Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ready to do Good Deeds

I really, really enjoy reading through the epistles in the Bible. There is just so much in them that reminds me of how I am supposed to live. I love the wisdom and directions that I can gain from them. I have been reading through the New Testament in my morning devotion time and last week one of the books was Titus.

Here is some of the verses that really caught my attention:

 "Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men." Titus 3:1 & 2.

  I can learn from everything in those verses but what really got me to thinking was the phrase "to be ready for every good deed". Though our good deeds (works) cannot buy our salvation or make us good enough to go to heaven they are still mentioned fairly often as something we want to do. We want to do what is right and good because God has given us everything and we love Him and want to please Him.

  Good deeds can be made up of a wide variety of actions. God has made each one of us different from anyone else with different talents and skills. A good deed might be giving something to the poor, being hospitable, helping to fix someone's car, sharing food with someone, helping somebody work at something, giving, etc.   There are many ways to do a good deed.

  It was fun to think about how we might be ready to do good deeds and what we could do to be more ready.

  In the ready category - We have various skills that we could use to help someone. Some of our newest skills (for the kids and I) is getting a bit better at carpentry and knowing how to use more tools than we did before - we could potentially use those skills to help others. I have thought about the fact that we have way more clothes, blankets and household items than we truly need and so if we saw someone that truly needed any of those things we could give them some of what God has blessed us with. We have room to be hospitable - we have extra places that people can sleep. We have plenty of food on hand that we could share. We are learning the scriptures so that we can share God's word with others. There are other ways that we are ready to do good deeds but I will leave it with that.

Some of the ways that I thought about that I would like to work at getting more ready for doing good deeds are: Having extra meals (or maybe breads) made and in the freezer or something like that that I could easily and quickly take to someone who just had a baby or who is sick or something of that nature. There are many times that I have thought that would be a nice thing to do but I don't have anything ready right then and that is the time that works to do it.    I also thought about the possibility of  getting passports in case God would want us to go to another country to do good deeds. I do want to get our well with the hand pump drilled so that if there would be a time that people in our neighborhood would lose electricity we could share fresh water with everyone. There are other things that I am thinking about as well.

  I think it is a good mental exercise to think about what good deeds I am ready to do and what I maybe should do what I can to get ready for. We have been blessed - lets be a blessing to others!

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Creative DIY Wedding

 A little over a month ago my friends Matt and Kristina got married.  They choose to have a fairly short engagement  of about 2 months (something I whole heartedly support when they have known each other for a while before dating as I think often long engagements are often just asking for temptation) and so they didn't have either a lot of time or money for the wedding.

  Instead they had a church family of whom I am a part who were willing to help them make their day special. The wedding did definitely turn into a group project. Though when the weekend came it did turn into a lot of work, it was also quite a lot of fun. I thought it would be fun to share some of the ways that we worked together to make things special on a pretty low budget.

  It was interesting for me to watch the wedding come together - from the first announcing it at church and all the young people gathered around them full of ideas and advice for the wedding (and the wedding really did end up being a mixing of the ideas of many people - it made it special in its own way) and then later they visited with various ones of us that were a little "older" and we tried to help them out as we were able.

   At the first discussion of the young people they decided to have a Sunset theme, they also wanted it rather rustic but then as things progressed it came out that Kristina also wanted some elegance (think pearls and lace and things like that).  They wanted to have an outdoor wedding and they thought that a "potluck" meal afterwards would be nice. I ended up somewhat playing the role of wedding coordinator which was rather fun.

  Here is the run down of how they did things economically and creatively:

~Invitations: They had my sister (a good friend of theirs and a good photographer) take engagement photos and then they had photo invitations printed.


Kristina originally found a dress for only $50 dollars at a second hand store that a lady in our church was going to alter for her. Later however a relative of Matt's offered her a dress that she liked better and didn't have to be altered.

Matt decided on Orange shirts and black pants for the guys. Matt found all the shirts and the guys provided their own pants.

They gave all of the bridesmaids a sunset color to find and a guideline for a basic dress style and the girls found their own dresses. The mother's of the flowergirls (all of them bridesmaids) also picked out their girl's dresses with the guideline of "pink". The flowergirl dresses ended up coordinating very well!

They decided to use the church building (free) but wanted to have the ceremony outdoors. Our church has a bit of property and so their was an area that would work to do that. We did have to have a brush fire and do some cleaning up including cutting down some dead trees or ones that had blown partly down but that was fun.

