Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Crabapple Blooms

Our crabapple tree is blooming.  It's glorious.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Slippery Elm Seeds

Every spring I notice something different in the woods.   Probably because things come on differently every spring.   The weather is fickle and a properly timed cool stretch slows things down so that even I can't miss certain things.

These are slippery elm [Ulmus rubra] seeds.   The bark of this tree is often used medicinally, to aid in the healing of digestive troubles.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Dogwood and Redbud Together

I was lucky enough to find a place last week where the dogwoods and redbuds were blooming together in the woods.    This is my favorite spring combination - it means winter is seriously over.

The weather was cool enough that we had more than a week of them blooming together.   Such a nice way to wake up every day.

Friday, May 1, 2015

New Bees

Time for the new bee season to start.   Since all my bees died during the winter, we're starting new again this year.   I installed two packages on April 27.    We got them from Kelley Bee.  [Note:  When they give you a date, that's the ship date, not the arrival date, contrary to what they say in the literature they send.]

Eric suited up, but I didn't.   Package bees aren't defending anything, so they're really docile.   It's great to have one person suited up just in case, but I really like working the bees with minimal protection, so I just wore what I had on. 

Here I am dumping the bees in the first hive.    Lots of bees flying around.   One landed on my ear and another on my nose, then wandered over to my eye.   Neither stung,  though I admit I was thinking, 'Dang.  That's really gonna hurt.'   [I did get pinged once later on the thumb.  No biggie.]

I had a good plan going in and had drawn a pic of the stacks and had a list of what we needed to do.    Lily took the pictures, kept notes and read off the directions.  Eric lifted stuff, handed me tools and brushed that one bee off my face.

We had a lot of frames with comb from the deadouts, so I used all of those frames for these packages.   I put an empty frame in the center and hung the queen cage there.   [There just wasn't enough room to stick her between two drawn frames.  We tried.]

When I checked the queens three days later, both hives had drawn quite a bit of new comb in that frame.   I'll definitely do that again.  

I made a couple of changes in the setups this year.   I changed over to solid bottom boards.   We'll add slatted racks just above those when the weather gets hot.  Then I put the deep for the brood, then a 2" shim [the green one] that I use to give me a bit of extra space for dry sugar.    I had saved all of the sugar/candy board from the deadouts, put it in the freezer for the rest of the winter, and fed it to the packages [after defrosting].  I had a gallon of sugar and honey that I split between the new hives.

Then I put on the inner cover [entrance up] with a medium above that so I can feed syrup from jars later.   I put the telescoping cover over that. 

You can see how the hives look in this shot.   The new hives have the empty packages in front of them.  

The remaining hives will get nucs in a couple of weeks.  We'll put one nuc in the long box on the table, and the other nuc in the center deep hive.  

I have one more space for a hive in the row and I think I'll save that for extra supers.   If I keep a bottom board and top cover on the stack, that'll keep moths and vermin out and the supers will be handy for later. 

The bees seem happy with their new homes and are bringing in the pollen.   I checked the queens after three days.   I released one, but the other was so close to being released by the bees, I decided to let them finish.   I'll check them on Sunday to make sure the queens are laying. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tulip Poplar Leaf Bud

One of the best nectar plants in this area for bees is the very common tulip poplar [Indiana's state tree].   I noticed the leaf buds coming on fast last weekend. 

These are not dainty buds.  Each one is at least the size of your thumb.   The flowers, when opened, are the size of large teacups.   The squirrels around here love them.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Beech Leaf Buds

The beech leaves will be coming on soon.  The old coppery leaves of younger beech trees stay on long into the winter.  Then one day in early spring, the leaves turn ghostly white and start to fall.   Within a few short weeks, coppery needles form at the end of every twig.   Those are this year's new leaves.  

Sunday, April 26, 2015

....and Toad Trillium Blooming

This is a toad trillium in full bloom.   It is a striking flower - mottled trio of leaves and a burgundy trio of petals above.   So pretty. 

