Monday, June 27, 2011

First baby chicks of the year!

The first Little Sprouts Chicks for 2011 started hatching today! Always exciting to see the variety of color and type from our mix of heritage breed chickens. This is hte second generation of mixes of about 5 heritage breeds. Our goal is to keep mixing them for a few generations to see what chicken crossed between several heritage breeds exactly looks like. At this poin the variety we get is staggering :)

Kaelyn holds a baby chick as she checks them. she has become quite the chicken nurse, helping all those that need a little extra touch.

Levi wanna hold a chick?

Awwww, he loves them too!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bees retrieved from chimney

We did our first actual hive retrieval today. These bees had taken up residence in a chimney of a family in Grants Pass and were causing trouble occasionally sneaking into the house. They invited us to attempt to save hte bees while extracting them and we decided to go for it.

First let me say again that all of hte people we have retrieved bees from have been the nicest people ever. I am constantly impressed at the people we meet through the bee harvesting process!

We showed up at their place in the evening about an hour before sundown. Most of the bees had returned already. Inspection showed a LOT of honeycomb just below the fireplace cap (a plate covering hte original fireplace and holding the pipe from the inner chimney in place). The plate was not attached so a little prying with a wrecking bar loosened it up to peak under.

First I removed the chimney hat and upper flange, leaving only the plate in place. A little cutting freed up the plate from the comb, which was attached tightly to the side of hte chimney and the inner pipe.  the bees started protesting about now!

This hive was much larger than I anticipated! The honeycomb covered about three quarters of the chimney and extended down about 3 feet attached to the pipe and perhaps another 3 feet hanging below. It was packed solid with both honeycomb and brood comb.

I decided to extract by using a machete to cut the comb away from the stone fireplace wall, leaving it attached to the inner pipe. Slowly cutting as to not damage any more bees or comb than necessary. Once it was all loose, I twisted the inner pipe to free the top section from the one below.This was quite tricky to do without dislodging hte comb from the pipe. After a little working with it the pipe came free. Now hte hard part! I had to lift the top five foot section straight up with all the honey still attached, and bees crawling all over it. That was harder than anticipated! At one point I was thinking it was not going to be possible, but perseverance paid off and I was able to lift the pipe and comb out of hte chimney. 

Unfortunately laying hte pip on the roof  damaged quite a bit of comb and Honey started leaking out everywhere. That made a mess  of bees covered in honey. I worked as fast as I could to cut the comb loose and place it into 5 gallon buckets knocking as many clean healthy bees as possible into the retrieval buckets.  There is a chance I saw the queen and got her but at this time it was too dark to tell for sure.

After getting all the bees and comb in to buckets as I could I checked hte chimney again. Disheartening was the fact that the entire chimney was filled with bees. the walls on all four side was solid bees all the way to the bottom. There was no way to retrieve them. Lower in the chimney was some more comb that had either fallen or was built below hte top pipe section. It was really tough to tell if the retrieval was successful since so many bees and some comb was left behind. Getting hte last of the comb would require pulling the fireplace insert from inside the fireplace, a job we were not equipped for this night.

Once we got home, I placed all the comb and bees in an empty top bar hive. The end boards were moved to the outside edges and only one entrance hole was left open, then I placed the comb into the bottom of the hive as carefully as possible towards the end away from the entrance hole. With all the top bars in place, we left it set to see what they would do.

Hopefully the bees will be able to recover from traumatic event and either make a new queen or find her somewhere in that mess of comb. Most of hte bees were so covered in honey they couldn't fly, but some were already cleaning off their neighbors, so perhaps there is hope!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fox slips away

Sad day today. I was up at 4:30 again to watch for the fox with my trusty rifle. After sitting in my hiding 'sniper' spot for close to an hour... Something just didn't feel right. Not able to see anything but just feeling 'off' I took a walk around the farm.

Barn looks fine and untouched.

Turkey roost... Counted 3 turkeys missing and at one point the electric netting was pushed up over the weeds. Definitely looked like an exit. No signs of struggle though.

As I crossed the south pasture, again things felt 'wrong'. As I neared the fallen tree something caught my eye... THE FOX! He had just crossed the fence and was prancing behind a mound of dirt in the neighbor's yard. I didn't have a safe line of fire so I couldn't make a hasty shot and wirhin 10 seconds he was gone without a trace. He must have ducked down in the weeds and snuck away. I searched for a while not able to fnd any sign of him.

Then... My heart sank. The orchard. Sure enough..... wthere I found the remains of a sitting hen. It was obvious that the fox had killed her by the fence and drug her about 20 feet into the weeds to feed.the remains were maybe 75% eaten so either he had his fill or I dsturbed his meal. There were also several empty egg shells by the gate.

