Homestead Monthly: January 2016 {winter chicken-keeping, kitchen update and bee poop}

Homestead Monthly: January 2016 {winter chicken-keeping, kitchen update and bee poop}

Homestead Monthly: January 2016 {Winter chicken-keeping, kitchen update and bee poop}

The winter months are definitely slower on the homestead. We have a lot of snow and cold here in Wisconsin- which calls for spending most of our time staying inside and trying to keep warm. That also means it’s time for indoor projects and spring planning!

Kitchen Cabinet Face Lift
Let it be known: painting kitchen cabinets is the worst homestead project ever. Worse than shoveling manure, worse than bathing a skunk-sprayed dog. Well… maybe not that last one. We’ve spent the last couple months painting our yellowish-maple cabinets to farmhouse-white.

Kitchen cabinets painted white, Homestead Monthly: January 2016 {Winter chicken-keeping, kitchen update and bee poop}

And we see the light! We just finished the last coat of paint this past weekend, Karl declaring: “I don’t even care anymore how they look, this is the last coat!” Just to give you an idea, I added it up and it took us 48 man hours to paint just the doors… not counting the sanding, washing, and de-glossing, plus painting of the cabinet boxes themselves. If you’re thinking of painting your cabinets, I hope you really want them painted. Like, really.

I really did. We’ll be adding hardware and re-hanging them soon. I can’t wait to see how they look with everything pulled together! Stayed tuned for our kitchen cabinet reveal and breakdown coming soon!

Cold-Weather Chicken Keeping
This is our second winter with chickens- and they definitely don’t seem as what-the-heck-is-this-white-stuff phased as they did last year. They have an area around the coops that we shovel so they can stretch their legs and have some room to roam around despite the snow. There have been three times this winter where I’ve looked out the window to see a chicken has jumped the path and landed in the deeper snow. Boy they don’t like that! I’ve had to put on my boots and trudge outside to save the snow-bound chickens. Of course, they’re grateful for the rescue. Silly birds.

chickens in snow, Homestead Monthly: January 2016 {Winter chicken-keeping, kitchen update and bee poop}

Bolivar, the rooster at the bottom of the pecking order, has been having a bit of a rough time this winter.

The use of heat lamps in chicken coops is a fairly controversial topic because they cause many coops to burn down every winter, and some will argue that chickens have lived since the beginning of time without them. True. It is a risk.

We do use a heat lamp on occasion, and have made sure it is as secure as possible. Triple secured. Our aim is to keep the chicken coop at about 28 degree F or a little higher (this is the lowest temperature that they seem comfortable at). The chickens themselves will keep the coop about 10-15 degrees higher than the outside temperature, and the heat lamp will raise it another 15-20. So, we only turn it on when the temperature is lower than 10 degrees F outside.

Like clockwork, as soon as we passed the winter solstice (when the days start to get longer) they picked up laying again. Thank goodness- because we ran out of preserved eggs about two weeks ago (I freeze them in these containers). It’s so nice to be getting fresh eggs again!

Winter Honey Bee Check
So far, so good. The honey bees made it through the couple weeks of deadly cold we had (-30s with wind chill). We recently had a couple days in the low 40s (a rare treat!), so all the animals, including us, and including the bees were able to get out and stretch our legs. It was refreshing and great for the spirit!

And the bees were flying all over the place. Bee poop littered the snow! Bees are extremely hygienic and won’t poop in the hive, so it’s great for them to have a couple above-freezing days in the middle of winter to come outside and do their business. You’re wondering what bee poop looks like, aren’t you? I know you are. There it is!

Bee poop, Homestead Monthly: January 2016 {Winter chicken-keeping, kitchen update and bee poop}

On solid surfaces like our car windshields and the hives it looks like yellow specks or streaks… like pollen mixed with glue. In the snow it looks like golden yellow drops of food coloring. Anyways- we’re so glad to see them alive and hope they pull through the rest of the way!

And thanks to the wax we harvested this fall, I’ve been busy making beeswax birthday candles, lip balms, and lotions!

Garden Veggies: Going, Going…
Almost gone. We’ve put a pretty good dent in a lot of our winter food stores- we’ve eaten almost all of the fresh apples and just last week I used the last red cabbage to make this incredible Roasted Ranch Cabbage.

red ranch roasted cabbage, Homestead Monthly: January 2016 {Winter chicken-keeping, kitchen update and bee poop}

We tried storing carrots for the first time this fall (in rubbermaid totes with sand) and it worked wonderfully! We’ve eaten up almost all of those too- my favorite way to eat them is roasted in the oven so they get browned and caramelized. And then I put them on top of my Harvest Cobb Salad with other goodies like pork loin, bacon, pepitas, feta, hard-boiled eggs, and apples. Recipe —> HERE!

We’ve still got potatoes and plenty of canned apples, peaches and pears plus a freezer full of meats, kale, and green beans. Our dried foods are still going strong- we’ve got lots of apples, pears, mushrooms, kale, and beans. We’ll be eating well until spring!

