Sunday, June 29, 2014

New Fire Pit: Designed and Built by Me...

New Fire Pit I designed and built: 6 ft across, 1.5 ft deep, all boulders curated from our property, busted up concrete as a base and planted some ornamental grasses (of course!) along the back 1/4 which creates a nice backdrop.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Honeybees Loving the Abnormally Nice November Weather

Yesterday the temps here were in the 70's!  For November in the Buffalo area this is almost unheard of and the bees took full advantage of it.  The day prior the temps were in the 30's and the bees were no where to be found.  That was not the case yesterday.  The bees were going absolutely wild.  Sadly at this time of year there is little food to be found as flowers are gone meaning there is no nectar or pollen either.  The bees couldn't have cared less and will have plenty of food on the honey that they made this year.  Again, they were going crazy.  Enjoy the video that I took.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Late Summer Beehive Update


The bees have been hard at work all summer, a very hot, humid and dry summer at that.  Perfect for bees!  The hive is almost 2 years old now and I fully expected there to be honey and sure enough there was when I opened the hive for inspection the other day.
Spring and early summer's flowers have nectar flowing which allows the bees to make honey whereas most of the summer there are no nectar producing plants in this area.  The next round of nectar producing flowers will be golden rod that is just starting to bloom and will soon make the bees drunk on both pollen and nectar.  I will remind you that nectar is 70% water and 30% sugar and the bees have worked at it all summer to flip those number by drying the nectar turning it to 70% sugar and 30% water which is actual honey.  The bees have also capped a good portion of what they made for storage. The frames with capped honey are quite heavy.  And those with uncapped honey glisten in the late day, late summer sun.  Simply gorgeous.  There was something quite hypnotic and peaceful about opening the hive to find very mellow bees that seemed to be enjoying summer as much as I was.  I barely needed the smoker to calm them.  All in all the hive looks good.
There are 10 frames in each of the upper "super" boxes where the honey is made and the bees had filled about 2/3 of each.  Interestingly though they fill the middle frames and leave the outer frames.  My friend Steve tells me that they prefer to move up when completed with a frame rather than out.  I simply did some re-arranging in hopes of getting them to use more of the frames now that the golden rod is about to put them into overtime.
I doubt that I will extract any honey from the hive this year even though it is so strong but in my opinion not quite strong enough and I really want them to have a nice supply for winter.  Perhaps next year.  For me bee-keeping is a hobby and I have no intentions of selling the honey.  We would use it here for ourselves only and if I have any leftover my friend Timm wants to make some mead (beer made from honey) with it.  I truly love the fact that this hive is doing a very small part in making the environment better.  Remember that without bees our food supply in fruits and veggies would not exist.  Think of what that would do to both humans and other animals.
Side note: all those nasty ground "bees" (most likely hornets) that you are finding in your yard that are uber aggressive are not honeybees and are not as important to our eco-system.  They are nasty hornets that will attack and sting without much warning.  If they pose any threat to you, your family or pets take them out.

The first 2 photos and the 1 at the top are of unfilled comb.  It is stunning in its beauty and complex simplicity (think about that).

Here in the upper left you can see where the bees have capped the honey.  The lower right is what the beautiful golden honey looks like prior to capping.  The smell is intoxicating.

In this photo looking down into the hive between frames you can see just how close together they are.  The frames become connected as the bees "glue" the frames together using a substance they make called propolis.  I have to use a hive tool that looks like a paint scraper or chisel to separate and move them around.  The glue is VERY strong!

This frame probably weighed at least 5 pounds as it was full of capped honey.  These bees couldn't have cared less that I was pulling the frames out, moving them around, etc.  They didn't fly away but stayed on the frames continually doing their work.

A side shot/end on shot of what the capped honey looks like.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Odd Bird! A Red Frizzle Cochin Bantam Chicken

This is one of the chicks that we bought back in February, well actually it came free in the order.  It is known as a Red Frizzle Cochin bantam.  Our friend Megan ordered the same kind and for some reason they sent a second one along so I decided to keep that one.  Randomly choosing this chick of the two we ended up with the hen and she ended up with a rooster.  Who I'm told at a very young age of 4 months is already crowing and quite randy, looking for love.  By chance we ended up with a hen.  Roosters, unless you are raising baby chicks, aren't good for much so we lucked out and I do feel badly for Megan as she is the one who really wanted that type of chicken.  At a day old there is really no way of telling the sex of this breed as they are too small and don't have sex specific characteristics as some breeds do so it really was luck.
It is quite small and when we introduced the new chicks to the old chick flock, merging the two the chickens were dumb enough to think the others were there all along because they didn't look any different.  Therefore there was no picking on the new girls.  This one however looks different, a lot different, with her curly feathers so it was obvious to them that she was a new girl and just like middle school girls they picked on the odd looking one.  Since then they seem to have eased up a bit.
Email me at if you have any name ideas and we will consider them all.
My wife Sarah is holding her in these photos and this is as big as she will get, bantam chickens are small.

