We face our second hurricane in two weeks, prepare for cooler temperatures and ready our bees to get through the winter.
We survived the aftermath of Hurricane Ida unscathed. It must have brushed by us, saving its anger for folks in New York and New Jersey. We got less rain and less wind than we did with Fred. The power was out for less than two hours.
There was a period of wind when there was a tremendous banging outside. I had to put on my muck boots and my poncho and head out there to batten down the hatches. The big gate to the garden and had blown open. It was slamming against the pole with every gust of wind. I latched it and added a couple of bungee cords to minimize bounce.
I am not sure whether our chickens are brave or stupid. Most of them would rather hang around outside in the rain than in their coop. As a result, I delay letting them out when it is pouring. Our four roosters are all crowing now, but have not been loud enough to wake me up. Still, the day is coming where we have to eliminate at least two of them before they kill each other.
Our new dog is so quiet, there are times we forget we own her, but when necessary, she rose to the occasion with a deep bark.
We have had our dog, a rescue, for two weeks now, and she’s fitting into the house well. She is house broken, well behaved, and quiet. Surprisingly quiet. She is also doing well with strangers when we introduce her.
Our chief complaint is that she gets excited when she sees us after a long absence and likes to put her paws on us. Often, this is just reaching out her paw while sitting, seeking contact. Less often, she jumps up, and since she is a big dog, she jumps high and her nails can scratch. We are working to control this behavior.
The First Vet Trip
She hasn’t had the easiest week as a vet visit revealed she had Lyme Disease, although she was not yet showing any symptoms. We are now dosing her with doxycycline twice a day. She also had a Trio pill, which prevents heartworms, intestinal parasites like roundworm and hook worms, kill fleas within eight hours, and kills five kinds of ticks. I’m used to dripping something like Advantage on a pet’s back, so I am not thrilled with dosing her with an oral, but it seems to be a necessity in a wood natural area, at least in the summer.
It’s finally time to harvest some honey and see how our bees performed this year.
We harvested frames of honey today, sliced open the comb and spun it out in our hand-crank extractor. My daughter came to help. She could not make it up the road in her front-wheel-drive car, so she parked at the bottom of the mountain and I drove down to get her.
Unfortunately, I had only five medium frames that were fully drawn out and 100 percent capped. I tested honey in some of the open frames and it was over 20 percent water, so we could not harvest it yet. Apparently, the rain and high humidity have made it difficult for the bees to concentrate the nectar and turn it into honey. The capped honey tested at 17.5 percent water, which is ideal.
One frame I harvested had no foundation, so we cut it into four blocks of solid comb honey and stuck it in the freezer. The other frames spun out to make 10 pounds of honey. We filled up 12 eight-ounce bottles and four one-pound bottles. Counting the two frames of comb honey we have harvested, this brings us to fifteen pounds of honey so far this year.
While there are plenty of urban preppers, it is the hardest place to prep with the lowest expected survival outcome. in a long-term SHTF disaster.
After I became a prepper more than 25 years ago, I realized New York City was not the right place to be a prepper, so I left for a smaller city. In all honesty, it was still one of the 100 largest cities in the United States, but it was well down the list. I compensated by living lived in the suburbs. Later, I moved to a much smaller city and lived even further outside it. We lived in what I would call the exburbs, a place where there were two-lane country roads, no sidewalks, and you had to drive a few miles to reach a convenience store. Only last year did we finally move to the country.
I’ve always known that living in the country was the best bet for long-term survival in any kind of serious SHTF situation. It was always a long-term goal to get there. It just took 25 years and four or five steps.
What stopped me from moving to the country sooner? Money and employment opportunities. I worked in an industry that employed many highly educated scientists, so the companies were often located in cities with prominent universities.
In the long run, not moving any sooner worked out. There were no earth-shattering emergencies or society-ending catastrophes, and I was lucky enough to have left New York before 9/11.
Today, I’m not sure we have another 25 years. Sometimes, I wonder if we have two or three.
Adding a good-size dog to our prepper property has been a goal of mine since Day One.
We got back from the road trip to pick up our new dog, an Anatolian Shepherd. She is settling in nicely and has made herself at home. Most of our basement (she is not yet allowed upstairs) is carpeted, but she threw herself down on the tile floor in the utility room, where it was cool. She even tried out the shower floor, which I found amusing.
The dog is crate trained, which is nice, and had no hesitancy entering or remaining in her crate while we ducked out for a couple hours in the afternoon. She walks pretty well on the leash, but tugs more than I would like. We started working on that right away as I took her around the property and down the road.
When the chickens saw her, they ran to the opposite end of their run, which I thought showed good common sense. The dog glanced at them, but did not display any interest in them and no motivation to chase them. That’s a good sign because we don’t want our livestock guardian dog to attack our chickens. I’m going to station her outside the run for a couple of hours tomorrow under close supervision and see how that goes.
