Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Swarm

With so much going on at the farm this time of year, our list of “to dos” is very long.  On that list was to getting one of our bee hives split because we could tell the bees were about to swarm soon and if that happened, we would lose one of our best queens.
When bees swarm the queen leaves and a portion of the bees go with her.  New queens are hatched in the hive so the hive continues.  However, there is a loss of honey as it takes time to raise a new queen.
So the day came and we were all set to do it in the afternoon when Dylan came running to the barn announcing, “They are swarming!”  Ugh.  We were just a few hours too late. 

The swarm up on the tree branch about 30 feet up.
Dylan was crushed as this was his best queen.  He stood watching the swarm while the rest of us went back to work.    What was so surprising is that Dylan had already split this hive once earlier this year and started a new queen.  So we were surprised that this same hive was going to swarm again! 
(Swarming is the process by which a new honey bee colony is formed when the queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees. In the prime swarm, about 60% of the worker bees leave the original hive location with the old queen. New queen "cells" are hatched to create a new queen for the hive that remains.  But this slows down honey production significantly.)
A few minutes later Dylan came running over to announce that the bees were in plain view and were only about 25-30 feet off the ground.  He asked if we could call our neighbor (and fellow bee keeper / bee mentor of ours) to see if we could capture the swarm and still save this queen.

Capture the swarm?

Enter in our multi-talented neighbor, who also happens to be our county’s commissioner, inventor and Christian dad and grandpa too.  J
Dylan gave him a call and within minutes he arrived at our house and assessed the situation.  I must admit I didn’t think there would be much success in this whole event.  But Harold’s attitude is one of “we can do it” and "this looks like fun" and that was just what we needed to lift our spirits!  (Queens are not easy or cheap to replace, so there was sadness all around before Harold showed up!)
With only a few minutes of assessment, Harold began explaining exactly what we would do, and he did it with such authority that we all sprang into action.  Well, all who had bee suits… I watched from the window inside the house. 

The plan:

Keith would cut the tree branch at the place closest to the tree trunk ... cutting it very slowly so as to lower it down nice an easy where the bees could be captured. 
 Cutting, cracking, cutting, cracking and then "wham" down it went.  Not quite as slowly as they had hoped!


They were able to cut the part of the branch that held the bees on each side, and put the cut branch and most of the bees (who are surrounding and protecting their queen) into a bee box.

The box and bees were transported out to the field where our prepared bee hive sat.  Slowly they lowered the whole box into the hive.  The plan was to leave the box and bees inside the hive for 24-48 hours and block the entrance so they would be forced to stay and hopefully get used to the idea of making this their new home.

It seems to have worked!  The next day Dylan and I went out in bee suits and found the queen was there and the workers were already starting to do a bit of work.  We removed the box, scraped most of the bees into the hive, and added in the hive frames. 

So far they seem to be staying put.  We are all thrilled and amazed and grateful for Mr. Harold Gallaher!  Now what we thought was a sad situation, turned out to be an opportunity to work together and gain a whole new experience. 

Honey production is slowed down in the original hive, but we are grateful to now have 4 hives that seem to be doing well.

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 
 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. 
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 
- Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Why We Avoid Glyphosate, and Why It Matters to You

Image result for no gmo photos

In an interview with a Genetic Engineer in this month's Mother Earth Magazine, we learn more and more about GMO’s and their impact, directly from a genetic engineer.  This is of critical importance to us as we first learned about it after some challenging health issues of our daughter’s – which ultimately led us to a farm to grow our own food.
This is of such critical importance to us that we wanted to share just a few things about it with you.

