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!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
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:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
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:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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,