Vanishing Resources for the Small-holder and Homesteader


Vanishing Resources for the Small-holder and Homesteader

I first became interested in small-holding and small-stock raising back in 1975 when I purchased a book by John Vivian titled, Homesteading. It was an inspiration for me that was something to strive for and achieve. I’ve heard various unfounded stories of how Mr. and Mrs. Vivian and family finally fared, but all are unfounded and largely rumor. Oddly enough there is little on the Internet about them, only occasionally the used book being offered for sale. Be that as it may, it seemed a viable alternative to the corporate treadmill and its largely unsatisfactory results.

Admittedly, times were simpler then, or more correctly, most folks could be satisfied with one landline phone or one over-the-airwaves TV; or were more than willing to forego these and other  luxuries in favor of a simpler and more spiritually rewarding lifestyle. Since then we’ve become jaded with just getting by so now we crave new, better, and the latest giffengood… Heck, today, we want everything we own to reflect status even if we personally don’t need or even want the latest gadget, video game or large plasma TV. It’s all about perceived social position, status, and wealth, in short, approval.

However, I’m off on a tangent once again. The thrust of this article is that back when I was getting my feet wet in backyard small-holding by gardening, small scale husbandry, and trial and error experimenting there were many, many resources available to research and that was way before the Internet put researching at our fingertips.

hankkimballIndeed, in addition to books and grassroots magazines, time was when your friendly County Agent was not only there to help but more than willing. He offered advice, but also, would send off samples to the State Agricultural Agencies. This service operated under the County Extension System, which worked with their respective State Agricultural Colleges to provide information, advice, and testing services which were generally free or nominal at best. These aids provided needed experience for future agriculturist at the colleges so, in fact, it was a mutual win-win situation.

Such helpful advice was not limited to the State and County agencies but the Federal government had many programs to aid the small-scale agrarian, new homesteader, and even the backyard gardener. They had a division of the Federal Agricultural Department, the Office for Small-Scale Agriculture; this agency not only could be accessed via phone and snail-mail but regularly published small pamphlets on various aspects of husbandry, gardening, and a myriad of connected subjects. These agencies also offered grants to those clever entrepreneurs to research and develop new techniques and businesses that could spawn economic growth.

Furthermore, there were private groups, organization, and corporations who also played roles as key providers of articles, but also hands on experience through seminars, conferences, and experimentation which were open to the public: clearly despite not having the advantages of the Internet resources for the small-holder abounded.

So what happened to these treasure houses of information for the “little guy”? While a simplistic answer would be hippy homesteaders of the 1960’s, 70’s and early ‘80’s grew up, stopped living off Daddy’s dole, took responsibilities and got corporate jobs …in short, they became yuppies. The real answer is far more complex, however!

Events and time conspired to undermine the naïve and altruistic values of the day. The hippies, largely but not exclusively children of privilege, saw that homesteading was not the Garden of Eden they envisioned, where one had only to reach up and grab a fruit from the apple tree, then continue to weave market-demanded baskets and smoke a Doobie.  Small-scale agriculture required work; good hard labor in the dirt and filth. It also required intellect… There were diseases, pests, predators for which one must be ever alert and vigilant. Then there were the competitive market demands for products which, these hippies thought the clients would beat a path to their door. Slowly by slowly, these folks, spoiled by instant gratification, became disillusioned by the slow, hard, methodical input needed.

Still there was a remnant who still wished to persevere in the good earth and wrest a living from the soil. They plodded along seeking solace in the soil and the rhythms of nature. They not only renewed their spirit but lived in the spirit by knowing that the hand of God is in His creation of nature. This is not to say that I worship nature far from it; I see in it the world God wished for us, all of us, to enjoy but for the fall of Adam. In the natural world which, we experience we are seeing but a fraction of Paradise for which man is intended.

So with the disillusionment of the mass of the old homesteaders the demands for services and resources lessened. The agencies, organizations and resources began to re-make themselves conforming to the new market trends, that of the “green” and sustainability movements. No longer was practical advice dispensed, rather, politically correct propaganda, social services and social justice became the norm. The colleges no longer conducted services for the small-holder but more and more catered to Big-Ag, who largely funded their agendas. The same situation happened at the government level, with Department of Agriculture disbanding the Office of Small-Scale Agriculture in the mid 1990’s. I’ve found also that the local county agents now largely serve the social services and when they do serve small-scale Ag, it is usually inconsistent and incompetent through employing volunteers to handle these functions. This is especially true in States transitioning from agriculture to the service, information and technical economies.

