Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Edible Hedge and Storm on the Horizon

We didn't get any more rain today but all day long I got to watch this storm front marching towards us from the South. I was looking to see if it was carrying Sandy or Texan on it's winds and maybe they would get dropped lightly somewhere in my neighborhood. Kinda a South to North Wizard of Oz type scenario only no houses falling on anyone's sister and no damned winged monkeys thank you very much.

I finished the garden weeding and mulching this afternoon and I had a bit of company in the form of a very inquisitive young lady who seemed to have a never ending supply of questions. She was spending the day with her grandmother who happens to be a friend of my Moms and they came over to bottle feed the lambs. Somehow the grandmother types ended up chatting on the porch while I got the tag along. She wanted to take the neighbor's dog home with her but her grandma wouldn't let her.

I say neighbor's dog but he hasn't left in over a month and we started feeding him with our other dog that showed up and never left. They used to come by and pick him up every week or so but I guess they finally gave up. Looks like it's our dog now. Get this. We also had another neighbors dog come and stay from the other direction too. A young boxer. We called the number on his collar and they came over the next day and said they were sorry. I told them no worries but I think all the neighbors are starting to think we are dog stealers or something. It's like this old stray that showed up years ago goes out and recruits new packmates or something.

Now that the garden is weeded and mulched and should be relatively maintenance free for a while I have started looking for other things to do while I wait for the ground to dry a bit more.

The edible hedge project is beginning to get a little out of control. In fact several of the trees around the place need a bit of pruning. The only trees I pruned this Winter were the peach and apple trees but I should have cut the hedge back some as well I think.

However the outside branches are all covered in Plums. Hmmmm maybe I can live with the unruly hedge until after the Plums ripen. I am kinda interested if they will turn out to actually be edible or not. Since my son likes unripe and extremely tart fruit I think I will use him as the guinea pig for this experiment.

I had a rabbit attack over night and they ate one of my bean plants down to a nub. This won't do. I have had to dispatch some varmint Cong rabbits in the past so if they are once again raiding the garden they may need to be dealt with in the same old style. Perhaps a claymore set up in that gap I have in the fence? Or maybe the pellet rifle with the overkill nightscope? MMMM I love that over kill nightscope but the 410 has a certain appeal as well.

Normally one innocent bean plant wouldn't be enough to make me bolster the defenses but I only planted about half the beans I usually do. It's still early yet though so  maybe I will start a few more beans in small pots tomorrow and fill in the empty spaces. Those rabbits better get to eating other stuff soon though as they don't have a lot of room left before the gloves come off.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Weeding is 3/4's Done

It rained most of the morning but I was NOT to be shut out all day and by afternoon I pulled on the mud boots and decided it was time to start weeding the garden.

All the seeds have sprouted and grown enough to make weeding safe so I locked the sheep out of the barn once I knew the rains were passed and began mucking out the old poop and urine infested hay and bedding. I clean the barn out every few days but it is generally just a light cleaning. After lambing season is over comes the time when really attempt to get down to old bare dirt. Usually I don't get to do this until Mid-June but this year lambing season was over much sooner than usual.

Since my actual garden is maybe 20% of it's normal size this year it won't take me 92 wheel barrow loads to cover the entire thing like it usually does. This means I am going to have to find a place for the extra as I clean. I haven't even started on the manure spreader restoration project yet so it looks like this year the extra is going to become fill for the swampy area behind the barn.

Anyway it also means I can mulch the garden area I do have thicker than usual too and that's just what I did. Between the old metal sheet roofing walkways and the thick mulch of trampled down barn waste I shouldn't have any weeds pushing out for the rest of the Summer now. Well except for the Johnson Grass and Morning Glory but I think this section of the garden is relatively free of those super weeds.

The rain gauge is full again and the extreme rain we been getting is having a bad effect on the Buckwheat too. I noticed the seedlings in the lower areas are turning yellow now and only about half the height of the other parts. I guess if it kills the little seedlings off I can always fill in with my extra seeds I have left.

In the better drained parts though the seedlings are now over taking all the weeds that were competing with them last week and I am even seeing the beginnings of bloom buds starting to pop up here and there. I noticed several bees already taking an interest in the young plants.

