Thursday, May 26, 2016

Bee-autiful

I'll try to stop with the bee puns, but it's just so easy (see..I didn't say "bee-asy" and I totally could have).

I have an invertebrate ecologist friend...well, his wife and I are on the radio together, and so I know him.  It's not like we hang out on Saturday nights.  Is that what friends do?  I don't know.  Can't be bothered with humans.  Too much fun with the bees.

ANYWAY (any-bee?), he came up and took some boudoir photos of the bees while I was feeding them and inspecting the hives a few weeks back.  Here are some highlights in no particular order:


 Using the hive tool (like a tiny flat crowbar) to remove a frame.  I think you can click on the photos for biggification, but I'm not sure and in trying to check that out, only some of them biggified. 



The frame.  The bees are doing a good job!


 Another Frame.  Another good job.  The black bit where the bees aren't is the foundation that is already in the frame.  It is plastic (sigh...I would like to avoid plastic but decided not to complicate my life the first year so just take it and say thank you and learn to work without foundation in the future) with a layer of beeswax on it.  The wax is imprinted with hexagons to inspire the bees to build comb.  Or to make sure they don't screw it up.



Taking out another frame.  Like my bee ensemble?  I went with just the pith helmet (which is hard plastic and doesn't fit that well) and a net veil (which is strange and exposes the back of my neck sometimes but I'll get used to wearing it), a light t-shirt (which I have swapped out for a white button down shirt (from thrift, obviously).  That shirt works better because it is huge and I can put it on over whatever else I'm wearing, and I can turn up the collar and button it tight, with my pony tail or braid inside the collar.  This is a bit gaggy, but means the veil stays down over the collar.  With the old system of t-shirt and veil, I had one bee get up inside the mesh by my face.  I chased her out but clearly she was not amused, neither was I.

The bees!  And you can see the frame feeder.  It is the black bit I'm pulling out. Fill  1/2 to 3/4 full of 1:1 sugar water until the bees have enough real nectar to survive.  Since this is a totally new hive, both hives, with no comb built upon arrival, the advice is to feed lots. Next year when the bees have the left over comb from this year, they may not need to be fed so much for so long. 



Another frame.  Nice shot Tim!  (Photographer: Tim Hatten of Invertebrate Ecology).  Shows the burr comb...those lumps.  At least I hope it's burr comb and not new queen cells.  I'd hate to have a coup my first season of bee keeping. 

And let's close with a nice close up of the bees.

No, how about a view of the beeyard as the closing shot:
Bee yard...now with more finger!  (Sorry Tim, couldn't help myself).  You can also see the gallon jug (heh heh...I said "jug") with the sugar water feed, and the yellow hive tool I forgot to pick up.  Thank goodness it's yellow or it would be lost by now.  The bees face east for the morning sun to wake them up.  I stacked those cinder blocks myself.  One of my more successful construction projects.  If you ignore how the one hive lists to one side.  You can see one of my apple trees in the background...just below the finger.  The flowers are on hawthorns.  Bees seem to love hawthorns.

Thank you VERY MUCH to Tim and his Mrs. for coming up for the photo shoot.  Nice to have a professional bugman in one's circle of acquaintances.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Bee-yonce'

Too easy with the pun today. 

I saw a bee doing the bee dance!  The one where they dance in a figure 8, shaking the money maker, to tell other bees where the food is.
I didn't get it filmed, but many other people did.  Here's an example:


I didn't check the angle of the sun as I was holding up a frame of comb and had just filled the feeder.  I didn't want to keep the hive open while I dinked around trying to record on a crap phone while wearing bee gloves. (Those are heavy leather long gauntlets, not gloves made of bee-hides.)

Still, pretty exciting to see it so soon after becoming a bee keeper.  For the record, it was one of the Italians, not a Carniolan. 

The bees have the 2nd deep hive body, 8 frame, on top of the first now on both hives.  They are starting comb up there.  Of course I read the instructions for putting those on properly after I put them on improperly.  You do just set the box on top of the old box and cover as usual.  BUT the book says I should have "baited" the top/new hive body with a couple of frames of brood from the bottom hive body.  Oh well.  The bees found their way up.

