Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Husband the bee hero....

Last week I got a call from a friend that they had cut down an old tree in her neighbors yard.  I had seen this tree many times before, brought to my attention because of the active bee hive thriving in this majestic, gnarled old tree. It stood steadfast on the edge of the neighbor's property, it's heavy old limbs draped over my friends driveway.  The fear was that the tree would give way and crush my friend's car or worse, the house. 
My friend said the tree had been cut down and I had to come to see all the bees and the ions of honey comb.  That it was amazing,  I am sure she has no idea the maelstrom of emotions this set off. Coming on the heels of bad new about my father's health and too little sleep after a late night shift I could not hold back the tears.  I hung up the phone and sobbed.  I cried for those beautiful bees, whose lives had been turned on end with a simple cut of the saw.  How honeybees  have been assaulted from every angle, from pesticides, to genetically modified plants, to habitat loss.  And while I was at it, I cried for that beautiful old tree, and for the squirrels and birds who had made it their home.   
This was something I could never appreciate.
Since it was almost December, it seemed their fate was sealed. The neighbors had tried to get a professional to come and see if they could save the hive, but it seemed that was not going to pan out. Although the temperatures had been unseasonably warm, there was no nectar flow or pollen to be had.  If the comb was damaged, as it sounded like it certainly was, there was not much to be done.  I tried in vain not to think about the bees and I steered clear of that block when driving or walking my dogs.  
Two days later, my friend called again to say the bees were flying and she was wondering of there was anything we could do to help them. I stopped my pity party and went into action. I called several people who are known in the Denver area to rescue bees. As much as I hated to do it, I had to go take a look to see what we were dealing with before we could help.

This piece of log was by the street, the bees were very active and agitated and many passerbys were agitated too.  Since the all the pieces of the hive were not together the hive was split and one section must have been without a queen. The comb was damaged but still intact in many areas.

Here is the section on the neighbors yard. Also many bees were flying about in disarray.
The people whose tree this was were none too happy about the amount of bee activity in their yard, but after some finagling on my part, (a few promises to help clear the bees away in Spring if they are lucky enough to make it through the winter) they agreed to some simple measures to try and save the hive.
I again consulted some bee experts, it seemed the only solution was to put the pieces of trunk back together, insulate and cover and hope for a mild winter.  The question how to get the logs back together.  The logs were way too heavy and the bees way to irritated for me to try and move alone.
It was Friday afternoon when I called my husband at work. Instead of inviting him out for a romantic dinner, or cozy date night, I asked him for help moving a 300 lb log full of angry bees in the total dark.  Did he hang up on me or tell me I was crazy?  
No he did not!  He left work early, purchased a large peice of R 30 insulation and a large tarp, and headed home He picked up his dolly and we headed over to the house under the cover of darkness.  Since the temperatures had dropped, very few bees were flying. He fastened the single log to his dolly and deftly moved it up and fitted it snugly with the other large piece of log.  
We cover up most of the logs with insulation and the tarp, leaving a nice opening for them to come and go     
Now we leave those industrious girls to their Sisyphean task and hope mother nature is on their side.


Friday, November 30, 2012

In honor of national spinach week....

warm farro and spinach salad with apple and blue cheese    

OK, it's not really spinach awareness week, I made that up.  I am not sure about you but in the summer it is really easy to get in my green leafy veggies, but come winter my tastes turn to sweet potatoes and butternut squash.  I feel hard pressed to make a big salad on a cold winter's night and I would like to think that's because it's not in season, but the truth is spincah likes really cool weather and in a climate like ours, spinach can pretty much grow year round.  I just picked the last of my spring spinach that has survived unscathed until now, December 1st.  
Here is a recipe for a spinach salad that can stand up to the coldest of temperatures.  I didn't add tomatoes because I was trying to eat in season,
Warm Farro spinach salad with warmed apple blue cheese and hard boiled egg.

