Greenhorn Excitement

I am just so excited about everything that’s going on here at the Frühlingskabine. Mostly the wonderful unexpected things.

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A year ago Trevor would have never guessed that he would ever be the caretaker of a beehive, not to mention two! It actually all started in the bookstore. I had seen Ashley English’s book on beekeeping online in a giveaway a few weeks prior and when I saw it in our local bookstore I suggested buying it. Trevor didn’t want to spend the twenty-something dollars on it, but I convinced him that if once he read it he still wasn’t interested, I would drop it. A month later we were ordering supplies online and looking for someone with bees to give away.

I have never known a beekeeper or even someone who is a friend of a beekeeper so it was fun to watch Trevor become enamored with the little winged ones. I also have never learned so much about an insect and it’s behaviors and culture as I have with the honey bee. Now I can make an educated guess as to the type of honey bee (Carneolan or Italian or Russian) just by looking at it. We both have grown by learning to care for an apiary.

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A year ago I would have never guessed that I would ever own rabbits! My brother and I had guinea pigs as kids and a family dog, but rabbits (and angoras especially) are a whole other animal. The idea of rabbits started when I was reading Jenna’s blog Cold Antler Farm and all about her flock of sheep. I didn’t particularly want sheep, but the idea of raising and harvesting my own wool seemed like something I wanted to try. I didn’t even really knit and I certainly had never operated a spinning wheel before! But, I wanted to try and if I’m not stubborn, I’m determined. Even once we made the move into the Frühlingskabine there was no way I would have room for sheep, but what else produces wool? Angora rabbits! Small, quiet, and discreet. Perfect.

I settled on French angoras after deciding that German angoras were too large and only “showable” in white and English angoras would be harder to groom and care for. We had to drive about 12-hours further to get them, but I know I made the right choice. I figured French angoras would be a manageable size yet big enough to produce a good amount of wool and if I had litters, I could sell them to local 4-H kids. Apparently I underestimated the demand for Frenchies as my upcoming litter with Clementine is all but sold. My waiting list actually has names on it! Five people for a total of six rabbits are already on hold. Craziness! This really just means I have a good excuse for my husband as to why I need to breed for more litters. I can’t wait to see what kind of babies show up in the nest box!

A year ago neither of us would have ever guessed that we would be holding our breath for baby rabbits, or taking phone calls from perfect strangers to talk about wool production, or that we would be saving our pennies for that beautiful hand-crank honey extractor, or crossing our fingers that that new hive of honey bees in the yard will call the Frühlingskabine home. We didn’t know how fun this would be. Or how exciting.

One Hive, Two Hive, Wood Hive, New Hive

You guessed it! We got a new hive of bees this morning! We were given a lead on a feral swarm of honey bees in the tree outside the Visitor’s Bureau in town last night. After a lot of back and forth between the beekeepers in the area, Trevor went out early this morning to get them down before the Visitor’s Bureau opened.

Having never “caught” a swarm of bees, Trevor expected it to be difficult. Instead, he hauled an 8 foot ladder downtown in our little sedan car and borrowed a trap box from a neighboring beekeeper. (Thank you Linden for also selling us a hand-built last minute hive body!) Trevor said all he did was climb up the ladder, cut off the small branch the bees were clustered on, shook them into the trap box, and closed the lid. Voila! Bees.

We are so excited to have another hive on the ol’ farm! It’s certainly an unexpected surprise. They may have arrived at just the right time of year since the flowers are really staring to bloom. It may even mean more honey for us if they stick around. Trevor is especially proud having caught his very first feral hive and relocated them with only one sting. Here’s to new beginnings!

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Look inside the trap box…

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Bees!

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Trevor situating the new hive body.

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Thank you again Linden for the beautiful new hive body!

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Just insert bees… carefully.

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Now the new bee hive is all hunkered down for our incoming storm.

Book Review :: The Backyard Homestead

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Book Review :: The Backyard Homestead
Edited by Carleen Madigan, Storey Publishing 2009

As a heavy reader, I bore quite easily if a non-fiction book doesn’t get to the point or is too “fluffed up” with redundant information. This is certainly not the case with The Backyard Homestead. So many relevant subjects are covered for the beginner, the experienced, and the space-challenged alike.

Honestly, I can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about this book. It starts out with visual examples of what you can do with one-tenth, one-quarter, or one-half of an acre. I loved being able to open up the first few pages to show my husband exactly what more we could be fitting in our small space here. The great illustrations and examples of seasonal garden layouts really help you to imagine your own well-manicured lot in bloom. All of the different subjects are delivered clearly and definitely and even include tips, tricks, and troubleshooting.

The Backyard Homestead covers everything I’ve been trying to look up on the Internet in one convenient spot with everything from building different types of cold frames to what should be pressure canned and what can go in the water bath canner. Crop rotation plans and planting guides for common garden fruits and veggies come in handy everywhere throughout the book.

