Milking Mamas, Busy as Bees

Big days on the wee homestead! The cucumbers are coming in by the bushel full, the lambs are dropping like rabbits, the mushrooms are growing like mad and the bees sound exceptionally pleased. I can’t keep up!

Luckily, Handy Hubby is here now every day, thanks to his ‘early retirement’ (that is his layoff six months ago) thanks to The Great Scamdemic. With his steady efforts and attention our place is shaping up beautifully and my stress levels have been reduced by half, even as chaos still reigns. For these are not the only new milking mamas, I’m now officially a milkmaid in training myself!

Welcome, Summer! Two piglets for a goat in milk was our barter with a friend. She’s settling in nicely and Phoebe was the first of the herd to greet her.

Learning to milk in humid and buggy 95 degrees F is every bit as pleasant as it sounds. 😏

Impressive udder and gymnast-like capabilities!

Handy Hubby crafted me a nice milk stand from plans posted by Fias Co Farms, a very good resource for goat newbies.

The chanterelles will surely give up very soon in this heat, so I forced myself to brave the mosquitoes and ticks once more to gather one last big basket full. I came across a new variety while hunting that’s not in any of my books, so I contacted Texas Foraging expert Mark ‘Merriwether’ Vorderbruggen, who identified it and directed me to this excellent site:

https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/hexagonal-pored-polypore

Since our temps went from April-like to August-like overnight, I got stuck in a bit of a bind with the bees. Because I’m trying to work between 3 different hive types (very stupid, do not entertain this folly I would advise) I’m trying to get them to move of their own accord. It is working, but it is quite a slow process. I will eventually have 3 colonies from this one very full nuc without too much destruction or fuss, or at least that’s my plan.

To end I offer a true garden success. I’ve been experimenting a lot with companion planting, sometimes with advice from permaculture books, but sometimes just by my own observations. This year I planted sunflowers very early, before it was warm enough for the cucumbers and melons. My thought was to attract the bees to the garden like a lure down to the still small cucumbers. It’s worked like a charm and the trellises are bursting with activity.

I’m also trying some new tricks with the tomatoes, letting the cherry types go wild, but highly managing the large varieties and interspersing them with various herbs, lots of comfrey, turmeric and ginger. The results are not yet in on those efforts, but I’ll keep y’all posted.

Mmm, grapes, our favorite! Ta Ta for now

Homestead Happenings

Just a wee update with some happy snaps because we’ve been keeping as busy as bees around here!

The bees are busy indeed and multiplying like rabbits. Time to expand their chambers or to do some splits.

Bearding in summer, not too unusual in our hot climate. But, bearding in spring, probably a sign they’re really cramped and fixing to swarm.

I did end up losing one colony, the only one I have in the conventional Langstroth model hive. I’m going to blame myself for that though, I left a super on over winter and we had a really bad winter. They made it through alright from the looks of things, but left about a month ago, probably because their numbers were still too small to keep a mansion clean while trying to nurse babies to build up the colony again. There was no evidence of freezing or starving, so I suspect they left as a small swarm. That’s my story anyway.

Construction continues on the best project so far. Handy Hubby is building an addition to our house and I’m over the moon excited about it! This place was never meant to be a year-round residence, it was initially used as a weekend cottage and hadn’t been used for many years by the time we moved in.

We’ve been cramped for quite a while, but now we’ll have a new, very necessary and very functional, climate-controlled Utility room. Thank you, my love, better late than never! 😉

We aren’t cat people but we adopted a barn kitten last year to try to help with our mouse, vole, mole, gopher, snake problems. Apparently she didn’t get the memo, or realized the problem was so bad she needed a crew.

Skittles, our frisky barn kitten having kittens.

Our piglet population is back down to a manageable size since trading 2 piglets for a milking goat to be delivered next month and 2 others for a breeding ram after a friend has freshened her flock. We also traded a beehive for some bantam hens because they are known for their strong broody behavior, and sure enough, here’s one tightly tucked on her clutch. It’s one of my favorite things to trade with folks and leave Uncle Sam with his funny money out of our pockets for a change.

