Minor Setback

Some might say spring had a minor setback this weekend. DSC_0285 We got a pile of snow at the farm. DSC_0266 The goats venturing out to say hi.  And yes, that monster with his head over the fence is our tiny Jack Jack puppy.  Hi Jack Jack!DSC_0251 The bees are all snug in their hives, waiting out this winter storm DSC_0275 While there were plenty of things we would have liked to have been working on this weekend, it was kind of nice to have a slow, snowy weekend. And boy was it a pretty snow! DSC_0279 The grapvines, all pruned and ready for the season, still sleeping beneath a layer of snow. IMG_20150225_055050556 But look!  Tomato seedlings all warm and toasty inside the house. So, see?  Spring is on it’s way. Just a minor setback.

Year in Review

I never have as much time as I would like to write about our farm.  I always have a running list in my mind of the things I WANT to write about.  Only a small percentage of those make it here.

So, as the year winds down, I thought I would go through some highlights from the year, as well as fill in some gaps.

Highlight #1

We had baby pigs on our farm for the first time!  DSC_0446

Speaking of pigs, here is our sow Ruby.  Have you EVER seen such a big pig??  I mean, she’s almost as tall as our 5-year-old.  Good thing she is friendly.

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Highlight #2

We expanded our goat herd with Salvador Perez (or Perry), our little grey buck, and three more little females.  Sadly, we lost our littlest goat this past weekend.  Not quite sure what happened, but Gage worked and worked to save that little goat.

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We are getting ready to shear for the first time next year.  Excited to send our cashmere fiber off to the fiber mill and get back some beautiful yarn!

Speaking of yarn, my “knitter’s block” seems to be ebbing and flowing this year.  I certainly haven’t knitted as much as in past years, but I was determined to make this little dress for Willa for her 1 year birthday.  Luckily, it is big enough, she will be able to wear it for awhile.  🙂

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P.S.  Thanks, Amy Shepherd for the awesome pictures!

Back to the goats, something that happened this summer is that we almost lost Petunia, our little red goat – and our friendliest goat.  Gage was out in Western Kansas helping with wheat harvest when Petunia was bitten on the face by a copperhead snake.

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You can see how swollen her face is here.  It’s a miracle she survived!

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Seems like the crises always happen when Gage isn’t around …  Murphy’s law, I suppose.

Highlight #3

We hosted three groups on our farm this summer:

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…a Farm Bureau Day Camp

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…a summer Science and Adventure Camp

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… and the Kansas Rural Center high tunnel workshop.  We really enjoyed having so many people out to our farm this past year, and hope to continue this in the future.

Highlight #4

In the midst of the summer craziness, I somehow forgot to mention that we got a new kitten.

This is Charlie.

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He is a total spaz, but we like him.  He has been known to alternately jump into fire pits, and jump into outdoor showers.  He may not be the brightest cat we have ever had, but he sure is entertaining.  🙂

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Charlie is weird and wonderful, and luckily likes little kids.

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Highlight #5

We significantly expanded our beekeeping operation this year.  We nearly doubled our number of hives, now being at around 21.  We have big plans for the bees next year, and hope to expand even more.

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Incidentally, this is what a REALLY BAD bee sting looks like.  And also why I haven’t yet gotten my nerve up to start beekeeping with Gage.

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Highlight #6

We had a BUMPER year with our vegetables and fruits!  We rarely ran out for our faithful customers at farmers market …

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And had plenty left over to can …

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… And eat fresh.  Pretty sure this baby girl was alone responsible for eating an entire bushel of apples in the month of September.

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Applesauce for the pantry!

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Lots of Caprese Pizza‘s this summer – My FAVORITE!

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This fall, I have been experimenting with our fresh carrots.  So far this Glazed Carrot recipe is my favorite.  I will post the recipe soon!  Going to make this for Christmas day!

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Tried, tried TRIED to find a good use for all of the green tomatoes we had in November.  Made this delicious looking green tomato pie.

It was NOT delicious.

Experimenting this year with the low tunnel we got from the Kansas Rural Center.  So far, we have been enjoying carrots, spinach, lettuce, and hopefully soon – cabbage!

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It’s good to have help when digging carrots.  🙂

Highlight #7

We added the fuzzy little Jack Jack livestock guardian to our family!

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He is just the best.  We love Jack Jack and have faith he will turn out to be a great guardian for our goats (even though some may argue he might be “over-socialized”)

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The kids love Jack Jack.

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Jack Jack loves the kids.  Maybe a little too much.  He will NOT leave Willa alone.  It is pretty cute.  Even when he plants himself right in front of her so she falls over him.

 

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I think he has already quadrupled in size from when we brought him home less than two months ago.  Jack Jack, what did we ever do without you!

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It’s been a great year on our farm!  Looking forward to an even better one in 2015!

Honey Harvest

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So, our bees are doing well.  As I posted earlier this year, we weren’t supposed to be able to harvest any honey from our bees this year, since we split our one hive into multiple hives this spring.  But apparently it was a good year for honey.  Gage recently harvested around 200 pounds of honey from our 10 hives (really from just nine of the ten, as we just acquired one, so there is no honey on that one yet).

We have been selling honey at farmers market the past few weeks, and I think folks are glad to have local honey back at the market.  🙂 It has been a popular item!

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The honey extracting process …. or whatever you call it … is pretty interesting.  We now also have a lot of beeswax, which I plan to use at some point for lip balm and hand salves.  Maybe we will start a new product line … Bruce’s Bees?  🙂

Gage also has some honey wine – mead – in the works, but of course that will be for our own enjoyment.  🙂

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Beekeeping

A year ago, we purchased our first hive of bees.

2012-05-22_17-41-38_337They were super easy to maintain, took little effort, and produced more than 10 pounds of honey in the first harvest … enough to pay for our initial investment, had we sold the honey!  I was starting to think bees are where it’s at.  I mean, who doesn’t want to add more of something that takes little time, is low maintenance, AND makes money?

But then, this spring, our bees swarmed.

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Gage, ever-knowledgeable about this sort of stuff, had been saying for weeks that the bees were going to swarm, but we still weren’t prepared.

We called Richard Harvey, our “bee guy,” who came, and helped us lure the bees back into a hive.  I had no idea this could be done.

See that black thing way up in the tree?  That’s bees.  A solid bee swarm.  I had never seen anything like it.

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The tree came down, and Gage and Richard lured them into a hive.  Amazing.

In the process, Richard discovered that the original hive was still populated, probably with a new queen, which means it was probably the old queen that left and took the swarm with her.  He also discovered three more queen eggs in the original hive, which they separated into new hives, hoping they would populate with bees looking for a new hive.

It’s all very complex.  I don’t pretend to try to understand it.  Bees are Gage’s thing.

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In any case, at the end of the day, we had not one hive, but five hives.

Then we had, what we can only assume was a wild swarm, populate one of the catch boxes Gage had set out.

Since this little adventure, Gage has captured two more swarms, from people wanting to get the bees out of their yards.  He has also been frantically building new hives to house all of these little creatures.  And as it turns out, new swarms are not exactly low maintenance.  Oh well … I knew it was too good to be true.  🙂

So in the matter of a month, we have gone from one hive to eight.  I guess we are in the bee business.