Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Expanding the Homestead

Dial up internet access makes updating my blog a real time commitment. Unfortunately, it is easy to allow weeks to turn to months before I manage another update. Of course that means only a sampling of pictures end up on the blog. But, we enjoy the slower paced (right!) country life and are grateful to have internet access at all.

We are expanding the homestead! Our latest adventure will hopefully provide us with lots of honey.

The day the bees arrived, we were really ill prepared. Naturally, things went wrong pretty quickly. We found out that though we ordered a bee veil, we didn't have a bee hat. We improvised with two baseball hats facing the brim of one forward and the other back. Kurt decided he wanted Gregory's help too. Poor Gregory had no bee clothes whatsoever.

Unfortunately Kurt and I had some disagreements about how things should be done. (This is our typical ordeal. Kurt is busy. I read up on whatever we are doing. Kurt gets involved. Kurt doesn't have time to read up on stuff. Kurt tells me to read up on everything for him. Kurt won't listen to me and does things the way he thinks things should be done. I get aggravated.) Let's just say the way Kurt wanted to do things resulted in the bees being hived after dark (makes for angry bees and an angry wife) and I had a full 24 hours to be angry at him because the sun would not set again until the end of the following day.

At one point the bees escaped. Gregory tried to get the lid back onto the bee box and received a sting in the throat for his efforts. Fortunately he is a brave kid and handled it well. Then later, Kurt, shall we say "bumbling" around in the dark, lost the queen for one of our two hives. (Not good.) Long story short, we will eventually laugh at the whole ordeal.

When I called to order a new queen, we were told it would be a couple of weeks (too long). In fact, the bees swarmed the first day and I had to catch the swarm and put them back in their hive. As a result, a local bee keeper tried to help us out. He gave us a nuc hive containing a few bees and a new queen. The following day (while we were butchering the last of our 50 meat chickens) the queen I ordered arrived. Since the local bee keeper had said something about wondering whether his bees had mated with Africanized bees, we used the purchased queen. He believed his bees had mated with the local bees, but he did not know if they were Africanized. He did say his bees were a bit aggressive and suggested full bee attire for working them.

With all of the colony collapse problems, we decided to keep the nuc and quickly ordered a third hive for them. Upon researching, we discovered the local bees, known as "Gulf Coast Bees" are descendants of bees brought to this country by the Spanish in the 1700's. When tested by labs, these bees do get labeled as "Africanized Hybrid" but are apparently not as aggressive as the "killer bees." They are supposed to be more disease resistant too. The bees from this third hive are supposed to be Italians (which are what we have in our other 2 hives), but may have some local Gulf Coast Bee genes in their make-up. We are nothing if not adventurous.

We've had some pretty cold weather this year. However, we finally warmed up enough to get the pool ready for swimming. The kids couldn't wait. To celebrate the first day of swimming, Kurt reintroduced Michael to the water.

The water was pretty cold. We emptied the pool to clean it and then refilled it with water from our deep well. It hadn't warmed up enough so everyone looked a bit blue.

Though Michael normally loves splashing in the water, on this day, he preferred to cuddle (for warmth I'm sure) with his dad. (You can see our first two bee hives in the background.)

Aren't they cute?

The kids belong to a homeschool support group in a neighboring community. The final field trip for the year was to the Gulf Breeze zoo. Naturally we had to go; it was an opportunity to go home for a little while.

I'm really not a zoo person, but the kids had a good time. They especially enjoyed feeding the giraffe.

Gabrielle got a kick out of the fact the giraffe's name is "Gabrielle.

After the zoo, we drove by the old property. The kids got out and found the place covered with wild blackberries. Since they were hungry, they spent their time picking berries and feasting. We had a friend from church with us, a nice young lady named Megan. She had been curious about where we lived before.

After inspecting our property, we drove down to the pier to see the water for a few moments. Then we drove by our old church, Calvary Chapel of Gulf Breeze, but found everything locked. We probably could have gone around back to the offices to get inside, but we really had no good reason for being there. Oh well.

Our shawl ministry at church is going well. I've finished a few shawls since we started.

At first, I knit the same shawl pattern as everyone else. However, I soon started adding lace details to my shawls. The last one I did had a border of flowers around it. If I'm not careful, I'll end up leaving the quick knit format and start doing complicated lace patterns. I'll have to try to be good since it is nice to be able to bless many people and lace shawls are time consuming to knit.

I haven't completely given up on lace knitting. I finished the scarf I started for Mabel.

I love the way the lace detail shows up after blocking. However, I need to remember that as pretty as hand painted roving is before spinning, I never like the stripes I end up with in the final project. I am going to have to be more practical in my wool selections!

There are so many things going on around our little homestead, but our slow internet connection allows me to only post a handful of pictures at a time. We are well into planting our various gardens. We have a new adolescent hen thanks to our broody hen's efforts. I have lots of knitting projects and other projects in the works. And Kurt finally finished repairing the floor loom we salvaged from the hurricane debris! We are just missing one more part and then I will need to try to remember how to weave. Kurt told me I should invite Caroline down again. Caroline visited us in Gulf Breeze a short time before Hurricane Ivan. During her visit, she taught me to weave on my small floor loom (a hurricane victim that is no longer with us). I had just gotten started and was really enjoying myself when Ivan put me out of that kind of weaving for a season. Now that I am almost ready to try again, I can't remember anything Caroline taught me! Perhaps it is time to dig into some weaving books. . . But then, I want to read some books on the raising and care of dairy goats. . .


Caroline said...

Your homestead improvements are very interesting! As you have no doubt found out, getting started in beekeeping is very seasonally oriented and we've missed it for this year; maybe next year. I'm still working on David for that one. We do have our first baby goat, however! I guess the other goat wasn't pregnant after all. We're looking at getting a "rent-a-buck" for a month next year instead of doing "drive-by" breedings.

Theresa said...

Hey you snuck an update in without telling us! :o) My best friend is interested in beekeeping too but has not done it yet. It seems a little scary to me. It's fun to read about everything you are doing and see your knitting. The red multi colored shawl with flower lace is gorgeous!

Holly said...

Wow, you guys are amazing! Bees, too?!? My dh wants bees eventually-when we move "out". Meat rabbits and laying hens are as countrified as our little suburban neighborhood will tolerate.
Maybe Kurt should talk with Mark. Our situations are exactly alike except Mark sees that the one who has done the research should probably be heeded. 'Course most of the time, I can't wait for him to find time, so I do it myself. Ha!

Mokihana said...

DH and I used to keep bees. Those days were some of the happiest in my life. I'd go out to the "bee-loud glade" and read (wasn't knitting then) or just watch the ladies fly to and fro. I miss them desperately.

First visit to your blog. It's very nice!