She and the cat have looked at each other, but the cat is keeping her distance upstairs. The dog seems nonplussed by the cat. Later, when she heard the cat meowing in excitement as my wife fed her, the dog perked up at the sound of the cat’s vocalization.
With the dog, my homestead wish list for year one is complete.
I didn’t expect to harvest any honey this year, our first with the hives, but just 60 days later, we pulled our first frame of honey from one of the hives.
We harvested our first honey yesterday. Technically, we harvested our first comb honey, a frame of honeycomb made by the bees with about four pounds of honey encapsulated into it. As seen in the photo above, we cut the honey off the frame, creating rectangular chunks that we could fit into Tupperware containers. Two of these went into the freezer for temporary storage and the other one stayed out to be eaten.
We froze the extra comb as a precaution. Freezing kills any wax moth eggs and larvae that may be present in the hive. We don’t have wax month, as far as we know, but we played it safe. The last thing someone wants to do is open their comb honey after a few weeks and see something crawling around in there.
The honey itself was delicious! We made biscuits from scratch and enjoyed them with the honey for breakfast.
After looking at Rottweilers and investigating a few other breeds, we have selected a large livestock guardian dog for our homestead companion.
We are adding a new family member to our homestead: a dog. Not just any dog, but an Anatolian Shepherd, which is a breed that originated in Turkey. Known also as the Kangal (some kennel clubs combine the breed while others do not), they have protected flocks, villages, and the local children for centuries.
We like the idea of a protective dog, mostly to protect our chickens from predators, but our understanding is that the dog will consider us part of her flock and seek to protect us as well. I’m fine with that and will consider her just one more layer in our layered defense.
In fact, Anatolians are not recommended for protective training because they are already protective enough. They don’t need those tendencies enhanced.
The wealthy may have their tropical islands, missile silo condos, ammunition bunkers and other escape plans, but you can you can prep on far less.
This article on ZeroHedge complains about billionaires “hiding out” on tropical islands while the rest of us are stuck at home dealing with COVID-19 the problems caused by the elite.
I have three thoughts on this:
Yep, I agree it is unfair that the elites don’t live under the same rules as the rest of us, whether they are wealthy business people or our elected officials who have their own retirement and medical systems. Rich folks take prepping to a whole other level with private jets, private security, island getaways, and houses on 50,000-acre ranches.
This is no surprise; the rich are always been treated differently than you and I. You probably have heard of the Golden Rule: He who has the gold makes the rules. Centuries ago, the elite were royalty, nobles and rich merchants and the rest of us were serfs, servants and tradesmen. Little has changed except their titles, and we now have indoor plumbing.
There is nothing stopping you from prepping on a smaller scale. You, too, can “hide out” from COVID-19 or other problems, but it takes a commitment and a willingness to change your lifestyle. You must decide if you are the kind of prepper who has a bugout bag or who lives on their island full time like Larry Page.
We added two raised beds as we continue to build infrastructure to support a more self-sufficient lifestyle.
I just finished building the two raised beds we planned for this year. We plan to use this next spring and then build more, incorporating any improvements we think of after our first year of use. We still need to fill these, which should take about 160 cubic feet of dirt. More on that below.
The cost of wood is still so high that we used 2-foot by 8-foot sheets of corrugated galvanized steel for the sides and ends of the beds. I built the roof of the chicken coop from the same material.
Inside each bed are 4×4 posts in each corner and at 4-foot intervals. The corrugated roofing panels are screwed into the wood. I used the table saw to cut away parts of the wood, allowing the corrugated steel to next flush against the wood. This worked well and prevents any sharp corners. The wood protects us from getting cut while working in or around the bed. On the top, I added 2x6s and screwed them into the 4x4s posts. This resulted in a very stable platform you can sit on and lean over. Like the wood in the corners, the wooden ledge will also protect us from the sharp edge of the metal.
I don’t want to live on grains an greens alone. I am a omnivore unless given the opportunity to be a carnivore. But that’s difficult to accommodate when prepping.
I priced rabbits today at Rural King and they were about $42 each. Yikes! After buying chicks for just a few dollars each, I was shocked at the higher cost. Of course, rabbit pens would be cheaper and easier to construct than the chicken coop and run. I think three does and a buck should generate enough bunnies to butcher eat at least one per week. I figure my start-up costs would maybe $300 plus food.
I’m not ready to take that step yet. I want to get the chickens laying and butcher and eat a few birds first. They are my proof of concept, so to speak. Can we breed and raise enough chickens to help feed us during a collapse or food crisis? Will my chickens survive the weather and the predators long enough to lay eggs? Will they become broody enough to hatch their own eggs and raise their own chicks? Can we feed them if there is no commercial feed available?
Maybe I will consider rabbits next year. In the meantime, a dog is probably ahead of them on the list. (Don’t worry, the dog is not for eating. If I want to eat dog meat, I’ll just kill a coyote.)