CategoryFarm and Garden

Gardening

Things have been so fun around here. We got a greenhouse!

Ok, I’m probably the only one as excited about it as I am, but that’s ok. I’ve wanted one for a long time. When this one went on sale, we bought it pretty quickly – it was a steal! It was VERY hard to figure out the instructions, but we finally got it done.

We’ve also been adding some square foot gardens. They’re not done, but they look good so far.

This is my herb garden. We’re trying some new herbs and I’m excited to see how they do over the summer.

The one in the back is the kids’ garden. It’s not done either, but they’re really excited that they get to have their own box!

It’s definitely spring

It’s definitely spring – wow – is the pollen count through the roof or what?!?

It’s been so beautiful out lately. It makes me just want to stay outside all day, but of course that doesn’t happen. There’s too much to do inside.

Sunday our church is having Homecoming, and then revival with Bro. Alfred Willis all week. I am so excited. Services have been SO good at church lately, and the Holy Spirit has really been working on my heart, showing me where I need to change and grow. I’m definitely looking forward to the services. If you’re in the area and would like to come to services, send me an email for details!

On the home front, Samuel has spring fever and is ready for school to be out. To be honest, this mommy is ready for a break too. :O) We are almost done for the year so break time is coming. My parents are also coming for a visit in the next couple of weeks so we’ll have that week off too.

Our rabbit had babies – 7 of them. They’re about 3 weeks old now and are SO CUTE. They’ve just learned how to jump out of their nest box and it’s so fun to stand there watching them.

Stephen and I also had our practical test for the bee school last Saturday. It’s the first step in the South Carolina Master Beekeeper Certification. I’d love to go farther with it but we’ll see. The last certification involves writing a book, and there’s only one Master Beekeeper in the state. . .It sounds like fun to pursue but honestly, probably not at this stage of life with our little ones. At least not for me, anyway.

Little Miss Esther is teething already. At 5 months, her first two teeth are about to break through any day now. She is one miserable teether. Poor little girl. :O) But it looks like her teeth will be through tomorrow or the next day so hopefully she’ll have some relief then.

We’ve also been making some pretty drastic changes to our diet. We’ve been trying to cut out all white processed food and sugars. One of the children (who shall remain unnamed) is so sensitive to sugar that we notice a dramatic change in behavior after eating it. Our first experiment is to eliminate all but the natural sugars and we’ll go from there. We’re also trying to eat as many whole foods as possible. It’s been a challenge, and here I was thinking we ate pretty well.

Our garden is huge this year and we’re in the process of making it bigger. Lord willing, I’ll be able to put up enough tomatoes/sauce so that we don’t have to buy any over the winter. It’s a huge project but I’m hoping to be able to do it.

Jewelry has been keeping me fairly busy as well. God has grown my little business and I am so thankful for that! I’ve added a Medical Alert Jewelry line and have quite a few other new design ideas as well. I’ve been trying my best to work the business during naptime/Family Quiet Time (more on that later if I can ever find the link again!) and when the kids are in bed. I don’t want my kids to think all I ever do is work on jewelry. But I have to admit it is a struggle sometimes.

This post is plenty long enough now so I’ll quit. . .more later. . .

Random updates

stewed-tomatoes

The garden has been going crazy. A friend from church came over last week to help me can tomatoes – we got 24 1/2 quarts canned that day. That was a very tiring day but I’m SO thankful for everything that got done!

At the moment there’s a 3-gallon bucket full of lima beans to be shelled, and that same amount of tomatoes to be canned again (which should work out to 5 quarts or so of stewed tomatoes if I remember right). There are also green beans that have been snapped that need to be canned. I’m hoping to get those done this afternoon but we’ll see how the day goes.

We planted potatoes for the first time this year, but the millipedes ate most of them.

We’re having VBS at church tonight, tomorrow, and Saturday. My kids are thrilled.

stuck

This silly boy fell into the crock and couldn’t get out. We all laughed before getting him out – it was just too funny!

God has sent an amazing amount of jewelry orders lately. I have been absolutely overwhelmed at His goodness.

My last piano lessons were this week. Was that ever bittersweet. It hit me more the next day though, when I started packing things up in the studio to store them. I’ve had a wonderful arrangement for years – including a keyboard/computer setup to allow easy typing and printing of music. Now that I’m no longer teaching the keyboard will go into storage. I didn’t expect packing it up to make me sad, but it did.

My brother-in-law is coming over today to move the piano out of the studio and into the living room. The studio is now going to be the girls’ room. Anna slept in there last night and did fine in there by herself, but I’m anxious to get the rest of the music equipment moved out to turn it into a regular bedroom for her.

Before the piano can be moved out of the room, we’ll need to move the bookshelf that’s in there, so sometime soon I’ll need to box up all my music reference manuals and extra teaching books. . .not looking forward to that either. Wow, I’m really going to miss teaching.

We’ve been rearranging things throughout the whole house. That’s been fun. What has been even more fun is I haven’t had to move any of the furniture myself (not that Stephen would let me at this point anyway), and I just get to decide where it goes. THAT has been fun.

Pregnancy-wise things are going well. I’ll be 30 weeks on Monday. I can’t believe things have gone this quickly! I feel okay, but keep forgetting that my energy level isn’t what it used to be. These three keep me so busy to start with, but thankfully they have been really understanding about me being slower than usual.

coloring

I have had a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions this time, like I did with Anna. They serve as a reminder to keep drinking my water and not to push myself too hard. :O) Next week is my glucose tolerance test, and we find out if baby is still breech. Hopefully she’s turned since my last appointment though.

