Monday, April 28, 2008

Way behind, as usual

So after all the primping and planning about "fixing" the beehive, turns out, the bees had taken care of the whole thing all by themselves. I shouldn't be surprised, but I am. They are amazing. I can't believe how calm they are when I am out there. There I am, prying the roof off the house and they just keep on keepin' on.

Sunday Cho-girl and I and another friend went Chicken Coop Touring. Comparing how different people solve the chicken run/coop challenge. Then we went to Tractor Supply to "look" at some baby chickens. Luckily, they were fresh outta the little guys. Thank heavens. I expect chicks and ducklings are only a teeny bit more resistible than kittens. Though having a cat actually makes kittens more resistible. Check out Starrhill Girl's recent cat antics.

With luck, tomorrow afternoon we will be doing a coop raising in the next neighborhood over. There are SO many people with chickens. It is remarkable. Cho suggested a float in the next Dogwood Parade. Instead of candy we can throw eggs. Sign me up. I'll start working out my throwing arm.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Flexibility is the Key to Mental Health

I have a busy weekend. Doing lots of fun things and lots of garden work. It is organized very tightly. Last night I was supposed to babysit, but the engagement was canceled. I didn't wisely get a jump on my projects. noooo. I read a magazine all night.

Today, I have been getting much done in the kitchen and errand-ing. I went to the market with Mama, and was surprised by the first strawberries of the season. I bought two quarts and plan to eat every last one by myself. Maybe next week I will be more reasonable. I SCORED big at a yard sale with a vintage chandelier (maybe from the 20s?) made of concentric rings with billions of glass dangley things.... $5. For that, I might just put it in the chicken house if the SB doesn't love it as much as I do.

I met a friend for coffee and he is lending me a drill so that I can drill holes in my beehive inner cover. (If you remember, the bees have built comb on this that I don't want to destroy, but the cover has one large whole in the center and the bees are going to need better access throughout.) Drill scored, I came home and puttered around. I put a bunch of tomatoes in. In the pots are Crimson Carmello and Persimmon. Then, near the front door is the Yellow Pear, Aunt Lucy's Paste and New Zealand Paste. A little further along the bank are some more, shoe horned in around our rudbekia. I managed to get in Black Krim, Tigerella, Grandma Mary's Paste, Costoluto Genovese, Green Zebra, Wonder Light, Black Plum Paste, Marvel Stripe, Russian Big Roma and San Marzano. I may be able to fit in a few more if I extract some of the Rudbekia. Why, you may ask does one, possibly two and at tops three people need more than 15 tomato plants? Just don't ask. I am willing to bet that there will be no problem with too many tomatoes. They will be stolen by groundhogs or the neighborhood urchins or some other horrible fate will befall them. It is my lot in life. I must battle on.

After this I started winding my way toward the bees by way of some hand washing of winter sweaters, boiling eggs, making tea, and a hundred other little chores. I was all suited up and had just coaxed the smoker into producing huge clouds of cool gray smoke when the rain started. Now the bees are going to be cranky. I may have to check the weather and wait for tomorrow.

In the meantime, there is bread to bake and some hemming to do. I have about 5 pairs of summer pants that need hemming. I am desperately tired of black and ready for a wardrobe infusion. And there are perennials to start, salad greens to oggle a whole lotta weeding to do.

And there is still hope for the bees, though the thunder continues....

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Nothing Much In Particular

So, not a lot going on. Lots of rain over the weekend, which allowed me to plant lots of zinnias and sunflowers and set them out in the best conditions - damp, misty and overcast - so they had a chance to settle in before the heat of yesterday and today. I am talking relative heat. It was only about 70 today. Gorgeous. Perfect spring weather. I was late getting home from work so didn't get a chance to do much, but I pruned the new apple tree and picked a few flowers and then planted some okra and dill (for okra pickles - should I be so fortunate) and beans along with a few more beets since my success rate on those is low..... I did find out that beets like good soil contact when planted so I tried to work on that a bit in hopes of actually having some beets later in the summer. Fresh beets. Yum. And broccoli. The broccoli is coming along nicely. I'll probably get about 8 heads all at the same time. But, at this point, that hardly seems like a problem. Remind me later when I whine about it.

