Saturday, April 30, 2011

Happy Bees

Yesterday was a nice, mild, sunny day. Perfect weather for the girls to get acquainted with their new location. The hive was buzzing with activity. This video was taken during the height of that action. Again, I apologize for the sideways video. One of these days it will sink in that I can't shoot video when my camera is rotated.

If you tilt your head to the left it makes viewing easier. And tell your chiropractor I said "Hi". At times my entire backyard was filled with bees happily coming and going from their hive. I brought a couple of my friends over (the non-bee-skittish ones) and we stood about 6 feet from the hive and watched the action. I could stay out there for hours. And this summer I will.

For those who worry that the bees will attack my neighbors, look closely at this photo. This was taken at the height of the bees activity.

Look to the far right. See that young man mowing? At one point he was weed whacking and mowing directly behind the hive. Separated only by the fence and screen. That would place him less than 3 feet from the hive, but with a 10 foot screen between the bees and himself. Unfortunately, by the time I'd grabbed my camera, he had already moved to another area. Did he get stung? No. Was he even aware there was a hive close-by? Probably not. He didn't bother them and they didn't bother him. Bees are around us everyday. Most of the time we don't even notice. Honey bees are docile. They only sting when they feel threatened. Now if you step on one, or sit on it, can you really blame the poor creature for trying to defend itself?

Update at 8:30am 4-30-11 - I just checked on the status of their sugar water supply. They aren't going through it as fast as I'd hoped. They maybe drank a cup of the water from the front feeder. And there were no bees under that feeder this morning. I removed the outer cover from the top of the hive and lifted the can of sugar water. The can still has plenty in it and there were many bees crowded underneath it. Tomorrow I will replace both feeders with fresh syrup.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Bees Have Arrived!

I got the long awaited phone call this morning. The bees were in Quilcene and ready to be picked up. This was a day ahead of schedule which meant I had to stay behind and get the hive assembled while the husbeast made the long trek to Quilcene and back. He didn't really mind since we both love the Olympic Peninsula. It was an enjoyable drive. Meanwhile I was back home making sure things were ready. This is a picture of the bee screen that we installed in order to keep the bees' flight path high above the neighbor's head.

The bees arrived at the house around 3pm.
Here they are in their travel trailer.
They make a lovely humming sound.

My friend and bee mentor,  Kristine, arrived around 3:30 and I began the installation. Things moved rather quickly. This video was taken after I'd hung the queen from the center frame in the bottom hive box, added the second box, and poured most of the bees from the box into the hive.

I've got bees all over me.

The bees are slowly making their way into the hive, following the scent of the queen.

And a bit later, I've filled the bird/bee bath so they have a water source and you can see the majority of the bees have entered the hive.

A close-up of bees on the threshold. Go in. Don't be shy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Preparing For the Bee's Arrival

My bees should be arriving within the next couple of days. Perhaps even tomorrow night. They will probably arrive in the wee morning hours as my distributor is making the 12 hour drive from California back up to WA. If that happens I will tuck them away in my garage until the morning. I'm not going to wrangle bees in the dark. In the meantime I am readying my hive. I am painting more of the bottom board. I took the part about "no paint where the bees will be" too much to heart. I had only painted the outer edges of the bottom board. But it will be exposed to the elements so I am painting the entire piece. What? Don't other wives paint their hives in the bathtub? Really? Well don't tell my husband that. I need to put on one more coat of paint, in the morning, and I'm done.

Here is my hubby putting up the bee screen. This will keep their flight path up above my neighbor's head, in case he wants to enjoy his backyard.

It's too dark now. I'll take a picture of the finished screen tomorrow. I just have to pick up a couple more supplies. I need some Playtex gloves and a spray bottle. I want to spray their frames with sugar water, so they'll like them better. Bees don't like "new" things and their entire home is going to be new. Tomorrow I'll do my shopping and mix up their sugar syrup. I am excited and have been watching videos on hiving bees for 2 days. I think I'll be fine.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

More Shelves = More Progress

Today I lugged 2 more of the short Billy Bookcase shelves across the alley and up the stairs, to the craft room. This has allowed me to get even more of my reading material organized. (Double click on the picture to read the titles).