This book also has a wonderful section on growing, harvesting, and cooking your own grains. I would have never known that rye is a grain that is not only easy to grow, but it loves poor soil (something we have in abundance) and it does not have hulls that need to be removed. There isn’t a homesteading book I’ve read yet that has a whole chapter on grain comparisons and growing your own for bread.

I love that it features the less obvious aspects of homesteading. Less popular subjects are given new life for backyard homesteader such as: rabbits (thank you), how to handle your fresh milk, meat cuts, sausage, smokers (I want to try to build one this summer), and the ins and outs of beekeeping. All the things we micro-farmers thought only the big guys could do now seem that much more attainable in small spaces. This book will be a treasured reference on my bookshelf for years to come.

Thumbs up!

Growing Baby

I was staying up late last night, way past the bed time of the stay-at-home parent of a toddler, and I found this picture from when we were building the “Deluxe Chicken Ark” last summer.

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Doesn’t Cami look tiny in that picture? She has like no hair! Yet she is using that screw driver like a pro…. at one. Geez. Now I feel like every other whiney parent that thinks their kid is growing up too fast.

I also found a post that listed what we wanted to get out of living here at the Frühlingskabine. Here’s a quote:
The Vision:
My vision is to be (somewhat) self-reliant or self-sustaining. I would like to wake up every morning to feed the chickens, collect eggs, water the garden, say hello to the dairy goats, feed the Angora rabbits, and harvest food from the garden for the days meals.

Can you believe we are already living that far into our initial vision? Well, minus the dairy goats. That’s okay though! I had forgotten for a moment that our life hasn’t always been full of fresh eggs, rabbit breeding, garden planning, and a big field to run in. Not that I don’t thank life every day for what we have! I guess I just got swept up in it for a minute. Farm love.

I was actually looking in the archives to see when our first post was. For blog birthday purposes of course. Our first post was “Chick Days” on July 5th of last year. Looking at all these pictures from last year made me miss the summer. The grass, the shade, the watermelons, barbecued pizzas, and that sound ice cubes make clinking inside your cold glass.

Don’t Google “rabbit ear tattoo”

A lot can be said for shopping local. Especially when raising “livestock”. When we first got our chickens I looked all over town for a feed store that had exactly what I wanted. Three feed stores in my area, including the new Tractor Supply Co., acted like they couldn’t be bothered with helping me. That was disappointing. As someone who was (and still am) just getting started in animal husbandry, I had questions about types of feed and housing… naturally. Only one feed store here helped me, Sonora Feed & Supply.

When I started up with rabbits I called a couple of the other feed stores to get prices on rabbit cages. “Rabbit cages? I don’t know if we can order those…” was the most common response and Tractor Supply plain ol’ lost my order. Twice. But one call to Sonora Feed and four wire rabbit cages were ordered.

I’ve learned my lesson and now I don’t bother going anywhere else. Part of it is familiarity with the whole three people who work there, part of it is that they are always happy to load the feed bags into my car, and part of it is that even my silly greenhorn orders are filled with a smile. This isn’t an advertisement (I have not been compensated in any way)… I just love my feed store. It makes me feel good to give my money Trevor’s money to a local hardworking establishment that actually values customers.

Anyway! I started this post wanting to tell you about the goodies I ordered from them and got swept up in feed store love. Onward!

I ordered another 30×36″ wire rabbit cage with the dropping pan to match the others. Remember last month we built the PVC cage racks that can hold up to six cages? Well this cage will be number five. I’m pacing myself.

I also ordered an ear tattoo clamp for our upcoming rabbit litters. It looks a little medieval, but I assure you it is quick and easy. I looked at rabbit tattoo pens online and convinced myself that there is no way a rabbit (or my handwriting) would allow an ear tattoo with a pen to be legible. I have tattoos. Big ones. And there is no way any animal would want to sit through that! Clamp it is!

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Above is an example of what it looks like. It has five spaces for interchangeable letters and numbers so that you can tattoo a name or a special code. Each number or letter is made up of a bunch of little pins that pierce the ear at the same time. Think letters/numbers made up of lots of little dots. I ordered one letter set (my feed store actually threw it in for free!) and two number sets and I have come up with my own numbering system.

F Frühlingskabine Rabbitry

2 for 2012

4 for the month. 1-7 will be January thru July. There will be no breeding August thru December because they are our hottest and coldest times of the year.

5 number born in the month with a max of 10.

D D for female/doe or B for male/buck.

So my example F245D would be Frühlingskabine Rabbitry’s Cheesypuff born 2012 in April. 5th born that month. Female (doe) rabbit. All of the vital information could be had just by looking at the rabbit’s ear. Neat-o huh?! And no, I don’t think anyone’s name will be “Cheesypuff”. But if I ever get an orange colored kit out of Dandelion, I plan to keep it and name it “Cheddar Bunny” because I love Annie’s cheddar bunny crackers like there’s no tomorrow.

Can you guess what F367B would mean?