Honey!

We harvested honey from our two hives yesterday! Let me just say, we harvested a lot more honey than we did last year. Granted, we did get to harvest from both hives this year instead of just one, but there was a huge difference in harvests. Now we realize just what a bad year it was for honey last year.

There is nothing quite like harvesting your own honey. Nothing.

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Capped (sealed) comb filled with honey.

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Before putting the frames into the extractor, we scrape the wax caps off of the comb to release the honey.

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Our small “economy” hand-crank extractor can spin two frames at a time. The extractor uses centrifugal force to pull the honey our of the comb, one side at a time. It takes about 1 minute of spinning per side to extract the honey, then the frames are taken out and flipped to extract the other side.

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It’s really hard not to lay under the flood gate to let the honey pour straight into your mouth. You know, like the drunkards in old cartoons. Really hard not to…

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An example of a full frame laying on top of an empty frame. (The empty frame appears white because the wax was built on a white plastic foundation.)

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Once all of the frames are extracted, we put them out near the hives so that the bees can clean any remaining honey off of the wax. Then we will use the extra wax for lotions and candles.

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Ready for the numbers?

Last year, August 2012, we harvested a total of: 11.14 pounds of honey.
This year, August 2013, we harvested a total of:

43.35 pounds (or 3.56 gallons) of honey

.

Yeah baby! We ran out of honey pretty quickly last year, so we plan to save as much as we possibly can this year. Only a few close friends and family will be purchasing honey this year. A few people have asked me why we don’t sell more honey. The answer is simple, we don’t produce that much and the honey that we do produce, we eat. We started this micro-farm for the very selfish reason of becoming self-reliant… not really to become a small business. So to put it plainly, we want to eat our honey.

Yosemite Rim Fire

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This map is from yesterday and the fire has grown since then. We are the red dot on the left. It looks like the fire is a little less than 10 miles away as of yesterday.

I’m not sure how publicized the Yosemite Rim Fire is, but we have been feeling the effects of it for the past week and now it is growing in size and speed. For anyone who doesn’t know, we live literally right outside of Yosemite National Park. The Rim Fire started out as about 1,000 acres and 5% contained last Thursday and has quickly grown to a current total acreage burned of 105,620 and is 2% contained. Not good guys. Not only that, but the wind is carrying the fire northwest…. right into East Sonora where we live. It’s hard to get an up to date map because it is spreading so quickly, but I would estimate about 10 miles between us and the Rim Fire in Stanislaus National Forest. Living in the mountains, 10 miles ain’t much.

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It is so smokey here that the county has actually issued a “poor air quality” notice. Children and people with lung or heart problems are supposed to stay inside. The sky is a strange orange-grey and I can barely see across the yard to the houses behind us.

The animals have been freaking out for a few days now. I can’t let the chickens out to free-range because they are scared out of their puny little minds and the instinct to flee is kicking in. The rabbits try at every opportunity to escape their cages and I worry that the smoke will affect my three pregnant doe rabbits negatively. I’m sure the smoke isn’t too good for our health either.

A few of the neighboring small towns are under an “advisory evacuation”– which really means that they won’t force you to leave, but you should. I think we are okay for now, but I will let you know if we have to evacuate. Let’s hope the hardworking firefighters get a handle on this fire before it gets too much closer.

Keep our little mountain community in your thoughts!

Sprouted Fodder Update

Sprouted barley fodder is, by far, the best thing that has ever happened to this tiny farm. The rabbits have absolutely flourished and the chickens have kept up in their egg production. But… you saw that ‘but’ coming didn’t you? But, fodder is really hard to properly sprout in the summer. It didn’t help that this year is the hottest and longest summer we have had in thirty years either. It is simply too hot for consistently sprouting grains in the volume that our animals consume on a daily basis. If we were using fodder as a treat and not as a dietary staple, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal, but we cannot afford to fall behind in feed-ready fodder due to warm temperatures. The point is, we can only do our very best, and at this time, we have to supplement our fodder with grains in the warm months.

So here is the plan:

— Winter and Spring Rabbit Feed —

  • 6% of total body weight in sprouted barley fodder for each; daily
  • 1/4 cup black oil sunflower seeds; daily or as eaten
  • free-choice hay; usually timothy or orchard grass
  • mineral salt block; available at all times
  • fresh water; available at all times

— Winter and Spring Chicken Feed —

  • 3-4% of total body weight in sprouted barley fodder for each; daily
  • free-choice oyster shell (or other calcium supplement); available at all times
  • appropriate kitchen and garden scraps
  • fresh water; available at all times

— Summer and Fall Rabbit Feed —

  • 1 cup of dry grain mix; for each rabbit, daily
  • fresh foraged weeds/greens
  • free-choice hay; usually timothy or orchard grass
  • mineral salt block; available at all times
  • fresh water; available at all times

— Summer and Fall Chicken Feed —

  • free-choice soaked barley
  • free-choice oyster shell (or other calcium supplement); available at all times
  • appropriate kitchen and garden scraps
  • fresh water; available at all times

My fancy pantsy “dry grain mix” will be purchased as separate grains and then mixed into a bulk feed to keep feeding time simple. I have already transitioned the rabbits to their Summer Feed and what made it especially easy on their sensitive stomachs was the fact that they eat all of these ingredients already. An easy way of thinking of it is that Winter and Spring Feed is wet, while Summer and Fall Feed is dry, but they are the same ingredients.

