Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Interesting Facts and Tidbits about the Honey Bee

Today my husband and I are doing a lesson on honey bees for our kids at church.  We have a basic lesson and lots of pictures to show them and then we're going to show them our beekeeping equipment, serve them some peanut butter (and honey) popcorn for a snack, have them color a huge honey bee mural and teach them lots of things they probably never knew about this amazing little creature in hopes that they will have a newfound respect for the humble little honey bee.

I had planned to do a honey tasting, but haven't been able to take any honey off of my bees this year because of slow build-up after losing my queen early.  The merger I did with the small swarm is doing great though and I'm going to start feeding them soon for winter and just hope to have a better year in 2012.

I've put together a collection of fun facts about honey bees from various sources that I think you all might enjoy as well.  (I still have internet for a couple more days and I'm glad I get to post this one for you!)

Honey Bee Fun Facts

Honeybees are not native to the USA. They are European in origin, and were brought to North America by the early settlers.  Solitary, native, wild bees did all the pollinating prior to that.

Honeybees are responsible for pollinating approximately 80% of all fruit, vegetable and seed crops in the U.S., especially big commercial crops.

Einstein postulated “"If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.”

Bees collect 66 lbs of pollen per year, per hive. Pollen is the male germ cells produced by all flowering plants for fertilization and plant embryo formation. The Honeybee uses pollen as a food. Pollen is one of the richest and purest natural foods, consisting of up to 35% protein, 10% sugars, as well as carbohydrates, enzymes, vitamins and minerals.

Pollen comes in different colors and a beekeeper can guess which flowers the bees have been visiting based on the colors of pollen packed in the cells.

A colony of bees consists of 20,000-80,000 honeybees and one queen. Worker honey bees are female, live for about 6 weeks and do all the work.

Worker bees will live for 4 to 9 months during the winter when they have no foraging to do.  They literally work themselves to death in the summer.

Honeybees never sleep!

The average worker bee produces about 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.

A honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip.

To make one pound of honey, the bees in the colony must visit 2 million flowers, fly over 55,000 miles and will be the lifetime work of approximately 300 worker bees.

Male bees, called drones, are mostly useless and are kicked out of the hive in the fall and left to die so that the colony won’t have to feed them through the winter.

Honeybees will usually travel approximately 3 miles from their hive, but can go as far as 6 miles.

The bee's brain is oval in shape and only about the size of a sesame seed, yet it has remarkable capacity to learn and remember things and is able to make complex calculations on distance travelled and foraging efficiency.

In its flight, a honey bee uses the sun's compass position, gravitational field direction, and the UV polarization pattern to determine its direction. Along the way, a honey bee also memorizes any geographical landmarks.

Worker bees will scout for good nectar sources and when they’ve found some, they come back to the hive and communicate its location to the others using one of two complex dances, the waggle dance or the round dance, depending on how close by it is.  They also give the others a taste of the nectar so they will know which flower they are looking for.

Honey bees will usually work only one type of flower at a time until it runs out, then they move on to another.  Because of this, beekeepers can take honey off of the hive after that particular “honey flow” has ended and can isolate very different tasting varieties of honey.

The color and taste of honey will depend on the flower it was collected from.  It can be very light and floral or very dark and strong flavored or anything in between.

Honeybees are the only insect that produces food for humans.

Out of 20,000 species of bees, only 4 make honey.

Honey is the ONLY food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including water.

Honey never spoils.  It has been found in Egyptian tombs and dated to be around 2000-3000 years old and it was STILL edible.

Honey is used by the bees for food all year round. The bees make honey from the nectar they collect from flowering trees and plants. Honey is an easily digestible, pure food. Honey is hygroscopic (attracts moisture, like salt does) and has antibacterial qualities. Honey is a good salve to apply to burns. Eating raw, local honey can fend off allergies.

A typical beehive can make up to 400 pounds of honey per year.  Beekeepers only take off the excess and must leave each hive with at least 60 to 70 pounds of honey to make it through winter. 

Honey bees survive winter by clustering into a tight group for warmth and eat off of the honey they have stored from all their work in spring and summer.

Each honey bee colony has a unique scent for members’ identification.   That’s why you can place many hives in a row next to each other.  The worker bees know which hive is theirs based on the scent and also their ability to memorize location.

Honey bees are true patriots.  Worker bees on guard duty will defend their hive to the death. 

The honey bee is the only bee that dies after using its stinger.  The tip of the stinger is barbed like a fishing hook and is torn from the bee’s body as it tries to fly away.