For someone who doesn't read, I certainly have a lot of books. These are just a small part of my collection. The top 2 cubbies house my weaving books, as well as a few on felt making and natural dyeing. The bottom left cubbie holds books on hand spinning, and a few on soap and candle making. The bottom right cubbie holds my collection of books and magazines on traditional rug hooking. One more short bookshelf, and 2 of the taller ones, and I should be able to get all my books and magazines whipped into submission.

Now that I am getting ready to sell off my fixtures I have begun bringing my personal items home. Here is my beloved picture of the patron saint of knitting, Gromit, of 'Wallace & Gromit' fame.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Craftroom Makeover: Part One

I've made a bit of headway. I am replacing my old ugly shelves with the nice white Billy Bookcases from the yarn shop. These are much sturdier and are also nice looking. Here are my spinning, weaving and dyeing magazines, after being placed on the new shelves.

And a reminder of what that corner looked like, before.

And look what I found during my excavations. I was wondering where my natural dyestuffs and essential oils had gone.

Even I have no idea what all I have.
This is going to be like Christmas!

When Hobbies Attack...

...things can get ugly. The only reason I am revealing this deep dark shame is because I am on a mission to get this all organized. For the past 12 years I have had far more ambition than time. Much of this has never really been unpacked since our move, 5 years ago. No, the rest of my house does not look like this. But you often hear me joke that I need to get my craft room under control before they feature me on 'Hoarders'. Did you think I was joking?

What's in here? It might be easier to ask what isn't in here. Let's see, there are 3 spinning wheels, a table loom, a rigid heddle loom (with a floor stand), a wool picker, a drum carder, 2 knitting machines, a warping board, a couple of ball winders, at least on swift, a couple of yarn blockers, a wool winder with yardage meter, a sewing machine, 2 rug hooking frames, boxes of spinning fiber, boxes of fabric, boxes of wool for rug hooking, a stereo, many crates of albums, drop spindles, knitting needles, weaving supplies (boat shuttles, bobbin winder, etc...). Oh, and my indoor clothesline. All things that I could never part with. And now I want to jam a couple of looms into the mix. Something has to give. So I will attempt to sort this all out and get it organized. Stay tuned.

Don't Bite The Hand Holding The Tobacco

I've been working retail for 12 years. I can obviously take abuse. But even I have limits. This week has been extremely busy with the clearance sale as I prepare to close my yarn shop. I've been on my feet, non-stop. I'm incredibly tired. Yesterday I get a call from a guy wanting to know the hours for the tobacco shop. I inform him that I am in the process of retiring and closing my business. "But what about the tobacco guy? What's he going to do?". That would be me.....and the tobacco shop can not exist without the yarn shop. He saunters in about 5pm. I take him into the tobacco shop and his face lights up at the selection. He goes on and on about how the other tobacco shops are over priced and our tins are $5 cheaper. I try to explain how the other shops are just trying to stay in business and the only reason my prices are lower is I have no over head. He makes a huge production of piling up tins on the counter, changing his mind, referring to his notes, and finally has a nice selection and I ring him up. It is at this point he makes his first mistake. He tells me how he's sent me an email to straighten me out. Apparently I have misinterpreted the law and can, in fact, mail him tobacco. I explain that no, I can not. He raises his voice and rudely tries to convince me that I do not know what I'm talking about. At this point I am still calm and tell him that I can not mail tobacco to him, will not and I do not wish to argue about it. Here is where he makes his second and final mistake. By this time it is clear to me that he is behaving this way because of my gender. He is going to put this little woman in her place. He gets very red in the face, glares at me, and says, "Let's stop this transaction right now. I want you to clear out the register, and I will start over." I know what he's up to. He's going to teach me a lesson by making a much smaller purchase. Unfortunately, for him, he had already used up enough of my time and patience. I will spare you the details but suffice it to say I informed him that he would be leaving empty handed and was never to set foot in my shop again. He was last seen making a quick and quiet exit, with his tail between his legs. He can go pay $5 more per tin for his tobacco of limited selection, and I hope he had to drive a good distance in order to tick me off. He was an old fart, too. You'd think he'd have learned that valuable life lesson: Don't bite the hand that feeds you.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Getting Ready For My Bees

