Saturday, June 20, 2015

Friday Roundup

Once again it's time for our Friday Roundup, where we all pitch in the things we did during the week -- big or small -- that contributed toward self-sufficiency.

I'll probably routinely start posting these Friday Roundups on Saturday morning since Fridays seem to be very busy days. Here's what we did this week:

• I cleaned the chicken coop in preparation of moving our Jersey Giant chicks out of the house (they're getting too cramped in their box).

We haven't gotten around to moving them yet, but that will be today's chore.

• We're just beginning to freeze strawberries. The berries are starting to peak, so the girls have been picking frequently; but up to this point we've all been eating them as we pick them. This time we had enough of a surplus that I froze six pounds. Hopefully we'll have ten times that amount in the freezer by the end of strawberry season.

• We moved the cattle from the wooded side of our property back to the pasture (no photos, sorry). We're beginning to develop contingency plans for the cattle. Things have been so dry that they're eating down the forage far faster than it can regenerate. Our contingencies so far are: we're putting three cow/calf pairs up for sale; we made arrangements with a neighbor to run the cattle on his adjacent twenty acres in a couple of weeks; and we may have located a source of inexpensive hay from a farmer who wants to get rid of last year's surplus before getting in this year's crop. Right now it looks as it we'll have to start feeding the cattle much, much earlier than we normally do.

• We trapped Victoria and hew new bull calf Jerky in the corral for a few days until the baby was old enough to castrate, which we did before releasing them with the rest of the herd (again no photos, sorry). Jerky is more meat-on-the-hoof in about two years.

• We checked on the bees. They're extremely active and doing fine. At the recommendation of an experienced beekeeper, we shuffled a couple frames around, putting some emptier frames closer in where most of the activity is taking place.

One of the hives had active comb-building on the underside of the roof.

Although it was fascinating to get a glimpse of the inside of the comb (you can see the pupa)...

...we're pretty sure comb-building on the roof is something we're not "supposed" to encourage. Suited up as we were with the hive open, it's not like we could call our beekeeeping mentor right then and there; so, in the absence of knowing what better to do, I scraped the combs off and removed them. I realize it's just a temporary measure and they'll probably rebuild. This hive still has frames that aren't full (meaning, it's too early to put on the supers), so I shuffled one of the emptier frames toward the front where most of the activity is.

I welcome thoughts from more experienced beekeepers to know if scraping that extra comb from the roof was the right thing to do.

• I finally -- finally! -- got the corn beds weeded and turned over with compost. We hauled out the drip irrigation stuff...

...and got hoses on all the tires.

I brought out a few of last year's dried cobs...

...and Don and I rubbed the seed off.

I planted 22 tires' worth of corn (which included a couple of extra tires where I had nothing else planted), then let the drip system give everything a good watering.

• Meanwhile, Don began the task of converting this little shed -- which was originally used as a greenhouse except we couldn't keep the mice out of it, who kept eating seeds and seedlings -- into a chicken coop. We plan to move the shed into the yard and use it as the base of an expanded coop.

Right now we just have garden-related stuff (mostly junk) in it, so we'll clean it out and move it into the yard.

Since no one had been inside the shed in quite some time, we weren't surprised by this little bonus:

Don zapped it with wasp spray.

Then he started removing the windows, but that's as far as we got. We're doing some rush orders for tankards and can't divert our attention too much from our income-producing work.

That's what we accomplished this week. What have you done?


  1. Tilled and mulched the fallow part of the garden in preparation for having it ready for the fall garden planting in about two months. Harvested a lot of tomatoes and shared some with our super-nice neighbors. Getting some ready to go in the freezer for next winter's soup and stew. Having a visit from family members! Not much else done but enjoying family.

  2. Thoughts on bees- it appears to us you might have too much space between your frames and lid. Bees will fill any and all space they can. Do you use screen top boards? These will keep the bees away from the lids. If there is more than 3/8 of an inch (aka "bee space") they will build burr comb and honey even if the queen can't fit in to lay.

    Beekeeprs in WV

  3. Love the picture of the Waxwing! Would love to see one 'in person' one day. But I digress...

    Pulled weeds from the veg garden, then laid down weed screen.
    Took some awesome yellow squash from my garden to my relatively new neighbors...who are people that will cooperate I'm sure when the balloon goes up. Have been watching with quiet interest as they build a sustainable homestead in a very short amount of time...note* my new neighbor target shoots almost daily, and clearly has a variety of weapons.