 For a backdrop there were the trees and then we decided to set some logs on end to create a visual focal point. I set some of my lanterns on top of them.

 For seating Matt was able to get some square hay bales from his parents and then my dad had some boards that he had sawn in his sawmill that they laid across the bales to make benches. I thought it looked pretty cool. Some of the boards went across logs instead of hay bales.

For the reception we used the indoors of the church building.

~Minister: My Dad performed the ceremony for them.

~Music: Mike (an Elder from our church) and I played the music for the wedding. They made it pretty simple for us by wanted easy church songs rather than anything classical or something we didn't know.

~Program: I just typed one up on the computer and printed it one some orange paper that I already had and then I found some stamps that I had to decorate them with. A friend kindly stepped in and helped with that as I was pretty busy.

~Photography: My Sister Keren is a very good photographer as are is Molly Bea (my sister-in-law) and Benjamin (a friend from church). All three of them took many of the pictures except for the fact that all three of them were in the wedding party so at that point they turned the cameras over to Molly Bea's brother Jordan and my niece Margaret. Some of the pictures in this post came from that group of photographers.

~Flowers: I volunteered to do their flowers if they would just pay the wholesale cost of the flowers. One of the things that I really love about having my wedding flower business is being able to help friends have really pretty flowers for very little. Kristina really liked the two tone roses in the sunset colors so that is what we used primarily.

~Cake: Matt and Kristina decided that it would be easiest to just do cupcakes and a few of us volunteered to help make them. However a couple of the ladies from church thought it would also be neat if there could be a nice looking cake too. So one of the ladies volunteered (without M & K knowing - we decided to have it be a surprise) to make one.

I think it turned out quite lovely! We did a bit of stacking of platters, vases and such to make it so we had some height in our cake/cupcake display.
I thought it would be fun to have a sunset painting behind the cake table so my talented sister-in-law, Molly Bea painted one for us to use.

The evening of the rehearsal some of us also frosted a lot of cupcakes. We also sprinkled them with sunset colored sugar. I had fun making that myself by simply mixing food coloring and sugar together and then letting it dry.
My friend Emily and I who were working on the cake table were not happy with our selection of platters - we didn't have enough that we thought looked nice together so she came up with the inspiration of using one of the boards that was leftover from the benches. She washed it off and we used that for our cupcakes too. It helped to pull that rustic look inside a little more.

~Decorating: This was very much a joint effort. Matt brought some things that his sister had left from her wedding that he said we could use as we wanted. He also brought some cute old lanterns that he thought would be a fun addition.  Kristina collected a bunch of pine cones and painted them silver to use for decoration. She also purchased some candles for us to use.  Keren brought some white Christmas lights to hang up. I brought lanterns, lace, branches, and various other things and we also were able to use a few things that were already at the church building. Various ones of us (mostly Keren, Molly Bea, Emily, Kristina, Mara and I) worked at decorating.

This was the gift table. I thought the birch branches added a nice rustic touch.
For the tables we had either a lantern in the middle or a group of three root beer bottles with flowers/greenery in them. I guess this variety of root beer is Matt's favorite so when we were talking about centerpiece ideas he thought it would be very fun to have root beer bottles used somehow. The little round log slices dad had made for me for another event but they worked nicely here too.

At the back of the benches outside I put some stanchions with big lace bows and a cluster of wooden roses that Matt had brought.

~The Meal: It did up being a potluck. Matt's parents brought the main dish of BBQ sandwiches, the church ladies kind of organized what we would bring to make it all work together and then other of their friends and family just brought whatever. Many of the church ladies volunteered to set it all out and make it look nice (we tried to use nice serving dishes) and it ended up both looking nice and tasting very good.

For the punch I froze an ice block in a heart shaped jello mold. It looked better at the beginning - I forgot to take a picture until well into the reception. It works well and is a fun touch, I think.
 Matt had also thought it would be fun to have a little campfire so he bought (he said he found a good sale, so he was happy!) a fire pit for our nice patio area. It didn't end up being used quite as much as they had thought but some young boys had fun with it.

  I am sure I missed some details (they did plan to go away on a tractor but the tractor ended up not working so that didn't work out) but I probably shared most of them. I thought it was a neat and creative wedding and I enjoyed working together as a church family to help make it happen.

 May you have many happy years Matt and Kristina!

