Take A Hike

source link As far as I can tell, it would be easy to spend months at a time on a farm and never feel the need to leave. There’s always something to build, repair, or maintain, not including daily care of the livestock. And this time of year is especially busy with the animals. The pastures aren’t growing to their full potential yet so fresh hay needs to be fed daily. New lambs are being born left and right so you never want to be too far away in case a delivering mom needs assistance.  Some of the newborn lambs are rejected by their mothers and need bottle feeding throughout the day. Also, as the amount of daylight increases so do the amount of eggs laid by the chickens and ducks. Only a few choose to lay in the nest boxes I built for them in the barn, the rest hide their eggs wherever they want in the upper pasture. Every day is like an Easter egg hunt.  It’s all satisfying work but as some around here will tell you, “All work and no play is not good for the soul,”  so it’s important to occasionally leave the farm for a favorite diversion: hiking in the woods.

buy orlistat australia Living next to a National Forest is convenient in that you can be on vacation-worthy trails in fifteen minutes flat. Choose a trail and start to unwind.

can i buy doxycycline at walmart  

At the top of the first hill the trail crosses a clear mountain stream.  But forget the trail, walking up the stream looks far more adventurous.

where can i buy nizoral in uk  

It may be early Spring but the crayfish are out in force and full of attitude.

 

I have no idea of their names, but plenty of wildflowers are blooming along the creek.

 

Half a mile upstream (and away from the trail) we discovered a cold-running spring surrounded by the stone foundation of an old spring house. Built directly over the water, spring houses not only kept drinking water free of leaves and dirt but also provided a cool environment to help preserve perishables such as meat and milk. Essentially, a natural refrigerator.

 

A quick search around the spring turns up artifacts from an old homestead…a few pieces from an old crock jug and an earthenware plate. Maybe they were once used to store food in the spring house?  And if there was a spring house, there must have been an actual home nearby…

 

Sure enough at the top of a hill above the stream is the house, or rather, what’s left of it.  Old foundations like this are an example of the hard work and pride that people in the Southern Appalachians put into building their homes. The hand-shaped stones still bear the tool marks from whoever shaped them, and the corners remain crisp and plumb.

 

Daffodils planted by the original homesteaders still make an appearance each spring. Unlike the wood of the old house and even the foundation stones which slowly disappear back into the earth, the flowers continue to spread and flourish. They’re a bit of soul left over from the people who lived here. It’s easy to imagine the homestead’s occupants sitting on their front steps (visible in the background) for a little relaxation as they admired their garden and the beauty of the surrounding mountains.

 

 

 

 

Go Forth And Make Honey

 

Once you get used to eating your own honey there’s no going back. You might have few jars of equally flavorful honey from the farmers market or the beekeeper down the road, but you’ll almost always eat that last. It’s not that my honey tastes better than anything else out there. Besides the taste, you also have to consider what it takes to to get honey into your jar in the first place. Setting up a new hive, feeding the bees when necessary so they don’t starve or fly away, opening the hives to check their health, getting stung, watching them pollinate your garden or sitting in front of the hives to watch them work…you wind up tasting all of these things in your own honey.

And although there’s plenty of honey stashed away in various cabinets throughout the house, the sight of an empty jar on the table makes you realize that the stash won’t last forever. It’s time once again to check on the bees.

So far it’s been a warm spring and as usual, the first things in bloom are four large flowering cherry trees in the lower pasture; they should be crawling with bees by this point.

Every flower is getting some action as the bees dive in to take advantage of the early food source. When their legs get too heavy with pollen they fly back to the hive to drop it off, only to return for more.

It’s too early to tell if we’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor later this summer (as long as they don’t fly away to a hollow tree somewhere) but for now it looks as if there will be more honey in my future.

 

 

 

 

Winter Lambs

As usual, the first  lambs (or goat kids) of the year always seem to enter the world on the coldest night of winter. This pair was no different, being born when it was frigid 11 degrees, accompanied by a stiff 20 mph wind. And they never seem to mind. Their birthday suit is a thick layer of wool and their mom dries them off in no time, tending to their every need and making sure they get a good dose of nourishing milk.

So did you wake up with the blues? Does winter have you feeling down? Then feast your eyes on these lambs. Nothing seems to cheer the soul more this time of year than the sight of baby animals.

Three Sisters

Last year was our first chance to experiment with gardening in the Southern Appalachians, but the unprecedented drought smashed those plans to pieces.  Fast forward one year and things are once again lush and green. We were able to grow a variety of vegetables to see what does best in this area. Some produced like gangbusters while others never seemed to take off. The ones that excelled will be planted next year in mass, destined to be preserved for winter meals by canning and drying.  The best seeds will be saved for the future, eliminating the need to buy new seeds for each growing season.

My favorite gardening experience this year has been growing the Three Sisters. It’s an ancient native method of companion planting involving corn, beans, and squash. A few seeds of corn are planted in shallow mounds…

 

Beans are then planted beside the corn, and the corn stalks provide structure on which the beans will climb. Beans are also known for pumping nitrogen back into the soil, helping to feed everything growing nearby.

 

Low-growing squash plants are seeded among the corn, which will spread along the ground. Their large leaves provide shade for the roots of the corn and beans, and act as a natural barrier for weeds. Nearby watermelon vines took over before the squash had a chance to thrive, but worked fine just the same.

Most archaeological accounts date the Three Sisters technique back thousands of years in North America.

