Spring/Summer 2017 Homestead Updates: Bees!

This will probably be my final update for this series and it is pretty short. The bees have been pretty simple and straight forward so there isn’t a lot to say!

Homestead updates, bees

I got my bees in the middle of May. I ordered a package and picked them up about an hour and a half from my home. I realized too late that I should have bought two packages. Let me tell you, driving an hour and a half with a box full of irritated bees next to you in the car is a bit unnerving!

Truck full of package bees, homestead updates

Homestead updates, picking up bees 

Luckily, my brother is staying with us for a bit and is an experienced beekeeper so I have expert help! My neighbor is also an experienced beekeeper, so between the two of them they make up for my lack of knowledge! I have read the books but actually doing it a bit different than reading about it!

 

I bought all my bee supplies from Dadant. My brother assembled the hive bodies and frames for me and I got discount mis-mixed paint from the local hardware store to paint them. My husband built a great stand that will hold about five hives.

Homestead updates, assembling bee hives Homestead updates, assembling beehives

We got the bees installed in the hive, fed them sugar water for a couple weeks, and just let them do their thing. By mid-June, it was time to put on the second hive body so my bees now have a two-story home. We will be adding the first super in the next week or so.

We are trying to check them as little as possible since hive inspections set them back significantly. I’m super impressed with how quickly they are filling the hive and reproducing. They make me look like a sloth! I can’t wait until next year when we have honey! I got a bit of a taste because they tried to build some comb on the lid. It was amazing!

Homestead updates, bees

We did put out a bee trap in hopes of catching a swarm or two but didn’t have any luck with that. Maybe next year. I will probably purchase another package in the spring so that I have at least two hives. Or I’ll figure out how to split the hives….apparently, that is something I am supposed to do.

I have a ton to learn still about bee keeping but so far it has been the easiest of my projects!! I managed to accomplish 2/3 of my animal goals this year. Chickens and bees have been successful! I didn’t get rabbits and I am postponing that goal until next year, but I’m happy with what we have accomplished so far!

***I just realized I don’t have any pictures of the whole hive put together. I’ll take some next time I’m out there and put them in a new update!****

Well, that’s it! A run down of what I’ve accomplished this year on our little homestead! I’ll update again in a few months when there is something to tell. If you would like to see all of the updates in this series visit the homestead update introduction post. Later this week I’ll let you know how my other goals are coming along.

I would love to hear what sort of homesteading adventures you are up to, please share in the comments!

Spring/Summer 2017 Homestead Update: The Poultry

Man, it is taking me a long time to get these updates done!! I plan to do several next week and finish up. Hopefully, I am able to get them all up!

My homesteading adventures in raising chickens

The Poultry: We got chickens (and guineas)! I’ve learned a lot in our little chicken experiment.

We had an existing small building on our property with an attached fenced yard that we are using for our chicken pen. We just added nest boxes and a roost.

First, in February, we got 13 chicks that were just a couple days old (well one of them was a week older than the rest). We got 2 Cochin, 3 Brahma, 3 silver laced Wyandotte, 3 gold laced Wyandotte, and 2 Columbian Wyandotte. I had intended to get all lace winged Wyandotte but the breeder we got them from didn’t have enough so we got the others instead. Unfortunately, 3 died in the first week. One we are pretty sure died because one of my kids dropped it on its head. The other two we don’t know why.

our homesteading adventure updates

I kept the chicks in a large plastic bin with pine shavings in our spare bathroom. I quickly learned that I do NOT like having chicks in the house and the got dust from those shavings EVERYWHERE. I also realized how long it was going to take to get eggs from these chicks and decided I needed some laying hens. So, at the first animal swap at our local Tractor Supply Company in March we picked up 6 laying hens. I also picked up 6 guineas at that swap.

our homesteading adventure updates

The laying hens are Egyptians and Phoenix. These are both ornamental breeds and not really known for great egg production and they are definitely too skinny for meat but they were what was there and a good price so we got them! They lay small to medium eggs. When we first got them, they laid almost every day so we still had pretty good egg production although smaller eggs.

