Solar Tracking

Solar Tracking
How low can you go? Snow and ice and cancelled school.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Bees and Chicks


     
Peeps!
      It’s rough being male on the Urban Homestead. Mark went from being outnumbered six to one—one human, a rabbit, two hens, and two cats—to 10,010 to one this weekend. We have acquired four chicks and 10,000 bees.

            Saturday was Chick Day in Dallas, Oregon. Old Mill Feed and Grain takes orders for seven or eight varieties of chicks, guarantees females, and distributes them all in one long “Chickens All Day” festival in early April. There is chicken themed music, a large dancing chicken, chicken hats, and chicks, as well as feeders and feed. The line begins at 7:15 AM. We—myself and three other teachers who have chickens—leave Corvallis around 7:30, armed with our carrier boxes, warm chocolate raspberry scones, coffee, and the Chicken Hat and T shirt.  This year, we were inside the building by the time the rain began—people outside, natives all, just pulled their hoods over their hats and got wet. It’s a lively line, full of families, women who raise chickens for meet and eggs, and a few backyard pouters. This is not a fancy crowd—sweatshirts and boots, pick-up trucks and cheap coffee dominate the scene. We chat while we wait. When the time comes, we move into the chick room, bend over the bins, and pick out the chicks. It’s not always easy; I have a tendency to go for the loudest animals, seeing that as a sign of health and intelligence, and it has backfired on me, leaving me with several high maintenance pets over the years. This year, I resist the chick running over the backs of everyone else and go for size. We are herded out, pick up our free Chick Day mugs—Karin has five or six now—buy our chick feed and peepers, and head home. The car sounds like a jungle of peeps as we all hold two, balanced over old towels that Karin remembers to bring each year. We are all settled in by 10:30 AM, chicks asleep under the heat lamp, me with a second cup of tea.
Lucy checks out the peep installation

         
Queen
   The next day was “Bee Package Day”, put on by Nectar Bee Supply. Usually, we have to head for Eugene for our bees, but, this year, a local apiary organized a delivery next door to the co-op. Go shopping and pick up bees in one fell swoop. We were thrilled. I studied the clouds all morning and we headed out right after a major downpour. I picked up the bee package, came home, looked at the clouds, and decided we had time to install them before the next deluge. Mark put on his new bee jacket with veil attached and acted as photographer while I sprayed down the box with sugar water. The queen box was plugged with the sugar plug quickly. (I lost her once and had to scoop her back into her cage.) I sprayed the bees again, knocked them down, and upended the box over the hive. Bees poured out. Quickly, I placed some of the bars around behind the box so bees would not swarm up, then tipped the box and knocked more bees down into the hive. Bees flew all around. One more knock and 95 percent of the bees were in the hive. I replaced all of the bars, set the bee feeder, which is a chicken watering bottle filled with syrup, with rocks in the bottom so that the bees don’t drown, on top of the bars, placed another box on top, and replaced the lid. A few bees began a casual investigation of their surroundings while I placed the package box next to the hive and covered it with an old langstrom hive cover. The whole process took about fifteen minutes.
           
Bees installed
Spring and all of its new life is settling into the back yard. Sprouting broccoli and asparagus are beginning. Plants are up in the cold frames. Tomatoes are ready to be bumped up into four inch pots. More seeds need to be planted between showers. And the chores of chick and bee feeding add to the complexity of our days. But, with the addition of the bees, the backyard is alive once more—even if it is all girls.



Crockpot Beans and Greens


There’s a brief scene in the Grapes of Wrath when Tom, the main character, is walking through the government camp early in the morning and smells the “strong smell” of beans cooking on an open fire. “I wish I had a plate of them,” he says in passing. “You’d be welcome, if they was done,” the woman replies. The scene gets at one of the underlying themes of the novel—poor folks will always help out and feed poor folks—and I think of it when I come home from school to the scent of beans cooking in my crockpot.

Put four cups of beans and one large coarsely chopped onion and maybe some garlic into the crockpot. The Indian Woman beans I bought from Sunbow are really nice, but black beans or some variety of pintos also works well. Cover with about double the amount of water. Cook slowly for six to eight hours. Near the end, when the beans are all soupy and falling apart, add 4-5 cups of chopped greens, salt and pepper, maybe a can of roasted tomatoes from the basement. I like to add collards and mustards, rather than cabbage (which does not do well slow cooked!) or chard, which is soft and gentle.  Stir it all in and let the greens cook down. Serve with new bread and salad, maybe some salsa, depending upon the beans.
            

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