Honey Bees, now you see them, now you don’t

Bee Brood chamber w/o top

Bee Brood chamber w/o top

Deep super w/ top

Deep super w/ top

Ok, one of our latest endeavors has been to add Honeybees to our  Colony (get it). We have been dreaming of adding them for some time but never had the time to build the hives etc. Why not buy the equipment you say… well it just wasn’t in the budget yet.

So, “Now you see them”.

Once upon a time, a swarm showed up and was attempting to build a home in our house. Inside the eaves was their aim. I didn’t have any bee equipment and I didn’t relish the thought of tearing into our house structurally when I did get the equipment. My solution was  to find a bee repellent and sit and spray for what seemed like hours at the hole where they were gathering by the thousands.  They finally gave up and who knows where they went.

“Now you don’t”.

Unhappy that the opportunity to get a hive had eluded me, I swore to build some equipment so I could be ready to capture the next swarm.

“Now you see them”.

About a week later a swarm came and this time they targeted an old car (convertible) I have stored for future restoration. They started to build in the front seat on and around a 55 gal trash bag. I envisioned a large hive invading the whole front seat destroying the car and stinging my grand kids as they played all around it.

Again not being ready, I decided the only thing to do was get rid of them. My son climbed in my pick up truck and backed up as close as possible. I dawned my bee suit and ripped the bag and as much of what they had built in a few days out and climbed into the back of the pick up. My son drove us about 2 miles out into the desert (no roads) and we dropped off the bees, bag and all. “Now you don’t”

“Now you see them”.

One day later my wife said, “the swarm is back” and proceeded to show me a small swarm hanging from a creosote bush near the classic car again. I decided  to cover the car with a large tarp thus foiling the scouts attempts to map out the car again. I watched for the next few days to make sure they didn’t find their way in or find another spot where they weren’t wanted. Days turned to a week and then a couple more days and they stayed perched on the bush.

I started thinking this was going to be the spot for them and confirmed it when I could see that they had started building comb on the limb. I decided any swarm this determined had to be helped. I looked up the quickest and cheapest way to build a hive. I used to build hives 35 to 40 years ago so it wasn’t that I didn’t know how to build a good hive, but I knew how much the materials would cost.

I found plans for what is called a “Top Bar” hive which is gaining popularity in beekeeping and quickly built one completely out of materials  on hand. Once completed my son and I waited until dark and I cut the branch they were on and deposited the whole ball of bees into the hive.

“Now you don’t”.

To make a long story short, after keeping the bees for 2 weeks and feeding them sugar water, the bees all perished. They appeared to be very active but I inspected them many times during the 2 weeks and they never started building comb nor was I able to find a queen.

Epilogue, I have since built a deep super with frames as well as ordered 10 frames with foundation. I will show pictures as well as I plan to rescue a Ferrell hive and migrate them to my newly built structure. I plan to show videos and pictures as well as many posts coming up.  Hope you enjoy our bee quest.

 

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Long time no Post!

It has been quite some time since I’ve posted. I sincerely apologize becuase I’ve seen a lot of y’all sign up for notifications, so far only to be disappointed by my lackluster effort to post updates on my homesteading extravaganza. While I have been having amazing times and great learning experiences, y’all have been all but blacked out from what is going on!

First off let me summarize my last year since my most recent post ( August 2013 ) .

I have was in a relationship (me as in Joel Hanger – creator of this blog). We went our separate ways and I continued learning and endeavoring in self sufficiency.  So far my exeperiences now encompass:
Failed winter gardening
Permaculture establishment utilizing Agriscaping (iagriscape.com)
Adventures in thermal engineering via M.I.T. opencourseware.
Chicken breedstock.
Turkey breedstock.
Goat Milk production (EXCELLENT Flavor too!)
Sheep/Lambs including slaughter, rendering of fat for soap making, and hide curing experience.

While not all of it has been as successful as I desire I wanted to get this out there so y’all could know that we’re still alive and kicking and there’s a LOT of goals going on for this year as well as things accomplished already for this year.

Some of the goals include moving the swamp cooler to a more effective location, including thermal cooling to try to make energy more efficient in this terribly insulated mobile home…
Tiny dome home (tinydomehome.com) for me and my children while I finish paying off my 20 acres and begin turning that into an oasis paradise in the valley of gehena!!!
– Side note – the dome is ~310 sq feet and will cost less than $1000 … tiny homes eat your heart out on costs!!!! ;)
Small creek with gazebo and small wading pool + pollen attracting non-edible garden over the septic drain field.
– Note this includes several nice sized waterfalls for efficient water aeration for the fish touting pond.
Large chicken coup for the free ranging chickens, turkeys, and peafowl that we have.
Large chicken coup for the meat/egg producing chickens (jersey giant / leghorn cross).
Outside kitchen composed of a slaughter/buther area for easy slaughter and cutting up of meats, aquaponics herb garden bed, and firebrick oven with rocket stove tops + gas stove tops hoepfully powered by biogass generation.