The grassroots magazines formerly printed on newsprint paper are now glossy, chic and mainstream magazines featuring all the same materialistic adverts and so-called “crunchy-con” sustainability nonsense of the general issue magazines.

With all the above stated, we must bear in mind that when God closes one door He opens another. The advent of the decline in the golden age of small-holders coincided with the introduction and growth of the Internet. This now facilitates direct research available to all who seek it. Of course, this puts the onus on the individual researcher to find not only what he needs but means he must learn to separate truth from fiction when it comes to small-scale agriculture, or anything else on the Internet.

So in the end, resources are still available, but require the reader to work harder and dog deeper for veracity in the results. Hard work, however, is no stranger to the small-scale holder as outlined above. Prudence, as in all things, is warranted!

Multiplier of WheatRemember, continue the Rosary to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, but also in keeping with the gist of Catholic Rural Solutions blog, pray the ejaculation: Mary, the Multiplier of Wheat, keep us from want, most especially in these dark, uncertain and increasingly perilous times.

Richard of Danbury, D.S.G.

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Down Home Digest January 26, 2018


Down Home Digest January 26, 2018

It’s been sometime since I gave an update on what’s happening here at Hunny-Bunny Farm. Well, the winter of 2017-18 has come on like gang-busters. Here in New England we had a white Christmas and very frigid temperatures followed on its heels. We had no letup until the second week in January when temps soared to 48 º F. for about 36 hours. Then back in the deep freeze. It reminded me of winters when I was a boy.

Subsequently, we had an additional reprieve from Ol’ Man Winter’s freezer and reached the mid-fifties Fahrenheit mark. This was the proverbial January thaw.

Meantime, the unseasonably cold weather has put a strain on propane supplies and I found myself heading off for refills about every 4 – 5 days. A little known fact about propane is that in addition to the usual byproduct of carbon dioxide it also produces water. This creates its own problems among them is that water can build up in the heater causing automatic shutdown, which is what happened to me. In the greenhouse and the aviary / rabbitry the heaters have been shutting down at the most critical times. In fact, the first shutdown occurred on a -12ºF overnight. Yikes, both thermometers in the greenhouse showed below freezing but neither the fish tank nor the plants with one or two exceptions showed any signs of long term damage. Obviously, the thermometers are not calibrated, therefore, they are inaccurate concerning freezing; however, the temps were likely below the 40ºF. mark, and just above freezing.

The effect in the aviary / rabbitry is a little different. The livestock’s water froze solid so this necessitated twice daily watering. While the rabbits are not affected by cold, even in the most frigid temps, all the published data indicates that quail should not go below 40ºF lest they die. So when I entered the aviary / rabbitry on that negative temp morning I expected the quail to be dead. To my astonishment not only were they quite happy, though all fluffed-out, they had lain several eggs which were now frozen.

[Aside: I’ve always thought there was a dearth of factual information on quail published …and this experience proves it. So bad is the available info on quail they I’ve consolidated my notes based on my experience of the past 10 years into a booklet. However, publishing it is quite expensive.]

Meantime, I’ve replaced the Mr. Heater units with spares units and have once again cleaned and refurbished these as needed. Hopefully this will get us through the remaining… ugh… 9 more weeks of winter. Hey, anybody want to contribute to a fund to pay off Punxatawny Phil to predict a short winter? Suffering under Ol’ Man Winter is the pits, ain’t it?

As it turns out after cleaning and servicing the heaters the fault was not in the heaters but in the propane tank valve. The prolonged below 0ºF temps froze the valves and this carried forward until the January thaw of last week. Finally, heaters and tanks are operating as expected.