Best guess.. This happened just before I went out and he was hiding in the tall orchard grass until my walking around spooked him.

I am still very suspicious of the fallen tree. Is there a fox hole under it? Time to find out.

Turkey roost moved to pasture

We moved the roost into the pasture finally. It is surrounded by an electric net fence and solar charger. Hopefully this will keep the young turkeys in and keep some predators out. We placed 15 turkeys into the roost for the first nigt. Good luck to these little pioneers!

Two young turkeys 'missing'

Two of the young turkeys moved to the new roost are missing. This morning's headcount revealed only 13. There are no signs of a struggle though, so perhaps the escaoed and ran back to the barn? If nit the fox got them.

UPDATE:  So far this hasnt worked out. After a week all the baby turkeys have managed to escape over the fence and return to the barn with their buddies.  We either need a higher fence or more distance from roost to fence.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

One Bee Swarm ... Swarms away

It appears that one of the bee swarms we collected decided not to stay at Little Sprouts Farm. You may remember that the first one we collected was quite small, from under a trampoline. That one was placed in a hive that later we also added another medium sized swarm to.  The two colonies lived on opposite ends of a top bar hive for several days, and now the little one is gone.

It is hard to say if it left because of he close quarters or if there just weren't enough bees present to support a colony. Nevertheless, we are down to 3 colonies now, one per hive.

We have decided to expand our honey production and collect more swarms, so if you know of any or see any bees around the southern Oregon area, please do not hesitate to call!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Turkeys attacked by fox again

I came home from a short business trip to find quite a few missing turkeys. Before I left I counted about 45 turkeys in the barn brooder. Upon returning two days later it seemed sparse in the brooder and sure enough the count was 22 only. I found this tunnel dug in from the empty stall next to it, and a just killed young turkey in that stall. Apparently whatever happened was just that morning. My first suspicion is the fox returned and feasted on young turkey.

For tonight we moved the rest of them to the temp turkey coop by the chickens (where the web cam is watching). Tomorrow I'll get up before early and watch the sunrise with my shotgun!

You can see the tunnel dug under the divider. There were actually two such tunnels.

Surprise Lamb Arrival

While doing the rounds this morning we discovered a new arrival to the farm! Even though it is quite late in the season for this, a brand new lamb is running around the pasture with mom!

Look closely at the sheep in the center and you will find a brand new lamb clinging to her.

Here is a better shot of the two.

The newest arrival to the farm seems healthy and happy but glued to mom's side!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Nutrition, Health Care, Life expectancy in America

Would you consider America to be a healthy country? Most people would say yes, and most would point to our excellent health care as the prime reason for this. But if that were true, why do studies repeatedly show that America actually lags behind most of the "modern" countries of the world. In fact, the newest longevity study shows clearly that American rank 37th in longevity agasint other countries.  Couple this with the fact that American spending on health care is #1, and you arrive at an interesting conclusion.

Being 37th in longevity on average (and some counties being much much worse than that) points to a fact that overall Americans are NOT healthier than most of our companion countries and cultures. When you consider the much higher health care spending, and the fact that most health care spending in America is to correct damage from degenerative disease, you arrive at a possible conclusion that there is in fact a relationship. However, it is more that American advances in health care are "artificially" boosting longevity up to 3th place when if you leveled health care spending, we would fall much much lower. It is health care advances that allow us to exist with the conditions that cause naturally short lifespans.

Why is this? well, I would offer that a primary reason for America's short lifespans and poor health is primarily our beliefs, actions, and attitudes around food and nutrition. We have devalued our food supply, praised those that value profit over nutrition, and in general made the most important commodity we have (food) a purely price sensitive affair. If we saw food itself as "medicine" that would make us healthy, we would shun the thought that it is ok to buy cheap food, processed psuedo-foods, and fast foods. We would shun industrial factory food production and start valuing the traditional small farm operations that create nutrient dense foods.

The reality is that food (nutrition) is the primary factor in disease prevention and treatment, but America as a whole has forgotten that. We view food as a pleasure center, not a life giving substance. We value taste and presentation over content.  We laugh at true free range pastured eggs being healthier than factory produced soy and corn fed egg products. Our recipes are full of psuedo foods that have been taken apart and recombined to please the pallet instead of feed the body.

So, it is sad but totally expected that America has to spend the most of any country on health care just to stay 37th in longevity.

This is  one of the motivations at Little Sprouts to dedicate our lives to learning how to produce good food again. It is a mission that many are embarking on, and many more will benefit from. I encourage you to consider finding your local organic sustainable farm and support them all that you can. Turn your food dollars into health centers for your family by buying food based on nutritional content, not price and looks.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Two More Swarms captured today!

