Beans, barns, bees and boredom

Hi Everyone!

How has your July been? Do you feel summer winding down? It has been hot and miserable here for the past couple of weeks. Midday is spent inside. 

This week we decided to enjoy a good dose of boredom around here. Last week was an awful mess of traveling to appointments that resulted in nothing more than frustration, disappointment and stress. Now it’s a waiting game for the attorney and government entities to accomplish something so we can move forward. Boredom has been a good tonic.

Our garden is producing high levels of green beans this year and the tomatoes are putting forth a good effort. Miss L got to try her hand at picking beans. I’m pretty sure she enjoyed it about as much as I did at her age. She also got to see the canning process while Danny canned the first 14 quarts of beans. She was keeping track of the pops the jar lids made as they sealed. We are also consuming green beans frequently at meals.  Last night’s dinner was green beans, potatoes, creamed corn, fresh tomatoes and biscuits. It just doesn’t get any better than that!!

I have been checking on my bees more and feeding them now that most of the blooms are gone. My goal is to get at least two hives through the winter this year. It’s sad to admit that, but with colony losses of 40-50% on average each year now in most places in the United States, you have to brace yourself and hope for the best. I have one hive I’m already concerned over and keeping a close eye on. 

Our keets are having issues. We have lost three of the 16 and have 2 more that aren’t doing well. After some research we think there is a possible vitamin deficiency so Miss L and I made an emergency grocery run for wheat germ and vitamin E this morning. Hopefully that will help. 

It seems like a combination of heat and boredom are making our hens cranky. They can’t free range anymore due to the Thing In The Thicket that has snatched a couple of their coop mates. They seem to be protesting with a decrease in egg prodution. 

I am almost done with the barn drawing commission. I hope to have the finished picture on here next week.  Sooooo close but I can’t show it to you before I show it to my clients.  The boredom and heat have allowed me the time to put in several concentrated hours on it. 

We have enjoyed walks, time with the dogs, cat and some crafty time this week.  Danny has been able to work with Bob several evenings. Books have been read, movies watched, etc.  It has been GOOD!  Next week could get crazy again and August will bring school shopping, soccer and school faster than I’m ready for. I’m going to enjoy one more weekend of “boredom”. 

Hope you find some boredom this week! 

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Bits and pieces

Hi Everyone,

Believe it or not, I am actually writing AHEAD of time this week!  That sounds good, but primarily it is because I have yet another day of appointments tomorrow when I normally write my posts.

We need a copy of Miss L’s birth certificate and social security number before we can get all her requirements for health insurance, school and soccer done.  So part of tomorrow will be doing that and the other part will be meeting with the attorney to get the final papers done for me to be the executor and finally get started on the estate.

Ok, a soap box moment…if you do not have your final affairs in order, especially if you have children, STOP right now, GO make an appointment with an attorney and GET THIS STUFF DONE!  I don’t care if you think you are never going to die,  JUST DO IT!  No one should be left behind to go through the mess that we are having to work through.  This could have turned out so much worse for Miss L.  You do not want to leave your children to “the system”.  I doubt you would want to leave your possessions and affairs to “the system” either.  GO DO IT NOW!  Ok, enough of that.

I have a good start on this commissioned barn drawing.  If only I could find a few hours in a row for about three days, I could call it finished, but my days are broken into bits and pieces until late evening so it is taking longer than I would like.  I am pleased with the way it’s turning out, but frustrated with the broken time.


On a brighter note, the disappearing Sweetie Pie (the cat) has reappeared and seems to be transitioning into a barn cat quite nicely.  We still have to get her wrangled to the vet and get her spayed before we wind up with 25 barn cats, but it was good to see her again and know she was ok.  Miss L was especially relieved and goes out to spend time with Sweetie Pie each day.


Our 16 guinea fowl keets are thriving in our bathroom.  We have had them for a week now under a heat lamp. By this weekend we should be able to turn off the heat lamp and just leave them in the bathroom without the AC blowing on them.  Danny will be especially happy to turn that heat lamp off.  It’s like a full time sauna in there.  I will have to find them a taller box soon too.  They are almost able to jump out now.  Guinea’s are known for their excitability.  Can I just empathize that “excitability” is an understatement?  They totally freak out every time you move and at every noise.  How they just don’t drop dead from a heart attack is beyond me.  Soon they will be adding their well known loud alarm calls to the freak out.  I hope we have them outside before that kicks in!


