Summer’s Freshness

Summer’s are a busy time of the year for us but it’s also the most rewarding.

When the grounds have been freshly mowed and bush-hogged the farm is beautiful.

When the garden has been freshly tilled and we’re able to keep up with the weeds seeing it will put a smile on your face anticipating the goodness that is about to come.

The hot days of summer we can do without especially when living in an old farmhouse with no air conditioning.  But, we schedule our days according to the weather and we survive.

What does that mean?  We do the animal chores in the morning before the sun comes up over the mountain or in the evening when it sets behind the other mountain dropping the temperature quite a bit.  We weed and check the crops during those times as well.  During the hottest part of the day we stay indoors underneath the ceiling fans.  To keep the house cool we have fans in a couple of the windows during the night time and then we close the windows during the day.  So far, it has been tolerable.  Worse case scenario, we have a couple of portable AC units we can hook up if it gets unbearable.  I just don’t know how our ancestors survived before all these modern conveniences like ceiling fans and air conditioning!  My guess it’s because they didn’t know any differently and they didn’t really have a choice.

Enough about our summer survival methods and on with some good stuff!

The beauty about summertime, besides the green grass and trees and everything in bloom, is the harvest from the garden.  Summertime has us eating lots of garden goodies and freshness!

One of our favorites is a marinated cucumber salad…

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Our onions aren’t ready yet but the cucumbers and tomatoes are straight from the garden.

Another summer dish we really love is a Greek Orzo Salad…

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We can (and do!) eat a huge Pyrex bowl of this stuff in a couple of days!  Fresh basil and parsley from the garden as well as the cucumbers and tomatoes thrown in with some cooked Orzo pasta, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, red onions and a dressing of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and YUM!!!  Simple but tasty.  I had to modify the last batch I made because I didn’t have any feta cheese or red onions on hand and living 30 minutes from Anywhere, USA I used what I had!  So, that meant cubing up some mozzarella and using a white onion instead.  It gave it more of an Italian flare but was just as good!  And it’s already gone, sniff.

On a really hot day we’ll have a smoothie for lunch…

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These are so yummy and so simple to make.  I add one packet to a cup of milk, throw in some frozen berries and a few ice cubes and mix it all up in my Ninja blender.  Super.Simple.  And right up my alley on a hot day!   I mean, who wants to be in a hot kitchen on a hot day?  Not me, especially with no air conditioning!!!

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Now on to more goodness…

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I’ve got cucumbers coming out the wazoo!  I’ve already made a batch of Bread & Butter pickles.  Now I’m trying Sweet Icicle Cucumbers.  These babies take a while to make.  First, they sat in a brine for a week.  Now I’m in the pickling process.  Every day I strain the pickling juice into a saucepan with the bag of pickling spices, bring them to a boil then ladle it back into the crock.  I have two more days to go and then I can finally process them in the canner.

I didn’t read the directions thoroughly enough before starting so my processing timeline is off and I’ll end up canning these on Sunday after church.  I typically rest and relax on Sunday’s but after all the work involved with this batch of pickles I don’t want to take a chance on messing them up by waiting or adding another day to the process.  I also hope that they’re good after all this work.  Fingers crossed!

My next batch of pickles I want to try some Garlic Dill pickles.  I’m hoping to discover a recipe that tastes like the pickles I used to get at Ronnie’s Restaurant in Orlando when I was a kid.  I remember the place well.  It was on the corner of a huge L-shaped outdoor mall or strip mall, if you will, and it was always a treat to go there.  It was a big restaurant with delicious food and desserts and on every table was a gallon jar of whole pickles where you could help yourself while you waited for your meal.  They were SO good and I haven’t found a pickle like them since.  Sadly, the restaurant has been long gone but I’m still holding onto hope that I’ll find a recipe or some pickles that taste just like them.  Wouldn’t that be awesome!

Summer means early mornings or evenings on the front porch when it’s cool…

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Aren’t they cool?!  LizzieBelle and her buddy Creamsicle – so cute!

I mentioned earlier about summer blooms…

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This plant completely disappears after winter.  I mean, it’s dead and gone and every year I think it’s not coming back.  Then all of a sudden, it reappears again and puts out these huge flowers.  I mean HUGE!  These flowers are the size of my hand.

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Do any of y’all know what they are?  They remind me of a Hibiscus but bigger.

Another summer bloom are the Rose of Sharon’s…

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We have a LOT of these trees on the farm and they are literally humming with bumblebees and honey bees!  I wish y’all could hear it.  It makes me wonder what our honey is going to taste like.  I snagged a sample of it while I was in the hive a while ago and it was really good.

Speaking of honey, I will be getting into the hive on the first somewhat cool day we have.  I’m hoping to pull a honey frame or two out that is ready to be harvested.  That’s going to be an exciting day!

And, speaking of honey, at last week’s farmers market I had a couple people ask me if we were the ones selling honey.  I told them, not yet.  Maybe next year we’ll have some to sell at the market but it depends on how much we can sustainably harvest and still leave the bees with enough to get them through the winter.  I go through a LOT of honey so any honey we sell would have to be extra honey.  Although, if my bees continue to multiply like they have been I am going to need another hive or two and then I might have some extra.  Yea, I go through THAT much honey!

And, speaking of the farmers market, it’s going well…

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CountryBoy manning our table

We have several regular customers now and have sold out of eggs the last two markets.  This past market we took some of our cucumbers and sold out of them as well and even did some bartering with them.

Here’s what we bartered for…

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Yummy homemade herb & cheese bread and golden oyster mushrooms which I promptly sautéed that night and put on top of my burger with some pepper jack cheese.  With the burgers we grilled fresh corn on the cob that we also picked up at the market –   Mmm!

Our market is small but it’s slowly growing with vendors…

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That’s only half of our regular vendors but check out the view of Appalachian Mountains in our town!

