Archive for the 'Outdoors' Category

Feb 19 2014

More bees

Published by under Current Events,Outdoors,Snippets

I saw this article today on the BBC. Even more reasons to plant for the bees – bumblebees never hurt nobody. Well, OK, bumblebees probably hurt somebody at some point, but they will mostly leave you alone unless you stomp on their nest or pick them up off their flower. Bumblebees are the furry, dumbass teddy bears of the bee world. Plant some wildflowers for them.

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Feb 17 2014

Why I chose to keep bees.

Published by under Life and Living It,Outdoors

This May,  a package containing three pounds of bees will arrive at my house. Then, I will begin my journey into the world of beekeeping, which is something I never really thought I’d be doing. The reaction from most of the people around me has been somewhat incredulous, like they can’t believe that someone would just….start beekeeping. It seems that there is a subconscious belief that beekeepers are raised up in the grand tradition of beekeeping, inheriting hives and secrets passed down through the family since…Noah, I guess. However, there are people whose families have never kept bees, who weren’t raised around bees, and who are actually just a little scared of bees but who still decide to start from scratch. I’m one of those people, and this post is about why I decided to start beekeeping.

 

Environmental Impact

You probably know by now that the European honey bee is “in trouble”. That’s about as deep as the news tends to get when they mention the plight of the bee. There’s trouble. Sometimes, Colony Collapse Disorder is mentioned. More often, the source will just say “bees are disappearing”, as though a race of aliens has come for our bees, and they are being vanished via tractor beam or some other method that leaves no trace.

Well, the truth is that there are many factors contributing to the decline of the honey bee. Colony Collapse Disorder is one of them, and it might be the scariest because we really don’t know what causes it. All we know for sure is that, while the queen remains with the colony, the adult workers do not. They don’t die in hive – one of the hallmarks of CCD is that there isn’t a build up of dead bees in or immediately around the hive. The workers are just gone. There is food, there is brood, there is a queen, but there is no one left to do the work, so the hive dies. There is also threat because of mites – you hear most about the Varroa mite, but there are others. And in some places, you have threat from the Africanized bee or “killer” bee. These will, sometimes, take over a non-Africanized colony and replace the gentle bees. Even when they don’t do this, they tend to crowd out the European bees because they have more aggressive tendencies, which give them an edge in the competition for resources.

So, bees are under threat. That’s bad news for you and me, because we like to eat food, and a lot of our food comes from plants. Plants tend to need pollinating, and that’s where bees come in. If the bees disappear, the food supply will be in jeopardy. In my opinion, anyone who has the space (and isn’t allergic, no sense creating problems for yourself) should be keeping a hive of bees and anyone who has any land at all should be planting “bee helpers”, which are plants that honey bees particularly love. The image below shows just a few options.

Plant for the bees

from romancingthebee.com

 

Easy step into homesteading

We live in a rural area and we are lucky to have just over three acres of land. When we bought here, it wasn’t with the intention of homesteading; it was because we liked to be away from people. However, after living here for ten years (ten years! Wow!), I’ve gotten the urge to use our land in a more productive way.

I started several years ago by planting berry bushes. I didn’t plant a lot of them. I have only three jostaberry and two bush cherries. However, we are a small family, and that’s enough for us. I also started growing tomatoes in some of the beds around our house. I really want a large garden, like the one we had when I was a kid. But gardening is time consuming – you have to till, and fertilize, and plant, and mulch, and weed, and watch for pests, and harvest, and preserve…whew! It’s a big time commitment. It is a commitment I’m ready to make, but maybe not just yet. The Boy is still pretty small and requires a lot of supervision. What I really want is to wait until he’s a little older, so I can have him with me in the garden, learning and helping.

My next thought was chickens. I know a little about chickens; I grew up with them. I quickly discovered that chickens come with a large start up capital. I would need a coop, and some equipment, and also some chickens. I wasn’t interested in two or three chickens; I wanted more like six to eight to start with, and I would be expanding. So I would need to build a larger coop, which meant more money. Money is not scarce around here, but it’s not in abundant supply right now, either. A lot of our excess gets funneled into various savings accounts (like The Boy’s college fund), and I didn’t want to stop that so that I could get some chickens right away. Plus, I wanted a garden before chickens. You can see my five year plan starting to take shape, right?

