Saturday, May 18, 2013

Previous Test



    
     Little out of order here, but this is a picture from two tests ago. This was a big test for me in many different ways. For one it was the first test since I had to stop actively participating in TSD for close to a year, so this was a test of the shape I was in. It was also a test of how much I still remembered from a year of inactivity. I'm happy to say that this is personally one of my best tests, and that the amount of time invested to get this far has been worth it!
     Lately I been very busy with TSD, and I have  finished up an english class at CSM.

     The balloon project is almost finished since the balloon cutdown device is complete, all that's needed now is selecting a park in WV to launch from, and the connection between the APRS module and the radio and that's it.

My Long Wait



video

     One of the things that I had been preparing for a long time was my last Gup test in Tang Soo Do. The meaning of Gup has the meaning of basic training.This is my last test before Midnight Blue Belt ( which is the equivalent of black belt) its a symbol of ending the basic training period and moving to more advanced training. The above movie is the breaking section of my test on April 30th. the first kick that I break with is flying side kick, followed by flying back kick. I somehow had never practiced with an object that I had to go over until the exam. Then speed break back kick, and last of all, speed break fore fist. The last two of those breaks are very difficult, because there is no support for the top of the boards, and considering that all that I had done to prepare for the last break was punch a target, I think I did okay. the kicking is done in the last part of the test, and the test is one and a half hours long. Next test coming up in one year! The movie of the kicks is provided by Sr. Master Miller.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Still Catching Up

These are my Red Nile Tilapia when they arrived early April. 
This is a picture of the Tilapia several months ago, since then they've gotten to 4''-7'' If you look at the high right hand corner you can see spots on the sides of the tank, all those spots are snails (there's probably hundreds of them) and all of them came from an original 10. I had my first trouble with my fish two months ago when I was on vacation and lost half of my fish (which were also the biggest) when the water went bad, and I still haven't been able to figure out how it happened. Since this picture was taken the fish have been put outside into an 800 gallon stock tank, and then back in when it got to cold. Unfortunately the unexpected cold also killed a few more fish. This is probably the most interesting and hardest hobby yet.       
This is the honey that we harvested this year.  The two at the bottom are full of dark honey (which is actually healthier and the way to tell is that the darker it is the more antioxidants there are) but also has a much bolder flavor compared to the light locust honey. 
So for the third year in a row the freezers have been filled from top to bottom with organic free range chicken. Last year I put 51 chickens at 334 lbs (and 4 oz) in the freezer. This year I didn't do so well due to predators and the heat and only got 46 in the freezer coming in at 257 lbs. That means over the past three years I've raised 729 lbs of chicken!
 For those of you who know about my projects, this is a Palm V GPS unit that I wired up for use on my APRS (Automatic Position Reporting System) balloon. There are only a few more things to be completed in order to launch.
 Last winter I was able to get on the HF bands with full operating privileges.
 I began operating HF with an IC-718 and a G5RV antenna at 20ft. in the spring I upgraded my station to an IC-706MK2G that I got for a great deal (the deal also included an antenna tuner and a switching power supply), despite some peoples opinions. The radio was great with audio based DSP (Digital Speech Processing), and decked with filters I was able to get even more dx. Some people say that it runs hot and they were right to an extent,  but I ran it for hours at home either calling CQ or just hunting for dx, but it was always faithful. Once my twin sister  (KB3WIA), a Tech, called CQ on ten meters for three hours straight when the band was lasting into the night and made 22 contacts and eleven different states (some of which I still haven't got). Well the 706 was great but I really wanted something with a little bit more IF DSP, compact like the 706, and more gadgets and nobs to  fool around with. The Yeasu portable/mobile radios didn't have IF DSP, but didn't blow out the finals like the Icoms do. Kenwood only has one radio in my price range but it's huge and only has audio DSP like the others. The only radio that met all my points was the IC-7000. The 7000 has a lot of digital filters which meant that you don't need to spend $125-$150 apiece on crystal filters, they're all adjustable, it also includes digital noise reduction (which works like a dream) twins band pass filters (70db blocking ability), automatic notch, and manual notch. Other great features are the digital recorder, RTTY decoder, external screen capability, and many more. It did get hot in the alcove of my desk but due to changing the desk in for shelves it has never gotten hot, even when I operated in the SSB Sweep Stakes in November.
 This picture is for Dennis, who was part of the crew that put in our upstairs flooring and since he had seen me go out to check the bees while they were here and showed an interest in the bees I was able to show him an up close view of the bees. The funny thing is that he took out his Android/IPhone and recorded the entire inspection.
This is Maggie and me extracting this years honey, with our very own extractor! It's a 2 deep, 4 shallow/ medium extractor that we bought from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm and it works great!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Catching Up

Sorry for not posting for so long, but life has only gotten busier since spring. Well, let's move on as they say. 