I’d encourage you to find a local farmers market if you haven’t done so already.  You will not only be getting the freshest of the fresh but you will be helping support your local farming families where every purchase is greatly appreciated.

Speaking of support, I mentioned earlier that I am a Young Living Distributor.  I wanted you to know that if you sign up and become a member using the above link in this post you will not only be getting some amazing products (the Premium Starter Kit is the best deal to get started and you can add the Slique products) that are truly wholesome and work  but you’ll be directly helping support me and my family and my efforts to educate people on health and wellness and the journey towards a toxic free lifestyle and not some CEO of a large corporation.  Me.  Yours truly.  Your average homesteading housewife! It’s people striving for a better life and in the process, helping someone they know and trust.  It’s a wonderful concept and I’d be truly honored to help you get started and to coach you in your journey to wellness and a toxic free lifestyle!

 

 

 

Summer Happenings

Summer and Fall are busy times ’round here.

It seems there is something that needs to be done every day just to keep up, or else…

First, there’s trying to keep up with the garden.

We’ve had lots of glorious rain this year which is wonderfully nourishing for the plants but is equally nourishing for the weeds.  And, when you garden organically, that means trying to keep up with the weeds just so you can see your crop!

Then, there’s the harvesting of said crop.

Currently we’re only harvesting cucumbers (lots and lots of cucumbers!) and a few tomatoes here and there.

With so many cucumbers ready every few days I am trying new-to-me recipes to preserve them.

In the last blog post I talked about making Bread & Butter pickles.  I can’t wait to try them in a few weeks!

Today, I started the process of making Sweet Icicle Pickles found in the Complete Blue Ball Canning book.

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Four pounds of cucumbers in a stainless steel stock pot and covered with pickling salted water.

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I placed an inverted plate over them and sat some canning jars full of water on the plate.

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(It’s a green glass plate which is why it’s so green!)

These will sit in the cool pantry with a thick towel over them for a week before the next step.  There are six steps total so this process is going to take a while.  After all that I hope they turn out!

Once the rest of the veggies we’ve planted are ready to be harvested our days will be non-stop and there will be veggies all over the mudroom and the kitchen waiting to be preserved.  Yea, it’s a lot of work but when you see your pantry fill up with all the food you started from seed and tended to and harvested there is nothing more rewarding!  And, we’re able to eat that reward all throughout the year, woot!

Of course, with all the wonderful rain we’ve had it also means the grass is growing as well.  So, there’s mowing to be done every week and bush-hogging the upper and lower forty every other month.

We really need to get a hay rake and a small square hay baler so that we can bale the grass from those fields to use in the chicken coop throughout the year.  Some day.

Speaking of chickens, this guy has got his hands, er, feet FULL!

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The gorgeous Fuzzy Foot always has a lot to say!  I guess that’s the only way to keep up with seventeen laying hens and sixteen ‘babies’.  Either that or he’s awfully proud of his brood and wants everyone to know!

And, speaking of babies, the chicks are no longer chicks and are growing like our weeds!  They are eleven weeks old and getting so big.  I will have to take some photos for y’all to see.

I’ve enjoyed taking a few minutes here and there and walking around the farm with my camera.  Well, let’s just say for the sake of keeping it real, I’ve mostly enjoyed it.  I’ve had issues with my camera for a while.  It seems it likes only one lens now and half the time the automatic focus doesn’t work meaning I miss out on a lot of shots.  I know that’s neither here nor there for y’all but that’s my world.  ha!

I did manage to capture a butterfly or two when they were hitting the daylilies…

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I love watching the butterflies flit from one flower to another!

A friend of ours gave us this plant last year and it bloomed this year…

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I have no idea what kind of plant it is but the flower is larger than my hand.  Anyone know?  These are bulbs and will spread.  I already have two large stalks and two smaller stalks.  Yay!

There was a full moon last Saturday and when I went out to lock the chickens up the moon was just over the barn.  I had to walk back in and grab my camera…

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Along with summer comes the heat.

So far, we’ve had a decent summer.  With no air conditioning in the ‘ol farmhouse we appreciate a decent summer.  We open the windows at night and close them when the sun comes up and the house usually stays fairly cool.

My bees, on the other hand, have taken to bearding in the evenings to stay cool…

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Bearding typically takes place during the warmer months.  With all the buzzing and humming and work going on inside the hive it tends to get warm in there.  In order to stay cool, the bees will congregate outside the hive in the evenings creating a beard-like effect.

Another reason they may do this is when they are getting ready to swarm.  If they are out of room in the brood box they will swarm, congregate outside the hive getting organized waiting for the scouts to return then leave the hive and go to their new home.  I checked the hive and, thankfully, there was plenty of room for them.  I even added another brood box just in case so I know they are just bearding to cool off.

Another summer time happening is the process of gathering wood for the winter.  This will be our third winter here and maybe the first winter that we will be completely prepared for it.

The first year, we had no heat source, bitter cold temps, lots of snow, and no snow shovels.  We moved from Florida where one doesn’t need snow shovels!

The next year, we had some heat sources (wood burning insert and propane) and we had gathered quite a bit of wood but we still needed to be frugal with burning it and even then, the wood shed was empty by the last cold spell.  Thankfully, it wasn’t a bad winter.

This coming winter, we hope to have the wood shed completely full and get a jump start on wood for next winter as well.

I mentioned earlier about all the rain we’ve had but we’ve also had some terrible wind associated with several of those storms.

Quite a few friends and neighbors have had several trees come down in those storms.

CountryBoy is currently helping a friend from church cut up a HUGE tree that fell recently.

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This is only half the tree and just the branches are shown.

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The wood shed is half full and they haven’t even gotten to the trunk yet!

