Beneficial Insects

Beneficial Insects 

As many of you are probably aware, our populations of beneficial insects are in trouble. Bees and butterflies are what come to the forefront of my mind when thinking of beneficial insects, although they are far from the only ones. There are a variety of insects, including beetles, spiders, caterpillars, and more that offer wonderful contributions to our world.

So why are they in trouble?

Well, there are a lot of theories out there. The probability is that it is a combination of factors. Two of these factors, habitat and pesticides, are addressed in the Bee Better Certification. The Xerxes Society, via grant from the USDA, has partnered with Oregon Tilth to provide the Bee Better Certified program. You can read more about it here.

While this program is for farmers and ranchers, there are lessons to be learned for the rest of us. It is of vital importance for us to be conscientious about our use of pesticides and what we plant. There are a lot of plants out there that do very well for different insects. Even if you don’t want to put a lot of research into it, planting something that flowers is a great first step.



In September and October in Upstate New York, we have what is referred to as the fall “flow”. Bee Balm, Asters, Goldenrod, and Ragweed are all blooming. While allergy suffers don’t like it very much, the bees love it! This is the last chance, so to speak, for the bees to get enough food (honey and pollen) for winter. They will primarily be storing honey at this point, as pollen is primarily used for raising brood. The queens, this time of year, are not laying as strongly as they do not want to have too many bees to feed going into winter. They are also kicking the drones out of the hives, as they (hopefully) will not be swarming anymore at this point.

How Can You Help? 

If you are not a farmer, the best thing to do at this time of year is start looking at your property and thinking about what you could plant next year to help the native and/or beneficial species of insects. You can view our seed starting basics articles here to help get you started. In some cases, you can even buy insects such as ladybugs and lacewings and have them mailed to you. These two particular insects can actually serve as natural “pesticides”, as they eat bad bugs – think aphids.

What will you do to help your local pollinators?

We Are Back!

We Are back!

We’ve been absent for a bit due to a positive life change, and now we are ready to hop back on the bandwagon and get this show on the road! 🙂

So here’s our plan:

We are going to post a minimum of once every two weeks to catch you up on what’s been going on and to share some new recipes.

Content Moving Forward:

To decide on content going forward, we’d really love to hear from you! What would you like to read and learn more about? Do you prefer videos or articles? We want to make this content useful and relevant to you! Let us know in the comments or via the contact form below.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Garlic: From Planting to Harvest

Types of Garlic

There are two types of garlic: hardneck and softneck. The plants form in different ways and have different harvest potentials. It is generally said that softneck varieties do well in warmer climates, where as hardneck varieties do well in northern, harsher climates. We plant hardneck garlic as we live in the north and get two harvests per season.

What is hardneck garlic?

Hardneck garlic has a hard central stem at maturity. While I could go into all the details, this site does an excellent job of it. Check it out!

Why we like hardnecks

We have exclusively grown hardneck varieties on our homestead for several years now. We started with about 100 cloves, and replant the best every fall. This has given us a garlic that is well adapted to our micro-climate that we can trust will do well, even if we neglect it a bit. *clears throat*

My Garden Helper. She supervised everything! 🙂

The hardneck variety is better suited to a northern climate because of it’s hardiness. While we are technically in USDA zone 5a, our frost pocket puts us more in the range of 4b, but that hasn’t stopped it from thriving!

This last fall we planted over 200 cloves (because we love garlic that much), and it seems to have done very well despite the fact that we have been a bit neglectful this year. How much did we harvest? I’m not entirely sure yet. You see, the garlic has to be cured, or dried before we relieve it of its stem, but it looks like we had a successful year.

We harvested the garlic scapes about a month or so ago, and then dried them in the dehydrator. We also still have some pickled scapes from last year to use. So maybe 200 will be a bit much, but I’m sure we will get good use out of it.

Harvesting Process

Harvesting Garlic

Step 1: Planting. The harvest of garlic begins with planting it in the fall. We plant our cloves from the best heads of garlic about every four inches between and about an inch deep (as deep as they are big). These are planted in early fall, so that the heads have some time to establish roots. Additional covering of mulch, such as straw, for insulation may also help. This is something we have yet to experiment with, as we have not found it to be necessary.

Weeds for the Birds
Birds enjoying the greenery









Step 2:  Weeding and fertilizing. The garlic comes up in early spring, and *should* be weeded and fertilized regularly. As I said, we didn’t do very well with that this year, but we still had a good harvest. If we had been better about weeding and fertilizing, it would have been better.

