Skip to content

Farmette 1769

by Monica Melograna-Ward

Category Archives: predators

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.

MainHiveEntrance_190326

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.

CloserPeekInsideMainHive_190511

AltViewDonComb_190511

CloseUpComb2_190511

CloseUpComb_190511

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.

FirstSwarm_190326.jpg

HoodSupplies_190326

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.

QuickHive_190326

TopBarBox_190326

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.

CrowdingBox2_190326

LotsOfBeesForBox_190326

FinlingInCurve_190326

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.

InsideTempBoxHive

CardboardFileBoxTempHive

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.

FailedSuper_190511

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.

SuperQueenExcluder_190511

SpareTopBars_190511

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

SuperBox

 

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).

UnderSuperWithExcluder_190511

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.

StraightDownIntoComb_190511

PeekIntoMainHive_190511

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.

CapInTheDark_190511FrontHivePreDawn_190511

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!

Tags: , , ,

On May 29, 2013 –

Our drake (male) Call duck was killed by a big, black Rat Snake (at least 4 feet long). The rat snake was after the eggs that our girl Call duck was sitting on. Daddy duck was very protective of the nest and I assume that this led to his demise.

DucknEggs

However, a rat snake is designed to eat small rodents (and eggs!), so he only made it to the shoulders of our duck. I discovered this when I opened the pen for feed/water. Rat snakes are not aggressive to people, so I pulled him out by the tail and then secured him better, just behind the head.

Normally I don’t mind encounters with snakes, but it was upsetting to lose the drake and have the snake spit out fertile egg to further darken my mood.

Although I have been practicing patience from the Teachings of the Buddha, I did not have enough for this situation. In defense of our mini ducks, I killed the snake with a shovel in the grass. This did not work really well, so I took it over to the cemented garage area and killed it more.

Snakes continue to writhe long after they are nearly split in two. That was pretty terrible. I did not like taking its life – at all.

It is a normal thing for a farmer to do. Once a predator figures out how to get an easy meal, they will continue to come back for more. You cannot just let them go back loose on your land if you expect to keep your livestock alive.

Apparently, this prepared me for… May 31, 2013 –

MeNsnake

Only two days later. I was riding the lawn mower tractor when I spotted another big snake. This one was 5 feet or more long. I thought of the ducks. I pulled it out from underneath a trailer and took it to the garage area.

My husband was home and was able to take a photo with his phone. This snake, a Black Racer, was taken down the road by my husband and son to be released in the nature conservancy area. It slithered into the woods in hopes of growing even bigger. I was happy for that.

The duck pen is being better secured, again. We’ll have to keep a few more ducklings to ensure we have a drake or two around for next Spring’s laying season.

To lighten things up a bit, I have included a pic of of baby ducks that was taken recently. This one is literally, a bucket o’ ducklings.

CallDucklings4

Country living is not easy. I had thought it would be so much more peaceful than living in the city. But, we must enjoy those calm and happy times as we have them, no matter when, or where.

CallDucklings7

Tags: , , , , , ,

Our dogs are our pets first. We love them and they love us too. If you care about your dogs, the will know it and will protect their family at all costs. Out on the country roads, you need the protection.

Thieves are very fond of the widely-spaced homes overflowing with lawn equipment and metal-laden supplies. These items can readily be traded for quick cash.

There are also coyotes and other wild predators that will gladly relieve you of your livestock. Our dogs treat our goats as their friends and protect them too.

There is a difference between guard dogs and watch dogs. Guard dogs are bred/trained to attack intruders. Watch dogs run around, announcing the arrival of visitors.

Our watch dogs are especially proud of barking at the mail/package delivery people. Their tails normally wag away while they do this job. It is only when they feel aggression from someone that their tails stop wagging.

We keep friendly dogs here on the farmette. Once introduced, any dog or human is welcome in their pack. This is why we are able to foster dogs so easily via OneBlackDog.

This is also why our guests are the not-so-eager recipients of sloppy dog kisses. The happier a person is, the more enthusiastically our dogs greet them. Children are favorites of our dogs.

Our two black Collie/Retriever Hybrids, are inside/outside dogs. The latter have access to our mud/laundry room at all times by the use of a dog door (sometimes they are inside along with our full time house dog “Penny”).

They lay out on the deck when it is cool and/or dry. Lounging inside is something they prefer in the warmer or wetter weather. When a vehicle comes down the gravel drive, you can usually hear the flap swishing. The sound comes from their scurrying outside to trumpet their presence.

Penny, Deirdre & Cecilia looking down into the fenced goat/dog yard.

We keep an auto-fill trough of water attached to the yard faucet. A few drops of bleach are added periodically to keep the well water bacteria free.

Our dogs are also provided with Iams lamb and rice dog food. Corn based food works for many dogs, just not ours. All three of them are prone to the skin/food allergies that come with Retrievers/Retriever crosses.

