Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Barn Expansion

As fall approaches we begin to think about the process of choosing our new breeding stock and with thirteen different breeds it takes a lot of barn space. Thirteen different breeds means keeping a lot of extra roosters on hand.  Breeding is not as easy as just throwing a hen and rooster together and hoping for the best.  Well, as Larry and I stood outside talking about beginning the whole process we decided it was time to make the barn bigger.  When we built this barn about three years ago we had out grown our old barn and thought this would be plenty of space but as I'm sure you know you can never have to much space and so the building process begins again.

This our other barn and both are full of birds.

Most of the building supplies have been delivered.

The trusses came on a semi truck today.  No these do not all belong to us.  Ours is the tiny stack on the back end.  Apparently someone in our area is also building a new house.

When Larry built the barn he was thinking about the future and knew that someday we might want to expand.  So he made it to where he could take the whole backside off, build on and then put the backside back on.   He has the back ready to remove and he's beginning construction.

Making good progress.  He's almost ready to put up the trusses.

We've made a lot of changes in three years time.  I'll share the progress as the new part of the barn goes up.  It's an exciting time for us and we look forward to having more space.
Have a great day!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Checking The Progress Of Our Bee Hives

Last week we checked on the bees just to see what kind of progress they're making on honey production.  We started out with two hives last spring but as I shared with you this spring, both hives swarmed early in the spring.  I was able to catch both swarms and started new hives with them but in case you are also new to bee keeping, when they swarm it really is not a good thing.

 The bees are working very hard and have made great progress.  Last year we got about two gallons of honey from one hive, this year I'm not sure if we'll get any.  The main concern now at this point is for them to have enough honey to get through the long winter months.

They still have the month of September to work on the frames so we might still be able to pull a small amount of honey from at least one hive.  Come on little bees work faster!

Right before the bees swarm they gorge themselves on honey and then half of the workers move with the swarm.  This put the hive they just vacated at a loss of honey and workers and those that left in the swarm are also at a loss of honey and workers.  It basically puts both hives at a deficit for a whole year.
Come early spring, before the maples begin to bloom, we need to be ready to juggle the empty frames and add more honey suppers.  I have the whole winter to read and get prepared.  I thought I did that last year, oh well.
Any of you experienced bee keepers out there, feel free to give some advise at any time.
Bees are very interesting creatures and even though we would like to think we have some control over this bee endeavor, we really do not.
Have a great day!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Home Grown Garlic

Did you plant garlic this year?  Well if you did it's time to check and see if it's ready to harvest.  I've never planted garlic but I've never needed to.  When we moved to this farm 20 years ago, the elderly couple who lived here before us planted the garlic and I've been reaping the benefits since then. Evidently the type of garlic that they planted all those many years ago is self seeding and continues to spread.  From what I have read about different varieties of garlic, it looks like mine could be silverskins, it has a nice strong full bodied flavor.

 The reason I think my garlic is reseeding, do you see the sign on left side of the road?  Well from that sign, clear down to the curve, the garlic has spread along the ditch bank.  Nice bulbs of garlic.

Garlic everywhere

How do you know when it's time to dig the garlic?  When the stem of the garlic down close to the ground begins to die and turn brown, it's time to dig.

After a good summer rain about a week ago,  I pulled the garlic up by the hand fulls.  The ground was moist and it was easily pulled up.  It's best to plant garlic in an out of the way spot because it does spread like crazy.  I'm pretty sure that is why it's on this ditch bank.

Fresh garlic adds amazing flavor to meat and vegetables.   Larry even noticed when I used it for the first time and he never makes a comment about food.  He'll eat just about anything with no complaint.  When I added the fresh garlic to stir fired vegetables, he said "wow that's good what did you put in this that's different?" It really does make a difference.

Garlic will keep best in a the refrigerator but If your going to use it up quickly you can leave it hanging in a little garlic basket.  I made this basket pretty quick out of some scraps of chicken wire.
Add some flavor to your life, plant some garlic.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Young Pullets Available Now

It's that time of year when we're finally feeling a bit caught up on the chick orders and we've started growing up young pullets for the fall shipments.  In the last couple of years, fall has become just as busy as spring.  Fall is when a lot of folks begin to think about getting young pullets that are feathered out, have enough growth already to make it through the long winter months and will be laying eggs by spring.  Some of the pullets that we have ready to go now just might be in egg production by late fall.

The Chocolate Orpington is one of the breeds that we have available in 4 to 5 month old girls, they will be laying very soon.  Obviously not this little girl, she is about 9 weeks old.  We do have a few different age groups ready to go.  Our chocolates are suppose to be bantams but really by the size that we are getting they really can't be considered bantams.  We are growing out Chocolates that are measuring up quit well to our standard sized breeds and are producing medium sized eggs.

