Monday, October 29, 2012

When one door closes, another one opens...

For over a decade, John and I raised sheep and goats for their fiber.  As those of you who have followed us over the years know, in 2009 we decided to expand our farm into a commercial venture, but soon found ourselves trying to raise things we thought the public would want.  In doing so, we weren't true to ourselves or our farm.  Too many of those things didn't grow well here, they needed consistent rainfall, different soils, and more intensive management - not an easy task when we also have full time jobs.  Not always growing what we are familiar with led too many times to wasting food we didn't know how to prepare, nor did we ever have enough of what we did like.  Toss in the time needed to tend to livestock management, and it just became too much to handle. 

It was time to start working smarter and not harder!  With that epiphany, our focus changed and we officially closed the farm business earlier this month..  Now we will be farming always with the our TABLE in mind.  The only livestock we'll manage going forward are chickens and  honeybees.  

With the closing of Laingcroft Farm LLC (the business) we needed a new farm name -- Girandole Farm.   If you wish to follow along with us on our new path, feel free to follow along at the new blog .... 

Thank you!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bad Broody!!!

So sad today.   Went out this morning to check on the penned birds and found the two peeps huddled together in the nest crate...dead.   After chasing the Lebar broody off the nest last week, the Leghorn cross decided she was tired of brooding the chicks and slept on the perch with the others last night, leaving the chicks to fend for themselves.  Of course it was only 57 degrees overnight.

Luckily, five more Legbar eggs are going into lockdown in the bator tonight.  I'm definitely not trusting this group again with brooding their own.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

First Legbar Peeps!

Two of the girls in the Legbar breeding pen decided to go broody and hatch some eggs.   They hatched out four but two didn't survive the cooler night temps we've recently experienced.  There are also six more eggs in the bator set to hatch on Monday.  So far they are all still alive. 

This is Legbar, the rooster with two of his ladies.  The hen to the left is a cream legbar, the hen on the bottom a silver leghorn/EE cross.

The leghorn cross is the second broody in this batch.  She lays white eggs which we removed from the nest.

And the cream legbar hen, Lily, puffed up and trying to intimidate the!  She has warned the chicks to take cover, which they did under the Rubbermaid lid in their "play area."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

If only it were the lazy days of summer...

Wow!  Time has certainly flown this year.  So much has occurred since my last post THREE months ago!!!  Culinary classes have been such fun.  I've taken seafood, cooking science, entree salad and summer soup classes already with meat, Moroccan, puff pastry and sugar art classes already registered.   Can't wait!   Tonight we are making fresh tuna steaks with a basil-lemon-olive oil marinade.   The basil was fresh from the garden of course :)   Yummmmmm...

The bees are doing well but we won't have any honey this year.   They have almost finished filling the foundation in the second hive body.  With all the hot, dry weather we've had in July, we've had to feed them pollen patties.    Luckily the past few days have blessed us with rain.  At least they have plenty of water.

Many of the fruits and veggies didn't survive the late June, July droughts.  We are planning to re-organize our water supply system.   Rain barrels will be supplemented by a new cistern.    Flowers did well as you can see.

The figs too are doing well.   Tomorrow I will be making fig preserves.

The chickens are growing well.   This is El Cid, our egg flock rooster, a Euskal Oilak (Basque Chicken.)   Love this breed, they are so friendly and docile.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Third Hive Inspection

Today was sunny and gorgeous, perfect weather for my third hive inspection.   As usual, I was little nervous at first, but it is amazing how "docile" these bees are.  Sure their buzzing increases in volume when I take out a frame full of brood and they all fly up and about, but no one stings.   And the girls are doing fantastic.  They are averaging construction of two frames per week; next Sunday I will need to add more foundation with a second hive body.   Lots of capped brood too - the queen is busy.    Of course the field bees have one main focus, gathering nectar and pollen.   I tried to get a photo but they move too fast so I took a few seconds of video instead.   I was able to stand within a foot of the side of the hive without being bothered.  Loved the last bee in the video; she left the hive so fast she flipped over before takeoff.

I don't know where they go.  I expected they would be all over the wildflower border directly west of the hive, but it seems to be more attractive to butterflies.  I haven't seen many bees in the clover either, but I have seen more than usual.   I left the clover as long as I could, but the grass eventually got too tall to ignore.   We'll see how they like the echinacea when it blooms next.

It was also a perfect day to get the young silkies out on grass.    The two pictured below are from show stock.   I think one is a boy and the other a girl.  I've named the girl "Priscilla" and the boy is "Chardonnay."  Chardonnay is the bigger of the two.

Our mouser had to get in on the act too.   Supervising.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Back to school

We all have those lottery wishes right?  Plans for what we would do with the winnings.  One of the things I've always dreamed of doing was travel to France for cooking school; the real deal, the kind of school that teaches EVERYTHING.  But that was just a dream.  The reality involved reading every book in three libraries and collecting hundreds of cookbooks.  I even went so far as to research "professional" cooking schools nearby (there are none) and considered going back to school full time in the local community college's hospitality degree program.  But who can afford to quit working and go back to school when you have a family to raise and a farm to run too?  So onto a back burner went my dream until that far off someday when (if) I win that lottery or retire.  Well guess what - someday has arrived!

