This has been our first growing season at this property. It was a good idea to start smaller, and build a few garden areas first, and see how the wind, water, sun, animals, and insects are. Some things did amazingly well - we still have tomatoes up to our eyeballs in late September - and some things, meh (beans? where are the beans?). The medicinal herbs bed was a good start as well. It was enough to manage 5 different locations of herbs as I went through a summer finding an amazingly wide variety of medicinals growing wild on our land or road.
As we wander towards October, things are winding down and and yet we also still have so much happening. I love the location of the main food bed, and it will be easy to expand along down the side every year, and to slip a greenhouse in that area as well. I can tell what herbs I need to grow more of next year, what I should pull, and where to transplant out some of the bush seed starts that will be ready to upgrade to their own areas next year (St. John's Wort!).
Draper, our dog, and I, have walked miles and miles this summer on the land. My step tracker says I hit 40-50K a week, and that is mostly here. Back and forth, up and down, side to side, all the way around. I am so happy at how many medicinals and natives we have growing here, and am pretty happy with the start of both the front and back orchards. We had one tree seller that had a horrible die rate (and a really ridiculously work-intensive hoop jumping return guarantee), but other plants have all done really well. WE have apple, plum, peach, pear, cherry, elderberry, nannyberry, aronia, goji, raspberry, currants and more - all that will hopefully have fruit by next year.
I am especially happy that I still feel good here, like walking, rarely see another person, haven't had any issues with animals, only minimal insects (deer flies in July - I'm talking about you - and I haven't missed since you disappeared). It still feels right and good. And beautiful and big. The views are still wow, the smell of the air and the wonderful blue skies and light breezes are amazing.
We will now start thinking about prepping the chicken coop and run for winter. I have some ideas that I need to test out - I want some areas sheltered from huge snowdrifts, but also want to still be able to see them so if anything gets in there with them, I know. I want to rig an insulation panel system that uses velcro for panels that go up and down for ease of cleaning (and there is rafter ventilation). The solar light system is good, and we had an outlet put along the back wall so we can run a water de-icer out there and a light for winter. We have great motion sensor lighting system, but want more inside the coop light. My husband wants to move them against the house for winter, but I don't want mice and think they should stay where they are, so we shall see.
I can't wait to pick all our pumpkins we grew, see the leaves change, and pull in for fall and winter. I am in need of a nice winter of fireplaces, baking, and working on my writing projects. Here is to a good first year. xo
I have always wanted to keep bees. I love their magical dances, quiet dedication to the greater good, their dedication to the queen and enigmatic communication that we humans don't understand. We have always worked on having habitat for native pollinators, who do need our help. And while some think bringing a box of bees into an environment is not natural, what the bees do when we "keep" them, it really pretty independent from us as much as we pretend to have control over the situation.
When we moved here I knew I wanted to keep bees. I was happy to see that the neighbors who have their permaculture forest guild wilderness across the road had a few hives down the road. I know most of the native plants and medicinals we plant are loved by both natives and honeybees, and we also planted two areas of orchard. We have bush fruit in the back orchard area - cherries, elderberries, nannyberries - and in the front orchard we have aronia, goji, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, apple, peach, plum, and serviceberry. We also have wild raspberries, mulberries, and blackberries. And, we have many other plants and flowering trees. Truly enough support and food for our pollinators.
So, of course as it goes, we installed bees when they arrived at the post office. We had everything ready to go, and we transferred them into the hive. As a new beekeeper, while I spent years reading about beekeeping, I have been reading ongoing now as well, so that I follow the season and know what to look for as I have been inspecting and checking throughout the summer.
I was a little nervous on my first inspection, but know that they can smell our fear, and so I focus on telling them how amazing they are, thank them for pollinating my plants, and radiate love. It might sound cheesy, but I do think that helps keep them calm. I do inspect suited up - I know some don't wear gloves or a suit - but I move with intention, carefully, and thankfully. The inspections have gone well all summer. I find what I should, I proceed through the hives, and I find the queen or evidence of the queen.
I know as I get more experience working with them, I will expand with more hives and probably experiment with different processes or setups. I love the idea of natural beekeeping, but know that with mites and other issues that can arise being so common, I should be a responsible beekeeper and do my best to keep them healthy before I experiment or try new things. So many long-time experienced beekeepers are losing their hives - or a lot of their hives - every winter, so I hope to make it through a winter.
Now that we are in September, I have checked the hive again and we will start looking towards preparing them for winter and protecting them from invaders looking for warmth and food. I am happy to finally be keeping bees, after dreaming of them for many years. Every time I walk the dog on the back acre I see our hive setup and am grateful for all of the changes we have made in the past year to get here. My whole family jumped in headfirst to get us to this new place, and our life is so different than it was one year ago. We overwintered successfully in this new place, now we need to get the bees through their first winter here as well.
One of the things we have wanted to include on our little farmette is chickens. Not only do chickens lay eggs, and my teenager is, and has always been, a chicken whisperer (and while he is allergic to all mammals/meat/milk, he is not allergic to feathered animals or eggs!), and they are also wonderful in a permaculture system. They eat bugs, weeds, and bits and pieces of garden plants, and they leave rich fertilizer for our compost, orchards, and gardens. We are raising them only for their eggs and fertilizer, not for meat. They will hopefully live a long and happy life here at Lunar Hollow!
We got 6 sexed chicks in early March, and inevitably one was a rooster - so we have 1 big guy and 5 hens. We have 2 golden laced wyandotte, 2 silver laced wyandotte, and 2 barred rock. They should all be pretty cold hardy in our Wisconsin winters. The boys initially wanted to name them after epic video game characters (Ahri, Aurelion Sol, Cassiopeia, Fiora, Jinx, Kai'sa, Shyvana, etc.), but I have just naturally fallen into calling them by names that end with the -ie sound, since it is easy on the mouth and easier to remember for me, so the names are starting to stick. The boy is Budgie, then we have Siouxie, Terri, Cyndi, Annie, and Toni. (Can you tell how old I am from the names?)
We live with a natural woods barrier on one side, but 3 other sides are pretty open for wandering (& one side is along our road), so we have not let them roam without supervision yet. Every day they get out to roam in a different area and we are taking them farther from the coop and run each time, and training them to come back when called (treats!). It took a few of us to herd them back each time, but now I can do it myself with only minimal clucking sounds, as they know what awaits them when they return. As the summer winds down, they will get to wander in our food gardens, medicinal beds, and orchard, and we will know they will come back with us when it is time.
We started with just 6 chickens, but plan to add possibly geese or ducks next year, if we make it through the first winter with the chickens. We shall see. It worked out well for us to start with only 6 and get used to the routine and care of the chickens before expanding.
It is interesting to see the intelligence of the chickens, see their personalities, and see them learn and figure things out. They are fun little dinosaurs! Our next phase for the chickens is figuring out the best way to add some shelter/tarp area for rainy season and as we go into winter and snow. Also, winterizing the coop...any tips?
I am a certified aromatherapist, herbalist, organic gardener, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, whole foods maker, and mother of two unschooled boys in south central Wisconsin.