Saturday, June 28, 2014

Honey Bees and Exotic Rocks

It has been quite a bee keeping year so far.
I had a brand, spanking new nuc that was flourishing just 2 weeks ago and then BAM! The hive was completely empty. It looks like another possible case of Colony Collapse Disorder.

As a bee keeper this is very frustrating. I have only had issues with this the last couple of years and I have lost lots of bees and lots of money. I have no idea what the cause could be, other than a nearby farm spraying chemicals or possibly the round-up ready corn planted on the neighboring property.

Either way, agriculture can be tough at times and I am not one to give up.
This week we drove north to Knoxville, TN and picked up 2 nucs from a bee keeper there who raises Russian and Russian mix bees.

His driveway and yard looked like a bee keeper lived there and there were bees flying everywhere! He owns 500 hives and sells mostly nucs and starter hives  to area folks, about 200 a year.
He has been keeping bees for 35 years and told me that he too has issues with pesticides. He also said bee keeping is much harder now than back then, and my troubles are experienced by bee keepers across the country, including himself.
Was happy to get some new bees from him, as he doesn't treat his bees with any bee chemicals or drugs. He also told me that his hives that get full sun do not have issues with the small hive. That made me realize that my full sun hives don't have SHB issues either.
We plan to consolidate all of our hives to one side of the property that gets more sun and where my current Russian hives are thriving. Hopefully that will help any SHB problems.
The hives are home and doing well. I will be feeding them sugar syrup all summer to help get them ready for winter, especially since nectar flow is over here in my neck of the wods.
We have had a typical summer weather pattern of hot, humid sun most of the day and then late afternoon thundershowers.
It is nice to sit on the front porch and watch the cool rain.
The kids have been looking through a rock and mineral book, picking out their favorite ones.
They decided to comb through a rock and mineral set that I bought about 12 years ago for home schooling. The set has samples of real rocks and minerals, numbered and labeled.
Willow actually was able to identify several rocks that she found on the property.
This is homeschooling. People always think that home education means sitting around a table for hours on end staring into thick textbooks. Nope.
This is homeschooling: sitting outside and deciding that looking up rocks and minerals would be great fun and then spending an hour identifying rocks and where they are found. Nobody made the kids do this because they had the desire and motivation to do this on their own.
It doesn't always work this smoothly and perfectly, of course, so I just sit back and relish the moments when it does.
Have a great weekend Ya'll!

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Today is Willow's birthday. She is 12.

All of our children have taught us a valuable lesson , but 12 years ago today our lives changed and we learned what it means to crave the blessing of a child.

Actually, let me go back a little further.
13 years ago Devin decided he really wanted to go back to school and I was totally supportive of the endeavor. He had been working as a respiratory therapist but really wanted to become a physician's assistant. He had applied to schools and decided to attend in Augusta at the Medical College of Georgia. Devin quit work, cashed in retirement to help pay tuition and moved to Augusta (6 hours away) and I dusted off my license as a respiratory therapist and went back to work.
Devin's mom graciously came over and kept the three girls at our house on days when I worked. We saw Devin on Saturdays. It was not perfect, but it was the only way.

                           **Indiana (Rock Star) holding her new baby sister Willow**

Then one day I woke up sick. Morning sickness sick. I was pregnant. Oh my. To say that this was not a fantastic time to be having another baby would be true. We were barely scraping by and life was stressful. I was a little down at the idea of struggling further but then 2 people changed my perspective.

First, when I called my midwife I explained to her our situation. She listened and then she said to me, "This baby will be the best thing that ever happened to you."  She was very matter of fact. She was telling me what I needed to hear. She was and still is one of the wisest women I know.

Next, I told Devin. I thought he would be upset, more stressed, planning a vasectomy....
Instead Devin said, " That's great! Don't worry about anything, this will all work out!" He expressed incredible wisdom and faith.

                                                   **A very happy Willow**

When he came home that Saturday he explained to me that just  a few hours before I had called a classmate of his, a friend, had received the bad news that her spouse had cancer. They were a nice couple with two little kids. Devin explained that news of a baby, news of life, was always a reason to be thankful.

