Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Free Photos

I've compiled a CD of my better photos.
These are pictures of the woods, mushrooms, and animals, no people, except for one of CC and me extracting honey.
If you want one, tell me. Some of you are in transit, and I need a secure address for you.
Email me at HscSusiQ at AOL dot Com

Finally Grown Up

What did I want to be when I grew up? I can only remember that I wanted to have children, and live in Chesham, England, specifically at Grove Farm! Otherwise, I was so unfocused that I tried not to think about growing into adulthood.

But it comes, whether you're ready or not.

I'm officially grown up. When you hit sixty you have to admit to being an adult.

I have created, unthinkingly, an idealized version of Grove Farm here in Virginia: No silage fermenting in the bunkers, which my nose remembers so vividly, no pigs to flee from in the big pasture which I had to cross after jumping the Haw-haw (a big ditch), no huge hay barn to climb around in, looking for bantam eggs; but here are woods to explore and get to know, tree-by-tree, a just-right-sized lake, and a huge garden to dump mountains of black riches from the local stable into and grow things. Here is meaningful work to tire me and make me sleep, worry free. Here is the wonderful man I love!

I still miss Little Grove Priory. I miss Old Norwood, and Lady Jean. I miss the rose garden and the chickens. The long walks to school, where sewing was taught by a man, and we had to take exercise in our knickers! I thought that we lived there for years, until my Mother told me it was only eight months. When we had to leave I hugged all the trees goodbye, down by the chalk pit in the woods. I cried, and still cry, for that beautiful place. Luckily we married into the Lady Jean's family, so I now have cousins who are rooted there, too.

Roots don't take long to form in rich ground.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Marvelous Day

The whole day was like this.
Sweet girls busy creating crafts and pictures.
A pot of soup bubbling and bread rising.
It was dark and stormy outside, with the rain banging against the windows.
No loud voices, whining or fusses.
Aren't they wonderful.


I went to DC and had a marvelous time with my nieces. They showed what lovely young women they will someday be. We stayed around the kitchen and made bread and a big pot of lamb vegetable soup. I haven't spent such a lovely time with children in a long time. I get to go back soon to spend a little more time with them soon. Syl is already doing experiments! Young scientist!

And that brings me to the bright cherry on the whipped cream: Felix.

His sweet personality glows on his face as he sits figuring out how his toys work. I could go on and on and on... I got to spend some hours gazing at his perfection and talking to the lucky Moms. We had a fine old time cooking and consuming a good dinner at my brother's where they'll have a Thanksgiving vacation.
These oyster mushrooms grew all up this small, doomed, oak. The mushrooms are only a symptom, not the disease. We picked as high as we could reach, but left lots to float their spores through the woods and make more mushrooms for later years. As with the Lion's mane, the heavy rains made them soggy and not as highly flavored as usual. Oyster mushrooms will appear all through the winter, spring and summer, especially after a snowy or rainy period when the temperature drops. After snows last winter they were dryer, thicker and more flavorful.
These are the Hericium Mushrooms. They're the second occurrence of this type I've found in this area. They are also called Lion's Mane and Monkey head. They grow on very old and rotting hardwood. Unmistakable for anything else.

Venison and Mushrooms

CC got his deer (not all of them) and I got my mushrooms (going to get more!)

CC got a small four pointer on the first day of the regular gun season. He'd spent all muzzleloader season stalking the property and taking shots, occasionally, at the biggest buck. I have five deer damage tags, so he knows that we can harvest all the deer he and DC, who secures the upper part of the property, can shoot.

I went out with CC and found about a gallon of oyster mushrooms and two Lion's Mane mushrooms. There had been 2.5 inches of rain the day before, so they were all soggy. I wish I had weighed the large one, it felt like 5 pounds, but most of that was water. I pressed a lot of the water out of the lion's mane after I'd sliced them. They were solid mushroom meat, with the 'spines' or 'teeth' all over the outside. Unfortunately, they were very bland. I sautéed them in olive oil, and discovered the lack of flavor (they're said to taste like lobster or seafood). So I added chopped garlic and shrimp, using the shrimp's boiling water to make a thick white sauce. We had it over fettuccine. Pretty good, but not outstanding.

CC left me half of the deer. At that age they're pretty tender. Sam really doesn't like venison, so I gave it to BG, who will return half to me in jerky and a roast or two. She makes really good jerky. So I'll end up with a quarter of the first deer, ready to eat; she'll do the work. I feel guilty. I'll be glad when the boys move the big freezer into the basement.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Do you see it? Tell me if you do.

I hope you can see the little honeybee cursor. I'm trying to find one that looks more realistic and leaves a little dotted line behind it as it moves. I saw that on a beekeeping blog, which I can't find again. I'll experiment. This little bee is courtesy of WWW.Bigoo.com. Thanks Bigoo!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Poll Worker

Yesterday I worked at the Lockett District Poll. What a lovely way to meet my neighbors. I saw folks come in straight from a hard day's work, some covered with mud, dairy farm dirt, dead tired, some in starched shirts and suits, many mothers with children in tow, several sets of teens, supporting each other in their first vote.
When I told them about our new touch screen machines, most were attentive, even some who dislike 'computer stuff'. They wanted to be sure their vote counted, and were willing to make an extra effort to do it right. We had almost 3/4 of the registered voters come out on a cold rainy day. Each of the parties (R, D, I) had groups outside in the cold all day.
No one argued, complained, or otherwise disturbed the solemn proceeding. When I thanked them for their vote they smiled and spoke of duty, pride and obligation. We had three referendums on the ballot, which many voters stood and read in detail and discussed at length to understand and vote on.
Jefferson would have been proud to see them working hard to be good voters.
I am certainly proud.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Winter it is...

Now that winter is upon us I hope to start keeping you all informed of the joys of the farm life.
We're all battened down for winter, with a full woodpile, and equipment winterized. The upper garden has been manured, plowed, disked heavily, and sown to greens, turnips and rutabagas. CC's Grandfather says we planted 5 acres of seed in a quarter acre. We'll see. We did plant late, but with the winter coming later and being milder I am pleased that the seed has germinated and seems to be doing well.
The bees are mostly bedded down too, though I still have to put pollen patties into the garden bees and about four of the driveway bee hives. I'm feeding straight corn syrup now to allow them to put it into the comb and cap it off. They probably will take wax from other parts of the hive to use, since it's too cold to secrete it.
The bee inspector came a couple weeks ago and we looked at most of them. There was no indication that there was nectar coming in from the asters. I put in pollen patties and fed this last week, but found that there was a huge amount of capped honey in the hives (I did all of the hives I split this summer). Evidently the asters, or something, started producing. Still not enough, and way too little pollen stored. There was no brood in all but one which had a tiny patch of eggs because they had superseded and had a new queen (black). She had laid multiple eggs in each cell, neatly on the bottom. I'd heard that new queens would do that. I wonder if they'll raise brood now that they have the pollen patties. I'm not worried about the hives I've yet to get to, since they are better provisioned than the summer splits.
High on the priority list is getting the tractor working so I can finish putting the garden to bed and get the ground ready to plant in the spring, bush-hog the CRP fields and drag up some more wood to be cut up. I love that tractor.
CC has drilled his left middle finger to the bone in a car-renovation accident. He and some buddies had cleared the time (i.e. no girls) to spend a Friday night working on one of their cars and instead had to make a trip to the hospital. He's out of commission for a while. Our tractor is currently in pieces, because he was in the last stages of doing some maintenance on it, changing out filters, fixing a relay that was iffy, etc. I bought the full set of maintenance manuals for it, and CC has been gleefully studying them and figuring out the inner workings.
Tuesday I get to see all the neighbors who come to the Polls to vote. Around here you can visit with everyone who lives in the district by being a Poll Officer. Most people hereabouts believe in voting. Well, most of the folks who've gotten serious about their lives. There are some organizations that also figure into that 'serious' category: Church, Volunteer Fire Department, Rescue Squad, Hunt Club, Rotary, Lions, etc. Once the kids have grown enough to get out of the house the serious ones gravitate toward the places where adults are available to mentor them. Grandparents, uncles and aunts have had their time, and the kids go out looking for other adults to explain the world to them.
It's common to find that kids, like CC, have learned how to work by helping their grandparents. He plans to get his education and do as his forbears: support his farming habit with a job. CC knows that without a good job, backed by that degree, he can't afford to run the farm. Wanting to be a farmer is his incentive to get his degree. Farming is an expensive hobby. You hope to raise a family and pass the land on. The farm life is its own reward. Profits and losses will, hopefully, even out.
Wednesday I get to go see the nieces in DC. They are coming down to the farm to spend the long weekend doing farm and field things. It's mushroom season and I hope to coordinate with the hunters so we can canvas the woods for mushrooms (lots of orange). My library of mushroom books is growing and I'm memorizing as fast as I can. So far I've only eaten the oyster mushrooms I've found, and have identified fairly conclusively some Amanitas to stay away from. Spore prints and photos have helped, and there is so much on the internet! Luckily it will be in the 70s for the whole visit.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The bounty of the garden

