Now at Little Hen!

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Need a break from the kitchen and need a fresh fix?  Eat fresh, eat local, eat at Little Hen in Holly Springs.  We are excited to have made our first delivery of Buck Naked Farm produce, eggs, & honey to Little Hen’s chic kitchen.  (chic not chick).  Chef Regan Stachler creates some amazing good eats from local flavors. He & his wife started the restuarant to devote their culinary talents to highlight local farms.

I could work just from the salad menu – Local Greens & Peaches w/ chèvre .  Melon salad with basil and peach vinaigrette.  Chard beets with blackberry gastrique…  But then you get to order entrees & dessert!  The menu is dominated by unique pairings with fresh ingredients from farms across the Triangle.  And while I’m no aficionado, the wine list is immense and the beer & cocktail menu reads like a candy store for adults.  Little Hen is an epicurean gem tucked into the suburbs (corner of Holly Springs & Optimist Farm Rd.).

We echo their mission to connect farms & families.  So we are excited to contribute to their menu and offer another way to enjoy Buck Naked.  If you have somehow overlooked Little Hen, make haste to enjoy beautifully prepared local food right in your neighborhood.

 

Castle Rooms for Rent

Last week I attended the NCSBA (NC Beekeepers) summer conference.  The theme was

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Queens wanted

healthy bees – something I definitely need.  I left the multi-day meeting energized with ideas.  My favorite workshop was on queen castles.  Queen castles are basically little townhouses for queen honeybees.  There are 2-4 frames of wax for them to lay, rather than a full hive.  This gives the beekeeper a chance to raise their own queens from select (quality) hives or to bank the ladies for future need.  All in high density housing.  You can add & withdraw frames as needed to support bigger hives.  It’s like a queen savings account!

A queen bee’s temperament & genetics drive the health, vigor, & attitude of a hive.  A weak queen will lay fewer eggs & can lead to depressed bees (ornery too).  A vigorous queen can create a worker population that means the difference between 0 and 250lbs of honey in a season.  So using young, local

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Queen surrounded by attendants

queens in hives is a huge advantage.  I believe much of our spring troubles was due to poorly mated queens in the packages we ordered.  A queen castle will be a place to experiment with raising our own leaders from our most productive hives.  I’ve been tinkering with this already this summer (2 highnesses to bank already!).  But now I’m in high gear to raise some serious royalty.

The conference also gave me the opportunity to take my next level of certification testing.

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Not part of the testing

NCSBA certifies beekeepers at 3 levels: Certified (Padawan), Journeyman (Jedi), & Master Beekeeper (Yoda).   Each level requires extensive written testing, field testing & volunteer hours.  I’m working on my Jedi robe.  I passed the field testing & have the volunteer hours in the bag, now I’m waiting on my written test score.  “We’ll get back to you in 30 days”.  Nail biter!

 

The conference also fired me up to plant some late summer forage; buckwheat.  No, not the Little Rascals guy, the amazing summer cover crop.

Buckwheat isn’t a true cereal grain but is related to rhubarb.  And it is pretty much the perfect plant – quick growing, bees love it, soil builder, phosphorous remover, drought tolerant, & produces 2 edibles (seed & nectar).  Think buckwheat pancakes & honey…

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Buckwheat in bloom

It’s my new best friend.  Paul likes it because deer & turkey love it.  Apparently who doesn’t? We’re finding all sorts of places to tuck it in at the farm.  My goal is at least 2 acres.  Who knows, a strong wind may blow some along the roadside too.  Could happen.  Fall nectar sources around here are unpredictable.  A strong buckwheat bloom will give them a nutritional  boost before hunkering down for winter.   It will be the perfect welcome mat for the girls returning home from the mountains & our new queen castle residents.   Rooms with a view!

Lily is a Mama!

