Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pullet Pen Improvements

When raising up young pullets it's important to have a warm dry place where they can grow and thrive.  Lately our pens have proved not to be as dry as we needed.  With each rain the young birds would stand in mud for days and that is never a good thing.  With our set up it's not possible to have the birds on a nice grassy area.
We have three grow out pens pictured here, each pen has a pullet box for them to get into at night, as the birds grow they are moved from one pen to the other and as you can see they are a muddy mess.  Well this past week we decided it was time to try and remedy the problem.  We had a few tons of gravel delivered and the work began. For starters, some of the fencing and gates needed to be taken down in order to fit the tractor into the area.

Larry found this handy, dandy, scoop for the tractor last fall on Craig's list.  Sure makes the job easier.  Let the scooping begin.

The tractor just fits through the opening, thank goodness!  The camera operator also happens to be the gravel spreader, along with my side kick Heather.

The gravel is spread, the fencing and gates will be put back into place and let's hope this keeps the birds out of the mud.

The batch of young birds to your right have just been moved from the brooder house,  into a pullet box. They will be kept in the box for three days, then allowed out of the box.  Keeping them in the box for at least three days teaches them that this is home.  After three days, each evening they will automatically get into the safety of the box and we shut the doors.
If your interested in pullets we still have some available for sale, the breeds available are, Olive Egger, Ameraucana, Lavender Orpington, Chocolate Orpington, Black Copper Marans, Blue Copper Marans and Splash Marans.  Check out the website for more details, drop me an email from the website if you have any questions. Hope to hear from you soon.
Have a wonderful day!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Collecting Honey From The Bee Hive

This is our first year working with bees and I must say, I never realized that bees could be so interesting.  They are very amazing, creative creatures and it is fascinating to watch them work.  Just like with any new hobby the first year is always when you make all the big mistakes and hope that you learn from them.
We began this spring with two packages of bees that we ordered and shortly after we received those we also caught a swarm of bees.  The swarm we caught has by far done better than the packaged bees since it came intact with all it's workers.  One of the packages of bees we purchased did not survive the first 3 months.  The other package of bees has done well but we will probably need to feed them all winter long.  Packaged bees play catch up all summer long, having no stored honey, having to build the entire wax comb and raise up young worker bees, this starts the hive off in a deficit.   If you plan to get started in bees I totally recommend ordering a nucleus hive.  A nucleus hive consists of a 2 to 5 frame hive used to start off a new colony.

Once we we're decked out in full gear we duct taped the bottom of our jeans and any other little
hole that sneaky bees can get into.  Larry figured this out the last time he opened the box and they climbed up his pant legs.  So glad he learned this little trick before I did.
We smoked the bees and began the process of opening up the hive.  We're collecting the honey from the swarm of bees that we caught in the spring.  We won't be getting honey from the packaged bees this year.  They will need all of their honey to make it through the winter.  The swarm hive that we are working on has thousands of bees in the box, it's absolutely amazing and a bit intimidating how many bees are in this box.  Taking the top off of the hive doesn't really upset them but as soon as we remove one frame from the hive they come boiling out of the box.
Since we don't have a honey extractor yet we choose to use a wax foundation on the frames. That way we can just cut the comb out of the frame.  The comb is edible right along with the honey and extractors are very expensive.
As we took each frame from the hive we brushed the bees off with a soft brush, we carried the frames around to the front of the house out of the view of the bees and a considerable distance from the hive and covered them with dish towels. We were taking each frame in the house, one by one, cutting out the comb and bringing the frame back outside while holding a paper plate under the frame to catch all the drips of honey.  In pretty short order the bees figured out where we had taken the honey and within just a few minuets the entire hive had moved to the front of the house and began packing honey back to the hive as fast as they could.  We decide we needed to change our strategy.   So we began quickly brushing them back off of the frames and moved the frames into the house.  What a sticky mess that was.  I left honey covered paper plates outside in the rush to get the honey from the bees. Within just a couple of minutes they had the honey licked off of the plates and headed back to the hive. You couldn't even find a sticky spot on the plates when they were finished.  That was a learning experience.  Like I've said before, we don't know what we're doing but it's fun learning.