Bob, the horse, still isn’t taking to the saddle outside of the round pen.  The discussion is turning to what to do if we can’t get Bob trained into a trail horse.  He is bred to be a Western Pleasure horse and that may be what he has to go and do somewhere else.  I’m very partial to the crazy horse and don’t really want to think about not having him around.

All other critters, including the bees are doing fine. No honey this first year, but the hives seem healthy and growing.  The next three months are critical so I will be paying close attention to my bee colonies now that the honey flow is over.

That’s all the news from Green Acres (if you don’t know Green Acres then go check it out on YouTube) this week.  Hope all is well in your world.  Have an awesome week!

Back in the saddle

Hi Everyone!

Yes, I am back.  Last week was insane trying to get everything done before leaving for my son’s graduation so I did not make it here before we left.  BUT, here he is in all of his graduation glory and I am one proud Mom!

 

I did barely manage to get the room painting finished before we had to bring back his bed and dresser.  Before with my piles of mess and After before my mess takes over again.  I need to have an art supply yard sale or a better solution would be to win the lottery and build myself a nice big studio. 



 

Now that the big event for the year is over I am SO ready to settle down and get back to work with a routine.  We planted the majority of the garden yesterday so other than the daily weeding I should have a couple of months before I have to stop for the major harvest rituals…picking, canning and freezing.  The bees are settled in though I am adding a swarm from my brother-in-law this weekend.  No more home remodeling until Fall!

 I am setting up my easel in a corner and plan to start back painting today!  For the past year I have held off taking any commission work other than a couple from my daughter.  During the graduation party there were a few inquiries about whether I would be taking any again.  After discussing it with D. on the way home we decided that, yes, it’s time.  I will be adding pet portraits to my Etsy shop hopefully this week and then as soon as I gather some sample work, add people portraits as well.   I will add the links here on the blog when I get them set up.

 I can’t tell you what a relief it is to feel like life is settling down a little and I can get back to the artwork.  My 100 Day Project fell apart, but my goal now is to get back in the saddle and finish out the rest of the summer with some steady work.  Maybe next week I will at least have a sneak peek of what is on the easel.

The flowers are blooming here on the farm and they WILL be making it onto a canvas soon.  Until then, just enjoy the May beauty!  Have a lovely week!

Rain and Roses

Spring is exploding all over the place and so is the To Do list here. It has been one big, busy week! We had a few days of good solid rain. Almost too much. Rivers were flooding. Luckily it stopped before things got bad. Now the grass needs mowing again. Why do we have grass?  There are better things to do with a piece of land than grow grass just to mow it down.

The bees are good so far. I am checking this weekend to see if I will need to add another box to their living space soon. 


Here is the state of my office/studio right now.  Soon to be the office/studio/guest room. I have five days to finish painting and rearranging this room. Wish me luck! 

I did finish the portraits of the grandpups and am pleased with how they turned out. It was only a few weeks ago that I was going to throw away my paint because I could not make them do what I wanted. Hopefully I have turned a corner on that.


It seems more people are trying to reduce the amount of plastic and trash in our world and we are on that journey as well as my daughter and son-in-law. She asked for some beeswax wraps so I figured out how to render some of the old beeswax and have this blob and some fabric to attempt making them. I will let you know how it goes.


And last but not least I will leave you with my roses that are starting to bloom. I LOVE SPRING!!


Next week my son graduates from college so we will be traveling and celebrating with him. I will try to get a post done, but if I don’t, you know why.

Go out and wallow in some fresh air and sunshine this week!

Signs of improvement

Hi Everyone,

Is it better that I am writing at 4:24 am this week than at 3:15 last week? Slightly.  I actually got a full 8 hours sleep night before last and felt great yesterday. The husband is slowly regaining energy zapped out of him by the flu. Yesterday we killed it in our attempt to catch up on the farm projects. 

I am almost finished with the dog portraits and will post them soon. Here is a sneak preview of their noses.


Along with the weed eating and cleaning, mowing and barn roofing yesterday, I got my new bees and installed them in the hives. 


