Construction · Relaxing

Finally, I have a new goal!

I am going to make an Adirondack chair! Finding this new goal has been a journey with lots of ups and downs, but I am excited to have finally picked something well over a year after having completed my last one.

The plastic chairs we have overlooking the creek are so comfortable, and years ago a friend of mine made one from shipping pallets. I thought about trying to make one then, but the move to the farm and all the work getting to the point we are made me put it on a back burner. But I did feel lost without working toward something for myself that wasn’t work related.

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have a goal that I was working toward until after I took my Beekeeper Certification Exam last year. I was just so tired and keeping up with work around the farm was all I could handle. I just knew I would feel rested before school started again. But I didn’t.

By the end of May, I was so exhausted, I did nothing other than go to work and collect eggs from the chickens. And that didn’t get any better as summer went on. In July doctors finally figured out what was going on and my 18 month decline finally had a name. Now I am halfway through treatment and starting to feel more like myself again.

Now, after diagnosis, I came up with a rather superficial goal of defeating a bully who plays on an opposing team of my current video game! That was a goal, but not a satisfying one. And this goal is creative and not vindictive. This new goal includes learning more than just basic woodworking skills and sticking with it until we have a chair that we can sit on. After that, I’d like to make at least one more. We have lumber that my brother-in-law milled from trees we took down to clear a space for the house, so I won’t be using shipping pallets, and the chair(s) will be even more special because they are a product of the farm.

What a difference having a goal in life makes! We all need something in our lives besides work and chores, and this is my new “something”. Watch out for more updates. I’m back, and plan to blog frequently again!

Life is good, especially when we are sitting in our plastic chairs overlooking the creek and discussing the steps toward my new project.

Bees · Lazer Creek Apiary · Natural Food Sources

Bees in weird places

Bees in staging area

What a difference a day makes. Or a few days….. We checked half of our hives one weekend and there was so little nectar that I started open feeding again. Then it rained. Then the weather turned warm. And all of a sudden, our hives are nectar bound and bees are off looking for new homes. We knew it was almost time to add honey supers, so we staged boxes under the lean-to, and the next day, a swarm moved in. We relocated them this past weekend – four boxes of bees and about 20 pounds of nectar. They accumulated that in four days. We have since captured another 8 frames of returning foragers. We gave them a frame of open brood to work with and we’ll see if they are making a queen for themselves tomorrow.

I was at home yesterday waiting for delivery of a new washing machine, stepped out onto the front porch, and saw another swarm staging on the front of a hive we just checked on Sunday. Again, they went from having plenty of free space to being nectar bound seemingly overnight. I pulled frames of brood out of the hive, put them in a 10-frame and hurriedly swept bees from the front and sides of the hive into it. I put them on the neighboring hive stand, turned in the opposite direction, where they appear to be quite content. I checker-boarded drawn comb and brand new foundation into the existing hive, and added another brood box just in case. The bees that were still outside marched back in and started rearranging the furniture. I went back to our house and continued rearranging my furniture so the delivery guys had a clear path to the laundry room. By the end of the day, all of us were happy!

Even though we went through all of our hives last weekend, we are going back through them tomorrow. This nectar flow is wonderfully heavy. Hubby has caught 3 swarms this week in addition to the two already mentioned. We have at least one hive that swarmed without us knowing it since Sunday. As always, it’s a balancing act between giving the bees enough space while making sure they don’t have too much empty space to defend from predators.

Life is good, as always, on the farm, albeit a little busy right now!

Chickens · Honey · Lazer Creek Apiary · Pests - Bees · Pests - General · Products and Vendors

Happy Thanksgiving, 2021

French Apple Tart – Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

We have so much to be thankful for this year, as always. We have just started our 6th year as the owners this beautiful property and we continue to make progress. Our mobile home now has brick underpinning, the honey kitchen is framed in the workshop, and even more blackberries have been cut back. We also have official building plans. Like so many other people, we are now waiting for an available electrician for the honey kitchen and an affordable quote for the house, but we have a roof over our head, jobs, and good health.

