Tuesday, May 29, 2012


There was no rest for the weary this weekend.  Earlier this spring, we had seven trees taken down in my neighbor's yard.  Six of them were hardwoods, so we had the tree service leave them and only take the pine.  What they left was stacked fairly neatly along the retaining wall that runs between our yards.  Compared to the mess that is our neighbor's yard, they really didn't make it look any worse or any better.  We have been making an effort to tackle this pile of trees along with all of our other projects, but we had not made it a priority, mainly because our neighbor really didn't care when we did it and it seemed so overwhelming that knocking away at it piece by piece seemed the best strategy for us.  Well, the city cares.  Based on a call about another yard, a city employee was driving down our street and noticed the felled trees.  He knocked on my neighbor's door and told him he needed to clean up his yard, especially the backyard, which was overrun with poison ivy.  He also told him he needed to make some progress on the trees.  Our neighbor then received a letter giving him 10 days to get the job done. 

Not getting this project finished has really been bothering me.  I don't like to leave things undone.  So, I'm glad the city set a time limit for us; otherwise, we would have continued knocking away little bits of it and not making it the priority it should be.  So, this weekend, we tackled the remaining trees and got them all cut up and moved to our wood pile.  Our neighbor's yard looks much better as I knew it would, and I feel relief at having this project no longer hanging over my head.

When we started working yesterday, we knew we had probably a full day's work ahead of us.  The trees has all been cut to length for splitting, but we knew we still had to load the truck several times, pull into our driveway, and wheelbarrow this wood to the wood pile.  I had already filled and wheelbarrowed two truck loads of wood the day before while Nate was at work.  Our neighbor had told us someone was coming to take care of the yard, and as we were beginning work, the yard guy and his son pulled up.  He had been hired to take care of the front and back yards and been told to work around the wood.  While we were loading wood, we overheard him talking to our neighbor about the poison ivy and Roundup.  My heart skipped a beat.  Nate went over and told him we had honeybees and that we really didn't want him using Roundup.  Of course, we can't control what our neighbor does, and he would not back down on the use of Roundup.  This started a conversation with the yard guy about our bees and our urban farm.  They both took a tour of the place and offered to help us with the rest of the wood.  They didn't ask for any payment for helping, but Nate helped with the yard and I sent them home with some jams and honey.  After they finished, the man told me he sparingly used the Roundup and if he saw any type of flower in an area where he was spraying, he pinched it off just in case a bee might want to visit it.  I know he was being paid to spray Roundup, but I certainly appreciate the extra care he took to minimize any damage that might result.  He certainly wasn't obligated to us to take any special care. 

At one point, when his son was looking at the chickens and rabbits, he said, "Y'all are old-fashioned."  I smiled and said, "We are old-fashioned, and we like it that way."  I could tell he said it in awe and not like we were strange.  At one point, he also said our house and yard are his mother's dream.  We have a very humble house by most standards, but that comment made me feel blessed in so many ways. 

So, what to us looked to be a weekend worth of heavy labor ended up being laced with neighborly support and consideration.  They live in the neighborhood next to ours and know our across-the-street neighbor, so in our world, they are neighbors.  The best part is the project is DONE!  CROSS IT OFF MY LIST! 

Happy homesteading,


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sugar, Sugar, Ahhh, Honey Honey, Ahh, Bunny Bunny, Ahh, Berry Berry

We're going into our third year of beekeeping.  The first year was a total failure for several reasons.  We didn't even make it to winter with the two hives.  Last spring we started over with one hive and while we had some honey at the end of summer, we left it for the bees to help them through the winter.  I am pleased to say that over the last two weekends we have extracted our first honey.  We've processed one full super consisting of ten frames and four frames from another super.  We still have six frames in the 2nd super that are almost capped so we expect to harvest them in the near future.  Additionally we have another 10 frame super that is full of honey but yet to be capped.  I cannot express how utterly excited and pleased I am about this.  All of our frustration, disappointment, sweat, bee stings and tears have come to fruition in the form of 28 pints of honey so far.  We are averaging two pints per frame, so if we harvest the six frames that are almost capped, we should get another 10-12 pints of honey.

