Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

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6/2/2015

John Lennon once wrote, "Life is what happens while your busy making other plans."  As we grow more concerned about how and where our food is produced something huge is coming at us and only a few people see it coming. It could represent the biggest change in agriculture in generations.  It is now possible to produce animal free milk.  I call it “cow-less” milk.  And it is real.

Next year a brand of cow-less milk called Muufri will hit the market.

muurfi image

According to what I have read, the milk is produced by genetically modified yeast and is exactly the same as real milk.  You will be able to make cheese with it and it doesn't need to be pasteurized.  They can even modify the milk and eliminate the bad stuff that comes with cow's milk.  Even if this product isn't a success, we can all be sure that cow-less milk is on the way. Since milk is food, as long as it tastes like milk and is perceived to be nutritious, consumers will accept it.  If it is priced the same as cows' milk they will buy it, too.  The only problem I foresee is producing enough of it to meet demand.

Imagine the changes cow-less milk might cause.  U.S. farmers could be growing much less corn and soybeans.  The use of herbicides and chemicals may go way down. Large tracts of land will become available for recreation, reforestation, and parks etc.  Since cows drink enormous amounts of water, water use for agriculture may be greatly reduced in critical dairy areas such as California, Utah, Idaho, and the Southwest.  

Will this mean the end of dairy farming in the U.S.?  The short answer is no. It may however spell the death of large industrialized confinement dairy farms if enough cow-less milk can be produced to meet demand at a competitive price.  But, I believe farming is in the DNA of many people, as is the desire for real food.  If cow-less milk is successful, the U.S. dairy industry could shrink dramatically and revert back to small-scale dairy farms. Consumers will likely demand that these farms be clean, humane and appropriately scaled for the communities where they are located. Milk produced by cows, sheep, and goats etc. will become specialty products like fine wines or cheese varieties and milk's flavor will once again be an important consideration, as it should be.

A shrinking market for cow-produced milk may also end the dominance of Holstein breed.  The milk they produce is generally watery and low in components needed to produce cheese and other dairy foods.  Plus their milk has an inferior flavor.  Rather, we may see the resurgence of minor breeds of cows that produce less but higher quality and better tasting milk. Those breeds include Jerseys, Dutch Belts, Devons, Kerrys, and Red Polls. 

cows

Cow-less milk?  I think we can plan on it – we just can’t plan on what it will mean for the future of farming.


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5/28/2015

One huge negative is the emergence of large industrialized livestock confinement facilities that produce eggs, chicken, pork, and beef. Because these facilities confine livestock in unnaturally over-stocked and overcrowded conditions the animals are unnaturally susceptible to the spread of diseases. To compensate for overcrowded housing the livestock are often routinely fed antibiotics. The economic pressure to quickly bring pork, chicken and beef to market encourages the managers of these facilities to administer hormones and other medications to their livestock that will cause them to grow more quickly. They are also fed unnatural diets high in concentrates, including GMO soy and corn that have been sprayed with herbicides.

chicken image

The USDA and Land Grant Colleges in the U.S. have, by official policy, been encouraging the consolidation, industrialization and dehumanization of agriculture in the U.S. for generations. The goal is to increase efficiencies and reduce costs to make food cheap for consumers. Along the way they have put millions of community-based family farms out of business, ruined local rural economies, caused once viable farmland to be abandoned, and institutionalized unhealthy and cruel livestock and land management practices.

My point is this: These industrial livestock confinement facilities are not farms and the people who operate them are not farmers.These facilities are factories that produce eggs and meat on an industrial scale. The animals in these facilities are production units and have little or no opportunity to experience anything close to a natural life. Rather than enhancing the quality of life in the surrounding communities these facilities are often guilty of polluting and degrading the environment.

A true farm involves stewardship of land and livestock, a partnership between the farmer and his or her land and livestock. It is not an exploitive relationship. Farms also add to the economies and quality of life of the surrounding communities. Obviously, as with any business, there are good farmers and there are not-so-good farmers but that is a matter of style and personality. In contrast, the many negative management practices found on industrial scale livestock confinement facilities are critical to the success of those operations. It is institutionalized exploitation of land and animals - the exact opposite of farming.

cow

When we allow industrialized agriculture to be called "factory farms" we give those operations cover behind the good name of farming and allow the public to be deceived. We also confuse true farmers who may think that because these facilities are called farms they must rise to their defense in order to protect their own way of life. In reality, industrial agriculture flooding the market with cheap food is the biggest threat to true farming, healthy food and farmers.