The Italians also seem to build lots of burr comb that I then remove or think "I should take that out.  It will make a mess if they fill it with honey and I have to tear it up to do extraction."  Of course, this year I won't be extracting, and they are building it between the first and second hive bodies.  So, even in future years, they would get to keep that for winter food.  If I take it apart and clean it up a bit in spring, it will probably be empty of honey or babies or anything else.  So why force them to conform?
I'll read the section of the book on that after I've let it go too far to correct.  That's just how I roll.

And now...from the original Beyonce':


( I think this means the food source is about 200 yards at a 58.3degree angle from the sun. )

Friday, May 20, 2016

This Is Pretty Much What My Floor Plan Has Become

I keep trying to redesign my floorplan.

I've been basically in love with this one:

Level 1

for years.  I like the single wet wall (sink backs up to the bathroom water so only one wall with plumbing).  Simple.  Lots of south glazing for passive solar.  I'd do a shed roof, higher to the south/front to allow for a loft up there for the hot water storage (passive solar on roof/southwall), maybe a greenhouse on part of the front.

I have decided I don't need the 2nd bedroom, but likely need a bigger kitchen.  Eliminating the 2nd bedroom lets me spread the kitchn into the "dining/living" areas as needed.  Anyway, someday I may or may not post a sketch.

BUT then today I ran into this floor plan which is another dream of mine:

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/be/12/e6/be12e602f5974695da0eb89a6442067d.jpg

























A bedroom in the back of the library.  A private bath and somewhere to cook.  Everything I need.  I think I could go ahead and sleep in the kitchen and use the bedroom for the rare books collection.




Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Added Sugar Rant part Deux

That's "part 2" for those who don't speak paristalk.

Anyway, interesting results so far with the added sugar avoidance experiment.
First, I feel better so I'm continuing on with it.  My cousin is also continuing on so we send each other supportive texts which helps.  At least it helps me.

The thing is, I've lost weight even though I've kept the calorie intake up, even with extra exercise because it's summer and I'm planting stuff and doing stuff, I'm eating plenty of calories.  I use an app for that (I know...odd for someone who doesn't have a smart phone.  I have a used ipod and my sister loaded the free version of "loseit" which I've used for years to track calories eaten and expended each day.  It works for me.  Boring for others.
The point here is that according to the app, I'm consuming enough calories to support 5lbs more than I weigh.  What gives?

I don't mind, though I don't want to get any thinner.  I'm still above what the old charts say I should weigh, but I'm as thin as I care to be.

I wonder how much is the sugar and how much might be added muscle mass from working out, digging holes, and living on a hill with no road (I have calves that could crack walnuts) that I climb multiple times a day.

I climbed that hill last year and didn't lose weight. Something is going on with the lower added sugar intake.  I end up eating fewer grain products just because so many of them have added sugar, but last week and this I have gotten locally produced (and delicious) breads that are just flour, water, salt and yeast.  No sugar/honey/whatever.  And I've added a brand of crackers where I've found a few different options with no added sugar.  Sardines are better on crackers.  Since adding in those grains, I lost another pound.

My fiber intake is in the same range as before, maybe 5-10 grams more a day but no where near vegan levels.  I eat plenty of fruit so it's not that there is NO sugar (that would not even be smart).

And I'm not a complete purist with the no added sugar.  There was a day where a woman was getting offended because I didn't want a stupid popsicle.  It only had 40 calories so even if it was mostly sugar, it wasn't much.  And I was hot.  So I ate one to shut her up and to be polite.  I've had a BLT too and I'm sure the bacon and bread at the restaurant had a bit of sugar.  And of course, when I spilled some runny honey from the bee hive on my glove while working the hives, I licked it off before it became a giant sticky mass.  You can't really leave the bees mid-hive-working to go wash a glove.  Easier to lick it and finish the job. I'm sure there have been other slip-ups too.

So what gives with the loss of tonnage?
Anymore and I'll need new bras and pants. Annoying. It doesn't do the neck wattle any favors either.

