Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Baby Rats

When Brian lifted up our chicken's nesting box the other day, he got a big surprise. Two rats scurried quickly away and under the box he found that they had left behind four teeny tiny baby rats!

He carefully scooped up all the straw they were laying on and placed it on the lid of a bucket so he could show the kids. Baby rats, we learned are called kittens or pups. Below, Ari peers closely at the quartet.

From what I can tell they weren't more than a couple of days old. Skin still covered their eyes and you could easily see the milk in their stomachs through their translucent skin. They occasionally made high pitched peeping sounds as they squirmed around. How adorable are those little noses and toes?

We happily watched the little fellas for about fifteen minutes and since it was a stifling day, we weren't concerned about them getting chilled. Riker gets a closer look.

We've never noticed rats in our chicken coop or in our yard before so instead of thinking of them as a nuisance, we viewed the close-up look at baby rats as a real privilege. It makes me appreciate the diversity of life that can be found behind the scenes of an urban garden!

Monday, February 03, 2014

Beeswax Bounty

We've just finished processing our second harvest of honey. Brian noticed that the bees had formed honeycomb in the lid of the hive and suspecting that this meant the bees were running out of room, we set to work on extracting the honey. I've gathered that most beekeepers see comb in the lid as a bad thing, but we just thought of it as a bonus supply of liquid gold!

We harvested the top boxes from two of our three hives and got a yield of - you'll never believe this - approximately forty kilos (88 pounds) of honey! The bees are thriving and we're proud bee parents!

I've detailed the extraction of honey in a previous post, so I won't share that process again other than to note that it took an entire day to extract the honey from sixteen frames and then another week to strain the honey from the wax!

A frame of capped honey.

We scrape or cut off the cappings before spinning the frame and then put all the cappings in a strainer overnight to get out the honey. The process would have gone much faster I'm sure if we had more than one strainer!

All of the honey doesn't drip out this way and so you have to separate the remaining honey from the wax. We did this by placing the mixture in the microwave (and watching it very carefully) until the wax had just melted. Then we removed the container and let the whole thing cool. Once cooled, you can simply pick up the chunk of wax as it separates and floats to the top. We then heated the wax once again and poured it through a paper towel filter into a container. We decided to turn all of this batch of beeswax into candles by pouring the filtered hot wax into a mold or a glass jar and then hanging a string down from a stick to act as a wick.

The candles smell amazing and the boys enjoyed the excitement of turning off all the lights and watching the candle flicker and dance in the dark.

We are in absolute awe of bees. Their industriousness, their social organization and their ability to produce two of the most fascinating natural substances I can think of, honey and beeswax (in abundance!) is truly remarkable and utterly intriguing.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

First Day of School

It seems not that long ago that Riker was preparing for his first ever day of school. That was an entire year ago and now he looks a little older, but his favorite color is still red, he still loves trains and he's eager to go off to school once again. (Note the red train I painted on his arm as a special treat).

Ari wasn't going to let Riker steal the show this morning though. He donned his blue gum boots and nudged his way to center stage!

Helmet on and ready to ride to school with daddy on his way to work.

See how he's changed from his first day of school at Blue Gum preschool last year.

I hope you have a wonderful day my sweet boy. I can't wait to hear about it.