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Mid-March Garden Update

Most of you already know but, for those that don’t, here’s the nutshell: I boogered up my ankle this past week. I’m hobbling around on crutches right now (thanks to Debbie for the crutches!) but at least I can do that. I’ve been icing & elevating as much as possible. Yesterday morning, I sent one of the kids out to dig up some comfrey so I could make some salve — seems to really be helping. (Simmer a cup or so of finely chopped comfrey root and/or leaves in an equal amount of olive oil until it’s all mushy. Strain and add some beeswax to make a goo. Slather on a few times a day. Easy peasy.)

Needless to say, my personal garden progress has slowed way, way down. But before the drama, we headed down to Stark Bros with Susan again. I had two trees from last year’s trip die so they replaced them. One of the pears was replaced with the same. The other one that died was a Japanese persimmon and I had it replaced with another apple tree, a Grand Gala, I think it’s called. My receipt is in the other room so I’m going from memory here. They also replaced my failed Starkrimson rhubarb. I cannot recommend Stark Bros enough. They are so friendly and they sure held up their one-year replacement guarantee with a smile on their face. So nice to experience.

Also, Susan forced me — forced me, I say! — to bring home 50 strawberry plants (Ozark Beauty and Honeoye) and some citrus. Now, the citrus, I blame fully on Anita. You see, a couple of weeks back, Anita sent me some seeds for Calamondin Orange — and three tree seedlings: Calamondin Orange, Key Lime, and Meyer Lemon. How cool is that? I grew a Meyer Lemon and Key Lime a few years back when some friends from Florida (Hi, Alan & Diana!) gifted them to me. Those eventually died, however, due to the rough environment in our Oklahoma house. Anita’s gift set off some sort of citrus craze in me. When I saw more citrus at Stark Bros, I couldn’t help myself. I bought a Tangerine, a Valencia Orange, a Key Lime (which actually had three in the pot) and a Meyer Lemon (which had two in the pot). My kitchen and living room are now filled with citrus! And it’s all Anita’s fault. ;-)

Steve has kicked butt in the last couple of days. He’s managed to finish building Charlie’s raised bed in the front yard, along with three more beds for perennials in the back yard. I got the raspberries from Stark Bros planted in the first one before the ankle incident. Oh, wait. Did I not tell you about the raspberries? Yeah, I’ll have to think of someone to blame those on… I planted those six raspberries, along with the one surviving one the ones my mom bought me last year, into that first new raised bed. The 100-ish strawberries, I got planted yesterday by crawling around. They include not only the Stark Bros ones but also some WalMart ones: Jewel, Allstar, and Quinault.

I started a few more seeds BA (before ankle) but can’t remember which I planted then and which were from the first seed starting session a while back. Whatever they are, there’s a pile of plants out sunning themselves on the front walk again this year. Potato pulls, TPS, celery, rosemary, parsley, cilantro, etc, etc.

I’m late with the warm season veggie seed starting. All of my seed starting things are in the basement so I’ll have to see if I can crawl down those steps in the next few days to get tomatoes, peppers, ground cherries, and that sort of thing started. Better late than never, right? It’s not terribly late, as far as averages go, but this warm weather we’ve been having makes me feel so late on everything!

Side note on the bees: They’re doing well and enjoying the warm weather along with us. I’m afraid of early swarming before we know it so I was going to get out there and reverse the brood boxes and see if they might want a super on. But then the ankle… (I’m starting to sound like a broken record, aren’t I?) So, along with Steve’s thousand other honey-dos, I’ll have to ask him to get out there and do that soon. Poor Steve. He’s burning the candle at both ends right now plus having to listen to me whine about my ankle. It’s a wonder he’s not yet insane. He does have access to ear plugs — that might be his secret!

One more note: A bunch of the fruit trees are blooming now! So gorgeous!! I tried taking a pic of the peach tree but I kept falling over just leaning on one crutch. Doh. Maybe I’ll get some pics before the blooms are all gone. For now, just imagine a bunch of gorgeous fruit blossom pics scattered throughout this post. :-)

Bees on my mind.

