Rosey the Riveter

Sunday, February 26, 2012


For the past 3 Saturdays, I have attended the "Beginner's Short Course" held by the Beekeeper's Guild of Southeastern Virginia.  I didn't know what to expect, and I certainly wasn't going into it with any thoughts of keeping bees... both kids are afraid of the most innocent insects, not to mention ones that have stingers (try explaining that honeybees are docile and only sting when they perceive a threat to the hive or honey...)  My intent was to gain more knowledge so that when the time came for us to settle in our forever home, I could set up some hives and have honey and make soap, etc.

I loved the classes.  The people are so welcoming and eager to answer newbie-questions.  The bees are amazing.  After the first class, I felt myself getting more excited than I should have been.  Then, a friend in the area (who was unable to go to the class, and who lives on a larger lot than I do that is NOT adjacent to a school or neighbors with pools) said they really wanted bees and offered to share the hives with me, but keep them at her place.  Deal!!!

So in a matter of days, we were signed up for the Mentor program offered by the Guild, and also on the Nuc list (for a 'Nuclear' colony of bees, a small colony that can move into the typical hive boxes and grow.)  At the last class, I bought my gloves and jacket/veil.  This week, we order the hives and other tools.

Start-up costs, including EVERYTHING, will be under $400 total.  We probably won't have honey this summer (our goal is to keep them alive over next winter, then have honey in 2013).  I am super excited about having this opportunity to learn and get familiar with beekeeping... so that when we do get settled in our forever home, I won't have a learning curve.  I'll be able to immediately get going. 

Our new girls should arrive some time in May or June.  In the mean time, we have to order the hives, assemble them, pain them, and read all we can.  We'll also attend the monthly meetings of the Guild (conveniently held 5 minutes down the road from us) and pick the brains of those who know more than we do!  In a few weeks, we'll be hooked up with our Mentor and be able to watch them in their hives.  It's all very thrilling.

Except for the occasional "Oh my word what I have gotten myself into!"

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Walk Around the Homefront in February

It's been over a month since our last walk, so I thought I'd do another on this gorgeous, 70 degree day!
 These plants have been inside so I moved them out for some real sun... There's a Meyer Lemon, a Tangerine, and an Orange.  There's also the Jalapeno which is slowly growing some peppers for me.  There's also a flower arrangement that was a house-warming gift from friends.  The Verbena are hanging in there (barely) and I noticed some seed pods amidst the dead stuff, so I'm hoping the petunias will start to grow again, too.
 These are the pathetic little carrots I mentioned in yesterdays post.  But they are producing, so I can't make fun!
 Tom Thumb and Little Gem lettuce I have growing off the deck rail.  I can't believe any of it survived, because the birds have been having a field day with it!
 Meet Jubilee and Sharpblue... they are blueberries especially for the South. 

 These are Batchelors Buttons that we winter-sowed.  They are loving it out there!
 I finally gave in and yanked up the huge thyme and oregano that were here when we moved in.  They were both getting old and woody, so it was time to replace them.  I also tore up the black plastic and mulched the plants that remain.  From top left, there's two rosemary bushes, a monster lavender that is only staying for the bees, a baby sage that I'm hoping will take, a cilantro that has seen better days, and parsley that seems to be doing well.  The clump in the middle is two chives and a garlic chive.  When we moved in, I had no idea what the garlic chive was.  After researching, I did correctly identify it... but when I removed the black plastic I found the original plant marker so now I know for sure!  The last plant is what is left of the mother-of-all sage bushes.  It probably also needs to be replaced, but I trimmed it back and am hoping to save it.
 Here are more carrots, and more jugs from the garden ghetto.
 This is Cindy Lou, the newest addition to the homestead.  She's a forsythia and she jumped into my cart at Home Depot the other day.  I had to bring her home.
 This was my first experience pruning roses, and I had not a clue what I was doing.  Hopefully, they'll survive.  Did you know the rose is the 2012 Herb of the Year?  I see more Rose Petal Jelly in my future...
 Garlic, Scallions, and Onions
 Sugar Ann Peas are popping through!
 These are the broccoli I planted in the fall.  They went dormant for the winter, but have begun producing side shoots like mad.  I can hardly keep up.
This is a close-up of the smallest plant.  I am planting DeCicco and Calabrese this year, but I have nothing bad to say about these Packman variety that I got at Home Depot.  They are certainly earning their keep.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


As I may have mentioned before, I was late planting my carrots.  As in they didn't get planted until mid-November, if I remember correctly.  They took forever to germinate (as carrots do) and the tops grew to about 3-4" high and that was it.  They went dormant for the winter.  The carrots themselves were about 4" long but very pale orange.  They had a strong carrot taste.  Once the days started getting longer and the temps started warming, I was sure they'd start growing again.

