Friday, July 31, 2009

In Between the Rain

The first (very tiny) cherry tomato.

"Lucky" stones popping out on the wet paths.

Saturated pinks.

Reminders there are more to plant in the side yard.

Mother's shed window open to listen to the rain.

Just a few things today in between the rain drops.
Wishing you a most wonderful weekend!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Succession Planting

Second round of radishes..

In my thrifting travels I came across a book called All About Vegetables: Midwest/Northeast Edition by Walter Doty (published by Chevon Chemical Company, Ortho Division - 1973) for a dollar. Leafing through the pages I came across this little chart. Succession planting has been something I've wanted to try for some time. It seems (and this year is no exception) once the produce starts rolling in and I am bogged down in the kitchen, the idea of planting another round escapes me.
The chart looked simple and easy to use -based on when you plant and when the harvest would be. Out came the garden journal... as you can see my succession is seriously lacking - Basically it all went in during the month of May. There has been a few rounds of radishes, but that is about it...

Something to think about with planning the garden next year for sure. Mother Earth News has a nice Fall Garden Planting Schedule on page 35 of the August/September issue. The weeks to our first "killing frost" are quickly ticking away, but I think we may be able to get a few more things in before the snow flies!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Natural History of The Chicken

My thanks to Red Gate Gardens and Four Green Acres for leaving me the comment to be sure to check out the PBS special 'The Natural History of the Chicken." It is a must see for all chicken lovers. Extremely funny, but informative too. Not sure I'll look at a grocery store egg the same again.

I've only posted the video of part one here on the blog. Be sure to check out all six episodes on YouTube or by clicking the links below. Here a few of the highlights:

The Natural History of The Chicken

Part 1 - Mouth to beak CPR.
Part 2 - Man crowing and the Karma of 100 Roosters.
Part 3 - Cotton the Rooster : Wash and set, pink hairdryer, and chicken panties.
Part 4 - Valerie sees "the light." Miracle Mike.
Part 5 - Liza
Part 6- Honor to be called chicken.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Peaches from the farm market this week.

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen during July and August. The garden is hitting full tilt. The farm markets are bursting with delicious fruit. Like a lot of you out there, I love it! The weather here this past week has been pretty soggy, so I've been enjoying the kitchen even more. Turn on the radio and throw open the back door... the coffee is on!!

Granola recipe pressed into bars - in layer of parchment paper.

This weekend, on top of the mountain of green and yellow beans coming through the back door, I made some time for cookies, granola, artisan bread, and peach jam. Oh, and a few more bags of zucchini shreds for the freezer.

Morning glory and Moon flowers on top of bean tower.

With all the rain, the garden is pretty much looking like the land of the jolly-green-giant. I won't mention the weeds. Planning to attack those on Tuesday.

Jars of fresh peach jam.

The breeze has picked up and the sun has decided to come out as the day comes to an end. Just in time for a peach jam shot! Hope you all had a great weekend! See ya on Wednesday...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bee Reads

Can't wait to get started on this one. She had me on the first line of the introduction..

"This very nearly could've been a book about chickens."
~Susan Brackney

After her plans for chickens were foiled, she moved on to bees. A lot of you have sent me notes that you have or want chickens and would love to think about bees too. It makes me smile that they go hand in hand.

Just picked this book up at the library today. It is the companion book to my favorite beekeeping book pictured below. It looks like a wonderful resource, not to mention the fantastic recipes in the back of the book. As a backyard-beekeeper I find it extremely interesting to read about how a real "Honey House" is set up. Especially all the different extracting equipment. Lots of great information on honey plants, handling / extracting honey, artisan honey, packaging, and hive management.

I have to admit though, I am heading right to the recipe for Banana Popsicles next!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Days are Done

The day lily blooms are just about finished here, but I wanted to share a shot of how wonderful they were this year. This bed is my mother's handiwork. My parents put the split rail fence up years ago when I was small. They made it from splitting old used telephone poles. Amazing how it has lasted!

Wishing you a good rest of the week! See you on Saturday..

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Plain homemade yogurt with honey, blueberries, and homemade granola on top.

Someone else came for breakfast. This fawn is a twin. They were about six feet off the front porch when I looked up. So much for the hostas in the front yard..

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Summer Bounty

Three hours worth of picking in the garden..