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Another church member told us about a couple hundred trees that came down in his cousins field that we are welcome to.  YAY!  Y’all just don’t know what a blessing and relief it is to know that we will stay warm this winter.

While the guys were cutting up the tree I meandered over to take some photos of the original cabin on their property.

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The history of this homestead is that two elderly ladies occupied this little house up until the time our friends bought the property.

There is no electricity and no creature comforts that we are accustomed to.

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The ground is slowly taking this little cutie pie piece of history.

The current owners had taken up the wood floor before it started disintegrating and stored it in their barn although much of it was stored under a roof leak and had started to deteriorate.  They gave us quite a bit of that flooring that was in somewhat decent shape and, one day, I hope to salvage what I can of it and put it in the second guest room.  It will be nice to have a finished floor in that room and some local history in the farmhouse.

There’s never a dull moment during the summer but we do manage to get some down time, especially during the heat of the day, allowing us to do some fun things or just relax.  After all, it’s all about balance!

From Cucumbers to Bread & Butter Pickles

Last year we planted cucumbers in the small garden.  We managed to get a few cucumbers but, overall, they did not do very well.  I’m thinking it was a bit too shady in the small garden.

This year we planted them in the big garden.  I chose the small pickling cucumbers this time and planted twenty some seeds along a trellis I tied to some metal stakes.

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Thankfully, only eight seeds germinated!

This picture was taken last week and the plants have doubled in size since then.  I couldn’t imagine the massive amount of cucumber plants all over the trellis had even a dozen of the seeds germinated!

Here’s a picture from yesterday…

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They are reaching out to the onions and the potatoes and grabbing hold.  I keep trying to weave them through the trellis but I’m thinking it’s a lost cause.

There are blossoms all over the place…

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With cucumbers of all sizes…

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I had my eye on several of them so that I could pick them at the precise size good for making pickles.  Several rains later they were huge and there were LOTS of them, oops!

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So, yesterday, after picking up some Turmeric in town, I got started on my first-ever batch of pickles.

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I chose to make traditional Bread & Butter Pickles using the recipe out of the Complete Blue Ball Canning book.

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They sure smelled good!  Hopefully, they’ll taste as good as they smelled.

I got 5 pints out of this batch but forgot to get a photo.

I will research all the ways to use and preserve the cucumbers but if we keep harvesting a bunch of cucumbers every week we’ll probably take them to the local farmer’s market to sell along with our eggs.

Today, I made a quick salad with one of the larger cucumbers.  (We ate it before I thought to get a picture!)

  • 1 medium cucumber, ends removed and diced into small pieces
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • handful of cilantro, chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar
  • ENJOY!

Rainy Day Ramblings

It’s Monday.  It’s raining.  And, both are just fine with me.

The rain is nourishing the gardens. The onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and potatoes are coming along nicely and the recently planted watermelon, okra, turnips, beets and corn will all love this rain!

Also coming up much quicker than the crops are weeds.  Lots and lots of weeds!  One could hoe 24/7 and still not keep up with the weeds.  We are doing our best, though, to not get overrun with them this year.  We’ll see how that goes!

My flowers are also loving this rain…

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It’s been a nice, gentle rain which is perfect for newly planted seeds.

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It’s also good for all my potted plants.

Prior to this rainy Monday, I spent several hours over the weekend re-locating my ‘office’.  Again!  Originally, it was in my sewing and craft room but there are no windows in there and I found myself lacking any desire to get in there to do any blog writing or computer work in general.  So, I moved my ‘office’ (which consists of a laptop, printer, computer software, paper & card stuffs, and files and stuff for Young Living) into one of the guest rooms.  Ah, windows!  I suddenly found myself a bit more motivated!  But, it still wasn’t the perfect location.  When we do have guests, I am hesitant to do any blogging or computer work as I feel like I am intruding on our guests space.  And, I felt ostracized from the goings-on downstairs.  I don’t know if that makes sense or not but it was just how I felt.

So, I decided to move my ‘office’ downstairs.

The only somewhat suitable spot was in the dining room.

My overly-large roll-top desk was already in there so I decided that was where my ‘office’ would be. But first, I had to tackle the mounds of paperwork that covered the top of the desk so that I could put my laptop on it and yesterday morning was the day I felt as if I could conquer it.  Ha!  Please tell me I’m not the only one that lets paperwork get out of control!!!  I love to be organized but if anything is going to whip me in the organizing department it will be paperwork.  sigh.

Anyway, after moving the desk to anther wall so that I could look out the window while I worked I set about sorting, filing and tossing and eventually I saw the top of my desk.  Yay!  So, I started bringing stuff down from upstairs and getting it set up.

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It still needs a little bit of tweaking here and there.  I will finalize the space as I figure out what works and what doesn’t.  But, for now, I’m happy to be downstairs writing this here blog post, happy to be out of the guest room and happy to be able to see outside.  Happy, happy, happy!

I also spent a few hours over the weekend working on an old window that was left behind when we moved in…

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I knew I wanted to do something with this window but I didn’t know what so it’s been moved around from one storage shed to another waiting for me to be inspired.

As I was looking for a wooden box that I wanted to use in my new ‘office’ space (later to remember that I was already using it in another guest room to store bedding) I came across the window and a lightbulb went off!  I was going to clean it up and hang it on wall in the ‘office’/dining room.

It required lots and lots of elbow grease to get the paint off the windows…

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and while I was at it, I cleaned up the backside and ran a bead of clear silicone around each pane to help secure them…

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There was a pane missing so I tried to cut a piece of glass I had leftover from a water-damaged picture frame but I didn’t have the right tools.   So, to avoid a potential disaster I let it be.

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For the window frame itself, I simply scraped off any loose paint which exposed the original white paint and, in some spots, the wood itself.  I love the character that is left behind!

