Saturday, August 6, 2011

Bees trouble

In May, I picked up two hives of bees.  They started out pretty good but I have been having problems with one recently.  On the good hive, I just recently added a 3rd deep super.  They have already drawn out the combs and I am sure will be filling them soon.

The second hive is another story.  They are still on their 1st super and don't even have it filled yet.  I have been watching them pretty closely and there just aren't many bees in that hive.  I opened up the hive recently and there is not much brood and not much honey.  Most of the brood is drones.

Last week, I purchased a new queen to install because it looks like the old queen either died or is just a weak queen.  I looked through the hive from top to bottom 3 times and did not see anything that looked like a queen.  There was no mass of workers bees protecting another bee anywhere so I installed the new queen.  I checked 48 hours later and the queen still hadn't been released so I poked a hole in the candy plug big enough for the queen to get out.

Two days later, I checked on her again, and she was dead.  It looked like she got stuck trying to get out of her cage.  Or who knows, maybe the old queen is still alive and she killed the new queen.  I am going to open the hive again tomorrow and see if any new brood has been laid, and if there is, then I will see if I can find the queen.  If there doesn't seem to be any new brood, I am going to see about combining the two hives because there is no way that the weak hive will be able to make it on their own.  I will keep my fingers crossed that this will work.

For news that is not so depressing, we have just recently, added 2 new Nigerians goats to our herd.  We are now up to an even dozen.  I bought a doe, Camanna DL Bea Onka Ona who is a very pretty, dainty white doe with black spots.  Her former owners called her Annabelle and I think I will stick with that name.

My In-laws decided they wanted to contribute something to the herd so they bought our first buck.  He is Bundles of Joy Dark-N-Handsome and he is that.  He is young (2 years old) but is proven.

As soon as we brought him home, 3 out of the 4 does went into heat, so keeping fingers crossed that come Dec/Jan, we will have some kids running around the place.  We plan on breeding our only non-Nigerian doe, to him when she goes into heat this fall.  She is Nubian and will hopefully give us our first set of mini-Nubians.

I had planned on breeding two of our does to Dark-N-Handsome and two to outside bucks.  So I made some calls to local vets to check on pricing to see how much it would cost to get the CL/CAE test done.  One test ran about $20 and the other about $25 and then there was the blood collection fee and $60 shipping to send it overnight on ice to the lab.  That is definitely out of our price range this year.

We plan on keeping most or all of the doelings we get and sell off the males.  And then take the money we get on selling the kids and put that into buying the next buck who will hopefully be a step up from this one.  If all four does have twins, by the first of the year, we could be up to 20 goats!  And since Nigerians can have up to 6 kids at a time, it could even be more than that...  Need more fencing!!!  And hay...And stalls...And hay...

Tony, in a fit of guilt over buying a new rifle without telling me, bought me 330 ft of field  fencing and the posts to go with it.  With the help of a friend of his, he tore down one of my pens and built a much larger one in a new area so the goats can have more brush to eat.  And he did that just using our existing fencing so next weekend, we are going to take the 330 ft of new fencing and build a big pen somewhere in the back yard.

We are also now officially a member of the ADGA (American Dairy Goat Association)!  We got our herd name, tattoo and 1 of the goats registered in our name.  Now I just have to scrap the pennies together and get the other 3 registered and we are good to go.

The other fly in the ointment recently, has been dealing with the unemployment department.  They denied me benefits because I didn't have daycare immediately available.

Now getting daycare for my youngest son is not a problem but when you have an 8 year old with severe medical issues, who doesn't walk, talk, eat or drink, who is still in diapers and can have up to 6 seizures a day, it takes time to find someone who is willing to take that on.  Stupid me, I was honest and told that to my case worker; will never do that again!  Evidentially, you should NEVER tell the truth to the unemployment office.  They denied me benefits because "I was not ready, willing and able to accept a job immediately".  Not that I had any job offers, or even a request for an interview.  And I was looking for daycare and found it two days after talking to my case worker.

