Skip to content

Farmette 1769

by Monica Melograna-Ward

Category Archives: green

Every time I decide to buy a hive and bees, I hesitate. There is never enough money for even the top priorities on our project list. So, as usual, that project gets pushed down the list. Sometimes, out of the blue, I get the urge to resurrect a project and search until I find a way to get it done – very low cost or nearly free. For every project that needs to get done, I also have to overcome nerve pain from my damaged neck. So, contrary to my normal way of approaching building, I am not only looking for CHEAP, but EASY.

Here is the magically, wonderful reference site that I was thrilled enough with to share ASAP; Easy Beekeeping (re-titled). I really began to focus on the article at the “So what are top bar hives?” paragraph. And I was ecstatic about “So where do you get bees from?” You can buy them or catch them, or if you are lucky, they will adopt you! And for those faint of heart (so far, bee stings just make me cuss) “Will I get stung?”.

I had to get used to the lengths of wood concept of building when we started the mini farm. Before that , plywood seemed the solution for everything. But building in pieces gives you a lot more flexibility and usually, better and/or reclaimed wood choices.

end

side

The best part of the Barefoot (Easy) Beekeeping site is the FREE, downloadable PDF file for How To Build A Top Bar Hive. The only part that I found confusing was the section on Top Bars. Just so you know, Top Bars are just long pieces of wood (17” x 1 3/8” x ¾”). They are very important since this is where the bees make their honey.

The pictures shown in the PDF are diagrammed as if you looking at them from the end (1 3/8” x ¾”). I’d like to try the author’s favorite, half-round section. This involves adding rather than subtracting – which I would prefer too. We just bought quarter round molding for floor trimming in our son’s room. I wonder if they have half circle somewhere at the supply store? Or maybe I can figure out how to split a dowel down the middle…

The DIY store sells half round molding. It is almost $5 for 1 long piece, so I bought two – enough to make nearly half of the top bars this way. The rest will be concave strips filled with bees wax. The approximately 1″ x 2″ by 8′ pine boards were found in the construction section for less than $1 each which makes quite a few top bars for not a lot of money.

top bars - with half round to be attached

Honey bees will just start building their hexagon-structured, Frisbee-shaped combs hanging from the strips of wood, but the shapes act as a guide. When coated with bees wax, these “top bars” will attract the bees and train them.

And the rest of the hive goes on. It reminds me of a coffin. I figure if someone asks me what it is, that is what I will tell them…

coming together

and so on

Legs and the roof (which does not have a bottom since it merely rests on the hive legs) were equally big parts of the project, after mesh was put in the bottom of the main compartment. I splurged on the roofing material for $20, but there is more than half leftover. There is ventilation on the far side of the roof made with some of the mesh material from the bottom of the main section. And let’s not forget the separators (for the long 3 section version at 48″) and the “top bars” themselves…

made mine hit or miss - this is likely a better way to make a separator - stolen pic #1

stolen pic #2 - main section with two separators


And then there was painting, the fun part in comparison to the gathering of supplies and building.

final - with bee decoration

in the landscape with a newly planted flower under the end

The pony water trough is on the other side of those weeds in the gully. A water source and bright sunlight are essential parts of bee hive placement.

Now, we’ll see what happens…

PS: Please refer to that free pdf and barefoot beekeeper site. This guy did a great job.

And don’t forget the 1″ diameter holes drilled for the bees to enter the hive sections!

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Buy some, Gather some, Re-Use some… Build! Everyone is on a budget, but it should not stop you from have the kind of homestead you want. We all have our priorities. Ours are paying bills. 🙂

But, we do have priorities that diverge from basic living needs. For my husband it is everything music. He is always dreaming of the next piece of equipment or a guitar. Right now, I am trying to work some art supplies into the mix. We want to take our son to some swimming lessons at the YMCA over the Summer and maybe British Soccer Camp for a week (shhhh!). And sometimes we will actually all go out to eat! All these are necessities in my book. Why bother working so hard if you aren’t going to be able to enjoy yourself?

So, back to the dilemma. How do you go about building when materials are so pricey? My motto is “Trash Picking!”. I am always processing uses for things I see along the roadside. Freecycle and craig’s list “Free” section are possibilities too.

Recently, making sure I had time to kill and some energy in pocket, I went to the DIY store (in this case – Lowes). I went back and forth looking at all the edge glued wood pieces. There were paint and premium grades. So, of course, I start looking at the lower priced paint quality boards. There were certainly very different levels of quality to choose from within the pile of boards – all priced the same.

I found (the last time I was shopping) 1′ x 2″ pine that was one price in the trimming board section and less than half that price on the construction side of the lumber section. These strips of wood were not warped and looked fine.

