Category Archives: Uncategorized

Worth All The Hard Work…2019

Time flies when you’re bustin’ ass. Bees fly and they make me smile. Flies have no place in my kitchen.

There…that’s my long awaited farm update. Well worth the year-long wait. So prophetic and poetic. Thank you. Goodnight!

Just kidding. There is more. I must still be a little delirious from this summer. It beat me down. I worked many days from dawn till dark. I was down to about 155 lb. in July. I literally worked my ass off I guess. Sara was scared.

I am all in on beekeeping. I turned the 7 colonies that survived last winter into 31 hives throughout the season. I have found much joy in splitting and creating new colonies and observing their progressions. There are many “bee experiments” happening in the bee yard right now. Every year, the lessons just blow me away.

My apologies for the lack of honey for sale. The spring rains were devastating to the spring honey flow. Because I split so many hives, I didn’t get the usual surplus of honey for the taking. I wanted to create as many healthy colonies as I could before winter. It is a numbers game. The average hive loss here in Ohio is around 55%. I was one of the lucky ones last year with an 80% survival rate- a trend I hope continues. Definitely a strange year for bees. Other beekeepers I have spoken to have said the same.

Aside from the bee mayhem, I still managed to do quite a bit of gardening, canning, and dehydrating(food and myself at times!) Hard work, but I love it. The chickens, ducks, cat, dog, and wife are all fine and spoiled. We are very blessed.

farm 3

Yep…Goldie is still alive. She will be 8 years old this spring. That is pretty damn old for a chicken! Any other farmer would’ve had her non-egg-laying ass in the soup pot by now, but I just can’t do it.

Anyways, hope everyone had a great year and happy holidays. Just stay away from political debates at the dinner table and you’ll be fine.

Protect the earth. She needs your help now more than ever.

Till next time.

Steve

2017 Season Review

DSCF6420

Farming is quite a roller coaster ride. Things change fast around here and you never know what my response may be if you ask me, “how’s it going on the farm?”

Our honey bee population has dwindled to one colony. The colony we do have appears to be strong and doing well. I am very thankful for this. Most of the other colonies were lost to…you guessed it- colony collapse disorder. A direct result of pesticides used by farmers. This is becoming a pattern that I do not care for. Next step is to have colonies at other locations and as many as possible. If these chemicals are killing the bees and other plants and insects, what do you think they’re doing to us?! If you or I were slowly poisoning someone, we would go to prison for a long time. Yet, big-farming chemical companies do this to us for profit all the time. Free from worry of prosecution and protected by law. I could go on and on about unjust laws and ways of this so-called civilization, but ya’ll know I don’t care much for typing or staring at a screen.DSCF6441          Workers so happy to be out of the hive on a warm winter day!

“What can I do about it?” you ask? It seems like a losing battle but it doesn’t have to be. Each and every person DOES make a difference. You can choose to not purchase gmo products. You can purchase from local growers. You can grow food yourself if you have the ambition. It does make a difference. Your body will thank you as well. Learn what is in your food. I dare you to type in the names of some of those ingredients you see on product labels that you have no idea how to pronounce. You will find that some of those long, crazy words actually mean things like “human hair” and “feathers” among many other non-food ingredients. Don’t believe me? Google them yourself sometime.

We lost a couple ducks in December, but I couldn’t stand to see our lonely boy so sad. So, I found him a girlfriend on craigslist. Her name is “Cheese.” It didn’t take Dotty long to call Cheese his girlfriend. Like….seconds we’re talking here. Instant love connection. Kinda like the first time I had bacon. We picked up four new chickens also. 2 more Barred Rocks and 2 Rhode Island Reds. Their introduction to our flock didn’t go so smooth. However, after I sent the main aggressor(one of our old hens) to chicken heaven, the rest of them mellowed out and worked out the new pecking order. Great to be getting eggs again. We actually had to buy eggs a couple times this fall. Glad that’s over.DSCF6436

Looking forward to tapping the maple trees soon. Planning to start some plants indoors this week also. I miss fresh vegetables!!!

Finally, I apologize for being out of touch with most people. Just the way it goes sometimes. To all the people I forgot to call, or didn’t see over the holidays-much love always! You know I’m terrible about getting back to people.