4 eggs
2.5 lb blue berries (takes us over 55 lbs. this year)
3.5 lb pickling cucumbers
2 zucchini
snap peas
yellow and green beans

I thought I try canning a few pickles again this year. Can anyone offer any suggestions why they are levitating? They were canned right after I picked them.. Next on the canning block: green and yellow beans!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bench Monday: Zucchini Edition

Tis the season....
for zucchini's that is!

I thought I'd give saving seeds a whirl so I let one zucchini go...
It only weighs EIGHT pounds.

Zucchini tally so far from two plants:

What is going on out there?
Zucchini boats anyone?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Yesterday in The Kitchen

Raspberries from my sister-in-law.

Dish drainer full.

Jars of fresh raspberry jam.

Evening sun streaming down the stairs. Packet of cucumber seeds at the back door ready to head out to the garden for a second planting.

Lovely day in the kitchen.

Wishing you all a great weekend! See you on Monday..

Thursday, July 16, 2009

You know you are a suburban homesteader when.. drive through the bank window with fifty pounds of poultry crumble riding shotgun in the front seat...

..because your trunk is full of canning jars, sugar, and nine pounds of oatmeal.

The produce basket is waiting by the back door to head out to the garden. The cukes and beans have started...

Side note: As I stumbled down the back steps this morning with the laundry basket in my left hand and coffee in the right - I some how managed to forget about the repositioning of the water cannon last night before bed. That cold blast of water was quite beneficial in getting my eyes un-glued this morning, but I lost my coffee in the process..

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Budget Cut

I was inspired to post this for two reasons today:

1. Red Gate Gardens amazing post about her favorite summer "Day Trip." Please be sure to check out her Day Trip photos and the photos over at Beehouse Hives of Glacier National Park! I've love to see Glacier some day..

2. My favorite summer day trip is on the chopping block of budget cuts for Pennsylvania.

Welcome to Clear Creek State Park in Jefferson County PA - along the Clarion river.
My parents have been coming to Clear Creek since they were dating in high school. We've been camping and day tripping there ever since!

Foot bridge crossing over Clear Creek on the way to the Clarion river.

The park contains 25 miles of trails, 300 picnic tables, streams, and natural fishing.

Sun streaming through the trees in the early morning.

The park was created in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corp though the nationwide work of President Roosevelt. You can still rent the log cabins today for camping. There are also tent sites available along the river and a (cold) lake and beach for swimming. Clear Creek is on the National Resister of Historic Places in PA as well.

Rental log cabins at Clear Creek.

Hiking the deep, dark, moss covered trails in the fall.

This is a view of my journal on the table in one of the cabins last fall. It is a wonderful place to visit and camp. Clear Creek is close to my heart and a huge source of nature inspiration. It pains to me to think that it is one of 35 state parks listed for potential closure with Gov. Rendell's budget cuts. We've written letters and signed petitions. Crossing my fingers that this little gem will be spared.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Operation Salad Bar

So the other night, while sleeping with the bedroom window open, I woke up in the dark to the sound of chewing at my ear. My first thought was ...what in the world is the cat eating? Then I realized the sound was coming from outside. I flipped on the flood light to find a deer standing at the window staring at me as she ate my hostas down to the nub.

View heading to back porch steps.

The hosta plants were given to me by a friend who didn't appreciate the bees they attract. I dug up every last one and stuffed them into the back of my overloaded Volkswagen. Drove home with the hatch up. They have done great!

Chewed hosta stubs.

Thanks to "Operation Salad Bar" launched by the deer, the hostas around the house look like this. Like some sick form of chewed celery...

Garlic clip on hosta flower.

First I tried spray. No luck.
Then I tried these garlic clips given to me by my neighbor. No luck.
The same neighbor has had a horrible time this year with blue heron eating their beautiful koi fish from their new pond. He installed these motion sensor water cannons to scare away the birds. He said he had an extra we could borrow...

Motion sensor water cannon.

My husband installed the thing and almost took out my mother as she came up the back walk with a piece of cake! Sensor was working fine!

Sure enough, last night at 2am, the water cannon went off! One, two, ...three times!! We could hear the deer running down the hill through the leaves. I love living next door to an engineer! Thanks B & C..

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Honey as it came from the second filter.

After extracting the honey, we spent a day filtering it all. The honey is strained though a series of three filters. Actually, we strained it as we were extracting, so I guess that counts as a fourth filter.

