Tuesday, July 31, 2012

HONEY! I'm Home!

This weekend we spent some time moving bees. We have 10 hives on a trailer that has been in town for the past month or so - quite neglected I'm afraid. At dusk on Friday night we drove to town to bring them home.  You have to plan to move bees at night so that all the bees are back from the fields, but it makes for an interesting scenerio. In the heat of the summer many bees will gather on the front door of the hive, in no hurry to enter so we use smoke to coax them in. Timing is everything. Once the bees are smoked into the hive, the doorway is stuffed with cloth or wood to keep them in during travel. If you do this too early, bees returning from foraging are locked out and again you will have a group of bees clustered on the front doorstep wondering what's going on. The less unhappy bees in the work area, the better.  If you wait too late and it gets too dark to see, then you need a light, and bees are attracted to light. This particular evening all went well - just a sting or two. Mine was due to leaning on a bee that I didn't notice on my jeans.
 We then trailered the beehives to the farm overnight.

In the morning, however, we were able to quickly surmise that our hives weren't as secure as we had hoped. It's quite a bumpy, rough trip on the highway at 60 mph and then down the dirt road to home, and though the hives are all cinched down, the wood and cloth in the doorways sometimes gets jarred loose. As the sun rose, unhappy bees began to try to figure out where they were. This wouldn't be a problem if they were parked for a period of time. They would then begin to navigate according to the position of the sun and lock in this location as "home."  They take short flights back and forth from the hive learing their new location, and even if several hives are placed next to one another, their homing skills are so accurate that they will not enter a neighboring hive but fly directly into their own.
Unfortunately, this was not the case today. We we on our way to another farm to drop the hives for the next honey crop, and knew that we would lose any escaped bees, so we hurried to finish morning chores and drive off early.
We brought the trailer to a cotton field 30 miles from home and again, bumped them along over rough terrain.

  Needless to say they were not pleased when the truck came to a stop. The problem was, however, that we did not have time to wait until they quieted down to open the hives. The ideal situation is to place them at night, allowing the honeybees to calm down before opening the hives in the morning, but this day we needed to drop and run, and inevitably, that's exactly what we did.
The plan was that we would start at the back of the trailer and Bob and I would each open the hives on opposite sides of the trailer. Bob suggested that we place the cloths on top of the corresponding hive, but I decided it would be better to move along quickly pulling the cloth out and dropping it as I went. (I could carefully place the cloth on top another day.) Those bees boiled out like lave from a volcano! I was done in no time, but Bob was still carefully placing the entrance cloth on top of his hives - a slow moving target for agitated bees. I'm afraid he realized that a bit late and by the 2nd to end hive this is how he was removing the cloth,

but that doesn't take into account the last hive on the trailer! By this time angry bees had found us and it was time to move! This is not the first time we've had to drop everything and yell, "RUN!"  Actually, today was more like a brisk walk. Away from the bees. And the truck. And the last hive that still hadn't been opened!

Bob went back for the truck a few minutes later, but we decided that it would be wiser to allow the opened hives time to forget us and to begin to figure out where they were. We knew they would settle down shortly, so in the meantime we drove to the other side of the farm and loaded Buttercup into the trailer to take her home. On the way out we stopped and my husband pulled the plug on the last hive without incident.  We'll check back in a week or two - this cotton was planted later than neighboring fields so the timing was perfect! Flowers are just beginning to open and there are acres and acres of plants. We'll bring extra honey boxes and brood hives to transition the smaller Nuks (a five frame hive used to begin small colonies) into larger 10 frame boxes, and we've been invited to bring our remaining 8 or so hives to another cotton field nearby. Rain has been plenteous this summer so we should have a nice crop of cotton honey this fall. Lord willing.

And I think Buttercup is glad to be home.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sorry I Haven't Written But We've Been...

                                                  * Gardening

                                   * Reclaiming the scrap room

                                          * Making and canning Fig Jam

                                                       * Getting hay

                          * Rehoming our Savannah Moniter and Bearded Dragon

                                       * Making new friends

                                  * Making and canning Hot Pepper Jelly

                                           * Labeling Joel's uniforms

                                 * Preparing for Sea Cadet Training Camp

                                       * Riding Dixie for the first time!


Monday, July 9, 2012

The View From Down Under

We did it.  Yesterday we took a much needed break from the farm and spent a day with the kids.

We hit the beach around 10:30. It was glorious!

 Believe it or not, we came to Florida out of necessity, not desire. Bob and I both knew we needed to be here - the call to be with family when  his mom was diagnosed with Alzheimers was unmistakable.

We had been living in the middle of nowhere, Virginia, looking for a farm to raise our children on, and we had been having absolutely no luck finding one.  We had looked at 40 or so homes with acreage that were for sale, and made a couple of stupid offers - offers which, we know now, had the buyers accepted, would have seriously been a bad deal for us. We would not have been able to make good on our financial promises, and ultimately, would have lost everything.
Moving to Florida was out of the question. I had been there and was unwilling to raise my family there. Period. So we continued to look at properties for sale in VA. One morning, while having coffee with my husband, out of my mouth came the words, "What about Florida?"  I have no idea where that came from as adamant as I was that we would NEVER live in Florida, but the moment the words were spoken we both knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Florida was where we were supposed to be. That we would never find our perfect farm in Virgina because we were not meant to be there. It was as clear as day, and we had immediate, absolute peace about the decision.
We've been here 12 years now.

