Sunday, May 31, 2009

Simple Offering

Fresh eggs from the ladies.

Little offering of eggs that I took over to our neighbor this morning.  We are getting about four eggs a day now.  Usually one large and three smaller ones.  The shell-less eggs seem to be decreasing too ... thank goodness!  

Official (edible) egg count so far... 21 !  

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Forget the Jones

Forget keeping up with the Jones...I've got to keep up with the Queens!  The girls are hopping and I am down to my last four honey supers.  Of course, I just realized yesterday that the boxes were only primed and not painted.  Queen Fannie waits for no one! 

That beeing said.  Spent yesterday getting the remaining boxes ready in between dodging the rain drops.  So what ever happened to that to-do list I started in January?  The one that had...check, paint, and repair hives...  hmmmmm.....

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Making Yogurt

I think the fascination with backyard homesteading started last year.  First the garden... bees... canning beans, beets, and jams.  Then the idea of trying not to purchase as much pre-packaged food started to happen.  One day standing in the pantry it occurred to me that I could make my own granola bars.  Yes, it takes more time - but they taste better!  I can remember standing in the dairy isle reading the yogurt containers wondering - can I make my own yogurt?

There are many different ways you can make yogurt at home: in a thermos, in the oven, on a heating pad, in the sun, and in a crock pot (from: The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan).  I decided a yogurt maker would work best for us.  After doing some research I purchased the EuroCuisine (model number YM80) yogurt maker.  No bells or whistles.  I like that the jars are glass.  Both the jars and lids can be washed an re-used with each batch of yogurt. Plus, you can purchase extra jars.

EuroCuisine YM80 yogurt maker.

The process as per the little EuroCuisine handbook: 
Heat 42 oz. of milk in a saucepan until milk starts to boil and crawl up the sides of the pan (I use 2% organic milk). Remove milk from heat and let cool to 95 degrees F.  
Once cool, mix 6 oz. plain yogurt or a container of yogurt from batch before with milk. Stir. 
(Plain yogurt can be purchased from store or from a previous batch of homemade yogurt.  
If using homemade yogurt, repeat only one time.  Use fresh starter next batch per EuroCuisine)
 Pour smooth mixture into jars. 
Place jars in yogurt maker without lids. 

I leave my jars on for 10 - 12 hours during the day and pop them into the refer in the evening.  The yogurt is cool and has set up by the next morning for breakfast.  I do add a splash of vanilla and a sprinkle of sugar to the milk mixture before putting it in the jars.  Stoneyfield Farms Greek organic yogurt makes a nice creamy batch!

Jars of fresh yogurt in the refer chilling.

We prefer plain batches of yogurt so we can make parfaits and add seasonal fruit.  You can also stir in a spoon of your favorite jam to vary the flavor too.  On special at the grocery I can purchase approximately 24 oz. of Stoneyfield Farms organic flavored yogurt for about $5.  With the yogurt maker I can make 42 oz. of plain organic yogurt for about $3.50

The jar above is fresh from the refrigerator before adding blueberries and granola for breakfast!  Great way to start the day!  Happy Homesteading!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Thank You Rain

Maple sprouts.
Secret paths.
Damp earth.
Scent of pine.
Glass raindrops.
Dark woods.
Birds dancing.

I love the woods in the rain.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Girl on Top of The World

Honeybee on Allium.

I decided to post this picture instead of the one I was going to post.  It's prettier.  Found my first egg without a shell today.  Actually...several.  I was warned this could happen, but I wasn't prepared to find it today before I had my coffee!  We are feeding the ladies calcium supplements with their feed.  After cleaning the mess up in the coop I came back in and did some Googling.  Sounds like this can happen when the chickens start to lay eggs.  Maybe the rest of the girls are getting ready to join in the fun?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Garden Time

It seemed like it would never get here.  

Finally..time to put in the garden!!   Our suburban homestead is a joint effort between my parents (who live next door) and us.  We'd never get as much done without their help...and encouragement!  They love it all as much as we do.  It is so much fun to learn from them and share everything together.     

Box of string (mom picked up for free from flea market leftovers) that we use to tie up tomatoes 
and stakes.

Heirloom tomato plants started by my mom.  The seeds are from her childhood friend.  His family has kept this breed of tomato going since the late 1800's.

The garden this morning after planting.  So far we've put in:

10 lbs. Pontiac Red potatoes
15 lbs. Katadin potatoes
Lisbon Onion
Snap Pole Beans
Oregano, Basil, Parsley, and Sage
Detroit Dark Red Beets
Picklebush Cucumbers
Short and Sweet Carrots
Sugar Pea Pods
Bush Blue Lake Beans
Goldmine Yellow Bush Beans
Sugar Daddy Peas
Pink Beauty Radish
Tomatoes: Sweet million, Viva Italian, Early Girl, Amish Paste
Sweet Potatoes
Red Peppers
...we still need to put in some corn.