I will have Welsummer pullets later in the fall.  This little girls still has baby fluff on her chin.  The Welsummer hens sell very quickly, so it's a good idea to get your order in early on this breed, that's what happens with a bird that lays an egg this beautiful.

The powder puff of the farm...probably one of the most friendly birds that we have, the beautiful Light Sussex.  I have 4 girls just like this one, they are right at 3 months old and absolutely gorgeous!  I also have several younger pullets in the Light Sussex breed that will be ready to go very soon.

This little girl was hard to get a good picture of, she wanted to check the camera out.  This is a Lavender Orpington, they are very curious and super sweet.   The lavender Orpingtons lay a beautiful pastel pink egg, they are also one of the best egg producers on the farm.  Even though we had one of the coldest winters ever, our Lavenders kept right on laying.  We are having extreme heat and humidity now and the lavenders keep right on laying.  We have nine week old young hens and roosters ready to go.

The beautiful Black Orpington.  This young gal is at that crazy juvenile age when they are just funny looking, you know what I fluff face, big feet and crazy feather growth in all directions.  This is a fast growing bird.  They are absolutely huge, even larger than the lavenders.  The Black Orpington also lay the pastel pink eggs.   I have three young pullets that are 3 months old and hefty!  If you like big butts, this breed is for you.  I  also have younger ones that will be ready to go very soon if you happen to miss out on the big girls.  They sell fast! 

The Black Copper Marans that I have are right around 3 months old, I also have younger ones.  With younger birds I can fit four in a box.  It depends on how big the birds are as to how many I can fit in a box. 
We are getting great coppering on our pullets and excellent egg color from our breeders.  This breed is also one of our best egg producers on the farm.  They lay great during the cold winter and hot summer.  

We have several 9 week old Splash Marans.  They will all look just a bit different, that's what I like about this breed, no two will ever look alike.  This little girl has some very nice coloring.  They also have a super sweet disposition.  Not only is this bird beautiful but it's also going to give you an impressive egg.  If your looking for pretty eggs and a pretty bird don't over look the Splash Marans.

We also have young roosters available in all of these breeds.
If you see something you like and want to place an order, head over to the website /
I'll be glad to answer any questions that you have.  We will also be shipping the day old chicks until the end of September.
Have a great day.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Making Homemade Soap And Memories

Last week our family got together to have our annual soap making.  We like to get together at least once a year and make homemade soap.   We had everyone from Great Grandmas and Grandpas, nieces, nephews, Aunts, Sisters, Daughter In Laws, cousins and grand kids.  It's a good time of story telling, laughing and just catching up with what's going on in everyone's busy lives.
I have a soap recipe that works well for me and I'll share that and some photos.  I got this recipe from the internet at Homemade Soap At Marsha's, she gives step by step video instructions which makes it very easy to follow. 

Items Needed:
Distilled water
6Lbs of oil
lemon juice
stearic Acid

I begin by measuring out my oils and melting them in a large pot on the stove.  I always use 2lbs of Coconut oil and 4 lbs of Vegetable shortning.  Marsha said we can use olive oil with this recipe but we tried this once and the verdict is still out on weather it works or not.  It didn't seem to harden up correctly so I'm sticking with what works.  

Once the oils are melted, we take the oil outside for the remainder of the steps, this is where the use of lye comes in and you will need plenty of ventilation. 
Next measure out 17 ounces of lye.
You now have a pot of melted oil, you will also need a stainless steel pot with 3 cups of distilled water in it.
Slowly add the lye to the pot of water.  Never add water to lye!  The water will now begin to get very hot.  Do not breath the fumes coming out of the pot or as Marsha says in her video, "you will choke!"

You'll need to wear eye protection and rubber gloves, as you can see I wasn't wearing my eye protection very well.  Don't be looking in my messy garage either.

Once the lye is dissolved in the water add your melted oils to the lye water.

( Ingredients in this photo are, lemon juice, stearic acid, Almond fragrance, oatmeal and raw bees wax.) 
After you have the oil stirred into the lye water, this is when you can mix in your essential oils, bees wax, honey, oatmeal or whatever you like.  After you get those mixed in it's time to add 2 cups of lemon juice and 2 ounces of stearic acid.  As you add those in you will see a pretty fast change in your mixture,  Your soap will begin to make trace.  Making trace means, as you stir the soap your wooden spoon will leave a trail in the soap.  Once the soap makes trace it's ready to pour into molds or just a plain ole card board box lined with wax paper.  This is the first time I've used the stearic acid, I think it helps with making better lather.  I've made this recipe before without the stearic acid and the soap turned out good.  I decided to go ahead and order some on the internet and give it a try, I'll be interested to see if it makes any difference.
The soap we made today is honey, almond, oatmeal, yum.  Smells good enough to eat!