So they restarted my claim but now I have to wait for my benefits appeal which is next Friday.  In the mean time, I didn't get paid at all in July and probably won't for most of August.  And some how I have to figure out how to pay mortgage, not to mention the phone, water and medical bills.  And then if we want to eat... well, I guess we are ok on food.  I do have 17 rabbits that need to be butchered and thanks to my couponing adventures, I am pretty stocked up on staples for now.

I just wish I could find something to do from home that would bring in enough money to pay my bills and I could tell the unemployment people to take a flying leap.  Unfortunately, I just haven't figured out anything yet.  If anyone has any ideas, I would love to hear them.  I am willing to do anything from selling hand crafts on to data entry to customer service work.  Its just hard trying to find something legitimate online, something that isn't a scam in sheep's clothing so to speak.

Well enough ranting and raving for now.  I just have to think positive and keep working on trying to find something.  I really don't think a traditional 9-5 job will work for me anymore because I am sure I will be paying more in daycare costs than I would be bringing home.  I truly believe me staying home with the boys is the right thing to do.

On a side note in regards to my last post on the rabbit sausage.  We have been LOVING it!!  We have eaten almost all of the patties I made up and all the straight ground rabbit.  My husband has even agreed to help with the boning and grinding next time which will be a great help since I will have twice as many rabbits to process.

Just to give you an idea, we used the ground rabbit to make Thai rabbit (formerly pork) burritos and spaghetti.  Just tonight, I made rigatoni with some of the Italian sausage and it was so good!

Good night everyone and I will see you next time.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

What a week!

One of my American does and her most recent litter
Wow!  It’s been a busy week.  I never knew being unemployed was so exhausting!
The boys and I went into town on Tuesday and picked up feed for the animals and groceries for us.
On Wednesday, I took 9 rabbits in to get butchered.  I picked them up around 2pm and managed to get 3 boned by 5:30.  No, it really didn’t take me that long; I just had to get a load of dishes going and clean my island off. 

Max, the youngest, needed a break, so I took a load of laundry out to the clothesline and let him run around.  He was having a good ol’ time.  He had found Bear’s (our Aussie) football and was carrying it around.  Max wandered off towards the far side of the barn, and wouldn’t come back when I called.  Just as I was getting ready to go after him, I heard him start to scream.  Looking towards the barn, I could see through one of the stall doors, that one of the roosters was attacking him.  I went tearing off towards them, yelling at the rooster.  The stupid bird just looked at Max and looked at me as if to say ‘what ya going to do about it?’  I shooed the rooster off of Max, who promptly took off running for the house, still screaming.  The rooster then decided that he would take me on. 

Now this is not the first time, or even the third time, that this rooster thought he could take me on, and each time, he has come out the loser.  You would think he would have learned by now but chickens are not even close to being the smartest bird in my barnyard.  To put it nicely, he flew at me, I ducked but snagged his feet.  And, voila, we had roasted chicken for dinner.  We actually had him for dinner the next night, because by the time I was done dressing him out, and cleaning up the rabbit in the kitchen, I was exhausted!!

Poor Max, I caught up with him halfway to the house, and he was crying inconsolably.  I took him into the bathroom and stripped him down.  He had welts all over his back and arms but only 2 small punctures; one right by his ear that was bleeding and one on his right shoulder blade, that eventually turned into a lovely black and blue bruise.  I cleaned them really good and put on triple antibiotic.  Then Grandma and Grandpa came over and made a big fuss over him while I went outside to deal with the rooster.

Thursday, I got an early start and while the chunks of meat from the first three rabbits were thawing, I boned the other 4.  Two of the rabbits I left whole and put in the freezer to roast or fry later.  I kept a big stew pot boiling on the stove and threw the bones in to make broth which I need to can this weekend.

After the 4 rabbits were boned and chunked, I put the meat into the freezer and set up my manual meat grinder and got to work on the first batch of meat.  It went pretty fast but by the time I was done, my left hand felt frostbitten and my right arm felt like it should belong to Popeye!  All in all, grinding all 7 rabbits probably took me about an hour to hour and a half.  I didn’t weigh it afterwards (I wish I had) but I would guestimate that I had 25-30 lbs of ground meat.

