1 Your lifestyle
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Certain microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, yeasts, molds, and protozoans cause the spoilage process.Microorganisms occur everywhere on the skin, in the air, in the soil, and on nearly all objects.It’s important for you to remember that some of the conditions that accelerate spoilage, such as inappropriate temperature and moisture control, also encourage the growth of microorganisms that cause foodborne illness.The most common cause of spoilage in a root cellar is improper ventilation.Root cellars must have ventilation!This is one of biggest mistakes people make when designing and installing them.Proper ventilation moves the ethylene gas that encourages spoilage away from the produce, increasing your storage time and the quality of the items in storage.It also slows down molds and mildews that thrive in dark, damp, still environments.Although root cellars need to have some humidity, if temperatures start to rise, moisture coupled with heat will also cause plant deterioration and spoilage.If you get much of a temperature fluctuation in your cellar, humid air will condense on the ceiling, walls, and the food you stored as the air cools past its dew point.Excess water on produce can also encourage spoilage.A seed is much, much more than it appears to be.While we may think of seeds as a beginning, they are really links between generations of plants, vehicles of both the survival of the planet species and the spread of new life.Why Save SeedsWhen you look at a seed, especially an heirloom seed, you see more than the potential for a tomato plant or a head of lettuce.Seeds were so important to our ancestors that at weddings, both the bride’s and the groom’s families would present the newlywed couple with a gift of some of their own family’s seeds.When immigrants set out to the New World and were limited in the things they could bring across the ocean, they often smuggled seeds with them, not only as a means to begin a new life, but also as a way to connect back to the old one.If not for generations of seed savers, we would not have the variety of seeds available to us today.And, if not for dedicated seed savers today, many of the wonderful and unique heirloom plants would have become lost forever.The seeds you save from your garden have already become accustomed to your climate, your soil, and even the insects in your area.It also assures you that the delicious tomatoes you loved from your garden, or the beans that produced so well, will still be around next year.The Difference Between Hybrid and Heirloom SeedsWhen you purchase heirloom seed, you are getting seed produced from plants that have been saved and grown fifty years or more, their seed passed down from generation to generation.Hybrid seeds are created by plant breeders.These plant breeders select two similar plant varieties and crossbreed them to create a new plant variety that features traits from the two parent plants.For example, a plant breeder might select one plant that is frost resistant, and another that has a sweeter taste.Hybrid seeds are not bad in any way.They have helped increase crop yield and made it easier for many gardeners to be successful.If you save their seeds, the forthcoming plant will not be identical to the parent plant.It might not be sweeter or frost resistant.Many hybrid seeds can be sterile and will not germinate.In order to have the same success you had with the initial offspring, you have to buy your seeds from the plant breeder again.The beauty of an heirloom seed is the ability of the plant to change on its own.When you save heirloom seeds you select the one that ripened the fastest, was frost resistant, or was sweetest, and save its seeds.So, in time, the seed works through the same process as the hybrid, but it’s a natural process.Collecting SeedsAs you work in your garden, you need to watch and see which of your plants you want to choose for seed saving.Once you choose the plant, you should do something to identify it, so you don’t accidentally harvest it.When collecting the seeds for fleshy plants, like tomatoes and peppers, you should allow the fruits to ripen, or even overripen slightly, before you collect the seed.But you don’t want the fruit to blemish, mold, or shrivel around the seeds.You are still looking for a healthy parent plant.As the plant matures, the seeds inside become stronger and ready to survive on their own.When you collect from the seed crops, like corn, wheat, and beans, you want the plant to mature.These seeds will not deteriorate or blow away if the crop is left on the stalk or vine, as long as they remain dry.Lettuce, onions, and broccoli are part of the group that scatters seeds.To be sure you capture the seeds from these plants, you can either watch them every day, collecting small amounts as they become available, or fashion a bag made of cheesecloth around the seed head to capture the seeds as they mature.If you’ve ever carved a pumpkin and cleaned it out, you will understand the process exactly.Once you’ve separated the seeds, wash them thoroughly and spread them out to dry.Large seeds can take up to a week to dry, smaller seeds half of that.The best way for you to separate tomato seeds is to ferment them.The easiest way to do this is to slice open the tomato and squeeze the contents into a glass jar.Then you can add water to about halfway up the jar, stir, and set aside for a few days.A moldy residue will collect on the top of the water, as well as some tomato seeds.The tomato seeds that float to the top are worthless seeds.After about four days the water will clear and the good seeds will sink to the bottom of the jar.Discard the bad seeds and tomato pulp and place the good seeds on a paper towel to dry.Once dried, they can be removed from the paper and stored.To extract the seed crop seeds, wait until the plants are fully dried and then twist them or pull their stalks through your hands to separate the kernels.Make sure they are dried and then store them.The seeds you collected from the group that scatters seeds can be shaken through a hardware screen to ensure that pieces of