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Farmette 1769

by Monica Melograna-Ward

Category Archives: Natural

At some point I realized how crazy (utter madness) it was to be hardcore about frequent blogs within a hectic life (KOYAANISQATSI). So I broke off from them in December 2018, planning to return shortly after the first of the year 2019.

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Part 1 – The Wild, Wild West

It’s suddenly May 2019. Here I am now writing amongst a large pile of other projects awaiting my attention. And that’s the thing. One project (or even five) never seems to be enough. I can’t count how many are in the queue right now.

My lack of sole project focus shows up dramatically in beekeeping. But the bees survived the winter well, with no sugar water syrup support from the onset of freezing weather… and none since.  The hive turned 1 year old on March 17th.

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Now Farmette 1769’s honey bee hive has gone hog wild!

My approach is normally as natural & artistic as possible with everything; no pesticides, no tight plan, no frames, reduce/reuse/recycle and so on. The 55,000+ bees could do anything they wanted to their hearts desire/content. Maybe that helped get our hive going full force.

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Part 2 – 110,000+ More Honey Bees!

I know that the main hive is doing really well since it swarmed at least twice this spring. Neither time was I prepared.

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The first swarm formed on March 26, 2019, about 50 feet from the main hive. I tried to drop the mass of bees (surrounding a new queen) into a bin. That was a hot mess. Then I found a few videos on YouTube and made a temporary hive with one top bar.

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After getting the bees onto a tarp, as shown in many beekeepers’ YouTube videos, they funneled themselves right into the box as soon as I placed it where I thought the queen was.

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I was SO excited that this worked and reveled in the bees going in & out of a cardboard filing box for a solid day and a half. The neighbors then saw them swarm and leave.

Apparently, you must capture & cage the queen, or at least screen the swarm in for a few days (with syrup feeder access). A real wood nuc hive box would have helped too.

I was horribly disappointed, but it was still great fun! A second swarm formed a week or two later, but I was too slamming busy to do anything about it.

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Part 3 – The Empty Honey Super

I obviously like to build and up-cycle wood, etc., but both my time and energy are getting sucked up with contract work (I LOVE working for a major online retailer!), raising a teenager/up & coming rock star, nagging my dear husband, chores and the “never-ending livestock and/or pets trying to get eaten by wild predators or die on us” bonanza.

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Since my homemade honey super with top bars only (no framing) has been a bust,

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I finally broke down and ordered a half stack, fully assembled super, with frames and wax-covered plastic comb. The idea that bees would be forced into rectangles bothered me, but if I hope to get honey from our bees this summer, I must give in to the stricter approach.

They had this lovely super add-on box with frames on Amazon. I hope that it comes mint-colored as shown in the pic, but that is most likely bad lighting. It says “painted wood”, but the color is not stated. It will probably be white (that will change).

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QueenExcluder

I also ordered a metal queen excluder to keep her from going up into the super and brooding eggs amongst the potential honey. Having started off with an awkward, bendy plastic excluder for my homemade super, I decided to pull out the big guns this time.

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The main hive is a maze that can’t be disturbed at this point. There is one spot that is open and the rest is forever sealed with bee goo. I’ll attach the new excluder onto the bottom of the new super and just pop it all on top of the main hive.

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Right now the cap rests on the base hive. I went ahead and took the old super off before the dawn this morning. That top will end up on the new super and we’ll get the party started. There are three big bags of sugar in the pantry from last year, so I’ll have to break those out to help encourage the bees to make us some honey.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to write regularly, albeit maybe not as often as last year.

See you’all soon!

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Guest Blog Post

Tested and Written by Jamie Andrew Ward
Edited by Monica Melograna-Ward

Jamie’s Kombucha – 101

K1

Before you begin, you must get a SCOBY. This is the engine that drives the whole kombucha car. You can get one online or ask a friend for one. A “baby” scoby (which can be easily peeled off and removed) grows with each batch, so people can share them easily.

You’ve gotten your scoby. Now what do you do?

K2

Step A1: Boil water.
I always use a little extra water, in addition to what would fill my container – due to evaporation. Boil it for 15 minutes to ensure that any impurities are gone.

