I haven’t written a blog post here since November of last year; the posts on this site aren’t widely read anyways. Regardless, I’m endeavoring to pick up my keyboard again and post more frequently to this journal/blog. In the interim I’ve been posting on social media sites like Twitter and Mastodon, but it’s just not the same as a long-form blog post. Can’t really put my finger on why. Perhaps it’s because I’m a long-winded, over-sharing story-teller! You will probably find the parts about the bees the most interesting.
I will probably never write a book or appear on my YouTube channel. Instead, I will continue to chronicle the events and goings-on of my quiet existence here. Follow along, if I amuse or interest you even slightly, or if you find some tip or trick of value amongst all this mess of words.
Why the long hiatus?
You ever get so immersed and busy with life and “adulting” you can’t remember what you’ve been busy with over the past few months? So, then you pull out your mobile phone/camera and scroll through all your pictures to refresh your mind? That about sums it up for me. It looks like I’ve been up to a lot of gardening, harvesting, shepherding, mowing, beekeeping, cooking, baking, preserving, dyeing wool, trying to gather my thoughts, attempting to reorganize myself, and generally wasting precious time.
We Had Losses
We lost my husband’s father (also a father to me) in February of this year. Though we saw him infrequently, we spoke to him regularly, and miss his sage and reasonable advice and opinions on life. I lost the cat-love (Cassie) of my life a couple of weeks ago – she is irreplaceable – there will never be another cat like her ever! I had taken Cassie to my father-in-law’s funeral in Texas (she stayed in the car) in February. She has always been close to the angels; she was my angel, I’m sure of it. So, I think my father-in-law wanted to take her along with him for his long sleep. I won’t begrudge him her. She will comfort him while they sleep. They know no pain and suffering now. We were laughing with both of them but a day before they died. I can’t stop thinking of either of them 20 times a day… We tell ourselves these things to make sense out of death, to help us process what happened, to explain why they’re gone forever. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes it just makes us cry.
I think that’s why I’ve been gardening so hard this spring and summer. (I’m obsessed with gardening right now.) My father-in-law loved everything about gardening and farming. He was really into vermicomposting and taught classes for the public in his local community. They gave me his seed stash after he died. He had bought a bunch of seeds (some in bulk) in the fall of 2022 to be grown this year. It made me bawl; they had given me his gardening hopes and dreams, his unborn plant-children for the next year! Of course I had to bring them to life and make them grow!
Years ago, he had taught me how to make a worm compost bin. I think I may have drowned my worms back then with too much moisture (rookie mistake) and they climbed out of the bin and died. Fast forward to mid-March of this year after the funeral, and there I was on my hands and knees, trying to dig up some red wigglers out of my barn compost pile to replenish my worm bin. I feed the worms less often now (so I don’t drown them again). However, I’m too raw right now to get up the courage to check in the bin to see if there are actually any worms multiplying in there…
I’ve gardened 1,250 sq. ft. this year. I used the no-dig method and spread 4 to 6 inches of soiled horse bedding for compost. I used a low-tunnel for my spring garden. I rolled out weed barrier fabric and conquered the weeds and grasses for my summer garden. I used lots of shade cloth to shelter the plants from the excessive heat and the harsh summer sun.
I grew my father-in-law’s peas, cucumbers, zucchini, watermelon, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, and green beans. His peas were my first massive pea-success – I’ve struggled to grow peas here in the past. His cucumbers won’t stop producing. His golden zucchini plants were a flop. His watermelon and cantaloupe are unproven as I’ve yet to harvest them. His sweet corn was a huge success; it was my first time growing sweet corn. Finally, his green beans are weathering this record-breaking heat dome we are currently in and his sweet potatoes are loving it, but they have yet to produce beans or taters. Summer isn’t over yet here!
I hope he’d be proud of me and excited to see how everything turned out. I tried to give everything the justice they deserved!
We first became accidental beekeepers when we captured a wild swarm of bees in August of 2020. We didn’t know what we were doing. We put them in an old hive my father had given us, but we had too many supers (hive boxes) on. There was too much empty space for them to try to keep warm and they froze to death in the Polar Vortex of February 2021. It was so sad when we opened the hive, the bees were still in there, they were just motionless, locked in place, almost like they were mummified. When a gust of wind came up it would move their little wings and it was hard for me to believe they were actually dead.
We harvested their honey so the ants wouldn’t get it, and then we just left the old hive where it was. We put swarm lure in it occasionally, but we never caught another swarm. The hive just sat there, rotting.
Over this last winter we started talking about keeping bees again. The topic kept coming up over and over again. Then, mostly on a whim, I ordered a 5-frame nuc of Saskatraz bees. We had to drive 3 hours one-way in late May to pick up the bees.
It’s been a whirlwind of learning beekeeping ever since, but those are stories for future journal/blog posts. So, we are starting again, afresh, with a new Saskatraz queen and her fellow bees. Stay tuned!