Love her "curly" feathers.  She has hair just like me.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

2 Become 1 or Trouble at the Henhouse

In the dark of night 2 flocks of chickens become 1.  In order to introduce my new chicks (now 4 months and fully grown) into the main flock I moved them from their stall into the main coop in complete darkness.  If they wake up and they (the new chickens) are already there this will allow the chickens to confusedly think the "impostors" were there all along.  Chickens are sedate and somewhat stupid at night so this works.  Otherwise they would probably kill the new ones.  Felt a bit like Fantastic Mr. Fox as I snatched them up one by one to move them.  Or perhaps Seal Team 6 (think stealth mode) as I worked by the light of my cell phone in complete darkness.  In and out in 10 minutes tops, moving 11 chickens.  The (almost?) full moon helped only a bit.
The morning ought to be interesting and loud in the coop because while they are more accepting of new blood they still know that something is slightly off.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mid to End of May at Czar of the Woods Farm

May has to be one of the most beautiful months there is.  Everything is bursting with life and it simply put, it feels good to be alive.  With the mild winter we had and unseasonably warm weather we had in March and April everything has sprung forth with life and become green faster than I can ever remember, complete with Alice in Wonderland sized weeds.  In the 3 years that we have been on the farm I don't ever recall the pasture grass growing so high so quickly.  I would imagine those that make hay might be able to get 3 cuttings in this year as opposed to the usual 2.  Certainly good for those of us that have horses, etc. in that it might bring the cost down with supply being up.  With the cost of fuel for tractors though it will still likely cost more than it did last year.  A local hay farmer called me out of the blue the other day and asked me if I wanted to purchase some of his early cut bales.  Sure do, the stuff is beautiful (he gave me a bale for the horses to try and they loved it)!

Speaking of horses...on May 1st our boarder Divo left so that his owner could move him to a barn where her sister also boards and so that they could ride together.  That same day we were lucky to have a new boarder arrive at the farm, Rocket; a 20 year old Quarterhorse who is absolutely wonderful in every way.  Since Czar was so very attached to Divo I was worried that he would miss him so I made sure that Rocket arrived within a few hrs of Divo's departure so that Czar wouldn't have any time to miss Divo.  You never know what to expect when 2 horses meet.  Czar, is a 27 year old Arabian who is still very much full of life and still has a feisty side.  For every horse he meets he wants to desperately be their buddy but in horses when this is the case it is often up to the other horse to decide and accept, or not.  Luckily Rocket seems to be accepting of everything in life and is easily one of the most easy going horses I have ever met.  He really could have cared less about Czar and simply wanted to check out his new digs.  I guess that was all the acceptance Czar was going to get so he took this as a cue to try to mount Rocket, fully erect.  Rocket, the poor guy, hadn't even gotten a meal in his new home yet.  Luckily these horses don't live in North Carolina and luckily for Czar's old man heart this didn't last long and they became true buddies.  From day one they bonded very quickly and are pretty much always right next to one another or eating from the same hay pile.  The weather has been amazing, and dry, almost too dry, for the past 3 weeks and the new couple has been outside, even at night (which is real good for horses), so they have continued to develop and incredible bond.  Watching this unfold has reminded me just how amazing horses are and we are really lucky to not only have them in our life but on our property.  In the middle of winter when owning horses is as difficult as it gets, it is days like this that I long for.  Thank you to Judy, Rocket's owner, for being an excellent boarder so far and we welcome both of them with open arms to Czar of the Woods Farm.  Rocket is truly one of the nicest horses I have ever met and we hope that he stays here for a good long time!

Rocket on the left and Czar on the right love to eat from the same pile of hay.  This means that horses are buddies, accepting of one another and safe together.

This has been and remains one of my favorite vantage points at the farm.  Standing in the northeast corner of the property, looking southwest.

We have yet to finish installing all the new fence posts in the back pasture due to a partial barn rebuild project taking precedence (sagging roof in one corner due to foundation rot) but I really wanted to get this new duo out on the amazing green grass that has grown so quickly.  So I installed temporary fence posts where there were no posts and now there is a combination of permanent and temporary with electric tape to keep the horses in.  While it's not ideal it does the trick for the time being and the horses couldn't be happier.  They didn't know what to do with themselves and didn't know where to start eating.  They looked as though they were eating their last meal the way they gorged and move to another area so as not to miss out.  Can't keep them out there too long as if they eat too much too fast so early in the season they can colic (which can be fatal).  I have been putting them out there for a few hours each night and seeing horses in our back pasture again is sublime.  After having it closed for the better part of 3 seasons so the grass could re-establish itself after over grazing from the previous owner's horses it was a long time coming and what a beautiful sight it is.  Nothing quite like seeing horses in their natural environment in a sea of green as they nicker to show they are content.  It really is perfection.

Here the boys enjoy the luscious green, spring pasture grass.

Our rescued Western Box turtles are loving life in their outdoor enclosure that is rapidly filling with all sorts of plants that make for great hiding places and homes for the insects that they eat.  The warm sun is a turtles best friend.  While the turtles don't do a whole lot I love having them and knowing that they have a really sweet enclosure on our property that we built for them.