chaff are not stored with them, and then dried and stored.Be sure to give your seeds a long enough drying period.Storing seeds with a high moisture content will cause them to germinate poorly the following year.Storing SeedsYou should store seeds in conditions that are cool, dark, and dry.Temperature fluctuations, especially heat, and humidity are seeds’ worst enemies.Seeds do best at a moisture content of about 8 percent.A standard canning jar and lid, along with some silica gel, will do the trick.Small seeds will dry down to 8–10 percent moisture overnight, while large seeds may take several days.Seal the dried seeds in a new, dry jar and label it clearly.Then place it in a dark, cool place.You can even store seeds in your refrigerator or freezer.Testing SeedsAfter you’ve done all you can to identify, collect, extract, and store, you will want to be sure your seeds are viable for the next season before you plant them in the ground.The sure measure of success is a germination test.A good germination test will provide the seeds with model conditions of moisture, air, temperature, and light.Select ten or more seeds from the group to be checked.Spread out the seeds on a damp paper towel.Be sure to label the outside of the bag with the seed type.The inside of the bag should be moist, but not wet.Occasionally check the bag to ensure that the towel remains damp.If most of the seeds germinated in the time suggested, your seeds are worth planting.You can judge how thickly you should plant your seeds by the percentage of seed that germinated during the test.Bees are an essential part of agriculture, necessary for pollinating plants to ensure a better fruit set and bigger crops.One of the few farm activities that can actually increase yields, rather than simply protect existing yields from losses, is managing bees to encourage good pollination.Is Your Location Right for Bees?Honeybees can be kept almost anywhere there are flowering plants that produce nectar and pollen.Choose a site for beehives that is discrete, sheltered from winds, and partially shaded.Avoid low spots in a yard where cold, damp air accumulates in winter.The best beehive location is one where your best source of pollen and nectar is within two square miles of your hive, the closer the better.Because bees actually use pollen and nectar to produce their own energy, the farther they have to travel for it, the more they have to consume themselves.In contrast, if you can place them closer to their food source, you can collect more honey.Position your hive so the entrance faces east.This way the early morning sun will alert them to the new day.Because flower nectar will often evaporate in the morning hours during the summer, the sooner bees are out of their hive foraging, the more honey they will produce.The best position for a hive is where it will also have afternoon shade, shielding the hive from the summer sun.Shade, rather than sunlight, will give the bees more time to concentrate their effort on making honey, because they won’t need to work on carrying water back and forth to cool the hive.Basic EquipmentA manmade hive is built to imitate the space that bees leave between their honeycombs in nature.The dimensions are fairly standard and should be copied exactly if you decide to make you own beehives.In this space, the bees rear their brood and store honey for their own use.Up to three brood supers can be used for a brood nest.Frames keep the combs organized inside your hive and allow you to easily and safely inspect your bees.Frames hold thin sheets of beeswax foundation, which is embossed with the shapes of hexagonal cells.Foundations help bees to build straight combs.The honey supers hold the honey that is harvested from the hive.It also provides insulating dead air space.A smoker calms bees and reduces stinging.Pine straw, sawdust, chipped wood mulch, grass, and burlap make good smoker fuel.It is ideally shaped for prying apart supers and frames.Bees are not threatened by light colors, so the color of the suit makes a great difference as to whether the bees will attack or not.Gauntlets are long cuffs that slid over your gloves to keep bees from climbing up your sleeves.How to Purchase BeesUsually the best way to start keeping bees is to buy established colonies from a local beekeeper.Often a local beekeeper might even have a colony he or she wants to give away.It’s better to get two colonies at the beginning, because that allows you to interchange frames of both brood and honey if one colony becomes weaker than the other and needs a boost.Have the beekeeper open the supers.The bees should be calm and numerous enough that they fill most of the spaces between combs.It’s easiest to move a hive during the winter when they are lighter and populations are low.The first thing you want to do is close the hive entrance.You can accomplish this with a piece of folded window screen.Then look for any other cracks and seal them with duct tape.Make sure the supers are fastened together and the bottom board is stapled to the last super.Remember to open hive entrances after the hives are relocated.If you are buying the colonies, realize that the condition of the equipment usually reflects the care the bees have received.If you find the colonies housed in rotting hives, don’t purchase them.Installing Packaged BeesYou can also buy packaged bees and queens.Keep the packages cool and shaded when they arrive.To transfer bees to their new hive, set up a bottom board with one hive body and remove half of the frames.The next step is to move the queen, which will be in a separate cage.Pry off the package lid, remove the can of syrup provided for transit, find and remove the queen suspended in her cage, and reclose the package.The queen cage has holes at both ends plugged with cork.Under the cork at one end you will see that it is filled with white queen candy. Remove the cork from this end and suspend the queen cage between two center frames in your hive.Workers bees will eventually eat through the candy and release the queen.Shake the original package lightly to move all bees into a pile on the bottom.Take the lid off the package again and pour the