Cold days for our homestead

8-alice-and-eliza-janeLast night was our coldest night so far this season, with temperatures dropping below zero F. Thank goodness for the wood stove, which keeps us warm and happy. This house was so cold without it, and I sometimes wonder how people lived here for 200 years and never thought to put one in. Ticker has been indoors the past few days, even during the day, because it is just so cold outside. Outdoor play for all of us isn’t an option right now. Instead we happily pass our time by the fire.

When it gets cold like this, some chicken keepers put a heat light in the coop to warm the chickens. I don’t do it because the chickens are capable of surviving temperatures this low, and also, I have learned the hard way that having the light on all night makes the chickens wacky the next morning! I did turn the light on once last year and it was a big mistake – all the chickens were fighting when I checked on them in the morning. After that experience, I don’t leave a light on. I do make sure that all hens are on the roost at night, snuggled together for warmth. I secure the winter plastic wrap on the lower half of the run that keeps the harsh breezes out, and ensure the heater water bowl is plugged in and working. On days like today, when the air temperature is cold and the wind chill makes it even colder, the chickens huddle together in the protected run. They must get bored. I give them treats, but there’s not a lot I can do to help them with entertainment.

Ticker’s crop is still full, the size of the golf ball. She’s not eating much, and it amazes me that her comb is still so red and perky, and quite frankly, I’m amazed she’s still alive. Yesterday I fed her 3 ml of olive oil to get her crop and gizzard contents lubricated and moving along. Today I fed her another 3 ml of olive oil. I’m waiting to see what happens. ‘A’ and ‘H’ don’t like seeing her bored in her crate, so they carry her around and talk to her. She’s a very social chicken.

It looks like the freezing spell will let up. Our windows have been accumulating ice layers on the inside… I think it is from the heat of the wood stove. We can’t even see out the front door anymore. Today: more research work for the girls, more herbal class for me, and more of hugging Ticker.

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More Reasons I Love Homeschooling

My girls are halfway through 2nd and 4th grade. We’ve been homeschooling the whole time. As each month passes, I love it even more. Sure there are times when I want to give up out of exasperation, days when the girls and I have spent too much time together and need space, and moments of OMG What am I doing? But overall, it has proven to be an awesome lifestyle. Take today, for instance.

It’s really cold outside and we have no plans to go anywhere (except the post office to mail our holiday thank you cards, but that can wait!). ‘H’ and I are still sick and feeling exhausted, so I’m more hands-off with teaching than I normally would be, and she is running out of steam pretty quickly.

School today looks like this:

  • Watch the news.
  • Tend to the chickens. It’s cold today! They need food, water and shelter, as usual, and today we put down some cracked corn on the floor of the coop so they would move around and scratch for it. Maybe they’ll warm up when their blood gets moving.
  • ‘A’ spent time writing the code for her own game on Code.org, and then published it. You can play it here.
  • We examined Ticker and try to figure out how best to treat her. Her crop is full, even though she hasn’t been eating much, so we gave her 3 ml of olive oil to try to loosen it up and move things along.
  • The girls work to keep the house clean everyday, which is something I love love LOVE about homeschooling. They unloaded the clean dishwasher and filled it back up with breakfast and lunch dishes. And they washed some by hand. I love the home responsibility aspect of homeschooling.
  • Watch some of the Eyes on the Prize videos. Today we’re watching the segment titled, Mississippi: Is This America? (1963-1964). Voting rights are the main topic. ‘A’ and ‘H’ are young, and have a lot of questions as we watch the video. I answer as much as I can as encourage them to watch even if they don’t completely understand, because the images are so powerful.
  • Work on a new research project. The girls could choose any topic in New York State history and they both chose a war time. I find that so interesting, especially since we talk a lot about other periods of history. ‘A’ is working on the French and Indian War, and ‘H’ is researching the War of 1812. Work has just begun, so they will narrow their topic in the next few weeks.
  • Lounge by the fire and read (or look bored, if you’re still sick).

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Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, but it works well for our family. Even when I am feeling less energetic, the girls are still learning and enjoying the flow of the day.

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Always Learning About Health

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Ever feel when something bad happens that you are about to learn a big lesson? I do, often. I’m here on this planet to learn and grow, and everything is a learning experience for me. These past two weeks have been full of opportunities to expand my understanding of our health. I’ve thought more about human and chicken health in recent days than I have in a long time!