Enjoy reading about what’s happening on the homestead?
Check out our previous monthly updates!

Homestead Monthly December 2015     Homestead Monthly Nov 2015

Homestead Monthly October 2015     Homestead Monthly September     Homestead Monthly August 2015

Cukes in crock Feature Image     June homestead photo feature     The homestead monthly May 2015

Homestead Monthly April     Homestead Monthly Feb March     Homestead monthly december january, Whole Fed Homestead

fall leaves     chicken gang porch w words     homestead monthly w words

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5 thoughts on “Homestead Monthly: January 2016 {winter chicken-keeping, kitchen update and bee poop}

  1. I enjoy reading your blog!

    Update here, you had given me advice on encouraging a couple of my hens to lay in their nesting boxes, not on the ground. We bought a few fake eggs and left them in a couple boxes. Result, they have figured it out!

    I have a new question. I looked around your blog to see if you had already addressed these questions, but didnt find what I was looking for. I would like to raise bees, I too make balms and lotions, it would be nice to have my homegrown bees wax. However, raising bees seems a bit intimidating and I have no idea where to start. Do you have any book reccomendations, websites or other thoughts? Also, how long after you established your hives were you harvesting the wax?
    Thanks so much.

    • Thanks Colleen! And yay for eggs in the nest boxes!

      My best advice for beginning beekeeping is to find a local beekeeping club or organization and look for a mentor… or at least someone you could tag along with and see first hand what they are doing, and so you know what you are getting yourself into- it will make all the difference in the world. It has also been my experience that beekeepers love to share knowledge and teach other people about their methods, so it should be fairly easy to find someone! You may even be able to find a beginning beekeeping class locally or in your state. I know there are quite a few around our area every year. When it comes to bees, hands-on learning is fairly necessary… :)

      I found this website to be very helpful in the beginning and I read through just about every “lesson” he had. If you can do this before you take a class or mentor with someone, that’s even better! (Because you’ll have at least some clue what’s going on!)

      Beekeeping is a fairly expensive hobby to start. Most people will tell you not to buy used equipment because of contamination issues, so to start new you’ll need a couple hundred dollars worth of hives and frames, tools, smoker, etc. You’ll also need a bee suit and gloves- and I definitely recommend spending the money on a nicer one, so you can have the most pleasant beekeeping experience as possible, hehe. :) And since beekeeping isn’t something you want to do alone, you’ll need two sets of these and also an able-bodied helper. (Hive boxes full of honey weight 60-100 pounds!). A package of bees to start a hive usually runs around $100, and you’ll want two for starters (so, as a newbie you can compare them and know if anything is off with either one). I think it’s nice to know up-front what to expect financially… and not everyone talks about this.

      Gosh… this all sounds discouraging! It is a LOT of work, and a LOT to learn (if you want to be successful). But it is very rewarding! Harvesting our own honey and wax has been one of the neatest experiences. It really is like gold to us! Bees are incredibly fascinating.

      Wax was one of the first things we could harvest (in little bits at a time) fairly immediately. Just doing a routine inspection (monthly or twice-monthly) presents opportunity to scrape off wax the bees have built in places we didn’t want them to. The larger wax harvest came when we had our first honey harvest, from the wax “caps” we scraped off the comb in order to free the honey from the cells.

      Hope this helps! Best wishes!

  2. Hello Crystal

    Thank you for taking time to answer so thoroughly.
    I didn’t find what you shared discouraging, but honest facts. I think it’s best to have all the information and know what I’m getting into, rather than get half way through and ask, “What was I thinking!?”

    Somehow I would be less reluctant to plant a package of seeds and have the whole crop fail, than fail with a package of bees. I agree, bees are amazing. I want to be sure beekeeping is something I really want to pursue before I make this commitment.

    So, thanks for all the details.

    I look forward to reading more about your bee adventures.

  3. I am so happy to have found your blog!! My son is working on the Ag in the Classroom essay contest, “Tell us about producing maple syrup in Wisconsin.” A quick search on Pinterest and your blog showed up. He thoroughly enjoyed reading your 2015 maple syrup making post. We purchased equipment from our neighbor before they moved to town and it’s been sitting in our shed ever since. We grow cranberries and Feb/Mar is a very busy time for my husband on the marsh and we’ve always had babies in the house, so the thought of me spearheading the maple sap collecting and boiling seemed daunting. We have over 100 taps and I thought I had to use them all. Arrgh! Sam is super excited to get in on the sap action. And this year it seems doable. Wish us luck! And hopefully he’ll learn something great to include in his writing project.

    After he was done reading, I perused your blog a bit, WOW, it’s awesome. So cool to find our you’re from Wisconsin, as we are, too. We live a rural life, grow cranberries, keep chickens, play with horses and homeschool our 7 children. I am definitely following you on Pinterest and look forward to connecting with you through your informative blog. Great pictures and fonts, too!

    • Well Hi neighbor! Thank you so much for your kind words. I have always wanted to learn more about cranberry growing – it’s so fascinating!

      So glad you are jumping in to the maple season this year- good luck to you and Sam!

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