Monday, March 31, 2014


Warning, long post!

So I got up at 5:15am.  Showered, dressed and headed out by about 6:15am.  It's a lovely drive from Houston to Brenham, about 65 miles NW.  Pretty much just getting on one freeway and driving until you exit, turn right and arrive!

When I arrived, there was already a line at the check in table.  They had over 500 participants registered.  It was awesome!  We all received these yellow gift bags that were full of catalogs and brochures and magazines, all related to bees and beekeeping.

Since I was a bit early, I did partake in the breakfast of champions; donuts and hot tea with some bee reading!

Of course, there would be local honey for sale, I mean what kind of beekeeping school wouldn't have that? LOL.  The first class of the morning was two and a half hours.  It was called "Beekeeping 101: For Beginners".  It lasted from 9:00am to 11:30am.  The time FLEW by.  So much good info and the instructor was great.  He went through things step by step, how the hive works, anatomy of bees, how the colony is organized, pests, where to put your hive, feeding, wintering, etc.  LOTS of info, handouts and a bunch of handwritten notes.  For a brief moment, I had a college flashback.

Then it was time for lunch, traditional Texas fare at an event like this, smoked BBQ chicken, sausage, potato salad, beans, pickles, onions and white bread.  It was yummy!

...oh, and being that the fairground in Brenham, TX is just a few blocks up the road from the Blue Bell Ice Cream factory, there was, of course, Blue Bell homemade vanilla for dessert (I did not eat that entire box).

After lunch, there was time to visit some of the demonstrations before the next class.  Here was a demonstration of hive building from kit form. Fascinating but it made me realize I will buy hives that are already built, ha.

This was a hive inspection demonstration.  It was nice to see children involved and interested in bees.  Lots of children there and they truly seemed interested.

Then I visited the vendors area where they had all sorts of honey related products.  This is a Texas winery that produces mead, a honey wine.  I tried a couple.  One was delicious and sweet but another tasted like cough syrup, ha.  I wanted to sample them all but didn't want to come across as a lush or something.

This lady brought her painted beehives to display.  Very pretty!  Her beekeeping tool box (on the side) was painted purple.  I would love to see her bee yard.

Then it was time for a smoker demonstration.  It was really nice to see how the smoker is lit and long as you weren't standing downwind, ha.

Had to swing by the table with all the home baked 'honey goodies' and t-shirts and gift baskets from the local clubs.

I was really loving this sparkly new, white, Langstroth hive.  It was part of the grand prize raffle that was held at the end of the day.*

*Alas, I did not win.

There were also vendors there that were not bee related but certainly interesting to see and chat with.  We're going to look into these large cistern rain collection tanks once we get gutters up on the house.

The last demonstration I attended was on honey extraction.  That was fascinating, as I had never seen the entire process.

She showed how the frames were prepped (decapping) and then put into the honey extractor.  It uses centrifugal force to spin the honey out without damaging the combs. She tipped it over when it was done...

...and poured out some wonderful, fresh from the comb, honey.

After eating lunch, visiting vendors and watching the demonstrations, I finished up the rest of the classes I signed up for:

"What Should I Order?  A Trip Through the Catalog"
"Beekeeping as a Property Tax Exemption"
"Beescapes: Choosing Honey Plants for Gardens, Landscapes & Rural Land"

The day was over about 5pm.  I learned a LOT, took tons of notes, and I'm already perusing through the catalogs and creating a list of what to buy.  I think I may have even already pinpointed a spot at the farm to make a bee yard.

This is pretty cool.  When you checked in, they had participants' names printed on little slips of paper.  They gave you your name and a pin and you pinned it on this map of Texas to show where you came from.  The red dot is where the school was held so you can see how far away some people came.  Those slips outside the map?  They are from other states!

I'll share the things I learned in upcoming posts so I can spread the knowledge.

We have two thank you shout outs to give.  The first is to blog commenter JM and his wife.  They are the ones who tipped us to the school just in time to sign up for it.  Thank you both!!!   And of course, we would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who helped organize and teach the school.

Central Texas Beekeeping Association

Sunday, March 30, 2014


That is the question...

...and the answer is TO BEE!  Yes, we are going to have hives.  

Unfortunately, what I learned at the school yesterday was that, for this part of the country anyway, it's a bit too late to start hives this year.  I met with the instructor after the morning "Beekeeping 101" class and explained our situation.  He said that while we might be able to push it and order bees now, by the time they come in, coupled with the fact that we'd be rushed in buying supplies and setting things up, the bees would likely miss the all important honey flow.  There are all sorts of new hive rules I had no idea about (but do now!).

This is just about to be the peak 'honey flow' season in these parts, meaning that bees will be foraging like crazy to get honey for the hive before the heat of Summer sets in when there are less blooms available, then trying to get more for surplus to make it through the Winter.