K3

Step A2: Make a big batch of black tea.
Black tea works best and helps keep the scoby healthy. You can use herbal, but only after a few batches with black tea. Then you need to go back to black. I use 18 tea bags per 1.5 gallons.

K4

Step A3: Add sugar.
I use 2 cups per 1.5 gallons of water. The scoby ferments on the sugar and thus eats most of it. The longer you ferment, the less sugar you have in your kombucha. GTS has 2g per serving. I aim for about that level.

Step A4: Make sure that the sugar has dissolved into the water, then cool.
Let your mixture return to room temperature. This is crucial, because hot water will kill a scoby.

Step A5: Place in large GLASS container. Cover with cheesecloth and a rubber band to seal the top.
This lets the air in, and thus fermentation to occur. It also keeps the bugs out. Gnats love kombucha. I like jars with a spout, but the spout must not be metal!

K5

Fermentation

Step A6: Place in cool, dry location for about 2 weeks.
You can taste along the way to check on how your production is going. You can use a straw and extract a sample. Insert the straw into the liquid, then cover one end of the straw with a finger to pull some drops out.

2 weeks later…

K6

Secondary Fermentation (Bubbles and Flavor)

Step B1: Remove scoby, and some of the tea, into a separate container.
Store this until your next batch. You can look up how to keep a scoby and feed it between batches. I tend to do one batch after another, so I have not had need to learn how to do this.

K7

Step B2: Add a tablespoon or two of sugar to the tea.
You will see it foam up.

K8

Step B3: Set out your sterilized jars.
I run then through the dishwasher, twice. Recycled GT containers work the best. I was using ball jars also, but was not getting the fizz that I get from the GTs. I completely stopped using the mason jars. In a pinch, they work OK.

Step B4: Add juice, if desired, to the bottom of your jars, for flavor.
I use ½ cup of juice per 16 oz container. Add juice. Then add the tea.

K9

Step B5: Close containers tightly. Let sit (counter or table) for about 3-7 days.
I have found SEVEN to be the magic number of days – so, exactly one week.

Step B6: On the 8th day, refrigerate all bottles.
This slows down the fermentation process and allows your mixture to mellow, or, at the least, take its time developing. Experiment, have fun, and feel free to choose your own chill date.

Note:
If you get something slimy in your bottles, this is a baby scoby. You can remove or swallow this. It won’t harm you to ingest (GROSS! – comment by MMW).

Handy Tip:
When I clean the big containers, I use hot water, and a very versatile product, VINEGAR. I get a large bottle of white vinegar at Costco for about $3.00. It helps keep the PH okie dokie. I use vinegar to clean my coffee pot too. So, if you not only love kombucha, but also coffee, this is a great (and natural) cleaning product to keep stocked in your kitchen.

Conclusion

In the intervening weeks, I assess what I did and didn’t like about the latest, completed batch. Then, adjustments can be decided upon for the next time I begin production. Trial and error is where you will live for a while: More or less sugar, more or less juice, more or fewer tea bags, more or less sugar before the secondary fermentation, etc….

You’ll find your rhythm, enjoy special recipe homemade kombucha and save a lot of $$$. That’s it!

Happy Saturday and Enjoy Your Weekend Projects!

Please join us here on the Farmette!

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I just watched Farmageddon, which explains the disappearance of local farms in America. The reason that I can give it a great endorsement is that it lives in the middle ground.

Meat and More

Meat?

Extremism (in either direction) is not something that I am fond of. Honest, fact-based descriptions of obvious issues are the ones that I can relate to. One showing people that take a look at their opposition calmly is another trait that I admire in a documentary.

I agree with their take on small and organic farming. Natural food eating is discouraged by the rich. Corporations are rich. They influence our government, and then our government imposes regulations that are corporation friendly. These rules are the kind that destroy small operations.

The regulations drive costs up in paperwork, licenses, fees, surcharges, workers, equipment, supplies, taxes and so on. This drives the small farmer out of business. Managing regulations has become a full time job and has become a poison to productivity/efficiency. The corporations win by bullying those who do not have the time, money, resources, personnel or energy to fight back.

Health and safety are top priorities of being human. I understand the concerns regarding both of those in relation to food. But the thing is, there is SO much out there to buy that is over-processed, over-salted, over-sugared, over-fried, pesticide heavy, petroleum rich and full of unnatural chemical mixtures. It is all REALLY BAD for your body.