What a day it was! We started the day with a bee swarm call and ended it with two more swarms to capture. These two were in Medford, one in a tree at an apartment complex and another in a public parking lot shrub.

The one in the tree was medium sized, about like the one we captured this morning. The other one made me take pause. It was  HUGE compared to all the rest.

To capture the one at the apartment we borrowed a ladder from a resident, and a hand clipper. That made it easy to climb the ladder and clip off the branch, dropping the entire swarm and branch into the container. Very few bees even noticed the transition!

The one in the parking lot was a bit more tricky. The size allowed the swarm to stretch across 3 branches of the shrub. Fortunately I clipped each of the three branches off and the swarm still hung in the air as if suspended by a thread. Apparently the leaves around it were intertwined enough to hold it up. Slowly breaking it loose spread a few bees into the air but not that many really. Into the bucket it went, branches and all.

Back at home we decided to place the smaller swarm collected tonight into the hive that has the first and overall smallest colony. With the top bar hives it was fairly easy to do this by placing a colony at each end. They will grow towards each other as they expand. The large swarm went into our last hive that is now placed into the horse arena that we don't use for riding.

We'd like to offer a thank you to everyone that called in about the swarms. Within a week we managed to fill 3 hives, one with 2 colonies! It was also a pleasant surprise to find so many nice people that truly care about the bees, nature, and farmers.

Can you find the swarm in the bush? This was right in the center of a public parking lot!

Here is a closeup! Wow there is a lot of bees! bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

And here is a quick video of "bunches of bees!" as  Kaelyn says...

Second Bee Swarm Captured!

Early this morning we received another call for a swarm of bees to be removed. This time in Grants Pass. Breakfast in the car and away we go! (wanted to get it captured before the sun warmed everything up.)

Arriving the resident informed us that they first noticed the swarm a day ago, swarming into the center column of a patio table on their gazebo.  When I knelt down you could sure hear LOTS of active bees inside the table, and a few were flying around the top where the table umbrella normally slips in.  Time to suit up!

First I tried to turn over the table to get into it, but the bottom was closed also except for a one inch hole, so the only option was to disconnect the top of the table from the pedestal. The resident provided an electric screw gun and gave the ok to remove the top.  Inside I found quite a few bees, some attached to the underside of the table and the bulk of the colony down inside the column.  The ones under the top had already made a fresh honeycomb perhaps 2 inches across!

I pulled the accessible bees off the underside of the top and into a bucket, then added the bees I could get to inside the column. Then we set it all down and watched. Unfortunately there seemed to be more interest in the column than in the bucket, so the queen was not inside the bucket. A couple more attempts of scraping the bees out with the soft bee brush was needed before the flying workers finally gave more interest to the bucket than the column. At that point the rest was easy. I left a small crack on the bucket and just kept pulling the bees out or dumping them out with light taps, and let them find their way to the bucket. After about 20 minutes most of hte bees had settled inside the bucket happily. We did end up with a small mound on the cement which I scraped up with a plastic clipboard and dropped into the bucket.

One added tool this time was a spray bottle filled with sugar-water. Spraying this on the sitting bees certainly calmed them down and slowed the wings so they don't fly as fast or high. That made them much easier to keep in the bucket without re-swarming.  Important to watch overuse though, everything gets sticky!

Once we got home we moved one of hte Top Bat Hives into the orchard and set it next to the worm fence. Here the bees would be more distant from traffic, plenty of fresh flowers in the garden and orchard, and still easily accessible. We will have to watch the heat in the summer though, since there is minimal shade there.

First inspection showed a broom handle in the center hole of the table where the bees had taken up residence.

Tipping the table on it's side hopefully of a hollow bottom, but no luck.

The anxious photographers!

Off to work removing the screws holding the top on.

More Screws!

And more screws! This table was built!
Finally success! The buzzing gets quite loud here!
Setting the table top aside to work on the column where most of the bees are.
Both Hunter and Kaelyn are fascinated by bee swarms.

Busy bees!

The new bee colony seems to be happy as can be in the hive. When I peeked at them yesterday there was 2 good signs... There were lots of returning bees loaded with pollen on their little bodies and legs. Also the colony had spread out across the first few bars and it looks like some honeycomb is starting.


These little guys seem unbelievably docile right now, you can walk right up and peek in the observation window, listen to their buzzing, watch them work, and they don't even seem to notice. I hope they stay this friendly.

