Thursday, April 30, 2015


Flower garden bed, image via PINTEREST
Since we decided to focus on adding color to the farm this Spring/Summer instead of veggies CLICK HERE to read about that if you missed it, we are looking online for inspiration.  We found this and just love the pop of multicolor in this photo.  It's so neat the way it is just a grouping like this, not lined up in a neat row, not in a dedicated bed, instead it's just a spot where they planted a bunch of flowering plants (side note, I love the pasture behind but I digress).

Hope you are having a great day. Today, I'm taking another 1/2 day for 'bee check'.  I swear I have the greatest boss ever..."Hey, would it be OK if I took a half day off to go check on the bees?  Sure, sounds fine!"  

I hope to also get the edging done before the weekend, it's supposed to be clear and beautiful and best of all, dry!

Be inspired... 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Remember when I blogged HERE about my friend "R" finding the Creamy Crustene metal can at an estate sale?  Well the other night we went to dinner and he gave it me as a belated gift for my birthday!

Creamy Crustene
So here it is in its new home at the farm, up on top of the hutch in the kitchen.  It just needed a bit of cleaning and when I opened it, there was a bunch of tissue paper that I pulled out to throw away.  Wrapped inside was a little red bird, most likely a Christmas ornament.  I figured it found it's way to us so...

...we clipped it to a basket on the other end of the kitchen hutch and now it adds a little pop of color. We have cardinals at the farm so it only seems fitting that this one has a home in our house.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Recently, I received a wonderful book for review.  

Living in Texas, wildflowers are a way of life here.  In fact, as I read this book, the wildflowers are in bloom all around us, a riot of color and texture.  We also have some newly cleared areas on the property and the thought of a wildflower garden is high on our list.  Needless to say, this book was perfect timing.

The book is smallish in size (dimensions) but the author somehow packs a LOT of information into that footprint.  It is over 200 pages long and is divided up into 8 chapters.  Miriam takes the reader through all aspects of wildflowers, their relationship to us, how to care for them, propagation, and so on.

As many as 60 different wildflower species are referenced in the book.  Is this the definitive book on all wildflowers?  No, but with hundreds of species, it needs to be pared down to the essentials and she has done that very well.  Details on each include soil, height, water, light, bloom time, native to, etc.  It's a wealth of information.

As if that wasn't enough, she has even added a section devoted to using wildflowers in decorations, complete with DIY instructions for various items, including this wildflower wreath that we SO want to do next year.  An interesting surprise at the very end of the book are a few pages devoted to weddings featuring wildflowers, again complete with DIY steps to create the items.  Miriam Goldberger and her husband own a business called "Wildflower Farm" where wildflowers and native grasses are their passion.  It's a passion born out in the pages of this book and it's always nice to see someone whose love for a topic is so evident in the book that they create.  The photography is beautiful and this could even be a great bedside book in a guest room to dazzle your guests with some gorgeous flowers.  I consider it part reference book and part coffee table book.  A great gift for anyone who loves flowers and/or wants to create their own wildflower meadow in their yard.

Please visit their website linked above.  While I was perusing it, I found a section on creating a wildflower meadow in clay soil which is what we have here at the farm!  We will definitely be going back to the site to see what we can learn about creating something like that on our property.

You can purchase the book here via Amazon: Taming Wildflowers

As a side note, this book is published by an amazing company called St. Lynn's Press.  They have a wide variety of books in the gardening, self sufficiency, and slow and local lifestyles topics.  In my interaction with them, I found them to be kind, easy to work with and just all around wonderful.  A great, small publishing company worthy of supporting.

Thank you St. Lynn's and especially thank you Miriam Goldberger for bringing wildflowers to life, in more ways than one!

Monday, April 27, 2015


Sometimes we have to make the tough decisions.  Having this property and only being able to do it on a part time basis means that we have to really look at what we focus our time/effort/money on.  Saturday/Sunday for example was spent cleaning up limbs and of course it was too wet to mow so once again, we are behind on that.  So we decided to look back at our list of of things to do at the farm and sat down to focus on priorities...

What do we need to work on most of all?
What will have the biggest impact?
What is most important for the future?

We have also, in the course of getting some things done on that list (clearing the new areas for example), created new opportunities (and challenges) that weren't even on it to begin with.

The weather has played a significant role in this year's decision making process as well.  I like to keep records of the weather and out of the first three months of this year, twelve weeks, we only had five weeks that we could get to the farm and work outside.  The rest of the time it was raining and/or too cold.  

We made the most of the time we had of course, but when you add in that one of those weeks was during the barn construction, that left us with exactly four weekends we had to work with.  April has been hit and miss too, this weekend another wash out, nothing could be done outside so once again, we're working from behind.

