Sunday, December 31, 2006

It's New Year's Eve on the Homestead!

Wow, can you believe another year has come and gone? If you've been keeping up with our website you know that we've been busy on our homestead. Our house in town has been on the market since April, and still not sold. But we know that, just like everything else we've ever done during our married life, we were a few months late getting it on the big boom in home sales. About the time we listed our house, the market went flat. But we're not giving up. We feel certain it will sell in 2007 and we will become full time homesteaders. Say a little prayer, face your prayer rug east, or sacrifice a virgin for us - whatever you think works. We'd sure appreciate it.

This is a really nice, long weekend for us. We came out to the homestead Friday night, and won't be leaving until Tuesday. Monday is a holiday for us, and Tuesday is a National Day of Mourning for President Ford. So we get an extra long weekend. And lest you think we would take advantage of the time without honoring President Ford, let me inform you that not only have we been watching coverage of the pre-funeral happenings all weekend, we've spent a fair amount of time talking about Gerald Ford. He was truely a good man, even though he was an "accidental president" if we ever had one. The poor man just wanted to be Speaker of the House. But when Spiro Agnew found himself in trouble, Mr. Ford was next in line for Vice President. Then, wouldn't you know it, President Nixon gets all involved in that pesky little "Watergate" incident and decides to bail, leaving his presidency to the next in line, Gerald Ford. So President Ford shows there is hope for all of us. Just be in the right place at the right time, and who knows? Maybe you'll be the next President of the United States.

At any rate, Bernie and I are really appreciative of our long weekend on the homestead. And we've spent it being really busy.

We spent about 6 days with my family in Georgia. We had a wonderful time seeing the family and eating way too much. While we were there we hooked up with my Aunt 'Net and Uncle James. It's been a while since we've seen them, and it was great visiting for a little while. A little while ago, they lost thier daughter, Sandra. Sandra was just a few years older than I, and she was a beautiful person, inside and out. She had such a great sense of humor and was so full of life. It was such a tragedy to lose her so young. Aunt 'Net and Uncle James offered us a china cabinet that was Sandy's and it was such an honor, we could not turn it down. It is quite old and was not in good shape, as it had been through a flood. But we brought it back with us and put it in the homestead. I spent a lot of time yesterday cleaning it up. These pictures show the before and after. It's really a beautiful piece of furniture and we are sure proud to have it here. Try to look beyond the horrible wall - that's the Great Divide I talked about earlier. It's a work in progress.....

Aunt 'Net and Uncle James also gave us some very old Log Dogs. They are really precious and I spent a lot of time today cleaning them up. I used an angle grinder and grinded away the rust. then I spray painted them with some Rust Stop Enamel. They really came out great! And now they grace our hearth. Take a look at the process.

We also spent a fair amount of the day installing a solar electric fence around our beehives. You may recall from a previous post, we have bears in this area. So we decided a fence would help protect our beehives from the bears . Putting up the fence wasn't as difficult as I feared, but that's coming from me, the one who didn't have to actually drive in the fence posts by hand. That job landed squarely on poor Bernie's shoulders. But he did a great job, and I was there beside him every inch of the way! Check out the website for the pictures and the details.

So 2006 comes to an end, and we look forward to what 2007 brings our way. I hope that each of you has a healthy, happy, and prosperous year. And I hope you'll check back here often to keep up with what 2007 has in store for me and Bernie.

Live free and BEE free,

Sunday, December 17, 2006

What's All the Buzz About?

Well, after several false starts, we finally went and got our bees and brought them home! Our friend, John, lives in Pennsylvania and sold us 6 hives of honey bees, a few extra hives, supers, bee outfits, smokers, honey spinner, bottles, caps, and way more than I can list here.

We got up at 4AM and drove 4 hours hauling a trailer to just outside of Lancaster, PA. Wouldn't you know this was the warmest weekend in December we've had in very recent history? Warm weather means happy bees - and happy bees means they are very "active". I should tell you at this point that I am TERRIFIED of bees. Simply terrified. I have respect for snakes and bears, and several other things, but I wouldn't say I'm really afraid of them. Certainly not terrified. But bees are little and you can't shoot them when they attack you. And they're sneaky. Bears and snakes really aren't that sneaky. You typically know when they're around. But bees..... well, bees are different. You can be blissfully walking along and WHAM! You've been stung by a bee you didn't even know was in the area. And they hurt when they sting! I'm definitely terrified of bees.

But Bernie really wanted to get bees and I really wanted to get the honey and bees wax, plus I'm a pretty good wife, so I agreed to getting bees, with the understanding that caring for them is Bernie's job. What I really did NOT agree to but should have realized, is that I would have to help unload and set up these little guys. That's a-whole-nother story I'll tell you in a little bit.

