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Michael Bush to speak in St. Louis.

And I’m going!  Woot!!  I’m so friggin’ excited!

For those who don’t know, Michael Bush is the guru of natural beekeeping.  A hippie after my own heart.  So Steve will be taking the day off of work to watch the kids while Charlie and I go have a listen.

Here’s the link to the registration site:  BeeSpeakSTL.com

Here’s Michael Bush’s website:  Bush Farms

And his super-incredible book (that I own, thank you very much!):  The Practical Beekeeper

Anyone else going?

I’ve not mentioned our hives lately because, well, it’s winter.  Bees are really boring in the winter.  But both hives are still there and alive.  We’ve had a few warm-enough days over the past month or so when I could have dug around in there a bit to have a quick look-see but this flu has taken the oomph right out of me.  At least I’ve moseyed over there to bang on the box a couple of times and, yep, they’re still there.  We’ll be ordering two new packages this year and spring (the busy season!) will be here before we know it!

 

A visit to the funny farm + a plea for help from the color coordinated.

We got to go play at Gail’s this weekend.  What fun!  She has loads of White Silkie chickens, big ol’ honkin’ turkeys, a bunch of goats, and two different types of pot bellied pigs.  See that white goat with kids back by Nellie in the green coat?  That’s Cotton — twin to my Cotton.  I cannot tell you how much I love that both of our Saanens are sisters named Cotton.  Remember the “This is my brother Darrell and this is my other brother Darrell” from whatever Bob Newhart show?  Heh.

cotton

On pig in particular, Lele, loved Duke and me very, very much.  Here, she’s deciding that she likes Duke so much that she’d like to put her snout…

precrotchshot

Right into his crotch!  Whammy!  (Notice the smirk on Charlie’s face?)

crotchwhammy

BAM!  Going for the jewels again!  Man, does she ever love Duke.

crotchagain

She seemed to be rather interested in my toes.

leleme1

But, aw, what a sweet piggy!

leleme2

BAM!  She tries to get me!  When I would let her smooch on my toes, she kept trying to get between my legs.

leleme3

Trying for access from behind.  I think I might have fallen on her back and gone for a ride if it weren’t for my ninja reflexes!

leleme4

And now for those with taste:  I could not get a good pic of the carpet to show the color but, if you look at the middle of this pic, that’s pretty close.  It’s more rich in person, though.  If you look back at the kitchen post from a while back, you can see more of it.  Again, the color isn’t quite right in the pics.  (The carpet to the left is a faded blue, almost gray, from Isaac’s room.  I’m not worried about that right now.)   The blue-green-teal-something is all over the dining room, living room, master bedroom, and hallway.

I’m going to paint the walls now that Josie is out of her crayon-on-the-walls stage.  But I’m completely clueless what sorts of colors.  Help!

The living room is first up.  It gets lots of light through a set of big, south-facing front windows.  All of our trim is crappy, darkish, fake-wood junk.  We’ll eventually get it changed out for something more substantial but, in the meantime, we have more important tasks at hand.  I can give it a quickie paint job, though.

Oh, I just found some pics I took of the living room not long after we moved in.  Of course, things have been rearranged since then but the basics remain the same.

carpet

Exciting times

Yep, we did the Polar Plunge.  It was fun!  It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  In fact, dreading it beforehand was much, much worse than the actual doing.  Like most things in life we dread, right?  I”ll post about it in a couple of days once the photos and videos come out in the news.

When we got home that morning, two new baby goats greeted us!  Cotton had finally popped!

cottonanddoelings

They look just like their mama!

doelings

So, instead of heading directly inside to hide under blankets for the rest of the day, I got to hang out in the shed and bask in cuteness for a while.  What a treat!  They were both soon nursing like champs.  They’re still doing great and are strong & healthy.  Whew.  They’re both doelings and, considering that day’s activities, I’ve decided to name them Polar and Plunge.  I know.  I’m a dork.  :-D

 

2013 Beginning Beekeeping Class & Packaged Bees Buy (Missouri, Illinois, Iowa)

The Mississippi Valley Beekeeping Association is putting on its annual Beginning Beekeeping Class again this spring.  The class will be from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 16, 2013.  It will take place in the basement of the Adams County Farm Bureau building at 330 South 36th Street, Quincy, Illinois.  The cost is $30 per family so feel free to bring your spouse and kids if they’re interested.

