Cool Honey Bee Facts

Lately, our free time has been “abuzz” with honey bee talk. We need to order our bees very soon to reserve them for spring. We’ve been reading books and researching on the internet to help us decide which supplier to purchase bees from and which hive design to use.hives

We’ve been learning some amazing things about honey bees. Have you noticed that people who keep bees tend to get a bit obsessive? The reason? Honey bees are fascinating! Read through some of the facts we’ve discovered about them and see for yourself.

  1. Do you think honey bees always die after they sting something?  Actually, they can sting insects over and over again to protect their hive. A honey bee stinger only gets stuck inside mammalian skin, causing it to tear from the bee’s body, killing the bee.  Honey bees are usually calm and gentle, only stinging to defend their hive or themselves.building-hive
  2. A honey bee hive is a very clean environment. The worker bees value cleanliness and rid the hive of any dead bees, carrying them far away so disease cannot spread. If a small rodent enters the hive and gets stung to death, the bees encase it in propolis, a brown, sticky substance collected from trees with antibacterial qualities. This mummifies the corpse which eliminates any threat of it spreading disease in the hive.      gathering-nectar
  3. A healthy hive consists of about 60,000 honey bees. The vast majority of these are the “worker bees.” All worker bees are female, sisters to one another, and daughters of the queen. This is why many beekeepers adoringly refer to their bees as “the girls.”worker-bees
  4. There is only one queen and she is the only female with fully developed ovaries in the hive. As she was developing, she was fed only royal jelly, which causes her abdomen to elongate. Had her diet been changed to honey and pollen as a young larva, she would have developed into a regular worker bee.

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    The queen has been marked for easy spotting.
  5. A new queen mates in the air with drones (male honey bees). She mates with multiple drones over the course of a few days, then retreats into a hive to begin laying eggs. She will not mate again in her lifetime. The drones’ sperm is stored inside the queen’s abdomen and is kept alive for as long as she is producing eggs, which could be several years!
  6. The queen can lay 1,500 eggs a day. She can lay an egg every 30 seconds. This is her only job in the hive. The worker bees build cells for the queen to lay eggs in. They build small cells for a worker bee egg and larger cells for a drone egg. The queen knows which egg to lay based on the size of the cell! This way, the drone population of the hive is managed appropriately, as only a couple hundred drones are needed for the hive.
  7. Drone eggs are unfertilized eggs from the queen. Drones have no father! They have half the chromosomes of a female bee.
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    Drone

     

  8. A drone’s main purpose in the hive is to breed with a new queen from a different colony. They have no stinger to defend the hive, nor a pollen basket for foraging. They must be fed and cared for by the worker bees. That may sound unfair, but as the hive prepares for winter, the worker bees throw all drones out of the hive, where they surely meet their end. The girls know the extra mouths to feed during winter could mean the death of the whole colony.
  9. Perhaps a drone is to be pitied altogether. His reproductive anatomy is designed similarly to a stinger, with barbs. Once it enters the queen, it gets stuck and rips from his body. Having fulfilled his purpose in life, he falls to the ground, dead.
  10. To make one pound of honey, honey bees must visit about 2 million flowers and fly about 55,000 miles.honey-bee
  11. Worker bees feed each developing larva about 1,300 times a day!
  12. As soon as a worker bee emerges from her cell, she feasts on honey and then gets right to work, cleaning out her cell. As she ages, she rotates through a schedule of imperative tasks and duties inside the hive. At about 3 weeks of age, approximately half her life, she finally enters into the role she’s most known for, gathering pollen and nectar as a field bee. She will continue this role until the day she dies. No retirement for honey bees.

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There are so many other amazing things about honey bees. My list could go on and will certainly grow as we continue to learn more about these amazing, complex, tiny creatures. I’m not typically a bug person, even butterflies can creep me out (How do people go inside those gardens and let butterflies crawl all over them?!), but I have to say, there may be a chance I could turn into a crazy beekeeper, obsessing over “the girls” and the miraculous world inside a honey bee hive.

