Lazer Creek Apiary · Relaxing · Supplemental Feeding

Looking back, looking forward

Christmas 2017
Christmas 2017

As I sat here last night knitting and watching a western that is older than I, it was impossible to not think back to doing the same thing throughout my teenage years.   True, instead of being dad’s channel-changer, we now have a remote and don’t have to take the two steps to the T.V.  We also had 9 channels, instead of the 3 we both grew up with.   And we got to choose what we watched — something that rarely happened when grown-ups were home and the one-and-only T.V. was in the living room.  Watching a wildlife episode of NOVA afterwards just reinforced the feeling of stepping back in time.   It’s a good feeling.

The deja-vu continues this morning as the fog and drizzle feel very English, although the pine trees do not.  My cousin and I have been reminiscing about our big family Christmases, and he has promised to send me pictures of my uncle in his apiary.   I never knew he kept bees.   I remember the mushroom cellar, wood working shop, the kitchen renovation that took years to complete (I think of him every time I look at our abundance of almost-finish projects!), the incredible garden, and the many other ever-changing interests that made him such an amazing person, but I don’t remember bees.  It’s nice to feel connected to him in one more way.

Talking of apiaries, our hives are all thriving.  I peeked in two of the small hives yesterday and both have a little sugar left on the candy boards.  I doubt the bigger hives have any, but we are less worried about their ability to provide for themselves.   The forecast is for temperatures in the high 60s until Christmas, so I’m debating putting one feeder bucket out and then refilling candy boards for the hives that have them.   I’ll try lifting the hives to assess how much honey they have left, but will only take lids off long enough to swap out candy boards.  I’ll also put a trial tray of pollen substitute and powdered sugar out.  The bees either flock to it or ignore it, so I’ll just dump one cup onto a tray that is protected from the rain.

Now that the great basement debate is over, we look forward to starting the foundation for our house in 2018.   Ideally we’d finish it and start framing, but I don’t want to set myself up for disappointment if we don’t get that far!   There are so very many things that impact what we can accomplish here, but we are overall very happy with our progress.   We hope to finish burning the wood piles over winter break, doing some tractor work on the deck and starting some raised beds that may or may not become hoop houses.   This year’s batch of magnolia seeds are germinating in the greenhouse in the city and I’ll have a new round of lavender, rosemary, and shrub cuttings to plant by spring break.   That reminds me — I have a bag of daffodil bulbs from the Tractor Supply clearance shelf to get in the ground, so I should stop blogging and get to work.

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Lazer Creek Apiary · Relaxing

Giving Thanks

Campfire
Campfire

It seems appropriate that we purchased the farm a few days before Thanksgiving because we have an annual reminder to take stock of our progress and be consciously thankful about all of our blessings.   Simply sitting around a campfire and enjoying the peaceful sounds of nature instead of having city sounds encroach into our house and lives at all times of day and night is wonderful.   Lying in bed and watching daybreak without feeling the need to jump up and start working is even better.   It’s not that we don’t have plenty of things to do here, we just have a different mindset once we leave I-20 and start our drive through the country to the farm.

Of necessity, I put groceries away when I arrived yesterday, but once the perishable goods were safely stored, I put my boots on and took a quick walk around.   It was only 60 degrees, but there was a steady stream of bees in and out of every hive.  Some bees even had huge bags of dark orange pollen.   While there are still some yellow-jackets and flies, they are fewer in number, although the traps don’t seem to have contributed much to the reduction.  Still, we’re thankful that we can step into the bee yard without having to suit up and even more thankful that the entrance reducers are keeping the invaders out.  Best of all is that the bees are doing well.

We have decided to move the hives to a sunnier spot over winter break as we have one corner of the present apiary where hive beetles just thrive.   I may start leveling out some of the ground where the hives will go this weekend.   That brings me to another thing to be thankful for: the tractor.   We have the best neighbors and family who have loaned us equipment over the two years we have owned this land.  We would not be where we are without them.  However, being able to buy our own tractor has been a game-changer because we have unlimited time to use it when we’re here.   Our neighbor is always willing to let us borrow equipment for as long as we like, but we don’t like to take advantage of his generosity.   While we still have some of his tractor implements over here, we are not getting in the way of him being able to bush-hog or do all of the other things a tractor helps with.

Sitting here with an old computer that is trying to run a month’s worth of updates over a cell-phone hot spot makes me thankful that we get away from technology (to an extent) while we’re here.   While our computers at home and at work are faster, they do have a tendency to run updates any time we’re in a hurry to get something done!    I spend so much time looking at computer screens that I could no longer read student essays on the computer after the first hour last week and this.   Last night was the first night in a long time that my left eye did not throb with eyestrain.   While a new pair of bi-focals would probably help alleviate that problem, looking at trees solves it!   I’m too much of a geek to ever abandon technology completely, but too much time in front of a computer is not physically or mentally healthy.

