Saturday, September 19, 2015

How You Bee-n?

Eh, get it? Huh? Funny, right? Okay, fine, not really.

I spent entirely too long trying to think of a clever title that included information about this post (bees) and to ease my back into blogging.

Like everyone else summer time is our busiest time.

The garden performed beautifully, lots and lots of beans, tomatoes, zucchini, corn (corn! we grew heirloom corn!), peas, cukes and dill.  We have lots of pie pumpkins but they got stupid powdery mildew so they didn't get very big before the vines started dying.  We had two watermelons, one on each vine. but they started rotting on the vine where they were in contact with the ground?? No Stars and Moon watermelon for us.  Le sigh.

Our June Garden
Corn, it grows over night.
All of the chickens are doing well, the middle-girls haven't started laying yet so my Beloved is planning a movie night and showing Chicken Run.

Mercy's legacy is two little roosters, Padfoot and Darth Vader

Padfoot in front and Darth Vader in back
Padfoot was named by our 13 year old niece, who is a HUGE Harry Potter fan (uh, who isn't?), she named him thusly because he was born on the anniversary of the day that Sirius Black died.  Who even knows this stuff?? Darth Vader was born a day later and was named by our then five year old nephew who is obsessed (like, who isn't?) with Star Wars.  Thanks for picking BOYS names guys!

That's Padfoot in front, you can definitely tell his daddy was a Silver Laced Wyandotte.  He has a small rose comb- I don't know squat about genetics and can't even guess who his biological Momma is but Esmeralda the wonderfully mothering Buff Orpington raised him up. Darth Vader is quite obviously Emily the Barred Rock's offspring and Prudence the Jersey Giant was his surrogate mother.  Pru decided rather early that she was done being a mom so Es stepped up and took both rowdy boys on.

About a week after she gave up on the whole mothering bit Pru tried to go broody again but I disabused her of that notion rather quickly.

Now onto the bee-f (get it? Bee ... bee -f... meat... no? I'll stop) of the post!

We have had some trouble in the hive.

My Beloved and I had gone to a tractor show (it's a new favorite past-time, so much fun!) and spoke to a beekeeper who told me that visiting my hive every few weeks was too much.  So, instead of following my gut instinct we didn't check the hive for a few more weeks.  Therefore we didn't know that they had gotten crowded and the queen decided to fly the coop.  I am so not blaming the beekeeper I spoke to, she was just giving me her opinion. One thing they said over and over at the bee conferences is that if you ask four beekeepers a question you'll get five answers.  It's all trial and error for even the most "experienced" beek (that's insider lingo for beekeeper, it's kinda like geek - you're welcome.)

When we did check the hive there were lots of swarm cells, we couldn't find the queen and there were no eggs. We did find capped brood though and saw a few bees emerging and they created a supersede cell (they were making an emergency queen).

We checked back and the emergency queen had hatched but was nowhere to be found, there were no eggs still, less brood and bees.  We had to step in. We purchased a mated queen from the beekeeper who we bought the original bees from.  I installed her on Thursday and we'll check tomorrow to see if she's out of her cage and going about her queenly business.

Ready for some pictures of our bee-scapades? Behold!

A bee hiding under a milkweed leaf in the front garden

Our Beehive!

When we took of the the first honey super we saw this; the first sign of trouble; swarm cells

The emergency queen (or supersede) cell

Burr comb with honey and larvae between the supers
I feel soooo bad! That's a bee in the burr comb that isn't fully developed.
We basically killed it when we lifted the super that was above it off.

An open swarm cell and some caped brood

Dang swam cells were everywhere!

A drone (boy) bee, some larvae and capped brood.
Do you see him there? Big, goobery and hairy-butted.
Here's a close-up of a drone.  See his massive eyes and hairy butt?
The girls are going to kick him and their other brothers out of the hive soon.
Unfortunately there are no eggs in this picture (it sort of looks like it but that is the sunlight glinting off the water & honey)
There is however some pollen and capped brood!
We closed up the hive and a found a couple of workers coming back with big ol' pollen pants!

This picture makes me so happy and I am in such awe.
It is a beautiful world we live in.
I am half convinced our last queen left because she was unnamed.
Therefore, without further ado, I present to you Matilda, Queen of Hollow Orchard Farm
Long live the queen!

