Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Bees Knees

We have had on our "to do" list for a couple of months now, the setting up of the beehive.   Check it off the list!!!  Finally!  We just never seemed to have enough time or energy, but it is now behind us and we await the arrival of the Sopranos in a couple of weeks.

I stained the hive rather than painting it, because I have more stain than I do paint, and I like how stain works against moisture versus paint.  I didn't need to prime and then put on several coats of paint either.  I used a light color stain.

There are two reasons they recommend paint (typically white);  wood protection and heat deflection from the sun.  Since it's hot here in Central Florida more than it is cold,  we put our hive under a set of trees for maximum shade.  While it is still "dappled" sunlight, and the hive will get some morning sun to get the bees motivated, it will spend the bulk of it's time shaded.  Because of this, we should be able to get away using stain, versus paint.   We did not stain the inside of the hive.  It's a big No, No.  No paint, no stain inside.

The Moose and I picked a location on the other side of the property, away from the garden, camper and the Hooligans, and near the canal that runs along our property.  Bees need access to water.  They use it to help cool the hive and thin out the honey when needed.  They have workers that do nothing but collect water all day long.

Our Top Bar Hive, was easy to assemble, and after we were finished it's perfectly level from front to back and side to side.  Bees will build their honeycomb perfectly "plumb" and if your hive isn't plumb it will become nearly impossible to remove the honeycomb at harvest time.  It will appear as if they didn't build it correctly.   They did, you didn't.

The hive faces southeast, so the first rays of sunshine enter the hive.  No "burning daylight", the sooner they get up and going, the more honey they produce.  Facing southeast also keeps the cold north winds at the back of the hive during the few months we call winter.

One other issue we face in Florida is ants, ants and more ants.  You name them, we've likely got them.  We had the hive up for only a few minutes and they were already investigating.  A trick of the trade is to place the legs in containers of motor oil.  The ants (so they tell us) can not cross the oil to reach the legs, and climb up into the hive.  Ants are huge robbers of  honey.

The only thing I want to do yet is place a good layer of mulch around to help keep weeds and tall grass from the hive, so I have easy access to work with the hive, and view their antics through their large picture window.

Yeah, one down and ??? to go!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Back in the Saddle

As many of you know, we have 11 Hooligans.  9 hens, 2 roosters  We knew going into this, that 2 roosters might be too many, but we weren't willing to get rid of any.  Unfortunately until we do something about a rooster, the girls are paying the price. Optimal is one rooster per 12-20 hens.  Our other issue is the Buckeye roosters are enormous, they run right around 9 lbs, and the hens at around 4-5 lbs. 

Since the girls were being roughed up a bit, loosing feathers near their tails, and have exposed red skin.  I also don't want to move into the summer months, with mosquito season upon us and risk disease and/or infection.  We needed to try something.  I ordered chicken saddles.  Now I only have 2-3 hens with issues, and they're likely the favorites,  I still ordered a saddle for each girl.  Anticipating that next fall the hens will likely go into a molt, they could use the extra protection and warmth, and not knowing how long they'll actually hold up, I wanted reserves.

I ordered each hen a different color saddle.  They were just too cute.  These seem to be well made, and I only paid $5.00 per saddle, including freight.  Here's where I ordered them from:

Louises Country Closet

(I'm not getting paid, I like to share information on small businesses that do a good job)

Here's one of my girls wearing her saddle.  Looks more like one of my grandma's aprons!  You can also see the size difference between her and The General.

D2 (daughter #2), came home for the weekend, and helped us at the Compound Sunday.  We had a good laugh at Miss Izzy's expense.  Miss Izzy has been on quite a roll with regards to catching rats.  She has some favorite haunts around the Compound, and one of them has been a piece of black tubing used for french drains.  Now we're not sure what has been living in there, but we do know something has been in there.  She's never wrong! 

 A lizard did come out of the tube.

The fiend was back at it again in the garden. We set up a trap in the garden, and hopefully we'll catch the thief and destroyer of perfectly ripened tomatoes.

Have a good week!  Thanks for following along!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Speckled Roman Vampire

It seems we have a vampire in our garden.  One who understands the patience of waiting until just the right moment.   He methodically parades up and down each row, inspecting each plant, and choosing the most delectable speckled roman tomatoes he can find.  Then in the cover of night, he swoops in and snatches them off the plants, and leaves behind his signature;   teethmarks!  One just isn't enough for this fiend, he has to try all of them.  He only takes one bite, and leaves the remains... 