As always, the tiny kitchen made baking the French tart challenging, and I spent a lot of time wishing for my new kitchen while getting ready for Thanksgiving meals. We are both trying to focus on our progress and not give in to the frustration of trying to get tradespeople out here! But we have a forever-house in our future and a small deck overlooking the creek that is perfect for day-dreaming about the view from the back porch of the house in due time.

Our somewhat rainy summer this year led to a record honey harvest. We were able to pull spring honey at the end of May and then summer honey when the sourwood trees stopped blooming in July. We are also going into winter with hives that have good stores of goldenrod honey. The two locations that we seeded with nematodes over the last few years now have minimal small hive beetle issues, and the new NUC yard has been a good experimental control as the hives there have been inundated with the pests. We’ll order another batch from Arbico in spring and get that area treated as well. Also, we have not had a single wax moth problem all year, which is cause for celebration in itself as those larvae and so disgusting and even the chickens won’t eat them.

The chickens are another blessing, although with 11 hens we have been somewhat over-blessed with eggs this summer. Now that they days are shorter and the two older are girls recovering from a molt, the number of eggs in manageable. We still have plenty to give to friends and family, but part of that is because we just simply needed a break from scrambled eggs for breakfast every morning!

I hope that life is as good for you, my readers, as it is for us here on the farm. I love the day after Thanksgiving, because the cooking and cleaning are done and I have time to look back through old blogs and see how far we have come with this wonderful adventure we are on. Now I need to get outside, take the dog for a run, and appreciate the farm from the other side of the office window!

Chickens

Little Green Eggs

Eggs from Red Sex Links and Americana Chickens

The new chickens are finally laying! Hubby found the first green egg – it was smaller and rounder than the ones in the picture and more of an army green color than the pretty teal ones I found today. The eggs grow in number and size every day and, unlike the brown eggs, the color permeates through to the inside of the shell. We are certainly going to have plenty of scrambled eggs for a while!

Another difference we’re seeing with the Ameraucana chickens is their ability to fly. Cocky, our rooster, can fly vertically from the ground to the roof of the chicken run where he struts his stuff and calls out to the world.

I was awake very early one morning and could hear him crowing before the sun was up. It’s a good thing that we no longer live in a neighborhood. The vote is still out on whether to keep him or not as he is aggressive toward the hens at times and is starting to bow up at me when I come close — and at the dogs, the golf cart – pretty much anything that invades his territory. He does, however, back down from the mature hens who very much put him in his place. For now I’m assuming this is a case of teenage hormones.

The Ameraucana hens also like to roost in the rafters of the chicken run. That may be in part because the old hens didn’t want to share the coop at first, but the hens are going in there to use the nesting boxes so maybe that will resolve itself soon. Of course, it’s still incredibly hot so they may just be more comfortable sleeping outside. Some nights I think I would be!

So life continues to be busy and very, very good here on the farm. I’m not sure how we’re going to get everything done when I return to work, but we’ll keep muddling through until retirement!

Lazer Creek Apiary

Beach Vacation!

Savannah Sunset

Well, this isn’t a beach photograph, but it is from our first stop of our journey – Savannah, Georgia. At the end of the school year, we realized that we hadn’t taken a vacation since we bought our land almost six years ago. We spent three years driving between South Carolina and Georgia every chance we got and then three years trying to get the land and the apiary where we want it to be. But we’ve had a lot of rain this year — good for both honey production and plant growth, bad for keeping the grass and weeds under control. So we decided to just escape the farm for a few days.

