Thursday, June 22, 2017

Random Pics from around the Homestead

A hot and humid afternoon gives me a chance to share some pics with you.


 
Our hive swarmed a few weeks ago. A new Queen bee must have hatched. When this happens the old Queen takes part of the hive and leaves.  She flew to that branch and was soon covered with several thousand bees.  Scout bees flew out in all directions in search of a new home. When one of them finds what it judges to be a suitable home it returns to the swarm and leads them to their future hive.  This will reduce our amount of honey that we can harvest this fall but that's OK. Our purpose for having bees is to help their population grow and a new "wild" hive will do just that.
 
 
 
  Dragonflies fascinate me. The most efficient predator on earth, if they had a 6 foot wingspan they would rule the world. Their success ratio when on the hunt runs from 90 to 95%.  Their 4 wings can move independently allowing them to fly forward, backward, sideways and up and down.  But the most fascinating fact is how they capture their prey. All other predators chase their prey, but a dragonfly can calculate where their prey is heading and intercept it in flight. Man is the only other creature on earth with that ability. To me that makes them incredible creatures.
 
 




 

Even with the bear damaging several of my birdboxes I'm still having a very successful year, with Bluebirds, Chickadees, Tree Swallows and Wrens hatching chicks.
 
 




 
 
My apple trellis is going to give me a taste of several different varieties this year, with names like Kidd's Red Orange, Keener's Seedling, Swiss Limbertwig, Pixie Crunch, and Crimson Gold.
 
 
 




 
My Cochin bantam breeding hobby is going great guns this summer with 50+ chicks hatched so far. I've sold a few and culled a few but will be keeping most until fall to see how they mature before deciding who to keep and who to sell.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Apple porn and Bear damage

It's a long time till fall and  a lot can happen, but it looks like I'll be tasting some apples this fall.



Liberty, a modern disease resistant apple.
 
 
 

Galarina, another modern disease resistant apple bred in France.
 
 
Antonovka a winter hardy Russian apple used mostly for cooking.
 
 
An Eastman Sweet. A heirloom variety from New England.
 
 
Tolman Sweet, another very old New England variety.
 
 
Not an apple but a pear, a Seckel pear also know as a Sugar pear for it's sweet flesh. This tree is located at the far end of the Back40. Last year it was loaded with fruit, but the coon wiped it out in one night and I didn't get a chance to taste any.  I'm hoping this year won't be a repeat.
 
 
 
 
 
 
A crabapple named All Winter Hangover.
 
 
Ashmead Kernel. An ancient English variety. A Dr. Ashmead planted a seed in the early 1700's that grew into this apple.  Being able to replicate old varieties like this is why I love to graft.
 
Enough of the apples, now on to the bear damage. I've had bear tear up two bird boxes so far this year. The first box held a single Tree Swallow fledgling one day. The next morning this is what I found. Hopefully the fledgling had flown before the bear found the box. All the feathers on the ground are ones which the Tree Swallows use to line the nest. I replaced the hinge on the top and am able to use the box again.
 
 
The next box that the bear damaged is beyond repair, but the saddest part is it held a nest of Chickadees. Just another example of Mother Nature being a mean bitch. :(

 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Chickadees

The Chickadees have been having a hard time nesting this year. The first nest I had was taken over by a Wren and the second nest was destroyed by mice.  I was pleasantly surprised this morning when I discovered two of my bird boxes containing Chickadee nests.

At the first box the Chickadee flew out giving me a pic of her 5 eggs.
 
 
When I lifted the roof on the second box the Chickadee held tight on the nest and I got a pic of her.
 
 
A lot can happen until the eggs hatch and the chicks leave the nest. Hopefully Mother Nature will look kindly on these two little hens and let them raise their families.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Bees and Chicks

Locally we are having a great Locust tree bloom.  The blossoms are an important pollen source for our bees. We're hoping for a good honey harvest this fall.

 
 




 
I've been hatching Cochin bantam chicks almost weekly. These are my latest hatch.
 
 
 
Chicks from my first hatch are rapidly growing.
 

 
 
 
 


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Morning Walk in the Back40

Aside from following an English Setter through a woodcock covert, a walk through the Back40 orchard is my favorite pastime.  Seeing which apple trees are bearing fruit, looking into my numerous bird boxes, and peering into the vernal pond are things that I love to do. Here are some pics from a recent morning walk.

A Red Limbertwig bearing a few apples for the first time. This old southern variety was listed in nursery catalogs in the early 1800's. Hopefully I'll be tasting one this fall.
 
A Waubay Crab limbgrafted to an Antonovka apple tree. The Waubay Crab is described as a 1 1/4 inch fruit, brilliant red, with the rich, spicy subacid sweetness of the Grimes Golden (one of it's parents) combined with the long keeping capacity and hardiness of the wild Mercer crab ( it's other parent) It was developed at the Iowa Experimental Station in the early 1930's.
 
 
A Wealthy apple.  This was the first apple to survive the harsh winters of Minnesota. Grown from a seed from Maine it 1861 it gave the early homesteaders a chance to grow their own apples. By the early 20th century it was one of the top 5 apples grown nationally.
 
 
These are just a few of the many heirloom apples that I have grafted. Each of them having an interesting story.
 
 
 
My nest boxes are being well used by Bluebirds and Tree Swallows.
 

 
 
 
Sadly the Chickadee nest that I had reported on earlier was taken over by a House Wren. Wren's are noted for being very aggressive and will drive away or even kill other box nesting birds like the Chickadee, Bluebird and Tree Swallow. 


Monday, May 1, 2017

Apples, Cochins, and Chickadees

I finished potting or planting all my grafts in the garden. If my records are correct I have 131 apple grafts and 5 pear grafts. With 63 different varieties I grafted at least two of each variety in hopes of having at least one successful graft.

 
The apples are growing on many of my trees, regretfully I'll have to pull them off because most of my trees are still too young to bear fruit. I run the chance of stunting the tree by letting it bear fruit to young.
 

 
 
My flock of Cochin bantams is growing with chicks hatching nearly every week.
 
I've been busy building several "summer coops" to house the chicks after they get big enough to leave the brooder. As fall approaches I'll decide which birds I'll keep over winter to breed with next spring and which ones to sell.

 
 
This chickadee has claimed one of my bird boxes and wasn't about to be chased away by me and my camera.


 
The beginning of the next generation.