Monday, December 28, 2015

Bluebird of Happiness

A bluebird perched on the balcony rail this morning while I was drinking my tea, grateful that I was indoors.  The weather has suddenly turned normal for December in Michigan - that would be nasty cold with freezing rain starting at noon.  After our weirdly warm and green Christmas, I'm not ready for this.  But the bluebird was beautiful, and he knew it.  He turned around in a circle on the rail so I could admire him from all directions, before flying off.  His spot was quickly taken by several woodpeckers of various types, who began pecking up and down the black walnut next to the balcony. I have spent the whole day being grateful for that bluebird... because I'm sure not grateful for the weather!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Bizzy Buzzy Bee Day

The pkg bees arrived early.  I wasn't ready.  I got it done anyway.  I hived the two pkgs using the no-shake method (modified Lorge - no drawn comb, just foundation).  We'll see if they are out of the boxes tomorrow.  I would check tonight, but it started pouring just as I was finishing up.  Now it is thundering and I'm not going out there.  Anyway,  I also split the original hive-that-was-new last year.  The queen went with the split (and she was HUGE), so I gave the deep that stayed in place a new Italian queen.  I checked the split I did earlier in the week and found no queen and no eggs, so they got the new Carniolan queen.  I'm assuming the old queen is still in place in the old deep, but I'll check for eggs in a few days to be sure.  This equals six hives.  I still have to put together ten more frames for the two nucs I use as swarm traps, and get one of them up on top of the duck coop (mmm roast duck with honey... look!  a chicken!) and find a location for the other one that is upwind of all the hives, just in case any of the splits are still of a mind to throw a swarm.  Or I get lucky and catch someone elses.  Oh, and did I mention hauled 12 concrete blocks up to the apiary to build three hive stands because there was no way to get three wood ones built in the time I had.  S'okay with me - we had the blocks on hand, so this was free.  And all three went together in five minutes.  It would have taken me at least five hours to build wood ones, if you include the time wasted going to the store to buy the 2x4s and 1x6s.

Then the Pirate and I made dandelion fritters for supper.  (Her idea - I came into the kitchen and she was getting everything ready).  Dandelions are plants.  So we will call that a nice healthy salad... NOT!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Not what I thought I'd be doing today

Instead of digging more trenches and planting the taters, I spent the afternoon dealing with the bees.  It is 75 degrees here.  The bees were in their two hives, with two deeps each.  Hive One had bearded up the front of their hive, almost to the top.  Hive Two, commando types, had multiple entrances/exits to their hive, and were bearding above two of the three.  This would be great build-up, except that it looks like swarm prep to me, and I DO NOT WANT THEM TO SWARM!  My swarm trap is not ready, and there is no guarantee they'd use it anyway.  So, I did a quick split on Hive One and gave each of the original deeps one more deep above.  I didn't bother to check for the queen, or even for eggs in both deeps.  Yes, yes, I know I'll have to go back and do that.  Later.  They weren't grateful for the extra real estate and stung me right thru my suit.  Twits.  Then I gave Hive Two an empty super to play with.  They were far less annoyed.  Obviously, I need to spend some time this week putting together more woodware and getting three more bases made, because I have no more, and I have two more packages of bees coming next weekend.  And I'm supposed to paint the toddler room at church this week.  And plant the rest of the garden.  I beelieve I 'll bee bizzy.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Dandelion Fritter time!

I took the girls over the hill and down to the river for a short homeschool field trip today, so we could check out the blooming spring beauty (corms taste like water chestnuts) and bloodroot (we did the face painting thing two years ago, so this time we just took pics).  Then the Pirate collected a bunch of dandelions because she remembered the fritters from last year and wanted them again, and I grabbed some wintercress that was also blooming.  I couldn't find last year's fritter recipe, so Pinterest came to my rescue, and I found another one that I think was even better - the batter was much lighter and thinner, and I just dipped the dandelions flowers in whole and tossed them in hot oil to deepfry.  Quick, easy, and we'll pretend that it's healthy.  Then I made "cheese sauce" for the wintercress buds and flowers (yes, I did the boil twice thing first).  Really, I just melted some Velveeta because I didn't want this to be a huge production.  I ate it all.  Tasty!  If I have time, I'm going to grab some ditchlily (those daylilies that have naturalized along every country road in this state) roots and do something with them, too.  Haven't decided what though.  I'll be real happy when they are blooming - I love them stuffed with cream cheese.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Peas in the ground and horses in the wind