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5/27/2015

Hen and Chicks Closeup 

It was a visit to a small organic farm high in the Yatsugatake Mountains in central Japan that opened my eyes to how incredible eggs can be. Our professor had taken a group of us students to visit the farm to learn about issues facing farmers in Japan. On this unconventional farm, they raised pigs outdoors in tall grass so thick you couldn’t see the pigs. You could hear them rutting around, and the farmer showed us the deep ruts they dug with their snouts.

They also had chickens which roamed around freely. During our discussion, the farmer served us some of the eggs, and we were shocked at how brilliant their yolks and firm their whites were. The taste of the eggs was so intense that we couldn’t stop talking about them.

That was back in 1981. Ten years ago, my husband and I moved to the country, and I finally had a place to raise chickens. I started raising chickens nine years ago. I didn’t think anything of buying hatchery chicks and raising them. I always wondered why they peeped so much. I kept them nice and warm with plenty of food and water.

In 2009, one of the Buff Orpington pullet chicks I purchased grew up to be a rooster. We named him Billy, and he set in motion a chain of events that dramatically changed how I raise chickens, and my understanding of these remarkable birds.

Lessons Learned from Hen-Raised Chicks

In 2010 when we came home from a vacation, Madeleine, one of the Barred Rock hens was missing. We looked all over for her, but couldn’t find her. We were sad, thinking that a coyote or eagle had nabbed her.

A few days after returning home, we discovered her under a porch. She was sitting on a clutch of eggs, thanks to Billy. When her chicks hatched, and she brought them out from under the porch the day after they hatched, I was amazed at how much she cared for them and how much her chicks loved and adored her.

The little chicks didn’t peep anything like the hatchery chicks I’d raised. They were much calmer. The only time they peeped like the hatchery chicks was when they got separated from their mother and were calling for her. It was then that I realized that hatchery chicks peep so much is because they are calling for their mothers who never come.

 

I watched Madeleine raise her chicks for a full month. By then, they had learned enough to be on their own. Instead of running after her when she walked, they started running ahead of her, and eventually, it was Madeleine who was having trouble keeping up with them.

When she was done raising her chicks, Madeleine went for a long walk in the woods. It was as if she was taking a congratulatory stroll.

How did we come up with this notion that chicks don’t need mothers? Since 2010, I’ve had many hens hatch and raise chicks. The mother hens will do anything for their chicks. When you have a mother hen, you don’t need to worry about keeping the chicks warm. I’ve had hens hatch chicks in early spring when mornings are still frosty, in late fall and as late as December. With a mother hen, the chicks are never cold. They have her warm body to keep them toasty.

You also don’t have to worry about getting chick starter. Their mothers break apart grain which is too large for the chicks to swallow. Within a few days of hatching, the mothers have the chicks outdoors, teaching them how to scratch for bugs and worms.

The mothers raise the chicks for one to three months. Each hen has her own style of child rearing. Some are very strict, keeping their brood in line. Others are more easygoing, letting their chicks run all over the place.

Momma Hen and Chicks 

Eschewing Industrially Hatched Chickens to Maximize Happiness

I have no allusions that commercial farms will ever turn over their chick production and rearing to mother hens. They have schedules to keep and billions of birds to ship. The breeds they raise don’t know how to hatch and raise chicks.

Yet, the only poultry and egg option for consumers can’t be just industrial-scale chicken. Somewhere, there have to be places where people can go and buy mother-hatched, mother-raised chicken and eggs. Instead of chicken breeds which balloon to butchering size in just eight weeks or so, there must be places where people can still get chickens which takes six to nine months to grow to full size, chickens that have spent their entire lives outdoors, running through grass, chasing butterflies, hunting frogs in streams, nabbing field mice, and scratching for bugs and earthworms in the forest. Chickens that get to experience romance.

A Man and His Hoe is one of those places. Instead of maximizing profits and products, the goal here is to maximize happiness: my happiness, the happiness of the chickens, and the happiness of the chicks who get to grow up under the warm wings of their mothers.

