Saturday, April 30, 2016

American Bittern

This is an American Bittern.   We saw her at the edge of one of the back roads on Goose Pond SWR this week.  She posed quite nicely for me to snap a couple of pics.  

Mostly I was there to take pics of the marsh, but the place never disappoints.  It's a feast of sound and light and even on overcast days like this one, it's beautiful.    We're still trying to identify some distinctive bird songs we heard. [Edited:  Turns out it was a bunch of common snipe.  Spooky.] Spring is a great time to visit.

Here's another view of the bittern.

The marshes are beautiful this year.   Lots of water and lots of birds.  Everything is greening up fast.

We saw a lot of Canada geese and coots, a couple of northern shovelers [so pretty!], an otter, some blue winged teals and assorted lots of other birds we didn't take time to identify.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

So Much Fun

Thanks to everyone who came to The Fiber Event at Greencastle this weekend.  We saw many good friends and enjoyed seeing the projects everyone has made since last year.  We met many new people and really enjoyed getting to know them and talking about yarn.   The new layout of the show was wonderful and both customers and vendors were pleased with how easy it was to see everything and move around.

There was only a little drama this year when 20 minutes from home on the way to the show, our truck died.   As in - quit right there in the middle of a very rural road in Owen County at 6:30 in the morning.   An hour away from the show.

Thank heaven we had taken both cars and I was right behind in the jeep.   Lily and I took the jeep, already stuffed with the yarn, on to the show while Eric and Claire tried to figure out what was going on with the truck and find a way to get the booth structures, tables and trees to the show as fast as possible.    It was a very long 3 hours for me, waiting at the show, wondering what to do with 30 bags of yarn and no trees.  [Other vendors and I had a plan!   We'd pull 6 -8 or so of the fairground's tables out and use those.  Our booth was right next to the place where the tables were stored and other vendors offered their extra table covers.   I love these women!!]

Long story short, after Lily dropped me and the yarn at the show and drove back to Eric, and our wonderful neighbor brought her truck out to help, we were able to get the rest of the booth to the fairgrounds 10 minutes before the show started.   Yes, there was a lot of crazy rushing around, but many other vendors lent a hand setting up while Claire and Mary put the the trees and racks together out at the truck.   We were up and selling in record time.   And it was crazy busy for the first couple of hours.   Once things calmed down, I was able to pretty things up.  By late that afternoon, you'd never have known anything goofy had happened.

By noon, Eric was able to get the truck towed back to our favorite mechanic in Bloomington without selling our firstborn [Lily was happy about that] or his right arm [Eric was happy about that].  We just heard a little while ago that the truck's fuel pump had died.   It's a pricey fix, but not hard.  That truck was going to die this week anyway.   It's good that we were all together when it happened and that nothing really bad happened.  We were able to rent a little UHaul trailer to get things home in from the show.   All is put away now and we're good to go.

Many, many thanks to all of our friends at the show who stepped up to keep me calm [I was definitely not calm!] and help us get things ready at the very last second.    The Fiber Event has wonderful organizers and vendors.  This is one of the reasons we have been doing it for almost 20 years.   We love this show!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Fiber Event at Greencastle, Indiana

I've been scrambling the past few weeks to get ready for one of our favorite shows of the year, April 15-16, 2016.  - The Fiber Event at Greencastle, Indiana.

It's a great show.  Beautiful area, super friendly vendors and customers.   We always meet the most interesting people there and we learn something new every year.

I've got a lot of yarn in a couple of new colors this year.  Here's one of them - Blue Peacock.  I hope you can stop by the booth and see it yourself.   We'll be in the Community Building.

The Fiber Event 2016
Greencastle, Indiana,  Putnam County Fairgrounds
Friday April 15,   10:30am - 5pm
Saturday April 16,   9am - 4pm

Free parking.  No admission fee.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Beck Chapel

This is a little practice piece [4.25 x 5.5 inches] I did for a cityscape painting class.   Beck Chapel is at Indiana University, deep in campus next to the Union Bldg.   It's one of the loveliest and most peaceful places on campus.    I gave this piece to a friend who just celebrated her 41st anniversary - they were married in this chapel in 1975.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Stalwart Red Barn

I am taking a for-real-live-and-in-person art class for the next few weeks.  It's my first ever.  It's a great class with great people and no pressure.   We started this composition exercise in class with a tonal painting of a scene and did not have to do a finished painting for homework, so I thought that was a good reason to buck up and do a finished painting.   It was a challenge on several levels.  I won't go into details, but I did want to post the painting I came up with.   Still some problems, but getting better. I keep reminding myself that it's OK to be a learner.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Garden Surprise

Last week we were surprised and happy to find a row of kale that has popped up.  I planted it last fall and am pleased to have it show up for a spring finish.   In my experience, kale does much better outside of a cold frame or hoop house.   At the end of the season last year, I dumped a whole lot of leaves on this garden.  The kale sheltered very well there during this mild winter. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sunrise, Wet Morning #5

They say it takes 10,000 practice hours to master a skill.   I want to master watercolor, so I'm putting in my time. 