First, the chickens (they always come first, don’t they). I was so pleased heading into winter that Ticker had made a full comeback after being sick all summer. And I was also happy that Ruby, who had been sick too, recovered on her own. Both hens seemed to be doing just fine. And then out of the blue, just before Christmas, Ruby got sick. Her tail pointed down for a day or so, and then her health went south pretty quickly. We gave her a bath and discovered that she was covered in northern fowl mites. I quarantined her in a crate on the porch and treated for mites. I wanted to check for an egg that might have been stuck in the pipeline after the mite situation calmed down (they were crawling up our arms during her bath, they were that bad). Unfortunately, Ruby didn’t make it through the night.

I was interested in finding out why she died. I wanted to do a necropsy but had no idea where to start. After an examination I realized that her abdomen was swollen and she most likely was laying eggs internally and had developed ascites. She hadn’t laid an egg in a while, and she was just coming out of that dormant time. Somehow her system did not return to its normal function.

We buried Ruby on Christmas Eve. Then a strange thing happened – a few days later, Ticker got sick. Similar symptoms, minus the mites (I checked all the chickens for mites after discovering them on Ruby, and found them on Aries only. She got dusted with DE and sprayed with Poultry Protector for two days, and the mites went away). Ticker had a swollen belly and was hunched and listless. This got me thinking: Did they both have ascites this summer and somehow made a recovery? Or, did they both have something this summer that would predispose them to ascites?

Ticker looked pretty bad so I started calling around to see who could do a necropsy and what I would need to do to prepare for it. I needed to know what was killing my chickens. While I was on the phone with one veterinary office it occurred to me that I could have Ticker seen before she dies… and perhaps save her life. Off we went to the vet, and returned home with a diagnosis of ascites and a bottle of antibiotics that may or may not help.

Ticker is still alive. I can’t tell if she’s getting any better, but she’s not getting worse. Her belly is still swollen. She gets around okay, roaming the yard during the day when the snowpack is low. She seems happy when she’s hanging out with the other chickens. So far, so good. So, how does this fit in with my lessons learned about health?

My definition of health has changed

The way I define health has changed. For humans, and for the chickens. When we first started down this path a few years ago, I wanted to keep chickens for eggs. When the chickens reached 3 years of age, we would turn them into stewing hens. It was a simple plan, one that other chicken-keepers in the area put into practice. At this point, we have six out of the original ten hens. A few of them have become pets (Ticker included). I’m not sure the rest will be processed this spring. I have come to see that the chickens provide more benefit for us than just eggs. They clean up the yard, eating the fallen birdseed under the feeders; and their manure feeds our garden and compost pile. They are an asset to our homestead, and I would like to see them live a healthy life for their natural lifespan.

As soon as my perspective shifted to the long term, my view of good health changed too. The chickens are fed a complete pellet feed along with our kitchen scraps, and they free range and forage, but I can’t help thinking that something is missing. If Ruby and Ticker had a supplement during the time they weren’t laying, would it have prevented the ascites? If Tocker had a supplement, would it have prevented her death after her long brooding period and heavy molt?

I do leave out oyster shell and grit for the chickens, and they eat it when they need extra calcium and minerals. There is still something missing, and I’m going to find out what it is. I know that “old timers” feed back crushed eggshells for additional calcium, and also feed hard cooked eggs for protein. Some people add apple cider vinegar to the water. Some add herbs to the feed. This year I am looking forward to learning more about long term chicken health and how it is tied to the food and supplements they eat.

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Holistic living means I’m constantly learning

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Recently I’ve changed my view of human health, too. I’ve been on this holistic journey ever since my children were born. Before kids, Jeff and I knew about the importance of eating from certain food groups – back then it was all about low-fat and low-carb. Our health journey ended when we looked in the mirror and liked what we saw. It wasn’t until ‘A’ was diagnosed with food allergies and I cut eggs out of my diet that I realized how much of a brain fog I got from eating grocery store (factory farmed) eggs. It wasn’t until I started eating local, organically-grown produce that I realized how much my mental health improved by establishing a relationship with my farmers. There are so many aspects to good health. I make an effort to live in accordance with my values, and that has proven to be one of the healthiest things I have done. This summer I signed up for an online course on herbal medicine through the Herbal Academy of New England and I have been making my way through the course, learning so much about health and the power of herbs. I have shifted my perspective even more in the past few weeks, and I am seeing first hand the power of herbal care.

It all started because ‘H’ and I got sick (and still are sick). We caught an upper respiratory virus. Luckily, it didn’t touch ‘A’ and Jeff. ‘H’ and I are going on Week 3 of this virus. I am exhausted. Note that I’ve been tending to Ticker the Chicken all this time, too. And burying Ruby. Did I mention that our cat Grace has been sick? She has.