Last year around this time we heard wood frogs quacking and barking but this year not a single one.  Every year is different.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Toad Trillium Bud

The weather has been so slow to warm up that we've seen the toad trillium buds this year.  

Slow is good.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spring at Last

My favorite view of Richland Creek is during April.  

The bluebells are a week or so late this year, but spring has been gentle and slow.   

We harvested the first of the asparagus last week and the lettuce is getting big.   Peas are up now, too. The onions were so slow coming up that I forgot about them and planted the peas right next to them.   Rumor has it that onions and peas don't get along, so I'll leave some peas there and move some to see which ones do better [though the transplanted ones may be just as unhappy as the ones next to the onions.]   

Maybe I ought to move the onions?    We'll see.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dye Classes!

I'll be teaching two classes this June 27, 2015 at White Violet Center in St. Mary of the Woods, Indiana [just northwest of Terre Haute].   This is a great opportunity to come and learn how to dye protein [animal] fibers in a very fun and friendly place.

Full details are here:

UPDATE 4/16/15:   There is usually a registration link on their page, but it seems to be missing.   To register, use this contact info until they get the registration link back up on the Events page.

White Violet Center for Eco-Justice:  Event Registration

Color Basics and Harmonies:
Take the mystery out of putting colors together. Learn how to combine colors in beautiful ways. Topics will include basic color theory, using color tools, wheels and books, classic color combinations, etc. Spend time making your own color notebooks. Expect to get a lot of practice putting colors together and using your new skills. This class is indispensable for anyone who works with color–artists, quilters, knitters/crocheters, sewers, interior designers, even gardeners!

Dyeing Animal and Protein Fibers:
Explore the use of acid dyes to turn your stash of ‘boring’ protein yarns and fibers into designer yarns and fibers that you will be excited to knit, weave or spin. Using safe and mild acid dyes, students will learn how to put several colors onto a skein to make variegated yarns. Students may bring their own wool, mohair, alpaca, soy silk, or silk fibers and yarns to work with. White or light colors work best.
[These dyes will not work on cotton, rayon, bamboo, tencel, acrylic, cellulose or synthetic fibers.   Make sure you bring animal fibers!]

These are some of the most fun classes I teach all year.   I hope you can join us for a really fun day.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

New Wood Stove

Early in March, they finally installed our new wood stove.   It is a Vermont Castings Encore. 

The day they finished the installation, we turned the furnace down to 55 and it has never turned on since.  We've gone through about a face cord of wood [4 x 8 x 18in] in a month.   It's good to know this so we can plan for how much wood to have on hand at the beginning of every winter.

I cannot say enough nice things about this stove.   It was worth every penny [and there were a lot of pennies!].   It's easy to learn, easy to control and keeps the space very cozy.    I love it. 

I bought two fans for the top.   They are pricey, so wait until you find them on sale [I got mine 1/2 price at the end of the season].    These really move the warm air around the space, which keeps the corner from overheating [you can put your hand on the wall behind the stove and it's warm, but that's all] and helps direct the warm air where we need it.   I love them. 

I also got a second ash pan so that when the stove is going non-stop, we can switch the full ash pan out in the morning and let it cool before we have to empty it.

The stove will stay in this space in the house, but the house will drastically change around it.   We used this opportunity to try out the white subway tile [on sale!] on the walls and the lighter grout on the floor.   I'm not thrilled with either, so it was nice to be able to try them in a smaller area, live with it for a while and know what adjustments to make for the long haul [darker grout on walls and floor, probably different tile on the walls around the stove.   I love the white subway tile for a bathroom/kitchen though [with darker grout] and I love the floor tile and will use it everywhere we have tile floors in the house]

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Fiber Event at Greencastle

It's almost time for one of the best fiber shows of the year and we've been busy dyeing!  The Fiber Event at Greencastle, Indiana has three areas bursting with fiber, fleeces, rovings and yarns of all types and colors. Plus! equipment, books and tools for all kinds of fiber arts.