 

The variety of corn I used is called Cherokee White Eagle. As far as dynamics between sisters is concerned, she is the strongest of the three. Her Cherokee roots date back to this very area well before European contact in the 1400’s. She’s obviously at home here, among the mountains, valleys, clear streams, and massive old trees.

When sudden storms slam into her and lay her flat, it often looks like all is lost. Then a few days later she’s standing straight up again, tougher than before and ready for whatever the world will throw at her.  It’s no wonder her other two sisters look up to her. If a plant is capable of having an old soul, this one definitely fits the bill. Until a few years ago Cherokee White Eagle was only available to citizens of the Cherokee Nation.  Now, anyone is fortunate enough to be able to grow it.

For climbing beans we used two heirloom varieties, Snow Cap and Monachelle Di Trevio. They had no problem twining up the corn, encircling the stalks and tying them together to form a stronger unit. The beans were allowed to dry in place, in their own pods. They were harvested at the same time as the corn, which was also allowed to dry in place. The beans will go into hearty soups and stews and the corn will be ground as needed, to be used for cornbread and grits. All in all, the Three Sisters method was a success. The only changes I’ll make next year will be to add, if I can find them, a much older variety of beans and squash…something the Cherokee would have grown.

Irish Lamb Stew (or, Lamb’s Neck Stew)

Don’t let anyone try to tell you that it’s hard to raise and slaughter your own meat. Nothing could be easier, or more fulfilling.  Suddenly, buying meat from the grocery store feels like paying someone to come into your house to brush your teeth.   It’s absolutely ridiculous.   Raising as much of your own sustenance as possible isn’t a lost skill, as much as it is a lost part of what makes being a human enjoyable.

Above is a photo of Irish Lamb Stew, or as some call it, Lamb’s Neck Stew. It was also last night’s dinner. The stew is a traditional peasant recipe from Great Britain dating back many hundreds of years. Inexpensive and readily available ingredients were key, mainly lamb neck and root vegetables. I used neck of lamb (along with the neck bones for added flavor) and vegetables from the garden including whole young potatoes, carrots, onions, leeks, peas, and parsley.

Honey Extraction

A few days after checking the hives for honey, I came back and pulled off the top super from my best colony. Inside were ten frames filled with this summer’s honey, the individual cells capped with a thin layer of wax.  A completed frame is a thing of beauty. It glows with a rich golden hue, smells sweet, and is a lot heavier than it looks. You’d think it’d be sticky to the touch but it’s perfectly dry and clean. A piece of art.

 

Before the honey can be extracted the caps have to be removed. We used an inexpensive uncapper, which pretty much looks like a giant fork. It takes some time to expose the honey but otherwise works just fine.

 

After a few frames are ready they’re lowered into the spinning cage inside the centrifuge. Giving the handle a few good cranks spins the cage at a high rate of speed.  The honey flings out of the frames where it sticks to the inside walls of the centrifuge.

 

After spinning all ten frames the honey (along with bits of wax) settles to the bottom of the drum.

 

A valve on the bottom of the centrifuge makes it easy to drain the honey into a five gallon bucket, but not before it passes through a simple filter to remove wax and the occasional bee part.

 

Lifting the filter from the bucket allows you to see the pure, clear honey slowly dripping through. It’s mesmerizing to watch.

 

This is what’s left in the bottom of the filter, loose wax coated with sticky sweet honey.  You can’t resist not dipping into this mess with your fingers, slowly chewing it until all the flavor is gone. It’s Mother Nature’s chewing gum.  I remember once seeing a National Geographic documentary where Amazon tribesmen hacked into a hollow tree to rob a massive wild bee colony. After running to safety with giant slabs of comb the first thing they did was sit down and pull off piece after piece to enjoy their prize.  Chew, spit out the wax, then repeat until they felt sick from too much sugar. It’s a universal reaction when in the presence of such deliciousness.

 

All the clean honey is then poured into Mason jars, we got just over two gallons total.  I’d love to give some wine snob description of the taste but I wouldn’t do it justice.  It’s complex, rich, kind of floral with a hint of wood perhaps? Who knows. The best part is that it came from my own yard.

Checking for Honey

Our first attempt at beekeeping seemed to be going well.  But last year when we moved from the Georgia Coast to the mountains in the North, the colony foundered and never recovered.  This spring we ordered 3 new colonies and they’ve looked healthy and vibrant all summer long. It’s time to check for a surplus of honey which I intend to rob.

The bottom two boxes are the “brood chambers”. This is where the queen lives and lays her eggs, and where workers store extra honey to feed the rest of the hive. We take nothing from these areas, it all belongs to them. Directly above the second brood chamber is a “queen excluder”.  It’s a thin wire grate through which the queen is unable to pass due to her large body size. Worker bees, however, can easily walk through and deposit honey in the boxes, or “honey supers” above. If the queen were able to access the honey supers, she’d lay eggs and there would be developing larvae mixed in with my honey. Not a good combination.  So will there be excess honey this time?  The only way to know is to open the hive and look.

First, the top cover of the honey super is removed to expose the frames which hold the comb. The dirt-looking substance on top is “propolis”, a glue bees make to seal holes and gaps inside the hive. All the frames in the above photo are glued at the ends with propolis and have to be pried apart with a metal tool. Then they can be individually lifted out for inspection.

In this particular super all but one frame is completely filled with honey and capped with wax, a nice return from such a young hive.  It should yield just over two gallons of local honey once we extract it.