Sneak peak at LaVis Farm Bees

We are enjoying our Italian Honeybees!bees

I’ve decided to videotape while I install, inspect, and feed the bees. So while I get to editing that footage for blog posts, here’s a sneak peak at Queen Apita & her workers busy at building their new hive.

Bee Teaser View on YouTube


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Let’s Talk Manure!


Chicken & hay compost.

I use chicken and goat manure compost as garden fertilizer.

The chicken manure, already mixed with the hay bedding from the coop, is allowed to set for several months to a year until it looks nice crumbly like this pic shows. I sterilize it in a 200 degrees oven for 30 minutes then sift it. The fine compost I mix with organic peat moss, also sterilized, and use to start my veggie and flower seedlings in late winter.

The goat manure a.k.a. goat pellets are great either as compost with the hay as well or just the pellets tossed into the hole when planting seedlings. It’s also great as a manure tea. Either way the plants love it & I get better results without chemicals.The pellets also act as a water absorbant, releasing moisture back to the plants.

To make tea, I just toss about a hand shovel full of pellets/chicken compost freely or in a sock and let soak a few days in a 5 gallon bucket of water, stirring frequently. Use this diluted with additional water until its a very weak tea. The darker it gets, the “hotter” it will be so I do not want to burn the plants. If I just want to use it as I go, I’ll toss in about 2 cups of manure into the bucket of water, adding water to keep it very weak tea looking. I reuse the manure a few times then toss it into the garden.

Raising livestock offers me the materials to make my own stash of brown goodness. But if you don’t raise livestock, local farmers will often give away manure for one ‘s own labor of hauling it away. Today’s polluting by-product was yesterday’s fertilizer. It’s a renewable resource that we should be making use and not wasting.

Although manures are ALL WONDERFUL,  do realize that all manure is not the same. Learning how “hot” each animal’s manure is and how it’s best used will make you the king or queen of the garden block!

There are lots of websites with their versions of making and using manure fertilizers. Here are a few more discussions…

Homegrown Life: Let’s Talk About Poop (Using Manure in the Garden)

Organic Gardening: Manure

University of Minnesota, Extension: Using Manure & Compost

Ideas for making manure tea…

Mother Earth News: How to make manure tea fertilizer

SF Home Guides: How to make chicken manure tea

Local Harvest: Goat Pellet Tea


Happy Gardening!

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The Bees Are Coming!

I’ve been waiting and waiting for a spring bee swarm to move into the new “condo.”But here it sets empty without any of those locally wild Italian bees to come move in.

beedandalion_8382With the onslaught of rain that continues to drench our farm and after a few chats with some local beekeepers, I see the local bees are just not swarming. Ugh! Spring swarms in my area can run through July with ample food and good weather. Looking at the forecast that is usually pleasant for June all I see are record rainfalls.

What’s a newbie beekeeper to do? Wait until next year? Nope, I have officially gone into “Plan Bee”…ordering a package of bees with a queen. Or so I thought.

A newbie beekeeper such as myself would think I’d have plenty of options to supplying an empty hive with guests. Not so this time of the year! I spent several hours hunting apiaries in the region through online websites and direct calling just to be told they were sold out of packaged bees. See, most beekeepers pre-order their bees & queens in the fall for a spring arrival. I knew this but took the chance on “Plan A” for the plentiful bees around the property as beekeeping is not a cheap investment to begin.

So with the window closing, I had to get on the ball to catch the best time for them to start setting up honey reserves to overwinter. I made a final search for starter bees that led me to H & R Apiaries. They have the Italian Queen and 3# package of bees I was wishing to find. And better yet, I made it just in time for their next shipment in a week. Their customer service was very polite and helpful in assisting my transition into a beekeeper.

Note: If you are in need of bees, H & R Apiaries is still available and will ship to your home or postal box. And if you call by tomorrow, you can also meet their shipping deadline for next week’s shipment. As for pricing, the total for the queen, bees, plus shipping ran me at just $114. That’s less than the prices I was quoted in my region. This surely helped me stay within my farm budget for this year. :)

Oh my…I’m finally going to be a beekeeper! SWEET!