Becca

Changes for 2017

One year ago we purchased and moved to our little farm.  I remember feeling very unsure that day of what lie ahead for us, but we both clung to faith that this was where we were being led.  Looking back over the past months, I can attest that only good was in store for us, even amongst the hard work and bumps we’ve experienced along the way.  Our ideas of needs and wants have been challenged, humbled and sifted.  True priorities and simple blessings have emerged.  We changed and grew right along with this farm and we look forward to another exciting year.

Rabbits

Raising rabbits for meat was something we started when we were on a city lot in a neighborhood that restricted all livestock.  We were determined to begin taking control of our own food production so we began a small garden and brought home a pair of rabbits.  When we moved to the farm, we were suddenly able to raise traditional livestock so we no longer had a need for rabbits. wp_20160712_14_07_07_pro

Our bunnies were the cutest thing on the farm and we enjoyed them thoroughly, but when the time came to butcher them, nobody wanted to mess with it.  We had our schedule full with projects and chores involving other animals so we made the decision to sell the rabbits and no longer raise them on our farm.  We were thankful for the extra time this created for us to focus on other livestock.  I still highly recommend raising meat rabbits to someone wanting to gain control over their food on a city lot.

Honeybees

This year we plan to add honeybees to our farm.  This will be a whole new world for us, one we’ll navigate as we go.  We’d like to begin with two hives, which must be ordered this month, and set up sometime in spring.  We would like to raise our bees as naturally as possible.  While we do have some crops within our future bees’ expected flight range, we are also blessed to have an abundance of natural areas.  In the spring we see numerous wild crab apples blooming throughout the countryside and all summer long we enjoy the ever-changing color display of wildflowers scattered around the farm. This is in addition to our own garden and fruit trees.wp_20160504_14_41_51_pro

Our hope is this will give the bees plenty of natural, pesticide-free sources of nectar.  With the health of bee colonies declining and the rise of systemic pesticides (pesticides that are engineered to exist inside seeds and the resulting plant cells), we want to ensure our bees will be safe and the honey we ultimately feed to our family be free of harmful chemicals.

A New Calf

This past summer we brought our Dexter heifer, Pearl, to a farm to spend a couple of months with a proven, purebred Dexter bull.  Getting her loaded into the trailer was one of the most stressful things we have done on our farm so far.  We tried luring her in with hay with no luck. She was very skeptical of that trailer and wouldn’t be led astray by her belly.  We ended up having to muscle her big body in, despite her best resistance.  I thought somebody was going to get a hoof to the face or possibly trampled.  Thankfully, nobody was hurt and she was transported safely to the farm for her “summer vacation.”pearl

She’s back at home now – safe, sound, and assumedly “with calf.”  Come June, we should have a newborn calf on our farm.  If all goes well, it’s sure to be a highlight of our year.

Farmhouse Projects

We have a few farmhouse projects slated for this year, but I’m very excited about one in particular.  We plan to convert our useless, unwelcoming, uninsulated side porch into a well-insulated, functional winter storage pantry.  This will be in lieu of our previous idea of digging a root cellar.  It was so frustrating bringing in the harvest last year and working to preserve our produce only to realize we had nowhere to put it.  The side porch will be gutted and rebuilt with lots of insulation to ensure the temperature stays above freezing, with shelving to hold all my canning equipment and those priceless jars filled with garden goodness. wp_20170105_14_02_57_pro

Underneath the shelves, on the floor, will be built-in bins to contain produce like potatoes, pumpkins, squash and apples. wp_20170105_14_03_25_pro

The winter pantry will be such a great use of the currently dysfunctional and messy space. I plan to put in a frosted glass pantry door that I can open and close to help control the temperature of the pantry, if needed.  There won’t be any windows as the produce keeps best in the dark.  Because this room is located right off the kitchen, it will be much more convenient and accessible, not to mention more affordable, than a new root cellar.  As the shelves and bins empty over the winter, I will have temporary space to house the piles of summer produce as well, keeping my kitchen island clear and retaining its original intended function.