We talked about it and decided that it makes more sense for us to find the area on the property that works best, clear it, and build it up with native foraging plants and flowers ("Beescaping").  This also allows time to spend money more frugally by buying supplies (remember, we have none, we'll need 'everything') when they are on sale, free shipping offers, craigslist finds, etc.

So now, I will start ordering supplies, a few at a time.  That will be fun.  The hives of course but also tools, accessories, bee suits, etc.  Of course, I'll also have a whole new area to clear on the Big Green Zen Machine.  He suggested ordering bees in December for arrival at the right time next year, then we just put them in their new hives and wait for the magic to happen.

That gives us about nine months to prepare for their arrival...hmm, I guess you could say we'll be 'nesting'...just like expectant parents, LOL!

Or would that be "hiving"?  

I'll have pictures and details on the beekeeping school tomorrow.


OK, so this isn't exactly a war poster, but it is an image of a vintage poster from France that concerns beekeeping, in keeping with the bee theme of this weekend.  I've always loved the French word for honey, "miel", which is also the same in Spanish.  For some reason though, to me that word sounds more French, ha.  This is a pretty image though.  It seems to incorporate all the 'proper' bee related graphics. 

School yesterday was great  Not as hands-on as I thought, but it was great nonetheless.   More on that later.  Off to get a few veggies from the garden center for planting at the farm.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


Honeybee on a dewberry flower
The day is finally here!

The Beekeeping class we signed up for is happening.  When this posts, I'll be arm deep in bees (or maybe just watching, LOL).  It's an eight hour event, with lunch served, so it should be a fun but full day.  As I mentioned yesterday, 2nd Man got back into town too late to be able to attend.  He was very disappointed but I understand.  I'm taking the camera and should have lots to share with him and of course with all of you in the coming days.

I'll be back about 7pm and we'll go out to dinner when I get back into town and just make a whole day and evening of it.

Hope your Saturday is going great!

Friday, March 28, 2014


Honeybee collecting pollen / nectar 
Tomorrow is the all day beekeeping class we signed up for a couple of months back.  We're I'm so excited.  Sadly, 2nd Man can't attend, he will not be back in town soon enough to go.  So I'll be solo with the bees.

The class starts at 8am, and is about 70 miles away, so I'll be up and gone early in the morning.

Off to bed early tonight!

Thursday, March 27, 2014


UPDATE 05/2014:  Sadly, Granny lost her short but valiant battle with cancer.  


We are going to leave this post up in its original form since it's a part of our life and a part of her history.

2nd Man and I will continue to dedicate our gardening to her memory.

Original post is below:

Today, I'm dedicating our inspiration Thursday post to a true inspiration.

Recently, I posted HERE about Granny, as we all affectionately call her, the blogger from Annie's Kitchen Granny's Family Garden who is currently fighting her biggest fight ever.  She was worried that she wouldn't be able to have her large garden like she always has.

So we thought it would be nice to show her how much we all appreciate her years of sharing her tips and advice, as well as her kind and considerate nature, with all of us via her gardening blog.  Maybe we could all plant something, grow something, harvest something, so that she could be inspired by us.

So we came up with the idea of "Gardening For Granny".

Check this out...

Gardening for Granny, image courtesy of
Isn't this beautiful??

This incredible design was done by Tammy of Gammy's House blog.

She is indeed very talented (gosh I wish I had that kind of talent, ha) and we truly think she captured the spirit and essence that we wanted to convey.  We cannot thank her enough for her taking the time to come up with something like this.  We are all indeed bloggers and visitors from around the world, just as the picture shows, and we all send our love and spirit to Granny during her fight.

The original plan was to come up with a linky party of sorts, but the logistics of coming up with that coupled with the realization that so many of the visitors to our blogs don't have their own blogs to link with, plus varying times of gardening around the globe, we made the decision to make it easier.  Anyone can take this image, again courtesy of the artist Gammy Tammy, and resize it (just don't alter the image itself or remove her name or blog address) and use it in one of several different ways.

The easiest way to do this is to just post this image on your sidebar as a show of support.  Feel free to come back and use this post to let us know in the comments that you've done that if you wish.  Or just post it as its own stand alone blog entry and tell your readers that you are "Gardening for Granny".  Again, be sure to let us know so Granny can go see it.  If you don't have a blog and are just a regular visitor, please look for the image later today on the sidebar of our blog and click it.  There will be a special page that comes up and it will let you leave comments about your gardening so Granny can visit here, click the picture herself and read your comments.

Of course, she'd love visitors coming directly to her to tell her about their gardens and harvests, so there is a link at the top of this post to her blog as well, stop on by and let her know how your garden grows!

If anyone has any other suggestions, feel free to post below!


P.S.  Loving the kind and caring comments everyone is leaving.  We're not replying to them because we want them to just stand as tribute to Granny, she likes to come back here and read them regularly so if anyone wants to update, or print a link she can go visit, feel free to add a comment.

