Monday, April 23, 2012


A drive in country ... 

A bit of work around the house ... 

Some relaxation ... 

And admiration of Spring.  

My head is in the clouds; the places I want to go and the things I want to do!  In the meantime I'm keeping home base intact -- weeding and planting and keeping the washing machine in motion.  

The weather has been gorgeous -- unseasonably hot.  Yesterday I got my first sunburn (in April!).  The flowers have suddenly bloomed and the trees finally have leaves.  This is very good for my soul.  

The weather should turn later in the week and I am actually looking forward to it cooling down. Oy am I ever satisfied?  

I'm still plotting -- trying to figure out how to get us out to the country.  In the meantime I'm working on my little plot of land.  Today I've decided to plant a small field of lavender.  I might even learn to distill the oil. I definitely see sachets in my future.  

For the time being I've given up on goats in the city.  I'm still moving forward to get the laws changed but it looks like it might take 12 to 18 months (this is when the city will be willing to revisit the legislation).  To be perfectly honest I'm hoping we'll find a way to the country before then (fingers crossed).  But I still want others to have the option to have goats in town.  

In the meantime I've found a fabulous source of local goat's milk.  Tomorrow the girls and I will visit the farm and help with the milking -- I can't wait!  Oh the cheese and yogurt and caramels ... 

Until then adieu!


Monday, April 16, 2012

Two Hives Are Better Than One

As you can see the second hive is up and running. The bees have yet to complain about the dragonfly stencil; apparently it's copacetic.  The new hive is quite active and appears to be doing well.

I had hoped for good weather in which to move the bees. No such luck.  Rather they were moved during a light rain.  I did not look for or see the queen.  I was in too much of a hurry to get the girls from one box to the other.  Nor did I smoke the bees though I did suit up.  They were somewhat perturbed so I was glad for the protection.  My daughter stood, unprotected, five feet away and was not bothered.  She'd like her own bee suit.  I think I'll keep an eye out for one -- I'd love for her to experience the bees firsthand.

Now that the hive is installed I must wait for the flowers to bloom.  Right now the hives look a bit bare.  Oh Spring where for art thou?

In other news we went for a drive in the country and found the PERFECT house -- 4.5 acres, close to town, fenced for livestock, a small barn, an out-building, four bedrooms, a fenced in garden, a greenhouse, a pond *and* a treehouse ... everything we could ever want.  Except for that elephant in the room.  Money.

Actually the property prices are quite reasonable as are the interest rates.  A loan on a new house would be the same that we are paying now (or less). But. And it's a big but.  We are upside down in our house with little hope of being able to sell until the market turns around.  Additionally we can't refinance because no one will touch our second mortgage.

I have been wracking my brains trying to come up with a solution.  Could we rent out our house and get a loan for the new one?  No.  Not with negative equity.  Could we sell our cars?  Our furniture?  Anything to pull ourselves into positive territory?   We'd still come up short. Should we tap into our retirement?  Not too smart (plus I'd actually like to retire someday).  Is there anyone who might be able and willing to loan us money?  Everyone has been hit hard by this economy.

Alas I have not found a solution.  Rather I will continue to hope and dream and heavily fantasize (you never know when a winning lottery ticket is going to float down from the heavens).  And I'll continue to maximize the space we currently have.  Oh my poor neighbors.  When they complain I'll simply blame the economy.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The bees have arrived and I'm scrambling!

Do you remember me saying I had a beehive to assemble?  Because bees were coming?  Yup.  That was a project I put off.  That is until yesterday when I listened to my messages and realized my bees were on their way.  As in THAT DAY.

Ack!  That little bit of news got me off my duff rather quickly -- hammer, glue and nails in hand.  I needed at least one deep super, a couple more frames and a top.  I already had two frames from my other hive, the nuc comes with five so I needed (need) to build three more.  Fortunately my hive came with two tops so my plan is to use the less fancy top until I am able to finish painting the fancy one.