At the class, you’ll also have the opportunity to order packaged bees, although you do not have to attend the class to order bees.  The bees come in three-pound packages from California and include a queen (in a queen cage).  Delivery is in Hannibal, sometime in April, depending upon the weather.

The class is amazing!  If  you’re at all interested in bees and/or beekeeping, I encourage you to attend.  You’ll learn not only how to build equipment, to install packages, feeding, and most everything you need to get started, but you’ll learn about colony life, bee anatomy, and honey production.  I may be a bit biased but I think the folks who volunteer to teach these classes each — and, in fact, our entire group — are the best bunch of folks you’ll ever come across.  \

In addition to the education, you’ll also receive a free beginning beekeeping book (published by Dadant, I believe?).  And door prizes!  There is a drawing near the end of the class to see who gets what.  There’s some really cool stuff on the prize table each year!

You’re also welcome to come to the monthly meetings at the same location on the last Tuesday of each month.  During the darker winter hours, we meet at 7:00 p.m. and, during the lighter summer hours, we meet at 7:30.  You’ll be astounded at the generosity of these folks — always sharing their wisdom and experience with everyone, and you’ll learn even more at the meetings than you did at the class.  Don’t skip the class, though.  It will give you a great overview and allow you to get started right.  The meetings are where you’ll find endless answers and help with the various nitty gritty issues that come up along the way.  If you care to join the association, it’s a very small fee per family (I think $12 or $14 per year?) and includes membership in the state association as well.

If  you’re interested in the class and/or ordering packaged bees, or just have some questions, let me know and I’ll hook you up with the big cheeses keeping track of registrations.  Either comment here, on Facebook, or email me.

Hope to see you there!

We’re back!

After much kerfluffle, we have internet once again.  We had to switch providers, from HughesNet to WildBlue.  They both suck but, as of right now, WB sucks less that HN.  The HN we had would be a better deal except that it just would not work anymore.  At least WB’s customer service mostly speaks English so that’s a step up.  I think WB must calculate data used much differently than HN because we’re blowing through the same amount of data in half a day that would have taken us two days with HN.  I just don’t understand that.  Isn’t data data??

I did our taxes a few days ago… only to find out I can’t actually file them until January 30th, when the IRS opens up their e-file system.  I could always sent in hard copies but I bet that’d take even longer than waiting for e-file to open.  Remember how slowly tax returns were processed when everything was hard copy?  And now that they’re used to (and pushing everyone to) electronic filing, I betcha hard copies via snail mail take twice as long.  But who knows?  I’ll just wait for the 30th.  And here I was so proud of myself for getting them done the day after we got Steve’s W2, beating the rush!

We lost a goat this past week.  Maggie, the free pygmy, most likely got into something she shouldn’t have.  She was very, very clever — always managing to find a way to break into the back room (where the feed is stored).  In that same room are various other not-so-good things that she could have eaten.  Long story short, she’s gone and buried now.  She was a jerk of a goat and none of us really liked her much but it was still sad to see her go.

And chickens?  Holy cow, they’re dropping left & right.  It must be some sort of disease, maybe flu, who knows?  We’ve lost about half of the flock so far.  No signs or symptoms, just fall-over dead.  It’s not affecting anything but the chickens.  There’s definitely something not right going on with them.  They haven’t laid a single egg in at least a couple of months.  Birds slow way, way down in the winter, true, but there are always a few eggs laid here and there.  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s best they weed themselves out so we can start anew in the spring.  I’ve been reading up on various breeds and am really leaning towards hatching out some of the Icelandic landrace.  They’re a very hardy breed, aren’t phased by heat or cold, and are great foragers.  Honestly, we’re not big fans of chicken meat so we don’t mind a skinnier bird such as the Icelandic, as long as we get a nice supply of eggs and they are willing to work hard to forage their own food for a good portion of the year.  We will gladly use the culls — pulling off the breasts & offal for a freezer stash and using the rest for broth.  It will be a relief from the seemingly endless whole chickens in the freezer, actually.

The Great Garden Fencing Project continues.  Steve’s got about half of it done now and hopes to have the rest completed within a couple of weeks.  It’s slow going when he works so many hours.  It’s definitely a race to get the goats & birds into the garden before it’s time to plant!  With any luck, they’ll double team the horribly overgrown garden weeds into oblivion in no time.  Then we have yet another looming deadline to get another pen built before planting time.  We can turn them back out into the backyard pen but it’s been through the sloppy trauma of winter and would really appreciate a break in the spring to grow back.  Once we have at least three large fence areas done, we can better rotate them through as needed.