The irrigation system, leaky tape

By Fall it looked like this!

Spring Garden: The cabbage did well under the row covers.

2006 Beekeeping Update

The bees are fed for the winter, weak hives joined with stronger ones to get them through until brood rearing time in January and then until spring nectar and pollen come in. I got alarmed in August when I found the driveway apiary almost devoid of honey, pollen, or brood. They're Russians and shut down brood rearing when our severe drought hit. There were flowers, but little nectar. They had consumed about a super of spring honey each. In the garden apiary the Italians had a surplus of honey and were full of brood and pollen. Unfortunately they also showed signs of Varroa mites. The new apiary, with the Purvis Gold Line queens, had lots of stores and good brood buildup. Guess I'm going with Italians, and will get more Purvis queens next year. They are the queens raised from breeders whose genetic lines have had no Varroa mite treatments for five years or more. I've only been treating with powdered sugar since year before last. I've got 33 hives right now, but may combine some more weak ones. If I lose half, then I can split in the spring. The only ones I'm interested in perpetuating are the Purvis queens. Clay and I went down to Brushy Mountain and hauled back about 575 gallons of HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) for feed for the next few years. I figure the ethanol production will compete for the corn crop, fuel will get more costly, and sugar is already at $0.47 per pound.

I got about 5 supers of honey (about 120+ pounds) from both spring and fall crops.

2006 Garden Assessment

The year is sliding away fast!

We're tearing down the garden, and CC is laying on the horse manure thickly as the ground is cleared of gardening infrastructure. Next year is already in the works. I'm hoping that next year we can roll out old hay and plant through it into the well manured and limed soil we've prepared this fall.

Our total production of vegetables was fairly high, but since only a few would come pick for themselves, harvesting added to the work load. Bless IC and BG for their hard work harvesting, without them a lot would have rotted. BG used her share to buy goodwill around the community. We took a load of tomatoes to the local cannery, ending up with lots of canned tomatoes and tomato juice. Thanks to IC, CC and his girlfriend we had enough help. I also have put up beets and chopped peppers

The drip tape was a good experiment, but no better than the overhead sprinklers, since we irrigate out of the lake. We still had split tomatoes and other over-watering problems, as well as breaks in the tape that caused dry areas. The drip tape has to use well water, double filtered, and the sprinklers can take the lake water, unfiltered.

The best weed barrier seems to be newspaper, although it's a stinker to put down. We used woven landscape cloth, in 3 foot and 6 foot widths, some with staples, some without. If that has dirt on top of it (to hold it down) the weeds grow right through it, making it hard to pull up in the fall. It is hard to plant through, since you don't want to make the holes for the plants too big. With bigger holes the weeds grow up neat to the plants, choking them out. The landscape cloth also unravels, leaving tough long strands in the dirt to tangle in wads on the tiller or tools. When you are rototilling to keep the weeds down, you can't get too close to the landscape cloth or you'll rip it up, along with your plants, so weeds get a good foothold at its edges, even with hoeing. Grrr. Back to straw or newspapers. Straw is expensive, so we used old hay, adding lots of weed seeds to the garden. Thick enough, it smothers even big weeds, but it's very labor intensive, unless you roll it out with the tractor, which works well.

Unlimited but not Instant

Our hot water heater rusted out (3 in 15 years) so we've replaced it with a tankless, on demand hot water system, a Rinnai 2532, which is proving to be a real improvement. Reviews of tankless systems were mixed. As long as you don't expect them to be 'instant' hot water systems you won't be disappointed. With our high mineral, acid water I figure the copper heating container/element will need replacing sooner than estimated. Unlimited hot water is a boon. We'll connect the upstairs and the basement apartment hot water systems and no longer have to turn on the apartment hot water when we have company. That alone will save $100+ a year. Changing from an electric 66 gallon tank to the propane on demand will save some, too. Don't know how much, since I had that on a timer, 8 hours a day. Since I have lots of hot water I'm using it more, especially for washing clothes and longer showers. You can chose any temperature setting, so you don't have to dilute with cold water. We're keeping it at 120 degrees since I like hot showers. The come with remotes that will set each user's hot water temperature, so you can be sure children don't get scalded, but the washer gets really hot water. Computers!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Family Man

My brother is the ultimate 'Family Man'. He and his wife, Barbara, are willing to work hard to keep together a widely spread group of people who are kin through marriage and blood.
Their kindness and generosity were demonstrated this month by a 'Howton-Harman Fun in the Sun' reunion in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. They rented 22 condos! We all flew in, from California, Great Britain, etc. and had a GREAT time, thanks to their thoughtfulness.
The highlight was seeing the children, especially the babies, and seeing how they have grown. Such beautiful children!
I also got to meet some of my SIL's family; they are as nice as I expected. Maybe in the future we can get to know each other even better. All their kids were nice; their son Tony is just back from a tour in Ramadi, and talking to him was a delight. Daughter Allie kept all the smaller children occupied by playing in the pool with them: Kudos to Allie!

July Garden Report

I have been dragging in afternoons, too tired to keep records of the garden or bees.
The garden is a 'wag the dog' production. It's WAAAY too big. We really have to restrain ourselves next year. The good news is that BG has a freezer full of food. The bad is that we can't keep up with the maintenance. Bless her, BG is slowly mulching the ground with old hay, and we're using the drip irrigation to good advantage. I'm paying CC for too much time to maintain garden and grounds, though, since I can't do it all (or won't) myself. We aren't using the raised beds as much as I'd like to, though.
I started another apiary in the south field with 22 nucs. I requeened them with 20 Purvis Goldline queens, 18 took. I gave away the queens I removed, and reports are that they're doing well. I've used powdered sugar on two hives so far and plan on doing the rest. I have 18 hives that are mature and making honey on the clover. We'll see. The goldenrod has just started blooming, too.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Kitten, Redux!

CC heard a yowling from the woods. Exploring, he found a fuzzy black kitten in a blackberry thicket. Alerting me, he tried to lure the reluctant howler out of the thicket. Obviously hungry, probably thirsty, the kitten was a picture of approach/avoidance. Two steps out, sit, then run back into the gopher hole he'd found shelter in. I retrieved the can of tuna we'd found mixed into the sawdust last year, and opened it. Approach started winning, but not by enough. CC went back to work. I broke out a passage for my flip-flopped feet through the brambles, and kept up my end of the mewing conversation. I saw that we could block the retreat to the groundhog hole, so CC came back. He on one side, me on the other, I lured and he snatched. Kitten was NOT happy. Good leather gloves on CC helped, but I had the hand-off, so I wrapped him tightly in my shirt to quiet him and gingerly backed out.

