Monday, May 21, 2018

Transferring Our First Bee Swarm

It was just a few short weeks ago we earned the titles of "Beekeepers" when we brought home our first nuc of bees.  Well, yesterday - on National Bee Day coincidentally - we ventured even farther into our new title. 


Jason's uncle called us up late last week and told us that he was pretty certain there was a swarm of honeybees in his compost and, if we wanted them, they were ours.  Jason jumped at the chance to gather his first swarm so he loaded up the car and made the hour-plus drive to his uncle's farm.  And, much to our excitement, there was in fact quite the swarm of honeybees!  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to tag along so there aren't any photos of him extracting the bees, but he did snap one photo before diving into the swarm.


Once he got home it was raining (of course!) so we had to wait a little longer to put them in their new home.  We got our Warre Hive all set up and tried to figure out the best way to transport them.  Now, with a Warre hive, there aren't premade frames like a Langstroth hive.  So, a Warre hive is ideal for new swarms - you can just dump them into the hive.  But, Jason had recovered a few pieces of honeycomb and we wanted that to be in the hive with them.  Ultimately, we decided to use our transfer box that we purchased to use with our Warre Hive.  Jason left three empty Langstroth frames in the transfer box and tucked the honeycomb in between the frames.

    

Thankfully, the rain didn't last long so we got geared up and got to work!

    

First, Jason blew a little smoke into the box to try and disorient and calm the bees a bit.  


Then, it was time to open the box.  There were so many bees!  SO MANY!!!  He started by removing the honeycomb and tucking that into the transfer box.



    

Then, it was time to carefully dump and sweep the rest of them into the hive.

    






The amount of bees swarming around us was unreal!  Once Jason had gotten the majority of the bees out of the box, he closed up the top and started carefully sweeping them towards the entrance of the hive.

    



One of the coolest features of the Warre Hive is that there's a window!  We opened it up just to take a peek and they were already in there working.


Raising bees has been such a fun, interesting venture so far.  We still have a lot to learn, but we're doing that as we go!  Bees are such a remarkable creature.


Until next time,

~ Sara :)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Planting the Garden....and Trying to Stay Dry

You know what we've had a lot of lately?  RAIN!  So much rain!!  How much rain you ask?  Well, I snapped a few pictures of the kids playing in the easement that runs alongside our property.  This area flooded, dried up and then flooded again in less than two weeks.  It's been W-E-T here!



     

Mother's Day weekend was no exception to the rain, but we had to get the garden in.  Thankfully, I had already done some planting which gave us a little less to do over the weekend.  We had already planted our Yukon potatoes, beets, corn, tomatoes, and peas.

    

    

Jason and I took advantage of a break in the rain on Saturday and knocked out a lot of the planting.  We were able to get the watermelon, zucchini, eggplant, cantaloupe, jalapenos, radishes, bell peppers, kale, cabbage, cucumbers, and Brussels sprouts all in before we were tired and ready to call it a day.


It rained a lot on Saturday night.  The garden was such a mess!  But, we wanted to get it done and only had a handful of things left to plant.  So, we headed back into the garden and got to work.  Sunday we planted our fingerling potatoes, onions, carrots, bush beans, and pole beans.  It felt so good to get all of that done!

    

    

 

All the crops were in, but we still wanted to add some herbs and marigolds.  I really wanted to companion plant the herbs in with the veggies, but due to my poor planning - not leaving space for the herbs in our rows - I wasn't able to do that.  I was able to put a few herbs (parsley, borage, and dill) with the onions and (basil and borage) with the tomatoes.  Other than that, I just made a row of herbs in the extra space we had available.


All the crops that we planted over the weekend seemed to have survived the storms that we had both Saturday and Sunday night.  One good advantage to the rain - it's made weeds easier to pick!  We started a lot of sunflowers this year so I transplanted eight of them outside the bee fence.


Next up is to do some work with the rhubarb - I have one bed that needs weeded and another one to plant.  The to-do list is never ending, but I love it!

Happy Gardening!

~ Sara :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Greek Inspired Bean Salad

I whipped together this salad yesterday and it is so delicious!  The best part is that all of the ingredients are staples in our house.  Well, except the olives.  Although I don’t mind kalamata olives in very small portions, I don’t like them enough to keep them in my pantry.  So, no olives in this batch!  But, that’s another great thing about this salad - use as much or as little of the veggies to what suits you.  Same with the beans.  I used one can of great northern and one can of chickpeas.  Use whatever you prefer and have on hand.