SOooooo essentially the works cut out for us, but getting it done is a whole nother story.

Soooo the last year in summary is:
We’ve gotten 2 peacock eggs, incubated them and they’re growing, 1 peacock, 1 peahen, 17 turkeys of heirloom breeds of royal palm, kentucky bourban, and narraganset.  We got have 3 peafowl eggs incubating, 20 duck eggs incubating currently and 30 lbs (2 gallons) of white wine fermenting. Our friends needed help with their vines, they have 160lbs (18 gallons) fermenting of red grape wine…. Going to be a productive year, even though our vine all but died…..

Anyway… there’s more to tell but i don’t intend to beleaguer you any more! shalom!

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Hazelnut Almond Milk!

Who doesn’t love #Almonds?

Who doesn’t love #milk? Who doesn’t love #AlmonMilk?  You’ve gotta be crazy! Ok, now who likes all the additives in the “healthy” store bought brands? Get out of town!
One of the easiest things you can make is a good “nut” milk! The combination is simple and you’ll learn exactly how to keep this one in your head and never look at a recipe book again, nor return to store bought “milk”.

The recipe:

  • 1 Part Nuts (soaked overnight or 8 hours, drained & rinsed)
  • 2 Parts Water
Here comes the hard part
  • Add Nuts & Water to Blender (who wants to buy me a vitamix ;) )
  • Blend on high for a few minutes
  • Strain, press out excess
  • Enjoy!

How do you make Hazelnut Almond milk you ask? You guessed it… Just add them to the mix in proper ratio ie (1 cup hazelnuts, 1 cup almonds, 4 cups water).
Want to get real fancy? I love making Hazelnut Coconut Almond Milk. Doing this you just replace the water with boiling water, keep the same ratio of 1 part coconut to 2 parts water (boiling)!
There’s no need to soak coconut milks overnight.

The best part about this is there’s NO waste! The Water you strained from soaking the nuts you can use to fertilize your plants, add to compost, or other things that I’m experimenting with…
What about the pulp left over you say?! You can dry it out and make a flour out of it (if you have a grain mill). You can also just use it as is in a bread recipe and just tolerate the less fine, gritty texture of the bread. It’s really actually not all that bad that way ;)

I hope y’all enjoy this and by all means.. try to make milk out of anything! If Gregory Focker can milk a cat, I’m convinced you can milk anything! lol

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More Chicks

Ok, we now have 3 more hatch-lings.  I had to help all 3 break free as they were having a rough time of it. I really am looking forward to the last chick so we can shut down the incubator operation and fix some of the issues we are having such as low humidity and other tweekings.

2 of the new chicks are having some issues standing up and functioning normally. One of them ended up not making it so we have one I call “Gimpy 2″ and the other is developing normally.  See attached videos.

Another new development is moving the older chicks to their own brooder outside. I used a 100 gallon water tub made for livestock. They range in age from a little over 2 weeks old to 1 week old.  During the day I use a small swamp (evaporative) cooler to keep the temps below 100 deg and it usually doesn’t go below 75 at night and they seem happy with that.

Gimpy2Video

New Brooder Video

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Wine Racked – Pressed

About a month ago we harvested the 40 lbs of grapes (flame seedless) that were left on our vine (previously harvested 10 lbs for consumption). We mashed em, juiced em and pulverized them. We put the 3.5-4 Gallons of liquified pulp into a primary ferment container, added yeast and set it on it’s way. After a month of fermenting – we let it go longer than typical – we opened it up, savored the aroma and began separating the liquid from the pulp. After pushing it all through a cloth filter, finer than cheese cloth, we had 2.5 gallons of liquid. We haven’t built our wine press yet, but be assured when we do we will include a very extensive post with instructions to replicate :)

Since we have no fancy press, we improvised. I’ve done cheese making before so I know some shortcut, poor mans, jiggy rigging, everyday kitchen items press. All you need is:

  • Large Pot
  • Strainer Basket
  • Another Large Pot
  • Large Cloth – for pulp
  • Cutting Board – or other large flat surface (Optional)
  • Third large pot or mixing bowl (optional)
  • Patience

