Stevia Blooming in November

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Stevia blooms longing for a pollinator. “hey buddy….where did all the bees go?”

tWe have decided, perhaps foolishly, to try overwintering a couple dozen stevia plants on our seed starting racks in the office this winter. After giving up on starting them from seed, we mail ordered two plants this spring. The plants arrived healthy and responded quickly to being potted. They grew so fast that we were rooting wind damaged branches within a couple of weeks (Stevia is a very brittle plant once the main stalk begins to get woody). Seeing how easy they were to root, I began to make cuttings to keep them in check. 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.

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.