Contrary to popular misconception, honeybees are not aggressive by nature, and will not sting unless protecting their hive from an intruder or if they are unduly provoked (or stepped on!)

Unless you are one of a small percentage of people who are highly allergic to bees, it is estimated that about 1100 honey bee stings are required to be fatal.

Bee venom therapy—the practice of deliberately applying a sting to a person’s skin -- is widely practiced overseas and by some people in the US to address health problems such as arthritis, neuralgia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even MS.

There have been occasions in history where honey bees were used as a weapon of warfare.  Some have thrown hives at their enemies like missiles or left them as traps.  Others have set out poison honey as bait, utilizing an invading army’s tendency to loot and pillage.  The advancing troops would eat the honey and become very sick and delirious and therefore easy to defeat!

Oh, there is so much more I could add to this list and many more amazing things I'm sure mankind will continue to learn about the honey bee.  I didn't include here much about the intricate order of business within the hive.  My husband had already done a basic lesson and my job was to hunt up "fun facts" and I think I got a little carried away.  Ha.
Is it not in the heart of every beekeeper to want to encourage everyone to have an appreciation and admiration for our wonderful bees?  I think the honey bee is an awesome testimony to the creative hand of God!

This post is linked to the Homestead Barn Hop #23.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Taking a Sabbatical

After some discussion with my husband, we've decided to do something akin to Dave Ramsey's debt diet and therefore we will be getting rid of our $50/month cable Internet connection this week along with a few other things we think we can live without.  Let me say though, it's going to be hard to live without the Internet and email!  (What will I do without Google?)

It's hard enough starting out as a young family, but this economy has really been the pits.  We have a little bit of consumer debt that we want to go ahead knock out while we're in a good position to do so, hopefully leaving us with less worries hanging over our head if things should go south.  We also have some costly repairs we need to get done on the house that we'd like to save up for and pay in cash.  It just seems like the most pragmatic thing to do and we both faintly remember what life was like before the computer took such precedence and we're pretty sure we'll survive.  ;)

Also, considering how much I will really be able to get done around here without any time distractions, all in all, it's shaping up to look like a really good idea and I think it's something that God could bless in our lives.

So this will be my last post for awhile... I may try to do an occasional update from the library if I get a chance and I will still check my email there from time to time.

It's going to feel pretty weird, living "unplugged" after all this time.  I might even go through a little withdrawal.  We're keeping the electricity on, so don't worry--I'm not going completely Amish.  Ha.

I'm really going to miss all of my blogging friends.  A special thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my ramblings and leave such nice comments.  I've really enjoyed the feeling of community and chatting about our shared interests.  Take care, everybody!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Prep Work For Canning

Well, I've been able to confirm that some of my paste tomatoes have contracted Early Blight and I'm going to have to yank them out of there.  I'll be making a trip over to Ohio to purchase some additional canning tomatoes since I can get them for $5.00 a bushel there.  Really, I'm not sure why I take up so much garden space on tomatoes since it's easier to buy them all at once.  I do have certain varieties that I prefer, but that's just me being stubborn I guess.

Since I don't have enough paste tomatoes to can a full load right now, I've been washing, coring and quartering them as they ripen, then sticking them in the freezer until I'm ready.  This will speed things up considerably when I go to can.  All I will have to do is dump the frozen paste tomatoes into a big pot and cook them down (no need to remove the skins on paste tomatoes because you'll run it through a sieve later.)  This method also works well for your diced tomatoes too, because freezing the tomato whole will cause the skins to slip off nicely and in my opinion this is a little easier than blanching them in small batches.

I almost have enough banana peppers to make my Hot Pepper Mustard.  Oh, it's so good!  We are addicted to it and go through it quickly, using it to glaze a ham, on sandwiches or as a dipping mustard with our homemade venison summer sausage.  I like to make up a lot of half-pints to give as Christmas gifts too.

This prep-work also makes it so quick and easy to whip up a batch of mustard.  I pre-measure my four quarts of chopped peppers in to one-gallon Ziploc bags.

While I'm on the subject of hot peppers, let me give you a few words of wisdom on chopping them up, if you've never done it before.  These are things I learned the hard way!

1)  Always wear gloves.  Be very careful of what you touch with the gloves (i.e. the handles on the sink) and wash those things off thoroughly before you go back later and touch them with bare hands.  There is nothing worse than rubbing your eyes with so much as a hint of hot pepper oil on your fingers.  It hurt so badly I thought my contact lens was going to melt into my eyeball!

