Tag Archives: hobby farm

A New Planting

Where has the summer gone?! Here it is, late October, and I have failed to give any updates on what has gone on around the farm this summer.  Taking the time to document our projects through blog posts is important to me because in addition to keeping my blog current, we often turn to these posts at some later time to help refresh our memory on the timing of a project, the outcome, the method or tools we used, etc.  As much as we think we will remember things, we simply do not.  At least not the details.  This post is my first effort at “catching up” for 2014.

After about a decade planted in alfalfa, the field around our house had become mostly grass and weeds, so last year we had our neighbor work it up for a new crop. Due to the irregular shape of the field, he decided it would be easiest to plant and harvest a soybean crop.  The wet spring delayed his planting and the ensuing lack of any significant precipitation in the remaining summer months made for a pathetic yield.  Besides the poor harvest, the field looked like thunder most of the summer with spindly looking soybean plants and abundant weeds.  We decided it was best to return the field to hay this year for both aesthetics and utility.

Like last year, this past spring was soggy and we were unable to get into the field early in the season.  After consulting various sources, we determined it was best to plant the hay later in the summer anyhow.  In August, Jesse finally borrowed the neighbor’s tractor and disk harrow and spent an afternoon working the field to knock down the weeds and break up the sod that had developed in the low spots.  I can assure you that although this may look like “work” to many, getting out from behind the desk at his day job and behind the tractor wheel was pure pleasure for this farm boy.

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The weeds and grass browned up after a few days and then it was time to try and smooth out the field.  Jesse used our small tractor and an old abandoned disk the neighbor had sitting in his woods.  It was small, but it fit on the tractor perfectly and got the job done.

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We decided to use a hay and pasture mix that contained alfalfa, clover and timothy grass.

IMG_2611Jesse used a brillion seeder to plant the crop.

DSC_0207We lucked out with the weather and enjoyed some nice shots of rain after the field was seeded, which helped it sprout quite nicely.

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The overlapping seeded rows are visible in this picture.IMG_2715

This photo from yesterday shows how robust the plants are looking now.

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We are keeping our fingers crossed that the new planting fares well through winter and comes back strong in the spring.  If all goes well, our bees will be have a great summer surrounded by a lovely crop of flowering alfalfa and clover.

Lynell

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Filed under Daily life, Miscellaneous

Bees and Teens

The kids thought their dad was a little weird when he told them we were getting bees last spring.  This came as no surprise to us because what kid doesn’t think their parents are weird at some point?  Jesse originally thought he would focus on getting our youngest son involved with the bees as a special project they could do together.  They checked on the hive together and Jesse shared with him all he was learning about bees through reading and talking with his bee mentor, Paul.

As the summer progressed, however, an interesting thing happened.  The other two also became interested in working with the bees.  Eventually, each time Jesse would say he was going out to check on the bees a discussion would ensue about whose turn it was to accompany him.  We purchased a second beekeeper suit and they each took turns working the bees with their dad.

Smoking the bees encourages them to gorge on honey, which makes them calm.  Calm bees are a good thing when you are pulling out frames to inspect.

Our youngest takes his turn.

Even our oldest, a genuine teenager and huge XBox 360 fan, wanted a turn working the bees.  We couldn’t have been happier.

Brushing the bees off to get a better look at the frame.  The bees are making good progress in capping the combs filled with honey.

And so the bees have turned into a family project.  These amazing little creatures have attracted the interest of our teenagers enough to lure them outside and away from technology.  For that, we are grateful.

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Filed under Bees, Daily life, Kids

A Rainy January Day…

Every Saturday I make a trip into the big city to take our daughter to rehearsal for the youth symphony.  This weekend she also has a piano theory exam to take at a local college.  I’m waiting for her now.  I spend a lot of time driving and waiting for my kids at various activities these days.  It’s one of the reasons I decided to start blogging.  Recording aspects of our country life provides me with an outlet while I wait at practices, rehearsals and lessons in my crazy and chaotic modern life.

Today is a dreary and rainy winter day in Minnesota and it definitely doesn’t feel like January.  Instead, it feels more like April with its snow-melting spring rains and I’m daydreaming about spring and my gardens. I’ve started noticing the gardening magazines in the grocery store check-out line.  Although they call out to me as I stand in line, I have resisted purchasing any so far.  The seed catalogs have also started to arrive in the mail and I peruse them with grand ideas of all the different vegetable varieties I am going to try this year.

My real gardening passion is flowers.  As each growing season comes to an end, I contemplate all the things that I will grow “next year” in my flower gardens.  On this rainy day, looking at random pictures of my flowers cheers me up and inspires me for the upcoming growing season….even if it is months away.

William Baffin climbing rose and Jackmanii Clematis

Zinnias and Bachelor Buttons

Hollyhock

Johnson's Blue Geranium

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Filed under Flower, Gardens

Keeping the chickens warm

Winters in Minnesota get cold.  Really cold.  On January 2nd, we woke up to temperatures of -30 degrees F.  We have 11 laying hens that we do our best to keep somewhat comfortable during these frigid winter months.  One of the strategies that we use is to bank snow up against the coop to help insulate and minimize any draftiness.  The walls of the coop are insulated too, which helps a lot, although I am certain that not many chicken coops were insulated on original working farms of our parent’s generation.

Inside the coop, we keep a heat lamp running to generate some heat for the chickens and to help keep the water thawed out.  Jesse also keeps the water font sitting on top of a homemade font heater for the really cold days. The font heater is made from a thermostatic controlled heating element in an upside down drain oil pan.

The windows on the coop are single pane windows, so this year Jesse decided to add an interior plexiglass panel to decrease the heat loss out the windows.  We believe it has made a big difference in helping the coop stay warmer, but we have had some condensation issues when the outside temperatures rise.

Layer chickens can drink anywhere from 1 to 2 cups of water each day.  During this latest cold snap, it seems as though the chickens have been going through a LOT of water. It is nice to have the water hydrant close to the coop for quick fill-ups.

Here are the chickens  all cozy and looking for scratch grains that I toss them for a treat.

We were away from home for one night and the chickens filled the nest boxes. You can see that we have a couple of Aracaunas that lay the green eggs.

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Filed under Chicken coop, Chickens, Outbuildings