Saturday, August 30, 2008

Checking on the bees.....

We have two hives of bees. This was a new venture for us last year. DH is the beekeeper, but I do have a genuine interest in them and their incredible value to the farm. We started with a borrowed hive last year. Friends had a hive that needed a home once it was moved from the apple orchard and we were happy to have it here for a season. This spring, before they opened it, they moved it to a new location and we put up our own hives. We purchased all the parts for two hives. They needed to be put together and painted. I can remember growing up bee hives were always white. Now it is recommended to paint them darker colors. We chose the green to match the roof of our house.

We then purchased 12,000 bees for each hive in late spring and fed them a sugar water syrup in a feeder can enclosed in the hive until their was enough natural food source for them to survive on. They have been busy ever since. We see them everywhere! My flower gardens and vegetable gardens have done wonderful and I know so much of it is because of the bees.

squash blossom with busy bees hard at work

The first or bottom box contains wooden frames that hold honey comb that are spaced in such a way that the bees cannot fix them together. We can remove them to examine them without hurting the bees. This is the hive body. It is about 9 1/2 " deep and is used mostly as two units, for the brood nest. This gives the queen space to lay many eggs which makes the resulting colony very strong.
10 foundations in a super

The second super or box is where the bees make honey that they will store and live on this winter. Our bees, so far are doing a great job of this. We have a wonderful supply of clover, goldenrod, and of course, garden produce that the bees have been working and the honey combs show this.

Foundation covered with bees and honey comb full of capped honey

The third super has smaller foundations in it. We added this two weeks ago. We won't check it for another month or so. This will be where the bees will store honey when the bottom two supers are full. This is honey that we could extract for ourselves should their be any. We did not expect to harvest honey for ourselves this year. That's generally the rule of the thumb the first year. Our bees are doing so well, they may surprise us.

small foundations we added to the third super for extra honey harvest

Smoking the bees

As a rule, DH checks the bees and does whatever is necessary. I watch from a distance. I'm not terribly afraid of them but I have a healthy respect for thousands of bees swarming around my head! He really loves this and wanted to share the experience with me so I agreed to put on a marshmallow suit and check it out.

To open the hives, he removes the cover and he uses a smoker which has baling twine and newspaper in it. The little bellows keep the fire going and creates the smoke. The smoke stimulates the bees to gorge themselves on honey and therefore keep them from stinging us. We open one hive at a time.

Opening the hive

Steve isn't as apprehensive as I am and doesn't normally use his face protection. I on the other hand, went in with full outfit from head to toe. I wasn't taking any chances :)

Not taking any chances!

It was a great experience and I'm sure I'll participate again now that I know what to expect. We have been very fortunate that our bees have done so well and we have not have problems with varroa mites , which are one of the major killers of bee colonies. Keeping strong colonies diesease free and well fed seems to be the best prevention. Hopefully we can keep doing that.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Full to the brim............

We have been having beautiful DRY weather for the past few nights, warm days with low humidity. Starting to remind me of fall. Everything smells and feels so crisp in the mornings. We hauled hay yesterday, and I was surprised to see how red the maple leaves are turning already and it's still August. As usual, no camera when I needed it.

We added another 6 ton to the upper hay barn and it is full to the brim. We couldn't get another bale up there no matter how hard we pushed! We put these round bales up through the front doors with the tractor and then roll them down through the barn. The left side is filled with squares, the right with rounds.

We can access the upstairs from the inside of the barn. The round bales are just about covering the stairway, they are so packed in. We left just enough room for me to squeeze up through the throw the square bales down through the trap door and for the barn cats :)

This will be enough feed to get us through most of the winter. I buy large round bales from a local farmer. Because I don't have enough storage, he stores them for me and I picked them as I need them. Usually 4 a month or so for the cattle feeder outside. Works out well for me and it's good business for him.

I couldn't resist this photo - this is Hermit.....he stood by the fence and watched us unload the entire load of hay. Yes - I did give in when we were finished and gave him a forkful of the yummy stuff !