I am just on the brink of some really nice salad greens and I should probably start harvesting soon so I don't get overwhelmed. There is also kale and chard coming in. And the leeks are still alive. Go figure. My strawberries have blossoms on them (of course the few from last year are more heavily flowered and fewer), but there is hope of a handful or two for my yogurt at some point in the future. I ended up not pulling ALL the blossoms off my new blueberries, so, who knows, I may have a handful of them too before all is said and done.

I am letting the asparagus go this year without harvest. I think I have been too hard on it in the past, too much harvesting and not enough feeding. I'll give it the year off in hopes of a beautiful future.

And of course, I have the REALLY hard work. Of the bazillion varieties of tomatoes that I have, I have to pick two to place in my new pots by the door. Yes, my front door will be flanked this year by potted tomatoes, if they choose to participate. Now which kinds? I was thinking a nice salad type and a tiny type. Maybe Tigerella and Yellow Pear? Or a paste type and a salad type - like San Marzano and Marglobe? The infinite choices and combinations. Truly, it is paralyzing.

I'll need to peep in on the bees this weekend. I am sure they will be thrilled. It is remarkable how active they are in the warm weather. Quite a bit of coming and going out there.

There is a move afoot to build a chicken house next Tuesday. Cross your fingers and your toes and hope for good weather, because I think we are at it regardless of what befalls us weather wise. The time of the chicken has come.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New Projects and Old

Wow. Lots has happened. Last weekend the SB was home for a spur of the moment visit. On his very short "break" he mowed the lawn, pruned the apple trees, put up my ground hog fence, hauled a bunch of poop around and generally made himself useful-like. He is a little less than thrilled with the half assed way that I installed the bees (I neglected to level everything up before I set it up) but he is very excited about the prospect of ducks. Yes, ducks. Specifically, this kind of duck. This is an Indian Runner Duck. I love them because they are so upright and I just want to give all of them little baseball caps and have the follow me around in the yard. The are Asian in origin and are used to help weed and keep the rice paddies varmint free. I figure they will fit right in our wetland. A good sturdy fence will be needed, but the SB is working on that - the design of the gate and the duck house.

This will be in addition to the chickens and the wild fantasy of a dairy goat. I think the ducks come after chickens and before the goat. I am not sure what other livestock I might be able to shoehorn into the property, but I am sure I will think of something. There used to be a cow named Inky that lived here in the 1960s. So the property is at least used to livestock.

In garden news, I almost lost my tomatoes to stupidity. Forgetting that our garden swale is a few degrees colder than everything else. I had a few sparkly tomato seedlings the other morning. Frost and tomatoes do not blend. The basil was worst hit though. I may have to start over there. But, seeing how I had about 85 more tomatoes than I actually need - the loss of two or three tender souls, though distressing, was not disastrous. The vast majority of the seedlings I spent my weekend transplanting into larger pots also made it. Which is very rewarding indeed. With luck, I will have Black Prince snapdragons in the fall!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Lurid Description

So today was the day that I cracked open the hive. About 8 days late. Wow. Now I understand the busy as a bee thing. Sheesh. Those critters have been doing some work. Unfortunately, the didn't understand the instructions.... The instructions are to build wax comb on the foundations provided. Each foundation is enclosed in a frame. The frames can be lifted out and examined and then put back in.

When I installed the bees, I removed two frames so that the bees would fall into the hive box and not sit in a pile on top of the frames. I did not, and should have, gone back the next day and put the frames back in... Yeah. The bees built their own comb - not attached to any frame, but most certainly attached to the inner cover, which is the top of the hive. Uh, yeah. That is not cool. That is now where the majority of bees are hanging out and where the brood, if there is any has been laid - but I can't tell now can I because it isn't in a frame so I can't look at it..... Like I said. Not cool. Trust me on this. But, in my usual way, I will ignore the problem and figure out a solution later.