The weather and my schedule finally cooperated long enough for me to get the peas in the ground, along with the fava beans.  I've never planted fava beans before.  Heck, I've never EATEN fava beans before, that I know of.  The seeds were HUGE.  I just figured I'd try them because they tolerate the cold better than my usual green beans.  The peas were purple blauschokkers (sp?) and some leftover-from-last-year snap, shelling, and snow peas.  I had to put them in the row with the asparagus I plated last fall.  I figured since I wasn't going to be harvesting any of that asparagus, it might be all right.  And I just didn't have anyplace else ready for the peas, which really needed to be in the ground two weeks ago.  As soon as I was done, I had to run the Pirate up to Mason to go horseback riding, which was lovely, because I got to ride first (the horse hasn't been ridden all winter, and needed to get his kinks out before putting the kid up on him.  I'd never ridden in a dressage saddle til two weeks ago, and I must say that it is THE most comfortable saddle EVER.  It's enough to make me want a horse of my own.  El Jefe would leave me, though.  Sigh.  I still like him better than horses, which would shock anyone who knew me as a teenager, when I lived to ride... I hope he knows that!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Spuds, etc.

I planted one tire of little Yukon Golds, and five tires of little Adirondack Blues.  I didn't plant the larger taters cause they need to be cut and dried a bit.  And because I have no idea where I'm going to fit them.  I may have overestimated the number of potatoes I have room to plant.  Oops.  They are probably going to have to take up a row in what should be the corn patch... which also may be where at least some of the maters will have to go.  This is all because one third of the garden is garlic.  Some of the maters may end up in the hoophouse.  I don't like that because they've never done well in there.  I hope that was because of the water issue that I think I've solved.  The two things that have done great in the hoophouse have been cukes and onions, but I don't want to keep planting the same things in the same place... too bad I can't put the corn in the hoophouse.  That would solve some of the space issues.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Of chicks and chickens and mean as the dickens...

Chick update - there are two chicks from the incubator currently living in Tooth's old cage.  One is the original, the other is a gimpy second chick that except for being gimpy, looks just like the first one.  It hatched the next day.  Then on the 20th (I think), the broody Buff Orp hatched one bitty brown chick.  It's very cute, very active.  She had it outside the coop yesterday, and outside the pen today.  Unfortunately, some of the other hens try to peck at it.  She defends it and they usually leave.  Except for the other Buff Orp, who tried to start the hen version of a cock fight.  I grabbed her and threw her over the fence for this.  She flapped off in a huff, and for my trouble Mam Hen attacked my boot.  She didn't like it when I lifted her into the coop this evening either, even though I quickly handed her the little chick.  It's amazing how LOUD one chick that wants its mama can be.

Sunchokes and Ramps and Ginseng, oh my!

I finally figured out where to put the sunchokes so they don't take over the world.  I hope.  They are on the north side of the hoophouse in a frame I found in the barn made of 1x10s and scrap lumber.  As long as they don't ever get into the hoophouse, I really don't care if that 4'x8' space holds them.  There are only 21 chokes in that space right now anyway, so they have room to expand where they are.  And I will try to dig all of them up every year.  They are on top of old landscaping fabric that was already there, in a bed full of chicken bedding from last year, and bagged dirt that I had bought for the hoophouse, but decided to use instead of the horse manure that will likely end up in the hoophouse to top off the beds.  The kids can make some cash weeding it...