The Poultry Flock

We’ll be making some changes to our poultry flock this year.wp_20170105_14_07_41_pro

We’ll be thinning our flock a bit to reduce our hen population, keeping the most efficient layers.  We’ve also been discussing trading in our heritage breed ducks for the larger, meatier Pekin ducks.

Pekin ducks are ready to butcher at about 8 weeks of age, meaning we won’t keep a year-round duck flock for eggs.  The main reason for this change is because how dirty the ducks make the pond water.  The chickens and turkeys use the pond for their drinking water so we’d like the pond to be clean.  With ducks, it’s very tiring to keep clean what they insist on dirtying.  What’s more, without the ducks, we could purchase a pond filter to clean the water for us, eliminating the task of bucketing it out on a weekly basis.  Pond filters don’t work with ducks because they will clog it up and cause it to break down.  Focusing on the Pekin ducks will allow us to still enjoy ducks on our farm for a couple months (before we send them off to freezer camp!) without having the year-long issue of filthy water and a labor-intensive pond.

We’ve learned a lot during our first year on the farm.  Through trial and error, we’re discovering what we enjoy, what works with our current set-up, how we can increase the functionality of our homestead and what’s simply a drain on our time.  I expect nothing less for year two.

Thank you for reading our updates and following along through our first year on the farm.  We enjoy recording our experiences and feel so blessed by those who’ve taken the time to tell us they are enjoying our story.  Whatever is happening on the farm is made that much more enjoyable for us by being able to share it with you.

Becca

Winter Water Solution

Winter is my least favorite season of the year.  We’ve already experienced periods of severe arctic temperatures (-27 degrees!) and time spent outside has been reduced only to what is necessary to complete basic animal chores.  I prefer to spend the bitter-cold months of January and February under a blanket with a mug of hot tea in my hands.  For the animals, though, having access to clean, fresh water in liquid form can be a real struggle in winter.wp_20170105_14_08_55_pro

Having the pond makes the water solution for our bird flock pretty simple during winter months, as long as the pond is kept from freezing. We purchased an electric de-icer to place in the pond to prevent the water from freezing.

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To keep the ducks from dirtying the water over winter, Ryan placed a cattle panel over the pond to keep them out, while still allowing access to drink. 

We are no longer using the typical chicken waterers for our flock, which eliminates time spent filling them in sub-zero temperatures.wp_20170105_14_07_49_pro1

 

We also purchased a de-icer for the water tank in the sheep and cow pen.  Last year we had to break up the ice that formed on their water each day with a 2×4. Then, we’d pour very hot water into their tank to melt the remaining ice and keep their water in a liquid state for as long as possible. The de-icers have gone a long way in making animal chores easier this winter.  wp_20170105_14_08_36_pro

We are still experiencing one problem: we have to refill the animals’ water daily and we don’t have access to an outdoor water source in winter as the spigot and hose are frozen. Ryan is forced to bring two 5-gallon buckets into our house, fill them with water from our bathtub, then haul them out to fill the pond and water tank. He usually has to repeat this several times until everything is replenished. In case you are unsure, he can confirm this task is not enjoyable, while I can confirm it usually disrupts the kids’ bath time schedule.wp_20170103_18_55_20_pro1

The simple solution to this problem is to dig a well near the barn with a hand-pump that will allow us to fill buckets outside, saving the hassle of an icy trek to and fro with heavy buckets.

