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May 26th, 2012
Chicken Processing Day

Well after 8 weeks it is finally time. Butchering day! 22 cornish cross meat birds.
We collected supplies, set up stations, boiled water, and sharpened knives. Chris and Silvia have arrived with the chicken plucker.
This was all of our first times processing meat chickens. Dylan and I processed turkeys last year and knew it was a big job. In place of $40 killing cones to hang the chickens upside down I purchased $8 traffic cones and trimmed off the bottom. It was perfect to hold the wings in and keep the head pointed down and protruding from the bottom to facilitate easy decapitation. (what an odd sentence).

Things went amazingly smoothly with so many hands and such great tools. We brought the chickens up about 6 at a time in the large cage. We kept the cage covered and pulled the birds out 2 at a time. They were calm and had no idea what was coming. Not so much as a squawk from anyone. After allowing them to drain for a few minutes they went into the scalding water one at a time for 15 seconds. Then into the chicken plucker. May I say, the finest machine ever! It only took about 20 seconds in this machine and they are plucked clean! Then into the cold water bath.

The biggest bottleneck to the whole project was the gutting and cleaning. Silvia and I were both working at full speed gutting and could only clean 1 bird for every 3-4 processed. We worked like champs and ended up with some great freezer filler! Each bird processed averaged about 6-7 pounds clean and wrapped. 7 pounds in 8 weeks!!! AMAZING!

Picked up the next 25 chicks and we will do this again in 8 weeks!







May 13th , 2012
Mothers Day Swarm!

Just after leaving my mom's place in Montana I received a call on my cell from a family in Coeur d'Alene who reported a large swarm of bees in a tree in their back yard. I was super excited about the prospect of collecting a swarm of bees that did not already belong to me. I told her I would call her back as soon as we got back home. I called her about 3.5 hours later and expected to hear that the swarm had moved on. It was still in the tree.

I collected all my gear and drove into CDA. When I arrived it was almost 7pm and I still had some good daylight left. The swarm was huge and beautiful! It was spread over 2 branches and they were calm and happy. I cut the branch from the tree and laid it in my ready hive box. The group was hardly bothered by the moved and settled into the box nicely.

I had a few families in their back yards watching the whole process. I took a frame with some honey over to the kids watching and let them touch it and try some of the honey. Some of them photographed the whole process. I sat down and waited till dusk when almost all the bees had settled into the box. I strapped the box shut and loaded them up and brought them home. They have settled into the apiary nicely and have become hive #5.

 





May 11th -12th, 2012
Happy Hatching Day!

Well the baby chicks were right on schedule! Pipping started on Thursday night and by Friday afternoon there were about 12 hatched. One problem... There were 12 eggs left to hatch and we needed to leave for Montana to visit my mom for mother's day weekend. I can't just leave them unattended. Into the van they go! I moved all the chicks and unhatched eggs into a rubber bin with a heat lamp and loaded them into the van for the 4 hour drive.

The kids climbed into the back to check on them about every 20 min. 2 hatched while we were still in Idaho and 3 more hatched after we crossed into Montana. I loaded the remaining eggs back into the incubator once we arrived at my mom's. A total of 19 eggs hatched out of 24. Unfortunately the littlest chick that was last to hatch was smooshed by the others on the trip home.


All in all it was a great success. I just hope we end up with some good hens and not 18 roosters!



 
 










May 1st , 2012
Meat Bird Update
Photos represent April 9th, April 19th and April 29th

 










May 1st , 2012
Happy May Day!
The new ladies are loving the flower baskets I have put together. But the pollen is rolling in from somewhere else. Watching the front of the hives is great. Some of the girls are coming in so pollen heavy they can barely fly!

  










April 30th, 2012
Yeah for fertilized eggs!
Looks as though this batch of eggs in the incubator might just work! I have been candling the eggs every few days and have seen amazing growth. I have been checking most on the eggs with white shells as those are easier to see into. The photos don't do the eggs justice but I have not only seen the dark mass grow larger but can see blood vessels and cool shapes. We are about half way through the incubation and expect to see chicks by Mother's Day!!

The first photo was taken on about day 5, the second on day 7.... the other 2 were taken today. Look at the large mass at top and the veins at the bottom.

    
 










April 19th, 2012
Mason Bee?
As the late afternoon was cooling down I was shooed the last straggler bees out of the inside of the little greenhouse. I saw this little lady hanging out on the inside wall. I only noted the difference from my ladies because of her antennae. I brought her out of the greenhouse and put her on the table. I got a few shots of her with my phone before she took off. I looked up bee photos and almost sure she is a mason bee. I have never seen one before and wonder if the presence of my honey bees drew her in. Or maybe I am just paying better attention now.












