Get Up, Get Going, Show Up

This past Wednesday our local farmers market opened for the last and only day in November to give producers one more day to sell, and customers a last grab at some fresh goods before Thanksgiving. As luck would have it, the latest polar vortex gave us a clear morning with a balmy temp of 17 degrees F.  And though I was feeling thankful not to be buried under a mountain of snow like our friends to the north, I was having doubts the night before whether or not I would venture out in the cold the following morning. Continue reading

Winter in Virginia…..finally.

Full pollen baskets in mid January.

Full pollen baskets in mid January.

Now that we are having our third snow event in the last ten days I suppose it is finally winter in Virginia.  Good.  We’ve seen snow and enjoyed the unique quiet that a blanket of the white stuff gives to the forest around us.  Now I’m over it.  It’s time to get back outside!  I’m sure the bees are over it as well.  In between the snow falls we had a couple of days in the mid fifties and the bees were taking full advantage.  The photo on the left was taken with a fair amount of snow still on the ground and a few stray dandelions poking their heads up.  Way to go girls.


Lettuce doing just fine in the cold frame after a week of freezing temps.

On the gardening front, the cold frames I built last summer out of reclaimed windows from a remodeling job are kicking ass.  Home grown fresh lettuce in late January is a new treat for us, and digging it out from the snow made it that much better.

Last look before winter?

Heading into our second winter as beekeepers I am doubting that we will have 100% survival like we experienced last year.  Last year we were five for five.  Now we have eight, and after inspections today at least one has a bleak future (unless civilization as we know it really does end on Dec. 21, in which case the bees are going to take over the planet as the dominant species and that one hive won’t really matter).  What was one of our strongest hives back in August is now the weakest.  We didn’t see any signs for the downturn and the queen is there and laying.  The big question will be, how many more chances we will get to put an eye on them?  Daytime temperatures here, in the mid to upper fifties, might hold out for a few more days and give the girls a chance to put away some of the sugar “sludge” I put on them today.  The sugar “sludge” is just really thick sugar syrup run in a stand mixer while adding powdered sugar until it forms a thick paste.  We haven’t tried it that way before so we’ll see.  I am hoping that it is just wet enough to help them take it, without having to haul in additional water to break it down.  It sure was a lot easier than making the candy, and that falls right into my beekeeping mantra, “keep it easy as possible.”  Technically we are still beginners, so I will be asking Santa for some more beginners luck this year.

Wasting Time

Each day that I am not at one of my other jobs, I try to get one task done that has lingered on my to do list.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be a big job, but something that I keep reminding myself needs to be done.  The urgent jobs occasionally are things that jump from the “to do list” to the “what the hell have you been waiting for list”, and are often taken care of with less attention to detail than I would prefer.  So I try to keep that scenario from playing out by knocking out at least one item a day.  Today was not that kind of day.  I managed to move a hive from its old stand to a new stand sitting directly in front of it.  The rest of the day, wasted.  During these shorter days a wasted day happens fast!  On the positive side, the sun was out, a few bees were flying, and until I realized it was gone, I didn’t mind wasting that time at all.  Tomorrow I will be wrenching on cars and mulling over the list of things I will do, without fail, on Saturday.

An Introduction – going rural.

IMG_9811                    The thought of getting back to nature and the country life is appealing to a lot of people for an infinite number of reasons.  As for myself, it came down to a pretty short list:  I wanted to keep chickens, and I wanted to get outside the ring of urban sprawl around Richmond Va.  Our former residence, a quiet, semi-private acre on the outer edge of the sprawl, was quickly being overtaken by the outward push of carbon copy strip malls and corner drug stores.  My commute time to work had increased by fifty percent in just a couple of years and it was clear that it was going to get much worse.  When rezoning changed our land from agricultural to residential the message was clear, it was time to get out.  As it turned out, “out” was only twenty miles away as the crow flies.  Now we have a skinny five acre lot with a (very)small pond, a lot of gardening space, chickens, bees, dogs, cats, fish, a sizable mortgage, and a lot of personal satisfaction.

          My goal with this blog is to try to give back some useful info to people who are thinking of gardening or making a commitment to keeping livestock (bees and chickens are considered livestock?).  When I was first entertaining the idea of keeping chickens and bees, I did a ton of hours researching the net in order to gain a sense of the workload and cost involved, keeping in mind that people tend to show you the shiny side of things they enjoy.  I want this blog to relay the kind of information I was searching for before I made the leap.  The main focus will be on beekeeping as that is where my fascination lies.  Chickens are great.  Love the fresh eggs.  But there is so much more stuff to talk about with the bees.  Gardening topics will come as I start to get the spring itch to dig in the dirt.

          So there is… the first toe in the water for this new blog.  This is my first day.  Back to setting up the page and all the tech mumbo-jumbo I don’t fully grasp.  I’ll be back soon with tales from the homestead.