Our primary long term goal is to get the infrastructure in place now so that we can move out there in a few years and have all the hard stuff done (and enjoy the day to day keep up).  The last couple of years, the big thing we focused on was the garden area because of course, food!  First clearing the space for it (it was a jungle), then building the raised beds, then fencing it all in, then getting water to it, and finally getting it ready for growing with mulch, soil, etc.  That's all been done now and last year, using only a few of the beds to start, we had a nice first experience.  This year though, we have not even been able to get the garden beds weeded yet because of focusing on other things, the barns, the bees, the land clearing, etc...and it's getting too late for that now...

Now we have the bees.  
Now we have extra "new" space that's currently just dirt.  
We also have no flowers (and you all know how much I love want flowers).

So for this season, we have decided that we will skip a Spring garden.  Instead, we're going to focus our Spring and Summer time on the bees of course, that will be a priority, and then getting more of the property cleaned up, trimming trees, clearing some brushy areas, and doing things to improve the look of the yard around the house.  Building flower beds and planting them with flowers, working on outdoor seating areas so people will have places to sit, a fire pit area for the Fall, getting the grills put up, etc. 

Without having to work on keeping up with the garden, we can focus on these other areas of the yard that we have neglected. The garden is there and the hard part is done (other than weeding and more mulch of course).  It's not going anywhere so it's time to start on the rest of what we call "curb appeal"...even though our 'curb' is several acres away, LOL.  

That's not to say we won't have food growing.  We're still going to do herbs, and the sweet potatoes, and we might throw a few veggie plants in some containers and see what happens, it just won't be the chief focus this Spring.

Do you ever change your plans from what you were expecting to do?

Sunday, April 26, 2015


Some crazy weather at the farm.  As you might have read on yesterday's post, 2nd Family (who lives out there full time) said that in all the years they've been there, they've never seen the wind so bad.  So here are some pictures: 

Upon driving there, we saw this huge limb that had fallen onto the road, someone had pulled it over and put it up on the guardrail.

This is a neighbor's fence, the entire fence line, several hundred feet, that had been blown over.

We lost a few shingles.  These are all I could find but that's not to say we don't have more that were blown out of the yard.  We will be having a roofer come check things out.

Over by the newly cleared forest-like area, we lost some large limbs.  More stuff for the burn pile that we can't burn because it's been too wet for three weeks now!

Another inch of rain over the last couple of days means standing water everywhere and yet again, a muddy mess.  No mowing, no edging, no gardening of any kind.

This is our biggest tree loss.  A huge tree (Hackberry I believe) that was completely upended and fell right over,  narrowly missing the power line to the house (and also missing our peach and apple trees).  Time for some chainsaw work.

Here is another one that was down in the front yard along the driveway.  More chainsaw work and more stuff for the burn pile.

This was on a neighbor's property next to us, a huge tree leaning over.  We're glad we don't have to deal with this kind of large tree.

This one is pretty scary, it's a neighbor down the road that had his entire carport wrapped up and twisted around a tree and itself  The National Weather Service is actually coming to look at this damage (and in the area) to see if it was 'tornadic' so they can classify it as that.

Several neighbors out there are saying it was a small tornado, perhaps an F-0 or F-1.  That's what the NWS does, it looks at this chart and compares damage in the area.  It could have just been straight line winds but some people said they saw rotation in the clouds just prior to the damage. 

Whatever it was, it was most definitely a close call.  

We had been casually shopping for generators, more like window shopping, but this makes us move that up near the top of the list for purchases.


Big 2nd Family told us, in 20 years of living out there, they had never seen winds this strong.  Some local news stations reported winds in excess of 70mph.  2nd Family said it looked and felt like it could have been the beginnings of a funnel cloud, so they actually got into the middle of their house in a closet, just in case.

No damage to us, nothing major, but quite a bit of limbs down on parts of the property and lots of trees down on other properties and power lines.

The hives are OK.

The house is OK.

More than 100 homes in the area didn't have power most of the day but, thankfully, our house only lost power for a couple of hours.

More of an update later.  It's been a long day and just now getting to sleep.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


Recently, I was over at Leigh's lovely and inspiring blog "5 Acres and a Dream". She and I installed our bees at the same time and she's a new beekeeper like me.  I was reading about her experiences and she mentioned that their bee garden could be seen from their kitchen window.  

That got us to thinking...what can we see from our kitchen window?
Farmhouse kitchen window view
We were excited to realize that we can see the bee yard from the kitchen window too!  We've always liked that we could see the garden from with window (and this is also looking out onto the front porch) but now we can add the bee yard to that view as well.  Yay!

Our plans were to be off to the farm today but this is the sky in town this morning when we got up, and below is the radar image at the farm.

Ugh.  2nd Family has already let us know that there has been a lot of bad weather out there and more coming...we're always anxious to make sure everything is OK at the farm in big storms when we aren't there and thankfully we have them to check on things for us.  As soon as it calms down, "J" is going to check on the hives.  They should be pretty stable but we still worry.