One week  before Mother's Day, I was at church helping with our annual Patch the Pirate play when Maggie got a call from Mom. Evidently there were 2 huge swarms of bees, one on a stump and one on our dog's backyard pen...both close to the ground which makes it easy to recapture.  (Last year's swarm was 15 feet up in a tree!)

Thankfully Mom came and picked me up so I could get home and hive them. We were also thankful that our neighbor, Mr. F, a former beekeeper, came over and helped Dad (who was still on crutches recovering from a snapped Achilles tendon) capture the swarm on the stump. Mr. F had helped us with our first swarm last year, that we later found out was my hive!
When I got home I went right to work and popped the cover off the north hive. This hive is a hive of New World Carniolans.  Because of the warm winter here in southern Maryland they had become a huge hive with wall to wall brood!  The once highly populated hive was now down to a medium sized hive of bees. That and the decreased activity at the hive's entrance was enough to satisfy me that we had found our thief! 

I suspect there were two reasons for the swarm:  the 80-degree day and the overpopulated hive. The swarm was followed by an after-swarm (a Beekeeper term for a second swarm from the same hive). The above photo shows me returning the bees that Mr. F had already captured for us back the into the hive after I added a deep and a few supers to give them more room. Even with all that extra room, they swarmed again two weeks later...if that gives you an idea of the size of the hive.     

Monday, May 14, 2012

Chickens! Ducks! Turks! Oh no!

This is Maggie with one of our Giant Cornish X Rock Crosses that we raised our first year. These chickens are very good at weight gain, and at eight weeks the average dressed chicken is at least seven pounds...a very hefty chicken! The only thing wrong with these chickens is that they grow so fast that they can develop severe leg problems. That leaves you two choices: either you process them at eight weeks, or only feed them at certain times of the day...like during the night after they come in from foraging all day. Personally, I did not like these chickens  much because of the leg problems stated above, and because I believe in safe, humane, and sustainable systems.  
This is the first brooder I had. (I'll post a picture of the new brooder later.) Some people think you have to have an expensive, elaborate brooding system, but when it comes right down to it, all that a brooder consists of is a heat source (it has to keep the chicks at least 90 to 95 degrees F), a watering system (no, not just a bowl...chickens love to get into everthing), a feeding system (make sure that the chicks can't get into it or tip it), and a waste management system (which can be as simple as taking out the chicks and replacing the wood chips...but that is stressful for you and the chicks).
This was our prize chicken, coming in dressed at 10 lbs and 13 oz!

One thing that Dad has talked about his childhood (''way back in the old days'') is when they would butcher a chicken for dinner and that when they plucked it the smell was horrible. Well, with 25 to 50 chickens ready to go into the freezer, what were we going to do? Easy!  The feedyard is owned by the amish and they were more then happy to tell us that there was someone in their community that butchers all sorts of fowl for $2 a chicken, $3.50 a turkey, and $4 a duck.  (Ducks have to be coated with wax to remove the feathers...which is why they cost more to butcher.)
Mmmm....!
                                     
 ...And this is Buttermilk (the name probably came from the mottled look???). Buttermilk was raised with our first batch of broilers (meat birds) and a layer (or so we thought...at first we called him Henrietta and later called him Henry for obvious reasons). Neither of them went to the great chicken yard in the sky as the broilers did that summer.
 The bowl that Buttermilk is in is also our dog's water bowl! What is not shown in this picture is that it's drenching rain outside and that poor Henry is wet to the skin. Thankfully the picture was taken in the dog days of August. The reason the ground isn't wet is because of the heavy foilage above them. Even after months of calling Henry ''Henry'' he wouldn't budge, but when you yelled Henrietta, he would bolt toward you!
These are our Freedom Rangers...all 50 of them! From the start I raised chickens in batches of 25 because of the small amount of protected forage available to me. But when my twin sister Lizzie decided to stop raising goats, the 80x80ft (almost a quarter of an acre) pen made of 4''x4'' goat wire was just what was needed to allow the chickens to roam during the day completely protected. At night, we put them into two hoop house chicken tractors that were easy to build, light weight, and big (a good advantage especially with 50 chickens).  This protected them from the foxes, raccoons, opossums, etc.