You can’t see me! Bantam hens, known for tucking up in tiny corners to brood.

As for garden developments, I continue my efforts incorporating permaculture features. I keep experimenting with good companion plants; I’m planting more perennials amongst the annuals; I’m doing more succession planting; I’m getting lots of comfrey growing for ‘chop and drop’ composting.

My latest addition is a ‘poison garden’ including such toxic beauties as datura, belladonna and castor bean. I’m testing a few tricks like ‘spooning’ the onions, which is to remove the dirt from the bulb tops to encourage larger storing onions. I’m watering weekly with ‘poop soup’ that is, watered down cow manure I’ve gathered from the stray cows sometimes wandering our property.

It’s a dirty job, but anything for my plants!

As always, I let the herbs and greens go to seed, but this year I’m going to get better about seed-saving. The price of seeds is going through the roof! Another new project I’m dedicating time to is more propagating, but not just the easy stuff anymore, like figs and roses and mulberries.

I’m going for the big time—‘native’ trees! Wild cherry (because they taste so amazing), Osage orange (because they are so useful) and prickly ash (because they look so cool) are at the top of my current list.

As for foraging, a favorite spring activity for me, in addition to pokeweed and dandelions, I’ve got another new favorite: greenbrier tips—taste just like asparagus. The root, along with sassafras root, were once the main ingredients of root beer, which I plan to try soon. Yum!

Ciao for now, thanks for stopping by!

Taj-Ma Coop Showcase

Third time’s a charm! Everyone knows that’s a mathematical fact. And when it comes to coops, so what if it takes three generations to recoup your costs in chickens and eggs? What matters more is the satisfaction of the Trifecta: form, function and plenty of time on our hands these days.

Coop needs are going to vary and the portable coops are really popular right now. They make a lot of sense for many reasons that are not of interest here. Mostly because we use our coop for poop.

We throw our compost in there, the chickens process through it, then we haul it to the garden. We also let them free range all day, but need the option to keep them excluded in the run from time to time. We’ve had 8 years of trial and error and here’s a sampling of the adjustments Handy Hubby has made to better suit our needs with coop 3.0. Most of them are for matters of hygiene and convenience.

Welcome to our Taj-Ma Coop! And move over Vanna White! 🙂
A custom entry gate

—No sloping run enclosures, but still fully enclosed with generous head room. Too much stooping and head clunking made this one highest priority.

—Fold-away perches, what a feature! This might be a Handy Hubby unique creation, I’ve never seen it before, nor has he. Necessity is the mother of invention! Snakes curled up in a corner are really hard to get at when you have to crawl under permanent perches. There’s invariably rogue hens who try to nest in the corners too. And for cleaning, of course, with a large back door for scooping poop directly into the tractor bucket.

—Gravity assisted flow-thru composting, impressive! Faster compost processing using scratching chickens. Tractor gates at both ends make it quick and easy to load the run up with leaves and grass, then on the downhill side rake it into the bucket and haul it to the garden after the chickens break it down. Our advancing age was the inspiration there, since we’ve been doing this with shovels and a wheelbarrow. A least favorite chore for sure.

—Storm shutters over extra large windows and an extra large feeder. We need lots of ventilation from all sides in summer, but also extra protection from crazy weather like high winds, hail and tornadoes that are apparently our ‘new normal’.

—A locking hatch, because safe chickens make happy owners.

Thanks for visiting!

Standing applause for our marvelous Handy Hubby!

Homestead Happy Snaps

It’s time again for some fun snaps. Apparently my ‘extremist’ opinions are not nearly as popular as far as posts go. What a mystery! 🙂

As usual, not suitable viewing for vegetarians.

But, our veggie of the year has definitely been the turnip. Not too sexy, I know. Personally I think the turnip is way under-rated. Lucky for us, they were so prolific this year we’ve been giving them away, feeding them to the pigs and eating them ourselves pretty much daily. Raw, baked, stewed, roasted, fermented—don’t knock ‘em ‘til you try ‘em! (And if you have any yummy suggestions for preparation, please do share.).

