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Homestead Update 6/11/17

11 Jun

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I have been out and about working this week. As I was checking this cotton field in the foreground, I noticed that steep, highly erodible hillside in the background is planted to corn. That corn will never yield very well. Even if we have an unusually rainy Summer, the corn will still suffer from drought stress because when it rains, the rain will runoff the hillside before it can soak up. Looks like a bad decision to me.

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The tomatoes in my raised beds are looking good. As I was cleaning out the grass and weeds, I harvested about 3 dozen onions I planted last Fall. I don’t know what I will do with so many onions at one time.

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I made a new contraption for harvesting honey made from plastic tubs and wedding veil material. I needed the frames to stand upside down so the honey would drain properly since the cells in the comb are at a slight upward angle.

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I didn’t have a comb uncapping tool so I used this hair comb that Sweet Thing bought at the Dollar Store.

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After I uncapped the comb, I clamped the frames down with two strips of wood to keep the frames upright. This method of harvesting seems to work well, although I might not get too much honey this year. Yesterday I discovered two of my hives were queen less! I just happened to have a swarm captured in one of my traps still hanging in a tree. I went out and brought the trap home and did a news paper combine with the swarm hive and the old queen less hive. I’ll let you know how that goes. Until then, keep prepping everyone!

Homestead Update 5/28/2017

28 May

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I looked out our back door last week and watched a red fox stroll across the yard. The family of Foxes have been around so long my dogs in the pen don’t even bother barking at them anymore unless they come really close to the pen. But if I want to see a Red Fox up close and personal, I can just go visit my niece who recently BOUGHT a Fox Kit to raise in the house. Are you kidding me!? She has another small house dog and I told her when that Fox is grown, he will probably kill that small dog one day. Some people, Huh?

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I have been in the fields working all week and I came upon this large tortoise easing across the field.

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I also encountered this 4 foot long Speckled King Snake. I let him live and go on his way; he is a good snake!

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I was sitting in my truck one morning, waiting for my employees to come in for work, when I looked up and saw three deer wandering around in our front yard. I am really lucky to be able to go out to work and encounter so much wildlife.

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I found this patch of Dewberries on the edge of one of the fields I check. When we were children, we would pick these berries, put them in a bowl with sugar and cream and have a real treat. We would put so much sugar on them, when we ate a spoonful it would crunch because we used so much sugar! These berries in my hand were so sweet you didn’t need to put any sugar on them. And speaking of sugar, I have been mixing sugar water to feed to my honey bees. I have captured and transferred 7 bee swarms this Spring and I have two more traps with bees waiting for me to bring them in. I hope to do that this week. I’ll keep you updated. Until then, keep prepping everyone!

Homestead Update 5/14/2017

13 May

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I have 30 gallons of used motor oil that I drained out of my dirt bikes and ATVs stored in unapproved 2 1/2 gallon jugs. I need to pour them over into a five gallon container and carry the oil to the recycling center. I picked up the yellow bucket out of a farmer’s junk pile then I spotted the black bucket on the shoulder of the road so I stopped and picked it up. But wait a minute, this bucket is not empty, it’s completely full. This bucket is brand new, never been opened. five gallons of free oil for my Kubota. It probably fell off of some farmer’s service trailer as he was driving past. SCORE!

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I made some sugar water feeders for my bees out of used plastic jars and scrap wood.

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I made a little wooden stand with hardware cloth covering the opening where I put an old plastic jar with tiny holes drilled into the lid. Works perfectly! I transferred 2 of my newly captured swarms into hives this week and I plan on getting more this week. I need to go through my old hives and see how they are doing and possibly harvesting some honey. I have several people wanting some! I’ll keep you updated, until then, keep prepping everyone!

Homestead Update 5/7/2017

7 May

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I have been working around the yard this week planting new shrubs and perennials. I received another order from Hostas Direct and they came in perfect condition. It is hard to believe I can open the shipping box and find 8 perfect specimens like this. I also bought some hostas and other plants from the FFA chapter of a local high school and they were really nice. I planted some tomatoes and peppers in the new raised bed I made last month and they seem to be doing well despite the 6 inches of rain we received last week.

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Sweet Thing has been working on some crafts so she made this picture frame. I cut the wood and sanded it down then she white washed it, added the twine to hold the picture, and added some decorative accents. She is going to donate several of these to our local Bee Keepers club to auction off at our yearly fund raiser.

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She made some vinyl letters and designs to stick onto these drink glasses. One of those machines I showed you in her sewing room printed these on vinyl and cut them out. Don’t ask me how. I may think of some ideas she can do for me with that machine!

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I was in my shop last week making 3 more swarm traps to put out and Oreo and Kensey came in to help me. I have 22 traps out now and 4 of them have bees in them but I haven’t brought them in yet. I might get one or two tonight and bring them in and transfer them in the morning. The past two days have been sunny but the wind was blowing 30 MPH gusting to 40 MPH. Not good conditions for working bees, that wind puts them in a really BAD mood! I don’t like the wind either. I’ll keep you updated on events around here. Until then, keep prepping everyone!