We’ll eventually get everything coordinated… I hope.  Chickens, waterfowl, goats, garden, orchard, permaculture, pasture/grain for feed…  It all takes a lot of figuring and refiguring and tweaking along the way to get everything integrated into one, big, seamless operation of yumminess.  Oy.

I’d better get this posted before it’s delayed any further.  I’ve already had this drafted & adding to it for three or four days, never getting a chance to finish.  Just like life around here — never finished!

Gingered Carrots!

GAPS Intro, Day 8:  Yesterday, we added in avocado and scrambled eggs.  I’m not a fan of either so that didn’t thrill me.  However, we did start adding in fermented veggies.  Prior to this, we’d only been sipping a spoonful of the juices from the fermented veggies.  The cranberries are incredible!  But the gingered carrots?  Holy smokes!  Seriously, they are the most amazing thing I’ve ever tasted!  These are right up there with salsa as my -all-time favorite food — and that’s saying a lot!  Remember pickles back in the “old” days, truly fermented pickles, not the brine & salts types?  That’s what they taste like.  Oh, man, I’m in heaven and having trouble restraining myself.  We’re supposed to start out with a spoonful and increase it slowly.  Ha.  I could eat a half gallon of this stuff at a time.  I havne’t, though… yet.

So the other day I was driving to Hannibal and I saw a black panther cross not five feet in front of my car.  No, really!  I was freaked out!  I know there are reports of them elsewhere in the country but I’d never heard of any around here.  I don’t know if it escaped from some zoo or a goofy animal lover had it as a pet or maybe it escaped from some shady animal transport…  But, boy, did that get my pulse going!

Yesterday, friends who like to hunt but not eat the meat called us up to get another deer.  That makes #8 for us this winter.  Woo hoo!  We could go through a couple dozen of them if we were to get them.  We’re definitely a family of meat eaters.  This deer was about 150# and we only had, until yesterday, a rope strung around a rafter on the front porch.   (We had a pulley in OK but it got left behind.  *sigh*)   Steve was at work and, while Cody and I have done this before, I decided it was time to to buy a friggin’ pulley already.  Man, what a difference!   We got that sucker strung up and I spent the afternoon butchering.  I even started teaching Cody to butcher.  He’s been the butchering assistant for both Steve and me for a few years but he’s always gagged and groaned through it.  A couple of weeks ago, Steve hit (another) deer on the way to work and called me at 4:00 a.m. to come and get it.  Of course, it wasn’t gutted so I set to work on the tailgate once I got it home.  I thought for sure Cody would blow chunks on the gutting but he made it through — with the help of lots of disgusting jokes.  ;-)  So, this time, he thought he might ready to try his hand at skinning and quartering.  He did great!  Coming from a puking assistant to being an extra set of hands during gutting to asking to learn how to skin & butcher?  Very cool!

Christmas on Crack, Pancakes, and Swollen Nuts.

GAPS Intro, Day 6.  I missed a couple of days since the last GAPS Intro update but there was really nothing worth mentioning. It’s up & down as to how we’re feeling day to day but, overall, we’re improving.  My swelling everywhere has really started going down.  I’ve lost a bit over seven pounds so far.  I can really move water weight around — up to ten pounds each day when I’m eating crap.  Once I get the worst of the swelling down, the weight loss should throttle way back to a reasonable rate.

We’re easing into Stage 3 right now.  Yesterday, we added in pancakes — a mixture of eggs, winter squash, and nut butter.  They were okay — a definite treat as far as something different being added in!  This morning, I made them without the nut butter and we all liked them much better except for Charlie.  Knowing my issues with nuts, I’m going to be very, very careful for a while, holding them off to a bare minimum as long as I can to allow more healing.  But, the things you can do with nut flours will really open up what I can make for treats which will really help with the kids’ morale.  Steve brought home a couple of three-pound bags of raw almonds from Sam’s last night.  Per the Mighty Internet, I soaked them overnight, dumped & rinsed this morning, and am soaking again for the rest of the day, to dump & rinse again this evening.  I’ll then put them in the dehydrator at a low temp for 24 hours or so, then finish off with roasting.  That process should remove/neutralize a lot of the offending critters *crossing fingers* so we can eat them with less issues.  After some gentle experiments with them to see if we react okay, I can grind them into flour and make occasional — but much appreciated! — treats.  That’s the grand plan anyway.  Cross your fingers & toes for us!  Side note:  Nuts really swell up when you soak them!  Of course, it makes sense and I expected it but I was surprised at how much swelling there was.