In the Aviary…

Meantime, in late November, 2017 I received a new incubator and decided to give it a shot to hatch some quail. I knew it was risky going into winter, but I was spoiled by a relatively mild winter of 2017 so I took a chance. Of the 15 eggs incubated I had 9 peeps, as the grand-kids call them. That’s a hatch rate of 60% not bad for a new device. One of the chicks had a deformity as he was hatched 3 days after the main group and the needed humidity was low. It takes 17 – 19 days to hatch quail and I was surprised by the hatch rate; so I had 8 chicks, (growing by the minute in a twenty gallon fish tank). Initially, the tank was great for them, but when they reached a month old the tank was wall-to-wall quail. In fact, their growth rate was so fast that even now at 5 weeks I can distinguish males from females. Needless to say, this past week they were relocated into the aviary / rabbitry to increase my flock. I will leave the heater on until February 1  since they are fully feathered I don’t anticipate a problem in turning down the heater at that time and using a simple 60W light bulb to keep them comfortable. With all the quail bodies plus eleven rabbits they will all be as snug as a bug in a rug.

In the Henhouse…

Things are moving right along and the hen that went broody in early September, 2017 had 2 chicks one was a rooster …so is no longer with us, but the remaining chick / hen is nearing 6 months and should start laying just in time for spring. Speaking of egg laying our hens ceased laying in October, 2017 due to the waning light. Conversely, with the winter solstice they have resumed laying, it’s uncanny really because they recommenced laying the day after the solstice and have been laying since. Clearly the hand of God is seen in nature and the more one works with nature, as in a homestead, the more one can see it. Perhaps the reason so many folks are atheist or agnostics is because our society has removed itself from contact with the land, animals and nature. Rural and agrarian life can rekindle belief in God if one is observant and willing to plunge their hands within God’s good earth. Such renewal of spirit is reason enough to abandon the cities and move to the country.

In the Rabbitry…

Because of the water by-product of the propane heaters and the nature of the plastic shed the moisture build-up has caused premature rusting of the cages and other equipment. Now that I’ve determined that the quail don’t need supplemental heating as the predominant literature advises, I will repair or replace all cages, feeders, etc. as needed. Meantime, I will plan on a major cleanup and disinfecting of the aviary / rabbitry shed in March, 2018. Meantime, next month is the beginning of the productive season so the mating schedule will begin. This will assure that young will be available in March, with first harvest in May. It is imperative to have a viable mating / kindling / harvesting schedule to assure meat throughout the upcoming year’s larder. Between the rabbits and the quail we can be sure of not only adequate home produced protein, but also, meat variety.

In the Apiary…

That is the bee yard; it has just been too frigid to open the hives even for a brief check. In October I checked the two remaining Langstroth hives and found that one was definitely defunct; while the other seemed weakened which was surprising since they went into late summer and fall with adequate stores and I also gave them supplements of fondant and pollen. The late January thaw manifested the top-bar hive had not only survived but prospered with a large number of bees clearing themselves of fecal matter and hive debris. That said, however, historically, at least in my case, the end of February / early March is the critical period when my hives fail. I will start feeding both fondant and pollen continuously beginning February 1, 2018 as weather permits. Meantime, I’ve ordered three more 3# packages of bees. They are a newly developed strain called, Saskatraz. They were developed by a consortium of beekeepers, geneticists, and other scientists to make them resistant to varroa and tracheal mites, as well as, the viruses they bring. Additionally, they are Northern bred and raised and therefore more likely to survive Northern winters. Finally, they are docile and good honey producers. This upcoming year will be the trial for this newcomer bee strain.

In the Orchard…

The last chance to trim and prune the fruit trees for summer growth is late January / very early February, so I will begin to do just that starting next week. BTW, a useful by-product of these trimmings are the twigs gleaned being given to the rabbits. it is a treat the rabbits find delightful but it is also needed to help trim their ever-growing teeth. Such tidbits will last well into spring when other fresh delights from the new growths of meadow, field and garden will be available.

In the Greenhouse…

The time is ripe to start preparing the greenhouse for my garden seedlings in March, 2018. This entails picking through the plants within and finding those that didn’t survive and tossing them. It also means cleaning and disinfecting the many seed trays and getting some new potting soil. Here in New England the optimal time for starting seeds is late March of each year. This ensures that seedlings will be at the proper stage for garden planting in late May after the final frost.

