Friday, December 28, 2007

Merry Christmas - You Have a Mouse in Your House

I trust each of you had a very Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, or what ever holiday you celebrate this time of year. We celebrate Christmas on the homestead and we spent it with my family about 600 miles away from here. It was a wonderful time with family and we shared a lot of laughs and good times.

We got back to the homestead Wednesday night and found a note from our pet sitter that basically said "The cats were fine. Merry Christmas. You have a mouse in your house." Well, great. You may recall that we've done battle with mice in the past, but I was certain that after we sealed every nook and cranny that a mouse could possibly use to gain access inside, in addition to having the cats in the house now, that little issue was taken care of.

I called the pet sitter to get some mouse details. She said she was visiting and heard a noise in the bathroom, so she and Elvis went to investigate. When she pulled back the shower curtain, she saw the mouse. After chasing it around the bathroom trying to capture it in a plastic dixie cup, it ran past her into my office. Elvis, being the complete slug that he is, sat and watched the whole thing, and even moved out of it's way as the mouse ran past him. Priscilla hid in the bedroom. Worthless cats.

One of the first things I did when I learned of the mouse was check our beautiful cheese that we put up to age. No mouse meddling there. Whew. We've seen no sign of the mouse since we've been home, but we're on high alert. Anyone know of a Mouser 101 school I can ship these worthless cats off to?

I've been busy as a bee making soap. I hope to have a pretty good inventory when I go live with my website to sell it. Last night I made a heavenly smelling Raspberry Lilac. By the end of this weekend, I should have about eight different types of soap curing - something for everyone!

As 2007 winds down, we look forward to what 2008 will bring us here on the homestead. I hope it doesn't involve snow, ice, or mice.

Bee Free,

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Our Christmas Trees

With no children in our house, the fact that we travel to my parent's at Christmas, and with two cats that are obsessed with anything that dangles, we no longer put up a Christmas Tree. But it seems Mother Nature provided us with several this year, complete with icicles:

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The first couple of picture were taken just at daybreak. Very pretty and it's especially easy to appreciate because it's only on the higher branches, which means the ground is only wet. And we didn't get it as bad as they called for. I hope it stays that way.

It looks like we only lost one tree in the yard. If you look very closely in these pictures, you may be able to see a downed tree in these pictures. It's up at the tree line to the right of the big tree in the middle of the first picture - and to the left in the second picture. We haven't been down the driveway yet, so I'm not sure if there are any down across the road yet. The next couple of days will be interesting when the high winds get here. We typically lose a few trees when the ground is wet and then high winds come in.

This morning we'll enjoy the view of decorated trees that Mother Nature has provided. I sure hope she doesn't get angry and pummel us with a mess.

Bee Free,

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Run Down

I tried writing in this blog for the past two nights, and just couldn't seem to get my thoughts together or my heart into it. Well, there's nothing better than watching The Rock to get your old ticker humming again - and tonight we watched him in "The Run Down". Great movie. Lots of action, humor, character, and ...well... The Rock!!! Without tyring to get all movie critic on you, I'll just say this movie is basically about a man who does what he has to do to win back his freedom and persue his dreams, without compromising his character and integrity. But when it comes right down to it, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. It's a great movie for a lot of different reasons. Did I mention The Rock stars in it? Wow.

Other than the trip to the dump, I think it's been three weeks since I left the homestead. Well, I finally took the plunge today and headed into town to get my hair colored. I also brought two dozen of my Smelly Jelly room fresheners in to the shop to sell them. And sell them they did. Before I even left, half were gone! Woo hoo! I made up another couple dozen when I got home for Bernie to take them this week.

Bernie hurt his back some how. I suspect it was either from that huge oak he grounded, chopped, and split - or from dragging around and hanging those mega huge deer Eddie gave us. At any rate, his feeble attempt to hide it last weekend did not escape me and I nagged him into taking it a little easier this week. He took care of a lot of things around the house that didn't involve him acting like Hercules and using his back, and I'm proud to report his back seems to be much better now. He informs me he'll be ready to tackle all the work outside next week. Which is good. He's happier when he's out and about - and that translates into me being happier. So it's a win/win situation.

I've been a soap making fool the past week. I made a batch of unscented bar soap for Bernie that I cleverly named "Nekkid Bernie". Hey - cut me some slack. What I lack for in clever labels, I make up for in wonderful soap. I also made a batch of "Macaroon" soap, which is a blend of chocolate and coconut fragrance oils. Tomorrow I'm making "Mango Papaya" soap - using shea butter and mango butter. I have a few others planned for this week and that means within about a month they should all be cured and I can finally put up a webpage with bath products. This Christmas season has kept me busy keeping the shops in stock, but I'm excited to get the webpage going so those of you that have asked to order it online can finally do that.

By the way - you do know the difference between "naked" and "nekkid" don't you? Naked is when you don't have any clothes on. Nekkid is when you don't have any clothes on, and you're up to no good.....

We're cold, but safe and happy on the homestead. There's a winter storm brewing and indications are that we may get iced in tonight. I ain't complaining.

Bee Free,

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Count Down Until Christmas

Well, it's getting close to Christmas and that means it's time for our annual 600 mile holiday pilgrimage to my parent's home - and that means the time is getting short to get all the Christmas gifts together. I've outdone myself this year. I AM FINISHED! Really, I am. And this year each and every gift is home made. Every stinkin' one of them.

We've established just how much I enjoy the whole obligatory gift giving tradition, but since I've started giving home made gifts, I find it's a lot less hateful, and I even find myself in a good mood over it. At least with a home made gift, chances are slim I'll find it in my sister's garage, where she stages everything that is headed out to Good Will and where I've found many of my previous Christmas gifts to her. She may throw it away, but I'll never know about it.

I still have some home made butter to make for my mother, but I dont' want to do that until right before we go. I want it to be as fresh as possible. And don't worry - I didn't spoil the surprise by typing this on my blog. My mother is about the only person I know that doesn't read my blog. If that doesn't tell you how bad I suck at blogging, I don't know what does. My own mother. Geesh.

Hey, we finally waxed our cheddar cheese and put it up to age. Feast your eyes on this gorgeous hunk of red heaven:

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We've been busy cutting up a couple of deer that a friend gave us. I don't know where he shot these deer, but they were freaking enormous! We got the largest backstrap we have ever seen out of the buck. That's gonna be some good eating.

My Dear John just had some surgery on his wrist yesterday, so he hasn't been able to email me today about how much I stink at blogging. I thought it might be a pleasant surprise for him to get two whole blog entries from me within just a couple of days of each other. Plus it might keep him busy for five minutes or so to give his poor wife a break.

That's it for now from the homestead. Oh - and by the way, I am keeping my vow to step outside at least once a day. It is, however, going on two weeks since I left this place or have gone any further than the mailbox. Bernie's making noise about forcing me to ride with him to the dump tomorrow. I think he worries people will think he must have killed me and buried me in the middle of this 65 acres. Not that he cares what people think - he just doesn't want them snooping around the property.

Bee Free,

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Snow - Do I Really Have to be Included in This?

I think I've mentioned before that I'm not a cold weather person. I really just don't care for cold weather. Not only do I really dislike bundling up in clothing, cold weather is.... well... cold. Not a big fan of cold.

But it's cold on the homestead today. And it's snowing. Snow is really pretty if you are on the inside looking out. But I don't like actually being in the snow. Not only is it wet, it's.... well.... cold.

Everyone in this house handled this snowy day differently. Elvis handled it like this:

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Priscilla handled it like this:

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And Bernie handled it like this:

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Bernie's always showing all of us up by gathering firewood and stuff.

And I handled it by taking pictures in the house and out the windows. The truth is, I did actually venture out. In keeping with my vow to make it outside at least one time a day during this winter, I decided to get all brave and stuff and wander down to the mailbox to check the mail.

Our mailbox is at the bottom of our driveway - which is about 1/4 of a mile. It's ordinarily a nice walk, so I decided I would bundle up and head on down there. All by myself. I was in a pretty good mood as I put on my snow boots. By the time I got them laced up, I was starting to get a little annoyed. The are bulky and cumbersome, and as I tried to put my snow suit on over top of the boots, my mood was deteriorating. By the time that ordeal was over, I was starting to sweat and get pretty irritated. I finally managed to cram my hands in my gloves and get the stinkin' top of them over my sleeves. As I put my hat on, it got hung up on my pony tail. I squished it on and loudly announced "Well THIS is fun!!" as I stormed out the door.

As I walked along in the winter wonderland, looking at beauty of our woods covered in a white blanket, and listening to snow gently hitting the tree limbs as it floated to the ground, I couldn't help but wonder why the hell I was outside in this mess! But in truth, my spirit lifted with each step and pretty soon I was skipping right along with a song in my heart. OK, maybe I wasn't skipping, and the song was likely me wheezing as I huffed it up the hilly drive, but still, I did get in a better mood.