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I am My Beloved's

You may remember that I have been reading through Song of Solomon. Today in my reading there was a verse that was a good reminder to me. It says:

 "I am my beloved's, and his desire is for me." Song of Solomon 7:10.

This makes me think about several concepts that are also brought out in the New Testament - The fact that after marriage your bodies belong to each other and also the fact that physical intimacy is good (in marriage) and not something to ignore and put off a lot just because you "aren't in the mood".

 I know I have written on this subject before and it is never something that I like to write that much about as I like to be at least a little bit private but I think when we are talking about have a good healthy and godly marriage we are going to remember that physical intimacy is important. I just wanted to encourage you once again in that area!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Making Mozzarella Cheese with Goats Milk

Mara kneading the cheese
 This past week we decided to make mozzarella cheese. My parents have been getting a lot of milk lately and they have very generously shared a lot with us. I am so thankful to have a source of good for you, raw, non-homogenized, rBGH (or rBST) free milk! Anyway with extra milk to do something with, cheese sounded like a good option - especially since we had just run out and we love cheese.

I had made Mozzarella cheese once before way back in 2008 so I had a little experience under my belt but this time I wanted to make it using a method that didn't use the microwave as I am trying to use that less.

 I found a couple of recipes (one being in my box of rennet) and I decided to combine the two. It worked pretty well so I thought I would share it with you.
The pan of ingredients sitting and working at separating.

Mozzarella Cheese

You will need:
  • -5 quart stainless steel (or enamel) pot. Don't use aluminum.
  • -A measuring cup.
  • -Thermometer that measures from 20 to 220 degrees. I got by without one however as mine appears to be broken. I just did some guessing (dipping my finger in) and it worked out.
  • -A long bladed knife.
  • -A thin cotton dishtowel or a clean large handkerchief.
  • -A strainer or colander
  • -A large Container to catch whey.
  • -A bowl that can handle hot water being put in it.

  • -1 gallon milk- I used raw, whole goat's milk but you can also use any type of cows milk, even skim milk (at least that is what my recipe says)
  • -1 1/4 teaspoon citric acid powder dissolved in 1/2 cup cool water. I bought this from Azure Standard. Our health food store also carries it and I guess you can get it at a pharmacy.
  • -1/2 tablet of rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water. (or I think you could substitute 1/2 teaspoons liquid rennet).
  • -Salt

How to make it:
  1. Warm milk over gentle heat to 88 degrees F. Be careful not to scorch.
  2. Dissolve citric acid in water and add to the warm milk. Stir well.
  3. Dissolve the rennet in water and stir thoroughly into warmed milk mixture. Let set undisturbed for 1 to 2 hours, until the curds and whey have fully separated. You want the curds to be somewhat firm. Let it set even longer than 2 hours if necessary, I let mine sit more like 3 or 4 hours.
  4. Using the long knife cut the curds into 1/2 inch cubes (do the best you can) by cutting at a slant from 4 different directions in rows across the pan. Be sure to cut all the way to the bottom as that was where my firmer curd ended up being.
  5. Warm the curds and whey (what is in your pan) over low heat, stirring gently to warm evenly and keep the curds separated until temperature reaches 108 degrees F. Hold at that temperature for 35 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to keep curds separated and off the bottom.
  6. Collect curds by pouring curds and whey through a fine cloth held in a sieve over a gallon container, let drain for 15 minutes. You may need to hang up the curds as well to truly get all the whey out. (see my picture) Save the whey - you can make Ricotta cheese with it and then save the whey from that too to use in pancakes and baking.
  7. Cut the curds into 1/2 inch cubes (I used that term cubes loosely - it really doesn't matter the shape!) and put into a clean bowl.
  8. Heat some water up (to around 170 degrees) and pour it over the curds.
  9. Knead the curds with 2 wooden spoons. As water cools you can knead them with your hands. Continue kneading and stretching cheese until it is elastic and shiny. Form the cheese into a "ball" trying to make sure their are no cracks.
  10. Put the ball into a container already filled with a saltwater brine (1/3 cup salt to 1 quart water). Either add ice to it or store it in the fridge. Leave it in the brine as little as an hour or as long as overnight (the two recipes didn't agree on this and I did overnight but it did make it fairly salty.)
  11. Remove from water and pat dry. Either freeze, refrigerate or eat! Enjoy.

The curds hanging over the bowl full of whey.

