Friday, August 26, 2011

RIP Louise

We lost Louise, our Rhode Island Red, last night to what we believe was an impacted crop.  She was our favorite.  She would follow me around the yard and peck me on the back of the leg when I didn't acknowledge her.  She was a talker and loved to scream at me when I stepped inside the coop.  She was our best and biggest egg layer.  We buried her under the peach tree.

Louise: We're so sorry we couldn't save you, and we're so happy we were able to share your life with you and give you a good one. Thank you for all of the beautiful eggs.  We already miss you so much. You were a blessing, and our homestead won't be the same without you. Goodbye sweet girl.  Candace and Nate

Friday, August 19, 2011

Free Books

I have been researching the different e-readers lately and thought I might want one for my birthday.  I have been leaning towards the Kindle, but I've hesitated because I know that money could be used for something so much more useful around the house.  There are so many projects I want to do and spending money on an extravegance didn't seem right.  I have always loved reading; it's a big part of my life.  I grew up going to the library and still do, but the convenience of downloading a book at home called to me.  Plus, I really loved the idea of free e-books off Amazon, and I noticed the Kindle is advertising the possibility of an app later in the year that allows downloading e-books from the library.  My curiosity was piqued, so at my next library visit, I asked the librarian if the library system had an e-book library.  She showed me where to go online.  I had to download a program from the e-book website and the Adobe digital e-reader program.  The website also houses audio books.  Each library system will probably have its own host website, so if you are interested, check with your local library.

The e-books from the library are great, but the selection is limited, so I started wondering if there was a way to download the free e-books off of Amazon without a Kindle.  I had not really put too much time into researching this because I've been busy with other things and I've had books for read, both from the physical library and the e-book library.  But, low and behold, today I was catching up on one of the blogs I read, and she recently did a post on this very subject!  I followed the link for the Kindle for PC app and am now able to download e-books off Amazon, including the free ones.  Here's the link to her blog if you are interested in Kindle apps to use if you don't have a Kindle:

I don't mind reading the books on my laptop, and now I have what I really wanted out of the Kindle, which is the ability to download e-books.  I can put my laptop on my lap desk and read where ever I want, so portability is not an issue for me, and when I travel I would prefer to take a real book with me anyway.  Maybe I'll eventually get a Kindle, but for now, I'm content.

So, happy e-reading,




Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bee Check and Unidentified Vine

Because it has been so hot and also because we have been slightly frustrated with the beekeeping, we recently adopted a new approach:  Let the bees be.  This is our 2nd season beekeeping, and our first season was a total disaster.  This year we've done better than last.  This time last year, we didn't have any bees.  One reason we've been frustrated is because up until recently the bees have been very aggressive, much more agressive than last year's bees.  So we've stayed away.  We know we had a swarm, and I believe I mentioned that the last time we were messing with the hive, the bees didn't seem aggressive.  I know we have a new queen, and she's much nicer than the last one.  So, checking the hive this evening was not stressful like it has been so far this year.  The bees were not buzzing us and gathering on our veils.  We were able to check both brood boxes and the honey super without fear.  I've always been told if you have an aggressive queen to replace her, but nature did that for us with the swarm. 

I'm learning to follow my instincts when it comes to beekeeping.  It's about looking at the facts and clues in front of you (and there as SO many little things to look for) and making a decision based on the given situation and your knowledge base.  No one will give you a definitive answer for any one problem.  Some beekeepers will say we made the wrong decisions, while others will say we made the right ones.  One thing I noticed this evening was the lack of stored honey the hive had, both in the brood boxes and in the honey super.  About a month or two back, a fellow beekeeper told me in times of draught, when no nectar is flowing, and the bees really have no source of food, they will eat their stored honey to survive.  We've definitely been experiencing a drought, so my instinct was to start feeding them sugar water again.  I called my friend to bounce the idea off her, and she said she went to extract honey from a super that was full a few weeks ago, and by the time she went to extract it, the super was practically empty.  The bees had eaten the honey to survive.  She said feeding them would be a proactive way to help them start storing for winter.  So, feeding them is what I'm doing. 

We appear to have a very productive queen evidenced by this beautiful capped brood:

I feel like we are back on target with the bees, and while we are definitely not going to harvest any honey this year, if we can keep them alive through the winter, I have confidence we'll have some next year.  Here's to hoping!

Now, I need help identifying this vine.  It's growing along the back fence that separates us from our back neighbor.  I suspect it's a muscadine vine, but I thought muscadines were larger.  The "grapes" are about the size of blueberries, and when I squeezed one, the inside texture was like a grape, and it had 4 "grape" seeds in it.  Also, the juice on my fingers tasted very grapey.  Since I haven't id'd it yet, I haven't eaten one, so I don't know if the skin is bitter.  The fact that I haven't keeled over from licking the juice is a good sign, I think.  What keeps me from determining it's a muscadine are the leaves.  The pictures I've seen online of muscadine leaves are different.  Any help is appreciated.