They are tentatively set to arrive on April 27th. I need to get my butt in gear and have everything ready. Today I placed the hive in the back corner of the yard, on the platform I'd built. Now to review my books and video and make sure I am all set for their housewarming. I am excited, yet nervous, about getting them here and into their new home.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Happy Birthday & Retirement To Me

Yesterday was one of the most enjoyable days of my life. It was my 52nd birthday and also the day I chose to announce my retirement from being a yarn shop owner. I threw a little party at the shop, on the pretense of celebrating my 12th anniversary in the business. But it turned out to be a surprise party, with my friends and customers being the ones surprised. Yes, there were some tears. But not from this girl. Do I look sad?

Wasn't that nice of Roxi to get Roxi a retirement cake?

After work my husband took me out for a delicious lobster dinner at the Lobster Shop. Then it was home to watch our prerecorded Ultimate Fighter and smoke my birthday cigar, a Padron 1964 Anniversary. Days just don't get much better than that. I got some great birthday swag, as well. My dear husband bought me this Merlot kit and showed his undying love by parting with his tin of Butera Kingfisher, which is my all time favorite tobacco and no longer available.

And I received some nice gifts from customers who are also my dear friends. Anny made me her fabulous Tiramisu and gave me a gift card to Macy's. And Pat gave me these canning jars because she knows I am always needing jelly jars.

I am a fortunate girl to have such a loving spouse and thoughtful friends. Life is good! Now on to the next stage. I will be selling my commercial building and purchasing our retirement property. Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

April's Bargains And Expenditures

I'll be tracking things a bit differently from this point forward. As you may have noticed, my spending has gone WAY down. What started as an experiment, to see just how little it costs to live well, has proven more successful than I'd dreamed. I began my lifestyle change in January of 2010. Since then I have noticed I am much more content and my home is less cluttered. I am still not quite where I want to be, but that is just a matter of time. This month I have cut my personal spending way back in anticipation of the next stage of my life's transformation. But I have still managed to find some great bargains. They are out there, if you know where to look.

Leather Dansko Nevada Boots - $30 - Craigslist (saved approx. $170)
2 pairs used Dansko Clogs - $40 - Friend (saved approx. $200 over new)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I'm...Too Sexy For My Boots...Too Sexy For My Boots...

Actually its the other way around. But I can't get that silly song out of my head. These "new to me" boots make me happy. I've shared how I have a terrible Dansko habit but refuse to pay full price for them. I found these on my favorite shopping site, Craigslist. They are Dansko NEVADA boots, in black, and they are SOLD OUT on all the sites I could find them listed on. $200 boots. Nice black leather with decorative buckles. And they are really comfortable. What did I pay for these boots that someone had ordered online, worn once, and forgot to return in time? $30

Monday, April 11, 2011

It Occured To Me, While Drinking Larry Bird's Wine

Oh Shit! I'm drinking Larry Bird's wine. As that Larry Bird bottled. It's all making sense now. Why would you put a picture of Larry Bird on your wine labels? Unless you ARE Larry Bird. And why would obviously committed wine drinkers pack around a single unopened bottle of wine? Unless it has some value? Damn, damn and triple damn. Why didn't I figure this out BEFORE I'd opened the bottle?

