Monday, April 14, 2014

Funny farm update

This place has been keeping me hopping!  So far so good with the bees.  There is still a lot to learn but little by little we are gaining an understanding...Bees are amazing, they just know what to do.  They don't need us that's for sure.

I did another hive inspection today.  We've done 3 so far, and the 2nd one our experienced cousin came over and walked us through it.  basically we are looking for signs of the queen or in our case the queen herself because she is marked and is easy to spot.  They are beginning to build comb which we can clearly see, and we also look for workers to come back to their hive with bright yellow on their back legs, which is pollen.  That's a great sign as well.  During hive inspections you should also look for eggs within the cells of the comb.  I could not tell for sure that I saw that, but the cells were very crowded with busy bees.  Hopefully Queen is laying eggs, I want to check again for that in a couple days.  Some of the cells appeared to have honey in them already. 
The boys have not gotten stung yet, I am surprised.  They go right up to the hive and while I'm doing hive inspections in my 'space suit' they are right beside me with no protection other then a ball cap, if that. 

Look close in the mid-right area and see a bee with pollen in her 'saddle bags".  A cool sight
Our queen is marked with a bright green dot.  That was worth the extra 3 dollars :)
Building their comb

Another new thing from here is the birth of 11 baby bunnies, to ONE momma!  She's a new momma, and is still on the small side, so for her to have 11 at one time, and 4 days later they are all still surviving, is a miracle!  
Bunny mom of the year: Corn (yep, Ben named her Corn)
I noticed right away, even before knowing how many were in there, that the bunnies were extra small.  They are still very small, but are starting to get fur and are very spunky.  I hope they all make it!

On to the greenhouse.  The produce seems to be growing slowly, but nothing has died yet so that's worth mentioning.  We have our 2 main systems maxed out with lettuces, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  Our 3rd system will get set up this week with Ever bearing strawberries.
Cucumbers in the bucket system - the white string hanging at the sides of each bucket are for the plants to climb and we'll clip them up as they grow.

And if you are still with me, lastly i'll mention our chickens.  We have 10 layers that are close to one year old.  They lay for us faithfully, but they also eat their own eggs faithfully, so we started checking several times a day for eggs to give them less time to peck and eat their eggs. 
They love to finally have green grass!!
Next Tuesday we pick up 25 chicks, "fryers", that we will raise for 7-8 weeks and butcher.  We've never done this many before but we did butcher a handful of chickens last year, so at least we have experience with the butchering.

No pictures of the cats but we do have one that follows us around.  The rest are smarter and kind-of do their own thing.

This is much better then being couped up in the house all winter!  So thankful for spring, but rainy days here and there are welcome too.

Friday, April 11, 2014

DIY Citrus Vinegar Cleaner

I'm really liking this easy, cheap, and effective homemade cleaner.  I started making and using this about 6 months ago.  I use it for basically everything, even for cleaning up the throw-up I talked about in the last post.  It's a great all-purpose cleaner.

Distilled White Vinegar
Citrus peels of 4-5 fruits - lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges
Lemon or other citrus essential oil (optional)

* Using a 1 Quart glass jar, place peels of the citrus fruits into the jar.
* Pour white vinegar over the peels until jar is full.
* Cover tightly and let sit for at least 2 weeks, shaking every few days just to mix it all up.
* Strain the liquid and store the concentrate in a tightly covered jar for up to 1 year.

Mix 1 part liquid concentrate with 2 parts water.  Mix in 2-4 drops of essential oil (or more).  Use for general cleaning.  Avoid on special surfaces such as granite.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Birthdays and bees

Birthday festivities are in the books, i think the twins were a little depressed this morning.  They had a great weekend, always fun when a birthday falls on the weekend.  instead of going to school on their birthday they slept in, went out to eat, and had friends over.
Sometimes i wish the twins and Clay's birthdays were more spread out, but then i remember i have 4 kiddos and only need to do 2 parties per year.  That's a pretty good deal!
Lego theme- Saturday night's party...

So goofy:

3 friends came over yesterday, what a gorgeous day it was!!

Clay's real birthday is Wednesday and he's taking cupcakes into preschool for snack.  In the afternoon he gets to play drums on a real drumset.  That's all that boy needs.  Clay is almost the same age that Adam was when Clay was born!!

And the bees.....Saturday afternoon Ben and I drove 1.5 hours away to pick up our few thousand friends.  I was impressed with the way Ben handled the bees.  He went right up to them and watched the demonstration, he could pick out the drones (male) and play with them, the males don't sting.  Actually none of the boys are afraid to hang around the bees.  They aren't in the business of stinging.  I got stung once while transferring them from the box to our hives but that was my rookie mistake.

Sunday with the warm sunshine, they were out quite a bit.  Today is raining and they will stay in their hive.  We are supposed to check in on them on Wed and release the Queen in with the rest of the bees.  She is still in a small cage within the hive, getting used to the new home.  Her job is to lay eggs.  We'll have to check in regularly to see if the Queen is alive.  We don't have to find her, but find proof that she is there, by looking for eggs in the comb.

This week i'll be catching up on things.  The garage still has remaining hive parts scattered throughout it, and i still have barf in my car from Saturday's car sickness victim.  So yeah....time to catch up.  

Friday, April 4, 2014

I'm so glad April is here!  This winter was one of those "I don't even want to talk about it" winters.  Let's forget it and move on!  One good thing though, with all the boy's snow days, (9) their last day was to be around June 16th.  But they moved it to June 6th!  They counted hours instead of days.  Which makes me wonder....why don't they always count hours instead of days,?? snow days or not!  