Happy homesteading,



Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Day at Home

While the weather here is still in the 90s, I can feel a change in the air.  The temperatures are more tolerable in the mornings and evenings, and the heat index is not as extreme during the day.  At least it seems that way to me.  The humidity has been unreal with afternoon thunderstorms threatening daily but no rain.  The afternoon clouds have been a nuisance because I've been wanting to use my solar oven more than I have.  If the sun goes behind the clouds, I can forget keeping the oven above 200 degrees.  Plus, I want to be home to monitor it since I'm not an expert user.  Today the sky looked fairly cloudless, so at lunchtime I took a chance and put some vegetable chowder in the oven to simmer.  The oven got up to 300 degrees at its hottest, and since this is the first time I've cooked a meal in the oven, I put a thermometer probe into the soup pot to monitor the temperature.  The soup rose to 200 degrees and maintained between 190 and 200 for about 3 hours.  That should be closely equivalent to a slow cooker on low.  After about 3 hours, the clouds rolled in and the oven temp started to drop.  Not wanting to risk unsafe conditions, I took the soup out and all the veggies were done.  I still need to finish it with milk and cheese, but I think I'll have to do that on the stove top since it's pretty cloudy now.  At least the bulk of the meal was cooked by solar energy.

Today, I also started planning my fall garden and in anticipation of some seed starting, I cleaned out the greenhouse, which has been ignored since spring.  I'm not adept at succession planting yet, so I haven't really done much in the area of seed starting this summer.  If I didn't work, maybe I would get better, but there are only so many hours in a day.  I also did some general garden bed maintenance by getting rid of some plants that are not really producing to make room for new ones.

On my way out to the greenhouse, I found this:


This is my lazy form of composting, and I found Thelma and Louise going to town on the bugs and worms today.  These are two large trashcans with holes drilled in the bottom edge for drainage and the top for aeration when the lids are closed.  I just keep dumping yard and kitchen waste into them and turn the top layer with a pitchfork once a week.  Eventually one fills, and I start in the other one.  It works for me.  The chickens did a great job of turning it for me today, and to them it was like a buffet.

I have some big plans for the fall, so stay tuned!

Happy homesteading,


Monday, August 8, 2011

Neighborhood Friendly Rooster

Well, we finally got us a rooster.  He's made of metal and he's quiet as a mouse, but he sure made the ladies take a second look. 

We did an experiment with him to see how the ladies would react.  They would not come anywhere near him, and Thelma, our barred rock, kept giving him the eye.  Every time I tried to move him near, they would run.  I even did an experiment with a cherry tomato.  They normally fight each other to get a cherry tomato, but not tonight.  I could see the motors turning, but the lure of the tomato was not strong enough.  It reminded me of a time when I brought home a fake metal cat, and my cat, Lucy, growled at it and walked up to it and smacked it in the face.

He's a pretty rooster.  Now, Nate has a rooster, and the neighbors won't complain about the noise.

Happy homesteading,


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Party Hardy, Dude!

"But I always say one's company, two's a crowd, and three's a party"  Andy Warhol

"One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor!"  Unknown

I have a major birthday happening this week, and Nate and my friend, N., decided to throw me a party.  Unfortunately, I'm not a "sit back and watch while others plan things" kind of girl.  I'm a control freak and don't like to sit on the sidelines.  I freely admit it, and those who know me well may not like it, but they accept it and sometimes love me despite it.  I'm a Leo, after all.  Changing this part of my personality would be like trying to take the stripes off a zebra.  Nate just said, "Tell me what to do."  That makes me laugh.  N. said, "I can't wait to see the party I planned."  That makes me laugh too.  With that said, they have been great and have definitely participated in the party planning and preparation.  I have a wonderful friend and husband! 

In planning the menu, it was important to me to use as much from the homestead as possible, so the menu developed based on what I have this week in the garden.  Everything we're serving has at least one item that was either grown, foraged or produced by us.  I've been prepping each day so there won't be much to do on the day of the party.   

Party Menu:
Carrot Cake
Chips and Salsa
Jalapeno Dip
Brie with Fig Jam
Cubed Melon
Pasta Salad
Egg Salad Sandwiches
Eggplant Dip

That's it for today, folks.  I have stuff to do for the party, so until next time, I leave you with one of my favorite birthday songs by Cracker, "Happy Birthday to Me."