This wall, which is the only wall in there with drywall, is in need of a coat of paint.  I’m hoping that the window will be the focus and not the badly needed-paint job.

Also on this wall is a built-in shelf.  This shelf was originally a window but when, what is now the mudroom was enclosed the window was removed and, I’m assuming, this shelf was built…

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I’ve not known what to do with this built-in. At one time, I was thinking about removing it to have a solid wall and not have to try and ‘decorate’ around it.  But, since this shelf is near my ‘office’ I’ve decided to store some extra Young Living goodies on it…

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as well as a few things that remind me of the farm…

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I pulled that honey comb off the bottom of one of the medium supers I temporarily had in the large brood box.  It’s so cool and the handy work of the bees just amaze me!  It’s also a reminder of my ‘why’ for growing my Young Living business as well as my handmade/homemade farm goods business.

Speaking of handmade goods, I was asked by a friend of mine to make a quilted wall-hanging for her dining room.  She and I both like traditional quilts so I spent some time searching for just the right pattern.  After finding the pattern the next challenge was finding the perfect fabric.  I finally found some and, as you saw in my last post, I started cutting it.  I finished the quilt-top last Friday.  I love it!

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Simple nine patches around a double star.  Here’s a closer look at the gorgeous colors…

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Now to decide how I want to quilt it.  I find piecing the top is the easy part – quilting it, not so much.   I’m starting to come up with a plan.  I’m wanting to keep the quilting fairly traditional and I want it to add to, not take away, from the quilt top.

I did a second one with completely different fabrics which gave the quilt a completely different look…

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The sun was shining bright when I took this photo so it’s hard to see the colors but here’s a closeup…

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This pattern was so much fun!.  I will definitely be making more of them.

I also had some fun with the embroidery machine…

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I decided to make a pillow with this one.  I want to do another one but will use different colors.  SEW fun!

Earlier in the week, we decided it was time to let the chicks out of the grow-out cage during the day…

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CountryBoy cut two openings in the cage just large enough so that the littles could go in and out but the big girls couldn’t get in to eat all the food.  Cuz, you know, the chicks are getting better food than they get.  smirk!  We close the openings each night once they are all in safe and sound.

Occasionally, the big girls throw their weight around trying to tell the littles who’s boss but, for the most part, all is well.  Fuzzy Foot is really the boss but he just keeps thinking about the fact that he’s got even MORE girls to watch out for!  Poor Fuzzy Foot!

The rain has stopped for now so I will end my ramblings.

Thanks to all of you who faithfully read my ramblings and for the sweet comments letting me know that you actually enjoy reading my ramblings.  Y’all are too kind!

Farm Realities & Ramblings

Hey everyone!  I trust y’all had a nice Memorial Day weekend and took some time to remember the men and women that gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

We enjoyed a quiet Memorial Day and even managed to get a few tasks done.

But, first, let me talk about some farm realities…

First up, this thing…

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sigh.

Every.time.we.mow. now SOMETHING happens to the riding mower.

One time when CountryBoy was mowing the chicken’s paddock I witnessed both front wheels turning in the OPPOSITE direction!  Another time (several actually) it was the belt.  This time it’s something with one of the blades.  I’m done nickling and diming this thing so we took advantage of a sale and 18 month zero financing at Lowe’s and bought another one (ouch!).  We bought a slightly larger Husqvarna and we plan on using our current one for parts.  At least whatever parts are salvageable, ha!

We took advantage of their free delivery offer which, it seems, so did everyone else!  Thank goodness, it is scheduled for delivery tomorrow.  Meanwhile, we’ve had LOTS of rain last week and no mower for almost two weeks so you can imagine what the grounds look like right about now.

Speaking of the grounds, CountryBoy is still not able to work the tractor due to his knee surgery so the upper and lower 40 and around the barn and garden are a bit high.  Almost waist high.

Thankfully, his brother bush-hogged all but the upper 40 when he was here mid-April otherwise it would be ridiculously high.  I’ve offered to jump on the tractor but CountryBoy is concerned about all the natural obstacles I might run into.  He’s also afraid I’ll end up, tractor and all, in the creek!  Fine.  Whatever.  I offered.  Ha!

So, needless to say, the farm is looking pretty shabby right now.  And, not the kind of shabby that’s in style these days (wink!).  What’re ya gonna do?!  This, too, shall pass and we’ll be back on top of things soon enough.

Another unfortunate reality is the closing of my recently re-opened Etsy shop.  sigh.

Do y’all remember a recent post about me FINALLY reopening the shop?  I spent a weekend taking photos, writing up descriptions, determining pricing and paying the fee to list my items for sale.  A week or so later I get an email from Etsy stating that I HAVE to sign up for Etsy Payments in order to keep my shop open and if I don’t?  Well, my shop will be suspended and I can no longer sell items.  sigh.

quilt top all about me

most recent crib size quilt top waiting to be quilted

What’s the big deal about signing up for Etsy Payments you ask?  Well, in order to do so, I would have to link a bank account to their system and I’m just not comfortable doing that.  I briefly thought about opening another account just for the Etsy business but a) I don’t have enough business to warrant any fees that may be involved and b) adding another account goes against my efforts of simplifying our life and c) there are just too many hackers that have nothing better to do and I’m not willing, nor can I afford, to open ourselves up to the possibility of a financial wipe out.

But, what eats me up is I had no idea prior to re-opening the shop that I would be forced into doing something against my will and better judgement just to keep my shop open.  If I had known, I wouldn’t have wasted my time and money on re-opening the shop in the first place.  I may be a little extreme in my thought-process of linking a bank account but in these days… I’d rather just be safe than sorry.

So, at the end of this month, my shop will be suspended  and I will be looking for another platform to sell my handmade items.  sigh.

Enough about the realities and on to some ramblings!

Last Friday we had a break in the rain and  I decided it was time to get into the hive for an inspection.

