Weekend surprise

Early in the week, Son 2 sent a photo of him grinning ear to ear and holding a 10 week old, gorgeous, female German Shepherd pup. Then on Friday afternoon, he asked if he and his family, could come in for the weekend. He, wife, 5 kids, the puppy, and their older mixed breed dog showed up around midnight and settled in for the night in their RV that lives on our farm when it isn’t on the road with them. They eat in our house, use one of the bathrooms so the black tank doesn’t have to be emptied each time they come, and the two pups came in with them. The kids are 10 months to 11 years, so lots of activity and noise.

Son 2 is the official bee owner and he and I went down Saturday morning to see if the queens had been released from their cages. One had and was seen on the frames. The second cage had all dead bees in it except one, the queen that had not been released yet. We opened the cage as it had been 6 days and she flew. We don’t know if she flew into the hive or away, if maybe they had raised a queen and didn’t want her, but there were two queen cells about to open, so we closed up that hive. The thriving hive was very thriving and didn’t like us messing inside, though we saw bees of all ages including some just emerging, so they were closed up too. I will go back toward the end of the week and recheck the second hive.

Back in the house, our very brave (Ha, Ha) German Shepherd old lady came down to visit with the kids and their pups and the young puppy immediately wanted to play. Shadow didn’t have any idea what that little active ball of fluff was that chased her around the coffee table, the dining room table, and finally back up the stairs where she could hide out. I wish I had a video of it, we were all laughing til our sides split at the 75 lb German Shepherd running from the 19 lb puppy and going to hide.

I guess it was all just too exhausting.

The big guy because of his age and infirmities has to be locked in the utility room when they are here, out of fear that a toddler that wants to love him will accidently cause him pain and pain reaction, plus he doesn’t like dogs he doesn’t know and we didn’t want to cause him more stress. Being confined all day is also exhausting, so he is in his usual pose.

Blocks were made into towers, knocked down, and thrown; paper colored and ripped up by others; bickering refereed between young siblings; lots of food prepared and eaten; lots of dishes washed. They headed home right after lunch today just before the thunderstorms began. It was an active bit of time and refreshing to have all of that young life around. We picked apples on our farm, I made and canned my first batch of apple/pear sauce while they were off canoeing, and sent them home with a bag of eating apples, and another of cooking apples for their own applesauce. I will pick more apples when the rain stops and make us another batch of sauce for the shelves for winter.

And the week will involved making a couple more batches of soap to cure. A new label, not a shop label has been made for the bars that go to friends and to Son 1 that he uses as gifts.

Tomorrow is a holiday, we will rest, take our walk if the weather allows.

I’m spinning some, knitting mitts, working on the Sashiko sampler, but not participating much in the monthly challenge.

It was a whirlwind weekend. More cooler weather due this week. I went out to pick beans for our dinner last night and the bean beetles have made golden lace of the leaves. I will pick the beans there and consider batch two a basic loss. The peas are blooming so we may get some of them in a few weeks.

And Then There Were 11

The hen flock was a baker’s dozen. Not planned that way, but the way it was. This morning when I let the pups out for their morning chores, I saw a big pile of yellowish white feathers on the front porch, no blood and gore, just a pile of feathers. I swept them off the porch, watered the porch plants, and went over to let the hens out for the day. Curious, I stayed in the run and counted heads as they came out, 1, 2, 3,…9, then from outside the pen came two wet scraggly Buff Orpingtons. One with all of her tail feathers missing. But no more. So 11 in all, missing is a Marans and a Buff Orpington. After our walk yesterday, we were home all afternoon from about 2 p.m. on except for a brief sojourn down to the village store for a quick ice cream bar, only gone about 20-30 minutes at dusk. I never heard a commotion, but when we got home last evening, I went out to harvest some herbs to dry for a new batch of herb salve and the neighbor’s two hound dogs were by the back garden. This morning, our old Mastiff was very curious about various spots in the yard, going much farther afield than his weary old body usually takes him, so something happened, probably while we were out. It frightened the two Buffs enough that they hid and never cooped up last night.

If I had realized all of this before letting them out today, I would have left them penned up for a few days to discourage a repeat performance by whatever got the two. I guess I need to walk the areas they frequent and see if I can find evidence the the melee or remains that need to be more properly disposed.

