Sunday, 29 June 2014

Bees - mating nuc

I had removed the queen from hive #3 12 days ago and put her into a nuc box.
A few days later they had started to make a dozen queen cells. I didn't want to waste any of these cells as I really like this strain of bees. They are native black bees and I find them to be very docile and yet productive. 
If I let them sort themselves out, the first queen that would emerge would kill all the other queens while in their cells. Such a waste of good virgin queens!

So I came up with a plan! I designed a four chamber mating box that Hubby helped me build.
It has the same dimensions as a brood box, so it can be used with national brood frames and a national roof.

Each chamber takes two frames comfortably and there is an entrance/exist hole, one on each side of the box, as can be seen from the top photo. So as to discourage drifting especially amongst the virgin queens.
There is mesh over each chamber, so I can inspect sections individually and so that the bees cannot access other sections.

This morning I opened up hive #3 and with a knife I started to cut generously around some of the capped queen cells. They are 12 days old and are due to hatch at 16 days.
I placed the mating nuc on the stand of the original hive and divided up the frames and bees between the four sections. Each section got one frame of stores and one frame of capped brood. I then took a cut out queen cell and very carefully wedged it between the two frames, like in the photo below. I was glad that the spacing was generous as had I made it a tight two frame fit, I would have been unable to place a queen cell easily between the frames. The bees immediately started to 'roar' when I moved them, but stopped when I returned the queen cells. One of the chambers received the frame that had a dozen queen cells minus the few I had cut away. I am worried that due to drifting, some chambers will not have enough bees to keep the queen cells warm and look after the queens when they hatch. 
When I checked them this evening, there was activity at all four entrances and when I took off the lid, there was an even amount of bees between the chambers. Hope it says like this!
This is experimental for me, but it could be very rewarding to have 4 mated queens in a few weeks.
We plan to experiment with a perone style hive if this mating nuc box works out.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Footing the turf

Our bog is located about 6 miles away from our cottage. 
It came with the cottage when we bought it, although it hadn't been cut is several decades and had only ever been cut by hand.

A few weeks ago we arranged to have it cut by a machine that passes through the local bogs in the area once a year, usually in May depending on the weather.
We left it dry on the spread for a few weeks before going out this week and footing the turf to allow it to dry fully before we arrange to bring it home.
It took about 4-5 man hours to foot it and it is an unpleasant job! 
I was disturbing ant nests as I worked which retaliated by climbing up my legs in attack. It is a job that requires gloves as the turf is rough on the hands and all kind of slimy creatures hide underneath.
My back took a day to recover and straighten up again :-)

Most families in our area cut turf each year, either as a supplement to oil or as their main fuel source. As the bogs are divided into many individual small plots and only a small amount of these are cut each year and it provides a wonderful wildlife habitat. 
I don't agree with industrial bog cutting as it is very damaging to bog lands. 

If anyone has an interest in the economics of it. Here it comes!

Turf cutting costs - 4 hoppers of turf cut (€45 x 4)   €180
4-5 hrs to foot ( about 2 hrs for two adults)
2-3 hrs to draw it home

So to heat our cottage for one year will be as followings:

Turf -  €180
Timber & kindling - Free
Coal & briquettes - €100
Fire-lighters & matches - €50

Total €330 per year for heating, cooking and hot water. 
It is a very economical cottage! And we plan to install solar panels this year or next which will reduce that further.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

New house cow ebook available

house cow ebook

"Have you ever thought about owning a house cow but don’t know where to start?  Do you dream of unlimited raw milk, manure and beef to complement your small farm activities?  “Our experience with House Cows” is an eBook written by a house cow owner to help other small farmers get started with a cow of their own.  The eBook is written for Australian conditions, particularly sub-tropical Queensland, but much of the information is applicable to cows and cow owners all over the world.  This eBook covers the basics of getting a cow, getting her in calf, milking her and caring for her calf, all using natural methods.  The final sections explain how to use all that milk to create delicious dairy products!  The eBook references several other cow, cattle and dairy books which are useful to the new cow owner and explain some aspects in more detail.  Go ahead, learn how to realise your house cow dream today!"

Liz had contacted me a year ago about helping her write the chapter on hand milking a house cow, as Liz uses a milking machine. So I'm very excited that her ebook is finished and available to those thinking of keeping a house cow. It is a wealth of information and although written from an Australian prospective, a cow is the same every where and the same cow rules apply!

Liz writes a smallholding/homesteading blog called 'Eight Acres' and you can download her ebook from her house cow blog . It costs $4.99 Australian dollars and is downloaded in PDF format.

The eBook features 41 pages of information and gorgeous house cow photos.  