Spring is full on and life is insanely busy for the next few weeks so my posts will be short for awhile. Thanks for hanging in here with me.  Today is major house cleaning day and we have friends coming this afternoon to pick up a load of horse manure for their garden. Guess I should try to get a little more sleep before the dog alarms go off.

Have a great week!

February. Fun or Funk?

Hi Everyone!

How is your February going?  At the moment ours has been fairly mild weatherwise.  Usually February here is our coldest month and longest and dreariest. For a 28 day month it always seems to me it is at least 60 days long.  I’m writing this on February 2nd so we will see how I’m doing by the 28th.

I did work in a little fun this week when my BFFs invited me to join them on a ski trip.  Get this…yours truly went skiing in 10 degree temperatures (wind chills around -10)!  Yes indeedy.  Here we are.  Four layers on top, three layers on bottom, two pairs of socks, two pairs of gloves, face mask, toboggan and goggles made this a fairly comfortable endeavor. Fresh snow, great friends and no lift lines made it awesome!

Do we look warm enough?
Do we look warm enough?

I have managed to cram a full schedule into the February.  I’m going to visit my daughter in Charleston, SC next week.  It would be lovely to have about 75 degrees while I’m there.  The next weekend I start Bee School and that will last five weekends.  Of course it is time to start on the dreaded taxes. Yuck.  I am working on the bathroom remodeling and need to get new bee hives to put together and paint before bees arrive in April.  I have a list of sewing I want to do and last, but not least, I am working, working, working on new artwork.  Hopefully all this will get me through winter without going into my usual funk.

Many of you who read this blog are creative people with blogs of your own, artwork, writing, etc.  I would love to have your help and advice as I throw myself into my artwork and try to get it out into the world.

I am in the process of writing an Artist Statement.  When I read these at show openings I often find them dry and academic.  In other words…boring.  I suspect that is because they are just darn hard to write.  How do you write about yourself without sounding either conceited or weird?  I would like mine to explain why I create stuff and what it’s about without being boring, conceited or weird.  The challenge at the moment is just to figure out why I create stuff and what it’s about!  I am open to suggestions and would love to read yours or someone’s you think did a good job with theirs.

Do you sell work online?  If so, pointers on Titles, Descriptions and Tags would also be appreciated.  Creating art is not nearly as hard as writing all these things.  I am currently on Etsy, Fine Art America and now Red Bubble and Art Pal (still working on this one in case you don’t find much).  If you want to take the time to check these out and send me a critique, I will be happy to listen.

I am not sure what to do with my Etsy shop.  In my attempts to minimalize my life and stuff I am finding that keeping inventory is a royal pain, not to mention shipping.  The print-on-demand stores are very convenient and after the time involved in shipping, probably gives about the same return on investment.  Oh well, it’s there with stuff in it for the moment and I will ponder the future of it as I go along.

Please join in the conversation.  I have been writing this blog for a few years now and it’s lonely out here.  It is time that I heard from more of you.

Stay warm and in case I don’t get a Valentine’s Day post on here, give someone special a hug and/or kiss.  You don’t have to wait until the 14th.  Go ahead. Do it now!

Backyard mayhem 

I have had three very stressful days. When you hear why, you may think “she’s been out in the sticks too long already.”

To catch my new readers up to speed, this Spring I became a newbie beekeeper.  I grew up with my Dad and Grandpa beekeeping as long as I could remember and often helped my Dad when he harvested honey. Beekeeping today is nothing like back then. I never remember Dad stressing out over his bees (for the record, he doesn’t stress about much anyway). You put a swarm of bees in a hive, then a few months later had honey. The bees did their thing and you stayed out of the way. It may not have been completely that simple but close.

Now, everything is out to get the bees. I have one hive that I have watched over this year like a newborn baby. Dad brought the new hive to me and said he thought they had been robbed (bees from another hive will take honey and food from a new or weak hive) early on. So I fed them sugar water every day until they were gathering enough nectar on their own. 

In July I saw small hive beetles and put in a trap. By September they were strong with good honey and brood (future bees). My queen seemed to be doing a great job. I started feeding them sugar water and essential oils to prevent mites (one of the major bee killers here in the U.S.).  I decided to leave them all the honey for their winter food. I was feeling good about their chances of getting through the winter.