Photos by A Man and His Hoe®


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5/27/2015

Being a gardener can be a lifelong progression, if we let it. Nothing is static in nature and I find that living in such close proximity with it encourage me to expand and flow in how I do things and why. Taking an interest in wild edibles is such a progression, even if it is at the same time to go back – back to basic. The wild is the only food supply humans used to have before evolving into agriculture so moving in the other directions feels a little bit like catching up. But it also comes with the insight that today, much of self reliant food sourcing, at least in this part of the world, happens in a cultivated and to some degree manipulated form where humans work the land, often by using fossil fuel based equipment, add nutrients and grow crops not always adapted or suitable for the climate. In many cases, this also involves fighting pests or other shortcomings, such as drought, flooding, inferior soil, weeds or lack of pollinators.

My learning curve as a gardener has been steep. Before I came to Maine I had never done any farming or gardening to speak of and was presented with this huge land to cultivate, care for and harvest. This is what I dove into, and for many years I've now been so engulfed with mulching, fertilizing, planting and picking that it's like I haven't even had time to stop and consider what grows on the other side of that hard earned fence I once built. While truly appreciating the year long supply of food I can crank out of our garden, I've also started, in earnest, to acknowledge all the vibrant food sources in the wild, that are free and abundant with no other need of energy input from me than to walk out and get them. Even without a material and energy intensive green house it's almost ridiculous how much effort is put into for example early spring garden greens for example. Preparing of soil, the price and production of the seeds, the compost making, the planting, mulching, watering and bug protection. That this is what I busy myself with to the degree that I don't have time or mental focus to, for example during my walk to the mail box, harvest a whole dinner's salad dish on the side of the road.

Here's a brief comment on some of my favorite spring season wild edible plants. Many of these plants have several other usages, as well as highly valued medicinal properties.

Nettle

Stinging Nettle is probably my #1 favorite wild edible. It's often found around old homesteads where the ground is rich or in damp areas along road side ditches and streams. If you find one plant you're likely to find many since it spreads rapidly both by seeds and underground rhizomes (hence it's a good idea to keep it away from your yard). I start picking the leaves as soon as they come up in spring and keep harvesting even after the flower buds come out. Nettles are high in vitamin A and C as well as iron. As most greens, I use nettles in just about as many ways and I can think up. I add the leaves to soups and stews, I cook my rice with them or I eat them as a side dish. If I steam them I make sure to save the water and drink as tea or use as broth. I dry the leaves for a warming winter beverage.

dandelion 

Dandelion

I don't think it's too far flung of a guess that Dandelion is one of the most common wild usable plants in the northeast and perhaps in the whole country. It's also one of the first plants to pop up in spring making it very valuable for us who crave fresh greens after a long winter of eating from our root cellar. The Dandelion leaves tend to get bitter as the flower buds form so the prime time to harvest is early, early. Even slightly bitter plants can be a very pleasant part of a May-salad if I pick them early in the morning before it gets too warm, dunk them in cold water, chop, mix them with some salt and let them sit for a few hours. To balance the flavor, I've taken to adding shredded raw beets and perhaps some apple to the salad.

Curled Dock and Broad-Leafed Aster

Both these plants grow in abundance along the roadsides here on Deer Isle and are easy to spot. The Asters grow in dense colonies and have a slightly pointed leaf with a smooth, hairy texture. It's curled as it comes up and flattens out as it grows bigger. The still curled leaves are tender and milder tasting, making the prime harvesting season pretty short. There are many varieties of Dock growing across the whole country. The Curled Dock is easily identified by its oblong leaves with jagged edges and a pointy tip. This plant also has a short prime season in early spring while the leaves are still flat to the ground.

Either of these plants or a combo of the two makes for a superb cooked green.

wild plants 

Japanese Knotweed

This tall, bamboo like plant grows in dense thickets and I often find it where it has escaped peoples yards, growing out onto the roadside. Please do not plant this, since it's listed as one of the world's most invasive plants, disrupting ecosystems and growing roots strong enough to cause damage on house foundations and water ways. With that being said, I do consider it a choice edible. The young shoots or tender tips of taller stalks has a very unique rhubarb flavor and it's fun to bring as a contributions to dinners and potlucks even in circles of hard core forages, since it is less known than many other spring greens. To prepare, I pinch off the leaves and fry the shoots in a pan the way I would asparagus, with some salt and olive oil.

Sources:

Wild Plants of Maine – Tom Seymour

Wikipedia

Wild Foods Field Guide and Cookbook – Billy Joe Tatum

Willow Bark and Rosehips – Fritz Springmeyer


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5/21/2015

Ahh, the glories of spring. Morel mushrooms. Dandelion bacon salad. Mornings with extended sun. Frisky livestock. Weekly lawn mowing.