This is #5 of a series.   You can see the other attempts here on Craftsy.   It's a process.  I was supposed to be practicing doing 'blooms' on purpose as a way to add some cool texture to the woods.


While I was #bloomfailing, I did turn out a great perspective and some cool trees though, so I'm calling this an afternoon well spent.  3 more hours down - 8,267 more hours to go.   You know.  Give or take a few.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Successful Start to Spring

We took advantage of the glorious weather yesterday and started working for real on our spring To Do list.  

After losing a couple of buckets of sap to an over-curious dog, we still were able to end up with 6 pints of syrup.   Yum!   To see how we boil, check out the links in the sidebar.   It's an all-day and very smoky affair.  We make an event out of it.

While we were outside, I planted some peas, favas, radishes and arugula. It's supposed to be warm and rain for the next 6 days, so the soil should be just right for early peas.

Lily prepped the milk jugs so I could plant the tomatoes, pepper, eggplant, huckleberries, leeks and onions so they can get a head start on the season.   I tucked everyone in a small cold frame with a glass top.

Lily and I also inspected The Bees That Lived.   It's a tiny colony.   1/4 the size of a medium box - about the size of a nuc.   I think the reason they lived is that we had a well ventilated quilt box on them.   They still had a deep full of honey below them, but we're switching to all mediums so I pulled the deep and set it aside and condensed the hive space.   We saw the queen - beautiful!, made sure they had enough honey [plenty in the medium], put a pollen patty on top and some extra sugar blocks.   The brood was a tiny patch the size of your fist in 2 places.   They are slow to build up.  At any rate, now they have less space to defend and plenty of stores.  Let's hope the queen gets her act in gear and starts cranking out eggs.

I had set an unused quilt box on a stack of empty mediums and covered it up completely for the winter.  When we opened it, it was completely saturated with moisture and molding like crazy, even though it was filled with cedar and over an unheated stack of supers.   Good to know!   These quilt boxes are great - as long as they are ventilated!  I used regular construction shims/wedges to prop up one end of the inner cover I put over the quilt box on the bees.   Must have been just right because I didn't see any moisture or mold over the bees.

Lily and I took our first pings of the season.   That deep of honey I set aside started a bout of robbing.  My girls were pretty defensive and while we were taking care of things, I got pinged on the arm and neck and Lily took one on the ear.   I had to wet blanket the hive and that took care of it.  The rain the rest of the week should dampen any pillagers' spirit and leave my hive to build up - I hope. 

Afternoon update:  I checked the girls this afternoon.   All quiet on the apian front.   Thank heaven.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Oak Floors

So, there's been an extended period of radio silence here.  Sorry about that.   We've been busy doing the upstairs floors.

The guest room floor is installed.  We used more of the salvaged maple that we used for the other bedrooms upstairs.

The common room is almost done.  We used salvaged oak - from the same house the maple came from.

On the back of the oak we found this stamp:

Henry Buchholz Hinsdale ILL

We did a bit of research and found that Hinsdale is up near Chicago.   Henry Buchholz was a builder and developer in the early 1900s.  He liked oak.   So do we.

The oak floor is going much faster than the maple.   We can't tell if that's just because we really know what we're doing or because it's drier this time of year and we're not fighting swollen wood or what.   At any rate, we're grateful.

This is what's left of the oak today.   Our boards ranged in length from 12 inches to 15 feet long.  One of the things we have to do to make the best use of the wood is to put it together like puzzle pieces so that we don't make cuts and can fit the existing pieces together.   So, we arrange the wood by length.   It's tedious, but worth it when it comes time to lay out the rows for installation.   Layout is my job.   Installation [running the Super Nailer] is Eric's.

Layout involves fitting the boards to the correct length and attempting to get 100 years of mystery gunk off the tongues so the boards fit together well.  Sometimes I can get it off.  Sometimes it's cement.  If it doesn't then Eric goes at it again with the box knife [pic below] before final placement and nailing.

Turns out we had enough oak to do most of the floor upstairs and in front of the stairs. Woo-hoo!  We have enough maple left over to do the rest of the big room upstairs.   We considered getting new oak and keeping it all the same, but neither of us really wants to use the rest of the maple anywhere else in the house and we don't want to toss it, so we decided that we'd have a 'mixed' floor and let that be part of the house's story.  