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Coming up for air..............

Guineas on a foggy morning

An incredibly busy week has passed..............just can't believe so much can change in just a few days! I have a ton to write about but I promise this will not be a book :O) Life on the farm changes daily - which is a good thing I think. I surely don't get bored. Perhaps that's why it's the lifestyle that suits me so well.
This has been a week of firsts for my youngest son, Tyler and I'm so proud of him and the way he has handled himself. He was invited to test for his purple belt in karate last friday and completed his test with flying colors!

"Meditating - "do I remember all my moves?"

He has been in Karate since 9/28 /07. He has worked very hard and given 100% effort. It means alot to him to succeed. It has taught him so much about self confidence and self esteem.

He practices everyday and lifts weights. We couldn't be happier with his achievements and how he has grown since he joined. His attitude about everything is so much better.

Today was the first day of 8th grade for Tyler. He wasn't as nervous as usual. He looked quite spiffy as he got on the bus ( he requested that I not photograph him this year on the front step as I usually do :) and I didn't cry this year. It's so difficult to let them grow up but that he is. I miss him - his witty little comments and our short conversations. I knew this house would be so quiet without him. Life is an adjustment everyday isn't it?

He's not my baby anymore but a young man...........which leads to the photo below. Daddy had to instruct him last night in the fine art of shaving. My little boy with a razor in his hand!!! He had a *cute* mustache that he absolutely hated. The kids tease him about it as he is quite masculine for almost 14 so off it went.

A very proud, much happier and less hairy Tyler :)

On a different note, the new motherboard and power supply have just arrived for the PC that crashed last week. The laptop had an issue as well so we were rather computerless for a day or two. The boys are happy that the PC will be up and running by tomorrow.

These beauties are thriving in the garden and I have several bouquets throughout the house and at my Mom's house as well.

The gardens are overflowing with produce and we have been busy canning and freezing. Tomorrow a farming post, I promise.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hangin' around..............

Tyler discovered this little tree frog hanging around on the hitching rail the other day. He was quite content basking in the sunshine and certainly didn't mind having his photo taken. They are the most interesting little creatures. He was so tiny - they have discs at the ends of their toes and fingers which helps them "cling" to everything and springs for legs. Holy cow can this little dude jump!!

We used maple posts for the supports for the hitching post. These posts are three years old. Even though it's dead, this post has leaves growing out of it and lichen all over it which the frogs like to use for camouflage. I was amazed Tyler saw him settled down in the leaves.

Sure is tiny isn't he? Occasionally we have them stuck to the outside of the picture window on the house. It's so cool to see them from the underside as they are stuck there.

We have a great eco- system here and have many different species of frogs. We love listen to the chorus as it begins to get dark in the evening. We sure miss that when cold weather rolls around. Fall is definately in the air............changes are coming.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Absentee farming today.......

We are leaving Mom in charge of the farm. Today is our big field trip to Funtown USA - our big amusement park in Maine and Mom has opted, actually downright refused to go with us. Tom, Ty & Kelsey (our adopted daughter and Ty's best buddy :) and myself will be heading out after chores for a day of fun and excitement! I'm not a huge "ride" fan but the kids assure me if I can survive the rides at Disney World, Fun Town will be a piece of cake. It looks to be a gorgeous day weather wise.

This is our first real field trip this summer. With the rainfall we've had, we haven't had many nice days to do outdoor activities. We have all been looking forward to spending the day together and a little junk food never hurt anyone right? Ooooooooooh, I can smell the fried dough already :)

*** What a great day we had :) This was my first trip to this amusement park and Tyler's as well. Tom and Kelsey gave us the tour and I think the kids went on every ride in the park. We arrived as the gates opened and we didn't wait in long lines which was nice. They convinced me to ride one of the roller coasters and that was enough for me! We splurged on a little junk food. It tasted as good as I knew it would :) ***
Kelsey, Tyler & Tom
It's difficult for me to tear myself away from the farm. I always feel like I'm slacking off; there's always so much work to do and it doesn't get done if we aren't here but............all was well while we were gone. Anything that didn't get done today will be waiting for me tomorrow for sure. I'm glad I spent the day with my kids. I know how precious that time is - they grow up too fast.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Under the weather........