2)  This was a weird one I found out the hard way too.  All those hot pepper seeds and veins you toss into the sink will give off caustic vapors when you go to spray the sink down with water.  Dispose of them all before you go to rinse out the sink.  The vapors off of them will burn your eyes and lungs.  It's horrible!

Other than that, I love hot peppers.  :)

Now guess what I have planned for these glossy green beauties...

I am going to make homemade jalapeno poppers!  These are Mucho Nacho Jalapeno peppers.  This was the sole reason I grew them.  I also have another recipe for stuffing them and wrapping them with bacon then cooking them on the grill.  The poppers can be made up ahead of time and stored in the freezer to enjoy later.  I will be preserving most of them this way.  I'll share those recipes too as I make them and have pictures.  :)

We purchased a 20 pound propane tank this week for my canning so I wouldn't run out.  I'm still trying to find the correct adapter/hose for my Coleman camp stove, but I think I can buy extra parts to make the one I have work.  I bought the small canisters of propane for it last year and that is not very economical.

This post is linked to Barn Hop #22

Monday, August 1, 2011

Starting the 3in30 Challenge

I've decided that I NEED to do the 3in30 Challenge.  It may be my only hope.  ;)

I first heard about it over at Sparing Change.  Basically, it is a monthly challenge designed to motivate you to accomplish your goals.  I think the added accountability will do me good!

Those of you who know me personally or have followed my blog for some time have probably come to notice that I tend to lack follow-through sometimes.  I too frequently daydream about things I want to do, start projects, buy the materials for them, then lose them by the wayside.  I have a detailed, very itemized to-do list on my fridge that has been there for a few months now and I've only managed to cross off nine out of about fifty items.  Sad!  And frustrating.  I pass by and look at things everyday and it drives me nuts that I can't seem to get around to accomplishing them.

Remember the antique armoire my mother-in-law gave me that I was going to convert into extra kitchen storage?  I bought six cans of spray paint to do it, but it's still collecting dust out in the garage.  In my defense, I did finish painting the free desk I got from the plant and it is in use as my computer desk now.

The roll-out nest of my dreams, designed to make egg-collecting and egg-washing easier... There is a stack of plywood out in the garage designated for that project.  At this time though, I decided that what I really need is a whole new chicken coop and to kick the chickens out of my little barn so that it can house some goats in the winter.  Add it to the list!

Here's one that makes me hang my head in shame.  My mother-in-law commissioned me to make seven sets of photo coasters with pictures of my late father-in-law's famous roses so she could give them to friends and family as a memorial.  I was half way done with this one then for some reason put it all into a basket and later found it buried when I went to clean out my craft room.

Speaking of my craft room, I did finally get it all cleaned out, shampooed the carpet, put in lots of storage cabinets and a table for workspace.  I still have to sort through the boxes of my craft junk, throw out or give away some of it and sort it into the drawers.  Will this ever come to pass so that I can start using and enjoying my own special space set aside just for me?

If my family were depending on me for soap, they would all be very dirty and stinky right now.  For months I have been collecting the supplies.  The only thing I yet lack is a sturdy plastic pitcher for mixing lye.  What is stopping me from running to Walmart and buying a $3.00 plastic pitcher?  I don't know, but I'm sure it's purely psychological.  I will make soap sometime before I die...

My husband and I started building my new super-duty hive stand for my bees about one month ago and although it has been very hot and also I was quite sick and useless for two whole weeks, I think that one might actually get done here soon.  I also must confess that I still have frames left over from this winter that still need to be assembled.  Good thing my bees didn't swarm, huh.  :P

So you see what I am up against?

Hello.  I am the President of the Procrastinator's Anonymous Club.  Eventually I will get around to chartering the club so that you can join too if you  want or have time to.

Well, I had a really hard time deciding on my three goals for the month of August.  Naturally, I want to start out simple and not completely overwhelm myself so that they can be attainable.  I'd sure hate to totally tank and scare myself off track on the first round.

By the end of August, I am going to:

1)  Sort and back up to Kodak online at least one month's worth of digital pictures.  Since I got my new camera for Christmas, a Pentax k-x DSLR, I take a lot more pictures than I used to.  I'd hate to lose them if my computer ever blew up!

2)  Finish sorting my craft room, as mentioned above.

3)  Take my poor child to the playground at least once a week.

