Monday, August 24, 2015

Trouble in the Hive...

It's been quite a while since I've posted about my beehive... since we've had a lot of action happening in there of late, it seems a good time for an update!

The beehive was strong and healthy and growing at a very rapid pace for the first several months. We added as second brood box, and the bees were quickly filling it up with eggs, brood, pollen, and a pretty good amount of capped honey! Then one day in the beginning of August, as I inspected my hive, I noticed there was some capped brood, but no new eggs or larvae.This is a very bad sign... it means that the queen bee is dead, or otherwise no longer viable. Oddly, the bees had been quite agitated the previous week when I had inspected... so agitated, that one of my normally docile bees stung me. My guess is that our queen (whom we had called "Alice") was in trouble then, hence their unrest.

Once I determined that Alice was definitely gone and our hive was definitely queenless, we needed to go about trying to requeen the hive. This is sometimes tricky business, as the hive sometimes rejects a new queen. So, we ordered a new queen from an apiary in Georgia, and upon her arrival, we placed her in the hive, and waited patiently to see if she'd be accepted. After a week, I inspected the hive again. I inspected all ten frames in the top brood box, but found nothing... no queen, no eggs, no larvae. Onto the bottom box... one frame after another... same story: no queen, no eggs, no larvae. About seven frames in, the bees started getting angry. They were buzzing quite loudly, and giving me plenty of warning bumps. One stung me on the wrist. I hoped this meant I was near the queen, and sure enough... on the 19th of 20 frames, I found my new queen (dubbed "Elizabeth" by my cousin, in hopes that she would have a longer reign than Alice!) Along with the queen I found some eggs and brood... hooray! The 20th frame was also full of eggs and brood, so it appears that our hive may be back on track.

In other news... oh my gosh, you guys... it's almost time for the homeschool year to start! We have SO much happening this coming school year. I've been very busy getting our supplies ordered, cleaning out the homeschool cabinet, and getting everything ready! Next post, I'll be sharing some of our preparations, and give you a little peak at our homeschool space.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Old House Blues...

There is a lot to love about living in an older home... the quirky architectural features, the charming details, the sense of history... but along with the cool things there are also quite a few headaches to deal with. Our antique home is always full of surprises, and most of them are both unpleasant and expensive to remedy! Our home was built in 1895, and since I bought it in 2007, I have dealt with things like crumbling walls, rotted studs and subfloors, outdated/unsafe electrical and plumbing, and much, much more. The good news is, we've replaced and repaired so much, that our house has increased in value quite a bit! The bad new is, there is ALWAYS something else going wrong that needs to be fixed, and small repairs often end up turning into much bigger projects (like the time we tried to replace a light fixture in our living room, and found tons of old illegal knob-and-tube wiring which needed to be replaced to the tune of $5000!)

Small part of the
hallway in progress
Currently, we're in the midst of several projects all at once. We didn't really mean for it to be that way, it just sort of happens sometimes with these old houses. First, we were in the process of insulating and replacing windows in our basement TV room, because we've had major problems with frozen and bursting pipes the last couple of winters. We're hoping that better insulation will prevent it from happening again this winter. We have a friend/handyman helping us with that project, as well as fixing the shower down there, which has been on the "to be fixed" list for several years. Meanwhile, we decided to start fixing up the hallways and stairwell, which have suffered some water damage and general wear-and-tear to the old horsehair plaster. That project is still in progress, as it turns out things were in worse shape than anticipated, and our summer has been waaay busier than expected, so we just haven't been able to get it done.

While all this was happening, we ended up with an unexpected plumbing issue, which resulted in this:

Our plumber had to break open the wall to replace some old pipes and such. Since the wall is already torn apart, we're thinking it's probably finally time to get rid of the tile walls we hate, and finally renovate this bathroom. More on that, as it happens! Additionally, we need to have a bit more electrical work done in the basement. And so on, and so on...

In midst of all these home repairs, we've also had to start thinking about the start of the school year! Can you believe that it's mere weeks until Labor Day?? I've already started reorganizing our homeschool corner, ordering supplies and planning out what we'll be doing come September. It's going to be quite an interesting year for me as a homeschool mom... this year I'll be homeschooling two high schoolers, a middle schooler and a fifth grader, and I'll be working part-time. I'm hoping I can handle it all.

Next post... I'll be talking about the latest goings on in my beehive!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Summer Love

We have had a pretty busy summer so far, with lots of kids activities, appointments and such. We've been doing our best to squeeze in small bits of Summer Fun in the midst of it all, but as of the end of this week, theater camp and summer dance will be over, The Man will be taking a couple of days off from work, and we'll finally have some time to really enjoy summer's simple pleasures for a few weeks before we have to start getting ready for the school year. I'm really looking forward to having some unstructured time to relax with my people. Because really, isn't that what summer is really about?

Here are some of my favorites things about summer...

1. Sitting by the fire pit on warm summer nights, watching the fireflies blink.
2. Watching the kids splashing in the pool (and splashing in the pool, myself!)
3. Beach days!
4. Dinner picnics on the beach, staying until the sun sets.
5. Summer flowers, everywhere.
6. Fresh veggies, right from the garden.
7. Summer fruits... strawberries, blueberries, peaches... YUM.
8. Long, warm days.
9. Camping!
10. No shoes, ever.

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.