Two weeks is a good amount of time to experiment with different remedies. We started out drinking chamomile tea augmented with a few homemade tinctures. When I took lemon thyme, lungwort and rosemary in my tea, I could feel my sinuses and lungs opening up. If I added red clover and motherwort to the tea, I got sleepy. The herbs were a good start, a way to comfort us when we were in pain. I added to my regimen sips of the Four Thieves vinegar I had made over the summer. That got my blood moving. Conventional therapy has a place too, so after a week of sickness, ‘H’ and I went to the doctor. ‘H’ was prescribed antibiotics to treat her rattly lung, and I declined in favor of rest and supportive care. Guess what happened to ‘H’ when she took the antibiotic? Yup, she’s allergic to it. She went off it, and I decided to go on one to treat my never-ending sinus infection. It’s working to treat the stuffy nose, but the coughing…

The coughing has been ridiculous. We both just want to feel better. Good energy, easy breathing, no body aches… that’s not too much to ask, is it? The herbal teas open up our lungs while we are drinking them, but we won’t see real relief until the virus goes away. Today is a big day – I can feel I am turning the corner on this virus. To help it out the door, I made a ginger tea using ginger grown by one of my local farmers. Wow, that cleared me up! On the stove now I have dandelion root steeping (harvested from my garden this fall) and a reishi mushroom tea simmering. I’m choosing these herbs now because I do believe we are coming to the end of our sickness, and the restorative and cleansing benefits of ginger, dandelion and reishi are just what we need.

I have been interested in herbal care for years. I’ve made teas and salves using herbs from my garden and I have seen first-hand how well they work. Through my coursework with the Herbal Academy of New England I have learned more about the specific properties of herbs and how they can affect the body. We all react differently to herbal medicine, the same way we react differently to pharmaceuticals. You can tell when you take a pill if it affects you or not, and the same is true of herbs. When I drink a dandelion decoction (it’s like a tea) I think more clearly. When I drink ginger tea I feel warm and satisfied. Experimenting is fun to do, and learning about the reasons why we react to herbs in a certain way is even more fun.

This holistic health journey will always be unfolding for me, which is good, because it’s exciting to challenge myself and see new ways of living. I have treated sickness with herbal care in the past, but this time around I experimented more than usual. As I am learning more about the body, my confidence is increasing. I am enrolled in the Online Intermediate Herbal Course, and there is an Online Introductory Herbal Course as well.

Opening up to this new understanding means I am not only asking myself “Is this healthy?” when I eat something, I am also asking, “How will this food nourish and protect me?” There is a big difference between eating to get in the right amount of vitamins and minerals every day, versus eating for warmth, clarity and peace. Certain foods and herbs can augment our well-being and spirit, and that impacts our physical health.

Wishing you peace and health!

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Chicken Updates

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I realize it’s time for a chicken update. We currently have 15 chickens, all laying hens. The ones we hatched this year are varied in breed and coloring. They are beautiful! They aren’t work horses like our older chickens though, and egg production has been seriously lacking ever since the equinox in September. Many chickens need at least 12 hours of sunlight every day to lay eggs, and apparently our newer breeds fall into that category! We were so lucky the last two winters because our production breeds kept laying all winter long. That’s not the case this year. No, I don’t use a light in the coop. I believe in letting nature decide how to keep the hens happy and healthy.

Our older girls (there are seven of them) have all ceased laying this month. One by one they molted and stopped laying. Some are recovering from their molt but haven’t started the egg cycle again. The new girls (there are eight) are barely laying. We get about two eggs a day from our fifteen chickens.

We’ve had two sicknesses and one death this fall. First, the loss – Tocker was one of our New Hampshire Reds from the first batch we hatched. She was Ticker’s sister and was a nice, dependable hen. This fall she went broody, and since I don’t break my girls when they go broody, I let her sit. She sat on her imaginary eggs for a long time – two months – before she finally got up and went back to the business of being a chicken. All that sitting must have drained her resources, because she launched into a hard molt. I have never seen a molt like the one Tocker went through. ALL of her feathers fell off. All of them. The poor thing was so cold, and in so much pain as her feathers started to grow back. If she sat down, her feather shafts would bleed and hurt, so for days she didn’t sit down. I kept a heat lamp running and she stood under it at night. One night she stayed in a part of the coop that was colder, with no lamp. I couldn’t pick her up to move her because she was in so much pain when she was touched. I figured she knew what she was doing. The next morning we found her dead in the coop. Why? I wish I knew. Was she too cold? Too depleted of minerals and protein? Too tired from standing up for days on end?

