Thursday, July 10, 2014

Try Again

Obviously there was a hiccup in the video as originally posted in the last blog.  The soundtrack took over the video!!!

Here's the fixed version:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Moving the Bee Colony --Video Blog

Like a love-crazed fool I dreamed we might just be able to move the colony of bees across the country with us somehow. 

Commercial colonies get moved all the time.  --We even saw a bee-transport truck when we were on our road-trip for spring break.

(Buzz Buzz)

But of course while I was trying to convince myself of the legitimacy of my plan national news broke with the story of a bee transport fiasco!

So I had to downsize my plan and come up with "plan B".

I lay out my plan here in video blog #3:

Here's the link to the source of the plans I consulted.
*   *   *   *   *

In the end we went with "plan C".  We sold the entire colony to some friends.  I didn't want to weaken the colony by removing a nucleus colony, and then have the remaining colony die on our friends.  It was a really strong colony and probably would have been fine.  But I didn't want to lessen the chances of our friends being successful in beekeeping. 

It was a really difficult thing to do emotionally.  Just feeling like I was giving up something really important in my life, and--most significantly--that I don't know when I will be able to get started with again.

In the end "plan C" was just about as crazy as plan A--it still involved moving a full colony of bees.  

They sell all kinds of fancy equipment for moving bees.  We didn't buy any of it.  We did it our own crazy, cheap way.  

 We waited until night after dark, when the bees were all hopefully in from foraging.  Luckily it wasn't too warm and the bees were not bearding much.

So we stuffed the entrance with a cloth.

Then we separated the super from the brood boxes and wrapped the bottom of the super and top of the brood boxes with packing paper.

(Very quickly trying to not let out all the bees!)

Then we loaded them into our van, and drove them away.  The top super was full of honey, so it weighed as much as the two brood boxes together.  

We got to our friends' house.  Unloaded it, set it up, added the second super.  Instant honey-factory!

It was way more complicated than that!

I had a wardrobe malfunction (user-error) and ended up running around with bees in my hair!  I was swatting at my ponytail with my hive tool trying to remove the rubber band without using my fingers and getting stung.  Also, trying to not scream and freak out the friends who were going to be taking over bee-duty! (We had told them "It's sooo easy!")

And then it was over.  Our bees were no longer ours.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Pizza Plant

A great laugh-out-loud moment in a favorite movie of ours, WALL-E, is when the captain, who has spent his whole life on a space ship learns about earth.

He exclaims, "AUTO! Earth is amazing! These are called 'farms'. Humans would put seeds in the ground, pour water on them, and they grow food - like, pizza!"

Well apparently he wasn't too far from the truth.  We planted a few "pizza plants" when we got to our summer home.

OK, actually just basil.  But we've called basil "pizza plant" in our little family for quite a few years, and apparently we're not the only ones that consider it such.

The smell of fresh basil just makes us imagine a chewy crust, bright tomato sauce, and gooey mozzarella cheese along with it.

This is where we planted our pizza plants, in an overgrown herb garden on the property.  It has square tiles that make us think that it was originally planted in one of those cute checkerboard plantings, but the perennial herbs have grown unchecked throughout the entire plot.

The tall herbs in the back (and everywhere) is oregano--which is great in our pizza sauce.  The lower herb to the middle right, that looks pretty brown, is thyme--also good in the pizza sauce.  Rosemary would also be good in it, but there was just a bunch of dead rosemary where the bare dirt is.

The grey dead leaves in the middle are sage, but just down from them are a decent patch of still-living sage.  Most of our recipes for sage are to accompany sweet potatoes, but apparently it's a good match with turkey as well.

We've cleaned out quite a bit of this bed already, but we have a bit more work to get it looking really nice.  We're just super excited to have a space to grow some herbs this summer.  And definitely excited to make lot's of homemade pizza.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

When Life Gives You Lemons

We've taken to an extreme level the old adage about "when life gives you lemons".