So anywho, Bernie and I set out bright and early to pick up these bees. We got there around 9AM and immediately joined John in placing screen over the hive entrances and taping them. You can see pictures of this whole ordeal on our website. We loaded them all up, threw in all the extra stuff, and headed home. Along the way, probably 2 hours into the trip home, we decided to stop and get something to eat at a McDonald's that had a large enough parking lot to accomodate Bernie's big ol' truck and trailer. We went inside and quickly scarfed down a greasy sandwich and then headed back out to the truck. As we approached the truck and trailer from the side, Bernie said "Uh, oh." I really didn't like the sound of that so I screamed "WHAT?????" and he said "Looks like the hives might have busted open - I see bees in the window of the trailer." Well, crap. This is not good. Not good at all. I am in a near panic now. All I can think about the rest of the trip home is having to open that trailer to get those hives out and I have NO idea what shape they are in or what to expect - except I KNOW some of them are OUT and swarming about. That sandwich I just gulped down sat on my stomach like a brick all the way home.

When we got home, Bernie positioned the trailer very close by where he wanted to set up the hives. It was almost dark, so we left the trailer there, still unopened, and went to the house for the night. I drank several beers. All I could think of was the task at hand. We decided we would get out at first light (while it was still cold and before the bees got "active") to access the damage, put the hives back together, and relocate them to thier new homes.

We got down to the trailer about 7:30 this morning. I was very nervous, but thought I was prepared to face this task. I peeked in a window of the trailer, and all looked very calm. No swarming bees. Whew - maybe this won't be as bad as I anticipated. Well, I was WRONG.

Bernie opened the back of the trailer. The good news was that it looked like only one of the hives had "shifted" during transport and allowed bees to escape. Because it was early and cold, the bees were very calm and none were flying around. Well, that only lasted about a minute and a half because as soon as we opened the trailer, the sun came streaming into it and warmed those little buggers right up. I began hyperventilating, but assured myself I could do this. We quickly unloaded the back of the trailer and were left with the 6 hives to deal with - and one was open in the middle. I should mention that getting to this point had taken us about an hour. That entire hour I kept saying to myself "You can do this. Just remain calm. Don't make any sudden movements. The bees won't bother you if you are calm and steady and don't scream like a lunatic." I did just fine that first hour. And then.....

We slid the hive out in the open so we could reposition the "super" that had shifted. As I reached up with my gloved hand to shift the super, a bee flew at my hand and landed on it. And even as my mind was repeating "Be calm. No sudden movements." I began flailing my arms like a octopus and screaming at the top of my lungs. Bernie kept yelling "Calm down!!! Stop moving!!!!" I was finally able to gain control of my body and stop moving. But then I could HEAR the bee on my arm somewhere. He sounded stuck. That sound was really very scary to me. To me that sound meant "I am pinched in your clothing somewhere, but as soon as I locate your skin, I am going to sting you like you have never been stung before." See - this is why bees terrify me! At any rate, I was shaking like a leaf and I tried to calmly ask Bernie to help me locate the bee. But what actually came out was "THE FREAKING BEE IS STUCK ON ME SOMEWHERE!!! HELP ME! HELP ME! COME FIND OUT WHERE THE BEE IS!!!!!" The whole time my legs where jogging in place a hundred miles an hour. Bernie walked over and located the bee on my glove - and yes indeed, it was stinging with all it's might. Thank heavens I was wearing the glove - well I was up until the second he saw the bee on it, and at that precise moment I ripped it off and threw it a record breaking distance. When I retrieved it, it still had the bee stinging it's little heart out on the glove. I managed to gently bush it onto the side of the trailer.

I was shaking like a leaf - and we hadn't even gotten the first hive out of the trailer. And everything within my body was screaming "RUN - RUN LIKE THE WIND! YOU CAN NOT DO THIS. THERE IS NO WAY YOU CAN DO THIS." I looked at Bernie with tears in my eyes. He knew what I was thinking. He said "Penny, I really need you right now. I can not do this alone. Can you hang in there and help me?" I really didn't think I could. I finally managed to eek out a small "Yea."

We managed to get the hive lined up - but not before my glove was attacked by 5 bees when I was aligning the super with the rest of the hive. I screamed like a girl, but managed not to flail and although I wouldn't use the word "calm", I would say that I quickly brushed the bees onto the trailer side.

Every bone in my body was shaking and my teeth were chattering and I wanted to cry, but I stuck with it. One by one, we slid each hive into the open, lined up all the supers, and used a tie down strap to secure the hive and make sure it didn't shift open as we carried it to it's stand. The hives are full of bees and honey right now and they are very heavy. I was terrified I would drop my end of them as we moved them. But I didn't! In hindsight, we should have used the tie down straps to secure the hives BEFORE we even started the transportation out of PA - but we didn't know. We do now!