We probably could have done something fancy to show off both woods up there, but we didn't know exactly how much square footage we had to begin with or how much maple we'd have left over after the guestroom without doing a way more intensive count than anyone wanted to do, so we winged it.    When we started with the oak, we looked at the stack and said, 'If we can get from the bookshelves all the way over to the stairwell with oak, then we can do the other area in maple and at least the oak and maple areas will make sense.'   We'll have exactly enough oak.  The floor upstairs won't match, but it's a good story. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016


A beautiful day today and the bees were out flying!  *heaves sigh of relief*

My pink hive [the last remaining one from last year] is doing well enough.  I opened the top and the cluster is not very big, but it is very vigorous.  And kind of defensive.  They have plenty of sugar left and I put a pollen patty in to help get them geared up for the season.   I see buds on the silver maple.  It won't be too many weeks before the early spring flow starts.   

I over wintered this hive with a vented quilt box.   Here's how it went from top to bottom:
  • telescoping cover
  • inner cover with notch down and open to quilt box.
  • 3 inch quilt box shim with screened bottom full of cedar shavings AND construction shim/wedges on top on one end for good ventilation between it and the inner cover.   That tilted the lids a bit, but no problem.
  • 2 inch shim for winter sugar
  • medium super with honey
  • deep super with brood
  • solid bottom board with lower entrance only
I wrapped the whole thing in some left over tar paper [we're using that for the floors in the house remodel] and then stacked some very large bags of leaves around the hive to block the wind.

The combination of things seems to have worked.   It was not a large hive in the fall, but they were interesting and hard working.   This is the hive that requeened with 27 emergency queen cells in August.   I tried to do splits but almost every split absconded back home with the honey stores, which they put back in the mother hive in a super I had set on the hive ABOVE an inner cover that completely separated it from the brood box below.   I had been trying to reduce the space for the remaining part of the colony left from the splits since we were in the thick of robbing season.   Apparently they didn't want things that way.   I recombined everyone and prayed a lot.  

I hope this bodes well for my beekeeping this year.  I have a good feeling about these girls.   I'm hoping to get a lot of honey out of them this year.  And a nuc with these behaviors would be awesome. 

In a few weeks, I'll reverse the boxes, putting the cluster and brood, which is now in the top box, on the bottom and I'll add a medium super above.   We're switching out to only mediums from now on.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Painting a Barn and Hay Bales

I've been painting a lot lately and really enjoying limited palette studies with watercolors.   Here's a recent effort - a late fall scene along Highway 157 in Greene County.   [Looks better blown up a bit, click to enlargen.]

We're about to get another dose of winter.   I have a feeling I'll be painting a lot more this week.

Hope you're all having a wonderfully creative winter and that you're staying good and warm.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The New Bookshelves

Our January project is finally done and it was worth the considerable amount of time it took.   Eric built these shelves on the wall around the 'will be a bathroom someday' door.  [Right now that little room is full of salvaged doors and door frames that I picked up last year, plus the pile of tiles for the someday bathroom, plus a few rolls of tar paper for the floor, a pile of assorted wood, the drywall buckets and tools, etc.]

He used birch plywood, stained and shellacked to match the other doors and trim upstairs.  

They are beautiful!   I've started moving up some of our gazillions of books.  This will let us clear out the smaller bookshelves in other areas of the house that have been double-stuffed during the building project.    Since the girls both work at a library, they are graciously allowing me to do the first pass at organizing the books, then they'll finesse, and then I get the final OK.   We are one step short of putting Dewey decimal numbers on everything.   [I heard you laugh.   When I was a kid, I had a prodigious collection of books myself and I DID put faux library labels on every single one.]

Next project:  Installing the floor in the guest room [Feb], then the floor in the Big Room upstairs [March]. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Time to Tap the Trees

It's just about that time again.   Time to tap the maple trees and start gathering sap for syrup.   And syrup means SPRING.  

Spring is good.   So is homegrown, home made, maple syrup.   We finished our last bit this week and there was much sadness in Mudville.  

Our old blue sap bags wore out last year and we moved to a tube and bucket system.   Behind the bag in the pic, you can see what I'm talking about.   That's what we'll be putting in in the next day or so.    I'll try to get some pics of how exactly this works.

For more links about how we do this, check out this post.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Another Hive Down

I checked the hives on Wednesday when the sun was out and the temps near 50.  The pink hive was actively housecleaning and doing cleansing flights but the other was silent.    I waited a few hours because the smaller hive often takes a bit more coaxing to break cluster and come out, but never saw a single bee. 

So.   The next day I waited until it was warm again and lifted the lid on the quiet hive for a quick look and found a completely silent hive.   I lifted some of the candy I'd put in during the fall and found the dead cluster up high, tucked right under the food source, barely fist sized.   They didn't make it through the couple nights of 0 degrees early last week.  Just not enough bees.

It's very discouraging.    That's 3 out of 4 hives down this year. 

I put some tar paper around the pink hive, checked the quilt box for good ventilation and tucked another giant bag of leaves up next to the bottom of the hive on the east.   It has excellent wind block on the west and north, with sun exposure to the east and south.   Assuming the sun shines again, that will help.    However, it's going to get near 0 again for the next couple of days.   Let's hope these ladies are tough enough to make it.  
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