Craig’s list had yielded me an old table a while back. The top was worn and warped, but the leg stand was heavy metal and solid. It has these holes all around the frame edge for screws. I took the old top off.

The following shows the 4 edge glued boards that I purchase for $6.90 each (3 boards were pressure-glued together to make each whole piece). The framing strips were 88 cents each (these will end up on the underside of the table). I have some polyurethane in the garage. Or we could use Old English furniture oil or regular linseed oil from the farm supply store. Again, the base was free.

Old top on floor to the right

New table in progress

My favorite part is that this is an EASY project. A bit of carpenters glue between each of the 4 large pieces that will make up the length of the table, screws for the strips/frame and wood conditioner will complete the task. (PS: Our Ryobi miter saw was cheap and is an extremely handy tool. The stabilizer strips will be cut to size in seconds.)

Hopefully, this big farm table will turn out well – and under $50.00.

Note: If you would rather just buy something, IKEA a great place for basic funiture. We do not get the particle board pieces. If you want something to last a while, go for the solid wood pieces like the BJURSTA dining table.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Goats have quite a lot of horsepower for their size. We have four pygmy goats. Ours are 35-50 pounds each. One of them can make a formidable opponent in tug-of-war. When you need to move an unwilling goat on a lead, that is the game you play.

They have several jobs on the farmette, one of which is being a playful, cute pet. Goats are also foragers, and so clear brush like no weed-eater you’ve ever seen. They produce milk, which can be a great source of dairy foods for your household. Hopefully, this year will be the one that we actually try milking our goats. We have two very tame girls that should not be too much trouble to train to the milking stand.

Our little billy goat boy, Jeffrey, has turned out just as planned. He is very small, but gets his job done with his harem.

Jeffrey - Our Herd Sire

A nanny has to give birth in order to produce milk. A lot of people take the kids away and bottle feed. This way, the nanny will think of you as her kid when you are milking. Then you can share the milk with her real kids. The following pic is of Luna, who is 1/2 Nigerian dwarf and 1/2 pygmy. She should make a great milker since she is tame and friendly. Also, the Nigerian blood will make for better milk production.

Luna - Nanny #2

I had to give Luna extra attention when she was born since she was a super-runt, being half the size of her two brothers (her mother had triplets). She is my favorite due to the puppy dog-like personality that developed from the extra care.

We sell off the boys (you only need one). The sales goes into our farmette’s feed and grain money jar. Goats are a great livestock animals since they serve so many purposes. And again, they are very endearing too.

Special Goat Tip; Double up on the collar and connection when you leave them out on a lead. They are very agile, mischievous animals and it helps to have back-up security on tie-outs.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I have always been a big fan of recycling. When it was not available curb side, we’d haul all we could to recycling centers. Between the recycling centers and Goodwill, the land fills have been relieved of a lot of stuff.

Lack of funds for supplies and green living go together. Reusing requires more imagination. Since I have all these pictures of structures in my head and no materials, why not expand on the reclaimed wood idea that has been used on some of our animal shelters?

Coming up with ideas that do not take a great amount of physical strength is a challenge. I have to work in short spurts and without heavy lifting due to a medical issue. There is a balance to be held between activity and rest. If I do too little, I will lose muscle. If I do too much, the inflammation takes hold. Holding power tools can also present a problem. So, I have been wracking my brain to come up with solutions for my limitations. I need to create a building style that is easy on the body.

I always liked those candle holders made of little pieces of glass. Tiffany lamps are great also. The thoughts in my head today revolve around reusing glass bottles. I have been saving wine and beer bottles to make into hummingbird feeders, but I may build a chicken shelter with them. There is a great site about glass bottle houses with lots of pics on it: http://popsop.com/6571. I particularly like the Buddhist temple and Artist’s studio. Bottles allow some light through and add color to structures.

I also found how to make filler that is natural: http://www.wikihow.com/Build-an-Adobe-Wall. We have plenty of clay soil available (not sure yet where to get sand without a trip to the beach with a dump truck). Cement may have to be an added ingredient since the area that we live in is not dry like that of regular, adobe, housing locations.

Some sort of basic wooden frame seems necessary. Two by Fours are inexpensive and easy to work with. It would probably help quite a bit to have a skeleton shell to help the project along.

How Big?

Having a barn that is large enough to walk into without bending is my first thought. As I started to draw, I realized that an entrance way would be great. If there were a 45 degree turn, the wind and weather could be kept out while keeping the building door-less. Supplies could be kept in the entry way, up in cabinets.

Shelter Sketch A

Obviously, this is a long term project if it were to be made exclusively from bottles. Maybe just part of it will be glass inspired. Hmm?

Tags: , , ,

We have tried many different ways to provide fresh water to our fowl. Containers have been purchased at the farm supply stores. Bowls have been made from old pots and buckets.