My homesteading adventures in raising chickens My homesteading adventures in raising chickens My homesteading adventures in raising chickens

My brother came to stay with us for a bit and brought his six chickens as well. I’m not sure what breed they are, I believe some sort of laying cross. They are excellent layers and lay medium to large eggs.

We have lost a few chickens from the dog or from them flying out of the pen and not returning and I bought two more silver lace Wyandotte pullets at a recent swap. Currently, we have 7 of the original chicks left (one or two we suspect are roosters), 5 of the six layers we got at the first swap, all 6 of my brother’s chickens, and the 2 we just got.

Our guineas were constantly getting out of the pen and we ended up losing all but one of those to the road, the dog, and unknown causes. Now we have one male guinea, I’m debating keeping him, butchering him, or selling him. He stays in the pen now that he is alone. I would get more for snake and tick control (which is why I got them in the first place) but I don’t want to waste money on them getting killed again. Turns out guineas are about the stupidest animals I’ve ever come in contact with!!

What I’ve learned so far:

  • I need an incubating/brooding area that is NOT in the house before I get any more chicks.
  • Leg bands are a pain in the rear; if I decide I need to keep track of specific birds in the future I will try wing bands in stead.
  • Guineas are really really dumb.
  • I need to fence our property so I can let them range more. At a minimum we will expand the chicken yard, it took all of two days for them to completely remove all of the vegetation in there.
  • Chickens eat a LOT and organic feed is expensive. We are exploring ways to lower our feed costs.
  • Egg production slows down a LOT in the hot weather. I will be exploring ways to freeze or dehydrate eggs for when we have a surplus to offset times when production is slower.
  • To balance the cost of food and egg production it will be important to cull birds who are not producing well and roosters that we don’t need. That makes me sad but I can’t feed a bunch of birds that aren’t doing their jobs.

I’m actually enjoying the poultry more than I expected and would like to add quail, ducks, geese and perhaps other birds eventually. I didn’t think I would like it much and was just motivated by the potential for fresh eggs, but these birds are great! Chickens are surprisingly full of personality.

My homesteading adventures in raising chickens

I’m still waiting for my chicks to start laying, I believe a few may be laying since we are getting some odd eggs. Our overall egg production has plummeted from 11 a day to about 6 a day due to the heat. I’m still trying to decide which chickens I will keep and which I will get rid of or butcher. We ended up with one really nice looking silver laced rooster that will definitely stay. There are a few I don’t like and I’m not sure the original layers are worth their feed at this point so we will likely cull a good bit in the fall. I had originally planned on having only one breed of chicken but I kind of like the way the variety looks in the yard.

I won’t do chicks in a brooder again until I have better facilities for that but I’m considering letting a hen sit on and hatch some later this summer and seeing how that goes. I would definitely like some more Wyandotte hens, but of course at this point, we wouldn’t know what we are going to get with the mix of chickens.

I will put a light on a timer in the coop in the winter and I would love to add an automatic door but not sure that will be in the budget. I’m hoping the hubby will make me some small chicken tractors later this year to use for quail, quarantining new birds, and separating birds I want to use for a breeding program.

I would love to hear from you! Share your experiences with chickens or chicken tips in the comments!!

Click here for the intro post to the Homestead update series which contains links to all posts in the series. 

Spring 2017 Farm Update Series: Plants

I am doing a series of updates about what we have done so far with our little homestead. I am trying to post weekly but it may be more like every two weeks. You can always check the intro post for links to all of the currently posted updates.

our homesteading adventure spring 2017 updates

Hubby put in 3 garden beds for veggies. We have seeds started in pots and two tomato plants that we will transfer into those. Well, we will transfer into one of them because we filled the other two with potatoes, onions, and garlic! Hopefully there is room for my other seedlings or we will be quickly building a fourth bed!

our homesteading adventure updates

We had a guy out to cut down a dead tree near the house and he identified our fruit trees for us. We have one pear tree, four apple trees, and four that are either peach or apricot. I am looking up ways to preserve all of those so I can be ready when the fruit is ripe! I went and checked them a couple days ago and most have plenty of baby fruit on them so hopefully we get a good harvest.