Macks, who had been confined, immediately stuck his nose into the baby's face and my finger got tangled with kitten's teeth. A bath, a trip to Jim's vet clinic for a checkup, and we started socializing him. I think he's socialized now: he's sitting on my shoulder and grooming my ears and hair! Booger is NOT happy that he's been displaced as the youngest. Rascal, as we've named him, has weathered septicemia from the bash on his chin and is arrogantly taking control of the house. Macks is his adoring buddy, Amelia, the queen of the house, studiously ignores him.

Jim, my BIL Vet, says that the chin-bash and lack of fleas says that Rascal was probably tossed out of a car. He's surprised the rest of the litter hasn't shown up, but they may have chosen several roads to leave them on. We're up to 8 cats now. Sigh.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Tearing down the House

CC and I went to Victoria, VA and helped a Beegroup member tear out a wall to relocate a hive of bees to his boxes. None of us had ever done this before. The beekeeper friend was new at beekeeping, and I have only read, and watched Que and Harry take a hive out of a trunk. I'll post pictures when I figure out how to download them from Gwin's camera.

We got really sticky, and harvested at least 60+ pounds of honey (In the comb it filled two five gallon buckets). We used file folder sized rubber bands to hold the brood in empty frames, and got 8 frames of brood. Unfortunately we didn't find the queen, so we can only hope we got her. We left the hive in the window for the bees to go inside, and hope that the queen is there to lure them. If not, they have plenty of eggs to raise another. They had drawn comb from the outside wall toward the inside wall in one section, and in the other section, parallel to the outside wall. They must have been there for a year, maybe more, though there were no signs of wax moths. What a mess we left for the bees to clean up.

The hive was located under a window between the framing that supported the window. They were out of room to expand, and probably swarmed this Spring. Considering the disruption we caused, they were very well behaved. Thank goodness CC went with me, because his young back could tolerate the work. I'm pooped. After this CC could do it alone, and maybe do better without so many folks interfering.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

CC's Reward

CC saw them go: a swarm from one of the hives we put a virgin queen into the yesterday. We went out and had to wait until they'd clustered. CC cut the tree so it gently toppled, so gently that I held the Nuc box up to the swarm and they fell and ran into the box. We brushed the few remaining into it, partially closed it up on the ground, and watched them fan the news to the stragglers. CC will take them home this morning as his reward. His grin says it all: a very happy guy.

This will give his Grandfather, who can't walk well, another thing to watch. Most days he drives out to the cow pasture and sits in his truck watching his cows. He used to keep bees, so this will give him great pleasure. CC loves his Grandpa hugely.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Google Maps

This link is supposed to take you to a photo of our farm. We're the little lake in the picture:


Heaven on Earth

Our little patch of the world feels like Heaven these days. Cool air, warm sun, enough moisture and lots of growing plants. I sit in the garden, and listen to the birds and bees, watching the bees catch the sun as they go back and forth to the garden hives.

CC planted 63 watermelon yesterday. What? You say, What in the world do we need that many potential watermelon for? Beats me. Maybe we'll bomb the neighborhood with them. Now to plant the cantaloupe. Planting is fun, keeping out the weeds isn't.

I planted the pole limas, also, since they need warmer soil than the other beans. We'll se if the growing season is long enough for them. Today I plant the rest of the Sugar Dots corn, and about the middle of June the last of the Silver Queen corn. With the extended, warm fall, the corn grows well into September, and the pollen helps the bees store enough for their January brooding.

CC & I went into the garden bees, because he thought one was swarming. He had just seen a swarm leave, headed for the woods. Out of five we looked at, three were queenless, with no queen cells or eggs to make one from, but one was full of queen cells at the hatching point. We could see their antennae sticking out of the cells. So I showed CC how to gently open the cell and let her out. He was thrilled. (He doesn't say much, but grins a lot) We made up a nuc and put queens in all the empty hives and the nuc. Got to go through the hives again. No sign of EFB, though. Phew!

We think it was that swarm that just took up residence in a hollow trees down by the sheds, too high to get to. CC & Sam heard them, then saw them go in. I'm sure we're repopulating this part of the world with bees.

Wellllll : Deep Subject!

I remember my Father saying that!
CC brought his adorable girlfriend over the morning after the Prom to fish. (She has a snaggle tooth similar to my Mother's. I bet she hates it. I bet everyone will miss it when it's gone, as it probably will be when she gets the money. Perfection isn't perfect, it's boring.) Watching them together brought tears to my eyes; he: solicitous, she: passive. He exudes adoration, she pretends indifference. Oh, the pain and ecstasy of love, especially young, naive, tender, first love. It was like watching two young of any species go through a courting dance. Sam and I watched them as CC baited her hook and handed her the pole; we held hands and remembered. (I'm sure it felt different from CC's viewpoint. My ignorance will embarrass him!)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Got Gwin!

Spring is turning into summer: most of the garden is planted, the bees are saying "Don't bother us, we're busy".

Gwin has returned, reconnected with her baggage, and is off to her 'Boot camp' to prepare for the MLE step 1 test in July, then Brooklyn in September, for a year. She'll be in Brooklyn Heights, the only area I know in Brooklyn. I really liked the areas I saw, close to the Verrazano Bridge and Ft. Hamilton.

Sam's last IVIg treatment had to be curtailed to 2, instead of 3, treatments. However he got some benefit: he's a bit steadier on his legs, and the numbness has receded to mid thigh, rather than the upper thighs. He has been walking more, which is difficult, but necessary. He is also writing; setting aside 3-4 hours a day to work on the writing that he's been swearing to do for years. I'm encouraged.

I went into the Driveway bees last week, just before getting Gwin. They looked as if they might swarm again! I can only assume it's because they're Russians. Several were not crowded, and had unmarked, new queens who are laying well. Some of those queen cells were huge. I set up nucs from all of the hives that looked to swarm, which I may rejoin to the original hive after swarming season is over. Or I could run them as two queen hives, with an excluder between the hivebodies. Now I need to put the swarms, that are in nucs, 5 frame small hives, into 10 frame regular boxes, so they can have more comb to expand their populations and store honey for the rest of the year. Once dry weather comes the nectar will dry up and they'll need the stores from spring nectar flow to continue to raise babies so the population will be strong enough to get through the winter.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Bee Buzz

Worked the garden bees yesterday. The sun came out, after a cloudy morning and the air literally vibrated with the number of bees streaming out of the hives! I hustled into my gear and loaded up, convinced that all of those hives were swarming! LOL! They were going to get food. All were stuffed full of bees, brood, and stores. I added room and helped along the two that were queenless with cells from other hives. I also made a nuc (5 frame hive) from a spare queen cell and 4 frames. I also removed the feeders since there's a nectar flow. Made my day to see how well they are doing.

Today I'll do the Driveway bees and tonight I'll move the nucs we made from swarms to the garden apiary, or maybe to a friend's house several miles away for a week and then back to the garden apiary. If I do the latter they will not lose their small foraging forces since the area will be completely new to them. In familiar territory the foragers will return to the place the hive used to be. Since it has moved they will be forced to go into another hive, where they will be welcomed and allowed to join the foraging force for that hive. The weak nuc will be weakened more by the loss of its food gatherers. In strange territory the foragers will reorient and then return to the new place, since all the landmarks have changed.

The Garden! It's HUGE!

