Monday, April 17, 2017

1925 Bee Market In Holland

The old ways of doing things can be so entirely fascinating.  People sure were a lot tougher back then!

At the bee market in Veenendaal, Holland the principal buyers are the bee-farmers of the Veluwe, living near buckwheat fields and the heath. When the season is favorable, and the buckwheat gives honey (which it does not do always), the skeps may be filled in two or three weeks. In case they are entirely filled up with buckwheat honey they are emptied before the heath begins to flower. If not, the partly filled skeps are brought to the heath in order to be completed with honey of the heath. The latter crop being over, the bees are generally killed, and the bee-farmers await the next market to buy new swarms.

At the Annual Bee Market at Veenendaal, Holland, a hive of bees typically sold for around $3. Once a sale is made, the deal is concluded with ritualistic handshake, beekeeper and customer smack hands together hard, first in high position, then in lower, repeating.
Posted by Historical Honeybee Articles - Beekeeping History on Monday, January 12, 2015

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Interesting Farm Week (some "icky" photos)

I had some fun this week.  

I got to castrate a pig.

Talk to the Game Commission about bear damage.

Got good news about the turkey eggs. 

And help pull a calf out of a cow.  

First, I've had our local veterinarian show and walk me through piglet castration.  I watched it on Youtube (there are a lot of different variations on the same method!) and I had an experienced friend come and walk me through when the day finally came to perform the task.  I didn't take any pictures because my hands were obviously full.  But the operation went well and our little meat boar - now barrow - is healing well. 

The Game Commissioner came to let us know we could make a claim on our bear damage.  We won't get a lot of money, but it will be enough to stay in the beekeeping game!

The Ag teacher, to whom I had given some of our turkey eggs, reports that they found evidence of growth inside after candling the eggs! 

And finally, our neighbor raises black angus beef cows and as we noticed a cow in labor as we drove past yesterday.  She was still lying there when we came back and the farm worker was watching her because she had been trying to get the big calf out for a long time.

At one point, another cow walked up to her and started bellowing and the rest of the herd started coming over (I was very nervous and ready to get on out of there if need be!).  The other cow made the laboring cow get up and walk around a bit.  We hoped that would help...

...but it didn't, and we ended up putting a rope around the calves feet and pulling out the calf.  What a relief when the calf finally slid free!  We were worried it might be dead because it was stuck for so long, but it was, happily, still alive.  We immediately retreated so that the mother cow could take care of her calf.  When we left, momma cow was sitting up, but as of yet I'm not sure of the status of mom and calf.  An update will follow later today!

Hope for the best!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Happy Day! Bear Captured!

It's a miserable rainy day, but we have a big reason to smile.

A bear (and we hope THE bear) was captured!

If you read my previous posts, you see that we had problems with a bear coming into our bee yard and destroying hives.  The PA Game Commission came and set up a trap... 

...and today we got this!

No more honey for you!


Very displeased!

Now we feel a lot better about using our bee yard again.  We have plans to beef up security around it too!

Help The Bees!

And for goodness sakes please DON'T use glyphosate AKA "Roundup" on them!

Read about it here.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Bear Came Back To Finish The Job

Darn if that bear didn't come back and tear apart the little bit of bees I had been able to save.  

You can even see claw marks in the honey frame. 

The Game Commission set up a bear trap.

The spring bees that we'll be putting in will be at our house bee yard  for now.  We'll use our Odin site when we make splits - hopefully the bear will be caught before then!  

We'll hook up a marine battery to our solar charger to make sure the fence is staying charged at night.  

And keep on trying. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Bear Did It Again

These are the words a beekeeper really, really hates to hear. 

Last fall, a bear came and tore apart three out of four hives in our Odin bee yard.  This week, a bear, possibly even the same bear, came back to finish the job.  

We tied the hive to the wooden pallet with ratchet straps to keep any wind from pulling the hive apart and we've found that it gives the hive a fighting chance of not being torn apart if a bear comes.  

This bear didn't care.  It took the shock from the electric fence.  Then, it dragged the whole wooden pallet and the hive all together and tried to pull them out of the bee yard.  It couldn't go any farther when it got to the wire fence, so it stopped there to pull the hive apart. 