And that my friends, is the end of the hive tour.  I'll take some pictures when we go out to check on Matilda and her brood!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

(nearly) Wordless Wednesday

I love both of these trees

My view from the kitchen sink
The black walnut tree in the front looks like a cyclops saying "Ooooh!"
The black walnut tree in the back has the coolest branches - they're so intertwined they look braided

Saturday, March 21, 2015

We Bee Learning

We attended another bee conference today and while waiting for our first class to start we took the plunge.

We bought a beehive and bees!

We took the rookie way out and are having the (local) beekeeper we ordered from install the bees in the hive for us.  So he'll call us when they're already in the hive and the queen is laying.  The plan is to add another hive next spring - more on that later.

So much bee learnin'!
It's finally Spring here in Michigan! The chickens are getting outside time, out of the run.  Being the over protective chicken parents we are, they only free range when we're outside with them.  Outside today I was thinking that if a hungry critter decided to make off with one of them, what could I do other than run around flapping my arms and shouting? Yeah, shouting and flapping I can do but running and my name are not synonymous.

Tomorrow we give the coop its Big Spring Clean Out.  It has been one heck of a long, cold winter.  Lola has some frostbite on her comb but it doesn't seem to bother her, we put some vaseline on it to keep it moist; all of the girls below Clementine in the pecking order has bare butts because they all sleep in the rafters and their bottoms are at her eye level, and Mercy has a new white streak on one of his tail feathers.  We sure have learned a lot,  so next year it'll be easier for everyone!

Mercy sporting his new bi-colored tail
Now to talk my Beloved into goats.  Or at least ducks.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

(nearly) Wordless Wednesday: The Naughties

Dear Kittens,
We are not friends today. 
Love (I guess...),
Your Very Angry Mom

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Sunday Seven: An Update

Ενας: Naming the Farm

Way back in May of last year I blathered about naming the farm in a post and how one goes about it. 

Well, I finally came up with a name for our little homestead!  It came to me out of the blue, I dreamt (yo, spell check, dreamt is a word so just stop squiggle lining me) about it multiple times and I've written it the blackboard just to be sure I didn't hate it.  My Beloved is even good with it.  Ya ready?
It's Hollow Orchard Farm.

Why Hollow Orchard? Dunno. (Spell-checker, why is dunno a word but not dreamt?) but I like it and need to find an artist to make me a graphic or a drawing or a painting or something!

δυο: New Years Resolutions

Once upon a time, when I was on a roll and had high hopes, I wrote a post detailing my Prospectus for 2015.  Here's where I'm at  with that almost through the first quarter.

1.  Say "I love you" more - Check! So far so good.  
2.  Knit more - Meh.  I started out strong, I got through one pattern repeat (about 8") on a modified cowl and ... that's it.  I really have to finish it because I actually bought the "fancy yarn".

3.  Find something, anything, at least one tiny morsel of happiness in every situation - So far, so good.  I have been using the blackboard in the kitchen to add reminders and ask my Beloved to help me when I'm struggling.

4.  Read more - Super check.  I've read 14 books since January 1! I need to pace myself.
5.  Smile more - Trying.  It's not as easy as I had supposed.
6.  Blog more - Fail.  I have intentions to sit down 97 times a week and end up not doing it at all.
7.  Be more patient - Work in progress.  I have been very conscious and make myself stop when I feel myself getting twitchy with impatience.

τρία: Beekeeping
We're going to be beekeepers! I have dreamed of being a beekeeper for a long time, even before we bought our farmhouse with orchard.  I've been reading books, blogs and magazines like crazy and finally a few weeks ago I looked up beekeeping in Michigan, signed us up to the Michigan Beekeepers' Association and yesterday we attended their Spring Conference!

We learned an awful lot, mostly that we need to get our poop in a group if we want to start bees this spring.  Next weekend the Southeast Michigan Beekeepers' Association is having their conference and we'll be attending that as well!

τέσσερα: Homesteader Fitness Experiment
Here's the deal.  There are things that I am and things that I am not.  Example: I am not tall, I am not dimwitted, and I am not very good at math.  Conversely, I am overweight (okay, fat.  As in fat, fat, fatty), I have ginormous feet for someone so short, and I am a good details.  I am not putting myself down when I say these things, I am being truthful.  In order to try and get my behind to a more healthy state and much, much smaller, I jumped on the bandwagon and bought myself a Fitbit.  We'll see how well this puppy tracks homesteady things.  There's an option to add activities but, how many calories does chasing chickens burn? Or planting veggies? Mucking out the coop? Hauling bee supplies out to the back of the property? I dunno' but we'll see! So here's to the Homesteader Fitbit Experiment.