Other Projects…

This year’s wines are now in the processing stage. The Spanish Tempranillo and the Pink Pinot Gris were started in early January, 2018 and the Cabernet Sauvignon was started just yesterday. In addition, I will start Chardonnay in February, 2018, as well as, my brewed Scottish Ale …when the next snowfall comes. I like to brew my beers on the coal / wood stove during a winter storm so that I can bury my brewed must in a snowbank for rapid cooling in order to pitch the yeast with little fear of strange yeast from the atmosphere entering in.

So as you can see, while most people without in-depth gardening experience think that January is a time of sitting back with seed catalogs and engaging in verdant pipe-dreams, to those in the know it is a time of intense preparation. As the adage states: the early bird that catches the worm and it is aptly applied to a small-holding homestead. Key to this is planning and judicious implementing of said plans. This will go a long way in supplementing the food needs for the family for the upcoming year.

Richard of Danbury, D. S. G.

 

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The Definition of Stupidity…


It has been said that the definition of stupidity is repeating the same action over and over again expecting different results. Our economic system over the last few decades has been the epitome of just such stupidity. From the 1990’s “dot-com” debacle to the beginning of the Great Recession in 2007 we have witnessed our economic and political leaders promoting the same tired and useless, if not exacerbating, so-called solutions to each economic crises as they have arisen… that is, by throwing more fiat money at it.

These contemporary leaders have been brought up in a post WWII economic boom and have an entitlement view of things. They’ve lost sight of the fact that government is not the Great Economic Teat from which all citizen, even non-citizen, may suckle.

Time was however, when everyone from the housewife putting together a household budget, to the banker, and yes, even the politician in government understood that ultimate responsibility was on oneself for one’s well-being: today conversely, everyone lines up for handouts from the Nanny-State, as if it is the Wizard of Oz dispensing virtues, talents and other gifts. Clearly no one sees, or more likely chooses not to see, that there is no such thing as a free lunch. We have long since danced to the tune since the revolutionary 1960’s and payment to the piper is coming due.

That said, there was until just a few years ago, a voice of reason of a different generation who understood economics and government and did not pander to political and social special interests, nor to Political Correctness. His was a voice of one crying in the wilderness which went unheeded. This voice of reason was, of course, Ron Paul. Though his congressional career is over he still acts as the economic conscience of Common Sense.

Below is a web citation to his recent YouTube audio concerning our current times and just how close we are to an unprecedented economic and social crisis which has the potential for disastrous political turmoil. It is a good listen for a car trip or while preparing a family meal and I urge the readership to listen to this short 32 minutes of common sense.

Here is the web citation:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98P0uGUiUEE

All the above just adds emphasis to the need for the daily Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as, taking the necessary preparations needed to mitigate any impact of a crises from our family and lives.

Richard of Danbury, D.S. G.

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The Insidious Side of the European Migrant Crisis


The Insidious Side of the European Migrant Crisis

Since the beginning of the upheaval of North Africa and the Middle East at the very start of the 21st Century there has begun a gradual unfolding of a deliberate social engineering of Europe. In an ill-conceived notion of compassion and mercy, virtues at the core of nominally Christian Europe’s values, many have welcomed these poor migrants not only as a temporary respite but a permanent home status. Since Western culture has been educated, not in analytic reasoning and logic for at least two generations, contemporary native European’s react with heartfelt passion rather than reason; not that compassion is bad, but without lucidity these genuine urges are potentially detrimental to not only those giving the aid and comfort, but to those receiving it as well. Not wishing to make this article a book, let’s analyze this with a little more depth.

Let’s begin from the beginning then. The 21st Century wars in North Africa and the Middle East, though ostensibly retaliation for the events of 911 and other places in the West, were actually preemptive actions toward the grand design of controlling the Middle East, specifically the oil production therein. Initially, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was allegedly based on finding, arresting, and bringing to justice Osama Bin Laden and his ilk, but it has become a tar-baby for the US and their allies in a resource and youth consuming bog, in fact, the longest war in US history. There followed the so-called Arab Spring, which began in Tunisia in December, 2010 and dominoed into neighboring countries in North Africa along the Southern Coast of the Mediterranean. Other countries including Egypt, Libya, Algeria, and others were caught up in this alleged “grassroots” tumult, but this was merely a prerequisite to the larger objective of the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent and continuing attempt to unseat Assad in Syria. Suffice it to say that the entire Middle East is roiling and boiling with economic, social, solomon-kingdom-mapand cultural upheaval. Interestingly and coincidentally, aside from North Africa which as stated was preemptive, the Middle Eastern Countries now in chaos more or less fit the footprint of the historic Kingdom of Solomon and David, that is, the Greater Israel. The only obstacle to achieving this Zionist Dream is the alliance of Syria, Iran, Russia, China, and now the wild card of Kim Jung-Un’s North Korea. Aside: could this be the prophetic armies of the North… only God knows?

