Monday, May 31, 2010

Crocheted Bag #2

So, Julia saw my first crocheted bag and immediately said, "I want one!" Here it is:
She picked out the colors herself -- "harvest gold," as she calls it, on the bottom, and a soft orange for the body. She also wanted a long strap; it can go diagonally across her chest also.
She liked the open-work in the middle, and she wanted a drawstring around the top. And then we decided to add a flower too. Here's the flower:
I thought the drawstring worked especially well. I like using an "accent" color. This photo is washed out, though. The orange is richer than that.
I took some earlier shots inside, but they were rather dark. Still, here's one that shows the structure of the bag well.

Drying Flowers

I've only dried flowers occasionally. This year, I think I'm gonna give it a better try. Saturday, I cut about half of my blooming yarrow:
I have SO MUCH hydrangea -- snowball bush, as some call it. I'm hanging it under the patio umbrella, hoping this works.
This morning the blooms looked a bit limp.
I think I've dried them before. I don't recall what I did.
I also have a HUGE bank of "money plant," which is still green. I've heard it dries well on the plant, so I'll cut it later in the season. I'm hoping to have quite a bit of that -- maybe I can sell it at the farmer's market?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Little Joys of Time

This weekend, we're watching our neighbors' dogs and chickens. The parents farmed out the kids, and headed to the beach for 4 days of quality couple time. In order to do this without using up precious vacation time, the wife worked 4 12-hour shifts, 4 days in a row -- yikes! And she'll do 4 more of them when she returns. All for 4 beautiful days of escaping at the beach - my neighbor is a hard worker at an Urgent Care, and her work is important, but stressful. She deserves the break!

They have a lovely home: 2 fireplaces, huge yard and in-ground pool, hot tub, arbor swing. Adam and I sat in their swing this morning, perusing their yard. Sandy sniffed the verge in peace, as their 4 dogs were locked in kennels inside. And it seemed odd to me, as I relaxed there in the swing with my under-employed husband and my unemployed self -- odd that in order to unwind and be together, they left all this and go to the beach. They work so hard on their yard; it seems every spare minute in the warm months is devoted to mulching, mowing, trimming, blowing, cleaning, weeding. Now, they do enjoy their yard a LOT, and so do their friends.  They entertain and allow friends to come even when they're not home. And even though I adore the beach ... if I had this yard, would I want to leave?

Another friend wrote a blog post today which I enjoyed. She noted that she was raking grass in a nearby park, and putting the clippings in her garden. "I am raking grass because I don’t have a job and I am too poor to buy mulch," she notes. Who has it better? My raking friend, or my very-busy, very-stressed neighbors? Not everyone loves the same schedule;  I personally prefer a slower life, even if it means I get to sit in the back yard instead of on the sand. I think. Closing my eyes against the warming sun, while the waves thud against the shore, sure is relaxing!

Being under-employed gives one more time. There is time to do long-procrastinated projects. Time to visit and sit in a swing. Time to rake grass in a park, and to garden. And time to think. As my raking friend notes, when one must take time to do the mundane, lovely little joys spring up in the middle of the mundane.

I'm not encouraging people to quit their jobs and become lazy. But I am saying that if you find yourself with more time and less money, it's not the end of the world. In fact, it might just be a beginning of something beautiful.

A little adult creativity:

This is Adam's latest beekeeping equipment -- a nuc box. Think "nucleus" -- i.e. the small center core of something. This is a down-sized hive, designed to pack bees in more densely and cause them to produce more. It has only 4 frames and a lid. These frames have no foundation; the bees will build comb directly in the frames, hanging it from the top of the frame. He made this all from scratch.
And I've been crocheting. I found a lot of lovely, rustic-feeling yard at a junk store months ago, and I've been saving it for the right project. I like this little bag:
It's purse-size. It has a round bottom. I like the open-work in the middle.
I did a lacy edge around the top. It would be big enough to take to the farmer's market to stash a few things in -- it's deep. But I'd love to make a bigger one, enough for a real shopping trip. I'll keep you posted if that materializes. Do you think I could sell these?
It's nice to know that we adults can be creative too :)

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Deafening Quiet...

Tonight the hubby and I are at home alone. Well, there is the dog. But Philip is up in Indiana at a wedding with friends. And Anna left on Wednesday to go to her summer job -- she won't be home until August. Julia is at a birthday sleepover at her best friend's house. And then Peter also worked out to stay at his friend's house.

Voila! No kids.

I would say that Adam and I hardly know how to act, but that would be a lie. We like to be together, and we enjoy being alone. But I must say -- the silence! There's way too much house here for just us two. Note to self & hubby: Buy a smaller house when the kids leave.

We watched a movie on the couch. Had some yummy ice cream/peanuts/chocolate sauce in waffle cones. I finished crocheting a cool bag (pictures tomorrow). He's also finished a new piece of bee furniture (picture tomorrow). Creativity abounds.

But I won't be making pancakes in the morning as I usually do, because there are no kids here to eat them. I'm realizing that the kids will be "coming and going" more and more as the years go by. And then they'll come as seldom as we go to my folks' house, perhaps less often.