Without getting into all the details of how they actually work (you can read about it in Mother Earth Magazine this month for details), we wanted to share a few facts about GMO’s and why we work tirelessly to avoid them on our farm.
First we must start with glyphosate.  Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Roundup.  Glyphosate was originally invented as a descaling agent, because it binds to all sorts of minerals and makes them unreactive and strips them easily from pipes.  In biology they call that type of agent a “chelator,” and the binding of minerals is called “chelating.”
Someone figured out quickly that glyphosate kills all bacteria and plants, and that there is a lot more money to be made using this chemical as an herbicide rather than as a descaling agent.  So that is when Monsanto bought the rights to it and patented it in 1969 as a nonselective herbicide.
In the 1980’s, someone figured out that they could engineer agricultural crops to be resistant to glyphosate. (Enter, GMOs).  When crops are engineered to be glyphosate resistant, the weeds can be sprayed and the plants/crops can survive.  A handful of major crops are now glyphosate-resistant and developers trademarked them as “Roundup Ready.”  Farmers in the U.S. used this glyphosate-resistant soybeans on 93 percent of all planted soybean acreage and on 85 percent of all corn crops and cotton as well is at 82 percent.  But in recent years, many species of weeds have adapted to this and are now resistant, which means they now must spray higher and higher quantities of glyphosate to be able to kill the weeds.  This spray is hitting the resistant crops (aka: our food) many times during the growing season. 
This is similar to when we over-use antibiotics in our bodies - we know that we can create "super bugs" that are no longer resistant to the antibiotic, rendering it useless.  This is what is now happening with glyphosate.

The current allowable amounts of glyphosate in food and water has risen from  10 ppm to as much as 400 ppm over the last 15 years, depending on the crop.  Residue levels that were once considered extreme, are now presented to us as “normal” and "safe."   400 ppm of this is being sprayed on our food supply.  That is astonishing to us!!  The FDA continues to raise the "safe" limits as this new reality sets in.
A large number of published scientific studies – mostly done outside of the U.S. – show that as little as 1 ppm of glyphosate will kill almost all bacteria – particularly beneficial bacteria – in the gut of animals; that endocrine disruption starts at 0.5 ppm; and that even just a few ppm can cause oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, DNA damage, and many other disruptions in the mammalian organ cells and tissues.
All of our organs and tissues are at risk.  The genetic engineer interviewed stated that he believes the most immediate concern is glyphosate's damaging effect on the human micro biome.  The place where all health or disease begins.  He also states that all of the research he's seen has been sponsored by the very industry who stands to gain from it's use.  So of course they make lots of reassuring claims about it's safety.
Thierry Vrain is a retired genetic engineer and he says this, “I call glyphosate an antibiotic masquerading as an herbicide.”

The best way to avoid glyphosate is to steer clear of all processed foods (which typically contain soy and corn of some type) and buy ingredients that are either clearly labeled “USDA Certified Organic” or come from a trusted local grower who doesn’t use herbicides.  Certified Organic crops can’t be sprayed with glyphosate at any time.

If we fed our chickens GMO or non-organic feed,
they would be spreading it on our fields via their waste, making
our land anything but "natural."
While there are many good farmers around us, you can’t be sure you are avoiding GMOS and pesticides unless you ask the right questions.  For example, a farmer may say they use “natural practices” and they may not spray their garden or crops.  However, ask them what they feed their livestock.  Do they feed their livestock all non-GMO and organic feed?  If not, then those animals are ingesting the glyphosate and then their waste is going into the soil on that farm.  And perhaps even into a compost pile that then gets turned into their garden.  Chickens ingesting it will have traces in their eggs.  Cows or goats eating it will have traces in their milk.
The best way to avoid it is to know your farmer and ask the right questions.
We  believe there is something better than the USDA Certified Organic seal:  farmer transparency.  Come to our farm and visit, look at our feed, look at what we have on the property.  We are happy to show you and share what we have learned, and are still learning.
We meet some customers at the local farmer's market who say they don't really care that much if something is GMO free or organic.  That saddens us because they should care very much!  If they have children and grandchildren, they should be quite concerned about the majority of our crops being toxic, the usage of glyphosate increasing by huge numbers, and the breaking down of healthy soil.  This is what we will leave to our children if we are unable to recall this technology.
For now, we are so very grateful we are able to do a small part and avoid these chemicals, but it is a challenging thing to do.  We pray we can continue to “just say no” to GMO feed for our animals.  You can help!  The only way to fully eliminate GMOs in the U.S., is to stand firm with your buying decisions and ask questions of your farmers.  It does cost more to purchase organic feed for our animals and it does cost more to purchase organic food at the store.  But given the alternative… well, we have decided our health (and that of our children and generations to come) is more important than our bank account.

