Homestead Monthly: May 2016 {mushroom growing, bee swarms, and homestead loss}

Homestead Monthly: May 2016 {mushroom growing, bee swarms, and homestead loss}

Homestead Monthly: May 2016 {mushroom growing, bee swarms, and homestead loss} | Whole-Fed Homestead

Fungus Farming
At the beginning of May, Karl and I took an all-day class about cultivating mushrooms, taught by a local mushroom grower and wild mushroom expert. We learned so much, and it immediately ignited a new fire in us… a fire to grow fungus! I actually can’t believe I never seriously considered this prior to learning about the class. We forage for wild mushrooms, why not grow them?!

Fungus farming - How to grow Wine Cap Mushrooms: Homestead Monthly: May 2016 {mushroom growing, bee swarms, and homestead loss} | Whole-Fed Homestead

We quickly set up a Wine Cap mushroom bed (and helped my parents do the same!), and have been working on inoculating Shiitake logs in our spare time. The Wine Caps should be producing by the middle of summer, but the Shiitakes we won’t see for at least a year. Waiting for our first mushroom feels a little bit like waiting for our first homegrown chicken egg! I’ll be posting a complete tutorial on how to grow Wine Caps, so look for that in the coming weeks.

I can’t wait until we have more mushrooms than we know what to do with!

Homestead Loss
Every evening we tuck the chickens in, thank them for their eggs, and wish them goodnight. Last week during the nightly head count, we found we were one girl short, and quickly deduced that it was one of our Buff Orpingtons: “Other Hennie,” not to be confused with “Regular Hennie, or “Mama Hennie,” or “Little Hennie.”

We started searching the property, hoping to find her sitting on a secret nest of eggs… or at least to find signs of struggle if she had been nabbed by a predator (an unfortunate risk for free-rangers). We scoured the property two times over, finally giving up, and hoping she’d be waiting for us early the next morning when we went to let everyone out. She wasn’t.

When I went out around noon to feed the girls their lunch- there she was! Everyone came running to greet me, as they always do when I have food, but Other Hennie sat there in the bushes. She didn’t look good: moving slowly and with a wide-eyed, empty, blank stare… like when someone in a horror movie sees a ghost. I picked her up: no blood, no obvious signs of trauma, but very tired looking and possibly in shock.

Buff Orpington Other Hennie: Homestead Monthly: May 2016 {mushroom growing, bee swarms, and homestead loss} | Whole-Fed Homestead

I examined her multiple times and couldn’t find anything that seemed wrong. Over the next two days she stayed quiet and sat in the tall weeds all day, not wanting to move, only drinking small amounts of water and not eating. She finally passed, peacefully, in her favorite nest box, listening to her sisters lay eggs, taking in the fresh air and sunshine.

Like all of our Buffs, she was a sweetheart: mild-mannered and friendly. She’ll be missed by all.

A Tornado of Honey Bees
Welp, the honey bees swarmed. Kind of. It’s complicated. As honey bees tend to be.

If you’re interested in the details of beekeeping, read on. During a spring inspection, we found the presence of swarm cells: special cells containing potential queens. They ain’t called “swarm cells” for nothing! We had to take action, or the bees would definitely swarm.

We went in, armed and ready with the plan to create an “artificial swarm.” This means we would take the queen who was about to lead the swarm and put her in a new hive, along with most of her foragers but very few of her young bees or eggs. She’d feel like she had all the room in the world (as if she had swarmed) to lay more eggs, and her urge to swarm would go away. Her baby bees and eggs would all be moved away, given the resources to make a new queen, and would become their own hive.

Artificial swarm honey bees, Homestead Monthly: May 2016 {mushroom growing, bee swarms, and homestead loss} | Whole-Fed Homestead

All of this teetered on our ability to find the queen in the first place, which we thought we did, so we moved forward past the point of no return, but we actually didn’t find her, which we realized after it was too late. So with a hive of bees torn all apart, their anger increasing by the minute, we panicked and did the best we could, essentially splitting them into two new hives with no rhyme or reason, and hoping for the best.

Of course, we were hoping to prevent a swarm, which we didn’t. However, because we already split the hive just a few days before, we didn’t lose as many bees as we could have.

I was outside tending the chickens when the swarm started; all of a sudden I heard a roaring buzz mounting. I watched as I saw a tornado of bees in the air starting to settle in the tree above the hives. It took about 10 minutes until they formed a big cluster on the branch. If Karl would’ve been home, we could have probably cut the high branch down right away and gotten them. He couldn’t get home for a couple hours, and by that time they left and I didn’t see their exit.

They sure keep us on our toes, these honey bees!

Babies on the Way
We’re trying again… for baby ducks! If you’ve followed our adventures, you may remember that last spring we had an incredible duck hatching fail, which resulting in Operation Duck Adoption.

Duck egg nest, Homestead Monthly: May 2016 {mushroom growing, bee swarms, and homestead loss} | Whole-Fed Homestead

This is kind of a funny turn of events… earlier this spring when it rained, the ducks discovered there was a pond in the hay field, and so they would take a really long walk to get there. The daily walks were a little too much for our 4-year-old duck, “Lady Duck,” and she started limping. To keep her off of her foot (and from walking out to the pond) we locked her up. We also threw a couple eggs in her nest… because if you have to take it easy for a couple weeks, you might as well sit on some eggs, amiright?

Well, it worked! She became broody almost immediately, and the ducklings are ready to hatch any day now. Plus, she’s not limping anymore! She’s been doing an incredible job sitting on her nest, and those eggs are definitely fertilized… they’ve just got to hatch!

Plant All The Things
It seems as though I want to grow more and more things every year. We’ve expanded the garden(s) every year we’ve been here on the homestead, and this year was no exception! Gardening is a slippery slope.

Garden gate early spring, Homestead Monthly: May 2016 {mushroom growing, bee swarms, and homestead loss} | Whole-Fed Homestead

Tomatoes haven’t faired well here the past two years- the springs have been very wet, and we have a rich, clay soil that likes to harbor blight. This year we took a different approach and created a new tomato bed on the top of a hill that overlooks the hay field… it has sandier soil and is quite windy. This move, paired with the use of geo-textile and straw mulch will hopefully do the trick. Fingers crossed!

We also put in a couple decorative raised beds in our side yard near the kitchen, and planted our huge “regular” garden too! I’m trying some interesting new veggies this year that I can’t wait to show you!


Happy growing season!

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

Homestead monthly April 2016     Homestead Monthly March 2016

Homestead Monthly Jan 2016     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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