Saturday, April 22, 2006

Baby Goats!

Our first goat has kidded and delivered 2 healthy bucks! She happened to do this in the middle of Jeremy's 16th birthday party:) The city kids went from fascination to being grossed out and then back to delight as they got to hold brand new baby goats. Our 8 year old has decided that they are all goofy...why would a beautiful, easy birth bother anyone?

Her first buck was huge! Obviously he was hogging all the nutrition! Here he is shortly after Momma did her initial cleaning job.

Somewhere back in our buck's line there must be some strong genes for cou blanc (white shoulders) coloring...we named our first buck born with this coloring Oreo. The boys haven't named this little one yet. They are quite creative with their names...we have a year old doe named Elizabeth Milkshake!

It was only a matter of minutes before this little boy was on his feet and nursing! Within a few hours he was running and leaping...although a bit awkwardly :)

Nora, the perfect cow, was fascinated with this thing called birth! We have a pen in the barn reserved for does when they are kidding, for rehab after an injury or for other special needs.

This pen just happens to back up to Nora's space in the barn. When she saw us all run to the barn after Elijah announced that Dixie was about to kid, her curiosity was aroused. She ambled in just in time to see the first baby born. She so badly wanted to get in the pen with Dixie and her baby!

I must say that Dixie was none to pleased. She is a protective doe with strong maternal instincts. Nora was not in her plans!

Dixie's second kid was another buck (darn!) with the most beautiful makes me think of moonlight on the hay fields. He is so beautiful I wish he was a doe :) He is quite small compared to his brother.

Elijah is holding him and helping him get dried off while Dixie is cleaning up the pen (yuck!). He
appeared to be a little on the weak side - so we decided that he needed a little help to nurse and get the energy flowing! It doesn't take much to perk them up.

Here Josiah is helping to steady the little one on his feet while he guides him to the right spot. It is amazing what a strong instinct they have to nurse right after being born....God was so creative and His reflection is seen down to the smallest detail in His creation. The kids know that there is delicious food someplace on Mama ...sometimes they need a little guidance to get to the right place if you are in a hurry...eventually they always find it on their own. This little one latched on and perked up within minutes of filling his little tummy!

By this time, Dixie had been patient enough - she wanted Nora to BACK OFF! Here she is trying to nip at Nora through the fence. It was rather comical...Dixie would lick and nuzzle her babies while crooning softly and sweetly to them and then turn and savagely attack the fence while making noises that definitely weren't friendly!

Poor Nora was bewildered... she just wanted to visit with the babies!

We have one more doe to kid this year - we reduced our herd greatly last year. I am so looking forward to the milk! I make Feta cheese and Chevre cheese from their milk. Chevre is very similar to cream cheese - I flavor it with garlic and herbs from the garden. My boys can consume 1/2 pound of Chevre in 10 minutes! We also drink the milk - delicious! And I am looking forward to adding my goat milk soap to my website as soon as it is made and cured!

Well, I am off to the garden and the greenhouse - I will try to get pictures of those up this next week!


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Meet the Bees!

Here are this years bees! You are looking at three packages of bees. Each package weighs about 3 lbs. There are approximately 10,000 bees in each package. Now you need to imagine the hum of 30,000 bees! A package of bees cost about $65 this year. Note the screened sides - good for the bees but not near secure enough for me!

To get started in beekeeping you need at least one package of bees and a hive with at least one super. A super is a shallow box that sits on top of the hive body. This is where the bees store their honey. A strong and healthy hive, during a good season, can fill several supers full of honey.!
I believe that you can get a complete hive set up for less than a hundred dollars. For our family it has been a wonderful investment - pure, raw, honey without pesticides or antibiotics!

At the top of the box is a small container that houses the queen and her worker bees. These bees feed the queen and groom her. They meet her every need...what a life! We hope that we have docile queens this year. If not...well...we know what to do :)

In this close up picture you can see the bees swarming around the queen's area. It is almost
nightfall - a good time to put bees in the hive. This gives them time in the hive before they start leaving to forage for food. By morning they will have accepted the hive as home. We also feed them either honey or a syrup made from water and sugar until there is sufficient food available for them to find on their own.

Now it is time to pour the bees into the hive. You literally uncap the box and pour them out like water! This is when you wear THE SUIT!! Nothing like head to toe protection! Elijah was fascinated with the vibration of the bees any normal (?) 8 year old he decided to scoop up a handful and see what they felt like....(where did this child come from?)

I can work bees, I can work next to bees, I can watch bees....but....I can not play with bees!
Elijah however was thrilled...he thought it was
the coolest sensation....(although now he admits he was a little scared). He could feel the vibrations and satisfied his curiosity. He dropped them back into the hive and had to shake and brush them gently to get them off of him - they seemed to like him and didn't want to leave! We didn't realize at the time that one of his velcro flaps on the suit wasn't closed completely. He ended up with a bee in his shirt...which he didn't notice till he was headed for the shower...OUCH! Right on the belly!

At the end of the day, all the bees are in their hives and Elijah and Siah can look back on a job well done! You can see the reflection of light on the feeders on the front of the hives.