Then came October. No more blooms. A few wet days from the hurricane. Then yellow jackets (for those of you who don’t have them, they are an evil wasp species). They started to try and sneak in the hive. Not a lot, but an ever present evil pest. I had already covered the front entrance of the hive with a wire mesh to keep out mice as the temperature fell (mice want to live in the warm hive but make their usual nasty mess). Now I stuffed the mesh with grass and leaves to reduce the space for the yellow jackets to sneak through until I could get an official entrance reducer that closes the entrance to about a one inch opening. 

Last week I left for a couple of days to visit my college girlfriends and came home to find the yellow jackets broke through the grass/leaves and were coming and going freely into the hive. NOT GOOD!

I quickly duct taped (yet another use for it) most of the entrance closed and Tuesday night got the entrance reducer at our local beekeeping meeting. I live almost an hour away from the nearest supplier and shipping on a $1 ER is about $12. Finally Wednesday morning I installed the ER, took off some unused honey racks, installed an enclosed top of the hive feeder to reduce the chance of the yellow jackets smelling the sugar water, then let out a sigh of relief to have gotten my bees safely tuck in for the winter. 

Thursday morning- 9:30 am. I take a casual stroll out to the bee yard. There I see my hive surrounded in a cloud of bees. Not yellow jackets, not my bees. From parts unknown, either a distant neighbor’s hives or feral bees, my hive has been invaded.  My little guard bees are fighting valiantly to prevent the robbers from pillaging their honey and killing the queen.  I can’t stop hundreds of bees. I run into the house and grab a sheet and a jar of sugar water.  I drape and tie and pin the sheet over the hive, trapping some robbers and my bees together, but stopping the onslaught from the cloud of bees swarming around me and the hive. I dump the sugar water in a pan away from the hive to entice the robbers away. I have done all I can do and can only stand, watch and listen to the battle go on. It is heartbreaking.

At dusk, when all good and bad bees go home, I untied the sheet, dreading what I will find. A pile of dead bees are on top of the hive. I suspect a battle to the death between good and evil. A couple of bee bodies on the ledge and a couple of guard bees dragging a dead body out of the hive.  

Some frantic research on my part revealed I should close down the entrance to one bee size hole and rub Vicks Vapor Rub around the entrance. As I am doing this, one brave, but I’m sure, exhausted guard bee thought I was another invader and stung me. She survived all that then died trying to keep me away. It’s the only sting I have gotten from my bees and yes, I cried over her death. 

I was miserable all evening. I could not open up the hive to see how bad the damage was or see if the queen was dead or alive. I knew the robbers would be back today and yes they were. I got a jump on them, had the hive covered with the sheet before they arrived. There were not as many today. I called my Dad for advice. He told me to keep them closed up, but give them more food at night. They should be ok for a few days like that and hopefully will make a new queen if the existing one was killed. All may not be lost, but I am bracing myself for the worst. 

We have not had rain here for almost two months. Wildfires are burning in our mountains. I would ask again, like last week, pray for rain and while you are at it, plant some flowers for the bees. They need all the help they can get. 

My son will be home next week for Thanksgiving so a post here may not happen so I will have more time with him.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my U.S. readers. Have a wonderful week everyone else. 

Curiosity

Dorothy parker quote

I saw this quote on my cousin’s Facebook feed this morning and thought about how true this is.  Curiosity is a blessing and a curse all wrapped up together with the fact that as far as we know, we only get one lifetime.  Personally, I do not have enough time to go down every rabbit hole my curiosity wants to take, but by golly I’m going to try!

A friend asked me recently how I do everything I do.  The answer is “I do lots of things, but not necessarily lots of things well”. That is also a blessing and a curse.

I would love to excel in a couple of areas, but to really do that I would have to give up soooo many other things that I want to do, try, learn, places to visit and explore.  BUT I will admit, quite happily, that I NEVER GET BORED!  Boredom is a waste of your precious life.  Whether it is one passion or a thousand, curiosity is what makes you dig deeper, study more, practice more, give more, smile more and get out of bed with leap instead of a moan.

Another conversation recently was about a wealthy family a loved one spent some time with.  He said, “they have so much money and all they can find to do is sit around and drink every evening, all evening.”  That, my friends, is a waste of a life.  Good heavens, spend some of that money and go travel or see if you can make someone else’s life better with it.  Don’t drink it!