All the bee woodenware is finished now. I need to make another run to the lumber place and pick up some stuff to bang out a couple more tops but that's about it. Now if the ground would just dry out I can shuffle some hives around and get back to trying to capture a few more swarms this year.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Little Walk About the Place

Since Monday was the only day we are not forecast to have rain I had to make sure the new supers and last bottom board were painted today. I decided to do this batch in White which I admit is my least favorite color to paint. Not that it is saying much as I think painting anything is about the most boring thing on earth. Still it sure does make the stuff look better and last longer in our super humid climate. The White stuff here tends to get some black mold on it though more than other colors I use.

Why a bit of paint might even make those old tires some bloggers use to plant in look acceptable... Nah never happen :)

These rabbits found a hole in the moveable fence section that allows them to come and go into the garden area and out through the sheep pasture. My fencing project has proven to be a boon for the rabbits as they can now be bold knowing the dogs can't get to them. So far they haven't done any damage so I haven't had to introduce them to any of the anti-varmint weaponry yet. I consider all the wildlife on the place a resource that should be encouraged as long as it doesn't get out of control or start doing damage on it's own. The largest selection of food type wildlife we have right now are cottontails and Bobwhite quail but I am finally getting some tree rats and even deer into the back woodlot as well.

There was a Black Bear sighting in a small city not too far from the Small Hold last night. Apparently the poor thing ran around town and was tranquilized but managed to escape.

Black Bear Creates Excitement in Fulton

All I can say is the little guy (and his relatives) better stay the hell away from my bee hives :)

Lately I been noticing a new type of bird around that I have never seen before. I have witnessed a couple of them stealing sheep wool off the fence so they are nesting somewhere nearby and then I came across three of them in a Mulberry tree today. They are very shy and fly off quickly but I managed to get a quick not very good picture of one (above). The most distinguishing mark on them though is a bright yellow band on the end of their tail feathers, which I didn't get in the picture. I looked em up and found out they are called Cedar Waxwings.

What a gorgeous bird. Apparently not good for anything except looking at and they eat mostly berries and insects. They really seem to like the Mulberries though and since I have been encouraging Mulberries and other fruits to grow my guess is I have created the perfect environment for the little birds. I also suspect they are the cause of my poor Gooseberry production this year too. Our location is at the extreme Southern edge of their all year range but the bio on them mentions as a specie the Cedar Waxwing has been going through a population boom so perhaps they are moving into our neck of the woods now. Whatever the case I have never seen them before even though they are said to be quite common.

As fast as they were gulping down the Mulberries though I can see how more of them would be a real problem if our little group continues to grow.

As it stands right now though I counted 27 producing Mulberry trees around the immediate yard and along the pathway/fence line down to the back of the pasture and hayfield. All heavily laden this year as you can see above. There doesn't seem to be a shortage of the Mulberries yet. Perhaps someday I need to start looking into doing more with them than leaving them for the birds and my son to forage on.

The tree climbing Ground Hog doesn't count.

Finally I waded out through the waist high Fescue and Crimson Clover of the hay field to a little patch of Yellow Sweet Clover I noticed growing out there. This is the first year I have seen an actual patch of the stuff in my own fields although there was some of the White variety in with the Alfalfa last year it seems to have died out. The little patch is only about an eight foot circle that contains maybe 20 plants but it stood out and sure enough the honey bees were already working it. While I think Sweet Clover is a very beneficial and useful plant for bee forage and makes decent hay it can also cause bloat if eaten green. As long as it stays were it is the patch can grow but I don't want it getting into the pastures. If it does it will be time to plow it under and replant. Can't have the sheep eating it green.

I take the growing wild life and plant diversity as a good sign that we are doing some thing right. The wild bird populations alone have exploded recently as we add in more food and cover without using pesticides and only minimal herbicide in a very few locations. By seeing all the life gathering around you just know it's healthy. When I brush hog the fields the birds literally swarm behind me collecting the insects. Every blade of grass or leaf has a Lady Bug on it eating aphids and the larger wildlife seem to be taking numbers waiting to get in. The old nags seem to be finally reduced in numbers and grown in age that new trees are beginning to have a chance at survival in the back of the pasture. In fact over grazing appears to be lessening now as the remaining horses cannot keep the entire pasture eaten down.

Means more room for sheep expansion.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!


Monday, May 25, 2015

Happy Memorial Day

Yes I said Happy Memorial Day. I hope each and everyone of you is out and about doing what you love to do. Many would like to chastise and say this is a day for remembering those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country and we should be solemn and subdued in our soul searching and remembrance. While they are correct they are also so very wrong.