Digging a well will be an added expense for our tight budget, but we’d like to explore the possibility of completing the project this year. We’ll begin this spring with getting some estimates. I will love having a hand-pump well not only as a solution to the winter water problem, but year-round as a back-up water source. Currently, we are dependent upon electricity to power the well that supplies water to our home. We had the power go out last fall for several hours and we couldn’t flush a toilet or wash our hands. (We ended up traveling into town and eating our dinner at a restaurant, partly because I wasn’t able to finish cooking it in my electric oven, and partly so we could have access to a bathroom!) I will feel very relieved and comforted with the addition of a new well on our farm, knowing we will always have access to fresh, clean water, independent of the power supply.

Becca

Beef and Lamb

A few weeks ago, we reached a milestone on our farm that I’d like to share: we harvested our first beef and lambs.wp_20160723_20_15_58_pro

Ryan butchered our two ram lambs on the farm, along with help from his dad. This was his first time slaughtering and butchering anything larger than a chicken, and he was grateful for the help, as the task felt overwhelming. The lambs met a quick, painless end with a bullet to the head, then were bled out via a cut to the neck. They were then gutted, skinned, and allowed to age for two days while hanging in the cold garage, before being cut up and wrapped in freezer paper.

Our steer was taken to a local meat shop for processing. Ryan unloaded him at the butcher shop, and two weeks later we picked up hundreds of pounds of meat. Our Dexter steer hanging weight was 350 pounds. We got over a hundred pounds of ground beef, and the remainder in steaks, roasts and stew meat.

Meat is neither a fast food, nor a cheap, easy meal. (If the meat you are buying is cheap and easy, beware the hidden costs!) It has taken a year of planning, preparation, financial investment and lots of hard work to get us to this point. We’ve learned a wealth of skills and information along the way. We set out to see if we could produce not just healthy, but tasty and tender, red meat on our farm using pasture and hay alone, without the addition of grain. We were rewarded with satisfying, wholesome, delicious and healthy food.wp_20160723_20_15_50_pro

The belief is prevalent that meat must be finished on grain for “marbling” or adding fat into the meat to produce a tender, juicy product. After our experience, we can confidently say this is not always true. You can raise beef and lamb on grass alone, without sacrifice during the dining experience. I feel we experienced success because of two key factors.

1.  We purchased livestock well-suited for a pasture-based farm. I feel we would be disappointed with our meat had we tried to bring in a breed of animal that has been developed around the grain industry. Many of the modern cattle and sheep breeds reach an astonishing amount of production compared to breeds of old, due to selective breeding on a grain program with health interventions. Had we stocked our farm with these, expecting success on a grass-fed, minimal intervention program, we likely would not have experienced such positive results. Upon examining the carcasses of our lambs, we noticed a very reassuring amount of fat which tells us they were getting plenty of nutrition on pasture grasses alone. Our lambs were born on our farm, stayed with their mamas their whole life (we never forced weaning) and never fed grain. I’ve prepared lamb tenderloin, lamb stew and lamb roast. It is mild and tender, and the kids cheer when it’s on the dinner menu.

We decided to purchase Dexter cattle for our farm, due to their reputation for thriving on pasture alone, and producing tender, flavorful meat without grain.  We watched our steer grow big and meaty on our pasture and he remained in good health for the entire time he was at our farm. While we did not get to see the carcass of our steer (in the future that is something we’d like to ensure) after tasting some steaks and ground beef, we can see the meat is well-marbled, tender and flavorful, and easily the best beef we’ve tasted, grass-fed or otherwise! wp_20160723_20_15_55_pro

2.  We graze our animals in a high-density pasture rotation. This means our animals are not spread out. They graze together in a group, and only have access to the amount of pasture they can eat in a day, sometimes two. This forces the animals to not pick and choose too much. The choice leaves and blades of grass get eaten along with the weeds. The animals get moved to a fresh, clean, rested piece of pasture daily (or every other day) where the plants are healthy, strong and optimal for consumption having been allowed time to grow back from the last grazing. This keeps the animal eating nutrient-rich, leafy plants all throughout the growing season, adding fat to the animal and producing a tender product, which mimics the movement of herds and flocks in nature. Because we move the animals so often, over time, the pasture should improve. The manure fertilizes the soil and is evenly distributed over the entire pasture instead of being concentrated in the animals’ favorite hangouts. The animals do not obliterate the good plants while allowing the weeds to grow uncontrollably and spread seeds (another good reason to mix species, as they each have their own flavor palates and will graze the pasture more evenly). As the pasture improves, we can stock a higher number of animals in each paddock, increasing our production and efficiency.  wp_20160723_20_15_08_pro