Sometimes farm dogs need cleaning too. They do not like baths much.

We used Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Mint Soap this time. Later tonight we will apply some “dog oil” to ward off fleas, ticks and other external parasites.

Cecelia is our son’s dog, so he was happy to help bathe her. He was actually glad to assist on scrubbing all three of our dogs.

They did enjoy the biscuits they get as a thank you for their cooperation during bath time. They have been taught to sit and patiently wait for treats.

No matter what the priorities of your home are, residential, country, city, farm, mobile, etc., dogs can add quite a bit to your life. You take care of them and they will take care of you – not only physically but emotionally too. They have the ability to put a smile on your face, no matter what your mood, as your enthusiastic, delightful companions.

Tags: , , , ,

It is almost one year since my major surgery. We have been able to get a lot done to reorganize the farmette since then. The work has helped me to build up muscles (including the ones supporting my fused neck) and to retrain all the crushed nerves. Things in that medical arena are far from perfect, but my ability to move is vastly improved in comparison to the two years prior.

We built a new pony run-in just in the nick of time before the cold Winter weather really struck:

Old Run-in

New Construction


New Run-in


Decor added September 2012

_______________________________

To bring the livestock count up to date:

Dogs (Pets, Watch, Retrieving, Service, Herding)
1 Female AKC Golden Retriever, 2 Female ACHC Gollies
(Golden Retriever x Rough Coated Collie)
Ongoing but not currently: One Black DOG project
pulling a pound dog from local shelter to re-home.

Goats (Brush clearing, Lawn mowing,
Milk – hopefully this Spring, Kid sales)
1 ADGA Young Nubian Buck, 1 ADGA Nubian Nanny,
1 Pygmy Nanny, 1 Pygmy Doe, 1 Pygmy “It” (female-ish)

Ponies (Transport pull cart/ride, Pasture ornaments)
1 (14 Hands) Blind, Quarter Pony Stallion /
1 (10 Hands) Grumpy 21 yo Shetland Gelding

Poultry (Eggs!!!, Insect control, Chick sales)
1 Chinese, Female Goose /
1 Shy, Free Range, Ameraucana/Wyandotte, Standard Sized Roo /
1 Angry, B&W, Polish, Top Hat, Bantam Roo / 1 Blue, Sizzle, Bantam Roo /
2  (Red, Birchen) Cochin, Bantam Roos / 1 Mille Fleur, Cochin, Bantam Hen /
1 Pair B&W, Ugly, Project Bantams / 1 Silkie x Cochin, Bantam Hen.
17 Young, Bantam Chickens for grow out (new breeders needed,
heat wave drove raccoons out of woods for giant raid on our main coop).

Inside
1 Parakeet that throws seed as far as outer space.
No particular use. But, he is very cute.
1 (55 gallon) fish tank w about a dozen fish.
Calming living room centerpiece.

_______________________

New coops are being built or re-built. The truly scrappy ones made from reclaimed everything were burned along with their hornets/wasps nests. Making solid, super sheltered, predator-proofed pens for our poultry was long past due.

One of the new coops:
1) Frame, 2) Digital Plans, 3) Final in use


We barter/traded our one man auger for a working nuc box of bees
(we lost our queen last year in our top bar hive and inevitably
lost that colony).


– The back pasture needs fencing, but has been cleared of coops.
– We need to move the two fruit trees to the front and plant the third
(still in pot from purchase months back).
– The farmette needs to buy a few pure bred hens for laying and
Spring chick sales.
– More coops will be necessary. Bobwhite quail, diamond doves and/or call ducks may be in the mix soon.
– A tree-house style goat house or two (with easy cleaning bases) need to be built, so that we can leave the well shed for storage alone.
– The pony run-in will have additions as time goes on.

The projects never end. Thank goodness we enjoy them!

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Our little Serama rooster decided to hide the day I was taking pics of the mini flock. Today, although a drizzly, unpleasant day, I was able to get a few great photographs of the new trio.

This is partly due to the fact that they are in a small, above-the-ground coop that is easy to access. Our son helped with one of the hens and then ran off to play. Although this set was convinced we were going to eat them, I am happy with the results. The screaming birds were actually quite photogenic.

Serama Hen #1

The first one is a pretty little hen full of character. I purchased her and the other carefully from another closed flock. They have been in the front coop for a few weeks now, separate from the rest of our fowl, with the exception of our resident Serama rooster that we hatched and raised here. They are healthy hens, but I no longer take any chances. Even though it is a lot of fun, buying at an auction or from a trader is too risky. If an illness is carried in, it can take your whole flock out.

Serama Hen #2

This one is a cutie. She is getting very vocal with her protests at being disturbed. She is probably calling out to her Roo to save her. The rooster really made them feel at home upon arrival. He hovered over them with his wings spread out to help keep them warm. He did this as a young cockerel with the other chicks. Some of the roosters are quite the charmers with the girls.