Wishing you all a most wonderful holiday weekend!  I'll be back next week.. Happy planting!!


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Short Stacks Getting Taller

We were able to add the second deep super to our new hives over the weekend.  The new girls in Gwen and Beatrice are doing great!
One of the girls in the nut tree.

They have been going crazy over this nut tree all week.  I can hear the tree alive with activity when I hang out the wash.  My grandmother gave this tree to my dad and we have no idea what kind of nut tree it is.  It never produces anything...

As for the swarm...they flew the coop sometime before 2pm yesterday.  I watched them in the morning to see if they were going to move, but had to leave for a dentist appointment. When I came back, they were gone.  We are putting the garden in today, so have to run!  More tomorrow..

PS- Total Egg Count to Date: 3 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Swarm in top of pine tree.

By this time last year we were on about our third swarm.  The weather last year was horrible after we installed the girls. Cold, rain, and not enough drawn out comb had them swarming.  All the beekeepers in the area were having trouble.  This year has been better.  I was sad to see last evening, one of the hives had swarmed.  At this point I am not exactly sure who the guilty culprit is because all the hives still looked hopping last evening.  We were able to capture all eight swarms last year, but this one is up to high for me to retrieve.  

Honeybee at base of pine tree clinging to grass under the swarm.

This poor little girl was exhausted and clinging to a blade of grass at the foot of the pine.  They tend to fall at the  base of the swarm as they get cold and weak.  Queen Dora had a few swarm cells when we checked last week.  We considered splitting the hive then, but tried spacing them some instead.  I am betting it is Dora up in the tree.

Empty super at the base of the pine with the swarm.

I placed an empty super at the base of the pine HOPING a scout would find it and call the girls home.  It was 45 degrees out this morning when I went out to check on the swarm. Still in the tree.  The last time a swarm landed this high, they moved lower by the end of the day and I could nab them.  Keeping my fingers crossed....

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Prong vs. Spring

Yard uniform drying on the clothesline this morning.  Wooden spring clothespins.

I prefer the spring loaded model in plain wood.  
My mom prefers the old fashioned wooden prongs designed by the Shakers.  
I think my grandmother's were spring in plastic multicolor.

There is a mix of both in the little wicker basket out back with the clothesline.  

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Houston..we have an egg!

First brown egg from our Red Star hens.

So I was out all day yesterday and I get this message on my phone..."Hello Houston, we have an egg!"
One of the girls laid an egg.  Not sure who did it (and I am not checking out vents to see who did), but they left it in the run under the ramp to the coop.  Every morning when I go to the coop to let them out, I check each nesting box for eggs and they are dropping them in the yard?  Maybe it took her by surprise?  All I know is that I miss my dad trying to fish the egg out of the run.  I came home to find a stick with a tin can nailed to the end of it - the "egg retriever."  All I could see in my mind were visions from the movie "The Sandlot" when the kids are trying to get their baseball back from "the beast."  Guess we should have built a run we could move easier or stand in?  Smalls, what were you thinking??

Best part of the treasure - it was a double yoke!!  That has to mean good luck...

Friday, May 15, 2009

I Brake for..

Who doesn't love a good greenhouse?  

Ran to our local greenhouse this week and picked up my summer veggie plants.  Zucchini, tomato, sweet potato, and red pepper plants.  We had such good luck with their plants last year I thought I'd try them again.  The only exception was the sweet potatoes.  The ground hog ate the plants off twice!  Goal for next year:  start more plants myself.  Saving seeds isn't something I've tried before either.  I'd like to learn how to do that this year too.  

Planning another trip to the greenhouse to purchase some bee friendly perennials.  Next time I am taking a list! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Stamped on back:
Michigan Honey Boys, Box 5688 Homewood Sta. Pittsburgh, PA  
Phone Penhurst 1889

After working in the hives this week I got to dreaming about honey.  Dora already has one honey super I can barely lift. We didn't pull any honey off in the fall last year.  After all the swarming they did, we didn't want to leave them hungry.  For now, I've been buying local raw honey from one of my mentors - Thanks Jim!

My mom came across this little book in an antique store.  Copyright 1941 and accepted by the American Medical Association at that time.  It only cost 10 cents then!  We paid $2.

While I'd love to sell some of the girls honey, I am also looking forward to using some of the surplus.  Dad uses it in his bread baking, which is one of the reasons why he started keeping the girls.  I am dreaming of honey buns,  orange honey cake,  honey ice cream, but I think I'll start out with honey taffy!

2 cups sugar
2 cups honey
2/3 cup cold water
1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Boil sugar, honey and water to hard ball stage (288 degrees F.)  Add salt.  Put in buttered dish to cool; then pull until white.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Turning Outlaw

Few of the girls scratching around in the blueberry patch.

Well, I am not sure where to begin.  