πέντε: Monthly Grocery Shopping/Meal Planning
We are still doing well with only grocery shopping once a month.  Every once in a while we've had to run up to the grocery store for fresh produce or to buy something we've unexpectedly run out of.  We have been saving a TON of money! We'll be cutting down on buying at the stores once our (planned) veggie garden is producing and we can run up to the local farmers market.  I do plan on canning and freezing (we bought a good chest freezer, yaay!) any excess.  The monthly meal plans have worked out tremendously except I find myself getting into a rut with planned meals.  Also, I suck at planning side dishes.  I am a one trick pony.  What goes with Sloppy Joes? Don't ask me because I came up with rice and asparagus as my first foray into side dishes.

έξι: Anniversary Vacation
Last month for our Anniversary Vacation we headed back down to Universal Studios so that we could go to the new Diagon Alley part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Our first day at the park, our actual anniversary, the plan was to get a lay of the land and ride a few rides.  It started raining a few hours after getting there so we went back to the hotel to hang out at the bowling alley and arcade.  The second day I didn't take my camera so that we could ride the rides and not worry about stashing it every time in a locker.  The plan was on the third day at the park was to take pictures, buy souvenirs and hit the road toward Savannah.  Guess whose battery was dead in the camera? Because, while I charged it before leaving home, I left the camera on the whole 6 days before.  Savannah was, of course, beautiful and we enjoyed every minute.  Maybe I'll make a post one day of the few pictures from my phone. Don't hold your breath.

επτά: Movin' On
I have worked at the same hospital since 2003 and I worked for said hospital until 2011 when I took a position working for the doctors private practice (but still working at the hospital).  Next month I will be moving to HQ.  No seeing my peeps.  No running into my sister or brother-in-law any more.  No cafeteria. Ahhhh! No Cafeteria! What do other people do when they forget their lunch, I seem to have forgotten.  I am excited though because it'll be a big step up and my new office has a window.  To the outdoors.  Which you don't get very often in a hospital setting.

Here's to hoping I keep up on resolution #6 better than I have been the past two and a half months!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

New Years Day - 2015's First Road Trip

My Beloved and I are big on road trips.  There are just so many opportunities to find places you would have never thought to visit, little gems like The Hermitage or The Lane Motor Museum or The Museum of Appalachia or even The International Towing & Recovery Museum.  And do you know what I lovedy, love, love about my Beloved? He will stand there and read all the plaques with me, listen to the guides and even if it ain't his thang he doesn't get impatient and try to rush us along.

He is an awesome road trip buddy.

Every New Year's Day we pack up some sandwiches & sodas, fill a couple of water bottles and our coffee cups, grab a bag of chips and a map book and hit the open roads to be touristy in our own state.  We only take the back roads and the two lane highways heading in a predetermined direction or taking a certain road.

One year we took Grand River from our house all the way across the state to Grand Rapids, another year we decided to head up to the tippy top of the "thumb" where we saw the Pointe Aux Barques lighthouse, Grindstone City and Port Hope.  One year we drove up to Traverse City despite blizzard warnings,

This year I got a hankerin' to take Michigan Avenue (US 12) across the state to where it ended at the Michigan state line in New Buffalo - it starts at Campus Martius in downtown Detroit and ends in Washington state (!) - I didn't want to drive down to Detroit to start there because I felt it would take up too much of our morning and we were getting a late start as it was.

As is tradition I fried up a pound of bacon and we had a whole mountain of scrambled eggs (instead of french toast) before we headed out.

Road Trip Essentials: A camera, a map book and your besty

Ready for a million picture pictorial review of our day? Good, 'cause I'm giving you one.

Chelsea, MI - Home of Jiffy Mix
Relatively close to home & our first encounter with Michigan Ave. 

Muuuuch of our drive looked like this: farms/farmhouses and fields
*You can tell how old a farmhouse is by its proximity to the road!

Bronson, MI - Where they get purple street signs with Vikings on them.
Also, where US 12 is called Chicago St.

Our sister street!
Interrupting the pictorial for a history lesson:
My mom always used to tell us that our grandmother proclaimed that her children (eight of them) were going to send her to the poorhouse - I'm not going to go into detail about poorhouses but you can Google the term and read about them.  Fascinating stuff! Anyway, Poor farms were poorhouses, subsidized by the county's government, on farm land where the able bodied had to help to take care of themselves and the other poor/disabled who lived there.  The poor farm for the county that I live in was across the street from our house, hence the name County Farm Rd.

