On this particular time of year

The threesome: l-r, Cricket, Ivy and T-bell

Black Friday did not include shopping for us.  Instead, my daughter and I got two rags, hopped in the car, drove two miles north and then wiped down a neighbor’s very stinky Kiko buck.  Yes!  It was Buck Friday, the time of year when all good goat girls start thinking about making babies.  With no buck on the back forty, I needed to get a couple of buck rags to bring them into a strong heat.

My latest goat tip is a bit more easy than last year’s “show the doe the rag” trick that I had to do to Cricket 2-3 times a day.  This year, the point is to actually tie the rags on the goats’ collars.  Of course they want to consume the rags (the tin-can thing is a bit of a lie: goats do in actuality like to manipulate things with their mouths… it’s not eating per se…it’s akin to a baby’s sticking everything in his mouth to “know” it) so I needed to sew the rags onto their collars.  Unfortunately, the smell of male goat funk doesn’t do it for me, so I wore gloves.

All the fashionable does wear rags on their collars dontchaknow

But it does do it for Cricket and Ivy.  There is something quite nice about farming in that you can take the long view; there’s no need to make hasty decisions.  So as I thought about whom to impregnate this fall, I considered how much milk I was getting, and how valuable it was to me:  I get just shy of a gallon a day but only 2-3 cups of that gallon come from our new mother, Cricket.  At a year and a half, with only one baby (Ivy) and with me milking once a day, she’s not putting out that much, and needs another birth to fully develop that udder.  Which leaves me with T-bell, still milking a strong 3 quarts/day in her 23rd month of milking.  Dang.  She rocks.  So Ivy is of a size I could get her knocked up too:  what the heck, why not milk three goats a day?  (Oh yeah.  The day doesn’t contain more than its usual 24 hours, despite my thinking it does.)

It’s still been surprisingly warm here, warm enough that usual put-things-to-bed-for-winter tasks have dragged on and on…and on.  I finally harvested the last of my potatoes, again in a t-shirt, over the holiday weekend, which was strange but not unpleasant, as it’s a banner year for spuds.  And the bees have still been active.

Bees?  Bee update, and background:   I surprised the hell out of my husband last year by purchasing a beekeeping kit for him for Christmas.  I also bought him a trip to Bee School for his birthday in February.  Our bees arrived, and have been lovingly tended by my husband and my daughter all year, doing their busy bee thing, filling three boxes full of brood- and honey-filled frames.

My mouth was watering when I took this:  that frame is absolutely dripping with honey.  Sorry the pic is fuzzy, it was raining, getting dark and I didn’t have a bee suit on.

A lot of work.  It must be time to harvest all that honey, right?  Wrong.  We have decided to allow the bees to keep their honey all winter long.  We’ll harvest it in the spring after the first flowers come out.  There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that taking the bees’ food source means you need to replace it to keep the hive alive…in other words, you gotta feed them.  The standard food is sugar water!  Sigh.  That doesn’t sound “right” to us.

Stapling on pipe insulation, to soon be covered by 30# building paper

Tom’s insulating the hive too for the winter.

We hope they do well over the next few cold months.  Despite not even having harvested anything, we’re keen to invest in more hives for next year, both Langstroth and top-bar.  Why not?   Plus:  I like the idea of having an apiary, or bee yard.  A bunch of boxes filled with bees:  how, well, buzzy-busy.  The rule of thumb is one hive per acre on organic farms.  Our fruit trees did wonderfully last year, and I would like to credit the bees for their success.

Dairy?  check.  Honey?  check.  Now, if I could only grow coffee…or even tea…

19 responses to “On this particular time of year

  1. One problem we DIDN’T have in Mi was a bear in our apiary. 9 colonies demolished in a bear frenzy this summer….now we must re-establish a bee yard up by the house surrounded by electric fence. And worst of all not one drop of honey this year. Wishing you luck in your beekeeping adventures. Always happy to see a new post in my mailbox. DEE

  2. With that one-per-acre rule… Is that one per acre as in they have to be spread out so that each hive has about an acre of space around it? Or one per acre as in if you have seven acres, you stick seven hives near each other and the bees do the rest?

    • Hi Erin: I believe it’s one per one acre if you have that acre intensively cropped or covered with fruiting trees, thus, if you have 3 acres that are not just lawn then you’re able to keep 3 hives going. That’s what the orchardists and growers would like…the bees actually cover about a half mile, so if you don’t have enough stuff for them hopefully your neighbors will 🙂 With the downfall of both native and domestic bees and such, any little bit helps.

  3. That is awesome that you had “buck Friday” and it’s bucking the trend of shopping too. Ha ha. 🙂 Love the photos of the goats!

  4. I’ve looked into it before, and I’m pretty sure that with a little TLC tea plants can be grown in Boston — so probably in your area too! (Can’t remember off hand where you are…) I know that they’ve been able to produce well in Washington state.

    Good luck and I hope you have the chance to try! 😛

  5. I didnt know you had hives! Im getting my first in the spring and im pretty excited for it. I also am pleased to say that my hoophouse is Finally finished!! I have a 20×20 with roll up sides. I put beds in like you have in yours except I used concrete blocks, I cant wait to get planting in there. You were my hoophouse inspiration and I thank you!!!

  6. I forgot you all were keeping bees, too. It’s great fun. I’m starting to dream of bees. . . it must be time. Good luck with the goat rags!