While not a combat veteran myself I at least volunteered to do my duty more than once and while I cannot say I personally have known anyone who has died in combat I have known many who have been wounded and served in actual combat rolls not just some rear echelon types. I grew up around them, heard the stories and followed in their foot steps and while I was lucky in that I served during times of peace or at most small flare ups with a lot of posturing I was never rotated into a combat zone. Yet I think I have a pretty good handle on what those who did would be thinking about Memorial day and how we observe it.

Enjoy those things they fought for. Celebrate the good times of life those heroes laid down their lives for and then at the end of the day remember them and say a little thank you.

I think that would make them smile.

So raise up a cold one and.....

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Rainy Day....Again.

It's been raining pretty much all day off and on. Last time I checked we were at about an inch and still getting showers every so often, sometimes with pretty high winds. Had one mishap with a window getting broken from the sudden wind and I think a couple of pieces of sheet metal on the barn are once again being pulled loose.

Such is life in May in Missouri. I can't complain too much as this rain has really sped up the growing process and it should be another bumper hay year which will lessen the losses I expect to take overall. It also should be a good honey year which will help out some as well.

As you can see the barn cat Braveheart was pretty sure I wasn't going to need the tractor today so he made himself at home on the padded seat. He likes to lay there and watch the world outside through the big door while remaining dry and comfy. He used to be a pretty good vermin catcher/hunter but these days I don't think he bothers to leave the barn much.

Which reminds me. We have made it to almost the end of May now without a new stray cat moving in. I have seen two strange cats once or twice over the last three months or so but none of them have stayed around and tried to find a spot to live as yet. This is almost unheard of for the last six years or more.

I did get some Sweet Potato seedlings bought and put in the raised bed I had reserved for them. Other than that I spent the day banging out the last bottom board and five more supers for this Summers bee expansion. Only thing remaining is making sure I have enough frames ready to go or ready to be put together and spending the day painting all this stuff tomorrow.

It has to be tomorrow because there is rain predicted every day for the rest of the week.

Whenever it stops I will be back to mowing don't ya know.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Pollinator Health Strategy will Sentence Honey Bees to Death?

I just finished up browsing through the latest preliminary honey bee/colony loss report for this last year 2014 - 2015 (it ends on April 1st) and I was surprised to see such losses in the states surrounding Missouri.

Colony Loss 2014 - 2015 Preliminary Report

About two-thirds of the respondents (67.2%) experienced winter colony loss rates greater than the average self-reported acceptable winter mortality rate of 18.7%. Preliminary results estimate that a total of 23.1% of the colonies managed in the Unites States were lost over the 2014/2015 winter.

My losses for the year were right at 20% so I came in under the state and national average and slightly above the acceptable loss percentage.

Then of course I had to read the new Pollinator health strategy recently released by the Obummer administration.

You can usually tell when reading something as horrific as this so called strategy who is a banner waver and direct recipient of some type of funds for something like this. They are usually the ones being sent on trips with lengthy names like "promoting healthy honey bee cooperation" to South Africa or some place like that were they stay for two weeks and visit 20 some odd locations in 14 days.

Ya I bet there were a lot of working lunches on that tax payer dime wasn't there?

So if you see someone like that promoting something like this "strategy"  take it with a grain of salt AND some crystallized honey.

Pollinator Health Strategy 2015 (in PDF format)

All I can say from reading this thing is if you are truly concerned about Honey Bees you better hope this is just another Femocrat scheme to pocket our tax dollars. As usual with their strategies nothing much will come from it I hope but I am beginning to suspect the racist hatred of any thing European is actually having an effect on Honey Bee losses across the country.

Aside from 90% of the thing simply being departments collecting data and, oh ya, more research (remember 20 sites in 14 days on the tax payer dime) the number one word I saw coming up over and over again was........

Wait for it......

Can you guess?


Let me tell you MY theory on overall Honey Bee colony losses, not simply CCD or the neo-whatever pesticide thing which I am sure does do some serious damage. Honey Bees are losing prime forage and it's directly because of the so called "Native" movement.

Now I admit I am not a highly trained, government employed Botanist but I am armed with the entire internet at my disposal and I cannot find any plant the eco-freaks and their Femocrat allies would call "Native" that even remotely fits the bill as a long term all season Honey Bee forage crop.

In fact my research showed me that the two plants that literally saved a few of my colonies during the drought of 2012 are now listed as an invasive specie and the State of Missouri has made a law that planting or allowing such to live can result in a daily fine to the land owner. I am speaking of White and Yellow Sweet clover. This drought resistant God-Send of a plant (that makes pretty good hay too) was about the only thing blooming around here during 2012 and the bees were all over it.

