Wednesday, July 1, 2015

It's a BOY!

So it's been awhile since I've written anything here... but I have a very good reason why! Our household has increased by one! IT'S A BOY... oh, and he's 17, and was ours already... but now he's living with us full time! Our oldest, The Man's first-born, who previously lived with his mom out of state, has moved into The Homestead, and will be homeschooling with us for his senior year of high school! It's been a very exciting and very busy time for our family, getting him moved in and settled.

So, now we have three teenagers and a "tween" in the house, which can be challenging but is mostly a lot of fun. It seems like only yesterday I was a young mom with little kids, and now I've got a houseful of these almost-adults, who are all taller than me! At this writing, I am the second-shortest person in the house, with only the ten-year-old still smaller than me (and even he is catching up!) The main thing I've noticed about parenting teens is the driving. There is a LOT of driving involved in parenting teens. It seems most of my days are spent shuttling kids from one place to another... camp, classes, driver's ed, appointments... so much driving! But honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm grateful to be with them, and I'm grateful that The Man and I are able to give them these experiences.

So that's where we are at this moment... embracing having a nice full house! I am keenly aware, these days, of just how fast they are all growing up. While I'm SO proud of all they are doing and accomplishing, there are days when I just want to yell, "STOP GROWING UP! Stay as you are!" I am trying so hard to not wish the days away... sometimes hard to do when things get super busy or challenging. I'm trying hard to pay attention to the little moments, and enjoy these kiddos as much as I can.

I leave you with this quote, that's been in my head A LOT lately...

Enjoy the little things in life…
For one day, you will look back and realize,

they were the big things.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Healing My Family

Life can be messy, and sometimes the messiness of life leaves us with wounds that need careful handling to properly heal. My family has not been immune to life's challenges. We have experienced our share of messiness and injured hearts and souls... and we found that while in the midst of the messiness, it's hard to do what we need to do to take care of each other. Sometimes we are just struggling to survive, day to day. 

A couple of years ago I got to the point where I realized that my family was floundering... really floundering... and I knew we needed to make some serious changes if we were all going to be OK. My children had just lost their father to cancer, and it was a huge wake-up call. There were so many things going on... old wounds, stress, trauma... things we weren't really dealing with, because every day was just about survival. I knew I had to find a way to focus my energies 100% on healing myself and my family. I knew it would be a lot of work and it might be uncomfortable, but I also knew it would be worth it. 

In the early spring of 2013, I began preparing to quit my job so that I could spend the following school year trying to heal my family. I refinanced my mortgage, paid off some debts, and worked out a realistic budget. The Man of the House started looking for a new job. I sold off some of our stuff on eBay and Craigslist. We worked on getting our ducks in a row for this next chapter of our lives. 

In September of 2014, for the first time since my marriage ended in 2008, we began our homeschool year with me as a full-time, stay-at-home Mom. Finally, there were no other distractions coming between me and my home and family life. It was so valuable to able to be fully present for my family in a way I was never able to be during the years when I was juggling a demanding full-time job along with trying to be a homeschooling Mom. I was able to give all of my attention to repairing, recovering and nurturing my relationships with my children and with my partner. 

Taking this school year off to be fully present with my family has been the very best decision I have made in many years. As a family, we are finally finding our way, healing from the past and living the life we want to live. Friends and family members have commented on how much my children have blossomed this year. Another great side effect of quitting my job is that we have had the time to become much more involved in our homeschool group, which has allowed us to feel much closer to this community of friends that means so much to us. This "village" of supportive friends, as well as some great therapists, have been a really important part of our journey. 

We are still learning, still growing, and probably always will be... but we have come such a long way. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Gardening for Everyone

Today I want to talk about ways that anyone can garden, even if you don't have a ton of yard space. But first, I want to tell you about what I'm growing in my own garden this year:

Winter Squash
Green beans
Wax beans
Tomatoes (8 different types, mostly heirloom)
Straight-neck squash
Swiss Chard

Blueberries (we hope! We have two small bushes, which thus far have been fruitless... still hoping they'll produce something!)

