Friday, June 22, 2018

So You Think You Want Bees?

We have had bees for a few weeks at this point, after years of talking about them, planning, discussion, changing plans. There are a few tips I have for anyone who thinks they may want to get bees.

Tip #1, Get bee's, seriously they are a wonderful resource to add to your homestead. Do not let all the scary bad stuff you will read online discourage you. Yes, it can be hard work, you may struggle with diseases, mites, and all manner of catastrophe but it is worth it. The rest of my tips are aimed to hopefully make it a bit easier for you.

Tip #2, Join a local beekeepers club. Call your county extension agent, contact your state beekeeping association to find an organization that meets near you. When we finally decided to get bees and joined a group the closest bee group was the next county over from us, just a short drive for monthly meetings and we have found a wealth of support and information. Many groups will also have equipment like honey extractors that you can rent and may be able to get you substantial discounts on your first nucleus colonies of bees. We learn something new at every single meeting we attend.

Tip #3, YouTube can be your best friend and worst enemy. We posted the videos of our installs on youtube. We have also watched countless hours of video on everything from different hive designs, to how to kill off all your bees (sometimes that is necessary). We have watched more videos on how to install your bees, and how to catch swarms than I can count. Sometimes we get sucked into the rabbit hole of videos. We have watched lectures from some of the best beekeepers from around the world, and we have watched a lot of videos that made us want to hang it up before we even started. One guy pretty much assured everyone that all their bees were going to die, everything was going to die and that was just how it was. We also have gotten hours of entertainment from the Bush Bee Man.

Tip #4 Books, books, and more books! We are big readers, I cannot recommend enough finding copies of Backyard Beekeeper, the Beekeepers Handbook, and the Beekeepers Bible. Great reads. Backyard Beekeeper was actually our first official foray into bees, we both devoured that book and knew that we were making the right call in adding bees to our little homestead.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Busy Bee's

Way back in February of this year I made a post about adding bees to the homestead. Over the past few months, plans have been made and changed a few different times. We researched hive designs, settled on a few we liked and bought materials. We even made a few hive bodies. We cost wise it was definitely going to save us a few dollars per box and a few dollars does add up over time.
During this time we also joined a lot of bee groups on Facebook. A few of these groups were buy, sale, trade pages for bee equipment. Late one evening the Wanderers momma found a post by a guy who had decided to sell out of the hobby, he was getting rid of everything, about 8 complete hives (no bees), a 6 frame extractor, smoker, suit, and tons of assorted beekeeping tools. Arrangements were made and the Wanderer and I loaded up the truck and took off early the next morning for North Carolina, a good 250 mile, 5 hour trip from our homestead in the hills of Kentucky. The man lives in the orchard area of North Carolina, a stone's throw from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, where most of his equipment came from. It took us almost an hour using our Tetris honed skills to load each item into the bed of the Dodge Dakota, but we made it fit. This was officially the trucks furthest trip from the homestead.

Looking over the hives we realized quickly why he lost all his bees, he had pretty serious mite and wax moth infestations. When we got everything home we took metal paint scrapers and cleaned each piece, then tossed them in a deep freezer to ensure that everything bad was killed off.

Now we just needed to find some bees. Did we want to go with packages, nucs, wild-caught swarms? We decided we needed help and guidance so we joined a local beekeepers club and found out that a member sold nucs, we put our order in for 2 nucs (nucleus colony).

We filmed our first bee install. Did I just say first? Yep. Because a week after we picked up nuc's 1 and 2 we decided we wanted a 3rd so we bought another nuc.

Initially when we decided we wanted bees we thought we were going to put them up on the hill, somewhere near our barn. Then we started seeing so many people having great results with bug/mite management by allowing chickens to free range around their hives. We have placed our hives inside our chicken and duck lot.

Starting the smoker
First Inspection

Bees at the entrance
The 3 Hives set up. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Don't Be A Homestead If...

If you spend much time on homesteading facebook pages, or youtube channels you have come across a few posts like that. I understand there is currently some drama on homesteading youtube due to an off-handed comment by a YouTuber. Some Don't be a homesteader comment that I have read recently:

Don't be a homesteader if you like to shop...Hmm I like to shop, I live 20 minutes from town and over an hour from decent shopping. But I have the power of internet shopping at my fingertips.