I'm sitting at my computer, enjoying my glass of free wine and Googling Larry Bird and wine. Come to find out he had teamed with a California winery, back in 2005, to develop a line of wines. And why his interest? Because he had been a home wine maker. After reading this little excerpt, my light bulb came on, "Larry Bird: I got into this years ago. I used to make some. I didn’t drink it but my brothers liked it and their wives liked it. So it’s just been a hobby when I was retired. I would go out and try to make some different kinds."

The bottle I have says Christmas 2004. I'm thinking this was a wine Larry gave as Christmas gifts that year? So, how much am I bid for a half drunk bottle of 2004 Cranberry Shiraz that was maybe bottled by Larry Bird?

Benefits Of Bottle Scrounging

Yes, I am a bottle scrounge. Being incredibly frugal, I can't see paying money for something that people toss out on a regular basis. Consequently I am always on the lookout for free wine bottles. I did have a temporary change of heart. Just once. It was after many hours of scrubbing labels from bottles and at a time when I needed bottles "now". I gave in and had the husbeast purchase 3 cases of bottles from our local home brew supply shop. The bottles were the green claret type and cost $15 per case of 12 (plus tax). That was almost $50 for 36 bottles. And they weren't even good quality. I vowed never again. I am content to hunt down, de-label and scrub used bottles from here on out. The found bottles are of a much higher quality and I get a good selection of different styles and colors. Most are your standard claret or burgundy style and are green, olive, amber or clear. But every so often I come across a bottle of a unique color, shape or size. I have some of these on display in my kitchen window, above. The prize of my collection is the teal colored bottle in the center of that group.

Yesterday I picked up 5 boxes of free bottles from some apartment dwellers in downtown Tacoma. This morning, as I was removing the bottles from the boxes and preparing them to be washed, I pulled out one of the bottles that was much heavier than the others. Because it was full. Of wine. Here it is hanging out next to MexiCat. 

Somebody was a Larry Bird fan. This is a Cranberry Shiraz, bottled in 2004. Most likely from a kit. Which means it is well past it's prime. But I couldn't resist sampling and it is definitely drinkable.

Trub Traps

Another side benefit of being a home brewer is plenty of trub on hand. What is trub and why is it desirable? Trub is that nasty, gunky, tan colored sludge that is left in the bottom of your fermenter when you rack your beer into the secondary (carboy). If you're a gardener, DON'T THROW IT OUT! I freeze any extras for later use. Used how? You know how slugs are attracted to beer. Multiply that by 100 and that is how much slugs adore trub. They will gleefully gather from the far corners of your garden, climb into your trap and drown. I was amazed at how well it works. I had forgotten about my prototype trap and when I went to empty it (about a month after placing it) it was jam packed with dead slugs. NOTE TO SELF: Next time dump the trap in a discreet area, not in your herb bed. A big smelly pile of dead slugs is not classy. How do you make your own trub traps? You'll need a good sized plastic container with a lid. I had a couple of coffee containers on hand and they work great. Cut 2 or 3 holes in the sides, a couple of inches from the bottom.

Then fill the bottom with trub, to just below the holes.

Now snap on the lid and place your trap in your garden.

Here is one guarding my strawberry patch. The lid keeps out the rain and any curious pets. There is no need to refill very often. The trub will keep luring slugs for a good long time. If you don't have coffee containers, large yogurt tubs work equally well.

While I was in a trap making mood, I used an empty sour cream tub to make a similar lure for my ants, using my favorite formula (shared in an earlier post). I plan to make many of these and leave them in the rooms whenever I spot an ant.I'll let you know if they work.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Recycling Eggshells

I try to use everything that's of value. Including eggshells. My favorite use for them is to feed them right back to the hens. Eggshells are almost pure calcium and calcium in a chicken's diet ensures that future eggs will have nice hard shells. I collect the empty shells and keep them in the refrigerator. Once I have a big pile I place them into the microwave, on high, for 3 minutes. This sterilizes them.