What we'll do with the produce I can't imagine. The Food Pantry may want some. I'm already planning next summer's garden; it's MUCH smaller! My co-gardener is ecstatic; she thinks having 100+ tomato plants is great.

Since I last posted we've been blessed with a sweet, felicitous arrival: Felix. He's already growing well, thanks to his sweet Mommies.

I spent a long weekend with the wonderful nieces in DC, dallied in Charlottesville while Sam got his Immunoglobulin infusions, worked the plants sale for Heart of Virginia Festival, and worked in the garden and greenhouse. The boys, CC & BC, have been invaluable, since I can give them a list of tasks and trust them to do them expeditiously. They worked while I was away. BC caught about 4 swarms, and CC & I caught three, one twice. We had to let one go, since it was too high in the tree for us. If I were younger, and a normal weight, I'd have been up the tree. The boys used the front-end loader, the ladders and the saws to catch the swarms. I need a telescoping pole with a bucket attached to get those high ones.

I pick GT up in DC on Mother's Day. What a wonderful gift!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Night Hiving

I was feeding the bees late yesterday, so that the smell of the sugar water wouldn't start a robbing episode, where the forager bees get all excited and start invading other hives to steal honey, killing each other in the process. Robbing usually happens when there's a lack of adequate nectar, as there is right now, before the main clover bloom. While on my rounds with my 5 gallon buckets of sugar water, i spotted another swarm in the dogwood, So, I did my hiving in the dark routine and put them in the garden apiary. I'm hoping that this swarm was the Purvis queen that was marked blue. That hive was strong enough to swarm. If I'm unlucky, it was a swarm with one of those virgin queens I saw hatched out, and half the hive went with her, leaving a very weak hive behind. Sometimes when there are lots of unmated queens in a hive small swarms will leave with one or more of the virgins. Usually these don't survive. Even knowing this I couldn't kill those queens. I'm too soft to be a 'good' beekeeper. I'm sure I've lost at least 5 swarms this year alone, populating the woods with them. Maybe the survivors will be the beginning of a feral population.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Birthing Queens

I spent the day finishing up the driveway apiary, and found three more hives that had already swarmed. I foolishly thought that if they had enough room they'd stay put. No, these are Russians who swarm fast in the spring.

In one hive I saw several queen cells that had hatched, but there were at least a dozen more that hadn't. I could tell a couple were cutting themselves out, so I helped them. Light brownish with darker tips, like identical twins. So, I cut out about five to save for another hive, putting them in my little bucket. By the time I had gotten to the next frame of bees, and saw more queen cells I could hear the queens croaking, creaking, and quacking to each other, and making very high pitched buzzing sounds, like a plane getting ready to take off. They were all ready to hatch! So, I watched them come out, find each other, move away and get a deep draft of nectar from a cell, and run over the worker bees with their wings buzzing full tilt. In that hive they were all identically marked. I just sat there and watched. Some flew up and then landed, others ran down to the other side of the frame. I finally put that frame back and worked on the rest of the hive.

Each frame was similar. Finally, I looked into the bucket where I'd put the cells I'd cut out to make sure they were all OK, and they'd hatched, too. I found about three queens. When I was closing that hive up I kept finding queens wandering around, on the sides, in the grass, etc. No telling what I did to their impressionable minds.

I found three hives like that, made up a 5 frame medium nucleus with two new queens and a queen cell, three frames of almost hatching workers and pollen and a full frame of honey/nectar. I hope it takes.

Lottery Winner!

I won the manure lottery yesterday! We have a horse-training stable just down the road and I'd been slowing down to see if I could catch them outside and meet them. Of course, I wanted to know if they needed someone to haul away their manure.
Ohhhhh! Yes!!!! They have both bunkers full and a hillside that has been filled with aged stuff. RB is coming over tomorrow to look at it and plan how to move it. The stuff may be free, but the haulage isn't, especially with the price of fuel going up! I helped him buy his dump-trailer so he's glad to pay me back with its use. We'll use a front-end loader at both sites and do most of it in a day. I've promised a load to my brother in law and to my friend with the chickens. I also called a man for some straw and found that he has a mountain of old straw to give away. Unfortunately it's about 15 miles from here, so that will have to be later, when the press of Spring is gone.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Beeing in the Dark

I hived a small swarm last night in the dark. The glow from Farmville, 5 miles away helped. I spotted them at twilight on my way home from putting up a neighbor's chickens. They were just a dark blotch on a white dogwood and looked like a piece of trash that'd blown in. By the time I'd gathered my stuff and got back it was full dark. I found out a few things: Bees don't like to fly in the dark, but they will if pushed. When the branch bends down, the bees crawl up. Making sure you have the queen in the box is harder in the dark. Flashlights make the bees fly more, but do help. A branch full of bees is heavy, and a controlled fall may be all you can manage.
They eventually got into the deep I'd brought. I put them under the shed, closed them up with a feeder and went to bed. This morning I found most of them clustered on the front of the box. They'd gotten out, but couldn't get back in. I put them all in again and left the box open. They've stayed, and have half emptied the feeder.
I figured I'd better find the mother hive. I'd already set today as the bee working day, so I loaded up, and went looking. I found one in the driveway apiary that had about 3-4 hatched queen cells and 3+ unhatched. I opened a ripe-looking one and the biggest, sleekest, black queen walked out that I've ever seen. As big as a fully mated queen. I put that frame in a 5 frame deep nuc that I had almost full of honey, pollen and brood and will hope for the best. I hope the new queen of that hive looks as good as her sister. If the swarm came from there then it should have a marked queen.
I was surprised at the strength of a couple hives. One had 6+ medium frames and 4+ full deep frames of brood. In a couple weeks that hive will swarm. I gave them a super to draw out and expand into.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


Cliff Morrow's Blog about 'Farm Monopoly" got me thinking. What do I hope for from life:
Enough resources to sustain my family
Work that makes me glad to get up and satisfied when I go to bed
A stable environment that doesn't interfere with the above

Think about those things that you hope your life will give you. On your deathbed, what will you be glad you did, and what will you wish you could still do?

Are experiences, such as seeing the world, important to you? Is accumulating enough for retirement or leisure important, or are these necessities? What is the purpose of education: Brain food, a means of achievement, a way to find work? What gives you more satisfaction: internal or external things? How do your emotions affect your life: all consuming or just feedback? Is your life a voyage or is the destination more important? How does your family affect you (both nuclear and extended), are they just window dressing or the center of your life. When riding in a car (train, etc) do you look out or in?

Thursday, April 13, 2006


There's so much work to do in the Spring that I resent having to eat, sleep, or keep up with the daily tasks of living. The house is a mess, I'm losing weight (yea!), and drinking caffeine full time.

I worked the Garden Apiary yesterday: 8 hives, and looked at the hives BO gifted me (a nuc and a deep with a shallow of Honey and nectar). His large hive was not well behaved, but I found the queen, who was laying drones, and may be out of sperm, split them into 2 boxes and left one with a queen cup with an egg. Saw 2 Varroa on top of a drone larva, showed them to CC, who was helping so he'd know next time. We had to scratch out about a full frame of drone brood. I need to check back with that hive and see how she's doing. We saw some Varroa poop in the bottom of the drone cells, but most of the larvae were too young to pull. I figure they were going to supersede the queen shortly. I added a queen cell on a medium frame of mixed brood to the nucleus box and treated with Terramycin

The Garden girls looked OK, but I was chagrined to find EFB in 3 hives. Several had suspicious shotgun brood, so I treated them too. One was bad enough that I smelled it when I opened the top: that sweetish sour smell. The swarm bees had really nice brood patterns, but the 3rd generation queens from the Jester Russian lines are the weakest. I'll be happy to get the Purvis Gold line that I've ordered. I've asked to buy 10 nucs from BO to put them in.

