Bees

Bees finishing up their services for the year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At this time of year, the only remaining nectar producing plants are a few in the Asteraceae family and some straggling goldenrod.

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Gathering nectar/pollen to the bitter end of autumn is a good sign since I’ve stopped feeding liquid syrup for the year as temperatures at night have been dropping below freezing. I only have two more tasks to carry out before I’m forced to stand back and hope the bees have enough resources to get to the spring:

  • Pull the empty hivetop feeders, place some newspaper on top of the frames and pile some dry sugar. Moisture is an enemy within hive over winter, but so is wind penetration. A medium ground has to be carefully reached where condensation can be whisked away by limited airflow.
  • Sew together a hive wrap insulating blanket. I’ll post my cost-effective method for insulting winter hives once I’ve received my raw materials!

Wrapping the hive for winter is likely not necessary in my region. However everything on a farm boils down to energy management. The less energy spent on keeping the cluster warm over winter translates into less honey consumption. This both extends the winter resources as well as lessens honey consumption. The latter point translates into more honey remaining in the spring, thus less need to refill the frames consumed over winter, thus allowing the bees to start storing excess honey sooner, thus increasing the harvest of the following year.

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Side Projects

Revisiting Bamboo as Fodder: Non-Invasive Genus Fargesia

After reading my post expressing my desire to experiment with growing bamboo for fodder, a friend of mine suggested I look into the Fargesia genus of bamboo. He sent me this article titled Non-Invasive, Cold-Hardy Clumping Bamboos/ The genus : Fargesia.

As explained in the linked article the Fargesia genus of bamboo is cold hardy but more importantly the root characteristics are non-invasive. The difference lies in the fact that the roots are clumping instead of running much like the perennial bunching onions mentioned previously. Pachymorph describes this nature of the roots opposed to leptomorph which describes the running rhizomes of invasive bamboo species. The latter is an organism much like turf grasses which both homeowners and gardeners know can be a pain to contain!

Phenomenons occur with bamboo that are still not well understood by man. Bamboo will flower, create new hybrid seeds from the flower pollination then typically die. This makes preserving the parent specimen difficult unless it is clonally propagated before its death. However the result is many new varieties of bamboo from the hybrid seeds. This monocarpic reproduction resulted in the death of the entire population of cultivated Fargesia in the 1990’s but resulted in offspring that vary wildly in characteristics.

Species Selection:

Also pulled from the linked article is a breakdown of the different species and their characteristics that I have condensed. All included species should do well in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia’s USDA hardiness zone of 6-b.

Fargesia denudata:

Arching habit [Green house or garden hoop row construction candidate]

Tolerates not only the frozen winters but heat and humidity

It can reach a height of 15 feet, but normally 10 ft

USDA cold hardiness zone 5-9.

Fargesia robusta ‘Pingwu’ Green Screen™

Very upright

Holds up well in the heat and humidity of the Southeastern U. S., unlike other Fargesia types

Maximum height is 18 ft.

USDA cold hardiness zone 6-9

Fargesia rufa ‘Oprins Selection’ Green Panda™

Extremely cold hardy and heat tolerant

It grows into a large clump (6-8 ft wide)

Arching stems

Maximum height is 10 ft. maximum and culm diameter is 0.5 inches.

USDA hardiness zone 5-9

Grows well in shade as well as full sun

Fargesia scabrida ‘Oprins Selection’ Asian Wonder™

Very narrow leaves and a graceful appearance

Stems show great color, with orange culm sheaths and steely-blue new culms (stems). Culms mature to olive green.

Maximum height is approximately 16 ft

USDA zone 5-8

Prefers sun to partial shade

Again, all credit for the information in this post is retrieved from here and due to:

Susanne Lucas, Horticulturist

Pioneer Plants, LLC. http://www.BambooSelect.us

9 Bloody Pond Road, Plymouth, MA 02360 USA susannelucas@gmail.com

[Note, I think her address is badass!]

I don’t really have a preference for species. For fodder any of the plants will provide the goats and other animals with the fun of browsing vegetation 10 feet tall. For building materials it would seem that the tallest species at maturity are the best choice. I am going to find what is available locally or by mail order, then make my decision.

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Chicks

Objectively Determining a Chicken Sale Price: Part 1

Under the banner of full transparency, here are the efforts and analysis I have done to nail down a price point for selling dressed broilers. This chart from the Organic Feed Store aligns with almost all literature I have read on raising broilers. Specifically that one bird will consume ~11 pounds of feed in an eight-week lifetime or ~15 in a 9 week lifetime. After 8 weeks, the birds start to eat more than they put on weight-wise so that is the typical culling age. Simply, they cost more to feed than the meat they put on.

Feed Consumption Chart – Meat Birds – Cornish Rock Cross

Age Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Total # of Bags
One Bird 4.2 oz. 9.2 oz. 3.7 oz. 18.8 oz. 26.1 oz. 34.5 oz. 38.5 oz. 42.6 oz. 46.5 oz. 14.63 lbs.
25 Birds 6.56 lbs. 14.38 lbs. 21.41 lbs. 29.28 lbs. 40.78 lbs. 53.91 lbs. 60.16 lbs. 66.56 lbs. 72.66 lbs. 7.32 bags
50 Birds 13.13 lbs. 28.75 lbs. 42.81 lbs. 58.75 lbs. 81.56 lbs. 107.81 lbs. 120.31 lbs. 133.13 lbs. 145.31 lbs. 14.63 bags
100 Birds 26.25 lbs. 57.5 lbs. 85.63 lbs. 117.5 lbs. 163.13 lbs. 215.63 lbs. 240.63 lbs. 266.25 lbs. 290.63 lbs. 29.26 bags

Even though I am going to cull at 8 weeks, I will use the feed requirements for a 9 week bird as it gives room for spillage, waste and just a general buffer. Now that I have the amount of feed required to raise a broiler, I contacted local feed mills.

One of the feed consultants, in his Appalachian drawl, inquired if I was going to be “One of these more natural operations.”  I responded that it will be a more natural, pasture-based approach but I personally place more emphasis on local sourcing than shipping “natural products from the Midwest” or natural kelp from Iceland. To my surprise, he about jumped out of his shoes in excitement to help me by immediately explaining their local lightly roasted soybeans, corn, alfalfa meal. He spent quite a while explaining how their mill works and the various blades for crimping, rolling or pelleting feed. He also listed the retail prices for all his ingredients as well as feed rations they have formulated for other poultry customers. They are willing to mix small amounts for me as samplers and will happily scale up production along with my operation as it expands. Needless to say, I have found my feed source!

So based on the quoted prices, I can build a model to determine all of my costs that go into each bird in its lifetime. From there it is a simple step to formulate the price per pound at which selling the birds will support my lifestyle. Stay tuned as I will publish the calculations and spreadsheets in a following post.

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