Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Still Trucking' Along

Life is very good here at the homestead. The pup is still chewing like crazy but has settled down quite a bit now that I have more of a routine established in terms of feeding, pottying, and playing for all the tots. It's totally true what they say about when things get quiet, be suspicious...

The honey bees are a very exciting and welcome addition to the homestead. We have caught five swarms total making up three full strong hives. One hive we combined: one hive that had a queen but a very small swarm combined with a very large queen-less hive. The integration went very well and the queen is busy at work laying eggs as her workers draw out comb. We have placed a second hive body on top of the brood chamber (if you don't know what that means, just understand that moving upward by adding boxes is a very good thing and one step closer to acquiring honey to eat!). One other hive we had to dump out on the other side of the barn to rid the hive of its nurse bees and hope the foragers would combine with the new hive in its place. It was a very odd ground swarm that appeared to be very content at home on the ground. It was queen-less and for the entire time we had the swarm they acted utterly confused and impaired. They hung out on the front porch of the hive and didn't feed like they should have. The comb they built out was odd and misshapen. When we received a free queen from one of the bee clubs we belong to the hive instantly killed her. Then we had nurse bees laying eggs like they were queens. Not good and not a productive healthy hive. We did what we could to help them but unfortunately they were not wanting to be saved.

The three full hives we have now are wonderful and it is so neat to sit and watch them go about their day. I doubt we'll have honey this season as our winters are a bit harsh so they'll need a large amount of their own honey to survive through the winter. Next season, as long as they make it, we should have a very productive honey extraction!

I also have a garden this year! I have pots on my deck with tomatoes and peppers, and a decent sized one  in the yard with tomatoes, zucchini, peas, beets, carrots, and various peppers and that excites me.

Our Orpington hen went broody this past month. Cowboy and I looked at each other and shrugged. Well, why not let her set if she's determined to set? So I snuck a couple more eggs under her and put her in our second chicken coop away from the rest of the flock for peace. I had read various opinions about allowing broody hens to set, hatch, and raise the chicks with the flock so integration goes smoothy vs. separating the broody hen and her eggs to protect the chicks and decrease stress. I opted to separate. We had the second coop which is a perfect brooder box and this way I don't have to worry about another hen killing the babies. Maybe next time I'll try it the other way and compare results.
Sunday we awoke to little peeps in the coop! One baby Americauna was under our Orpington! Today I came out to see two more little babies had hatched. It looks like two Americaunas so far and maybe a baby Orpington! It made my heart melt to see these little babies and to see mama hen so protective with them. I watched her hop off the rest of the eggs temporarily and wait for her babies to follow. She then demonstrated how to drink and eat. You could see the little babies watch her intently then try to mimic her actions. This is amazing. L-bug wanted to "pet-pet" the babies all day long.

cute peepers!

The turkeys are thriving on our farm...well all except our Tom turkey. Poor guy got taken by a predator the other night. Our hens are all very good about putting themselves to bed even before dusk. The turkeys and the chicks they were raised with, unfortunately, are not very good about bedtimes. We have to round them up and guide them into the coop every night. The chicks are getting better at it but we constantly find the turkeys roosting by our basement. We've had a lot of coyote activity these last few nights down in the meadow so I am pretty sure it was one of them. I found Tom's carcass down at the bottom of the hill by the meadow. I hope his death was swift, poor guy I really liked him.

We know this is the trade-off for letting our animals free range. I am good about not letting them out in the morning until later (predators do most of their activity at dawn and dusk) and now that the puppy is becoming more dog than puppy, we have been taking him out back in the fields to do his business and let the predators know there's a new chief in town. Seeing everyone free-range, chasing butterflies and grasshoppers, snatching and dust bathing, and snipping off dewy leaves of grass as they chirp and cluck happily is lovely. The few that we lose here and there is worth it (says the human who has no chance of being eaten by a coyote or fox. Sorry girls).

That's our friend's lab being such a good girl there!

R-bear is getting chunky and even more adorable. He is starting to giggle and coo. So handsome! L-bug is still being a rock star with her cute self. She loves to read, paint, and dance. Oh yeah and crawl in and out of the chicken pop door. This is the girl that can't stand to get her fingers in paint during craft time but she will crawl through chicken poop like a champ, gather rocks in the pockets of her dresses, and present nana with a fistful of rabbit fur she found down in the meadow (i didn't have the heart to tell her the mass of rabbit fur was not from a living rabbit). Love this girl....