The garden is disked, and laid up in rows. BG planted all the Cole crops, including about 72 broccoli. She'd like to have covered it with spun row cover, but that had to be shipped and got here late Tuesday. I'm hoping that we can risk planting out the tomatoes soon; if we cover them well to keep them warm. They are leggy, 18" tall, but the root systems aren't crowded yet. I've potted up almost all the larger plants, mostly peppers and tomatoes to give their roots room

The raised beds are full of Cole plants and peas, but we left 3 beds for tomatoes and will plant a row of tomatoes in cages in the field. I think there's room for 3 more raised beds. but 4'x6' this time.

I'm hoping to have a bunch of plants to donate to the Master Gardener's group for their Heart of Virginia sale on May 6th, so I've been working in the greenhouse seeding the little holed flats. Don't know if they'll be ready or not.

The diet is doing well, now that I've recovered from visiting DC and eating too much. It was fun for a while, & emphasized that I still have the old behavior lurking around.

The nieces' visit was a wonderful time. They are so nice to be around, so well behaved and responsive to guidance. My complements to their parents. SH started a blog, populating it with cute pets and composing her stories like a pro. At home she's been writing books for some time, so a blog is not surprising. Most of the time was outside, so we came in tired and only looked at the computer or TV after baths and dinner. We did eat some junky food, though. We took all our cans to the junkyard and used the money to buy pizzas.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Snow Tilling

I started rototilling the field this morning, and it started SNOWING!!!
We keep setting dates to plant the garden, but the weather is just not cooperating. We're aiming for next Saturday, April Fool's Day! I hope it won't be me that's fooled again. It's supposed to be freezing or below most nights this week, so we didn't plant anything today. Ben came by and said he'd come next Saturday and help, and I'll have my brother's girls, 5 and 7 years old. It's supposed to be in the 70's. I'll hope!
BG cleaned the basement apartment for company next weekend. A nice couple looking at the area to possibly move here when he retires. They would be a great addition to the area.
BG and I moved the old doors and trash off the downstairs porch and cleaned up the shed storage area to store them. BG has muscles! With her on the other end, we move air conditioners and building materials around to clean up an area that had gotten really messy. I got a workout, she wasn't breathing hard.
I picked all the lettuce yesterday, so the roots will have something to do besides grow. I hope to slow down the plants until I can get them into the ground. I divided the ones that had come up two or more to a place, and filled in the blank space in the planting trays. Busy work to keep me in the sweet smelling, warm greenhouse. Having done the taxes, I can see that it would be much cheaper to buy our veggies at the store.
I remember an essay by playwright Arthur Miller, who mused that there was something in him that demanded that he plant a garden every spring, but not for food, for the planting of it. He bought a farm for his garden.
Maybe I'm that way. I can't imagine not having something to plant in the spring. It represents so much: Hope, Faith, Connections. Like having children, a home by water, a real wood fire in the fireplace, a cold room when I'm sleeping, sunshine to wake me up, dogs, cats, stars in the sky, birdsong. I feel these things viscerally, gut-feel them. I need them. When I'm gone they will go on, eternally, here or on another planet.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Tulips in the snow

Friday, March 17, 2006

Winter Revisits

The plants in the greenhouse are ready to get planted outside. The beds are mainly ready for them. The weather was cooperating, until now. Night temperatures are falling into the mid twenties, and day temps are only into the 50s. I'm hoping that the spinach and lettuce will be alright if they're covered with frost cloth. The peas have been stunted by the cold nights; the broccoli just died. Rats! Replant!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Gardening Heaven

It was warm enough to check soaker hoses today. I installed them in the beds as I checked them, so it was a slow process. Tomorrow I'll finish installing them and start covering the weeded ground with newspaper. Then I can plant through holes in the paper. I'll put a time release fertilizer plug beside each plant and be done for the season. Hah! There are always problems: Hungry Bugs, especially.

In Ft Walton Beach, where family lives, it's already Summer. They are about a month ahead of us. Grass mowing has begun in earnest, and the heat has started. I envy them in the winter, but right now is such a lovely time here.

I'm looking forward to spring weather for the next week. I'll check on the bees after I get the Spring garden planted. They seem to be happy, though.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Season's changing

I can feel the world turning when I'm in the garden with the sun moving on my back. With the Maple blooms turning to seeds and the soil warming up despite the cool air, I feel the season turning into full spring.

The bees are seeking water, pollen and nectar in everyplace they can go. In the garden they're everywhere snooping around. Buzzzzing and tasting, hoping to find something good. I love to hear them, and rejoice seeing them, and have a vague feeling they're pulling me into spring. Silly me. I guess I like them for their optimistic hard work. No depressed honeybees! No sitting around, no philosophy, no dreamy bees! The antithesis of me! Hah!

I checked the baby plants that I'd covered with jugs and coke bottles, worried that they might be parboiled. They were perky and happy. I'm trying to think of how to keep the weeds down and the only thing that occurs to me is newspaper, so I guess I'll wet it and plant through it. If I use three sheets I can use staples to hold them down and the water will still go through. Next week it's supposed to be warm enough to check and repair hoses, a very wet job. Then I can put soaker hoses in all the beds. That's a job I should have done last fall! Shoulda, woulda!

The greenhouse is really full, warm and moist. It smells rich and loamy with all the growing plants. Most have their second set of leaves and will need to be set out in the next week.

Taxes are hounding me. Please, Lord, help me get them done soon. I have to force myself to sit and work on them!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Glorious Day!!

It was 78F in Richmond today. The air was like silk.
I met Dawn, a beginning beekeeper, here and we started looking at hives and putting in the pollen patties I made last night. The hives that had pollen patties looked stronger than the three that didn't get them last time around. They're bringing in pollen, but still eating the patties. We're going to have about 10 days of chill, so I figured I'd use this blessed warmth to stock them up. The hive where I'd combined two weak hives had died out. There were enough bees, but evidently they just couldn't make it. Mysterious. I think that the mild winter has allowed some of my weaker hives to survive. . I moved the honey to a hive that didn't have a feeder so they could use the leftover honey to feed on instead of letting the bees rob it out.
When I finished the bees, I cut the bottoms out of milk jugs and put them over the broccoli plant, then covered the 4 planted beds with the frost cloth, which I'd removed so they could soak up the last three days of sun and warmth.
I stayed outside until dead dark, bringing in the baby plants and watering in the greenhouse.
I just hated to see this day end.

Friday, February 24, 2006

How's the Diet Going?

I've had to become diet obsessed to lose this accretion of fat. I'm using the Nutridiary website to help me stay in the healthy range, and it seems to be working. Right now I'm balancing on a plateau and learning what it takes to change the eating habits. One thing I've learned is that it's difficult to get enough iron and calcium. I thought that if I was eating meat and broccoli I'd be OK. Not so. I have to eat 3/4 cup of Total cereal to get the RDA for both those and A & C. I'm so surprised. I am aiming for 20% fat, 20% protein, and the rest carbohydrates. Most of the time I'm way over the limit of sodium, and I crave the stuff. I'm working to gradually lower it. It's a learning experience and my curve is very long and low. At the end of this Blog you can see my weight loss.

My goal is a modest one pound a week, and I'm losing at 2 pounds a week so far. As I lose the rate will slow, and the plateaus will get longer. I figure my body's getting readjusted to itself, and I'm content to let it do so. My mind, appetitite, and body image has to do that too. I figure plateaus are a learning experience. I'm on that 5 year plan: 2 to lose it and 3 to learn how to keep it off. The goal is to maintain a normal weight. The process, not an end-point, is the true goal. I'm weighing daily, to see how the water/salt combination makes my weight fluctuate. I also have 'off' days where I eat too much. No matter, as long as I record everything so the computer program is correct. GIGO...Garbage in = Garbage Out. I want to keep accurate information so I can plot my progress. So far, so good.