Of course, it wasn’t that simple. We bought a nice dog kennel and then found out it wouldn’t be delivered until after Hubby went back to work. We ended up hiring someone to bring it here and then added a chain link enclosure for the dogs to roam around it. Of course, the big dog (the escape artist) managed to break through the chain link gate within the first hour. We reinforced the gate: she broke through a corner of the fence. We reinforced that: she went to another corner. Then they both tried to tunnel their way out. We put some hardware cloth down around the perimeter of the fence and they dug that up. I ended up buying some paving slabs to block the digging at the gate and we left the next day. Our wonderful neighbor ended up reinforcing the gate with some of the hardware cloth and then blocking the gap under the kennel. Only the small dog managed to wriggle her way through that exit, but still….. They have been doing better with going in the run when we leave the farm for short periods now that they know we’ll return.

Still, we spent a wonderful afternoon and evening in Savannah and even took the riverboat cruise that I’d been wanting to take for years. We were so relaxed and didn’t feel tired for the first time in years!

The next day, we drove to Tybee Island to see The Savannah Bee Company and then up the beautiful Highway 17 toward Myrtle Beach. We spent two wonderful days with our long-time friends, walked on the beach, and went to Brookgreen Gardens twice. Our friends, of course, introduced us to the latest picks in restaurants and we enjoyed a nice variety of food.

From the beach, we headed back to our old hometown of Columbia, South Carolina. Hubby drove past our old house and we still don’t miss it at all. I still don’t understand why they cut down the blue spruce Christmas tree, but it’s not our house anymore. In fact, the whole yard now looks like boring builder grade plantings, but I guess that’s a lot easier to maintain.

The best part of our visit to Columbia was seeing the beautiful house our daughter and future son-in-law bought. I think it would have been my dream house when I was their age – and before we started thinking in terms of downsizing. They have a nice sized yard that is very private and beautifully landscaped. While it has already been hard work, they are both enjoying making the house their own.

We finished up our trip with breakfast with our son-in-law’s parents. We could have sat there all day and chatted with them had we not all had other things we needed to do! We did a little city shopping before heading back to our little slice of heaven. We do so love it here, but we have realized that we sometimes need to see something different!

For our final hurrah of the summer, we went to Calloway Gardens for a second short trip away from farm life. The spa there is luxurious and we got great massages and then just relaxed and day dreamed. There’s a restaurant in Pine Mountain we’ve said we’ve wanted to try for a couple of years, and we finally made it there too. All round, it was a good break for Hubby between teacher in-service and students.

Me — well I have another week or so before I go back to work, so I’m spring cleaning, bee keeping, and gardening. I also went to yoga yesterday and realized I should have been going all summer! That reminds me – I promised myself that I would take time away from digital devices to stretch every day, so that’s what I’m going to do!

So, while life is good on the farm, remember that all of us need a change of scenery once in a while. Whether you take 5 minutes or 5 days for yourself, just make sure you take a little time every day.

Beekeepers Associations and Groups · Bees · Lazer Creek Apiary

Beekeeper Certification

Certified Beekeeper Certificate

It’s been years since Hubby earned his Certified Beekeeper certificate and he is already working toward the next step. For me, it’s been years of not being able to take days off work at the end of the school year to take the classes or the test. Well, most of that occurs on weekends, but my weekends and evenings were filled up with essay grading and other tasks, and I didn’t feel like I had enough brain power left to take a test in May!

I was therefore very happy to receive an email about a test session in Atlanta on a Saturday this June. I even read the email very shortly after it arrived (which doesn’t happen often) and was able to book one of the few remaining test times. Whew.

The next hurdle was driving into downtown Atlanta. Even when I drove in heavy city traffic and on Interstates daily, I did not like Atlanta traffic. As I almost never drive even close to an Interstate these days, Hubby was kind enough to be my chauffeur. As it was, Hubby had to tolerate my gasps and squeaks as aggressive drivers zigged and zagged across lanes far too close to us. Do I sound like I’m 20 years or so older than I actually am? Yes, I was in full-on crazy bee-lady mode.

