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Quickie Garden Update & Early Bees

We’re up to our eyeballs in garden chores lately so I wanted to jot down a few, quick notes for reference.  Time keeps slipping away on me.

The sunchokes in the front walk raised bed have poke their heads above ground & mulch, as have the orange mint and apple mint planted there.  I gave the mints a wide area to go nuts in and planted several dozen chunks of celery and parsley in the end of the bed that gets a bit of afternoon shade from the porch.  The peppermint & spearmint in the other front walk bed have gone absolutely bonkers.  The lemon balm in the same bed is also very vigorous but much better behaved than the mints.

Charlie has most of his bed planted but has saved room for tomatoes, ground cherries, and peppers.  The other kids’ beds still aren’t built but, with any luck, Steve should get to that this week.

In the backyard raised beds (that I have yet to show you — new this spring) are now filled up.  Bed #1 has walking onions, potato onions, and newly planted Red Welsh onions that I started from seed this year.  Bed #2 has nothing but garlic, garlic, garlic.  Bed #3 has the raspberries I planted a couple of weeks ago, plus the Alpine strawberries from last year (transplanted from the front wheel beds).  Beds #4 & 5 have full size strawberries.  Bed #6 has asparagus, transplanted from back yard wheel beds that I started last year.  Bed #7 has transplanted rhubarb (previously in back yard wheel beds).  Bed #8 has various greens in it (corn salad, mache, orach, French sorrel, kale, Swiss chard, Good King Henry…  I think that is it for that bed.

In the remaining backyard wheel beds are a couple types of oregano, chives, garlic chives, brown mustard seed, dill, sage, green onions, and cilantro.  In the main garden, the broccoli and cabbage have been planted — a wide row of each on either side of the pea/bean trellis.

The tomato, pepper, and ground cherry seedlings are all ready to be separated and potted up.  I’ll have to spend a few hours in the basement doing that this week.  I’ve presprouted the Sugar Snap peas and soaked the spinach seed so will get those planted first thing in the morning.

And… while I was typing up the draft for this, we got the call that our bee packages will be in this Friday.  Way earlier than what we expected and, so, we are unprepared.  That means everything else is out the window while we pull some bee-equipment-building miracles out of our butts.  As you all know by now, that’s just how we roll…

See ya on the other side!

Another Beginning Beekeeping Class (Missouri & Illinois)

The Mississippi Valley Beekeepers Association is having a second beginning beekeeping class this Saturday.  Click here to see the details from the post about the March 3rd class.  This one will also be from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. but on Saturday, March 31.  It will be held at the American Legion building between Mendon, Illinois and Ursa, Illinois.  Everything else will be the same as mentioned in the link above.

Anyone interested in attending, shoot me an email or leave a comment and I’ll get you in contact with the fellas in charge.


Seed Starting: An Accounting

First, a minor bee note for the records:  Steve got out there and reversed the deeps on the Italian hive and added a second deep to the Carniolans.

I’ve been working on starting several types of seeds the past few days, now that I can scootch down to the basement.  I usually keep track of everything I start but, this year, I’m just having to suck up the imperfections and be content with having gotten things planted.  Still, here’s my attempt at a somewhat incomplete accounting.  Note that all are sown thickly, not just one to a cell or pot.  Each cell of a 6-pack has anywhere from three to a dozen seeds.  Each 4″ pot has dozens of seeds.  I’ll divide them and pot up separately once they germinate and grow a bit.

  • Broccoli, Calabrese Sprouting:  1 flat
  • Cabbage, flat Dutch:  1 flat
  • Wonderberry:  (3) 4″ pots
  • Pink Banana:  12 cells
  • Ground cherries, Aunt Molly’s:  (3) 4″ pots
  • Aronia? (Ilene’s mystery):  13 cells
  • Pomegranate, Orange Master:  14 cells

Sweet Peppers

  • Ancient Sweets:  (1) 4″ pot
  • California:  2 cells
  • California Wonder:  2 cells
  • Chinese Giant:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Colossal Sweet:  2 cells
  • Giant Aconcogua:  2 cells
  • Giant Marconi:  2 cells
  • Golden Bell:  2 cells
  • Golden Marconi:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Gypsy:  2 cells
  • Jimmy Nardello:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Margaret’s Sweet Hungarian:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Mohawk Patio:  2 cells
  • Mystery Bell:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Orange Bell:  2 cells
  • Purple Beauty:  2 cells
  • Red Beauty:  2 cells
  • Red Marconi:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Redskin Patio:  2 cells
  • Sweet Banana:  2 cells
  • Sweet Chocolate:  2 cells
  • Sweet Gourmet:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Tolli’s Sweet Italian:  2 cells
  • Valencia Orange:  2 cells
  • Violet Bell:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Yellow Bell:  2 cells