    Shopped tree companies to thin trees on my property and cut fire wood to stack and season. I have a great many trees and though I could bring a tree down, I don't have equipment to thin a standing tree. Most are 3-4 stories tall or more.
    Accepted firewood from a neighbor who thinned some trees on his property and offered it. Good neighbors..even helped to stack it.

    Continued to store up more stuff for hard times, including insecticides, rat/mouse traps and bait etc.
    Watched videos with more home defense ideas.

    Doing well with not eating eggs, meat or milk. Saving money and learning to fix satisfying meals. (I have always been a hard-core carnivore) I have had chickens off and fresh eggs etc, but determined this last batch was costing more than paying off, and in my case fending off predators is a full time job, and too much to keep up with.

    Keeping my eye on the news, and ear to the ground.

  4. Took a couple of days off work and went with my 13 year old son and took a two day beginners blacksmithing class. Lots of fun.

  5. Split some firewood for the fall, checked the progress of the orchard and made bruschetta with my three ripe Roma's. Weeded and built up the hills in the potato patch and turned the compost pile.

  6. Began work on my ark here in east central Indiana. Haha. Not really but feeling very waterlogged. It is unusual for our area to have so much rain this time of year and then we go remnants of tropical storm Bill. Worked inside this week, cleaned summer porch from spring seed starting process, organizing my library/grandsons classroom, sorting stuff to post on Etsy, working on menu planning so I can go to the grocery once per month instead of every week or every other week. Rebekah

  7. I froze 22 pints of sweet corn, 11 pints of 'California Blend' vegies, 2 pints of the stalks from the broccoli and cauliflower diced small. I saved 2 dozen corn cobs and intend to make one batch of corncob syrup and one batch of corncob jelly. I also got 8 stalks of dill cleaned of weed and seed heads put in the freezer, ready for the pickles I hope to make next weekend. My children are wanting me to make AT LEAST 2 dozen jars of candied dills. Personally I would prefer 3 dozen, lol. I'm attending an all day class at the county extension office this week, it covers pressure canning, water bath canning, freezing and dehydrating. I've always done the last three, but I am going to feel even more comfortable with a pressure cooker, after this class. Have bought what I need to make canned sweet and sour chicken, have 20 lbs of thighs and legs cooked and deboned, ready to can, 5 lbs of ground beef to can, and 3 lbs steak, to make a couple jars of canned stew meat. Was offered the chance to pick thornless blackberries, I can't pass that up either. The next week or so is going to be a busy one for me, LOVIN' EVERY MINUTE! (Just not the HEAT, 87 at 9am? mercy!)

  8. Removing bridge/burr comb is a good idea. Any comb not on the foundation is a risk to the bees. When you put the components back in, the comb could squash bees -- a high risk to the precious queen.

    I suggest an inner cover with a notch for preventing this burr comb and providing a little ventilation.

    I was excited when you got your bees. I was going to recommend it to you right around the time you published the first bee post. We just started keeping bees last year and it's been a great learning experience, though not easy nor cheap. The honey is absolutely divine.

  9. Our main accomplishment this past week, and to me it feels HUGE, is that we figured out what was taking our chickens. We were loosing one a day but it wasn't until we'd lost 7 that we discovered it was a raccoon! We got it trapped and removed and my son and I beefed up the chicken coop so it should be a little more secure. Not sure that anything can keep a determined raccoon out but it's a start.

    1. Most city folk have no idea how smart, determined and aggressive raccoons can be, nor how easily their little 'hands' can open locking mechanisms. I'm sorry you lost so many chickens, that's a lot of eggs and meat gone. My grandpa's nickname was COON, he hunted them, ate them and sold their hides, but he also respected them. Mother nature marked them for the bandits they are, those 'so cute' masks, LOL.

    2. Raccoons can be the scourge of the countryside. I had to do battle a few weeks ago with a particularly tenacious one who was heck-bent on getting into my garden. He was destroying my fence trying to get at MY food! I never actually saw him, but I'm pretty sure it was that dastardly raccoon that's been haughtily roaming the grounds.