I divided the meat up into 5 batches; I put 3 lbs of straight meat into 1lb bags, then I made a batch of Italian sausage, Portuguese Linguica, breakfast sausage and a small batch of pepperoni.

The Italian sausage was the easiest.  A couple of years ago, my husband purchased some Weston sausage seasoning mixes.  The Italian tasted perfect once I figured out how much to add.  I did this by trial and error.  I would add spice then fry up a small patty in my cast iron skillet.  That was the best part, the taste test!  I also used the Weston pepperoni, which was pretty good, and the Weston breakfast sausage.
Now the breakfast sausage mix I thought left a lot to be desired so I added in a lot more sage, some fresh ground ginger and pepper and it still wasn’t perfect but it was pretty close.

Now for the Portuguese Linguica, which is one of my absolute favorites, I used a recipe I got from my Master Food Preservers’ class.  Here is the recipe for anyone that is interested.  It’s very easy to make and uses ingredients that most people already have on hand.

Portuguese Linguica
1 lb pork (Boston Butt) or use 1 lb ground pork
4 large cloves garlic
½ tsp crushed red pepper
¾ tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
¼ tsp fennel seed
1T paprika

If using pork butt, cut into 1 ¼ inch cubes.  Chill well.  Place in grinder and chop.  Smash garlic and put it in the bowl with the other ingredients.  Mix well.  Refrigerate for 2 days (optional).  Put in casing or make into patties.  Cook well.  Will make into about 12 patties or 10 links.

With the Italian, Linguica and breakfast sausages, I made some into patties and left some bulk, packed in 1 lb freezer bags. 
(Ignore my dirty kitchen; I make a mess when I cook…)

So as you can see above, I have 3-1lb bags of just ground rabbit, 2-1lb bags of rabbit pepperoni (I will let my husband put it into casings if he wants), 1-1lb bag of Linguica and 7-1lb bags of Italian.  Plus I had a whole cookie sheet filled with patties.
I made the patties right on wax paper, and then layered the wax paper on the cookie sheet.  I also labeled the wax paper so I could keep the sausages straight.  I’m thinking I made some of the patties too big but by this point, I just wanted to be done.  After a night in the freezer, I let the patties sit on my counter for about ½ hour before separating and putting them in gallon Ziploc freezer bags.
I made Tony up an appetizer plate when he got home so he could try them all.

All in all, I think the sausage came out very good.  When I do it next time, I think I will get a couple of pounds of pork fat from the butcher shop and mix into the meat.  The patties are pretty lean. 

According to my calculations, rabbits and ducks are about the only two things that I have in my barn that is more cost effective to raise than to buy at the store.  My rabbits cost me a little bit more than they should because instead of butchering them at 8-12 weeks of age, I usually do it around 16 weeks so they have more meat on their bones.  So we have a lot of good meals ahead of us J.

Speaking of the barnyard, this morning, I went out to let everyone out of their stalls.  I let the goats out first so they can mow some of the weeds around the barn while I am letting out the chickens, ducks, turkeys and guineas.  I went into the feed stall to get some grain for the goats and discovered feathers all over the place. 

The night before, the turkey hen had wanted to sit on her eggs and she wouldn’t get off and go into her stall with the others.  And when a turkey hisses at me, I back off!  Unfortunately,  the feed stall’s back wall is dry-rotted and there are several large holes that the birds use to go in and out (they like to lay their eggs in the feed stall).  So when a raccoon came poking around last night, it got right in with my turkey hen and killed her, leaving me with a lot of feathers and a nice mess to clean up.

I really HATE raccoons.  I lost 30-40 birds to them last year and was hoping that any raccoons left, would have moved on, but that must have just been wishful thinking on my part.  I am still letting my chickens run around since I figure they have a better chance out the in the open.  Raccoons will kill them without eating them if they are close at hand.  

I really need to get a Livestock Guardian Dog to keep an eye on things for me.  I bought a pup last year, but I think she got poisoned by some water in a barrel in a pile of junk the previous owners had left behind.  I have been on a waiting list for another for about 9+ months now.  Guess I need to give them a call and see if they are going to have any pups available any time soon.