 The Fiber Event at Greencastle
 Friday April 17, 2015  10:30am - 7pm
Saturday April 18, 2015 9am - 4pm

Putnam County, Indiana  Fairgrounds
Free admission, free parking

We'll have a booth there and you can see all of the newest yarns and come chat about your current projects.  Look for our booth in the Community building right in front of the stage.

We'll be bringing some new yarns again this year.   Check these out!
  • Organic Cotton Boucle,  [sport/worsted weight].  225 yd skeins.  I'm dyeing the first 6 colors now to bring to the show. 
  • Dove, cotton/rayon spiral, [fingering weight]. 300 yd skeins.  Beautiful, soft yarn with a thin rayon stripe running through it.  This is a perfect yarn for weaving lightweight, hot weather items.  I'll have the first 6 colors done for the show.
  • Starlight,  rayon boucle yarn, [fingering/sport weight]. 150 yd skeins. This yarn has a lot of shine and twinkle in every loopy, twisty inch.   Great novelty yarn to pair with smoother yarns.   I love this stuff!
  • Scribble, rayon boucle, [sport/worsted weight].  150 yd skeins. Very similar to the Organic Cotton Boucle, only this is all rayon.   Great sparkle, great drape.  
  • Moonbeam, rayon tape/ribbon.  150 yd skeins.   I've had a bunch of requests for this yarn in smaller quantities, so here you are!    This is a great yarn for kumihimo.

In addition, we'll be emptying our Etsy store and bringing it all with us.  Hand dyed yarns of all types!  As always, we'll have a bin or two full of beautiful hand dyed cotton rovings and tencel rovings, too.   A lot of people have been using these with needle felting - including in dreadlocks!

We hope to see you in Greencastle.   Please stop in and say hello!

Monday, April 6, 2015


Arugula is one of our favorite greens.   It grows like crazy here and self seeds readily.   In mild winters, it stays good enough to harvest through the whole cold season.  

We planted this in the fall in a cold frame and it died way back when the temps fell to the minus teens.   However, once the days start to lengthen and the temps warm up a bit, it greens right up and soon will be big enough to start harvesting.

In the meantime, now's a great time to plant a few more rows for harvesting later in the spring.  If it bolts in the heat, let it go to seed and you'll find another row of it when the weather cools in August and September.

Friday, April 3, 2015

New Berry Patch

Last fall we moved the hives from our west hill to an area not far from the veg garden.   Over the winter, we built a berry patch around the new site. 

I decided to orient the hives to the south.   They're already in full sun so it's a bit of overkill during the summer, but hopefully this will help keep them warmer during the winter.  

I also put them close enough together so that I can stuff insulation between them and they can borrow a bit of heat and shelter from each other.  Packing them closer together gives me enough room for 4 hives in the row.   I'm getting two packages at the end of this month and two nucs in May. 

If I'm lucky and a swarm moves into one of the empty hives before that, then we'll use the horizontal hive, too.   You can just see it on the far side of the picnic table.   It has a window on the back and we'll keep that hive on the table for a while so it's easy to see into. 

That picnic table is extra tall. It makes a nice boundary for the bees and a great place to stand behind to watch the fronts of the hives.   The bees fly up and over it and don't bother observers at all.  

The berry beds are in a U shape.  I have 2 blueberry bushes, and a whole lot of blackberries and raspberries [red and gold ones].   I'm really looking forward to these berries so close to the house.   We have a few acres of wild ones, but they're not very big or very sweet.   These should be much better berries.    Some will bear this year, some we'll have to wait for. 

If the deer bother them, The patch is easy to enclose with those 16 ft animal fence panels, which will be both deer deterrent and make for a great wind block in the winter - all you have to do is throw some cheap tarps over them and zip tie them in place.   I'll probably put the fence up just for that. 

At any rate, it feels like a real accomplishment to have this done and mulched and the hives all ready for the bees when they arrive.   In the meantime, the neighborhood bees have been robbing out the honey and pollen in the hives and it's nice to see a little bee action while I'm waiting. 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...