      I beat him at his own game. I fortified the garden fence. He never did get in, but he kept me hopping for days.

      I value my kitties for rodent control because they are ferocious, efficient hunters. But one day a vicious raccoon ripped open the throat of one of my felines and it was a scary visit to the vet. I saved my pet, but never caught the little so-and-so that did that to him.

      I hate raccoons.

      Just Me

  10. I love hearing about and seeing your chicken related work. We are first time chicken owners and learning as we go....often times the hard way.

  11. (2nd try) Weeded the mint garden, collected dandelion leaves and actually got them all into the dehydrator. Today is my day off from the kitchen, so will put the dandelion leaves in jars tomorrow.
    Emptied another few boxes of "stuff", donated to a thrift store. They pick it up Tuesday. Cleaning out what we don't use or need feels good. and Feels good to know someone else will be able to use it. Made hamburger rocks. One quart of them. Stocking up for winter, snow, ice, closed roads.

  12. I tried pickling some carrots (which turned out pretty well), tried to deal with the voles who have decided young green bean plants are tasty, and cut up a couple of trees--one felled by me, the other (a snag) knocked down in a wind storm. The trees don't sound like a big deal, but both had a lot of poison ivy growing on them, so I had to cover up and be careful--it seems that my precautions worked.

  13. This week our "meat" chickens arrived and I picked them up at the feed store on Friday. 25. They won't last long in the stock water tank I use, so in preparation for moving them into the big playpen in the chicken coop, we shut the Jersey giant chicks out about 3 weeks ago, when they were two months old. Out of habit, and to protect themselves from the big hens, they would return to it in the evening. We built an additional roost for them and the first night, after dark, I had to pick them up and place them on it. Love sleepy chickens. Anyway...the new babies will soon need the big pen. I hope to transition the meat birds to free range also, even if it takes a couple extra (or more) weeks for them to make weight.
    Several of my tomato plants have fruit on them. Hooray!
    Gave up on the idea of getting goats this year and began to spot kill weeds. I was trying to pull them all and the thistle and tansy were a more formidable challenge than what we were up to. Two against millions...
    Today I got hands on experience with cattle. A great thing to have when one is planning to get a couple steers or cow calf pairs. The dog began to pitch a fit in the house, so we let her out, as she's a great defender of her birds and our horses. I followed but could not see what she did, but that's because I was on the phone with my son, wishing him Happy Father's day. A row of blue spruce separated me from the object of the dog's attention: six cows, one small calf and a large bull. I ran up the hill to the house, quite a challenge in itself, and looked up the number for my neighbor who actually lives in the town to the south of me. My son and I headed down toward our barn and pond, thinking if we were just hanging out down there, the herd would not continue to push west. Wrong.
    We didn't know the bull was with the cows at that point, but he charged from the trees and made quite a show of it. I've never scaled corral panels so fast. My son froze at first, but when the bull snorted and was going to charge again, he found his feet and managed to run to the area near the pond we had the horses grazing and he, too used the up and over, vs. the gate. The bull and his harem visited our corral and barn, emptied the water tank, charged the wheel barrow and a big hay bale, smashing the bale in his efforts to mark it. The rubbermaid wheelbarrow shows no sign of harm. Worth every penny.
    The neighbors arrived and began gathering the cows out on the road. Send son down the hill (away from the bull) to tell them the bull was here, not still in the pasture, along with seven others. I watched in amazement as the adult daughter calmly herded them down the hill and into their own corral and then I was honored to get to help the owners get them across the road to their pasture. Mr. Bull was polite and calm. We found out he doesn't like dogs.
    I don't think our labrador liked him either.
    So, not much for the week, but had a big day!

  14. We have put our freedom rangers outside. We got our first bulk order of food. We picked strawberries and canned jam. Week dear husband made syrup and I made jam. Ha ha. Following directions, so important. We finished our chicken tractor and are working on our second one. Amazing for chickens. It's a truck cap built on a 2 for frame with wheels that we tow around the yard. It has fence around the frame and roost bars and in the winter we will add plywood. We picked our greens and blanched and froze them. We also did up our peas. We worked on our sheep fence and have most of the fencing up.

    Learning NY