Go to bed with these pictures in your mind….

2021 peach crop
2021 peach crop

Started picking peaches this morning.

We’ll have a few to sell.

Some to make peach jam out of….

And I think I’ll make another batch of peach/ blueberry/ apple wine. Just by dumb luck the batch I made last year was the best sweet wine I have ever tasted. Period. Hoping I wrote down enough notes to replicate what I did last time. ūüėČ

Good night! DM

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Invitation to my You tube channel

As my eldest daughter observed last week, her papa (me) hates drama.

Absolutely hates it.

On the other hand,

I love




and quiet.

Saw this little darling this afternoon in our milkweed patch.


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My life in pictures the past month

Shingle delivery. View from the roof
fiddler in the roof
New spits in the bee hive
Orchard in bloom
Can you see it?
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Had my first (ever) baby chick hatch yesterday.

Out of 24 eggs, it’s starting to look like this one may be an only child

My initial plan was to raise a couple of dozen, eat all the roosters, and raise the hens as replacements.

BUT if this chick does end up being the only one that hatches, I have a feeling it is going to live a long long life.

I promise to post pictures as soon as possible.

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Not For Public Consumption

Just got home from a Sunday morning trip to Wally World. Early mornings are my favorite time to hunt.

(Hunt= shop/ get in/get out/ how guys shop.)

Wanted to pick up four more 25# bags of sugar for the bees to have on hand. After this week, I now have (6) hives to manage. I’m probably almost done feeding them for now, now that the bees have access to other food sources, (dandelions, etc.)

I didn’t get as many looks this time in the check out, as the last time when I bought 75# of sugar. I think the fact I had 3 bottles of Everclear in the cart may have been a distraction.

After I was done checking out, I leaned over to the check out lady and said, “Do you want to hear something funny? I don’t even drink.”

She cracked up.

Asked me if I minded her telling the other checker, that had helped check me out ?

“I don’t care,” I said,

That resulted in a 3 minute conversation between the three of us on what in the world I wanted with 3 bottles of high impact hooch? I told her I was thinking about marketing “Apple Pie” on our self serve apple wagon, Told her my grandpa used to sell moonshine during the prohibition, and maybe, just maybe, I was tapping into my family roots.

Apple pie= apple cider, cinnamon sticks, sugar, and Ever Clear.

Can you legally sell that?” she asked.

No, I said, That would be illegal.”

“What if you put it in glass jars, and sold it out the back door in a bag.” (That was her talking, not me)

You just never know what you’ll find in my shopping cart.

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The Queen

I took the day off Friday to try and stay ahead of things here in the farm. I mentioned recently, all three of our bee hives made it through this past winter, even though many local bee keepers lost several hives. 

You never know. 

In my case, I attributed their survival to that extra insulation wrap I had installed. (to mimic the insulation value a bee would find if they were living in the wild in a big hollow tree…ie. R8)¬†

Take all of this with a grain of salt..I am still a “new-bee”

One of my¬† goals this past week was to do what bee keepers call a “walk-away split”.¬† This is where you prevent your bees from swarming (leaving and never coming back) by removing frames of eggs, pollen, honey, and some nurse bees, giving the main colony more room. If you’re successful, you have another colony.¬† Bees instinctively¬† want to split (swarm) as we get into May here in Iowa, so I’m trying to beat the curve.

One of the “issues” I ran into as I went about trying to split the first hive was my vision.¬† I had a cataract procedures in February and tri-focal implants.¬† They are not all they are cracked up to bee. I’m not complaining. (at the moment) I lost¬† close up vision in my right eye completely, and have a massive spiderweb of “floaters” in my left eye. (blurry).¬† That’s a problem,because when you’re looking @ the frames from the hive, you’re especially looking for uncapped eggs or young larva.¬† Give you an idea how small those eggs are, the queen bee is laying up to 1700 eggs a day…¬†


All of those teeny, tiny eggs coming out of one bee. 

They are minuscule.   (One of my mentors suggested taking a magnifying  glass with me next time, which I am going to do).

Here’s what I saw on the 2nd frame I pulled up out of the hive:

(photo by others)

The queen! 

A “marked” queen.¬†

This was the hive I had bought last Spring.¬† Took me a minute to figure out what to do with her. I didn’t want to just sit the frame down and she get lost.¬†

Her hive is bulging at the seams with activity. Very healthy, active mother.