Our mailman is unpredictable and unreliable on a good day, so I have no idea why I expected a snowy day like today would be any different. He had not shown up yet. I closed the mailbox and started back to the house. About halfway up the drive, I saw Bernie walking down towards me. He probably figured I was in such a foul weather mood that I would throw myself in front of the first car that passed down our desolate road and he came to check on me. We stood and watched the snow for a few minutes and then headed back to the house. I threw a snowball at him and ran in to the comfort of our fireplace. Which is where I plan to stay until all this snow melts.

Bernie did head out early this morning to do a little turkey hunting. But apparently the turkeys don't like snow either, and stayed holed up the whole time he was out there. He came in looking like the Abominable Snowman, but he looked happy, if not a little disappointed.

Hey - here's a picture of the cheese we're making. It's been sitting for about three days growing it's rind. In a day or so we'll dip it in wax and get it started curing. You can't really tell in this picture, but it weighs about two pounds:

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That's a good looking cheese right there now!

We're safe and sound on our homestead and watching the snow from the windows right now. We have a nice fire going and are hunkered down for the evening. I can't wait until spring.

Bee Free,

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Smile and Say Cheese!

We made cheese today! Well, I guess it's more truthful to say we are in the process of making cheese. We decided to start off with a cheddar cheese, and the process takes a little while. Right now we have cheese that's being pressed with 20 pounds for 12 hours. Then we'll turn the cheese and press it another 12 hours. Then it will sit on the counter for three to five days until it develops a rind. Then we'll dip it in wax and cure it for a few months. And THEN we'll have cheese! Whew. After all that it better taste good. We may start a Gouda cheese this week and see how that turns out.

Bernie took care of an oak that got half blown over by a storm last year. It was huge and came up by the roots. It got hung up in a few trees and was perched precariously above the spot he intended to run our fence through. So he and the backhoe and a chainsaw took care of that little problem. Only it wasn't little - and he's been sawing and splitting wood from that monster all week. We'll have enough firewood from that puppy to keep us warm for a month or so.

The weather has turned cold, and I've spent very, very little time outside. I am just not a cold weather person. I force myself to walk outside at least once a day just to get some air and discourage Bernie from accusing me of being a complete and total hermit. But those trips usually involve me stepping off the porch, shivering, and then running back inside. Besides, I have lots to keep me busy inside this time of year. Like writing to you on this blog.

For those of you still wondering what to do with all that left-over Thanksgiving turkey, here's a quick, easy, and delicious recipe:

Turkey Tetrazzini

6 oz. spaghetti, cooked
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. flour
2 2/3 c. chicken broth
1 c. cream
1/4 c. sherry (or wine)
1 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste
1/2 lb. mushrooms
1/2 c. chopped green peppers
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. garlic
2 cups chopped, cooked turkey

In large pot, saute onion, green peppers, and garlic in butter. Add flour and whisk while slowly stirring in chicken broth. Add wine, cream, seasonings, cheese, turkey, and mushrooms. Place cooked spaghetti in bottom of baking dish and top with tetrazzini mixture. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.

If you don't have a lot of people to feed, or you're not into leftovers, you may want to cut the recipe in half.

It's supposed to rain all day tomorrow. I may not even get the chance to run outside and take a breath of fresh air. Maybe I'll take some pictures of our cheese for y'all to look at.

Bee Free,

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Skinny on Making Soap and Churning Butter

I've had several people contact me about how to make soap and about the butter churner I bought off of EBay. I've been answering each individually, but this morning there were two seperate emails with the same question, so I thought it might be a good idea to give some info here on those questions.

First - the butter churner. When I started looking for a butter churner, I had three things in mind: 1) I wanted a hand crank churner 2) I wanted a glass churner and 3) I wanted a Dazey Churner. I really had no particular reasons for this, other than I wanted glass so I could see what is happening when I churn,I wanted a Dazey because that's really the only old, glass churner I've really ever heard about, and I wanted a hand crank because you know, being all into getting self sufficient and everything, I didn't want it to depend on electricity. I paid $50 for it. Here's a picture:

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She's a beauty and cranks out some really awesome butter. I highly recommend her. Only she's not for sale. But I highly recommend one of her siblings.

As for soap making, I never bought a book on the subject. I never even thought about making soap until I started reading about other people having fun making soap. I can't stand when people have fun without me, so I decided I needed to get in on it. I started looking all over the internet and finding out about making soap. Two excellent resources are the Soap Making forum on HomesteadingToday and Mullers Lane Farm. And, of course, I have a page up on the Back to Basic Living website with step by step instructions and a basic soap recipe for beginners.

I found the most difficult part of soap making was finding the lye needed. After ordering from several places, I found Ace Hardware had the best deal - I order it by the case.

If you have other questions about butter churning or soap making, please don't hesitate to ask. I'm no expert, but I can either answer your question, or point you to someone who can.

Speaking of soap, here are a couple of pictures of my Sinfully Decadant Chocolate soap with swirls:

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Ah - just gorgeous! This next picture is the same batch, but I ran out of the chocoate swirl. I think it came out really pretty, but I wanted more chocolate swirl:

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OK - time to go cook up a couple of nice steaks for supper. Bernie bought Live Free or Die Hard and we're going to watch it tonight while we eat. It's not Movie Saturday or anything, but we like to be spontaneous and adventurous on occasion. This is about as spontaneous and adventurous as it gets around here. Woo hoo!

Live Free,

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Ramblings

Hope you each had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We sure did. Tex and Charlotte spent the day with us and we ate a huge meal. Afterwards the guys went out and shot their guns a while and Charlotte joined them to test out her new 9MM. I stayed in the house with my buddy Bobo, as he is terrified of loud noises. Bobo ate a fair amount too, and we spent a little time trying to figure out whose belly was bigger, his or mine. In the end, he won - but I assured him it looks good on him. He looked a little hurt, but I gave him another piece of turkey and he seemed to get over it pretty quick. I would LOVE to have a dog like Bobo. He's really smart, well mannered, and fun to be around - and most of all he seems to really like me.

I took a couple of days off work for Thanksgiving, so I have a gloriously long weekend. It's been wonderful. Bernie has been on a perpetual long weekend since he quit his job, but he works so hard around here I'm afraid he doesn't feel like he's on vacation. He does take a break from most of his outside work and spend time with me when I take vacation though. He's been working on getting all his guns cleaned while I putter around the house. Today I made a really nice batch of Sinfully Decadent Chocolate soap. Wow, it smells wonderful - almost as good as the home made chocolate cake I made for Thanksgiving. I may have to put a warning sign on it that it's not edible. I tried my hand at swirling it again, so we'll see how it turns out.

It's Friday night and we all know that means it's Pizza-Beer-and-a-Movie-Night here on the homestead. Yee Haw! Even the cats are excited - and they hate pizza, beer, and our taste in movies.

Bee Free,

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Mmmmmmmmmm.... Butter........

We finally had some time to sit down and do some good ol' butter churning. We churned and churned, and then stopped and peaked. It looked the same. So we churned and churned some more, and then stopped and peaked. No visible changes. Hmmmm. We were starting to think we were churn challenged, when all of a sudden, the churner seized up. We had butter! Beautiful, yellow, deliciously delicious butter! Feast your eyes on this photo. Try not to drool all over your keyboard.

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The next time we make it, I'll be sure to get pictures of the whole process and put them up on the website. Churning butter by hand is really not difficult. The whole process took us about 30 minutes. The butter that we ended up with was well worth it. The flavor is so much more vibrant than what we buy in the stores.

Many people have questioned why we are choosing to do things the old timey hard way on our homestead. I can not argue that it is more convenient and many times less expensive to buy most items at a store in town. But what I will tell you is that when you make it yourself you know what you are getting - whether it's food, soap, or anything else. And what you gain in convenience, you lose in quality in most cases. Not to mention the feeling of being self reliant.

Here's another one of my latest creations. It was born out of a flub up. I made a batch of cinnamon soap that I was not happy with. So I grated it up, and threw it in a nice batch of cinnabun fragranced CP soap I made. Look - it's a confetti soap!

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And it smells wonderful!

Little by little, we are getting back to the basics of living. And it feels great. Life is so less complicated when you just focus on living day to day and enjoying each minute you have. We are probably busier now than we've ever been. And we are loving every second of it.

Life is tough. But living doesn't have to be.

Bee Free,

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Homesteading is Fun - but not Always

Well, we went to check on our bee hives yesterday and were really devastated to learn we have now lost all of them. We're very sad, but determined to learn from it all and start again next year. You can read about it on The Bee Buzz.

As depressing as it was to learn we lost all our hives, one thing is certain on a homestead - life must go on. We have so much to do we really do not have time to focus on failures. We have to move ahead and continue to establish ourselves here.