For other news, we got an appointment with a Neurosurgeon on the 20th to talk about Cody’s upcoming (5th) surgery.  This surgery will be to implant a Vagal Nerve Stimulator,  which will hopefully help to control and reduce his seizures and to help with his recovery time afterwards.  He had 3 seizures on Friday, with the first one being the worst in which he stopped breathing twice.  Thankfully, it was of short duration and he didn’t even turn blue but it sure raised my blood pressure!!  We had to use the last of his rescue meds so hopefully he doesn’t have any more seizures until we get more on Monday.

The good news of the week is that I got the new hoses on the swimming pool pump, filled it up and its ready to go!  Yeah!  I just can’t take hot days, which for me, is anything above 80 degrees.

Well, the dogs are insisting they need to be feed, so I will see you all next time.


Monday, June 27, 2011

It was another busy weekend.  Had to make a run into town with my father-in-law to pick up a few things.  Max and I worked out in the yard most of the afternoon.  I had to try out the new gas powered weed-eater that my husband bought.  Got a lot of the weeds cut down but you can't really tell as I was having to chase Max around the property. So I got a little cut here, and a little cut there.  LOL.

The bad news was, that I lost the last turkey chick out of the five I bought in May.  I am not sure why they all died.  However, I am trying to look on it as a good thing since I have been laid off and turkeys take a lot of feed to get to market weight.

Speaking of a lot of feed, my rabbits are going through feed like crazy.  I didn't realize until the other night that I was feeding 30 of them right now!!  WOW!  9 of them will be getting butchered soon so that will help.  And another 14-16 will get butchered in August.  Then we will be out of baby bunnies until fall.

I am going to do some experimenting with rabbit meat this time.  Normally, I just leave them whole and roast or fry them up.  Occasionally I will boil one, chop up the meat and keep it in the freezer for quick fix tacos, enchiladas or soup.  This time, I am going to grind up most of the meat and make some meatballs, sausage and also try mixing some with beef hamburger.  I usually mix our hamburger 50/50 with ground turkey to save money but ground turkey is just about the same price as hamburger now days.   I will keep you updated on how it comes out.

The goats are doing good and I have integrated the two new ones in with the rest of the herd so that makes it a little easier on me.  I really should keep the females separate at feeding time but I am going to keep them together for the time being.

The chickens are still laying great.  I am getting at least 2 dozen eggs a day.  I think I have around 15 dozen to turn in today.  I hope they keep it up because they are the only things really paying for themselves at the moment.  I just have to figure out how to get the rest of them to work for their feed!  Maybe I should start a petting zoo...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Welcome to Stony Bear Farm!
I want this blog to be about our journey of taking an overgrown piece of land and hopefully, turning it into something that is at least paying for itself.  This journey not only involves me, my husband and our two boys, but also my wonderful in-laws, as they are actually the ones that purchased the land in 2007.
To give you a bit of a background on us, my in-laws decided they weren’t going to get very far on their retirement and wanted to do something to supplement their income.  My mother-in-law had done some research and really wanted to start raising alpacas.  Because both of my in-laws are legally blind, they invited us to go in on this venture with them.  We talked about it and agreed.
So they found a 10 acre farm with a 20 x 40 shop, 2 dilapidated barns and one very small, very worn out house and bought it.  We did a burn to learn on the old house and put a triple wide and a double wide manufactured home side-by-side and connected the two houses.  We will skip over the bad parts which consisted of a contractor with cranial-rectal syndrome.
Currently, we have around 35 chickens, 6 ducks, 3 guineas, 2 turkeys, 1 mixed breed goat and 9 Nigerian goats.  As well as 2 hives of honey bees and, currently, 30 American (meat) rabbits, although that number will be going down very soon.
So I will be talking about what it takes to get our farm project going, what works and what didn’t.  Hopefully, this will help other people who are just starting out also.  I know that I am always looking for information on how to do this, that and the other thing and not always finding it so hopefully this will help.
Good luck to us all!