After suffering chicken envy for years, I caved.  The fact is - I smuggled in a few chickens.   A local farmer friend was happy to oblige.  He tried to get me to cave last year.  Where this love of chickens came from I don't know.  All I know is... I am not alone.  There are a lot of us urban homesteaders out there who secretly long for chickens.   My dad sent me this article today, which prompted me to "blow the cover" on the ladies. 

Lois nestled in the base of a blueberry bush after taking a dirt bath.

Illegal chickens?   Fact is - the rules are vague.  We live on almost ten acres of suburban woodland.   The neighbors are supportive and one wants to get a few hens too.  Actually, the ladies are more quiet than the neighborhood dogs.  For now the hens are quietly clucking away in their (mobile) woodland chicken coop.  (More on the coop later..)

I never thought I'd be a part of an urban chicken movement.  For now, I am gathering data.  Feel free to pass along any urban chicken links and articles.  I'll take all the info I can get!  

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sticky Situation

Feeding time for the new girls.

We installed our new girls on April 9th and they are going strong!  We went in to check them today and space the frames out a bit.  Lots of drawn out comb and brood were noted.  Even saw the start of some honey stores.  It had been a week since we last fed them (1:1 ratio of sugar and water) and they still had a bit left in the cans.  Soon they'll be on their own.

Dad did noted a small swarm the other day clumped in a cherry tree.  We are thinking it came from Queen Dora.   He went for a box to catch them, but when he came back they were grouped again all over the front of Dora.  Maybe they went back in?  We took a peek in Dora today (boy, were they mad) and saw an open queen cell.  She is still packed with bees, so it hard to believe anyone left.

I love to take photos while we are out working in the hives, but I am going to need to get a different pair of gloves.  Honey and propolis don't do a camera well!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Great Horned Owl

Favorite dead pine where the owl likes to roost.

The crows are relentless.  As I headed out back this morning I could hear them and I knew.  The Great Horned Owl was here.  The crows taunt and taunt this poor guy to no end.  Back to the house I went to grab my camera, in the slim hopes I could snap a photo before he flew.  I headed down behind the orchard to check out his favorite dead pine tree.  No owl.  The crows were calling deeper in the woods.

Prey remains (with undigested bones)  from owl pellet at base of dead tree.

There were signs of the owl at the foot to the pine: stray fur pieces and owl pellets.  Pellets are regurgitated by the owl and contain things they can't digest, like fur and bone.  We've seen his droppings before, but never a true pellet. 

Great Horned Owl in tree.  You can see his ears against the sky.

He was nestled high in a tree with the crows blaring away his hidden location.

Great Horned Owl in foliage to left of large tree before flying off.

By now my cover was blown.  I've never gotten this close without him flying off before.  You can see his outline hidden in the foliage to the left of the large tree.  Bye Bubo... until next time!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Dad on the tractor.

The ground is wet here.  Really wet.  We were lucky to get the garden tilled under once before the rain came.  They are calling for more rain, so it will be a while before we can get in again to till before we plant.  We usually wait until after Mother's Day to put the garden in, as not to risk frost.  Still working on my garden map, but the seed potatoes have been purchased!  Can't wait to get everything in!!   I look at my seed packets on the kitchen table everyday and think..soon...very soon!! 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Umbrella Jungle

Mayapple plants on the floor of the woods in the backyard.

I love these little guys.  Have ever since I was a kid.  We used to run through the woods, then lay in the leaves, hiding under the Mayapple plants.  The "apples" were perfect for creating fake "stews" when we played "house".  Perfect little creations in plastic frying pans cooking over fake campfires in our makeshift tents.   Made for good ammunition too!

We didn't plant grass around the house when we built.  Trying to keep things in a "no-mow" state as much as possible.  While there are grassy areas on the property, I don't miss having a "lawn" around the house.  

Nature's woodland garden.  I love living in the woods.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


The blueberry bushes are blooming.  They smelled wonderful last evening as the sun was setting behind the woods.

The bumblebees always love the flowers.  They have a hard time getting through the bird netting though.  They bounce around like giant flying pipe cleaners until they squeeze through an opening.  Last evening was the first time I saw the honeybees in the flowers.  I don't know if was the time of day or that last spring was so wet, but the honeybees were loving it!  So good to see them in the bushes.

The apple orchards at the organic farm are in bloom now too.  A local beekeeper brings his hives in for pollination.   Sorry for the blur.  I shot this one out of the car window last night as we drove by on the way for an ice cream cone!  The hives were too close to the road to get a good shot.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Bubblegum Boots

Peek at my feet in the clover on the way to the hives this morning.

My favorite pair of boots died.   I snagged them at a yard sale in Virginia sometime around 1997.  New, green, Hunter brand boots and they were a perfect fit.  Best of all...they cost $2.   

I've been on the hunt this spring for a replacement pair.  The first pair I purchased felt okay in the store, but out in the frozen yard, felt like I had heavy cement casts on my feet.  My mom gave me this pair for Easter.  What beegirl couldn't love a pair of bubblegum boots?

Thanks mom...!