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!

Hygge

I hope all of you had a wonderful week!  We had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend with most of our families. A few missing kids & grandkids that had other obligations that we should be seeing for Christmas though. I got some quality time with my son while he was home. There are plans in the works for after his graduation that could take him far, far away for a couple of years so I am trying to squeeze in as much time as possible with him.

The impending graduation and possible time abroad for my son set off a new wave of empty nest issues for me last week. Coupled with the onset of winter, the past week or so has been an emotional roller coaster.  I suffer each winter from a medium to serious degree of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.  In other words, I endure winter and not happily. Those who live with me, endure me and probably not happily.

During my recent wanderings on Pinterest I ran across this… hygge

It seems that this is how the Danish people get through their long winters without succumbing to cabin fever. You can do your own research on the subject (and there are a few naysayers online), but I like the idea of sanctuary, community, coziness, WARMTH, celebrating and well-being (without resorting to pills).

Since I very recently had a weeping spell over my lost honeybees, I also need to work on letting go of the whole mothering thing now.  Not that I will stop being Mom to my kids, but let go of the need to mother everybody and everything that breathes.  The bees are capable of working out their survival with minimal help from me the same way my kids are now too.  It’s time I look after myself for a change and of course my husband (who does a good job of looking after me when I don’t look after myself very well).

So, I am lighting candles, putting warm, fluffy blankets everywhere, trying to get back to a regular yoga practice, dragging out the long thermal underwear to use for walks in the woods and stocking up on good novels for the winter.  About February, when the worst of the SAD sets in, I will try to remember to give you an update.

**As I am writing this, I just had a text conversation with my son, who suffers from insomnia like I have all my life.  Of course I am giving him suggestions and trying to fix it for him.  Twenty-two years of mothering is a hard habit to break.  Are there 12 step programs for empty nesters???

 

Photo credits:  Hygge photo credit unknown.  Pug photo by Matthew Henry.

 

 

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!

 

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

Floors and bees

Happy Friday!! It is a rainy one here.  Good thing I just have TILING on my To Do list today. Yes friends, I actually stuck tile to floor last week! Check it out.

floor 2Here is what I have learned so far if any of you happen to want to tile your own floor.  1) It is not hard.  2) It IS tedious.  3) It IS messy.  I am still quite the novice at this and have not started cutting tile yet.  If you notice in the picture I just got the whole tiles down.  Today’s challenge is to test the cutter out.  I have a manual cutter and hopefully that will work for the most part.  There are a few pieces that will have to be cut lengthwise and I’m 99% sure my cutter will not do those.  Bless my friend Helen. She has a wet saw we can borrow.

floor 1

My goal is to get all the cut pieces down and mortar set so by Wednesday I can start the grout process.  I need this first room done before we can move on to the rest of the house.  You know, that whole move stuff out of one room so you can do the other room process.

All artwork is on hold probably until July.  There simply is no time.  It is all I can do to keep up with my design work right now.  Gardening season is upon us and D. is chomping at the bit to get seeds in the ground.  I am throwing a box of stuff in the car every trip up to D’s in my attempt to make a SLOW move this time.  My last couple of moves have been fast and stressful. Now that process is reaching critical mass and we are having to make more and more decisions on what stays and what goes and how fast can it go.

Next week my town is having a recycling day.  I am dropping off a carload!  The next weekend the theatre company I work for is having their annual yard sale.  Guess who will be dropping off a TRUCK load?  Can you tell I am beginning to feel a little overwhelmed???

With all this going on I have avoided thinking about spending any time drawing or painting and started distracting myself with gardening ideas.  Too much time on Pinterest will make you crazy.  I started studying medicinal herbs, and decided to expand my herb garden this year.  That started me thinking about my future bees and how to help them.  That lead me to studying permaculture and now I have another whole list of projects for the farm.  Someone please take my ipad away from me or slap me when I am on Pinterest or YouTube!

beephoto-1437514805204-ae0a51951572

Soooo, about those bees.  I spent Easter with Mom & Dad.  Dad got me the bee hive for Christmas and has it put together now.  It’s time to get the bees for it.  The plan was to hopefully get a split from one of his hives.  No such luck this year so I told him to go ahead and get me a nuc when he and my brother-in-law pick up their order next week. Then I asked him when we can get the bees settled in their new home.

Dad sort of hesitated and replied “Well, I need to keep them here for a little while so I can keep an eye on them and make sure they are alright.”  Ok, I have to admit that my thought at that moment was…”Dad, I got your grandchildren to adulthood without losing, starving or maiming them, I think I can handle some bees.”  I refrained.  MAYBE I will get bees these year.

Since I have been slack for the past couple of weeks about including some environmental information I will recommend the documentary Vanishing of the Bees.  The link take you to the website, but you can watch it on Netflix.  We need the bees.

Have a wonderful week and go plant some flowers for the bees this week.

 

Flooring photos by yours truly.

Bee photo credit.