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These bees are amazing little creatures!  I get mesmerized just watching them.

But, I had a job to do so I made myself focus on the task at hand.

First up was psyching myself up to open the hive.  I had no idea what to expect once it was open and I think the unknown was what made me a little nervous.  Once I got into the mindset of ‘just do it’ and I had my mental checklist in order it really was no big deal.

CountryBoy was in charge of the smoker.  He did a fine job.  Even smoking me out a time or two, ha!

Once the bees had been smoked, I removed the two honey supers.  There were a few frames in the lower super where the comb was under construction and there was even a small spot that had some honey in it.  When I pulled the two frames apart to check them it opened up the caps and some honey dripped out.  Wow, was it tasty!

Next up was checking the brood box.  I had a time pulling the frames out due to the sticky propolis but I managed.  I pulled each frame, one at a time, and checked for eggs, larvae and pupa.  I never spotted any eggs but I saw larvae and even witnessed the ‘birth’ of several bees.  Also, several frames in the center were almost completely capped. These are all good signs of a functional queen.

Speaking of queen, we actually SAW the queen on the next to the last frame I inspected.  Yay!

We also have a LOT more bees than we came home with so the colony is growing.  We just might get to harvest a small amount of honey this year.

On the gardening front we have a few things planted and coming up nicely…

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One row of onions, two rows of potatoes and a row comprised of tomatoes, pickling cucumbers and pinto beans.

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Hopefully, this evening, we can till up some more ground and get some corn, okra, turnips, beets and maybe even some watermelon seeds planted.

During the break in the rain, we also managed to set up a grapevine trellis and get a couple of Muscadines planted.

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Hopefully you can see the muscadines amongst our unruly grass!

Yesterday was a beautiful Memorial Day here.

After spending the morning clearing the fridge of science projects (yuck) and giving it a good cleaning both inside and out I went outside and hoed and weeded the garden.  CountryBoy came out and took over while I went inside to put cooler clothes on.  We rested a few minutes on the front porch then tackled a much-dreaded project… moving rocks that were tossed IN the yard from an old flower bed in front of the old porch OUT of the yard so that we could mow when the new mower arrives.

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These are some heavy rocks!  They will reside here until we find another use or place for them but at least they are out of the way.

After all that, I decided it was time to relax and do something I enjoy like taking pictures!

I sat for a few minutes in my rocking chair on the front porch and captured these beauties…

a female hummingbird on the feeder and a male buzzing around it…

realities n ramblings 04here’s another female…

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These girls are tough and stand their ground on the feeder while the males fight each other and try to run everyone off the feeder.  You go girls!

I also snapped a shot of some pretty impatiens that I got from our Pastors wife…

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They hang from a shepherd’s hook in front of the porch.

Speaking of porch… it’s coming along.  There is still a lot to do which is why I haven’t done a ‘reveal’ but you’ll see a bit of it in this next photo…

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The arbor is up, yay!  But, that’s another post!

Back to relaxing yesterday afternoon… I decided to cut some fabric for an upcoming quilt project.

Since I’m not a big fan of cutting fabric (it’s SEW expensive one definitely has to measure twice and cut once.  Oh, and TRIPLE read the instructions!) I decided to do it outdoors where I love being on such beautiful days.

That was a good move on my part because I actually got fabric cut for two different quilt projects…

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All ready for the fun part of sewing the quilt top!

Last, but not least, I have to show you yesterday’s egg haul…

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That’s a typical daily haul except for the one egg on the bottom.  Can you see it?

Here it is next to some other eggs…

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Mercy that had to have hurt!  I bet she was glad when it finally came out!  Poor girl!

That’s about all the realities and ramblings I have for now.  Give it a day or two and I’m sure I’ll have more, haha!

Chicks, Bees & Peonies

Yesterday was graduation day for the chicks.

It was a week sooner than we originally planned but after seeing the mudroom under an inch layer of dust and the house starting to stink no matter how often I cleaned their cage it was time.

We dug out the grow-out cage that CountryBoy made last year from the depths of the side barn and set it up in the breezeway of the main barn.  Then, it was time for the graduation ceremony.

We put their current cage on the dolly and wheeled them down the drive.

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These poor girls were awfully quiet after their bumpy trek down the gravel drive and from all the fresh air!

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One by one we moved them into the grow-out cage.

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They were somewhat shocked from the move, the bigger cage, new surroundings, big things staring at them and some awful loud noise in their ear every now and then (good ‘ol Fuzzy Foot crowing) but, by nightfall they were doing better and were eating and drinking and running around their new digs.

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Of course, several of the big girls had to check these tiny things out!

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It’s been 24 hours since their graduation ceremony and they are doing just fine.

We will leave them in the grow-out cage for a few weeks until they get a little bigger.  By then everyone should be acquainted and used to each other.  The pecking order will still need to be established but, by then, the young’uns will be big enough to not get pushed around by the older ones too much.

The bees are busy, busy little bees.

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I could sit and watch them for hours.  OK, maybe not hours.  I don’t sit for any length of time very well, ha!  But, seriously, the bees fascinate me.  I can not WAIT to open the hive to see what they have accomplished.  I will, not-so-patiently wait, though, as opening the hive disrupts their rhythm and they would have to spend precious time re-sealing the stacks of boxes rather than making delicious honey.  So, I wait.  And watch.  By simply watching the goings-on around the hive entrance one can learn a lot about the health of the colony.

A really cool thing that has happened this year is a holly tree at the side of the house has bloomed!  It has never had any sort of flowers or berries on it since we’ve moved here.  THIS year, it is loaded with tiny white flowers and the tree sounds like it is humming!  It is alive with busy little bees!

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Isn’t that awesome! I just think it’s so cool that the year we get bees is the year that this tree blooms!