Until next time…be excellent to each other and the earth!

Time for a mass awakening.

Steve

 

 

 

Who Said The Splits Hurt?

So much splitting going on here. I’m not talking about firewood and definitely not referring to my fantastic relationship with Sara. Nor, am I attempting crotch-ripping cheerleader moves out in the yard. What I AM talking about is- my beeloved bees.

They say you shouldn’t split a first-year hive. When you split a hive, you are basically creating an artificial swarm. You take the queen, and some of the bees and frames in a separate box(called a “nuc”) and move them to a different location. This prevents you from having to capture your bees off of a tree branch like I did a couple weeks ago. The bees that remain will raise a new queen, and one colony becomes two.  (In case you were wondering, the swarm bees are still in the 6-frame nuc box I put them in a couple Sundays ago. I plan to inspect them in the next few days and will keep you posted.)

So, while I was inspecting my ladies on Monday I noticed signs that they were thinking of swarming. Some signs include- excessive drone comb along the bottoms of the frames (especially the corners) and queen cells being drawn. I have tried to accommodate them by making sure they have room to grow and good ventilation. However, I learned a long time ago that some ladies you just can’t please no matter what you do. This also holds true with bees apparently.

Monday afternoon I split two of my colonies. I was not prepared to do this, so there was some scrambling to do. Luckily, I made 2 nuc boxes last year that were available for use. There was a third colony ready to be split, but I had nothing to put them in. I managed to build, prime, paint, and dry a nuc box by 3:00pm on Tuesday and did the split. At dusk, they arrived at their new home 20 miles away.

They say first-year colonies don’t swarm and don’t split them. My experiences this year say otherwise. Time to drive home this point to any beekeeper who may be reading- always know what’s going on in the brood box. Always make sure you are queenright. Even if you can’t find the queen in the thousands of workers, find signs she is there- eggs and young larvae.

queen pic labeled    Very easy to spot the queen in this picture. This is a new queen. One of my colonies decided the old queen wasn’t doing her job and a supercedure occurred. Notice how tiny the eggs are. Sunny days are best for spotting them. They can be difficult to see.

Once again, I am racing to build hive components and prepare for the possibility of 10+ full strength colonies. Only fooling myself when I said I was going to take it easier this summer. I’ll be up to my eyeballs in vegetable canning and dehydrating soon enough. Wish it was possible to teach Olive (our dog) how to pull weeds and split firewood.

I am not a member of the Judean Popular People’s Front(wink. wink. Monty Python fans) but you could call me a “splitter.”

-Steve

 

 

My Swarm-Catching Cherry Has Been Popped…

…It happened while watering the “back 40” crops on Sunday afternoon.

I always look at the different bee colonies to check their behavior and noticed nothing out of the ordinary that day- just bees coming, going, and doing their thing. My back had been turned on the hives closest to the main garden no more than 10 minutes, when I heard the roar. A dark cloud of bees appeared before my very eyes. They clustered on a pine tree branch just a few yards from the entrance of their hive. This all happened 15 feet from my mosquito-bitten, sweaty face.

DSCF6162   This was my view for the swarm show. Colony on the right swarmed.

“Holy crap, they just swarmed.” I actually said this out loud to myself. Excitement and panic came over me and I ran up to the house, grabbed an empty storage tub and a sheet, threw on by bee suit, and headed back out.

This was the best-case scenario for a swarm. 1- I witnessed it. 2- they gathered in my yard on a branch that was only 5 ft. high and I could easily reach them. So, I placed the storage tub under the cluster of bees and gave the branch a good whack. They fell into the tub. I quickly covered it with the sheet and put it in the shade.

Being totally unprepared for this, I had to assemble some wax foundation frames and put together a hive for these agitated ladies. After racing around for about 45 minutes, I was finally ready to put them in a new hive. I misted them with a little sugar water hoping that they would be more concerned with cleaning each other than stinging me. With a good tap to the side of the tub, they fell to the bottom and I was able to shake them out into their new home with minimal retaliation.

DSCF6165     Will they stay or will they go?!?  Swarm colony in 6-frame nuc box.

