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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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