OK, so maybe I could go without the lawn mowing, but I suppose it’s a small price to pay for nutritious and growing pastures and plants (and correspondingly animals).

In my neck of the woods, spring is also a time for the annual ritual of reflecting on one’s school years. This year that reflection is an incredibly rich mix of joy and regret and memory. Maybe it’s because my wife is a teacher. Maybe it’s because I can’t believe my boys are already concluding their third and fifth grade years. Maybe it’s because I’m getting ready to attend my 20 year high school reunion here in a couple of days.

Regardless, I’m feeling a swirling bundle of thoughts pertaining to what it means to grow up in farm country in today’s world. The complexity is interesting.

Take the graduating class of souls at the little country school where my wife teaches art, creativity, open-mindedness, and lessons on growing up in the city (my wife is from St. Louis originally). There are seven graduates. Yep. Seven. It’s a class filled with good kids most of whom have grown up on multi-generational family farms. They have been expected to work with their families to help out where they can. They have learned skills regarding mechanics and biology. They have absorbed worries of economic disparity in the farming sector, moral questions about how to be a good person, confusion about an urban dominated media landscape (local radio and TV stations are sent out to us from Kansas City) and tenuous positions as modern teens trying to figure out what they should do next.

In most ways, they are similar to graduates of public schools in small towns before them. In other ways, I feel like they face some important differences. Mostly, I am feeling a bit of despair for them as they struggle with questions of continuing their education, getting into the workforce, or joining the military.

I should say now that no one gave me a word of caution when I came up through my small town school about whether or not I should attend college. I didn’t give a minute of concern as to whether or not I would be able to pay for it. My older brother was in college, and we were the first generation in our family to attend University. I was a good student, got good scholarships (the best I could get from Missouri’s public University) and still left school with thousands of dollars in student loans.

The big difference is that these 2015 graduates fully understand their possible college debt load. They’re scared of it, and rightfully so. They’re making some important considerations for what this debt load would mean for them in their life to come. That’s a good thing for these students. Remember, we’re talking about seventeen and eighteen year old kids here.

My big questions to throw into the great bonfire of public discourse here are: how do we as a society help a gang of confused Farm Belt graduates make good choices within the parameters of their understanding? Do we want to maintain the status quo of developing a pipeline of military prospects from the places with questionable economic futures? Or should we rethink our educational system and try to develop new pathways of economic opportunity for the future leaders coming up through our public school system every year?

The choice is an important one. And the lack of a public dialogue about these important issues is disturbing. But maybe this, like the issue of student debt, is something we can illuminate in the important years to come.

There is much, much more to write about this topic. I’ll keep thinking about it as I attend graduation and alumni and reunion festivities over the next few weeks.

My hope is that society will do the same.

Bryce Oates is a farmer, a father, a writer, and a conservationist in western Missouri. He lives and works on his family’s multi-generational farm, tending cattle, sheep, goats, and organic vegetables. His goals in life are simple: wake up before the sun, catch a couple of fish, turn the compost pile, dig potatoes, and sit by the fire in the evening, watching the fireflies mimic the stars.

PHOTOS: Field, Kurt; Tractor, Richard Maxwell

This post originally appeared on Homegrown.


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5/19/2015

baby chick newly hatched

The call comes at 6:30 in the morning.  Only the first rays of light shift the deep blues to a brighter haze.  A bit of hoarfrost coats the branches, while the robins begin their daily rustle amidst last year’s leaves.  I bolt out of bed and rush for the phone, “Yes?”  The cheeping in the background lets me know the cause of this call before the lady even speaks.  “I’ll be there right away.”

Throw on something, grab my glasses, and thump downstairs to make certain all is ready.  This time last year, with the early spring, the hens were already on pasture and the brooder boxes were set up in the chicken coop.  This year, the hens haven’t left the coop due to the late snows, the garage is stubbornly cold…so the boxes are in our house.  Long rows of refrigerator boxes on their sides that had been saved for us by the local hardware store stand ready for their precious charges.  The red heat lamps are on, warming the shredded newspaper bedding.

I fill the feeders and waterers, grab some towels, and head for the car.  It’s chilly outside, and all I can think about is those little chicks, cold and scared from their long journey through the postal system.  Mom cranks up the temperature to almost 80 degrees as we near town, hoping to lessen the stress of the additional half hour it will take to get home.