Finally, I settled on bees. After doing some reading, I discovered that caring for bees is not a great time commitment – we’re talking mere hours per year. And, if using a top bar hive (which I’ll discuss in a later post), the start up cost is quite a bit lower. I would need to build a hive (or rather, have The Man build a hive) and I’d need to buy the bees. Those would be the big expenditures, and both could be gotten with about $250. I would need a few pieces of equipment, but another $100 would easily cover that.

 

Honey and wax

Finally, we get to the payout, and the reason most people keep bees: the harvest! Otherwise known as honey and beeswax.

I have a confession: I’m not a huge fan of honey. I don’t bake with it. I’ve never been one of those people who puts honey on toast or makes peanut butter and honey sandwiches. I sometimes put honey in my tea, but usually only when I’m ill. However…I do make mead. And you know what the main ingredient of mead is, don’t you? That’s right.

I have been reading a lot about the benefits of raw honey, so I will probably eat a little every day, once I have my own. And I’ll give some to The Boy, to see if he likes it. I have several friends who have expressed interest (to put it very mildly) in making me their “honey hook up”. I doubt I will be lacking for a place to bestow my liquid gold – between my own mead making and my friends’ desire for good honey, I’ll probably be setting up more hives before too many years go by.

Beeswax is something that I will use some of myself, but I anticipate sharing with other crafting friends. I love making lip balm, and the main ingredient there is beeswax. I might venture into candle making, just to see what that is like. I’ve seen sheets of wax, imprinted with the classic hexagon pattern and rolled into a tube with a wick, and they are charming looking. I suspect that’s a very fussy way to get a candle, though.

 

Ready for bees

At the moment, I’m anxiously awaiting spring and the arrival of my bees. I’m excited to get started on this adventure, and I think it’s going to be a rewarding one. I encourage you to think about whether beekeeping might be a good fit for your own goals. If it’s not, consider planting some of the bee helpers around your home and give your local wild population a leg up. Bees are your friends, and they need all the help they can get.

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Aug 31 2013

Labor Dabor

Published by under Outdoors,Parenting,The Boy,The Man

We did a lot of outside work today. We haven’t touched the back deck since we moved in, other than once I repainted the railings. That was a couple of years ago. The deck surface is in bad shape. It’s not rotted or anything, but it needs help. We decided to try the Behr Deck Over stuff on it, but that means a lot of prep work involving stripping off what’s left of the old stain and cleaning the wood. The Man worked on that and I mowed the lawn while The Boy napped. Lucky for us, he took a 2.5 hour long nap today (WHAT.) so I got most of the lawn done. I also pruned the lilac bush and neatened up the apple tree.

After he woke up, The Boy wandered around outside with us. Right now, he really likes rocks. Whenever he goes outside, he grabs two rocks (always two at a time) from the driveway, or the walkway between the back deck and the garage, or from one of the little stone caches he has made around. There’s a pile of rocks on one of our front porch chairs, a little pile on the back steps, a couple rocks on the walkway around the garage, a couple rocks on the front porch steps…you get the picture. He likes rocks. Fortunately, he does not eat them. He just carries them around.

He’s starting to count. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know what counting is, or what the words mean, but if we say “One”, he’ll often chime in with “TWO!” and maybe “FEE!” He likes saying “Zicks” and “Teen”. We don’t go further than ten. I’m trying to get him to grasp colors and matching, but he gets SO MAD when we’re working on matching, and he puts something in the wrong spot, and I correct him. Dammit, that purple gear is going in the orange spot because that’s the way he wants it! Well, he gets it. (I don’t like it any more than you men.)

 

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May 31 2010

Memorial Weekend

Let’s see, what’s new?  Oh, I know!  I may or may not have broken a bone in my finger.  Last week, The Man and I were working on getting a gate installed, so that eventually I can just open a gate and walk into my berry patch instead of disconnecting a section of fence and crawling under the netting.  So, I’m holding a post, and he’s got the fence-post rammer in ramming position.  And then he brought the rammer down, the post slipped into an old hole that we weren’t planning on using, and my finger got squished between the gate and the post, or the gate and the rammer, or the gate and God’s Angry Hand Of Vengeance.  Whatever happened, the outcome was not good for my finger, which would no longer bend and the second knuckle and was swelling alarmingly.  I went to the doctor the next day (because this happened at around 6 PM) and got some X-rays done, and was told by the X-ray dude that it might take 2-3 days for the films to be processed and for anyone to get back to me.  So, I waited two days, and on Friday, after hearing nothing, I called my doctor only to find that his whole office had shut down for the holiday weekend.  I guess I’ll call them tomorrow.  This must be that outstanding American health care system that everyone is so adamant that we never change.