April 19th, 2012
These chicks grow fast!!
I moved the chicks from the house to the chicken tractor
about 10 days ago. They have already outgrown it. I had to move them to the turkey coop earlier than I thought. I transported them in these cool rubber buckets both times. When I moved them the first time I was able to fit 12 chickens in each bucket. Today I was only able to move 6 per bucket. They are growing like crazy!!!






Broken Eyes and Baby Cakes are doing very well too! I moved them from the house to the newly vacant chicken tractor. They took to it very well and sunned themselves in the grass for the first time. Baby Cakes has shown Broken Eyes how to get around the new space.








April 18th, 2012
DUDS!
So, after 24 days of incubation I gave up on the hatching eggs. I tested it with a few different thermometers and the machinery is functioning properly. I cracked open 4 of the eggs to see how far they developed and what may have gone wrong. There was no growth at all. No blood spot or embryo or anything. It looked like a runny old store egg. So, obviously the lady from Cataldo who provided the eggs either gave me normal eggs on purpose or she has a non productive rooster.

I was at Aslin Finch today and met and fell in love with this trio of little Silky Bantams. I also got the contact info for another fertilized egg source. She lives out in Hayden so I will head out there Friday and get a new batch for the incubator. I hope I will have better luck the 2nd time!












April 14th, 2012
BEE DAY!
After weeks of excitement and preparation package day is here! Chloe is getting her very own hive this year! It is beautiful pink and ready to hold her first bee family. We took the family and drove to Tates Honey Farm and picked up our 2 new packages. Chloe named her queen Bee-once. We got all the new ladies to the house and prepped the new hives with some drawn comb and sugar water. The ladies moved in easily and Chloe installed BOTH packages! She is going to be the best little beekeeper ever.










April 10th -14th, 2012
Chicken Troubles!
So the downside of having a "farm". There was an incident when the baby chickens were moved from the brooder area into the new chicken coop not unlike the tragedy at Altamont. In a mobish effort to get in front of the warm glow of the heat lamp (not the Rolling Stones) 2 chicks were trampled. One so flat that he looked like one of those joke rubber chickens. (Obviously dead) The other was smothered or squished but not killed. At first I was sure she would not live through the night.

I ran through the plans in my mind about how I was going to have to kill this cute little chick to put her out of her misery if she did not pass on her own. I checked on her often and held her in my hand while she had a seizure trying to muster the nerve to wring her neck. I decided to let her go another night trying to judge if she was suffering or not.


The next morning she was still alive sitting up a little straighter. I gave her a couple drops of water and she drank them. The next morning she seemed even better. I reached down to touch her a she jumped like it was a surprise. After a bit of "testing" I have determined that she is likely blind. I don't know if this is a result to the squishing and the seizure of if this condition may have been preexisting and gone unnoticed in the fluffy snuggling group.

I did a little reading about people who have had blind chickens. They often do well when they have a friend to follow and bond with. I thought about grabbing one of the original broodmates and putting it in with her, but I was concerned that they would sense her deference and hurt her. So here is my solution. I went to the farm store and purchased a small chick and put her in with the blind chicken. My 2 year old niece has named them "Broken Eyes" and "Baby Cakes". The new baby took right to Broken Eyes and they are the best of friends. I will update here on their progress!









April 6th, 2012
New Hives!
Here is a photo of the new hives. The pink hive belongs to Chloe and was a passed on gift from Jerry Tate at Tates Honey Farm! We painted it up and she is ready to roll with her very own hive! New bee packages arrive on April 14th! (Same day as the chicken eggs in the incubator should hatch.)
We are so excited to meet our new girls and our new queens. Hopefully they like pink and blue!









April 5th, 2012
Greenhouse.
With a few extra dollars from tax returns I decided to buy a small portable greenhouse to give my northern Idaho gardening a little head start. I managed to bust this house out in about 30 min all by myself. I hope to set up a shelf with containers for herbs and a bit of early lettuce, and plant the tomatoes directly into the soil inside the greenhouse. I will have to either drive long posts or attach it to the fence to keep it from blowing away in the occasional high winds we get up here. Any tips or tricks on greenhousing are appreciated.