St. Joseph County Michigan - Poorhouse/farm.
And here it is today

Sturgis, MI

I wish I had gotten a picture from the front
but I didn't know I would find an awesome historic one

I wonder what this is for!?

The one and only historical marker we stopped at (?)
See? He gets out of the car to read the signs!
Which shamed me enough to actually get out of the car
One of the original pylons 

We made it!
We made it to Michigan/Indiana border and had lunch in New Buffalo, MI where my hubby went to truck driving school.  Afterward we decided to drive up the Lake Michigan coast and wander toward home.

I think that the Great Lakes are incredibly beautiful

Pure Michigan

See what I mean?
And as the sun was setting I didn't get any more pictures after this.  Except this one as we were in line waiting for our Taco Bell dinner.

I stole his hat and was wearing it at a jaunty angle

Friday, January 2, 2015

2015: The Prospective

I had wanted to get this post up yesterday but my Beloved and I were on the road for a good 11 hours doing our Annual New Year's Day Road Trip (post coming soon) and I was too pooped out afterward to do much of anything other than put some Taco Bell down my gullet while we watched 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

I don't make public resolutions because I don't need to be reminded of how many things I resolved to do yet didn't achieve.  I'll keep all of that to myself, thank you very much.

We are going to make this year different though.  So here goes, I plan to:

1.  Say "I love you" more
2.  Knit more
3.  Find something, anything, at least one tiny morsel of happiness in every situation
4.  Read more
5.  Smile more
6.  Blog more
7.  Be more patient

All achievable, right? Nothing too strenuous there (I think).

Number 7 brings me to the whole "Word of the Year" thing that I have been reading about for a few years on other peoples blogs.  It just so happens that this morning I was reading a blog (or five) and one word kept popping up.  Patience.  Which I have laughably minuscule amounts of.  Most especially with myself.

1. the quality of being patientas the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.

2. an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted   with delay

I tend to get very frustrated when things: don't go according to my plans; the way that have envisioned them needing to happen; when other people don't know my vision of the perfect _(anything)_; with the way that it's supposed to be!  Wow.  Wow, wowy, wowzers.  Selfish much?  

I also need to remember that not everyone moves at the Speed of Poppy.  My Beloved for instance, he does things at a slow, even pace.  He's methodical, deliberate.  He's all kinds of slow and steady wins the race! Me? I'm all kinds of instant decisions! and damn the torpedoes! and full steam ahead! and we'll deal with the consequences later!  So, yeah, there's that kind of patience to work on too.  

Hey, you're welcome for the insight into my internal struggles.

Moving on to muuuch better things, another thing that some of the fo'real bloggy peoples I have been stalking for years have been doing is their Saint of the year.  Well, I'm not Catholic and there is no Greek Orthodox Saint Picker out there -which is why I haven't ever participated- but this year is different, right? 

So I went to Jennifer Fulwiler's blog Conversion Diary, which is what the other bloggy peeps use, and I had the generator choose one for me, one for my Beloved and one for "the house" (my little homesteady family).

Here's what it came up with:
Image of St. Valentine 

He is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, young people. He is represented in pictures with birds and roses.

Excellent! I love love, birds, bees, flowers, my happy marriage and traveling. It'll be a good year with this guy being on my team!

Moving on to my Beloved-
And I was all "nuh-uhhh".... But, there you have it.  St. Isidore the Patron Saint of farmers and laborers who had a great concern for the proper treatment of animals.  Another great addition to our team - I pray that he will keep my Beloved safe while he is out there driving that big ol' truck and working his behind off in order for us to move closer to being a little homesteady/farmy family.

And, lastly for our house/homestead- 
St. Benedict

He is the Patron Against Erysipelas; Against Fever; Against Gall Stones; Against Inflammatory Diseases; Against Kidney Disease; Against Temptations; Agricultural Workers; Civil Engineers; Dying People; Farmers; Monks; People in Religious Orders; Servants Who Have Broken Their Master's Belongings; Speliologists; Spelunkers; Students

Would you look at that? It looks like someone is cheering us on this year!

I hope that you all have a beautiful, wonder filled 2015 - FULL STEAM AHEAD!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Year in Books: Part 4

Hallelujah, I made it.  Please note that I've written four consecutive posts.  You're welcome.

I have so much to do to get ready for tomorrow and Wednesday that I'll keep this as short as possible - on to the books!

