Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Internet is connected--- Quick! Post something!

This morning it snowed.  But I could not bring myself to  take photos of the snow, so I won’t subject you to anything so dismaying. Ever since that big snowstorm last month I have had trouble connecting to the Internet - our Satellite dish must have gotten blasted out of  alignment - and the past few days it has been so windy I could not get a signal at all. Tonight I have Internet-who knows for how long - so I will attempt to post a few photos of what we have been up to lately.
I got this decrepit picnic table on an online restaurant supply auction (I won’t succumb to that again!) Maybe with some paint and new boards it will look fine; the hens like it as is.
A fellow was excavating the prairie next door and offered to take out the tall tree stump and root ball (the dying ash tree we cut down by the garage) for a good price. That saved us a few days’ work! And left a big, muddy spot.
The prairie next door is coming out of the CRP program and a big portion of it is going to be plowed up for corn this spring. It is the part of the prairie that was covered with coneflowers and cupflowers last  fall - it breaks my heart to  lose this wild land.  It is a great loss to insects, too - it is on the migration route of the monarch butterflies and my honey bees forage in the wild prairie flowers.
With the owner’s permission, I have been digging up coneflowers (they aren't growing yet but can be identified by the dried seed heads) and replanting them in our little patch of prairie. I sure hope some of them  take.
We have had wild turkeys in our yard this week in the mornings - perhaps due to the disruption of the prairie. They sweep across the lawn in a gang just like our domestic turkeys do.
Zinnie and Cocoa get very outraged by these huge intruder birds in our yard, barking frantically through the windows at them.
Orange, our fluffy gold cat, has been catching approximately a mouse a day that he sets on the patio for us to admire. Zinnie usually snatches it up and savors it for a while, just carrying the soggy thing around in her mouth until we take it away from her. Dogs are so disgusting.
More machines digging holes on the farm.  This one dug holes in several places to test the soil for the new septic system for  the commercial kitchen. Unfortunately, everywhere we dug the soil requires that we build a more expensive mound system.  We finally settled on a spot, on the other side of the windbreak so we won't lose any precious pasture and we won't have to look at it.
With the advent of cold weather, the sap started flowing again and we made a second batch of maple syrup. We ended up with about 2 and a half gallons of very delicious syrup.
Sara and Cadence came home for Easter weekend and got the raspberry patch cleaned up - cutting out the old canes and triming back the new. Our former interns, Bethany and Brendan, also came by for a visit and wedding strategizing session  and couldn’t resist cleaning out the chicken coop!
The garden is way too wet to do any work in this week, but things are growing - like these walking onions, as well as garlic, rhubarb, daffodils, volunteer lettuce...

So many veggies eagerly waiting to be planted in the garden!

Rog got the new gazebo erected -it replaces the one that crumpled in the snowstorm.
My two new bee packages were  expected to arrive last Wednesday,  so I was planning to get the hives ready on MOnday and Tuesday. Well, they arrived two days early instead so I worked a very long day getting the hives cleaned out and set up and installing the bees.  The Langstroth hive was full of so many dead bees. I thought i had left them plenty of honey to get through the winter, but it was an extremely long,  tough winter and there were so many bees, they starved to death. I intended to feed them but it was so cold I didn’t want to open up the hive.  The bees had entered the cells headfirst to keep warm, their cute little bee butts sticking out of the comb. Heartbreaking. I swep the dead bees off the combs the best I could, and even hand-picked some of the bees out of the cells, but the new bees will have a lot of housecleaning to do.
New bees successfully installed in the Langstroth and  Warre hives.  Fortunately, we had a couple of warm, sunny days last week to get the bees set up, but it has been cold and rainy since, and nothing is blooming yet for the bees to forage.  I have been feeding them diluted honey from last year’s crop. Hoping for a bloom of dandelions and creeping Charlie in the next couple days.  I never appreciated those plants until I became a beekeeper!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Not-Exactly-Wordless Wednesday: Spring at Last?

The little Garden of Good and Evil stature finally emerged from being buried deep under a snowbank all the long winter only to to be covered in snow again last week.
We had begun tapping the  silver maple trees.
Syrup boiling was suspended briefly.
But the sun came out and melted the last blast of winter pretty quickly. (Knock on wood-- last year we had a huge snowstorm on May 1st.)
The redwinged blackbirds returned in a huge flock, hundreds and hundreds of  birds in all the trees, just for a couple days.


video
A snippet of the sound.
The bees in the tip bar hive survived this brutal winter and began cleaning out the hive and scouting around.
I noticed  my bees were working over a dried, dead hyacinth pot I had moved outside to re-plant the bulbs,  so I brought out a pot of blooming daffodils--probably the only flowers blooming for many, many miles, and they quickly discovered them.
Each daffodil flower had 5 or 6 bees working it all afternoon.
I also put out a pie pan with slightly diluted honey (from my harvest from last fall) and a piece of bark  for a landing strip - and they were very happy.
A crew of friends from the UU church who call themselves the “Arborcidal Maniacs” came over to help remove a large dying ash tree at the corner of our garage. 
Cutting down this tree was heartbreaking and made an unbelievably huge mess.
Our friend Mike came back the next day, Sunday,  and worked on the tree cleanup all afternoon! (THANK YOU, Mike!)
We left Mike to his own devices  because we  spent the afternoon in Minneapolis, celebrating daughter Cadence's birthday. It was a glorious spring  day, so we walked to the Modern Times cafe...
(crazy sidewalk sandwich board at  Modern Times) 
We got our sandwiches “to go” and had a picnic at Powderhorn Park.
Happy birthday, dear Cadence!

It was a perfect day until we got home and discovered that Zinnie was missing.  After contacting all the neighbors,  walking the  woods, checking all the buildings, and  driving all the roads in a  2-mile radius with no sign of ZInnie, I posted on my Facebook page and two lost pets pages. Within an hour  over 100 people had shared  my lost dog photo. Within two hours two people  I did not know posted that they had seen her  jogging with people on the Douglas Trail that afternoon (apparently she had followed someone jogging past our farm while we were cleaning up wood and gotten lost on the trail.) Someone took her home and contacted Animal Control. The next morning I bailed her out and got her a new collar and tags. She was very happy to be home after spending a night in jail. Whew - I was a wreck worrying about her.  Thankful for the power of social media in finding a lost pet! 
Yesterday was Rog’s birthday. For his birthday present I got him a new used 20-qt mixing bowl for the Hobart mixer AND got the mixer  repainted. Above you see the “before,” a mixer that works great but is so ugly, with chipped industrial gray paint. 
I am happy to report that Rog was totally surprised and totally delighted with the squash-blossom yellow mixer makeover. I found a wonderful guy, Kevin, owner of Auto Refinishers plus in Rochester who sandblasted the old paint off and repainted the mixer with automotive epoxy for a reasonable cost. I will spare the details, but suffice it to say that moving this 189 lb. beast in and out of the pickup by myself and keeping the project a secret from Rog was a challenge.  
This may very well be the only bright yellow Hobart mixer in the world. It will be the centerpiece of our commercial kitchen. (I love that I am married to a man who is overjoyed getting a mixer for his birthday!)
Last night, we had a Birthday Mirthday Bonfire, burning the three huge brush piles from the felled ash tree in a huge bonfire. We roasted hot dogs and had chile,  deviled eggs, cupcakes and beer...
followed by music in the barn.  Thanks to everyone for making Rog's birthday such a fun celebration!
Today the snow is nearly gone--these two last small patches of snow and the ridge of snow that slid off the roof on the north side of the barn will surely be gone after today's forecast 70 degrees!  Happiness!!!