 Mara volunteered to knead the cheese. We saved the milky water from this process and I used it in cooking later.
 This is the finished result. Our family thinks it tastes great. It does almost have the texture of already having been melted - it is a pretty firm cheese. I am not sure if I did something wrong to cause that (that did happen the other time I made it as well and my sister-in-law also had this experience when she tried it) but we think it is good anyway. The kids think it tastes like string cheese which they think is better than regular cheese so they want me to make lots more!

Mom just gave us a bunch more milk yesterday so I think I might be making more soon.

   I did try to turn the whey into ricotta cheese - It wasn't that hard but I only got around 1/2 cup so I wasn't sure if it is worth the effort. We did save all the whey left from that which works great in many things. I freeze it to use in the winter when we don't have access to as much milk.

I am linking to:
monday's homestead barn hop

and Clever Chicks Barn Hop

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Responsibilites of the Rich (That's us)

This past week I was reading in 1 Timothy. I want to share with you what it says in chapter 6 verses 17-19:

  "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed."

 I have long appreciated the message in this verse and tried to follow it but at the same time when I have read this in the past there has been a part of me that after reading "those who are rich" tends to say - "Well that doesn't apply to me. Sure I feel "rich" (blessed!) but I know that according to most peoples standards I am not rich."

This past week when I read it however I caught myself thinking that again and then I stopped myself because-  I am rich! We have a nice home, we have more stuff than we know what to do with, we never go hungry (in fact I catch myself over eating as do others in my family), we can go on vacations and the list goes on and on. It doesn't matter if according to American standards that we aren't rich, we are. I am susceptible to the risk of being conceited or trusting in what I own rather than on God who has given us everything. I need to be aware of that risk and watch out for it.

  I am rich and so that gives me the responsibility to do good to others, to be generous and share with others. Maybe I don't seem rich when you compare me to the super wealthy but I know differently. I have more than I really need so I am rich. It is time to stop thinking those verses apply to others more than they do to me.

  Most people that I know are rich - most of them have far more than they need. That isn't true the world over however and there is always some that we can help, some that need us to share with them. I hope God will guide me in knowing who we should be helping.

  After reading this verse and thinking about it I happened to read Ann Voskamp's post entitled A letter to the North American Church. It went right along with what I was thinking. I would encourage you to read at as well and be blessed..... and motivated.

Because, I am guessing you are rich too. Aren't you?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Baby Chicks

 We have had some distractions around our house this week. It is hard to do to much around the place without checking to see how some cute little chicks are doing and as far as the kids are concerned they like to pick them up and hold them a bit too.
  On Tuesday we went to the store that we had ordered them from to pick up the 15 chicks that we ordered (we also ordered 60 broilers for my parents but they went right to their house). We ordered 5 female Silver Laced Wyandottes, 5 female Gold Sex Link and then 5 straight run (supposed to be a mix of male and female) of assorted. That group ended up being (I am pretty sure) all male Black Sex Link chicks. At the store Aaron and Megan each bought their own chick as well. Aaron got an Americana and Megan got a Brahma.
 We fixed up a box for them in the entry way for the time being. We really need to get the coop done soon! We did lose one baby (it died) the first night. That was to bad but I guess that is somewhat typical. It was a very sweet little chick that had looked like it was rather in a daze the day before.
 The kids have named many of the chicks and love to hold them.
 Megan's Alice (or George if it ends up being a boy) is our very best bug eater.
 They are all enjoyed their outdoor exercise now.
Aaron, and sometimes the others, takes them out to "play" quite regularly (like many times a day).

  My kids are so loving having chickens. I knew they would but didn't quite imagine this delight that they have. When I was a child having chickens (plus many other animals, especially lots of poultry) was very normal. We always thought that the chicks were cute but I really didn't do any playing with them. Anyway I think the fact that they have wanted them for a while and would love to be farmers has made them more excited now that they finally do have them. Hopefully they continue to enjoy them for a long time!

Any tips for the new chicken owners?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Have you read Song of Solomon?

Lately I have been reading through Song of Solomon in the Bible. We are working to read through the whole Bible (something I have done before but I hadn't done it systematically for a while) and it is Song of Solomon's turn. I have read it several times before and studied it in Bible college but it has never been a book that I have found to by very interesting or my style of writing (I hate to say that about part of the Bible but it is true).

   I think my disinterest in it probably comes from the fact that I am a sensible, practical sort of person. I do love beauty (in what I see, hear or understand) but I generally am not touched by poetry - I tend to prefer prose.