Oh well. I don't have a mirror up at my place so I don't have to look at it.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Current Plant Sources


 I said I'd review the two places I've gotten most of my plants.  I like local folks and I like people who really KNOW the plants.  That said, if anyone wants to give me free plants I will love them and be ever grateful no matter where they came from.


Here are the two places I've gotten most of my orchard and ground cover plants for the land
Fiddler's Ridge

Real Food Gardens (at least that's the name of their blog)

We'll start with Fiddler's Ridge.  Potlatch, ID.
They are super close to where I live (like 10 miles which in north Idaho qualifies as next door neighbors).
They don't seem to have a website and the facebook is pretty out of date.  These are my kind of people.  (I know...ironic since I have a blog.)


ANYWAY: They are awesome and during planting season they have an outpost location in Moscow, ID in the parking lot of the old Tidyman's.  If are within range of Moscow, you already know where that is.  If you aren't in driving range, then you don't need to know where that is because you aren't coming.  Shop local.

These folks KNOW the area, the climate, the soils, and of course the plants.  They are extremely helpful with what will most likely grow in your location, if you are from the area.  They've helped me out with proper plants.  I dropped some change their in fall 2015 and they gave me flat after flat of ground cover (various thyme, sedum, catmint, buckwheat, etc), about a dozen fern bush (hadn't ever heard of that), chokecherries, a currant, and a rabbit brush.  ALL that they sold me lived through the winter.  And they gave me one heck of a deal on everything.
The year before, I think or maybe spring 2015, I got gooseberry, currants, hazelnut, currant, blueberry, and a variety of other things.  The summer of 2015 was absolutely BRUTAL and I had no well.  Tried hand carrying water but alas, some of the plants didn't make it.  The currants from that year DID come back!  Not a leaf on them in 2015, but this year 2 or 3 of the 5 (I thought I bought 6 but can't find one.  Sometimes the deer help me with orchard planning) are showing leaves on new shoots from the roots.  WOW.
A blueberry I got from them and stuck in a container for lack of knowing where to put it is doing great.

This year I've gotten a variety of raspberries (10 starts in all), 2 blueberries, different varieties, and a bush cherry start.  All are doing wonderfully.  If I get the well going properly, we'll be in business.

The advice they give is priceless.  And the plants are super healthy.  I've also bought various soil amendments there and because both owners know right where my land is, they know what I'm coping with soil-(or lack there of)-wise.  This year they are also helping me choose things the bees will love.

The one thing Fiddler's Ridge didn't have that I really really really really wanted was fruiting quince.  I like to rock it odd-school (not a typo).  Some day I hope to market things that are just a bit off the norm.  Everyone has jam and apple cider and apple butter and the usual on sale at the farmers markets around here.  So I'm going for niche markets that probably don't exist in my imaginary future food sales business.  I also like odd things.

I searched the usual outlets for fruiting quince, local garden centers, nurseries.  Nothing.  I turned to the internet but most of the fruiting quince starts would be shipped from Florida or southern California.  Yeah.  Like that's going to work.  Quince interests me because it's tough.  I didn't want a version that I'd have to coddle and try to acclimate to the area.  I want to stick it in a hole and leave it. (That didn't sound good).

In desperation I typed "quince" into a craigslist search and 2 ads popped up.  I sent inquiries.  One had grown their own.  One was shipping in starts and potting them up.  Guess which I chose.  Yep.  Growing from seed in the region.

The place is Real Food Gardens.  It is near Hauser Lake, Idaho.  Bit of a drive from here but the prices are crazy low so compensates for the price of gas.  I've made 3 trips and sent multiple others up to them. I know one woman did go and got nice starts.   These folks are lovely and amazing and start their own plants.  We also seem to be on a page about getting out of the rat race and the like.  Alas, I'm still rat racing but planning for the day when I can step off the wheel and just enjoy my place and my plants.


They have an extremely wide variety of options.  I didn't even get to the herbs and other "garden" type plants.  Too busy getting trees and berries in this year.  Many tree/shrub starts are only 5$.  Their website gives the rates and availability as well as excellent descriptions of the varieties.  Their soil is very different from mine, but they are in a chilly location so that's a good thing to have in common.  With the low prices, I can do some test runs.  I plan to report back to them which things seem to thrive in my heavy soils.