How do you break out of the boredom routine? Let me see if I can give some suggestions if you need help.

  1.  Pick one little subject that you have a speck of interest in and start doing some research.  Not boring classroom research, but real life research. Example:  I started out growing herbs to cook with.  During my Pinterest time I would pin articles about growing herbs and read about them.  Those articles often described the healing properties of herbs and plants.  To make a long story short, I now have started making my own herbal remedies to use and discovering that most of what we call weeds are beneficial plants. This summer I have wandered around learning plant names and properties that I have looked at all my life and knew nothing about.
  2. Take something that you perceive as a need and find a solution.  Example (sorry, I’m using me for all these, but I can’t speak for how other folks find their rabbit holes) – I needed honey. I had always gotten my raw honey from my Dad, but when my sister and brother-in-law started expanding his honey business the honey was often sold out before I could restock my supply.  I realized that now that I live out in the country again I could have bees and have my own honey supply.  Sounds easy enough until you have to research how to keep 60,000 bees alive.  Guess what! Bees are fascinating little creatures. I am now officially a bee fanatic.
  3.  Take a new road. Example – see my post about finding my way around my new part of the world.  I am seriously racking up new ideas for drawings and painting by just turning down a road that I haven’t been down before.  The views here are amazing.  In more populated areas (we don’t have a grocery store here if that explains anything) you could run across a music store where you could learn to play an instrument, a plant nursery where you could get herb plants, a school that would love to have volunteers to help students read.  It is endless.
  4.  This may be the most important one. Do not be afraid to fail at something!  I repeat – DO NOT BE AFRAID TO FAIL!  With the possible exception of certain extreme risk taking passions, most endeavors are not life threating and not un-repairable. Yes, one more Example from the home front – Floor tiling.  We decided to tile our floors ourselves.  Since I am the detail person that primarily means ME.  No, I had never stuck the first tile to a floor EVER when I started. That is what YouTube is for.  I am 85% finished with the floor and am pretty darn pleased with the way it has turned out. A professional tile guy could find my mistakes, but I bet you couldn’t.  Even if I had messed the floor up, we had saved enough money by doing it ourselves that we could have hired the tile guy to come fix my mess. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO FAIL!

My cousin, who posted the above quote, and my sister are both smitten with the curiosity curse as well.  Enter ballroom dancing, photography, welding, raising llamas…maybe it’s a genetic curse.

Curse or blessing, Curiosity just makes life FUN.  If you want a break from the depressing news and elections go find a rabbit hole to fall into.  Your TV will get dusty, Facebook friends will send out a search party and your budget may or may not (curiosity does not have to be expensive) take a beating, but life will get very interesting and colorful and exciting.

Why are you still here?  Go!

 

Get lost. Slow down. Change directions.

sunflower 2016
My sunflowers are enjoying the heat. They are at least 8′ tall and still growing!

I hope you all have had a lovely week. It has been a typical July week here. Hot as Hades all day with a late afternoon thunderstorm that hopefully cools the air a little. Often it doesn’t. Sometimes the air is so humid and thick after a storm that it feels difficult to breathe. You would think you could squeeze the juice out of it. My poor bees are spending more time on the outside of the hive than inside. I’m thinking I should get a tiny air conditioner for them. No, I do not spoil the creatures that live with me (much).

The past couple of weeks have been spent getting settled, finding my way around and meeting people. If I counted correctly, this is my tenth move in my lifetime. Most of my moves have been within miles of each other, but this is the third move to a completely new area. My first major move was as a newlywed to a different state. My then husband was working third shift, the company had put us up in a hotel until we could find a home and I knew no one. I couldn’t stay in the hotel room during the day while my husband was trying to sleep, but I had no where to go.

This was before cell phones and we had two not-so-great cars. So, I did what any bored, fearless (you have that in your 20’s) young woman would do. I got my car keys, filled the car up with gas and proceeded to drive in and out of town until I was hopelessly lost, then figure out how to get myself back to the hotel.  Honestly, it was a huge adrenaline rush. Sometimes I barely made it back before my husband got up to go to work.  By the time we moved out of the hotel three weeks later, I rarely got lost. I found all the important places (Town Hall, library, the MALL) and lots of scenic areas of the countryside.