The “soaked barley” for the chickens will be 1-2 day soaked barley seed. This way, I won’t have to depend on the grain sprouting in temperatures too hot for consistent sprouting and I also won’t have to worry about mold.

— Dry Grain Mix for Rabbits :: Bulk Formula —

  • 50 lbs. of barley seed (rolled or whole is fine)
  • 50 lbs. of rolled oats (rolled is prefered, but use what you can find)
  • 25 lbs. of black oil sunflower seeds

Guest Post :: Living in the Round – We Love It

I’d like to give a big huge thank you to Erin Kelly of Blue Yurt Farms for today’s special guest post! While considering “living in the round”, Erin and I found each other online. I even bought her eBook on yurt living (geez… I need to do a review on that) which answered all the questions that had been bugging me. So this post is extra exciting for me since we have been following her blog for some time now. Please welcome Erin of Blue Yurt Farms!

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Living in the Round: We Love It

In the almost two years since we’ve moved into our yurt, and started a homestead, we’ve fielded just about every possible question about our home. From “do you have real floors, or just dirt?” to “so, that’s plastic around the whole thing?” and “isn’t that thing going to blow away?”, the questions range from educated and informed to laughably ridiculous.

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How has our decision to live in a 30 foot fabric yurt changed our life?
Well. We’ve been turned down from rescuing a dog because we live in a yurt. Home insurance agents laugh in our face when we ask about insuring our yurt. Our neighbors were convinced we wouldn’t make it through our first winter (we did), and told us so. Fitting furniture and appliances made for square homes into a round one has been interesting.

With the good comes the bad, as they say. And when you choose a non-conformist home, that is especially true.

Despite the struggles, we’ve enjoyed the flexibility and openness that comes with life in a yurt. We’ve met some amazing future yurt dwellers that got in touch with us via our blog. And, we’ve become far more in touch with the seasons and daily weather than ever before.

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Plus, thanks to our open floor plan, we’ve hosted beer tasting parties with 15 people comfortably, we’ve had guests stay overnight and not want to leave, we’ve rearranged our furniture more times than I can count…just because, and I’ve even taught a four person yoga class in the middle of our living room.

Our home has been subject to speculation and doubt, starting with the county inspector and our conservative neighbors (and our parents!) and continuing with a never-ending parade of rubber neckers (and we’re OFF the road). However, the inevitable response when someone walks into the yurt is…

“Wow. This is COOL!!”

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And, we agree, it really IS cool. We have a giant dome skylight that lets the sunlight in, and where you can view the weather changing. Snowflakes falling on the dome are mesmerizing. For exterior care, all it takes is a few wipes on the fabric walls with a damp cloth. The interior walls simply need a vacuum every once in awhile.

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The yurt stays toasty warm in the winter, thanks to our soapstone wood stove, which is our primary source of heat. In the summer, we throw the windows and french doors open and enjoy the cool mountain breeze that flows in. On the really warm days, we have window A/C units that keep it comfortable in here.

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Our yurt, with the full wraparound deck, brand new appliances, permits and all, cost us $56K. I tell people we did it the most expensive way possible, with all of the work handled by a contractor (rather than our own two hands) and store bought appliances. We had reasons for doing it that way, but know that is a HIGH price for a yurt…you can certainly build one for much less.

The great thing about yurts is their amazing flexibility. You can put one on top of another structure (basement, or first floor) and make a double decker. You can connect a few smaller yurts to one main hub yurt, so everyone has their own private space. You could use a yurt as a farm store, or a B&B yurt rental (which we’re considering!).

The possibilities are only limited by your imagination, and with the wide variety of yurt companies sprinkled around the country and rental yurts for you to test out, the real question is…

Why WOULDN’T you want a yurt?

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Erin Kelly lives in a big blue yurt on 22 acres with her husband, Mike, and a whole host of farm animals. They have a blog about their adventures living in the round at Blue Yurt Farms blog, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/blueyurtfarms.

Meet the New Chicks

This afternoon we got a phone call that the chicks we ordered were in. Cami and I immediately jumped in the car and drove into town to pick them up. A small chirping box is quite the sight to see and reminded me how exciting it is to have fresh chicks. Cami could care less about everyone else and wanted to open the box up and start playing with the baby chickens right there in the feed store.

I had requested eight Speckled Sussex, but I knew that the chances of me getting all eight was slim. Luckily I did end up with five Speckled Sussex chicks and then the feed store had set aside my second choice, Black Australorps, to fill in two more slots. Bringing my total to seven, I picked out a Black Sex Link as my eighth chick. If Trevor asks, I ordered eight chicks just incase one or two end up being a rooster (wink, wink). Chances are in my favor that none of them will be roosters, but nothing is 100% guaranteed in the world of animal husbandry.

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Two (2) Black Australorps

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Five (5) Speckled Sussex

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One (1) Black Sex Link

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So what does this mean for our current laying hens? It means “processing” time is marked on the calendar. We have very limited space around here and since chickens are at their peak of egg production at two-years old (which our laying hens are now), their egg laying numbers will slowly decrease after their molt this fall.

Sorry ladies, but we aren’t running a chicken retirement home around here! Say your goodbyes.