Today I made a big meal: pork loin, broccoli, baked potatoes, biscuits, tomatoes, rice, cornstarch gravy, broccoli, baked carrots & onions; ate mostly the veggies, and 2 biscuits. Sam was so pleased!

So that I will look in the fridge and find something healthy to eat, I chopped up lots of onions, celery, etc. to go with the chopped lettuce, cucumbers and grated carrots already there. I'll also use some to make faux crab salad and chicken salad for Sam and Susan. BG is keeping us in fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. A huge salad, with 1/2 cup homemade croutons is about 250 calories.

I'm still enjoying figuring out lower calorie recipes. Two days ago I concocted a big pasta salad w/ beans, celery, onion, tofu, grated carrots, grated cheese, etc with Fat Free Caesar salad dressing. It's really good, Susan even likes it. I figure for each 1 1/2 cup there's a cup of pasta and rest veggies, beans & tofu. It's about 250 calories for a cup and 1/2. I got some red miso & agar thickening @ the RIC health store, which I will try in my veggie-heavy chicken soup. That should fill me up

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Taxes tax more than my income.

Every year I do my taxes myself. I figure that I'm the one who'll have to talk to the IRS agent, and I want to know precisely what I've filed. It's a matter of control. The buck stops here. I'm responsible. I do them with the idea that I WILL have to justify them to someone. Even if it's myself. Just the facts, Ma'am.
I start in February and finish by the end of March, at the latest. Then I think about it for two weeks, so I haven't missed anything, hopefully. I couldn't pay anyone to do this. I was given an estimate of $1000 to do them, and that was years ago. It would irk me to pay what it's worth, especially since most of the preparers these days want you to do all the adding up before they tackle the job. So I use the tax program and noodle all the figures myself. I take every deduction that is legal, down to the penny. I used to figure all the medical costs, even though they weren't deductible for us. I quit that. I am obsessed with taxes and accounting for TWO months.
Think of all I could do if we had a flat tax system. It'd put alot of folks out of business!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Maple blooms = Spring!!!

These arches between the raised beds are to grow beans and cucumbers,. or even indeterminate tomatoes. They're spaced over alternate walkways so we can work the beds from the non-arched side. The space will be filled with welded wire to make a continuous tunnel. We'll pick from the underside. The drawback is that they will cast shade on the beds. Another summer, another experiment.

Look up!

I showed CC the log with the older oyster mushrooms, pictured below. He looked at both it and the log I'd picked the 12 pounds off of, gazed around and said "Were those too high?" I finally saw this cascade of mushrooms about 13 feet off the ground. They're on both sides of the dead oak.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Snow is a Memory

Spring snows are so convenient. They come, they're gorgeous. They leave. A bit soggy, but that's fixed by the following sun.
I took the pictures in the vertical Flickr badge just as the sun was coming out. Within an hour most of the twigs had no more snow and by evening the only snow was where the sun couldn't reach. By Thursday it's supposed to be 65F. Spring is here. I know because I saw a maple blooming in the treetops where the sun hits. In the shade the bright scarlet blooms will be later. A beekeeping friend said that his girls were bringing in pollen in that last warm spell. Sunday the air will be back to 40s.
I'm hoping that the higher humidity, cold snap, and then the warm-up will bring out some more oyster mushroom flushes. I'll start hunting tomorrow.
BG and I potted up the plants that had sprouted and replanted all the flats with fresh dirt and new seeds. We didn't get a good germination rate on what we'd planted before, so we've used a planting mix that has a fungicide and fresh seed.
BG's foot massage, Reflexology based, has helped Sam's feet and legs immensely. He's sleeping without pills and walking steadier. She's going to work on a friend's feet this week.
I put all of my Flickr pictures on the 'Public' setting so they can be downloaded. No pride of authorship. The one with daffodils in the snow is my sister's favorite.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

OH ! Snow !

I am so happy to see some of this white stuff! It's probably the last we'll see until the end of 2006, so I'm determined to enjoy it. It's supposed to snow all night, so I'll take more photos tomorrow.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Pictures can't do justice!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

This Beech's earliest date is 1925

A kitchen full

The tree with older mushrooms

12 pounds of Oyster Mushrooms

It would have been 25 or more if I'd gotten out yesterday or before. I took a short-cut behind the sheds to check on a log that had been sprouting oyster mushrooms. Farther back there were two big tree boles covered with them. One had sprouted earlier than the other, so those were too old to pick. I picked most of the others. I'll clean and dry as many as I can fit in my dehydrator, and stew the rest for freezing. Oyster stew tonight!

Otters in the Lake!

I stand at the kitchen window and watch the waves in the lake made by our resident River Otters. I thought they were only passing through, but now they've been here long enough to be called resident... until they eat all the slow moving fish, that is.
I rarely see them, but I see huge rings of water and swirls rising from their antics underwater, mostly in the mornings. When I've walked around the lake they get curious enough to float with their heads and bodies just out of the water, like sea otters in California, and watch me. If I stop and look at them they'll dive, like porpoise.
I figure they're the ones who've been eating the Israeli Carp and leaving the skulls and sometimes the skeletons. They're called 'Fishermen's Friend', but all my redneck buddies tell me that I should let them kill them. A good pelt can sell for $1500!
Not in my lake! Too interesting to watch. Our lake needs some fish culling. Supposedly Bass are too fast for the Otters. We'll see!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Yesterday was a Gift!

It was 70F, but felt like 75 or more. Warm sun, light breeze, birds singing and most important: the bees were flying.
That meant there were fewer bees in the hives to get upset when I opened the hives.
It was predicted to be 50F & rainy. What a gift!
I loaded the Gator with the buckets of syrup (super thick, gooey), the bee tool bucket, bottles of water warm from the greenhouse & an empty bucket for trash. I raided the kitchen for scooping tools and a bag of rags.
Once into a couple of hives (nice girls!) I found out that some of the styrofoam top feeders had sprung leaks from being chewed on by wax moths. One feeder has wax moths salted through the whole bottom. They went straight in. Grrrrrr.
I think that I can coat the bottoms with fiberglass, silicone or something similar.
I was happily through four hives when I opened a feisty one. Like a cloud of avenging angels! I walked through the weeds back to the shed, looked for the duct tape, taped the ankles and wrists and lit the smoker. They were with me all the way! Fewer, but enough so they were a bother. Serious Girls: Bent on a mission!
When I got back and smoked them down, I found that they'd gone through about half of their pollen patty. It's two boxes, and they seem to have it filled. I really need to get some "Imrie shims" to give me enough room for a larger pollen patty and a bag feeder. All the bees were eating their pollen patties well. I need to make more and put them in the freezer.
That was one of the feeders that leaked, so I pulled an empty drawn frame and, using my hive tool, scraped some of soft sugar syrup into the wax cells. It worked fairly well. I did that on a couple other hives. I also filled the inner cover on the downhill side with the soft crystallized syrup. The bees will put it in cells where they want it.
Overall, they looked good. I think the tape and smoke will be necessary until 'real' spring comes. I still think I have a couple of losses to come. It may depend on the weather.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Down Two: 18 left

I found two hives that had dwindled and died. I now have 18 hives, two of which might still die. The girls were not happy to have their hives opened to put in the pollen patties! They told me so in unmistakable terms. Finally, I brushed them off my ankles and wound duct tape around my socks. Relief. Think of all the bees I saved from a kamikaze death. I still smushed too many by opening the hives. Woe.
I hope the addition of the pollen patties outweighs the bee's deaths. Some folks say that the bees prosper in spite what we do. It could be that my adding the pollen patties, breaking the seal of propolis that keeps the wind out, will cause enough of a heat loss that a weaker hive will die.
After the rain that is predicted for the next few days, I'll go back into the hives and give them more syrup. If I see a chance in between showers I may do it tomorrow.
Meanwhile, back to taxes.