 Can you spot them?

I also opened up the bee hive to see how they have been doing as well since the weather we have been having is perfect for bees.  They are drunk on pollen and nectar right now bringing it all back to the hive in the process of making honey and more bees.  It is quite a production and seemingly effortless yet chaotic choreography.

The light yellow "capped off" areas are what will eventually become honey.  There are other capped off areas that are darker and not seen in either of these frames that contain baby bees known as brood.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Some Pig: Goodbye Morgan Sophia Beasley

And that was that.  Today we euthanized our beloved 11 year old Vietnamese Potbellied Pig....her name as many of you know was Morgan Sophia Beasley.  A pig so nice, they named her thrice.  We adopted her from the Erie County SPCA in January of 2010 shortly after we bought this house/property that became Czar of the Woods Farm.  The quick version of her story and how she came to be a member of our menagerie is that she was an old pig waiting for her forever home at the SPCA.  She ended up there when the women that previously owned her was going through a divorce and could no longer keep her.  She actually then got adopted but was brought back when those people realized that they couldn't keep a pig in their township.  We fell in love with her and gave the old girl a chance.

Morgan and Sarah became very close and you could often find the two of them in a nice sunny spot in the summer with Sarah reading, and as I would often joke using Morgan as an ottoman.  Morgan was super sweet and very smart (Sarah taught her to sit on command, she especially loved to to do this for grapes).
Last year she developed severe arthritis in one of her elbows and then the other.  We had her on an NSAID, which is the equivalent of aspirin (Rimadyl specifically) and joint supplements (Osteo Bi Flex).  It worked for a long time actually and she continued to live a happy life.  A few weeks ago we noticed a change in her as she seemed to be painful again.  I was worried that the pain meds and supplements were no longer enough.  Slowly she began to decline and could no longer get up on her own and was in pain when I tried to help her.  She would eat but only if I brought it to her.  Per our veterinarian's recommendation we even put her on Loratab which is a human narcotic couple with Tylenol.  This was after we had stopped the Rimadyl for 4 days because you can't keep a pet on 2 NSAIDs concurrently as it can cause severe stomach ulcers.
Working in veterinary medicine I always tell clients that when a pet's quality of life drops off it is time to make that difficult decision to let them go.  As hard as it is I always tell them and have now told this to myself and Sarah two times (the last being Traveler) that it is the last act of love that we can give to them.  To free them of their pain and suffering.  Humans should be so lucky.  
So yes, that was that.  We couldn't let her go on any longer.  Arthritis, although painful, seems benign enough and not something that would cause death but in all the research I have done and in speaking with our vet it is the number one reason to euthanize an otherwise healthy pig when such severe arthritis cannot be managed.  It also causes them to gain weight from lack of mobility.  Sadly she put back on the weight she had lost when she moved here.  I would't be surprised if her body began 2 shut down as she was no longer eating or drinking since yesterday.
So it is a sad day at Czar of the Woods Farm.
Morgan Sophia Beasley was SOME PIG!
We'll have to find a new way of dealing with our Dandelions.  She loved to behead them!  They were her favorite early summer treat.
RIP Morgan.  
PS-you can read her story when she, Sarah and I were all featured in the Buffalo News here in a previous blog post:

Horse Arena Improvement

In the late fall and early spring when it tends to rain the most or when the snow melts our front horse arena, and commonly at all farms big and small, mud is a big problem.  Sometimes there simply is no more room for the water to go.  I'm sure the horses were as sick of it as I was so I decided to install drain tile in the arena sending any excess water towards a culvert.
2 weeks ago my friend Dennis brought his Bobcat over and helped my Dad and I dig ~340 ft of trench with the trencher attachment on the Bobcat.  It made easy work of it and he was a life saver.  We only ended up having to dig about 50 ft by hand in the one corner where the soil has more of a clay quality to it.  This was the only area that we got the cat stuck.  Luckily with some ingenuity and luck we were able to get it out.
All in all we laid 390 ft of corrugated plastic drain tile with holes in it to allow water to get into it and down the pipe.  We also surrounded the pipe with stone to promote drainage and prevent dirt from getting into the pipe.
I have to say so far so good.  It has rained quite heavily a number of times and has drained really well.  We even got a freak late spring snowstorm earlier this week that dumped over 8 inches of really wet concrete like snow on our property.  It melted in about 24 hrs and you'd never know it from the lack of water in the arena.
Couldn't have done this without my Dad, Dennis or his trusty Bobcat.  Thank you all!

Here is what the 2 day project looked like:


The trencher was basically a large chainsaw for dirt!

A layer of stone down first, the pipe, then more stone and lastly re-covered with dirt.


The foreman (on the left)...our son Henrik, and my wife Sarah

Love this pipe POV shot!

And after...looks as if nothing happened.

The horses were so excited.  The arena has never been quite so flat.  They ran around for hours in it!