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Ribboned Squash & Noodles

Ribboned Squash & Noodles

Ribboned Squash & Noodles is pretty simple & can be made for veggie or meat lovers. It’s always great to have a quick meal option to satisfy a diverse group without making two dishes!

This is for two servings, double as needed.

2 medium (6-8” in length, 1-2 inch thick) size young zucchini & yellow squash, ribbon-sliced lengthwise with vegetable peeler.
1/2 c. sliced onion
1/2 of a red bell pepper, sliced in thin strips
2 tsp. each dried basil & garlic powder
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
2 chicken breasts (or equivalent), chopped bite size
4 strips of broiled crispy bacon, crumbled
garlic powder, kosher salt, pepper, dill weed
1 tbsp butter, margarine or olive oil (opt.)
box of angel hair pasta

Put on angel hair pasta according to box. Or my lazy way: Bring water to boil, add noodles and stir letting boil 2 minutes then turn off with a final stir then and let rest.

In the meantime…saute veggies, garlic powder, and basil on medium-high in skillet with olive oil coating bottom of pan for few minutes until quite underway but not scolding. Stir until tender about 10 minutes or my lazy way: turn off heat after 5 minutes and let rest covered about 5-10 minutes until desired tenderness desired. Transfer to platter & sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

While veggies are cooking, saute chopped chicken in skillet with olive oil to coat bottom of pan. Sprinkle with garlic powder, pepper, kosher salt, and dill weed. Stirring until no longer pink about 10-15 minutes. (Grilled or roasted chicken can be chopped and substituted instead).

Strain noodles, stir in butter then put onto dish. Top with veggies to go vegan or top with chicken or even crumbled bacon.

Opt. Grilled chopped chicken & bacon

Happy eating!


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Our first top bar hive

We love local honey. In our morning cup of hot tea. Over a hot buttered biscuit. Ok, I’ll admit I can be found just standing in the kitchen licking off a spoon dipped into the honey jar. ;)

I’ve been wanting a hive of my own and I finally have one!20150405-220326-79406310.jpgI purchased the hive a few months ago from a wonderful retired veteran. A pleasure to talk to and offers his hives at a reasonable cost. Of all the elements I wanted in a hive, I desired a large hive, a peaked roof and an observation window. His design offered each of them.

20150405-220703-79623059.jpgThe hive came completely ready to assemble with pre-drilled holes and unpainted. I put the parts together fairly easily and decided to paint the entire hive white. The inside is left unpainted as well as the bars.



Once the white exterior paint dried, I stenciled on a few bees and sunflowers. The interior is the roof received some waterproof calking along the seams.



I’d hope to raise local bees so I’ve added a few drops of lavender essential oil to the hive to assist in attracting a spring swarm. I’ll try lemongrass essential oils as well.

20150405-221609-80169708.jpgBut just in case that isn’t fruitful, I’m going to make a bait box to increase my odds and networking for a fellow beekeeper to aid in my bee stocking search.

20150405-221612-80172291.jpgIn the meantime, think I’ll rest up and read the latest issue of the state beekeepers association’s newsletter.

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Puppies coming and going

On December 13th, this mangy, skinny hound showed up at our place. Starving, cold, and with mange from nose to tail, it was apparent he’d been alone for a week or more full of scavenged foods, primarily persimmons from our property.



The most irritating thing about living in the country are the people who dump dogs here they no longer want. I usually find them a good home but being so sick, we decided to make this one a keeper.

After some meds and several oatmeal baths, he bounced back a bit each week. He also fell in love with the woodstove. So much so that he’d lay beneath the stove and didn’t even care about the ashes. Lol I can’t blame him as he had no body fat in the winter! So I named him Cinder. (Cinderfella lol)

He’s just about over his mange and is now at a good weight for about a 6 month old puppy. He rides on the 4-wheeler with me to feed the animals and he loves playing catch. He’s an overall happy puppy.


But while Cinder is finding his place here on the farm, we are grieving for our black lab, Bubba Biscuit. He was 13 years of hiking companion, farm protector, and friend greeter. We will miss his loud woof and big doggy smile. Our hearts are just full with his memories.

And our oldest dog, a chocolate lab named Cookie, is soon to being put down. While her heart is strong, her body is failing and pretty quickly. I never like doing The Chore, but it has to be done to not let her start to suffer.