Mixing the oatmeal in.

Pouring soap into molds.
Once the soap is poured into the molds, cover with an old towel to hold in the heat.  When the soap is cool and firm, score with a knife into the size of soap bar you like.    Let your soap cure for about 4 weeks, then it's ready to use.

While the adults made soap, the kids played.   These little girls are my grand daughters and great nieces.  They started out just looking in the ditch.

Didn't take long and they were down in the ditch dipping out snails.
Seeing them playing in the dirty water brought back memories of when my sister and I were just kids.  We asked mom if we could walk down the street and look in the big ditch.  She gave us permission to go look but don't play in the dirty water, "you could get polio" she said.  We walked down the street and peered into that mysterious dirty water, it didn't take us long until we couldn't stand it any longer.   We gave in and played in the murky water.  I remember one of  us said as we walked back home, "Polio's going to suck but that was fun."  Well mom, we didn't get Polio and eating the raw cookie dough didn't give me worms either.  Love you mom, I know you were just trying to keep us safe and afraid all at the same time.
   We had a great day, making soap and memories.
Have a Blessed day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Splash Marans - One Of My Favorite Of The Marans

Splash Marans

The Splash Marans have been an over looked breed on our farm for far too long.  I've decided it's time we stop doing that.  The beautiful Splash Marans are the off spring of the Blue Copper Marans, which has also been an over looked breed for many years.  Chicken fanciers are beginning to discover the Blue Copper Marans this year but are still slow to recognize the Splash Marans .  There has always been so much hype over the French Black Copper Marans that no one ever gave much attention to The Blue copper and the Splash and in my opinion are such pretty birds.

The only way to get a Splash Marans is by breeding a Blue Copper Marans,  with Blue Copper Marans.  The Blue gene is not a dominate gene so when breeding blue poultry you will get 50% blues, 25% black and 25% splash chicks.  These beautiful chicks are a lovely sky blue with yellow bellies when they hatch.

No two Splash Marans will ever look alike with their spots and dots.  As they mature they continue to color and spot.  It takes a good year or longer for a bird to fully color out.

This is a young cockerel, as he grows and matures he will get a nice rust or copper colored head.

The great thing about the Splash Marans, they will also give you a lovely dark egg.  
So don't over look the Splash Marans when making your poultry wish list.  We now offer the Splash Marans chicks on our website, we also have beautiful started pullets.  The young hen pictured in this blog is available for purchase now.  Head over to the website / to place your order.
We look forward to sharing some beautiful poultry with you!
Have a great Day!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Catching Our Bees As They Swarm

This past month both of our bee hives decided to swarm and I just happened to notice both times and was able to catch them.  The first time I was prepared and had a box ready, we hadn't really expected our own bees to swarm but had hoped to catch a swarm from my mothers wild hive or my sisters wild hive.  The second time they swarmed I wasn't so prepared.  Once again Larry wasn't home to help me and I had to improvise

The swarm landed on my newly planted apple tree and I thought I was going to need to cut the little tree down to catch the swarm, crazy I know.  I just hate to miss a swarm of bees especially when they came from my hive.  Decided it would probably be best to just bend the tree over some and give it a good shake into a cardboard box.

I shook them into the box and they stayed, which means I got the queen.  At least I didn't cut the tree down.  It seems that the bees swarm about the first two weeks of May in our area, last year at this time we caught our first swarm of bees.
When Larry arrived home we very quickly put together a bee box that we had ordered a few months back.  It's really best to be prepared for your bees, have your boxes put together and painted but we fly by the seat of our pants around this farm.  You can order your bee boxes fully assembled or in pieces.  They're pretty easy to assemble and a little less expensive that way.

 Just put your dove tailed corners together.

Use a hammer to make them fit good and tight.

You'll need to put a couple of screws on each side to hold them together.

You can purchase the frames fully assembled or assemble yourself, we ordered them assembled this time.

 No time for a paint job but ready for the bees to go into the box.  Guess we'll paint it at a later time.  Bees won't wait on you.

In they go.

We put the frames in and now we have another hive.  We very quickly went from having two hives to having four.  I'm now in the process of studying up on how to prevent them from swarming next year.  Looks like it involves moving a few brood frames up and empty frames down into the brood chamber.  Sounds like this needs to be done very early in the spring before the maple trees begin to bloom.  I still have a lot of learning to do.  In spite of my lack of knowledge of bee keeping my bees seem to thrive on there own.  It's fun to learn as we go.
Have a great day!