Looks like no zen machine time or yard work today either, sigh.

Update later!

Friday, April 24, 2015


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Found these really nice table runners at a garage sale the other day and you know I like to share a great deal! 

This one is not handmade (would be amazing if it was) but even as a mass produced table runner, it was just too pretty to pass up.  We put it on the table at the farm to see what it looked like.

It looked great and was the perfect length.

This is the other one.  Not sure what you call this, it's also a mass produced one but it has some silk screened type flowers all along the length of it. 

It too fit perfectly, my guess is the owner had the same seized table at one point.  Wish there had been a whole box full of different ones, ha.  

Thursday, April 23, 2015


The other night, I had a dream about the hives.  Isn't it fascinating how something we've never dreamed about before suddenly becomes a part of our subconscious when we get it?  In my dream, I went to the hives and they were empty.  Not a bee around.  So of course, I started worrying, ha.  Then I started worrying about the queens and if they had gotten out of their cages.  

So, I asked my boss for a 1/2 day off today.  He's so wonderful and fair and he said of course I could take the time off, especially after I said it was to check the bees.  He's excited about the bees and everyone at the office is hoping for some honey at some future point. 

Queen bee in a cage
Here is one of the queens in her cage from the day I installed them in their hives.  You can see how she's in this little box and that white, fluffy stuff at one end is the candy sugar plug that she, and the other bees on the outside, eat through to get her out.  Sometimes (rarely) this doesn't work, so that's why I was worried.

So today I took a half day off and drove to the farm from work.  I decided to put on the bee suit (no sense in pushing my luck) and checked the hives...

Queen cages
...the queens were out!!!!  YAY!!!  The sugar plugs were completely gone and eaten (food for the bees!).  I removed them as they were stapled to the frame.  I pulled out the frame in one hive and I saw the queen moving around!  Such a thrilling moment.  She's got a bright yellow spot painted on her so she's easy to see.  Wherever she was moving, the workers were following closing behind.

Bees in the hive
They were even starting to build honeycomb near where the queen cage was (you can see that above).  I didn't want to mess with them too much, this early on, they should still be left alone for a bit longer.  I refilled the feeders with sugar water, removed those cages so they don't become part of the hive, and put the tops back on.  Things are looking good!

This weekend I'll check on them again. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Thanks to everyone for entering... 
The winners of the apron giveaway are:


Gail  -  from her blog AT THE FARM  (Because I Can)


Anke - from her blog OUR LITTLE PIECE OF HEAVEN  (Canning Queen)

We just need you to email us (use the "email me" button on the sidebar) and let us know the address to send it to.

We love doing these but we hate when not everyone can win.  Thanks for always leaving such kind comments.  There will be another one coming soon!


Recently, we received a package in the mail from a sweet fellow blogger.  
It was heavy (that's always a sign of good things to come, huh?)

Maple syrup products
It was a regular "maple-palooza"!  There were (all gone now!) maple hard candies in a beautifully adorned box (saved the box for something special later on), a huge container of Pennsylvania maple syrup (waffles and pancakes, here we come!), and a tub of maple cream (sometimes called maple butter).  It's pure maple syrup heated to a specific temperature and then whipped, which causes it to change and hold its whipped state.  She said that the best way to eat it was served on warm, fresh baked bread...

Maple Cream on bread
...that was easy (well for me anyway, all I had to do was ask 2nd Man to make some, ha).  Oh my gosh it was SO good.  I might have overdone the first piece, 2nd Man said that it was a bit overly sweet, so the next slice was a thinner slathering...delicious!!

So a big thank you to Jaz at Octoberfarm.  She is a sweet, good, soul.  
We truly appreciate you and are glad to call you 'friend'!

She loves Halloween and all things Witchy!  

P.S.  Giveaway drawing results later tonight!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Not for us, we're not quite ready for that.  Bees yes, but chickens, not quite yet.  Recently however, 2nd Family got some new chicks.  Of course, with the rainy weekends, we weren't able to see them until now and they are not so much "chicks' anymore, ha.  Tween chicks?  Twicks?  LOL!

Anyway, one of "R's" coworkers decided to get some now that they live in the country.  They thought a couple dozen would be a good start.  "R" promptly reminded them, "um, you DO know that means you'll be getting a couple dozen eggs per DAY, right?".  Apparently they hadn't thought that far ahead! 

Seeing as how 2nd Family's girls are getting older, they decided to take a few off their hands.  A random assortment of six, mostly the same.

One of the six however is this adorable girl.  A black "Silkie".  Oh my gosh, it's the softest, fuzziest thing.  The feathers almost seem like fur. 