Clutching the towels, I chase after an employee punching in their access code, but I still have to wait outside, expectantly.  It’s hard to keep still, watching my foggy breath and peering in through the little strip of window in the heavy metal door.  I can hear all 200 of them--cheep cheep—as they round the corner inside.  Two four-compartment boxes bound together (a stack almost bigger than the petite postal worker) emerge through the forbidden door, with a “Here you go!”  I toss the towels on top to keep the chicks from shocking in the cold and waddle beneath their bulk back down the ramp to the car.  It’s chick season!

Mail-Order Poultry

Our first batch of chicks in the mail, the summer of 1999, was just a little box of 27 hearty souls sent from Murray McMurray Hatchery in Iowa.  Just a little one-compartment cardboard box with round holes stamped in the sides and lid.  The curious beaks poked through, reaching for my sleeve and fingers, a fuzzy wing popping out here or a little taloned toe there.

These poultry arrivals were introduced to their broodering ring in our first chicken coop (a former shower house from a resort), where we had heat lamps and folding chairs set up to spend the night watching over the precious clutch of fuzzballs.  It was mid-June, but oh was it cold out there that first night!  We shook and shivered and piled on winter clothing and blankets, while the little chicks dozed and scuttled without so much as a care.  Their little micro-world was nice and warm, despite our misery.

Invariably, chick season also happens to be power-outage season!  A freak ice storm comes through or the line needs repairs and everything shuts down.  In our first years, we’d frantically pile the chicks into a box and cram ourselves into the cab of the farm truck, cranking up the heat while idling.  The chicks were as happy as could be, but we were miserable beyond imagining—pressing our faces against the cold panes of glass to try to relieve ourselves from the suffocating heat!  It was time to buy a little generator, at least for getting us through those dicey moments.  When you reach 200 chicks at a time, they don’t fit into the truck cab very well!

As our laying flock grew, we were ready to experiment with hatching.  First, Star (a black-and-white Aruacana hen) went setty, puffing and huffing when anyone came near her nest.  We gave her a dog kennel and a nice clutch of eggs to hatch, but after two weeks she simply gave up—tired of just sitting, sitting, sitting, with nothing else to do.  The next year, she grew broody once more, so we tried the routine again, showering her with chicken delicacies (bread, oatmeal, clover) and plenty of privacy.  But a few days before hatching, one of the eggs cracked, and the sulfurous rotting stench was enough to put us and Star into a frantic panic.  That was it, she had had enough!  We’d have to find another way to hatch our own eggs.

Incubators

Learning to operate an incubator is part science and part art.  There’s turning, temperature, humidity, candling, and other factors to learn.  These days, with one incubator in degrees Celsius with a wet bulb to monitor humidity and the other with a digital thermometer in Fahrenheit with a hygrometer reading moisture percentage, I keep cheat sheets and charts perpetually posted on a bulletin board above the incubation station in our walk-out basement.  It’s a juggling match of keeping all the conditions just right for the fertile eggs to transform into soggy little balls of peep that chip their way free.

Last spring, our interns oogled over the half-fogged-up Plexiglas window into the incubator, cheering the hatchlings on.  “Come on!  You can do it!”  The chick finally pushes out of the wide end of the shell then flops exhausted at the exertion of it all.  Such a small creature but so determined to survive.  His damp fluff clings to his tissue-thin skin—a far cry from the pictures of clean, white-shelled eggs with a fluffy, dry chick standing in the middle.  Birthing is a much messier process!

Having the incubators in the house is convenient on many levels, including the need to check on hatching chicks every two hours (including through the night).  The loud, frantic chirp of a terrified chick that has flipped on his back alerts the need for help, and the scuttle of feet lets me know that a new hatchling is ready to graduate from the incubator to the brooder.

This spring, the first chick hatched from our incubator pipped nearly ten hours before any of his friends.  Rambunctious and ready to go with dark fuzz and furry feet, he wriggled expectantly as I nestled the little fellow in amongst the warm bedding of the brooder stove box.  He blinked his dark, beady eyes and began to cry, “Ree-kee-kee!” as though it were the end of the world to be alone in such a place.  I finally found a stuffed toy to place next to “Reekee” so there was finally some hope for a bit of sleep.  While he wasn’t eager to sit next to the furry object, it did calm the crying.  The next morning, a blond chick was ready to join the brooder, blissfully unaware of its predecessor’s existence.  Reekee scurried right over, flapping his little wings as if to say, “I LOVE YOU!”  The blond chick went buggy-eyed and gave Reekee a hearty peck on the face…so much for a happy little pair.  Sorry Reekee, guess that’s life.