The only slightly scary sign is the chickens seem to have found the hive. There were quite a few chickens hanging out under it searching for food. I suspect any low flying bees make great chicken feed! Survival of the fittest in action?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Honey Bees arrive at Little Sprouts!

Today we captured our first bee swarm! A very nice family in Jacksonville called this afternoon off our craigslist ad. They had a swarm if bees in their backyard on a trampoline.  Excited, we loaded everyone up and headed right over to see if they were catch able.

After arriving at the property, I suited up in the space age anti-bee sting suit. The swarm was hanging off a spring connection point underneath the trampoline. There were a few on the ground below, and a few had collected into  mini swarm on the ground. The collection went very smoothly. As you can see in the video (which the homeowner was kind enough to take), I placed a bucket under the trampoline and scraped a few stragglers together, then a light tap on the top made the bulk of the bees drop right into the bucket.  At this point I put the bucket down and watched for a bit to see where the main interest was.

It appeared that most of the bees were definitely interested in what was inside the bucket, apparently the queen. Nevertheless there were some collecting back on the trampoline. This led to repeating the process a few times, with a few minutes waiting between. That's when I noticed the mini swarm on the ground. Those were easy enough "swept up" with a bee brush and a dust pan. (have to remember to add dustpan to the bee equipment).

When it appeared that most of the bees were in the bucket I picked up the lid slightly and slid the bee brush into a corner to hold a crack open. Several more bees flew into the bucket until there were only a few left flying around.  At this point we called it good, sealed the bucket up with duct tape and loaded them in the car.

Once we got home, the bees went easily into the hive. The hinged top of these top bar hives is sure a benefit ! So quick and easy to get the bees inside and everything buttoned up.

Right about sundown we went out to check and the bees were all happily buzzing away in a top corner of the hive. Hopefully in a few days the hive will be full of honeycomb!

Hunter certainly has no fear of bees! He walked right up and stood in the middle of them to get a picture of hte swarm. He is fascinated by the bees. We had to pull him back a few times to keep him from getting too close and irritating the bees. Someday soon he will make a great beekeeper!

You can see the little swarm hanging off the spring in the center.

Into the bucket!

Here is the video:

WebCAM operating again

We finally got the webcam operating again, but had to move it from the pigpen to the chickens. The pigpen is just too far for a good wifi signal without a repeater, and our repeater died in the rain. It is actually more useful on the chickens anyway, because of the fox visits. I set the motion detector to capture video of the fox overnight if it visits. That should be interesting!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bee swarm evades capture

We got a call today about an active bee swarm in Grants Pass. It sounded perfect... bees inside the wall of a house. The resident told us that the day before he noticed quite a few bees flying around the corner of the house, then that morning there were hundreds of bees. While he was on the phone I explained what a "beard of bees" looks like and sure enough, one was forming just outside hte hole in the wall.

Unfortunately we had an appointment that we couldn't miss so we made arrangements to head his way later in the afternoon. Sadly, by the time we got there, the swarm was gone. Only a few bees left patrolling the opening. He said that within an hour of calling me the swarm (beard) grew huge, several feet long. There was a cloud of bees between the house and the neighbors property. Then, next time he checked the swarm was gone.

We searched the neighborhood a bit but no sign of them. Looks like these bees will not be part of our farm.

If you see or hear of a swarm of bees in southern Oregon, please call ASAP. we are looking for 3 good swarms to populate our new hives.  You can call our farm at 541-826-4345.

Colony Collapse Disorder in bees - a new look

With all the press about Colony Collapse Disorder (where hives just disappear for no apparent reason) I find myself comparing this to what other "farm animals" face in the industrialized food system.  Yes, industrialized... It is surprising just how industrialized (i.e unnatural)  beekeeping has become. As with other farm animals, we had no idea how commercial unnatural, and industrial beekeeping has become.

I truly do not see any difference between CCD in bees and health issues rising in every commercial animal product industry related to health. I would offer a simplistic perspective (true answers are often simplistic once understood) :

"Science" is taking a wrong approach to understanding and solving the problem. Science is looking for the "cause" in the form of something that is now happening that wasn't happening before. Whether that be a new virus, bacteria, pesticide, it doesn't matter, the list is endless. The problem is that they are looking for a "cause". This is a extremely shortsighted and naive view of nature, but it is identical to the thinking that has brought down animal health and food nutrition over the last few decades. CCD is NOT caused by any single entity nor even collection of entities or conditions. Rather, the cause is in the system. Let me explain.

Anytime man has drifted away from nature's time tested principles and methods, negative issues have arisen. Anytime man has strived to "improve on production" or decrease cost in animal product production, negative side effects have occurred. This is evident in every animal industry you look at today (chickens, turkeys, eggs, pork, lamb, etc). Science in America (implemented largely through educational institutions) has strived to improve profit at all costs, and costs have been rising constantly.

