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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.