I also got the ramp planted back in the woods.  I marked the spot with a stake, and I found my stakes from planting the ginseng seeds last year.  There's stuff growing there right now, but it isn't the ginseng.  I'll have to check when it is supposed to come up, and whether or not I should weed out what is there.  But right now I am going to take advantage of the last of the light, and do some more work in the hoophouse.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Turq's chick in Tooth's cage

We lost our favorite roo, Turq,  a month ago, and in order to make the Pirate feel a little better, we saved eggs from the hens for the next few days, and then popped them into the incubator a most generous friend loan us.  I candled them about a week into incubation, and only three were developing (of the dozen or so).  We were not hopeful.  But this morning we woke up to a lovely little surprise.  A peeping chick in the incubator, fully hatched and half dried already.  I think this is probably all that will hatch, though I will candle them before I pitch them to be sure.  In any case, the Pirate is thrilled that she has descendents of her beloved Turq, and the rest of us are pleased and guardedly hopeful that this one will survive.  It is going into a makeshift brooder in an hour.  When I say makeshift, I really mean that... the brooder is the snake's old cage.  I needed something other than my usual plastic storage bin setup, since the cats can get into that.  So... off to drag Tooth's old home out of the barn, and install Diamond, the chick, into it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

At least the bees are happy...

Everyone around here is grouchy this afternoon.  I would be fine, but overexposure to grouchiness is irritating.  At least the bees are happy.  I checked them earlier today and they are buzzing merrily and bringing in gobs of yellow pollen.  There is at least two shades of it, so I guess there are at least two types of trees blooming now.  I have no idea what they would be, so I will have to find my bloomtime calendar, and then go find an example tree and see if it is correct.  That will get me out of range of the crabby people, I hope.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cleaning up inside and out, without Cinderella to help

I finally got outside today around 2PM.  It was cold and windy, but it didn't matter because I went to the hoophouse.  I dragged three more loads of garden soil out (the kids' sleds are great for this even tho' the snow is gone).  Then I prepped another block, and planted it with golden purslane (last year's seed), joker crisphead lettuce, magenta spreen (fancy name for the weed known as lambsquarters - everyone here thinks its a great spinach substitute), shogoin turnip, rainbow radish pk, purple dragon carrots, hybrid spinach, white icicle radish (my fave), flashy troutsback lettuce, wrinkled crinkled cress, watermelon radish, and merlot lettuce.  Then I watered everything (I'm working out carrying 5 gallon buckets of water out there).  After that, I went outside (the sun had started to shine and the sky had cleared) and pulled brush that had grown up on the north side of the hoophouse around the beehives last year.  The bees weren't out (too cold), so I could get right next to the hives without disturbing them.  I made a big pile of the stuff I pulled.  Then I wandered around the fruit trees determining what needs to pruned this weekend.  I'd like to do it tomorrow, but the Princess has been badgering me all week long to take her to see Cinderella, and I suppose I shall.  Unless she mentions it one more time, in which case we won't go til Sunday, and I'll get the pruning done beforehand.

Monday, March 23, 2015

3/23 Hoophouse Plantings, etc

Today saw another block planted in the hoophouse, along with more cleaning.  The bin of fig branches is almost full.  These will be used to start fires in the woodstove next fall.  The second block of sowing is done.  It included green meat daikon, four seasons lettuce, miners' lettuce, hybrid spinach (a free packet from Vermont Bean Co leftover from last year), garden purslane (yes, I am really intentionally planting that weed in my garden), vit, and dragon's tongue arugula (last year's seeds, because I loved it so much).  I have two more lettuces and some golden purslane to go in the hoophouse this week.  Then I have to get the indoor stuff started.  Somewhere.  I don't know where.  The bathroom I would ordinarily use is the one that is in the process of being ripped out, and is therefore unavailable.  Everywhere else is cat country, which won't work.  Except my bedroom, and I can just imagine how well that will go over with El Jefe... I don't think I could sleep with plant lights on, either, actually.  But it's more fun to blame it on him.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Hoophouse work

Today saw five bags of dirt added to  the raised beds in the hoophouse.  I also realized just how much MORE dirt I need to add.  I think it will wait until I've planted the topped off sections, and by then I hope the ground will have dried enough to use the tractor to transport aged horse manure from next door instead.  Dirt is heavy when you have to walk it in bag by bag.  Anyway, I also planted one section with arugula, radishes (rainbow mix, zlata, and white icicle), kale (a test to see how it does in  the hoophouse, 3 types - dwarf blue, a hybrid whose name escapes me, and a wild mix), lettuce (avicenna), and two rows of purple dragon carrots.  I'll plant another section of the same things in two weeks.  I also screwed up and dug up a section of garlic I planted last fall, because I couldn't find the book where I wrote down what I planted where, and of course I forgot about doing this until I dug it up.  Sigh.  I replanted it,  along with some topset onions. 