That moment changed my perspective forever. I wish I could say that everyone around us felt the same way, but no they did not. We had many who looked at us as irresponsible and rather crazy. It didn't matter though because we KNEW that a blessing was being bestowed upon us.

                                       **Willow has always had her own sense of style**
Willow's birth was a celebrated event at home. Family and friends all gathered and it was a joyous day.
It was quickly dampened, however, when reality set in the next day. Devin was in his clinical rotations and had to leave. I found myself at home with a newborn and three little ones. After a couple of weeks I found myself at home suffering from post partum depression. Looking back I am glad for this struggle. I learned compassion for other women who suffer with PPD, and I discovered who my true friends were. My friend Lisa was a constant and loyal friend for me and she helped me through some really tough times. I also had more empathy when I would get a call from a struggling mom. I was a La Leche League Leader at the time and often took calls from women.

                                       **Willow is always entertaining**

Another result of having Willow was my inability to work. We were now poorer than poor. It was pretty rough but we thankfully had lots of food storage. Eventually we went on Food Stamps. Let's talk about that experience. Never in a million years did I ever think I would be one of *those people*. It was a Providential hand that led me down that road. I learned to accept help and I learned to not be so quick to judge others. It was also a very humbling experience that has shaped my thinking. For 8 months I fed my family with help from the EBT system. The things I learned  through that situation is a post all in itself.

When Willow turned 1, Devin graduated. He got a job, moved back home and life was back to normal, except we were different people.

                                                 **Willow and her first fish**

Had Willow not been born we would not have learned valuable lessons about life and grace and forgiveness. We would not be celebrating a sweet girl, who has a strong work ethic and a cheery disposition. She was a gift that we needed and craved, although we could not always see that at the time. Today I look back at those struggles and they seem like a lifetime ago, but the lessons and compassion and love we gained from the experience is still very much with us today.

Thank you Willow. Happy birthday!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer Time

Summer officially arrived this week. I know the calendar says we have a few more days of spring, but here it is suddenly in the 90's and the humidity is "dripping wet skin and frizzy hair."

It's hot ya'll.

Yesterday we sat by the pool with some family and had a real summer day. Today we will do the same with some friends. I have about 50 million projects sitting around and waiting to be finished, but it is summer. What is summer if you can't have some days to sit and enjoy the scorching hot sun and 200% relative humidity?

Of course first I am going to make a trip to Costco. We have the first official outdoor movie night this Saturday, and we plan to cookout some burgers (burgers with artisan cheese from our own cave) and dogs for dinner first. Sunday will be the birthday for Willow, who turns 12. We are planning a party for her, poolside, in the afternoon.

Summer is here. Cookouts are happening. Tomatoes are growing. Sweet tea is being consumed in obnoxious amounts. We've been dreaming about this day since January, when the temps dropped in the negative degrees. We wished for hot weather after several days of snow .

Summer also means baling hay, which is happening this week too. You haven't lived a farm life until you cut, bale, and stack 90 degree temps. It is nice to have a barn full heading into winter, though. We don't have the equipment to cut or bale it ourselves, so we hire a neighbor/farmer/friend to cut and bale. We load and stack and are grateful for the strong teenagers in the family who help. With a weather forecast that includes a chance of afternoon thunderstorms everyday, it must all be done in a timely manner.

The poplar trees are done blooming and the bees are moving now to anything blooming, mostly clover. I do have some honey in 2 hives that we will extract next month. I also have Russian nucs I bought from a man in Knoxville. They will need to be picked up and brought here, and that is somewhere on my *summer to- do* list.

The cheese cave is full and we have been pulling a couple of cheeses out to eat. They are delicious. We've only had tomme style cheese and one blue cheese. The next few weeks will finish the aging of several cheeses and I plan to have a cheese tasting. Tomorrow I will have a fridge full of milk and plan to make 2 wheels of cheese. It has become quite easy with practice and I am able to make cheese while also completing other tasks around the house.

Summer is here ya'll. Seize the season!