Honey pouring from filter number 2 into the final filter.

It helps to keep the honey warm to keep it moving through the filters. It was a pretty warm day out and that helped. So did keeping it in the back of the truck in the sun for a few hours!

Honey in the sun with air bubbles.

There are a lot of air bubbles in the honey after filtering, which are still slowly making their way to the top.

Row of half gallon mason jars full of honey. Pint sized to the right.

I lucked into finding half gallon mason jars at a hardware store last night. Bought two cases to drain the one bucket. Couldn't resist snapping a photo of the row on the dining room table this morning.

My thanks to all of you for kind words, interest, and support in our journey of beekeeping. I can't tell you how much I appreciate each and everyone who stops by...

Wishing you all a wonderful week and I'll see you on Tuesday!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Harvest Day

It's been years since we've harvested any honey. I was more of an "observer" at the time and really couldn't remember all that was involved. Dad was amazing and knew just what to do! We loaded all our supplies (leaf blower, garbage bags, honey robber, fume board, hive tools, gloves, coats, and a small bench) into the tractor wagon and set off to the apiary. Couldn't have asked for better weather and the bees were in a good mood! First we applied the honey robber (Picture #2) to the fume board. It smells really bad. Then we placed the fume board on top of the honey super (Picture #3). The smell drives the bees down lower into the hive and away from the honey supers. You can smoke them a bit too.

Once the bees are down deeper in the hive, pry the honey super off. It probably weighed about 25-30 pounds? Next we popped it onto a bench and fired up the leaf blower. Blowing the frames (Picture #1 ) removes most of the remaining bees - stuns them a bit, but doesn't hurt them. The trick is to get the garbage bag over the super once they are blown out! After the box was bagged, we placed it in the wagon to take to the garage for spinning. We set up a small spinning station (Picture #2) in the garage. A patio table made a good bench to work on the frames - easy to hose off later. Kept a small container close to place the wax caps that were scratched open before placing the cards of honey into the spinner (Spinner lid #3).

This card was packed full of honey and drawn out past the frame. Almost all the frames had capped honey, like to the left of the frame. Very few contained uncapped honey, far right on the frame.

First pour.

Once the tops of the capped honey are scratched open, they can be placed in the spinner. Our spinner holds 4 frames at a time. Once the frames are in, shut the lid, and crank the handle. The honey is pulled from the comb as it spins, runs down the side of the spinner, then it can be poured out of the bottom of the spinner. We do a rough strain as it pours into the bucket the first time. This removes the large chunks of wax and makes the next three rounds of fine straining easier. After trying this in our basement one year, we elected for the garage this year.. spinning honey is sticky work! Plus, no matter how careful you are - there are still bees everywhere. We had to close the doors to keep them out!

The girls were working over the frames hard the morning after.

So now it's time for the grand total. We pulled about 9 honey supers off our hives. After an entire day of hauling and spinning I am so very excited to say we harvested 150 pounds of honey. That's about 18 gallons...

I'm still in shock.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Suspended in Time

Click photo to view larger.

We had our first honey harvest yesterday. Still cleaning up and plan to strain the honey today for wax bits. It was a wonderful productive day. All went well, with the exception of Dad finding QUEEN CHARLOTTE in the last box we had to spin. I just about died. There were bees clumped around her to protect her. Thank goodness my round with the leaf blower didn't blow the clump out or all would have been lost. Dad and I boxed her up and took her back out to her hive at the organic farm. Will check on the hive later this week to see if she is okay. Also plan to add a queen excluder to keep her down in the lower boxes where she belongs!

We set the emptied frames out for the girls to clean after we spun the honey. They were all over them this morning - cleaning, collecting left over honey, and pushing out the broken wax. Captured this little girl floating in time...

I am grateful for all their hard work. It makes me appreciate and savor each tiny drop. Still sifting through photos. Will have more from the harvest soon... For now I've got a sticky garage full of bees waiting for me!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bumper Blues

Blues from this morning.

It's been a good year so far in the blueberry patch. Spent some time this morning picking with Dad before the sun came up. This mornings yield - Seven pounds!

I was inspired by Freedom Gardens to keep track of how much we produce from the garden this year. So far we have:

29.5 pounds blueberries
12 zucchini (didn't weigh)

We are planning to harvest some honey today! More on that tomorrow...