Hakurei F1 Turnip from Johnny’s Seeds—fantastic producer, delicious and nutritious

Our small asparagus bed was so over-packed we created 2 huge beds for them, had to go outside the garden fence and cut down a few trees to do it, and still had enough to give a big box away to a sister homesteader.

I also dug up the ‘naked lady’ lilies, day lilies and iris, replanted a bunch of them and still had loads to give away. I love to spread the wealth! It was A LOT of work, but hopefully worth it. Time will tell.

(Note to new gardeners: DO NOT crowd your asparagus, those crowns are a nightmare to separate once they get over-clumped. Lesson learned the hard way.)

Fava beans and lovely greens and my favorite herb, chervil.

Mama Chop, ready to pop! Papa Chop must be very proud, he got Virginia preggers too, her first time. Loads of piglets coming any day now.

We had to borrow another ram, apparently the last one was sleeping on the job. He’s been keeping very busy.

Handy Hubby’s Grand TajMa-Coop post coming up soon, it’s a beauty, so stay tuned!

Dare I say, it’s the classiest coop in the county?
Have a Great Dane of a day!

True Sustainability

As the United Nations, Club of Rome, World Health Organization and various other international ‘public-private’ partnerships try to propagandize the world into their vision of “Global Sustainability” there are a number of crucial variables they’ve left out, which localities could capitalize on, if they were made aware of this potential.

For example, did you know there are salt mines all over place in this country? Salt was the basis of our first ‘trade markets’ — long before exotic spices of the Orient — salt was King of the World.

Salt was, well, worth its weight in gold, as the saying goes. Why do we import tea, the ‘native Americans’ might have queried of the mostly British expats settling here? There’s perfectly good tea all around you, can’t you see? And they might have made a few good jokes about that.

But salt? You’re going to import salt, too? What the bleep for?! That’s not even joke-worthy, that’s just a dumb-ass death sentence! You know it’s everywhere around here, right? And the gold y’all so covet, what’s that for, exactly? Y’all are really so very attached to your adornments, eh? Good choices there, give over your salt, so you starve, for gold, so you can pay your taxes. Brilliant system!

Here on the wee homestead we came inspired to see how long and far a road it is to self and community sustainability. We were thinking like most homesteaders, survivalists, etc., are thinking—food, water, energy. Obvious, these are crucial.

But what about the salt? That, along with the water, was the very first thing either robbed, buried, or tainted by the industrialist-minded settlers. Not the ones who came for a better life more aligned with their God and purpose, the ones who came expressly to profiteer for the pay-masters back home.

Long before our water and air were compromised, our people enslaved to the State and our ranges overrun with slave labor, our salt was “buried” by the Global Regulators. There are salt mines and primal (renewable, sub-surface geysers, essentially) water available all over this country.

That was known centuries ago! But go ahead and demonstrate your loyalty to the State, that tricked and enslaved your Great, Great Grandparents and before, by wearing that muzzle of submission and voting for your next tyrant.

Don’t care where your salt comes from? Next you don’t care where your water comes from, or your food comes from, or your energy, or anything else.

Line up, bend over, take your shot.

https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/texas/salt-mine-tx/

Homestead Happy Snaps

We mustn’t let the tyrants and clowns get us down
Joy and laughter can still abound
Mantras and cliches can spout the latest crazes
But it’s Nature that always amazes!

Praying Mantis living on Wandering Jew, seems somehow apropos, no? He really does live there and he’s pretty good company. 🙂
I’ve heard of bats in the belfry, but in the umbrella?!
How about a cuteness contest—goats or sheep? I know my opinion! Share yours below?
It’s very zen to watch the bees, I find. Next time I’ll figure out how to add sound—I love that soothing buzz of what appears to be such well-ordered chaos—Such miracles in nature!

