Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pleased as Punch

I am happy to announce that I am the proud owner (at least temporarily) of a hive of bees. Yes, Saturday was the happy arrival date. I drove to Nelson County to pick up my dad, then we meandered the back way through some pretty stunning countryside all the way to Shipman. Where we picked up two 3# boxes of bees (complete with Italian Queens). We all rode back to Pop's farm, where we did a quick installation of his hive and then I high tailed it back to The City where Cho-girl met me a few minutes after my arrival. Documentation extraordinaire! My house mate also witnessed the installation. It was quick and to the point. Pry open the box, remove the can of syrup, uncork the Queen cage an dump in the bees. There were a few tense moments when the Queen came charging out of the cage, which isn't supposed to happen, there is supposed to be a candy barrier that the bees eat away to release her, but I guess she managed to eat it all herself while in transit. It was a close thing. It could have been ciaou bella, but I think I got her in the hive. I went to check them later in the day and they did seem to be hovering around the hive and the strays left in the cage had gone - presumably into the hive. They sent a guard bee out to check me out. I guess I was standing around too much...Pretty suspicious like, you know? But they seemed to determine that I was not a bear and left me alone. That they were so organized only a few hours after installation gives me hope that they are settling. I haven't checked on them today yet. I thought I would wait for the effing sleet to stop first.




You can get the full gallery here, at least for a while.... THANKS CHO!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


The photos you have all been waiting for. Or not.

The newly painted bee boxes on the back stoop drying

The blueberry bed. With future blueberry bed behind it.

I had the unenviable task of having to remove some of the blooms from the blueberries. I had to do it while I was feeling strong. Several references I have seen recommend this. It is sooooo difficult. But it makes the plants stronger. In the end, I guess I can get them at the farmers market for another year. Sigh.

I try to console myself with thought of what my garden will be like next year. bees and honey in June. Egg laying chickens by spring. And blueberries. Mind you, I have a pretty vivid imagination.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sneaking suspicions

So I have a sneaking suspicion that Barbara Kingsolver is overstating some of the joys of growing your own food for a year. I mean, I have canned tomatoes in July/August. I am not a complete neophyte (my dad made me do it when I was younger). I remember it being one of the hottest days' work you can come by. An August day in Virginia with pots of boiling water going in the kitchen for HOURS. The tomatoes have to be dunked in boiling water, put in cold water then peeled and pressed into jars to be put in more hot water. I don't recall the gently bubbling kitchen she describes. Ours was considerably sweatier and crankier. Especially after you have burned all ten finger on tomatoes. But maybe that was just me. Makes me wonder about the perported ease of the 30 minute mozzerella. Sounds like I might end up glued to the counter with milk protein.

Yesterday, I put a primer coat on the bee boxes and cleaned all the frames. I knew cleaning the frames would be a royal mess, so I made sure to do it at the dining room table. Well, it WAS chilly in the morning. Later I moved outside in the sunshine. I was going to take pictures, but my camera batteries were out. Tomorrow I have to do the final coat and I will take pictures.

Kitty found the first snake of the season. I love snakes. I saved this one from the cat. At least for now. I think it was just a little brown northern or a garter snake. I didn't get a great look at it, the cat was struggling pretty hard, and I didn't want to go back and mess with it. I mean I WANTED to go back and mess with it, but I figured it had probably had enough for its first day in the sun. Somehow snakes just invite pokin' at.

The day was full of birds. I started feeding them more often in practice for having chickens. I also put out scraps of leftover natural fiber yarn in hopes that they will use it for nests. They could have some pretty swank alpaca silk lined nests if they play their cards right. We have a pileated woodpecker that hangs out around here regular-like. We encourage all kinds of woodpeckers by killing the trees we want to get rid of and leave them standing. The idea is that they then come down in pieces rather than all at once, but the reality is that we don't really know.

Estimated Bee Arrival (EBA) Saturday or Sunday. I pray the rest of the equipment, including the bee masks, arrive before that.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Diggin' in the dirt

I spent yesterday in the garden an in pursuit of garden. First thing in the morning, I added peat moss and aluminum sulfate (soil acidifier)to the blueberry bed and dug that up. I had a lot of digging to do yesterday, so I wanted to spread it out as much as possible. So I went for coffee and then to Southern States for fencing and a couple other necessities. Which I didn't realize were necessities until I got there. But I bought a half pound of onion sets, and some copper and sulfur to spray on the fruit trees. Then I went to the local butcher and got a local chicken and some local cheese at the over priced store next door. I also stopped by the place where the CSA drops off milk and eggs and I am considering a milk share.

All this local food stuff tanks to the lb, who talked me into reading Animal Vegetable Miracle. We were discussing it in the posh wine shop where she works. She said she thought I would like it. I said, I don't need another project. I think she described it then as something like absurdly inspirational. Though probably more eloquently. She said it will make you want to make your own cheese. So I picked it up last week. My list of projects is growing. Rhubarb? I don't have any rhubarb.... And yes, I want to check into the cheese thing. And I want to go to the farmers market, though it isn't open yet and I want my seeds to get their little roots in gear and start growing. And the thought of being overwhelmed by squash in July sounds almost romantic right now. I need a heat source, I need a greenhouse I need for my seedling heat mats to last for more than a year.

