Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bee Proof

I have been a very frustrated beekeeper these last five months. Suddenly becoming deathly allergic to bee stings is such a blow to my plans. I dream of having lovely hives of honey bees everywhere I can nestle them.
Then one lovely June day last summer, I get stung on the cheek by an innocent honey bee being smashed by my glasses and off for an ambulance ride I go. And to add insult to injury, the ER doctor tells me my allergic reaction will only get worse the more times I am stung and sends me off to get my EpiPen (Epinephrine Auto-Injector) from the pharmacy. I barely remember the details of the incident, but I'll never forget the look on Bucks face when I woke up in the hospital.
I have now been stung two more times since the "Big Sting" and have managed not to die, but it is very stressful for everyone, especially Buck.

The other two times happened while I was mowing.  There is a lot of mowing to be done here, if we are ever going to reclaim this land from the invasive plants. And I am generally the one who is bound to mow. With bees and hornets everywhere, how do I even garden or mow, let alone keep bees? I could live my life in fear in a climate controlled highrise somewhere. No thanks.

 I am not one to let things get me down (at least, not for long). I've decided that if others can spend hundreds of dollars on formal evening attire that they will only wear once, I can certainly justify the purchase of my formal suit of choice, and I will wear it many more times.
This is my new, virtually sting proof, Ultra Breeze bee suit. Designed by a bee keeper, it has 3 layers of breathable fabric. The "breathable" part is super important since I will be mowing in it. Mowing is a sweaty job and I don't want to collapse from heat stroke.
The middle layer is a thick spongy net that keeps the bees away from your skin, so their stinger can't reach through.

The hood also has a completely inclosed fastening system. As does the zippers on the legs. It's easy to put on and take off too, once you get the hang of it. It is so cool that I'm sure I will look cool to anyone who sees me mowing in this. Like mowing on the moon.
When Buck was taking these pictures, I laughed and remarked that the suit is probably not very flattering, and he said "It's very sexy, because now you won't get stung."

He says the sweetest things.

Afterthought: Of course my Ultrabreeze suit came the day after Hive #1 swarmed. Read how our son Jake saved the day on my bee blog.
I also posted a more recent review and caution in "How Bee Proof is Bee Proof?"

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Annual Chores

We have been on the homestead for a couple of years now, long enough to start to feel the cycles of projects that come around every year.  

Every year, winter wind and snow bring down branches. We have a lot of Douglas Firs on the property. They are big and beautiful, and they loose branches pretty regularly.
They accumulate around the bottom of the trees. When I clean them up, the little limbs go into the burn pile, the rest make great firewood.
There are some old fruit trees around. This poor plum tree lost about half its limbs. I had to get the downed branches up off the ground so we could mow underneath, to keep the blackberries from growing up through it.
We will take another look at the tree when I get serious about fire wood. It is probably too damaged to keep, and is likely going to end up in the wood shed this fall.
In addition to the blackberries, the other scourge we have to deal with is Scotch Broom. It is invasive and grows quickly and thickly in open areas.
Every spring Phoebe pushes it a little further from the edge of the driveway. She lops it off at ground level, and I take load after load away in the trailer. I think we filled the trailer 9 times this year. 
All these bits end up on the burn pile. It makes for a full day of burning.
And of course, there is the mowing. Phoebe already cut this field a couple of times, and I was feeling like I needed to take a turn. In the distance behind me are the yellow blooms of the Scotch Broom, and the green brambles of blackberries. We would love to get those cleared, but that is for another spring.
Another spring ritual is to take a look at the old cherry tree, to see how she is doing this year. The tree looks dead, and would have been cut down if Phoebe had not spotted a couple of new branches on one side. Every year, they get a little bigger, and right now, they look beautiful.
And there are always surprises. 
Phoebe and I were having our morning tea in the Oasis trailer, when she looked out the window and noticed the green roof on the loafing shed in the paddock.
It is a thick, and probably structurally unhealthy, carpet of growth on the gently sloping roof. I am not sure how many different kinds of vegetation are up there, but it sure looks pretty.
As always, we enjoy hearing from you. Do you have any spring chores that you look forward to or want to run away from?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Colony Collapse

Please go on over to my bee blog Homesteader Bees to read the sad fate of Hive #2.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Out with the Old and In With the... Um, Old

I have been working on the Art Shack and the Oasis in between repeated mowings and Scotch broom whacking this spring and it's really coming along. Soon I will be jealous of our guests as they while away the hours in their own tiny heaven on top of the hill.
The Oasis is in need of a lot of cleaning because, besides the fact that it sat unloved for a couple of years with a hole in its roof,

 it was also an "Elk Camp" trailer for years before that. And if you don't know what that means I'll sum it up for you. Many adults with guns, beer, bacon and no constraints of social norms, like cleaning the kitchen when your done frying those pork chops or doing silly things like wiping your feet.

Nothing a little soap, bleach and Windex can't fix.

 Another thing that I find hilarious and maddening is the incredible amount of hardware that has been tapped, screwed and unceremoniously glued to the inside of this poor trailer. Every time I think I have pulled all the superfluous things out of the once magnificent insides I find another row of tiny nails (to hold wires?) or another hook (to hang what?).
I have an entire clock box full of this stuff and it keeps appearing before my eyes.

One of the little pet projects I have been cheering myself up with is stopping at thrift stores now and then and searching for just the right dishes and pans for a 1958 Oasis.
 Like this sweet little tea kettle (and the whistle still works).

The Folger's coffee can to hold matches (like my grandma had). I also found the light globe at the Habitat for Humanity "ReStore" for .75 cents (SCORE).

Some things did have to be replaced with the new.
For instance, I draw the line at cutting my food on this fine, original cutting board.
So into the back closet it goes, in case someone cares later about "original parts".

 I bought this bamboo cutting board at Grocery Outlet for $8.


I ran it through the table saw and used the trimmings to make a stop on the bottom.

Now we can have PBJ sandwiches without the Formica flakes.

And now,  I GIVE YOU (drum roll, please) THE (slightly politically incorrect as only things from the 50's and 60's can be) TRAVEL PLATES!

O.K. this is more of a grandma plate but I couldn't resist it.

And the most outrageous of the bunch, (I must apologize to any Pennsylvanians) the Pennsylvania Dutch plate.
You have to admit this is pretty funny and awful. It's good to look back at our ancestors and what they thought was perfectly O.K. to make fun of. It gives us perspective.