Babies, Puppies, Flowers and Bees

Hi Everyone,

Yes, I went MIA last week. I believe I mentioned that we would be keeping one of our grandkids over the weekend. What I did not know until Thursday (when I normally write my posts) is that their new puppy would be coming along too. Now, I can usually juggle normal chores with a baby, but a baby and a puppy is a whole different thing. Add to the list that the puppy has some health issues and requires medication and baby + puppy = full time job. So last Thursday I went into high gear to finish any major projects/chores before Friday evening.

Even with DH and DN to help out, we had our hands full because the puppy kept us up several hours Friday night. Saturday we were exhausted all day but you can’t rest much with a baby and a puppy. Luckily both got a nap or two in. The baby was easy peasy the whole weekend. She was just the normal active 9 month old cruising the furniture and crawling around. The puppy on the other hand was cruising around trying to find more things to get into than the baby. He especially seemed to like chewing on our kitchen cabinet pulls! If you have ever had a baby/toddler and/or a puppy you know that if you can’t see them or hear them then you better be finding them ASAP!

Saturday night was slightly better. DH and I were out walking puppy and our dog at 3:30 am, but we got some sleep. Sunday night there were three people and one old dog that slept like the dead after baby and puppy left. Our dog, Odie, was a trooper the whole weekend. He tolerated the baby pulling his ears and poking her fingers up his nose and the puppy not only sat down on him, but took his bed part of the time. Odie just gave me a look that said “I didn’t sign up for this!”.

This week I am in gardening mode, attic work and beekeeping. I really think the months between April – October I need to call this blog “Bees, Babies and Blooms”. That pretty much covers most of what I am doing instead of artwork. I have a list I am trying to get to, but it’s a challenge right now. Next weekend we have another grandkid coming to stay so if I’m MIA next week then you know why.

Yes, it is really this purple!

The photos are of many of the lovely blooms happening here. We have spent almost a year and a half of uncovering flower beds and shrubs and trees from layers and layers of ivy (poison and English!), honeysuckle, and wild grapevines. Under all these vines have been so many lovely plants and flowers. This Spring has been more surprising than last Spring as we have uncovered more irises, lilies and old roses. We still have more to go and I have lots of thinning to do because these plants are so excited to see daylight again that they are bursting at the seams in places.

Have a great week and I plan to be back next week, but you know…babies, blooms and bees are happening here.

Faith, Hope, Love, Grace

Christel

The Unknowns

Hi Everyone!

I hope you are well. If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, are you as excited as I am that SPRING will offically be here this weekend? The next couple of nights will not feel very Springy, but next week is looking much better.

Normally I plan to get my posts out on Thursdays, but give myself some grace to ooze into Friday when necessary. It has been a thing for the past few weeks. This week we had our oldest granddaughter with us Wednesday – Thursday while she is on Spring Break. Nothing terribly productive is going to happen when one or more of the kids or the grands are here. If all goes well (crossing my fingers), our schools are supposed to open back up to in person learning after Easter!! I’m not sure who is more excited, me or DN. She is so ready to have a social life again and I am so ready to have my schedule back again. DH is also now working 5 days a week again which he hasn’t been able to do since July. It is virtually impossible to really get the creative juices going with constant interruptions and as much as I love them, DH & DN find a way to interrupt my plans numerous times when they are home.

An update on my Queen Bee situation is in order after last week’s crazy. After providing Her Majesty with a cozy, new home, food, and brood for new workers SHE UP AND LEAVES! Absconding it’s called in the bee world. She took her tiny entourage and left to parts unknown. Dang it! There are theories and speculation as to why absconding happens, but no one really knows. I do know that it was a terrible time to leave and the likelihood that she and her attendants survived this week is very low. I guess all works out in the end. As disappointed as I was to lose her, I don’t think I really want a queen with that little good sense.

While I was driving back from soccer dropoff the other day I got to pondering the whole unknown thing. Have you ever thought about just how much “unknown” we live with every day? It’s unknown why queen bees leave a perfectly good hive. A year ago we all faced a whopping big unknown about this pandemic. It’s unknown every day what the weather will really do (sorry meteorologists, but you aren’t always terribly accurate). It’s unknown how our health will hold up, if our jobs will hold up, if our relationships will hold up. I find it ironic that human beings as a whole can be so arrogant when we know so little.