Homestead Update 4/16/2017

16 Apr

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I had some slopes on the Homestead that were starting to wash and develop the beginnings of gullies so I went to the Nursery and bought 1/2 of a pallet of Zoysia Sod.

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I used my Kubota tractor and disc to work and loosen the soil before laying the sod. Since then I have been watering the sod every day and it is supposed to rain several days in the coming week so I hope it takes hold. If this works out I plan on doing more of this next Spring because I have several spots with washes starting.

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The lettuce in the raised bed is doing really well. Sweet Thing picked a big mess to take to the in-laws for Easter dinner and I expect it will be delicious.

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Speaking of Sweet Thing, she has been working to straighten up and organize her sewing room. I noticed 5 different sewing machines over there and I asked her why she needed so many. She asked me how many woodworking saws I had so I just shut up and smiled!

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She really has everything neat and organized. Maybe I should ask her to come straighten out my workshop!

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On the bee keeping front, I caught my first ever cluster swarm. This lady called three weeks ago and said she had a swarm in a bush, but before I could get there the bees left. Then she called a few days ago about this swarm.

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The swarm was so low to the ground I couldn’t rake them into the box so I just reached into the swarm and pulled off several double handfuls of bees and dropped them into the box. Eventually the stragglers began to go into the opening on their own.

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After the cluster got smaller, I got brave and removed my glove and scooped up a handful of bees barehanded. That is a really strange feeling to have a hand full of bees, and not one single sting! I transferred them into a hive when I got home and now after 5 days they seem to be doing fine.

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I was out and about putting out my swarm traps and I noticed this shrub. There were many of them in this fence line and most of them had really pretty red flowers on them. I researched it and determined it is a native plant “Red Buckeye”. I think it will be suitable for naturalizing so I am going to dig up some of the smaller ones and replant them. Have any of you had any experience with this plant? And oh yeah, my swarm traps. I put out 22 traps, some of them have been out 3 weeks, some 2 weeks and some 1 week. I checked them all Friday and I had no bees. Skunked! 0 for 22. I still expect to capture several swarms and I’ll keep you posted.

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I hope all of you had a peaceful, blessed Easter. Keep prepping everyone!

Homestead Update 4/2/2017

2 Apr

Just a quick update, my phone and computer are not communicating properly so I couldn’t upload any new pictures.

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I do have this picture I haven’t used yet. Two weeks ago when we had the below freezing cold snap, I covered my Hostas with a blanket. And I literally mean a blanket. This is an old reject I use for hauling furniture and such so I didn’t figure it would be a big loss if it was ruined. The next day was cold but sunny so I just laid it out across the hood of my truck and it dried just fine. I’m glad I covered them up. I missed one and the freeze bit it back to the ground.

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I also managed to put out 15 swarm traps in the last 2 weeks. I still have 10 more to go. If the weather will cooperate I hope to put them out next week. Hopefully I will get my computer issues corrected, until then, I’ll let you know how it goes. Keep prepping everyone!

Homestead Update 3/19/17

19 Mar

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Tomorrow is the first day of Spring, but this is what we had last week, maybe 2 inches of snow.

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I ordered these large bags of wild flower seeds but I need to wait another month before I plant them. I wanted to have some flowers for my bees to feed on. Speeking of bees, I split one of my hives today. I opened it up and every frame was crawling with bees and there was a LOT of brood, much of it capped and ready to hatch. I did a walk-away split on this hive last year and it worked perfectly, I hope it turns out that well again.

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I made 10 telescoping covers for my hives recently and I wanted to put metal on the covers like the ones I buy from Mann Lake. I bought this metal brake from Harbor Freight two years ago so I decided it was time to give it a try.

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I have to admit my first attempt was an abject failure! The cover on the bottom is my second attempt and it looks just fine. The cover on top is the one I had to re-bend and try a second attempt, that is why it is so wrinkled and ugly. After covering six of the tops, I realize I really didn’t need the metal brake because the aluminum flashing is so thin. The flashing might be twice as thick as a store-bought pie plate, but describing it like that is being generous. I could have made a metal brake using a couple of 2X4s and it would have worked just fine for this task, but I might need to bend something heavier in the future so I will hold on to it.

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I had a meeting with one of my clients at his office and I checked out his train set. This is not a child’s set, this is a big-boy set!

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I doubt if I will ever see a more elaborate set than this one!

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I was looking through my pictures for this post and I realized I haven’t posted a picture of Brandy lately. She weighs 9 pounds now and that should be her final, adult size. It is a real ball of laughs watching her play with her toys!

 

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I was in the restroom of Subway recently, and I saw this sign written in braille stating employees must wash hand before returning to work. Then I wondered to myself “how many blind people do they have making sandwiches at this Subway?” Just more unnecessary government regulations intruding on our lives. Keep prepping everyone!