First, the good.
Lots of things happening here on the homestead now that Spring is here. To be honest, it came on a little early, catching us napping a bit. Good thing I had already planned out what I was hoping to do this year as far as projects and expansion, because I could hit the ground running once I realized that winter was truly over!
Four things I wanted to set in place this Spring were a worm farm, expansion of my bees, planting of the herb garden, and adding a couple of fiber goats to my goaty lineup. So far I have managed to achieve the first two, gotten a start on the third, and not managed to move forward at all on the last.
The soil on our homestead leaves a lot to be desired. It is basically clay with lots of rocks mixed in. Lots of clay. LOTS of rocks. We have several plans on how to improve the condition of our soil, one of which involves worms. Lots and lots of worms.
There are a many benefits from raising worms. The first is obvious- you get worms, and worms are good for your soil. The second, which is the main reason I chose to get started doing this, is that worm castings make great compost. Yes, we have compost from the animals and byproducts of the homestead, but I am hoping that the worm compost will give the plants a little extra help as well as assisting in long term soil improvement.
There are many ways that worms can be of benefit on the homestead. Check them out here.
Sensing in myself a leaning towards the micro these days, apparently. Last year I lost one of my two new bee colonies. I believe the problem was hive placement as well as disturbance of the hive by animals. This Spring, however, I was able to replace that hive in a pretty exciting way – capturing a swarm!
Maryam was the first to see it up in the tree. I am assuming that they swarmed from my other hive, but I am not sure of that. Instead of being afraid, Maryam was thrilled. She came running to us, hoping that we would try to capture the swarm.
It was, admittedly, a little intimidating to see that huge ball of bees up in the tree. It was also located in a difficult position, with vines and branches going all the way through it. Still, we decided to give it a go. Hudhaifah was the front man on this project – I just supervised, lending him the vast library of my bee wisdom and experience (one year’s worth!) and making lots of jokes. Mike, a good neighbor of ours with whom we exchange work and friendship, also helped out as much as he was able, being a complete bee novice, and not having a bee helmet.
Hudhaifah suited up, set up a ladder, and headed up. The first day we managed to get most of the bees into the hive we had set up below. The bees became very agitated (even though swarming bees are usually pretty docile) and made it difficult to get the cover on the hive. Hudhaifah managed to place it on later in the evening. When the bees were agitated, they focused on him as the cause of their discomfort, and he ended up with around eighteen stings. I received two, and Mike did not escape unscathed either.
The next day the bees seemed okay in their hive, but the day after that Maryam went to check them and saw that the hive had been knocked over, possibly by one of the goats getting in the beeyard. It was on the ground with the cover off, but the bees were still in there. We had been planning on going and buying some fruit bushes that morning, but clearly we had to do something about the bees before heading out. We fired up the smoker this time, put a ladder, adjusted our setup, and headed in. Thankfully, we were able to right the hive and get most of the bees back inside. We did have to add a super, which I am going to have to remove when we next have a good day for bee work. They were not acting like a swarm anymore, which was a good sign. Working from the advice of a beekeeper, we put a cotton swab with a little lemongrass down in the bottom of the hive. Apparently, this can mimic a queen, keeping the bees happier and more settled. The queen was inside, though, so we wouldn’t have had to take this step. As of today, the hive is doing well, as is the surviving colony from last year. I have ordered a third hive and a colony of bees to add to it. I am hoping to have honey to show for all my work, come fall!
It’s been tilled and fenced in. The fencing we used consisted of bamboo poles and invisible fishing line. Sounds fishy, I know, but I read several articles by people who were using this system to keep deer out, and deer are my main concern out there. I have a basic plan of what I would like to do in there, and we are beginning to add plants now. Eventually I would like it to be not just functional but beautiful, with paths, a bench, and a fountain. For now, I am happy to get going on it in whatever way I am able.
Haven’t acquired any yet. I am hoping to as the season progresses. Kidding season went well, except we ended up with five bucklings and only one doeling. “Money on the hoof” according to my friend and goat mentor, Alice. We are planning on selling the bucklings, and most likely the doeling as well. Not as many surprises as to paternity this year, which was an advance from last year!
General Garden and Planting News
We’ve got much of the garden in now, except a few things that I am late on. The strawberries and garlic from last year are thriving- we have already eaten a couple of the first strawberries. Some of the children have claimed beds for themselves, doing all the planting and weeding of those beds themselves. The boys dug me another bed so I could plant some extra things. This year I am hoping to fight the squash bugs, as I am only planting varieties of squash that are resistant to them. Many of the fruit bushes are doing well too. We’ve purchased some new fruit trees and bushes, and will be putting them in the ground this week. I am hoping to get most of them planted in the vegetable garden or in the herb garden, and am hoping to do it soon. I also have two bushes for rosehips and some vitex bushes to plant as well.
My goldenseal is thriving- for next year I hope to get a forest garden in place for goldenseal, gingeng, wild ginger, and black cohash. I would also like to start growing mushrooms and…
Wait. I haven’t even finished this year’s list and I am working on next year’s!
So there is a lot of the good news about our homestead. The bad news, I think, will have to wait for next time – so try not to worry about what it is TOO much. Just get out and play in the dirt as much as you are able!
Some more photos from our garden: