Checking back in…

Well I noticed it's been close to two years since we have posted anything to the blog. What happened to us? Well for one the act of creating posts and making long write ups was taking up too much time. So expect future post to contain more photos and less words.

Kallie and I are also very excited to announce that Homesteading for Two is really Homesteading for Three! That's right, Kallie gave birth to our son (first child) in February. It's been an exciting adventure. We are learning as we go, both on how to raise a child and how to be parents. Having a baby has slowed down many of our projects, but certainly has not prevented us from doing what we love.

So standby for updates to follow…

Homemade Orange Juice

Recently we bought a 40 pound box of oranges from Bountiful Baskets. We decided to turn all these oranges into our own juice. It was not a hard process but it did take a little bit of time. We sat down in front of the TV, put on a good show, and whipped out the knifes and oranges. Peel, peel, and peel some more. Then we ran the oranges through a juicer and skimmed off the foam. Lastly we put the juice in jars and froze them. When we use the juice, we have to add sugar and water it down.

 

Bees: Growing Hives

 

 

It has been almost two months since we have captured our first swarm, a month and a half since we captured our second, and a week since we installed a nuc into our third hive. So here is a quick update with some pictures.

We have been opening these hives on average every 5-7 days since we wanted to keep a close eye on them and see how they are progressing. This is our first time owning bees so we had no idea what to expect and what kind of progress bees were capable of making. It took them a little longer to grow the hive than I would have thought. The last time I inspected the hives, the first swarm had built up about 75% of the frames with comb so I went ahead and added another deep hive box on top to give them more room to expanded. The second swarm hive had only built up 60% of the frames so they will probably take another week or two until they are ready for another box.

Beekeepers that we have talked to have always said to start off with two hives so you can compare them to better understand how they are doing. That advice couldn’t be more true! Both of our hives seem healthy, however hive one consumes about 30% less sugar water (we feed them through an entrance feeder) and seems to be storing their sugar water. Hive number two consumes much more than one and stores almost none of it. It is strange to me how two different hives can be so different.

The brood patterns in both hives look great. Hive number two seems to have a few more drone cells than hive one and they also made a few queen cells but there was not any larvae in them. On the first inspection of the second hive we didn’t find the queen, but on the next inspection we did and we marked her.

I hope to inspect all hives again this weekend including the one with the nuc. That would be two weeks after the last inspection giving them plenty of time to expand. The last two times I inspected my hives I did it in shorts and a t-shirt without any protective gear, however since the heat has started kicking in the girls have started getting more feisty. It looks like I will actually have to suit up for this next inspection.

The girls have been doing some strange things lately. Several days ago I had tons of bees flying around in front of the hives, on the landing board, crowding the entrance, and covering the outside of the screened bottom. I thought maybe there was some robbing going on but I didn’t see any fighting. My best theory is that the hives recently experienced a huge surge in growth from newly hatched brood, and since the weather has been bad those new bees hadn’t had the chance to do their orientation flights. The weather was good on this day and they were just out in mass conducting orientation flights. This is my best theory at least.

-Dale

Quick Gardening Update

Well it sure has been awhile since we last posted. We have just been busy with life I guess. The garden and all the rest of the plants are doing well. The spinach and lettuce and both close to being able to pick. That is good because they will probably both die off soon due to the summer heat which is just now starting to set in. The potatoes are also doing great although I am not sure when we are suppose to harvest them.

Some of the plants, in particular the broccoli, have suffered damage from various small bugs. We are trying to grow without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, or essentially using organic methods. However the bugs still need addressing. I sprinkled the plants with some diatomaceous earth and that stopped the caterpillars in their tracks. Diatomaceous earth is a safe and natural way to treat for most insects. It is a finely powdered rock that feels like baby powder but under a microscope it has very sharp edges to it. When an insect crawls on it, the diatomaceous earth makes microscopic cuts in its skin and the insect will then die of dehydration. It is perfectly safe to humans so long as you don’t inhale it of eat it. All you have to do is wash the plant before you consume it to remove any left over powder.

Our apple trees are producing fruit that are growing rapidly but one of the trees has shed all of its young fruit. It may have experienced some sort of stress but seems to be doing well now. The garlic plants planted at the trees base are also growing very well and might be ready to harvest in another month or so. Some will certainly be ready sooner than others.

The squash, green beans, and corn have all grown to about a foot tall and then stopped. I believe the soil might be too packed or wet for these plants to really survive where they are at. The sunflower plants along the barn are growing well though.

Lastly, the grape vines are trellising up the fence by the bees and have numerous grapes on them that are still green. The raspberry bush has already given us a few tasty fruits to enjoy this summer.

Hope you enjoyed the update. Coming soon is a few posts on ham radio builds and an update on the bees.

-Dale

First Look at Bees

We opened the hive that we put the swarm of bees that we captured in. This was almost two weeks after we had captured them. The bees were rather docile and well behaved and were quite easy to work. That was nice since this was a learning experience for both Kallie and I.