  That said I think that reading through Song of Solomon is good for me. I also think that it could be good for my marriage. Maybe I should work towards being a little bit more romantic. Maybe I should try to be just a bit more of a poetess in my relationship. I don't know but I intend to read through the rest of the book with an intent to take from it what I can to encourage and build up my marriage.

  What are your thoughts on Song of Solomon?

Some of the Ways We Saved Money Lately

I started this post last Saturday but this week has been a wee bit busy. So here it is today (and maybe my normal  posts will happen later).

I thought it would be fun to share some odds and ends of things that we have done to save some money recently. Here are some of what we have done:

~I cut Ken's hair. I need to do the boys' hair soon as well but it hasn't happened yet.

~Packing meals to eat away from home. Ken and I were able to spend a couple of days and nights away from home this past week. He had some continuing education to go to that was being held at a very nice resort a couple of hours away from here. He was already planning on going (a business expense) and it worked out that I could go too. My going didn't cost any extra gas or room fees but I knew that it could cost extra in food if we ate out all the time. So I pack food. We were able to skip the eating out for 2 breakfasts and both suppers (one of the suppers we didn't buy freezer/ premade food in that town so it wasn't as cheap as normal but still around 1/4 of the cost of eating at the Resort) and I ate food I had packed for one lunch as well. I was happy because if I hadn't gone Ken would have eaten out every time and so it would have cost more for me not to go then to go.

~Cleaning the toilet with baking soda.

~Taking advantage of going to the state park. On Saturday I had to deliver Wedding Flowers to our state park. There is an entrance fee (which the family I was delivering too ended up paying-I wasn't sure how that would work)  but since I had to go anyway I decided we would enjoy the opportunity. Ken was working (to make up for the time that we had to be gone earlier in the week) but the kids and I decided that we would enjoy the bog walk there and the kids wanted to do a little swimming as well. We had a fun afternoon.

~Having Keren cut my hair. I decided to change my hairstyle a bit and it is very nice that my sister does a good job at cutting hair so I could save a lot of money that way.

~Mending socks and mittens. I mended some mittens and socks while Ken and I were on our little vacation. This will extend their life quite a bit - I always enjoy finding ways to do that. (Here is my sock mending method)

~Making new underwear. I'll blog more on this later. I was able to make new underwear for several of us using things that we already had on hand.

~Foraging food and using food from our garden (indoor and out). We have worked to make sure we eat something that we harvested that day each day this month. I didn't do so well with this when I was away from home as we were at a resort where they did spraying (I saw them) and so I was nervous to eat any edible greens. I did chew on a piece of grass on our bike ride but it wasn't very impressive! :-) The kids however who stayed at my parents ate both Morel mushrooms that Mara helped to find in the woods and they ate some day lily shoots.

~Reusing lumber to make our chicken coop and pen. So far all we have purchased is 5 2 x 4s. I am happy with all we have been able to reuse. More on this later.

~Figuring out how to donate to missionaries without using a stamp. This isn't a huge savings but every little bit helps. Our church donates to the missionaries that I also like to donate to personally and the treasurer mentioned that if we gave money designated for a  certain mission then they would just include that amount in the next check. That way I don't have to address an envelope or use a stamp.

~Making homemade gifts. Our latest gifts to make were chocolate covered strawberries for Father's Day.

Ken and I halfway on a 26 mile bike ride.
~Going on bike rides for entertainment. One evening on Ken's and my little "Vacation" we went on a long bike ride for fun on a beautiful trail. On Father's Day afternoon our family plus 3 of my siblings and their families went on a 14 mile bike ride on a trail through some beautiful woods around a lake. We think bike riding is very fun entertainment and it is free (once you have the bike anyway!).

~Picking and enjoying flowers. We love to have bouquets of fresh flowers in our home. It just makes things so beautiful and cheery. There are plenty of fresh bouquets to be had around our place just for the picking.

~Making homemade cards.

~Eating leftovers and not wasting food.

~Fixing our mailbox. The lid had rusted and fallen off and I figured out a way (kind of unique, but it works) to fix it so that we can put off buying a new one for a while longer.

~Making do (except for a special lightbulb) with what we already owned to take care of our new chicks. We figured out how to use a heater lamp that we already had, we "made" a waterer and food containers and a nice temporary box house. For bedding we have been using old t-shirts that were in pretty bad shape. They seem to be doing pretty well.

~Planting our garden.