Monday, June 16, 2014

The Big Gig

The Rock Star life has been brought down some and I am back into farm mode.
Indiana and her Rock Skool group landed a gig at the Chattanooga River Bend Festival. It is a BIG deal!
Every year Chattanooga blocks off the streets along the river front and tons of people flock to the festival to listen to music and to eat food.  This year's lineup included Boston, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Gary Allen, and Widespread Panic. Of course there was also Rock Skool.

The past weeks have been filled with rehearsals, lessons and all of the prep that goes into a big show. Indiana likes to dress as punk rock as possible so she insisted on red hair. Last performance she had blue hair...this time it is red.

Aside from the incredible heat  and humidity we experienced Saturday, the performance was fantastic! I think the guy who booked them for the show was a little nervous but he was very happy once the showed started. These are kids from ages 7-17 and they are fantastic.

So, now that the concert, the BIG gig, is over we can go back to a  more normal summer schedule.

My tomato plants are getting huge and I have not staked them yet. I think it rained every single day last week, which causes my cow lot to be mucky but it also makes everything green and greener here.

We also have a new bunny.

A good friend found this bunny hopping in the neighborhood street. She asked the neighbors and everyone denied being the owner, so she brought the little fuzz ball here. The bunny has a name : Dewey Thumper Clover. Many children wanted to name the bunny, so she has a long name. She is very sweet and is living a life outside in a drop pen on grass. She's moved everyday and spends a fair amount of time in the house, playing and being held.

Finally, I discovered a new tree in the yard (along the wood line) that I had not noticed before.

This is a mulberry tree. The berries turn a deep purple, will stain your clothes, and makes a fabulous jam or cobbler. I was quite excited to discover it, however I might need to climb the tree for most of the berries. I will also have to try and keep the birds away from the sweet fruits, but I am happy nonetheless.

This week I will be inspecting bee hives, crafting cheeses, moving calves to a new paddock, and planning for Willow's birthday this weekend. I suppose staking tomato plants should be on this list too. The next batch of chicken is about ready for processing, I have two new beehives to pick up in Knoxville, and the pigs are about ready for processing too.  Family outdoor movie nights begin this weekend ,and I really think we will spend a couple of days relaxing by the pool. What's summer without a few lazy days?

Happy Monday Ya'll!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Summer Overload

I am a busy person. There is no doubt that I have been known to juggle several things at once. I am always working on a project in quilting or spinning or homesteading or home schooling. Always.
However, I am always trying to balance this hustle and bustle with a little something I like to call "slow it down."

Now, this might not seem like a big whopping deal, but I really think it is a big deal. My FB newsfeed is filled this week with stories of families and the millions of activities they are involved with this summer. It's summer ya'll. Slow it down.

Sure there is the summer reading program, the vacation bible schools, the mission trips, the play groups, the mom's day out, the free summer movies, the craft classes, the swim lessons, and even the local parks. There is the temptation to sign Junior up for every class and activity available and to spend each morning and then evening running Junior to and from such activities. Seriously, he would benefit from all of this, right? I have friends with only 2 kids who are busier than me with my 7 kids and a farm.

Now, before I get emails explaining the benefits of all these summer activities, I want to state that I am not bashing any of these things. If you and Junior enjoy spending the summer with  a full calendar, then so be it. I simply want to explain the reason we have summer breaks.

Summer breaks are a time to "slow it down." Summer breaks are about cooking dinner out on the deck, reading a book out loud as a family (without having to be part of a "program"), catching toads at dusk, staying up a *little* later than usual, catching fireflies, building tents on rainy days, playing outside, playing games, swinging in the hammock, playing flashlight tag, and having lots of unstructured play time.

Since when did unstructured playtime become unimportant? It's not. This is a break so that kids can be free to use their imaginations and improve their creativity. This is not to say that you should be home all day and every day of the summer, but it is to say that kids and parents are over scheduling.
Slow it down.

Remember way back in the day when a family vacation consisted of loading up a cooler with sandwiches and driving to grandma's for a week? Then at grandma's house you met up with cousins and the nights were spent playing outside with the cousins? Ok, I might be a little old fashioned but that was a summer break. That was when we, as kids, recharged our little selves after a long school year.

