Sunday, December 5, 2010

Farm and Garden

Meditating in the garden...This time of year as everything has totally died back, I enjoy looking at pictures from the summer and fall.  And I begin to dream about my garden coming back to life in the spring. 

Notice "Sierra" our great pyrenees laying down looking out of her new pasture.  This is the entry gate that Jarin built in October for her new 1 acre pasture.  She is 1 year old purebred Great Pyrenees. and if let loose will wander off  and explore for miles around.  She will return, but the responsible owners of this breed will understand the need to be fenced or on lead, until they are mature enough to not want to wander, this may take 4 or 5 years.  They are wonderful livestock guardian dogs, when they are fenced with the animals.  This is my my husband Jarin's dog, and she goes everywhere with him.  Someday when we get milk goats they will share this pasture with her, along with another one that will be their paddock off the barn.

The chickens get to free range several times a week, they go all over the upper pasture, and stay in range of the chicken coop, I imagine so the hens can go back throughout the day to lay their eggs.  They love to eat all different types of grasses, weeds, and bugs.  The favorite place to scratch under is the rabbit hutch.  I guess thats where the best bugs are.  The trees surrounding our property are large douglas fir, hemlock alder, cedar, wild cherry, some grand fir, and noble fir.  Back when Jarin bought this land 30 years ago this was an old christmas tree farm.  The trees have grown over the years, and he has cleared the  upper and lower meadows.  Milling up the good logs for timbers to build with.  Or the alder and hemlock for firewood.  He doesn't build with hemlock ever, mostly douglas fir because it has more integrity. 

Henrietta gets the best mom award in our coop, she has raised 2 sets of babies last Spring and this Fall.  It is a delight to watch her and her chicks.  They obediantly follow her around, and she clucks to them to come for food.  She makes sure they are tucked in every night all cozy under her feathers.  As they get older she is still next to them teaching them always how to be a good chicken, and what to do.  They have to learn how to stay out of the way of Rodney the rooster, and the dominant hens.  They have to watch out for any chicken that has a higher rank than them.  It is interesting to watch the whole dynamic within the flock.  They all accept the baby chicks, and are curious to check them out when she first ventures out after 21 days of sitting on the eggs.  After raising chicks with a light, and letting the mom raise them.  I will vote for lettin the mom raise them everytime.  It's much easier that way.  They have a mom to take care of them, and don't seem like little orphans.

This photo was taken around the beginning of October, I had already taken the supers off, and have sugar syrup on for the fall medicated feeding.  I use fumigilan B to treat for nosema.  Any frames that came off the supers and had honey on them, I extracted.  This was a good year for honey, I got both light early  honey, and dark later honey.  Around here our honey is made mostly from blackberry, and wild flowers. 

Some of the frames didn't have the caps fully sealed over, so I set those out in front of the hives this time of year, and they totally clean them up of every drop of honey, and take the food in the deep hive bodies to be stored for winter.  You need to leave approximately 60 lbs of honey for the bees to last through the winter.  That's 2 deep hive bodies.  At the end of Fall I take off the top box with sugar syrup, and wrap the hive bodies, put a cover over the top, and a mouse guard on the entrance.  They will stay in the winter cluster usually  from around the third week of November until a beautiful sunny/mild day around the 3rd week of January.  They will come out then for cleansing flights to go to the bathroom, and stretch their bodies. 

The bees are the lifeblood in my garden, I love the hum of energy they bring to every fruit and flower.  They are busy little workers, and always interesting to watch.  I have spent many hours studying them, and what they are gathering and bringing into the hive.  I have had bees now for 4 years, and will have to spend some time, and write and share all of the hard lessons I've learned from trial and error.  To be a good beekeeper takes time and money.  There is a learning curve to be sure, queens, drones, pollen, propolis, swarming, starvation, adding supers, mites, and nosema.  You will want to read and study up on beekeeping before getting them.  Once you have them, you will never want to be without bees, and your own honey, and pollinators.

My favorite plant I grew this year was Amaranth or Love Lies Bleeding.  I bought heirloom seed for all my vegetables from Baker Creek Heirloom Catalog.  I have been very happy with all the seeds this year, well except for the tomatoes, which none ripened, but that wasn't the seed companies fault.  That was our cool summer, and not having the heat to ripen them. I have tried to save as many varieties of seed as I can this year.    The amaranth is still laid out drying, and I will be threshing it soon for amaranth grain, and will add it to breads I make. 

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