We had our monthly bee meeting last week and the annual beginning beekeeping class put on by the association was this past weekend.  Plus it was time to order our bee packages through the association group buy.  It’s been a bee-filled week and my mind is swirling with bee brain goo!

On a quick side trip here, our beekeeping association finally has a website!  Yay!  It’s still under construction but you can peek at the beginnings here:  Mississippi Valley Beekeeping Association.   I’ve put the link to it in my sidebar so it’ll be there on for later reference.

Although we had already gone to the beginning beekeeping class last year, we went again this year.  I’m so glad we did.  I think we learned even more this year than last.  Last year, we were so overwhelmed with info that I’m afraid half of it didn’t stick.  This year, after having worked with bees for a year now, we were much better able to comprehend all of that info that was being slung around.  We picked up gobs & gobs of info through the monthly meetings over the past year and this year’s class just cemented it all in.

At the end of the class, we put in our bee order:  2 packages of Carniolans and 4 packages of Italians.  With the two we already have, that makes six — plus whatever we get should we try splits this year — and I think we will.  We’ll also be building some swarm traps and crossing our fingers for increases that way (but we won’t hold our breath).

Last year’s bees were housed in standard, Langstroth hives.  This year, we’re gonna experiment & diversify.  We’re gonna raise us some hippy bees!  Michael Bush’s The Practical Beekeeper has been on my wishlist for a long time.  I finally ordered it a few days ago.  His website has most of the same info but it’s a nightmare to my dense self.  Books, I get.  Disjointed websites, not so much.

We’re going to build some horizontal standard hives.  We’re going to build some horizontal top bar hives.  We might even build some Warre (vertical top bar) hives.  Who knows what other crazy stuff we’ll do?  I don’t like being dependent upon manufacturers and forking over massive piles of cash.  I want simplicity, stuff we can build ourselves with almost no money, using scraps we have on hand.  That’s how we do everything else so it’s only expected that we’d go that way in our beekeeping as well.  It won’t all work, I’m sure, but we’ll learn from it and find some method(s) that work for us.

Same for treating for this and treating for that.  It’s not that we’re all granola & Birkenstocks because, wow, we’re so not.  It’s mostly that we’re lazy and cheap.  Who wants to have to buy this chemical and that chemical and do all of the work to apply them at the right times & intervals.  Not moi.  No, sirree.  I want organic.  I want cheap.  I want natural.  I want lazy.  This is where the Michael Bush reading comes in.

Along with figuring all of this out, I’m also working on getting the info we need to start selling here.  I spent part of this morning on the phone with the Missouri Department of Agriculture, bouncing around to various departments.  I’ve had a rough time finding exact info (online) on the selling of raw honey & wax, raw goat milk, garden produce, vegetable & flower seedlings, and eggs.  Actually, the egg info was really easy but the rest has been a bit of a maze.  Those of you who know me well know how much I hate phones.  I tried for months to find concrete info, through the state statutes, on this stuff but finally broke down and started calling today.  That’s pretty bad.  I’m going to set up a separate page here (will be tabbed along the top) with all of the regulations as I get answers directly from the horses’ mouths.  Maybe I’ll save someone else a headache down the road, as well as have a permanent place to reference it myself.

So, after I made various goops a couple of weeks ago, I decided I enjoyed it and continued on with finding ways to use beeswax.  I made homemade deodorant and shampoo bars.  The deodorant was easy-peasy and it works better than any commercial deodorant.  How weird, right?  But I’m telling ya, if you’re at all interested in trying to make toiletries at home, start with the deodorant and toothpaste.  Both are amazingly better than storebought and as easy as you can get!

The first soap recipe I tried a few days ago was the rosemary & peppermint shampoo bar from Mommypotamus.  I tweaked it slightly, converting to grams because I’m a dork, and subbing in sweet almond oil for jojoba oil since I had none.  It all went perfectly well… until my crockpot threw a hissy fit.  Long story short, they’ll be fine but I’m letting them cure for a few weeks just to be sure.

Yesterday, I went to Mommypotamus’ original recipe source, Frugally Sustainable.  The recipes only vary a little bit and then I tweaked a wee bit again, converting to grams, using sweet almond oil instead of jojoba oil, and using orange and lemon essential oils.  I also tossed in a bit of honey.  (I wonder if the bees will be chasing me around the yard this summer??)This time, the crockpot behaved and all went well.