So I haven’t weight how much the press is but my estimate – after routinely carrying 20 lbs of produce every other day from the garden – that it is probably between 30 and 40 lbs of pressure. Our first press was actually utilizing hand pressure, twisting

  1. Place the pulp in the cloth and subsequently into the strainer.
  2. Place strainer into Larger Pot
  3. Place a smaller pot – large enough to cover the pulp mass – over the pulp
  4. Fill same pot with water.
  5. If needing more weight:
    1. If possible place a cutting board over top of pot
    2. Place third large pot on top
    3. Fill with water
    4. Repeat as many times as deemed necessary

This result yielded an extra 1/4 gallon of liquid to top us off at 3 Gallons of filtered (racked) wine.

So I know y’all are curious. The Alcohol Content!
We started with a specific gravity of 1.090 (11.7%)
We Finished with a specific gravity of .996 (.7%)
Final Alcohol Content is roughly 12.4% by volume!

Now we wait, letting the sediment settle for 3-4 weeks. Then we will rack the wine again, this time using siphons, hoses and sediment filters. Looking forward to posting about that when the time comes :)

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The goat mower!

The goat train/mower in action

As we discovered the soils depletion of micronutrients and loss of valuable yield, we decided to utilize the paterfamilias goat to benefit the garden… He’s working to till, fertilize and clear out the old vegetation so we can amend the soil and replant.

He’s very effective and a good choice to use as a natural resource :-) saves on feed costs too ;)

We are going to utilize vinegar to kill off the crab and Bermuda grass weeds that are so invasive then re-pH balance the soil for planting… Will post again when that experiment and tests are finished :-)

 

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The Incubator

Results are in! Incubator Experiences put into numerical perspective.

Currently we’re seeing just below a 50% success rate in terms of eggs not h

atching to eggs hatching. This in itself isn’t anything to make a gauge from however because of the 50% of failures, 26% of those are due to non-fertilization of the eggs. This leaves 74% of the failures to be placed on the incubator itself. We knew going into it that we were low on humidity. The temperature regulation has been constant; while it was set for 100 degrees Fahrenheit, it has averaged between 101 (depending on the area). The average humidity has been between 35% and 40%, which is definitely on the low side.

There are some things we need to resolve to make the process much more efficient, these include:
  • Regulated + Automated Humidity Control
  • Seal up air gaps from door
  • Slide-able ventilation system
  • Automated Rotation System
  • Screen Mesh Floor

Until then we are going to do our best to manually regulate the humidity to >60-70%. We believe, based on experience/research/recommendations (from experienced incubators) that these adjustments will provide for a more effective incubator system and result in less loss of eggs/space/time.

These are the raw results of our findings:

Duration of Observations: 4 weeks, 3 days
Average Incubation Period: 20-21 days
Average Humidity: 35-40%
Average Temperature: 101F
Hatch-lings: 6
Non-Hatched: 17

  • Fertilized: 10
  • Non-Fertilized: 7

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Chickens are happy.

Well, finally finished the new hen house (Turkeys too).  It’s really not my dream home but it got them away from the goats and a much better set up. They seem happier. They treated us with a couple eggs right away and 1 of them was a whopper. It’s also a little further from our house which helps with the fly control.

I’m sure there will be downsides and upsides to how I did this and I will post about those so others just starting can learn from our efforts.

Coop1 Coop2

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New Chicks!

Last night yielded 2 surprises! Two more baby chicks were born. One hatched in the late evening and the other in the wee morning hours!
Here are some pics and a video of the newcomers! Enjoy!

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Re-purposing supplys

One thing I love about small farming life is the ability to take an item originally intended for one use and ending up adapting it for another completely different use. That is what happened with our portable car garage originally purchased for storage and vehicle protection.  We do however, live in Arizona. And it huffed and it puffed and it blew the garage down. The vinyl covering that is. Tore it to shreds.

So, I had need of a shelter for the chickens and more space for the goats.  I didn’t need to put tarps (at least completely) around the now bare metal skeleton. I just needed the top covered with sun shade and fencing up the side about 1/2 way up from the ground, a door and presto chango, I had a 18′ by 10′ chicken cage. I dug the fencing about 3-4 inches into the ground and fastened it to the sides of the structure. I then topped it with the shade cloth I had given to me by a friend. There is no (what I call) “kite factor” as the wind just passes through the structure. So it provides shade for the Turkeys and chickens. How did this provide more space for the goats you ask? Easy, they got the leftover fenced area where the chickens used to be. It was right next to their home anyway.

Love it.

IMG_4409asIMG_4410asIMG_4413as

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