1/2 cup of cooked Farro
1/4 cup stock (optional)
1 shallot sauteed until softened
1 bunch of spinach
1/2 an apple thinly sliced and briefly heated on stove top to soften
sprinkle of blue cheese
hard boiled egg thinly sliced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1-2 tsp honey   
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

I warm the dressing in the microwave for a few seconds
Have you discovered Farro yet.  A wonderful ancient grain believed to have sustained the Roman legions.  Not wheat but a grain of it's own, it is easy to cook and tastes great plain.  For this recipe I add a  bit of stock and sauteed shallots when I am done cooking to give some depth.
Cover with spinach, softened apples, blue cheese egg and then warm dressing.  It is hearty and healthy. 
And since I have finished the last of our spinach, I decided to try some indoor,
I have had luck starting lettuce inside and then moving outside on warmer days in my version of a hot house, a piece of glass set against the south side of the house, perfect for days like today with temps in the 50's.


finally finished Anastasia

 Finally finished my Anastasia sweater.  Love this, it was so fun to knit and I like it better than anything I have knit thus far.  I want to knit it in charcoal.  


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fall is here....

Fall is here! And not a minute too soon.  The garden is winding down, the pumpkins and squash have been plucked out from under the nose of daredevil squirrels who brave our backyard despite out very own guard animals.
Ferocious Oddie

And the vicious Casey Caso

The only tomatoes left on the vine are mealy or still green,  Today I cleared out a raised bed and put on a cover crop of clover down, something I plan on doing every year but never seem to get around to.
The bees have decreased there number to prepare for winter,  I am concerned about the amount of wasps I have flying around the ground in front of the hive and even occasionally entering.  They bees seem strong, but I can't imagine why they would allow a wasp in. I am VERY reluctant to kill them, I really believe there is a delicate balance that we should not disturb, and the wasps have been so good in the garden keeping out your everyday garden villains like slugs and squash borers.
I have posted on some bee forums to see if I can get any feedback,  I also snooped around the neighborhood to a home near by that has 3 langstroth hives. I noted many wasps patrolling the grounds around their hives too.  
On the knitting front, I am still spinning my beautiful fiber, slow and steady.
I have also finished a shrug

But the big news is I have started a new cardigan.  
Anastasia by Cecily MacDonald. I downloaded the pattern from Raverly today and have been knitting furiously since,


It is the most difficult but by far the most fun thing I have ever knitted.  I love the Madeline Tosh yarn.

Also my sweet hubby, after all these years decided he wanted to learn to knit!  YEAH.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Shades of green

I am sorry if I am just preaching to the choir for anyone who would be looking at my blog, but I am still frequently floored by people who are otherwise concerned about our environment but who are using toxic chemicals on a daily basis.
For instance, I have a lovely neighbor who eats organic foods and buys organic cotton clothing, and wouldn't dream of using an Roundup, but pours toxic fertilizers on her lawn on a regular basis.
This morning I saw here dousing her front yard with a spray can full of the stuff  
"Oh it's just Miracle Grow"  she smiled innocently at me.  "I put the dogs in the house for a few days."  Really?  Is that what we want to put on our yards?  For a green lawn no less?

Here are some facts about Scotts Miracle Grow (not to mention the 12 million dollar law suit they have just been slapped with for selling poisonous bird feed) 

Miracle-Gro is a synthetic fertilizer that contains ammonium phosphate and several other chemicals that can be toxic to your soil and plants. It is prohibited from use in certified-organic farming.

Long-term studies at the University of Wisconsin have shown that acidic chemical fertilizers are causing serious, permanent damage to our soils
. Usually these fertilizers are also highly soluble, so they leach away and pollute our water systems, too!

This isn't just specific to Scott's products, all non organic fertilizers reek havoc on our soil.

Chemical factory
• Chemical fertilizers do not contain any trace minerals/micro nutrients. After a few years the soil has been depleted from those elements. Overtime those elements are not contained in the fruits or in the vegetables anymore diminishing their quality.
• Chemical fertilizers are used together with chemical pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Use of chemicals have a negative impact on the soil, the water as well as the crop as the vegetables, for instance, still contain chemical traces which are then absorbed upon eating
• Chemical fertilizers kill microorganisms which in turn will make the soil useless where nothing can grow
• Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are responsible for water contamination. For excessive enrichment of ponds, rivers and lakes is due to an overuse of chemical fertilizers (see eutrophy)
• Usage of chemical fertilizers have a long term effect on the plants, the soil, the environment and you.

The advantages of organic fertilizers are so numerous I won't get into boring details and they are available everywhere, but one of the best ways to keep your soil fertile is to encourage earthworms! 
But that's for a whole other post... 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

One seed at a time...