To understand CCD in bees, lets do a comparison between nature and modern beekeeping:

1. Forced cell size - Common bee hives today include a "foundation" for the bees to build their honeycomb on. This foundation sets a definite size of the cells of the honeycomb. This is done to improve honey production by increasing the cell size. It works by providing about a 30% increase in honey per hive. The down side is that it is unnatural and damaging to the bees
  • The larger size limits the creation of "drone bees". these drones do not make honey so limiting them is seen as a good thing to increase honey production. However, the drones serve a vital purpose in nature of spreading the genetic of the hive amongst other hives. This spreading of genetics is similar to that of all animals and even people. If a family intermarried and created offspring, the genetic pool shrinks and the result is genetic defects coming through. This is exactly what happens in bees, as the drone population shrinks, genetics become less diverse, and all the hives in the region become genetically weak in any number of ways, including disease and parasite resistance.
  • The larger size cell takes longer for worker bees to cover once the queen lays an egg inside. That extra time (hours) allows more chance for mites to enter the cell with the egg / larva and cause damage. Therefore mites are much more of a problem, and can actually be devastating. This is often treated by beekeepers by using chemicals. (more in a later point)

2. Chemicals - Once problems arise from any source, the industrial method of treating those  problems is through use of unnatural chemicals. These chemicals all have side effects (as do medicines we take as humans, antibiotics in farm animal feed, etc) The chemical itself weakens the colony more and often can get impregnated into the honeycomb or wood of the hive for a lasting effect.

3. Re-use of honeycomb - it takes time for bees to produce honeycomb, this time is time that is not spent producing honey. Therefore to industrial beekeeping it is advantageous to re-use honeycomb by extracting the honey without damaging the comb, then reinsert the comb into the hive. Production improves. The side effect is that anything that got into the wax honeycomb ( a great attractor of everything) is left in the comb to weaken the bees for generations. This also has an accumulative effect, as if chemicals are use, every use adds to the chemical load already in the honeycomb.

4. Hive placement - Industrial beekeepers often place multiple hives in a location, not something the bees would do in nature. This makes it more efficient for the beekeeper (increased profits) but the problem is that if the hives are weakened by all the reasons above, and you locate multiple hives in a small area, you are increasing the chances of weak hives spreading genetics with other weak hives. chemical loads increase and become commonplace. Without wild bees to balance the genetics, the colonies slowly degrade over time.

5. Resistance - Another result of common chemical use is the issue of resistance. Just as we see in antibiotic use on animal feed, and pesticide / herbicide use in fields and gardens,  chemical use in bees breeds resistance in those things the chemicals are used for. this requires heavier and heavier doses to achieve the same affect. ( a primary difference between herbs and modern medicine.. another blog post). This effect, over time, increases the negative effects of all of the above.

6. Specific honey types -  Go to the store and you see all sorts of honey.. wildflower, clover, etc. But wait.. ask yourself how is this possible if bees naturally travel 5 to 10 miles from the hive to collect pollen? there are several approaches to this problem, but the point here is that all of these approaches fundamentally change the nature of the honey for the bees themselves. Think about this... bees make honey as their food source during the winter. The honey comb stored away for winter naturally contains honey created during all sorts of different "blooms" and thereby different color, flavor, and yes nutritional qualities. By removing the honey artificially during the year to produce different types for sale, the bees are left with only one type of honey at the end of the season (unless the beekeeper specifically manages this by leaving some honey of each type for bee consumption). This is the equivalent of making the bees over winter on one specific food instead of a variety of foods, limiting their nutritional intake for months compared to what nature intended.  Just as in animals and humans, limiting nutrition produces weakness and less resistance to disease.

 So you can see here a case building that points a finger at industrial bee production, and production increase methods as the cause of colony collapse disorder. If science find a single "cause" for CCD, even if that cause if removed, a new one will pop its head up soon thereafter and the cycle repeats. This is the process used by modern science, and is exactly the process used in the popular kids game.. Whack-A-Mole. Does this make sense? Why not instead realize that changing nature for the express purpose of increased profits IS in fact the cause of most of the evils and problems in the animal / farming industry. It is the changing of nature instead of working with nature that causes this.

As a case in point, bees kept in  natural hives (top bar / warez hives) and follow natural beekeeping principles do not seem prone to any of the problems affecting industrial bees (mites, ccd, etc).