I cut a slice of comb and placed it in each jar, I think it looks beautiful and tasty too.  After I cut and saved back the amount of comb I wanted, we put all the rest of the honey and comb into a pot and slowly heated it until it was all melted.  Then we let it cool overnight.  As it cools the comb separates and comes to the top.  When it was all finished and in the jars we had almost two gallons of honey.  Not to bad for our first year.  It's a lot of work and we have a lot to learn that will hopefully make the process run smoother but I must say it's absolutely delicious.
If I decide to sell honey next year I think I'll stick a sign at the driveway that reads,  honey for sale pick your own.
Have a great weekend!

Proverbs 16:24

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Heirloom Beans

I know in most areas the harvesting season in your garden is over but last week I picked almost a bushel of green beans.  Every year I love to plant my great grandmother Grace Wagner's heirloom green beans.   If your going to plant a garden it might as well have history along with it.  These beans have been passed down through our family for many, many years.  My great grandmother was born in 1895 and died in 1982 at the age of 87.   I'm not sure what kind of beans they are, all I know is that she obtained the seeds from a man named James Blecher and they have always been called Belcher beans.    This is a climbing bean, they can be picked as a fresh green bean or you can leave them a little longer on the vine until the beans fill out in the pod, then they can be shelled out and kept as a dry bean.
 The Blecher bean blooms with very pretty white and yellow blooms.  They are an easy to pick bean since they are climbers, I really like that part.  This bean has an unusual wonderful nutty flavor.  My great grandmother knew this bean was worth keeping around, she passed them down to her children and her son, my grandfather passed them down to me.  It's now my turn to keep them going and pass them on to my kids. Alright kids which one of you will keep the Blecher bean going?

My mother purchased some seeds this spring that I found so interesting.  You may have heard of this bean before, it's also an heirloom bean and it's called Scarlet Runner.  It's one of the oldest runner beans in existence, they date back as far as 1750.

The scarlet runner has the most beautiful red blooms and are great for ornamental purposes. They prefer full sun but will tolerate part shade. You can also allow the beans to fill out the pods and shell out as dry beans.  On the Scarlet runner even the blooms are edible.

The Scarlet runner produces a very nice long green bean.  If you allow the beans to mature and fill out the pods, when you open them to shell them out, what a neat surprise, so pretty and pink.
Do you plant heirloom seeds in your garden, have they been in your family for years?  Tell us about the history in your garden.
Hope you have a great weekend!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Farm Happenings - Fixing the ditch and ending up in a bind

This past summer we've had several torrential down pours that have been very hard on our old poultry barn.  The barn completely flooded twice, which is a huge mess.  It is hard on the birds, egg production and the farmer who take care of the birds.  Well the farmer decided he was going to fix this problem once and for all.  A small creek that runs along side the barn is needing to be straightened up and dug out deeper.  We once had horses and they walked the sides of the creek down to a point it now wants to flow through our barn.  Seems there is always something needing fixed around here.
Larry has a small Ford tractor with a scoop on the rear and so the work began.  Farmer Larry sometimes thinks he can go anywhere and do anything on his little tractor.  The work was going along pretty good for awhile and he was making great progress and then he pulled the tractor down into a deep part of the ditch and I thought to myself "this is not good."

It's amazing how quickly things can turn ugly.

He looks at me and says "now what?"  He didn't like my response of "well I don't think I would have drove down in there."  Now the real work begins.  My brother in law, Gary brings his 4 wheel drive truck out and gives it a few good pulls, without budging it one bit.
The old Ford is in a bind.  So what do you do when your in a bind?  You call  J & R Towing.  They'll unbind you.

Jason Irvin, the tow truck driver took a look at the tractor and said "wow how'd you do that?"  

In just a couple of minutes Jason had it winched up and out of the ditch.
Thanks for the help Jason!

The old Ford gets a much needed bath and all is well on the chicken farm.  Farmer Larry is not a follower of the blog, so you locals keep your mouth shut that you seen me post this.  I just like to share the farm happenings and let you know it's not all baby chick fluff and pretty eggs all the time. Sometimes we sling a little mud. 
Have a great weekend!