Should I try garlic?  Should I try a stake through the heart?  Or just a really BIG SHOT GUN?!

New Followers

A Great Big, TGI Friday, Welcome to all of my new Followers.  Thanks for keeping up with the antics at the Compound!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Things I've Learned

I've learned a few things in the past several days about raising chicks, and I thought I'd share;

  • Raising chicks is like raising a toddler.  They need to be fed, watered and changed periodically. (we have one with pasty butt)
  • When you have 20 to look after at one time, the amount of care needed isn't that much more than if you have 12.  Go BIG or go HOME!
  • Losing even 1 chick, much less 3 is heartbreaking.  I've cried over each one.  They've each gotten a resting place.  We don't throw them in the trash.
  • 20 chicks makes for a lot of poo.
  • It doesn't take but a couple of days and they start their version of WWE.  Body slams and chest butting included.
  • Chicks have no sense of direction.  They just walk right over each other.
  • They only sleep for a minute or two at the most and then their ADHD kicks in, and it's back to some more eating, drinking, pooing, or WWE.
  • We live in a warm climate, and while you provide a heat lamp, they rarely sit under it. 
  • Some are more daring than others.  We have a small roost the Moose built, and some take to it right away, others seem "chicken" to even give it a try.
  • Raising chicks is still loads of fun!  I wouldn't trade them for anything!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Down to 22

Unfortunately, we are down to 22.  The little thing just couldn't make it.  The remaining 22 are bundles of energy one minute, then it's a 30 second to 1 minute nap before the terror starts all over again.

Second Hatch

Our second hatch was successful. We had an 85% hatch rate.  Although one will not likely make it through the day.  It's very lethargic, and won't open it's eyes.  We hate to lose any of them, so we'll baby this one today and hope it makes it.  If it does make it, it will make for 23 new Hooligans!  We've decided to keep this group.  The Roosters may end up finding a new home eventually, but until we know what they are, they're "sticking with the group".

We are happy to once again have chicks to raise.  I almost didn't sell the last group, I was so attached.  Now I need some new names! 

Harriett, Penny, B.B. (The Moose already named one), only 20 more to go....

Friday, April 13, 2012

Happy Friday!

We were expecting the next batch of incubated eggs to start hatching tomorrow.  They've decided to come a day early. Should I be worried?  We have 26 eggs left, and of those a couple are "iffy".   I checked on them this morning and I have at least 7 or 8 pipping already!  It makes for a happy Friday!

We're going to keep some from this batch and add them to the Hooligan family at the Compound.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Getting Things in Order

The Moose and I decided to get some personal things in order recently.  We've talked about it for years, and are finally getting things done.  We are preparing our Living Will, Living Trust and Powers of Attorney.  When mentioning this to D1 and D2, they don't really want to think about losing their parents, and I can relate to that.  But I have a strong push to get our "stuff" in order.

We went with a Living Trust so our girls won't have to face probate court and the costs associated with it.  We don't want any squabbling over whether or not they should take us off life support.  We want the process already in place and understood so when the time does come, they'll know where to go to get the information they need.  Dealing with tragedy is hard enough, without having to try and figure out where everything stands legally.

It's part of prepping in my opinion.  Be prepared with food, water, shelter, safety, and peace of mind.

Another Victory for Backyard Chickens

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Banned Antibiotics found in Poultry

Here's a study done by both Johns Hopkins University and Arizona State University.  Another job well done by the FDA.

Evidence of Banned Antibiotics in Poultry Products article by Johns Hopkins and Arizona State

ABC Channel 4 News Salt Lake City, UT news article

Will it ever end?  Of course the Poultry Council disagrees with the study.  What I couldn't find, and didn't have time to research, was what brand of feed they are providing the chickens.  I'd like to know.

Monday, April 9, 2012

EPA Approved GMO's Insecticides Responsible for Killing Bees - see study info

Here's what we've been reading and wondering about for some time now.  Did they really need to do a study to prove that insecticides and GMO insecticides were killing our bees?  But I guess, nothing can get done by way of common sense anymore.  Here is the link to the story:

EPA approved GMO's Responsible for killing bees

Here's the link to the actual study:

What really concerns me, is the statement:

"but also that clothianidin’s toxicity is systemic throughout the entire food chain, which could one day lead to the catastrophic destruction of the food supply."

