The Yardstead - Farm Your Yard!

 Well, we had a very good spring garden this year at the yardstead.  We had bountiful harvests of squash, zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, onions and cucumbers.  Basically everything we planted for the spring did well except our Okra plants.  Im not sure why, but the okra plants we started from seed took several weeks longer to begin growing after we transplanted them to the garden than the other seedlings we planted.  The okra did eventually grow though, but by the time the plants were growing well I had given up on them and they suffered from neglect for the rest of the season.  Overall we were very pleased with the spring garden and were able to put several quarts of veggies away in the freezer.  With all the spring vegetables played out, our garden is kind of bare at the moment.  Late summer is so hot in our area that its difficult to grow good vegetables.  It is however a perfect time to begin planning for a fall garden.  A well planned and cared for fall garden can produce fresh veggies right on into the winter.  Some good choices ........

Bees on HoneycombThis is the second article in our beginner beekeeping series.  In the first article we talked about what you need to get started in beekeeping, including the hive and sources for bees.  This article will cover moving mail-order bees into your prepared bee hive.  We will start with preparing the hive then go through the steps to move the bees into the hive.  Make sure your hive is assembled with all the parts mentioned in the first article.  If your bees arrive before your ready to move them into the hive, you can store them for up to 3 or 4 days at the most.  You may have noticed a small container of syrup in the shipping cage with the bees.  This is for feeding the bees during shipment.  If you plan to store the bees for a few days, you should prepare some syrup of your own to feed them until their move in date.  The bees should be stored in a quiet, dark location that gets plenty of fresh air and stays about room temperature.
To prepare syrup for feeding your bees, boil 2 quarts of water then mix in 5 lbs of sugar.  Make sure all the sugar dissolves then let it cool completely.  To feed the bees, use a brush to apply the syrup to the sides of the shipping cage.  Feed the bees twice a day while in storage.  If you have not already done so, assemble your have and move it to the permanent location.  Painting the hive with linseed oil will help preserve the wood, but some keepers dont paint the hives at all.  You should an entrance feeder for your bees with your starter kit.  Fill the entrance feeder with some of the syrup you prepared earlier.  Go ahead and remove half the frames from the hive.  Make sure all the frames have wax foundation already in place.  The bees use the wax foundation in the frames to make cells for storing honey.  Feed your bees one last time by applying the syrup to the side of the shipping cage until the bees are no longer interested.  Now we are ready to move the queen into the hive.
Its time to get out that new smoker and light it.  You will need it soon to smoke the bees.  Also put on the veil and gloves and long sleeves.  Bring the cage over near the hive and bump it on the ground so all the bees fall to the bottom of the cage.  Remove the queen cage and recover the cage to prevent the bees from escaping.   Remove the plug blocking the end og the queen cage.  You should see a layer of way inside the end of the cage.  Make a small nail size hole in the end, but be careful no to harm the queen.  Place the queen cage in the  hive between the top bars of two of the frames still in the hive.  Place it with the wax side up.   Once the workers move in to the hive, they will eat away the wax and release the queen.  Again bump the cage on the ground to put all the bees on the bottom.  Pour the bees into the open space of the hive and make sure some get on the queen cage.  Gently reinsert the five frames that you removed earlier, being careful not to crush any bees.  Space the frames out evenly.  Place the inner cover on the hive, again being careful not to hurt the bees.  You can use the smoker to move the bees if you need to get them away from the top.  Now you can replace the outer cover. 
Place the full entrance feeder in the entrance and use some hay to block the rest of the opening, so the bees can not escape.  At this point your bees are moved in.  Don't open the hive for the next week.  You can do quick checks to make sure the feeder has syrup, but otherwise don't disturb the bees.  After the first week, you should open the hive ands see if the queen is free from her cage.  If she is not free,  make the hole in the wax a bit larger and put the cage back in and close the hive and check back in a few days.  Make sure the feeder is full.  If she is out of the cage, check the frames and see where she is laying eggs.   At this point the bees are moved in!  In the next few days I will post more beginner beekeeping articles about caring for the bees and collecting honey.  In the meantime if you have any questions or comments about this article or any other yardsteading topics, please feel free to post in the forum.

Honeycomb with BeesBeekeeping (also called apicuture) is the maintenance of bee hives in order to collect honey and beeswax from the bees.  Bees are also kept for the purpose of pollinating crops or to produce more bees.  Kathleen and I have been planning to start a hive for a while.  She has been in contact with a local beekeeping organization, The Florida State Beekeepers Association.  They were very helpful a lot of information and even offered to help.  We have done considerable research so I thought I should share some good beekeeping information we've compiled.
The first thing to consider is a location for the hive.  You don't need a lot of space for the hive, but there are few guidelines that should be followed.  First check you local zoning laws.  Most places don't have any zoning restrictions on bees, but I have heard of a few.  All you need is a quiet sunny spot away from heavy traffic and loud noises.  Bees are creatures of habit and tend to use the same routes to leave and return to the hive.  They usually enter and exit straight in front of the hive, so try not to place it near a sidewalk or high traffic area.  Try to locate the hive .........

This is the first of a series of articles I plan to write about building a chicken coop.  I need to build a new chicken coop here at the yardstead, so I have a bit of research to do anyway.  We currently have an open coop with 3 walls and the roof enclosed, but open in the front.  I built it from scrap lumber and leftover pieces of metal roofing, in compliance with our Reuse/Recycle policy here at the yardstead.  It has worked just fine to shelter our chickens for the last 5 or 6 years .  The open coop sits at one end  of the chicken yard which is enclosed with poultry netting(which most people around the yardstead call 'chicken wire').  It has 4 built in nesting boxes and a hanging feeder.  I plan to move it and retrofit it for our ducks to use as a nesting shelter.
One of the first things you will need to know when planning to build a chicken coop is how many chickens you plan to house.  Here at the yardstead we plan to keep about a dozen laying hens.  We have Araucanas, Buff Orpingtons, Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, and Silver laced Wyandottes, which are all heavy breeds.  According to The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow, heavy breeds require ........

Well it's been a while since I've had time for much.  The yardstead has a new member.  He's 9 weeks old now and very sweet and keeping us very busy.

Our garden is winding down for the summer.  The chickens ate the last of the watermelons that we didn't harvest and most of the tomatoes too.  We are planning our fall and winter garden now.  In Florida, you can get a second harvest of some vegetables in the fall before the winter gardening season.  We have been so busy with the baby we decided to skip a second harvest of squash and beans and other vegetables.  In another month we will start preparing to plant garlic, onions and other winter items.

The new chickens are beginning to lay eggs.  The ducks have gotten so big that we are wondering if four ducks on our half acre was a wise decision.  They seem to be enjoying themselves just fine...but we often find "duck residue" in places I prefer they not go to the restroom.  Our three turkeys are bigger than ever and brave too.  They are not the least bit afraid of us and really give the cats a run for their money.  It seems turkeys like cat food as much as the cats do.

As I am writing this, tropical storm Fay has rolled in and I believe we have 15-20 inches of rain to look forward to.  I never complain about rain...but 15 inches is a bit much at once.  Stay tuned and look for more articles to come in the next month.  If you are in Florida right now...try to stay dry.

Page 7 of 11