Thursday, May 31, 2012

It Takes A Village

This coming Saturday is our annual Family Day at the Farm for Hubbs' office.
We have a good ole fashioned picnic with hay rides, egg toss, and lots of critter visits.

Getting ready for this event is an undertaking...

having all the grass mowed, all the trimming done, the pastures mowed...

the gardens weeded and mulched and looking their best...

the animal houses cleaned and the animals groomed...

and everything cleaned up all at the same time
requires quite a bit of help.

That is especially the case this year with all of the damage that last Sunday's storm caused.

We would never be able to get all of the work done in one week,
if it weren't for the help of wonderful friends!

Sam, who helps me each week with the mowing and trimming....

Jim, who takes over animal chores each Wednesday, so that I can attend to other things
(he has also spent countless hours completely restoring Tin Lizzy, our 1952 Ford tractor...

Kathy, Jim's wife, who is always eager to help with any "extra" task that requires a second set of hands...
like clipping donkeys, etc.....

Jake, who is our "can-do" guy...
always ready for the hard jobs like taking down trees, or rebuilding a pasture fence.
He and his sister Jackie spent a bit of time here this week helping with the post-storm clean up.

We are so very lucky to have the tender loving care of friends and family...
who help to make this farm the very special place that it is.

To all of them I say thank you from the bottom of my heart!!
We couldn't do it without you!

Before ending this post, today, I wanted to show you how big my guinea keets have gotten...

There are also a dozen pullets in the group.
I am so excited to see what these guineas will look like as adults...
they have quite unusual coloration.

And last but not least I have to ask you...
does it not look as though perhaps my Nigerians have been out carousing?
It seems they need to lean against the fence in order to make it back home!

They are actually scratching themselves on the fence as they walk back home.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Honey Of A Harvest

This Spring has been terrific for our one remaining beehive.
We have a very strong queen bee who has tons of developing brood,
and ever-toiling worker bees (females of course!!) who are packing the hive 
with delicious honey.

There was so much honey dripping in this one hive, that we decided it was time to harvest.
This is the earliest we have ever been able to harvest honey.

Friday Hubbs removed two supers from the hive and placed a top board above and below
the supers.  Where the hole normally is on the top board, he placed a one-way escape hatch.
This allowed the bees to leave the supers but not to go back in.

Sunday Hubbs and Tim picked up the supers and drove them at top speed on the four wheelers around the farm.  This keeps the bees from following the scent of honey.

They brought the supers to the green house and we proceeded to harvest the honey there.
And amazingly, we had no bees in the greenhouse for the process.

We used a hot knife to cut the wax caps off of the honeycomb,

and a scraping tool to remove the caps from areas the knife doesn't reach.

Then the frames full of honey are placed in a centrifuge

where they are spun for several minutes (by hand).

The honey flies against the inner wall of the centrifuge and drips down to the reservoir in the bottom.

Then we open the valve and allow the honey to flow through several filters 
into a collecting bucket.
Filtering removes pieces of wax and propolis and bee parts.

Three filters later,

 the honey is ready to bottle.

This year's batch is a lovely dark shade
and oh, so tasty.

We harvested just under forty pounds of honey.
Sadly, not enough to sell...
just enough to get us through till next year's harvest.

Who knows, perhaps we may be able to harvest again at the end of the summer.
Honey harvest is always one of the highlights of each year on the farm.
And our honey is the best we've ever tasted!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What a Weekend!

We had a long weekend, yes we did!
And it passed by so very quickly.
Around here, when time passes by quickly, it is because it was chocked full of activity!
And this weekend was no exception.

I'll give you just the highlights, otherwise you'll be here visiting me for half the day.

Added to the usual farm chores, there was a little gooseberry picking...
(and another pie baked..."sour pie" as Hubbs calls it.)

We harvested all of the rest of the broccoli
and gave the stalks to the chickens (one of their favorites).
They had the stalks stripped of all the leaves in a matter of minutes.

We planted Romanesco cauliflower (Christmas tree cauliflower) in its place.
We have found that planting marigolds in amongst these veggies 
truly makes a difference in pest control.
Our garden boxes with marigolds have remarkably less insect damage.

We took delivery of a "surplus" rooster, a silkie, that someone did not want.
Meet Elton John...

A visit from Tyler and his Mommy was Sunday's highlight.
We took a pony ride...

a gator ride through the woods...

We visited with the piggies...

and gathered eggs....

Later in the afternoon we harvested honey
(the subject of tomorrow's post).

A severe thunderstorm on Sunday evening left us with a bit of damage
and a lot of additional clean up work.
A choke cherry tree ended up crashing down on the pasture fence between the horses and the pigs.

This week we'll have to do a bit of chain saw work
and rebuild a portion of the fence.

On Memorial Day we took a few hours away from the farm to kayak on our favorite river.

We did a beautiful six mile stretch on the Juniata River.

It was a wonderful weekend with a few of our kids...
working, playing, cooking together...
and making memories to last a lifetime!

A break for fun was needed  as this week will be filled with work and preparations
for an "open farm" this coming weekend.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Growing Goats, Growing Farmers

Yesterday Becky and I vaccinated the mama goats and their babies.
We wormed them and trimmed their hooves in preparation for moving them to a new enclosure.

Very soon O'Malley's twins will be leaving for their new homes...
leaving us just with "Dot" (one of Sissy's triplets).

It' hard to believe another kidding season has come and gone.
It's comforting to remember as each of the kids leaves for their new home,
that next year will bring a whole new group of baby goats.

While I was up helping Becky,
I snapped this picture of happy ole Pete.
You may remember that just a few short months ago, Pete was sadder than sad...
and skinny as a rail.

He has put on a lot of weight and is doing great.
As you can see, he is quite comfortable in his surroundings!
Becky plans to float his teeth one more time and then try a bit in his mouth
and get him under saddle.

It will be fun to see what kind of ride he turns out to be.
He is very kind and tries hard to please,
but he is also very skittish and fearful (due to his previous life.)

First harvest of broccoli this year
I have been spending some of my free time writing a course syllabus for a "farm school."
We are kicking around the idea of offering a course on basic farming skills...
gardening, beekeeping, animal care, composting, etc.
Our Amanda pointed out that so many of her friends would like to be self sufficient,
but don't have the skills or knowledge of gardening, home canning, or even cooking.

Blanching broccoli
We are going to give this a trial run with a basic overview course...
with the intent of offering more in-depth courses if there is interest.
At this point, we are in the planning stages...

Broccoli, preparation for vacuum sealing and freezing.
but I think it is going to be a lot of fun!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Visit With Ginger And MaryAnn

One of my favorite things to do each day is to spend a little time visiting with
Ginger and MaryAnn.
I thought I would take you along with me today...
it's the next best thing to being here!

Aren't they just the best little hostesses?
They always make me feel welcome.

We've had quite a few rain storms this week.
Perfect weather for growing hay...

(Now you can see why my horses run to this field whenever they get loose!)

Now all we need is perfect weather for cutting hay!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Happy Endings....We're Overdue!

Every May and June for several weeks it seems like the farm is under siege by foxes.
It is during this time of year that I always lose a few chickens.
This year is no exception, sadly.


and rooster Number 6 have disappeared from the barn area.

Foxes are to blame....I am sure.
It is this time of year when the mother fox teaches her kits to hunt,
and they hunt purely for sport (education).

I am sure by now you are thinking that I have had a bad couple of weeks...
first losing Edith,

then Sam and Oakley's porcupine attack,
then the duck shooting incident,
now 2 roosters are MIA.

Yes, it's been a tough couple of weeks.
I was starting to feel like a dark cloud was following me.
 And, truly, I hate to share these things with you, but it is the reality of life on a farm.

What I couldn't bear to tell you, however, was that Leo, our adorable barn kitty,
also went missing.

For two days we called for him and searched for him....
to no avail.

Then yesterday morning I decided to do one last search.
I began in the hayloft.
Up the stairs I climbed calling "Here KeeCat, here KeeCat"
(my special call for Leo...and one that he always answers).
I was just about to descend the ladder, when I heard a slight muffled cry from behind the hay pile.

Oh, thank goodness, he was alive...
just stuck behind the bales of hay.
He must have fallen back there.
 I tore down the bales of hay, swooped him up in my arms,
 and carried him back downstairs for breakfast...
which he woofed down like he hadn't eaten in 2 days (which he hadn't).

Happily, I have no more sad tales to share with you...
rather... one with a happy ending!

On days when the harsher side of life on a farm gets to me,
the best cure is time spent with goaties.
We have only three of our six kids remaining,
and those three are getting so big now.

And just like their parents, they love Ritz crackers, too!

Snuggling a baby goat always makes my heart a little lighter.


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