Thank you again!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


This is one of our favorite snacks and it couldn't be easier.  A "Caprese Salad" is usually sliced tomatoes, sliced mozzarella and basil leaves. We just do the same thing on a wooden skewer. We get mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes, basil leaves and olive oil mixed with seasonings.
Caprese salad on a stick appetizers / salad on a stick
We just slide on a mozzarella ball, a cherry tomato, a basil leaf, and then repeat.  It usually takes six total for the regular length wooden skewers you can buy at the store; three cheese and three tomatoes.  Then we take some good olive oil and stir it up with whatever seasoning blend we happen to have on hand (this was an Italian dressing seasoning blend from Penzey's) and drizzle it over everything.  We even add a few sprinkles of Balsamic to it on occasion.

It might seem like a lot of work, but it goes together just as fast as you could make the salad (maybe faster actually since there isn't any slicing involved). Best of all, no forks required!  It's like a salad popsicle!


Tuesday, March 25, 2014


This was something I read about online and thought I'd give it a try.  OMG, as the youngsters might say, ha, it was so easy and came out so good!

Dehydrating frozen corn
I had two bags of organic frozen corn so it loaded up about two trays worth.  I definitely had to use the smaller hole sheets that go on the regular trays to keep them from falling through as they dried (they shrink in size as they dry).

Frozen corn after it's dehydrated
Dried them for about 6 hours at 125 degrees and this is what they looked like.  Small, crunchy, and I might add, a nice little snack to sample as they dried...and sample...and sample.  But I digress...

Dehydrated corn
Then I just poured it all into a wide mouth canning jar and put a lid on it. 

Dehydrated frozen corn in a jar
Lastly, I vacuum sealed it with the Foodsaver machine (like we did with the tomatoes) and voila!  A jar full of of crunchy, dehydrated corn.

Next up, more frozen veggie experiments!!

Monday, March 24, 2014


Wild Texas Dewberry
See the patch above with the white flowers?  
I've been mowing around and around it, over the last two years, trying to train it to grow and stay within its area.

Dewberries are coming
It's now it's own little large island...

Dewberry patch
An island of dewberries!

Dewberry flowers
For those new to the blog, CLICK HERE to learn about dewberries.

They are still flowers at this point, but there are hundreds thousands of white flowers everywhere.  These will all become berries in another month or so.  We've observed that every two years, they seem to be really good and productive.  Last year was not so good, the year before was great.  That means that this year is the 2nd year crop and so we have our fingers crossed!

There are dewberries everywhere on the property, along fence lines, under trees, etc, but this patch is near the garden (if you zoom in on upper left corner of first picture, you can see the garden fence).  We thought it would be nice to just keep mowing around it year after year so we develop a specific spot for the berries to always be.  Then, as we clear other areas that might have berries, we  will always know this one will stay the same.  It will be nice to invite friends and family out for dewberry picking sessions and to have a specific spot that is easy and safe to get to.

Looks like a bumper crop is coming!

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Mesquite tree leafing out
This is Spring!  

I noticed that the mesquite trees are starting to leaf out...and greens are appearing everywhere (not to mention the fact that I spend three hours mowing on Saturday).  Fingers crossed that Spring is REALLY here, and not just fooling us until another freeze happen next week.

How about your part of the world?  Any sign of the seasonal changes coming?  Changes for the better of course.


These are neat.  They are from WWI, circa about 1917.  The US Food Administration, which eventually became the FDA, was involved in rationing food so that there was more food available for troops, as well as keeping enough for the rest of the country to eat.

So these signs urged special days of the week to go without certain food items.  "Meatless Days, Wheatless Days, and Porkless Days".  These signs went up at restaurants and stores to tell patrons that they participated in the 'rules' set up by the Food Administration, though I think they were more suggestions than actual requirements.

Might not be a bad thing today to have meatless days on occasion.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


It was hot today, 84 degrees at 3:21pm.

Fortunately, I got there early, left about 8am and was on the zen machine (John Deere tractor) and mowing by 10am.  The weather was on and off overcast.

I always love mowing the driveway, not sure why. Maybe it's because it's just straight back and forth and a certain width so it's easy to  see results quickly.  It always looks great done.

This is the area behind the garden fence.  I wished I had the 'before', it was pretty wild looking now it's really pretty.  The green is coming back!

Of course, 2nd Family's horse Artax came to see what I was doing and to see if I had any carrots.  I was mowing and yes, I did have some carrots.

This is a new area I started mowing to clear today.  I can't get too close to the trees with the mower because they are mesquite trees and are covered in thorns.  I need to trim the low branches so I can mow closer next time.

All in all a good day and great to be back on the mower.

More tomorrow...time to rest now.


Tire ruts in yard
Off to the farm today.  What is this in the picture above?

