Sunday, August 31, 2008

Our First Grape Harvest

After a year and a half of watching our grape vines slowly grow as tall as their arbor we have enough grapes to harvest a quart container.

They smell and taste luscious...just like Grape jelly...only fresher!

They are organic and so full of antioxidants....yummy!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Just Ducky

The new brood of adolescent ducks was delivered to their new duck hut Sunday night. Since it was already dark outside, we kept them penned in the hut until Monday morning. They seemed to have weathered their trip just fine and proceeded to eat a bedtime snack.

Monday morning they were introduced to the pond and their new neighbor, Methuselah. At first they ignored each other, but soon were out paddling together. These new ducks have the tiniest wings and we fear they are completely flightless. The pond will serve as their protection from predators. Hopefully, Methuselah will show them the ropes and help them to survive as she has all these months!

Friday, August 22, 2008

New Ducks on Their Way!!

Our poor flock of Campbell ducks has slowly dwindled down to just one lone duck. We have named her Methusela because she has lived the longest. I worry that she is lonely. We feed her daily and she spends her days happily swimming on the pond...often visited by Maddie our Newfie.Jack mentioned this to a friend who just happened to have a few ducks she wanted to relocate. So...this Sunday we will be welcoming a new bunch of ducks to our pond. I am told they are black and white (some sort of mix) with blue eyes. Maddie is so excited!! What a surprise these new birds will have when they me HER!!

They will spend their first night in our duck house and then be introduced to the pond on Monday. We will have pictures at that point.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Time to Slow Down and Kick Back.....

It seems that every available spare moment on the farm has recently been filled by preparations for house demolition. We are cleaning out, organizing and downsizing our belongings in hopes that there will be much less to place into storage during log home construction.

For our sanity, however, it is necessary to take the occasional break and relax a bit. Creek walking is one of those activities that offers needed refreshment. Taking the dogs for a walk through the creek, enjoying the coolness of the water and the beauty of the landscape around us is like a mini field trip. Lifting rocks, looking for crayfish....watching minnows dart around under the sparkling water's surface.... and watching the dogs follow their noses as they are hit with a multitude of smells along the way......all serve to make it a magical hour. There are areas along the creek, where erosion has caused amazing rock formations to of which offers us a brief rest on its' built in bench. I am forever in awe of this beautiful land we call home.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Have You Ever Heard of a Blubbering Goat?

Make sure you turn up your volume for this video!

Blubbering is one of the characteristic mating behaviors of bucks. In this video Chip is blubbering at one of our Dwarf Nigerian goats because she is in heat. He spends a good deal of his day walking back and forth along the fence doing just this....blubbering. Poor, frustrated Chip! Following him around is Forrest. Forrest is Chip's son by Jill and sometimes the recipient of Chip's frustration.

Ava's New Trick

You might remember that Ava is Becky's new horse. (Becky is Jack's sister) Ava is a yearling from the Rutgers University equine program. Becky has been working each day with Ava, who is quite a fast learner. Here she is learning to take a bow.....

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

To Market , To Market

Well, after months and months of waiting, our hens are finally laying enough eggs for us to market. I ordered these egg cartons and got busy with "Photo Shop" making labels for each. From here they get delivered to everyone on our "egg list". Fresh, free-ranging chicken of antibiotics, hormones....and layed by happy, healthy chickens. This is just one more step towards our eventual goal of removing ourselves from the food grid. We hope to become a source for wholesome, organic produce, eggs, jams, and honey rather than a consumer. Next year we will raise our own chicken and turkey for consuming. It is a slow process, but I am sure at some point we will be very self-sufficient.

And, here is a jar of our final product after this past Saturday's Honey Harvest... We have about 75 bottles to fill, labels to make, and then off to market.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Honey Harvest.....Sights and Sounds

Make sure your volume is turned up so that you can hear the bees. We have a hive open that has at least 60,000 bees living in it. Thanks to excellent bee suits, we completed our harvest without a single sting.

Watch this video on Google to see our honey harvest.

Honey Harvest...The Process

Mike and Bev....ready to go to work on the hives. The proper attire is a must for this job. Thanks to these great suits we handled several hives (and hundreds of thousands of bees) with no stings!
Mike getting ready to "smoke" the bees. The smoke has a calming effect on them.
The first hive that we inspected was a very healthy hive containing at least 60,000 bees.