Serama Roo's Unhappy Pose

Roo's Protest/Beauty Pose

Seramas can really scream. I suppose this will help keep predators away. But, the cage they are in is locked up tight. These little chickens need good protection so that they do not become hawk snacks…

And he continues the protest!

Little Monster...

These little chickens are very endearing. We can’t wait until their eggs start hatching!

Tags: , , , ,

She should probably be considered a kitten. This seems to be a young cat. I had seen this one scamper out of the chicken area, but did not realize just how small she was. Due to her petite body frame, I am guessing that this kitten is female.

Just when I had given up on the animal trap, I decided to figure out how to reset it (very easy) and used some leftover turkey from Thanksgiving as a lure for the fowl connoisseur. It was quite a surprise that it worked.

My husband often works a later shift and did not arrive home until 11pm. I had stayed up late last night to capture a bit of time with him. And I had forgotten (again) to lock up the chicken coop. As we were chatting happily inside with the ice rain beginning outside, I remembered the unfinished task.

I wandered out in my husband’s big coat, pajamas and flip flops. He came after me with a flash light. We closed the coop and counted the chickens after realizing that something was crying in the trap.

Semi-feral Kitten

All the chickens were accounted for and the light was then turned on the cage. This young feline had beheaded, maimed and killed many of our little chickens. She was at our mercy.

The trap was locked to a metal chair to prevent theft (animal control probably goes through a lot of traps – and they are pricey). Luckily, my husband is a big guy and carried everything into the garage. I put an old towel over the cage to help keep the cat from freezing.

Well, I am such a sucker. We cannot have a house cat due to my husband’s asthma. We cannot have a bird killer loose outside. But I still wanted to keep her. She is just scared and hungry.

The animal control officer mentioned a feral cat rescue enthusiast that will pick them up from the shelter. I am hoping that happens with this one.

She may be deemed docile enough to put up for adoption. She seems pretty healthy, considering her home in the woods. You never know when someone is ready for a challenge.

Maybe she started off at a home and was dumped on the side of the road. There are no signs of aggression or crazed panic.

I feel like getting on my “happy life on the farm” soap box. So many people drop off their former pets on these country roads thinking that they have a better chance at a good life instead of being put down at an animal shelter.

Farms can only handle so many animals. They do not have the funds to be a haven for unwanted pets. And certain animals cannot co-exist with others. Cats that grow up with cat chow and big mean roosters do well on farms. But, starved strays that have a taste for easy domestic prey do not.

The pet owners are doing what they think is best. But, I do suggest that kittens, cats, puppies and dogs be taken to a shelter if a new home cannot be found. The fate that awaits them loose seldom ends well.

The chance remains that this kitten will be put to sleep. Ugh, I hate to hand her over now, but I can’t put the birds in harms way.

Tags: , , ,

In the post before last, there was a grim story about chicken losses due to  predators. The Jack the Ripper mystery has now been solved. A small group of feral cats are the culprits. They finally showed themselves in all their formerly domesticated glory.

There are at least two, maybe more. Not wanting to shoot the cats (although tempted), I called for help with the situation… The friendly neighborhood (Gaston County) animal control officer was at our house to set a trap.

Cat Trap (after the chicken sprung it and ate the cat food)

Apparently, there is a feral cat rescue group in the Charlotte, NC area that takes these unwanted animals and places them in designated areas away from people (donated use of woods or farm land) and provides them with shelters and daily feeding. They are neutered/spayed before re-release and an ear clipped as a visual marker.

Trapping a cat does not necessarily mean the gas chamber. But, it is a possibility. What do you do with all those wild felines? There are so many.

They are obviously hungry, but my birds cannot be served as their dinner on a platter. And if they are fed, they will stay around.

Presently, there are enough to produce lots of chicks in the Spring. But, our flock cannot handle many more losses.

So far, the trap that animal control set has not caught a stray cat. However, it finally did catch something – one small chicken. We’ll keep trying.

At some point we’ll have to invest in a trap of our own, as I am sure that this situation will happen periodically on the Farmette. All that you have to do is forget to close up the coop one night (of course we lost one little hen the very last time that happened) and the predators suddenly materialize.

What we need to do is move the main coop within view of the back deck. If we see a chicken eater, we could scare them off with the pellet gun or an ominous bang on a frying pan. Maybe we’ll get a mini donkey. They’ll guard goats – but I’m not sure about bird protection.

So, now we are left with a much smaller group of bantam chickens. We also still have 2 turkeys, 3 quail, 2 ducks, 2 guinea fowl and two standard chickens. It is plenty , but I do miss a few of the fancy bantams, especially since they started here as eggs. It is tempting to get a few fill-ins, but we must really work on above ground cages for safety before we do that.

Chicken circle (and my bright green garden clogs)

The pic shows some of the exotic bantam group that survived the onslaught of bad luck. And, yes, that is a pigeon that has made herself part of that flock.

Tags: , , , , ,