That said, it’s time to put on some boots and head outside.   It’s a beautiful, sunny day and temperatures are just right for doing manual labor.   The dog is so clearly having fun that we can’t help but smile to see her cavorting about.   I honestly don’t know what we’d do without the stress relief that the farm provides, or the friends and family that it brings us closer to, or the dreams for the future that become more tangible when we just stop and make plans.    I hope all of you have a relaxing and stress-free Thanksgiving holiday and that life is as good to you as it is to us.

 

Lazer Creek Apiary · Pests - General · Relaxing

Fall and yellow jackets

Fall 2017
Fall 2017

While temperatures remain above average, we only have to look at the spectacular fall colors (and occasionally grab a jacket in the morning) to know that winter is just around the corner.    Of course, everything in nature knows it too — including yellow jackets.

Beekeepers across southern Georgia have been reporting record numbers of yellow jackets this year, and we are no exception.   The infestation around our hives made it impossible to do any hive checks this weekend.   However, the screen entrance reducers that we added to the wooden reducers have made it possible for even the weaker hives to defend against the horrific number of pests vying for the resources our bees have worked so hard to store.   Hubby bent strips of screen into steps in a way that the bees enter from the sides through a square opening and then make their way to the wooden entrance in the middle.   I don’t feel like I’m explaining it well, but I’ll get a picture once the yellow jackets die back.    We did very quickly check the candy board on one of the hives and the bees have eaten about half the sugar we put on two weeks ago — or is it three?   We know that next time we make candy boards we will put wax paper on top of the screen so that the sugar has time to harden.   The sugar that fell through has assuredly attracted some of the invaders!

Lavender
Lavender

As neither checking the weak hive nor doing any work close to the apiary was an option, I weeded the lavender garden and threw out a little more buckwheat seed.   It’s probably too late for the seed to do much, but who knows when these warm temperatures will end?   Bees are foraging on the buckwheat planted in front of the RV, so the possibility of blocking new weeds, adding nitrogen into the soil, and providing bee food is too tempting to resist.

I let my lavender plants in the city grow until they became very straggly and woody.   Then, when I pruned them back, two of them didn’t survive.   I don’t want to make that mistake again, so I, somewhat reluctantly, trimmed lavender and rosemary plants today and now have a good harvest to hang in the well house to dry.   To say that my last attempt to make lavender oil was unsuccessful would be an understatement — baby oil with coconut oil makes an awful base — so I’m looking forward to a second attempt.   However, I did successfully use mineral oil to make a batch of lemon grass oil, which I then used to make beeswax furniture polish, so that’s what I’ll try with at least some of this lavender.    Hmmmm – maybe I should re-read the book I have about making products with lavender before I decide….

So, as we are rapidly approaching the time to make the commute back to city life, I am happy to report that I have blisters instead of eye strain and a relaxed mind and body that find it impossible to feel any stress.    We got to spend a wonderful evening with family yesterday.  We got to hear about our neighbors’ road trip. Maggie got to spend time with all of her doggy friends.  The lavender garden looks like a garden again.   There are a whole lot of things that didn’t go as planned this weekend, but somehow when we’re here, plans feel less important.   Life is good and getting better all the time!

 

Relaxing

Relaxing at the creek

Relaxing at the creek

We worked so hard getting the water lines to the orchard installed and planting trees, shrubs, and grass seed last week, that we almost forgot to have fun!   Well, we had fun working around the farm, as usual, and hubby really had fun on the backhoe, but we got to Saturday and realized we’d only been down the creek once and that was down by the bridge.   It’s pretty there, and the dog was able to cool off and wash off, but the creek area at the back of the property is so much prettier.  Plus, we needed to check on a couple of trees that we’d planted along the trail that way on our last trip.

Once we got down the the creek, we didn’t want to leave.  Just like when we were children, we became enthralled with watching the eddies as they swirled around the rock.  We laughed when Maggie stuck her head under the water and blew bubbles out of her nose as she tried (and succeeded) to get a rock.  We watched bees and butterflies land in the sandy bank to get water and minerals.   We sat and dreamed about the future and the live we will life in this beautiful place we own.

Cooling our feet in the creek

We cooled our tired old feet in the cold water and just sat still for a while.  It’s so very easy to walk five miles a day just going about our daily business.  Since we’ve been back, my fitness tracker has been fussing at me because my average steps per day are so much lower and I wish I could just tell it that I’m doing a different kind of work now and walking is less fun in dress shoes!

We returned home to find healthy, humming, hives with lots of nectar.   The hive with the second swarm we caught this spring had two queens in it, so we had an extra to put into one of the new splits that had an open queen cell, but no queen.  The other split has a queen, but we didn’t see any larva on Monday.  It’s supposed to storm this afternoon, so we’ll probably check again tomorrow after work.