This weekend was the Denver Botanic Gardens' Urban Homesteading Tour and I was lucky enough to be part of it.  Denver has amazed me with it's homegrown, eat local, and urban homesteading movement, and Saturday as the groups of people filed through our small city garden, I got to meet and talk with them firsthand.  I met so many people who were planning on or who already embarked on the age old practice of growing their own food or raising chickens or keeping bees.  I met people who various reasons could not start their own gardens but wanted to be apart of this incredible movement all the same.    
People from all walks of life who see a need for a change in our current food production system and are taking steps to make that change happen one seed at a time.

Truthfully I didn't take any pictures Saturday since I was so busy showing people around.  I was also coming off a night shift and had only slept a few hours so I was dazed.  One of the sponsors of the tour, The Lazy Homesteader, came and did take some pictures.  
She has a great blog  at lazyhomesteader.com
In the morning before people arrived, I made a meager attempt to cut back fallen sunflowers, pick dead leaves and clean out any fresh poop from the chicken coop. Then I put out a basket of eggs, jams and applesauce I had canned this year for viewing, and honey and beeswax lotions for sampling.  I have to say, the honey went over well.   

I picked herbs and set out the dehydrator to dry them, I also brought out seeds that I had saved.

Add caption

My favorite chickens ever, a docile black Java and Delaware

Friday, September 14, 2012

Audrey In Pink

I have been knitting madly on my Audrey in Undst sweater,  I just finished the sleeves which are made by picking up stitches around the arm and then adding short rows.  Now I am putting on the button bands.  I love this construction, but sadly made it too small.  I never get gauge and then I try and adjust the pattern.  I don't think it worked in this case, but I still love the sweater and plan on squeezing into it if it kills me!  I plan on making it in brown too.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Spinning out of control

After months of focusing on planting and growing, harvesting and then preparing food from the garden, I am ready to be done.  With the shorter hours of daylight and slightly cooler night temperatures, the vegetables are beginning to die back.  I am harvesting the last of the tomatoes, peppers and zucchinis and the pumpkins are all round, ripe and ready for picking.  It's time to turn my attention to my other obsession.
Knitting!  And now spinning....

I recently took a class at the Fancy Tiger in Denver, a drop spindle class.  I knew I would be smitten and I am.  The feel and smell of that sheepy fiber, the way it slips through your fingers, magically transforming into one of my favorite things, yarn!
The drop spindle is so beautiful and basic.  Just a smooth piece of wood

I love the fact that is has been used for centuries, that it has a long history and that is so streamlined.  I also love how rustic the spun yarn looks.  Right now I guess I don't want the yarn to look perfect, like machine-spun yarn.  I am sure that that would have it's benefits too, but I like the look of unevenly spun yarn for some projects,  And the price was right.
Two ounces of fiber and the lovely Ashford drop spindle were included in the class for just $35.00!  It was well worth the money, and Jamie was a wonderful teacher.  
After class I purchases 2 more ounces of this:

Blue Face Leicester

Which came from him, isn't he cute?  I will call the Fancy Tiger to see if he was a Canadian sheep, American or is imported from England.I just read where they have recently introduced this breed in the US.  I love this wool!

washed and dried
My photography does not do this beautiful little skein justice.  I want to sleep with it is is so scrumptious

Friday, September 7, 2012

Coming soon.....

worm compost
Happily, this year we will participate in The Denver Botanic Gardens Homesteading Tour. 

Last year we were on the Denver Botanic Gardens tour of the chicken coops and we loved loved it.  It was wonderful sharing ideas with like-minded folks.  We met many people who already had gardens, some had chickens or goats, and some who were interested in starting the process and wanted to get some ideas.  Since this whole homesteading movement is so dear to my heart, and I love spreading the word about how gratifying it can be, this is the perfect venue!
Homesteading is so much more than just having a garden.  To me, it's about trying to become more sustainable and more self-sufficient, and about connecting to our seasons, to our land and to our ancestors.  
Its about growing food, and then preparing or canning, drying or storing that food.  Its about composting, or seed saving, raising animals for food or fiber.  It's about handmade.
There is still time to apply if you want to share your way of homesteading.