Are you as excited as we are that it’s finally Summer? We are in the thick of it and couldn’t be happier to be back outside all day and all night. We have had a TON of rain, but it hasn’t been terribly downpour-like, so we have been out in it, for the most part. Our gardens, girls and flowers are loving the rain, but we are definitely ready for some sunshine.
COWS: The girls will be artificially inseminated in a few weeks. Not too long ago, our friend Glenn (Patsy and Loretta’s original Dad) came to visit and while we were out in the pasture visiting the girls, we watched June nursing. I was horrified and once again reminded that I’m not the best farmer. We should have kept them separated MUCH longer, but I, once again, humanized them and thought they missed each other and wanted to be back together. Stupid mistake, but now we know and will adjust in the future. In the meantime, Junie is wearing the Quiet Wean again (or as I started calling it, the Ring of Shame) and we will separate them once they are all inseminated.
FLOWERS: Our bulbs and lilacs and peonies have come and gone and now we wait for everything else to grow up and start blooming.
This year we have more than doubled our growing plots and are growing over 70 different kinds of flowers and greenery.
One of our goals with the flowers is to have a Pick-Your-Own flower farm, so right now I’m testing and trying what varieties work best for us, as well as what you guys want to see growing. As stupid as this sounds, I never really accounted for the amount of extra time I would have to devote to growing, planting and now weeding and harvesting double the amount of flowers.
I was really only thinking “I NEED MORE FLOWERS” and went a little bit overboard. Our farm is always a work in progress, and this is an area where we are still trying to figure out balance. (Really, it’s my issue, but WE sounds so much better)
BEES: We have had a few small challenges this season so far with the bees, but now it looks like everyone is on track, kind of. Two of our hives are slow to grow and look a bit weak and we have had to replace two Queens. Our other two hives are thriving, and everyone has at least one super on top. BUT, the most exciting news thus far was when we captured a swarm a little over a week ago.
Our neighbor Kevin called Anthony and said we might want to come and get our bees that were in his tree. We took a quick look at our hives, and it looked like business as usual – lots of bees flying in and out of them, so we didn’t think it was any of ours. We quickly drove over to take a look. It was HUGE! We ran back home, picked up our suits, a ladder and a big box because we didn’t think it would fit in a nuc box, nor were any of our hive bodies ready to put bees in them. We called Rick, our mentor, to ask his advice on what we should do, but he didn’t answer.
It was a hilarious site, the two of us. I ran into the office and pulled out two of my beekeeping books and looked up “capturing a swarm”. While Anthony was gathering our supplies, I was following along behind him, reading out loud from Beekeeping for Dummies.
Anthony cut the branch off of the evergreen tree the swarm had landed in and we put the entire branch – Anthony estimated it was 5-10 pounds – in the box. We watched as the bees that had fallen off of the branch flew into the box. We taped everything up and drove them home. We got a hive ready for them and put it out next to our other hives. We then opened up all of our hives just to double-check that they were there and everyone was accounted for. You can imagine how excited we were – free bees???
One of the most interesting things that we read about capturing a swarm is what happens when you try to get it/them into a hive. It was recommended to place a sheet or towel in front of the hive, as a makeshift plank for the bees to walk inside. We did just that and after 2-3 minutes watched in disbelief as they all started marching in, thousands of them, at once. We ended up adding another hive body AND a super for them because the size of the swarm called for it. There were so many, it was the size of at least two of our existing hives combined. The best part was when Anthony told me it felt like he was back in SWAT, going on a call out. This is our life now, and I’m glad he can draw on his SWAT training to swiftly and safely capture a swarm. (please tell me you’re laughing with me right now)
We checked them yesterday and weren’t able to find a Queen nor any brood, but it looks like they are trying to make their own Queen. We will check again soon and if there is no Queen, we may have to add one on our own to keep this hive going. Or, we could split the bees up and add them to our hives that are not thriving.
Anthony made a video compilation of the short videos I posted on Instagram stories. It’s not up to the caliber of Anthony’s feature films, but it somewhat shows the process we went through. Check it out:
CHICKEN HOUSE: In May, my Uncle Walt, Brother and Bestie came up to the farm to put in some serious work on the chicken house. We worked for 4 days straight and got so much accomplished. I’m pretty sure we all thought, at one point or another, it was the most fun we’ve ever had working. We still have work to do, mostly on the run and the outside, but that work has been put on the back burner because we have been concentrating on the flowers and Farmer’s Markets. I’ll break down everything we did and our plans for our chickens in a future post.
EVERYTHING ELSE: Anthony has created a beautiful vegetable garden for us this year. Last year I threw one in, and it was so half-assed and horrible looking. We got beautiful cucumbers, cauliflower and basil, but it was a HOT mess. I really just wanted to start a vegetable garden somehow, some way, so I could learn what to do, what not to do and also to reap the rewards once things actually started growing. My biggest takeaway was that I don’t have time to have a flower farm, cows, bees, a swimming pool AND a garden, so this year I asked Anthony to be in charge of it. He has done an incredible job. It is already producing so much, is always weeded and gets the daily attention it deserves. I’m so glad I tricked him into this task, he is a natural gardener.
Anthony and I are selling at two Farmer’s Markets this year – Friday’s from 8-2 at Boxed and Burlap in Delavan and Saturday’s from 8-12 in Fontana. We love connecting with every single person that visits our booth. It’s fun to share our story and our dreams, and it really seems like people want to know what we are doing and why we ended up in Wisconsin. Also, we had no idea how much we would love meeting the other vendors – Farmer’s Market people are the best kind of people.
This year is going so much better than last year. Our swimming pool is not a swamp for the first time since we moved here. Our new fencing is holding up and the cows haven’t tried to escape. (knock on wood and anything else that can prevent this) Anthony and I are working on the farm full-time, together, and not wanting to kill each other! It’s as if something clicked and we are both on the same page and fully committed to making this hobby farm dream of ours a reality. I’m also trying my best to relax and enjoy things in the midst of all of the work.
There will always be more work than we can handle or ever finish, so I’m really trying to keep some perspective and have fun with it. Otherwise, what is the point?
What are your tricks for slowing down and enjoying the moment amidst all of the work? And what are your summer plans? Any visits to Wisconsin in your near future? (hint, hint)