Beginning Beekeeping Day 1

The Day I Fell in Love With Bees

I am a cyclist. Well, I don’t cycle on the roads as much as I used to; now I ride on my trainer in the garage most days, but I used to cycle on the road quite a bit. What does this have to do with beginning beekeeping? My story will tell you:

One day I was riding near an open field that had dozens of bee boxes on it. Apparently, the bees were also getting out for the day and were making their way across the road toward the orange and grapefruit groves in the distance. I rode straight into thousands and thousands of bees crossing the road as I cycled through.

Since I didn’t have enough time to stop before I was in the midst of them, so instead, I slowed down, and gently kept riding, all the while talking to them and assuring them that I wasn’t going to hurt them.

To my amazement, I saw many stop and hover near my right shoulder just waiting for me to pass. This happened over and over again as I rode through the swarm? pack? I’m not sure what you call them when they’re in flight.

That day, I understood just how intelligent and amazing bees are. Before this, though, bees and I always had an understanding. In my garden I’d love to see them (pollination, thank you!) and I never was afraid that they’d sting me, and I never, ever swatted at them. Why would I? I wanted them there.

Honey, Will You Buy Me Some Bee Boxes for My Birthday?

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How to Choose the Best Chicken Breeds for Your Flock

Here is Dex with Stella, our Speckled Sussex

 How to Choose the Best Chicken Breeds

Choosing chicks for your flock can be exciting whether it is the first time you are raising chicks, or whether you are a seasoned chicken owner. Baby chicks are cute and it’s hard not to be tempted to take some home when you see them for sale at your local feed store. Before you do, there are a few things to think about before you choose chickens.

Laying Hens vs. Meat Birds

Why do you want chickens? Do you want egg layers? Meat birds? If you slaughter and try to eat your laying hens, you will be in for a big disappointment. Chickens bred to be layers and chickens bred to be meat birds are very different. If you want to raise chickens for meat, you will choose either a pure breed or a hybrid breed. Some breeds have been altered so that these birds can be slaughtered for meat in only 44 days. We are skeptical of any type of “enhanced” anything around our homestead, so when we choose meat birds, they will be pure breeds.

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7 Tips for Foraging Edible Flowers


Flowers are no doubt beautiful to look at and sweet to smell, but did you know that many varieties of flowers can be eaten as well? Foraging for flowers can be a fun hobby and a way to add some flavor to your meals! There are a few important things you should know if you are interested in foraging for flowers. Look below at 7 tips for foraging for edible flowers and see how fun it can be to go on an edible flower hunt.


1. Chose areas that you have permission to pick on


There are lots of places that edible flowers grow including forests, fields, and your own backyard! Always make sure you have permission to look on the property you are searching and have permission to pick. Many state and national parks have no pick policies, so be sure you know the rules beforehand.

If you have a lot of parks with no pick rules, don’t worry. You will be amazed at how much you can find right in your own neighborhood.



2. Only pick plants that haven’t been treated by chemicals

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How to Deal With Losing Animals on the Homestead

It is hard losing animals you love and care for. The sad truth is, it’s inevitable on the homestead. We hope that this blog post helps when you wonder how to deal with losing animals on the homestead. For us, many of these animals are also our pets. Recently we lost our precious Leo. This loss was particularly hard on Kate, as we lost another cat named Charlie only a few months before. To add insult to injury, one of our hens was also taken the same week that Leo disappeared.

Homestead Animals Have Jobs

Here Benny and Charlie taking a break from rodent patrol by napping together next to the hay roll

Many of our animals on the homestead have jobs to do. Our barn cat, Benny, guards the barn from rodents. He is great at this! He is a little bit more cautious than Charlie and Leo were, because Benny doesn’t roam too far from the chicken house or the barnyard. Perhaps his feral mother taught him to be extra cautious. We adopted Benny and his mom at the same time. His mom did not stick around, but Benny did, and over the months became much more sociable. Today he is the sweetest, most loving cat we have ever owned. Charlie was also a feral cat, but he wandered a bit farther than Benny and he, like Leo disappeared without a trace.

Predators

We have had hens taken by hawks, fox, and coyotes. Over the years, we get used to this, and we understand that no matter how much we try to protect our animals, sometimes predators outsmart us. It is never easy to lose an animal. To my daughters, all of our animals are pets and every time we lose one, we all grieve. It is particularly hard on our youngest, Kate, who is still grieving over the loss of all of her animals. Each time we lose another, the grief of them all is renewed.

Grieving is Necessary

We all know how attached kids can get to pets. We have had memorials for Beta fish, baby opossums, beloved guinea pigs, baby birds that we’ve found as well as services for our hens and cats. When a child loses a pet for the first time, they don’t know that the feelings will be so strong, and they don’t know to expect grief. This is a big emotional load for a young child to deal with, not just the first time, but every time.

To a child, and to many adults who love their animals, losing a pet can feel like the loss of a human loved one. Pets are more than just animals to children; they are companions, good listeners, and even physical comforters. Pets can fill an emotional need for children like nothing else can. Feelings can range from anger, sadness, depression and despair. We lost Leo in early January, and we are all sad, however, Kate still falls into despair at times.

Honest Conversations

Allowing your child to have a ceremony can be helpful, and talking honestly with them about their feelings is important. For me, as a mom, I try so hard to not give the “adult response”, but to find my inner eleven-year-old who lost her dog one winter in Upstate NY. I grieved for that dog for months, maybe years. When Kate and I can talk about all of that honestly, I think it makes her feel like she’s not so alone. It doesn’t take away the heartache though; only time can do that.