Today, I identified one of the plants that resides under several Rose of Sharons and gets swallowed up by weeds every year… they are Peonies!

Some friends of ours from church brought me some flowers that were in their yard and they said they were peonies.  They also gave me a good-size piece of one of their white peony plants to plant in my new flower bed in front of the porch.  As I got to looking at them it dawned on me that I thought I had seen some similar flowers in the weed-filled side yard that we have yet to tackle.

Sure enough!  Pink peonies!

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Aren’t they pretty!  I was wanting some pink ones after seeing them so I’m excited to already have them and now, I’ll have white ones, too!

Got Rain?

It’s another rainy afternoon here.

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This is the porch roof and part of what I see when I’m at the computer.

I am, most definitely, not complaining about another rainy day.  Many parts of the country are dry and battling drought and fires.  Other parts of the country are getting too much rain and are dealing with flood waters.  Such is the case with family members in Arkansas.  Thankfully, they are safe but it’s still a cause for concern for many in the water’s path.  Be safe.  Be smart folks.  And, make sure you always have a well-stocked pantry because you just never know.  (My PSA for the day, wink!)

We managed to get a good part of the underpinning around the porch done and blocked off from the cats the other day.  The rest of the porch is currently blocked off by rocks.  We plan on continuing the underpinning (for continuities sake) across the rest of the porch which will eventually be the greenhouse.

I am excited for the finished product but Mother Nature (and CountryBoy!) says ‘give it a rest’ for a bit!

So, I am working on my Etsy shop for part of the day before heading to town for a doctor’s appointment.

  • Pictures taken and edited – check
  • Prices compared and determined – check

Still to do is writing the product descriptions and adding the photos to the site.

The re-opening of the shop has been a bit tedious but I’m hoping once it’s open that it will be easier to simply add new items as they are made.  I’m hoping to ‘open’ the shop this weekend if all goes as planned.

Want a sneak peak at some of the handmade items that I’ll be listing?  Here ya go…

Crochet baby blankets, quilted baby blankets, a woven fabric basket and some Bible or book totes.  I hope to be adding some embroidered flour sack towels and some homemade serums and balms in the near future.

I mentioned having to go to town and here’s why we’re heading out on this rainy afternoon… It has been a little over ten weeks since CountryBoy’s total left knee replacement.  It has been a long ten weeks of dealing with a scary blood clot, scar tissue, physical therapy, swelling, stiff and sore muscles and pain.  Continuous pain. After six weeks of recovery he should’ve had full range of motion and use of his leg with some swelling.  That was not the case.  When the therapists were not able to get full rotation, let alone any more increase in rotation, a knee manipulation was scheduled last week.  Physical therapy started again the same day and every day thereafter.  After a couple of days they were able to get 100 degrees but there was bruising and swelling all over the thigh and knee with even more pain.  After two weeks of therapy the rotation is decreasing and the leg is stiffening again.   After hearing the therapists concern for the bruising (and the comments “we’ve never seen this happen after knee surgery”) we called to move up his follow-up appointment which was still two weeks away.  They are getting us in this afternoon.  Thank God!  Some times you have to be your own advocate.  This is obviously not your typical case so we are going to push that more aggressive measures be taken in his recovery and answers be found as to why this is happening and why he is not healing as he should.  A DVT Study (for the blood clot) is scheduled in a couple of weeks.  It will be a huge load off our minds to know the status of the blood clot.

Bless his heart, he continues to try and work on the house and around the farm and do his therapy at home to avoid the stiffness but he can only do so much before he’s engulfed in pain and comes in to ice and elevate his leg.

We would covet any and all prayers for answers, pain relief and full recovery.

Hugs to all our faithful followers!

Farm Life Musings

What I love about life on a fixer-upper farm is that no two days are alike.

I have always loved variety.  From whatever job I had outside the home to crafts the more variety involved the more I enjoyed it.

We are only half-way through the day and here are just a few things that have taken place…

CountryBoy and I worked on underpinning the front porch this morning.

We used some old, original metal roofing from the farmhouse that we found in the barn and began custom-cutting each piece to fit the uneven ground.

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We had to use the backside of the metal because there was black tar on the other side.

I love it!  It’s kinda rough looking right now but with the addition of some plants and the finishing touches on the porch it’s going to look awesome!

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The BEST part about the under-pinning?  It will keep the cats from using that area as a toilet.  Peeeeuuuu!

We’ve also come up with a solution for this wall.

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Say Hi to Creamsicle posing on the concrete step!

It’s going to take some work but at least we have a plan now.  I know.  What a mess!  But, we are going to add some structural support which means we can also add some insulation.

Tonight is our monthly business meeting and potluck at church.  I had no idea what to bring so I am making a favorite of many that attend – soup beans.  I had never heard of soup beans before moving here.  Of course, I’ve heard of bean soup, you know, with navy beans and ham or a 9 or 15 bean soup but not soup beans which is really nothing but pinto beans ’round here.  I found a recipe online from an Eastern Kentucky gal so it oughta be pretty close to the way the locals make it.  At least I hope it is!  (Trying to get an actual recipe from anyone, phhhttt!  It’s a pinch of this or some of that but an actual recipe?  Fah-getta ’bout it!)

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The secret ingredient?  Bacon grease!  And, thankfully, a farm kitchen always has a jar of bacon grease!

Later on I’ll make some cornbread to go with it and maybe even some sugar cookies.  I love having a well-stocked pantry for occasions like this especially since town is thirty minutes away.  (Just ask my brother about that, ha!)

I checked on my bees since I knew they would need some water.

There was lots of action in and out of the entrance.

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I tried to get a shot of the bees coming back with huge pollen sacks on their legs but they were too fast and my camera is having issues.  Seeing those bees so active and bringing the pollen back is a good sign of a healthy and productive hive.  Maybe I’ll get a bit of honey this year!

