Thursday, April 30, 2015

Homestead Happiness, April Week 4

Plenty of bee-related news has us kind of giddy this week.

Our new bee package arrived on Saturday.  The local distributor sold more than 1,500 packages, which meant it was a total zoo for picking them up, and that our bees will have some competition for the neighborhood flowers.  Still, it's nice to see such an interest in beekeeping, and they'll definitely have first dibs on the dandelions in our yard!

The new bees are already taking full advantage of the pollen in our dandy-filled yard.  Keep up the good work, ladies!

As a side note, in preparing the hive for the new package, we ended up finding the old queen.  Turns out she didn't die in the great yellow jacket war of 2014, and we can rule out that they absconded last fall.  That leaves either CCD, or too heavy of losses from the yellow jackets to make it through the winter.  Should we start a portrait collection of our queens for future colonies to look back on and remember their storied history?  This was Elizabeth I.  Right now we have Elizabeth II.

The bees came just in time, too, because our strawberries are starting to bloom!  We've got the squirrel cage if we can just get all the mice trapped out of the adjacent shed before the berries ripen, we might actually get some to eat this year!  Also, to the fruit trees waiting to flower: ready, go!

We also realized that swarm season and hunting season are complementary.  So, if we put a ladder stand in one of our trees now as a support for a swarm trap, we can turn it back into a hunting stand later when we either catch a swarm, or when swarm season is over in July.  Either way, it will be ready in time for deer season! (Although we probably won't be able to hunt deer from the stand in its current location.)

What made your homestead happy this week?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Homestead Happiness, April Week 3

More fresh veggies, an archeological discovery, and grass-craving chickens made us happy this week.

Our onion sets from last year that didn't produce bulbs, are just the right size for eating as green onions right now.  And since we want to use that garden space for other veggies this year, it's a perfect storm for green onion-themed cuisine. Yum!

While digging up a garden bed, we hit a buried brick.  Further digging revealed that it was actually a line of bricks, two wide, and about six inches underground.  We haven't had a chance to chat with the neighbors yet to see if they know what it's from, but clearly some sort of man-made thing used to exist here.  Could it be a clue about our absurdly high selenium levels?

We've also been finding pockets of dirt where the soil particles are held together by some sort of white material.  It looks slightly filamentous, but is very crumbly at the same time.  Some kind of good fungus, we hope?

We had a few inches of snow last Thursday, but the chickens could see green grass under the picnic table and freshly turned dirt out in the yard.  When we got home from work, we could tell they had a case of coop fever.  It makes us happy that the chickens aren't content to just hang out in the coop all day.

What made you happy this week?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Homestead Happiness, April Week 1

Overwintered crops, physical acquisition of seeds, workable soil, and gypsy ducks made us happy this week.

The chard and garlic under the row cover are really taking off.

Compared to the stuff planted the same week last fall outside the row cover, this garlic is at least an order of magnitude larger.  Plus, the chickens may have eaten the unprotected garlic.

Ducks in the front yard?  We only saw them one day though, so they must be transients.  Maybe we should build a second nest box in case any others stop by.

The fruit trees and dandelions are starting to bloom.  That led us to stand in the yard yelling at the trees to slow down, because our bees aren't coming for another two weeks.  That, in turn, led the neighbors to wonder if we had finally gone over the edge.  But our fruit trees seem to be lagging the neighbors', so maybe it worked!

Fresh chives for breakfast!

We were able to start turning over some new garden beds, which was good since we're already behind schedule on starting seeds and direct sowing things like onions.  Our hope was that taking off the sod with a mattock and piling it on the bed would inspire the chickens to scratch through the clumps, in the process knocking off the topsoil.  Unfortunately, they seemed mostly uninterested in it...until we took off the sod ourselves and covered it in compost.

Seeds arrived! Time to get our plant on.

 What made you happy this week?