Cookie’s about 16 years old given to us by a friend as an adult after we lost our chow mix Reddi. Reddi was Nicole’s puppy since she was 2 years old. We had to put her down at the age of 13 years after being gravely attacked by a stray blood hound.

I’ve always told the kids,”animals have the right to die and not suffer but people do not.” There’s no reason for a prolonged life if there’s no quality of life. So it’s time to say goodbye.

I think our cat Sunny will take it hard as he loves his momma and daddy doggies…snuggles with them daily since being adopted by them as kitten.

I guess that’s the cycle of life I see…one bright and the other fading.

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I love a good garden burn

March is that month when the ground is thawing out from melted snows and early rains but too soggy to work in the garden.

20150312-072256-26576289.jpgAdd a windless day and it’s the perfect recipe for a controlled garden burn.

20150312-072356-26636531.jpg The tops of old weeds and veggie debris light right up with a match, contained by the wet edges of the garden. Hoe and rake in hand, a nice cool drink, and I’m watchful as the flames wick across the plot.




Having an organic garden, I often burn in spring prepping to decrease pesky weed seeds like Johnson grass that hoeing alone just cannot destroy.


And I’ll admit, it makes quick clearing of the old veggie roots I left overwintering after a busy fall.


A few quick walk arounds to put out some lingering flames…


20150312-072531-26731912.jpg…and I’m all done.

Phew, that saved me atleast a week’s worth of garden chores!

Happy Yard-Prepping!

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Chicken Feet Thawing

The recent ice storm wasn’t a surprise. With several days notice of the impending storm, I made sure the animals had enough hay to stay snuggly, fresh water, and feed in their pens to wait it out.

But then there’s that rooster who didn’t get the memo. Needless to say, the morning after the storm I inspected the pens and found a rooster falling over, not able to walk with red, frozen feet.

roosterfeetSo to the barn he went to start his feet thawing.

20150222-124402-45842733.jpgForget frost bite, like in his comb…more evidence he does not roost in the coop at night…those feet were frozen solid and clanked as I put him into the crate. I started a slow thaw at first with a heat lamp. At least he was still eating and drinking….a good sign. After a few hours he was out in the garage by the wood stove to stay overnight.


The next day he was walking about pretty well and getting restless to be out of the crate. The blood flow has returned to his feet but I’m watching for any dead toes or tissue before he can go back to the flock.

I’m chick-momma-hopeful it’ll be in a day or two!

20150223-083805-31085514.jpgUpdate on Popsicle 2/25/15: The past few days, he was eating, drinking, and walking albeit stumbly. He started to have some diarrhea and a bit cranky knocking his feed over letting me know he did not like being caged up. I was hopeful his crabbiness was a sign he would recover. But today, I went out to check on him and clean his cage and found he had died. He never recovered from the feet freezing. :(


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Winnie’s kidding soon

I’m getting so excited for Winnie’s kids to arrive! Her freshening is just a month away and she is getting pretty cranky.

“I’ve been there Winnie, and don’t blame you one bit!”

This week’s physical is looking good. It’s my practice to take a quick weight check and an overall look to make sure she and the kids are growing at a good, healthy weight. A nice 69.8#…I do believe she’s a bit larger than last year kidding triplets.


Of course she’s protesting an udder check and sitting on her rump. Lol
But she’s uddering up nicely.

So with her having a good appetite and no apparent problems, her kidding is right on track as we near her March 19th due date.


Now the biggest question: how many kids are in there?!

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A warm weekend + prepping your garden space

No buds on the trees? After this weekend there might be.

No buds on the trees? After this weekend there might be.

I gladly escaped the house this weekend and enjoyed three days of sunny, above 50 degree weather. It’s not normal for us here in the Midwest to be enjoying weather this beautiful in January — but then again, as the old saying goes, and if you don’t like the Midwest’s weather, you can wait about 5 minutes for it to change.

Of course, with it being January, there’s not much I could do in the way of planting or gardening, despite feeling ready. But, I was able to prep my outdoor gardening space so that I’m ready to go after freeze warnings have ended. Continue reading

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