Rest in peace, Tocker.

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Our two sicknesses resulted in full recoveries, thank goodness. Ticker was in very bad shape this summer, and I had mentioned her issues in this post. After she recovered from sour crop, things took a turn for the worse. By the end of the summer she was listless and her feathers looked awful. She would kind of stand still and hunch over all day, eyes shut the whole time. I figured out after I wrote that post that she didn’t have scaly leg mites, so I ended up with two big tubs of vaseline that I’ll probably never open. She did have something wrong with her crop and digestive system though. It was either worms or mechanical issues with her crop. I dewormed her and she improved slightly, but still did not recover fully. Then, on the advice of my neighbor, I fed her a handful of grit. She gobbled it up. Within days she was a whole new chicken. She had more energy and she went through a soft molt, losing all the old feathers and regrowing new, shiny ones. Since the chickens free range on our gravel driveway, I hadn’t considered lack of grit as a primary issue, but it turns out that it was. From that point on I have offered grit to all the chickens on a regular basis.

The second sickness involved Ruby, also one of our original hens. Ruby had some listlessness similar to Ticker’s, but different. She recovered on her own and I’ll never know what ailed her.

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At this point all the hens are doing well, thank goodness! Fuzzybottom, one of our best layers, is finally molting. She hasn’t molted at all in her 3 years, if I remember correctly. After watching Tocker molt (and then die), I’m concerned that Fuzzy will lose too many feathers so I’m keeping an eye on her. Aside from that, the girls are good! If they could change one thing, it would be the weather – the snow is a big drag for the chickens, as they prefer the lush green grassy pasture of the summer. And really, who doesn’t?

Around here we are giving thanks for good health!

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Happy December!

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Happy Holiday Season! I am really looking forward to the December excitement this year. I’ve finally broken through my resistance to our cold and snowy winter weather (it only took ten years :) – I think our warm wood stove has something to do with my pleasant thoughts of winter).

‘A’ and ‘H’ are at a great age for celebrating the holidays. At 9 and 7 years old, they look forward to the magic of the holiday moments (not just Santa… they love lighting the candles on the menorah, setting up the tree, making presents for their loved ones…). They’re tremendously helpful too, which makes everything so much easier and more enjoyable for me. We’ve fallen into a tradition where Jeff and I set up the tree, I put the lights on, and the girls add all the ornaments. I love it and so do they. Sure, the ornaments are largely at the bottom of the tree, but that makes it more beautiful.

In the past few weeks we have seen a lot of our family! The girls saw all of their grandparents in the month of November, which is noteworthy because they all live several hours away. We met our new nephew, my sister’s son, and he is just as precious as all babies are when they are brand new. We had a low-key and fun Thanksgiving here at home with my other sister and more grandparents.

Now it is December and we are excited for what lays ahead! This month we are going to be making gifts just like we do every December (I’ve been pinning!), and there are some fun homeschool activities we’re undertaking too. We are planning to visit the Mark Twain House while it’s decorated for the season, and if we have time that day to tour Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house, which is right next door, we’ll do that too. ‘A’ and I read Uncle Tom’s Cabin a few years ago and we loved every page of the story. It would be nice for the girls to see where she lived.

We will be taking on robotics lessons soon! The girls have on their wish lists the LEGO WeDo construction set and programming software. This blends two of the things they love right now: LEGOs and programming. The cool thing about this set is that they can program a robot to move around in real space, not just move through a 2D maze on the computer screen. I think this is going to jump start a whole new creative vibe here at the Village Homestead.

One more thing we’ll be doing that is not necessarily fun or exciting but necessary: we are going to prepare and practice a family fire plan. Over the Thanksgiving weekend we were woken in the middle of the night by our smoke detectors (they all go off at the same time and it is loud!), and although we ultimately determined that one particular smoke detector was overly sensitive and there was no danger to us that night, I was a little alarmed at our response to the emergency. I was out of bed and knew I had to wake everyone else, but in my sleepy state I was more focused on finding the “fire” with the intention of putting it out, instead of focused on getting shoes on my girls and calling 911. I guess it’s good that I have a “can-do” attitude and I think I’m capable of handling an emergency, but the middle of the night with the smoke alarms blaring is not the time for me to demonstrate my abilities. After the fire department cleared the house that night, I realized that we have no plan in place. No meeting spot outside, no experience feeling doors for heat, no rehearsed escape route. The false alarm last week was a great first step in seeing how we each react to smoke alarms in the middle of the night, and it’s time to put that knowledge to use and form a plan!