Bernie started working on the fence for the cleared area where the house is. I am SO happy. As I mentioned in my previous post, a fence means we can have a garden and get goats and chickens - along with a couple of dogs to discourage wild life from getting too close to any of it. He amazed me with what all he's accomplished in the past couple of days. The posts for the upper part of the yard are all in place. He still needs to put in corner posts, but I am quite pleased that it's coming right along! Our ground is mostly rock, so I expected it would take him much longer. But Bernie is nothing if not tenacious about things like this. We'll have a fence before you know it!

Even after working on the fence all day, Bernie was more than willing to help me put together a little composter. When we lived in town, he built me a really nice composter out of boards and chicken wire. That thing was great! When we moved to the homestead he and Tex promised to make me a turnable composter out of a 55 gallon drum, and I know that one day they will. But with so many things to do around here, I figured my turnable composter is pretty low on the list, so I wanted to start a simple one to make due until they have time to build me another. I put a page up on the Back to Basic Living website, with step by step instructions on how we built it. Check it out!

I also started a batch of sour dough starter. There's nothing like home made sour dough. Making a starter is easy and requires little more than a water or milk and some flour. I've done this before, but it's been a while. I was inspired by TxCloverAngel on Homesteading Today. If you're interested, check out her post. She started hers with milk, and I started mine with water. I'll be interesting to see how it all turns out.

And if you've been wondering about that last batch of grape Prison Wine I started, well, it's going along GREAT! It's been bubbling and fermenting for over two weeks. I should be able to bottle it in another couple of weeks. Prison Wine really rocks! But you probably won't remember that after a glass or two......

Bee Free,

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Things are Churning on the Homestead

I bought an old antique butter churner on EBay today. The chic I bought it from swears she's been using it and it's in good condition. She just wrote me and thanked me for my prompt payment and will be shipping it tomorrow. Soon I'll be a butter churning fool. We'll be eating fat laded, artery clogging, calorie packing, eye-rolling, pure unadulterated butter. Yum. I can't wait.

We went to the polls tonight and cast our votes. I was quite pleased to learn that our county offers either electronic or paper ballots. I'm all about paper ballots. I'm a computer programmer by profession, and no one knows better than I that a program is only as good as the programmer - and a lot of that depends on the kind of day the programmer is having. I don't always have a good programming day. Not to mention the vulnerability to computer hacking. Don't get me wrong - I love what computers offer us. But give me good ol ' pen and paper to cast my vote. Of course I had to feed my paper into a machine and a stinking computer read the vote, but at least I wrote my vote on paper,darnit. I stand proud. When we voted at 2:30 this afternoon over 500 people had written their votes on paper ballots. That's pretty darn impressive considering I don't think there are many more than 500 of us that are registered to vote at that fire hall.

We're getting ready to fence in our yard, get a couple of yard dogs, and start building the raised beds for our garden next spring. Pretty exciting stuff for me. A fence means more than just a garden - it also means I'll get my chickens and goats soon. And that means more food for us. It will bring us just a little closer to self sufficiency - and if you've read the news lately you can certainly appreciate our desire to be self sufficient. With US currency in true jeopardy, gas prices reaching astronomical prices, all manner of food being constantly recalled for contamination, well..... you get the idea.

So plant your garden and buy your butter churner today! Even if the world as we know it doesn't end tomorrow, you don't want to miss the fun and rewards of taking care of yourself.

Bee Free,

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I'd Like to Think This Wasn't By Accident

Well, I cut my Coffee Soap today. Remember that I was convinced it was globbed instead of swirled? Well, guess what? It's swirled!!! Or maybe more like marbled - but none-the-less, it's not globbed. Look!

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And even though it's made with coffee, I added cocoa for the swirl, and now it smells just like a brownie!

I'd like to think I knew what I was doing, but the truth is, I think I was just lucky. But that's pretty much how my life goes. I just plunge ahead and bumble along and some how things work out. I guess that's because I'm just too hopeful to imagine it ending any other way. Bernie and I are both like that.

I guess there's truth in the old saying "Ignorance is bliss". We are ignorant, and we are blissful. There are worse things to be.

Bee Free,

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Random Stuff We've Been Up To

This blog and our website have been such great experiences for us. I started the website because when we first considered homesteading, I found lots of site about people who were homesteading, but very few that explained how they got started with it. I figured we were bumbling our way through it, and maybe someone could learn from the mistakes we make as we go and the stuff we do right. I never dreamed we would make so many new friends, and hook up with so many old friends we had lost touch with. It's been great! Now if we could only get our families to look at it...... they'd rather call and ask "So what have you been up to? Anything new on your website?"

I think I told y'all that Senator Obenshain asked us to get a bunch of bikers together and ride in a parade for him the second weekend in October. Senator Obenshain has been a great friend to us, and we love riding, so we got a crew together and made him proud. Here's a group shot at the end of it. If you've ever been around bikers you know that trying to get them in one place in one time is as easy as nailing jello to a tree, so this picture is missing a few. But it's a nice picture anyway, so I'll post it here:

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I also posted some additional pictures on the VFR website. Check them out!

We were having a lot of trouble with yellow jackets robbing honey in one of our hives. We ended up screening in the bottom entrance, so the girls would all use the top entrance and hopefully be able to ward off the predators a little better. Well, they were still struggling. So I put out some wasp traps that I hope will give the girls a little break. I talk about how to make the traps on The Bee Buzz if you are interested in reading it.

Tonight I made some coffee soap that is supposed to be great at getting rid of cooking smells (like onion, garlic, fish) off your hands. I have always wanted to make those pretty swirl soaps, but I never had much confidence that I could actually do it, so I didn't try. Well, tonight I decided to give it a shot. I made the swirl color out of cocoa powder. The coffee soap is a dark tan, so I thought the deep cocoa color would be pretty in it. And it probably would. But I learned what I suspected all along. I am swirl challenged. So instead of swirled soap, I have blobbed soap. But it really smells nice. I'm hoping when I take it out of the mold tomorrow and cut it, it won't look as bad as it does in the mold. But did I mention it smells really nice?

Bee Free,

Friday, October 26, 2007

I Should Come with a Warning Sign - and Read it!

I've never been accused of being graceful. In fact, I'm rather known for being clumsy. I try to be careful, but it just doesn't seem to help all the time.

Tonight I was in the kitchen, excited to cut the soap I made two days ago and haven't had time to take out of the molds yet. This is some Orange Cranberry soap that smells out of this world - and I made it extra moisturizing, which explains why it was so difficult to get out of the wooden mold I use. It will definitely harden up as it cures over the next few weeks, but right now it is still very soft - and it was sticking something fierce to the wooden mold. The mold comes completely apart - each side and piece of it is individually fitted together and held with bolts. Well, I removed all the bolts, but the sides were still all stuck to the mold. I pulled and tugged to no avail. Finally, I grasped one end with one hand and held it to the counter, and with the other hand I pulled like crazy on the top. And it came loose. With a bang. And as my hand snatched it upward, I managed a glancing blow to my right eyebrow with the edge of it.

I saw stars. I recollect that I calmly said "Oh my gosh." Bernie recollects that I screamed "Sh*t!!!!!! At any rate, Bernie came walking in the kitchen and saw me grasping my eyebrow in pain. "Are you ok?" He looked pretty concerned. I was so stunned I could not reply. I removed my hand and grabbed a paper towel. He said "Wow. You got it good. Man! It's already swollen. And now you're bleeding!" I still couldn't really speak, but I managed to mutter "hurts". And then my loving, caring husband said "Thank goodness you don't leave here much. People would think I hit you or something. You better plan to stay home a while."

I managed to stumble to the bathroom and look at the damage I inflicted upon myself. I did a pretty good job. I'm fairly certain I'm going to end up with a black eye. I popped two ibuprofen, opened a beer, and went back in and finished up cutting the soap. It smells GREAT! And I look like crap. Lucky for Bernie I'm a recluse, I guess.

It's gotten chilly here with all this rain and we started lighting the fire in the fireplace each day. The kittens are fascinated with it. We had a fire place in town, but since we got the kittens, we've owned the homestead and spent weekends here - so we never lit a fire in town and they've never seen one. I'm not sure what they think of it yet. They seem to like staring at it and that keeps them too busy to tear up the house for a few minutes, so I'm pleased with thier fascination.

It's Friday and it's pizza night at the homestead. There's no delivery out here, so I make a nice pizza on Friday nights. Then Bernie and I drink a couple beers, eat our pizza on TV trays, and watch a movie from our DVD collection that we've seen three thousand times before. We are party animals on the homestead for sure.

Bee Free,

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Finding Treasures on the Homestead

It rained all morning and left the world still, cool, dark, and damp. The homestead is pretty on a fall day like this. Well, it's pretty all the time, but this kind of day seems rare and special. I am especially fond of hot weather, but after a long summer, a nice fall day is a welcome respite once in a while.