Last week I discovered a program that's been developing quietly over the past decade or so.  Unbeknownst to me, the University of Richmond offers a Culinary Arts program as part of its School of Professional & Continuing Studies.  It's not a degree program but it does have similar guidelines and provides SafeServ certification.  Best of all, the classes are held in the evening, after work.  Here's a link for those interested:  Culinary Arts Program

I'd forgotten how much life is enriched when you have a passion for something.  And let's face it, cooking offers instant gratification unlike waiting years to see how your livestock breeding program progresses or the weeks between sowing and harvesting.    I also learned so much in my first class that I can't wait for the next one.  Of course this means I'll probably be expanding our recipe section on the farm website!

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Bees Be Hived

On Friday night I received the email I've been anticipating and dreading at the same time; the packages of bees were scheduled to arrive on Monday, April 30th at 3:00 p.m. (today).  So I went off to work work with nerves on edge and a plan.  I would take some leave time and head home at noon which should give me plenty of time to get the hive set up, pick up the bees, install them and make it over to the high school to pick up my youngest at 6:00.   Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans...

I need to back track a little bit here.   As those of you who follow this blog know, my hive arrived on Thanksgiving morning with the in-laws.   I opened the boxes, pulled out everything that would need to be stained and sealed then packed the frames with plastic cell foundation back into the box, which was promptly forgotten.  In February I took my class where I ordered one package and one nuc as recommended.  We were told the packages should arrive some time in April and the nucs in May.  Now as you all know, taxes are due on April 15th and for those of us in Virginia, state taxes are due May 1.  Obviously, there was a lot to be done in April.  Swapping the plastic foundation for wax crimp wire foundation went to the bottom of the to do list. 

Now back to today.   I am one of the carpentry challenged so on the way home from work I stopped at Home Depot for wood glue and 5/8" brads to replace those I would inevitably bend or break when I swapped the foundation. Then I remembered we needed milk (and I bet you can see where this is going...) so my one hour commute turned into two hours.   By the time I got home I had exactly one hour to swap eight frames of foundation before I had to pick up the bees.   Then I pulled out the first frame.  Wait a minute, didn't the instructor say there was a little bar you have to pull off?  These frames were completely "solid" with the foundation set in groves.   Short of breaking the frames apart there was no way I could see to remove the plastic foundation.   It is now 2:30.   Maybe one of the guys from the club can tell me how to do it.

I pack the frame and box of crimp wire wax foundation into the car and head over to the pick up point.  This is where I learned things were about to get ugly.  The frames that came with my kit are absolutely the wrong kind to use with the all wax foundation.   Here I am with a three pound box of unhappy bees in my car and I have to find the right frames NOW.    Off to Hertzlers I go with fingers crossed.
Package of unhappy honeybees

As luck would have it, Hertzlers had just received an order of bee supplies.   And I mean JUST.   Everything was still banded and they were checking it in.   Previously they carried Dadant supplies (pre-packaged) but these were bundled in individual parts from Mann Lake.   Did I mention this year is the first time Hertzlers has carried bee supplies?   My luck must have been truly in; another beekeeper was picking up his hives and helped us figure out what parts went with what.  It was now 4:00 and the bees were waiting, impatiently I'm sure.

I managed to prepare three pathetic frames - glue oozed everywhere, I bent about six nails and split two bottom rails before I finally worked out a system for assembly.  There is an art to hold everything in place while also holding a nail and hammering it in place, darn tiny nails!  Lesson learned...tap the nails in enough to hold them in place before assembly so they "self hold."  Yeah, I know you carpentry competent people are saying "Duh," right now.  Anyway, by the time I finished the eighth frame, it was time to head to the high school.   The poor bees were still outside waiting on me. 

Finally - ready, set, go...
Finally, at 7:00 this evening I was able to get the lid on the hive but not without more issues.  The cork on the queen cage wouldn't budge; I had to dig and break apart some of the screening over the candy and place her cage on the slatted bottom board of the hive. I'm still not sure there is even a queen in there - two of the bees in there were dead and I can't tell if one was the queen or not.  At e bees are all swarming unhappily and its starting to get darker (the day is overcast to begin with).  At this point, the bees are buzzing angrily and I just dumped them in the hive, half of them that is.  The other half refused to come out of the package.   I didn't want to keep banging it on the hive as it was distressing those clustered around the queen cage, so I just set it in front of the hive and inserted the feeder.  Hopefully they find their way inside and the feeder doesn't leak all over the place.

In spite of all my clumsy handling, I DIDN'T GET STUNG.  NOT ONCE!  And now I have my first hive of bees in place.  Yay!