This couple also is happy to share their extensive expertise.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Holy Orchard, Batman!

Or I could have called it "The Accidental Orchard"
Or "What Am I Thinking"
Or "Good Lord I Hope the Well Pump Gets Fixed Before All the Trees Die"

Anyway, I was talking to my gramma (I'd say "Hi Gramma" but seriously, a 95 year old woman without a computer is NOT going to read this and could give zero craps about a shout out on the internet), and she asked what I'd been planting and I offered to write up a list.  While doing that, I realized I hadn't made an overall list before so best to get on that and make a copy before I sent it.

Here it is, along with a very very bad sketch map of what is where.  If you click on them for biggification, you can read any portions of the pictures that the internet is hiding from you for reasons I don't understand.










 Is it any wonder I have developed a creepy "Madonna" vein in my left arm?  You know, the icky sticky outy steroid-addled-weightlifter type vein also seen on the aging and underweight singer, Madonna
 
For the record, my arms are not that gross and my boobs do not look like creepy welded on orange-halves.   

Anyway, I've been driving a shovel quite a bit lately.  FINALLY those months of archaeology fieldwork have come in handy.  I can quickly dig a very tidy hole in the ground.  I'm getting better at stuffing a tree in it.  Or a raspberry, or etc.

Did a few minutes of online research today about where to put the remaining trees.  The mulberries will probably go west of the cabin site near the aronia berries.  I'd like them a west and a bit north to shade the west side of the future imaginary slightly larger cabin, but we run into hose length issues.

The lindens probably down in a low area with more soil than the hill sides and more moisture.  Will be a pain in the butt for a few years while I have to water (no hose will reach, dipping buckets from the creek or walking buckets down from the max reach of the hose will be the options), but after that, the trees should be happy and self-supporting.  I may have a couple of these trees already.  Need to check out a tree identification key.  I'm assuming the library has that.  These trees have edible leaves that make a spinach or lettuce substitute.  Nice. 

I'll be getting fruit, greens and protein from trees.  The Siberian Pea shrubs are nitrogen fixing and put out a peapod like thing which you can eat like a peapod and if you let them mature, the seeds can be used like lentils.  The leaves are nitrogen rich and can be spread around nitrogen weak areas.  I may want more of these.

The ginkos aren't picky about where to live and grow.  This is actually making it harder to decide what to do.  Do I stick them up the hill for a spectacular attractive display from the road?  And years of carrying water UPHILL until they are established?  Put them in the wooded area by the creek so that as the other trees die off, these will be established and filling in?  Or down in the lower area with the good soil near the lindens (which are also called basswoods...I remember the basswood from our house on 4th avenue...the one that pruned itself on to the suburban)?

With the chestnuts (heh heh...I said "nuts") and a couple of other things I reviewed what the tree/shrub wanted in an environment, because I never have ALL of that in one spot, how big it will want to grow, and that sort of thing, then picked one up and carried it around a bit until I hit a spot that seemed like a good compromise.  I have decided to call this "Tree witching" (like water witching) and that it makes me a tree whisperer.  But I shan't advertise my services until it's clear that I'm successful in finding just the right spot.

The next steps are:  GET MORE HOSE!  Good hose, preferably drinking water quality as I'm sick of pouring icky chemicals on the planet and down my gullet.  Most garden hoses are full of toxins that are released especially when hot, like say while out in the sun and full of water.  Barf.  I probably have hose poisoning from my childhood when we drank out of them all the time.  I bet we had to do that because Sher wouldn't let our filthy butts in the house (Hi Sher!).

I'm at the LIMIT of what I can hope to keep watered and take care of for now.  So, I'm declaring a tree/shrub moratorium until late fall.  By then I should know what seems to be doing well, what needs replaced, and have some idea of what I'd like more of.  I will also know if I can care for any more in year 2.  