The two pens are made of 2x4s screwed into a square or rectangle, 2''x4'' fencing (high enough to stand up in), and rabbit wire a foot high all around the perimeter. Why rabbit wire instead of chicken wire? Easy...raccoons, opossums, and other animals can bite through the chicken wire and get to the chickens. The newest batch of chicks ship on the 18th of April, so I'll be sure to post a picture of them when they arrive!        
This is Tom, one of our turkeys. One day at the farmer's market we passed by the animal section as we always do, and one of the amish sellers was selling 4 week turkey poults. Well, I had really wanted to raise turkeys for some time so Mom let me get three: Tom whom you've met, and two hens named Dick and Harry! We should be going to the farmer's market soon to buy 6 more to raise this year.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

They're Here!

                           

Our 50 Freedom Rangers arrived weeks ago and have gotten so big since then! All survived the trip safe and sound. They cheeped all the way home!
This is the newer brooder that I built last year when I raised 50 chicks for the first time. At the bottom of the brooder you can see the opening for the debris trays. This brooder is large, measuring in at 8'L x 30'' D x 18'' H. The first day all they did was sleep...after all, spending two days in a cardboard box is exhausting!
This is a picture of the chickens at two weeks. When the the warmer weather first came, I let them go out for a few hours each day to develop a taste for grass (yes, they really do have to develop a taste while they're young or they won't like it as much).  


This is a current  picture of the chickens, during the 90 degree heat they all congregate around the trees in their pen.
Earlier this year we had an Opossum attack and kill three of our chickens, so I was unable to do but pen the chickens up and wait for the opossum to walk into our Have-A-Heart trap.
Well after a week and no sign of the Opossum, I started letting the chickens go out again when I was satisfied that the opossum was gone. 
So during that waiting period I looked up on the Internet how to combat predators and practically every one  up there said that French Guinea Hens are the best at protecting a flock. I started checking with all the amish in the county and everyone was out of Guinea keets
!(Keet is the word for guinea chicks). Well yesterday we woke up to find three fully grown guineas in our yard, we checked with our neighbors to find out who they belonged to but nobody came up as the owners. So now we have three free guineas and better yet half an hour ago we picked up 6 jumbo pearl keets on freecycle!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Bees

Maggie first got the idea of keeping bees three years ago and got me hooked too. So in the winter of 2008 we built enough frames and deep hive bodies for two hives (the main components of a hive) bought from Betterbee, and studied for the arrival of the Italian 3 lb packages ordered from Walter T. Kelly Co. in the spring. This picture was taken right after Hurricane Irene which came through Southern Maryland on Saturday, and knocked out our electricity for 36 hours. The longest we had ever had our electricity go out before was an hour.


This picture was taken in the second year of our journey; as you can see, the North and South hives just barely survived being hit by a young poplar (if you look close enough you can see the straps holding the hives down). This same hurricane also brought down over 25 trees across our mile long drive way!


The first year we had four bad queens back to back and ended up combining the two hives, with two splits from our friend and mentor. The bees, along with their boost of help, survived a very cold winter and came out strong enough to produce 70 lbs of prime water white honey shown above.


Well, like I said, I was hooked and so I also ordered a package and a complete hive from Walter T. Kelly Co... And started building a foundationless eleven frame hive so that the bees would have the most natural and organic hive possible. The best sites for foundationless, natural, small cell, and chemical free beekeeping came from Bushfarms.com, Beenatural.wordpress.com, Beesource.com, and Scientificbeekeeping.com. These men have brought an old and healthy way of dealing with pests and diseases back to life. Well, my bees did OK the first year considering that they also had queen problems. Because of the queen problems, my bees had to overwinter in one deep hive body, something that is not done very much in my area. Our mentor talks about overwintering a hive in a single shallow (which is way smaller than a deep) on top of another strong hive and a screened division board in between the two colonies.
Last year we had a good year for a honey harvest considering that other beeks (some beekeeping lingo here) in the country reported moderate to poor honey harvest. Although we got more honey, it was much darker than last years. This year is going very well since the mild winter has allowed our North hive to get a good head start on the honey flow. The locus trees are blooming and my new package has somewhere between 3-5 foundationless combs already drawn! My original hive is queenless but we ordered a replacement.