I worked in my office all day with the window open. Bernie had a bunch of stuff to do in town and he got home about the time I logged off for the day. We decided to take a walk through the woods, so I grabbed my metal detector. I've never found anything of value with it really - but I have found some neat stuff around here. Once I found an old metal belt buckle, bullet casings, pop tops, nails, and some pieces of old tools and equipment long gone. Today I didn't have any better luck. I discovered an old piece of metal off of heaven knows what, several pieces of the old barb wire fence, and the steel toe of my boot several times and Bernie's a couple. I'm still practicing with that thing and not very good yet. Hey, I've only had it a few years.

I finally managed to finish The Bee Buzz website. Well, it's not finished exactly, as I'll be adding to it as time goes on, but it no longer has pages under construction. I added a page on rendering bees wax with step by step instructions and a page that tells you exactly how to make a wax screen. Both are complete with pictures. Check them out!

We'll check on the bees this weekend and see how they're doing. We're rather protective of the only three hives we have left now.

Bee Free,

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Well, this has been a weekend full of just about everything. To make a long story short....

I got a lot of good stuff accomplished. I made two nice batches of cold processed soap - an Orange Cranberry Holiday soap and a Honey Oatmeal soap. Both turned out really nice and full of moisturizing oils. I also made lip balm and filled over 100 tubes. And I started a batch of prison wine.

The bad and the ugly stuff all happened today. We went down to winterize our bee hives and found that two of them had died within the past month. When I say "died", I mean deader than a door nail. We were so shocked and disappointed. There were fine last month when we robbed honey and fine two months ago when the Dept. of Ag. guy came out to inspect them. I wrote all about it on The Bee Buzz if you are interested in reading about it. We are now down to three hives - half of what we started with this year. I could just cry.

So, in a nutshell, that was our weekend. I suppose we always have to take the good with the bad. Being out here on our homestead makes even the worse day a little more tolerable. We have so much to be thankful for that it's really hard to throw a pity party when little things go wrong.

On the upside, while we were working in the apiary we had a couple neighbor ladies from down the road stop by. They were both very friendly and we stood and talked to them quite a while. They told us of a man down the road that also raises bees, and they're going to hook us up with him. One of them owns the chicken farm across the street with her husband and she said they'll certainly work out something with us so we can get chicken poop for fertilizer! The other one said her husband rides a motorcycle and they'd love to ride with us sometime.

There's always a silver lining - even when you have to peel back a few layers to find it!

Bee Free,

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fall on the Homestead - and I'm Ready to Hibernate

The past couple of weeks have really been hectic. We had about 40 bikers here for the TEA (The Extreme Activist) annual party. This is basically a family reunion of sorts for the Biker Republic. It is always intense, educating, and fun. We had a great time and from the first in to the last out, it lasted almost a week. We are exhausted. It's taken us all week to clean up - even though every one did a great job of cleaning up after themselves, we still had shelters to tear down, dishes to do, stuff to put away, trash to haul off, etc.

And someone, whose name I won't mention (Spotman), left me more than just memories. Death Flu. I have been sick as a dawg all week. Friends and family are wonderful - but they have germs. And they aren't afraid to share.

So we are finally all alone on the homestead and I'm feeling well enough to drag my tired body to the computer keyboard. It's fall now - the trees are just bursting with color. Bernie cut firewood the past two days. He's gotten quite a lot accomplished, but informed me he's no where near finished. Here's what he's got so far:

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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

He's got some stacking to do, but I'm seeing lots of toasty evenings in front of the fire with cats!

We're starting to plan the garden for next year. Early spring will be lettuce, onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots, and radishes. We'll bring out our horseradish in the next week or so and get that planted too. The summer garden will be tomatoes, squash, corn, cucumbers, snap beans, green peppers, banana peppers, jalapenos, habenaros, Tabasco peppers, and maybe some okra. That's as far as we've gotten so far.

Soon it will be rifle season for deer - and turkey. We have seen plenty of both here in the yard this year. I'd love to see plenty of both in our freezer.

The bees are fabulous - the girls routinely find their way up to the house to visit with us. I swear they just come to say hello - it's all I can do to keep from just kissing their little wings right off them. This weekend we'll put on the hive reducers, remove the supers, and start feeding everyone. They've done a great job this year. They deserve a little break as the cold weather rolls in.

Bee Free,

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Bernie Learns the True Meaning of Early Retirement

I may have told y'all that when we first decided to move to the Homestead permanently, one of the many things Bernie promised to take care of around the house, was to do things like get groceries, while I continued to work from home. I have to say, he has exceeded my expectations and done an absolutely superb job of taking care of everything while I work from home. I could not be more pleased. But I'm afraid today he got a very realistic idea of what all this truly means.

Early in the morning he told me he was going to the hardware store and to the grocery store, and asked if there was anything I would like to add to his lists of things to get. We discussed it and he made his lists and took off, cell phone on his hip. About 30 minutes after he left, I realized I need a "personal hygiene" item. I really hated to call him about it, but when living 20 minutes form the closest grocery store, I knew I had to ask him to pick it up.

So I called him on the cell phone and said "Hey honey, are you in the grocery store yet?" He said "No. I'm in the hardware store. Why"?

"Well, because I just realized I need something. Will you please pick me up some...." And then I gave him, in painstaking detail, the description, name, and brand of what I needed. But what he heard was "Well, I've picked today to humiliate you by asking you to pick up the most embarrassing item any man has ever bought in this entire county." I know that's what he heard because after about 10 seconds of dead silence he responded with "You're kidding me, right?" *sigh*

After a few moments of assuring him I really needed it and would not ask him if things were not approaching critical mast, I finally said "Just write down exactly what I told you I need - you'll find it right away" - to which he shouted in a very loud whisper "HONEY - I'M IN THE MIDDLE OF A HARDWARE STORE!!!!!"

So he didn't write it down - and I was shocked and pleased when he came home with exactly what I asked for! I asked him if it was as bad as he expected and he said "No. Not at all. There was a woman in the aisle when I got there, so I hung out until she left. Then I grabbed them and left." What a wonderful husband!

When I logged off from work today, I was itching to get outside. It was so beautiful today - low 80s and no humidity. I had to get out and enjoy it. So we took a walk through the woods. We found two old shelters that had fallen many years ago, an old, dilapidated rock fence, and several new deer trails. We also found two huge patches of blueberry bushes I'll be visiting next season. We had a really nice time just rambling about the homestead. Then we sat on the cabin porch for a while and enjoyed a beer while talking about evolution and wondering why the chicken farmer across the way has so much trouble with his fans.

Tomorrow Bernie is running wires so he can put in a couple of 40 amp receptacles outside. Yesterday he chopped firewood all day. I know he's busier now than he's ever been, but he's happy. And that makes me happy! Well, that and the fact that he buys all the groceries and other necessities these days ;-)

Bee Free,

Monday, October 01, 2007

Oh Deer!

It's that time of year, and the deer are really starting to move on the homestead. We could barely look out a window today without seeing a deer or two. Last night we saw two bucks lock horns on the side of the house. They are truly fascinating and beautiful creatures.

We've had a couple of mamas coming with babies to munch acorns in the yard throughout the summer. The babies are big now - no more spots. But they still hang with mama. One mother in particular has peaked our interest. She has a deformed or injured front leg. It doesn't seem to slow her down much though. She has two daughters that are always with her. One of them has a scar on her side. We've been watching them all summer. They now come right up to the windows. It drives our cats wild. They're not quite sure what to think. This morning one of the babies came right up to the window of the room I use as an office. Elvis and Priscilla were sitting in the window, quietly watching. Then all of a sudden the deer looked up and stared at them. The cats looked shocked! The three of them just stared at each other for about two minutes, and then the deer just started grazing again and wandered off - with two set of cat eyes watching her the whole way.

Bernie managed to get a few pictures of them through the window tonight. Here's one of Gimp Mama and her babies:

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Gimp Mama is the one on the far right. Cute as little buttons. No question they will end up on some one's table by the end of hunting season. Maybe even ours. But that's the way nature intended it. And before we butcher any animal, we take time to reflect on cycle of life and appreciate that this animal lived a beautiful life, and now provides sustenance for our lives. I believe that shows far more respect for these wonderful creatures than what is shown for the animals that provide the meat bought in a grocery store.

We'll continue watching in awe as animals travel across our homestead. We will also take care not to take any of the young ones when deer hunting is in season. We'd rather allow them to grow up and procreate.

Other than our Extreme Deer Watching, Bernie has been busy as a beaver on his back hoe. He's just about got that bucket fixed. I've been working and then walking around identifying trees. We discovered this afternoon that we have a Persimmon Tree on our property - and it's full of delicious fruit. The fruit is just becoming ripe, and I intend to can a few jars of it in the coming weeks. Thank the stars for Bernie's extension ladder!

The bees are doing great. We watched them for quite a while this afternoon. I could just kiss their little wings right off of them!

Bee Free,

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

OHMYGOSH - I'm Becoming a Recluse!

Thanks to My Dear John and Thunder Roads Beth, I realize that I have been remiss in writing to this blog. My Dear John was convinced that Bernie and I had developed Cabin Fever and killed each other.

