Homestead Update: Some Sad News, and Some Happy News

Well, I’m a little sad.

It’s just been getting warm enough to pop open the bee hive to check on how they’re doing… So, I popped it open for a looksee and, as I feared, the hive was empty.

I’m mostly upset because less than a week ago we were seeing plenty of activity. I had been waiting for it to be warm enough for a full inspection. But the hive is just devastated. The wax and honey are all eaten, there is evidence of hive beetle and wax moth. I do not know how that escaped my attention in such a short time. I can only assume they either swarmed and I missed it, or that they weren’t an entirely healthy colony and just became rapidly overwhelmed by the hive beetles and absconded.

I’ve still been seeing honey bees on our fruit trees though, so I can only assume they’re still around the property somewhere, likely in the woods.

There have been plenty of beautiful things to look at thoughLilac bush I revived through strategic pruning over the last 2 years

Dwarf cherry tree in bloom

Hank the Tank watching “Chicken TV”

Cool view of the moon and our peach tree’s lovely foliage

So while the bee loss was disappointing, we’ve been able to console ourselves with preparation for…

DAIRY GOATS!!! …and meat rabbits…though I’m decidedly more excited for our goats. We priced a pre-fab mennonite-built barn against what materials would cost for us to build something similar on our own…and we went with the prefabricated barn. Mostly because our craftsmanship isn’t known for being impeccable anyway and there’s a bit of a legendary cloud of multiple hardware store trips and going over budget on all of our projects, so… We figured this way we could avoid most of those pitfalls, or at least mitigate them.

We’ve planned for sleeping/kidding stalls, a milking area, hay storage, and an area for the rabbits. In theory, it should be perfect, but we shall see how it goes in practical application.

As far as fencing goes, we’re trying a combination of things including welded wire on T posts, tethering, and mobile electric fencing for high intensity rotational grazing. It seems like a lot, but to tell you the truth, I’d be pretty embarrassed if I had to go retrieve my goats from the neighbor’s yards.

We’ve been amassing hand milking supplies for over a year, and are getting our medical/first aid kits put together for goats and rabbits as we have done for the dogs and chickens. I’ve found it’s really manageable to do one or two items each pay period if you’re on a budget rather than blowing your nest egg all at once. It does require some planning and intentionality though- as do most things on the homestead.

Now our prayer is that the COVID 19 calms down so that we can travel to pick up our livestock when the time comes and that the rest of our preparations progress smoothly.

We have also been working to integrate our baby chicks with our existing flock. They’re enjoying our mobile run.
And we’ve gotten peas, and 1 of 2 tomato trellises up. The pea trellis will also be used for cucumbers this summer so we’ll get two uses out of one trellis, which is always nice.
We have ordered materials for trellises for our two grape vines which are just now breaking dormancy and that should get put up likely next weekend.

My most favorite thing right now though is our woodchipper we invested in this year. We haven’t used it yet, but Lord willing, it will keep us in B2E woodchips from now on! We have plenty to chip up with all the trees that have fallen and plenty of green scrub to incorporate for the initial nitrogen burn off. We will use chips in our orchard, swale, and gardens.

We have ONE surviving asparagus plant in our perennial strawberry/asparagus bed so I ordered 4 more 2 year old crowns to fill out the bed some.
The garlic, kale, radish, lettuce, chard are all up and doing well. We planted 3 varieties of potatoes also which should yield plenty for storage and canning in stews, or hash.

My husband planted an experimental patch of flax to practice growing and processing for fiber/linen. It’s moderately exciting for me but also pretty labor intensive once it’s harvest time so it’s predominantly HIS project.
So far everything is looking lovely again.

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