If it hadn't been for the White and Yellow Sweet Clover that year I believe my losses would have been 100%.

Now I know there are plenty of farms around me that have fields full of this stuff and I have yet to hear of a land owner being ordered to remove it so perhaps it isn't being enforced. Maybe like many silly government rules though they are just waiting.

The list of plants that are beneficial to Honey Bees and bloom almost all Summer long is not really that large to begin with. Locally besides Dandelions only the various clovers and a few Legumes seem to fit those criteria and they are all introduced species. What scares me is if White and Yellow Sweet Clover can be classified as an invasive plant then so can Alfalfa and other hay crop Legumes.

Crown Vetch is another plant that Honey Bees dearly love and the various transportation departments used to plant as ground cover. Again it is now listed as an invasive specie under the same rules. So has Black and Honey Locust trees (I always thought Honey Locust was native to this area). Well the list goes on and on with more beneficial introduced plants than I can name.

My theory, which I cannot really ever prove, is that the various state and federal departments are actually destroying Honey Bee habitat and replacing it with so called native plants that although Honey bees may work during the bloom period they in no way replace the plants that were destroyed.

I would also go one step further and say after reading the so called strategy that there is absolutely no way a type of plant can be found that will benefit both Honey Bees and the various wild so called native bees without severely reducing current Honey Bee habitat.

No matter how much the government blows the Native horn none of their so called alternative plants ever attain even close to the same forage value as our introduced species. Believe me I spend more time mowing that damned Big Blue Stem the road crews planted on the right away out of my hay field I know. Supposedly it was such great forage the Buffalo loved it. Well let me tell you the Horses and Sheep sure as hell don't.

A little tidbit from Captain Obvious here that I know all my readers are aware of but just in case some racist, European hating, Eco-Freak is reading....... Honey Bees are not Native by your standards either Dumb-Ass.

Want to save Honey Bees? Then get the government off this Eco-Freak Native kick and put it back to where it was. The Bumble Bees around here all seem to like the same stuff my Honey Bees like anyway.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Buckwheat, Baby Grapes and Potatoes

We been having some really cool temperatures this Spring and the rains although steady (for the most part) have been relatively calm as far as storms go so far. In fact I would say this has been the calmest Spring I can ever remember having. I only had to make one trip up onto the barn roof to fix a loose panel and the grapes have only suffered a slight bit of wind damage to their new leaves.

Come to think of it I believe I have only seen lightening once so far too. It's like the Small-Hold has been moved to a whole other place on the map or something.

Any rate the cool temps has really been good to the Buckwheat and it is shooting up pretty fast but as you can see from the pictures it has a ways to go if it is going to cover up some of the Missouri super weeds in the garden.

I imagine it will eventually beat out the Fescue as the Buckwheat has dramatically reduced the difference in size just in the last two or three days.

The Johnson grass, Morning Glory and volunteer Sunflowers however I doubt it will choke out. I don't really care about the Sunflowers but the other two are the most obnoxious evil weeds God ever invented. We will see I guess.

As I mentioned the grapes actually have undamaged leaves this year for the most part and I even have some baby grapes coming in already. I really didn't plant the Grape vines for a harvest although grapes will be welcomed. I planted the grape vine to act as a screen between the bee hives and the garden area. Sometimes the guard bees remember me for a day or two after I get into the hives and once the grapes grow in fully it should keep them from spotting me when I need to weed or something. It beats wearing a veil every time I go out.

The Potato bed is coming up nicely. I still have not planted a Sweet Potato bed yet because no one seems to have any seedlings for sale and like an idiot I didn't do any starts at all this year.  Maybe someone will have them in this weekend.

I put my regular bee building project on hold today to bang out a quick hose holder for the new sheep pasture. Starting tomorrow I am going to move the entire flock out there and leave them out most of the day. Up until now I have left the gate open so they could go and lounge in the barn and get a drink in there but I need to start some serious barn cleaning and with my new fence design I can now lock the flock into the separate sections. They needed a water tank however and that meant a long hose. I am tired of moving the hoses when I mow so I designed a simple hose hanger out of 2x4's and PVC pipe that fits over a T-post. I was going to buy a hose winder thing until I saw the price tag and thought to myself I can make a simple one out of scrap and save myself 50 bucks.

