Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Winding down

Summer is drawing to a definite close now. Today our weather reminded me of Bellingham (our old town in Washington), about 45 degrees, rainy and windy for much of the day. Our pasture isn't growing a whole lot at these temperatures, and I should probably be putting the animals on hay soon.

When Buttercup the cow returned from her summer vacation of hanging out with some fine young bulls, she and Josie became the best of friends. And then one morning, they *really* became the best of friends, engaging in highly visible displays of passion right next to the road for all the passers by to see.

Having by then spent a few hundred dollars breeding Buttercup (both with multiple AI's and the bull visit), and with Josie being bred before we purchased her, I was a little disappointed. With Buttercup's track record, I was starting to think that she might have to make a permanent visit to Hamburgerland.

I called the AI lady, but she wasn't able to make it out until early the next day. That's a little late, but I figured it wasn't going to hurt anything but my wallet (and hey, who cares about that?). Nearly 5 weeks have passed since, and I haven't noticed any more signs of heat in either cow, so I've got my fingers crossed. If all goes well, we'll have two calves here in about 8 months.

While my mom was out for a visit, we had to hook up the horses for a ride around the farm on the forecart, but first I wanted to pull a white oak out of the woods for a new post in the barn, to be used in rebuilding the horse stall that Doc destroyed by pushing against it with his BIG butt.

I made a point of doing everything on this post the hard way -- no power tools, no chainsaw... everything done by hand or horse. I felled it with an axe, pulled it out of the woods with the horses, cut it to length with an old crosscut saw, and squared it with a broad axe. I'm proud of what I did, but it really made me appreciate that I don't have to do it that way all the time.

Yesterday we harvested our first honey, from our single hive which sits out near the garden. The hive has two "supers", which are the boxes that contain "extra" honey -- above and beyond what the bees will need to get them through the winter. That's the honey we get to keep.

Step one is to get the supers off of the hive, and the bees off of the frames. They get kind of angry when you pull their hive apart, but I let them have it with my smoker. The smoke makes them think that a forest fire is about to consume their hive, so they eat a bunch of honey and calm down. Or something like that. I forget what the bee book said exactly. One of the problems with running a farm is that I no longer have the time to read up on how I *should* be doing things.

Once I had the two supers removed, I set up my new honey extractor outside near the garage, thinking that a messy task like this might not be suitable for the kitchen. It took me about 10 seconds of running the honey extractor before an angry swarm of bees showed up (they can smell honey) and scared me back inside.

With Rachel and Henry's help, the honey frames were all eventually cleaned out -- netting us about 5 gallons of honey and a couple pounds of wax. At $30/gallon, this is probably one of our more profitable operations, so long as I don't factor in costs for the hive, extractor, bee suit, and my time (and mental anguish).

While it's not exactly complete yet, we are making progress on the composting outhouse. It's all framed, the roof is on, and a little bit of sheeting has gone up thus far. If a tornado comes through, we're all going to the basement of the outhouse, as it's probably the best built structure on our property.

It's bow hunting season again. I haven't quite lived up to last year's experience (when I shot a nice buck in the first hour) but I have been seeing deer. Just this evening after dinner I was out for about 20 minutes, sneaking up to a bunch of does in our alfalfa field -- but no bucks. I've seen a couple bucks, but always just out of range (because they saw me first). Our neighbor Stan says he's seen some very nice bucks at the back of our field lately, so there's something to look forward to if they stick around.

Our turkeys are nearing the end of their brief lifespan, destined to become thanksgiving dinner, turkey sandwiches, and the like. For now, they're both entertaining and annoying. They love to strut around the yard when we're around, with all the toms puffed up and fanned out, dragging their wings along the ground. One disappeared, so we're down to nine now. Not sure if she ended up in someone else's freezer, or perhaps a coyote's stomach. Or, perhaps she left to join her wild brethren, as their territories have started to overlap as our turkeys wander increasingly further from the barnyard.

One day after giving the horses a good workout, Rachel decided that I should try riding one of them. I picked Bruce, because he seems a little more relaxed than Doc. Note the bike helmet I'm wearing -- a sign of supreme confidence in my fine steed (I would've also worn body armor if I had any). Despite my misgivings, Bruce performed well, and responded just as well to me working the lines as he would if I were walking behind him as usual. He's awfully big though; riding him feels about as secure as sitting on top of a tanker truck. I thanked him for not throwing me off and squishing me.

Rachel has been digging a mysterious hole in our basement, which she says is for "storing cabbages". If I disappear anytime soon, I would suggest that you look for me there. I think the forced use of a sawdust toilet (and upcoming outhouse) may be wearing on her.