Table of Contents:
1. Introduction. 1
1.1. About us. 1
1.2. About this book. 1
1.3. Conversion of units. 2
1.4. House cow terminology. 2
2. Why own a house cow?. 4
2.1. Raw milk. 4
2.2. Manure. 4
2.3. Meat 5
2.4. Lawn mowing. 5
2.5. Companionship. 5
3. Bringing home a house cow.. 6
3.1. Preparing for your cow.. 6
3.2. Choosing a house cow.. 7
3.3. Where to find a house cow.. 9
3.4. Transport and ownership issues. 9
3.5. Getting to know each other. 9
3.6. Cow safety. 10
4. Milking. 11
4.1. The milking procedure. 11
4.2. Training your house cow.. 12
4.3. Using a milking machine. 12
4.4. Hand-milking. 16
4.5. Managing mastitis. 17
4.6. Using the calf as a share milker. 18
5. Calving. 19
5.1. Getting your cow “into calf”. 19
5.2. Pregnancy care and "drying off". 20
5.3. Birth of the calf 20
5.4. Colostrum.. 21
5.5. Cow mothering. 22
6. Calf care. 23
6.1. Bottle feeding a calf 23
6.2. Introducing a foster calf 23
6.3. Castration. 24
6.4. Weaning. 25
7. Pests, parasites, poisoning and preventing illness. 26
7.1. General approach. 26
7.2. Buffalo flies. 26
7.3. Ticks. 27
7.4. Intestinal Worms. 28
7.5. Vaccinations. 28
7.6. Poisoning. 28
8. The home dairy. 29
8.1. Using up the milk. 29
8.2. Making yoghurt 29
8.3. Making kefir. 30
8.4. Cream, butter and ice cream.. 31
8.5. Cheese without rennet 31
8.6. Cheese with rennet 31
9. A final word of advice. 33
10. References. 34
Appendix A: Milking bales design. 35
Appendix B: Useful sources of dairy equipment 37
Appendix C: Cheese press designs. 38
Appendix D: Sources of cheese making supplies and information.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Enjoying life!

The weather has being amazing! I am trying to make the must of every ray of sun.
We went kayaking during the week on a nearby lough. The scenery was so beautiful that I had to remind myself that I was in Ireland. We went out far onto the lough and went diving, swimming and snorkelling. The water was so clear that I could follow schools of fish as they swim.

This made me reflect how beautiful the world is if we have the time to embrace it. For me I know the hardest thing is to plan or allocate days like this! 
It made me wonder; why don't I do this more often? Why can't I take the time to plan days like this more often?

What holds we back is guilt and getting caught up with my busy life. 
The sad part is that I can easily choose these days with a bit of planning but have instead chosen not to enjoy them. 
Maybe I was in a rut? Not anymore;-)


Sunday, 22 June 2014

Pork back from the butcher

The pig killed out very well. The butcher reckoned he was over 18 stone dead-weight which works out to be about 114 kgs. 
The pig was about 11 months and reared mainly on jersey milk and barley.
There is good marbling and a modest amount of fat, so we are very pleased.
The back legs are still being cured and I should be able to collect them in another week.
I cured some pork belly in brown sugar and salt for two days and then roast it. It tasted amazing !

Some costings for those that have an interest:

Pig purchase at 5 mths €50
Feed - Barley at €5 per week €180 (reared to 11 mths)
Killing cost €40
Butcher cost €40
Curing ingredients €15

Total cost :   €325 for 114kg
                   €2.85 per kg

We are very happy with these costings but are main reason to rear our own pork/bacon is because it is very difficult to find good healthy pork at a reasonable price. Our motivates are health not money but I still like to know how much it has cost us.
The feed cost is understated as he has has been reared on jersey milk. I suppose I could add a portion of the annual cow food bill to reflect this, which would add another €100 making it €3.72 per kg. 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

June Update

A few updates!

My exams are finished for now, thankfully!

One of the pigs was sent to the freezer last week. He killed out at a good weight and not too fatty. We just have the gilt left. She was very lonely at first but has become more friendly and enjoys all the attention she gets now.

There was a hatched queen cell in one of the hives a few days ago. I had put in a frame of young brood a week before and these were not raised into queen cells. My take on this is that the hive has a virgin queen and I will check in another week for eggs. The weather has been good for mating flights. 

The other hives are very strong and may consider swarming. I need to open the brood area in these by putting a foundation less frame in the centre of the brood. It should occupy them enough to not produce queen cells, hopefully! 
I will spilt one of these hives to make increases but the other, I want it as a production hive. We really want honey this year!

I picked up two broody hens today at the mart. I put them into the orchard with the other hens and when I checked on them later, I could only find one! Hubby will be disappointed when he gets home. We checked the roads and fields but no sign of her. She may or may not turn up.

I am busy at home toilet training our youngest. It is a messy and challenging experience for us both. 
One of our dogs is in heat which has caught the attention of all the neighbouring dogs. One even came inside the cottage today to mark his territory .Grrrrrr!

The veg garden is finally getting attention since the hens have been secured in the orchard. I rejoice in no longer having to hop over the hen poo on the doorstep each morning or crying when the kids carry it in on their shoes. They are no longer able to scratch out flower boxes and veg beds. 

Amber the cow or moo moo as the kids call her, was ai'ed last week to an angus  bull. She was also TB tested a few days ago. 
She is a sweet cow but I think I am the only one that can milk her now. She hates hubby since he had difficulty to bring her in and used a stick. She hates all men in case they are of the vet/ai type.
But she loves me and the kids, and is so easy but if she sees hubby she will turn around and refuse to come in till he goes.
So much for hubby being the relief milker!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Sea Fishing


Six of went out yesterday to try our hand at sea fishing off the west coast of Galway, Ireland.
We had a great day and caught a lot of fish. We throw back about two thirds of our catch because they were undersized.
We caught common ling, cold fish, pollock, mackerel and even managed to catch a sea slug and one dog fish that we quickly released!
Our freezer is now full and we had a wonderful day despite the wet weather and plan to go again soon.
Enjoy the photo's :-)