So here now is the scene: cities devastated beyond foreseeable repair; displaced peoples from mainly Moslem nations cold, hungry and ill; all with no hope of immediate repatriation; and all needing a place to go. Now enter the European’s with their misplaced compassion welcoming in hordes of immigrants (along with sleeper cells, rapists, and other miscreants), who not only accept their generous host’s charity, but demand it. …and why not, was it not the West’s aggressive adventures that caused their refugee status?

But, let us move on. While Europe, with the notable exceptions of Poland and Hungary, allow these teeming masses of resentment filled folks across Europe’s open borders, the native European’s, i.e. Germans, French, Danes, etc. are no longer reproducing themselves. They’ve swallowed the Malthusian hyperbole of their liberal Socialist teachers. With an average reproduction rate of 1.3 children, they cannot even replace their numbers, hence these new immigrants, who are reproducing at alarming rates, will, within the next generation or two, be the dominant people of Europe, with all that implies including possible totalitarian Islamic terrorist states in what was once the heart of Christendom. Now, however, I digress.

The most immediate effect of the above and one that is already occurring is the economic one. As the population of individual nation’s ages, with little to no one to replace them, the economies greatly suffer. We are now experiencing this with the age-advancing Baby-boomer generation. With a smaller pool to support the aging, the burden of care falls on fewer and fewer workers; and this does not count our pipe-dream Socialist entitlement programs and its wards. Thus we now are witnessing a dearth of meaningful jobs coupled with shadow unemployment and the consequences of earlier social engineering, that is, the flight of industrial and manufacturing jobs, which are true productive jobs, to second and third world countries.

Below find a YouTube video detailing these stated economic effects. Please take the time to watch this short 10 minute video so you can understand the depths of the problems we face.

Here is the web citation:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LA5xhXk_4U

Please, please, please don’t simply bury your heads in the sand and leave all up to the promises of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Yes, this is important, but God expects us to persevere and fight until He returns… should we not do anything to save ourselves is not only the sin of presumption but simply does not deserve our Redemption. For starters, we must support our small parishes and groups of parishes, we must support our Bishops and clergy who still hold and teach the traditional Catholic Faith. We also must support our schools, the brooders of future Faithful, not only by financial support but also by sending our kids no matter the personal costs to our time and pocketbooks. Additionally, there is so much more we can do but I leave this to the reader’s own meditative prayers and thoughts.

Continue to pray the Rosary of our Blessed Virgin Mary, it is our last best hope, but know that it is not the only hope. Much depends on us.

Richard of Danbury, D.S.G.

 

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Hedging Bets


Hedging Bets

Ol' Man Winter

In case you’ve not been up on things, most, if not all, almanacs, weather stations, NOAA, and Auntie Bess’s rheumatic big toe are all pointing to a rough winter for 2017 – 18. In preparation, I’ve been inching toward ready-mode since mid-September.

My first action was to prepare the ol’ wood / coal stove in the parlor, (I love that old-fashioned word… it sounds so homey and comforting). I cleaned it, replaced needed firebrick and piping, cleaned and brushed out the chimney. I then gave it a new coat of stove black and aside from test burning and removing the inevitable smell of the new coating while all windows are open for summer; it was ready for whatever Old Man Winter might throw at us.

