Our sign in peace

Our sign in peace
Our sign in peace

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Happy Autumn and gettin' naked!

Autumn is finally upon us and I am so happy! Summer in Connecticut was the second hottest on record and we have had enough! The animals were stressed to their breaking points and trying to keep everyone cool was a challenge. So before the colder weather sets in, it was time to get the angora goats sheared.

"Maddy" was unfazed and was more than happy to accept a tasty treat of hay...

while "Pru" was a bit perturbed at the very idea of being stripped naked! As of this moment she is not talking to anyone!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Season of the Drones...

This time of year is not the best time to be a Drone! Drones are the males of the Honeybee species. They lack a stinger, don't do any work in the hive and their whole purpose is breeding with a Queen if they are lucky, and most of them are not. They are taken care of and fed by the workers but being a slacker in life usually catches up with you, and for them it does in the form of death!
This time of year, the bees sense the change in weather, the lessening of sunlight and food foraging begins to decrease. With these factors it's time to eliminate the things that are not needed. Drones are killed by the workers or their wings are chewed off, they are dragged out of the hive and dropped to their deaths. The guard bees guard the entrance not letting them back in. So while it's a good life while it last, it ends in a tragic way for the Drones.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Happy September, let the Harvest begin!

As we come to the end of summer, it's time to begin harvesting everything you've worked so hard to grow this year. Many of you garden growers out there have a never ending amount of tomatoes! I decided to make stewed tomatoes and can them for the winter. This is wonderful to keep on hand for those long days when coming home and making dinner is a dreadful thought, but then you remember that you canned those wonderful tomatoes!

I used many different types of tomatoes including these plum tomatoes. To slip the skins quicker throw them in a hot bath of simmering water for about 3 minutes...

the skins just slide off!

I don't have a recipe but I will list the this and that's below and how I make these incredible stewed tomatoes that is delicious over pasta!

I netted 7 quarts of stewed tomatoes! These may also make some gifts or a perfect hostess gift!

Canned Stewed Tomatoes
Tomatoes prepped and skins slipped
Peppers, red, yellow and green cut into pieces
Onions-cut into pieces
Garlic-cut into pieces
Celery-cut into pieces
Salt
Pepper
Garlic Salt
Lemon Juice
Canning jars, sterilized

Cut everything and set aside. In a large bowl cut and core your tomatoes. Cut and prepare all other ingredients. Add them to a big pot. Simmer for no more than 10 minutes. Taste test and the consistency you may want. I don't measure anything, it's based on this and that until it is perfect! Let cool slightly, then spoon into jars. Clean the brims. Put your tops on and place in a hot water bath. Enjoy!!!

Friday, August 31, 2018

What to do with all that Lemon Balm?!!!

What do you do with all that Lemon Balm? You plant a small herb plant and it grows. The next year you find it in other parts of your yard or it shows up and you didn't even plant it! The smell and taste of this plant is amazing. 

This post will include a recipe below on a fantastic recipe for a bread that will melt your mouth. I also dry it and jar it for teas as well as adding to other recipes.

Here's an image of the bread I made. I have had this recipe for many years and don't remember where it is from. I keep a couple of these in the freezer in case we have visitors or need to take something to a party. Below is the recipe:

Double Lemon Balm Bread
 
2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
6 Tablespoons Butter (room temp)
2 Tablespoons grated Lemon Peel
1 Tablespoon finely chopped Lemon Balm leaves
1 Tablespoon finely chopped Lemon Thyme (optional)
1Teaspoon salt
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs eaten
3/4 cups milk

Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside. Cream butter, add sugar and beat together. Add eggs. Beat until fluffy. Add flour mixture alternately will milk mixture. Mix until just blended then add herbs and peel, fold by hand. Pour into a sprayed with cooking spray, 9x5x3 inch pan. Bake at 325 degrees for appx 50 minutes.  

Lemon Glaze- Juice of 1 lemon, Confectioners Sugar
Mix glaze until thick but pourable. Drizzle over bread while still warm.
Enjoy!!!!



Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Holy Bearding! It's going to be a hot one!

