The weather keeps feeling more and more like winter, and we keep thinking more and more about next spring. Planning for next year on the farm is in full swing around these parts. We continue to get a mix of “you go, kids!” to “what the hell are you thinking?” regarding our farm dreams, but we’re blazing ahead with our high octane cocktail of supreme confidence and utter fear, shaken not stirred.
The beehives are about 90% winterized at this point. I always wrap them with aluminum bubble wrap that has been spray painted black. I also put a shim on the top of the hive with a piece of closed-cell insulation, the same stuff used to insulate underneath siding on houses sometimes. From what I’ve been told, one of the main killers of bees in the winter is condensing water dripping down on them from the top of the hive. The “cluster” of bees in the winter stays at or above 90 degrees throughout the cold season. Bees move in and out of the cluster to warm up/cool down, keeping the queen towards the center of the cluster all winter long. All this heat they generate creates condensation inside the hive, which collects on the top of the hive and then has the potential to drip onto the cluster of bees below. By placing this 2 inch thick piece of insulation above them, I’m attempting to limit some of this condensation and give them a better chance at survival. This year, for the first time, I’m also going to lay on some “winter patties” of emergency feed. I’m buying some pre-made stuff from one of the beekeeping companies that I buy from. I think my hives are pretty good on honey this year, but after losing two hives last winter, I’m not taking any chances. We’ve been enjoying some pretty spectacular comb honey and cheese platters this Thanksgiving season, and I’m willing to do whatever extra work I need to do to make sure that can happen again next year.
Today we also added a bunch of partially composted manure to a portion of one of our fields. My parents feed out a few heifers each summer. Half of one of them is currently residing in our freezer, actually. Part of the field we tilled up this spring was full of clay and rocks, and we decided that it wasn’t worth trying to plant anything in it this year. We think there was maybe a building or a burn pile there at some time in the past, but either way, it’s pretty cruddy soil compared to the great stuff we’re working with elsewhere. So, we knew that we needed to take some time to build up the humus in the soil before we try to make it productive for us. And if a family can’t share shit, then what can we share?
We added a hayrack of partially composted manure to this cruddy soil and then covered that with dirt and other partially composted plant matter from cleaning up our fields earlier this year. This spring we’ll till it all up and plant some cover crops on it. Once they mature, we’ll till those in as well. It might take us a couple years, but we’re hoping to create growing conditions here that match what we’re able to accomplish in the other fields on our little farm. For now, it’s a labor of love. In a year or two, though, we’ll be glad we made the effort. That little dirt patch deserves a resurrection, and we’re just the folks to facilitate it.
We also continue to look after our little diva chicken flock. Keeping them warm and cozy through the winter is no easy task, but so far we seem to be doing just fine. I’ve read that chickens usually decrease their laying once the day length decreases. We haven’t seen that to be the case yet, but we’ll see what happens as the winter progresses. We open up the coop every day to allow them outside if they want to go, and I’ve been surprised at how much they want to be outside, even on the coldest of days that we’ve had so far.
We’re trying to continue to be thankful, and cautious, and brazen, and all the mixed-up emotions needed to keep following our dreams when it gets hard to do so. In this holiday season, we hope you, our readers, continue to be able to do the same.
I’ll end here tonight with another shameless attempt to trade some of your money for some of the cool stuff we’re growing and creating on the farm.
We have Finding Eminence Farm calendars for sale for $12, which includes shipping. These calendars have some great photos taken by Audra from our first year on the farm. And, they were printed locally in Bloomington, IL, so you’re supporting two locally-owned companies when you purchase these dandies.
We also have some pretty incredible farm-fresh eggs available for pickup at the farm for $4/dozen.
And, we still have Flower Subscriptions available for 2016 if you’re interested in getting (or giving?!?!) local flowers for 12 weeks next year. We have three levels of subscriptions, which you can learn more about here.