The best thing about raising your own meat or buying it from someone you know who is producing it as carefully as possible, is not having to wonder how healthy the dinner actually is when placed on the table. We don’t have to worry about the kids ingesting chemicals or traces of drugs, whether the animal was fed GMOs and what effects that may have on our health, or even whether the animal was healthy, treated well, or lived in misery. This is why we don’t feel guilty or sad about butchering our animals. We enjoy observing the animals run, kick and play or when they come over to us for a scratch on the head. We know we are giving them a healthy, stress-free and happy life, full of green grass and fresh air, along with a humane, quick end. They are taking part in improving the soil and plants on a small piece of earth and garden, as well as allowing us independence from the conventional food system and the fossil fuels it necessitates. We feel confident we are being good stewards of creation while enjoying the nourishing and healthy food that our family worked and prayed for together.

Becca

Kitchen Backsplash

Now that winter has arrived, our focus on the farm has shifted back to indoor projects.wp_20161119_12_20_11_pro I’ve been waiting for this change so we could continue our progress on the kitchen remodel. We’ve had our white, marble-looking backsplash tile sitting in a box by our stairs for months and I was more than ready to cross this project off our lengthy to-do list. I chose a white subway tile with some gray running through it.wp_20161203_10_09_00_pro I knew I wanted the backsplash mostly white, but I didn’t want plain white tile with white grout sandwiched between white cabinets. To complement the tile, I chose a light gray grout with the hopes it would help break up the white while functioning to avoid future dirty/stained grout lines that can happen with white grout and the very hard water we have at our farmhouse.

The installation of the backsplash went smoothly. It took us a weekend to get the tile installed. I grouted the stove wall while Ryan began installing the new trim around the kitchen window.

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Stove wall before tiling
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Stove wall “after”

wp_20161212_10_11_29_proWe ended up being a few inches short on the kitchen window trim, which unfortunately pushed the completion of the backsplash back a whole weekend, as we didn’t want to tile around the window until the trim was neatly in place. So last Saturday, Ryan was able to finish the trim, put up the last few tiles, and I finished the grouting. The trim will need to be filled and painted, but for now, I’m enjoying the view of new trim around the kitchen window.  If you look closely at the left of the window in the “before” picture, you can see where the trim had actually been cut out to fit the old upper cabinet next to it.

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Sink wall before tiling

 

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Sink wall after tiling

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Tiling is a messy, tiring job. We were happy to be able to clean up the equipment and last few plops of grout, step back, and take in the improvement. The new backsplash really pulls the kitchen together. It also covered over the remaining evidence of the old countertop we pulled out. Already I’m having a hard time remembering how this kitchen looked when we first moved in! I remember the way it made me feel, however! 🙂  I wasn’t sure how I would ever function in that old, dirty, pieced-together kitchen. But that’s part of the fun, isn’t it? It wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying if the kitchen was pretty and functional upon moving in. Everyone loves a good transformation. 🙂

Becca

Guinea Fowl

Over the past few months, we’ve gotten to know a thing or two about farm life with Guinea fowl. They are not our favorite bird on the farm but they are interesting, none the less. They differ from more common poultry species in more ways than one.wp_20161019_13_14_37_pro