While I was checking on the bees I took in the beauty of the blooming irises.

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These are near one of the garden entrances by the grapevine arbor.

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The purple and yellow irises are so pretty together.

Speaking of grapes, I’m hoping for a few clusters this year.

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One of the grapevines shows a lot of promise with lots of teeny tiny grape clusters on it.  The second grapevine has a few but not near as many as this one.

I am purposefully walking to the mailbox each day for a bit of exercise.  (If you read my last post then you know how much I loathe exercise, ha!)  On my way back, I stopped at the barn to check on the girls’ egg-laying progress and FuzzyFoot posed for the camera so I obliged!

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Such a handsome and good rooster!  And, it looks like we’ll have a dozen or more eggs today.

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My days can quickly fill up with all things farm-related but I am conscientiously making time in the afternoons and/or evenings to work on business ventures such as my Etsy shop and oily care packages for my Young Living team members.

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Each day is a different scenario, a different set of tasks but all too soon the day is gone and it’s time to lock the chickens up for the night.

Life on the farm.  I love it!

Finding Balance

This post is not going to be my usual picture-filled ramblings about life on the farm.

Nope.

This post is going to go much deeper.  I am going to share with y’all some innermost thoughts and struggles in my quest for finding balance in this journey called life.

I recently received a free copy of the book “Oola For Women: Find Balance in an Unbalanced World” by Dave Braun and Troy Amdahl in exchange for my honest opinion regarding the book.  So, yes, this post will be a book review but it will also be about my plans and goals for achieving an Oola Life at the farm and making dreams come true.

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What the heck is Oola you ask?  Well, simply put, “it’s a state of awesomeness.  It’s when your life is balanced and growing in the seven key areas of life: fitness, finance, family, field (career), faith, friends and fun.  It’s living an inspired life – one that you define.”  (You will hear me referring to the seven key areas as the 7 F’s of Oola.)  It’s pursuing your dreams and becoming the best YOU can be.  It’s finding the greatness within you.

This book is not the first time I’ve heard of Oola.  I was privileged to attend an OolaPalooza event last year with fellow oilers from Young Living.  Wow!  What a weekend!  Dr. Dave and Dr. Troy (the OolaGuys) were amazing!  They were so real, so down-to-earth, so inspiring and they walked us through two hard and emotional days of soul-searching for ways to find balance in our lives.  By the end of the second day we all walked out of there with goals written down in each of the 7 F’s.  Goals to help us reach a balance in this crazy, unbalanced thing we call life!

One of my goals for OolaField (remember I’m a homesteading housewife so that is my career) was to get bees this year.  Well, two weeks ago I got BEES!

Those of you who follow this blog regularly will remember this picture from a previous blog post…

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Becoming a beekeeper has been a dream of mine for many years but writing it down during OolaPalooza and coming up with a plan over the next several months to make it happen was what I needed to actually MAKE it happen.

Dream Valley Farmstead is also a dream CountryBoy and I had and we worked to make it happen.  I am all about pursuing dreams!

So let’s talk about ‘Oola For Women’.

In my humble opinion… it is a MUST-READ for all women.  Young or old, new Mom or Grandmother, career woman or housewife, this book will be an inspiration to each and every one to find the greatness within them.  Seriously.  It seems that everyone I talk to or come in contact with struggles with balancing all the demands of life these days.  ESPECIALLY women.  Wow, the juggling act that most women do ev-er-y single day, is mind-boggling.  Kids, spouse or single-Mom, housework, career, special events, sports, whew, I’m exhausted just typing all that!  How does one find the balance in their every day life?

Here at the farm, my daily goal is to live simply and focus on finding ways to achieve simplicity in this modern world.  Most days, though, I find it extremely difficult to do.  I find myself doing thirty-thousand things; 90% of them being things that don’t have anything to do with living simply.  sigh.  Nor do these thirty-thousand things help me achieve a balanced life.  They’re just ‘things’ that occupy my day but don’t help me define my purpose or make life less -stressful.

It takes a balance of each of the 7 areas to achieve the OolaLife.  I find that most people are strong in a couple of areas but weak in others which causes an unbalanced life.  It sounds difficult to achieve but ‘Oola For Women’ breaks it all down and gives you tips to strengthen the weak areas.  ‘Oola For Women’  has inspired me to continue pursuing my dreams and achieving a balanced OolaLife.

Which of the 7 F’s do I need to work on?  Most of them.

  • Fitness:  ugh.  phhtt.  hate it.  period.  I am going to have to make myself do some sort of physical activity.  Probably walking.  For now.
  • Finance:  ugh.  There never seems to be enough money especially when trying to reclaim a run-down farm and farmhouse. I need to keep up with the budget – not just sporadically and save money somehow
  • Field:  I need to set aside specific times to work on my Young Living business and farm ‘business/goals’.  I also need to define and be more specific on farm goals and how to achieve them.
  • Fun:  my idea of fun is different than CountryBoy’s.  Fun, to me, is doing things that I enjoy and are productive such as crocheting, quilting or refinishing a piece of furniture. Fun, to him, is fishing or sightseeing.  While he fishes I crochet, read or cross-stitch, heehee.  I need to consciously tell myself that it’s OK to take a day to do some sightseeing and that it’s not going to kill me to NOT be doing something productive.

Areas that I am stronger and more balanced (but could always use some improving) are:

  • Faith:  this is one of my stronger areas but I can always have more faith, pray more and serve more.
  • Family:  I am so thankful to have an awesome family!
  • Friends:  I have a lot of acquaintances but I am thankful to have a true best friend that loves me for who I am and wants nothing from me but my friendship.  I try to be that same kind of friend in return.

So there you see how the 7 F’s of Oola relate to my personal life.

But, wait, there’s more!

