Saturday, May 29, 2010

Help Save The Bees

You don't have to be a beekeeper to help bees. Did you know they are essential to agriculture as they are used to pollinate so many of the foods you enjoy? However, it's estimated that 1/3 of USA bee colonies did not survive the winter, and it's believed that one of the contributing factors to Colony Collapse Disorder is extensive use of pesticides on the very crops bees pollinate.

So, how can you help? Buy organic. Even if you just switch to one or two organic items weekly, when you choose to use your spending power on organic products you send a message to the chemical companies and food manufacturers.

Don't know where to start? Try these vegetables/fruits considered to be the dirty dozen.

1. Celery
Celery has no protective skin, which makes it almost impossible to wash off the chemicals (64 of them!) that are used on crops. Buy organic celery, or choose alternatives like broccoli, radishes, and onions.

2. Peaches
Multiple pesticides (as many as 62 of them) are regularly applied to these delicately skinned fruits in conventional orchards. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include watermelon, tangerines, oranges, and grapefruit.

3. Strawberries
If you buy strawberries, especially out of season, they're most likely imported from countries that have less-stringent regulations for pesticide use. 59 pesticides have been detected in residue on strawberries. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include kiwi and pineapples.

4. Apples
Like peaches, apples are typically grown with poisons to kill a variety of pests, from fungi to insects. Tests have found 42 different pesticides as residue on apples. Scrubbing and peeling doesn't eliminate chemical residue completely, so it's best to buy organic when it comes to apples. Peeling a fruit or vegetable also strips away many of their beneficial nutrients. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include watermelon, bananas, and tangerines.

5. Blueberries
New on the Dirty Dozen list in 2010, blueberries are treated with as many as 52 pesticides, making them one of the dirtiest berries on the market.

6. Nectarines
With 33 different types of pesticides found on nectarines, they rank up there with apples and peaches among the dirtiest tree fruit. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include, watermelon, papaya, and mango.

7. Bell peppers
Peppers have thin skins that don't offer much of a barrier to pesticides. They're often heavily sprayed with insecticides. (Tests have found 49 different pesticides on sweet bell peppers.) Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include green peas, broccoli, and cabbage.

8. Spinach
New on the list for 2010, spinach can be laced with as many as 48 different pesticides, making it one of the most contaminated green leafy vegetable.

9. Kale
Traditionally, kale is known as a hardier vegetable that rarely suffers from pests and disease, but it was found to have high amounts of pesticide residue when tested this year. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include cabbage, asparagus, and broccoli.

10. Cherries
Even locally grown cherries are not necessarily safe. In fact, in one survey in recent years, cherries grown in the U.S. were found to have three times more pesticide residue then imported cherries. Government testing has found 42 different pesticides on cherries. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include raspberries and cranberries.

11. Potatoes
America's popular spud reappears on the 2010 Dirty Dozen list, after a year hiatus. America's favorite vegetable can be laced with as many as 37 different pesticides. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include eggplant, cabbage, and earthy mushrooms.

12. Grapes
Imported grapes run a much greater risk of contamination than those grown domestically. Only imported grapes make the 2010 Dirty Dozen list. Vineyards can be sprayed with different pesticides during different growth periods of the grape, and no amount of washing or peeling will eliminate contamination because of the grape's thin skin. Remember, wine is made from grapes, which testing shows can harbor as many as 34 different pesticides. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include kiwi and raspberries.

Want to read more?

Will you do your part to help save the bees? Start with your money and buy at least one organic product off this list of twelve each week.

I would love to hear what organic products you already buy or if you answer my call to action and change your buying habits just a little.

Happy homesteading


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

All Quiet in the Yard

Once I decided I wanted chickens, the next step was to figure out how and in what to keep them. I did some research online, and Nate built me this fabulous chicken tractor. The doors drop down on both sides and on the interior of the run and are locked each night. Right now, Thelma and Louise are in the chicken tractor as Vanilli and Pearl slowly get used to them being around. We usually let them free range together in the evening and on the weekends, but eventually Thelma and Louise will move to the big house.

The chicken tractor was great for Pearl and Vanilli, but knowing we wanted to expand our flock this year, we decided to build something bigger with a larger run, more secure and permanent. So, the GA State Henitentiary was developed and once again, built by Nate. It's actually my garden shed with a part of it converted to a coop with the run attached. At the Henitentiary, nothing gets in and nothing gets out unless approved by the guards.

I love the Henitentiary, and I think the ladies do too. Oh, and they do get free-range time out for good behavior.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Going, going, gone

One of our hives flew the coop yesterday. Really! They were there in the morning, and gone later that day. It's almost like I imagined them there. Except for the fact, there is comb in the hive where there used to be none. We installed them Tuesday, and they were gone by Thursday. The nerve! They didn't even give us a chance. Our mentors came over this afternoon to investigate and didn't see any reason why they would have left. The other hive is doing fine, building comb, bringing in pollen, everything a young just-starting-out hive should do. We are very disappointed.

