Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Mid-Winter Homestead Update 2013

Despite little writing on the blog, homesteading continues at Sweetwater Farm. We've experienced some extremely cold temps, plenty of snow and rain, and very little sun... until this week. Thankfully, the good Lord has given us some lovely weather to help keep us going until spring... enough to motivate me to actually write a blog post! (I know... you probably gave up on me.)

Bees

I'm more than thrilled about my bees... elated is more like it They're still alive! After observing them out of the hive during the warm spell, I picked a warm sunny day with no wind to lift the lid and check on their candy board. Seems like the Carniolans don't eat much. I could hardly tell they had touched it. They probably have been eating the honey supers during December and January, but I didn't want to venture that far down yet just to satisfy my curiosity. My goal was to get a quick peek and shut it up again. 



I insulated their hive with a heavy duty sleeping bag (because it's all I had in a pinch one night when the temperature was dropping fast and I wasn't prepared as I should have been), along with several bales of straw. Only the south side was left open so they could get some sun and exit freely on good days. 

I have a pollen patty and some Honey-B Healthy ready to go as soon as warmer temperatures are here to stay. I don't want to get the queen starting up her brood laying too soon, but maybe around March.

Goats

The three does have been on a consistant regime of herbals for a couple of months now and are looking GOOD! I'm so pleased with their health. I dropped their mineral supplements and have elected not to give them a copper bollus (standard in goat care) in lieu of the herbal supplements and I am feeling very good about it at this time. Each goat receives the following each day/week:

• Fir Meadows Kop-sel (copper supplement)
Thorvin Kelp (selenium supplementation as well as other trace minerals, etc)
• Dairy grade alfalfa hay
• Orchard grass
Chaffhaye (evening supplement)
• Molly's Herbals Worming Herbs (weekly)
• Fir Meadows Milk Maid (one doe only)
• Milk stand ration of dairy pellets, barley, oats, BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds) if in milk
• Fresh water with Apple Cider Vinegar (enzymes, etc.)

I know this sounds like a lot, but it's really easy because it's an established routine. I feed as much variety as possible because goats are browsers and if they were out in a large pasture, they'd eat more than one thing and gather nutrients from a variety of sources. I plan to supplement soon with cuttings from the brush on our property that I've determine are non-toxic to goats; I just have to establish a routine for that.



I'll be scheduling their blood draws with a friend in order to complete our 2013 CAE/CL testing as well as preparing Frieda for breeding. In order to get her ready, I've made sure she is getting her kelp and worming herbs, but I'll be adding some red raspberry leaves, as well as Fir Meadow's CyclEase and God's Greens.

Chickens

The girls suffered a laying slump this winter that we've NEVER experienced before with pullets. Like I said, the weather has been extra brutal this year and while we typically get very little sunlight in the winter, this year, we've had even less. I finally resorted to turning on the coop light for a few nights and that did the trick. Since then, we've only had the light on every other night and we'll probably start dropping it to every third night and so on. As of today, I'm getting at least a dozen eggs from 15 hens each day. 



Orders are being placed in the homesteading group for spring chicks, but alas, I've already missed out on my top choices. Many unusual breeds sell out quickly: Copper Marans in particular. I'm so sad about that. However, Gabbard Farms may have some hatching eggs at a later date.

For meat birds, we're going to try about 15 Rainbow Rangers this spring. My experiment with White Rock (not Cornish Cross) was a disaster. There is no perfect solution for meat birds, so one must compromise somewhere and I've decided that it will be in the area of a cross breed. (I could write a whole post on this, so I'll save that for later). I'm hoping that I'll time the meat chicks for the early spring grasses and that it will be warm enough for them to be out of the coop in tractors by their fourth week, but this is kind of like going to Las Vegas and gambling... our spring weather is totally unpredictable. 

