Bees!

May16

I set up and installed two hives of bees this year.  Not only will they pollinate the garden and help it produce at its maximum level, it will provide our family with plenty of delicious honey for our table!

My friend Rebecca took some photos while I installed the hive of bees.  Unfortunately, this hive that she photographed me installed had a bummer queen and the whole hive collapsed and had to be replaced within a week.  The good news is that both of the hives are now doing really well and I can see comb forming with honey in it!  Good job bees.

This is me getting ready to take the bees outside.  They come in 3 pound packages.  The bees are completely enclosed in the box until you open it up to install it.  They are really REALLY loud and they want out to find a home that will suit them well.  They are all hanging in a cluster around a can of sugar water that is in the package with them so that they have plenty to eat on their way to their new homes.

When you are ready to install the bees, you smack the package on the ground to wake the bees up and get them off the can of sugar. You pull the can out and it becomes the opening. When you smack the package on the ground, it gets really noisy and intimidating.

You then open the hive up and pour the bees in. I have not yet released them here (still working up the nerve to do it). The hives I am using are a nontraditional hive called a top bar hive. It is a much more sustainable and healthy hive, and it works well for a backyard beekeeper for many reasons. I think the hives are very stylish looking. I LOVE the yellow color they are painted.

I have now released the bees and they are being poured into the hive and being closed into their new home. Can you see the bees flying all around me?

The bees are now very happily working away making honey. The hives have a little observation window that I can look into, so I have been keeping track of their progress while allowing them to have some space. I am looking forward to working with them later into the summer.

Targy the Pug

December1

When Flaff moved on there was an obvious hole in our household.  There was no one to eat the food dropped on the floor, no one to walk with to the mailbox and no snoring going on at night.  After a lot of thought and a lot of begging on Daphne’s part, we decided to become adopted by another pug.

Pugs have such silly personalities that make them perfectly suited to being companion animals.  We decided to try getting a puppy so that the puppy would be able to grow up with the kids.

I picked her up in Portland before one of my doctor’s appointments and instantly fell in love.  I haven’t had a puppy in my life for a long time, so having someone to play with again was a ton of fun.  Of course, Jared fell in love again also.

This is a photo of Jared and Daphne checking her out for the first time.

Getting a puppy was the perfect idea.  The newness was just the right thing for Daphne.  She had been spending a lot of time torturing her brother and trying to play with him, but a puppy was new and was able to play with her for hours on end.  It worked perfectly to giver her a companion and someone to play with.

Daphne helped name her Targy, and she took on the name the moment we got her.  I must admit that Daphne calls her “Bolt” after the recent Disney movie, but she usually returns to her old Targy self by the end of the day.

Of course, Targy took to Daphne as well.  She loves to play with her and sleep with her.  At bedtime, Targy runs into Daphne’s room every time she can in an attempt to sleep on the bed with her.  They sure do look cute together.

We have finally managed to get her potty trained, and after another week or two of work, Targy can sleep in Daphne’s room with her.  After all, aren’t they cute together?

Be sure to look for more photos including Targy as a family member from here on out.

Bee Swarm

May13

As we were getting ready to leave Jared’s mom’s house after a nice Mother’s Day brunch, I looked out the window of the car and saw this.

I told Jared to stop so that I could take some photos and examine what was going on. Eventually, while we were looking, we collected the entire neighborhood together to watch nature at work. So, what is it?

That is a swarm of bees that was thrown off the main hive. It happens this time of year. I have limited knowledge of beekeeping, but my friend Scott is very knowledgeable, and after spending a year around him and his bees, I did learn a thing or two. The hive breeds new queens every year, and when the queens mature, it is time for them to go and make their own nest. The hive throws out the queen as well as a supporting community to go make a new hive elsewhere.

In this case, there was a hive already in a nearby oak tree, and this set of bees is looking desperately for a new home. They chose the wheel of a go-cart–not a very smart choice, nor a very viable one.

What does one do when they come upon a swarm? Call your local extension service. That is what they are there for. They keep names and numbers of experienced people who are interested in collecting wild swarms and turning them into productive hives. They will come and get the swarm and take them home happily to produce many, many pounds of honey for themselves.

In any case, any person interested in farming, gardening, water supply, etc., etc., (basically anything having to do with the land and being outside) should be familiar with their local extension service. They are supported by our land grant tax dollars to help us as a community be successful in our agriculturally related endeavors. They have Master Gardeners who can help you troubleshoot your garden. They have Master Preservers who can test your pressure canning gauge to make sure you are canning at a safe pressure etc., etc. If you have kids, they are in charge of the 4-H program. Go meet your extension service personnel, I swear, you will walk away amazed that such a resource exists.

Me? Interested in farming? Never!!