Looking forward to a fun-filled month ahead!

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First Snow!

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We had our first snow last night. It was a dusting, but enough to get us all in the mood for winter. The new chickens were freaked out by the snow this morning – it was their first time seeing it and they were afraid to leave the safety of the coop. It was funny to see, but probably not too funny for them.

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Buttoning up the beehive for winter

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Last winter was cold and this winter is supposed to be similar. I’ve lost beehives in the last few winters – once because they starved to death and the other time because they froze to death. There aren’t many things as sobering as cleaning out a hive full of dead bees in the spring. It is downright depressing, and replacing the bees takes money and effort. A year ago at this time I had only one hive, and by the time spring arrived, I was left with none. As my hive sat empty after the mass die off, and before my order of a new package of bees arrived from Georgia, our apple trees bloomed. The blossoms were plentiful and fragrant, and I was reminded of the days in the previous year when the honeybees covered the apple trees, collecting nectar and pollen, fertilizing the blossoms. We had so many apples in our harvest that year – so many that I could barely keep up with the applesauce production. We felt blessed.

This year there were no bees to cover the apple trees. No bees to collect nectar and pollen, or to fertilize the blossoms. By the time summer arrived I could see that there were no apples on the trees, and we had no apple harvest this year. When I realized how important my bees were for the apple harvest, I quickly saw that a die-off in winter was more than an inconvenience – it was a serious problem. This winter I am determined to keep the bees alive, and I’m starting by addressing the two issues that plagued my hives in the past: food and warmth.

Cold Weather Food

After I harvested honey earlier in the fall I started feeding the bees a sugar syrup to help them increase their honey stores for the winter. As the weather cooled I stopped the feedings because liquid sugar is of little use to bees when it gets cold. In order to convert the syrup into honey, they need to fan it with their wings to evaporate the water. When it’s cold, the bees cluster and conserve their energy, so fanning syrup isn’t an activity they undertake. When it gets cold outside and the inside of the hive stays warm near the cluster, the water left in the syrup turns into condensation and clings to the top of the hive. When the water droplets get heavy enough, they fall down onto the bees, and the cold drops kill the bees below. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? Cold weather feeding means providing low-moisture sugar stores. More on this in a moment.

Keeping the Hive Warm

The hive is kept warm in a few different ways. The first rule is to provide a wind break so that the cold winter wind doesn’t whip straight into the hive. If you don’t have a natural wind break such as shrubs or trees in front of the hive, you can erect a wall of hay bales a few feet from the hive, making sure you place them in the direction of the wind. Here at the Village Homestead there is a good wind break provided by trees and shrubs.

The second way to keep a hive warm is to keep the profile low. Hot air rises, so the closer the cluster of bees is to both the top and bottom of the hive, the better. You know how cathedral ceilings in a home look nice, but they aren’t great for keeping the room warm in the winter because the hot air rises to the ceiling? The same principle is in effect in the hive. If too many boxes are on the hive going into winter, the warm air will rise, leaving the cluster of bees below exposed to the cold.

I am convinced that one of my hives died from cold exposure because I put a box of honey frames on the hive at the end of the winter, and the warm air rose to the top. The bees had food stores, thanks to those honey frames I had stored in my freezer all winter, but they didn’t live because they couldn’t stay warm in their cluster. This year I want to minimize the cathedral ceiling phenomenon in the hive.

A third way to keep the hive warm is to keep out excess moisture. I said earlier that moisture in the hive will collect on the top of the hive and rain down as cold water droplets that kill the bees. Moisture is always in the hive because the bees are living organisms and in the course of breathing, eating and moving around, they create condensation. It is important to have a way to remove the water that collects.

Candy Boards

This year my solution to both of these issues – feeding the bees and keeping them warm – is to create a candy board for the hive. It’s a very squat box that goes on top of the brood chambers (and directly under the inner cover). The box is lined with hardware cloth and newsprint, and filled with a sugar-water mixture that is mostly sugar. This set-up directly addresses all of my issues: the bees have food to last them through the winter; there isn’t a lot of extra space at the top of the hive for warm air to collect; and condensation is absorbed by both the newsprint and the sugar mixture. Extra condensation escapes through a hole drilled into the side of the box. I think it’s a brilliant idea. No, I didn’t make it up myself – a lot of other beekeepers are making candy boards for their hives. I took my recipe from the blog Tilly’s Nest – her instructions are pretty good, and if you would like to make one too, head over to her site and follow what she did. 