~Eating Beef Tongue. This is a completely new venture for us but it is part of a cow and we get 1/2 of a beef so I didn't really like the thought of the tongue going to waste. I fixed it and it really tasted very good. I don't know why I put it off so long! It would have been easy to just let this go to waste though which is why I put this in the category of saving money since it was basically a "free" meal.

That is some of the things we have been doing around here. What frugally smart things have you done lately?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Happy Father's Day

 Though I think the male readership of this blog may be pretty small - to any Dad's out there -Happy Father's Day! I feel very blessed to have a wonderful father, a husband who is a great father to our children, a great father-in-law and many other men in my life who do a great job of fathering their children. In this world where many father's haven't done what they should and have neglected their role as fathers -I am exceedingly blessed!
A robin's nest that was on the deck of the place Ken and I stayed at a resort last week.
Even more than the earthly fathers in my life I am exceedingly blessed to have a heavenly Father who loves and cares for me. Even if you don't have a good earthly Father you can still be blessed by a relationship with our heavenly Father. He loves every one of us!

Lady slippers that we saw on our bog walk yesterday.
In my Bible reading this past week this is one that made me think and encouraged me:

  "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith."
1 Timothy 1:5

Is that what you are striving for?
the Iris are blooming at our house! How I love how beautiful God made them.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Spend time together

Something that I have found useful in keeping our marriage strong is to strive to be flexible to be able to work with whatever Ken’s schedule is. In our home Ken is the one who works outside the home and supports our family while I am blessed to be a homemaker. I do also have a couple of home businesses (Doing wedding flowers and teaching private music lessons) but my hours are far less scheduled than his are.

  This has been an intentional choice on our part as we have wanted me to be able to care for our children. It is also very beneficial for our marriage. It is my goal that just as much as possibly when Ken isn’t working that we (the whole family) or even just I am able to do things with him if he so desires. Some of the time in evenings and on weekends he wants to work on projects of his own (he does a lot of computer program developing in his off hours) but when he wants to spend time with us we try to be available.

  This week I have an opportunity to spend more time with Ken I just needed to be  willing to adjust my schedule a little. Ken has some continuing education classes at a big resort a couple hours south of where we live. The classes were long enough (ending late enough and starting early enough) that he didn’t feel like driving back and forth each day so he was planning on staying there. He originally planned to go by himself but then realized he would have quite a bit of his evening free and it would be more fun if I could come along.

 He brought it up this week so there wasn’t much time to plan and there was quite a few things on my schedule that I did need to reschedule but at the encouragement of my mom who said they would be glad to have our children stay with them for 3 nights I got busy and made my schedule work out so I could head out with Ken. Piano lessons that were supposed to be on one of the days were thankfully already cancelled, I switched wedding flowers that were supposed to arrive during that time (for a wedding this weekend) to come to the resort instead so I could work on them there while Ken was busy, I rescheduled an orthodontist appt. for Mara, found somebody else to handle my responsibilities at our Thursday night baseball, I checked the bees, packed up and tried to get other things done that needed to be done this week. It was busy but time spent with my husband is worth tying to get a weeks work done early.

 Making spending time together a priority I think is a very important part of a strong marriage! How do you make it happen in your marriage?

