Sunday, July 22, 2012


Whenever I hear the term swarm it strikes fear in me, but now only for a second. Swarms of bees are actually just the way that bee hives reproduce. The queen lays a ton of eggs every day, and some of the bees are in charge of their care. These bees keep the eggs warm, feed them when they hatch, and generally do any tasks required to care for the young. They also will turn one of those eggs into a queen if theirs leaves. Some bees also forage. When the hive wants to reproduce the queen will take a large percentage of bees (mostly foragers) and leave to find a new home. First they gorge themselves on honey. That honey may be the only thing they eat in days. Then the group flies out with the queen to find a new home. They all settle somewhere like a tree branch and send out scouts to look for a new home. This is fascinating. Look up 'Honeybee Democracy' on YouTube or the book with that title if how they accomplish this interests you. Utterly fascinating.

What does all this have to do with an average person in real life? Well, you may see this phenominmom in real life if you are lucky. With more people getting into the hobby there are more swarms.

Things you really should know about swarms:

1 - Because they are so full of honey and have no home to protect the bees are generally very docile.

2 - Like you and I bees become more 'testy' as they become hungrier. Considering that they may go days without a meal, it's
Important to stay away until you know it's safe.

3 - A swarm can be on a branch or similar place for days before finding a suitable place to live.

4 - At first you will see a few bees, and then you will see thousands as they descend to cluster together. Whatever you are doing, stop, and enjoy something you may never see again. This is a good time to search your county (via google) for beekeepers in your area.

5 - It takes anywhere from hours to 3 days to find that perfect new home and the bees will stay clustered in the mean time.

6 - Call a beekeeper early on. It takes time to get ready and get our gear ready. Call me if you can't find a number. I'll point you in the right direction.

Here is a picture of the monster size swarm I was lucky enough to capture a few days ago.

Feel free to ask any questions.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Current happenings on the farm

After being on vacation for the last week of June, I have finally recovered enough to post. Nothing really monumental is happening, but here goes....

First news is....I bought a new goat. Her name is Daisy and she is a Boer/Saanen cross. Now you might think "don't they already have enough goats?" and the answer is YES. However....we determined that Dashka (the Lamancha/Nubian cross with attitude) gives bad milk. She has poisoned her milk with her bad attitude. At first I thought it was colostrum making it taste bad but a month later it tasted nasty still. Then I thought maybe it was all the new spring grass. I tried feeding her supplemental hay and extra grain. That did nothing for the taste. Well just after getting back from vacation, I began milking Jilly-Boo, my Oberhasli yearling. One taste of her milk made me realize that Dashka just has bad milk. Since Jill's mom Rosie didn't get knocked up this year and isn't in milk, that put me in the market for a new doe. The reasons I chose Daisy amongst all the does on craigslist are:
1. She came from a farm that regularly tests for CAE.
2. She was bottle fed and friendly.
3. She comes from a line of ribbon winning Saanens.
4. She had kids in April so she is in milk.
5. My son tasted her milk before we bought her and declared it "the best milk in the world".
Things I've learned since bringing her home:
1. Boer's are meat goats and very strong and Daisy got that trait.
2. Her milk is very high in butterfat. I have an inch of cream on her milk within a week, unlike the others that it takes two weeks.
3. She is very easy to milk - her orifice size (the size of the hole the milk comes out) is great and she milks out easily and quickly.
4. She thinks she's a person.
5. She is very vocal when she sees us because she thinks she's a person.
6. She uses her Boer strength to push out the stall door when I open it because she thinks she's a person.
7. It hurts when she steps on your foot because she's so heavy.

Other things that are happening....
The garden has beets, snap peas, carrots and swiss chard ready for harvest. The lettuce is starting to bolt so it's getting bitter. The ying/yang beans are begining to get little tiny beans on them and the Blue Wonder pole beans are climbing ever upwards. The broccoli and cauliflower decided to "flower" too young which makes them competely useless. Can't have a nice big head of cauliflower on a tiny little body. So those two crops are a bust this year, sadly. The raspberries are ripening and the tayberry and marionberry aren't far behind.

We got the turkeys out of the brooder box finally and into an outdoor pen. They look a little confused since it's the first time they've ever been outside.

A relative came who lives down the road came over and mowed our fields. I am hopeful that we will have nice pasture going into the fall instead of stands of 8 foot tall dead grass. Hooray!

Things I am behind on...
Weeding the flower beds and garden. Cleaning the kitchen. Folding the laundry. Sweeping the floors. Anyone know a free housecleaner? The kids just don't do a throrough job.  Maybe if I paid them.....