our homesteading adventure spring 2017 updates our homesteading adventure spring 2017 updates our homesteading adventure spring 2017 updates

The neighbor gave us some raspberry shoots he was thinning out so we have 8 of those planted but I don’t think we will get anything from them this year. Perhaps the neighbors will want help picking and preserving theirs when they are ripe. (We have the BEST neighbors!!) They also told us there is a big blackberry bush on the property. I think I know which one it is but we will see this summer. I guess I better prepare for preserving those too! We have also found some grape vines but we won’t get useable fruit from those this year. One is on the ground and needs to be pruned then trained to an arbor. The vines that are currently on a support seem to be dead, there are no leaves or flowers on them. Hopefully we can save the one that is alive and get it on a support for next year.

I am planning to put in a pollinator garden. I have an old bed I am going to clear out and plant with milkweed and other flowers specifically aimed at butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. We have some seeds coming for that-I am a bit behind on that particular project. I also want our kids to tag monarchs to track their flight but I’ve already seen three and don’t have the tags so perhaps that project will wait until next year.

our homesteading adventure spring 2017 updates our homesteading adventure spring 2017 updates

We reorganized one of the beds in the fenced part of the yard and planted roses. When spring began we had several plants emerge in the fenced yard and some outside of it. We know we have daffodils and irises and I think there are day lillies. Other things came up that looked like bulbs to me but never flowered. We also have a bush that I believe is a Chinese peony. I am going to be transplanting most of that somewhere else and trying to get all of our fenced section to go back to just grass. Our yard is full of landscaping with rocks and plants everywhere. While I’m sure it was pretty when it was originally done, but it isn’t exactly dog and kid friendly. I would prefer just grass! We are also filling in the pond. It just isn’t safe for kids.

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Our field was FULL of dandelion and I had wanted to pick and dry them for tea but they were gone before I got around to it. I am putting on my calendar for next year to be ready for dandelions in April. I know you can make dandelion jam and I know the dried herb is great for tea and infusions. I’ve also heard of dandelion wine but that may be beyond my abilities! I am planning to make use of them next year though!

We have several herbs growing wild around the property (I think they were once in a bed but were allowed to take over) that I need to get better at identifying. The neighbor has catnip growing in his woods and tells us there are mushrooms all around. I am going to work on my foraging skills!

our homesteading adventure spring 2017 updates

I saw a recipe for lilac jam that I would love to try. The neighbors have a lilac bush but its flowers are already gone. I’m thinking of asking if I can take a cutting and see if I can get one to grow in my yard so I can try the lilac jam later. It smells wonderful so I’d love to have one even if we don’t like the jam!

I will be planting gourds and sunflowers in the next week or two and I have a bunch of bulbs to plant somewhere but I don’t think they will come up until next year now. We have quite a bit of other projects to get the property how I want it but we are enjoying making our mark here. It will be fun to see how future updates compare to this one!

What do you have growing this year? Let me know in the comments!!

Homestead Updates Spring 2017 (Series intro)

our homesteading adventure updates

There has been a lot happening on our little homestead this spring. It is very exciting and has been a challenge not to go overboard with what we are trying to do this first year. I started to write a post with all of our updates and it quickly got VERY long so I will do a series instead!

Keep in mind we really don’t know what we are doing so this is all a grand experiment!! 

Here is a little bit about the updates you can look forward to over the next few weeks:

The plants: What we are growing, what is already growing on our property and what we plan to grow at some point.

our homesteading adventure updates

The Poultry: We got chickens (and guineas)! I’ve learned a lot in our little chicken experiment.

our homesteading adventure updates our homesteading adventure updates

The bees: the bees are coming soon and we have been preparing.

our homesteading adventure updates

The house, yard, and pets: we have done quite a bit just cleaning and fixing up around the place!

Goals update: At the end of this series I will post an overall update on my goals from the beginning of the year.

The homestead kitchen: My kitchen adventures in natural/whole/healthy living!

our homesteading adventure updates

 

My plan is to post one update post a week for the next few weeks; of course, life could get busy and I could miss a week but I will get these up as quickly as life allows. Be watching for these if you want a glimpse into our homesteading journey. I will also link here as the directory for this season’s updates.