A marriage must withstand this. For many couples it's a traumatic time, and some of them don't survive it. That's reason #378 why couples should not center their lives, their homes, and their marriages around their children. Just in case anyone out there needs a reminder. It's so important to recall that the kids will be gone and your spouse won't be, unless the Lord takes him home.

Still, I think we may need a few more dogs, down the road. They make noise.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More Beekeeping:

Adam did a little hive maintenance today. He unstacked the whole hive in order to add 3 pieces of "bee furniture" that he's built.
Here he checks out one of the newest frames,which the bees have only had about a week. Already they are building new comb on this one.
This is a Miller Top Feeder. Adam built 2 of them. They sit on top of the hive and he puts honey or sugar water in them. The bees can eat without drowning in the liquid.
Adam also built this integrated pest management device :) It's a screen that the mites can fall through, but they can't get back up into the hive. Without it, they would fall from one bee, but travel back into the hive by way of another. This goes on the bottom of the stack.
Here Adam is restacking the hive: screen on the bottom, then the slotted board (remember?) that gives ventilation and room.
Lastly, he and Anna sifted powdered sugar onto the bees and frame tops. They'll clean the sugar off each other, and simultaneously remove mites as well. Our hive doesn't have mites, but it's good to do these preventative measures. A mite infestation can kill off your hive.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Lacy Lid, Take Two

I finished the bead work! Here's the final product:
This is about as clear as my camera gets, on a close up shot. There are 10 beads in each loop.
I'm looking forward to placing this lacy lid on pitchers when they sit on the table:
Or perhaps on a jar of honey, to keep the flies out?
(That label, of course, isn't ours, but the honey in the jar is!)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Lacy Lid

My mother has a nifty thing in her kitchen. It's a lacy doily with heavy beads around the edge. You can place it over any open container and it's an instant lid. It keeps flies or bugs out of pitchers of drink, and is useful on picnics. She keeps it over her sugar bowl next to her stove. It's attractive, and most of all, it's versatile. You don't have to look for the matching lid; the lacy lid fits any opening that's smaller than it.

I've wanted one, so this evening I decided to make one. Here's the beginning:
That's my next-to-smallest crochet hook. I wanted a fine enough stitch that it would effectively cover a jar and not allow bugs in.
I bought that thin yard today at my local "junk store." The whole spool cost me $1.50.
This is what I accomplished this evening. The crocheting took me about 2 hours, I guess. But I had to hit up Anna for some beads (I don't do beads usually), and these are what she had. They are MINISCULE. I had a hard time finding a needle that would thread through the bead holes, and then had a VERY hard time putting thread through that tiny needle's eye! I'll have to continue the beading tomorrow. I'm done for the evening.
I'll try to get you a final photo on a jar when I'm done. Next time, I think I'd make the stitching more open, and certainly use heavier beads. I'm putting 10 beads on each loop, but still they probably will not be heavy enough to weigh the lid down as much as I'd like. The weight of the beads is supposed to hold the edge of the lid around the mouth of the jar. When I perfect the technique, I'll let you know.

The Slotted Bottom Board

Adam did a little more bee business today, after the sun decided to grace us with her presence. This is the addition to the hive stack that he made today:
This board aids in ventilation in the hive, gives cluster space for bees so that they don't swarm, and helps to keep the mite problem under control (which can kill off your hive).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What 3 years will do:

My hydrangeas are going crazy this year. Bless them!
These are 3 hydrangeas bushes. I moved them to this location because they were being suffocated by dozens of azaleas. Then we ripped out the azaleas, and the poor hydrangeas were left in a spot where they were likely to be run over.
They've been so happy here! Now they are a long, enormous bank of bloom.
They've just begun to flower. Hopefully I'll remember to take more pictures when they're in full bloom. Three years ago they were spindly orphans. Now they are beauty queens who rule the yard.

Learning the Neighborhood

Hi, folks! I KNOW you're out there, even if you don't comment :)

We've been busy around here this week. It's our last week of school, so we're tying up the loose educational ends, taking final tests, finishing books. I'll be glad when my days are my OWN for a while.

Yesterday Adam, Julia and I took a little side trip to Brushy Mountain Bee Farm. It was a lovely drive, although mapquest took us on a bit of a goose-chase. This farm is a big production, one of the largest sellers of bee equipment in the country, and not too far from us! Adam bought a few necessary items, like materials for making more frames and some beeswax foundation sheets for his frames. Our picky little lady bees DO NOT LIKE the black foundation on some of our frames. Now they will get to nestle down into some real wax.

Anyway, while Adam was picking up his order, I strolled back into the farm store, where we'd examined some fun things like taper candle molds, and mead buckets, and soap making equipment. Adam had placed his order with the woman at the desk. I went to ask for better driving directions back home. And now a young man was sitting behind the desk. It was one of those moments when you begin to speak to a stranger, pause, stare at his face, KNOW that you've seen him before, and can't figure out WHERE. I braked in mid-sentence, and said, "You look SO familiar." He said, "My wife and I sell stuff at the farmer's market in your town." "Ahhh!" I replied. That made sense. I got my directions and said good-bye.