Bottom line, CCD is not any different in my mind than the similar conditions affecting the industrial food system all over the world.  It is not a problem with bees, nor beekeeping, it is a problem with the industrial food system that is weakening animals, plants, and humans by increasing profits at all costs. One answer to all of these woes is small, local, sustainable farms working with nature instead of against nature. Find one today and buy your food from there to the greatest extent possible!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

WE vs ME mentality

Brenda (my better half) ran across this in another blog and it fits perfectly so we wanted to share it here as well.

The link to the original blog is

Here is the content:


A friend recently explained to me the "me vs. we" mentality when it comes to buying our food. I have to admit, I’ve had a lot of the "me" mentality going on. Here’s the difference:


I want what I want, when I want it

I want to get everything at the cheapest price I can

I don’t want to be inconvenienced

(this sums up the American way, doesn’t it?)


I want to support my local farmers and keep them in business

I am willing to pay a higher price, because I know my local farmers aren’t relying on government subsidies to make an honest living

I am willing to pay a higher price, because I believe that it is just plain WRONG that most real-food farmers have to work a full time job and then work for good food "on the side"

I am willing to drive a few miles out of my way to get real, local food so that it does not have to be trucked into my local grocery store

I am willing to eat what is in season, knowing that produce that is not in season (yet in my grocery store) could not have been grown by my local farmers and had to be trucked in several (hundreds of) miles just so that I could enjoy it out of season.

(thinking about the community as a whole instead of SELF)

The end result of both mentalities:

Food is grown hundreds of miles away from us and trucked to us just to give us what we want (spoiled little brats )

The government has to subsidize foods to make them cheaper for us

Farming–the profession that FEEDS US–is no longer a viable career option…most American farmers are over their heads and debt and have to work a full time job in order to pay for the farm. (Shame on us, Americans! Really…This is sad!!).

Because we don’t want to be inconvenienced, local farmers don’t get enough business coming to their berry stand or buying their raw milk or joining their CSA….And then another farm goes up for sale, because another farmer just couldn’t make it……(Side note: you don’t want to see farm lands be ripped up & Wal-Marts or other industrial buildings put in their place?? Support your local farmers!)…


We improve the economy by keeping local farmers in business! (Lower those unemployment rates, starting in the rural areas!)

Government subsidies become a thing of the past

Farmers might be able to start FARMING as a full time job!

Less trucks are on the road delivering food hundreds of miles to me. I drive somewhere in my community to get my food.

Healthier bodies, eating food when it’s ripe/when God intended for us to eat it. Wet foods (nectarines, peaches, melons, tomatoes) in the summer when we need to be hydrated. Dryer foods (potatoes, squash, yams, brussels sprouts) in the winter when we need to stay warm….God had a perfect plan, and then we demand tomatoes in January and they don’t grow in our area in January…

WE could revolutionize the entire food system………..

Turkey roost roof on

We installed the roof panels on the turkey roost today. I chose tin for this one because of cost and strength.

It is almost ready for service! There are already a few improvements to make on the next one.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Baby Pigs Born!

We had a pleasant surprise today! After being gone all weekend at the Mother Earth News Fair, we got home to find a new litter of baby pigs! This was a small litter, only 4 were born, 1 of which didn't make it. The small size is because this is the first litter of our new breeder, who is offspring of our first breeder, and a little young. Younger pigs tend to have smaller litters. Normally the Red Wattle breed will have 10 to 15 piglets per litter. Nevertheless the 3 little ones seem to be healthy and doing fine with Mom!

Hunter and Kaelyn love baby pigs!

This little boar is hard to hold!

Would you like to touch it?

Well..... maybe just a little...

Can you see the little boar out on pasture with his Mom? He is hiding in the grass.

Mom keeps a close eye on this little guy!

Looks like he wants to explore the mud puddle! Will Mom let him in? Of course not, every time he tried she gently pushed him away with her snout.

But he is determined to get into trouble.

Mom keeps him right at her side when there is any sign of trouble, even just an anxious farmer trying to get closeup pictures.  These moms are so protective of their young it's just a joy to watch them interact.

First snake of the season

This big fellow is the first snake we have seen this season. He looks like food has not been a problem!

Anyone want to take a stab at an ID?

Beekeeping equipment in place and ready!

We set up our new Top Bar Bee Hives today. All we need now is bees!

Here are a few pics of the process. First we had to choose the hives. Since we were at the Mother Earth News Fair to make the decision to go for honey production or not, we spent a fair amount of time learning about the hives, different designs, uses, and approaches. At the end we chose to go with "Top Bar Hives"  because they seemed the most natural for the bees, and the easiest to learn with, although perhaps slightly higher maintenance and slightly lower honey production.  Overall it seemed the best choice.

