This weekend all of Shade Stone Farm's employees completed the Eagleman 1/2 Ironman Triathlon in Cambridge, MD. OK, Shade Stone Farm only has two employees, but we both finished the race. A 1/2 Ironman Triathlon combines a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run for a total distance of 70.3 miles of human powered locomotion! Shade Stone Farm promotes healthy, chemical free food and we believe this food significantly contributed to our preparation and successful completion of the race. In fact, our son made us some "energy balls" using our maple syrup. We ate these just before the race for a nice taste of home before the long, hot race. I've read that native Americans used maple syrup as a portable energy booster on long hunts (the original energy drink!). While we no longer need to cover long distances to secure our food, this race was a rewarding challenge that we are glad to have complete!
A big piece of Shade Stone Farm's mission involves sustainability. Like many farms we use a number of operational and management practices to enhance our agricultural sustainability (covered manure storage, riparian buffers, pasture rotation, etc...). We will highlight some of those in a future post, but some of our "sustainability" is built right into our property. First, all of our water is supplied from a spring (that also feeds the pond visible in the banner photo on this page). Our on-site septic system processes and recycles our waste water. All of our winter heat and domestic hot water needs are met with an efficient wood gasification boiler. This device, in combination with some passive solar sun collection windows, allows us to heat this old farm house with less than 8 cords of wood. That makes optimal use of a plentiful, renewable resource we have right on our property. Finally, our grid-tied solar system is sized to produce all of our electrical needs over the course of a year.
This photo of the back of the house shows that this 180+ year old structure has a few modern tricks. In addition to the solar array, you can see the large south facing windows on the addition. These allow winter sun to warm the large thermal mass of the original stone wall located inside the addition. You can also see fuel wood stacked under the deck stairs and our on-site septic system in the foreground.
We have repaired the damage a bear caused to our Langstroth beehive and we added some extra protection to discourage our friend (who we've named Baloo) from returning. When we were making the repairs to the Langstroth hive we noticed that our swarm had returned to the Top Bar hive. We had found the swarm on a bush in one of our fields as we walked out to un-tap our maple trees. We captured the swarm and placed them in the Top Bar hive, but that night Baloo made his messy visit. We thought they were gone for good, but lucky for us, they have returned!!
This photo shows the repaired bottom board on the Langstroth hive, as well as our Integrated Pest Management system: 1. Chain Link enclosure, 2. Two strands of electrified wire, 3. Rosebud, the Great Pyrenees livestock guardian. Ok, so Rosebud is just a puppy and not ready to take on Baloo, but she is 30 lbs of cuteness added to this photo!
A couple of days ago we captured a swarm of honey bees and installed them in our top bar bee hive because the bees that occupied that hive this winter had disappeared. We were very hopeful that our new bees would make our empty hive their home. Unfortunately, that evening a bear decided that honey should be on the menu. The bear did not disturb the top bar hive, but knocked over our Langstroth hive and tore off the bottom board damaging a number of the frames in the lower brood chamber. In the ensuing chaos the newly installed swarm vacated the top bar hive. We don't know if the queen of the Langstroth hive survived the attack. We made some expedient repairs to the hive in preparation for some below freezing overnight temps and we ran some electric fence wire around the hive enclosure to deter Baloo the Bear from making our hives a nightly snack.
There are many advantages to living adjacent to thousands of acres of State Forest and there are a few disadvantages. While we enjoy sharing the space with a wide range of Mother Nature's incredible creatures, we'd rather observe them at a bit more of a distance.
Here is our hive enclosure before the attack. It is a 6' chainlink fence dog kennel, but the gate was unsecured and Baloo used the gate to gain entry. The Langstroth hive is on the right in this photo and you can see the white rope that is tied around both hives. This was effective in keeping the hive together and preventing a total loss. Baloo did not untie or tear the cord, but instead overturned the hive and tore open the screened bottom board. From there he had access to the lower brood chamber. This entire enclosure is now surrounded by two electrified wires.
Normally Shade Stone Farm's chicken flock free ranges over the grounds with no restrictions. However, the last few days we have been doing some Spring cleaning. With the large animals out on pasture we took the opportunity to clean out the barn, Pig Palace, and Chicken Castle.
It seems this Spring clean-up confused out birds as they started laying eggs in various places other than the nest boxes. While we enjoy a good Easter Egg hunt, looking for their new hiding spots each day is not optimum.
So, for the next few days our hens are confined to the Chicken Castle until the afternoon (after they have all laid their eggs). Hopefully this will "reset" them and get them to lay in the nest boxes which are safely contained in the Chicken Castle.
The Chicken Castle is on the left side of this outbuilding. The Pig Palace is on the right side. If you look closely you can see Piggy Smalls looking out of his covered door.
This is the inside of the Chicken Castle. Normally the automatic door at the back opens and closes based on the amount of light outside, but today the sensor is covered and the girls are staying indoors.
Two of the ladies (they are all Red Sex Link hens) are deciding which next box they would like to use. You can see their evening roost and watering device in this photo as well.
We can access the nest boxes from the "people side" of the outbuilding. This allows us to gather the eggs while we are feeding the rabbits, cats and pigs and without entering the Chicken Castle.
Our ladies have multiple body guards. Our Redbone Coonhound, Maggie, patrols outside the fenced area and does a good job of keeping raccoons at bay. Inside the fence Piggy Smalls and Clyde, our potbellied pigs, may intimidate some predators, but as you can tell by the smile, they are really friendly guys.
After spending the winter months dining on chemical free hay, our Katahdin sheep and Jersey cattle were thrilled to graze fresh spring pasture.
Shade Stone Farm's hops are off to a good start. You can see the bines beginning their journey up the ropes.
Early morning mist blankets Shade Mountain in the background. You can see the light green blooms of our maple trees coming down from the mountain toward the house. On the left side of the photo you can see the white and pink blooms of our newest trees--the orchard!
Here's a closer view of the newly planted orchard. It consists of two types of apple trees, two types of cherry trees, two types of pear trees and one type of peach trees. The narrow straw lined bed is our asparagus.
Shade Stone Farm's herb garden received its first plants yesterday. Let's hope Spring's promise of new life will encourage our herbs to flourish.
Rosebud is doing great fitting in on the farm. She is making friends with the other animals and has captured the hearts of our children completely.
She's very huggable!
Our daughter didn't want to be away from Rosebud, so she elected to sleep in the barn with her! She didn't spend the whole night there as the cows made too much noise, but she did learn how sheep and cows sleep.