This whole process was nerve wracking for me, but we got all 6 hives situated on thier new stands. We put away all the extra stuff we had, and then Bernie suited up in the bee outfit and went to each hive and untaped the openings. Those bees were happy to be free! They immediately began flying all around the hives. I took pictures (from quite a distance with the zoom lens dialed in) and put them up on the website.

Now that the bees are there and calmly flying about, I am thrilled to pieces! They really are beautiful. They still scare me to death, but I'm really pleased they look so darn happy.

I have a tshirt that says "Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision." I can honestly say I exhibited both fear and courage today. I can not describe the immense fear I had of dealing with those bees today. I also can not describe how couragious I feel that I I made the decision to do it! It was not easy. It was probably one of the scariest things I've ever done. Very little really scares me. But these bees......

So that's the buzz. We have bees and I'm couragious. All in all a successful weekend.

Bee free ;-),

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Good stuff, cheap!

I meant to mention this in my last post, and got carried away with extreme holiday cheer, and ended up forgetting to add it.

Remember Patty - the lady that I hooked up with on Freecycle that ended up giving us a bounty of building material? Well, Patty sent me an urgent email this morning "There's a guy at the Flea Market you need to talk to. Call me when you get this!!!!" Very exciting. My heart was racing as I dialed her number. She informed me this guy at the Flea Market has a BUNCH of brand new, quality stuff and it's really inexpensive. He has all kind of doors, kitchen faucets, bathroom fixtures, and just a bunch of stuff. It's brand new! So she told me to go by the Flea Market and get his phone number so we can get in touch with him when we start building.

So Bernie and I ran by the Flea Market and talk to this guy. He's got a lot of stuff - it's really nice and it's really inexpensive. He told us he bought the inventory of a local business that went out of business. He's selling the stuff and then he's done. He's not replinishing it. He gave me his phone number.

I got a hold of Patty when we got home, and she and I have decided to go one night after work this week and look at what he has. I'm pretty excited. Patty is really cool and I'm happy to be spending a little time with her. And we may get some really good deals! I'll let y'all know how it goes.

Live Free,

Is It Really December Already????

Man, this year is flying by. I mean seriously, wasn't it only a few weeks ago we were sweating like pigs, clearing out underbrush from the woods on our property? How can it suddenly be December?

The realization that Christmas is right around the corner and I haven't bought a single gift forced me to spend most of my Saturday frantically whipping up Christmas gifts like an insane woman. If you are on my Christmas gift list, you will either be getting a gift card, or a home made gift. We can't afford to give everyone a gift card, so don't get excited - I'm not giving you a choice. Some of you will get the short stick and be the recipient of a home made gift. I look at it this way - it's a GIFT for heaven's sake! Be happy I thought of you and please have the good grace to act appreciative. If not, I'll be happy to drop you from my gift list next year. Oh, and Merry Christmas.

So that's how I spent MOST of my Saturday on the Homestead. We got there Friday night and it was dark and in the 60's. By Saturday morning it was in the 30's and didn't get out of the 40's all day. So we woke up Saturday morning, bundled up, and headed out at 8AM to go to a couple's house were we took apart a portion of a patio that a couple told us they wanted to get rid of. So after about an hour and a half of work, we had almost 700 beautiful red brick paver bricks - free! This was a result of a Freecycle ad I put out asking for bricks. If you haven't signed up yet, you better hurry before we get all the good stuff!

After we unloaded all the pavers we got, we went inside and Bernie got a nice fire going. He spent the evening beside the fire watching really dumb SciFi movies, and I worked like a slave to get all the Christmas gifts made. I'm not sure why he never has to participate in the joyous activities involved with getting Christmas gifts, but he doesn't. I'm not really angry about that, but I am a little bitter. But his answer to "We need to get gifts" is "No, we don't", so I know if I insisted, we would be at logger heads. So I just do it, and he just watches TV.

But I did kind of get him back, without even trying. Today he walks into the room and informs me "You know, a gun rack is really just a gun rack. It's made with the intention that guns will be hung from it. It's not made to act as a clothes rack to dry delicate female clothing. It's a manly piece of furniture, and it's meant to do manly things. Like hang guns." Maybe next time he'll help me with Christmas gifts.

Next weekend we really are going to get our bees. Six hives of them. We're heading out to get them Saturday morning. We're pretty excited. We need to get them home and settled so we can have honey next year and I can make some candles. I need some new Christmas gift items.

Live Free,