I have been using this same technique with slightly more common sense this time.  Lately our vehicles have been just as bad (except for THE BEAST, our F-350 pickup that I LOVE to drive), but I do have my cell phone and AAA card with me now. I found the library. People seem to think that libraries are not important anymore. I beg to differ. The bulletin board alone was a wealth of information. Local events and services that I had not been able to find online were on the bulletin board.  So, I have the library, found the arts council, town hall, pharmacy, car mechanic and our local state park for hiking. Hey, not a bad start for two weeks of being lost!

ghost flowers 2016
I discovered Ghost plants on our way to pick blackberries this week. They are such an oddity with all the color this time of year.

The harder adjustment I am having to make is the pace of life here. I’m pretty sure it was the same way when I was growing up out in the country but I wasn’t aware of it. EVERYTHING is slower. I have been in Surburbia for twenty years. I have worked two jobs for about twelve years. I shuttled two kids to thousands of practices and events for eighteen years. All that has come to a screeching halt. I often find myself standing somewhere in disbelief that there is nothing on my To Do list that HAS to be done immediately. Trust me, I’m not complaining, but after decades of rushing around and working under endless deadlines, it is disorienting.

Now that I have said that life has slowed down, just this week events have fallen into place for D. to start a business he has been planning for about two years. Originally he was going to start it next year after he retires, but an opportunity presented itself that was too good to pass up. This means that for about four months I will be back to working two jobs again as we start this while he is still working full time.  I will fill I the details as this moves along.

blueberry jam 2016
More slow stuff. Making blueberry jam.

I need to mosey on now to finish tiling these floors (they WILL be done by the end of the month!).  I’m going to leave you with some hard earned wisdom. If life is a little boring or drab, or the creative juices have quit flowing (they do sometimes), literally get in your car, on your bike, take the bus, use your feet and go get lost. The change in scenery and the adventure will do you good. Don’t use the GPS. Use your God given instincts!

zinna butterfly 2016
Just one of the hundreds of butterflies that have been visiting my zinnias this year. I have never seen soooo many in one place before!

All photos by Christel D. Huttar.

The bees are here!

Welcome to the farm honeybees!  My Dad finally deemed the bees ready to move to their new home and made the trip out yesterday.  Here he is setting up the hive.

Dad and beesWhen I was little I was Dad’s bee assistant.  No, I did not get the official beekeeper’s veil, but stood nearby enough to fetch and carry as needed while he worked the bees.  Then, when the honey was ready I helped clean the racks after he cut the honeycomb out.  I learned early on that you get the most bee stings two ways.  First, going barefooted outside.  Bees love clover and we had clover in the yard.  Second, picking up sticky honey racks before looking to see if any bees were still trying to save their honey.

People get frantic when a bee is buzzing around.  They need to know that unless a bee thinks she is in danger they do not want to sting you.  Why? Because she dies afterward.  Just stay still and the bee will move on.  These industrious creatures have more important things to do than go around terrorizing innocent bystanders.  More important things like pollinating plants that make your FOOD.  They don’t do that for us. They are making their own food, but it happens to be a well designed by-product of their work.

So Dad situated the hive and we all went into the house for a visit.  When it was time to go we walked out to check on them and were happy to see they were already hard at work.

As evening fell they headed into the hive for the night and I was anxious to see how they were doing this morning.  All my reading up on bees said to situate the hive facing East or South.  Well, my Dad plopped the hive down facing West.  I suspect after 60-70 years of beekeeping Dad has decided that the bees aren’t really very picky which way their front door faces.  Sure enough, I got out to check on them as soon as possible and here they are starting to wake up and go to work.  D. and I speculate that our bees just get to sleep in later in the morning, but work later in the evening this way.  You know the rush hour traffic is probably avoided with these work hours.

first day beesOne more thing off this Spring’s To Do list! Dad said I need to walk by the hive every day.  I’m not sure if that is just so I can check on them or for them to get used to me or both.  I do know that sitting near them yesterday listening to the hum of busy bees brought back long buried childhood memories of warm, honey sticky days with my Dad and I’m glad he was the one to get my bees off to a good start.

 

Photos by Christel Williams