We got our Black Austrolorp hen Lily at REI.  Really.  Years back we lost a beloved Black Austrolorp to a fox.  We scrambled to replace her for a grieving Barred Rock hen (Georgia).  The Craigslist seller lived in Durham and suggested we meet at Southpoint. In the process of transferring the nervous hen to my carrier, she busted loose.  Midday in the REI lot.  It was a miracle we caught her and no one was hit. It was quite a scene for nearby shoppers.  Needless to say, Lily has always been flighty.  I’ve always called her a freak.  Shame on me.  Lily has found her calling.

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Lily’s first chicks!

A month ago we played hide & seek with a Welsummer hen we thought was broody.  She was just a wanderer.  Lily sat down to nest and meant business.  She even moved her nest 4 times.  A black snake had found the nest and was nightly raiding her clutch.  We thought she was just being weird again.  But we caught on, found the snake and replenished the eggs in the nest, although not holding out much hope.

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Guess what?  Chick butt.

This past weekend Spaghetti burst out of the coop yelling “They’re hatching!”  We could hear muffled peeping coming from under her feathers.  Within an hour we had a little grey

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Barred Rock cross???

fluffball.  Chicks are one of the great rewards of chicken keeping, especially when you have a hen doing the mothering.  So I started paying attention and noticed Lilly had amassed 17 eggs – via daily donations from her laying associates .  (She started with just 8!). This was way too much for any hen.  I removed what I could identify as newer eggs to give the remainder a better chance of proper incubation.  Despite all the moves and interruptions Lily sucessfully hatched 6 fluffy Taquitos this week, including 1 from our blue egg layer.  Cute beyond compare.

 

We are delighted to welcome the new cooplings.  It appears we have 4 Barred Rock crosses, 1 Buff Orpington cross, and 1 Cream Legbar cross (the blue egger).  Despite their mixed breed genetics, they are our first full-blooded Buck Naked Babies and Taco offspring.  It will be interesting to watch their coloring & personalities emerge since they are somewhat wildcards.  Plus there is likely a little rooster (or 2 or 3) in the lot.  Taco Jr!

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Buff Orpington cross

The coop has been all abuzz about the new arrivals.  It’s sounds like Charlotte’s Web of newsy chatter.  Even the guineas and ducks have respectfully come to peek at the new family.  Taco appears in the coop periodically looking curious and belting out his self-importance.  And Georgia, Lily’s longtime friend, has been patiently sitting on the roost bar across from the nest box keeping her company.

 

These little ones have a long road ahead.  Life on the farm can be tough. But we know that Lily can navigate REI.  She is a survivor and hopefully they will be too.  And since broodiness is contagious, we have had several other volunteer mamas.  We’ve declined all but one very ornery Buff.  She comically inflates like a beach ball when prodded and bites anything within reach.  Protective mama.  We loaded her nest with a different mix of egg breeds, including a dark brown egg layer.   With a bit of luck and fewer snakes, we should see a totally different batch of Taquitos in late July.   Chicken cigars all around from Taco.  Thank you Lily!

Spiced Peach is Back!

Fourth of July signals many things: flags, firework tents, lightning bugs, ice cream and peach2fruit, especially peaches.  When I was a kid, my parents used to make ice cream about twice a year – usually around July 4th.  And since peaches were also in high fashion, why not make peach ice cream?  Because as any kid can attest, ice cream should be full of junk like marshmallows, chocolate, bubble gum, fudgy swirly things, etc.  But not fruit.  Maybe on top.  Maybe.  If there’s whipped cream.  But not in ice cream.  And, now I realize why the kid logic works… because fruit belongs in jam!  (Which can then be optionally put on peachice cream).

In keeping with the flow of produce and a nod to kid dessert truisms, we present Buck Naked’s Spiced Peach Jam.  It’s one of the classics from last year that was in demand far after peach season had faded.  Well it’s back while it lasts.  Spiced Peach will be popping up at Ninja Cow Farm and Lauralee Gifts in time for the Fourth.  Grab some for your ice cream, with or without marshmallows.