Apparently, this blog is not the only form of communication I've been neglecting. After about two weeks on the homestead my dear husband informed me that I stand in danger of becoming downright unsociable. He sited the example that I had only left the homestead once in two weeks - and that was to go to the dump. And I went unwillingly and under duress.

But I LIKE being here! I like Bernie being here with me. And I have a really hard time understanding why I should leave it. I mean Bernie has been taking care of everything here while I work in my office and he's great company when I'm not working. We have food, each other, beer, lots of honey, and constant entertainment watching the wildlife and walking through the woods, so it's difficult to think of any good reason I should leave here.

But there is no excuse for not keeping in touch, and I do apologize for that. I pretty much suck at blogging.

Things are going really well for us right now. Bernie is busier than a one armed wall paper hanger taking care of this place and moving us out of our home in town. He's been spending a lot of time getting the back hoe bucket repaired. I like it best when he works around here and I can hear him in the background as I work from my office. It's comforting. And it's also the only time I know for certain I'll get fed during the day. I've been busy with working from home during the day, and getting bath products to sell made in the evenings. And then there's always the view outside that demands attention......

Tonight we took the Trail Blazer up the Road Less Traveled and sat on a fallen tree and listened to the rain beat on the canopy above us. We sat there quite a while. Together. Silent. Listening. Watching. Finally the rain made it down to us and we went on to the house.

We are busy - and we are happy. We are finally taking time to enjoy every day. And we are enjoying each other more than ever. I guess you kind of have to do that when you live in the middle of 65 acres and refuse to leave it.

Oh - and Hersey, you don't have to be crazy to live on the side of a mountain. But it sure as hell helps.

Bee Free,

Monday, September 17, 2007

Busy as Bees on the Homestead

The past couple weeks have been very busy here on the homestead. Between moving, house guests, a biker event, and making soap, bath gels, and bath salts, we've been happily realizing our dream of living on this beautiful homestead.

I've had two businesses agree to sell my home made bath products and they seem quite excited about it. I made a big batch of oatmeal honey bar soap last week and set it on the rack to cure for the next six weeks or so. I'm pretty excited about this recipe, as I came up with it all on my own and attempted to make a very moisturizing, lathery soap - and I used the honey from our hives. We'll see how it turns out in a few weeks.....

I hope to have a page up on The Bee Buzz website soon to sell my products in the next few weeks. I'll let y'all know when I do that.

Bernie still doesn't really feel that he's quit work. Probably because he's working so much around here. He gets up early and gets busy right away. It amazes me how much he's accomplished in the past two weeks. I have noticed a big difference in him though. He's much more relaxed and layed back - almost to the point of annoyance. I mean he's always been fairly calm, but now he doesn't seem to get riled about much of anything around here. If I take off on a rant about what a mess the house is with this move, he volunteers to stay home the next day and clean it. When I got worried about one of the cats not acting right, he told me to make an appointment and he took her in to the vet. He's never taken an animal to the vet without me. He HATES taking cats to the vet! At least the "old" Bernie hated it. The "new" Bernie just loaded her up and took off. He even does the dishes now without me saying a word. And he puts them away when they are dry. Weird. It is down right weird. But I do think I can get used to this.

The bees seem to be doing really well, although there is another hive we are now concerned about. We'll take it apart next weekend and be sure the queen is ok. I hope this cool weather is to blame for the inactivity in that hive. We'll find out this weekend.

Life is good on the homestead. And it only gets better and better.

Bee Free,

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Has it Been a Week Already?

Wow. Yesterday was one week since we permanently moved out to our homestead. The week flew by. I helped Bernie move on Monday, and then worked from home Tuesday through Friday. Fortunately, they keep me pretty busy at work, so it makes the work day go by quickly. By the time I finish (somewhere between 2PM and 3PM), Bernie is home from moving stuff from our home in town and he and I get busy unpacking or doing one of the other 5,000 things on our list of stuff that needs to get done. I didn't leave the homestead all week long. And I never even thought about that until Bernie mentioned it today. I never even missed it.

One day last week Bernie stayed home and unpacked a couple of rooms on his own. Man, that was great! Not only did I love knowing he was here as I worked from my office, but he served me breakfast and lunch at my computer. I actually felt a little guilty. I'm usually the one that takes care of him that way. But he assured me he is fine with it. He's really getting a lot done and I would actually rather be working that doing what he's doing. It's a lot of work - and none of it fun.

Tomorrow we plan on working a little around the house in the morning, and then Bernie will watch football all afternoon. That's fine by me - I plan on making some bath gel, bath salts, bath bombs, and lip balm from bees wax that a couple of businesses in local towns are selling for me. If I can find a few minutes to put together a website, I'll be selling them there soon. I'll be sure to let you know the website address.

The cats, Bernie, and I have settled in to living on the homestead quite nicely. I'm not sure who enjoys looking out these windows the most. We've had a cat in a window since we got here - and Bernie and I are constantly looking out one window or the other in complete awe. What a nice view of the world. I prefer it.

Bee Free,

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Choose Your Friends Wisely

Bernie and I have not always made wise choices, but I have to tell you that choosing Tex and Charlotte as friends was certainly the wisest thing we've ever done. I guess the truth is we didn't really "choose" them, it just happened. And we thank the heavens every day for that friendship.

If you've kept up with this blog for any time at all, you've read about Tex and Charlotte fairly often. If you've looked over the Back to Basic Living website, you've read and seen a lot about Tex there. Tex and Charlotte have always been there for us, and we've tried to always be there for them.

We didn't ask anyone to help with our move, and when it came time, it was really not surprising that Tex and Charlotte were the only people to call and ask if they could help. So they met us at our home in town with a pickup truck and a 16 foot trailer. Bernie had his pickup and a 14 foot trailer. We started packing up and moving around 8AM. I consider myself a hard worker, but I have to tell you, Tex and Charlotte liked to have worked me to death.

Anytime I wanted to take a break Charlotte would say "We don't have much time Miss Penny, we need to do what we can." I was overwhelmed with this move. Twenty years worth of hoarding crap and a 3400 square foot home stuffed full of it just left me bewildered at how in the world we would ever get all of it out of there. I wanted to ball up in a corner and cry. But those two kept us moving and before long we had the lion's share of it packed up and loaded. We started at 8AM and unloaded the last of it at 8PM. Charlotte had a room to paint at home, so she headed back a little earlier. But we cooked up a nice stew for Tex and he ate dinner with us and took some leftovers for Charlotte. He didn't get home until after 10PM.

We woke up this morning barely able to move. Even my toenails are sore. I had to log in and work all day and I was actually happy for the break. Bernie worked at getting us unpacked all day and got a good dent in it. He even served me breakfast and lunch at my computer. How romantic is that? I managed to unpack a small portion of my office this afternoon.

Little by little we're getting there. It will take a while longer, and Tex and Charlotte have volunteered for the next big load we move out. We have so many things to be thankful for. Tex and Charlotte are no small part of that. Even if they are slave drivers, they make helluva good friends.

Bee Free,

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Loving Life on the Homestead

We're really enjoying the feeling of being on our homestead permanently. My Dear John wrote to tell me that this euphoric feeling will pass as soon as the burden of responsibility takes hold - but I have news for you, My Dear John. As much as I know you are absolutely right, you are not going to rain on my parade! I am going to take advantage of this feeling for as long as I can convince it to last.

We robbed honey from the bees yesterday and ended up with 77 pints! We are quite thrilled about that. I can not describe the flavor it adds to a cup of coffee. Possitively exquisite. I wrote all about it on The Bee Buzz blog and even put up a few pictures. Check it out!

Eddie and Gigi came out this morning and spent the whole day helping us get this place ready to start moving stuff from our house in town into it. It was a full day job. Bernie and I are pack-rats and you'd be amazed what we can collect in a year. At any rate, we're all set to start moving tomorrow. Thanks a million Eddie and Gigi! Afterwards Bernie grilled us some burger and dogs over an oak wood fire. We eat good on the homestead.

That's it for now from the homestead. Check out The Bee Buzz blog and think about getting your own hives. They are very little trouble, a simple joy to watch, give you plenty of honey to enjoy, and are so necessary for plant pollination. You'd have a difficult time not falling in love with them.

Bee Free!


Friday, August 31, 2007

Officially Homesteading

Well, Bernie got here around 1:30 this afternoon and made it official. We're homesteading.

The cats settled in pretty well and let me sleep until 5:30 this morning. Elvis woke me up screaming about wanting breakfast. All three cats greeted me right away and today they all act like they've always been here.

After work, Bernie and I rode around the property in the Trail Blazer for a few minutes and then sat around talking about how we can't believe this time has finally come. What a nice feeling.

I rendered the rest of the bees wax and got some pictures. I'll try to get that page up on the website in the next few days.

Bernie went out to see how well the pin stock he bought is going to work as a pin for his backhoe bucket. He and Tex are going to have to fabricate a stop for it and drill a hole in one end for the clevis pin. Sounds like they need to use the pneumatic grinder to get the bucket holes just right. bernie's on top of the world doing that kind of thing.