I like to pull April fools food tricks on the boys.  They aren't wild about Rod and I's latest love of sushi.  So I tried to pull a sushi trick on them.  I had them for a few seconds....
They were relieved when they found out it's rice krispy treats, fruit by the foot, and gummy worms.  All sorts of crap i never give them!

We finally got their Christmas gift set up, and they are loving basketball.  It usually ends up in fighting over who is better or throwing balls at each other, but this particular time they played nicely for quite sometime, so i grabbed a pic.

We had a wonderful visit from Krista recently, always a fun time!  

We are getting bees tomorrow!  Like thousands, i'm not even sure how many.  I've been spending the week priming and painting the hives, a little tedious with some of the smaller spaces.  After i was almost finished Rod noticed i was using interior paint and it won't work.  So i get to redo it all, because i have time to redo things like that (ha).

I am so enjoying the Beth Moore study on Thurs mornings.  Her videos keep getting better each week!  James is a convicting book by just reading through, but when you do an in depth study on   I've been placed in a wonderful small group, i'm learning lots through our discussion time.

Well i have 3 boys with birthday parties this weekend, and i have one more lego cake to decorate, bee hives to paint, and oh yes we're having a square dance shin-dig here tonight so i might want to get ready for that as well.  I love April!!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

I wasn't going to do anything Easter related with the boys until after the 3 birthdays, (B&B April 6 and Clay April 9).  But with the rainy day, i needed something to break up the rowdy indoor play, if ya know what i mean.  We've never done these Ressurection Gardens before, and they really enjoyed it.  They were able to do it themselves- find the sticks and make the crosses, and plant the grass seed.  It's a wonderful visual to look at for the next few weeks.  It'll look so cool after the grass starts to grow.  I will resist the temptation to water their grass, that's their job!

It's pretty simple to make and we had all the items onhand which made it very nice.
Items needed:
pie plate
small clay pot
small stones
bigger stone
sticks to make crosses
grass seed

The boys added strips of tissue for inside the tomb, i was proud of that.

Start by laying the clay pot down in the middle of the pie plate.

spread soil over the top, back, and sides of the clay pot.

place small stones in front of the tomb

gather sticks and hot glue them for the crosses

find a rock for the entrance of the tomb

plant and water grass

add your own touches!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Greenhouse in the making

It all began nearly a year and a half ago.  Rod found this greenhouse listed on Craigslist:
Right at that time we were learning about the method of Hydroponics, and enjoying produce from Esbanshades Greenhouse, where they grow hydroponic veggies year round. (click for a quick description of hydroponics).  Rod looked into this listed greenhouse, did a little wheeling and dealing and before we knew it we were the owners of it.

I was not thrilled at first.  "I don't need one more thing to do around here" may or may not have been said.

But, as things slowly progressed, (and i mean slowly) the idea grew on me and i became excited.  I realized this is something we can do together and involve the boys in too.  We aren't totally sure where all this will take us.  But for now, we are doing our research, setting up our homemade systems and will hopefully will learn how to do this successfully through experience.  It has taken much longer then expected to get the greenhouse assembled, but we can see it was a blessing as we weren't ready a year ago.  We've had lots of time to watch youtube vidoes on others people's experiences!

Here's a look at the progression of the structure:

This drove me nuts all last summer!  
Ah that's better
Starting getting it assembled in December

Almost complete March 2014

Rod made our 2 main systems.  The "Bucket system" will hold our tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, and cucumbers.  We will have string and clips hanging above these buckets, so each plant can grow up and stay up.  The resevoir tank is buried underneath the ground and will flush water through each bucket 3 times a day.  The blue buckets will be filled with Perlite and the plant will be transplanted in the Perlite.  That's it.
Our trough system will hold lettuces (kale, buttercrunch, swiss chard, spring mix), herbs, flowers, and sprouts.
The troughs will be level full of water and each plant will be placed in the black pot and will sit down in the water.  We have 9 of these tables, 12 plants per table.
I started these indoors, (this is kale) and soon it'll be ready to transfer to the above pot in the greenhouse.  it will stay in there until ready to harvest.  The seeds were started in something called rockwool (also called mineral wool), as you see here.  Other then for hydroponics, rock wool is used as a form of insulation in buildings.  The plants will stay in the rock wool even after harvest.  It holds it all together, and the roots grow in and around the rock wool.

Making stuff
burying the resevoir tank (or giant rubbermaid container).

We have room to do 2 rows of the buckets, if we want to at some point. 
Yes he's letting me paint the tables orange :)  

this is my favorite part so far about having a was 40 degrees and party cloudy outside, but inside......
It got up to 100 that day, and the fans kicked on..

It's tricky but not impossible to do root vegetables using the hydroponic method, ( root veggies meaning ones that grow underground), like radishes, onions, beets, carrots, potatoes.  So for now we aren't "going there".  I've requested a little square soil garden in the corner of the greenhouse, that i can try out my root vegetables inside during the off season.

We will have a 3rd system not pictured which will hold all-bearing strawberries.  It's all made of PVC pipe and will lay horizonal.  It'll have the 'flush' method like the bucket system.  There are many varieties of systems out there, with the same general concept.

We plan on messing up a lot in the beginning.  With it being soil-less, we'll need to add nutrients to the water, and each vegetable will need specific nutrients and quantities.

We hope to do this year round, with the exception of January and February where we will take off.  We don't want to use the heat more then we have to, so it makes sense to pause over those months.

Rod has been working hard!  But he doesn't consider it work, which is why we were out there most of the day Sunday setting up the systems :)  We're still waiting for 2 glass panes to be installed, after that we will put our plants in and get started.

Well there is my attempt at explaining to you something i'm still learning about, hopefully it made partial sense.  Will keep you posted with pictures once it's in full swing!   Also you'd be welcome to stop by and see for yourself!