Sauce with Bonus Ingredients

Sauce?

But somehow, edibles raised/grown on the land are being marketed by the media as dangerous (the corporations pay for what news gets to you via advertising dollars). The cost of organic food is driven high beyond the reach of the average family. The availability is scarce. And so we all eat the junk food.

And then we get sick, and health care is BIG business. That system makes a lot of money. And then they use it to control the population by influencing our financial leaders and politicians. And that negative cycle continues on.

Fresh Eggs!

Fresh Eggs

There is risk involved in EVERYTHING. The truth is that FEAR is taking over our society. It is now normal to be afraid of PEANUT BUTTER.

Venison Jerky-  ready for the oven

Venison Jerky- Ready for the oven

And the thing is, the more that we expose ourselves to organic, fresh, unpasteurized foods, the healthier we will be. Our immune system learns how to work correctly by doing so. Most of the ills that now plague the country like obesity, diabetes, cancer, food allergies, dependence on medicines, etc. are becoming more epidemic as we move away from eating the way we really should – directly from the earth.

Live Sage!

Live Sage

We are human. We are mammals. We will live. We will be sick. We will be injured. We will die. Sitting inside a house, eating fumigated, boiled, bleached, test tube food will not cure all these woes.

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Dried Hot Peppers

We can go outside, we can roll in the grass, we can breathe in the fresh air, we can suck a Honeysuckle flower or eat those tiny, wild strawberries. It is OK. Is it possible to catch something from doing this? Yes. But, it is so unlikely, that we are more likely to be struck by lightening.

Farm Stand and Trader Joe's - for the Winter.

Farm Stand & Trader Joe’s – for the Winter

Do you want to live your life, as fully as possible?

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Dormant Peach Tree

I am glad that we have fresh chicken eggs to eat. I am glad that we have venison in the freezer. I am glad that we can flavor our meals with fresh herbs and spices. I am glad that we have a lovely garden – that gets bigger every year. I am glad that we have fruit trees. I am hoping to have goat milk this Spring. And I wish that everyone that wants this could have it all too!

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We dine on a wide variety of foods in our household. As the focus of the main course, tofu makes an appearance on our table often, along with lots of veggies and fruit. Yet, we do enjoy and eat meat.

The current set of livestock on our farmette produces dairy items only. So, where do we get our meat? Mostly we get it from a grocery store, just like most people in the United States do. But, last year, a friend was happy to deer hunt on our land in exchange for 1/2 the venison acquired.

You can use venison just like any other meat. This piece has been cleaned and then soaked in salt and lemon juice.

You can use venison just like any other meat. This piece has been cleaned – then soaked in salt and lemon juice (our version of brine solution).

Wild grown meat tastes much better than that produced by factory farming. If cooked in a short and sweet manner, it is also melt-in-your-mouth tender. Our new experience with venison was like being taken to the Dark Side in Star Wars. Fresh deer meat has the potential of creating a Neanderthal out of a Vegetarian.

Filling up the freezer with clean, natural meat was enough to activate the somewhat dormant hunting instinct in me. I have felt it when fishing – quietly sitting and imagining a potential seafood meal. But pulling an animal up on a string to die out of water and using a gun to kill one are quite different. I thought about it for a while.

One year later, I am on my way out to the woods for my first try at the sport of hunting.

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I look like a terrorist. Yikes! Hopefully the deer won’t see me and be scared out of our county. PS: Don’t try this at home – without a hunter education class. It is required here in North Carolina and hopefully everywhere else.

While attending a class, it became clear to me why you can’t purchase a hunting license without having had the safety class. Hunting was a much more dangerous sport before this requirement. The accident stories are more than enough to keep me honest (following the rules).

The classes are designed to produce a responsible, knowledgeable and involved hunter. There are not only safety, but ethical guidelines to follow too – from not offending the anti-hunting advocates to conserving wildlife for future generations.

FYI: Many conservation efforts are financed by a special hunting gear tax. This, along with hunting limits, has brought back wild turkey in North Carolina, along with many species of wildlife across the country. 