There really is not too much to write about right now, but I felt I should post something to let y'all know we finally made it. We're here. We're happy. And we've got a lot of work ahead of us!

Bee Free,

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cats Do Not Travel Any Better Than Prison Wine

At least ours don't. I logged off from work at 2:00PM sharp to start gathering cats, kitty litter boxes, cat food, and whatever Bernie and I will need for a few days out at the property before he starts moving us out here all togther.

Unfortunately, the cats just experienced thier pet carriers a few weeks ago when I took them to the vet for shots. It was fresh in thier minds. The minute they saw the carriers, they freaked slap out. Wonderful. Now I have three completely freaked out cats and I have to get each of them in a carrier to transport them. I'll spare you the details, but know that I am not lying when I tell you it was not easy nor was it pleasant.

So I finally got us all loaded up and headed for the homestead. 45 minutes of nothing but extreme yowling. When we finally got here I took them all inside in thier carriers and turned the air conditioning on very cool while I unloaded the rest of the car. Once we were all inside for the night, I opened the carriers and let them take thier time about coming out.

Elvis did very well. He walked around a bit, followed me room to room, purred and acted like he's always been here. The two girls were another story all together. Reba came out right away, but she hissed at me each time she laid eyes on me and ran for a good long while. She yowled for hours on end. She's finally mostly quit that, but she's still not having a whole lot to do with me. Priscilla stayed in her carrier for about an hour and a half before venturing out. She disappeared for about an hour, but has been walking around and even purring recently.

I'm sure we'll all be ok. It will just take a little adjusting. I wish everyone had Elvis' attitude. He's completely settled in and loving life right now. In fact he's sitting in a window staring at the scenery outside as I write.

I have to work tomorrow. I'll get up and logged in before 6AM. Bernie will join me out here about the time I log off. So begins the sequel.......

Pray these freaked out, yowling cats don't keep me awake all night. Prison wine is a snap in hindsight. And I could use a little of it right about now.

Bee Free,

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Count Down Until Full Time Homesteading

Well, we left the homestead today knowing that we only have one more time to leave it! And while it's difficult not to wish the next two weeks away, we have so much to do in that time and so much to enjoy that it will take focus to take it one day at a time.

We left the Paper Wasp nest to hang for another week before we remove it. My Dear John had an excellent suggestion and we'll put it in the freezer for a week or so before dissecting it.

Our big project this weekend was putting a double barrel Weber carburetor on my trike. That may not seem much like homesteading to you, but let me tell you that I would be one mean homesteader without my trike. So anything we do to it should be considered absolutely related to homesteading. The happier my trike is, the happier I am. So you can see, it is all very much related.

Putting on this carburetor involved everything from a simple wrench to a rubber mallet to a sawsall. That motor area is unbelievably tight. Like by buddy Tex explains, it's a jigsaw puzzle. But we got it all disassembled and then put the new carburetor on, only to learn we screwed up on putting the alternator back together. Yes, putting on the carburetor involved removing the alternator. It is indeed a freaking puzzle - so much so that the instructions recommended removing the motor. It probably would have been easier had we done so, but Bernie and I are not known for taking the easy way out, so we just kind of winged it. But while we were winging it with the alternator, we didn't realize it didn't go back together quite right. So we had to mess with that a while. Once that was finished, the Grape Ape fired right up! I did a little jig. Bernie tried to look all "Yea, I knew it would start" but he was grinning like a fool. Very nice! The bad news is that I screwed up the throttle connection to the hand grip when we were testing the pull to the carburetor. Expensive lesson, but I'll buy a new hand grip this week.

Other than that, we just really tried to enjoy our time on the homestead. The bees are doing great and you can read about them on The Bee Buzz. I began rendering beeswax this weekend, and once I am finished I intend to put up a webpage on the process on The Bee Buzz website. I have searched high and low on the internet for step by step instructions, and have yet to find them. Maybe this will help out some other searching soul. I hope to have it up within the next two weeks - complete with pictures.

Bee Free,

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sneaky Little Things on the Homestead

Earlier this summer we were sitting at the picnic bench at the homestead on a fine, summer day with Tex and Charlotte when we became aware of an odd, rather annoying noise. "Scrape. Scrape. Scrape. Scrape." We all looked around. What in the world was making that never ending sound? Finally Charlotte spotted it. It was a Paper Wasp and it had found a piece of cardboard left by the electrician with a schematic drawn on it - it was hanging next to the electric box outside, which was very close to where we were sitting. We watched the wasp work for a while ,and then fly off, only to be replaced by another wasp very quickly. Bobo jumped up to eat it, but we yelled at him and as he opened his mouth, the wasp flew off to safety. We laughed about that a while and then removed the cardboard and allowed Bobo to tear it to shreds. Bobo likes to tear up cardboard.

So fast forward a few months to.... well .... today. Bernie and I spent a couple hours mowing today, and then spent the rest of it working on my trike. We added a two barrel carburetor. She ought to like that pretty well! We'll finish it up in the morning, but we finally reached the point where we could go no further until we visit an auto parts store. So around 4:30PM, we called it quits and came inside to relax a little before cleaning up and eating supper.

Bernie can not relax without turning on a TV, so he did that about the second we walked in the door. I was in the kitchen stirring the spaghetti when I heard him ask "Did we pay the cable bill this month?" By "we", he meant "me". I pay the bills. "Well, of course we paid the cable bill this month. Why?"

He didn't look convinced when he said "Well, we have no cable. The message on the screen says a bunch of stuff that I think means maybe we didn't pay a bill."

"We paid the bill. Maybe that tree foliage got too big. Maybe the dish got out of alignment." I was pretty sure I was not to blame here.

"I'll go outside and look." And Bernie took off outside. I shut off the TV and the dish box and then started them up again. I saw Bernie walking by the window. I opened the window and said "Well, what do you think?" He said "I think you need to come out here. And I think you need to bring your camera." What????? I didn't question him. I grabbed my camera, threw on my sandals and took off outside. I anxiously asked "What is it?" He pointed at the corner of the house, up on the eave and said "Look up there". I expected to see the spot where a meteor had struck our roof and destroyed our satellite dish. Instead, I saw this:

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Paper Wasps! Darn things. And I knew where they had gotten most of that paper from.

Still, we couldn't help but admire the hard work of these creatures. It really is impressive what they can come up with using something as simple as a piece of cardboard:

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And they build those little over-hangs as the entrances/exits. Very impressive indeed. But really not cool to have hanging directly overhead of an area we mow, weed eat, and walk in. So we sprayed them with poison that we hate using. Next weekend we'll remove the nest and dissect it. As much as I am terrified of wasps and hornets, I do admire them. And I'm interested in how they build their abode - although I would highly recommend they do that in one of the thousands of trees we have on our homestead rather than right on our home.

By the way, the cable was fine. When we came inside the satellite had restarted and a nice picture was playing on our TV. I told him I payed that bill.

Bee Free,

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Plan B is in Effect

Well, after trying to sell our home in town for over a year, we've decided to go to Plan B. As much as we had hoped and planned to sell the house and use that money to pay off all debt before we move to our homestead, circumstances have led us to realize that it really makes more sense for us to move forward. Bernie has resigned from his job effective August 31. Three more weeks, and we'll be on our homestead permanently.

I will keep my job for now so that we can continue to meet all of our financial obligations. It will be a little tight, but it is certainly doable. In the meantime, Bernie will slowly move our belongings out to the homestead, and clean and paint our home in town. Maybe it will sell more quickly if it is empty. I'm happy that we'll finally be on our homestead and I can realize my dream of having chickens and goats. Bernie's happy that he'll no longer have to wake up to a 3:15AM alarm clock. We're both happy that we no longer have to remember what food, furniture, tools, and clothing we have at one place or the other. We stay perpetually confused about where our "stuff" is.

It was a nice weekend on the homestead. We went out Thursday night and enjoyed a nice, quiet, relaxing evening. It helped that there was no sign of bears. Then we went to Natural Bridge, VA on Friday for a Governor's Motorcycle Advisory Council meeting that Bernie had. The meetings are open to the public, so I decided to attend since it was being held in such a cool place. If you've never been to Natural Bridge, it's worth visiting. It has been listed as one of the "Natural Wonders" of the world. Very scenic. We rode our bikes down and although I confess to being very partial to Virginia, I will still say that there really is not a more beautiful state. Every state has something to offer, but I think Virginia has it all. And it's so darn pretty.

At any rate, we stayed Friday night at the Natural Bridge Hotel and it was awesome. The hotel is completely biker friendly and the guests just seemed to be there to enjoy life and have a good time. We made new friends from as close as neighboring counties in Virginia and as far away as New York and from other places that we never thought to ask about. Some were bikers and some were not. It was a really super stay in a really beautiful place. I give it four out of five stars - and that's only because the rooms could use just a little renovation.