Don't be a homesteader if you like to wear makeup...I have a decent collection of makeup and enjoy getting dolled up from time to time. Is makeup part of my daily routine? Nope, but I can slap on war paint with the best of them. When recording videos for my podcast's youtube channel I like to look nice.

Don't be a homesteader if you don't like the smell of animals...Animals are stinky do I enjoy the smell? Nope, but I understand it is part of this life and I deal with it. You don't have to love every aspect of homesteading to be a successful homesteader.

Don't be a homesteader if you are a thug...What?

Don't be a homesteader if you are attached to your cell phone...I have all the worlds knowledge in my back pocket, of course, I am going to use it. I have used my phone to diagnose animals, to text my vet, and to find the nearest feed store that has the meds/tools/whatever that I need. The Wanderer plugs his headphones into his phone and listens to podcasts or music while working on chores

Don't be a homesteader if you are going to run your pets to the vet all the time....My animals deserve proper medical care. End of discussion.

Don't be a homesteader if you have trash pick up...We live in an area with trash pick up, so we use it. We work hard at eliminating waste as much as possible, we try to recycle, reuse and we compost.

Don't be a homesteader if you have to use fabric softener....the Wanderer will be so mad when I tell him we have to throw out of the bottle of Downy.

I could go on and on, because these posts go on and on, hundreds of comments. So how about this, let's not be so judgemental of our fellow homesteaders. We are all at different parts of the journey and we are all bringing our on strengths to the table.  We all have different goals. Don't be a homesteader if you know this life isn't for you if you don't find it rewarding if it is not your calling in life. Don't be a homesteader if you don't want to be.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Should YOU start a blog, podcast, youtube?

Blogging, podcasting, youtube seem to be all the rage lately, especially among the homesteading community. I follow several homestead podcasts and youtube channels. I do not follow as many blogs. It is much easier for me to turn on a video and watch it while doing something else, or turn on a podcast while driving to town. I love blogs, I love reading blogs, I wish I had the time to do both.

So should you add one or more of these to your already busy homesteading life? Do you have something to share? Of course, you do. One of the benefits of the homesteading community is that we all have our strengths and weaknesses and we can all learn from each other. Beekeeping videos posted by fellow homesteaders has become our current obsession. There is no 1 right way to live this lifestyle, everyone's voice and experience are important and beneficial.

But do you have the time? Time is money after all. Blogging can take at the minimum a few hours every week to write a single new post. The podcast I record weekly with my sister (Haunted Family Podcast) Takes at least 2 hours just to record a single hour-ish long episode, that doesn't take into account the time we spend each week researching our episode. we have now added a youtube channel. Most of our youtube videos are just auto uploads of our latest podcast episode. Finding the time for us to get together and record a video is difficult, especially since we live over an hour away from each other.

You will also need equipment for youtube or podcasting that you would not need for blogging. We record on a budget, my sister uses a Blu Snowball microphone and I use a condenser microphone with boom arm that I found on eBay. We use Skype and Audacity for recording. Currently, our Youtube videos are recorded on either a cell phone (iPhone 8) or my Canon Powershot. We need to upgrade soon and that is an added cost.

Don't let the cost or time commitment scare you away. If this is something you have been considering then make that leap. You will not regret it. Your story needs to be heard.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Whats the buzz? Adding bee's to the homestead

We were supposed to take this leap last year, but things got in the way (sewing shop and the rental house needed new roofs). This year we are finally doing it. Bee supplies have already been ordered, we are on a waiting list for bees from a local source and the ol farm truck is loaded down with lumber we will use to build our stands. Yep, we are building our own beehives. We hope to bring you along for the journey through pictures and maybe a few videos on youtube.

We are hoping the fresh, local to our farm honey will help offset some of our seasonal allergies. When the lilacs are in bloom I am miserable and nearly bedridden even when taking a Zyrtec daily.

We are also hoping to add a homemade wax based thread conditioner to our etsy shop. We love good thread conditioner, but it is getting harder to find.

As I have mentioned before I do historical reenacting, the fresh, natural wax may come into play at some events. I would love to get into candle making.

Honey is super tasty, raw local honey is even better. But it can be hard to find local honey. The few local suppliers we have tend to sell out fast. Honey shipped in from other areas lack the benefits of local honey. We use a lot of honey in recipes and baking. A neighbor was visiting the other day and the topic of us getting bees came up. She was saying how much she hates the taste of honey and won't eat anything that has honey in it. It was then I had to break the new to her that those wonderful rolls I bring her so often that she raves about have honey in them, a lot of honey.