Now how long will it take for the EPA to ban this stuff?   Better question;  what are they working on right now to replace clothianidin, that's either the same or worse?  How much longer before we're all glowing in the dark?...

Only a Month to Go!

I'm getting excited, nervous, anxious, scared, and overwhelmed!  I'm starting to freak out about getting my 3 pound pack of 10,000 Italian Honey Bees next month.  Did you read that right?!  10,000 bees!! The Sopranos should arrive around May 15th, and I've yet to paint or position their Top Bar hive.  I need to re-read the "how to" book, watch the "how to" DVD, and get up the courage. 

All people want to say to me is "you'll get stung".  Like I don't know that already, but that's the one thing they MUST always remind me about?!   Where are the words of encouragement? Where are the loving phrases like "we can't wait to taste some of that honey"?  I only get panicked looks, and large intakes of breath when bees are discussed. 

I'll show 'em! 

Now, where did I put the Benedryl?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Easter Everyone!

Happy Easter to all my Followers!  I hope you have a great time with family and friends, and take some time to reflect on the real reason we should celebrate Easter.  It's not about the eggs and chocolate.  Although that's a nice bonus!

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Screened Room for the Chickens

We had family visit one day last week, and they were eagerly waiting to see the newly hatched chicks.  We had just put them on our back patio, in an old recycled pond liner.  We used it with our first chicks last year and it contained them well enough, however as they got larger, the screen which helped keep them in, as well as the shavings from their scratching, got in the way.  We needed another solution. 

Leave it to my Padre'.  Before long we were headed to the hardware store, and spent around $40.  See his creation;

Padre' loves to tinker.  Give him something to work on, and it's like he's won the lottery!  He and the Moose worked on cutting the PVC pipes to size, and randomly gluing the corners and T connectors together.  Randomly because not every intersection was glued.  This way, when not in use we can disassemble the screening and easily store it.  The screen was zip tied to the pipes/posts.  They also created a center pipe on top, and this allows us to hang the heat lamps.

The height of the unit is right around 35", and is a bit high for me to reach over.  If we were to do this again, we'd make it a bit shorter.  We also have an additional cover screen that fits over the top, so if this was relocated outside, predators would have a hard time getting access to the chicks.  We left the pond liner in place, as it helped create a wind barrier, so the chicks wouldn't catch a chill.  Like all things it's a work in progress.

We never got a chance to test this further.  If you take a look at the photo, what's missing?   The chicks, we sold out of them last night.  A former Midwesterner from South Dakota (we're from Wisconsin) bought the lot of them. He raises them and sells eggs.  It was nice to meet another local contact, and we have plans to stop by his 5 acre farm and see his operation.  You just never know what you'll learn. 

We may try a couple of other options with this screen room on the next batch of chicks, due to hatch April 14th.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

You Say Tomato, I Say Tomato

Did I get you signing that song?  If you did, you're welcome!  If you didn't then you're just a whippersnapper.  Like my choice of words lately?!

Anywho, my Back to Eden garden is looking excellent.  Hardly any weeds; except a couple of nuisances like dollar weed.  I can't seem to get a handle on them.  I think they'd grow on a rock if they didn't have any other choice. Any ideas? 

We'll have way more tomatoes than we need this season.  Everywhere I look there's the making of more and more tomatoes.   I did plan it this way on purpose, as I want to learn how to can this season, and what better to practice with than tomatoes.  (If I have too much, guess what the family gets for Christmas this year!)  I also want to harvest the seeds from these heirloom varieties;

Beefsteak, Brandywine, Yellow Pear and Speckled Roman

Otherwise, we have the start of peas, green beans, cucumbers and lettuce.  Also coming up are watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkin, corn, carrots, onions, radishes, and Swiss chard.  Some of these are doing better than others.  It may be a combination of soil conditions as we've only just applied the Back to Eden principals and the mulch has not composted enough yet, or we planted some of the varieties too early.  It wasn't cold, they just prefer it warmer.  I experimented with some of the typical cool season crops like cabbage, and they are not doing very well.  They are typically grown here during the cooler fall months.  I may need to stick with that plan.

We may experiment in the next few months with putting up shade cloth over parts of the garden to see if the plants fair better.  Our strawberries did much better last summer after we put up the shade cloth.  Otherwise we were losing plants every week, and not from lack of water.  It was actual burn out. 

I'm very happy with the results in the garden to this point.  We'll see come harvest time how things look and taste.  Happy Gardening!