Our Out of Control Hobby Farm

Today was bee day! Since my husband is working all weekend, I skipped out of work early with a co-worker to come home to hive our bees. The first big shake of bees out of the box had Margaret taking a few steps back, but she was eager to try shaking out the 2nd hive.

I work at a museum and curate a collection of biologic material from mammals, plants, birds, fish, and insects for genetic and molecular research.

Currently, at home, I curate almost the equivalent minus the fish. We call it Birch Fire Farm though it is really out of control hobbies and a love of all things living instead of a true farm. I may be in denial. Maybe it is a farm?

Mammalogy: There is Juneau, my first dog ever. She turns 14 this summer. My mom didn’t want me to get a dog so young (early 20s) and warned me about the vet bills. She jinxed us because that dog has been diagnosed with everything. When I don’t think she can get anything else, we are back at the vet’s office.

Then there is Adenine that is turning 11 this fall though doesn’t act her age. She keeps the house safe from s-q-u-i-r-r-e-l-s. Can’t say that out loud or she looses her shit. I think she heard me type that because she is at the front door itching to go out. Don’t worry, she has never harmed a s-q-u-i-r-r-e-l, she simply likes to stare at them in trees. For hours.

Echo is our IVF puppy that is a little over a year. It has been a long time since we have had a puppy. Her sheer joy when we go for a run together is contagious. Between the three of them, our house is always disgusting. Currently, there is newspaper on the entryway floor in an attempt to contain the springtime mud.

Then we have Maynard, our first failed frozen embryo transfer cat that we got from a friend needing to rehome him. We pretty much do as he tells us to and in exchange, he keeps my garden vole free. There is a lot of sass in that 11lb. package.

Ornithology: In a deluxe coop, we have our flock of Ancona ducks (Beakers, Serenity, Underbite, Hermes, and China) and an American Buff goose named Hoss. Our other goose, Buffy passed away this winter. We keep the ladies for eggs, and unfortunately, the males are dispatched (aka eaten) though we currently have two (Beakers and Hermes – we were confused on Hermes sex for awhile). While they are cute, it isn’t cute what too many males will do to the females. We are still working on the “no means no” with them. We also have 26 Ancona duck eggs in the incubator that should hatch the 2nd week in May. My husband needs to be reigned in on this. What the hell are we going to do with that many ducks?!?!?! Guess everyone is going to be getting eggs and duck jerky for Christmas.

Botany: Then I have my plant stand. I’m not sure how much I save by doing this or if I save anything at all by starting my garden from seed instead of buying starts, but it simply makes the snowy spring in Alaska more springish. These won’t be heading outside till June 1st. That is if we get the new garden plot ready in time. The snow needs to melt faster! We also have several birch trees tapped around the lot and are waiting for the sap to run. My husband is working with the local coop to see how it is all done. He’ll give them our sap, help process it, and then split the birch syrup with them. The first year attempting this.

Mycology: We shall see how this goes. My husband inoculated fresh-cut trees last summer. Once the snow melts, we hope to have pearl, oyster, and turkey tail mushrooms. I’m still not sure how to keep the s-q-u-i-r-r-e-l-s from them. May have to leave Ade dog out there 24/7.

Entomology: We have two hives. This year, the green hive has the New World Carniolans bees and the purple an Alaska Hybrid. This is our 2nd summer curating bees. The first year, even with a round of IVF and a double hernia surgery resulting in a neglected hive and loosing a hive, we ended up with a gallon of honey. I’m optimistic this year will be even better. We are going to even attempt to overwinter them.

Crap, the goose is stuck on the wrong side of the fence and can’t figure it out. Time to go be a farmer because according to the internet, we do indeed have a farm.

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