things I learned, that I probably already knew: people love tomatoes. My tomato table was wiped out except for a few green zebras in the first hour or so. The greens moved well too, and I had a lot of them. I have a lot of collards and kales left over, but rabbits and chickens love to eat those and so do I, so I am stuffing my city garden with greens of all descriptions and I will just cut and come again on those as long as I can. People like peppers, but mostly prefer sweets to hot. I wish I had had more Padrons and more Beaverdam peppers…and I’d love to get my paws on some Gernika pepper seed. I think I have the best looking garden I have ever had, and we have been eating asparagus almost every day. Delish!
I also caught one of the nicest swarms ever last Friday….I am feeling particularly blessed as I broke even on bees this winter: I lost one hive to Nosema, but was able to split a second hive into two in mid April. The split seems to be doing well, I saw today several queen cells that had hatched open, I gave that colony a frame of brood, eggs and bees just to give them some extra juice (and a back up option if the new queen fails for some reason) from their super strong original hive. The warre looks to be busting at the seams, I expect a swarm from that hive in the next week or two when the weather warms up again (though I don’t expect to catch it! Those tend to be some high flying bees). The local word is that Portland hives were decimated over the winter, maybe as bad as 50-75% losses according to some. So as I said, I am feeling really lucky that my bees are for the most part doing well. Hopefully we can get them moved to the farm before the main honey flow begins! I was hoping to have 5 hives this season, but four is pretty good, and swarm season isn’t over yet. Best to build up slowly anyway, I will have plenty to keep track of as it is!
We also had a new batch of kits born on Monday, haven’t gotten a good count yet but they seem feisty! Osprey continues to make great progress….still hasn’t been ridden but now walks easily over a ‘bridge’, and has been trailered to a local arena. I go see her again tomorrow. Next week Rachel takes her other mustang to a competition, and he will be auctioned off at the end. If you live in California and are looking for a really nice horse with a great foundation and a sweet temperament, you should check out Rachel and Titan at the Norco Extreme Mustang Makeover Trail competition. I will be so sorry to see him go, and really hope he finds a good home with someone who will appreciate him. He is built like an old school cavalry horse, and I think would look really good going english. And he jumps 3 feet! Scroll down this page and you will see a black and white image of a civil war era horse that looks a lot like Titan….(minus the crooked forelegs, Titan is actually very nicely put together).
In spite of my lack of farm, I am having a garden start sale this weekend, to get the ball rolling, to do a little marketing, and recoup some of my seed costs. If you live in Portland and want the details, check out the Long Run Farm website for more information. Look under the weekly post page.
In other news, Osprey the mustang passed her TIP criteria, and the adoption process is underway! She is doing beautifully. She is not under saddle yet, but she does accept one without very much fuss. She also tolerates flags, although plastic bags on sticks are still suspect. I bought my first ton of hay from a friend, and scored some cheap horse accoutrements (brushes, fly masks, rubber buckets) at the Small Farmers Journal Auction last week. Boy was that fun! Lots of weird old equipment, piles and piles of harness (literally), charismatic old farmers galore, and cute young farm boys prancing around in chaps and dusters that were up for auction. Met some amazing horse farmers and teamsters, and learned a lot about equipment, harness, and auctions.
The final major paperwork is through the county, we could actually be within a couple of weeks of closing….I’ll believe it when I am writing the check, but keep thinking your good thoughts!
Bees are well, I made a split of my big hive, and looked at the split today: saw a few queen cells, the bees are starting to thin down the ends, so the ladies should be hatching right in the middle of the lovely weather we are having. Perfect. I also got my first sting of the season today, a sure sign of warm weather. We have been making the most of this waiting period, my husband and I have both landed two spring Chinook so far. Which reminds me, I’m off to pick some asparagus for smoked salmon pizza…..cheers!
A few signs of spring, and the beginning of the growing season:
Here is our newest doe Cookie, daughter of Snacks:
And here are a few of her babies, all black and brown:
In spite of my lack of farm, I have started my onions at least. I think these are Red Long of Tropea….
I 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!
This 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!
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!