April 3rd, 2012
Stairs
Soooooo, I was doing a little prepping in the garden on Saturday morning. I called Dylan down to check out my work. The last few winters have been unkind to the garden steps. This winter pushed it over the edge. Several of the stairs had heaved and were pointing significantly downhill. Well Dylan hit about step 4 and slipped. A few busted ribs later it was decided that something needed to be done. I hit Lowes a few days later and picked up some stair no-slip pads. I spent the afternoon Tuesday digging and leveling the steps, pounding new rebar, and attaching the new no-slip pads. Now the stairs are fit for small kids and clumsy husbands!








March 30th, 2012
Neonicotinoids!
Two new studies have pinned the blame for the catastrophic decline in bee numbers on a commonly-used class of pesticides.
Read This Article!!








March 29th, 2012
Over-Chitted!
I have been saving these potatoes in the pantry since last fall. Some are my crop from last year and some are my moms. The kids and I planted them in some potato containers. Hopefully they have not gone too far and they produce something. We will see. Also picked up some super yummy fingerling potatoes when we were at pike street. I have put them in the window to see if they will chit. Fingers crossed.








March 28th, 2012
The new chicks have arrived. Our 25 meat chickens are just 2 days old and have arrived from the feed store. I will be photographing them over the next few weeks as they grow. The are cornish crosses and should be full butchering size in 8-10 weeks.








March 25th, 2012
Trying our hand at hatching chicks!
I have acquired the Farm Innovators Model 4200 egg incubator with automatic egg turner, and 8 fertilized chicken eggs. We are going to try and hatch some new chickens for our laying flock. I am excited as this is my first attempt at hatching eggs. Fingers crossed. If all goes well the will hatch on the weekend of April 14th!








February 18th, 2012
What is the deference between a factory farmed egg, a free range egg, and a farm fresh "pastured" egg??
If you could taste you would know. It is that same feeling when you eat a piece of warm homemade bread after eating wonder bread. Some scientists say there is no nutritional difference, but I think all "free range" eggs are not created equal. Take a look at the photos below and tell me who you think produces a healthier product.

"Factory Farmed"
"Free Ranged"
"Free Pastured"
Who's eggs and meat would you rather eat??


Some studies say this about pastured eggs:
• 1/3 less cholesterol
• 1/4 less saturated fat
• 2/3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene

That beta carotene is mostly from the hen eating lots of fresh greens. That is why the egg on the left in the 2 photos below is so much less orange. Also notice which egg held up being dropped of the plate into the pan. Yup. This pastured egg is even from mid-winter when there is much less grass but still plenty of green kitchen scraps. You may pay $1 a dozen for the factory farmed eggs and up to $4 a dozen for pastured eggs at the farmers market or from your local small farm, but I think the difference is a no-brainer.



Read some good articles:
Meet Real Free-Range Eggs
Eggs






January 27th, 2012
Our Kids Make The February Edition Bee Culture Magazine!






January 20th, 2012
An amazing warm January Day. The bees are out doing their cleansing flights and collecting water.






January 9th, 2012
Possible CCD (colony collapse disorder) cause? Maybe just another straw on that camel's back!


Courtesy Christopher Quock -- An Apocephalus borealis fly, implants its eggs into the abdomen of a honey bee. The fly is suspected of contributing to the decrease in the honey bee population. Researchers say the fly deposits its eggs in the abdomen of honey bees and as the larvae grow within the body of the bee, the bee begins to lose control of its ability to think and walk, flying blindly toward light. It eventually dies and the fly larvae emerge.

This fly, Apocephalus borealis, is suspected of contributing to the decrease in the honey bee population. Researchers say the fly deposits its eggs in the abdomen of honey bees and as the larvae grow within the body of the bee, the bee begins to lose control of its ability to think and walk, flying blindly toward light. It eventually dies and the fly larvae emerge.

Courtesy John Hafernik -- The larvae of an Apocephalus borealis fly emerges from the dead body of a host honey bee. The A. borealis fly is suspected of contributing to the decrease in the honey bee population. Researchers say the fly deposits its eggs in the abdomen of honey bees and as the larvae grow within the body of the bee, the bee begins to lose control of its ability to think and walk, flying blindly toward light. It eventually dies and the fly larvae emerge.

Deadly parasite turns Bay Area honeybees into zombie slaves




January 1st, 2012
Just adding a some links to a few articles I was interviewed for last few summers in the Spokesman Review. One on gardening and one on beekeeping.





December 10th, 2011
IEBA Joy In Beekeeping Award

I won the joy in beekeeping award from the IEBA last night. Great award and some $$ towards Chloe's first hive. Super exciting.