I can't wait to bring you all along on this journey as we become beeks. My great great grandfather raised bees, one of my uncles use to raise bees, I feel as if I am carrying on a family tradition and helping save some pretty important pollinators.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Homesteading Games For Winter Evenings

Winter is winding down here, despite what the groundhog said about 6 more weeks of winter I can see the slow shift into spring starting here on the homestead. This is the perfect time to start planning for next winter. Those long chilly evenings huddled around the homestead fire, boredom sets in. Why not fill those evenings with fun, homestead educational games? I have compiled a list of some fun games to pass the time and maybe even learn something. Full disclosure, I do not have an Amazon affiliate account, I do not get any money by recommending these products on Amazon. 

Wild Cards: Edible Wild Foods standard playing card deck, each of the 52 cards features facts about a different edible plant. This deck, by Linda Runyon, has a 4.5 star rating and great reviews. Whatever your game of choice is this deck will provide fun and handy facts.

Lets Go Hiking. This board game is unique in the way that you are really not competing against each other. The game works to foster a sense of community and cooperation. You help each other complete tasks, climb mountains and explore the board. 

Hit the Habitat Trail. Work your way through all of the worlds various ecosystems, learn about their animals, habitat, and dangers. Collect cards from each habitat to win the game. This game can be played without the board, the knowledge cards can be used independently to test your knowledge of various habitats. A perfect game from long road trips. 

Into the Forest, Natures Food Chain Game, Each card in the game features a plant or animal, what it eats and what eats it. Perfect for teaching children the delicate balance that is our ecosystem and how the natural food chain works. 

Monday, February 05, 2018

Real Life Ways to Make Money on Your Homestead

The first step to finding ways to make your homestead profitable is of course research, that is, after all, what landed you on my little corner of the web. It won't be easy, I cannot give you a cut and dry blueprint. Everyones has different goals, skills, strengths, and weaknesses. Your ability to monetize will also depend on the area in which you live. There has to be a market for what you do, you have to find a void and fill it. Some of these suggestions may not work for you, your region, or your homestead.

Make your farm a You-Pick destination. A pumpkin patch can be a huge draw in the fall. Pack your patch with fun activities like a corn maze, mini petting zoo, and pony rides. Use this as an opportunity to sell your farm made products, jams, honey, bread, etc.

Have a roadside or farm side stand. Utilize social media to drum up business for your farm grown eggs, meat and produce. Contact local brick and mortar businesses about setting up in their parking lot one or two days a week if your area doesn't have a designated farmers market.

Meat animals can bring your homestead a decent income. Preselling half's or whole animals means that you know exactly how many animals you need to raise to slaughter weight, without getting stuck with unsold extras. Cows, rabbits, pigs, sheep, goat, and chickens are all viable options.

Start an heirloom greenhouse. Build a few hoop houses and plant heirloom seeds. Save the seeds from your own garden to create a self-sustaining business. People will pay extra for quality, heirloom plants.  You can even make a sell customized herb boxes, planter boxes, and container gardens for your customers.

Fiber animals are something the Wanderer and I have wanted to get into, we currently have 1 single French Angora buck that produces the softest wool fiber. Sheep, goats, alpacas, angora rabbits all produce amazing fiber that can either be sold raw and unprocessed or cleaned and spun on your farm for income. If you choose to process the fiber on site you can host classes where you teach others how to dye and spin wool.

AirBnB should be considered a viable option if you have space. Create nooks on your farm featuring a firepit, outdoor furniture, and a tiny house. Rent these spaces on the rental site Airbnb.

Build a pay lake. If you have a pond on your property, or you have the space to install a pond, you can stock them and then charge people to come and fish your pond. There are several pay lakes in our area. If you go this route you can also breed and sell your own fish bait.

Farm weddings arre the rage right now and can bring the farm owner several thousand dollars a day. Make your farm a wedding destination.

Sell items you create on your farm online using sites like Ebay and Etsy. Or purge your old wardrobe on selling sites like Poshmark.

State a herd share program. In a lot of states raw milk is still illegal, but sharing a cow and the milk from the cow is legal. Invest in a managable herd of cows or goats and sell shares. For the cost of the share your herd share partners recieve raw milk, cheese, butter.

Determine what your strenghts and weaknesses are, and form a homesteading plan of action that works for you.