And posted on Facebook that I'd been there.

And a Facebook friend sent me a message and said, "Do you know Eric Brown? He works at Brushy Mtn., keeps bees, has an organic farm, and GOES TO OUR CHURCH." This friend and I are in the same denomination, in sister churches.

And it all clicked. Because (for those of you who are Christians), when I looked in that young man's face, I didn't just see a face I knew I'd seen before, I got a brief spiritual glimpse of a kindred spirit -- a brother in Christ. It was just a whiff, a momentary flash of recognition of something familiar. Have you ever met a stranger for only moments, but felt certain the common bond of faith existed between you? Those are divine appointments.

So, Eric and Melissa, (here's a link to their lovely farm blog) you may not know me yet, but come Saturday morning, I'll be looking you up at the farmer's market! I'm hoping to visit their farm, and maybe arrange the purchase of some grass-fed beef and free-range chicken. Oh, how I'd love to get away from eating Walmart's food altogether!

And I will assume, because God set up that divine appointment, that these are folks in the neighborhood whom He wants me to know.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Robbing the Bees

On Sunday afternoon, Adam decided it was time to take the honey and combs out of the "super" that was on top of the beehive stack. We all went into the backyard and helped with this effort.

In this photo, Adam is checking the progress that the bees have made on the new hive box that he gave them. They have been very busy building new comb and inserting honey.
Here's a frame from the super. Adam, Philip & Anna cut the combs & honey out of the frames, trying gently to encourage the bees onto the ground sheet, so they will crawl back into the hive. Just look at that luscious honey.
Here they all work quickly to clean the frames from the super. Anna was stung rather badly on her finger, but otherwise, there was little damage from this brutal robbing of the hive.
Here Anna and Adam are working the comb, to remove the honey (it will be strained repeatedly until it's pure), and then to boil out the wax, and finally to return any residual matter to the bees, for their consumption.
A drop of pure honey. I can't tell you how mellow, rich, flowery, and buttery it tastes. Honey bought at the grocery store has been processed -- i.e., heated to about 140 degrees -- so that it will pour more easily for manufacturing. This temperature robs it of its best qualities, the luscious smell and floral taste.
And Adam? He is thoroughly enjoying keeping bees.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Let the Games Begin!

Rebecca is here this weekend, and it is truly amazing how simply having one nice girl in the house will bring ALL the kids out of their rooms and away from their screens, to play together:
They were playing Apples to Apples, whatever that is!
Here they're trying out dominoes. Rebecca studies Philip's move.
And cracks up!

They also played speed Scrabble. Right now they're playing the OLD version of Life, while we all wait on Adam's lamb roast to cook.
(My boys have interesting facial expressions.)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I leave home for 24 hours and...

And my husband builds something!
This is a beehive -- called a Warre hive. I can't believe he built this whole thing while I was gone overnight!
He has 3 separate hive boxes stacked here. He can later add more, as high as he feels comfortable stacking it.
He built 8 inner frames to go in each of the boxes. The bees build their wax combs onto these frames.
He's now moved the first hive from the country into our backyard, and the bees seem to be adjusting fine. This Warre hive will be for his next set of bees.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Quilt Project

Finally! These are pictures of Anna's quilt. She's been working on this project for 9 months. Now, that's a long time to make a quilt, but you should know that:
1) She'd never made a quilt before. In fact, I'm not sure that she'd ever sewn any finished project before.
2) She designed it all herself, sometimes as she went along.
3) She sewed the entire quilt -- every stitch -- by hand. No machine was ever used.
We picked up the fabric a little at a time -- out of our scrap bag, at resale shops. She always looked for pastels. She liked the idea of a block quilt. She added the borders to make it larger. The reverse side is ALSO blocked, in a larger pattern.
She did a little light embroidery on the front, just for fun. It's fun to do, but she needed to finish; the quilt is an academic project for the school year.
Here's where she signed the quilt for posterity :)
I'm really proud of her! She enjoyed the project, and worked diligently at it, never complaining, but instead using her work on it as a stress-reliever and a way to receive real satisfaction in finished work, well done.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's mighty good!

I've started making smoothies. I've read on several blogs how healthy they are. I got this from the Macheesmo blog -- well, kind of. I don't measure anything. But I follow his general idea.

Into the blender go about 3/4 of a banana, 2 handfuls of frozen blueberries (I'm still using the ones from my brother's farm, from last summer), and about 6 frozen strawberries. I put in 2 LARGE dollops of good vanilla yogurt (probably over 1/2 cup), and top it off with orange juice (I'd say about 3/4 cup). I know -- but if you vary the measurements quite a bit, I don't think it'll matter much.
Pulse and blend thoroughly, and "Voila!!" as the French would say! Here you have it. This was Julia's:
This was mine:
It has a nice fluffy look and tastes delectable. It's a great way to get your fruit servings, and it's quick for breakfast. Just keep all those items on hand in your kitchen.
And SLURP!! It's gone!