  7. Goat rags! I am laughing and laughing at the ickyness!

    I have a top bar hive, and it is awesome and so easy. I highly recommend it. Mine is fully functional, though not very beautiful, but there is a guy in my beekeeping group who makes super beautiful top bar hives that even have fancy viewing windows. He calls them Heritage Hives… they are spendy, but I am totally coveting one as an addition for next year!

  8. Bees died this fall *sniff*; I think they starved- there was absolutely no honey when I opened the hive. We had such a lousy, cool summer. I planned on letting them keep their stores for this winter; turns out I should have been feeding them all summer. What a lousy year.

    Something that may be of interest to you: have you heard about the Henry milker? It goes on a clean quart jar and keeps everything clean, so no kicked buckets and no having to strain, etc. Might make it go faster for you if you’re milking three. http://www.henrymilker.com/

  9. I can’t get my husband into the bee thing. Maybe a surprise Christmas gift would do the trick, because I’m really not keen on being the family beekeeper. I’m the family everything else keeper, I would love it if he’d do the bee thing. Wishful thinking, probably though.

    • OMG Diana my situation exactly, and look how it turned out, he’s really into the darned bees. (Tree-tapping equipment on his surprise list for this year, incidentally.) I really recommend Bee School too. We did one in Kalamazoo but there are a few bee clubs throughout MI.

  10. I think there are probably caffeine-bearing species of holly that can grow in your climate, especially if you find a sheltered place for them. Would yerba mate be close enough to coffee for you?

    You don’t seem to have mentioned alder on your blog, but they are apparently very good trees for goats, bees (early season pollen), gardeners, and those who might use stick wood as fuel. I’ve also read that having some conifers around can help keep bees in propolis. Do you have any plans to put in a little copse of one or the other tree?

  11. I am reading your blog and it is ‘snowing’ on your blog. So cool.

  12. Yeah the Snow is here!

  13. Oh Dee how horrible for you. I suppose those were some happy bears afterward: somehow I have a feeling they weren’t as dimwitted or as mild as Winnie the Pooh. Hopefully the fence will help but I hope you guys didn’t need to put it TOO close to the house. All the best.

    And oh, Erin, yeah, like Dee described, you can keep the hives all together in a group (apiary).

    Hi Amy. One can only hope it is a trend…at least the not-shopping part! The Silly Season is officially here, and so I get really grumpy. humbug to it all. Anyway, yeah, it was fun seeing all the animals my neighbor has…it’s quite a lot.

    Dea, hah. Thanks for the advice! I think a bush or two could grow pretty well in the greenhouses (we’re zone 6B here) and so I might just give it a try…I have quite a few near-tropicals growing in there. Why not!

    Niki! Send me a photo of your greenhouse!! I am so glad you found some inspiration by the craziness I spin out on these “pages.” In fact yesterday the husband agreed to help me build a third greenhouse so watch this spot! And congratulations on wanting to do bees too, they are quite fascinating.

    Stef you were one of my bee inspirations. I just wish I could rent an extractor like you were able to do; we alas had to buy ours (and now it’s just sitting where it is sitting, gathering dust). And wow you’re up to four, right?

    Hi Kara, thanks for the info! Tom definitely wants a viewing hive for the top-bar one he wishes to build. It should be a fairly quick set-up for him as we’re both pretty handy with power tools. Have you had problems keeping them through the winter? That had been the one issue with top-bar hives here in this wettish, cold climate; the space is so big they can’t keep it warm enough over winter. We’ll see I guess!

    Paula, I had read about your bees: how sad. I know Tom fed his for a long time after he got them (in fact I thought he should lighten up) but obviously it worked…and yeah, you can’t quite account for the weather, but I would think your being in a more urban area would mean there was more stuff for the bees to get. And the Henry milker looks interesting! I would think that would be good for someone with carpal tunnel. As it is, I am pretty darned quick with milking (both hands) and I am always pressed for time…it still might be quicker for me to do it the old fashioned way (millk bucket, strainer funnel, clean half-gallon jars). But if I only had one miniature goat this might be the way to go.

    Diana I hope my story helped. Honestly the ONLY thing Tom really helps with is any two-person construction task, and that ONLY happens on his time, not mine. So *all* the gardening and animal care falls to me. (In his defense he does most of the housecleaning and the kid gets 50/50 attention.) That I was able to get him out of his office and actually going outside for something was in my mind a huge victory.

    Joel, very interesting information. We do have alders nearby (but here they tend to grow near rivers: there are a few on the river a half mile south of us) but we have many more birch trees, an alder relative, that have plenty of fruiting catkins. We also have loads of conifers both on our property and all the adjacent ones (Douglas fir; jack, scotch and white pines; cedars and at least 2 kinds of spruce). The one tree I am most interested in pollarding would be the black ash. Once you cut the main trunk down there’s no stopping the rush to produce side shoots. They’re great for our masonry oven because they’re thin and burn really hot.

    Namastemama and John! Isn’t it fun? I changed the background color so you could see it better. It starts on 1 Dec. every year now. Enjoy…especially if you don’t get to see much of your own.

  14. I enjoy my visits here. I have been ‘working at’ getting my two goats bred. This is my first year and one of them is a doeling so it’s her first year as well. I’ll be counting the days to see if it took. It’s all such a wonderful adventure. Here’s a recent little goat post… http://tinkerverve.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/catching-up/
    Do you have experience with trying to separate cream from goat’s milk? I’ve done some reading on it and would love to splurge for a separator but that won’t be for a while!

  15. Good luck with the breeding (perhaps it’s done now?) I’ve been struggling with the same thing. Two down, 3 to go…

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