Lord willing, I’ll be delivering at a local birth center this time around and I am SO EXCITED about it. My midwife is wonderful. The hospital births I’ve had weren’t exactly terrible, but there were quite a few interventions both times that I didn’t feel were necessary. I’d hoped to deliver Anna at the birth center, but they opened about a month after she was born, so that obviously didn’t work out. This time though it has worked out, and I’m loving it so far. The facility is beautiful and the midwives there are wonderful. It really sounds like a huge dream come true.

Harvesting honey

Sweeping bees off frame of honey
Brushing bees off a frame of honey so we can take it in the house

We harvested more honey over the weekend. It was probably the last super we will take off the hive for the year. They’re still bringing in a good bit of pollen, but we want to make sure the hive has enough honey stores to make it through the winter.

Putting honey frame in box

Here you can see the different colors of honey we’ve gotten from the same hive. It’s amazing the color difference, but the flavor difference is pretty drastic too. The darker honey is very strong flavored, and the lighter honey is very mild. We prefer the lighter ourselves.

differenthoneycolors

This is the amount of honey we got from the first super of honey I blogged about a couple weeks ago. We now have the bucket filled again, and we need to get some more jars so we can bottle it as well.

jarsofhoney

What absolutely blows me away is that most of this honey is spoken for already. It’s amazing how once people find out you’re a beekeeper, how quickly they line up to buy the honey. Stephen said he has a customer at work who wants an entire gallon of honey! I’m not sure if we’ll have enough for her to get an entire gallon, but we’ll see.

Stephen also got some really neat pictures when he was examining the hives. I like this one – he took it right after he removed a couple of frames to examine them.

intotheabyss

Can you find the queen in this picture? She’s the bigger, lighter colored bee right in the center.

queen

Building new comb:

buildingcomb

I love beekeeping!

Bees cleaning honey from wax

When the wax in the honey strainer bucket was pretty much done filtering (see here for the first post on processing honey), we put it in a pan and set it on the porch so the bees could take the last of the honey from it. There were a TON of bees on that wax. We really enjoyed watching them from inside the house, but Stephen went outside and took a short video. It was neat to see how clean the wax was when they were done!

This post is linked to the Homestead Barn Hop.
Barn-Hop

Why our home smells amazing today

We started working on harvesting honey today. Our home smells amazing. There have been some questions asked about the process we use, so we took a lot of pictures this time.

This is the super we’re harvesting today. Each layer in a hive is called a super – it is a box of frames that the bees build comb in. We have 8-frame hives, because the supers are easier to lift than ones with 10 frames. This particular hive had three honey supers on it, but we only took one to harvest today.

honeysuper

Our honey straining bucket can’t hold the honey from all eight frames at once, so this super will probably take most of the day to deal with.

Here’s a look directly down inside.

supertopview

Let the kids take a peek, and then shoo them out of the kitchen. No need for them to get sticky and messy too. :O)

lookingathoneysuper

Here’s a look at a frame that is ready to harvest. The white coating is a thin layer of wax (cappings) that keeps the honey from oozing out.

cappedhoney

We take a frame at a time, and cut the comb off with a bread knife. We’ve found it’s easier to cut it into two or three sections, just so it doesn’t fall on the counter and make a huge mess.

cuttingcomb

Here’s a closer look at the comb:

framecrosssection

Then we take a pastry blender to crush the comb. We use the crush and strain method (more info at the blog Linda’s Bees) because we like to use the filtered wax for other things.

crushingcomb

The comb once it is crushed:

crushedcomb

Then we pour the crushed comb into our straining bucket. The filter holds about three frames’ worth of honey.

combinfilter

The empty frames get placed in a bowl to drain further. When they’re pretty much done, we’ll set them outside for the bees to finish off. They’ll take the last of the wax and honey back to the hive and reuse it.

drainingframes

After about an hour, the wax has filtered pretty well. It’s not done yet, but there’s definitely progress.

drainedcomb

When the wax is completely filtered, we’ll rinse it and put it in the freezer for later use.

The next step is pouring the filtered honey into jars. We probably won’t get that far today. We will wait until the bucket is mostly full first – right now the honey is about two inches deep in the bucket. It filters pretty quickly but doing all the frames will probably take most of the day. The main project for today is to get the comb crushed and filtered.

It’s sticky and messy, but the end result is so worth it.

First honey of the year

We harvested our first frame of honey this week. We’re not ready to do a full harvest of the main hive yet, but since this frame was completely capped, we took it inside to harvest it.

Stephen’s initial thinking was to wait, but I asked him if we could harvest a frame so I could have some honey to take for allergies. Nothing like fresh, local honey from your own back yard to take for seasonal allergies!

cuttingcomb

It’s not that difficult to cut the comb off the frame, but it does become a sticky mess.

cutcomb

The cut comb is so pretty though – I love looking at it.

We just bought a 5 gallon bucket for straining the honey this year. It is SO much easier than the mason jar method we’ve used in the past. We both agreed it’s money well spent.

bottledhoney
Tulip poplar honey – nice and dark with a spicy flavor. I love it.

The one frame had enough honey in it to fill two pint jars, plus a little left over. It’s nice to know the amount of honey we’ll be getting from each frame once we do harvest it later this summer.

We’ve waited 3 years to be able to harvest our own honey. Although we’ve done a few frames at a time from our old hives, none of them have done as well as the one we have now. We’re really excited to see how they’re doing.