Garden

We're still harvesting some kale while onions, garlic, parsnips, and carrots slowly grow, waiting for spring to take off. Actually, I should pull the parsnips and carrots and start new seeds. There are also a few other root vegetables sitting in the ground, but their status is iffy. The chard was doing great, but the plastic covers provided a tempting spot for some kind of black aphid and the chard became invested. Strange that the bugs totally ignored the kale right next to the chard, but they did. Anyway, the chickens were happy for the extra greens and insects.

Clean up is beginning on warm days to get the garden ready for an early planting of cool weather crops. And did I mention the 3 commercial truck loads of wood chips I scored for $50? Yeah, baby!! I have the Mt. Everest of wood chips just waiting to go down in the garden. Another spring workout for nice weather days just waiting for me. 

General Stuff...

Besides the garden and animals, I'm finally getting some time to work on my Family Herbalist Course from Vintage Remedies. My husband and I have tightened up on our eating habits (that had slipped just a bit) and we're getting some good exercise. Amazing how much difference this can make! I think I tend to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder when the days are SO dark, so I've made an extra effort to find the sunny spots in the day and get outside.

My youngest daughter and I have taken up archery (I used to do this as a child) and we have a fabulous instructor who is training us not only for target shooting, but for hunting! I'm so jazzed about this! Imagine being able to obtain food in the wild without alerting everyone around you. Preparedness continues on the homestead in various ways, including acquired skills.

I'll leave the update at this and hope I can actually pull together two posts this week! It's been good to take a break, but I miss the fellowship and accountability... you all inspire me to keep going.
Blessings,





24 comments:

  1. So good to get an update! Continued blessings for good things! Our area has had lots of warm days this winter, so the bugs will be in full-force this summer I am sure of it. I am stocking-up on organic insect treatments to be ready! Looking forward to hearing more soon! Visit me at thisacreofdiamonds.blogspot.com

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  2. It was so nice to "hear" from your homestead again! I have a question about your 3 large truck loads of wood chips for $50... I realize that actual resources that you used are unavailable to me on the other side of the country, but I'd love to hear how you found them. Did you call a local tree company, does your husband or one of your children have really great connections, did you find an ad on Craigslist or your local homesteading group? I've been searching here for wood chips with no luck. I was hoping maybe you had found a source that I hadn't thought of looking for in my neck of the woods! Thanks!

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  3. So great to hear how things are going. I miss you, but totally understand how it is. Blessings to you!

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  4. We started our onions and carrots just yesterday . My 6 chickens are doing good so far . We get 5 to 6 eggs a day. I saw a lot of good organic treatments for bugs on you tube. I hoping to try some of them this year.

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  5. we don't cover our bees, but we live in ga. so it is lots warmer. i surely hope they winter well. we are down to 2 hives(the bears got the others) and now is surrounded by a heavy duty dog kennel. sooooo, hoping the cold does not kill them, never has, so just waiting to see them out and buzzing and collecting pollen for some wonderful honey. good luck w/yours:)

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  6. So good to hear from you, Amy. It sounds like the time off did you good. Everything seems to be going well. So interesting about the bees! Hope you'll share more about the course you're taking when you have time.
    Continued blessings...

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  7. Wonderful to hear from you ! I figured you being away from posting was to due with all the wonderful things you have and do on your Homestead ! Sounds like all is going well there and all are having fun. I am glad to hear ! Thanks for sharing . Have a great week !

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  8. I am so very excited about your bees! My husband is a beekeeper by hobby and his friend who is a beekeeper said most of their bees died this year (this is in Missouri). They have lots of beehives though, so I don't think they could have wrapped them all like you did. Sounds like you are so busy on the farm. What an inspiration you are!

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  9. Good luck with the hunting. I love being able to get my own meat. I appreciate the update.

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  10. Thanks for the update - miss your regular posts!
    I have a huge case of cabin fever and resorted to opening all the curtains during the day to let some light in (even though we have 85 year old windows that block none of the Michigan winter)

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  11. That is neat that your bees are doing well! I tried to overwinter one hive this year as well but I am rather doubtful that they are okay. We have had a long stretch of weather with temps going down to around -30 on a fairly regular basis and I didn't do much to protect the hive. It was just an experiment this year - next year I do intend to work harder at keeping them through the winter.

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  12. It all keeps coming right along! Glad to see the update!

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  13. Raising meat birds is so frustrating. Last summer we decided on Jersey Giants, a dual purpose bird, they should be ready to eat in another 4 months. We have 4 brooding hens so replacement birds are in our future. We have one breed on the farm, it's been a blessing now the hope is that their meat taste good. Raising x-rock was a nightmare experience for us too. Tried twice and never again. -Carole

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  14. It's so good to hear from you again! Love updates on the farm, it's always so interesting what others are doing on the homestead and inspiring too :)

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  15. Sounds like you are holding down the fort well without me. Maybe next month I can practice archery with you and M. Love to you all

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  16. Thanks for sharing your updates~
    We are also interested in bees; in fact, I'm in a local class right now.
    Our weather situation here in Utah is very similar to yours.
    We are ordering 2, 3 lb. packages this week that will arrive the end of April.
    I'm curious about where you got your hive kit? And do you have any suggestions
    on how many supers to purchase for starting out two hives?
    I've really appreciated the info. you've shared on bees~Thanks!

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  17. Amy,
    Thank you for the update. You've been in my thoughts. Your homestead is inspiring me with lots of new ideas. Good for you for getting that great woodchip deal! I am only a little jealous. Have a great February.

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  18. Sounds like a good season of rest and preparing, while also getting in the winter version of productivity.

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  19. What a darling site you have! I am going to have to come back when I have more time and a cup of green tea in hand. I am so inspired.....

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  20. I found your blog on the sidebar of a friend's blog. You nabbed my attention with the words "Peanut Butter Balls!" And I'm so glad you did. You have lots of great stuff here. And you reminded me to order more Molly's herbals for our goats! Thanks. We are raising Black Copper Maran chickens. I would love to send you one of our three roosters! Our hens just started laying a few weeks ago and their eggs are so beautiful. We're going to try to incubate some soon. Let us know if you want some fertile eggs. They're from the Wade Jean line with feathery feet.

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  21. Amy it is so wonderful to hear all of the exciting things that are going on in your lives. Thank you for the updates too. I must say that I am SO happy to hear of your bees doing well :) That Honey-B-Healthy is terrific and it smells wonderful. Have a wonderful day!~Melissa

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  22. Oh AWESOME!! I'm so happy that your bees are doing well. And your goats and chickens! Our chickens have *just* started giving us about 2-3 eggs/day (out of like 17 hens). We don't have a light on them, though. You're getting a ton of eggs. Woo-hoo! We did the Molly's herbs with our goats when we had them, and it seemed to work well. I'm so jealous of your woodchip pile, what a score!! I seriously need a big mound like that as well. I've got so much work to do in the garden still to get it ready for planting. I've got several flats of seedlings started, so I really do need to get those beds ready before Spring is here! And I'm envious of your archery classes, too. I've been wanting to learn for a while now. What a great skill. We got our son a bow that we all like to practice with, but I'd love to have real lessons at some point. So good to hear your update! Sounds like you've got a lot of good stuff going on there!

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  23. Oh AWESOME!! I'm so happy that your bees are doing well. And your goats and chickens! Our chickens have *just* started giving us about 2-3 eggs/day (out of like 17 hens). We don't have a light on them, though. You're getting a ton of eggs. Woo-hoo! We did the Molly's herbs with our goats when we had them, and it seemed to work well. I'm so jealous of your woodchip pile, what a score!! I seriously need a big mound like that as well. I've got so much work to do in the garden still to get it ready for planting. I've got several flats of seedlings started, so I really do need to get those beds ready before Spring is here! And I'm envious of your archery classes, too. I've been wanting to learn for a while now. What a great skill. We got our son a bow that we all like to practice with, but I'd love to have real lessons at some point. So good to hear your update! Sounds like you've got a lot of good stuff going on there!

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