It's going to be a hot one in Connecticut today! If you didn't watch the news forecast then you can tell by the bees. When bees get hot they "beard". This picture was taken at 6:30 a.m. Even bees will hang out and try to stay cool. Inside they will do all they can to keep the hive cool. They will bring in water to cool the hive as well as fan their wings. We have made sure birdbaths and other water is available to the bees as well as the wild birds. Connecticut is expected to hit temperatures in the 100's today!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Grooming a Wool Beast!

Our "Tawny" is what you would call a "Wool Beast." She has a coat that is twice as thick as any Angora rabbit I have had or bred. I am still waiting to get an offspring with such a lush coat.

It takes 2 days to clip her down with shearing scissors, clipping about an inch to 2 inches at a time. It is daunting and when she has had enough you pick up where you started the following day.

Her staple length is at least 8 inches long which makes it so fun to spin her wool. 

Somewhere deep in all that wool is our "Tawny." 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

An Unexpected Goodbye

Today we lost one of the sweetest rooster I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, our "Tank". I'm still at a lost for what happened. He was the biggest rooster I have ever seen. The ground would shake when he walked, he was always a bit big for that body, and the sad part was he was only 3! He became weak and then just passed. 
We are going to miss his presence and the gentleness he brought to the coop. RIP our precious "Tank".

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Oh no!!!!!

We woke up yesterday after a huge rain and wind storm to find a tree had gone across our fencing and our animals were out in the road! They took the opportunity to go on a walk about! 

As cars made their way around the trees, car parts (yes car parts because someone must have hit it) as well as the alpacas and goats. Not one person stopped to tell us, just drove by...

and the damage could have been worse...

but the best thing about it is that the animals are okay and safe. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Into the Dearth we go...

In the middle of the summer, Nature experiences something called "The Dearth". This is when the early summer flowers have bloomed and are spent or gone to seed while the later flowers have not quite bloomed. This can be hard on bees and pollinators alike because food is scarce. They can go through their reserves and be dangerously low on food.

I found this last of the phlox still blooming...

while early signs of  Joe Pye weed blooming is promising.

Some Queen's Ann Lace here and there...

but the most important of all is the Goldenrod! I was in a meadow today and found just a few but there was tons days away from blooming.

So what do we do during the Dearth? We feed! I made up 3 gallons of sugar water and some essential oils and added them to the feeders...

and needless to say, they were eager for me to fill them! They were waiting for me when I opened the lid! Here in Connecticut we have had an unusually rainy summer so I think this Dearth will be short lived.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Learning new soap making techniques



 
I have been following the soap making world and am amazed by the new techniques that are out there. Bramble Berry Soap Supply company has kits and tutorials of all the up and coming newest things in soap making. So, last Christmas Tim bought me a kit and I put it away. I kept meaning to get to it and the weather has been so hot in CT lately that on a hot summer day I broke it out and decided it was time!



I went to work using my soap making skills. The hard part, the person who was the author of the recipe left some important tips out. Mainly that the particular NIO(Nature Identical Oil) sets up very quickly and you should not mix too much. There were some other things in the recipe I thought could have been explained better but I continued on.
The key was layering different colors which set up too quick so it was like working with putty.

A few days later I removed it from the mold. My Dragon's Blood handmade soap. Not as much as a hot mess I thought it would be. There are air bubbles and the blend could have been better.

A slice of the soap revealed a little better results than I thought I would have. The black is mixed with charcoal which is good for skin and the layers are different colors. This will be for my personal use however, I'm not looking to pursue this level of soap making any time soon. I will keep watching the trends and maybe give it a go again now that I see what went wrong. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

The right tools make the difference

Grooming Angora rabbits can be a challenge to say the least and the tools make all the difference! I purchased these blunt tipped grooming scissors some months back and the daunting job of grooming has changed to an easier task. I have stopped using the electric shears because they also upset the rabbits and are not as effective with having to stop to clear the shears.

This is "Frankie" before his way over due grooming...

and this is "The Frank Man" after! I did some touching up after I took the picture but he is trimmed. I was able to get a lot of useable wool for spinning. You can even see his beautiful blue eyes! The tool does makes all the difference!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Inventorying Essential Oils, oh my!