To save time right now we decided to purchase ready built hives instead of building them myself. The Top bar hives seem easy enough to make, and I probably will in the future for expansion, but we wanted to get started ASAP since it is already late in the season to start bees.  So we chose to buy instead of build.  The next decision was from where.

There are plenty of choices out there for top bar hive designs. All are basically the same with only minor differences here and there. We chose to go with the hives from Bee Thinking in Portland Oregon for the following reasons:
  1. Made from cedar - This lessens the need for treating the wood or painting it over time while extending the life. Paint on wood treatments not only add work over time but increase the chance of poisons getting in the honey or damaging hte bees.  I was concerned with cedar itself as a beehive but there seems plenty of evidence that bees do in fact nest in cedar trees in the wild.
  2. Hinged top - Top bar hives all have some sort of top covering to protect from the weather. I wanted a solid wood top, and hinging it instead of lifting it certainly sounds attractive!
  3. end and middle access holes - These hives are designed with both end and middle access holes, so the choice of building the comb end to middle or middle to end is easy to make any time, and easy to explore options (of course i could just drill a hole in any hive)
  4. Solid bottom - I contemplated the screen bottom hives and in the end chose solid bottom for 3 reasons: 1) screen bottoms are mostly useful to check for mite problems. Top Bar hives are not supposed to have mite problems, so the reason is minimized. 2) ventilation may actually be a negative in the summer for my area since bees have natural ways of cooling closed spaces in summer as long as there isn't too much airflow outside of their control. In nature bees prefer closed spaces.  3) bees tend to clean up their own space with a solid bottom, which allows for more natural activity and responsibility.
  5. Observation window large enough to watch the bees and progress without disturbing them.
  6. Close supplier - I decided against buying hives from out of state because of shipping cost, and also I wanted someone more local to work with in case of problems, someone who knew this area and bees natural ways here.
So, we searched out the top bar hive suppliers along hte route from the fair grounds to our area and found  BeeThinking in Portland. We called him Monday morning and the owner agreed to meet us at his warehouse at noon.  When we arrived and looked at his hives, they matched all the criteria we had set, so we decided to go for it. We purchased 3 hives, a suit, and some basic tools.

Here are the 3 hive bodies strapped to the top of our truck.

The box with all the internal pieces sits on the one spare seat inside, the legs lay across the floorboard in front of the middle seats.

In the back sits the tops to the three hives, they barely fit on top of our luggage for the weekend stay with 4 children.

Here is the completely assembled hive with the top open and all the top bars installed.

Notice the observation door in the front. It will be exciting to see the bees building and working inside without disturbing them.

Here is a quick shot of hte top bars. Notice the ridge across the top where the bees will attach their comb.
And here are all three new hives assembled and each sitting under a tree in the far corner of the front yard.

UPDATE: It appears that there are no bees available for purchase from breeders this time of year, which means that the only option left to populate these hives before winter is catching a wild swarm. Swarms should be plentiful though, as it is the time of year they will naturally be looking for new homes anyway.  Scary but yet exciting!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Winter Vegetable Crops!

Everyone knows that vegetable gardens are a summer event, right? WRONG! WE have recently discovered that this thought is a uniquely American limitation. Other countries grow vegetables year round with great success! (as long as they do not listen to the "wisdom" of American science and universities)

Let me clarify that not all vegetables will grow in the winter, some are genetically predisposed to summer weather, but many are perfectly suitable for life in winter. Am I referring to heated greenhouses consuming disproportionate amounts of heating fuel? NO! These vegetables can be grown in no more than simple shelter without using any heating at all. All they need is basic protection from the wind and harsh weather, but temperatures themselves are not the problem.

We are going to embark on this journey of growing year round without heat. The principles make perfect sense when applied in a synergistic fashion and carefully managed. This will produce yet another speciality income stream for Little Sprouts _ organic vegetables available in the winter FRESH from a local farm. Think about that.. no more need to fall to foreign raised vegetables in the winter. No more need to rely on canned, frozen, or otherwise preserved. While vegetables themselves do not brings in much income... winter vegetables will be more valuable because they are rare.

We are very excited to be venturing into this new product for our customers. It may take a year or two to get it right, but the process has begun! Stay tuned tor updates on how this is going.

Adding Honey Production to our farm

One of the decisions we came to the Mother Earth News Fair to explore was "should we raise our own bees?".  The decision is a resounding YES!

Bees are of course a necessary part of any plant growing operation. You simply cant have productive plants without the helpful work of bees to pollinate. Bees also generate an income stream in the process of doing work.. honey, beeswax, and propolis. Each of these is valuable in the market today, especially if you abandon conventional thinking and follow the practices of sustainable and organic beekeeping.