First we smoked the hive through the bottom screen board and then lifted the top and blew a little smoke in there. Then we set to opening the hive. It was rather easy to open and remove frames. It seems our bees have been too busy building comb to worry about propolizing the hive together.

The main lesson we learned that we can share with you is once you spot the queen, never ever EVER move the frame she is on anywhere other than directly above the hive. Kallie spotted the queen and I quickly moved in to try and mark her back with a marker so that we could spot her more easily later on. My marking job was less than stellar and I marked more of her wings than her back. She got upset and let go of the frame and fell, right onto the ground at our feet. WE DROPPED THE QUEEN ON THE GROUND AND COULDN’T FIND HER!!! Kallie eventually found her and after a few attempts was able to pick her up and put her back in the hive, but that was scary.  So always keep the frame with the queen above the hive in case she wants to fall off.

Check out the comments in the pictures below to understand what is going on. Lastly, we got a call of another swarm the same day and went to go capture it. The swarm was huge and very easy to  capture. We will open both hives again in about two weeks to check on them again. I suspect that we will have to add another deep framed box on top of our first hive in a few weeks, hopefully.

 

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The top of this photo shows capped sugar water that the bees are saving as food for later. The dark orange looking stuff in some of the cells is pollen the bees are saving to feed to the brood (babies). The white C shaped things in some of the cells are the baby larvae that in another 1-2 weeks will be new bees.

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The top half is capped sugar water and then lots of pollen in the middle.

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Bees are slowly drawing out the comb on a plastic foundation. 

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This was one of the outer frames. The bees naturally started on the wax foundation first but had no problem drawing comb out on the plastic foundation too.

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One of the wax foundation frames had big holes in it. Other beekeepers said they do this for two reasons. Small holes are shortcuts through the hive. Large ones like this are the bees stealing wax to use build comb in other parts of the hive.  Either way it is not harmful.

DIY Jewelry Organizer Update!

Hi everyone! I wanted to take a moment to let you know that I finally made the inserts for my jewelry closet.

Of course, I had to draw my plans up first. I couldn’t just start sewing away without any plan in mind. I ALWAYS advise you to do this if you think you have an idea in mind, because sometimes your idea won’t fit exactly, or work like you need it to. So I took my piece of paper and started drawing what I thought I wanted. This image below is my third attempt because the first two weren’t going to work.

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So as you see above, I measured out each insert and each pocket so I would know what size to sew everything to. The little rectangles are place holders for Command hooks.

I used clear vinyl for the pockets and black binding (1/4″) to edge everything so I wouldn’t have to worry about raw edges on anything. I measured out each pocket and made a tiny mark with a Frixion Pen (the marks from this pen iron right off) and stitched a straight line to divide the vinyl up. I then made a button hole stitch on the top of each panel to hang from a hook, as you can see at the top of the panels below. Once the panels were made, I hung them up and then proceeded to hang the hooks. I measured out where they needed to be placed and staggered them mainly for visual interest.

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What do you think? I think I need to ask for more bracelets and rings from Dale for our anniversary/birthday/Christmas!

 

To see how we built this box, go to https://homesteadingfortwo.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/hidden-jewelry-box-mirror/

Swarm of Bees

We finally got a call about a swarm of bees near us and we went to go pick them up. We were both so excited because we have been wanting bees for awhile and the nuc we ordered won’t be in until late May.

The call came in around 5pm and when we arrived I was surprised that I actually knew the guy. It was a gentleman that I occasionally work with and he is a fellow beekeeper, although he had never mentioned it before. His hive swarmed and landed in a tree about 10 feet up. It wasn’t a large swarm but it certainly was easy to get. He simply wanted to give others just starting out in the area a chance to catch some bees. Below is us catching the bees and putting them in our hive. I had previously nailed the bottom board to the hive box so I couldn’t shift on us and then we made sure to close the opening and duct tape the lid on so we wouldn’t lose bees on the way home.

To catch them I just sprayed them with sugar water so they couldn’t fly very easily and then used a ladder and some clippers to clip the branch off that they were attached to. Kallie placed the branch in the box and we put the lid on. We had to remove the branch once we got home and add more frames. Half of the frames in the hive are wax foundation and the other half are plastic because I want to see which they elect to build on first. My bet is the wax ones.

We are going to open the hive up in about a week to see how far they have built, but so far it has been several days and they have stuck around. They have been doing orientation flights some, but lately it has been raining a lot. We did install an entrance feeder with some sugar water to get them started.

Also, below is a picture of Rusty trying to drag a large tree limb and our peach tree which was in bloom about two weeks ago.

Garden Planting

Kallie and I wanted to plant a little vegetable garden this year next to the chicken yard so we can grow some of our own veggies. Several months ago we made the raised planter beds that we are using and Kallie wrote how to build those in this post here. To start off we had several problems to overcome. The first was how to keep the chickens confined to their yard so they can’t eat all our veggies. To accomplish that task we removed the old cattle fencing that has too large of holes in it to keep the chickens in and replaced it with some old chain-link we had laying around. Next we had to find some good dirt to plant our veggies in since we are lacking any place to dig up dirt on our own property. We had to make a trip into the city and bought several yards of a compost, manure, and topsoil mixture. The dirt is rich in organic materials so our plants ought to grow well in it.