“In addition to the 7 F’s of Oola, there are habits, beliefs, and attitudes that will either hold you back or propel you forward.  We call these OolaBlockers and OolaAccelerators.”

You will have to get the book to find out what all the OolaBlockers are but let’s talk about a huge OolaBlocker for me… OK, there’s two actually…

  • Fear.  Yep.  Fear of what people might think.  Fear of failing.  “There are only two innate fears that all human beings are born with:  the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises.  Every other fear is learned.  And what can be learned can be unlearned.”  Oh boy.  I’ve got some un-learning to do.
  • Self-Sabotage. wow.  That’s a tough one to realize about oneself.  But, I am my own worst critic. I am going to tell myself daily that I am designed by God for greatness!

There are several more OolaBlockers: things that will hinder you from finding balance and achieving an OolaLife but, like I said, you’ll have to buy the book to see what they are.

On the flip side of the OolaBlockers are OolaAccelerators.  Let me just give you a sneak peak at the intro to Section Four of the book which are the OolaAccelerators… “OolaAccelerators, the next seven chapters, are where the real fun begins.  You’ll learn new daily practices and proven success behaviors like gratitude, discipline, integrity, and wisdom that will help bring your life into balance – and lead to stunning personal growth – faster than almost any other way.  You’ll not only get tips to help you incorporate these daily practices into your life, you’ll also discover new insights from women who relied on these Accelerators at different points along their journey.  What do they say worked for them as they learned lessons and created new behaviors on their way to the OolaLife?  You’ll find out in this section.”

What an awesome, inspiring section!

The last section of the book is the nitty gritty – the 3 Simple Steps to Oola.  You will be able to determine where you are today in your OolaLife, where you want to be and how you are going to get there.

What I love about this book is that the authors don’t tell you what to do.  Instead, they give you tips, pointers if you will, on how to achieve balance in each area but you have to do the soul-searching and you have to do the work.  There are also stories from real women about real situations who did the soul-searching and the work to achieve balance.  I had my highlighter in hand throughout the whole book!

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I can’t say enough positive things about this book.  It truly is a life-changer if you’re willing and ready.  Again, I highly recommend this book to any and all women who want to pursue dreams and find balance and achieve greatness in their lives.

Are you ready to find balance in an unbalanced world?

Are you ready to make dreams come true?

You can pre-order a discounted copy from

Barnes & Noble

or Amazon

before tomorrow, May 2nd.  You will save up to 40% by pre-ordering and you will soon be on your way to an OolaLife.  WIN-WIN!

Bees and Butterflies

A week ago today, CountryBoy and I drove 2 1/2 hours one way to pick up my bees.

The place was busier than a beehive.  Seriously!  People were buying beekeeping supplies, picking up bees and basically buzzing around the store front like a bunch of busy bees!

Me?  I was taking it all in.  Not having a clue about what was going on or what I was about to get myself into. hahaha!

I watched the continuously looping video on how to install the bees into their new hive making mental notes and I bought a pair of extra small vented cowhide gloves that actually fit me, a beekeeping logbook and a t-shirt.

Then it was time to drive around the building to pick up my 3 lbs. of bees.

The lady checked my order, went and got my package of bees, checked the queen and then loaded them into the truck (behind CountryBoy’s seat!).

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That’s a LOT of bees!  I read that there are approximately 10,000 bees in a 3 lb. package of bees!

It was mid-afternoon by the time we got back home so I decided to wait until late in the evening to do the installation in hopes that they would be calm and ready for ‘bed’.

I donned my new gloves, gave CountryBoy the large gloves that came in the beginner’s beekeeping kit as well as the hat and veil (I did not want him to possibly have a bad experience right off the bat) and we went about the installation process.

In the following photo I’m opening it up to remove the box with the queen in it…

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You can see in the bottom left of the photo several of the frames that I had already removed to allow room to ‘pour’ the bees.

Here is the box with the queen in it (and several other bees that got in there somehow)…

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If you look closely towards the left of the box you’ll notice a bee with a yellow mark on it.  That’s the queen.

I removed the cork on one end of the box where there is a ‘candy’ like substance that the bees are supposed to eat through to free her.  I then poked the end of a paperclip in the other cork at the opposite end and it pushed into the box itself.  Oops!  I was going to use this cork to ‘hang’ the box on one of the frames until she was freed.  So, I ended up sticking the paperclip into the ‘candy’, hung it on a frame then started ‘pouring’ the bees into the hive and hoped this was going to be OK and that the queen could still get out.

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I was fairly calm and relaxed throughout the whole process but it was a little nerve-wracking hearing the loud hum of the bees and seeing them flying all over the place.

There were quite a few bees that didn’t ‘pour’ out so after several failed attempts to get them out I decided I would leave them be and started putting the frames back in so I could close up the hive.

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I left the package of remaining bees in front of the hive so they could come out at their leisure.

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Me and my bees!  Oh, and no stings!

CountryBoy took the historical photos and lent a helping hand here and there.  He actually enjoyed the process for which I am thankful!  I’m sure I will need his help pulling the frames filled with honey as they can be quite heavy.

Last Wednesday we were working on the never-ending porch project (smirk) when I noticed a vast amount of butterflies everywhere.  It was beautiful!

For some reason, several of them were ‘clumping’ in this one spot on the driveway.  I couldn’t see anything that would attract them but they stayed there for quite some time.  Long enough, even, for me to go back in the house, slip my shoes off, go up the stairs to grab my camera, slip my shoes back on and then back outside.

I could not choose a favorite so I will bombard you with several similar shots of the butterfly clump!

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Isn’t that cool?  Butterflies were coming and going while I was taking the photos.  So pretty!

There ya have it.  Lots of stuff happening at the farm this month, another being picking up sixteen chicks at the post office yesterday morning.  Stay tuned for some cuteness overload!