Waiting for spring!I finally did a bee hive inspection yesterday and have good news to report: a very full hive! In fact, I’ve gone ahead and ordered two more honey supers for a total of three. I’m in an ideal pollen situation surrounded by autumn olives, red buds, and dogwoods just to name a few of the flowering trees and bushes. I’ve also got an amazing variety of perennial wildflowers, white and red clover, and grasses. The nectar flow should be fantastic. If I remember correctly a small honey super, when full, contains around 30 lbs of honey so if the girls fill all three that would be 90 lbs!! I’m hoping I don’t have to deal with a hive split/swarm just yet as that would knock down production a bit. It will happen sooner or later though.

The chickens and guineas are all doing great and enjoying the warmer weather and time outside free ranging all day. I’m very happy with the chicken situation. They’ve got lots of space and a fantastic diversity of foliage/insects to browse on. I’ve got more fencing scattered about than I’d like but as long as I want them to free range and also keep my young plants alive it is a necessity. They are relentless in their scratching and so the mulch is always a mess but I’ve accepted it as a good tradeoff for happy healthy chickens. It’s also lots of turned and manured mulch/soil which is a great thing.

The earthworm population in and around the garden seems to have really boomed since year one of the garden. Any time I have occasion to dig I uncover far, far more than I remember seeing in the spring of 2008. Very cool and I have little doubt the result of all of the cardboard/straw/woodchip layer mulching.

Planted in the garden: a huge bed of potatoes, onions, lettuce, radish, kale, chard, spinach and more. Tomato seedlings look great though the peppers never came up so I started more. The fence row of sugar peas are doing starting to really take off. I’m about to start several trays of seeds: feverfew, comfrey, hyysop, and marshmallow. Also about to direct seed calendula, cosmos, zinnias and marigolds. Very soon will be time to put in basil, melons and squash.

The only real negative is Petunia the deer. She’s very skinny which is understandable coming off a winter with no acorn or nut crop. But what really worries me is what I saw yesterday. She seemed to be a moving just a bit strangely so I started having a look at her. Her legs seemed fine but when I looked up under her tail (warning, this gets very gross) a mass of ticks all around her anus. I mean a MASS. My guess is at least 1.5 inches out in every direction from the outer perimeter of her anus. They were completely covering her bum with no skin showing. 60? 100? Maybe more. It must be terribly painful for her to poop and my guess is that the skin underneath that mass is a terrible mess. Is that normal for wild deer? You’d really have to see this to believe it. I had no idea ticks could be so thick. Pardon the language but this was really FUCKING gross. So, I’m a bit worried about her. I don’t think there’s much I can do. I’d pull them off if she’d let me but I tried repeatedly to no avail. They’ll just have to fall off.

Homesteading with critters is mostly a wonderful experience and one I’d not want to give up having had a taste of it. That said, it has its gross and difficult moments.

Hopefully my next update will bring news of my rain barrel system finally plumbed up and ready to collect rain. I’ll be jumping up from one 55 gallon barrel to five for a total of 275 galons. The current barrel will move back to the greenhouse for collection there for a grand total of 330 gallons. I’d like to add more but that should suffice for this summer.

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