Next, I readied the Big Buddy Propane Heaters® I use for the critter shed and the greenhouse. These heaters are literally life savers and workhorses here at the old homestead. While they are meant for temporary and intermittent use as in camping, ice fishing houses, and remote off-grid cabins, I rely on mine throughout the season with no ill effects. In the greenhouse I’ve tried to use propane heaters designed for long term use and found them unreliable and lasting no more than one season. I used my emergency Big Buddy Heater® when one of them failed on a cold winter’s night and have been doing so ever since. The only requisite is to maintain them during the winter; and service and thoroughly clean them annually. The main thing is to remove all expected cobwebs that may accumulate on and in them in the off-season. This is most important as these often block the jets causing a damming effect which can lead to explosions. This, however, is true of all propane heaters even LP gas barbeque grills. These heaters sell between $115 and $149 and are cheap at twice the price for what value they are here at Hunny-Bunny Farm. This year I had to repaint the oldest (of three others) with some stove paint after removing some rust but this was less than half-a-days’ time and well worth the effort. I also bought another that was on sale at Tractor Supply Corporation® to use inside for the times of chronic power outages up here on the sylvan ridge.

After this I turned my attention to kerosene heaters (3) that we have here for emergency use. Yes, I can hear it already, the quips and gripes of how stinky these heaters can be; but I’m here to tell ya’ that as long as you maintain and clean them, use fresh A-1 clear kerosene and let the oil burn out at least once every 3 or 4 lightings so as to avoid carbon build-up on the wick you’ll not have a “kerosene smell” throughout the house. This is exactly what I did; I drained the old kerosene, to be used as fire starter in the outside fire barrel.

Aside: never use kerosene from the previous season thinking you will save money. Kerosene goes “bad” quickly and will cause problems and smells if used from season to season. It will cause a shortened wick life and sputtering during burning which is incomplete combustion that in turn causes kerosene odors during use.

After draining I removed the old wicks and replaced them with the proper replacements, not just any wick fits any heater, check your owner’s manual for the proper fit. With the wick removed clean all the parts of the burn area removing any carbon deposits as needed. After which give is a light going-over with fine steel wool; this will ensure removal of any remaining deposits. Yep, it is that simple! If you take care and maintain your heaters they can last a lifetime or more. Our oldest of the three kerosene heaters goes back to the mid-1980’s when my folks used it in their apartment downstairs during emergencies. By the way, this particular heater is the sturdiest and strongest of all we have as it is made from a thicker gauge steel and in all these year, with proper maintenance, has never showed signs of rust. I look forward to many more years of service from this heater.

Lastly, I’m currently bringing up seasoned firewood from the back of the property to the front, this will assure shorter trips to the woodpile in the dead of winter. This seasoned wood has been aging to perfection over the last year or two and is ready for burning. In fact, if it not for the relatively mild weather of this Indian summer we would already be using it. I will also be ordering two tons of anthracite coal for the frigid parts of January and February when things are coldest.

So there you have it folks, we rely on not one form of energy for our heating needs: we have oil heat in the furnace, wood / coal in the stove; propane and kerosene for the any emergencies and also to heat the critters and greenhouse. It pays to be prepared you never know what Mother Nature has in store for us; just ask the folks in Houston and Puerto Rico.

Sorry to have not been updating more often but this summer I was down with tick-borne Erlichiosis not once, but twice. The ticks this year have been particularly bad due to the relatively warm winter we had last year which didn’t cull the population as usual. So be careful out there, and I don’t just mean in the deep woods but in your lawns, gardens and backyards because Erlichiosis, like the other tick-borne diseases is not just an inconvenience but can lay you out for weeks, even months at a time.

Many thanks to the readership who expressed concern on my long absence, but all is well with me at the moment and I’m doing just fine.

Meantime, this month of October represents the centenary mark of the first Apparitions of Fatima. It is crucial we keep up the rosaries as never before.

Richard of Danbury, D.S.G.

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The A, Bee, C’s of Beekeeping


The A, Bee, C’s of Beekeeping

This is my seventeenth year of beekeeping and despite being very thick, time and experience does teach you a thing or two about whatever discipline one may take up. Initially, I started beekeeping to pollinate my small orchard; within the first season I quickly found out that bees make the choices as to what and where to pollinate. As a result, very few of my bees are ever within my own orchard whether in that first year or still today. Though it took a couple of seasons, in the end, I realized that I put the cart before the horse, so to speak, as I looked to the bees for care of my orchard when I should have been primarily intent on the hives and bees. In other words, beekeeping should not be a by-product of some other project, but a project in itself.