Yesterday was productive.  Before I found out about the bees I'd borrowed Mr. Peculiar's truck with the intent of cleaning up the backyard (part of my scheme but shhhh! don't tell -- my first plan of action is to get and keep the yard clean thereby making Mr. Peculiar and the neighbors happy.  Then when I spring goats on them they'll all jump for joy -- or something like that).  Anyway I had already hauled one load of pine needles to the recycling center and was just beginning on the second when I found out the bees were arriving toute suite.

I only had the truck for a day (today my car goes to the shop and Mr. Peculiar needs his truck for work).  Therefore I decided to go ahead and finish my yard project before building the bee box. After filling the truck a second time I took a break and built the first box (this sounds more difficult than it is -- all I had to do was fit the pieces together and then attach with glue and nails).

After the box was built I had just enough time to take one more dump run before picking up Little.   Then I came home, swapped out cars with the mister, dropped off Little and conned the Boy into going for a ride.

The bees came from the valley and a member of our local beekeeping club was kind enough to pick them up for me.  All I had to do was meet him at his house for the exchange.  We pulled up to his property and were dazzled by the number of hives he had (it had to have been at least 30).  Everywhere you looked there were bees a buzzing.  The Boy was a bit hesitant to get out of the car.  But no worries -- the bees didn't care one ioda about us. They had more important things to do.

We loaded our buzzing box into the car and headed home.  I didn't let the Boy drive as I was afraid how he'd react should one of the bees get loose.  Fortunately nary a bee escaped.

We got home just in time for him to go to Lacrosse.  As he changed I unloaded the bees leaving them in their nuc overnight. The I began painting my boxes.  I left them out in the driveway to dry.  Of course it rained.  So now they are sitting on my porch waiting to be finished.  I need to transfer the bees this afternoon rain or shine, box complete or not.

As I said I have two tops for this hive -- one fancy and one not so much.  The fancy one has a copper roof and it simply makes me happy.  My first hive has a stenciled lotus flower.  I'd like to stencil something on the second hive as well.  I'm leaning towards a dragonfly but wonder if it's weird to stencil one insect on the hive of another.   I need something relatively simple as I'll be cutting out the stencil myself.  I also considered a crown or, oh so original, a bee.  I'd best decide soon.

Now it's time to get Little up, take her to school and take my car to the shop.  Then back to work around the homestead.  It might sound busy but these are the days that make me happy -- it feels so good to have purpose and drive.  I'll love it if and when I get that farm!  But for now back to today.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Everything's a buzz

Well the ringing in my ear is back.  I knew it would be though I thoroughly enjoyed my two month respite.  We've had some odd weather, quite a bit of rain, and I can't help but wonder if it's related.  I just might be a walking weather gauge.  Who needs weathermen when you have Meniere's.

The ringing (which correlates with concurrent deafness) often precedes a bout of vertigo.  My left ear has been ringing for a solid week now and I've been walking around on pins and needles.  Vertigo is rather incapacitating and I have no idea when or where it might happen.  Thankfully I worked the weekend without incident.

I'm much happier at home because, if needed,  I can stop what I'm doing and lay down.  This is more challenging when a I have a sick animal in need of care.  But, even at home,  there are things to be done.

As such I've been running around like a crazy person trying to accomplish all I need to before the vertigo hits.  Today that meant yard work.

This morning the weather was truly gorgeous.  I tackled some weeding then decided I'd better check on my bee hive.  I'd not gotten into the hive since a put a candy board down last November.  They've been out flying on all good weather days so I wasn't too worried about them.  But last November I decreased their hive to one hive body and I wanted to make sure they had enough room and enough food.

My bees are definitely finding pollen -- all the workers are coming home with their legs laden with yellow.   Can you see the yellow tufts in the photo?  Pretty cool 'eh?

All appears to be well in the hive.  I did not see the queen but saw some larvae (which is just as good).  