On a brighter note, Thelma and Louise are growing daily and are the sweetest chicks. Thelma loves to sit on Nate's shoulder, and where Thelma goes, Louise goes. One evening, he had a chick on each shoulder. Pearl is not taking kindly to the new additions. Right now, we have the chicks in the chicken tractor and our other two ladies are in the coop. We will work on getting them together this weekend again. The last time we put them together, Pearl sat on Louise and gave her a good peck on the comb, making her bleed. Bad Pearl!

I have enjoyed harvesting a few things from the garden this week. In addition to lettuce, which we've been harvesting for a while, we are just starting to get cherry tomatoes, blueberries, okra, and jalapeno peppers. We had a fabulous salad this week with the cherry tomatoes and blueberries. I don't buy tomatoes at the store as they usually have no flavor and just aren't worth the money, so having tomatoes on my salad was extra special.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

They're HEEERE!

This is the back of our car yesterday. I will tell you that driving with two 4 lb packages of bees in my car, on purpose, is something I never imagined myself doing until recently.

We met local beekeepers, Deborah and Mr. Charlie, at the house to install them. Mr. Charlie showed us how to install the 1st package, and then Nate had the honor of installing the 2nd one. The whole experience was crazy. Bees were flying everywhere; you can see them all around us in the pictures.

This is one of the packages. See all of the lovely ladies clinging to the sides. The queen is in there somewhere.

First, the cover had to be pried off. Then, the can of sugar water was removed, along with the queen cage.

Nate's holding the queen cage, which is closed off at one end by a plug of candy. She is alive and well and being cared for by her attendants. Her cage is suspended between the center frames, and the bees eat through the candy to release her.

A good spraying with water weighs down the bees, and a good whack on the ground forces them into a large cluster in the box. Then, it's a matter of pouring/shaking them out of the box onto the top of the hive.

A few more whacks on the ground and pours and most of the bees are out of the package and in the hive. The box is placed at the front of the hive for the rest of the bees to make their way out and into their new home.

Nate replaces the missing frame carefully to try to avoid crushing any bees, and then makes sure the bee space between the frames is correct. Too much space is filled with propolis and too little is filled with additional comb.

Here we are with our newly installed bees!

Thanks to Mr. Charlie for the great instruction and to Deborah for the pictures and moral support! It's great to have local support from people who really love beekeeping. It makes such a difference to newbies like us.

Happy homesteading,


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Buzz! Buzz!

We get our bees today! Excited, nervous and scared all at the same time. Pictures and all of the details to follow.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Around the Garden

Anxiously waiting for this baby to get large enough to pick

Study of the 1st tomato of the season

Love my bottle tree in the background

Thelma and Louise

I think Thelma is part Crow

Chocolate, Cherry, Strawberry

Desperately hoping to protect these from tree rats this year

Hydrangea, My favorite flower

I look at this and see Candied Jalapenos, on my list of "gotta try" this year

Stuffed peppers in my future

A baby Cardinal in the Gardenia bush



Happy Homesteading,


Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I have this thing about Mason jars. To me, they are more than just a molded vessel of glass. They represent home and good food and security. When I open my pantry and see my jars lined up and filled with pickles and jam, chow chow and salsa, a sense of fulfillment and warmth fills my soul. I know they are there to feed me and Nate in the coming months and to provide heartfelt gifts to loved ones.

Most of my jars have been purchased at yard/attic sales or given to me by others. Those are the most special to me because they were once used by someone whom I've never met, but who used them to provide nourishment for her family and who knew what it was like to go out to her garden, pick what she was to can that day, and stand over a hot stove to preserve hard work and the freshest food possible.

Jars represent fellowship to me. I am blessed with some great neighbors. They think the chickens are great, totally support our newest venture, bees, and honor me with gifts such as Mason jars. Recently I saw one neighbor crossing the street with several old nasty-looking boxes, and my first thought was Mason jars. I was right. He was at a friends' new house helping them clean out the basement. He noticed several boxes of jars his friends were going to throw out. He immediately thought of me and ask if he could have them. This is the same neighbor who gave me free reign over his fig tree last year and will again this year. And yesterday, another neighbor brought me almost a dozen of the cutest jelly jars that belonged to her Mother. Rather than let them sit unappreciated in her storage building, she thought I could make good use of them. Boy, can I! Gifts like these help me fellowship with my neighbors and get to know them. In turn, as thanks, they get the benefit of homemade goodness throughout the Summer and at the holidays.

Right now, Nate has a thing about Mason jars too, but it's not the same as my thing. His thing is that they are all over the dining room table. I am slowly washing and organizing the jars my neighbor gave me, as well as, jars I recently bought at an attic sale. But, as soon as he spreads Fig Preserves over his bagel, he'll get over it and realize that mess of jars really equals love of my home.

Until next post, happy homesteading!