The number one mistake of the novice backyard beekeeper is to treat beekeeping as a hobby. Due to this, most novices regard beekeeping as a pastime relying too much on primers, books and videos which are necessarily too general in nature in order to concisely convey the most information possible. Yes, they can be helpful for the overall concepts they illustrate, but very few of these presentations emphasize that your apiary is unique, despite the many generalizations. To illustrate, almost all books, articles’, etc. say to feed bees sugar solution in the late winter / early spring, and then once again in fall, which is correct, however, when you’ve had two, three, four or more days of rain i  the middle of the season at your apiary it is likely that the bees are resorting their stores because the foraging bees cannot get out of the hive to forage.  It is obvious that the application of the information presented in the myriad of books and videos must be based on your own correct observations and the conclusions drawn from said observations. It goes without saying that your conclusions must be valid based on experience; and experience comes over time and attainment of knowledge of your own bees. It is said that: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and this is so because knowledge MUST be tempered by experience. Additionally, since very few are being taught logic and reason these days, they simply parrot the information that they have gleaned from their sources without ever discerning what is logically correct or rational, but are merely the writer’s feelings, for better or worse.

knoxswarm3-8

Swarm Capture

In my own case, I did the prerequisite reading and research, consulted local bee clubs, sought out the experts for one-on-one, face-to-face talks, seminars and the like. Even going so far as to tour the expert’s hives and perform inspections to diagnose each situation, draw conclusions, and find the resolution to any evident problems. However, (and this is the second mistake for novices), the most profitable approach is to invite the expert to your hives to point out potential and present flaws and problems that may be currently occurring or will be occurring in future based on the condition of the hive at the moment. Such Monday morning quarter-backing is, of course, experience; had I the opportunity to do it over again, or to teach a newbie beekeeping this is what I would do now.

To be sure, books, videos, conferences are necessary, most especially for the beginner, but application of the knowledge imparted must be tempered over time by personal experience of your very own hives most especially with a mentor. The uniqueness of your apiary and even individual hives within the apiary is mandated by the micro-climate of the area or region, your own mini-micro climate, the placement of your hives, the species of honeybees, the existence of any pests or disease, and any number of other factors. An experienced mentor would take scope of the entire situation and evaluate your problems and your needs, often without even opening one hive: but here is the rub… finding an experienced mentor! Many beekeepers are full of themselves and where one will say one thing another will say the opposite. Many are in it for making money from selling books or attaining conference fees. To discern the best mentor is a problem, but I would say the first thing is to find an experienced that is not in it for the money but strictly for the love of bees and beekeeping. So choose wisely, otherwise you will learn nothing and just be spinning your wheels.

So, with all the above said don’t get the wrong idea that beekeeping is time consuming, it is not. For a few hours a month, it can be a most rewarding experience, both in the practical sense as well as in the esoteric sense. A veteran beekeeper once told me that you cannot be a beekeeper and not know there is a God; as in any other endeavor where your get your hands down into the soil, it is easy to discern God’s presence. Therefore, I encourage all who are contemplating beekeeping to do so, but be sure to secure a competent mentor to take you by the hand and inspect your hives.

Meantime, continue to have recourse to Our Blessed Mother through her daily Rosary. In between one should also recite the Jesus Prayer, it is a simple but powerful ejaculation that can be said throughout the day while simultaneously involved in other daily tasks.

 

Richard of Danbury, D.S.G.

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Clearing the AIr on Anti-biotics and Homesteaders, Smallholders and Consumers


Clearing the Air on Antibiotics and Homesteaders, Smallholders and Consumers

Surprisingly, based on written and verbal responses, most of the readership of Catholic Rural Solutions, brusquely failed to understand fully the ultimate ramifications of my last posting of March 21, 2017 entitled Danger… Smallholder… Danger.

(see, https://richardofdanbury.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/danger-smallholder-danger/).

In most cases it is because many of the readers are suburban or even urban dwellers who have little experience with animals but have a genuine interest in such matters. Indeed, some have never even had dogs or cats and experienced the costs associated with the care of these animals. There are many regulatory statues on the local, county, state and federal levels that impose ever increasing fees, to say nothing of feed costs, housing and other requisite costs of keeping livestock. As an example, just to keep a dog in the Northeast the costs of clearing the regulatory hurdles for inoculations required is easily anywhere between $200 – $300 per year depending on local, county and state mandates.