How to Grow, Prune and Propagate Raspberries — Deep Green Permaculture

I just wanted to share this fantastic site, here’s just one of their high-quality articles, but there are many more of great value for beginners and old green thumbs alike!  I’m learning so much from them, yippie!! 🙂

Raspberries (Rubus idaeus) belong to the genus Rubus, along with other cane berries such as blackberries, boysenberries, lawtonberries, loganberries, marionberries, silvanberries and tayberries. What’s quite interesting is that the whole Rubus genus is part of the Rosaceae (Rose) family, to which almonds, apples, apricots, cherries, hawthorns, loquats, peaches, pears, plums, quinces, raspberries and strawberries also […]

via How to Grow, Prune and Propagate Raspberries — Deep Green Permaculture

You’re Kidding Me

Oh my, I suck again.  Of course I already knew goats are notoriously mischievous.  And as a habitual novice, I expect mistakes and steep learning curves, but a nearly fatal accident before my new kids are here even a week?

Don’t worry, the story has a happy ending or I wouldn’t be writing it right now.  I’d still be sobbing, watching chick flicks, eating popcorn, and overindulging in kombucha cocktails, like I did all afternoon yesterday.

I don’t handle this kind of thing well at all.  In fact, even that expression ‘to handle it’ is too generous, because I barely do.  What actually happens is I panic, get hysterical, panic some more, act out of sheer desperation, and then sob, whether or not I was successful.  I have so much awe and admiration for real farm folk, the kind that grew up with livestock, so that all this life and death drama is second nature to them.  But I grew up like most Americans, very sheltered from death and the other common dramas of nature.

I woke up yesterday morning and went directly to the corral where I have the new kids penned up, for their safety, of course.  No, not at all of course.  Phoebe, once the tamer and more exuberant of the two, had wedged herself in the feeder, she was on the ground not moving, I thought she was dead.  Panic ensued immediately.  I left the gate open as I rushed to her, and out bolted Chestnut, who then also panicked as the dogs began pursuing her eagerly around the corral.

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Guard or chase, we’re getting mixed messages?!

Phoebe’s neck was twisted in a horrific way, but she was still breathing.  And I couldn’t get her out.  I struggled for what seemed like 20 minutes but was probably more like 2, absolutely beside myself.  I thought for sure if her neck wasn’t already broken, I was breaking it without a doubt.

I did at last get her out, she tried to stand, head and neck terribly deformed, and fell right back down again.  My mind was racing and whirling and the very thought that I was going to have to put her down had me collapse in a heap of sobbing.

She barely moved all day.  Miraculously though, she’s now recovering.  She doesn’t have her voice back at all, she’s more skittish, but she’s eating, and I am so grateful, and so lucky that my ineptitude and panic didn’t cause nearly as much pain as expected.

Something good in fact came out of it—I realized the wild grapes are ripe as I tore at the vines to bring the kids.  Today’s a new day and there’s no time to keep crying over milk not even spilled.

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Grapes for the adults and vines for the kids. Now get busy crushing, woman!

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2 huge tomato plants found dead, mysteriously, full of unripe fruit. No time to cry or wonder why!

Homestead Happy Snaps

Just another loungey Sunday on the wee homestead.  And just wanted to share a bit of it with y’all.

Peek-a-boo, I see you, hiding in the geranium!

Handy Hubby crushes again crafting a chute for loading livestock.

 

 

I’ve just tried my first hive split of the season, fingers crossed!  And I came across this excellent document, for any beekeepers, or wannabes, transferring a typical nuc/ hive into a TopBar.  I’ve not tried it yet, but it looks very do-able on paper.  I really like topbar, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons, like esthetics, lack of upper body strength and general laziness.

How to convert a Langstroth nuc into a TopBar hive

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As much as I can appreciate spiders, this one had to be evicted from a bait hive, sorry little fellow, but I know the bees don’t love you like I do.

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Our one Langstroth hive, bedazzled, the only hive I use more conventional methods. Still completely untreated, but with full foundation and a queen excluder in order to harvest the honey.

The garden is looking fabulous, fingers crossed again.  With just a bit of good fortune, this will be our most fruitful year yet.  After last summer, with almost no garden due to a shoulder injury and gaping miserably at large downed trees all over our property, it’s hard to even express how wonderful that feels.

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One of over a dozen, over one year later. Eventually they sort of look like yard art.

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Wild grapes growing great!