In future monthly challenges, I plan to try to work on an assortment of to-do's, farm projects, fun things I've meant to learn to do and also an occasional aspect of self-improvement.

I do tend to do at least those things that I really want to do.  My garden is probably the one area of my life that I faithfully keep up with.  Well, that and my blog.

Wish me luck!  And if you're feeling the need for a little encouragement to tackle some goals you've tentatively set for your life, be sure to go check out the 3in30 Challenge today.

Weekly Harvest Weigh-In #7

I'm starting to get a little bit of everything from the garden now, except for the beans and okra which I am still waiting on, and of course the pumpkins/melons.

I've been up to my eyeballs in summer squash and have to pick it everyday.  It seems to be a little easier to give it away when you get to them while they're still small and tender!  I've frozen several batches of summer squash/zucchini for soups and Summer Squash Casserole to enjoy this winter.  The casserole is one of my all-time favorite recipes and I'll be sure to post that for you all the next time I make it.  It's really good!

Here's my numbers for this week:

Yellow Squash - 7.24 lb.
Zucchini - 1.42 lb.
Asst. Paste Tomatoes - 4.59 lb.
Asst. Slicing Tomatoes - 4.72 lb.
Asst. Cherry/Plum Tomatoes - 2.36 lb.
Eggplant - 0.66 lb.
Asst. Peppers - 4.65 lb.
Fennel Bulbs - 0.86 lb.
Blackberries - 1.98 lb.
Cucumbers - 0.84 lb.

Total - 29.32 pounds of produce

Year-to-Date - 87.82 pounds

Some of this week's colorful harvest, minus all the summer squash which I gave away!

I predict next week's numbers will be pretty substantial.  The garden is really starting to hit its full stride now.  I'm gearing up for canning as we speak and waiting for my 20# propane tank adapter to come in the mail so I can hook up my Coleman camp stove and get down to business.  I'll keep updates on that in the weeks to come as well and share some of my favorite recipes as I go.

Please take some time to leave me a comment and/or link and show us how your garden is doing!  :)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Definitely One of Us

This cat was definitely the right one for us.  She was meant to be.  My daughter only wanted a solid white kitten.  We went to the shelter and low and behold--they had this one white kitten.

She's very mellow.  She loves to be loved on.  She wants to purr and make dough on you all day long, if you'd let her.

She is quirky and odd.  Just like the rest of us!

Were having a little trouble getting her litter box trained.  I think she needs dewormed.  Maybe that will help.

The dog and the cat are getting along famously.  In less than two weeks, they were already acclimated to each other.  They aren't quite to the point that they'll share a sunbeam together yet, but they can pass within a yard of each other without incident.

I have always been very much a dog person.

But I love this cat!  :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Weekly Harvest Weigh-In #6

Wow, the dog days of summer are here--with a vengeance!  This heat along with some frequent showers we've been getting has suddenly turned my garden into an impenetrable jungle.  Well, the squash patch, mostly.

I'm still trying to get over this bronchitis and I'm so far behind on things right now.  At least I am finally getting some sleep though!  I've managed to go outside in the cool of the evening and pull a few weeds here and there, but it's really going to take some work to get things back under control.

I missed yesterday's weigh-in, so I'm going to go ahead and post mine today.

Here's a basketful of summer goodness I brought in the other day...

I've got a little bit of mostly everything ripening now and suddenly I am up to my ears in summer squash and zucchini (although I thought I was being conservative, only planting four mounds).

My suspicions have been confirmed--some of my tomatoes are diseased, although I still have to figure out with what.  It is mostly the Costoluto Genovese.   I noticed they had problems with their fruit last year too, but I blamed it on how badly I had crowded them.  Some of them have been exhibiting small, rotting spots on the fruit that later turn to a fuzzy, pink fungus/mold sometime after being picked.  As an heirloom O/P variety, they seem to be particularly unsuited to our humid West Virginia summers, so I won't be growing them again.  I will still grow the San Marzano.  They are doing great.  Some of my other tomato plants have had some leaf curl on the bottom leaves that has now begun yellowing and dying off.  I'll have to take some pics and seek the advice of my knowledgeable friends over on TEG.

I did get to enjoy my first mouthwatering tomato sandwich of the season today.  Although it's hard for me to claim a favorite tomato, those Black Krims are certainly in my top 3.  Such a good looking and flavorful tomato!

Here's my numbers for the week:

Blackberries - 0.70 lb.
Strawberries – 2.06 lb.
Yellow squash – 3.22 lb.
Zucchini – 3.37 lb.
Garlic – 0.20 lb.
Pole Beans – 0.07 lb.
Asst. Tomatoes – 8.72 lb.