We moved ShowTime in with Oatmeal yesterday.  Those two were going at each other through the fence so we figured, what the heck, the more, the merrier, right?  So that makes three does that will be bred in the same month.  That’s going to make for a very busy April & May!

We still don’t have any Christmas decorations up and, honestly, I have no idea where to put the tree this year.  We’re rearranged the living room to allow for maximum seating (and plants!  Heh.) which leaves no tree space.  On the other hand, we no longer have a tree.  Our big fake tree we’ve had for years finally bit the dust last year.  We do have a few smaller ones so maybe I’ll work some sort of miracle today and find space for a couple of those.  I’d like to get some outside lights up this year, too, now that we’ve moved the dog pen and have regained our front porch.  Hmm, I’ll have to send Steve digging through the basement tonight to see what we have in the outdoor light department.

Speaking of outdoor lights…  Holy crap.  There’s this house that turns on their outdoor lights every year, religiously every night.  They’ve framed the house with lights stringing from the eaves to the porch railings, even on the garage.  But, good grief, they’re butt ugly!  There’s plain white on part and various multi-colored on other sections with no rhyme or reason.  Even worse, they have them all on the blinking setting — but not at all timed!  Not that I’m some sort of Christmas decoration expert by any means but, dang, this particular house causes epileptic fits!  I think each little section of lights is on a different timer and each timer is set to a different — and random — interval.  Imagine Christmas as an Angry Rambo on Crack — that’s what these lights are.  And they’re out in the middle of flat cornfields so you can see it for.ev.er.  Seriously, these lights cause an instant and overwhelming rage-filled trance in me.  Yeah, rage-filled trance.  I never knew there was such a thing.

And on that note, I’ll close.    ;-)

Ghee, dirty goats, and prudish poultry.

Gaps Intro Day 3:  I think we’re over the hump?  At least the first hump.  Everyone seems to be a bit spunkier today.  Charlie hit a low spot yesterday, I think and Duke hit his a few hours before that.  They’re both significantly peppier today and laughing & smiling like usual.  I’ve made sure to push the (veggie) carbs, plus ginger tea with honey, to keep up everyone’s energy.  We did the yogurt sensitivity test last night and we all passed.  So, today, we’ve added in a half cup of yogurt each.  None of us are big yogurt people but it’s certainly a treat.  (We do love yogurt as a base for our smoothies but we can’t have fruits yet.)  I fermented the yogurt in the Pickl-It and it’s noticeably tastier.

Besides adding in yogurt today, we’ve also added in raw egg yolks, stirred into broth… except the stupid birds aren’t laying for crap so we don’t have many.  I’ll have to buy eggs tomorrow.  The gingered carrot ferment was done so I moved those two jars into the fridge.  We each had a spoonful of the probiotic-rich brine this morning and will see how we do with it.  If all goes well, we’ll soon be able to introduce the fermented veggies themselves.  Personally, I’m very much looking forward to that!  Starting today, we also get to add in ghee so I made about 2 1/2 pints earlier today.

Oatmeal is settling in nicely.  This morning, we moved Susie and Maggie in with him.  He and Maggie got right down to business.  Again and again and again.  Right outside my window.  Have they no sense of decency?  Sheesh.  Susie wants nothing to do with him.  I picked her and Maggie because they were both the hottest-t0-trot when there was a fence between them.  Maggie is no tease but Susie seems to have changed her morals once faced with the goods.  We may end up trading in another more receptive doe tonight.

The poultry have started weirding out.  All of a sudden, there are a gazillion ducks and chickens roaming about freely in the yard and garden — outside their fence.  We’ve changed nothing with their fencing so I guess they’ve suddenly decided the grass is greener over there.  Either that or they’re too embarrased by the goat hanky panky right in their faces and have fled for pruder pastures.  Can’t say I really blame them.

I picked what will likely be the last of the parsley and celery to add to the birds in the roaster this morning.  I think that’s the very, very end of this year’s garden.  *sigh*  Time to turn my sites to seeds for 2013!

At long last, dear Oatmeal.