We arrived back to the homestead Saturday morning and enjoyed a relaxing day. This morning we got up and got busy with the bees again. You can read about it on The Bee Buzz.

We had another great weekend on the homestead - and it only made it more enjoyable realizing that we will only be leaving it two more times before being there permanently! You'll be hearing a lot more from me after that - you lucky dawgs.

Bee Free,

Saturday, August 04, 2007

OK Bears - This Means War

We arrived this weekend to find our spare hive parts torn apart and strewn around. Dadgum bears! I wrote about it and put some pictures up on The Bee Buzz. Today we did an inspection of the apiary and found that someone had been messing around the electric fence. I really hate to give bears a bad name, but there is no question it was a bear that wreaked havoc with that fence. The ground wire was still attached, but hanging and most of the insulator posts were broken - undoubtedly from the pressure of some large butt animal hanging on or tearing at the electric wire.

These bears have about ceased being cute. They may want to talk to the mice around here. I declared war on those little rodents and I won!! I am now officially declaring war on these bears. It is about time for us to start robbing honey and I'll be darned if we'll share it with bears.

On the upside, the girls are doing great! They are buzzing happily about. In fact, several of them are spending a great deal of time up here cleaning up the mess the bear made. I just love these little bees - they are so darn efficient. And cute as little buttons!

We mowed today - early. It was 90 degrees by noon. Then we went into town to get some items to repair the electric fence around the apiary and to hang out in some free air conditioning for a while. We came home and I made some nice bath salts that I'm giving for gifts. Then Bernie got his oak burning grill fired up and we grilled some corn, burgers, dogs, and ribs. Man - that's some good eating there.

Tomorrow we'll repair the apiary fence and open up our weak hive to see how it's doing. We have 7 supers ready to rob right now. We'll get on that in the next weekend or two.

Bee Free,

Monday, July 30, 2007

All is Well on the Homestead

We extended our weekend to include today (Monday) because Bob, from the Department of Agriculture, agreed to come out and do one more hive inspection with us. We knew we had lost one hive, but we were hopeful the remaining five would be disease free and doing well.

Bob confirmed we had healthy hives, and he also had suggestions on making our weak hive a little stronger. Sugar water. And lots of it. So we placed a gallon jug of sugar water on top of the weak hive and said a little prayer that it would help. The way the girls took to that stuff, I have a feeling they'll be rocking before too long at all!

I wrote about Bob's visit on The Bee Buzz. I also posted some pictures there. Check them out!

The girls are hanging in there and life is good on the homestead. Not much more we could hope for.

Bee Free,

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Cyle of Life

As I approach 50, kicking and screaming every inch of the way, I find myself reflecting on the cycle of life more than ever before. It seems that every situation I find myself in boils down to the "cycle of life". It's interesting to me. I don't necessarily find it depressing, I just find it very interesting.

We arrived at the homestead this weekend to face the fact that we have lost one of our beehives. No, it was not due to Colony Collapse Syndrome. It was due to the fact that we really refused to believe we were losing a hive. This is the hive that had a drone layer and the hive that we have never found a queen in. Still, we chose to believe we just missed the queen. There was a great deal of activity around the hive, afterall. But the truth is, the hive was dieing and while we had hoped it would last until Bob from the Department of Agriculture showed up with a new queen, the hive was struggling. And now it's dead. Very sad. We still have five hives, but it's pretty depressing to lose a hive when you know there is no one and nothing to blame but yourself. It was a cycle of life for this hive, but we could have prolonged it if we had interfered. And with bee hives, you really must interfere from time to time.

Well, Bob will be here Monday and we'll inspect the other five hives. I wrote a little about the bees and my wax rendering experience on The Bee Buzz and I put some pictures up of some honey robbers on The Bee Buzz Website.

And speaking of the cycle of life, I told you last week of how my trike had a header blowout and we patched it up with a beer can and a clothes hanger. Well, here's a picture of it:

Today we put new headers on her, and if the new headers weren't so darn pretty, I would be a lot more sad about getting rid of this beautiful patch job. But do not worry, the old headers will go to Tex. He can take anything and turn it into something to be proud to own.

Speaking of Tex, he and Charlotte are coming out tomorrow morning. They're bringing Bobo of course - I suspect Bobo is the real reason they are coming out. I think he gets to missing me and insists on it. I'll feed them breakfast, and then Tex and Bernie will level out the container so we can build a lean-to off of it. I imagine Charlotte, Bobo, and I will spend a lot of time inside. These man-jobs can be a little nerve wracking. Besides, I need to melt and filter the beeswax one more time. I think Bobo will enjoy that activity a lot more than watching the guys do man-stuff.

Bee Free,

Monday, July 23, 2007

How a Coat Hanger, a Beer, and Bikers Saved My Life

This weekend Bernie and I took a little road trip to Hillsville, Virginia. The Virginia Bikers Association (VABA) sponsored Thunder On the Mountain and this was certainly an event worth making an effort to attend. I must say, VABA put on one of the most organized and enjoyable biker events we've had the privilege of attending - and we've attended a few. It occurred at the Lakeview RV Resort, which is a completely awesome place to spend a weekend.

Hillsville is about 250 miles from our homestead, and with the weatherman forecasting a beautiful weekend, we decided to ride down. So I hooked up the trailer to the trike and we loaded it with a weekend full of necessities - which involved a couple changes of clothes, toothbrushes, and a cooler full of libations. Bernie hopped on his bike, I fired up the Grape Ape (that's what my trike likes to be called) and we headed off to Hillsville.

As I mentioned, it was a great time. We saw lots of old friends and made a few new ones (Bo and Beth - you rock!). VABA put on an awesomely organized Poker Run - well, actually TWO Poker Runs. One was a long run and one was a short run. I chose the long run because it went through a tunnel and I thought that sounded like it would sound cool to roar through a tunnel with 50 other bikers. It did not disappoint me. Neither did the Grape Ape. She ran like a scalded dog. I was pretty proud of her.

When we got back to the campsite I parked her in the bike show. She's rather shameless and enjoys the attention. When it came to our turn to ride down the "runway" for all to see, Bo came running over to tell me something was wrong with the exhaust. I turned around in time to see him smack the tailpipe with his hand and say "Oh no". I asked "Can I ride her?" and he replied "She ought to be OK to go up and down the runway once". I had no clue what was wrong, but I knew my number was up to show off the trike, so I turned my attention to ground in front of me and took off. When we returned to our spot I hopped off and ran to the back of the trike, just in time to see the header come loose and droop to the ground. It was barely hanging on. All I could think of was "Lovely. I'm 250 miles from home and there ain't no way the Grape Ape is getting me there in this condition."

Did I mention we were at a biker event? Bikers are some of the most resourceful people you will ever meet. Within moments Bo assessed the situation and announced we needed some kind of wire or something to hold the header up off the ground and a clamp to try and close the huge crack in the tailpipe. Another biker ran off to get a coat hanger. My buddy Boil thought he could find a clamp. By the time Bernie ran down to check everything out, we had a plan. Bo took charge and wired the header up with the coat hanger. Boil and another biker donated a couple of clamps. But we still had a fairly large crack in the tailpipe and it was clear we needed something to cover it or I would be sucking air all the way home. Beth ran over to the trash can and came back with a beer can, which Bo cut the ends off of and then sliced down the middle to make a nice piece of medal that covered the crack just beautifully. Between the beer can, clamps, and some wire, we managed to get the crack covered pretty well. Well enough to get me all the way home anyway, even if we did sputter and pop when downshifting.

Homesteading is all about self reliance and self sufficiency. Not all bikers are homesteaders, but certainly as a group bikers are self reliant and self sufficient - or at the very least extremely clever.

I've always known that beer is a wonderful thing. And I've always been a little fond of the great service coat hangers have provided me. But tonight I am especially grateful for the both of them and for my biker family. While I really enjoyed Hillsville, I wasn't looking forward to spending the rest of my life there. I am eternally indebted to a coat hanger, a beer, and a bunch of bikers. And Bo and Beth - I owe y'all one.

Bee Free,

Monday, July 16, 2007

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's....... A Bear!!!!

Well, after finding bear poop in the yard many times and seeing, first hand, the destruction they can cause to bird feeders, I guess it shouldn't be so surprising that we actually saw a bear in the yard this weekend.

But it was surprising. At least it was to me. My niece and great-niece came up for a visit and we were enjoying Saturday afternoon just visiting in the living room. Bernie was out greasing his backhoe and all felt very calm on the homestead. I glanced out the living room window just in time to see a big black butt walking past the window. My first thought was "Now what is that huge dog doing in this yard?" followed immediately by the thought "Wow - that's the biggest black dog I've ever seen" followed immediately by me screaming "Bear! There's a bear!". The three of us jumped to our feet. My niece ran to get her camera. My great niece ran to the window to get a better look. I ran to the front door and screamed "Bernie! Bear! Bernie! Bear!" frantically waving for him to get inside and look.