Jumping the creek

Maggie clearly still wishes she had 22 acres and a creek to play in.   There’s only so much energy she can burn off in the fenced in portion of our 1/3 acre lot and our resident mockingbird appears to be making her life a misery, much like it has done for all our pets for the past 15 years.  I know it is probably not the same bird, but the mockingbirds and bluejays love to dive-bomb the dogs, cats, and occasionally us.

So now Maggie gets to sit on the couch and watch me grade another batch of essays.   IB and AP exams start in just over a week, so this is my second-to-last batch of the year other than optional revisions that students will turn in over the next couple of weeks.  I see both daylight at the end of the tunnel and the fruits of my labors as some of my weakest students are now writing good, analytical essays.   Just like raking clay back into a 600 foot long trench becomes tedious after the first hour or so, it, and these final essays, leave me feeling that every bit of effort I put in is well worth it.

Relaxing

R & R at the farm

English Hive

We went down to the farm last weekend and had a time of relaxation and appreciation.  We have been working so hard all summer, but this time we spent very little time working and a whole lot of time sitting in lawn chairs envisioning the future.  It was time to sit back and look at all we have accomplished and to daydream about future changes.  

BIL came by early afternoon on Saturday, and we all just sat around a caught up on news while the dogs played and got rid of maybe 10 percent of their energy!   Maggie enjoys being able to explore without a leash now, although we try to keep her within sight as she has a propensity of heading toward the road.    Sage and Maggie did sneak off into the woods for a while, and I suspect they tried to visit the creek.   When we put the travel harness on Maggie Sunday afternoon, she pouted and refused to come near the car, so she clearly prefers farm life to city life.

Other than BIL, we had no visitors, and, much as I love being surrounded by friends and family, it was really nice to sit alone with hubby and eat supper by a campfire.   (BIL brought us rocks for a fire ring last trip, and evenings are now cool enough for a fire.  We love it!)   

Despite a lack of rain, most of the lavender, rosemary, and magnolia plants are doing well.   We have sprinklers running on timers by the new magnolias, but the lavender and rosemary are somehow hanging in there without any help.   We run sprinklers to soak the soil when we are there, but it’s still amazing that the plants can survive the current drought.   One of the gardenia “bushes” was a 3 inch twig with two leaves when I planted it and has grown to a nine inch, healthy plant.   The Buddleja bushes are about 18 inches tall and full of flowers.   

We talked about letting one of the logging trails return to nature and clearing the trail that follows the old road bed as a new access to the fire break at the property boundary.   We fought our way through the briars to find the spot where the road bed crosses a drainage culvert that we want to keep visible.   We have not stood there for a while, and we had forgotten the beautiful views all around.  We decided to clear a path down there next trip so that we can plant my weeping willow there and put a bench under it.  It is the perfect spot to sit quietly and look out over what will eventually be a pond, then look over to where the house will be,  and just reflect on life in general.   When I lived in Stratford-upon-Avon, there were weeping willows all along the river bank, so the willow will be a reminder of loved ones, especially my father.   Next weekend would have been my father’s 90th birthday, so that would be a really nice time to set that area up.  

Relaxing

Meet Maggie

Maggie – August 4, 2016

Meet Maggie, the four-legged (as opposed to the two-legged and four-winged) queen of Magnolia Hill Farm, from whence her name is derived.  We’re still working on the hierarchy of the different queens, but most of the time I still consider myself to be at the top of the list.

We adopted Maggie from the Coweta County Animal Shelter.  We went there to look at a different dog, but Maggie was just so sweet, she won us over very quickly.   We couldn’t bring her home for a week as the shelter does not release animals until after they have been spayed or neutered, but she has made herself at home in just five days.

Maggie is a Catahoula mix and has already shown hunting instincts and/or training.   One characteristic of Catahoula’s is that they stalk silently and only bay once they have treed their prey.  It was two days before we heard Maggie bark, but she has since alerted us to things that she thinks are noteworthy!   Oddly, she barks a lot when hubby comes home from work.   We think the diffference to her reaction to my returns to the house and hubby’s have to do with her being in her crate when I leave to run errands instead of being asleep on the couch when hubby has arrived home the past two evenings.  We’ll get confirmation of that when hubby comes home at lunch to let her out tomorrow.

Maggie got a clean bill of health at our vet yesterday and behaved very well during our two hour visit there.   In fact, she was less irritable than I was!  Between my doctor’s visit and hers, I spent far two much time in uncomfortable chairs yesterday.   (At least I didn’t pee on the floor like somedog I know!)

