Although August is typically the hottest point of summer, we’re already preparing or winter.
August is the time that bees need extra nutrition to build up comb and food stores during a dearth of nectar caused by the dry/hot August weather. We’re adding “bee tea”, a mixture of sucrose, spearmint, and bee balm to feeders in every hive. We’re adding pollen patties (a soy-based protein supplement). We’re making sure they have access to flowing water - the various fountains around the farm. We’re very selective in our harvesting of honey, leaving 80% for the bees. This week we harvested 30 pounds, a portion of which became 3 kegs of Unity Farm Honey Lager.
We did an inventory of the creatures living at Unity Farm and the current count is 126
60 Guinea fowl
9 Three year old chickens
9 Ten week old chickens
7 Nine week old chickens
4 Six week old chickens
2 Great Pyrenees Mountain Dogs
7 Pheasants (to be released into the wild Labor Day weekend)
That does not include the 250,000 bees.
Every day these animals need food, water, and attention. The dogs get two runs a day. The geese follow Kathy during her daily routines. The ducks, chickens, and guineas spent 12 hours a day wandering the forest and scratching for worms in the barnyard. Our role is to keep them protected from predators, keep the peace among all the various species/age groups, and to provide medical care for infections or any physical harm they experience. All the poultry free range, so our evenings include herding the young chickens into the coop during the period they are learning how to integrate into the pecking order. This season, we've only lost one chicken, which fell into a 50 gallon watering trough. We’ve since removed the trough, placed all water buckets on wall brackets, and standardized on enclosed watering systems for the birds.
As part of our effort to redesign the barnyard, we now manage manure 1000 pounds at a time using a 12.5 cubic foot dump cart with a trailer hitch attachment for the Terex front loader. In the past we stored 10,000 pounds of manure in a composter in the barnyard and moved it once in the Spring and once in the Fall. Now we can move it in smaller batches, reducing the size of our storage area, and the mess of a 10,000 pound move one Terex bucket at a time. So far, so good.
Kathy and I are continuing our University of Massachusetts Farming and Sustainability Certificate program. Our current course in post-harvest produce management has been very helpful. The hundreds of pounds of fruits and vegetables we've harvested this season are now stored in exactly the right temperature, humidity, and ventilation conditions. With every passing day, we're becoming better farmers and learning from our mistakes. When the zombie apocalypse comes, we'll be sustainable!