Well, the Zen Machine  (click link if new to the blog) has been in the shop getting it's annual tune up.  They have a special deal every season, free pick up and delivery, discounted parts, and they check it from top to bottom and do an oil change, plugs, etc, but I digress.

So anyway, they delivered it back to the farm two days ago.  We weren't there to receive it, but of course 2nd Family opened the gate so they could get in.  Then I get a frantic phone call the next day from the John Deere shop saying "um, our delivery driver got stuck in your yard and he made some large ruts in the grass".  Above photo, courtesy of 2nd Family, is the end result.  It was, unfortunately for them, the lowest point in the yard and was still wet and soft from last weekend's heavy rains.

I'm hoping to see it in person and figure out the best way to deal with it.  It's not like our yard is pristine and 'golf course like', so it's not that big of a deal to us, at least in the picture.  Seeing it in person however, might be different.  I'm guessing just take some soil, I think I can scrape some up from the raised bed delivery pile, fill the ruts in and then just let grass eventually take it over? 

Barring rain, I will be on the Zen Machine doing the first mow of Spring.
Can't wait!  I'm also going to tackle the fire ants, and the mildew on the house.

The most important thing today though is to mow, edge, and beat the rain.  If I don't do it this weekend and it rains, I might need a herd of goats sheep to finish the job!

Updates later!

Friday, March 21, 2014


Bird nest in a tree
My attempt at something artsy, LOL.

I saw a bird nest in this tree while roaming around the property a couple of weekends ago.  When I spotted it, I thought that without the leaves on the tree, it would look nice as a nice black and white photo.

I think it actually came out kinda cool.  We love exploring the property and seeing something new and different.  In another month, this tree will be covered in leaves and we'd never have known that nest is there.

Our weather forecast for tomorrow is rain, darn it.  I am hoping to get some time on the Zen Machine this weekend, but we'll see what happens.  Hope the start of your weekend is a good one.


Squinting kitty cat
This is Sydney, squinting his eyes.  On this particular day of photography, we had taken the curtains down to vacuum them (cat hair! imagine that!).

Anyway, I noticed that Sydney was walking around, lay down, and then get up and move somewhere else and lay down and then get up again.  Then he just came into the living room and sat there squinting.  I really think he was trying to tell us that he preferred a darker environment, LOL!

It's Friday!  The weekend is almost here.
More later this afternoon.

Thursday, March 20, 2014



Seems only fitting that today is the first day of Spring.  How inspiring is this?  Isn't it so pretty?  We just love random wildflowers popping up in a landscape and when we saw this picture online, we just couldn't resist saving it for future farm landscaping reference.

We actually have exactly ONE tree on the property that flowers out like this, and now, we can envision flowers all around the base of it.  Of course, I guess the only downside is that they are fleeting, but then again, nature is like that.

Be inspired! 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


OK, not in THAT bed, but in one of the raised garden beds.  It's amazing how, from last week to this week, this happened:

Ants in a raised garden bed
This isn't freshly turned soil.  Well, actually I guess "technically" it is, but it's freshly turned by fire ants!  Ugh.  I need to plant in this bed soon and I don't want to put anything toxic in there.  I have used vinegar before on regular mounds in the yard, but when I do that, I'm not worried about how the vinegar might affect the grass.  However, I am concerned about how it might affect the garden soil I will be planting vegetables in.

Does anyone have any suggestion for a garden safe remedy?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


A few days back, I blogged HERE about our new dehydrator purchase.  We couldn't wait to use it!  We tried tomatoes for our first attempt.  Here is how they looked when I sliced them and put them in.  I think next time they should be sliced a bit thinner.

And here they are after about 12 hours at 125 degrees.  It's amazing how much they change during their time in the dehydrator. 

We did four trays of tomatoes (the machine comes with six, next time we'll max it out).  We periodically rotated the trays so that they dried more evenly.

We put them in jars, just sort of layered them in, they even sort of stacked up nicely and in an orderly fashion.
Dehydrated tomatoes in jar
They filled 3 jars nicely and then I vacuum sealed the jars with the Foodsaver.

Dehydrated tomatoes
They are so pretty aren't they?
I think for our first attempt, it went very well.

Dehydrated tomato pasta
Then Sunday, we used some of them in pasta.  2nd Man crumbled them up (they are crispy dry) and put them in a white sauce with some pasta to cook and they rehydrated.  Oh my, they are super concentrated and had a wonderful deep and rich tomato flavor.

This machine might just become our favorite new purchase.  For those interested, the brand we purchased was from Amazon it's the Presto 06301 Dehydro Digital Electric Food Dehydrator and we are very pleased.  There are other versions, less expensive, without digital timers and temperature controllers but that really makes it so much easier to use.  We can't wait to use it for our own fresh vegetables from the garden later this year, fingers crossed.