Happy Easter. The violets are blooming and they are calling for a chance of snow tonight.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Amazing. It isn't so very often that I read the news and inspired to hope. Today was different. The New York Times has been running articles lately on the new back to the land movement. Though they aren't calling it that. What I read today was inspiring. It lines right up with what I want to do and what I hope to help other people do in some small way. Nice to know that we are not alone in the world. And this is starting to feel like a groundswell. Take this chicken thing for example.... but that is for another post.

Victory Garden? Check. Roof top gardens in the city? Yes, please! Tearing down development to put up farmland? Yuppers. Claiming unused space for parks/greenspace? Brilliant. Choosing greenspace over parking? Amen.

And as the double dog bonus, I found these guys as a result and joined a yarn CSA - the first an only in the country. I wish it was a little more local, but hopefully, it will catch on. We'll see how it goes.

I had this interesting conversation with a good friend several months ago, as we were talking about local things.... I had found an alpaca farm that might let me buy yarn there... I started thinking about how there is precious little local cloth and the the true cost of clothing the real cost of purchasing locally grown fiber, and having it transformed into a outfit. DANG. THINK about the work. At a living wage - no wonder people only had one set of clothes in the "olden days" That shit is expensive. What it really made me think is that a $40 pair of jeans must be doin' a lot of people wrong and a few people WAY too right.

It is a complicated world we live in.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Variety is the spice of life

See this? Know what it is? It is a 72 cell flat full of soil seeds and markers. So in those 72 cells are 26 different kinds of tomatoes - that would be varieties, here are two cells of each 26 varieties making that at least 52 cells each containing more than one seed - the rest are peppers, eggplant and basil. Have I mentioned that I have NO LUCK with tomatoes? I would like to express my thanks to each of you for not mentioning my particular pathology previously, but I do wonder, when exactly were you going to tell me that I am a raving lunatic? When they come to haul me off clutching the brightly colored packets to my chest and insisting that all I need is one more season, then I am sure I will figure this tomato thing out.... Was it going to be then that you shook your heads and said, "Well, we knew it was just a matter of time.... Poor thing, bless her heart.... I don't suppose she would mind if I ate those leeks though now that she won't be around for a while....." Yeah, thanks. And don't forget to write.....

Friday, March 14, 2008

Clean Slate

I took the day off work to plant my garden. Well at least to start planting. There was quite a bit of digging that had to be done first. Actually before the digging was removal of the existing iris, the toting of horse poop, application of various other organic supplements etc. In our best bed, the digging isn't really hard. This is the Chocolate Cake Bed. The blueberry bed was a little tougher, though smaller. I had to remove a bunch of very tenacious grass, then proceed with the above, minus iris. It is getting there. Not ready to plant yet.

But here is the chocolate cake bed. Free of iris for the first time in 2 years.

Want a bite? Actually, it would be more appetizing without the very occasional but very identifiable horse turds.

I transplanted the leeks. I thought I would have tons leftover, but I just planted them close together - so you missed out if you were angling for some.... I also put out some of my broccoli and parsley (all from seed thankyouverymuch) and boosted them up with something called ROOTS that is supposed to help transplants. I was definitely on the early side for these guys, so I wanted to give them all the help I could. I planted 20 strawberries as well. Then I started with the seeds.

For the first time ever, I make a plan for the garden. Hopefully this will assist with the 4 bushels of kale and no place to put the tomatoes problem. Of course, the extra beds put together by the SB will allow for a little branching out.... Watermelon mojitos anyone?

All assuming I can do something about the critters.....

Sunday, March 9, 2008

OK, I am back

The SB left Friday for Silver Springs and a visit with friends and some homework assignment. I didn't do much Saturday. The weather was a little nasty. Continued rain makes the blueberry project more likely next weekend. I did go visit a friend who is having back pain issues. She just got some kind of injection that is supposed to help, but it is one of those worse before it gets better things. I went over to distract her and go on a short cold windy walk which may actually have helped if just to dispel the nausea temporarily. In exchange, I was plied with delicious treats sent by her mother from Bangladesh. Salty cookies (like shortbread), toasts and a toasted pound cake kind of thing plus the stuff she says "is like chex mix" - a curried snack mix with peanuts, rice stix and a few other things that I don't think are generally available here. Oh, and lemon tea.

I decided on my way to the grocery store that I would try to spend only $30 on groceries. This as a result of throwing out way too much food lately. I could have done it if I didn't have to buy cat food and candy for the candy dish I keep at work. The candy dish is theoretically optional, but the cat food isn't. If we are out of cat food, Kitty tends to "remind" me that he is hungry by snagging my pants (or leg - you wonder why I don't wear skirts much?) as I walk by. The longer the bowl is empty, the more insistent the reminders, until they involve both teeth and claws... Sort of like exclamation points. It is cheaper to buy cat food than replace my wardrobe.

Later today I go to my Pop's to do an inventory of bee equipment so I can place my order. for the things I will need. The last weekend in March. So very soon.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


It is raining tonight. It started as the kind of rain that makes you wish you had your peas in the ground already. It has now moved on to the kind of rain that makes you wish you had gotten around to fixing that downspout.

I have had an ear infection over the past few days and not feeling like doing much of anything. The SB is home though, so I am working in the yard, and cooking a bit. I roasted chicken last night and made mashed potatoes. (Smashers with butter, onion and a little leftover cream cheese. Deeeelish.) We went out and got lumber to put in new garden beds. I'll have a place for my blueberries and another bed for the raspberries. And then additional beds for just any old thing I want. Good thing, because I have about 80 leek seedlings. Want some? I mean, how much vischysoise can one eat?