Two antique roses I planted about 7 years ago and have no time to bother with, yet they still do their thing.  On the left is Apothecary, a rambler great for rose hips.  Behind Buttercup, our most agreeable model, is Chestnut, needing some serious pruning.  Ain’t got no time for that!

Moving to the veggie garden, a friend gave me seeds of cardoon, a great heat-loving alternative to artichokes (which I’ve tried to grow every year we’ve been here, with no success).  I’m hoping the cilantro will bolt more slowly tucked tight under the eggplant.  I’m trying a new supposed cilantro substitute this year called papalo.  We will see if it’s even remotely as delicious as the real thing.

One of my favorite herbs, chervil, aka gourmet parsley, with a hint of anise flavor, already bolting because it’s a cool season crop.  And one of my favorite wild plants, mullein, because it’s really cool looking, but survives the heat just fine, not to mention it’s many medicinal benefits.

I’m enjoying a YT permaculture channel new to me, a bit high on the marketing for my taste, but loads of good info for the beginners or the old hats, nonetheless.

Homestead Happenings ++

++ Why this is the greatest Apocalypse ever!

This is so hard, because it is so good.  Kinda like when Elon Musk says, “It must be real, because it looks so fake.”  OK, never mind, hopefully the opposite of that.

It’s just, well, here on the wee homestead things are really good.  But, it’s hard to talk about that when I know so many are really suffering.  I don’t want to boast, or say I told you so, or wag a shaming finger, because it’s not like that.  It’s really not.  I don’t want, like, intend, wish, prefer, or otherwise conspire to see others suffer. 

Well, maybe once that happened.  But he totally deserved it.

But, it’s not hard at all to talk about how good things are with many of those in our local community, because they get it. 

(Or with the crew on James True’s livestream, whoever and wherever they are.) Lord, or God, that is the question.

We still greet with hugs and hand shakes.  We’re not wearing, or home-making, masks, for the most part.  Few noticed the restaurant closings or curb-side only service, because most of us can cook.  Folks miss their churches, sure.  Some miss the libraries.  Some get annoyed at the grocery stores. 

But otherwise, those I know mostly think this is all much ado about nothing.

And just as I refuse to pretend it’s good when it’s bad, I also can’t abide saying it’s bad when it’s good.  That would be like pathological empathy.  Been there, don’t intend to go back.  It’s a road to nowhere.

Hubby’s employer has delivered their second round of layoffs, so he’s probably next to lose his job. (Note to self: Be careful what you wish for.)

Our nearest neighbors finally started a garden of their own, and even got St. Croix sheep, like ours.  And livestock guard dogs.  On our one little dirt road there’s now about 12 dogs, that’s about four per household.  How fun is that?!

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One local friend just gifted me three high-quality top-bar hives, since she’s decided to go full Langstroph after an overload of frustration. Lucky me!  She has the cutest kids I’ve ever had the honor of knowing, homeschooled, unvaxxed, growing their own gardens and whipping through the fields on 4-wheelers at 5 years old.  Beat that, Gates of techno-hell!

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She also lent us her prize, papered, top-notch breeding ram, for free.  He’s just been introduced to his latest harem, ours, and he was ON like Donkey Kong.  We’ll have a meadow full of little lambs in no time.

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Ladies, check out my Fruitful package! (her girls named him Kiwi, hmmm)

Another nearby friend sold us her little old stock trailer for a good price and gave me seeds of a squash she loves that I’ve never tried before, Trombetta.  Can’t wait to taste them.

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I gave a SCOBY to another nearby friend, and now she’s as totally into Kombucha as I am, and along with the ram-lending friend, we are trading tips and recipes as excited as girls of the old Matrix trading Charlie’s Angels cards.

Sunday here is same as it ever was. 

A walk in the woods.  A gander into what’s coming out good this year (berries are abounding!)  A dip in the creek.  A tour through the gardens.  

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Got some great heat-loving greens going: Arugula, Oak-leaf lettuce, Malabar spinach

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What else is growing on? Tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, peppers, herbs, okra, eggplant, etc.

A lounge in the hammocks.  A full scale effort to exhaust the dogs.

Mission accomplished.