Knowing we were in the market for a good Kinder buck, a local friend alerted me when she saw some come up for sale on a regional list.  A few back & forth emails and we decided on Oatmeal.  He comes from good lines and has proven himself worthy in the making-of-good-offspring department.  Then life conspired against us for a couple of months and I had to cancel out on his owner a couple of times.  That poor woman still held him for me and even met me halfway.  She’s so much nicer than me!  So off we bopped today to the prearranged meeting spot on the outskirts of St. Louis and we are now one big-conjoned goat richer.  Yay!

Oatmeal is out there getting the girls all excited right now.  Well, as best he can with a fence between them.  We put Patrick, the wether, in to keep him company.  Those nutty does are making complete fools of themselves.  Tails are a’waggin’, tongues are a’flappin’, and assorted other dirty goat behaviors.

GAPS Intro, Day 2:  We’re still on Stage 1 and all is well.  Duke was sick as a dog last night and the rest of us have been visiting Nauseaville off and on.  This afternoon seems to be a bit better so I’m hoping that at least the worst of this round is behind us.  More rounds coming up, I’m sure.  The food is still very yummy so that makes it much easier.  Duke did add an egg yolk to his broth for lunch so I guess that puts him in Stage 2?  I forgot to do the yogurt sensitivity test last night so will try to remember to do after tonight’s bee meeting.  We each had a cup of ginger tea yesterday afternoon, with just a touch of honey.  It tasted amazing so I think we’ll use that as an afternoon treat to look forward to each day.

We lost yet more chickens yesterday.  I swear those stupid birds just look for an excuse to die.  We never lose any ducks and geese, only chickens.  Maybe this is a sign for us to forget chickens for a while, huh?  We’ll see what spring brings, I guess.

I bought 40 pounds of beef fat a couple weeks back and, over Thanksgiving, rendered just over half of it down.  I know most people then pour it into mason jars but I like to pour it out into shallow cookie sheets.  Once it cools, stick it in the freezer to harden even more.  Once that’s done, you can cut/shatter/break the tallow into smaller pieces, as if it were almond bark.  I then store it in old ice cream tubs in the freezer and just pull out pieces of the “bark” as I need them.  So much handier than messing with spooning out of jars and cluttering up the fridge and/or counter more than they already are.

Much goat debauchery right outside my window right now.  Ew.

Switching to journaling mode

I’ve got a camera and phone full of photos, backed up n”news” to put up here, and I’m getting none of it posted.  Time to steal an idea from Glenda and Ilene and just go into journal mode.  It’ll be much easier for me to keep up that way, what with all of my schedule chaos.  I’ll try to stick in bits & pieces from my backlog here & there as I get the time & inclination.

Ready?  Good!

We got another new goat — a Pygmy doe.  She was a freebie that someone needed a home for.  Her name is Maggie.  We definitely weren’t looking for a Pygmy (or any more does for that matter) but we’ll see how she fits in.

We’ve now run out of Molly’s Herbals worm formulas and, as planned, I’ve started making my own.  The wormwood formula I’m making is a combination of wormwood, black walnut hull, and fennel.  The weekly formula is pumpkin seeds, fennel, mugwort, thyme, hyssop, cloves, and brown mustard seed.  I’ll keep a close eye on them and see how they do on it, tweaking as needed (and I learn more).

Worming has been a major pain in the butt, as we’d been mixing the formulas with water and then shooting it down their throats with a drenching gun.  Not fun.  I finally bought some slippery elm powder and made dosage balls, ala Molly’s Herbals.  The goats all LOVE it!  Wish we’d done that much sooner.

We also got all of the goats coppered up.  I bought copper for cattle and then downsized the capsules.  Steve used a balling gun to try and get it down the goats’ throats.  Ha.  Man, that sucked.  I ended up finding a pet pill gun, such as you would use on a cat or dog, and that worked much better.  I’m glad we only have to do that every few months.  Sheesh.

The birds have all been in winter stingy mode with the eggs.  We use no supplemental lighting so we’re lucky to get one to two dozen each week.  We did get  started butchering some extra drakes (male ducks) but need to do more, along with the older hens and a couple of extra roosters.  That extra feed expense each week really hurts when we’re not even getting enough eggs for our own family.  Maybe we’ll get around to butchering a few more over this long weekend.  Steve was supposed to work but just found out that he gets a four-day weekend.  Yay!

That’ll do for now.  I’ll try to keep up a bit better from here on out.  The next month or so should see me with a slightly calmer schedule so I’ll have no excuses.  :-)

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