  1. Noisy.  Guinea fowl are very loud, vocal birds. We live on 10 acres, with a decent amount of privacy, but I’ve wondered what the neighbors really think about our Guineas. (At times I hope they don’t realize all the racket is emanating from our farm, which I know is futile.)  When we walk across the homestead, the Guineas will begin to sound the alarm, their little hairless necks outstretched, their beady eyes fixed upon us and their beaks repeating the same siren over and over, as if we are a sudden threat they haven’t seen every single day of their lives.  Maybe they’ll eventually grow comfortable with our presence? They are equally watchful of other predators and the chickens respond to their calls, seeking cover when one sounds the warning call.
  2. They fly. Our domestic chickens, turkeys and ducks can’t fly. They can run while flapping their wings, but they don’t make much vertical progress. Guineas can actually transport themselves into trees and on roof tops. They love doing this, too. For some reason, they enjoy scratching and sliding across the top of our metal barn roof. I think they are taunting the chickens. 🙂  Although they can fly, we usually see them on the ground, foraging and dust bathing.  They never attempt to leave our farm.wp_20161022_15_21_42_pro
  3. They learn. Since we raised the Guineas with chicks, our Guineas are a bit less wild than Guineas raised separately. They’ve been chicken-ized, so to speak and each evening they would join the chickens on the roosts in our coop. We knew we had a good thing going as many people can’t get their Guineas to roost in a coop. As long as the Guineas were in our coop at night, they would be safe from nocturnal predators. One evening, the back door to the coop was closed, which happens to be the entrance the Guineas are accustomed to using.  Since they couldn’t get into the coop via the back door, they decided to go rogue and roost in the trees. Once they’re up, there’s no getting them down. All we could do was hope they would use the coop the following night and we made sure the back door was open. No such luck. They continued roosting each evening in the treetop. Alas, they had discovered wild living and we were not going to be able to reign them back in. So be it. We accepted the possibility they were going to get picked off one by one. A few uneventful weeks went by, until one day, unsurprisingly, I stumbled across one beautiful, white polka-dotted Guinea wing lying under a tree. Something had finally killed a Guinea. “One down, thirteen to go,” I thought. However, since that night, our Guineas have returned to roosting in the coop! Could they have been scared enough from the attack to make the decision to seek shelter each night in the coop? I’m very astonished that those little bird brains could put two and two together. Or is it purely coincidental? You be the judge! I’d like to think they learned a lesson about living the wild life and decided to return to the safety of the fold.wp_20161019_13_16_22_pro

There are plenty of ways these birds behave similarly to chickens and turkeys, too. They will establish the pecking order just like chickens do. I’ve read Guineas can be bullies, which we’ve seen on occasion. Every once in a while, a group of Guineas will gang up on a chicken and pull out some feathers. The chicken appears relatively unharmed by these confrontations. They’ve never gone after one of our older chickens nor have they challenged the turkeys, so they seem to know their limits. They are by no means at the top of the pecking order. (That position resides with our turkey, Lucky. She’s the matriarch of the barnyard and she makes sure all new-comers know it.) I’ve also seen the Guineas scuffle a bit amongst themselves, though usually they get along fine.

We are interested to see if we notice a difference in our wood tick presence next spring. Guineas are reputed to be skilled tick hunters, and that alone would be reason to keep them on the farm. Last spring we couldn’t walk through the woods or stray one foot from the mown grass surrounding our homestead without finding wood ticks all over us. We would happily trade our wood tick population for the Guineas’ vocal outbursts. wp_20161019_13_16_09_proWe enjoy watching them forage in tight groups, their bodies resembling soft polka-dotted turtle shells. They add some visual interest to the barnyard and as long as they’re pulling their own weight with tick service, they’ll continue to have a place in our flock.