They still had some sugar left on the top insulation board so I decided to leave it for them to munch on.  Plus I figure they might appreciate the additional insulation.  Despite today's 60 degree weather it will only be 18 degrees F tonight.  

I did add an additional 10 frame hive body (giving them two total) so that they have plenty of room and *hopefully* won't think about swarming.  

I'm so pleased these bees over-wintered well and hope to get some honey from them this year.  I've also gone and ordered a second set of bees which should arrive sometime this month.  My second hive is sitting ever so patiently in my living room waiting to be assembled and painted.  I think I'll tackle that project tomorrow; assuming I'm standing.   

So yes -- everything is a buzz; the bees and my ear alike.  It might truly be spring.  


Monday, April 2, 2012

Get Your Goat

I've been a bit distracted lately.  Ever since I met sweet little Buttercup I've wanted a goat. Rather I want two goats (one and a friend).  My thinking is that if I can't go to the farm I'll bring the farm to me.

There are a few issues with this plan.  First off goats are not allowed in the city limits.  Not to worry. I've already been in contact with the city planning commission and have a proposal all drafted up.  I'm hoping to present this to the commission later this month and am optimistic that small goats will soon be permitted in our urban oasis.

Mine would not be the first town to allow goats.  Cities such as Portland, Seattle, San Diego and Detroit all permit small backyard goats.

But city ordinances are not my only hurdle.  The next is my family.  They all think I'm off my rocker. Quite literally.

Mr. Peculiar, in particular, has no interest in goats.  He's not dreaming of yogurt or cheese or fresh milk or ice cream.  Nor is he dreaming about adorable little babies or goaty snuggles. His interest isn't even peeked by words like Chevre or Lavender Infused Soap or  Rich Homemade Caramel.  No.  He merely wishes I would stop my hippy dippy dreaming and buy our milk from the grocery store; like a normal person.

He wasn't into chickens either.  Or bees.  But he's come around on those so again I am optimistic.  And stubborn.  Plus I strongly believe fresh milk is nutritionally better for our family so I'm going to keep pushing.

My father, also, thinks I'm crazy.  Almost as crazy, if not more so, than my sister who wants to move onto a sailboat with six kids.  Six!  (and I'm the certifiable one).

Nonetheless my father unearthed these photographs proving my early interest in the caprine species.

I submit these photographs as proof of destiny; goats and I were clearly meant to be together.

Assuming Mr. Peculiar comes around my next issue is fencing (or a lack thereof).  We don't have a fence and goats most definitely need one.  Plus I like my neighbors and my neighbors like their yard.  As Robert Frost said, "Good fences make good neighbors."  My plan is to fence a portion of our yard into a goat pen. I've found a fence I love and a company in town who can build it.  Now to find out how much said fence will cost and then try not to pass out on the spot (i.e. I suspect this might be beyond my budget).

In the meantime I plan to construct a small fence around the chicken coop to test my post-digging skills. I've already been informed I am 100% on my own for this project and any subsequent larger fencing projects I might tackle.  I figure every girl should learn to build a fence and every boy should learn to cook.  This way I'm just holding up my end of the bargin and if dinner doesn't quite make it onto the table?  Well not my problem.

Of course I'd also want a shed; both for milking and for shelter.  Something like this would do. I expect I'll be exhausted after my fence building adventures and might not be up for building a shed.  I've already made some inquiries and may be able to bribe an ex-neighbor with my culinary prowess; will cook for shed.  Then again I might find myself out there on my own trying to make sense of building plans.  Time will tell.

So, if you see me out in the yard, sweating like a pig and cursing under my breath, you'll know just what I'm doing.  I'll be dreaming.  Dreaming of blue-eyed babies, sweet little mwaaas and fresher than fresh milk.  I'll be taking a step closer to my own food production and a subsequent step away from the industrial food machine (all while living in the city).  And I'll be dreaming of the day Mr. Peculiar admits that I was, and always have been, right.