Except they didn't.

But since I didn't need the space, I left them there.  And the occasional check revealed that the carrots themselves were getting thicker even if their tops weren't doing anything.

Today I actually harvested some, and while a couple were stunted and small, I was pleasantly surprised at the haul.  I've got about 12 square feet planted, and this is what grew in about 2 sq. feet.  Still plenty left to tide us through until the spring harvest.

They are Danvers Half Long, and according to the package they are 6-8" long which most of mine were.  I got the seeds free from the Master Gardeners at a fair last fall, so these are absolutely no-cost organic carrots.  I have always loved free food.  Once upon a time in my life, it was processed stuff from couponing that I was bringing home for free.  I much prefer being able to step out to the garden and bringing home produce, instead!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Where's the Beef?

After a long search, I finally located a local farm offering grass-fed beef.  As in ALL grass fed, not finished on grain.  I reserved a 1/4 of a side, and the price was $4.25/lb, which is way cheaper than just buying grass-fed ground beef, ON SALE, at the grocery store.  The best part was that once a month, Windhaven also delivers beef and pork to the Chesapeake area... so I didn't even have to drive out to the farm (about an hour away) to get it!

It came nicely vacuum packed and labeled in these two boxes:

We got 26 1-lb packages of ground beef, 3 packs of stew meant, 3 chuck roasts, 6 Delmonic steaks, 6 NY strips, 5 Filets, 3 chuckeye, 2 flat iron, 1 brisket, 1 flank, 1 hanging tender, 1 eye round, 2 top round, 1 bottom round, 2 sirloin tip roasts, 2 sirloin strip, 3 packages of short ribs, 2 4lb packages of soup bones, plus the heart, liver and oxtail which I have NO CLUE how to use!  In total, it was about 150 pounds of beef.

It took up one whole shelf in the kitchen freezer, plus most of the small upright out in the garage (I had to plug it in and get it up and running, since I hadn't needed it since we moved in.)  Just about the time we start making a dent in the beef, our 1/2 pig should be ready sometime in June, so I seriously doubt I'll be able to unplug that freezer anytime soon.  We'll see how it affects the electric bill, but at this point I don't even care... it's SO nice knowing that we have a freezer full of quality meat.

I also got some pork from Windhaven.  I cooked up the picnic shoulder yesterday and it is absolutely delicious.  There's also some bacon and sausage which I can't wait to try.  Now, if only I could find a good source of chickens, I'd be all set!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Two days of winter!

For the past two nights, we've dipped down into the mid 20s.  I knew if I wanted to save some of my tender seedlings, I'd have to bring my winter-sown jugs inside.  (The cabbages and broccoli and any seeds that hadn't yet sprouted were left out.)  So now I have a kitchen ghetto:

Let's peek inside!

Mammouth Sunflowers:


Batchelor's Buttons:


Anise Hyssop:



And the English Daisies:

I am especially excited about the dill and the anise hyssop, because those are seeds that I collected from my own plants.  It makes me feel like a real gardener to be growing plants from free seeds!!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Yogurt Fruit Roll Ups

I made the kids smoothies this morning for breakfast (cereal?  who misses it?), and of course there were left-overs.  I've made enough smoothies to know that putting them back in the freezer doesn't cut it... so I spread it on a dehydrator sheet and a few hours later I had some yummy yogurt fruit roll ups! 

Welch's has some yogurt-fruit snacks on the market, so I was curious and decided to check the ingredients, which can be found here.  You will notice that sugar and corn syrup are the second and third ingredients, followed by lots of ingredients that are difficult to pronounce.

Ingredients in MY yogurt-fruit snacks?    Frozen fruit.  Homemade yogurt (milk).  Homemade cranberry juice (cranberries, a bit of sugar).  No preservatives, artificial ingredients, or colors.    If I can do it, why can't Welch's?