Generally, the inspection process went remarkably well. The bees seemed MUCH calmer than I was. I puffed a little smoke into the hive and expected a torrent when I opened the top, but no. Just a bunch of bees hangin' out. I pulled the inner cover off and found the wax stuck to it. Again, they were all totally cool. I shuffled things around and pulled some of the frames out to check them out. Totally cool. No one was really concerned with any of this. When I reached in to the hive to pull out the queen cage (empty), they most definitely let me know that hive invasion is NOT acceptable. Apparently I can take whatever I want OUT of the hive, but they are not keen on anything going INTO the hive (including hands or new frames). Which, I suppose, is something I can live with. After all, if done properly, there is really very little I will need to put in there. And with luck, there will be MUCH that I will be removing. That is the theory anyway.

I am waiting and hoping that the predicted warm weather arrives to save my seedlings from damping off. Many of the tomatoes are just stalled with the cold. I am concerned that extended damp will eventually get to them. This weekend will be filled with planting sunflowers and tithonia and zinnias in the wild areas of the yard. It is a special request of the SB that we have random sunflowers. Yes, I can do that, assuming the wildlife stays fed on other things.

I got the mower out tonight. Really. I was going to mow. But I couldn't get it started. It is always problematic the first mowing of spring. I will take it to my Step Dad tomorrow and he will tell me what is wrong. Other than it is a cheap ass mower that hasn't been maintained for most of the millennium and works way too hard. I felt bad about that maintenance part so I went to Sears and bought a new air filter and mower blade to mollify the mower. Nothing like throwing some cash at some machinery to make you feel like you are making progress on a project.

BTW. Some people have WAY too much time on their hands.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Who is responsible?

Um, who thought it was a good idea to order up some surprise rain on a Sunday when I had been procrastinating all day on Saturday? Hmm? Fess up.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


I went to my last bit of bee learnin' today. We had a final class meeting where they showed us how to install a package of bees .... Um. Done that. And they also showed us how to inspect a hive. Have not yet done that. It is fascinating to see those guys work.... No gloves. Makes sense, the gloves are pretty awkward, but still.... Maybe in a couple of months when the bees get used to me...

I went out and gave them food yesterday evening after work. They didn't exactly thank me, but they didn't panic. And consequently, I did not panic. Tomorrow may be a little different story when I have to crack the whole hive open and go rummaging around. I have to put food inside the hive box, put a few frames in the current box, examine the frames that are in there for signs of an active queen (eggs, larvae) and see how the bees are coming along with the wax making. If they are super speedy, I will add more space/frames for them to make comb. Since I won't be able to take pictures, you'll have to settle for a lurid description.

I transplanted my cosmos and some sunflowers into the garden today. I must admit I am a first class procrastinator when it comes to avoiding mowing. Really. I could give lessons. I also transplanted some other seedlings into bigger pots. Poked around at a little weeding. Stood in the middle of the yard and turned circles wondering which way to go next. So much to do. So little time.

I also made bread. Mmmm. The house smells sooooo good.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Today I held a mini welcome reception for the bees. My mother, my neighbor and a dear friend came over for a little glass of wine and a meet and greet in the garden with the bees. I figured I had given them a polite space in which to settle in and now it was time for them to be charming and social. Did I forget to invite you? Sorry, it was sort of impromptu with the weather and all.

We also enjoyed a certain flower-that-shall-remain-nameless-for-the-express-purpose-of- not-calling-down-the-groundhog-gods-upon-it. Last year, the patch was decimated. This year, so far so good, but it is a day by day thing. Each day I go out and expect the patch to be mowed to the ground. I suppose you could make the argument that I enjoy them all the more for the fear of losing them.... but really... is that necessary? Would you argue that I enjoy my cat more for fearing he will be run over by a car (again)? Let's just say I don't really need that kind of joy in my life.

This is the flower whose name ye shall not speak nor write. If the ground hogs mow it all down, I am blaming you.

This is not, of course, my yard. I don't want to give THEM any ideas.