Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What a Waste!

While walking through the produce section last week at the grocery store, I saw a huge trash can full of discarded produce.  I asked the boy who was working that section what he was going to do with it.  He said they throw it away.  What?!  This trashcan was seriously full of produce.  I asked him if I could have it for my compost pile, and he said I could.  Together, we loaded up three big boxes and home they came with me.  I would say over half of it was in perfect condition.  I gave alot of it to the chickens and rabbits over several days, which they adored.  There were complete bunches of lettuce, pak choy, kale, swiss chard, carrots and mini pumpkins and winter squash, and all of it organic.  He said I can have as much as I want, just call the day I'm coming to let them know to hold it to the side.  I am still amazed at the quantity that was headed for the trash.  What a waste!  But, I'm glad to take it off their hands, rather than it ending up in the dumpster.  It could be a good source of greens for the animals, not to mention a boost to my compost pile.   

Happy homesteading,


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bee Report Card

My friend and fellow beekeeper, Deborah, came over a few days ago to go through our hive with me.  She has several years' experience keeping bees and I can use all the help I can get.  Last year, neither of our hives made it to winter, but this year we've made it, so I want to make sure we do everything we can to help them make it through the winter. 

The day was perfect, sunny and in the high 70s, and most of the bees were out foraging.  I must admit, Nate and I have been very discouraged with our beekeeping.  It seems like everything that can go wrong with a hive has for us.  So, I didn't have high hopes.  I expected Deborah to open the hive and go running from the scene.  Our bees have insisted on building burr comb on the frames despite our attempt to keep the bee space correct, so the top two supers were connected by comb extending from the bottom of one frame to the top of another.  A few of the frames were also connected by comb.  We had to pry them apart.  Deborah explained that they are going to build comb the way they want to build it, and we have to work around it.  Good enough for me.  But, the good news is the comb we cut away contained honey, so we put it in a bowl for them to collect and restore.  They had almost a full super of honey and more stored in the hive body.  We also had capped and uncapped brood, which means we still have an active queen.  We didn't have any queen cells, another plus.  One thing Deborah noted is the amount of drones in the hive.  Normally the drones are kicked out for the winter since they don't really contribute to the work force and are extra bodies to feed.  The weather has been so warm lately that the hive probably doesn't think it's winter yet, so it hasn't banished the drones.  Their days are numbered though.  One negative was that we have a high number of hive beetles, so we need to address them. 

I checked on them the next day, and they were all over the comb I cut out, collecting the honey and taking it back to the hive.  Deborah explained how to process the comb to clean and separate the wax from the junk.  Once the bees clean out the honey, I plan to get that done.  I see lip balm and other goodies in my future.

Overall, we're looking good for winter.  I would give us a B-.

Happy beekeeping,


Friday, November 18, 2011

From Nappy to Napoleon: The Rise of a Rooster

When got Nappy a few months ago, he was in a sad state.  Nate named him Napoleon because he was so much smaller than our big girls, yet he was expected to be the ruler of them all.  He also had a very funny walk, picking one leg up high before stepping, very military looking.  I started calling him Nappy because just look so nappy.  He was very sick, and he showed evidence of being picked on.  He slept most of the day for the first two weeks, and we really thought he was going to die.  Here are some before photos.  You can click on the photo for a larger view.  Note the dull eyes, lack of tail feathers, only two to call his own, and scabs on his comb.  He also smelled terrible! 

Two months later, under our care, he is really thriving.  His tail feathers have returned, his eyes are bright, he has put on some weight, and he runs around the chicken yard like a playground.  It's amazing how just a clean fostering environment improves health.  While we have no previous experience with roosters, we know he is showing his rooster tendencies.  When a hawk flies over, he makes a trilling noise and all of the ladies immediately stop what they are doing and pay attention.  When we introduced Ginger a few days ago, he immediately jumped on her and started biting her ear lobe.  And he also does a silly dance around her with his neck feathers flared and his wing stretched out.  Chicken foreplay, no doubt.  Although they tolerate him, the other girls still won't have anything to do with him, so he has latched onto Ginger and hangs out with her during the day and sleeps beside her at night. 

While I still call him Nappy, he is becoming the ruler he was meant to be.  Here are some now photos.  I took one with Bella for scale.  She is an amazon next to him.

Happy homesteading,



Monday, November 14, 2011

Roasted Winter Squash Seeds

I've never thought of roasting winter squash seeds before until I came across this recipe a few days ago.  We're having roasted butternut squash tonight, so I thought I would give this recipe a whirl.  One review said not to wash the seeds, so I didn't, one because if washing is not really necessary why waste the time and water to do it.  I did make sure there were no strings hanging from them though.  I started them at 275 as given in the recipe, but after 10 minutes, they didn't seem to be doing anything at that temperature, so I cranked the up to 375.  That did the trick.  They turned out crunchy and tasty.  So, if you aren't saving your seeds, or have saved enough, roast them and enjoy.


Happy homesteading,


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Olive Oil Lamp

Years ago, before Nate and I started this homesteading journey, we bought a kerosene oil lamp.  I don't remember where we got it or what happened to it, but I remember using it and thinking it was really cool.  Maybe there has always been a homesteading seed in me just waiting to sprout.  Anyway, thinking about that lamp today, I started looking around online, and I came across olive oil lamps.  Better yet, I came across how to make one, which I did.  Here are the directions if you want to try your hand at making one.  It's a fun project.


I'm using it now, and it is casting a soft glow in the room, like a candle really.  But the great thing about it is I had everything necessary to make it.  I didn't need candle wicking or kerosene or even a fancy container.  I didn't have to go through the trouble of melting wax for candles either.  And, even though they are called olive oil lamps, you can burn many types of oil, including vegetable oil and animal fat, apparently.  Right now, I'm burning vegetable oil.  For the wick, I used a strip of cotton t-shirt.  I had to play around with it to keep it from smoking but I think I figured it out.  The article says to not let the wick be more than 1/4 inch in length above the surface of the oil, but really the shorter the better.  Basically the wire coil is directly on the surface of the oil and there is barely any wick above it. 

Making this lamp made me think of the button lamp Ma Ingalls made in The Long Winter
"If only I had some grease I could fix some kind of light," Ma considered.  "We didn't lack for light when I was a girl, before this newfangled kerosene was ever heard of."

I would love to hear your thoughts on this project.

Happy homesteading,