Tuesday, December 12, 2006

And then there was one...

What a difference a week makes...

This weekend almost all the little guys went to their new homes, stretching from Elizabethtown, New Jersey, to Glastonbury, Connecticut. Quite a whirlwind, considering it takes from 2 - 3 hours to process each departure (we spend a lot of time with the new owner going over the care and nurturing of the new puppy). Now, there's only Peter Pan. Our 7-year old remarked this morning, "Of course, it's Peter Pan--he doesn't have a home in the movie, either!"

Monday, December 04, 2006

One Down, Eight to Go

Now eight weeks old, our little guys are about ready to go to their new homes. This group of pups has shown great personality. "Sleeping Beauty", aka Miss Independence, loves to explore and is quite confident in her personality. Gorgeous and a head like a male (destined to be a 'blocky beauty'). "Beast" (M) is still a bit needy in that he will stand up and ask to be held when the others are bedding down for their naps. "Mickey Mouse" was the first to go, leaving today for his new home in Old Saybrook, CT. He'll be remembered for his unexpected dip in our fish pond! Yes, Mickey the Man, as Glenn liked to refer to him.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Puppies are active for 10 minutes and then can snooze for a few hours--unless a brother or sister intervenes and bites an ear! These guys are now nearly six weeks old.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Solid Food, Scamperers

The pups are growing into their personalities. Now four weeks old, their eyes and ears have been open for about two weeks and they now pick up on sights and sounds outside the whelping box. Solid food is now on the menu and they love to be carried into the kitchen to tear into their chow. Here, they're waiting anxiously to be picked up and carried to FOOD!

Today was warm enough for them to get a taste of the outdoors. This is always an anxious experience for a new puppy. New sights and sounds, as well as textures and obstacles await. The most surprising is the step off the porch (it's a long way down when your legs are only three inches long!); really, it's more a stumble than a step. After a few minutes one or more pup invariably finds its way through the fence cordoning off our fishpond. Only 10 minutes into the adventure, "Jack Sparrow" is shivering and ready to return to the warmth of the INDOOR whelping box!

Bromley's Litter - 10/7/2006

Our Bromley gave birth to nine healthy pups, six boys and three girls, all yellow. As is our custom, each litter has a theme and the pups are named accordingly. This year we traveled to Disney World and so our pups are: Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Beauty, Beast, Tinkerbell, Peter Pan, Jack Sparrow (Pirates...), Prince Charming, and Snow White. To distinguish each yellow puppy from another we mark the base of their tail with a colored Sharpie pen.

All pups were born healthy and were fairly uniform in size, at just about 1 lb. each.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Nearly Six Weeks! (Mingus Litter)

As summer begins, our little rompers are earning their nicknames. They love to chase our two ducks, giving their feathered friends a good run for the money. One pup will chase a duck only to be distracted by mother, Mingus, who happens to be standing with a couple of nursing kin below her. Soon another pup spots the quacking duo and attempts to catch up to the wadders before they escape to the baby pool. Quite a sight.

The litter will be six weeks old on Sunday, and they continue to grow, now averaging about 12 lbs. each. They're fed three times daily with our favorite kibble, from Canidae. We like this brand because it is an all-ages balanced food. No need to transition from puppy chow to adult to senior fare. This makes it easier for the owner. All you have to do is use portion control. As a puppy grows it will consume twice the daily requirement of a two year old adult. After six months, feedings are reduced to twice daily and portions can be gradually cut back. We monitor the weight of our dogs, insuring they get plenty of exercise, but adjust their portions to maintain a healthy size.

We've moved the puppies outdoors during the day. Their favorite hangout is around our kids' playscape. They can find a cool shady place to burrow and snooze, or they can play tag around the legs of the playscape itself.

We've been quite busy with other tasks but will soon update our site with new photos.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Eyes Right!

Those of you with some military experience (hey, even watching your local Memorial Day parade may qualify) recognize the title as the command given to parading troops as they pass an American flag flying to the right of their formation. However, now that America has an all-volunteer military, you may instead understand the title to refer to eyesight. And, in this case, you're right! Two weeks after their birth, our pups are beginning to see their world for the first time.

They eyes start out blue but will darken to brown in the coming days and weeks. Next up: walking!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Introducing our NEW litter -- Aloha from Hawaii!

We had a welcome treat on Mother's Day when our black lab, Mingus, gave birth to EIGHT gorgeous pups. Perfect symmetry: Four black, four yellow. Four males, four females. Two black males, two black females. Two yellow males, two yellow females... what are the odds of that?!