Already I'm noticing a few stupid choices.  I THOUGHT I had planned the open route down the hill from the cabin site, and the imaginary future cabin site, and kept it clear of the orchard plants.   But then this morning I walked to and then got in the car, parked at the creek at the bottom of the hill east of the cabin, the hill with many many of these orchard plants.  On the walk I thought "why did I plant the THORNY black berries right in my walking path?"...those may need to move.  We'll see.  Once in the car, I looked back up at the cabin and CRAP!  A plum is right in the path for deliveries of things like wood, dirt, supplies for the future imaginary cabin.  These things may need to move.  We'll try it through the summer and see how it goes.

The location of the spigot turned out to be more important than I had realized.  It's in a pretty good spot so it's workable, but I do need more hose.  I want to leave lengths of hose strung to the far flung areas and just haul the shorter bit connecting to the spigot around to hook them up for watering.  I will need to water for a year or two.  If this summer is as hot as last (Sweet Bee-sus* let's hope not!), I will be watering one area or another or multiples every evening. 

Let me also thank Sweet Bee-sus* for my realization a few years back that I had to get in better shape if I was going to make a go of this off-grid nonsense.  I lost some tonnage, not a huge amount but every pound off the butt is a pound of water (which is about a pint) or whatever that I can now haul around.  Obviously there is a lower limit to this metric and I'm nowhere near it but do not plan on losing any more weight.  
Then a year and a half ago or so, I decided to fix the bum arm and build some muscle.  Been working out since then (which may have contributed to the icky madonna vein, see above).  It's been worth it.  I made at least 10 trips up and down the central hill yesterday, most of them hauling a plant, a hose, and/or water in a bucket, and once my composting toilet bucket, and I was able to get up today without more than the usual amount of groaning.

So, that is where I'm at right now.   The next blog entry will review the places I've been getting most of the plants.  Both are awesome.  (Crap...now I've ruined the ending!)

*Bee-sus is a reference to a text exchange amongst friends and family (not that I'm not friends with my family) about my bees when I got them.  See this entry for an explanation: 
No offense is intended, it's just that since getting that hilarious text, I have this cartoon character of "Bee-sus" in my head.  A shout out to the contributor of that pun!  Hi Cupcakes...you know who you are.

Friday, April 22, 2016

DEAR UNIVERSE: GET YOUR SPANDEX OUT OF MY PANTS! ...Redux

I got a new comment on the original post so I thought I'd do an update or whatever it is when you discuss something again.

It seems, per the above mentioned comment, that the spandex scourge has spread to BOY JEANS!  MAN PANTS!  That wasn't the direction it needed to go.  It needed to go away. 

And yet, in the past several months I have found several pairs of jeans in thrift of course, that are 100% cotton!  Imagine my joy.  Part of it is I'm slightly thinner and even one size smaller increases the selection whether thrift or retail.

One pair is a practically new pair of abercrombie and fitch.  I would not normally wear that brand, and yet, they are cotton and they fit.  Others are ralph lauren, which I've known for a while has a model that fits my physique reasonably well.  And finally, yesterday, I found the holy grail of 100% cotton thrift girl pants....carhartt. Wow.  They are basically new, though no tags.  Girl pants in the lower waisted (I have possibly the shortest waist on the planet), yet 34" length.  Hard to get even in retail.  They were, by my standards, extremely expensive.  $6.00.  With no discounts available.  But you don't leave that in the store.  The company does not make this model anymore sans spandex but with straight legs and a low waist.  Even some of their double front pants have spandex.  WTF?  Seriously carhartt (I'll capitalize that when you start showing ME some respect and make real pants again).  Stop with the stretchy BS.  I do not want baggy knees and butt, looking like I dropped a load over lunch, halfway through my work day. I also wear work pants multiple days, but try that with your spandex nonsense and I end up with pants that are only the intended diameter at the calf.  Jodhpurs anyone?  I suppose it would be handy if I had a sudden case of diarrhea and had to walk home.  Wouldn't leak out on my shoes.

Anyway, these are great. I'd rather have the brown version, but one takes what one can get when one does not want spandex.

As for the stretchy man pants.  Yes, I agree with my commenter and would go as far as calling them an abomination.  I have been shopping the men's racks for 100% cotton jeans for a few years, with limited success but it was better than the women's stretchy pants.  And now, I must be ever vigilant over there.  It's a shame because even in the thrift world, men's clothes are cheaper.  Just like in retail.