Becca

 

Garden Wrap-up: Successes and Failures

My first gardening season on the farm has now come to an end. The end of the growing season brings a mixture of dread and relief. No longer will I be able to harvest the vast majority of our vegetable needs from my own organic beds, where I know the produce I’m serving to my family is safe, fresh and healthy. On the other hand, a garden is high maintenance. The work doesn’t end in the vegetable patch, either. All that produce would get carried in and dumped on my kitchen island, where it sat until I could do something with it, which consisted of freezing, canning and serving it fresh. When it rains it pours, as the old saying goes. There were times when a person sitting on one side of the island could barely see a person sitting on the other side due to the heap of cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, beans or watermelon. All summer long we feasted on our vegetables. It was a liberating experience for me to head to the garden when it was time to prepare lunch and dinner, rather than to the fridge for purchased food. I no longer added lunch and side dish ingredients to my grocery lists as I knew I would prepare whatever happened to be available in the garden at that particular time. We enjoyed a bountiful harvest.wp_20160730_11_15_12_pro

My garden successes made gardening fun.wp_20160808_09_44_16_pro It was incredible to see how much the plants grew and changed over the course of several short months. When I first planted my garden, I got frustrated and questioned whether anything would grow at all, and later I’m peering into a jungle of green leaves, vines, and burgeoning fruit. Our rows disappeared altogether and we had to blaze our own trails through the vegetation. It’s miraculous, isn’t it, that all that can be contained inside a tiny seed?

I was surprised and delighted to see the watermelon beginning to grow this summer. I think we experienced success since we didn’t plant the seeds until June. Watermelon won’t germinate until the soil has been thoroughly warmed, and in Minnesota, that is usually the beginning of June. wp_20160915_17_28_37_proWe’ll continue to plant watermelon in June and hopefully we’ll be rewarded with them again.

Our chicken wire fence perhaps wasn’t the most beautiful, but it functioned well in keeping our chickens, turkeys and whippet (that’s a dog 🙂 ) out of the garden. One failure, however, was the fence didn’t keep out rodents.wp_20160924_09_28_35_pro I experienced great damage to my tomato crop due to some pesky critters taking up residence in my garden. I can’t tell you how irritating it is to reach for a perfectly ripe, plump tomato, only to have your hand clasp around a rotten, squishy hole hidden around the back where something has been dining. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say I threw about 75% of my tomato crop to the chickens and compost pile. It’s also plain creepy while working in the garden to see small animals scurrying around in the plants. I will set traps next year to see if that helps.

Another failure was how I arranged the crops in my garden. My knowledge of crop placement has increased throughout this growing season and I will plan my garden more wisely next year. I also had the chance to become familiar with the shade patterns of my garden and will rearrange my crop placement so the shade-tolerant plants are in the areas with partial shade.

Almost as quickly as this rectangular piece of earth transformed into a buzzing, flourishing, dewy world of green, it began to brown, wilt and fade. wp_20161001_14_51_22_proSoon the summer crops were dwindling and the fall crops needed to be harvested. We spent a few hours on a warm, sunny October afternoon harvesting all the pumpkins and placing them around the house. The jack-o-lanterns will be fed to the sheep, while I plan to use the smaller sugar pumpkins for soup and pie. Ryan pulled up the corn stalks and bound them together for some fall décor.wp_20161019_13_02_59_pro

I like to give the kids opportunities to be active participants on the farm so the following weekend I assigned them the task of harvesting the squash and watermelon.wp_20161009_15_23_02_pro I gave them a wheel barrow with the instructions to pick and haul everything over to the hose, wash it off, then bring it all into the house. The watermelon we finished off in a week or two, while the squash is now piled up in a corner in our bedroom and we expect our store to last us for months. We will enjoy being able to taste fresh homegrown goodness throughout the winter in the form of hearty squash soup and side dishes. wp_20161008_17_50_30_pro I’m grateful for the break in garden chores and to be able to see the surface of my kitchen island again. In January, when the sun feels powerless and it seems all hope of summer is lost, we’ll cuddle under a blanket and begin planning the garden for spring. We’ll order our seeds and sketch a map of where everything will be planted. Then we’ll begin to dream again of working amongst dew-kissed leaves, sun-warmed fruit and sprawling plants.

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Monarch butterfly chrysalis on a corn leaf

Becca