The third hive I checked, I had no intention of splitting.  No activity outside of the hive.  Last time I peeked in there a couple of weeks ago, there was just a small cluster of bees in the bottom right hand corner. 

I figured by now they  had all died.


The bees were still there, and I saw capped brood (that is developing new bees).  

I also saw this:

Another marked queen!  This was the nuc my mentor Jim had bartered with me last summer for some apples. 

Felt like Christmas morning in the hive.

Christmas in April.

Life is good. DM

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Spring Taters

Stumbled across the concept of Spring taters a couple of years ago quite by accident.

I am still sold on the concept of heavy mulch gardening.  It has been around for quite a while so not going to revisit all of the details of it tonight. (Very little weeding and the ones there are, come right up, healthier soil, better moisture retention during dry spells, less work in general,, never have to till again,  earth worms love it, etc.)

(Google Ruth Stout, Back to Eden, Heavy Mulch etc. if you’re interested.)

So, couple of years ago, I came across some potatoes in the spring under the mulch that I’d missed digging in the¬† Fall that were amazing. Crisp,¬† firmer even than when I harvested the rest of them.¬† We live in Iowa, so the ground freezes here, to a depth of 3 or 4 feet most years, some years deeper than that.

Some of the potatoes had rotted and turned to mush, but other¬† ones were¬† dense . This is just a guess, but I know there are certain root crops (parsnips?) that seem to get better after they sit in the ground for a spell)….So, this past growing season, I decided to stagger the planting of¬† my¬† potato crop. Planted some in the spring just like everyone else, but others not until mid summer (July). ¬† In the fall, rather than dig those, I piled a good 18 inches of hay mulch over the whole bed.¬† My thinking was, if I wanted fresh potatoes in the middle of winter, just move some¬† hay and wha-la…better than going to the grocery store ūüėČ

In construction, if we’re planning to dig a foundation and we know it’s not going to be until after the ground starts freezing we will cover the ground with bales of hay, (or some type of insulation), and depending on how cold it gets, the ground under the bales will not freeze for quite some time.

Last Saturday I needed the potato bed space for 10 new apple trees that were coming this week.¬†¬† I pulled all the hay away, and began harvesting potatoes.¬† In a little 15 by 20 ft area, there were a good 100 pounds of those amazing taters….95% of them made it just as I’d hoped.

2nd week in April, and I”m harvesting potatoes in Iowa. Continue reading

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Egg Bound with 48 hours to live

Friday afternoon,  I picked up 25 beautiful young laying hens.

I’ve decided to get back into farm fresh egg sales.¬† These hens will be grazing outside during the day, rather than cooped up in a building.

Saturday morning I went to check and see how they were adjusting to their new quarters, I noticed one of the girls wasn’t moving, and hadn’t¬† move for several hours.¬† The words “egg bound” popped into my head.¬† Not sure where that came from, but growing up on a farm, I thought of first calf heifers.¬† In the back of your mind, you were sort of holding your breath until their first calf was successfully delivered…(so in my mind, I had a similar train of thought..these hens are just starting to lay..I wonder if she’s got a large egg stuck in her birth canal???

My mind went to All God’s Creatures Great and Small, the mini series we have been watching.


(What would James Harriot do?)

I got on line and googled “egg bound.”

Sure enough, it’s a thing.

I watched a couple of YouTube videos, read a handful of¬† articles..several of them mentioned putting the bird in a small tub of water and filling it with Epson salts. Let her soak in there for 20 minutes, then put her somewhere quiet, by herself.¬† (You can also do more such as attempt to reach up into the bird and see if you can manually extract the “stuck” egg.) I decided, if it came to that, I was not going to do it, because that also brought with it another bunch of risks.

Didn’t have any Epson salt, so went with plan B.

Morton salt.

The poor little hen was obviously in distress,  but seemed to love soaking in that warm water bath.  Took her out to the shop and put  her in a pet carrier/ lots of fresh hay, food and water, and covered the carrier with a towel.  The idea is to put her somewhere dark and quiet so she can relax.

If this didn’t work, she probably had 48 hours or less to live before her bowels backed up and she died from complications.

Sunday morning when I went to check on her, low and behold, she had laid an egg!

It was one of the¬† highlights of my weekend. ūüôā

She was still moving a little slowly, I noticed one of her toes¬† was bleeding and didn’t seem to want to stop. It must have happened when we brought them home.

