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,