When I got the message, I loaded up my supplies and headed down to the bee yard to assess the damage.  Surprisingly, you can see an almost intact deep box (upside down) in the middle of the bottom picture.  This was the top deep and you can see that, thankfully, the top lid is holding everything together.  

This box was filled with a large cluster of bees!

So I pulled the pallet out of the fence and set up the bottom board.  Then I very carefully flipped over the single deep onto the bottom board.  Yes, I was wearing my full up bee suit.  That batch of bees were angry!

I fed the bees some dampened sugar inside their hive (It was an emergency feeding.  I lay down a piece of wax paper and dumped the dampened sugar on top of it, then put on the inner cover to leave a cavity, and then the lid).  After that I ratchet strapped the whole thing back together. 

It kind of feels like I put a band aid on a bullet wound, but if the queen survived we may be able to pull them through. 

This bear has developed a sweet tooth, so I've called the Game Commission to ask them to put a bear trap near the hives.  Maybe this bear can be relocated to a more remote spot and will stop going after my poor bees! 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Bourbon Red Turkey Hopes

One of our farm hopes is to raise Bourbon Red turkeys.  They're so beautiful and we hope, in the fall, to find out how good they taste.  We've heard excellent reviews!

When we got our poults, I asked the gentlemen if he knew what their sex was and he said, "Your guess is as good as mine."  We found later that we ended up with three jakes and one hen.  So I'm always telling our hen that all of our flock hopes are pinned on her.  

Saying that, if there is someone that has a bunch of Bourbon Red hens and wants to trade a jake for a hen they should contact me!

Our hen has started laying.  Of course she doesn't lay eggs in the nice big pile of hay that I put in her coop, but instead on the bare ground.  So far, I've found eggs frozen to the ground so I'm sure they're not viable.  

However, I'm hoping the warmer weather will give me a chance to stick a few eggs under some chickens (I'm crossing my fingers for one of the girls to go broody) and to deliver some to the high school's Agriculture department for placement in their incubator.  

I'll keep a couple of eggs under our turkey hen to see if she'll set and I'll give her a chance to be a mommy.  But I've been told that they're terrible mothers and often leave the eggs after two weeks of sitting.  

It seems like there's always some interesting experiments/projects going on around here!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Maple Weekend Success And IPP Boar Update


We made it through our very first Potter-Tioga Maple Weekend and even though we weren't on the map, we had a fair amount of visitors.  

It was so interesting to talk to everyone about the maple process and the visitor's kids really enjoyed going around to visit the horses, pigs and piglets, chickens and ducks, and turkeys.  The horses loved all the extra treats they got from their visitors and the turkeys were happy to have an audience to whom they could strut their stuff and show off.  The piglets were, of course, a hit.  They provided lots of entertainment as they ran and chased one another.  

As we were preparing the sugar house for this past weekend, we said that even if no one showed up we would have the sugar house all clean and organized.  It was a win-win!  

We sold two meat piglets during the weekend.  Out of this litter we felt that two piglets really stood out - a gilt and a boar.  The absolutely beautiful gilt and a meat piglet are sold for pick up this weekend.  We are keeping two meat piglets to raise ourselves and I'm contacting the other people who were interested in meat piglets about the other two.  

That leaves this black and white boar.  He's really something special and we hate to castrate him for meat.  He's a big boy with great body shape and the short nose we want.  So, if someone wants to get into Idaho Pasture Pigs, this is the boar you want.  Please contact me via the link on the upper right hand side.  

Friday, March 17, 2017

IPPs and Potter-Tioga Maple Producers 13th Annual Maple Weekend

Thank you everyone for the great response on the Idaho Pasture Pigs.  This has been a crazy week in preparation for the Maple Weekend and I will contact you shortly.  

So big news!  

For the first time ever, Fitzgerald's Family Farm will be on the Potter-Tioga Maple Producers Maple Weekend Tour! (with the Association's blessing)  

The Maple Tour takes place on Saturday and Sunday, March 18th and 19th.  The sugar house hours are 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.  Although you won't find us on the brochure, Fitzgerald's Family Farm is conveniently placed on the road between Brydonson Farm and Sons of Dunn Farm.  We have signs out on the main road pointing towards our farm.     

So don't forget!