Closure

Unfortunately, so often on the homestead, our animals disappear without a trace, and so no formal burial can take place. We try to remind Kate of all the fun times that she had with her animals, especially with Leo. We remind ourselves that some pets are with us for a long time, others for only a short time. Remembering Leo as a joyful cat who lived his life at 100 mph almost always makes us smile.

We made Kate this poster of Leo to help her remember all the fun times she had with her beloved kitten. It hangs in her room next to her bed.

And Then Another Animal Comes Along

Meet Jesse Covenant

Just when you think you can’t get any sadder, sometimes God gives you a gift. This little guy wandered over to our neighbor’s house. She called to tell me that she found Leo. When I got there, my heart sank; it wasn’t Leo. But, it turns out this guy was a stray who had obviously been wandering alone for quite some time. I brought him home, surprised Kate and her sister when they got home, and the rest as they say “is history.” For now, this guy’s only job is to live inside and bring joy to our healing hearts. He’s adjusted well, after his surgery, many naps, and proper nutrition. Kate has even taught Jesse how to walk on a harness!

Top 3 Types of Fencing for Your Homestead (And How to Maintain Them)

Every homestead will generally have a great deal of fencing.Fencing types range from four-board horse fencing to woven wire fencing for livestock, to poultry fencing for chickens and fowl. Whether it is designed to keep animals in or predators out, maintaining fencing is an important task that should be on every homesteader’s to-do list. . One thing is for certain; a broken fence will not mend itself! Let’s take a look at the top 3 types of fencing you might use on your homestead, what they are used for, and what you should keep on hand to make repairs.

 

Four-Board or Board Fencing

Four board or board fencing is typically used in pastures for horses and ponies. When first erected, this type of fence is pleasing to the eye and very safe for the animals. Board fencing is usually erected using four to six-inch round, treated wooden fence posts or treated 4×4 or 6×6 timbers and 1x6x16-foot fence boards nailed to the posts.

Due to the nature of the material, it is very common for the posts and timbers to twist over time and for the fence boards to warp, sag and buckle. As the fence begins to age, nails may pop out of the posts and the boards may become weak and broken. Nail pops can be a hazard to the animals in the field, especially horses that enjoy scratching themselves on the posts. Broken boards are an invitation for your animals to get out and do a bit of exploring to see if the grass really is greener on the other side.

Keep Them From Rotting

Paint the top of the wooden fence posts or timbers with a good heavy barn paint or roofing tar to keep water from wicking into the post and rotting prematurely.

Now, pop in a CD of Desperado by the Eagles and get out there and ride (or walk) your fences to inspect for wear and damage. Bring along a good hammer and some nails just in case you find a board that needs some help getting reattached to its post. A spool of baling wire is also helpful to make expedient repairs to any broken boards you may come across until you can get back and replace it.

 

Woven Wire Field Fencing

Wire field fencing is probably the most common type of fence used on the homestead. There are many different types with varying spacing between the wires and thickness of the wire itself. Let me just say this, buy the best fence you can afford. Cheaply made fencing will become brittle and rust quickly . You will spend more time and money in the long run repairing and replacing it than if you had bought the good stuff in the beginning.

Wire fence is typically nailed to wooden posts or timbers using galvanized metal staples. These are great fun to install, especially if you like to smash your fingers. One of the problems with wire fencing is that it loses the tension and becomes loose. This usually happens when horses or cattle lean against the fence or push on it trying to get to beautiful green grass in your neighbors field. Once a wire fence becomes loose, it is now a potential hazard for horses to get their hooves entangled in, and it is much easier for coyotes or foxes to dig under a loose fence.

Check Often for Loose Areas

Walk your fence at least once a month with a good fencing tool. and a pocket full of staples. We use a Channellock 10.5 inch fencing tool. Inspect the fence for breaks in the wire and tie some surveyor’s flagging around those spots as a marker for future replacement. Make sure there are not any loose wires sticking errantly out of the fence as you can be certain a horse will find it and scratch itself on it. Or worse yet, poke it in the eye. You don’t want to be putting your vet’s kid through college. Ask us how we know.

 

Poultry Wire Fencing

Chicken wire or poultry fencing is without a doubt the most aggravating type of fence to work with  In addition to being hard to work with, it is generally very thin wire and does not last for decades as do the other types of woven wire fences. But let’ s face it, it’s cheap and it does the trick to keep our beloved chickens corralled. This is what we use. 

Inspect your chicken wire daily and very carefully. Chickens and fowl are a tremendous asset to any homestead and they are also on the menu for many predators. Coyote, fox, raccoon, possum, snakes and hawks will all be more than happy to dine on your hens if given easy access to the chicken yard.

Keep Material Accessible

Keep a roll of wire and a wire cutter at the chicken coop so you can make repairs while you are there collecting eggs. We can’t tell you how many times we have noticed a rip in the fence and tell ourselves that we’ll get to it later, and later finds us repairing something else on the homestead we forgot to repair before!

Your homestead fencing represents a huge investment in money and time. Protect your investment by taking time today to gather the supplies you’ll need so you’ll have them on hand when it’s time to do your maintenance checks.

Five Ways to Get Your Kids to Love Doing Chores

There is always something to be done around the homestead, and sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day for The Parents (aka The Working Parents) to get it all done! Ever since our girls were little and we began to homeschool, I have always also worked part-time (and for a few years full-time.) Talk about needing some extra hands to help out!

1. Start Early

As soon as the girls were old enough to use them, we bought them their own tools: hoes, rakes, gloves, hammers, nails, drills, screws, paintbrushes, paint and small pieces of wood. They created at will, and what they made was often times messy, but always awesome. Since we involved our girls in most everything we did around the homestead, they watched and learned. Even when we thought they weren’t watching, they were; and not only were they watching, they were remembering.

Kate getting her garden row ready. She’s about five years old here.

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