Bees! Bees! Bees!

Today I answer the BIG QUESTION! How many hives do I have?
Everytime someone hears about the bees they want to know that number! So do I!!!
So, today, about 3PM the temperature should get close to 65F. I wish that would happen earlier, but this is still winter. I am going to put a pollen patty on the top of each broodnest, which should be in the top of each hive, by now, & I'll top up their corn syrup supply, adding water where needed to soften it. I'm debating putting a jar of water in a front feeder (boardman feeder) on each hive, since the bees need water to thin the syrup and to raise the humidity for brood rearing. I can do that another day. I won't leave the hive open for longer than necessary, so I don't chill the brood, if any. The forsythia are blooming, so there should be at least a tiny patch.
We have had some nights that were very cold, but no snow this January, so if I have dead hives I know that it's fewer than it would have been with a hard winter. We could have winter coming, but I'll be surprised. You can see the pictures of the daffodils in the snow from last years Mardi Gras snow! That cold spell killed two hives (sniff, sniff).
When broodrearing starts it will be a tiny patch, maybe only a few cells, that they can keep at 96F constantly. After capping the pupating bees don't need outside warmth as much. Once they hatch, they'll warm the hive so more larva can be raised. Even the tiny clusters of bees will raise some brood.
This is where the parasitic mites take their toll. If the wintering bees were not properly nourished as larva, their lifespan may not match the length of the winter, and the cluster will lose their warmth. That's often the case where lots of hives die in the spring. When the Tracheal Mites hit England the beekeepers had huge early spring losses. The mites can only be seen in the spiracules of the affected bees by a microscope. It took alot of research to find the cause. Now the bees and mites have developed a modis vivendi. We are all hoping that will happen with the Varroa mites. We are breeding for it, and the mites are inevitably working toward it.
End of lecture! I can see you're all asleep! Will report on the girls.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Woof! Woof!

Tax Time!!
Spring is creeping up fast, & I need to get the taxes done before the spring rush overwhelms me. About the time taxes are due the garden will be crying for work and the Beehives will need constant vigilance against swarming. I buckle down tomorrow and start the tallying process so I can plug the numbers in as soon as the tax programs gets here.
First I have to get the bookkeeping program fixed. Then enter a bunch of numbers into it. Time's awasting!!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Still stuffed, but recovering

I now know that one day of overeating can make me miserable for several days. Ugh. However, it seems to have broken the plateau I was on. I could only eat a little yesterday, and this AM I'm down below the plateau. Hooray!

It looked like rain yesterday, all day, but only tiny sprinkles. I'm looking forward to finally getting some rain to bring the oyster mushrooms & woodears back. I'm looking forward to tasting the woodears, since they are so prized by the Japanese. They use them in soups, like my favorite soup with clear noodles and asparagus.

The folks who came by Saturday were so excited about mushrooms and gardening that we never got into the bees. RG, the guy, says he's using hydroponics on his backporch and growing lots of veggies. He was very excited about the greenhouse. He and BMcD left with lots of ideas. RG says he wants to help us with our garden this year. He works out of town for two weeks on and home for a week, I think.

That tiny hive is still alive, but has dwindled so much that I have little hope for it getting through to the summer.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Culling The Herd !

I can hardly believe anyone would do this! (See the story in red) Truly they must feel immortal! Or they're such Adrenaline Junkies that they're using any excuse for a fix. Probably it just seemed like a good idea at the time!

There Ain't No Free Lunch!

I declared a free day yesterday. As in, I could eat anything I wanted. Indulge myself. So I ate homemade onion dip with saltines; spare ribs; hot dogs. I suffered most of last night, and today. My stomach was all twisted up, and let me know about it! I couldn't eat anything until this afternoon. Well, lesson learned? Yes, but with my hard head I figure I'll have to learn it over again. Bran Flakes never tasted so good! I'm still averaging 1500 Kcal. Back on the wagon!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Learning Curve

I learned how to re-boot the Local Area Network (LAN) for the house. It went down yesterday AM and the guys from HSC talked me through it this AM. So simple: Turn it off, wait, Turn it on. Voila! Everything re-boots re-loads the settings and we're back on line. The key is to know which button to push, and how long to push it. I would never have guessed that you have to just tap it to make it work.
I'm also learning that my Dear Husband (DH), wanting me to be 'Happy', will encourage me to break my diet. He likes the 'idea' of my 'slimming', but can't stand that I have to deprive myself to get to a NORMAL, Healthy weight. So he came to me yesterday and pleaded with me to take my book to a restaurant and eat 'a good meal'. Stupid me to listen to him. Foolish me to DO It. The thing I really craved was the chips & salsa! I'm craving salt. Imay need to re-educate my taste buds by going salt-free for a while. I suspect that will help the weight, too.
So, I'm back on the wagon. I'm going to look for some more of those oyster mushrooms today. Macks will love that.
The good news is that I got the scale's fat calculator working again. I'm 46% fat. That means I'm 111 pounds (!) (if the weight of the fat is removed). So all I have to do is set up the conditions to lose the fat and preserve the muscle mass. With a normal 20% fat I'll be 133. It looks so much more achievable that way. It IS achievable!!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Oyster Mushrooms for Free!

I went for my walk in the woods today, and deliberately looked for the oyster mushrooms I found and ate the other day. I hit the jackpot. Picked 3# 10 oz, cleaned. They were heavy with the rain, so they'd weigh closer to 2# dry, I figure.
I made a mushroom stew by sauteing them with about 2 T garlic and adding the Garlic Mushroom soup (Campbell's) and beef broth. The water from the sauted mushrooms thinned it out. I had my first helping over rice, and the second on saltines! Very tasty! Mostly free, and right on my diet! I'll look for more tomorrow. This makes me anxious to go back out in the woods. I need the exercise, too.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

News: Susi worked (kinda)

BG came yesterday, which meant it was a work day for me!! While my guests, the boys and the Father, did their visiting at Hampden Sydney College, she & I planted all the flats in the greenhouse with spring veggies. Then we went to look at the weedy raised beds. I was all for leaving them alone, but BG started tearing out weeds, and cleaning out the old mulching newspapers and plants that either hadn't flourished or were long dead.

Then she looked at the stockpiled rotted horse manure and so 'we' got the tractor out to start filling the beds with it. Of course, I'm a reluctant participant in this, since it's a lot of WORK!!! She has the energy & drive, and I'm still getting up out of my chair!

We used the front end loader to scoop up the well rotted manure. Sounds easy? It isn't. I'm on the tractor, BG gesturing which way to move the loader.... and I'm trying to remember how to move the joystick control to make it go the right way. And it's a hydrostatic transmission, which means there are two accelerators, one forward & one for backing on the right & the brakes on the left. I kept wanting to hit the forward accelerator to stop! WRONG!

My peabrain was overloaded. I had to tell myself what to do out loud, so I could translate BG's wishes into what I had to do with the controls. By the end of the task I was doing better, but poor BG's frustration level was high. She was shoveling the whole time, so each bucket load would be a full one. I was sitting on the tractor uselessly watching her work.

Each load she'd shovel in, because I couldn't get a full load by just scooping (unlevel ground, operator error). Then she'd jigtime over to the bed and guide me in so I didn't dump it on the ground. I'm sitting, she's moving fast. It didn't help that I'd had the stuff put on top of tarps which got tangled up in the manure, and made the last foot or so a dense muddy mess. We did this for about 3 hours.

