Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Cleaning Up Bee Frames

During a January thaw we cleaned up the hive that was robbed this fall. 


The picture on the left shows the bees with their butts in the air trying to keep warm in their little cells and eating the final bits of honey.  So sad...     The picture on the right shows a cluster of dead bees on the screened bottom board.  There were several frames with irregular comb so I scraped it off for melting this summer using our solar wax melter.  The decision on whether to leave or remove the irregular comb varies from one beekeeper to the next.  Some say you want to remove the irregular comb so the bees don't continue building it (eliminate that trait).  I opt for removing it so when I pull frames out of the brood boxes I don't smash bees and ruin the comb.  The pictures below show the irregular comb. Have you ever had a hive build comb like this, and if so, what do you do with it?

Chicken Water Heater

During the winter months, chicken care is pretty minimal.  The windows in the coop are closed for the winter and the interior of the coop is filled with plenty of straw and dry leaves.  Besides collecting the manure that piles up under the roosting pole, there's not much else to do on a regular basis except provide fresh water, food, and occasional heat.

The chickens stay inside most days with 24/7 access to the run.  I don't let them free-range without my constant presence because of many predators (e.g. dogs, foxes, hawks) roaming about with very little tree canopy cover for protection.  Last winter, egg laying continued even during the winter months because the coop is situated in such a way that they receive the early morning sun when it clears the hill and the sun shines consistently in the coop until around 3 pm.

This year we purchased a heated warming base for the waterer because we went on vacation for 2 weeks and didn't want the chicken sitters to hassle with frozen water dishes.  After reading reviews online, we settled on the Farm Innovators Heated Water Base for $47 at our local feed store.  One design feature I liked about this particular heater is that it is thermostatically controlled so it's not running constantly.  Jon did have to do a bit of wiring in the coop since the closest plug-in was about 25 feet away and the instructions specifically state to not use an extension cord.  In the coop it is elevated off the floor using 2 cinder blocks.

Two days after returning home, the night time temperature dropped to -5F with a wind chill of -30F.  For added precaution, we added a warming light aimed towards the roosting pole and closed access to the outdoor run for heat retention.

While we were away for 2 weeks, one of the barred rocks took a beating from the other chickens.  From the picture on the right you can see the missing feathers behind her comb.  Thankfully no blood was drawn, but we are watching her closely.  Opening up the main barn for the chickens to roam will hopefully quell some of the fighting.

I want to mention that we found this really cool handmade heated water base on the Flying T Ranch Blog using an old flat circular cookie tin and an incandescent light bulb.  As tempting as it was to make this, we didn't think it would be safe to leave it plugged in for 2 weeks straight in case of a fire; and asking the chicken sitter to turn it on and off would be another request.  We really do try and make it easy for the folks who watch our home and chickens while we are away.

Homesteading Through an Industrial Chemical Spill

Jon is filling our canning pot with well water.

It's been an interesting few days here in West Virginia where ~300,000 people are told they can only use their water to flush toilets.  On Thursday, January 9th, the chemical, 4-methylcyclohexane methanol leaked from its container at Freedom Industries, flowed across the ground and then into the Elk River only one mile upstream from the water treatment plant.  This chemical is used to wash coal before it goes to market (Whatever that means...).  

There's been a lot of news coverage about this event, but here's an article that sums it up.  

Jon and I have been fine through this ordeal by tapping into our well located at the barn.  The well does need a bit of fixing and there's always sandy flecks in the bottom of the pot, but we're managing just fine.  A kind neighbor friend even offered us water from their well (that is tested and safe for drinking).  I would like to go to the grocery store and pick up a few items since we just returned from a 2 week vacation, but apparently the stores are really chaotic so Jon, Paul, and I just sit tight at home (except for when Jon has to go to work) and eat out of the freezer and cellar.  

Going without water reminds me of the Derecho in 2012 when we lost electricity for a week.  Living in the country where we have the resources and land to grow our food with our own water supply does give us peace of mind.  Although, now with the recent events, we plan to get our well water tested and look into getting it fixed so we're better prepared next time.

Homemade Egg Noodles

Making egg noodles is really easy, requires only a few ingredients, and doesn't take a lot of time.  In the past I rolled them on the counter with a rolling pin but the dough tended to shrink back on itself which made rolling them a challenge and they were always too thick, requiring a couple days to dry.  After 5 years of rolling them by hand, I decided to purchase a noodle maker and chose the Atlas 150.  It's really easy to use and has two cuts: fettuccine and spaghetti.  You can make a couple batches at a time, hang them up to dry, and store them in a jar for later use.

1 2/3 cup flour
2 eggs
1 T oil
2-3 T water

Mix everything together.  If the dough is too sticky, add more flour.
(it should have the consistency of bread dough)

One batch of dough makes enough noodles for 4 adults. 

The Atlas 150 noodle maker has 9 thickness settings and fettuccine and spaghetti cuts.

Rollers squish the dough...

the dough comes out the bottom...

and then you put the dough through the cutter. 

Noodles are draped over a cookie rack waiting for water to boil.

After a few minutes in boiling water, the noodles are ready to eat!

Noodles that will be for later use are hung over a dowel suspended above the kitchen sink until dry.

The noodles are stored in a gallon glass jar for later use!

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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