Now consider the smallholder or farmer who sells to the public… he faces much more expensive scrutiny with the resulting immodest fees imposed by varying agencies at all branches and levels of government. This says nothing of incidental cost of doing business. Did you know, for instance, to sell at most farmer’s markets it is necessary to maintain separate liability insurance just to cover sales solely within the farmer’s market? When I originally tried to sell the honey produced by Hunny-Bunny Farm at the local farmer’s market the insurance would have been $300 and that is just for one season/year. Add to that the season for honey production is limited and the majority is produced in the late summer or early fall, say perhaps 3 weeks. Since insurance costs are not pro-rated, that would mean that each bottle of honey sold would have to include the insurance costs spread over the time period of 3 weeks. The farmer’s markets also add fees in the form of table/space rental.

To the above costs let’s consider market demand of only “natural and organic” feeds, (which, despite the labels on the packaging, you can never be certain of). This feed runs, on average, an additional 33% of the ordinary feed costs. So while I buy a 17% protein feed from the Ag store for the rabbits at $16.99 + tax per 50lbs. bag, the cost of buying so-called natural and organic could be anywhere between $23.99 to $29.99, plus tax depending on the retailer. This 50lbs. bag lasts about two weeks.

Another emerging market demand is self-styled “cruelty free” or free-range environments; this means that more land must be freed up to allow roaming to all animals. Needless to say for backyard smallholders this is not an option. Also one man’s definition of free-range, cruelty free is not the same as another. So I predict in future this will also be mandated by the Nanny-State.

To all the above add the newly imposed mandate by the autocratic FDA on the use of medical antibiotics. Now if you have a cow that is sick or a rabbit with a serious injury you cannot treat it yourself on farm, but must consult a veterinarian who most likely will demand, (based on liability) to see the animal personally, regardless of whether that means a road trip to the farm or the transporting of the animal to the vet. It also entails testing and treatment, and maybe even overnight, or longer quarantining and isolation of the infected animal. Such fees can easily be prohibitive, thus forcing many, many smallholders and farmers to cease operations.

As stated in my previous post cited above, I have always been opposed to treatment with antibiotics as a prophylaxis against potential infections. I also oppose antibiotics against every sniffle and sneeze of both humans and animals, (yes, animals do also sniffle and sneeze). However, it is shortsighted and unwise to condemn all use of antibiotics in one broad stroke. Smallholders, farmers and other husbandry men have the most to lose in the treatment of disease and infection. The free use of medicinal antibiotics has never been a problem with smallholders because the care of the livestock is foremost in their thoughts. Sometimes alternative and natural antibiotic means are not sufficient for the situation at hand and recourse to allopathic antibiotic is necessary and prudent.  The cost of antibiotics is also another limiting factor, so any use would is subject to prudence.

The Consequence of it All

In consideration of not only all the above, but also my original posting and most importantly the YouTube video cited there in and repeated below for convenience, the overwhelming costs will have a deep impact in the consumer market.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyYcDkeIZi8

At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy-theorist, (just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you ), I believe in view of all the Nanny-State’s past and current Famers Plightattempts at over-regulating smallholders, farmers and homesteaders out of business, they will have a cumulative and detrimental effect on consumer choice. It essentially is collusion, whether willful or not is yet to be seen but likely so, between Big-Ag, Big-Pharma, other mega-corporations and the government to control food production and thus control people. In the end, we the consumers will be required, through lack of choice and onerous legislation, to buy only commercial products laced with hormones, preservatives, pesticides, herbicides, prophylactic antibiotics, GMO’s and other damaging additives.

In conclusion, I urge the readership to suspend what they previously believed about the use of antibiotics and perform due-diligence, first by watching the video, then by reading books, taken from the public library, on animal husbandry and small farming, then by visiting local community type farms and smallholders; understanding their needs and concerns before making sweeping judgements of the right use of antibiotics. This is not to only to see the plight of small farms but more importantly to protect your right, as a consumer, to pure unadulterated food. This is in your own best interest.

Remember to pray the Rosary daily for the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as the above and other incremental steps are leading more and more to a catastrophic conclusion.

Richard of Danbury, D.S.G.

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