Thursday, June 11, 2015

New Home; New Adventure

I took a break from blogging to address a phase of life that rerouted my time. Happily that time is coming to a close and I have more energy to focus on blogging, which I missed more than I thought I would!

During the last year we had many changes. One of the biggest is that we moved to a REAL farm. My "backyard" farm has gone from 1/3 acre to multiple acres. We are "trying out" rural life. Our new place is part of  a 45 acre farm. We lease 5 acres, but have access to the whole thing. I help with some animal care for the owners so they can get a break (a great perk that goes both ways - yeah!). So far it has worked really well. We have been here since mid-February.

The view from our back deck!

It's no secret that my passion is horses. So, one of the first things I did was purchase a horse. I've been able to get back into riding and training. My new horse is a 12 year old green Spanish-Norman. She came in terribly out of shape, but she is looking good now and learning fast.

Her first day in Washington.

Trimming up but still sporting her winter coat, but she has since shed out much darker.

Starting to build some muscle!

We did sell our goats before we moved. There are days that I miss them, but mostly I'm glad they went on to good homes. After Felicity giving me 2 boys one year and a single the next she gave her new owners 3 (!) beautiful babies.

Felicity and her 3. Classic black and white. 2 boys/1 girl.

My next adventure is a milk cow. I was a little overwhelmed by the idea of a full size cow with gallons of milk every day, so I chose a Dexter cow. They are small, but still give plenty of milk for a family and are a dual purpose cow (do well for both milk and meat). She and her calf will be arriving in the next week or two. She is about 3 years old with a 1 month old heifer calf. Our plan is to milk once a day and allow the calf to take the rest of the milk. The major benefit is that I won't absolutely have to milk every day. I can leave the calf with her and take a day off from milking. At least that is what the interwebs tell me.

Better pictures will come when she arrives!

Let the farming begin!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Honey Bee Rehiving

Adding a second hive has been challenging. We got them in a Langstroth hive and put them into a Warre hive. This means pulling the honeycomb, cutting it down to size, and rehanging it into the new hive. All with living bees and trying to keep the queen happy and staying in the new hive. There are several things that you are not supposed to do with bees - expose brood (baby bee larva), have an excessive amount of raw honey around the area and move the hive around. We had to do all three in this process.

It is yet to be seen if the bees are going to settle in and establish in their new hive, but we are eagerly watching them and, so far, are very hopeful that all will work out well.

This is what the process looked like.

Here you can see the old Langstroth hive (lighter, longer box) and the new Warre hive (square box with handles along the outside) that the bees will eventually end up in.

Pulling out the old Langstroth hive frames. 

The bees were given a hard plastic base to build on. This meant that the old plastic with the bee's comb built onto it needs to be cut down to the size to go into the new box.

In a Warre hive there are no foundations and the bees build the complete comb naturally.

These are the honey comb frames that most people think of when they think of keeping bees. Most bee keepers use the Langstroth hive type.

Brushing the bees into the new box before cutting the comb to fit.

First, the frame on one side is cut and then the comb is cut trying to keep as much brood (baby bees) and honey as possible.

Here you can see where the brood (white parts of the edge of the comb) was laid all the way out to the edge and we had to sacrifice some of them.

Here is the comb cut down. You can see the lighter spots along most of the bottom half. Those are capped brood. When the eggs are laid the bees feed them then cap them and allow them to grow. There are several stages of growth for the brood before they emerge as adult bees.

Here are the extra pieces that were cut from the outside edges.

We were really hoping for some good honey, but it is early in the season. We did a small science lesson with the kids. The comb gave us a glimpse of what goes on in the hive. There were several stages of brood, some capped, some not. There was also green honey (nectar that is not honey yet). You would think that it would taste light and sweet, but alas, it tastes much more like old dirty socks or a musty garage. The green honey is open while the bees work on it, when it is complete they cap it with wax. There was one small spot that had completed capped honey. We each got about a teaspoon full. Oh, so good!

Here is a good view of a comb. Queens lay in a target pattern. In the middle (the capped cells) are the capped brood, then the yellow cells are pollen (provides protein food for the bees and brood), then there is an empty ring before the outer area (lighter yellow wax comb) which is the start of the honey.

After the brood hatch the bees will move down on the comb and the queen will lay more brood and the bees will go back and fill in the now empty comb with honey. And, on it goes as they keep moving down with each successive laying. This is how it works in nature and in a Warre hive. The Langstroth hives work different because the bees have to move sideways to utilize their comb. There are benefits with each type of hive, but we really like the more natural style of the Warre hives.