One issue I had with both batches — and I don’t think it’s a problem — was with the lye solution.  I added the lye to the water and let it cool.  It set up.  Like a soft tofu sort of thing.  Weird.  I posted a comment over on Mommypotamus’ blog asking about it but she didn’t know either.  You know what she did, though?  She sent me a bar of her shampoo so I could compare it!  How cool was that?!  I tried it last night, after a bit of hair detox (read about what to do with commercial hair goo buildup), and loved it!  I followed with the homemade hair conditioner.  I’ve got a bit of hair funk going on today but it’s good — nothing gross, just having a spunky, energetic day — and  you know I already have plenty of those.  I’ll report back on how my hair does after some time to adjust.  In the meantime, I love the smell and feel of the soap.  It lathers nicely and feels rich.  I even used it for body soap.  Shhhh….

Adieu, Basketball Season of 2012.

Charlie and Duke signed up for basketball this winter through Upwards.  They’d never played before, never even seen a real game, but they went out there and gave it their all.  They did great!

Nellie is sold and will sign up next year for either cheerleading or girls’ basketball.

Grandpa was their most enthusiastic cheerleader of all — and the boys’ favorite!

Josie’s ready to play when she’s old enough, too!

Guess who took all of the above photos?  Nellie!  (Not the one of herself, of course.)


Teenagehood: Documented

Horrible photo but doesn’t he look like Mark Sisson here?

God bless America! Wait… What?

Isaac and Charlie finally found a good, no, great Boy Scout troop this winter and were at last able to become full Scouts in rank.  Woot!

Their troop held a ceremony to present merit badges and rank advancements to all of the boys.

I laid out the various official Boy Scouts of America patches and doodads, preparing to sew them on the boys’ uniforms.

Wait a minute.  Something struck me as odd.  It took me a minute to figure it out.

Boy Scouts of America.  Made in China.  And Thailand.  *snicker*

I know, I know.  I’m so easily entertained.  What can I say?  I’m a cheap date.

The Making of Goop

I spent the weekend making various goos.  I started out with rosemary mint hair conditioner and toothpaste.  The conditioner recipe is found here and the toothpaste is just a combination of coconut oil, baking soda, and essential oils (peppermint, lemon, and orange).

I put the bulk of the toothpaste in a storage jar but put a small amount in a little container for daily use.  I hate, hate, hate regular toothpaste (don’t make me give you details or you’ll puke all over your keyboard) but am loving this homemade version!

Then I made some chapstick/lip balm.  I used this recipe and went with the lemon/orange/peppermint essential oils again.  It’s another hit and I’m pleased with it.

I wanted to make a hard lotion bar so started with this recipe and this one.  Then I remembered this one.  Now this is where I started getting a bit cocky.  I ended up using 75 grams beeswax, 250 grams cocoa butter, 100 grams shea butter, 75 grams avocado oil, 75 grams sweet almond oil, 10 capsules vitamin E (snip the capsules and squeeze the oil out), and some lemon & orange essential oils.  Having never made lotion bars before, I wasn’t completely sure if this would end up hard enough to be a bar, most especially in the heat of the summer.  Thinking about carrying gooey lotion bars around in my purse in July made me go the container route.  It turned out pretty hard and I think it would be good as a bar but not so sure it would hold up to that July heat terribly well.  I filled several small travel containers plus one big jar for keeping in the bathroom.  I love, love, love this stuff and will never, ever go back to storebought lotion.  I’ll tinker with ingredients, of course, to experiment but I am completely thrilled with this version.

(FYI:  The lotion wasn’t yet cooled & set up in the big jar below.)

For melting the wax and butters, I used a ramekin for the lip balm and a cleaned-out tomato juice can for the lotion with a rednecked double boiler.  They both worked well.

I got this beeswax from a local friend and am ga-ga over the smell.  I could sit & sniff this stuff all day long.  But grating/chopping it up for measuring/melting?  Not so much.  I tried a potato peeler.  No go.  I tried a chef’s knife.  No go — it worked but I was going to end up losing and eye and/or finger.  Finally, I settled on a cheap serrated knife.  It mostly worked but I had to work too hard at it.  I’ll have to think up the best way to do up our wax from our own harvest later this year.  I’ve gotta make it easier!

