The installation of our wood stove brought about a new need, firewood. The first round of wood we struggled to get to our house in the back of our jeep. It took about three trips to get the wood seen in the picture here to our house. That clearly was not very efficient, though the price (free) was right. Now that we had the wood we had to split it. After a few tries with our ax we realized that another tool was needed. Continue reading
Author Archives: George
Last summer we were researching alternate home heating solutions, well we settled on an option! We decided to go with a Jotul Wood Burning Cast-Iron Stove. We were able to pick up a floor model from a company that recently changed locations for a steep discount. We hooked it up through our existing fireplace and obtained a fire/heat resistant floor mat to place in front of the stove to keep our floor from melting.
Using firewood that we can obtain for free through websites like craigslist we have been able to use the stove to reduce our home heating costs. Unfortunately modern homes are not usually designed to be heated using stoves so the air movement is less than ideal, especially in a town-house. The result is that we still use our HVAC fan to circulate air, which does use electricity, though still much better than having to pay for heating gas. Continue reading
Some mixed news to report on our bees. It has been a while since we last posted and a lot has happened. This Fall we suffered a dearth of nectar in our region and the bees were not able to build up much honey reserves. Even early in the Fall the hives were both suffering. The hive that was growing the most during the Summer months and having the most problems with crooked comb was also doing the worst of the two hives. They seemed to have spent too much time building comb and not enough time gathering nectar and building up their honey reserves. Subsequently their population must have grown too large and they ran out of all their honey before it even got really cold around here. Continue reading
When we moved into our homestead we found many of the appliances and household utilities to be in need of repair and/or replacement. The fans in our three bathrooms were all original, noisy, and did not seem to move much air. We decided last summer while we were re-painting all the rooms to replace the fans. Neither Martha or I had ever replaced a bathroom fan before but it seemed easy enough. But of course as with all household projects there are always unforeseen problems and challenges. I’m writing this post to share some of the experiences and nuances of replacing bathroom fans so that if you take on the task you might be better prepared, although I’m sure there will always be more challenges, unique to every situation.
The first thing you need to do is shut off power to the fan. Don’t just turn the switch controlling the fan off, go to the breaker box and kill power to the fan completely. Once power is off you can being to remove the old fan. Hopefully you have an attic above your fan that allows you to work from above. Working from above provides a much better vantage for prying the nails out of the beam on which the fan is mounted. I used a little mini-crowbar, making sure to lift up the fan enclosure above the drywall for hte ceiling. However, if you have to work from below, as we did with our first floor bathroom, I’d recommend getting a hack-saw blade. Use the blade to go up along the side of the fan that is mounted to the beam and cut the nails. Once the nails are cut (usually just two) it should slide right out. Continue reading
This past weekend we finally got a chance to do another inspection on our hives. We were surprised at how built up the comb had gotten in the 2 weeks since we had done a full inspection. It was so built up that it became a problem in some parts as the bees had developed comb that went off sideways and into comb from neighboring top bars! This is a pretty common problem with top bar hives but we thought we were ok since our last several inspections showed them staying in line on the top bars, but over the last two weeks or so they went crazy building comb and some got a bit out of alignment. The result was as we lifted up one top bar the crooked comb would break off from the next top bar.
We decided to go ahead and cut off all the comb that was developing at a bad angle. Most of it was honey comb so we saved it to eat later. The rest had a lot of brood and larva, as well as pockets of honey and lots of nectar and pollen. So we laid the rest out on top of the hives so the bees could salvage as much as they could. After a few days it had all been picked dry so we brought in the wax to melt down for use later. We did not really know what to do to address the crooked comb development so we gave our beekeeping friend/mentor a call to see what he had to say.
Our friend assured us this was a common problem with top bar hives and can be resolved by putting in some top bars that are slightly wider as the bees like to make the honey comb thicker than brood comb. He also suggested we take the bars with crooked comb and place them between bars that have straight established comb. To our surprise after helping us out with these ideas our friend also made us a set of wider top bars to use for the bees’ honey comb.
We prepared these new wider top bars by using string we coated in our bees’ wax as a guide stapled to the wood. We then placed about 4 of these wider top bars in each of our hives in between established comb so the bees would have straight guides. Hopefully between the wider top bars for honey comb and placing the crooked comb in between fully developed bars of comb our problems with crooked comb should be fixed! We’ll check back in a week or two and let you know how it worked!
Check out more photos from this inspection on our Facebook page!
WARNING: If you don’t want to learn about where GOOD food really comes from and wish to remain ignorant to how chickens are harvested on a homestead then do not read any further!
Our new homesteading friends invited us to their homestead this weekend to participate in their chicken harvest.They had a couple other friends over to help with the process, so the six of us worked through the afternoon processing their 15 meat chickens, culminating everything with a wonderful dinner of fried chicken that could not be any more fresh and independent!
You can take a moment to see the chickens just before we harvested them here:
Unfortunate circumstances have come about that have caused us to find new homes for our chickens. The cost to fight these issues is greater than we have the time and finances for at this time so we reached out to our friends to find new homes for our hens. This ended up being a mixed blessing for us in the end and worked out for the best.
Martha was able to reach out to a co-worker who she had heard kept chickens. We asked if they would be willing to take in our hens since we could no longer keep them. Thankfully they graciously accepted to take them and offered to give us fresh eggs from time-to-time as well. On top of all this it tuns out they are also homesteaders who strive to have an independent lifestyle, much like us! Continue reading
Our bees were spotted covering the front of the outside of their hive this weekend (called bearding) and we made a decision about our hens. So we wanted to share a quick video update on the bees and hens.
Our backyard was in pretty poor shape when we first moved into our new homestead about a year ago. The lawn had a lot of bare patches due to being washed out. Underneath our deck also got muddy when it rained because grass couldn’t grow there. Fixing these problems became a priority for us this spring.
The first thing we did was fix the mud issue under the deck by putting in a patio. We did this ourselves, but that story can be saved for another time! The next thing we did to improve the situation was install our rain barrels on the downspouts. This captured most of the water and the remaining water that occasionally spills over we redirected to a channel with lots of rocks to break up the flow. Continue reading
Last week we talked about how our Concord hive has been lagging behind the progress of the Lexington hive. It was at the point where we were concerned that we may have to put the feeder back in the hive to help them build up wax comb.
We are happy to report that Concord hive looks to be on its way to recovery! We had a really good week for bees with sunshine and heat everyday. Concord must have had a lot of new bees hatch as well. Take a look at these before and after photos. The first was last week when we were concerned, it was taken in the evening when most of the bees should have been back in the hive.
Compare that to the photo taken today in the middle of the day when its more likely for the bees to be out and about! They’re a lot more bees and the comb is built all the way across on several bars, and they even have a new bar they are starting wax on in the front!
It looks like Concord hive is back on track so we will be leaving it alone for another week or two before doing another full inspection. Since it looks so good we did not put in the feeder like we thought we might have to last week either.
That’s all, just wanted to let everyone know that there’s nothing to worry about with our Concord hive!
You can see more pictures from this latest inspection on our Facebook Page.