Hopefully this process will all work out and we will have amazing honey come Fall.

Monday, June 3, 2013


It seems that Summer is finally starting to show itself. I have been amazed at how busy Spring can be on a farm, even a small farm like ours.

We have had a lot of transition this season. It has taken a while to figure out all the plants and animals that are going to work for us here.

Most of the plants are out of the greenhouse and into the raised beds. I am still keeping the tomatoes in for a bit longer and we just got kiwi plants! They are in the greenhouse until we get them into the ground. Who knew that kiwi plants could grow in Washington! We have two plants because, it seems, kiwis need a male and a female plant to produce fruit. You can get grafted plants, but we went traditional with the two separate plants. We are looking forward to this experiment and hoping for success. We ordered them on the internet. Yeah for Amazon having anything and everything we could ever imagine wanting!

We are seeing the beginnings of production from many of our plants. Our grapes have the start of fruit on them and our summer squash has a few inch long squashes starting. The corn, beans, and cucumbers are also growing well. I'm excited to see if we actually get some glass gem corn from our plants this year. Everything in our garden beds (except for the raspberries that we over wintered) were started from seed. Some we direct sewed (corn and beans) some were in the greenhouse. That is a big accomplishment for my black thumb and a good boost to my gardening confidence.

Our little herd of goats is finally complete (at least for now). We purchased a doe with really great lines and high milk capacity. Meet Kieya...

It took almost a week for her to settle in and quiet down, but she is settled now and all three goats are getting along great.

Pippa is working her way up the hierarchy starting with the chickens. It's quite funny to watch her try to headbutt the chickens when they come around.

My husband also added another bee hive. The bees have been a huge learning curve for us. We found the original hive last week with about 1/3 of the bees dead. They certainly were low on food, but there is also the possibility that there was a hornet attack. We aren't completely sure, but they are now stabilized and back on track. Mostly it means that we will not get as much honey from them this Fall.

With the almost collapse of the first hive we realized that two hives are better. Starting the second hive has offered several challenges and we are holding our breath and hoping that they establish in their new home.

The chickens are the same as always: fat, happy, and laying. We love our delicious eggs and are making many Spanish Tortillas. Yum!

Finally, we added another bunny. Barley has joined us because his original owner needed to find a good home for him as she is getting married soon and can't take the bunny with her when she moves. Peter is loving having a buddy and Barley is settling in well. He is also a Holland Lop like Peter.

Now you are updated. I'm pulling together a post about the bees and the rehiving process. It was crazy, cool, and a little scary at times.

Friday, May 10, 2013


It has been way too long since I've updated!

So much has happened here.

We added a new animal to the "farm".

Meet Peter (yes, as in Peter Rabbit).

My daughter really wanted a cat, but allergies didn't permit that. I've looked at small dogs, but never found one that I thought would "fit" her. My son has a dog, but Loki (118 lb German Shepherd!) was not snuggly enough for my daughter. When I came across this little guy it was an instant "fit". He is an 8 week old Holland Lop. His ears will eventually lop when they get a little bigger. He is snuggly and will sit in her lap as long as she wants. Rabbits are surprisingly a lot like cats.

My husband just hopes that Peter eats dandelions.

The Goats:
All three of Penny's babies have gone to their homes as bottle babies. Penny also found a new home. I am down to just Felicity and Pippa, but have a mini-nubian on loan for a few days. I have been able to freeze quite a bit of milk for future use making cheese.

Penny's babies (Natasha, Elliot, and Kasey) were all back this week for disbudding (burning of the horn buds so they don't grow horns). It was great to see them as see how well they are growing!

I am hoping to get another doe in milk soon and let our little herd settle in. It is so nice to be done with kidding season. I loved it and will totally look forward to it next year, but it's also a lot of work.

The Bees:
My husband got a package of bees a few weeks ago and now we have an active bee hive in the backyard as well. He ordered Italian Honey Bees. They area actually very friendly and cute.

Here is the box they came in. You can see the top of the can that has their sugar water for food during transport (from California to The Ballard Bee Company to our house) and the little metal clip just to the left of the can is the top of the hook for the queen bee. She has to be in a separate box while the other bees get used to her otherwise they would kill her and that would be a bummer.