Either way, there has always been quite a problem with the birds getting their drinking supply dirty. I have been trying to come up with a good, low cost solution that is not too difficult to set up.

I recently discovered that you need to put a little money into a specialized part. Then you can recycle household items (2 liter soda containers, wire/twine) for the rest of the project.

The part was probably, originally designed for use in higher volume PVC pipe type watering systems. If you poke around the net, you will find some information about their use for back yard flock waterers. I purchased a dozen push in watering nipples from Meyer Hatchery’s web site (McMurray Hatchery – similar name but no drinkers for sale).

Large Soda Bottle with Nipple

Getting this together is a bit harder than it looks. You must have a good drill and a bit that is about 23/64″. The hole that you drill needs to be as small as possible so that the nipple fits tightly and does not leak.

The crucial pivot point of my neck is damaged, so I have to commandeer my husband for tasks that require arm strength and pressure derived from the upper body. Even as a really big guy, he struggled to push the nipple (including 1/2 of the rubber washer) through the hole. I may try to find a drill bit that is just a touch wider.

Drilling can be a challenge since the soda bottle cap wants to spin with the drill bit. I have a solution in my head that would make the task easier if one were to make a lot of these drinkers. You need to use a 2″ x 4″ board under the cap to drill through it and not into the floor. But, I think if you were to attach two pieces of wood to this board in a V-like shape, you could slid the cap into the spot where it was snug for drilling.

The next step is to construct something in order to to hang the bottle up at bird head level – so that they can drink comfortably. We drilled a small hole on either side towards the base of each bottle. Wire or rope slides right through the middle and creates a handy hanger when tied or twisted at the ends.

Hanger and Filler Door

You also need a way to fill the bottle up with water. I wanted the watering system to be EASY to manage. Not wanting to have to take the bottles out of the coop, take off the cap, fill and put back, I decided on a hole at the base near the holes for the hanger.

After several tries, I came up with a good solution. A “Fish Mouth” shape was the winner. So that the least amount of contaminants would enter the bottle, a flap was a necessity. It was also important that an average size hose would fit in for filling. I followed the contour of one of the 5 bubbles in the bottle design that make up the standing base. PERFECT!

These were tested before I wrote this Blog entry. They work great! So far, the new drinkers are in the standard chicken, guinea, bantam chicken and quail pens. A few drops of water and shiny steel parts attracted the birds to the nipples. By the next day they were all drinking readily from the hanging pop bottles.

Water in the drinkers lasts several days. You can add a little apple cider vinegar or a drop of bleach to help keep them clean. I am guessing that periodically, the bottles will have to be replaced. The caps with nipples can be re-used over and over again.

Final Product

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

There is nothing like a new round bale. The horse and pony are always happy to see one. There is now no limiting their passion for eating 24/7.

Round Bale

When only square bales are available, they don’t have constant access. Square bales (they are actually rectangular) are much smaller and easier to manage/store, but the round bales are less expensive and once we get one out of the back of the pickup, we don’t have to bother with hay for 3 weeks.

We have a limited amount of pasture and need to supplement with hay, even in the warm weather. There are a few farmers that sell hay. And, kind of like a convenience store, the Feed n’ Seed store sells hay (at a higher price).

In the pic, our horse, Big Man, is blocked by the large bale. This gives you and idea of just how big it is. They have an average size of 4′ x 5′ and weigh in at 750 lbs.

Yes, horses, even small ones eat a lot. They also get grain once a day this time of year, twice in the Winter. Horses can positively eat you out of house and home, so these two will be our limit unless we hit the lottery. They are so lovely though. To get up in the morning and look out at them in the field is positively priceless.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

We have a square with wood edging that will be our Spice Garden. My handwriting is atrocious, so I will type in the contents: Oregano, Mint, Cilantro, Chives and Basil. These will be great additions to our Italian, Asian and Mexican dinners.

Spice Garden

Since it is easy to go overboard on the gardens, we have made written plans this year. It seems to make sense to limit the crops to something manageable. This is our way of avoiding total mayhem on the Farmette.

Vegetable Garden

This plan is impossible to read, so I’ll explain. To the back of the vegetable garden is a quick incline and plateau. It has a slight curve in it when viewed from above. Corn and plants that grow in vine form will be planted here. The vine types are zucchini, watermelon, cucumbers, cantaloupe and yellow squash.

The illustration is flipped. The main (long) vegetable garden is in front of the plateau. We love tomatoes. Since this is a highly desired crop, we’ll spread it out along the entire length of the Long Garden. Then in front of them in sections will be the green beans, peppers, sweet potatoes, eggplant and okra.

Now that it is all written down , it seems like a lot. I think we’ll be able to care for it all OK though. There is quite an incentive to do the work.

Tags: , , , , , ,