Monday, June 10, 2013

A swarm of bees, getting the garden in and other homesteading adventures

  This time of year seems to always keep us busy in the homesteading arena. This past week was no exception.
  Our most exciting homesteading activity (if you consider the amount adrenaline that coursed through my body) was dealing with our bees when they decided to swarm. The bees have been stretching me a bit this year as first they dealt with chalk brood (we had quite a lot of cool, rainy days and I didn't feed them as much sugar water as I guess I should have - I had given them frames of honey that had been leftover from the beehives that I tried to overwinter - but I guess that didn't really work) and then because the one hive seemed to be struggling with the chalk brood I didn't give them a 2nd box as soon as I should have and so Saturday they decided to swarm. 
   I was out working in the garden on Saturday morning when Jonathan (who had elected to work in the kitchen rather than in the garden) came running out saying that the bees were swarming. I have had false alarms from him before on a hot day when the bees like to hang out on the front of their hive so I tried not to get to excited. However when I went up to check it out sure enough the bees had indeed swarmed and were hanging out on a nearby tree.
 For those that don't know what swarming means: Swarming happens when a bee colony decides that they don't have enough space for everybody so they start working to produce a new queen and then the old queen and approximately half of the workers all take off to look for a new place to live. They leave the hive and then find someplace to hang out for a bit while they send scouts out to look for their new home. The picture above shows them hanging out on a branch. They cluster together to keep the queen safe and warm.
  I didn't know exactly how I should deal with the situation though I had read about it at other times so I had a bit of an idea. I decided the best plan would be to call an experienced bee keeper that I know to see what his recommendation would be. After I described the situation he suggested that I put down a newspaper across the top of the brood box that they had just left and spray it with sugar water and then put a new box on top of that. He said to take out some of the middle frames and then to cut of the branch they were hanging on and carry it over to the hive and brush them inside the hive and then replace the middle frames and put the lid on and leave them alone for 4 days.
   The newspaper would help them to be near the other bees that had stayed behind but not right with them. Since they had decided to separate and were rearing another queen if I would have put them in directly with them they might have started hurting each other or just left again. With the newspaper they are temporarily trapped up in the upper box until they chew through and hopefully be the time they chew through they will be amiable again and realize they now have plenty of room and stay happily (and they will probably get rid of the queen cell that they were caring for). I am hoping and praying that it works!!
Mara and I ready to capture the swarm - my photographers failed to take pictures when we were actually doing it. :-)
 When I started to saw the branch off it wiggled the branch so that some of the cluster of bees fell off. I decided that wasn't really going to work. So I decided to bring the brood box over to were they were instead. I put a piece of cardboard under it as a temporary bottom and then I held it up underneath the swarm while Mara brushed them in. Then we put it on the other hive box with the newspaper in between as planned. Both Mara and I went into this operation a bit hesitantly as we realized we were going to get quite up close and personal with a lot of bees that might be agitated and realized that even with our protection we run the risk of getting stung. And we were close - I was holding the box at face level while Mara brushed them down at the box and me. But it seems that when they have swarmed they are so preoccupied with that and I guess because they don't have a home which they need to guard they didn't really seem interested in us at all. We were very thankful! I also felt very blessed that they chose to go on a branch only around 5 feet up rather than somewhere up high.
  We realized we missed some of the bees in the operation so I put another hive box over by where the bees had gone and later that day I went over and got that (which did now have quite a few bees in it) and also brushed a tiny little cluster that had developed into it and then added that on top of the other boxes. I am sure I made mistakes in this whole ordeal but I surely am hoping that everything will work out!
Saturday we finally got most of our garden planted (previously we only had peas, lettuce, spinach, radishes and some onions planted) and basically all the seedlings that I had started in. We had a really long winter this year and some pretty cool temperatures this spring. I am hoping it will get going and do good now!
 I am sporting a new gardening hat this year. My friend Becky who over the course of our friendship (that started when we were children) has given me many funny hats and other creative gifts sent me a new one for my birthday in December. It is a pretty fun hat because it folds up neatly so that it is flat but then pops out to the lovely bell shape. It is quite unique and gives us a good laugh.
We are using quite a bit of black tarp (we got it free from the lumberyard - it is black on one side and white with printing on the other) in our garden to help keep weeds down and keep the soil from drying out. It is pretty nice!
All the kids helped with the gardening though after a bit Jonathan requested that he be able to go do dishes and clean up the kitchen instead as he prefers that. I was willing as I like to have a clean kitchen. Megan did a lot of the watering of our little transplants.
Mara helped in many ways. In this picture she was planted beans. We are trying out some cool dry beans called Calypso this year. They are black and white and look like the yin-yang symbol.
 Beyond gardening we area also still working on our chicken coop and run. They arrive next week so we are going to have to get it done soon.

  We have also managed to eat something we have harvested from our property (on that day) every day this month so far. It has been a fun challenge and I hope to keep it up.

 One day this month we were able to harvest and eat a tomato that ripened on one of our indoor plants. Yeah! We have some others that are close to turning now.

 Some of the days we haven't eaten that much for our property - one day at least it was only the addition of chives to our meal but other days it was more.

 On Saturday evening the boys cooked supper over the fire outside. It ended up being quite the adventure with hot pads getting burned not to mention our fried potatoes getting rather black too. But experience is always good and you learn from it.

 That evening I picked some nettles to add to our supper. We boiled them over the fire, drained them (I drank that juice as it is supposed to be very good for you) and added butter and lemon juice and it was pretty good.
Here are what the nettles look like growing.

So that is some of our weeks adventures. What have you been doing?



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