After checking our hives, We were so happy to find that 4 of our 7 producing hives this year needed an additional honey collecting box, called a "super " added. Should get more honey this year than we have in the last few years, which is wonderful! We always have a list of customers wanting it and it will be nice to fill those orders and still have a good amount for the Markets. Besides the honey...it is great that our hives are looking so strong and healthy. The latest "green" way to monitor the mites that can kill your bees are the green drone frames. We have put one in each hive, the green drone frames are sized to attract the workers to build drone comb on them. When the Queen lays the drone eggs there, the mites are drawn to the drone larvae for some reason. We can check those frames for mites and if we find any, destroy them. We haven't found any yet...hope our luck continues.
Other farm news...the adult chickens are laying well, still have a few broody hens, but hopefully they will snap out of it soon, and start laying again. :) Our two sets of chicks are growing fast and enjoying the new brooding coop. We hope to finish the outside fencing this weekend so they can get outside and enjoy the grass. The flowers and produce are really growing now with it getting warmer. I need to start more seeds and fertilize everything. Always mowing and weeding to be done....
I saw newly born bees emerging! I have been working with a Master Beekeeper lately trying to better my skills. He is teaching me some new tricks that are making me a better Beekeeper, enabling me to better help my hives when they are in trouble. We were working on a hive the other day...I was holding a frame full of brood (baby bees) and honey in front of my face...when all of a sudden little heads were emerging as the new bees chewed their way out of their cells. I have never seen that before! I felt like crying...it was so beautiful! I am being more hands-on this year than ever before, in my attempt to know my hives better. I have seen and learned so much in 2014 and it is only half over! :)
I was sick earlier in the week...have really gotten behind...the whole property needs mowing...but, heading out to work on Honeybee hives. Gotta have priorities! :)
As you can see in the pictures, the brooding coop fence is adjacent to the big coops fence. We hope they will be able to visit through the fence as the chicks grow and that will lead to a quicker acceptance of the new chicks when they are ready to move into the big coop. We hope to add electricity later this summer to the brooding coop so we can run the heat lamps to house new born chicks there later this fall. We also hope to run water to the area too. Would help a lot! Our new layers are only 3 weeks old now, I have attached a pic...but we hope to put them in the second area of the brooding coop next week. There is a chicken wire-removable wall between the two areas with their own doors and lots of ventilation. Each room will have it's own roost, food and water. Later we will add shelves for incubators and supplies and will have removable nesting boxes in case they are needed for a broody hen. A broody hen is one that is determined to raise chicks. I have attached a picture of a broody hen...you can see it in her face, can't you! We aren't prepared to raise chicks right now, so we are trying to discourage her, but will be welcoming broody hens in the future.
The brooding coop is ready and not a day too early. We immediately moved the Cornish Rocks in. They are only 4 weeks old, but have already outgrown their little chick enclosure, which had to be cleaned...the most disgusting job ever! They eat and poop a lot! We will finish the brooding coop yard this weekend...then they will be able to get out and move around more. When I cleaned their new home and gave them fresh water last night, they were enjoying their new roosts. I have posted pictures below. Always lots to do. I weeded part of the cut flower area last night and fed the veggie seedlings in the hoophouse some fish fertilizer. Need to plant, plant, plant! We remembered why it is no fun working in the evening....the mosquitos were fierce!
To Bring You Up to Date:
We moved to Mathews County, Virginia in 1997. Working steadily on our simple, old 1902 farmhouse, we always strived to do more with our property. Finally, after years of work with a goal, we are enjoying the life we always wanted on our mini-farm. We are still learning as we go, but gaining in knowledge every day! Lots of successes...lots of failures...but lots of satisfaction too! We have fenced in an acre for our two Great Pyrenees, Jack and Jill, with our chicken coop and gardens in the middle. With the dogs protecting the area from predators and hungry deer, we feel very secure in our plans to raise chickens and farm.
We currently have 25 Hens and two Roosters in the big coop. They are Buff Orpingtons and Rhode Island Reds. Great egg and meat birds. We are feeding them natural greens that we grow ourselves and organic, soy free feed and scratch that we buy from Countryside Organics in Waynesboro, Virginia. They are free to run and fly and live a great chicken life. We are selling the eggs and eating healthy meat. In April 2014, we got 20 Rhode Island Red Hens and 5 Black Austrolorp Hens. The Black Austrolorps are known to be very broody Hens. We hope to raise our own chicks next spring. We also got 20 Cornish Cross that are quick growing meat birds. We just finished a brooding coop with it’s own small yard for raising chicks of all kinds. The chicks will enjoy being able to get outside in the fresh air after they are 4 weeks old.
We got two new Honeybee hives this past April. They are Russian Bees… our other bees are Italian. The Russians are supposed to be more hardy. We have 9 hives now, two on our property, the others scattered around Mathews and Gloucester Counties. All 7 of the older hives should produce honey this year. We have been beekeepers for over 10 years now. We are natural beekeepers, using natural ways to keep our hives healthy. When we first started keeping bees, they were so strong. They seem so fragile now, needing a lot more help to survive than they used to require. We don't get as much honey either, but cherish every jar, it is in high demand. Honey is a perfect food. We take the best care possible of our bees. The honey flow started in mid April and will last until mid June. We will extract this years honey in mid July.
I have been raising natural grown cut flowers and herbs the last 3 years too and am finally getting a grasp on how to do it correctly. It has been a learning process for sure! Doing things naturally is more work and takes more time, but we wouldn't consider doing anything different. So...you can see, we have a lot to do around here. *Life Close to Nature*...a little too close sometimes, especially when bees get into your bee suit! ... but it’s always worth the effort! Our motto is "Never give up...Never surrender!" We hope you enjoy our Farm Journals as we continue our adventure.
A Farm Blog...raw and real!
Our little farm IS "Life Close to Nature". Using Herbs, Young Living Essential Oils, Livestock Guardian Dogs, Poultry, self-sustaining gardens and Solar Power...we strive to live simply and naturally as Senior Homesteaders. Proving you don't have to be a "Young'un" to live life to it's fullest! Not always easy or pretty...it is all good! Never give up, never surrender, is our daily battle cry! Working hard and ever learning...we somehow make it all work on very little money, a few tears and never enough sleep!
Life is good,..Life is natural!
1997 CA&J Farm
Mathews County, Virginia