I know that many folks will still cram their calendars, will still feel the pressure to sign up for activities that are only offered in the summer but will be great benefits to the molding of their child's character. I know that many feel like these are opportunities that must be seized before they are gone, as they are only offered a short while. To this I confess this is all true, but children are only this age for a short while too and this is a summer we need to slow it down.

Slow it down.

Happy Friday Ya'll!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Chili's and the Decline of the Family Meal

It is perhaps my favorite place to eat out, and the chips with salsa are, in fact, delicious.
I am speaking of Chili's. Yesterday Devin and I were out running errands and decided to stop there for lunch.
We walked in the place to see a sea of people and children staring, not at each other, but into these little table top tablets/computers. All of the tables had them and some had two.

                                                                                        (photo courtesy of Ziosk)

The company loves them because they allow them to use fewer servers PLUS it has been shown in trial use that they actually increase appetizer and dessert sales. In fact you can use them to pay your bill and folks have been leaving larger gratuities since they have been in use. Who cares about personal one on one service? You are in too big a hurry to wait to order food! This is America and we like to eat NOW!
The company also brags that these tablets will also give the current weather conditions. Wow! That is so fabulous. How did we ever function in a restaurant before?

They are a fabulous idea, right? Parents can place one in front of their kids, so the kids can play and be occupied. That is why we eat out as families, after all, so we can stare at electronic devices and be void of any and all conversation.
If you have youngsters who just can't seem to act like respectable kids in a restaurant, then here is your ticket out of a disaster meal. There is no need to teach proper behavior, just sit them down with this fancy device. They can play unlimited games for the bargain price of .99 cents, and that is quite convenient for those times your kid forgets his/her IPOD or Nintendo 3DS.
What's even better is that this will allow YOU more time to stare at your smart phone. You might miss something brilliant that was posted on your Facebook, right? You wouldn't want something as important as family dinner or having a real conversation with your loved ones to interfere with the latest viral video posted on FB.

The success with these tablets has been such that hotel restaurants are considering using them to increase their sales as well. I suspect we will soon these at many major chains because, you know, money talks.
When we sat down to our table I turned the thing around so it wasn't facing us. The flashing lights was a distraction and I had some serious chip and salsa eating to do. We never used the thing, as I am sure it had germs and grease and grime on it anyway. We also didn't pay with it, I prefer to give my server his well earned tip in person.

When we left we saw a table with three kids and two of them had tablets in front of their faces while the other had an IPOD. Mom and dad had smiles on their faces. Fabulous family dinner, ya'll.

This leads me to the following opinions on this most grotesque device:

1. If you, as an adult, cannot go through one meal without staring into something electronic then you are pathetic. You are also setting a poor example for your children. This isn't just the new fancy tablet either. Put down your d@%n smartphone.

2. If your children cannot sit through one meal without electronic entertainment then they should be eating at home and learning how to eat a meal and have a conversation, without the toys. What was wrong with crayons and coloring menus for kids? Personally I will miss diving under the table to fetch broken crayons my kids drop.

3. I have had some folks tell me that when a family eats out several times per week, these tablet games really help with antsy, hungry children. To this I must say that you are eating out too often. It should be a treat, not a way of life. Stay home and cook a decent meal. If your schedule is such that it is too busy with after school activities, etc....well, I say cut the crap from your schedule. Family is more important than sports or whatever is taking away from a family dinner.

4. If you are so void of human connection that you prefer to order food and pay for the food from a computer tablet versus the nice server assigned to your table, then you should not be out in public. Seriously. Stay home.

All of this to say I will no longer eat at Chili's. Sad. I do love their chips and salsa, but I think this is taking higher sales a bit too far. Half priced drafts was a good enough reason for me to stop by and eat a good meal, but this tablet device is only promoting what is already a struggle for many couples and families. Conversation, real conversation.

Good-bye chips and salsa. I will be looking for a new dining experience elsewhere.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...