Total:  18.34 pounds of produce

I've decided to quit using the link-up tool since this thing never really took off.  It was a bit time consuming anyway.  But you are still welcome to leave a link to your weekly harvest in the comments section.  I'll be glad to drop by and see how things went!  :)

Linking this post to:

Go check 'em out!  :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mockingbird Rituals

For the past couple of weeks, this mockingbird has been faithfully showing up around 7pm each evening, perching himself on top of the electric pole in our backyard.  He has been singing his little heart out for us with every song he knows and we've really enjoyed him.  I don't know why, but he will occasionally hop up into the air a few feet.  He seems to be trying to get somebody's attention!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Weekly Harvest Weigh-In #5

A few recent soaking rains and some comfortably warm sunshine have really brought on a surge of growth in my garden this week.  I'm always amazed at how quickly a squash vine can cover ground.  It's nice to see things greening up and thriving finally after such a rough start to the season.

My harvest is just beginning to steadily trickle in now and before long I will be consumed with canning.  I had my pressure canner inspected last Monday and we are all set to go. 

I am really pleased with myself for getting the garden thoroughly mulched this year.  The weeds are not winning the war this time around.  I've been a bit under the weather since last Tuesday with a ragweed allergy that has made its way into my chest, causing me much coughing and loss of sleep, but fortunately I've not had to worry about the weeds getting ahead of me. 

Hopefully I will be over this miserable cough soon and back to normal.  I had planned to finish my new hive stand this past weekend, but I really didn't have the energy to mess with it.  It's half done now, with the posts leveled and set.  It's going to be really sturdy and will keep the ants out of my bee boxes.  I can't wait to show it to you.  (And I can't wait to bring my girls back home!)

Here's a quick peek at how the garden is growing this week:
My kitchen herb/flower garden is filling out.  I've managed to keep most of it weeded.  The large clump of grass in the middle is lemongrass.  It smells so yummy, like Fruit Loops!

The heirloom "greasy" pole beans are starting to make their way up the tee-pees.  The one on the right has started blooming very early compared to all the others -- possibly a new strain worth saving seed from.

Overview of most of the garden, looking to the north.

I'll have some crookneck squash to harvest and enjoy this week!

Overview of the garden, looking toward the south.  I have a lot more squash and melons than what you can see on the right.  They didn't all fit in the picture.

My Costoluto Genovese tomatoes and most of the other varieties I planted are loaded and will be ripening soon.

The Giant Marconi peppers are filling out.  Now I'm just waiting on them to turn red.

This year's attempt at no-dig potatoes.  You can watch a video on the method I used here.

Here's all of my onions after curing and prepping them for storage.

My weigh-in numbers for this week are as follows:

Red onions - 10.44 lbs.
Yellow onions - 22.84 lbs.
Ozark Beauty everbearing strawberries - 1.75 lbs. (about a pint)
Thornless blackberries - 1.41 lb.
Santa Fe hot peppers - 1.23 lb.
2 Genovese Costoluto tomatoes - 1.33 lbs.
(Plus a handful of Supersweet 100 cherry tomatoes that didn't make it inside to be weighed.  ;)

This week's total harvest weigh-in - 39 lbs.

I've decided to record all of my measurements in pounds just to keep it uniform and so I can keep a running total.

Ok, your turn!
(Special thanks to Meg at Sparing Change for telling me about InLinkz free linky tool!)

This Weigh-In will be open until midnight EST on Sunday, July 24th. All that is required is that your post be current and relevant to edible gardening that you have invested your own time and sweat equity in. Be sure to link to your specific gardening post and NOT your blog's main page. Please provide a link within your post to the current Weigh-In so that others can join in. You are welcome to grab the Harvest Weigh-In banner above and use it to link back here. This is a family friendly site and I reserve the right to remove any links that are inappropriate, irrelevant or otherwise deemed spam.

***Weighing in is optional; you are still welcome to link up a post about your garden!
If you don't have anything to weigh-in for this week, that's OK!***

Check back with us every Monday for the next week's Harvest Weigh-In! Take some time to visit other gardeners' blog posts below that may be of interest to you. Happy gardening!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rumpelstiltskin, the Tomato

Not exactly mouthwatering...

Not counting a handful of Sweet 100 Cherry tomatoes I've gotten so far, this would be my first tomato of the season.  I have to admit, I am feeling a little bit disappointed!