First we laid down several layers of newspaper to act as a weed barrier. Then we mixed in the dirt, chicken manure, and well composted horse manure in a 2:1:1 mixture. Just make sure the horse manure has been composted for about a year otherwise it will kill your plants.

After filling up the boxes and mixing the soil and manure together very well, we watered the soil in to allow it to compact a little. Then we planted our seeds.

As you can see, we planted several different veggies including lettuce, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, onions, carrots,and jalepenoes. To the right of the boxes we planted tomatoes and along the back fence we planted potatoes.

Below is some asparagus we have growing close to our garden area that the previous owner planted. It is starting to sprout up all over the place.

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In another location on the property we planted a variety of sunflower seeds for Kallie and some heirloom sweet corn. This area of the property has good fertile dirt that stays moist most of the year. The only problem is that means the grass also grows nice and thick here. Below is me cutting and turning the grass over for planting.

We ended up just turning the grass over and planting straight into the dirt on the back side. I figure the corn should grow up quickly and be taller than the grass so that shouldn’t matter.

Close by we took a cattle fence panel and staked it into the ground. Then we planted squash and green beans next to it so that they will have something to grow up on.

In another place we made some small mounds and planted some watermelon seeds and some grape vines along with a raspberries vine.

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And lastly is a picture of one of the pear trees we planted earlier this year with some new leaves.

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All in all we got a ton of plants in the ground. Now here is to hoping they all come up. At the end of the day we sat down and held each others dirty hands and got to look out at this.

Homemade Chicken Stock

What is the difference between stock and broth? Stock tends to be made more from bones versus broth that is made from just meat. Therefore stock has a richer taste from the gelatin in the bones.

If you read our post about butchering chickens, then you know we had some leftover carcasses that didn’t really have any usable meat left on them but we didn’t want to just throw them away because that would be wasteful. So we stuck them in the refrigerator for a few days until we could get around to making some stock. Here is our little home brewed recipe that makes 6-8 quarts of delicious, healthy stock.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken Carcasses. We had five plus three necks.
  • Celery bunch
  • One onion (yellow or white)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 3 or 4 Carrots
  • 20-30 Parsley sprigs
  • 2 Bay Leaves

To start, get a very large pot (20+ quart) and add your chicken bits. Brown them a little bit over medium heat, just make sure not to burn them. After about 5 minutes, add enough water to fill the pot up to halfway and start it simmering.

Next, quarter the onions and chop the carrots and add them to the pot. Cut the root end off of the celery and add the rest including the leaves. Add the parsley and bay leaves. Then add more water until the pot is a little over 3/4 full. Simmer for 4-6 hours.

Once the mixture has a nice strong yellow appearance, usually after 3-4 hours of simmering, taste it and add salt and pepper to suit your taste. Continue to simmer until the meat and cartilage has broken down. The bones will be easy to break apart with a spoon.

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Once you are satisfied with the taste, place a mesh colander or cheese cloth over another large pot or bowl. Strain the stock and return to heat.

Prepare your canning supplies. Alternately you can freeze your stock and it should last for a couple of months. If desired, you can thin your stock with more water in order to make more but I wouldn’t add more than 1/3 of what is already there. If you do add water at this point, bring the whole mixture back to a boil before proceeding.

Now just add your stock into your jars, seal, and put in the pressure canner. Click here for canning times from the NCHFP. Now you have some fresh homemade chicken stock that is healthier and has less sodium than store bought stuff. Enjoy.

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-Dale

Chickens – Week 30

It finally happened! We’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting for Lucy to lay, and finally, a few days ago, LUCY LAID! I’ve been waiting since the day we ordered these babies online for her wonderful blue or green eggs, hoping that they would be colorful, and that we didn’t get the one Easter Egger that laid brown eggs.

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Odd thing is, they are HUGE! Typically when hens first start laying, their eggs are small and progressively get bigger and harder as they get use to the laying process, but Lucy’s eggs started out double the size of others firsts.

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Starting at Lucy’s egg working clockwise: Blue Andalusian egg, Speckled Sussex egg, another Blue And. egg, and a Chochin egg.

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I found these in the coop this morning

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Currently, we have 7 out of 10 hens laying. We’ve decided to start marking the bottom of the eggs each week so we can keep track of how old each egg is. This week it’s purple, so you can see some eggs have purple dots on their bottom.

Lately, we have been having issue with our Blue And. rooster. He’s been a big ole’ meany. Anytime we go down to the chicken yard, he thinks we are a threat. He’s already gotten me once, giving me bruises and cutting my hand. Luckily I was wearing jeans and boots or else he would have gotten me worse. We talked about things we could do to correct this behavior, but seeing that he is a chicken and lacks whatever it is that makes animals trainable, we are unsure if this behavior can ever be modified. We shall see.