All of the angora babies have new homes.  I'm always sad to see them go, but I'm happy with the people who bought them so that makes the letting go easier.  Both of the does went to the same home, so they get to be sisters together.  The new owner emailed me a few days ago with photos and told me they have personalities plus.  She has named them Lucy and Ethel because of their craziness.  She said they have already been to show and tell for three different classes at school. 

the blue tort doe


the blue-pointed white doe (She was our absolute favorite, and I almost kept her.  I mean, look at that pose.  She knows she's cute.)

the blue-pointed white buck

This mess of bunnies is my first meat rabbit litter.  They just hit six weeks old and are growing well.  It's time to wean them from mama. 

Yesterday, I was given a huge bucket of organic strawberries, so canning season started early this year.  I put up (12) 12 oz. and (7) 8 oz. jars of Strawberry Ginger Jam today.  It is so freakin' delicious!  It has been ages since we had strawberry jam mainly because my strawberry growing skills are less than ideal, and I don't buy strawberries because I worry about the chemicals that have been used on them. 

That's it for now, folks!

Happy homesteading,


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Garden Hits and Misses

My last post was full of disappointment and discouragement.  I'm back to say I'm down not out.  I made a decision several days ago to not fight the vine borers at the moment.  My plants were covered with eggs and having fought a losing battle last year, I decided to pull up everything and maybe start fresh later in the season.  Any eggs that may have fallen in the soil when I removed the plants should hatch out soon and since they won't have anything to eat, their life cycle should end.  I did manage to trap and kill one borer, which is always a thrill for me.  Though I did see another one hovering over my Upper Ground Sweet Potato plant yesterday.  I wanted to try to catch her as well, but she didn't really show any interest in the plant and didn't land.  I'm not really finding any eggs on it, so I'm assuming it's safe.  The Zucchino Rampicante that I was so excited about and that is supposed to be vine borer resistant is not resistant to the borers in my neck of the woods.  I do still have several watermelon and Charentais melon plants that are so far safe.  I'll go with these for now.  I really need some row cover material but haven't been able to find any locally so I may have to go online.  I would be willing to hand-pollinate a few squash plants for the reward of finally having squash.  Since we have a pretty long growing season, I still have time to work on my squash issues. 

Last year, I also had a huge problem with flea beetles.  They did some damage to my tomatoes but devoured my eggplants to the point where I had to go buy transplants from the nursery.  This year I noticed damage early on my seedlings, so I moved them to my upper deck table instead of leaving them on the lower part of my deck.  This definitely helped as I didn't see any new damage once I moved them.  Also, I let them get a little larger before I put them out.  I'm happy to say this year the flea beetles seem to be in check, and while I've seen some new damage since planting, my tomatoes and eggplants are doing well.  I also suspect the additional sunlight is helping everything grow faster and making it easier to sustain and overcome what damage there is.

I had a terrible time last year with pepper plants being chewed off at the base.  I think it was due to grasshoppers, but whatever it was caused me to lose all of my pepper starts just as I was about to harvest my first peppers.  That really set me back time-wise since I had to start over with nursery transplants.  So far everything is fine this year.  I've seen some grasshoppers, but not as many as last year. 

I had a hard time getting peppers to sprout this year, so I had to buy transplants.  But with the exception of the peppers, everything else in the garden was started from seed.  That's quite an accomplishment for me.   

Two varieties I grew last year but decided not to bring forward into 2012 are garden huckleberries and ground cherries.  The garden huckleberries were very productive and easy to grow; however, we don't really like them.  The ground cherries, on the other hand, are a different story.  We loved them, but so did the cardinals.  I had to fight the cardinals for the pleasure of eating them.  Plus, they spread like ground cover and if I decided to grow them in the future, I would need some good ground space and bird protection. 

Overall, I think my garden is off to a great start, and I'm looking forward to a plentiful harvest.  Now if I can just overcome those vine borers.

Happy homesteading,