A few notes on making the candy board: the sugar solution will be very dry while you are mixing it, like damp beach sand – not wet enough to build a sand castle, but not dry enough to flow through your fingers. Mix it with your hands. When you are ready to put it in the candy board frame, pat it in really well. Push down on the sugar mixture and pat, pat, pat until it is a solid mass. Let it sit overnight to harden. Before placing it on the hive, cut away any extra newsprint. If newsprint peeks out from the hive, it will wick moisture into the hive – exactly the opposite of what you want!

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Entrance Reducer and Mouse Guards

Two more things to think about when closing up the hive for the winter: entrance reducers and mouse guards. An entrance reducer simply reduces the size of the entryway at the base of the hive. It keeps the cold air out and allows the guard bees to catch a break instead of expending all their energy on guarding a big entrance during the winter. I actually leave my entrance reducer on year-round for young hives.

Mouse guards are a must if you live in a cold area. Mice seek out warm, protected spaces and can crawl through small holes. A beehive is an ideal winter home for mice. It’s warm and protected, and usually close to a field. Once inside a hive, mice can eat the honey and soil the brood chamber with their droppings. Here in upstate New York we worry about exposure to hantavirus as well. My mouse guards were fashioned by Jeff and I love how easy they are to use. He made a five-sided cube of hardware cloth, the width of the hive entrance, and attached two pieces of wood inside the cube. The pieces of wood are no taller than the entrance so that they can slip in easily. When it’s time to add the mouse guard, I simply slip the wood pieces into the hive entrance until the open side of the cube meets up with the hive body. You can see it in action here:

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Checklist for Buttoning Up the Hive

  • Reduce the number of boxes to the lowest number the bees need for the winter. I use the 10-frame size, and leave two brood chambers for the winter cluster
  • Add an entrance reducer and a mouse guard to the entrance
  • Create a wind break using hay bales if you don’t have one already
  • Put a candy board on top of the brood chambers, and put the inner cover and outer covers on top of the candy board
  • Place bricks or a heavy stone on top of the outer cover to keep the cover on tight; or use bungee cords to secure the cover to the hive

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Project Feederwatch has begun!

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The girls and I participate in Project Feederwatch every year, and it just started up for the season. It’s a citizen science project set up to collect backyard bird counts between November and April, and is organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. We select two consecutive days each week and record the highest number of each species that visit the feeder at the same time. It doesn’t sound very exciting does it – I mean, who cares that 7 House Finches came to our feeder today? The researchers at Cornell do. They use our data to record trends and draw conclusions. Earlier this year they determined that climate change is altering the habitats of birds. The data we submit gives scientists a good overall view of bird activity in the US and Canada.

We watch the birds and record data partly because it’s a good idea to be a citizen scientist, but really, we do it because we love to watch the birds. ‘A’ and I could sit all day at the window and welcome all of our feathered friends that come to the feeders. Our Project Feederwatch work provides a good excuse for us to indulge in a favorite activity. It makes me feel less lazy. We have to watch the birds, it’s our job. Researchers are counting on us, we tell ourselves.

In my feeders this year I have black oil sunflower; nyger; safflower seed; and suet cakes. I put the feeders up last week and it took a few days for the birds to start coming. The chickens love to eat any seed that falls to the ground, and when I let them out of their run in the morning, they head straight over to the feeders for a snack. Setting up the feeders this fall was a piece of cake because I was smart enough to thoroughly dismantle and clean all the feeders last spring {finally!}. There was nothing sketchy or questionable about the condition of the feeders when I took them out of storage last week. I love it when I plan ahead and things go smoothly… if I can just remember to do that kind of thing more often!

If you are interested in participating in the project, it is not too late to sign up. I think it’s a good experience for children. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has science lessons available for homeschoolers, and there are so many opportunities for science experiments of your own. We have always been happy with our experience. Happy Birding!

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Around the Homestead

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Another fantastic fall weekend in upstate New York. My dad and stepmother came for a visit; my sister had a baby (we haven’t met him yet – she lives in Connecticut); my girls are happy and healthy; the chickens and bees are doing great. What else could I wish for?

Here are some shots from around the homestead today.

9-h

9-jeff-loading-stove

9-buffy

9-fae

9-mrs-crouch

9-narcissa

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