Mingus had an easy delivery. Pups weighed between 13.5 and 17. 5 ounces. As is our tradition, our litters are given temporary names around a theme. This year, to honor our recent trip to Hawaii (Glenn returned to his roots after 29 years!), we decided to give the puppies temporary Hawaii-like names. I say "Hawaii-like" for a reason, as you will see.

We have Plumeria (flower used in making leis), Nene (Hawaiian goose), Hanauma (after the famous snorkeling bay), Guava (well, we visited a guava plantation), Macadamia, Matsumoto (a famous brand of "shaved ice" - Yummy!), Pearl Harbor (we have a black pup with a pearl of white on her chest), and of course, Humuhumunukunukuapua'a (also known as the Hawaiian trigger fish -- you may find us calling this one simply "Trigger").

Hawaiian Trigger fish

Friday, January 20, 2006

Web Page Opens Up the World

Since we established our website (Three Sisters Farms) I've been amazed at the power of the web and its ability to extend the distribution channel of the business. We've had inquiries from as far away as Gambia and Russia from people who would like to retail our honey and/or soaps. The biggest stumbling block for a small business is overcoming the steep shipping costs associated with small quantities. I talked with a business owner today whose manufacturing operations are in Thailand. Her company fills eight containers per week just with one product! In contrast, shipping a small case of soap to Russia would cost us over $3.00/lb., thus likely snuffing out a wholesale relationship with prospective vendors there.

What's really funny is the cost of shipping with the 'majors'. You know, the UPS, DHL, and FedEx's of the world. A 6 lb. shipment with one of these guys reaches as high as $333 for a 4-6 day delivery window. Are these guys kidding?!

Wind Sends Chills Up the Hives!

Yikes! Winter weather can play havoc on one's hives. Often it's the extended cold spells that can result in disaster. Bees need to take cleansing flights every few weeks or they can suffer dysentery and death. The fabled January thaw is welcome indeed. This winter has been mild and the bees have had more opportunities than normal to venture out to do their business.

What's changed this winter is the violent ping-ponging of the temperature. Last weekend the weather went from upper 50s to near zero in 24 hours. From rain to snow just as fast. Well, on Wednesday the rapid change in barometric pressure brought winds that exceeded 60 MPH in some instance that helped fell power lines and trees across the state of Connecticut. I got a call from Jerry, who has graciously given us space for one of our apiaries, with a heads up that the wind had blown over a hive.

My initial thought was, "Oh yeah, it's the stack of empty boxes that I had next to the row of hives I checked on Monday." When I arrived to the bee yard I was horrified. Before me lay the entire row of hives, all spilled over onto the ground and partially submerged in water. A tiny drainage was overflowing with runoff from the downpours earlier in the day creating a soggy bog where my hives had stood. Maybe the bees are nestled inside... and then, I noticed there were no bees flying. The temperature had dropped from a balmy upper 50s to the upper 40s. Oh my goodness, perhaps I've lost all four hives!

My first action was to restore the base foundation. Apparently a gust of wind had caught the tightly clustered group of hives like a sail sending them sprawling forward and into the streamlet. Once the wood beams were righted I began rebuilding each hive one deep hive body at a time. To my relief, the first hive's occupants had clustered in the upper hive body. The size was not large but clearly the queen was still there. And then the next, and the next, were returned to their former position. Only one of the five clusters was empty! An hour later, the temperature had dropped to more seasonal norms - high 30s. Whew! If Jerry hadn't called when he did we would likely have lost all the hives.

It's only mid January, and our hive count is already down 30 percent.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Bad Luck Day

They say Friday the 13th is Bad Luck Day. Most of the time I think the idea is bunk. But not today. I inspected the hives for the first time since November and it was not a pretty sight. Four dead outs. I'd fairly expected a couple of hives to be lost, as their numbers were a little weak going into the winter. But four?! Most likely these hives had succumbed to varroa mites, the scourge of modern beekeeping.

My immediate reaction was, "What could I have done to prevent this?" Working the hives organically limits one's options to some degree. Still, I should have been more faithful in applying the 'Dowda method' of treating hives with powdered sugar. Named after Florida's State Bee Inspector who developed the strategy, sprinkling bees every 10 days with powdered sugar helps the bees fend off the mites. I'm also tempted to try another approved method: formic acid. A multistrategy, integrated approach is necessary to offset the debilitating effects of the mites. Our customers love our organic honey and we're determined to increase production to meet the demand. Clearly, it will take a full court press on the beekeeper's part to keep the colonies healthy enough to coexist with the mite problem.