Annual herbs:

Perennial herbs:
Lemon balm

My Garden Plan for this year. 
When people find out I have a garden, they often ask me what I grow. When I start listing everything, many will say something like, "WOW! You must have a really big piece of property! How many acres?"  But the surprising thing is how relatively small my garden area really is. Our entire piece of property is around 1/3 of an acre (a pretty big yard for our area, though not huge) and the garden area takes up a really small part of that... less than 400 square feet. While this is admittedly more space than a lot of people have, we really do grow A LOT of stuff in that area. We maximize our growing area with raised beds and pots. Currently, I have seven 6 x 8 foot raised beds, a small berry patch and borders of perennial herbs and flowers. I have have some pots for herbs and peppers. This is about double what I started with... I've added a bit more here and there over the years.

My last house didn't have a real yard, as such, but I did have enough room for some container gardening on the patio. I grew tomatoes, cucumbers, pepper and herbs, all in pots. Containers and small raised beds are a really great way to plant a lot of stuff in small spaces, so you don't have to let a small yard get in the way of your gardening dreams. You can keep containers on a patio or sunny porch, and even really tiny yards can fit in a small raised bed or two. I've seen beds as small as 2x2 feet, that can produce a surprising amount of veggies. If space is really at a premium, consider high-yield plants like tomatoes,  green beans, cucumbers, zucchini and summer squash that will give you the most bang per square foot. Raised beds are really easy to build, and if you make your own, you can build the beds to suit your space. A Google search for "raised bed plans" will give you literally thousands of options and possibilities.

If you happen to be an apartment dweller with absolutely no outdoor space, you can still feed your garden dreams a little bit. For the first 8 years of my adult life, I lived in apartments with no outdoor space at all, so I settled for growing some herbs in pots on my kitchen windowsills. Where there's a will, there's a way!

Before I sign off... I also want to share this neat little garden project I did with my youngest child... we made plant markers for the garden using rocks from around the yard. First we looked around for smooth-ish rocks, then we washed the dirt off of them, and painted them with acrylic paints. Noodle decided it would be cool to match the paint color to the color of the veggie (orange for carrots and pumpkins, purple for beets, yellow for squash, etc etc) After the paint dried, we wrote the names of the veggies in black Sharpie. This was a really fun easy project, and they look super cute in the garden!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Inspecting the Hive...

I am very new to all this beekeeping business, but so far, I absolutely LOVE it. I love watching "the ladies" buzzing around the hive, and get SO excited when I see one out in our (finally blooming!) flowers. I feel so content and peaceful when watching my bees.

One important part of beekeeping is inspecting the hive, to make sure that all is healthy and happy. It's important to see whether or not the bees are busy making wax and your queen is laying eggs, as those are signs that all is well. My first attempt at a hive inspection didn't go particularly well. The weather was a bit too chilly, so all the bees were "at home" instead of out foraging, so I really couldn't see anything. I couldn't find the queen at all, and with SO many bees piled onto the frames, I couldn't even see if they were building comb. Lesson learned: Don't try to inspect your hive on a chilly day!

Last weekend, however... it was warm and sunny. I was able to get a good look at the frames, and saw lots of drawn comb, quite a bit of it capped. I had a hard time finding eggs and larvae, but after really looking closely I was able to find some. I still never found my queen, which concerned me a bit, but according to the beekeeping friends I consulted, it's not uncommon for her to be elusive. As long as there are eggs and larvae and the workers are taking care of their business, chances are the Queen is there and healthy.
Happy, Healthy Honey Bees! 

In addition to my beekeeping duties, I've also been spending lots of time working in the yard and garden! Next post, I'll share a little of our early spring garden.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Weight Loss Milestone!

Today is kind of a big day for me. After 9 weeks of being REALLY conscientious about diet and exercise, I have hit a weight loss milestone... 10 lbs gone! I am currently half way toward my goal of losing 20 lbs. This is pretty huge for me, as weight loss in my 40's has proven to be ridiculously difficult for me. I have struggled like anything, losing and gaining the same 2-3 lbs, for literally YEARS.  Prior to this, I have mostly lived life as a thinner person, but as I creeped into middle age, the weight really started piling on and seemed to have no inclination to leave, even as I was exercising regularly and eating a whole food, vegan diet. While I started to get almost comfortable with my increasingly widening body, I was starting to end up with some early warning signs of some health issues. My cholesterol was getting into the higher range (due to genetics, as I don't eat any cholesterol) and I have a history of some blood sugar issues, so the additional belly fat I was carrying was not helping matters. I decided it was time to get serious and get healthy.