It’s been two days now and they are still there. I am watching them closely, but will basically leave them alone for a couple weeks. Hopefully they will decide to stay and call it home. Even if they don’t, it has been an incredible learning experience that I couldn’t find in a classroom. This is only my 3rd year as a beekeeper and I finally got to catch a swarm. Oh-so-glad the first one was easy. The next one they’ll probably be thirty feet up in the maple trees. Wait…I shouldn’t have said that.

So, if anyone ever tells you that first-year colonies don’t swarm…bet them a bunch of money and refer them to this blog.

DSCF6177          Olive loves her summer haircut.  4-legged love of my life.

DSCF6164  This Elvira grape vine was left for dead on a clearance rack at the end of the growing season 2015. It had one little wilting leaf left on it. I bought it for 2 bucks.

The farm is alive and well on all fronts. Plants, ducks, and bee colonies are all growing. The ducks are enjoying their new outside home a bit early thanks to the warm weather. They are about 5 1/2 weeks old now and getting bigger every day. 2 are females. 1 male.

Make sure to add raccoon trapper to my resume. We had one making a nice home for himself under the shed. I don’t like to kill unnecessarily, so I took him for a drive instead. I wonder what he thought of the whole experience. He definitely didn’t stick around to thank me when I opened the trap door. Guh-bye!

That’s what I love about this life- the change, the surprises, the humbling lessons, and the connection to the earth. I am the richest man in the world with the smallest bank account.

-Steve

DSCF6171         The ladies hard at work while the mullein plant looks on.

 

Like A Kid Beefore Christmas

DSCF6047      These boxes may be empty now…but they won’t be tomorrow.

That’s right. The long wait is over. Oh so happy! The bees will return to the farm tomorrow. I don’t like being a beekeeper with no bees. It just don’t make no dang sense.

I will be installing 2 packages in these hives tomorrow and we have 3 more packages on order for pickup in May. Maybe more if the farm budget allows, or I luck into someone selling nucs(established colonies) this year.

The farm is ever-changing. It’s really strange not hearing, seeing, and interacting with the ducks. There will be more soon enough. Can’t blame a mink for being a mink.

Dandelions and other flowers are starting to pop. Just in time for the arrival of my buzzing ladies.

DSCF6030Lettuce, carrots, onions, and friends doing the spring happy dance in the greenhouse.

Well…there’s still a couple hours of daylight left. Better go do some chores and take in another sunset. Hope I sleep tonight.

-Steve

Bee The Change

duck-eggs-n-syrup   Fresh maple syrup and…Lucy(our Cayuga duck) is laying eggs!

March already? Wow…time she ain’t a slowin’ down, is she? Glad I got the maples tapped so early this year because sugarin’ season is already over. Usually it’s in full swing right now. Maples have budded. Hard to believe, but then again- not too many things shock me nowadays. The world is a strange place.

There are many earth-killing policies being made, and ones meant to protect the earth are being slashed and burned. It’s hard not to be affected by it all. Rather than sit around and be mad about it, I’ve decided to just work harder at being the greenest man I can be. I can’t change what other people do, but I can change what I do. I’ve been building solar panels, a small wind turbine, and new raised beds. Many plants are sprouting in the hoop house, the windowsills, and even the raised beds out back. Feels so good to have dirt under my fingernails again.

I have new bees coming in April and hopefully May as well. I miss having them around. Looking forward to their return.

Well that’s enough staring at the computer screen for now.

Get dirty. Stay humble.

-Steve

 

We’re Still Alive

I know it’s been a very long time since a blog has been posted. It’s easy to write when things are going great, and great is not a word I would use to describe our last few months of 2016.

We lost the bees to colony collapse disorder. You can look it up if you care to know more about CCD. It was a very hard loss for me to take, as I have become very fascinated and captivated by them. I don’t ever want to be without them again. This is definitely not the first time I’ve had to start over in my life. I don’t give up easy. On the bright side, we harvested a lot of honey & wax this year!

We lost a couple of beloved pets and a few chickens. We’ve had family members with serious illnesses and the local bug getting Sara and I as well. It’s just life happening, I know. The days keep getting longer and we are thankful for what we have.