How can she work at that pace! I called for the only break, as I remember!

Friday, January 20, 2006

See: New Permanent Pictures

I've added lots of photos to the Flickr website, so ask me to email you access to them. GT has ask me not to post folks faces so I can't do the one's of the Schlosser's wedding. I'm loading some garden pictures and will do some of P&B's girls if I can find some that fit GT's restrictions.

Buggy Woman!

We've decided to forgo a second dog. We say later, but that means Max will be our OAO (Navy for One & Only - LOL)
We're going to have a house full of young men this weekend, so my exercise is to clean the basement. That means I have to put the tiny beehive somewhere.
Yesterday I walked for 3 ½ hours around the Eastern boundary of our land. Macks had a ball! Woof! Woof!

I thought that guys weren't skittish about bugs, but GT told me differently.
She was the first to get to the St Vincent apartment & settled into what, by her standards was an OK situation. However her Roomie didn't agree and thought that it was substandard. They heard that a 3 bedroom in the same enclave was available & went to look at it. Before they did they asked the vacating guys why they were leaving so precipitously. One of the last two to arrive had found a spider in his room! Not just 'A Spider' but "A Huge SPIDER!!!!". It was as big as his palm. Gwin said the guys killed it, but refused to live there. Bear in mind, on this 3rd world island the spider population probably outweighs the human population, in the aggregate! But these guys thought that this spider was 'Apartment specific'. Wait 'til they find out the truth! Welcome to the real world!
GT, being my daughter, swept up the spider, taped up the cracks, and moved into the 'Spider room'. Their loss, her gain! She and Roomie found a likeminded third Roomie and now have a bath for each bedroom and better accommodations.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Angie & Joe's Blog !

Angie & Joe are going to keep us up on their lives, too.


Now if I could just get our West coast contingent to do it....

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Ahhhhh, Normal at last !!

I went outside yesterday for the first time in a week! Today I went to the Doctor's and then wandered my way back through Richmond and eventually Amelia County Courthouse and home.

Normalcy is underrated.

GT is starting her own web log: HTTP://Gwinny.Blogspot.com
I'll link to it when it's up and running.

The Doctor was pleased that all my numbers were good, and the fat numbers were the best I've ever had. Total Cholesterol was 167. Maybe they mixed the samples up.

I lost about 10 pounds while I was sick. Most of that was empty gut and dehydration. I'd rather lose it more slowly and keep it off. Tomorrow starts the regular walking. My first goal is to go around the small lake once a day. The rest of the trails will get used later. All I read emphasizes regularity over intensity for the first couple weeks. And I'll log it, like I'm doing the food.

The tiny hive I rescued from the tree is still alive. I don't think they'll make it through the whole winter, but I'll see how long I can maintain them. I got 5 pounds of pollen today for pollen patties this spring. February is the time for them.

BG seeded lettuces and I'm going to start some spinach, etc, asap. I stopped by the wholesaler and got two big bags of potting soil and a box of time release fertilizer plugs. They cost 6 cents each, but last all season. Great for me, since it means I can plant and cover the ground with mulch for the season.
I'm still hungering for a drip irrigation system. It would be a wonderful help with the raised beds.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Cruising to Recovery

I can't imagine getting this gut virus when on a cruise. It's been miserable enough being home with it. I'm sore from doing nothing but sitting or sleeping. Too sick and weak to read or do anything. I've done Sudoku and puzzles to occupy myself. Took me an hour to do a simple crossword puzzle!

I must be feeling better, though, since I've got a meatloaf in the oven.

Monday, January 09, 2006

To the Rescue !!!

Yesterday I was called to a friend's house to rescue a tiny bunch of bees from a tree they had just cut down. Bless them, they suspended operations until I could load up and get down the road to them. Then they helped me prise open the trunk and get the bees out. The queen was so young she could fly... and did, several times. We finally caged her and left the small nucleus (hive body) to let the flying bees smell out their Mom (or sister, if they superceded their Mom).

Not thinking of any other place to let them rest undisturbed, I put them in the basement bathroom, in the dark and warmth. I included some of their comb that had some honey in it, but I'll have to put a feeder on tomorrow. They had already been decimated by the cold, and there couldn't have been more than 3-4 cups of bees, but maybe they'll make it. I read that the smallest hive that had a chance of survival was 120 bees. This is surely more than that... with a very young queen.

I think they were a swarm from my hives, which my neighbors called me to come see. We couldn't find them when I got there, but this is the result. They would have died out with this current cold snap, except for their tree being cut and having been tucked away in my basement.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Unhappy Girls

Christmas Eve was warm, so I decided that was the day to check on the girls in the hives. Even though it was in the high 60's they weren't pleased about my nosiness.
There were two dead hives, too few bees to stay warm, and two weak ones that I joined up. I had to move some of the hives so the sun could get to them. The girls flew low and covered my ankles. I should have used duct tape over my socks. There's no brushing them off when your hands are carrying the hive to a new stand. It was more the actual pricking of my skin, rather than the venom, that made my ankles painful that night! Imagine poking needles all over your ankles. I took benedryl and lavished them with lanacaine before going to bed for 13 hours! Thank goodness my immunity to the venom held up. All was well but the bruising in the morning.
The girls who valiantly defended their homes died. I got off easy. It hurts more to have lost them than to have been stung by them. Their loss may be the difference between that hive living through the winter or dying due to too few bees to stay warm. Spring will tell.

*******Winter Wonders********

.....Mama Macks & Baby Booger.......

............Beehives in the Snow...........


The greenhouse is cleaned out and ready to go! BG and I are going to figure out what seeds we have and need. Then, look at the calendar and figure out when we seed the flats for set out. Oh, frabulacious JOY! Spring is coming! The calendar is moving! I'm going to make a fire for the delight of sitting by it with seed catalogues on my lap! Now, if it would just snow.

Notice the New Link

I have finally figured out the 'Link' problem.
You'll notice I put a link to Google News and to Maj Robert Bateman's Website. When I found his website I had to figure out how to link to it. He writes really good essays about military life, and things he's experienced in Iraq AKA 'The Sandbox'.
I'll add more links as I get to it: Iraq The Model; Yahoo News; etc
There are some blogs I've stumbled across that merit a link.
I've been playing Sudoku lately, and recommend it for those who are tired of crossword puzzles. It's pure logic, so no vocabulary is needed. Fortunately there are lots of easy ones. I'm afraid I'm not good at it, but getting slowly better.

A Mother's Prayer

Well, GT is getting settled in to another volcanic island in the Caribbean. So far it sounds better than Grenada: better grocery, phone and internet service, etc. The apartment has a good view and air conditioning, at least in the bedrooms.

Today she got the car, groceries, telephone, internet, and stuff out of storage (shipped from Grenada). She's unpacked and having a bunch over for supper, for which they're grateful, I bet. Last night was alone in a strange land, so I'm sure all are glad for company. (Haven't we all done that!)

Monday classes start. By then the island of St Vincent in the Grenadines will be a known area and a feeling of familiarity will have begun. I'm so glad that she went down early enough to get settled.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Booger & Fuzz-Butt

The Cat Boys, Booger & Fluff-butt, are sleeping off their encounter with my brother-in-law's knife. Most men flinch when they think about what our baby boys had done... You guessed it! They'll be Muuuuch calmer in the future! Gooooood boys. They come home tomorrow!

When Fuzz came home from Daisy's he fit back into the house, licking Macks, sparring with his brother in rolling fights all over the house.

By this morning, after a night of fun, they were best friends.