Black Silkie
And the neatest thing is the feet.  The feathers go all the way down and fluff up around the claws.  It looks like the Clydesdale horse version of a chicken, ha.  Tried to get a good picture but this was the best I could get in a coop full of excitable chickens.  We can't wait to watch her grow up.

Monday, April 20, 2015


So here is the process I went through on Saturday and Sunday.
Lots of pics, be forewarned!  

I drove to the apiary (I love that word) on a gray, overcast day, hoping the rain would hold off (it did).  At the shop, there were packages of bees with queens waiting for their new homes.  Each package had the name of the owner on it so I found ours right away.

They were loaded into the back of the Jeep.  I wanted to use the Fiat, but it's a small car and 20,000 passengers might not fit, LOL.  Driving with humming bees in the back was an interesting experience.  As I stopped at a light, I realized I was one distracted driver away from making the nightly news.

Prior to leaving, a 5th Generation apiarist gave us a live demo on hiving.  He had this great idea to make sure the queen stays.  For the first week or so, he suggests leaving a queen excluder on the bottom of the hive.  The workers can come and go but she can't.  Great idea, so I set ours up that way.

His other method, less stressful on the bees when being 'installed' was to place the package box into the hive box for the first 24 hours.  I simply removed some of the frames to make room, more on that in a bit.  Oh, and I had a spray bottle mixed with sugar water, it calms them as they slow down to eat.

Here's another use for canning jars!  This is called a BOARDMAN FEEDER.  It mounts at the front entrance of the hive and uses an upside down jar filled with sugar water.  Tiny holes in the lid (it comes that way) allow the bees to go underneath and get the 'food'.

The first thing you do before installing the package is to take out the queen cage.  The queen is in a small cage that has a candy plug at one end, covered by a cork.  You remove the cork, exposing the candy stopper to the bees.  They will eat through the candy to get to the queen.  This takes a few days and the time allows them to adapt to their new queen.  Her cage has a little strap that you staple to one of the frames.  You can see the queen excluder below the frame she is attached to (metal wire).

Next comes the new part that he demonstrated.  You put the package carrying all the bees inside the hive and open it.  I was also taught to take a scoop full of bees and 'sprinkle' them over the queen cage.  Needles to say, I couldn't do this AND take a photo at the same time, ha.

Lastly, you put the inner cover on, the roof (or outer cover) on top of that and just leave them alone.  You can see here that a few already started coming out to explore their new home and surroundings. 

Flash forward 24 hours and here it is on Sunday.  I removed the roof and inner cover and pulled out the package.  Sure enough, they were almost all out of the box (will always have a few stragglers).  I simply put the box in front of the hive and in about two hours, it was empty.

In the space where the 'bee box' was, I put the frames with foundation back in.  See where the bees are all clustered?  This is where the queen is!  They are working hard to take care of her and get her out of 'queen jail', ha.  I used my bee brush to gently move them out of the way and put the top back. 
Setting up Langstroth Hives
Here they are, all back together and as you can see, happily gathering around for some dinner.  Believe it or not, I did all of this work without my bee suit.  This will probably be the only time I do that though.  I made slow, gentle, and confident movements, as is always suggested when working with bees.  Never get in a hurry.  I was wearing jeans, long sleeve shirt, gloves and a hat.  Our instructor told us that the bees are at their most docile at this point as they have no real hive to protect, no honey stores to guard, and at this point, no real queen that they are bonded to.  

Now we wait.

Oh, and in case you missed it (late post last night) CLICK HERE to see what we named our hives/queens.

I am off today and will go out to refill the feeder and make sure all is well with the hives in general, and then I will probably go out once more again Wed/Thur before the weekend.  The last step, after about 7 days (which will be Saturday), is to make sure the queen is still there, out of her cage, and then I can remove the excluder (because now she should stay put) and then just leave them alone and let them do their thing.  Bees don't require you to check daily as it creates disruption to the hive.  It sure is tempting though to peek inside!

I know I said this the other day but I'll say it again, it truly was a magical experience.  One of the awesome life experiences I can file away in my mind.  It  made me nervous at first but it was exhilarating at the same time.  

As a friend recently told me, "keeping bees is one of the best ways to be a steward of the land we all share".  So true!

Thank you for bearing with us through the excitement leading up the bee arrival.  Bees might not be everyone's cup of tea, so to speak, but I hope these posts help anyone else just starting out with a Langstroth hive.  I'm still learning myself so I'll keep it up until I, hopefully, become an 'old pro'.  If anyone visiting here is seeking more information, click the "bees" label/tag at the bottom of this post or over to the right under "labels".  Tomorrow we go back to other, regular topics, with bees thrown in as updates happen, ha.  Oh and 2nd Man always likes to draw the names for the giveaway so we'll do that either tonight or tomorrow, depending on what time we get settled in for the evening.

Hope you had an exhilarating weekend too!