Now I just unhook the hose from the spigot and roll it up on to the hanger before I mow. It's still a pain in the butt but less so than getting off the mower and dragging the hose out of the way.  So far the sheep have barely made a dent in the pasture so I still have some breathing room to collect more posts before starting on stage 3. Now that I can lock em out of the barn paddock I can let the grass grow in there a bit too so I can start the rotation some. Once stage 4 is finished we will have three sections of roughly three and a half to four acres total to run them out on.

The forecast says one more day of dry weather and then more rain so I guess it's back to mowing again tomorrow.

At this rate I may get a break about the first part of July. At least the swarm season seems to be taking a break right now but I am betting that won't last much longer until the second wave starts coming out and hitting the traps. At least now I am mostly ready for them.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Even the "Useless" Sheep have a Use.

Pouring down rain again today only this time I am not even sure it made it above 50 degrees all day. I been huddled inside hovering around my little space heater and taking frequent forays to get little things done but nothing major enough to be mentionable.

The sheep on the other hand are totally flippin crazy they love these cool temps so much. I guess you can hardly blame them since their wool is growing back now I imagine the heat is rather unpleasant. The lambs are scampering like crazy and the ewes are intent to just eat until they explode (as usual). Since our one scare with bloat though I make sure I feed em a little grain and hay before turning them out on the wet pasture every morning now. It seems to be working so far.

One of our oldest ewes Lilly had triplets this year, she is the white ewe in the above picture. She had suffered from mastitis two years ago and we didn't breed her the season before this last one but the Vet said we might could try this season. So we did. Big mistake. Well OK it depends on how you look at it but we almost lost her after the birth. Whether from complications of milk production due to the old mastitis issue or something else she was down for the count and honestly even the Vet thought she was going to die. She didn't but her triplets made up 3 of this year's 4 bottle lambs. Now she is losing her wool due to the temperature and illness she had. Still she kicked out three lambs so that should help offset the cost for her treatments.

I guess we should start a retirement pension system for the ewes. If I could figure out how to tax the other sheep for it I could be like Uncle Sam ;)

This is a good example of why our little operation suffers from reduced profits sometimes. I can assure you we spent more money on that ewe than she will ever bring in although over her entire career it may be closer to break even. Still at this point she is totally past any usefulness what-so-ever and will join what I call the invalid flock. The invalid flock has numbered as many as seven individuals at times but is now back down to three counting the new member Lilly. I managed to actually find good homes for three of the invalids this year believe it or not. The other current members of the invalid flock are Sammich and Boris.

Sammich is my escape artist clown. to be fair the verdict is not completely in on her yet as I tried breeding her this last year and although the other ewes have all had their lambs, Sammich didn't escape the ram paddock until mid January about two weeks before I moved all the other ewes. It is possible she still might be pregnant although I doubt it very much. Still it is possible until Mid June. Sammich was a bottle baby herself and a very sickly little lamb but managed to pull through. She was so small the first two years of her life there wasn't really any reason to sell her or be concerned about the dead weight because I doubt she even came in at 60 pounds. Last Summer as part of the cutting crew though she grew quite a bit and is now almost normal sized. My guess is though her sickly lamb-hood made her sterile. She is an escape artist and is always the first to find a way out of any fence but I hafta admit I think of her as much of a pet as I do any of the cats or dogs so she won't be going anywhere ever. I decided she was the farm mascot to counter any question of why I am keeping her :)

Then there is Boris.

I have a picture of Boris somewhere but can't find it right now and not going to take the camera out in the rain. Anyway Boris is now over a year old but was a very friendly little lamb last year and Mrs. PP insisted he be kept. Sammich and him are friends and she is teaching him all her bad habits. Boris also has a tendency to headbutt me when he wants attention so I have had to put him on the ground a few times to teach him some manners. It's all funny when he is small but in a few more years when he is the size of a steer it could be an issue. Both Boris and Sammich have started this new thing recently were they raise their front hoof and paw at me like a dog wanting attention.

So the three of them, Sammich, Boris and now Lilly are the invalid flock. They do have one useful talent though when it comes to weaning time as I put the invalids in with the lambs to be weaned to kinda act as the leaders. It does calm the young ones down a bit to have a couple of elders to follow around. Boris was also the inspiration for my color coding and right/left ear tag system so the Mrs. can now tell the boys from the girls and keep from getting attached to the boys.

Not sure if the invalid groups combined talents are worth the resources in feeding them but they sure keep things interesting.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!