We all gathered at the window and I pointed and said "There he is - wait - where is he?" My eight year old great-niece looked at me and said "When you screamed for Bernie he took off running. That way. He ran fast and now he's gone." Doh!

After we all calmed down Bernie and I realized that the direction he was traveling was straight for the apiary. That worried us a bit. But we checked on the bees several times over the weekend and they were just fine. Probably the bear was just thirsty and headed for the creek for some water. I imagine his ears are still ringing from my shrill screaming to get Bernie inside.

Other than that the weekend was relatively calm. I did manage to render wax and I wrote about it on The Bee Buzz. I'll try to get pictures up of the whole process in the next week or so. My niece got a picture of the little fawns looking for food in the backyard and she seemed pretty happy about that. My great-niece seemed more interested in the rabbits that ran about when I took her for rides in the Trail Blazer.

All in all, we had a great weekend on the homestead. Great company with lots of laughs and plenty of hugs. And we saw a bear! I really hope he doesn't make visiting us a habit. He could ask his deer friends about the result of that. Bear season is at a good time of year......

Bee Free,

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dealing With Miss Penny 101: The Proper Way to React to a Home-made Gift

As I mentioned in my last post, I made some beeswax lip balm last weekend. I'll get some pictures up on the website soon. It turned out quite nicely, if I do say so myself. In fact, of the three people I've given some to so far, two of them reacted quite positively. One even suggested I could get rich selling it. Needless to say, THAT person will be receiving future home made gifts from me. Probably she'll be the proud recipient of some home-made soap, but that little jewel isn't quite cured enough to be a gift yet.

We've established how much I enjoy the whole obligatory gift giving notion, but there are times when I do feel obligated to give a gift - and even times when the spirit just moves me to do so. And because of this, I feel it only fair that I should tell you how I expect you will react when you are the blessed soul that recieves a home-made gift from me.

Gushing is completely acceptable. Proclaiming me The Queen of All Things Home-Made is not only acceptable, but somewhat expected. Doing these simple little things will insure that: 1) I will not hate you for all eternity and 2) you may well be the proud recipient of another slice of heaven made by my own hands.

The truth is, as much as I enjoy making home-made gifts, I do NOT enjoy giving to people who do not appreciate them. In all honesty, that kind of pisses me off. So, lie if you must - but certainly gush over your gift. You will not only receive future home-made gifts from me, but you will insure I will actually speak to you when we cross paths in the future.

You may think I am a little sensitive on this subject. You may be right. But I'm the one making this crap and I'm the one giving it away, so I get to make the rules. So gush away or be dropped from my gift list. And have a nice day.

Bee Free,

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Lions and Tigers and Bears - Well, Sort of

For some reason we saw more wild animals this weekend on the homestead than we ever have before. We saw a doe with two precious little fawns, a fox, two coyotes, a skunk, and several rabbits. As remote as our homestead is, it really is fairly unusual to see many animals. The animals there are still wild and not used to a lot of human noise or motion. Unlike the animals in town that graze next to the highways or the skunks that visit our yard, any sound or slight movement will send them tearing into the woods on the homestead. I must say, although I enjoyed watching them, with each I saw I thought of either food on our table, or predator to our chickens and goats when we move out there permanently.

When we got to the homestead Friday, we immediately began rendering some of the beeswax we've collected. As I wrote about on The Bee Buzz, this was a little more involved than I had anticipated. I did manage to get enough wax rendered to make about 48 little tins of beeswax lip balm. I'll have to work on getting the rest of it rendered in the next few weeks.

The soap is curing quite nicely and changing to a creamy white color. In three or four more weeks or so I should be able to try it out. If it passes approval, I'll have gifts for my Christmas victims.

Other than that, Bernie and I mowed the lawns and took care of a few things on the homestead. As a result of me hitting a huge stump with the riding mower, we had to spend a little time on Saturday fixing one of the blades on the mowing deck. I hit it good enough to bend the frame it's attached to. But Bernie managed to pound it back into shape and it's running right along again.

Next weekend my neice is visiting us on the homestead and she's bringing along the only kid she's got that isn't staying at my parent's for the summer. We're really looking forward to that. Two of my most favorite people!

I'll be posting the lip balm recipe on The Bee Buzz website soon, so be sure to check it out!

Bee Free!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

Before I even start, I will preference this by saying this may seem an unusual post for a blog about basic living, but in reality it is very appropriate. Living "free" is only possible in a land where the government allows that to be so. I suppose in Utopia, no one would have the right to tell you how you can live, but we don't live in Utopia - and as much as I hate to admit it, government is a necessity for us all to live in some semblance of harmony. I don't think any of us would argue about that - the argument would be about how much of a role the government is allowed to play.

So today is the day we celebrate our independence from, by all accounts, an oppresive government. It seemed appropriate that today Bernie and I would ride our bikes in a parade to support a delegate who works tirelessly to keep our current state government from becoming any more oppresive than it already is. Delegate Lingamfelter stands on the side of freedom - and we stand on the side of Delegate Lingamfelter. He is a patriot and we were proud to show our support by riding in a parade for him.

You can view some of the pictures on the Virginia Freedom Riders website.

Regardless of how you celebrated Independence Day, I hope it was safe and meaningful. Enjoy your family, enjoy your freedom - and don't forget to thank those who fought and fight to insure you can do so.

Be Free,

Saturday, June 30, 2007


We are having a great weekend on the homestead. It was raining when we arrived, which was a welcome respite from the dry weather we've been having. The grass is coming in quite nicely now.

This morning we worked on my trike and corrected a backfire issue is was having by replacing the #1 cylinder spark plug and wire. We tuned her up and she's running like a top now. Which is really good - because we're riding in support of Delegate Lingamfelter this week for the Dale City 4th of July parade.

Afterwards, I made a batch of home made soap. I've been reading up on this, and it's something that seemed a little intimidating, but I really wanted to do. If things were to get really bad, I'd like to think I could at least continue with basic hygiene. The ingredients are pretty easy to come by, with the possible exception of lye - and I found a recipe for making my own lye, if it comes down to that. At any rate, I spent an hour or so making soap, and I am pretty excited to see how it turn out. Check it out!

This afternoon we cooked out and grilled some great burgers and bratwurst. Then we walked down to check out the bees. On the way down we stopped by one of the little creeks and saw several of the girls getting a little drink of water. They were darn cute standing on the rocks so their feet didn't get wet. Wish I'd had my camera. They seem to be doing pretty well. Lots of activity around every hive. We'll get Bob W. from the Dept. of Agriculture to come out again in a couple of weeks so we can do another thorough hive inspection.

We also noticed on our walk to the hives that we have raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries ripening up. I had a few for dessert as we walked. Hopefully I'll be able to beat the birds and bears to them in the next couple of weeks and collect enough for a pie - or at the very least for a nice topping on my pancakes!

Oh - and for those of you who have asked, I do believe I reign triumphant over the mice! I haven't seen a sign of them in the house for several weeks now. Of course it helped that daddy helped me search out every conceivable point of entry for them while he was here and fill it with that expanding foam. And as a side note, I would mention that when you read "expanding" on that foam, it means EXPANDING. That stuff looks alien about 30 minutes after you spray it - and it ain't budging once it's in place. I speak from experience.

Bee Free,

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I Told You I'm a Good Wife

As we have well established in the past, I am a pretty good wife. I not only accepted that my husband wanted bees, I've learned to love them and become totally absorbed in them. I throw him a Super Bowl Party every year. And I not only hunt, fish, and ride motorcycles, I also willingly participate in pretty much every cock-a-mamie scheme he comes up with. Take tonight, for example.

My wonderful husband walks in an announces "I'm going to take down that branch that hangs over the driveway that's been bothering you." I looked up at him. "Well, that's great. Need my help?" - never expecting in a million years that he would actually say yes. He pulled up his pants, puffed out his chest and said "I thought I'd drive the back hoe down there and lift you up in the bucket. You'll be able to cut it down a lot easier that way." What the...... "Lift ME up??? I thought you said YOU were going to take down that branch????" He looked at me ever so tenderly and said "I figured it would be a lot safer if I lift YOU in the back hoe than if you lift me." He had a point. I don't know how to operate that back hoe very well yet. I mean I could do it, but I couldn't insure he'd be heading up or down in the bucket right at first. I am struggling with what is up and what is down with that bucket right now.

It was getting dark, so I reluctantly agreed. We headed down and Bernie positioned the backhoe exactly where it needed to be:

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He hoisted me up and I snapped a picture along the way:

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The branch hung over the road - which seemed a lot further up than I remembered it:

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I thought Bernie looked a lot more smug than he should have at this point:

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I swear I sawed on that stupid branch half the night:

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And then I got it! It fell to the ground!

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Bernie lowered the bucket and rode me back up to the house:

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If this is not proof of what a good wife I am, I don't know what is. That Bernie is one lucky man. And I never cease to remind him of it.

Bee free!