September3

I noticed myself today, when I was discussing a computer job, mentioning that my wife was really into “the farming thing” right now. But there’s a bit of a falsehood in that, a misleading piece of data that I hadn’t realized until today. It’s not just my wife. I’m totally into getting her a farm. And yes I think she’s a bit nuts at times, but I think having a little farm would be great. I’m thoroughly impressed with the amount of food her little garden is pumping out and I don’t even mind caring for the animals too much. And I think having a little farm will be really good for Daphne and all future children. They’ll have plenty of space to run around and do things and they’ll grow up able to do some physical work.

So I guess I should say “we are into the farming thing”. I don’t know that I’m willing to take that much responsibility for it just yet, but I’ll work on it. Who knows? Maybe soon it’ll be farmer Jared :)

Pay it Forward

August8

My previous rant about slavery was supposted to be a post about paying it forward (as you can tell from the first sentence).  However, my fingers often get away with me and I make random and general musing about things that I never intended to visit in that blogging session.  Here I go again.

Paying it forward is a concept that is not new.  It is a concept that has the potential to do so much good from one act.

I was talking to Scott (goat farmer) a few weeks ago about our situation.  You see, because we live on a city plot in the middle of the city, we have no space for a goat (and the city has ordinances against it [damn them]).  My only other alternative was to find a local farm who would board my goat in exchange for help on the farm.  This is NOT an easy thing to do.  It took me almost 2 years to figure out how I was going to do it after asking many, many people if they were interested.  It turns out that this is not something that people do often.

Early this year, in my neverending quest, I sent an email to Scott asking him if he was interested in my proposition.  He said that he was, and we set up to meet.  The rest, really is history.  My goat, Milk Way has been up at his place ever since.

When we were talking a few weeks ago, he told me all about his experiences living in the city.  He likes to keep bees, and he attempted to do it in the middle of the city.  Not only is that something that is not allowed, it is something that is not easy to hide!  I applaud him for attempted it.

However, he had arranged something with a local farmer to keep bees at their farm.  The agreement was a little looser than the one that I have with Scott now because bees are pretty self sustaining (they don’t need hay and grain and milking every day).

He said that had it not been for that, that experience that I would not have my goat at his place.  He considers that he is paying back a debt to karma, and that the debt is now on my shoulders.

Truthfully, I LOVE having the debt.  I can’t help but dream of all the amazing things that I could do with some land of my own.  I can’t come up with enough pay it forward type activities.

I was reading a blog recently that asked everyone to go out and do something positive and report back how it felt.  One person noted in their reply that they have some land that they have donated out to people to rent so that they can grow their own food if they are in a situation that they can’t gardern on their own.  I thought that was a brilliant idea.

When we have some land of our own, why not have a program that allows a limited amount of people keep gardens or animals at our place in exchange for help around the farm.  It’s a win-win-win situation.  I will be passing my debt to karma on while doing some genuniely good things.

In truth, the friendship I have with Scott is very special to me because we understand eachother’s obsessive love of all things caprine which we share with eachother openly.  It was incredibly generous of him to consider opening up his land to us so that I could pusure my own little farming adventure.

Eating home made food

August7

The other day I had lunch, as I often try to do. I had a roast beef sandwich. I didn’t really think too much about it, but later that afternoon, I was chatting with Chris about my lunch, and I realized that it was almost entirely home made–not just made at home from store bought ingredients. So here’s what I had: roast beef which Chris had cooked and which had come from her family’s farm, chedder cheese that she had made from milk from her goat, bread that she had made by grinding her own wheat (ok, we bought the wheat berries, but hey, we only have a city plot), and some mustard–the only ingredient that was purchased from the store. And the mustard is only store bought because I keep buying it before she gets a chance to make her own. So two thumbs up to my little wife who could barely cook when we got married.

Responsibility in eating locally

July24

This may sound like it’s going to be some kind of speech about the necessity of eating local foods and how it’s bad to eat things that aren’t produced locally, but it’s not. I’m more than happy to eat my bananas from who knows where. But Katie wrote an interesting piece on the Oakhill Organics blog about how it is the responsibility of both the producers and the consumers to work together to make the “local thing” work. It was actually a very interesting post for me and made me much more proud of Chris’ little “mini farm” that she has going.

I grew up in northern California (really northern, not SF) right next to Arcata, CA, which is known for it’s radical take on living responsibly (“hippieness” at it’s extreme, though it seems to have calmed down when I last visited). And I’ve been a computer programming bachelor in this modern era of microwavable meals. So while I may not have seen everything, I’ve experienced a lot of the spectrum. And since I’ve pretty much always been in an international scene (I went to and worked at an international boarding school, and the computer work that I do can be done from anywhere in the world), I’ve never really thought much about the local food scene.