Greek Inspired Bean Salad 


Ingredients:

2 (15 oz) cans beans, drained and rinsed well
1/2 large cucumber, chopped
1 bell pepper (red, yellow, or orange), chopped
1/2 small red onion, chopped small
8-10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4-1/2 cup kalamata olives, drained and chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine or champagne vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried oregano 
1 tsp dried parsley 
Salt & pepper

Directions:

1.  Combine the beans, cucumber, pepper, onion, tomatoes, olives, and feta in a large bowl.  In a mason jar add the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and seasonings.  Seal and shake well.  Pour over salad and gently toss to coat.  Serve immediately or refrigerate.  Enjoy!


Bon  App├ętit!

~ Sara :)


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Chicken Fever

I mentioned in a post about a month ago that we had added some adorable fluffiness to our homestead!  I'm now - finally - dedicating a post just to these little (well, not so little anymore!) balls of cuteness.

We knew for awhile that this was going to be the year to add to our flock.  So, once we got home from Spring Break, the kids and I took a trip to the store and picked out 8 fluffy little babies to bring home.  We got 2 each of - Barnevelders, Black Australorps, Silver Laced Wyandottes, and Golden Comets.  All four of these are breeds that we've never had before and I'm pretty excited to add different colors/breeds to our flock!

    

Jason transformed our kids old playhouse into a brooder for them in the garage.  There are four crucial things that you need when raising baby chicks - food, water, heat, and a place for them to escape the heat.  Chicks need lots of heat when they're babies, but they also need the ability to get away from the heat if need be.

    

A week after we got our chicks Jason had to go out of town for business.  Ashlyn and I took a trip to our local Tractor Supply for chicken food and what do I find there?  Easter Egger chicks!!!!  Now, for those of you not familiar with chicken breeds, Easter Eggers are an adorable breed with puffy, chipmunk-like cheeks and will (generally) lay eggs in light shades of blue or green.  I've been really wanting some of these chicks.  So, I did what any chicken-loving wife would do.  I called Jason and begged.  #noshame  Guess what?  Our brooder grew by four :)


I mean - LOOK AT THESE CHEEKS!!!


I was a little nervous about introducing the new babies in with the other chicks but, thankfully, since they were only a week apart, the integration went smoothly. 


And they all cuddle in a big pile of fluff.


One of our Golden Comets battled pasty butt pretty badly for a few weeks.  Pasty butt is a common issue among chicks.  It's basically when poop sticks to a chicks vent.  I know, not the most glamorous thing, no one ever said chickens were glamorous animals :)  But, she got lots of TLC and after many treatments, she's good as new.  You can read more about pasty butt and how to treat it here.


For the first few weeks we used puppy pads in their brooder.  It was the first time we had done this and I must say, cleanup was super easy!  But, once we were through the package of puppy pads, we filled the brooder with pine shavings, which is what we use in our chicken coop.  Jason also added a small roosting bar for them which they love.

    

They have really grown in the past four weeks and were beginning to get a little crowded in their brooder.  So, Jason took our old dog kennel we used when Oliver was a puppy and put it up against the door of the playhouse.  Voila!  A second wing to The Hayes Homestead Brooder :)

    

The girls are getting louder and stinkier the longer that they are in the garage.  We are patiently waiting for them to get a couple weeks older so we can serve them their eviction notice and move them out to the coop with Libby Mae and Bork.  We've got our fingers crossed that's an easy transition!

Cheep Cheep,
~ Sara :)

Friday, May 11, 2018

Buzz Buzz....We Have Bees!

We are SO excited - we added a hive of bees to our homestead this spring!  This is something that we knew we've wanted to do for a few years, and this was the year to make it happen.


After some research, we decided to buy a Warre Hive.  These are supposed to be a more natural habitat for bees - and we're all about things being natural around here :)  We got our bees ordered and began preparing for their arrival.  The first thing we did was scoped out our property to find a good spot for them.  We decided to put them on the back side of the new addition we added to our garden last year.  This puts them close to our garden (obviously), but also far enough away from where the kids spend most of their time playing outside.  First thing was to get the area all tilled up.  This worked great because we needed some soil for a new strawberry box in the garden!

    

Next up was a fence around the area.  We already had the picket fence laying around so Jason went to the store and picked up some split rail fencing for the remaining side.


While we have lots of things in bloom in the summer, we wanted to plant a few flowering bushes inside the fence for spring blooms.  I found these gorgeous Weigelas at a local nursery.  Beautiful!


And then....we procrastinated :)  I mean, we were mostly ready, right??  Ha!!!  We got the text on Friday that our friend would be by to pick Jason up the next morning at 7:30 to go pick up the bees.  So, then hustle-mode kicked in.  Apparently there were modifications that needed to be made to our Warre Hive before it was actually ready to be used.  So that's what we spent our Friday night doing.  I mean, doesn't everyone paint beeswax onto hive bars at 10:00 on a Friday night!?

    

Jason had to modify each one of those bars by sawing a tiny notch in each end.  This will make it easier to remove the bars once the bees build their honeycomb onto them.  


