Archive for February, 2014

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



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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Feb 05 2014

My brain hates me.

Published by under Education,The Man

I had to take a test tonight. It was a test for which I felt ill-prepared. I had woken up this morning with the knowledge that I had forgotten to do an entire section of homework, so instead of reviewing two chapters during The Boy’s nap, I would have to somehow do a section’s worth of homework (an hour) and then try to review the whole chapter (an hour) and then if I had time (not bloody likely) re-review the other chapter. And, since I’d gotten up late, I’d also have to cram a shower and hair/makeup time in there. It wasn’t looking good.

Fortunately, my husband is a wonderful man who has a plethora of sick time, so he came home way early and watched The Boy while I feverishly mathed it up. I was not feeling good about the section I hadn’t done. I did all the homework and it was only somewhat clicking. My 4-cylinder brain was missing every other stroke, and that’s not what you want when one mistake throws off your entire solution.

Eventually, I clawed my way into something like a groove, and started feeling…OK. Not like “I’m gonna ace this!” but more like “I will probably score a B or B-” which for some people is probably a great grade, but I have complexes, and for me, if it’s not an A I might as well just drop the class and give up because I am too dumb to go to college and should give my spot to someone else. Go mental health! (As a side note, this is the exact mindset for which I give my husband no end of grief, when he is in the throes of his own “I’m a miserable failure and don’t deserve higher education” angst-fits. Go hypocrisy!)

So, I went to class and took the test. And everything went pretty well. There were a few places where I had to erase all of my work and start over – and the amount of eraser dust that removing two equations full of the wrong work from your page produces is quite embarrassing – but overall, I felt good. I double-checked everything, running my solutions against the original questions and making sure they fit, and handed the test in.

As soon as I stepped into the hall, I froze. I leaned against the wall, just outside the door. My brain was hammering at me: “You forgot to do something. You forgot to do something.” I thought back over the test, and the things I had reviewed today. It seemed like there were some things that I’d reviewed that weren’t on the test. And not little things – whole sections. Were they there? Did I do them. I couldn’t remember. I literally could not remember what was on a test that I had just finished and had spent 45 minutes working.

I became convinced that I had skipped a page. I had no idea what the policy was on this, but even if my instructor wouldn’t let me work the skipped problems, I at least needed to know if I had skipped problems. I went back into the classroom and walked up to her and said “Hey, was there a back page? I’m pretty sure I skipped it.” She picked up a test – not mine – and turned it over to reveal a whole page of problems. I was like “oh no”. She smiled and said “Well, you weren’t going anywhere, anyway, right? Which one would you like to work on?” and she fanned the completed tests out. I kind of chuckled and said “I’ll work mine, if that’s OK,” and picked it up from the stack. I turned it over to see…

…a full page of completed work. WHAT. THE. FUCK.

I kind of dumbly handed the test back to her and she said “Did you do everything else?” She paged through it…all the work was done. She looked at me, and I said “I guess my brain is playing tricks on me”. She kind of laughed and said good night and I left again. And as soon as I left the classroom, my brain began insisting that something wasn’t right. That test was too easy! I had struggled all afternoon, and none of those problems had seemed very difficult. This was just plain failure waiting to happen.

However, there was nothing to do. I had turned in the test, I had double-checked my work, I had just seen the completed test with my very own eyes. And, what’s more, at the beginning of class I had gotten back a quiz that I knew I had totally screwed up, and lo and behold, my score was 9/10.

All I can do is wait for Monday and see my grade. And also try to figure out what the hell is wrong with my brain.

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Feb 04 2014


Published by under Parenting,The Boy

Since I’m a stay at home mom, The Boy doesn’t go to day care. He’s also not yet ready for the area preschools. So, he doesn’t get a lot of interaction with other kids. Additionally, I don’t know if you’re aware, but this winter has sucked frozen gorilla balls. Playing outside has not been an option. Both of us are in dire need of escaping the house, and The Boy also has a need to release some energy every now and then. McDonald’s Play Place is the perfect solution. He gets to run and climb and interact, and I get Diet Coke. It’s win-win.

We went to McDonald’s today. Not at lunch time, and not at dinner time. At in-between time, when he is rested from his nap and shouldn’t need food for awhile. I got me a Diet Coke and him a juice and we went into the Play Place so he could play. At first, everything was fine. He was exploring, and running around, and occasionally looking in the direction of other children. Then, he started approaching the other adults who were sitting at tables, hanging out. He specifically zoned in on this older couple kitty corner from us, who had two young girls with them (their granddaughters, as I later learned). He would walk up to their table and grab the edge of it with his hands, and kind of survey the surface like “Whatcha got up there?” I removed him several times, apologizing, but they laughed it off and said he was cute and not to worry.

Then he started eating their food.

Please understand, it’s not like I was ignoring him or just letting him do whatever. But I couldn’t park myself in front of these people’s table like a security guard or bouncer, fending him off whenever he got near. “Sorry, sir. This is VIP. You’ll have to show a card.” It took me a little time to get up from my table and hustle over there, and between the time of me getting up and hustling, Scrounger McHomelessdude started shoving these people’s fries in his mouth like he’d never been granted the gift of solid food before. I was mortified. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!” I apologized as, I’m sure, my face turned tomato red. But these people were not just any people, oh no. They were grandparents. Grandparents who apparently just looooved babies (or toddlers, in this case). Before I knew it, I was standing there awkwardly watching my son integrate into a new family. He was getting on the guy’s lap, cozying up to the smallest girl on the bench seat, taking fries from the older girl, all while Grandma cooed at him approvingly. It was like the Twilight Zone. Is that really my child? Did I imagine the last two years? How long until this happy family calls the police and reports the strange woman who is just standing there staring at their grandson?

He sat with those people for a good 10 minutes while I’m making awkward conversation and they are feeding him fries. I started wondering if they thought I couldn’t afford to buy him his own food, or if they thought I was out of it in some fashion (drugs, general stupidity), because what kind of mother lets her child just crawl all over strangers and what kind of mother lets strangers feed her kid?

Here’s the thing though: if I had tried to remove him, it would have been an ugly scene. I mean, he would have thrown the grandest of conniption fits and we would have had to leave the restaurant. Also, the people probably would have been offended andm after all, they were the ones who had the most to be pissed about, really. I knew he wasn’t going to be hurt – those people hadn’t poisoned their own french fries. And I was right there, the whole time, observing like a totally superfluous idiot. I also knew that they weren’t just politely tolerating my child, because I know the difference between “I Am Sincerely Enjoying This Interaction” and “Society Dictates That I Wear My Pleasant Face and Soldier Through This Episode”.

That doesn’t mean that I was enjoying this incident, however. I was actually quite embarrassed and a little troubled that my kid obviously didn’t give two hoots whose lap he was sitting on, as long as they had food. I know that this is a normal phase, where kids are like “I LOVE THE ENTIRE WORLD, INCLUDING BANANA SLUGS”, but it’s still not great to think “My kid would walk off with anyone who offered him anything with a flavor, or a toy car”.

Eventually, I brought the humiliating episode to a close by checking my phone and realizing that we had to get home to meet The Man after his work day. I packed up and we both said goodbye to Stranger Grandma and Stranger Grandpa, and their two granddaughters. The Boy had done a lot of playing, and had made some new friends.

Mission accomplished?

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