But I must admit that over the last few months as Chris has really taken off on her “projects”, as we call them, it’s become a lot more real to me. And I must admit that it’s nice. The food we eat tastes much better. And knowing the people that produced it is actually pretty cool. It adds a bit of camaraderie to the picture. Your not just eating lettuce from the store, but you are eating lettuce from so and so’s farm with some dressing that Chris made out of milk from her goat and some spices.

So I guess to sum up, while I don’t shun all exterior foods and I appreciate the ability to interact with and get products to and from all parts of the world, there’s an added bonus to partaking of your local environment and community.

Freezer Restoration

July13

It is becoming abundantly clear in our lives that one freezer is not enough. When I haul meat over here from Eastern Oregon, I never have enough space, and it is always a big headache to try to attempt to fit it in my freezer. I also just slaughtered two goats, which means that my freezer is packed to the gills. Jared and I talked about buying a new one, but it is not in the cards right now considering they cost a few hundred dollars new.

Out of chance, I posted an ad on the Mcminnville Freecycle saying that I wanted a freezer in working order. I got a response from someone in Carlton. I have to be honest, when we went to look at the freezer, I almost did not want to get it. It was rusted on the outside, and I would have turned my back on it then and there had it not been for the fact that it was pristine inside.

We moved it in to the garage. I spent part of the morning cleaning it out really good and scrubbing the outside. Tonight, Jared and I went to Walmart, and we ended up getting some appliance paint. The paint is made to refinish appliances, specifically in this kind of a situation. After 2 coats, I must admit that the freezer looks brand new. The finish on it is perfect. Despite the fact that I am not the best painter in the world (there are some drip marks), the freezer could sell in almost new condition very easily. And so, for an investment of $25 I have the freezer for extra meat and maybe even some blueberries later in the season.

The moral of the story, don’t give up on a gimpy looking freezer, restore it–oh… and Freecycle while you are at it.

Go Green-Get Rid of Your Lawn

July4

I think that lawns are incredibly wasteful. If you drive down our block, you can tell for sure that our neighbors are definitely interested in having beautiful green lawns. You can also tell that we don’t believe in a manicured lawn. We are a part of a homeowners’ association that requires that we have a lawn, so we can’t get rid of it, but that doesn’t mean that we have to take care of it. First of all, our front lawn in a joke. It isn’t even 5 feet wide, and it only takes 2 swipes with the mower. I’d rather turn it into am herb garden, but again, we aren’t allowed to do anything but leave it as a lawn. What am I to do?

Well, nothing, yet. I haven’t come up with a solution. As it is, the grass has not been watered since nature did the job a few weeks ago. Slowly, it is turning brown, and it has a bunch of bald spots showing up just to make sure we know that we are neglecting it. I am not about to run out there with the hose and give it life either.

I think that it is wasteful to invest all of that clean water on a lawn. Sure, it is nice to have greenery around the house, and it is very nice to have something to play in, but the lawn doesn’t serve a purpose. I would rather invest the water into watering the vegetable garden, which is actually going to produce a viable product for me. I even will go so far as to take care of part of the lawn in the back because my rabbits graze on it, and I find that to be useful. I guess what I am saying is that it doesn’t get taken care of around here unless it can feed me or support me.

Besides, haven’t you heard the commercials that encourage us to limit our watering of our lawn because of all the resources we use? When we took care of the lawn, I was watching how much water we were wasting every second day as the automatic sprinklers came on, and I decided that I was going to stop watering my lawn, that was last August, and I haven’t regretted it one bit.

Besides, we have only been paying a water bill for a year. Before that, someone else was always picking up the tab on the water. That means that we are much more aware about what we are using, and we are more likely to conserve our resources. It makes sense to use that we don’t just waste a bunch of clean water It isn’t all about the bills though. I am interested in conserving the resources that we have as a community living on this one and only Earth that we get to be a part of.

Are there options, yes. I found a great option. There are companies that are developing eco-friendly lawns, and I am very interested in them. I am told that this is not for the faint at heart, nor is it for the neighbor who heads out with Round-up every time they see a dandelion. The premise is that there is a mix of seeds of plants that grow natively in the area you live in. That means that they can tolerate the weather of the region and they require little to no watering. Additionally, they are made of plants that don’t usually grow up to be very tall, so watering isn’t always necessary either. I love the concept, and I found one local company that I like that has developed some lovely lawns.

The Company is called Pro Time Lawn Seed. http://www.protimelawnseed.com/ For a mere $25, I could reseed all of the greenery on my property into an eco friendly alternative that I wouldn’t have to mow or water. Sign me up! As soon as I budget the money (probably at the end of the summer), this is the product I will be buying. http://www.protimelawnseed.com/products-page/?product_id=21