31.  The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason  After a big ol' novel like American Gods I needed something to read (or listen to) that I didn't have think very hard about and this was recommended to me by Goodreads somehow. And since I love both the Sherlock Holmes character (having watched all of the BBC series) and Bram Stoker's Dracula this seemed like just the thing.  I ended up liking it and I'm not going to lie, I may just read any successive books.
3 Stars

32.  Shadow Spell by Nora Roberts  Oh Nora Roberts.  Why you gotta do me like this? Last year I saw that she was writing a new trilogy and I had enjoyed quite a few of her other trilogies so I thought, why not! The first book in the series was.... just okay.  And being the glutton for punishment that I am I signed up for the pre-order for the second book and folks, I hated it.  It took me FOREVER to slog through this dang thing! I can't explain it.  Also, I'm hoping the third book (I am such a sucker) won't suck so hard.
1 Star

33.  The Shadows by Jacqueline West  I am not quite sure where this suggestion came from, maybe I was trolling Goodreads or Book Page but it came highly recommended.  It just so happened that my Beloved and I were walking through Kroger (to waste time while Jet's was making our pizza) and they had a table of books with this one on it! w00t! A very good book.  Enough so that I recommended it to a friend and she too loved it.  The rest of the books are on my list to read further down the road.
4 Stars

34.  Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke  Another suggestion from Cari! (Thanks Cari!)  This was an amazing book, all 32 hours of it! The first three quarters of the book were sssslllloooowwww and then BOOM! It picked up and I lovedy love love love the last 1/4 of the book.  I realize that she had to set up the characters (which she did very well) but there were points where I wanted to tear my hair out.  Plus BBC is making it into a TV Series.  Sweetness!
4 Stars

35.  Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman  One of the characters from American Gods gets his own story fleshed out.  I liked this book a lot, there was a good twist and something that I hadn't expected.  If you've read American Gods this'll be right up your alley.
4 Stars

36.  The Big Year by Mark Obmascik  Ohmygoodnessgracious! How is it that the girl who wishes she even knew that being an ornithologist was a thing, had never read this book? I'll tell you how - I bought the dang thing, didn't realize I had it and let molder away on my bookshelf for YEARS.  However, I'm really glad that I finally downloaded it to listen to because I really, really enjoyed this book! It had me Googling all kinds of birds/facts.  Every birdwatcher/ornithologist wanna be needs to read this book.
4 Stars

37.  The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood  Ooph.  You want to read a depressing book? Read this.  It had the misfortune of being both wholly sad and implausible.  What else.... um.  It's (barely) about knitting.  That's it.
2 Stars

38.  The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse by Alan Bradley  I would say I feel sorry about adding this short story on my list but, Flavia! There is nothing I can say other than if you're a Flavia de Luce fan then this 99 cent short story is a must.  It's enough to tide me over until January and the release of the newest book As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust.
5 Stars

39.  Hild by Nicola Griffith  I originally heard about this book on NPR when they interviewed the author and promptly went home and purchased it, where it sat on my Kindle ever since.  And in an effort to read some of the books that have been there the longest I downloaded the audiobook to listen to on my way to and from work.  Historical novels at their best.  I love how the author draws such beautiful scenes of 7th century life.  Wow! I had a lot of difficulty in the beginning differentiating between people, places and items because of the Old English/Old Irish/Anglisc/British/Latin - phew! But once I got the hang of it and looked in the glossary things got better.  I loved Hild's wild, frenetic world and her calmness.  Good, good book.
4 Stars (once again, I think it should be at least 4.5 - 4.75)

40.  The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness  BLERG! This book, I tell you.  Don't you hate it when a book in the series just stinks? I really enjoyed the first book, the second book was pretty good and this one? Craptastic.  From the first few pages I kept yelling at the book (the cats did not enjoy this) because the author is, from one chapter to the next, switching perspectives.  I used the like the lead male character, Matthew, but all I saw of him in this book was him being overbearing, mean and crazy amounts of possessive.  Pffft.  The Diana from the first book wouldn't put up with that horse manure.  Also, for reals? The ending wasn't an ending at all! Dang it! Whatevs.  I'm over it.
2 Stars

A goal that I set for myself and exceeded.  That makes up for the near misses, no?

And that, my pretties concludes my 1st annual Year in Books Review.  I'm resting my eyes and ears for now and deciding how many books I plan to challenge myself to read in 2015!