I've been under the weather the last few days. I hate to get behind but occasionally I get a migraine that just shuts me down completely. It came on Monday morning before I got out of bed. If I'm lucky I'm only down a couple of days. I missed chores Monday evening. I rarely do that because of illness - but it was necessary. Thankfully Tom stepped in and took care of the animals. Around lunchtime the boys brought me in this beautiful bouquet of garden flowers to put on my bedside table. I'm so lucky - I have great kids :)

My second box of peaches arrived and I'm chomping at the bit to get them processed. I'm hoping either this evening or tomorrow afternoon. I'm going to try freezing some of them as recommended by a fellow blogger.
I'm going to spend the rest of the afternoon taking it easy - below are a few photos of my farm buddies that were happy to see me this morning:





The boys: Mr. Finn, Graham, Cactus & Jacob

Have a great day~

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sunshine, repairs & stocking up continues......

Hard to believe another week in August is almost behind us. We actually had 36 hours without a rain shower. Not hay making weather but it was great to see and feel the sun. We had 50 different things we wanted to accomplish before the clouds darkened again. We didn't come close to checking all the things off the list, but the sheep barns got cleaned and fresh straw laid down, the duck house and chicken houses cleaned and bedded, pigs moved to a dry area AGAIN and most of my wool has been skirted and will be delivered tomorrow :)

The pullets and three baby guineas had a chance to check out their new chicken tractor. It's not completely finished but hopefully that will happen this sunday. We recycle everything we can get our hands on. This was an awning from a medical re-build that DH did a couple of years ago. We knew we could re-use them for something. We don't have the fence up yet for their yard so they are being moved to new grass each day.

The lightening from the last two storms managed to take out both of my electric fence chargers. Fortunately the owner of our local feed store repairs them. I dropped them off and the next morning both were fixed. He advised me to install a lightening arrestor and said that should prevent this from happening again. The cows and sheep were fenced on faith overnight. They were good and all stayed where they were supposed to be. Next on the agenda is to figure out how to keep these little imps out of my hay feeder :)

Two naughty shetland ewes in the feeder ~

I separate the cream from our milk on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. Milk dishes take me longer as the cream separator has many parts. I was finished chores and cleaned up by 10 a.m. It was such a beautiful morning Mom and I decided to take an hour or so and go pick blueberries. We are fortunate to have Libby & Son about 15 minutes from the house.

Rows and rows of highbush Jersey and Bluecrop blueberries as far as you can see. They also have a huge apple orchard with several different varieties. Tyler and his friend, Miles, went with us. We had our buckets weighed when we arrived and headed out. They gave us a scenic tour in a four seater golf cart and showed us where to pick. We stayed about an hour and a half. The boys really did pick more than they ate although their tongues looked like they ate a bushel of blueberries :) We had a great time.

~Sweet blueberries~

More blueberry bushes to pick from

The picking was plentiful and easy. We picked about 30 pounds of berries. We packaged most of them in quart bags for the freezer and will use them this winter. I left a large bowl in the fridge to enjoy on cereal or in yogurt. Sunday mornings we have a family breakfast after chores. This week it will be blueberry pancakes, our pork sausage, fresh eggs and Maine maple syrup. Can't wait!

Miles and Tyler at the blueberry field

We knew the good weather wouldn't last. Thunderstorms blew through here this afternoon bringing heavy rains and thunder/lightening. No serious damage here, The worst of the storm went around us. Folks to the north in Bridgton reported a water spout over the lake late this afternoon.