I am looking forward to June when we bring out the extractor and start turning the handle to produce lots of glorious honey! We filter it through a double screen to keep out the pieces of wax and bee trash. The filter fits over a 5 gallon bucket with a honey gate on it. When the bucket is full it goes onto the counter, we open the gate and let the honey flow into 1/2 gallon containers.

We store them this way in the pantry. We are adding a hive this year to keep up with our honey needs. I use it in teas, cooking, baking, my home made cough syrup and in the 8 loaves of bread I bake each week. This year I hope we have several swarms that we can capture to establish some additional hives.

I'll let you know if we end up with Mafia bees again...if we know where I will be some dark night!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Setting up the hives....

It is that time of year again. Time to order bees, set up hives and anticipate the flow of honey this summer and fall. We lost both of our hives last year to mites and wax moths. I have done some studying this winter and found that there are some herbs and essential oils that can help with both of those predators. I thought I would share the process of setting up an apiary for those of you who might like to add this project to your homestead. Bees are a great homeshooling project. Bees and their society are a wonderful testimony of God. Your local extension office will probably have some free literature for those of you who might be interested.

Our first step this year was to prepare the site. The ground was tiled and will be planted into spearmint. This is to help with the mite problem. We will also be putting Spearmint essential oil into some of their food supply. As you can see, we then set up concrete blocks for the hives to sit on. This keeps the hives up off of the ground. This helps keep the hive entrance free for the bees to fly in and out of and also keeps them out of the reach of ground predators. Skunks will make noise at the front of the hive and wait for the bees to come out...then they eat the bees! I am not sure why the stingers don't bother one has answered that question for me. Of course, Doegee is right there making sure the boys are o.k.

Earlier in the year, we cleaned hives, built frames and filled them with foundation in preparation for this time. The hive bodies are sitting in the front of the tilled area waiting to be placed on the stands.

The bees will be poured into the hive bodies and then eventually smaller boxes, called supers, will be placed on top of the hive bodies. This is where all that delicious honey will be placed! Honey extracting day is always a sweet and sticky day :) We use our honey to sweeten our drinks, to bake our bread and to cook with.

Here Josiah and Elijah are setting the hive bodies on their bottom boards and making sure they are centered correctly. They also check to see that all the frames are in place and hanging correctly. We use a thin sheet of foundation in each frame. This acts as a "starter" sheet for the bees to fill with wax and honey. It also guides them to building in the right place so that they don't end up sealing all of your frames together.The foundation is made of pure beeswax that has been imprinted with the hexogonal shape that bees love.

The hives are now ready for the bees! The MOST IMPORTANT next step is suiting up. I know many bee keepers who work in gloves and a veil....but me....I'm a wimp and want to be covered head to toe with protection when you are talking about thousands of bees....and I want my kids covered too.

Here Elijah is getting ready to really work bees for the first time. He is modeling the wonderful suit that, if properly zipped and velcroed, will keep your skin away from the bees. This is of crucial importance in my book. I have been able to overcome my fear of bees to a great extent by learning about them. I no longer run screaming into the house when I see a bee...I can actually work next to them in the garden....I don't like it but I can do it. However, when they out number me 30,000 to one.....I LOVE THE SUIT!!!

There was this one year....we had a new queen. The queen sets the tone for the whole hive. Sort of the "If momma isn't happy then no one is happy" idea. Well this queen was NOT happy. She must have been one of the meanest creatures ever created. Therefor her hive was the same way. My oldest son called them Mafia hit bees. They WANTED to sting you...never mind that it cost them their life...they didn't care!! They would eyeball you and begin to move in...and they always went for the head! We never left the house without a hat...once they locked on you as a target they began to chase....not fly towards you, mind you, I mean CHASE YOU...for LONG DISTANCES!! I remember hearing my oldest boy, then 17 at the time, screaming outside...he was racing around the house yelling for me to open the door on the next pass....there were several small dark spots chasing him at head level. Good thing he was a fast runner since he is allergic to stings. He beat them to the door and was safe. That was the last straw! I could either choose to remain a recluse for the rest of the summer or I could choose to commit murder....I chose murder.

We ordered a new queen...then, under the cover of darkness a covert operation took place. Gleefully we searched the crowd for the boss....she was easy to spot. Ruthlessly we captured her, murdered her in cold blood and dropped her lifeless body on the proper burial for such a savage beast! (I must confess here that I actually did the happy dance!). We installed the boss of our choosing...we were assured that she would be a kinder and gentler ruler. Within a few days she had calmed the seething population....they adored her...they wanted to be just like her....and peace again ruled over Sweet Hollow Farm. Once again it was safe to venture outdoors....we even hung up our hats!

Meet the bees on my next post!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Mom's Arthritic Knees....