I wonder if the bees will try to eat me when I use the wax-containing goos this summer.

There’s gotta be a common theme here somewhere…

The excess roosters from this spring’s chicks were finally butchered late one recent evening.  After stuffing the skinned & gutted birds in a cooler for an overnight brine soak, we completely forgot about them.  Oops.  Today, we discovered that they’ve been frozen into one giant chicken ice cube ever since.  Lucky.  Now we’ll have to have one big chicken cooking day and put them in the freezer already cooked.  I’m cool with that.

Wintersowing finally began this past week.  In jugs are landrace tomatoes, cilantro, brown mustard seed, dill, orange star calendula, mystery aronia, Aunt Molly’s ground cherries, wildflowers, zinnias, marigolds, and chard.  Charlie also wintersowed several jugs for his garden.  There’s more to wintersow but I’d better get on it quick.  It’s almost March!

Steve got one of the raised beds (4′ x 40′) along the front walk built.  This one has sunchokes and a few mints in it from last year.  I’m not yet sure what its permanent use will be.  There will be another one between the sidewalk and the house when he gets to it.

Another bed going up, this one the first of six 4′ x 40′ in the front yard.  These will give each of the kids a garden bed of their own to do with as they wish.

So we did a quickie check on the bees a while back and concluded that the Carniolans were toast.  Then the $%@&@&$ snots decided to make fools out of us and come back to life right after we announced our conclusion to several folks.  Really, I just do not get these Carniolans.  Not that I get any bees but still…  Anyway, so I felt sorry for them being such a pitifully small cluster and yet impressed that they’d made it so far into winter.  I decided I’d make them a treat — some Bee Candy!  Only, like much of my cooking since moving here, things went wrong.  Terribly wrong.  Being a heartless SOB, I made the kids take it out and feed it to the bees anyway.  That’ll teach them for faking death

A couple of weeks ago, our homeschool group got a chance to hang with Hannibal’s mayor & city manager in the council chamber.  They even got to do a mock council — very cool!  That’s Charlie there to the mayor’s right and Duke & Isaac to the mayor’s left.  (The mayor is the fell in the center of the council seats.)

And just you wait until you see what I’ve been up to today!  Messes made & pics taken…

Happy 3rd, Josie!

Josie turned three years old today.  Wow.

She had a great birthday, filled with family, friends, food, and pink stuff.  Lots of pink stuff.

They did it! (2012 Hannibal Polar Plunge)

The boys did a great job today!  Nary a one of ‘em chickened out.  Very cool stuff.

It’s past my bedtime now so I’ll give a full report when the news story comes out in a few days.  For now, I’ll leave you with two videos.  Steve manned the iPhone from one spot and I handled the camera from another.  Between the two of us, you get a complete picture.  Cody’s in the gray shirt & brown shorts, Isaac’s in the black, and Charlie’s in the white shirt & jeans.





Final Countdown to the Polar Plunge!

Wednesday…  Thursday…  Friday…  Saturday!

Thanks to all of our sponsors so far!  Aunt Rosie & Denny, Grandpa George, and Anonymous.  Ahem.  I know who you are but since you chose to sign it “anonymous”, I’ll keep the secret.

If you look at their team page here, http://somo.org/speedkin, you see they each have raised $70 for a team total of $210.  Not too shabby for a trio of kids, right?

Ah, but it gets even better.  Their 4-H club has agreed to donate their “brag box” money in the kids’ names!  How cool is that?  They’ll bring a check the day of the plunge so it won’t show up until after the final tally.

And that’s still not all.  Steve’s employer, Titan Wheel, has written out a big ol’ check in the kids’ names, also to be presented the day of the plunge.  I know it’s just a monetary drop in the hat to such a huge company but I’m mightily impressed all the same that they’d take the time to do such a thing.

As of right now, the kids have raised over $1000 for the Special Olympics.  *proud mommy moment*

Of course, there’s still time to donate if you’re so inclined.  Maybe some stragglers will push that total even higher by Saturday morning!

Hint, hint, hint…

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