Between the incubation projects and the chicks arriving in the mail, our house has been converted into a cheeping extravaganza.  As the little birds peck and scratch, their eager antics make me smile each spring.  They may still be tiny, but their tenacity shows their exuberance to explore their world and grow strong through the sunny summer months.  Small but mighty; they seem to sense this of themselves.  Just wait until I grow enough wing feathers to fly out of this box! 

Yup, it sure is baby chick season around here.  See you down on the farm sometime.

A fuzzy fellow hatched in our home.  Photo by Garett Egeland.

Laura Berlage is a co-owner of North Star Homestead Farms, LLC and Farmstead Creamery & Café. 715-462-3453.


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5/18/2015

It’s already been a very busy bee season this year.  Was very pleased to find—after this unusually cold winter—that my girls were doing fine and ready to start the spring hub bub!  Back in April, my friend Michael and I grabbed one of those few-and-far between warm days to do a quick inspection.  I had combined a couple of my hives last fall to make them stronger, taking the advice from our NC State Bee Inspector, Adolphus Leonard, “Take your losses in the fall.”  Well, it paid off this past winter because upon inspection we found that the combined hives were very strong and could easily be split, giving me back my five hives!

Michael

Last Saturday, one of my hives swarmed!  And after-swarmed twice more!  Although they were 30 feet up in a tree, once again thanks to Michael (he’s a tree-climbing fool!) we were able to recapture and hive two of the three swarms. . .the third and smallest escaped our grasp despite 3 attempts to hive them.  They headed to the woods; hope they’ve found a nice home.  As a thank you, I gave the first swarm to Michael for all his hard work.

The second swarm/first after-swarm is now residing at Bees a Charm

So today I thought I’d take advantage of the sunny skies and a day off from work to see if the girls needed me to do anything.  I had been watching and had some ideas of what might be going on (i.e., hive 1 (the after-swarm) looked problematical; hives 3 & 4 looked “swarmy”) so I was prepared!  Here’s what I found:

Before I go hive by hive, I think it should be stated that all hives have white wax and plenty of nectar, capped honey and pollen!

Hive #1

Started out as two colonies:

1. Bottom colony is that split mentioned above from about a month ago (1 medium). Was concerned by the diminishing number of bees at the entrance and was assuming a laying worker hive.

2. Top colony is the swarm mentioned above, residing in a deep box. The swarm is doing well.

In light of my concern with the split, I initially merely stacked the swarm hive (entire sbb, deep box, inner cover and outer cover—on top of the swarm--no interaction at that time--with the thought that when inspected, if the split had laying workers, I would use Adolphus’ method of remedy[i]. However, when I inspected the split, although I found no sign of a queen or brood of any age, I also did not find signs of laying workers.  Checked the swarm and they were doing well.  My thought was to combine outright, but on the chance there was a virgin queen, I opted to separate the two hives with a double queen excluder[ii] and check back in a week or so as to whether I should combine or keep them as separate hives.  Figure by then, if the answer is to keep them as separate hives, the workers will be evenly distributed between the two boxes and I will need only to move the top hive.

Hive #2

1 deep, 1 medium

Going Gangbusters.  Left them alone.

Hive #3

2 deeps (as of today), 1 medium

Going Gangbusters. Very crowded; no swarm cells; added a deep

Hive #4

3 mediums (as of today)

Going Gangbusters. Above average population for 2 mediums so added an additional medium. No swarm cells.

Hive #5

2 mediums

Another split from April with no sign of a queen (no brood), but more populated than Hive #1.  Gave this hive a frame of larva/eggs from Hive #4.  Shook all the bees off, including nurse bees, for fear of missing the queen.

Throughout my inspection, I saw no SHB; no varroa or “iffy” capped cells.  Everyone looks very healthy and is in a very good mood despite the many gray clouds that shadowed us out every now and then as we worked together.

Looks like it’s going to be a very good year! Let’s hope so!

[i] Put the laying worker hive on top of a healthy hive with a queen excluder between the two hives.  The workers in the good hive will smell the laying worker pheromone, go up into the laying worker hive and kill the laying workers.  After a day or two, remove the queen excluder.

[ii] Should two queens exist, the double queen excluder provides enough separation to prevent the queens  from stinging each other to death while still permitting the workers to freely move throughout the two colonies.


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MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.