Costoluto Genovese are supposed to be fluted, but this one is cat-faced on top of that and is unusually big for a Costoluto Genovese.  It weighed 0.77 lb.

That is one UGLY tomato, if I do say so myself!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Two New Additions

We've had two new arrivals to our homestead this week and I thought you might like to meet them.  They have brought along a lot of excitement with them, because other than a multitude of chickens, it's rare that we get any new animals.

Meet Cloud.

She is a 3-year-old Nubian doe we took in, rather out of impulse.  She needed a new home and although it may only be a temporary arrangement, we're becoming quickly attached to her.  She has such a sweet personality and loves to be around people.  She is sterile, unable to be bred, so she really has no serviceable value other than to be someones pet or brush-eater.

Ava sharing her blackberries with Cloud.

I've been reading up on goats for some time now and we were already planning to get either a pair of Nigerian Dwarfs or Mini-Nubians next spring.  Right now we don't have proper goat accommodations.  Our fencing is inadequate (as she has already proven), so we've had to tether her for the meantime.  I am also going to have to build her a summer shelter.

More please!

And a little consolatory pat on the nose when they're all gone.

I realize that goats need to have another goat to keep them company, but it was under unusual circumstances that she came to live with us.  I am hoping that the chickens and the sight of the neighbor's cows and horses in the adjoining pasture will be enough to keep her company for now.

And this is Snow White Angel, my daughter's new kitten. 

Ava came up with the name herself months ago when she began to dream of having her own kitten and of course it had to be pure white.  Every time we'd ask her what she would like for her birthday, this was her answer.  A few days before her birthday, I finally caved in and agreed to get her a kitten. 

The hunt for the perfect kitten went on for a couple of weeks.  I tried to talk her into taking one of a few that were mostly white, partly calico.  But nothing else would suit her.  She had to be white!

Fortunately, our first visit to the animal shelter turned up a sweet little girl kitten, pure white with blue eyes.  She has a nice, playful and cuddly personality.  Not evil like some other cats I know.  Ha.

Cuddling buddies.

We had to wait a week before we could bring her home.  Our animal shelter takes your adoption fee and makes an appointment with the vet for your new pet to be spayed or neutered first before they'll release them to you.  I think this is great policy.  You have to feel so bad for all the little animals in the shelters that no one wants.  It's hard to pick just one.  I used to have a bumper sticker from Pit Bull Rescue Central that said "Don't litter, spay or neuter!"  Shelter animals make great pets and you'd be surprised how many pure breeds end up there.

I've not really been much of a cat person before, but this kitty is really growing on me.  I love to let her curl up in the hollow of my neck and listen to her peaceful purring.  She purrs all the time!

We are slowly introducing her to our dog, Boogie.  She used to live with several cats years ago and did just fine, but in recent years she has really taken an increased interest in them.  I'm sure when the excitement wears off, they'll get along great.  For now, Snow White Angel (gotta think of a nickname for this kitty) has full run of the playroom.  We take turns letting the dog out and letting her run around the house for awhile.

Well, with the new goat especially, it is really starting to feel like a farm around here!

This post is linked up with the Homestead Barn Hop, over at Homestead Revival.
A great site--go check 'em out!  :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Weekly Harvest Weigh-In #4

I apologize for getting this week's weigh-in out so late in the evening.  We just barely made it!  I've had a really busy day.  I'll tell you more about our new additions tomorrow... ;)

Things are finally starting to pick up in the garden.  I haven't weighed my onions yet because they are still in the process of drying, but I know I've got plenty for the whole year through.  I am going to use the smaller ones in my canning, store the nice big ones, and dehydrate any others that might not store well.

Here's the haul: 
Onions everywhere!  I was beginning to run out of places to put them.
I like to lay mine out in a single layer on top of wire for good circulation.  I don't cut off the tops or roots until they are completely dry because this seems to help prevent rotting by not injuring the bulb until it is completely sealed off.  I save up citrus bags to store them in, hanging them up in a dry, room temperature place that gets good air circulation, like under the stairwell in the basement.

I got my first tomatoes of the season today!  Nothing to brag about really, just two juicy Sweet 100 Cherry tomatoes.  I had grabbed the salt shaker and ate them before I thought to weigh them.  It wouldn't have amounted to much anyway.

We've had a lot of rain and heat lately and the vines of my squash and other melons have really taken off.  I spotted some baby Eight-Ball Zucchini and baby Yellow Crookneck Squash today.  I can't wait to grill up some of those babies!