So, this weekend we ran around a lot.  The Man went to a minor-league baseball game on Friday night, and I did not.  On Saturday, we went to a birthday party for D– and C–’s daughter, who is now 16 years old.  On Sunday, we went to church, then Grandma’s, and then to The Man’s dad’s house.  And today, we worked and worked, mostly at getting the pool up and some water in it.  Filling the pool is a 3 – 4 day process, because instead of paying someone to bring us a whole lot of water, like sane people, we use a hose.  The Man also mulched around the dwarf cherry bushes, and I mostly stood around and stared, because having a gimpy finger makes it hard to pull weeds and stuff.  Setting up the pool was a real blast, too.

The other thing I accomplished this last week was getting a web site up for my “business”.  If you are interested in seeing what I’m up to in that line, check out aftertwelveonline.com.

Annnd…the kitchen ceiling just started to leak.  Joy.  Must go.  Must get a bucket.

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May 06 2010

Just the usual stuff.

My husband asked me today to set up a blog for him.  This might be a sign of the coming apocalypse.  I’m not sure.  I need more time to analyze this data.

Another sign of the apocalypse:  I’m really not feeling my own blog, lately.  Between Facebook and Twitter and my Droid, it seems like I do a lot of writing, and staying in touch, but when I look back over what I’ve actually DONE in a month, in terms of writing, it’s not much.  But what do I have to write about, really?  I have a pretty quiet life.

The one thing that is sort of not quiet right now is that Mackers and I are embarking on a new business venture.  I guess I should say we’re sticking our toes in the water of a new business venture, because we are Cautious Cathys (or at least I am).  She’s doing some perfumes, massage oils, and therapeutic balms and such, and I’m working on lotions and salts and lip balms and your basic “I feel pretty” things.  For now, the plan is to share booth space at several local craft shows and see what happens.  Our first show is coming up June 12 and I am a Nervous Nelly (see, personality crises abound!) because it is a New Thing and, as we all know, I am not big on New Things.  New Things give me stomach pain.

SPEAKING of stomach pain and new things, The Man and I were recently up north at Dr. Mom and Moll’s, and we discussed taking home Milo, a Corgi who belongs to one of their neighbors and who is a very sweet boy.  However, my Big Anxiety prevented this from happening, as I could not get over the utter nervousness of taking another dog home and having it not work out for various reasons.  I’ve been dog-burned.  Therefore, Milo remains with his owner, who is OK with that, and we remain dog-free.  This makes me a little sad, but it’s probably for the best right now.  Our cats are old and cranky, I’m a bundle of nerves, and introducing a new animal into that mix is….well, let’s just say The Man has only so much sanity to go around.

I’ve been working on the gardens lately.  I got some tiger lilies from my Grandma and some bluebells from Milo’s owner.  I moved some stuff out of the berm that was taking over (FYI: yarrow spreads like a mofo) and added some things to the butterfly garden, which I’m now calling the St. Francis garden, mostly because there is now a statue of St. Francis back there.  I call him Frankie-baby in my head, which is in NO WAY respectful, but I can’t seem to stop myself.

Also, this year is The Year of Seeing If We Can Get Edible Apples (doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it?) and also The Year of Keeping The Stupid Birds From Eating My Berries.  There are now nets over the berry patch and we are spraying the apple tree for the first time ever.  Let’s see if that extensive pruning campaign paid off, shall we?

I’m looking forward to the summer,  but I know I’m getting old because it was JUST February like, yesterday.  Tomorrow it will be August.  Time flies, tempus fugit, whatever you want to say.  Sometimes I’m scared that I’ll wake up at 55 and think “What did I do with my life?” but, day-to-day, I’m happy.  I’m content.  I don’t really WANT to be out there, doing some exciting job, making the big bucks, or seeing the world.

Hey, this entry sure went all over, didn’t it?  I think this is what happens when I don’t write enough.  Verbal. Spewing.

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