As you can see above, the ducklings, goslings, and turkeys loved the gift of greenery! They had consumed almost everything green in their pasture area, which you can see in the picture. We have since, extended their pasture so that they have fresh grazing again.

Step 3: Harvesting and Drying. Once the leaves have died back a bit, but you still have one or two green leaves, they should be harvested. The roots should be trimmed (as seen in the picture above). Rub any dirt off, and hang to dry for a couple weeks. You don’t have to have them cleaned to what ours are at, but I was concerned about the possibility of mold and such because the soil was so wet and I was harvesting a bit late.

Drying Garlic

Garlic Plans

After it has had time to dry, we will choose our best bulbs for fall planting. After we have  that, we will choose the bulbs that are maybe a little smaller and make garlic powder. We will store the rest in a cool, dry, dark place and will store almost all winter, and maybe a little longer for fresh use year round! Actually, I haven’t bought garlic from a store in years!


Question of the Week:

Would you like to learn how to make Garlic Powder???

Up Next…

Honey extraction! That’s right…we are extracting honey for the second time this year! We will be doing that this weekend, so you can expect a post about that, and maybe some other exciting happenings around the homestead in the coming week. Until next time! 🙂

We also have plans to catch you up on some other interesting and different happenings with our bees this next week also. Stay tuned!

Hidden Eggs

The Case of the Hidden Eggs

A hen went broody the other week, so we were getting fewer eggs, but we were still getting some. Then recently, they stopped. No idea why. One hen going broody would not make all the hens stop laying eggs, but still we did not find any eggs for almost a week. We now know what happened to at least some of the eggs, although others are still mysteries.

Part of the Mystery Solved

Matthew was doing some beekeeping this weekend, and discovered this beauty:

A hen, we believe a Buff Orpington, has been laying eggs under the beehives. As you can see, there are five eggs, in about the safest places in the bee yard. We left them there in hopes that perhaps she will sit them once she has enough. I’m really hoping for some adorable baby chicks to be roaming the yard with their mama!

The Continued Mystery

So we have figured out where some of them have gone, but there is still a larger mystery: where are the other seven hens are laying there eggs. Have you ever had hens hide their eggs and figure out where they were?

Honey Bottles!

We have HONEY BOTTLES!!!!Honey Bottles

Our first honey harvest of the season is right around the corner, and we have our shipment of bottles ready to go! We have a variety of bottles and sizes, but we only have a few of each, so keep an eye out for your favorite. It probably won’t last long!


The bottles range in size from 8 oz. to 5 lbs! We’ve got bears, jars, skep bottles, upside down bottles, and jugs. It’s exciting, and I hope you can catch your favorite!

Goslings! Ducklings! Poult!?

Turkey Babies!
turkey, gosling, duckling
Bringing them home from the post office.

Any idea what a plout is? No? I didn’t either until a couple of weeks ago. You see, we decided a while back (while our bees were being attacked) that we wanted to try raising ducklings, goslings, and turkey babies (that’s what I was calling them because I didn’t know what their actual name was). Matthew looked it up, and it turns out they are called plouts! Who knew?! Here’s some other fun turkey facts: male adults are called toms, female adults are called hens, and a group isn’t a flock: it’s a rafter. Crazy, huh?

A few days old
What We Ordered

So we ordered the barnyard package from Murry McMurry (we are not affiliated) with the goslings, ducklings, and plouts. We received them when we expected, and had a descent survival rate (lost two ducklings out of 16 birds). The only downside, although not a big deal, is that it is a random assortment of breeds. To top that off, there was no packing list, so we have no idea what was actually put into the box other than it was the correct number of each type of bird. That said, the birds are happy and healthy and growing quickly, as you can see from the picture above and the picture below.

Two weeks
Lessons Learned

When we received the goslings, ducklings, and plouts from the post office, we brought them home and housed them in a 50 gallon tote. And it worked. But only for a short time. You see, these fowl grow very quickly. More than that, they stink! Have you ever heard anyone say that ducklings are messy? They were right! Now that we’ve had them we definitely recommend an outside brooder. You still have to make sure they have a light, are protected from the elements (and predators), and have access to clean food and water. Thankfully, it is warm here this time of year, so we did not have too many worries about the warmth.

Also of note, the ducklings get everything wet. And I do mean everything. The poor plouts were even getting wet because the ducks were getting water everywhere! The plouts are doing better now in there larger space where they can get away from the ducks mess. Also another good reason to have them in an outdoor brooder. Ours is about 4′ by 4′, and it seems to be working well. 🙂