We had another big storm this afternoon, with pounding rain and high winds.  This one came in from the north and blew everything over to the opposite direction from what it did last week.  It even blew over the tops of my beets! 

I hope my peppers won't take it too hard.  I've got some huge Giant Red Marconi peppers that are very close to harvest and they are really top-heavy.  I think I'm going to have to cage them.


OK, your turn!

This Weigh-In will be open until midnight EST on Sunday, July 17th. All that is required is that your post be current and relevant to edible gardening that you have invested your own time and sweat equity in. Be sure to link to your specific gardening post and NOT your blog's main page. Please provide a link within your post to the current Weigh-In so that others can join in. You are welcome to grab the Harvest Weigh-In banner above and use it to link back here. This is a family friendly site and I reserve the right to remove any links that are inappropriate, irrelevant or otherwise deemed spam.

***Weighing in is optional; you are still welcome to link up a post about your garden! If you don't have anything to weigh-in for this week, that's OK!***

Depending on how this week's weigh-in goes, I'll have to decide whether or not to keep this going once my free trial of Linky Tools is up.  I hope you will want to participate!  It's really easy to join in.

Take some time to visit other gardeners' blog posts below that may be of interest to you. Happy gardening!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Heavy Downpour

I've been out of the house a lot this week and it feels odd to not have posted anything before now.

We finally got some rain today.  Quite a lot of it, in fact.  The forecast said scattered thunderstorms, and usually it's hit or miss around here, so I went ahead and watered some of my garden last night.  That turned out to be very unnecessary. 

The sound of the rain pounding the roof in waves and the frequency of the lightening had me wondering if maybe we weren't in line for a tornado.  I can't remember the last time I saw it rain so hard.

Paranoid or not, it was a good thing I went down to the basement.  At least I was there to mitigate the flooding!

Rain water coming in like a river!

We've had trouble with drainage at the back of our house before, but it has never come in like this.  I pulled off the cap on the drain outside the back door.  Usually that is enough to keep it out of the basement.  It gets plugged with debris sometimes. 

But  it didn't help much with the way the rain was coming down today.  I think the gutter must be plugged again.  My husband already cleaned them out once this spring.  We don't even have any trees near the house.  Oh the joys of homeownership!

The rain was also coming in around the ventilation pipe for the furnace and also through the PVC conduit that runs the electric lines into the breaker box.  I've not seen it do that before!

The basement is actually very well built and was one of the things that sold us on this house.  My neighbor who used to own this old farmhouse jacked the whole house up on I-beams and built it himself.  The concrete is carefully sloped to direct all water to this center drain.

Drain hole in center of basement.

It wasn't going down fast enough, so I had to pull the cap from this one as well.

I think what we'll have to do is rent a ditch-witch and put in some french drains to run the water down and over the hill.  We are on top of a hill, but the backyard where they dug out the basement has just a tiny slope back toward the house.  The installed drains aren't working well enough.  We could also use some new gutters, but we've been trying to get by with the current ones until we're ready to put on a new metal roof.

Add it to the list!  It's a long list...

Linking up with "F is for Friday" over at I am woman, hear me nurture.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Weekly Harvest Weigh-In #3

This week I actually have something to weigh-in!  I harvested all of my onions this week and they are currently hanging in the shed to cure.  I won't be able to weigh them all until the tops have been removed, but the few I've already used this week amounted to 0.29 lbs. of red onion, 0.40 lbs. of yellow onion and also 0.47 lbs. of fennel which I used to make a crockpot full of yummy rabbit stew.  I'll post that recipe later this week when I get time.  :)

My peppers are coming along nicely and I'll have a few of those to harvest later in the week.  The tomatoes are starting to turn that pale color just before they turn anytime now!  I have some renegade chickens that I'll have to deal with before they terrorize my garden.  I haven't been able to get anyone to buy them, so it looks like they may be headed for freezer camp.

So how has your garden done this week?

This Weigh-In will be open until midnight EST on Sunday, July 10th. All that is required is that your post be current and relevant to edible gardening that you have invested your own time and sweat equity in. Be sure to link to your specific gardening post and NOT your blog's main page. Please provide a link within your post to the current Weigh-In so that others can join in. You are welcome to grab the Harvest Weigh-In banner above and use it to link back here. This is a family friendly site and I reserve the right to remove any links that are inappropriate, irrelevant or otherwise deemed spam.