So how did I finally get the ball rolling? First thing was to make a conscious effort to really cut calories. Yes, this seems obvious, but I had been living under the lie that if what I was eating was healthy, it didn't matter how much I was eating. Well, it did matter. I started using the My Fitness Pal app to track my calories each day, and I'm definitely eating much less these days. I won't lie... it's hard, and sometimes I get really hungry. But, I know that I need to do this, for me, so I'll feel better. I saw a loss of 2.5 lbs the first week, which really motivated me to keep going. It's been up and down a bit since then, but overall I've averaged about a pound a week.

The other important thing I've been doing is trying to move my body, everyday. Mostly I walk, but I've also been doing a bit of yoga a few times each week. It's been about 5 years since I've done any kind of regular yoga practice. so it has been a little bit of a challenge to get back into the swing of things. But I'll get there. Baby steps.

Even with still 10 lbs to go, I'm feeling SO much better... less sluggish, stronger, healthier. I even feel like my head is a little clearer. I'm very much looking forward to sliding into Summer feeling healthy and strong.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Our First Official Day of Beekeeping!

Yesterday I officially became a Beekeeper! YAY! After so many months of learning and preparing, it feels really great to finally have my hive up and running, populated with buzzing bees. I'm really looking forward to sharing my yard and garden with them. I'm also looking forward to sharing their honey and beeswax! 
I picked my bees up yesterday afternoon. I was just a tiny bit nervous about getting them into the hive, but luckily, the bees were cooperative, and it went so smoothly... beginner's luck, perhaps? I started out wearing my protective bee gear, but found it cumbersome, so I ditched it. I thought I might be inviting a few stings by handling the bees unprotected, but I walked away without a single sting, so I guess I got lucky there, too. Here are some photos of the process... 

The bees came in this wooden box, with a can of sugar water attached to feed
them on their journey. First step is to remove the can, to open the box. 

Using my hive tool to remove the sugar can.

Once the sugar can was out of the way, I put a piece of wood over the hole
to keep all the bees from flying out while I removed the queen, who comes
in her own little box attached to the top.

There she is! The queen! She's hard to see here,
 but believe me, she is lovely! 

The rest of the bees waiting, while I install the queen.

The fun part: Dumping in the bees! The queen is hanging
there in her little box, attached to the top of the frame.
Her bee attendants will help her out soon. 

All in, except for a few stragglers
(who did make there way in on their own when they were ready)

Attaching the feeder

View from the top: The bees are settling in. 

Putting the rest of the frames in.

Brushing some bees off the edge of the box, so
they don't get get squished when I put the top on.

The start of a Happy Hive!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Springing Up the Place

The last few weeks we have been in full on SPRING mode around here. We've been opening windows, airing out the house, doing a bit of spring cleaning, and getting started on all those SPRING projects around the house, yard and garden.

The downside is, we're so excited that we've started too many projects at once. But that's OK... we'll catch up eventually. Here's what we've been up to:

  • We worked on the Fall Cleanup stuff we never got around to in the fall. Since we were very busy in the fall starting up some new life routines and redoing several rooms in the house, the outside stuff kind of fell by the wayside. It's making the Spring chores a bit more difficult, so, lesson learned. We'll be better this year. 

  • We got the back porch ready for the season:

This is our favorite "room" of the house... our back porch. We spend much more
 time out here between April and October than we do inside the house. 

  • We started fixing up the backyard play area. Still quite a bit left to do on this area, but the sandbox is all cleaned and filled, and we got some new baskets from the dollar store to store our outdoor toys. We still have to put down some mulch and do a few other things, but we'll get to that in the coming weeks.

Sandbox area, in progress. 

  • We've started prepping the garden beds! A couple of the older raised beds needed to be rebuilt, and we've been prepping the soil. This weekend, we got around to sowing the carrots, beets and peas. More prepping and planting to come in the next few weeks!

Prepping the beds

We've also been preparing for our Honeybees! Today is the Big Day I've been looking forward to for months... BEE DAY! I'll be picking them up this afternoon and (hopefully!) getting them into the hive successfully. Fingers crossed! 

Meanwhile, I hope you're all enjoying Spring and having some wonderful fair-weather adventures!