Sunday, April 19, 2015

We have ten thousand new pets (the fuzzy, buzzing kind)!

To bee or not to bee—that has been the question on our homestead for years.  Both Steve and I were always fascinated by honeybees.  We know how important bees are for humanity, since without them there would be no pollinators, and thus no food.  No bees, no food, no humans.

This week, we jumped in and got bees!  We added ten thousand pets to our collection of goats, pigs, ducks, chickens, cat and dog!  The man who looks like Santa Claus is Jerry, our neighbor and very helpful Bee Guru.

We are so fortunate to have neighbors who are addicted to bee-keeping and very eager to share their skills with us newbies.  We stopped by their place to watch how they transferred the bees they had bought into their hive.  They didn't wear bee suits or any kind of protection because if handled calmly, these bees are very docile.  One landed in my son Kai's hair, and he stayed calm and thought it was sooooo cool that the bee wanted to hang out with him.  

Steve built a Russian hive, which is different than the common Langstroth box.  I won't go into details here because, frankly, I don't know very much about bee-keeping yet, but mostly we like the Russian style because the bees build their own honeycomb.  There also seems to be less disease in these top bar hives.

Here are some pictures of the transfer of the bees at our neighbors' place.  They are further along than us: their bees have a palace, with a roof over their little heads.

That's the Queen in her little cage

The next day, our neighbors came over to help us transfer the box of bees we bought.  I felt pretty emotional introducing our new pets to their home.  While the bees buzzed on the outside, I buzzed on the inside.  I find it a little nerve-wracking to have these insects fly around me.  My first-ever memory is being stung by a bee.  Hopefully our bee-keeping adventure will cure me of this traumatic memory!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Our ducklings hatched!

After a month of waiting, and after checking the incubator every five minutes for the past two days, our ducklings have hatched!  They were late, since ducks are supposed to take 28 days to hatch, but they finally made it.

This is the guy (or girl) we woke up to in the morning.  Fresh out of the egg, kind of confused looking, and certainly tired.  Hatching is incredibly hard work.  These little guys have to break through a very hard shell, and although they are aided by their egg tooth (made just for that purpose), it's a full-body workout.  They push with their feet and their wings, until they can wriggle out of their shell.

Hanging out inside the incubator to rest and dry off a little.
Let's just take a little nap for a while, shall we?
The boys were at a sleepover at the neighbors' house because their grand kids are visiting for spring break, and they have been great friends since they were little.  After a phone call with the good duck news, five kids watched the spectacle unfold, spellbound.

I admit, I can't keep my hands off these ducklings.  I keep walking into the bathroom where their brooder is set up, gently scooping one up and baby talking to it.  As soon as the little ones feel the heat of my palms, they fall asleep.

These are Ancona ducks, an endangered species.  We've had a mating pair for about three years, and we love them!  They are gorgeous, fun to watch, and best of all, connoisseurs of slugs.

Other news of the week: We planted potatoes.  Four different varieties, including Austrian Crescent Fingerlings, Yukon Gold, Russet and Red Pontiac.  Good thing I have some strong boys (and a strong girl, of course) to help me, since my shoulder is still messed up.

Let me leave you with images from a walk to the river.  I love this wild, magical place we live in.  My good friend Lindsay, a song writer, once wrote a beautiful song about the "Magic Skagit", which she calls her "moss covered stomping grounds". 

What are you grateful for this week?

Friday, April 10, 2015

How to grow killer onions - part 3 of my movie: Give 'em a haircut and fertilize them

Just as I finished filming my third movie about growing the best onions ever, I ran into a friend who has been following my video tutorial "How to Grow Killer Onions - Tips and Tricks to Revolutionize Your Method".  She and her husband have been arguing about the best way to grow their garden and handle their seedlings, and she decided to follow my advice.  Yes!  I'm starting an onion revolution!  Take back your onion power, girls (or guys)!

My friend was wondering what to do next, so just in time, here is the third movie.
This movie is about how to fertilize your starts and how to give them a haircut for optimal growth.

If you missed the other installments, the first movie is about how to start onions from seed.

The second movie is about what to do once they have germinated.

Long live the onion!

Let me know how your growing adventure is going!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Awesome news!

This spring has been super busy - not only with goat births and getting the garden ready for planting, but also with writing.  I don't know what I'm thinking... writing a book in spring, but I managed to finish writing my book (on cheese making)!  It is currently being edited and sent to a professional for formatting it as a Kindle book!

Another amazing piece of news is that I will be a contributor for "Whole Food Kitchen", an online workshop and month-long lifestyle immersion on healthy food.  It is being taught by a holistic nutrition coach whose blog I have admired for a while.  I took one of her online classes in the winter and absolutely loved it.  For this upcoming workshop, she chose four contributors, and I am one of them!!!  This class is going to be awesome, with lots of recipes, cooking classes, and a groovy online community.  You should check it out and join, then we can hang out together!  It starts April 20.

In the meantime, spring is happening.  Signs of spring:

- goat babies (I've been filling in as midwife for friends), 
- vegetable seedlings growing like crazy, 
- trying to capture bees and installing bee hives, 
- harvesting and drying nettles, 
- flowering currants and blueberries, 
- asparagus emerging from the warming soil,
- thriving piglets...

I messed up my shoulder (rotator cuff) somehow.  Shoveling manure? Double digging compost into the garden? Supporting myself in a crouching position while assisting goats giving birth? Pushing Eva on the swing?  Who knows?  All I know is that it hurts, and that I can't do everything I want to do in the garden right now.  Thank goodness there are young boys around who can dig my potato trenches.  My sons had a two-day playdate with their pal, and I promptly put them to work.  They worked well, but boy, do they ever eat a lot of food!  I baked bread in the morning, and the three of them devoured the whole loaf for lunch.

With all that work around here, I have to make an effort to take some time to relax, and time to pay attention to my littlest one.  Eva doesn't have a sibling who is close in age (Kai and Lukas have each other), so she often has to play on her own.  I have neglected her lately, what with all the writing and busyness.  So we had a sleepover and spa date with her best friend, where we splattered mud masks on our faces and painted our nails.  Lukas wanted to join the fun, too.

In an effort to find fun stuff to do with Eva, we explored our woods and found the old, abandoned tree house.  We cleaned it up and had snacks up there, just the two of us.  What fun to indulge in girl time!

Are you taking time to pamper yourself this spring?