***Weighing in is optional; you are still welcome to link up a post about your garden! If you don't have anything to weigh-in for this week, that's OK!***

Check back with us every Monday for the next week's Harvest Weigh-In! Take some time to visit other gardeners' blog posts below that may be of interest to you. Happy gardening!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Independence Day

I hope you all have a wonderful Fourth of July celebration tomorrow with your families.  This is my favorite holiday and it is such a big day in my hometown with many special events to look forward to. 

I am so thankful for the freedoms that we enjoy in this country.  So many places in the world today are oppressed, but we are so blessed!  I want to say that I am especially thankful to each and every service member who has given so much for this great nation and appreciate all that you folks do to keep this nation free.  God bless our troops and God bless the USA!

This week's Harvest Weigh-In will be delayed until Tuesday since I will be out spending time with my family all day tomorrow.  I actually have something to weigh this time!

Friday, July 1, 2011


Late last night, in the cool of the evening, my husband and I were unloading another round of manure from the livestock market.  I had commented on how wonderfully crumbly and nearly composted this last load had been.  Then he said the funniest thing to me...

"I used to think this was just a phase you were going through."

LOL -- sorry my love, but you have a lifetime of hauling manure for me to look forward to!

Hopefully my other more endearing, redeeming qualities as a wife are enough to compensate for this.

(Vintage image courtesy of )

Monday, June 27, 2011

Weekly Harvest Weigh-In #2

So is it just me or has this been the weirdest year for gardening, weather-wise?  The past two days have barely gotten up to 65 degrees and I was forced to break out my thermal pajamas.  It's nearly July!  Mid-eighties are our norm this time of year.

It seems that we're going to be shooting back up to the 90's again this week with lots of severe thunderstorms in the forecast.  Lots of rain.  Perfect conditions for various plant diseases to pop up.  I'll be keeping a close eye on my cucurbits.  And I'm really glad that I forced myself to not crowd the tomatoes this year.  Good air circulation should keep a lot of those tomato problems at bay.

I should be getting my first ripe tomatoes here pretty soon.  Our friend digitS' from TEG showed us this week an interesting photo story of how long it takes a Big Beef tomato to grow from a bud to a ripe tomato.  It's not just my imagination (compounded by the mouthwatering anticipation) -- it really does take forever!

So far all I have been able to harvest from my garden is about five gallons of strawberries, a few green onions for supper here and there and maybe a handful of blackberries.  (These thornless ones I have come on very gradually.  It's a real effort to beat the birds and the kiddo to them!)

So onto this week's weigh-in...

This Weigh-In will be open until midnight on Sunday, July 3rd. All that is required is that your post be current and relevant to edible gardening that you have invested your own time and sweat equity in. Be sure to link to your specific gardening post and NOT your blog's main page. Please provide a link within your post to the current Weigh-In so that others can join in (this page.)  You are welcome to grab the Harvest Weigh-In banner above and use it to link back here. This is a family friendly site and I reserve the right to remove any links that are inappropriate, irrelevant or otherwise deemed spam.

***Weighing in is optional; you are still welcome to link up a post about your garden!
If you don't have anything to weigh-in for this week, that's OK!***

Check back with us every Monday for the next week's Harvest Weigh-In! Take some time to visit other gardeners' blog posts below that may be of interest to you. Happy gardening!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Three Things I Learned This Week

Three things I learned this week, in the garden...

1) Hummingbirds love this pink honeysuckle vine. (I don't remember seeing any on it last year?)

2) Scalding weeds is easier than pulling them. I kept refilling the tea kettle and as it came to a boil, just dumped it on them!

3) It's easy to grow butterflies in a bucket!  These are Black Swallowtail caterpillars that I found on my black anise and dill.  We give them fresh greens everyday.  They just eat and grow!

Then they crawl up the side of the little bucket and make their chrysalis.  If they attach to a green stem (or a green dot on a bucket...ha) the chrysalis will be green.

If they attach to something dark, like this brown plastic honey bee queen excluder that I used for a lid, their chrysalis will then be brown.  Cool camouflage, huh?  :)

Linking up with the Barn Hop #18 over at Homestead Revival.  Go check 'em out!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A New Favorite

My new favorite -- Tetra Ruffled tall cutting snapdragons. 
They last over a week in the vase!
I can't believe these grew from such a teeny tiny little seed.

And my old standbys -- old fashioned hollyhocks. 
I've lost track of how many colors I have now. 
It's just not summer until the hollyhocks bloom.  :)