Opening the hive.

Inspecting the frames....looking for honey.

Brushing the bees back into the hive.
The frames containing honey are removed from the hive .
A hot knife is used to remove the waxy covering over each cell of honey. This bees wax will be filtered to remove the remaining honey and then I will use the wax for pouring candles.
Nine frames full of honey are loaded into the centrifuge.

The honey is then put through a hand-cranked centrifuge to extract the honey from the frames.Jack spins it at a high speed for 5 minutes.

Honey...right out of the comb. This drains into a double filtering system to remove wax and bee parts.
The end result is raw, organic, deliciously healthy honey...and it IS delicious!

You Can't Keep Them Young!

This morning started much the same as every morning on the farm. Our alarm clock is the first "wake up!" song of Mr. Cardinal (Mr. and Mrs. are year-long residents in the tree outside the farmhouse). Without fail, each day he sings the first stanza of his song and then, as if we've pushed the snooze button, he waits about 10 minutes before continuing. At that point Mrs. Cardinal answers him back and the avian forest chorus joins in. From this point on it is hard to think about going back to sleep. The sun has begun its ascent and with the brightening sky we know that hungry animals await our arrival. Out of bed, we pull on our jeans, muck boots, and this morning, a sweatshirt. The temperature is unseasonably cool which makes morning chores so much more pleasant.

We are not the only ones that enjoy this break from the dog days of summer. The horses and ponies are so much more energetic...galloping around the pastures and kicking up their heels. This morning I am greeted by two hungry ponies at the pasture gate. After bringing them and the horses down to the barn for breakfast, we head up to feed the goats and chickens.
Looking at our sweet goats I realize with a melancholy sigh that like our children it is impossible to keep them small. They grow up before their parents are ready. Our bucklings are adolescents and effects of puberty are quite evident. They have thick beards and proud horns. Their voices have deepened and they have started to show off for the doelings.....not so different from our own boys when they were teenagers. At least the goats will stay worries of driving, or drinking, or mischievous pranks.
On the way back to the house (after mucking pastures) we stop by the guinea house to check food and water. Oh my, how these babies have grown! Like all of the babies we have just can't keep them young.

It is 7:30 AM and the morning chores are finished. As usual, the reward for a job well done is a big farm breakfast with fresh eggs from our hens.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Honey Harvest Time is Here

Honey harvest time has finally arrived at Bee Haven Acres. This year's unusual weather patterns have caused a bit of a honey shortage, but a couple of our hives are ready to have their extra honey extracted. Check back after the weekend for pictures of this task...and wish us luck! Hopefully our new bee suits will keep us protected from those nasty little stings.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Garden Gone Wild!

A very moist summer has made excellent growing conditions for our most prolific crop....WEEDS! We have had a fantastic berry harvest this year. Even the wild blackberries that line our woods are bursting with plump ripe fruit (watch out for chiggers,though!). Our tomato plants are loaded (not quite ripe, yet). Vine plants (at least those on the ground) have been a big disappointment. We harvested a handful of cucumbers before the vines died. Our zucchini and summer squash died before they had a chance to produce. It seems that these plants' demise was caused by two separate agents...some nasty insect and also a type of fungus. We have several watermelons hanging on to their vines, and each day we cross our fingers and hope that the vines make it.

What we have had great luck with is the squash and gourds that we planted along the garden fence. These caught hold of the fence wires and climbed high to safety. Now our garden fence is decorated with fruit of varying sizes and ripeness.

Root plants such as carrots, radishes, beets, onion and garlic have given us a good harvest.
This Spring, Becky added a row of ever-bearing strawberries to the strawberry patch and much to my surprise, they have started their second harvest (in August!)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Chickens Love Tomatoes and So Do We!

Every summer the vegetable harvest kicks into gear in mid-June and continues until the first frost. And every year it seems that what we get the most excited about is the first ripened tomato. I guess that of all the produce that we harvest or buy at market, there is nothing that can come close to a homegrown tomato bursting with juicy flavor. Finally this week our tomatoes have begun to ripen and oh, how wonderful they taste! Some of our cherry tomatoes ripened and split, so those were given to the chickens. Chickens love tomatoes. That is evident as the first handful hits the dirt and the girls scurry to pick them up and then run off to the far corners of their yard as fast as they can. Sharing is not one of their better qualities. When it comes to tomatoes, chickens are quite stingy.


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