Chile Peppers

  • College 64L:  2 cells
  • Big Jim Legacy:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Big Jim Heritage:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Cajun Spicy Bell:  2 cells
  • Cayenne:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Chimayo: 2 cells
  • Conquistador:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Espanola Improved:  2 cells
  • Fresno:  2 cells
  • Guajillo:  2 cells
  • Hungarian Yellow Wax:  2 cells
  • Jalmundo:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Joe E. Parker:  2 cells
  • Lumbre:  (1) 4″ pot
  • Pepperoncini Calabrese:  2 cells
  • Pizza Pepper:  (1) 4″ pot)
  • Sandia: (1) 4″ pot
  • Sunset, Sunrise, & Eclipse:  (1) 4″ pot


  • Absinthe:  2 cells
  • Ace 55:  2 cells
  • Arkansas Traveler:  2 cells
  • Aunt Gertie’s Gold:  2 cells
  • Aunt Ruby’s German Green:  2 cells
  • Azoychka:  2 cells
  • Banana Legs (determinate):  1 cell
  • Beefsteak (hybrid):  1 cell
  • Black Brandywine:  2 cells
  • Black Cherry:  2 cells
  • Black from Tula:  2 cells
  • Black Krim:  2 cells
  • Black & Red Boar:  1 cell
  • Black Sea Man:  2 cells
  • Blue Streak:  4 cells
  • Box Car Willie:  1 cell
  • Bradley:  2 cells
  • Break O’ Day:  2 cells
  • Burning Spear:  2 cells
  • Campbell’s 1327:  2 cells
  • Chapman:  2 cells
  • Cherokee Purple:  2 cells
  • Chocolate Cherry:  2 cells
  • Cowlick’s Brandywine:  2 cells
  • Crimson Cushion:  2 cells
  • Cuostralee:  1 cell
  • Dana’s Dusky Rose:  2 cells
  • Diane’s Landrace, main tomatoes:  (24) 4″ pots
  • Dix Doights de Naples:  2 cells
  • Dora:  2 cells
  • Dr. Wyche’s Yellow:  2 cells
  • Earl’s Faux:  2 cells
  • Egg Yolk Cherry:  2 cells
  • Ernesto:  2 cells
  • Estler’s Mortgage Lifter:  1 cell
  • Eva Purple Ball:  2 cells
  • Galina’s Yellow Cherry:  2 cells
  • Gary’O Sena:  2 cells
  • German:  2 cells
  • German Johnson:  2 cells
  • German Red Strawberry:  3 cells
  • Goji Faranji:  2 cells
  • Golden Jubilee:  2 cells
  • Granny Cantrell:  2 cells
  • Great White:  2 cells
  • Heart’s Delite Black:  2 cells
  • Hillbilly:  1 cell
  • Hoy:  2 cells
  • Indian Stripe:  2 cells
  • Isis Candy cherry:  2 cells
  • JD’s Special C-Tex:  2 cells
  • Japanese Trifele Black:  2 cells
  • Juane Flammee:  2 cells
  • KBX:  2 cells
  • Kang Bing:  2 cells
  • Kardinal Tshyornyi
  • Kellogg’s Breakfast:  1 cell
  • Livingston’s Paragon:  1 cell
  • Ludmilla’s Red Plum:  2 cells
  • Marianna’s Peace:  2 cells
  • Matt’s Wild Cherry:  2 cells
  • Nepal:  2 cells
  • New Big Dwarf (dwarf):  2 cells
  • New Yorker:  1 cell
  • NOT German:  2 cells
  • OSU Blue:  4 cells
  • Out of the Blue Cherry:  2 cells
  • Pink Floyd:  2 cells
  • Pruden’s Purple:  2 cells
  • Prue:  2 cells
  • Red House Free Standing (dwarf):  2 cells
  • Rose:  2 cells
  • Tasmanian Chocolate (dwarf):  1 cell
  • Tigerella:  2 cells
  • Tommy Toes Cherry:  1 cell
  • Hawaiian currant:  2 cells
  • Peacevine Cherry:  2 cells
  • San Marzano Redorta:  2 cells
  • Sandul Moldovan:  2 cells
  • Snow White Cherry:  2 cells
  • Speckled Roman:  2 cells
  • Sungold (hybrid):  3 cells
  • Tess’ Landrace currant:  3 cells
  • Wes:  2 cells
  • White Princess:  1 cell
  • Wisconsin 55:  1 cell
  • Woodle Orange:  1 cell

To those who get seedlings from me, consider this your early list from which to choose.  I seeded enough of most everything so that there shouldn’t be any no-shows.  I tried to note which are cherries and currants.  The rest are mostly slicer sized with a couple of smaller saladettes tossed in.  Only one is a determinate since I just do not care for them.  There are only a couple of hybrids and the rest are OPs so that you can save seed if that’s your thing.  There are some of most colors — green, white, yellow, orange, pink, purple, red, black, and even blue, along with some spotted, striped, and speckled.  Give me a holler if there’s anything special you’d like reserved for you and I’ll mark them as I pot them  up.