On Friday, my plan was that Maggie would not be a couch potato, but by the time I got up at 6:50 a.m. on Saturday, she owned half the couch at the RV and now claims anywhere from 1/3 – 2/3 of the couch at the house, depending on how many humans are sharing the couch with her.    She enjoys pouncing at the lawn mower and vacuum cleaner, but grows bored very quickly with toys.  She does not like us to be out of her sight.   Right now, we’re hoping that being car-sick was a one-time deal, but I guess we’ll find out this weekend!

Maggie helps fold laundry.

Maggie has to be right in the middle of everything we do, including folding laundry.  She curled up in the middle of the unfolded and then the folded clothes this afternoon and did her best to prolong a chore that I don’t much like anyway.    After six weeks in the shelter, we understand her being a little clingy and that is getting better as time passes.   Owing a dog certainly isn’t always convenient, but we are really enjoying her company, her curiosity, and her affection.

Relaxing

Dead dogs and Englishmen

I know that’s not the quote, but I also know I’m not a man!   And after 30+ years in the United States (which followed 8 years in Germany),  little remains of my Englishness other than my accent and my sometimes-reservedness.  My cousin even says I now think like an American, but he can’t define the difference.  I think of myself as American and Southern.  Southern — it’s been dawning on me more and more over the past few years that I would miss so much about the South were I to move to another region, much as I like to visit new cities.  It’s the same as the way I feel about England now — it’s a great place to visit, but it’s like wearing high heels instead of hiking boots.  Something just doesn’t quite fit comfortably.

So what led up to thinking about dead dogs…..

This week the education services I subscribe to inundated me with articles about teacher burnout and teaching conditions by state.  Yes, unhealthy food seems to be what my body craves right now.  Yes, I take an additional 10 minutes for breakfast and coffee in the morning before getting ready.  Yes, to quite a few other things in the teacher burnout articles.  But I’ve attended conferences and taken graduate classes every summer for the past 6 years, so I think a summer off will cure that.   The articles about teaching conditions rank Georgia higher than South Carolina across all categories, but would teaching be better if we were living in an RV in Georgia and sharing a closet the size of a filing cabinet?   I sincerely doubt it.   But I want chickens, and I just can’t have them here in the neighborhood.  And I’m not good at being patient!

All of this led up to the thought, “I want a beagle” while I was driving to work Friday morning.  Beagle rescue groups currently have some of the prettiest mixes and with such beautiful brown eyes!   It’s been two years now since our dog died, and even longer since we lost the cats, and taking care of BIL’s dog while he was on a business trip over spring break has just made us miss them all a lot.

Now, we have pets.   While the bees aren’t technically pets, they are generally amusing to watch and we do get to nurture them.   The aquarium is relaxing to watch and I do feel sad when one of the fish ends up floating upside down. We even have a wild bunny that I kept inadvertently hitting with the garden hose yesterday as it searched for a spot that I wasn’t trying to hit with Miracle Grow.  But we don’t have any pets that will curl up in our laps and look at us with loving eyes.

Then sanity kicked in.  We also don’t have any pets that poop on the carpet, unless I am really klutzy disconnecting the canister filter on the aquarium, and I can hardly blame the fish for that!   We’re going into a month of late nights at work that tend to leave a dog with little choice but to poop or pee in the house.  We simply are not ready to move.  We don’t have electricity on the farm yet and our house needs some work done before we put it on the market.  So I put all my longing for the outdoors and for the ability to see instant results after a hard day’s work into re-pottting seedlings and dumping out failed cuttings.  We now have 21 magnolia seedlings, two of which are the same height as the one we bought from Arbor Day for $6.98.  (And that one is still settling in so looks less promising than my free seedlings.)   The aluminum baking pan into which I dumped the magnolia seeds that I forgot about in the garage fridge contains a swampy mess that somehow still keeps popping up a new seedling about once a week, so I left the soil in there for now after pillaging what was growing.  I’ve stopped counting Goldenraintree seedlings.   I have some very well rooted lavender and rosemary.  Most of the trees from Arbor Day and doing well and will certainly be ready to plant at the farm in fall.

As the sun set last night, we sat on our swing and looked out at the yard that was nothing but a sandpit when we bought the house and which has become our haven over the years.  We watched our bees drink out of the bird baths, and we watched the birds visit the feeders.  For the second year in a row, we have bluebirds nesting.  It took us years of us to find the right place for a bird house for them.  While sitting there, we planned where to put benches to take advantage of the sun, the shade, sun rises, and sun sets on the farm and we decided that every bench needs to have a hive nearby because the critters can be so much fun to watch.  And, yes, we will have a dog.  It may not be a beagle, and it won’t be this year, but we can’t picture retirement without a dog to take on walks around our future pond and own to our creek.  After a day outdoors, I can once again say that life is good.