Finally, all of our work was done around 11:30 that night (and, if you don't know us - that is L A T E for us!!).  We were finally sitting down to decompress when Jason, looking at his phone says "oh, shit.  I don't think this hive is going to work."  He explained that we ordered a Nuc of bees - basically we ordered frames of already established bees with brood and a queen.  These frames are made to fit the Langstroth hives.  For a Warre Hive, you would need to order a box of bees and a queen.  You then (gently) dump the bees into the hive with the queen and hope everything goes smoothly and they begin to make their brood and honey.  Well, isn't this just great!  #newbies

The next morning our friend Adam came and picked Jason up and Jason planned on talking to both Adam and the beekeepers on what we should do with our hive situation.  Thankfully, Adam had a plan and an extra box.  With a few modifications, the guys were able to makeshift a Langstroth hive for the time being.  Thank goodness for handy men.  Yay!!

     


While the guys were busy making a hive for our new additions, The bees were getting acclimated to their new surroundings.

    


Once the guys handy work was finished, they moved the new box out to the bee area and moved the bees into their new home.

    

We've had the bees for a week now and all is well!  They have taken to their new home without any issues and we love spotting them all over our property pollinating away.  We are hopeful that having bees will help with our garden and fruit trees.  And, let's not forget about the delicious honey we'll get to harvest in the future!


Buzz Buzz

~ Sara :)

Wild Violet Simple Syrup

Along with dandelions, there's another fabulous "weed" that takes over many lawns in the spring - wild violets!  We are lucky enough to have a couple good size patches on our property and I'm lucky enough to have the cutest helper to help me forage for them.

      

Ashlyn and I spent about an hour the other day picking wild violets around our yard.  I had a plan with these purple beauties.  My plan?  Violet Simple Syrup!



It's vibrant, sweet, and lovely.  It'll be a great addition to lemonade or vodka....or maybe lemonade vodka? ;)  Although time consuming, it is worth the effort for this sweet, beautiful syrup.

     

You'll want to remove all stems and, the more green you remove, the more purple-y the syrup will be.  But, definitely leave out the stems - it'll cause your syrup to be bitter.

Wild Violet Simple Syrup
Makes approximately 1 cup


    

Ingredients:

1 cup boiling water
3 cups violet heads/petals
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4-1 tsp lemon juice (optional)

Directions:

1.  Place your violet petals into a pint or quart mason jar.  Carefully pour the boiling water over the petals, seal, and allow to steep for 24 hours.

      

2.  After 24 hours, strain your violet water into a small saucepan gently pressing on the petals to extract all of the water.  Add the sugar and heat just until the sugar is melted.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.


3.  If desired, add the lemon juice - a small bit at a time - in order to brighten up the color.  Once desired color is reached, transfer to a bottle or jar and store in the refrigerator.  Add to anything you'd like to give a purple sweetness to!

     

Cheers!
~ Sara :)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Dandelion Jelly

Dandelions....one of the first signs of spring!  So many people deem them as 'weeds' and will even (gasp!) spray them with a pesticide (please don’t do this!!).  Dandelions are so much more than 'just a weed'.  Most importantly, they're one of the first sources of food for bees.  Secondly, there are actually health benefits from dandelions AND you can make some really delicious things with them!  This year I decided to make dandelion jelly.  It’s sweet, delicious, and has a flavor similar to honey.  The perfect accompaniment to some buttermilk biscuits!


The process of getting the dandelions ready for the jam is quite tedious and time consuming, but if you have the time and patience, it's worth it!  

Dandelion Jelly
Makes Approximately 7 half-pints





Ingredients:

8-10 cups dandelion flowers (be sure they have not been sprayed!)
3 1/2 cups boiling water
2 tbsp. bottled lemon juice
1 pkg pectin, or 6 tbsp. pectin
4 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Directions:

1.  Remove as much green as possible from your dandelions.  I found it easiest to cut the green part off the bottom of the dandelion and then pick off any extra green petals.  Do this until you have three to four cups of yellow dandelion petals.


      

2.  Cover the dandelion petals with the boiling water and, once cooled, cover and allow to steep overnight.


3.  Bring your hot water canner to a simmer and begin warming your jars.  Using a coffee filter over a fine mesh strainer, strain our the dandelion petals to get 3 cups of dandelion tea.  Whisk together the tea, pectin, and lemon juice in a large pot over medium heat.  Bring to a boil.  Slowly add in the sugar, whisking as you add it in.  Allow to come back to a boil and boil for 1-2 minutes.


4.  Carefully transfer the hot jelly to prepared canning jars.  Seal the jars, place in a hot water bath and process in boiling water for 10 minutes.  Remove, allow the jelly to cool, ensure the jars sealed, and store (and eat!).

    

~ Sara :)