DIY Equipment for Queen Rearing

(With all of this sitting on my butt, I have time to go through backed up photos now. If I weren’t so incredibly lazy, I might get through all of them before I’m back on my feet.)

Before I forget, fellow beekeepers or even those just interested in history, take a look at this link to old, old volumes of American Bee Journal. How cool is that?  They go back well into the 1800s.  Oh, and here’s an interesting book:  A Thousand Answers to Beekeeping Questions (1917).  Thanks to John at TV for those links!

Okay, so now let me introduce you to a Guy we know from the Mississippi Valley Beekeepers Association.  (No, really.  His name is Guy.  It took me months to figure that out.)  He has been doing some queen rearing over the past few years.  He taught us all a bit out queen rearing in last year’s beginning beekeeping class but it all went right over my head, me being a complete newbie.  This year, he gave his class again and, this time, some of it was able to sink through my thick skull.  Enough so that I can see myself wanting to play with queen rearing at some point in the future.

He bought in some of his equipment for us all to fondle and I’m so glad he did.  Seeing it in person makes it go click in my head much better.  Let’s see how much of the info is still “clicked” and how much I butcher as I try to explain the equipment & process in simple-enough-for-me terms so I can refer back to this later.

He takes a queen and traps her in the cage below.  It’s a couple of queen excluders he puts in around a fresh frame of… nothing.  The intention here is to get her to lay eggs in the one frame all in one time frame — a day, if I remember correctly.  Then he moves her to the next frame to do another day’s eggs.  And so on until he has enough eggs for his purposes.

Here’s another shot of the “cage”, partially lifted up so you can see how it all fits together.

And the top to the cage, of course.

Now here’s where I start getting confused.  At some point in this process, he removes the eggs with a grafting tool and places them in special queen cups (of which I got no photos).  There are several queen cups mounted on modified frames (no pics of these, either.  Doh.) and the nurse bees feed them all royal jelly for the appropriate time.  If all goes well, on day whatever (just pretend with me that I remember the exact days), he has several queens emerging.  If the queens were left to emerge in normal circumstances, the eldest queen would go around ripping open other queen cells, killing them all.  But, since Guy has planned it all so well and isolated the eggs laid within a narrow time frame, they all emerge within hours and it’s not a problem.

He can then remove the queens to their own areas with some bees to get them started.  Below is a box, modified to house three new queens and their soon-to-be-growing families.  Each section holds three frames with some chipboard completely isolating the sections from their neighbors.  It’s like a little bee condo.

Each section has its own cover so he can work one without disturbing the others.

The each have their own entrances as well.  Two on one side…

And the third on the other side.

Once the queens have been doing their thing and the colonies have grown enough, they get moved up to a nuc.

A genius process, right?  I can’t wait to try it!  Okay, I can wait.  But I am looking forward to trying it in a couple of years once I have some more experience!

Thanks to Guy of Spoons Farm Honey for the great teaching and a chance to look over your equipment!  I’m pretty sure he sells at the Farmers’ Market in Quincy, Illinois if you’re looking for some of the good stuff.

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. :-)

A bit of rearranging.

Nothing major but, if you look at the top navigation bar, you’ll note a couple of changes.  I added in a couple of pages.  There’s “Home” which is just the front page.  There’s “About” which is your standard blog intro stuff.  There’s “Seed & Plant: Inventory & Traded” for those of you interested in looking through my seed stash.

Now we come to the two new pages.  “For Sale” is a place to list whatever we’re selling at the time.  We’ve just begun to sell eggs and will be adding in other things as the year progresses.  “Reference Page” is a place to park important (to me) information and links as I find them.  Currently, that happens to be regulations regarding sale of “farm goods”.

After all of that, the nav bar was getting a bit crowded so I took out the links to the blog categories.  I’ll put those somewhere else when I have time.  I have a few more little tweaks to make over the next month or so but nothing big.  I think I’ll be setting up an announcement newsletter sort of thing to let local folks know when different things become available for sale locally here.

Ya know, I had more to say but I’ll be darned if I can think of them right now.  Susan is on her way here right now.  We’re going on another adventure to Stark Bros!  Woot!

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.

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