Hopefully the older we get and the more life “unknowns” we live through, the more we appreciate the here and now. I know that more and more I appreciate the simplest things because of where I’ve been. I seriously appreciate my family and friends because I have lost so many already. As I hear about more and more people losing their jobs I remember when I was laid off during the Great Recession with two kids to support and a mortage to pay. I appreciate our income and don’t waste it. Even with achy joints I appreciate my health because I’ve faced some scary health unknowns in the past. Just imagine how horrible human beings would be if we didn’t live with constant unknowns. The unknowns are here to humble us, I guess.

The honeybees and the artwork keep me humble always. I found a couple of hours to work on this drawing. In my head it looks different from the way it’s turning out. Really and truly, when I start a piece of artwork, I have no idea how it’s actually going to turn out. Simultainously, it’s amazing and frustrating. Sometimes I’m amazed it turns out ok (there is always the “this is awful” stage) and more times than not, it’s frustrating that it won’t work the way I want it to. Oh well, that’s life.

I have to go take care of a few things before it’s time to put on the Taxi Driver light for soccer practice. Have an awesome week!

Faith, Hope, Love, Grace

Christel

Dad, the girls are ok.

Hi Everyone!

Did anyone do any drawing last week? Guess what. I didn’t. Yes, you can slap me on the wrist. Spring is springing and around here that means all sorts of things are ramping up all at once. Happens every year in March.

We are still working on the attic. Slowly, but surely walls are going up. I have run out of primer and need to make a paint run before Saturday. The colder, wetter days are now attic days. I have been trying to do some cleaning out and reorganizing while waiting for paint to dry.

Seed planting and garden maintence have started. Weed pulling and general outdoor cleanup has been started. Our place was pretty much neglected and overgrown for years before we bought it so we are constantly picking different areas that have to have major brush, vine and weed removal.

Top all this off with DN playing in the high school band and making the soccer team. The football season was pushed to winter/spring so she has band practice and/or soccer practice and games every evening. I am still the taxi. It is a bittersweet moment when a teen gets their driver’s license. The parent is simultaniously terrified and joyous. DN is taking driver’s ed now and will have her permit in the summer. I am one year away from freaking out at every siren sound, running to the phone when it rings and losing sleep until I hear the car pull in. That doesn’t even cover the terrifiying moments in the passenger seat while a newbie driver is at the wheel. Real aging doesn’t happen until you survive teenagers!

March is the beginning of beekeeping season too. During the winter all you can do is make sure the girls have lots of food and hope for the best. March brings happy dances when you see the girls flying again or grief when you realize a colony didn’t survive the winter. If you have several hives these emotions can happen altogether. I got to do my happy dance yesterday. I had seen my girls flying before yesterday, but March is when many hives die from starvation. It was warm enough for me to open the hive and check their food stores. We still have some cold days and nights to go and not much is blooming yet. Unless something weird and dreadful happens, my girls should be good to go for another year.

I like to sit and just watch the bees going and coming. It’s peaceful and confirmation that despite the crazy in the world things are still in God’s order. Today especially I plan to sit with the bees. Today is my Dad’s birthday. He would have been 86. He was a life long beekeeper and when I was a girl one of my jobs was to help him with the bees. At the time I didn’t pick up much actual beekeeping knowledge other than be very careful where you pick up a frame of honey, but the smell of beeswax always sucks me right back to that time. Dad gave me my first hive of bees a few years ago and helped me get set up. I had no idea I would enjoy their company so much. Now I know why he would often go and watch the bees.

Happy Birthday Dad! The girls are ok. The bees and your human ones. I love you.

Have a great week everyone!

Faith, Hope, Love, Grace,

Christel

Featured photo was taken by yours truly when my Dad was setting up my first hive of bees for me in 2016. The second picture was taken by my sister on Dad’s 84th and last birthday in 2019.

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!

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. 

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.