I was very surprised to see my poppies were still standing when I went to the barn for chores after the storm. They appear to be so tender - I really expected the rain would have knocked them all over. Was glad to see they all made it :)

Orange poppy

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Stocking the pantry....

I love books and have a great habit of collecting them. Many different kinds of books. My Ball Blue Book canning books are some of my favorites. I have three of them and they are used many times throughout the year. The edition on the left was published in 1937, the middle in 1963 and the one on the right in 1999. I have used recipes from all three books many times. Most of the recipes are still basically the same as well as recommended procedures. The two oldest books were passed down to me from my Mother.
Fresh peaches ready for canning

We were fortunate to find a local source for fresh canning peaches. They are delicious! Firm, sweet and priced right. I bought half a bushel and hope to buy another half bushel at the end of the week. They peeled and pitted easily after blanching. It was an enjoyable and productive afternoon and we are looking forward to doing it again :) I love to see my pantry shelves filling up with produce that we will enjoy this coming winter.

(fresh, canned peaches)

In between canning and freezing vegetables, I'm still skirting wool, getting it ready to send to the processor. My friend Shane was here yesterday and we made progress. I should have it all done by the end of the week and delivered.

Freida's fleece -spring 08

This beautiful variegated fiber belongs to a lovely ewe named Freida. She's a Maine mutt. She's five different breeds and a lovely old gal. I do not breed her but keep her for her fiber each year. The photo really doesn't do the fiber justice as far as the gorgeous colors. This will be spun as a two ply worsted weight yarn. It's incredibly soft and several friends have made wonderful sweaters with this yarn. I'm going to make one someday :)

Friday, August 8, 2008

A wishy - washy week......

I've been so reluctant to post this week........I've been short on time and I didn't want to waste what time I had whining. I'm not usually a person who suffers from depression but I think that's been my problem. That and lack of sunshine. I can't remember the last time we've seen it. The rain has been relentless. It has taken it's toll on everyone and everything. It just won't let up and the extended forecast isn't great. We have water where we have never had water before. My poor pigs have a flooded pig house but they are burrowing in the round bale and seem very content and dry. I hope so.....I can't do a thing about the water right now. I think that's my frustration - I can't fix this mess.
Several neighboring towns have many roads closed due to high water and people are being forced to evacuate their homes. One of our largest businesses, LLBean had to close and tell it's employees to stay home because none of the roads leading into Freeport were impassable. That has to be a first. Certainly not helpful for a struggling economy.

south pasture road
not a pond but my new pasture

Looking on the bright side, the gardens are surviving it although the weeds are growing quicker than the vegetables. I hesitate to do anymore than I have to in the gardens because everywhere I step creates more mud and the plants are so tender. I'm definitely not pulling weeds in a thunderstorm.

I have the best crop of green peppers I have ever had. I picked 30 peppers today in between rain showers. I harvested green and purple basil tonight for the first time. I'll offer it for sale at farmer's market tomorrow in 1oz and 2oz bags. We also harvested cukes, summer squash, and 2 bushel of green beans. In the morning I'll harvest broccoli, swiss chard, lettuce, mescalin mix, spinach and sunflowers for market.

My tomatoes are ripening very s-l-o-w-l-y. I found my first creepy crawly (tomato hornworm) two days ago. I must have picked off 50 since then. I LOVE feeding them to my guineas and chickens. I hate these things. Just when I think I'm not going to get them, they show up!

The hateful hornworm

My zucchini isn't doing as well in all this rain but we are still getting a few. Mom and I made zucchini relish yesterday. Our entire family enjoys this so we try to put up as much as possible to get us through the season.

The wild blueberries and blackberries are plentiful as well as lots of greenery for the deer and other wildlife to enjoy.

wild blueberries & balsam

honeydew melons - we are never sure if we will have a long enough growing season or not for them to ripen but it's always worth a try - especially when they make it!

Daylillies that have survived the pounding rain

Garden glads adorning my coffee table - my favorite :)

I wish you all a great weekend filled with sunshine :)