Class also = Free Cool Patch

Class also = Free Patch = Super Cool

Although some are super-focused with their eye on the trophy prize, most hunters enjoy feeding themselves and their family with a successful kill. Both are accepted as long as species are not depleted and meat not wasted (many food banks have hunter/processor donors).

I cannot deny that it would be exciting to get a giant set of antlers as an added bonus. But, for me, it is a good way to live off the land without eating the livestock (I often think of them as pets).

If I actually bag a deer, I’ll be bringing home the bacon. And you’ll be the first to know when I am successful (well, maybe second)!

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I sit here writing, trying not to cry, having gotten attached to the little guy. Chance passed away a little while ago. He developed a hernia in the spot where the yolk sac was not absorbed. OK, now I am crying. It is always worth a try, even though this is the most likely outcome. We really enjoyed his presence here. RIP Chance…

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If you happen to be a vegetarian and are so as to save animals from death by grocery stores and hunters, you may want to stop here. Some people stay away from meat for health reasons. I was a vegetarian for a while as a young adult for both. But, the human animal is omnivorous. At this point in my life, I choose to go with what nature intended for us rather than fight this tendency towards meat eating.

Having said all this, the subject of this blog is deer hunting. A few years back when we still lived in DE, I was at a car wash watching the vehicles move along the conveyor along with 3 men in the waiting room. Two were hunters all dressed in camouflage and one was uncomfortable with the idea of hunting down and killing a deer. He admitted that he did eat beef – obviously from cows. There was some discussion about how ranches raise and butcher them. One of the hunters said “At least they have a chance” (referring to the deer he hunts). This changed my perspective. If you are going to eat meat, it makes sense to have an animal live its life free and not even know what hit them when they are taken for their meat.

So far, my husband and I do not hunt (although we do love fishing and crabbing) and use our livestock for dairy products. But, we have a stretch of woods on our property and offered a friend hunting privileges. Our very experienced, hunter friend is not one that would shoot anything that moved. He spent a day in a tree stand out back watching does and young ones wander by before taking a buck not long before sun down. It was gutted of all organs in the woods, leaving a feast for raccoons, possums, etc.

Jim T. and his buck

I did not choose this pic to be gruesome, but to show what excellent aim Jim has. His estimate is 6 seconds to death when a deer is hit in the heart and lung area. There is no long-term suffering or waiting in line to die. And they get to live free instead of being crowded into pens with nothing to do but eat and sleep.

Our pony helped drag the carcass out of the woods. This only lasted about half way since the rope came loose and the pony bolted ahead on the trail to the yummy grass in the back yard. Jim dragged it the rest of the way and left it hanging to cool.

It didn’t seem like a deer to me anymore. There was no movement at all and its spirit was gone. It was now similar to a fish getting ready for the frying pan. I was unexpectedly calm and curious.

Dead Buck & Live Goats

Our pygmy goats were curious too. Our goats are not a meat breed. There are quite a few people that raise goats to eat. The most popular for meat is a Boer goat. They are really large and yield more than a deer. I don’t think that we will raise them to kill, at least anytime soon, since our livestock animals quickly become pets. 

8 point antlers

Jim removed the horns with two 45 degree saw cuts. My son Dorian and I watched on in amazement and listened to the explanations and stories of the hunting/butchering process. The tools were a knife, a saw, plastic bags and a tarp. We got to see the brain and all the choice cuts of meat. Dorian got the tail to salt and dry. Jim generously brought the antlers back for our him, along with packs of meat for our family. 

Tail - from the white tailed male deer

You honestly can’t beat deer venison in flavor and freshness. I was quickly altered to a new level of carnivorous satisfaction. My husband and I just looked at eat other wide-eyed when we tasted grilled back strap meat, and even wider with the tenderloin skewers. Our response to having Jim hunt out back – ANYTIME (It is still hunting season)!

Frozen venison roast

The leftovers of the deer were dragged back to the woods. This time it was a feast for coyotes, foxes and vultures… Nothing gets wasted. Apparently even mice get nutrition from the remains of the hunt, particularly calcium from the bones.

Hopefully, Jim will get more deer in his hunts. A big doe would be good, since the ratio of males to females is far outweighed by the girls.

To our vegetarian friends – we greatly respect your choices. We hope that you are able to accept ours.

Also, many thanx to Jim T. for everything!

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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.

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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!

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