Things were starting to taste really bitter in our little home on the prairie.  Six months of earnest job searching.  Dozens (and dozens) of rejection letters.   Jeremy and I each trying to support the other, taking it in turn to pull each other up out of despair.

We finally decided we simply needed a little more of the sweet things in our life--some sugar with our lemons, so we could make some lemonade.

So we moved.

And it is sweet.

And though we pray we will some day soon be making something as purely sweet as fresh apple cider, for now we're content with the sweetness we've found to accompany the bitter we can't currently escape.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Dairy Daydreams

Remember how last fall I was totally dreaming of getting a cow?

Well, I've recently changed my tune.  

It all started when my friend approached me at church and said she was getting goat's milk from someone she knew but couldn't drink it all and wondered if we'd be interested in any.  

(Actually, her asking was an amazing sign of God's tender mercy for me at a time when I was doubting it--but that's a story for another day.)

I jumped on the opportunity for some fresh goats milk and was insanely curious to try it.  

It was delicious!  And there was a giant seismic shift in my world and--suddenly--I wanted a dairy goat.

Because, guess what?!

Goats cost less money than cows.

Goats cost less to feed than cows.

Goats need less land than cows.

Goats don't take a trailer to haul them around like a cow. (Ye olde standard minivan will work fine!)

And most importantly:

Goats fall into the small farm animal category as opposed to large farm animal category, which means there are a lot more places we could live where we could be zoned to have a goat than a cow.

So I did what every good geek does when honing in on a new "pet topic" (get it?!), I went to the public library and checked out every book they had on raising dairy goats.  

Oh, and it was great, I filled up on all this knowledge that I really hope I get to use one day, and then on my third book, I came across this picture and died:


I can just see Wyatt driving his own little goat wagon like this!

And there's more:

Two little kids in a wagon?!  I just can't contain myself.  That is beyond awesome.  Apparently Abraham Lincoln's kids burst in on a state dinner on one of these!

So then of course we had to youtube cart goats (well worth your time),  and now I have to figure out how to build a goat-wagon because I'm pretty sure they don't sell those things down at the hardware store these days!

So I've continued my research into dairy goats, but here's the thing--I've researched dairy goats before.  See Jeremy back in the day was all, "We should get a cow some day."

And I was like, "Are you crazy?!"

So I researched dairy goats as a compromise.  But every thing I read said: Goat's milk is naturally homogenized so you can't skim the cream and make butter, etc without buying a ridiculously-priced machine. So that was one of the reasons I was dreaming of a cow--I wanted to be able to provide for more than just our milk and yogurt, but also our cream, and butter, and ice cream. . .

But as I started to look into it more I was hearing plenty of people saying they were making butter from goat's milk.  True the cream takes longer to rise, and there's not as much of it as a good cow will give, but it is there.

So I experimented.

I put two quarts of goat milk in the back of my fridge for two days, skimmed some cream off the top, shook it up in a jar, and look:

Crazy thing about goat's milk butter--it's white.  Grass-fed cows' milk is pretty yellow from beta carotene, but goats convert the beta carotene into vitamin A, so--not yellow butter.

And I looked up the cream separator on E-bay, and I can get one for --yes--over a hundred dollars, but still, less than a cow, and definitely worth it's price for the ability to make cream and butter to add to the list of things we would not have to purchase weekly from the store.

One more thing about a goat that's a con and pro, is that goats make a lot less milk than a cow.  But 2-4 gallons of milk a day from a cow is a lot to deal with.  It would require more milking time, and more time to make use of the extra milk by turning it into other dairy products.  So I think a goat would be just right for us.

Not just yet though, so until then we'll just continue our dairy daydreams!

Jonas, not quite sure he wan't to touch them.

Momma goat checking out who has her babies.

Mmmilk! (Actually this one isn't a "dairy" goat--her kids get it all.)


Owen'll be a great milker!

Wyatt'll be a great goat cart teamster.


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