Where Are My Pears?

Apparently, they’re not around this year.

Image of bee eating rotten pear

Bees love taking advantage of fallen and rotting fruit. And why not let them? It’s great for the ecosystem. Sorry, little friends, there’ll be few pears to snack on this year.

Early last fall, I spent two weeks in pear (and apple) heaven. The tiny farm house my husband I and rent came with a equally-sized orchard, complete with one apple and two pear trees. What an added bonus!

We awaited early fall with minimal patience. Because the trees were well-established (the property is decades old), we couldn’t believe our luck — and had no idea how “lucky” we’d be when everything ripen at once.

Picking three fruit trees at one time was a massive rush: moving the fruit in, caning it before spoiling, using all the parts I could for our pantry stock and combating the fruit flies that always know when to show up. But, despite all the hard work, we looked forward to the 2015 harvest as an opportunity to improve our harvesting skills and know-how.

Except, this year, I’m sure we won’t be doing that. At least not for pears. Continue reading

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Egg Drop & Portabello Mushroom Soup

Let’s make use of those extra farm eggs with Egg Drop & Portabello Mushroom Soup!

eggdropsoup1280Ingredients:

  • 3 qts chicken broth
  • 4+ eggs
  • olive oil
  • portabello mushrooms, sliced
  • onions, diced
  • sea salt
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • paprika
  • 2 basil leaves (or dried 1-2 tsp)

In a 4 qt. pot, add 3 quarts chicken broth (or 2 cups broth & rest in water) and bring to boil. Whip 4 or more eggs (pic shows about a dozen) in a bowl until blended.

IMG_5029In a heated skillet, add olive oil, mushrooms, & onions and sauté until just soft and golden brown.

In boiling broth, drizzle in eggs slowly making strings. Then add mushrooms & onions (opt. carrots, celery). Add sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and basil (opt. ground ginger) to taste.

Boil 5 to 10 minutes & eat!

 

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Installing Italian Bees in a Top Bar Hive

beepkg_9376I was so eager to pick up my bee package from the post office on Thursday morning. And I am sure by the look on her face that the postal clerk was just as eager, calling me just as the bees arrived and placed in mail crate for non-touchable handling. :) beepkg_9378beecomb_9456

Installing the bees into a top bar hive was not as hard as I had imagined. It was actually quite fun! The even started on making a bit of comb in the package.

The bees were pretty gentle even after being shipped, held for two extra days due to a family function, then finally being dumped into the hive. Mr. SP didn’t even wear his gloves…how brave first time around!

I decided to start with a 3# package of bees with a naturally mated queen. With a shipping date on Monday, the bees arrived from Georgia to rural Missouri on Thursday morning.

IMG_9389The amount of bees dead in the package gave me a shock until I did some homework. So overall, I had few loss of bees, just enough to scantly cover one half of the package floor. Phew!

I fed them a 1:1 sugar & water mixture to be sure everyone had a meal from the trip and to tide them over the two extra days. And you know when a swarm is happy…there’s this quiet hum. When they’re not so happy…well it’s just not quiet and a bit scary. lol

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The next morning after install…the bees are still there!

The install went without any incidents. We even had one of the kids videotape. While he wasn’t too eager to assist, he stuck around for the whole install.

Watch: Top Bar Hive Install on YouTube.

A quick check on them the next morning after reopening the entry found them with a gentle buzzing. So far so good! :D

 

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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!

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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!

LaDonna

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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