bees into the hive on top of the queen.As they slowly spread throughout the hive, carefully return the frames to their original positions.Replace the inner and outer covers on the hive.You have successfully created your first colony.You must now feed the bees sugar water until natural nectar starts to appear.Managing Your HiveYou want your bees to be at their maximum strength before the nectar flow begins.This way, the created honey is stored for harvest rather than used to build up their strength.Feeding and medicating your bees should be done in January through February.You should be looking for population growth, the arrangement of the brood nest, and disease symptoms.If one of your colonies has less brood than average, you can strengthen it by transferring a frame of sealed brood from your other colony.If you use two brood supers and find that most of the bees and brood are in the upper super, reverse the supers, placing the top one on the bottom.You want to do this because it relieves congestion.When a colony feels congested it swarms, looking for another place to live.If you only have one brood super, you will need to relieve congestion by providing additional honey supers above a queen excluder.Annual requeening can be done in early spring or in the fall.Most feel that requeening is one of the best investments a beekeeper can make.Young queens not only lay eggs more prolifically, but they also secrete higher levels of pheromones, which stimulates the worker bees to forage.In order to requeen a colony, you must find, kill, and discard the old queen.Then you need to allow the colony to remain queenless for 24 hours.After that period of time, you can introduce the new queen in her cage, allowing the workers to eat through the candy in order to release her.This is when you should add honey supers above the hive bodies.Add enough supers to accommodate both the incoming nectar and the large bee population.During late summer and early autumn, the brood production and the honey production drop.At this point, you should crowd the bees by giving them only one or two honey supers.This forces bees to store honey in the brood nest to strengthen the hive.Colonies are usually overwintered in two hive bodies or in one hive body and at least one honey super.Be sure that if you overwinter in one hive body and a honey super, you remove the queen excluder so the queen can move up into the honey super during winter.Bees should have between 50 to 60 pounds of stores going into winter.A hive with a full deep frame weighs 6 pounds and full shallow frame weighs 3 pounds.You can pick up the frame to estimate the weight of the hive and stores.Never allow stores to drop below 12 to 18 pounds.Common ProblemsThe common problems you encounter when raising bees are swarming, stings, and diseases and pests that can affect your hive.SwarmingYou cannot prevent bees from swarming all of the time.You can, however, make a swarm less likely by requeening your colony with a younger queen.You can also have a bait hive in place in case a swarm occurs.Bees will cluster within 100 feet of their old hive while the scout bees search for a new hive.A bait hive is simply an attractive home waiting for a swarm to discover.StingsIf you keep bees, you are going to get stung.You can reduce stinging greatly by taking precautions and wearing protective gear, using a smoker, and handling bees gently.However, the likelihood is that you’re still going to get stung.If there is a chance you are allergic to bee stings, you do not want to keep bees.If you are not allergic, you probably will find, as most beekeepers do, that although stings still hurt, after a few bites there is generally less of a reaction.Honeybee Diseases and PestsHoneybee brood and adults are attacked by bacteria, viruses, protozoans, fungi, and exotic parasitic mites.Additionally, bees and beekeeping equipment are attacked by a variety of insects.With heavy infestations, frame pieces may be weakened to the point of collapse.Some insects, like spiders, actually eat bees.Disease and pest control requires constant vigilance by the beekeeper.Contact local beekeepers to learn about the diseases and issues prevalent in your area and how to prevent and cure them.Gathering HoneyIt’s best to harvest your honey on a sunny, windless day, since bees are calmest then.Remove the bees from the hive by blowing smoke into the hive opening.After a few minutes, pry the outer cover loose and lift it off.Blow more smoke through the hole in the inner cover.Now you can remove the inner cover.After the inner cover is removed, once again blow smoke into the hive to finally drive the bees downward and out of the way.Remove the super and pry the frames loose with the hive tool.Be careful not to crush any bees.A crushed bee releases a scent that stimulates other bees to attack.Gently brush off any bees that are clinging to the frames.A comb that is ready to be harvested should be about 80 percent sealed over.Bees will want to take the honey, if they can get to it.Slice off the comb tops with a sharp knife warmed in hot water.A heavy kitchen knife is fine.It’s best to use two knives, cutting with one while the other is heating.Once the honey is extracted, return the emptied combs to the hive for the bees to clean and use again.With care, combs can be recycled for twenty years or more.Legal RequirementsAll states have laws that pertain to keeping bees and registering hives.You need to understand the laws of your state before you begin beekeeping.Now, because of parasitic bee mites and the Africanized honeybee, some states have even more stringent laws.For specific legal information, you can contact your county Extension agent or your state department of agriculture.You can delight in the daily gathering of fresh brown eggs or frothy goat’s milk.You will know, with certainty, what went into the food you are eating.And you will learn to respect not only the process of raising your own, but also the animals that provided it for you.If you meet those needs, you will have success in raising livestock.However, you also need to be sure that your own needs are going to be met as you consider raising livestock.