How to get a chicken’s toe to stop bleeding?¬† I knew she could not go back with the rest of the hens, quite yet, because, if they saw and got a taste of blood, it would be all over for little Henny Penny.¬† Chickens can be nasty like that..They will eat their own, just like pigs.

Pigs will do that too.

I’ve seen it happen.

Never trust a pig.


Update Tuesday morning.

Toe had stopped bleeding,¬† I found a 2nd egg.¬† Little hen was moving around freely in my shop, pooping here and there.¬† Decided to mark her tail with a tab of red spray paint. That way¬† I could keep an eye on her to make sure she was not getting bullied.¬† 30 minutes later, I re-introduced her to the flock.¬† She hadn’t been gone long enough for them to think she was a new bird.¬† (When you mix older birds together, they will¬† often fight to establish the pecking order).

The treatment had been a success.

In high school, I wanted to be a vet.

I think it would have been a good fit.

The end.




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Taking stock

This one caught my eye tonight:

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Girls basketball and my honeybees

My wife played basketball  in high school.

In case you’re wondering, she has always been able to kick my butt at a game of one on one. ūüôā

(That’s her in white shooting the ball)

We like to watch the girls state tournaments and they were on again last night.  As I watched the awards ceremony,  my mind went to  bee keeping.   I had a huge victory myself this weekend I wanted to mark.

All three of my hives made it through the winter in flying color.  When I checked on them yesterday  for the first time since tucking them in for the winter,  they were milling around under the inner covers, like it was the middle of summer.

Side note- when I messaged my local mentor Jim, he said he lost 4 out of 6 of his hives.  My friend Nick  said he lost all 3 of his and Kevin, a bee keeper at the lumberyard lost all 4 of his.

We had a nasty cold streak a month ago, and I’m wondering if that had anything to do with their losses.

There are always so many factors.

This is my 4th winter tending bees. The words of my bee keeping class instructor regularly come to mind:¬† “You can’t call yourself a bee keeper, until your bees have made it through the winter…”

I tried something new this season.  I insulated the hives with a product  an 1/8th inch thick, with an R value of 8 which is 16 times more energy efficient  than black roofing paper.

Check out this link:

Honey bees keep the  temperature of the inner core of the cluster at 95 degrees F through the winter.

Insulation is measured in R value.  The higher the number, the more energy efficient. New homes  (for humans) are built with an R value in the walls around R 21.  And the roof with  minimum of R 40, preferably an R 60.

Imagine living in an old house without any insulation in the walls.¬† How easy is that to heat? Not very.¬† Bee keepers talk about the bees in the wild. Well, let’s do the math. ¬† Wood has an R value of 1.41 per inch so, if you were a bee, living in an old hollow tree with 6 inches of wood around you, 6 x 1.41= 8.46 R value that means those wild bees are protected by an R 8 in their tree.¬† That is 8 times more energy efficient than what their domesticated cousins are having to deal with, living in a 3/4 inch thick box, wrapped with tar paper.

Bee keeping is no different that carpentry, or home schooling, or___________ (fill in the blank.)

Talk to 5 different bee keepers and you’ll get 5 different opinions¬† on every detail of the process. As a carpenter I think like a carpenter.¬†¬† By me adding that one layer of insulation,¬† that means the bees do not have to work as hard/ nor use as many calories of energy to maintain the core temperature of the hive.¬† ( Honey= the fuel/ food¬† they burn to create heat, so they would probably not consume as much honey either).

When the weatherman said we were in for an extended cold spell, I thought, what the heck, as long as the hive is  properly ventilated, then why not add a 2nd layer of R 8 insulation.

So I did.

My girls were living in a box with 16 times the insulation protection as their peers who  were only protected by tar paper.

There were 5 main concerns I had going into this winter.

#1 mice- learned that lesson the hard way.  (Mouse guard over entrance.)

# 2nd concern  was adequate insulation and protection from the elements

#3rd concern was  condensation, and proper ventilation.

#4th concern was  running out of food.  I did not get too greedy harvesting honey last Fall, all three hives had close to two supers full of honey going into the winter.  I figured  we can always harvest any  excess  this spring or use it to help feed  new splits. I am in it for the long haul, not just selling honey.

#5th concern was mite control which I treated for in September.

Well,¬† that’s it.¬† I wanted to post something to mark the beginning of a great start to 2021.

My next job is to keep them alive until the pollen and nectar are available.


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