My Mom has suffered for years from her arthritic knees. My parents used to own a little Mom and Pop hotel on a beach in Florida. I think years of being on her knees mopping floors everyday took their toll. She can predict the weather better than most meteorologists just by the swelling and pain in her knees. She really needs a knee replacement (maybe two) but she wants to avoid doing this as long as possible. We have tried many salves to try to relieve the pain in her knees (Tiger balm, Icy Hot etc.) but nothing seemed to do the most everything on the shelves is petroleum based or is full of chemicals. So... a few years ago...I set about to develop a deep-heating salve that would be all natural and that would help her . When I begin to work on a salve, the first step is to research herbs. I was looking for herbs that had anti-inflammatory properties, herbs that would produce heat, and herbs that would help with pain. Then I began with an Arnica base - one of the best anti-inflammatory herbs. Now it was time to work on blending, quantities and combinations. It was fun to work on, although I am not sure Mom would agree. Since this salve was for her, she needed to be my guinea pig! I am sure she got tired of the phone calls...."come try this one, I added another essential oil"! And she probably wanted to run and hide when she saw me walking in the door with another spoon of salve to try! I remember the last weekend I worked on it, I was fine tuning some of the last ingredients...she was sitting in my kitchen with her pants legs pulled above her knees and little shiny salve spots covering her legs in different place...."does this spot feel better than the last spot?" She was a great sport! When we thought we had perfected it, I called all the boys in and began applying it to their sore backs and legs since they had been hoeing the corn all afternoon. Boy did my house smell wonderful....and all of our sinuses cleared right up! It is amazing to me that when you use all natural ingredients the healing process is so much faster! The pain relief lasts so much longer. I guess it is just that our body has the ability to process natural things much more effectively as opposed to chemical things. Isn't God great?! My Mom was surprised at how well this salve worked compared to the others she had tried. I used it on a shoulder injury that I received in a car accident 20 years ago. I had been using Tiger balm extra strength up until I created this salve....the pain relief lasted so much longer for me with my salve than with anything I had tried from the store! Well, as things seem to go around here -I would give a jar here and there to a friend who mentioned sore muscles, aches, arthritis, carpal tunnel (sure helped my symptoms!) and they began to ask to buy made a larger batch. We then had to name the salve...always the hard part for me.... and I began selling it. Looking back, I have never developed a salve, soap or tea for the purpose of selling has always been to benefit my family or a friend in some way but God seems to always take it a step further. The requests for Aches Away began to grow....totally by word of mouth. The most rewarding part is that people began to write to me sharing how much this salve had helped. I loved hearing their stories. There is something so rewarding in knowing that the work of my hands has blessed someone else. I also had requests to put it in a container so that it could be applied without having the deep-heating effect end up on fingers and hands. I thought this was a really good idea....I had been putting on a surgical glove to rub it into my boys I put it into a roll up deodorant much easier! I had some requests to make it a little I did....Ooohhh! even better! One woman bought a jar at one of my classes to giver to her son for his tendinitis. He says it is the only thing that has really helped in years....the last time he ordered he bought a whole case of the salve!! I began rubbing it on the boys chests at night, instead of Vicks Vapo-rub, and covering it with a flannel cloth ....the essential oils in the salve help to break up their chest congestion and clear their sinuses so they can breathe easier through the night. I use it myself when I have a cold and it helps so much. I have finally added Aches Away to my can find it here or under the Herbal Salves button on the left of the home page. I hope it blesses those of you who try it as much as it has blessed my family!

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Let me tell you about Faye.....

A dear, dear friend of mine passed away this last week. Her name was Faye. Faye has been a part of my life for over 20 years. She was the wife of one of the elders in the church I attended in Florida for over 15 years. Faye was a woman of faith. A true Proverbs 31 woman. Faye walked with me through some very tough times. I couldn't even begin to count the times I cried on her shoulder, laughed with her and sought her counsel. Faye had the ability to tell you the tough stuff in love. And she could rejoice with you like none other. Faye spoke into my life for many years. And she wasn't just there to speak...she was a doer. She not only ministered to my spirit and offered encouragement and counsel when needed but she was there in person. Many times she brought a meal to my family, or sat with my child in the hospital so I could go home and take a shower, or helped to paint a room or taught me a new skill. Faye was a mother, a mother-in-law and a grandmother....and not just to her own family. She was Grandma Faye to my kids...because she truly acted like one. She earned the title. She was like another Mom to me. Her daughter is one of my closest friends. But Faye's passion in life was Jesus Christ. She loved Him....and she loved to teach about Him and to share Him with others. Faye wasn't perfect....she would be the first to tell you that. She was humble enough to be able to share her struggles and faults. But she is now face to face with Jesus Christ and I have no doubt she is hearing "Well done, my good and faithful servant!" Faye was a faithful servant - to Christ and His body. Faye died just as she wanted. She was tired. She said she wanted to go to sleep.....she layed her head down and walked right into the arms of her Savior! I don't know how people without the hope of Jesus get through times like this - it has been a hard week for me. Lots of tears have been shed....but I KNOW that when I enter the presence of the Lord, Faye will be there! As much as I will miss her, this is a temporary separation that, in the light of eternity, is just a vapor. What hope we have in Jesus! What a glorious reunion awaits His children! I am thankful that death has no sting....and that there is victory in Jesus! 'Night all!
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