When you're not sure what you have, then it's time to inventory. I came across a recipe for the bees that required certain essential oils and I just didn't know if I had some of them. Turns out I had all but one! It was time to clean out the cabinet and make up an inventory list of what was what from essential to fragrance to nature identical oil. Seems that I have quite a bit! I will be making some new soaps with new techniques and this will help with what I will be doing. I love it when I am a step ahead and that doesn't happen too often!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Keeping Rabbits cool in the summer

It is a challenge throughout the summer to keep our English Angoras cool. While I don't believe in outside hutch rabbits, it is still a challenge to keep them cool inside in the summer months. While they are growing their wool before shearing it is so important for them to be cool and to avoid heat stroke. Using tiles that have been put in the freezer, frozen water bottles and heavy fans in the basement where it is cool helps these guys manage. This is our Tawny who is 4 1/2 years old. She is overdue for a shearing. Her wool is thick and dense as well as an amazing producer!

Here is 2 of our babies that we have left, staying cool even for them is so important! 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

How many chickens do you see?

How many chickens do you see? We have gone over to using milk crates for our chickens to lay in, easier to clean, access, etc. However our chickens insist on using the same crate! As you can see there are more to the right but no, it has to be this one! So there are actually 5 chickens in this picture! A sixth one was in the waiting line and if they don't hurry up, she's coming in!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A Nature's Spicy Condiment

As we go through summer, not all is lost on wild foraging. 


The Garlic Mustard has gone to seed and collecting it not only stops it from spreading but is a delicious spicy condiment too! The seeds are very easy to harvest when the plant has gone dry.

I carry a bag around with me to collect carefully by breaking the plant or pulling it up root and placing it head first into a bag...


I then place the seed heads in a gallon size plastic bag and shake! The seeds will gather in the bottom of the bag.

I then transferred it into a funnel to transfer the seeds into a shaker to either add as a peppery garlicky spice to food or use it in dishes, it's amazing. You can also just pick some and snack on it along the way, I just love it!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The man, the legend...may he be forever remembered...

We are so sad to hear of the passing of Bill Duesing. We got word that he had passed away during the night. A man who moved mountains in the Organic world and was the former President of  NOFA, the North Organic Farmers Association but also a neighbor and friend. He was a gentle man but worked hard and was the owner of Old Solar Farm here in Oxford, CT. 
Many years ago shortly after we started our farm, we had a Small Farm Tour that we had teamed up with other small farms to show it is possible to be sustainable with a small amount of property. We were out front talking to visitors when an old model classic black pick up truck pulled up and it was Bill Duesing! We were thrilled, it was as if Elvis had just visited our small farm. I had known Bill from talks he gave at the Nature Center where I work but the thought of him being so thrilled with what we were doing along with the others and the message we were spreading had him excited at the prospect of getting others involved. I will always remember him fondly and be honored that I knew such an amazing man...

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Beating the heat...

With Connecticut embracing a heat wave with temperatures hitting the 90's and above over the next 7 days, I woke up at 5:30 am and got into the bees. It was a decision that needed to be made, waking pissed off bees in the morning or death by bee suit in 90 degree temperatures. I chose the lesser of the two, waking up pissed off bees that don't particularly like being awoken at 6 am! The Queen excluders and Supers needed to be placed on. All frames in both boxes are full and the hives are growing, if more room is not added they will swarm and we sure don't want that!

After painting all the boxes and components different colors so I can tell them apart, they have become a work of art on the hill! I love looking up and seeing the colors. So as the summer begins in full force, work on my girls!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Going strong...

Brief bee inspections today moved fast because no matter how hard I tried, that darn smoker would not stay lit! I think between my impatience and the need to get it done due to other pending tasks it took a stand and became stubborn! I went through the hives and saw nothing but frames like the one above, full of capped honey! If you look at this frame compared to the frame below you can see the difference. The capped honey is white and thin compared to the capping's of the baby bees.

And ones like this one filled with amazing brood patterns! Baby bees everywhere! All queens were spotted too! The hives are ready for supers which is unheard of in a first year hive, never mind three first year hives! Fingers crossed for a continued beekeeping season!