Monday, May 16, 2016


We are thrilled with our the start of our "herd" of breeding, milking goats.

After a year's worth of study, our fearless leader (Keith) decided on these goats from our new friends at Lost Valley Farm in Pipe Creek, Texas.   Yes, we drove all the way to Texas for these babies!

Crazy?  Perhaps. But we wanted to have the best possible start and the sweet ladies at Lost Valley Farm have over 30 years experience and are well known in the milking goat community.  (Yes, there is a "milking" goat community!  And boy are they serious about what they do.)

The milk is said to taste close to cows milk due to the high quality and amount of cream.  These goats have been carefully bred over the years to bring out the best, and healthiest qualities and we hope we can continue this as we learn.  We have a whole lot of learning to do.

In the meantime, we're enjoying their cuteness as they are only 8, 9 and 10 weeks old!

So here they are...

This is Via Dolorosa, and we call her "Rosa" for short. 
Her parents are Lost Valley's Toby Mac and ARMCH Hill Country's Bridges Burning.

And this is Rosa's brother, Jericho's Wall.  We call him "Jericho".  He had a wall up but we have broken it down and he's becoming a lover now. 

This is our lover-boy, perhaps we should have named him that!  But instead, he is named Joseph's Dreams.  We call him Little Joey.  He wants attention and follows us wherever we go.  He would rather be with people than with the other goats.  We loves to cuddle and sit on our laps.  He is definitely "dreamy"

He has amazing parents - they are Lost Valley's Casting Crowns and ARMCH's Lost Valley "Obie" who is also a sweetheart.  He must take after his mommy.

 Little Joey being held... by anyone who will hold him!

And this is Rachel's Well, or we call her simply "Rachel".  Her parents are Lost Valley's "Tatiana" and Lost Valley's Neeko. 

They are all in quarantine right now as they get used to their new environment and the new food/grasses we have which can (and has) produced some tummy upset.  We are working through our learning curve pretty quick!
“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. 
 - Job 12:17-10

Monday, May 2, 2016

Random Farm Updates for April!

 Since returning from our annual family conference down in Big Sandy, TX, we've been busy as can possibly be working around the farm.  We truly have now what we would call a "family economy."  Everyone helps in some form or another to keep the place running.  There is never a lack of things to do and never are we "caught up."

Even "Barneese" our barn chicken is getting in on the gardening.  *smile*

Barneese also likes to ride around in the RTV - or at least see if I have anything in there that might interest her!

The strawberry patch really took off and we're now clipping off new plants and moving them to another area or selling them to those who wish to have them. 

While we were away for the week, the greenhouse seemed to take on a whole new life!

Many plants were ready for customers and for our own garden.  Most are sold out now, but we have started more seeds and they will be ready for sale within the next week or two.  We hope to have them at the Farmington Farmer's Market on May 14th and beyond.  It's not too late to plant - May is the perfect time!


Inside the house, we've been working on making Goat's Milk Lotion and Body Butter.  We are excited to have them available this summer.

Our first batch of body butter - looks like delicious whipped frosting!  Feels good and smells great too.  We are busy trying it out now.

This weekend was operation chicken-move:  Getting the chickens moved to a new pasture and preparing for fencing to be installed for our new goats.  Grandma's, Grandpas... Everyone gets in on the act.  Many hands really do make light work.

 - 4 baby breeding and milking goats!  More on that coming soon.
 - More regular trips to the Farmington Farmer's Market
 - Prayers and planning for adding another greenhouse.
Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans.