The Birds and the Bees… and Garden Things

Our chicks arrived on Mother's Day.  I am so excited about our new arrivals!  I ordered a couple of Rhode Island Reds to replace the ones we've lost over the years.  They are just the best winter layers; we have never had a winter without eggs, and I don't use an artificial heat source.  This winter we were down to one Red ("Mrs. Cluck", as she was named by a 7 year old Peep #2) and felt the pinch.  We never had to actually purchase store-bought eggs (gasp–the horror!) But there was a time there, especially around the holiday baking rush, where I felt a little panicky. LOL

So anyway, I also ordered a few Buff Orpingtons, because they are supposed to be sweet, friendly, and good brooders.  It would be nice if in the future I could just get some fertilized eggs and let a hen do the work of chick-rearing for me.  I also got, at loooooong last, my blue egg layers!  I've been wanting these for so long and it just never worked out. (Once the hatchery was out of stock, and another time a lady was giving some away and then changed her mind.)  These Ameraucanas are beautiful and it's going to be an exciting moment the first time I find a blue egg in one of the nesting boxes!  (These are good times on the homestead, people.  You know, we don't have any cows to tip over.) 

Meanwhile, all of my seed starting is done.  I have flats in various stages set around the property.  Out in the garden and ready for planting this week are my tomatoes, peppers, calendula, and sage.  In the hardening off stage outside the greenhouse are the nasturtium, beets, and radishes.  Under the lights inside the greenhouse, just to give them a head start, are pumpkins, squash (acorn and butternut), cucumbers, and zucchini.  I also am starting a few more nasturtium and trying some Chinese lantern flowers this year.  The last bit to do will be to direct sow the corn and sunflowers, which I hope to get to this weekend.

Transplants to be.

I was so excited to see little fruit on my fruit trees this year!  I've had a terrible time getting my fledgling orchard started up.  Fortunately I have the established apple trees to fall back on, but I really want the ones I've planted to get going!  This year my fig, nectarine, pears, and dwarf apples all have little fruit!  If they only survive the June drop I will be ecstatic.  And, the blueberry bushes just get bigger and better every year.  I long for the day when I pick a big colander full … but I am still a ways off from that.  Finally, the strawberries are taking over my vegetable garden.  I hate to move them though, because they are really thriving there.  The trick is to keep the chickens, birds, and chipmunks away so that the humans can actually enjoy a decent crop.  I'll have to rig some sort of MacGyver-esque contraption to suit that purpose.

This week I split my hive and re-queened.  I had mixed feelings about that.  Most beekeepers re-queen every other year.  Mine is in her third year and I didn't want to get rid of her.   You know, there just is something wrong about getting rid of an old queen to replace her with a new young one, KWIM??  And, of all the hives that my mentor manages, mine was the only to survive this year's winter.  They are just going gangbusters and the population had exploded.  So, reluctantly, I split the hive and gave the existing queen to a friend to start their own hive. (At least it wasn't, off with her head!!)  My "old" queen and a small band of her subjects have been exiled to the Fair Lands of the North where hopefully they will prosper with a new colony.  A few days later my "new" queen was introduced and so far all is well.  And that is that.  Like the bees we are busy busy this time of year, and are really looking forward to being able to put the books down for a while so we can be outside!  (Just a few more weeks left!)  More on school in my next post…

November 21, 2008

I admit it, I've been neglecting the blog!  Too much interference from RL.  In the spring I acquired 7 new chicks, a kitten, and a beehive!  Needless to say they all have kept me busy for quite some time.  I'd been wanting to add to my flock for a while and was especially interested in some blue egg layers (Ameracaunas).  So, when a friend was placing a large order with McMurray Hatchery, I decided to tack on a few.  You always have to plan for losses… those wee chicks are pretty fragile, so I ordered 4 Ameracaunas.  But, I figured I'd like to mix it up a bit and get a couple others, so I also ordered three Black Australorps and three Plymoth (Barred) Rocks.  As it turns out, they were out of the Ameracaunas so I only got the Blacks and the Rocks.  I am disappointed but hope to get the ones I wanted next year.  And, the ones I have are just beautiful!  Some have started laying already so they are keeping me well stocked in eggs.  Four hens I gave to my sister, so my flock is still at seven, which I think is a good size for us.

The bees… wow, are they amazing!  Although I won't get a full honey harvest this autumn, I have been able to extract a couple of jars worth, and also get my own wax (which I made into candles).  I am so psyched to have the bees;  I love making my own candles, herbals salves/lip balms etc, so to have my own wax is a real boon.  Not to mention my own local honey.  Yum!

In February one of our cats passed away after a long bout with kidney failure.  So sad!  I still miss  her curling up next to me at night.  After a while we acuired a kitten from the same friend I split the chicken order with.  One of her barn cats had a litter of kittens and we picked a black tortoise shell bob-tail and named her Luna.  She is full of mischeif, that one, and loves to torment our other cat Piper.  But she is settling down now (7 months old) and I'm so glad she's stopped wreaking havoc in the middle of the night!

That's the main update for now.  Next time I'll post about school and how that's going.  We've made some changes this year that are really working well.  But for now, dinner awaits!