I didn't get as much done as I wanted because I had to build a fire in Pet Graveyard, in order to thaw the ground enough to dig a hole for Turq, so my youngest daughter would not be scarred for life over the lack of ceremony for the burial of her favorite rooster.  Yes, really.

Friday, March 13, 2015

More signs of Spring!

The ducks are laying again, which is good, since we don't have as many chicken eggs as usual to eat, because we saved all the eggs from this week to put in the incubator, in the hopes that we'd hatch  a few that are our late Turq the Rooster's get.  He died last Saturday of unknown causes (found dead without a mark on him underneath the ramp into the chicken coop.  This was distressing to all of us, because he was THE BEST ROOSTER we've ever had in terms of NOT attacking people, and NOT being too hard on the ladies (no bald spots or bloodied combs), and he was beautiful.  A blue laced red Wyandotte.  I'll have to find a pic to post.  Anyway, I tried to add BLR Wyandottes to my Murray McMurray order, but they were already sold out.  So, I added just one Golden Laced Wyandotte rooster to the order, and we will hope that he works out.  If not, I'll keep the gender-confused Partridge Cochin Roo(?) around a little longer.  He doesn't crow.  Ever.  He sits on eggs.  And pecks at you if you try to take them away.  But he mounts hens, too.  And he looks like a roo.  I don't want Cochin chicks tho'.  Last year, I ordered one Cochin hen, hoping for a decent setter, and s/he's what we got.  Cochins don't lay as well as Rocks and Wyandottes, and they grow slower and don't do as well free range, so I'm not interested in perpetuating his line.  I just wanted a setter that didn't mind the nasty winters here.  The kids named him Red Queen, back when we thought he was a she.  That just strikes me as funny.

And the whole point of this was... I have duck eggs again, and in 3 weeks, maybe I'll have chicks.  But I hope not too many, because chicks in April were NOT in my plans this year.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Being perpetually short of cash due to all the issues with The Hovel (Cookstove House's new name), we have made arrangements to have some of the Black Walnut trees logged out.  This is very selective, since they aren't taking any other type of tree, nor are they taking all the Black Walnuts.  But it still bums we out, because I would have like to use that wood myself.  Not that I will have time to build any furniture in the next decade, but whatever, that's just my greedy kneejerk reaction.  Anyway, the trees are going to pay for the floor in the pole barn, and the crushed asphalt we need for the driveway, and the difference between what we owe in taxes and what we saved to pay the taxes.  Then we will need to figure out how to pay to have electric in the pole barn.  THEN we can start working on The Hovel, hopefully before the floor under the cookstove caves in.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Spring has Sprung

Spring has arrived here, by my unofficial calendar, which dates Spring to the first day it is warm enough for me to feed the bees.  This afternoon,  I assembled the spacers that go above the top deep and below the covers (in order to make room for the feed patties and the bees together).  Then I went out to the hoophouse (which felt like 80 degrees inside - it is 47 outside right now according to the computer, but I though it felt warmer, and the bees were flying everywhere, which usually means it is over 50).  Anyway, I cut the patties into 5 strips each that would fit on top of the frames and still leave the bees space to get up and by.  Then I went out to the hive #1, popped the lid, realized I needed to remove the paper from one side of the strips (sigh), did that, placed them on the frames, put the spacer on, and put the covers back down.  Then I went back into the hoophouse to remove the paper from the other strips before popping hive #2, since I wanted to have the covers off for as short a time as possible.  Same procedure otherwise.  Hive #2 has more bees, but also has made exit holes in both rear corners of the hive, instead of using the front (WTH?  Backdoor bees?  Sounds like the name of a band...)  I was glad I bothered to wear a veil, since they were a bit frisky and I dislike when they get trapped in my hair.  Now I am back to the hoophouse to dig in the dirt and get things ready to sow seeds this weekend.  BECAUSE IT'S SPRING!