Monday, January 31, 2011

Thinking of Bees- Part One

I wanted to let everyone know that if they want to try having bees, now is the time to order bees and packages! Winter is also a great time to build hives.

I have had a great time with my first hive of bees and I have also learned a lot.
But some of the things I have learned, I learned too late.
One of my learning experiences was the occasion that I call "The Great Honey Disaster"
If you click on this photo you can see the little grubs that are baby bees curled up in their cells.
 It was a hot August day when I decided to check how the hive was doing and pull a few bars of honey. Everything was going fine except that it was too hot out and the combs in the hive were a little soft. I pulled my first bar up and found that the bees had built all of their combs slightly off kilter. Each comb would end on the bar next to it. I have a lot of theories about this crooked comb issue, but for now we'll leave it at that.
After I cut the first comb of honey into a pot, I went back to the hive only to find that the comb from the next bar had been torn enough on this hot day to cause it to come off its bar and collapse onto the floor of the hive.
It was a comb full of about 500 brood

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ode to My Silvery Friend

Oh, my delight
your silvery skin doth reflect the light
of moon, sun
or lantern
you are the answer to my plight
you alone can requite
my need to plug, mend or fasten

As you unreel from your cardboard round
twisting, turning, yearning
to rejoin yourself and be forever bound
you hiss a sound
known to all of your lovers

the ripping, thrumming, exhilarating err

of one who can fix, affix, sooth and secure
a box to a stick
a pick to its handle
a shoe to its very

Thee to none shall I compare
Duct tape, you are the answer
to all
of my



June's version of an iPod case. I guess it's hereditary...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cooking IN a Wood Stove

When the nights get long here, we tend to think a lot about good food. Buck and I love Indian food. It is our very favorite treat, but the nearest Indian restaurant is about an hour drive (each way), so we usually make our own. I was talking to someone the other day about my invented method for baking the yummy East Indian bread, Naan, and it occurred to me that it would be a good thing to share with others who have wood stoves.

A lot of evenings we are in a hurry or too worn out to make an elaborate dinner and Indian food takes some time. Once in a while though, we are planning ahead and Indian food sounds so good. On one of those cold winter days I was stoking the wood (heating) stove and I thought to myself "man, Naan sure would taste good."

I had a moment of complete clarity and my "Home Tandoori" method was born.

Authentic Naan is baked in a tandoori oven which gets up to about 900 degrees. For those who have never seen a Tandoor, It is a big

Thursday, January 13, 2011


We burn wood.  At our proper house, it is the main heat source.  Up here at the homestead, it will be the only heat in the cottage.

One of my goals here is to learn how to harvest the wood we need in a sustainable, forest-friendly way.  For starters, that means taking what nature and a strong wind offer.
The volunteers above came down a week ago or so, when we had a trace of snow up here.  Don't know why they came down, we are just grateful they did no damage.  The bigger one was about 20' of good wood; the smaller was a little pithy, but burnable. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Fence is Done!

After what feels like ages, our first new pasture fence is done!  We finished it just before our Christmas break. (Here is a link to the start of the fence project.)

If it was square, it would be about 140' x 170'.  It is really more of a trapezoid, following the contours of the land and our access road.  It is just the first of many acres of fencing, and it feels good to have it done.

This is not going to be a 'how to,' as I assume most readers already know how to build a fence, or don't care to know.  What I will do is note what I learned, in the hopes that it can save someone a bit of time, or result in a comment that shows me a better way.
This is the best fence I have ever built.  Far from perfect, but a big step forward for me.  One thing I struggled with was attaching the fencing to the inside of the posts.  Not nearly as fast and easy as putting it on the outside of the posts, but stronger and safer for animals, especially horses.
Part of the challenge of putting the fencing on the inside is wrapping the corners.
It involves a lot of time cutting vertical wire to release the horizontal strands, then attaching the horizontals to the post.  Phoebe and several others asked why I was using side-cutters to cut the wire, instead of using

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Handmade Christmas

Jake and Buck with our Homegrown Christmas tree
Well, Christmas is past and I can now speak freely about our Handmade Christmas without spilling the beans.

Buck and I were having a hard time with The Christmas Spirit here at the Homestead. As I pondered the reasons that this season was not as cheery as it normally is, I came up with the idea that a homemade Christmas would go a long ways toward the feeling we were trying to capture this dreary winter.
First we had to clear this idea with all the extended family. They had concerns about whether they had the time to make something or if they had any talent to make anything. We all decided it was a Handmade Christmas instead. That gave others the option of going to the Fair Trade boutique or the Saturday Market and purchasing gifts that were homemade by someone.

By the time this was all decided, there were only 4 weeks left before Christmas! So Buck and I got cracken'.

One of the things we could not create at home were essentials (clothes for 4 boys) for "Christmas Family". Christmas Family is a family in need because of domestic violence. Our very cool Dentist had a "Gift Tree" for them. We did the shopping for the Christmas Family first and we relearned a couple of things. We were reminded how crazy it is to shop this season but, most importantly, we remembered that helping others in need is the very best way to get The Christmas Spirit.
Yes, that's right. In true Oregon fashion, sunshine is accompanied by rain.
With our hearts a bit lighter, we put our hands and minds to the task of a Handmade Christmas.

I have, over the years, built a decent collection of tools and it definitely paid off this year. Besides all the construction here at the Homestead, these tools made Santa's Workshop a much nicer place for the elves!

I had been "cherry picking" the cedar fence boards