Here is my husband with with the queen box. On one end is an opening with a cork stopper. He pulled the stopper out and put a marshmallow in. In the time it takes the bees to eat through the marshmallow the queen's pheromones will have established her as queen and she will be in charge of the hive. 

Dumping the bees into the hive...

After much research, my husband decided to go with a Warre type hive. It is a bit more of a natural habitat and requires much less work on the part of the beekeeper. It currently has a top and bottom (the bottom you see in the picture has been replaced with a slightly different one. This one was just for the first couple of days that we needed to keep sugar and water inside the hive) with 2 boxes between. We will be adding more boxes as they build honeycomb.

Here they are after all the bees were out of their transport box. Most of them ended up in the hive, but some were dumped outside. They all eventually made their way inside.

We spent a bit more and got boxes that have removable planks on the back and plexiglass windows. It's great to be able to see in and see what is going on.

My daughter loves the bees and has no fear. Here she is with my husband checking out the new hive.

She also has no fear of the front of the hive and will stand right in the take off path of the bees and watch them. I think she would snuggle them if we let her. Good thing she now has a bunny for that!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Penny's Babies

After a long labor Penny finally delivered triplets. When I checked her at 6:30 am she had "lost" her ligaments (which means delivery in 12-24 hours). I kept an eye on her throughout the day and late afternoon I noticed contractions. But, they were not hard contractions. She was still in stage 1 labor. After several hours of this I pulled out my book and read that stage 1 can last up to 36 hours. So, I called it a night and headed inside.

I set my alarm for midnight and got a couple of hours of sleep. When I checked her at midnight she was in stage 2 labor, but nothing actually coming out. I watched her for a little bit and saw what looked like feet of a kid coming out backwards. I wasn't worried because breech is fairly normal for goats. But the feet kept coming out and then would disappear back inside. So I gloved up and checked. I pulled with one of her contractions and got a head to the side of the feet. I figured it was one of two things, either two babies were coming out together or the baby was upside down. With further exploration I found that the baby was upside down and twisted. I nudged the head so that the kid was totally upside down but in a more normal position and then pulled with each contraction.

It took a while, but eventually we got the first buckling. (pictures are from today, 16 hours after delivery)

 I cut the cord and got him cleaned up and to Penny for her to continue to clean.

A few minutes later she started to deliver another, but all I could see was a head. The kid was in the same position as Finley, one front leg straight back and one front leg bent. At least I knew what to do. So I gently pulled the bent leg forward and then slid my hand in and dislodged the shoulder. The next buckling slid out.

After cutting the cord and cleaning him up I gave him to Penny. She was a bit confused, but at least she knew to clean them up.

Before I could change the towels another was born, but she was half the size of either of the boys. Teeny tiny! She came out not moving or breathing. I suctioned her mouth and got her breathing. Cleaned her up and gave her to Penny. 

Here is a picture of the doeling next to her brother (the second born), it really shows the size difference. They are standing directly next to each other.

 All three babies have already been sold. They will stay with Penny until Sunday afternoon to get tanked up on colostrum, then go as bottle babies. The boys are going together. The doeling, who has been named Natasha, will go to a family that has also purchased Clara. I'm glad to see the doeling go as a bottle baby because I think that I would have ended up pulling her and bottle feeding her anyway due to her size.

Kidding season is done for the year here at Hiraeth Farm. I'm sure I will be ready for kids again next year, but for now I'm ready for a break and get down to business learning how to make cheese and yogurt!


After a very long labor, Penny had triplets. 2 boys, 1 girl. At about 12:45 am. It was rough and I had to pull both boys. 

They are now doing great and Penny is learning how to be a mom.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

T - 5 Days

Well we are getting closer. Penny is due this coming Wednesday and is getting HUGE. Pictures don't really show how big she is. Poor thing. She has dropped, well, as dropped as she can get being soooo big, her udder is developing, and her ligaments are starting to get squishy. She is on track for a mid week kidding. We will see if she delivers on time.

The babies are moving inside, but they are smaller than the movement I felt with Felicity. That makes me think that there are more. I'm still guessing 3 or 4. I already have homes for 3 of them, so hopefully she gives us at least that many!

Some updated photos of the girls...



 Clara, who is sold and will go home with one of Penny's babies. She is super sweet and I've enjoyed having her around. I am going to try to find a slightly bigger goat with a higher production. Plus, it really helps with the weaning to be able to completely separate her from Pippa.