One of our favorite spots to beach is the State Park.

 With a large, shallow swimming area sectioned off from the shipping channel by rock jetties that open out to the Gulf of Mexico, yet with fresh sea water flushing in continually keeping it clean, it is the perfect place for kids to swim and to snorkel. Six to 8 feet deep at the deepest part of the "kiddie pool" inside the rocks, but if you cross over the jetties  it immediately drops to a depth of 30+ feet, and either side hosts large numbers of colorful, diverse, tropical fish. Yesterday the tide was right and visibility was fairly good, so my husband, daughter and I went to see what was there.
Here's what we saw from down under:

We didn't stay long - maybe an hour or so, but it was perfect!  Afterwards we went back to the house to swim and BBQ and eventually back to the Homestead. Except for coming home to find the AC compressor had frozen while we were gone and the air was not working, it was a much needed break from the farm. I checked off a few things from my summer manifesto list (Read more about that HERE ) specifically, beach, snorkeling, corn on the cob (YUM!), enjoy the swimming pool... - believe it or not, it was the first time I'd ever been in the new swimming pool Bob built in town just before we moved to the farm almost three years ago!
In a short time my husband fixed the air conditioner and we were in cool comfort again in no time, planning our next beach adventure!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Our Foiled Fourth

Ah the plans we had.
Bob had 5 days off in a row and we were going to finally get things done around here! His first day off was the Fourth of July - a family day. We planned to be up early to do the chores: feeding, watering, milking, and then drive to town to watch the parade. Our small town Independence Day Parade is the best! We set up our lawn chairs under the trees in front of the public library,

 wave little flags and watch the children pedal by on their decorated bicycles, followed by the politicians, the clowns (one and the same), the floats, the military, the Shriners, and finally ending with all the local firetrucks driving by, sirens blaring. Once the parade ends, the fishing contest begins. Hardly more than a puddle, the tiny pond is lined with youngsters who, for the next hour, attempt to catch the accumulative biggest fish.

One year I caught a duck. Really. At 11:00 the watermelon eating contest begins. This was to be my first year participating. For many years my daughter has held the title while I took pictures,

 but this year I resolved to enjoy the festivities. It was even noted on my manifesto. By the end of the watermelon stickiness, it was then definitely time to head home to town for a swim and some lunch: hot dogs, hamburgers, cole slaw, corn on the cob, and a red white and blue jello/berry/pound cake.

 Afterwards we planned to drive back to the farm to feed, water and milk once again, turn around and drive back to the beachfront for the fireworks show. A wonderful, full day of tradition in our family.

On Saturday my son returned home from a week at Ranger Camp,

 and with him came the crud. It hit the following day and kept him down for three, at which time it attacked me and then Bob, completely thwarting our holiday plans. We have often discussed the fact that terrosists wouldn't need weapons of mass destruction to take over our nation. Just a virus like this one, widespread, would incapacitate enough people that our enemies could walk right in. Oh, the aches - like getting run over by a mack truck! And the illness, which I won't go into. Needless to say we were down for the count.

But on a farm, you can't take a day off - no matter how sick you are. The animals must be fed. They must have water, and the milk goats must be milked. Period. So you do what you have to do.
Even if that means loading and unloading a truckload of hay.

Yesterday we started feeling better, and today, we are back from the dead! We're playing catch up, trying to accomplish the most important of the list of things we thought would be completed during Bob's time off. The turkey pen will be built today and hopefully the swimming pool will be filled once the pump is set up and the pipes lined up  - The final horse fence may have to wait. It is awfully hot outside! But oh, to feel whole again - it's glorious! There's nothing like a bout of illness to make us appreciate good heath. We're getting back on track now.
Tomorrow we hope to spend the day with the kids on the beach SNORKLING (on my summer manifesto list) and then cook hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill with cole slaw, corn on the cob and a red, white and blue pound cake/jello/ cool whip/ berry cake!
I hope you all had a wonderful Independence Day. We are a blessed nation indeed!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Gearing up for Independence Day

 You've probably seen this ad/recipe in magazines or online before, but in case you haven't and are starting to plan for your Fourth of July celebration, this cake is easy, refreshing and delicious! You can't go wrong with pound cake, jello, cool whip and berries!  Here's how...

4 cups fresh strawberries, divided
1-1/2 cups boiling water
2 pkg.  (3 oz. each) JELL-O Gelatin, any red flavor
Ice cubes
1 cup  cold water
1 pkg. (12 oz.) prepared pound cake, cut into 10 slices
1-1/3 cups blueberries, divided
1 tub  (8 oz.) COOL WHIP Whipped Topping, thawed

* Slice 1 cup strawberries. Cut remaining strawberries in half 
* Add boiling water to gelatin mix in large bowl; stir 2 min. until completely dissolved.   
* Add enough ice cubes to cold water to measure 2 cups. Add to gelatin; stir until ice is melted.         
* Refrigerate 5 min. or until slightly thickened. 

 Meanwhile, cover bottom of 13x9-inch dish with cake slices. 

* Add sliced strawberries and 1 cup blueberries to thickened gelatin; stir gently. 
* Spoon over cake.
* Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm. 
* Cover with COOL WHIP. 
* Arrange strawberry halves on COOL WHIP for stripes of flag and remaining blueberries for stars.
 Recipe taken from Kraftrecipes.com

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY From our family to yours!