So, the mourning period is over for me. I’m looking forward to getting more bees in April. We have tomatoes and mandarin oranges flowering in the house. I’ve had to pollinate the tomatoes myself(with a q-tip.) Now I can cross “help tomatoes have sex” off my bucket list. Even I never know what I’m gonna do. Geez. This weird warm spell made the maple trees start to gush. I have a pan of maple sap boiling on the stove as I type. It is very early for this. I have never made syrup in January before. I have found wisdom in the fact that I need to be ready to deal with abnormal weather. I cannot rely on the usual time frames for tapping maples, planting crops, splitting hives, etc. Times they are a changing, for sure.

Home remodeling/maintenance, odd jobs, ebay, firewood splitting, and the farm critters have kept me pretty busy as of late.

Well…now you know a little more about what’s going on. We look forward to the 2017 season and we will keep you updated. Get outside!

-Steve

 

Ahh…Fall.

I can’t believe fall is finally here. Still harvesting/processing vegetables and getting ready for winter. One of these rainy days I will do an extensive update on the farm happenings. For now, I’m too damn busy to stare at a computer screen. Please forgive my lack of updates. Till next time…enjoy life!

-Steve

I Think I Heard A Quack

IMG_6156

So…our little LuLu ( Lucy if it is a girl, Luis if it is a boy ) is trying so hard to quack right now. At a month old, Steve thinks (or is hoping) it is a girl. I however, am still a little on the fence. Call me the optimistic pessimist. In case you didn’t know, females quack while males tend to have a low raspy hiss. This is one of the first signs of the sex of our bird. The males also tend to start getting more colorful in their feet and bills by the fourth week. Hard to believe it has been a month with our LuLu.

Since LuLu is an only duckling, I made her a snuggle buddy for her to bond with. IMG_6088   From what we have read, it is important to give them something to feel safe with as if it were with the mother or a sibling, since they are flock birds. I made LuLu’s friend from a willow branch, hot glue, chicken, duck  and  turkey feathers.  Every week I make it a little bigger so it grows with LuLu. The boys have also been making their presence known. We are hoping a slow introDUCKtion (sorry I couldn’t help myself) will help them to acclimate to each other easier. Until LuLu is a full grown, we have to wait to merge all three ducks to give her a fighting chance. A female has a better chance of being accepted by the boys than a male for obvious reasons.

On the first day of August, our little farm and LuLu did have a few visitors. DSCF4342   The Imagination Center of Archbold, Ohio, graced our humble micro farm with a visit. LuLu was a hit of course, in all of her cuteness. Kids crack me up! One little boy was calling us out for not having a cow. “I thought you where a farm! Where is your cow?”. Another kid couldn’t wait to go home and tell her parents she had been bit by a duck. It was  from a three week old duckling. A clothes pin has more pressure. They also grab more than they bite and vibrate. It is actually quite comical to watch someone who has never fed a duck before experience it for the first time. FYI… it doesn’t hurt.  We are always happy to have the little ones here appreciating our many critters (and all of their quirks).
WellsKept Farm would like to give special thanks to Renee Tufts for setting up this adventure. It made our day!

-Sara

Long Time. No Blog.

Just wanted to post a quick update on the happenings around here.

Being bombarded by cucumbers right now. After I get to 200 pints of pickles(which will be soon) the rest will be for sale and/or chicken food. This has been our best year to date for cucumbers, grapes, garlic, onions, carrots, quinoa, and corn. Our best year overall since we’ve been here. Tomatoes will consume my time in the coming weeks- sauces, diced, salsa, soup, etc.

Bees have given me quite the education this year. We have 4 colonies right now. I’ve harvested around 100 lbs. of honey and that amount should double in the coming weeks. Notice the sexy squares of raw comb honey on the right in the picture collage above. Looks like we should have some for sale soon! It’s freaking delicious. Speaking of delicious- I’m taste testing my first batch of sweet mead(honey wine) right now.

This lifestyle is a lot of hard work. I am working about 14-16 hours a day just to keep up around here. Canning, dehydrating, harvesting, raising a duckling, caring for bees, splitting firewood, planting second crops, etc…from the time I get up until well after dark. This time of year is crazy for me. I have had no time to blog lately. I promise a “megablog” soon. Probably not as long as the turkey story though, my fingers damn near fell off after that one!

-Tired Farmer Steve