Saturday and Sunday, March 18th and 19th

10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Fitzgerald's Family Farm
144 Snowman Rd

Look for signs to Fitzgerald's Family Farm between Brydonson Farm and Sons of Dunn Farm

Here is a link to the Potter-Tioga Maple Producers Annual Maple Weekend Brochure.

We look forward to seeing you!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Registered Idaho Pasture Piglets For Sale

Finally, a chance to get the new, small-homestead, Idaho Pasture Pigs in your barnyard!

We sell only the best for breeding pairs and the rest as meat pigs for butcher.  We request that you do not breed pigs purchased for butcher as this would ruin the qualities for which we're striving.  

If you're not sure if you want to start out as a breeder, we offer you the opportunity to purchase and raise one or two piglets for butcher, see how you like them - their characteristics and their outstanding tasting meat - and we're pretty sure you'll be looking for a breeding pair next year! 

This little black and white boar (he's a big boy!) and ginger-colored gilt below are really something special with the traits we look for in the Idaho Pasture Pig.  They will NOT be sold as a breeding pair as they are brother and sister.  We work with another farm to bring you high quality, non-related breeding pairs. 

Here are a few more pictures of our piglets.  This little gilt flopped over on her side after eating and allowed the other piglets to poke around at her.    

For more information about Idaho Pasture Pigs, click on the above link to "Idaho Pasture Pigs" and follow the link to this and this site.  

2017 Pricing:

Breeding Gilt: $350

Breeding Boar: $350

Breeding Pair: $700

Pigs for Butcher: $85

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

March = Spring!

We saw the first robins this weekend.  They must migrate together because all of the sudden there were lots of them!  

I haven't laid eyes on one yet, but while we were out tapping maple trees we've heard the familiar trill of another harbinger of spring... the red-winged blackbird!  

The daffodils and tulips are pushing up through their mulch, and yesterday, at my son's trap shooting meet, I looked down and saw a true, yellow, dandelion flower!

I hadn't written about it, but late last fall we had a disaster in our Odin bee yard.  A large tree branch had fallen across the wire from our solar fence charger and a bear had taken advantage of the power interruption.  The damage speaks for itself. 

One hive managed to be just shifted and there were still bees in it, so we're hoping they'll survive the winter.  

Every year we contemplate going on with beekeeping and every year we decide to keep doing it.  I guess it gets in your blood.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Raspberry Pruning Time

Half of our second high tunnel has been devoted to red and yellow raspberries (have you ever had a yellow raspberry? - they are swooningly sweet and flavorful!  But they have to be eaten within a couple of hours of being picked - which probably explains why you won't see them in the grocery store) 

This year I would like to add a couple of black raspberry plants to the rows. 

The other half of the high tunnel is devoted to early, late, and everbearing strawberries.  

But right now I'm pruning back and cutting back all the old raspberry canes.  

It's quite an intensive job, but very, very satisfying as the results are dramatic!

Before pruning (the closest canes are partially pruned):  

After pruning:

Of course our kitty "Thug" (so named because when he lived with my MIL - he would attack her feet), hangs out with me.  He is the ultimate farm cat.  He's always "overseeing" or giving companionship during chores.

Next I'll clean out all the debris and we should be ready to grow!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Maple Season Freight Train

Maple Season came upon us like a freight train.  One day we're looking out at below zero temperatures and the next day the snow melted and suddenly we have to start tapping trees right now!

So, we get outside and get to work!  Lo and behold the sap is running and we're actually getting splashed a little bit as we pound the spiles into the tree!

I love maple season.  After spending a sedentary winter it feels so great to get outside and walk up and down the mountains, over trees and through brush, feeling the ground soften beneath your feet and noticing all the little wonders of the forest.  

Sometimes you come across something strange and wonderful.. like the remains of a tree that once grew around a previous generation's barbed wire fence and now has decomposed into artful and fantastic shapes.  

Now I need to get out into the forest and work on getting all those taps done and boiling started.  We're behind the curve as our neighbor maple producers are boiling already! (Granted, they have a lot more young labor to help them out in the forest :  )  )

On a final note.  Does anyone know where I can find a drain plug for a Red Lion Semi-trash pump? Model 6RLAG-2ST.  Just the plug....