We made it in one piece and with plenty of time to spare and met some very nice people from across the state who were also waiting for their test times. Now from what Hubby remembers of his test, he had about half the number of written test questions I had and only 8 hive components to name compared to my 20. The first page or so of my written test was all fill-in-the-blank questions and I became quite nervous when people started turning pages while I was only halfway down page one. Then I realized that they were going to go back to that part later! Onto the practical portions. The first frames on my hive inspection were all honey, and those were followed by capped honey with a perfect circle of capped brood in the middle. Our bees are not that organized! One frame even had some pollen stuffed in one cell. No other pollen or bee bread on the frame. Weird. Halfway through the box, things started to look more normal and I was able to identify everything I needed to show the examiner.

Some of the questions on the test and some of the hive components had me doubting myself for the 10 days it took to receive my results, but I am now a certified beekeeper. While the day was not without its challenges (traffic, heavy rain, nerves), reviewing our books was priceless. There are things I had forgotten which I am now implementing, and there were things that I hadn’t fully understood at the time I first read the books but now have the hands-on experience to marry what I’ve seen with what the books explain.

A week ago, I firmly believed that I would not pursue certification any further than this, but now I am again considering going all the way to master beekeeper, mainly because of the increased depth of knowledge I gained. Between bees, soaps, essential oils, and gardening, I certainly have enough to keep my mind busy, but I know a variety of interests is what keeps me happy.

Of course, the bees were unimpressed and rewarded me with multiple stings the week after I received my results. The pollen dearth is here, the sourwood nectar is running low, thunderstorms abound, and the bees are cranky. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Even while digging a stinger out from a finger tip, life is good on the farm.

Hive equipment · Lazer Creek Apiary · Products and Vendors

You bought what?

We have honey to bottle, a honey workshop to finish building, hives to inspect, a house to build, so I was surprised to find out that Hubby got a great deal on wood ware for the apiary and had placed our biggest order yet. the two thousand and five hundred frames shown above is only part of the shipment.

In addition to the frames, we have 250 8- and 10-frame deep boxes to be assembled and painted, so our winter weekends will be busy! We ran out of 8-frame deeps this year and are close to running out of 10s, so we do need the equipment to continue the growth we are grateful to be experiencing. It’s just such a big stack of wood! As always when it comes to growing the business, Hubby is the engine, and I am the brakes. It works well as we balance each other out, especially as in the Progressive Insurance commercials, I am turning into my parent (dad) as far as spending goes and would never take any risks!

The shipment arrived through Yellow Freight, but as they are too big to turn around on our property we would have had to offload everything out on the road — the country road with a 55 mph speed limit and blind corners from both directions. Hubby therefore picked up the shipment in LaGrange. As his brother’s big trailer is two feet lower than loading dock, it took some maneuvering to get everything transferred, but the staff at Yellow Freight were incredibly helpful. The office staff had already bent over backwards to accommodate pickup times to fit Hubby’s work schedule and then two days of stormy weather.

Our biggest problem came with off-loading everything once it arrived here. We were expecting six pallets, each of which we could have unloaded with our tractor. It arrived on three pallets, one of which was stacked higher than I am tall. We had fun moving that one into the workshop as Hubby could only see my hands waving above the load to give directions! And I was standing on tip-toes.

So….. Hubby rented a Bobcat, picked it up, and then couldn’t remove the bucket to attach the forks because the quick-release handles were damaged. That led to my first adrenaline-filled experience of guiding him (backwards) onto a trailer that had only a couple of inches clearance on either side. He took it back, found out that they shop knew about the damage, and is awaiting replacement parts. They next morning, he picked the same Bobcat up again, and followed the instructions they gave to remove the bucket — with their assurance that we would not be liable for any damage caused in the process. After that, it took very little time to move everything into the shop, just ahead of the next round of storms.

Surprisingly, my second Bobcat-loading guidance went incredibly well and Hubby got the Bobcat back onto the trailer very quickly. Hubby always impresses me when he works with equipment like this.

So while life may be a little crowded in the workshop again, it is still very, very good on the farm. As the current weather forecast predicts rain on and off all day, I’m heading to the predictable conditions in the RV to bottle some honey, so it will also be a very sweet day.