Once they have cooled I crush them up and mix the crushed shells with crushed oyster shells. A bit of this mixture is offered to the hens each morning. The following picture is of crushed eggshells, only, before adding the oyster shells.

Finally Planted Peas

I'm a couple of weeks late but I think our spring is running late, as well. It's hard to get the garden going when your yard is a mud pit. A big thank you to my friend for sharing so many of her heirloom seeds with me. These will be Melting Sugar Snow Peas. Last year I grew some Sugar Snap Peas and discovered that peas don't like to climb up plastic poles. They just fell over onto the ground and I had to go wrap string around the poles in order to get them to behave and climb. This year we'll see if peas like to climb up wood branches. I had a pile of these prunings from my apple tree. Why buy stakes when you have them right under your nose?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Death To Ants

Over the past couple of years we have been fighting an on going battle with sugar ants. I have finally found something that works to kill them without having to resort to chemical sprays. Here is the recipe:

Natural Ant Poison
1 tsp. molasses
1 tsp. borax
2 TBS. water

Mix all together in a small jar.

When you see ants, pour a small puddle of this on the floor. For some reason they like it better when it's on the floor as opposed to in a dish. I didn't want to pour it on my hardwood floors so I poured it onto clean can lids.

But on linoleum I just pour it right onto the floor. Once you pour it, don't be alarmed if ants appear from everywhere. You want this. They will greedily gobble up the poisoned treat and soon die. But not before carrying some of it back to the nest to share with the queen (at least we hope that's what happens). Here is what your floor will look like after 2 days.

Those are little dead ant carcasses. The molasses concoction will harden after 2 days, so you'll need to mop it up and perhaps reapply. Be sure to keep your kids and pets out of it. Don't want to be poisoning them now, do we?

Cranberry Chianti

I now have 29 freshly filled and labeled bottles of Cranberry Chianti to put on my new Ikea wine shelves. The one with the red stopper is for enjoying tomorrow. A couple of my friends have been excitedly waiting for this one. They'll be showing up tomorrow for a sample. Here's a closer look at the label. I put the month and year on this one.

Blog Sale

I am saving up to buy a floor loom. No time to have a yard sale so I'll attempt a blog sale. Here are a few things I have to offer:

Brand New Juicer, in box: (bartered for 3 cases of wine bottles)
1 quart of concentrated worm tea fertilizer: $10
4 oz. of red wiggler composting worms: $5
Organically grown thornless raspberry canes: 2 for $5
Ashford Traditional spinning wheel: SOLD
Ashford Traveller spinning wheel: SOLD
A dozen large fresh eggs: $5

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Building A Bee Foundation

Today is the only day this week that it isn't supposed to rain. And I happened to have the day off. It's time to get the foundation installed for the beehive. My bee's arrival has been pushed back until early May. Something about the weather being too wet and cold, in Northern California, for the queens to be mated. That gives me a little more time to prepare but I'd still like to have everything in place by mid-April, just in case. Today's major chores were to mow the lawn, clean the chicken pen and get the hive foundation installed. I have the perfect spot in mind. This corner of the yard gets plenty of sun. First I have to rake up the leaf mulch and level out the soil.

Next I dug the trenches for the base cinder blocks. These will keep the wood pallet from coming into direct contact with the soil and will also help to evenly distribute the hive's weight.

Once those 4 cinder blocks were in place it was time to add the pallet platform.

Now I just have to get the husbeast to trim my piece of plywood to fit the pallet, and those 4 cinder blocks, behind the pallet, will provide the foundation for the hive. I left enough room behind the pallet for me to get back there in order to tend the hive. I will leave that area, and the right side of the hive, free. I will move some weeds, that bees love, over to the left side of the pallet, between it and the fence. Not much left to do. I am almost ready for the bee's arrival. Here is a gratuitous picture of my hen's offerings for today.

3 eggs from my 3 lovely girls.