We will be installing 3 to 5 bee hives this year, and hopefully being in production by next summer (it takes about a year to have sell able products from new bees). Our hive of choice is Top Bar Hives, Kenyan style. These hives are as close to nature as we have today, and allow for mostly unattended, organic, chemical free, disease free, parasite free beekeeping. The health of the bee and hive is preserved through the natural defenses and systems of the bees, by allowing them to do their work their way. As everything else we have learned in farming, the more man has tried to improve on nature, the more delicate and unhealthy the results are. Bees are no exception.

Have you heard of and followed the controversy over Colony Collapse Disorder? ( The recent and disturbing "disappearance" of bee colonies for no apparent reason). Well, while the scientist are scrambling to find the "one reason" for this phenomena, it seem perfectly clear and natural to wise beekeepers what is going on. It is simple, man has corrupted beekeeping in a number of ways in our attempts to increase production and profits, resulting in generations of non-sustainable bees, Much like hte poultry, swine, and cattle industries, the bee industry has fallen prey to nature trying to destroy the defective result of years of man's faulty wisdom. I will be putting more  details on this in the coming days. The bottom line is simply this, there will not be found a single reason behind this, because it is a combination of man's "improvements for selfish gain" that causes the conditions whereby bees can not survive.

So, once again man has corrupted nature in our selfish attempts to improve on it for financial gain. This, in turn, has opened a door for small scale farms to actually benefit both financially and morally by returning to the natural methods to "save the world" and produce a superior product in the process. It is very fulfilling to be part of the segment of society called "sustainable farming" that takes on the mission of fixing what is wrong in the world while others are trying to understand it in their limits model of things. The "niche" market we serve as a small scale farm is actually regular people like you seeking to find decent food that improves health instead of degrades health. Is that a niche? If it is, it will not be for long. More ad more people are learning that their own health and quality of life is directly tied to the foods consumed. And ONLY small scale farmers are capable of producing that food.

Bees are coming to Little Sprouts!

Mother Earth News Fair

We have spent the weekend at the Mother Earth News Fair and had a wonderful time! What a fabulous event it was.

The overall event was extremely well done, nicely laid out at good facilities, manageable schedule, interesting and valuable content, and applicable exhibitors. Rarely have I described an event like this in such glowing terms in the technical industry. This was truly a pleasant surprise! I strongly encourage you to attend the remaining events if one is anywhere close to you.

Another important aspect of the event's success was the child friendliness of it. We traveled with our four young children (ages 7 months to 8 years) and a conventional "no children allowed" approach would have been detrimental at most trade shows, but not here! The Mother Earth News staff and volunteers were very helpful, accommodating, and kind to children. The schedule included plenty of interesting workshops for the little ones and they were well attended ad well managed. This afforded us the opportunity to keep them happily busy while we took moments to devote our full attention to a workshop or two, or have in depth conversations with exhibitors. The classes were even truly educational for children, not just busy work "color inside the lines".  I applaud Mother Earth News for their forethought in setting this up.

We ran into several people at this fair that we have been in contact with previously, which was also a great aspect. The audience and exhibitors were spot on!

The most encouraging aspect of this event is this... we are not alone! Sometimes in our quest for excellence and the necessary "controversy" that being "different" brings, we forget just how big but yet small the world is. Big because there are plenty of other people following exactly the same path, whichever path you choose. Small because you come across those people so easily. At this event we fit in perfectly! All the "controversial" aspects of our life became the norm, the accepted, the expected. Our intense search for true health was the focus of much of the exhibitors and talks. Our commitment to natural and humane animal treatment plus  organic and sustainable farming practices was shared and taught by everyone present. The books and videos available preached the very message that our life follows, and this blog explains. Even homeschooling was not shunned as the "silly practice of anti socials". Yes, it was a refreshing and helpful break from the bulk of hte conventional world that preaches sameness, conformity, and mediocrity in everything.  We came away thinking that there is more hope for America than we imagined. There is a grassroots effort of people, just like us, who are fighting the unseen battle of conventional thought against true wisdom of time.  Even thought we might not agree on the details of practice, we are all moving in the same direction of reconnecting with our past and reimplementing what made America great.

As we head home, our thoughts and hearts are full of encouragement, information, motivation, and validation.  Was it worth an 8 hour drive with 4 young children? you bet it was! I would do it again in a moment!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Picnic for baby chicks

Hunter took his baby chickens out for a picnic. He put an old dog kennel in the grass and set the chicks inside to eat fresh green grass and worms. The turkeys came by to supervise (or perhaps watch out for any stray worms).