Last week, before I left for my weekend fiber retreat, the bees were tended. Three of the hives had little to no brood, no eggs, no queen cells. Two had low population, one with good stores, the other without. The third with moderate population and decent stores, so Son 2, the official beekeeper suggested I combine the two weakest hives and try to get local queens. I did the combine and arranged to pick up two mated, marked queens yesterday morning. Their cages have been installed in the two hives with hopes that in the next 7 or 8 weeks until our first expected frost, they can rebuild the hives enough for them to survive the winter. I will make syrup and take it down to those two hives today. The last hive is thriving. So now instead of 4 hives, there are 3, all with marked mated queens, if the two new ones are accepted and freed from their cages by the workers. This has definitely been a learning curve for me, but one I am enjoying.

The retreat was a wonderful respite, even with the couple hundred men and their sons also at the conference center. We have a large room with tables and chairs to convene into each day. Snacks provided by the group, meals in the conference center, and assorted vendors of fibery goodness to play with. I didn’t take my wheel, just spindles and knitting needles, and spun about 28 grams of wool, started a pair of fingerless mitts, and won a door prize of 4 ounces of roving. My Yankee Swap gift is three small skeins of hemp yarn for making spa cloths. Two great gifts. I limited my purchases to 4 ounces of wool from my friend, Debbie, at Hearts of the Meadow Farm, some yarn from another friend, Louise, at Only the Finest Yarns and Fiber to make two pair of fingerless mitts requested by family members for the winter, and a metal insulated mug for my tea and coffee there as I feared breaking my pottery one.

The chaos that 30 women and 1 man can create in a room
My spinning and the start of the mitts
We sat around the fire pits out front at night

It was tough to say goodbye to my friends, old and new, but it is nice to be home.

Garden recovery

After my last post about the wayward hens, and finding two more eggs in the back garden hidey hole, with a cooler evening, I tackled the back garden mess. One of my garden tools is a handle 15″ or so long with a T shaped end. One side is a 3″ wide hoe blade and a 3 tine digging fork on the other end of the T. It took me several hours of sitting in on the soil or the rock wall to eradicate a ton of bermuda grass and comfrey at the lower edge of the garden and vetch, oxalis, clover, and other invasions at the upper edge. Where the rocks are still piled awaiting removal by placement in the patio or along the wall, vetch was left as it doesn’t pull through the rocks very well. The half barrels on the wall and the potted perennials are going to be scattered through out the weeded bed for now.

Yesterday, in the heat of the day, under full sun, I sprayed the vetch with salted vinegar, donned leather gloves to remove a truly thorny invader, but walked away from it to let the spray do it’s magic. It doesn’t do magic on vetch that is still thriving today. I love the vetch when it isn’t in my gardens, the bees all love it too, but it can’t reside where it currently is.

The mostly finished patio and the transition area between the finished part and the garden part where the vetch is thriving.

As the sun lowered in the sky, the heat rose for some unexplained reason as the night was to be very seasonably cool, but my trusty tool and gloves were taken over to finish weeding the north edge of the vegetable garden behind and in the tall asparagus tops, the fall potato bed that never came up, and some in the tomato and pepper bed. As I work the beds, I am increasingly unhappy that I made two very long 4 foot wide boxes too close together. With tomatoes on one edge and corn behind it in the second bed, it is difficult to get to the weeds and harvest tomatoes without stepping in the beds. That design may be revisited this fall at the end of the season, breaking the longer of the boxes up and replacing it slightly uphill with 3 boxes that are 4 feet square. To do that, the blackberry half barrels will have to be moved down below the blueberries where the raspberry half barrels are, and if I put thick weed mat down first and line them up along that edge of the garden and mulch heavily around them, maybe the blueberries will stay less weedy.

The efforts in the vegetable garden produced a large compost pile that now needs some dry material on it, perhaps the soiled wood chips from the coop.

While weeding back there, I disturbed a bumblebee. They have never bothered me before, just flitting around where I worked, but this one became quite agitated at my efforts to remove the deadnettle and clover and she stung me three times, once on my midsections and twice under one arm. Bumblebees don’t have a barb on their stinger and can sting multiple times. The more she stung me, the more aggressive she became. I swatted her down with my glove and removed from the area. Today the stings are angry red and itchy. That makes 8 stings from bees and hornets this summer, more than I have gotten in my prior 74 years. So far, the red swelling, a headache, and three days of itching have been the only reaction. I truly hope it doesn’t develop into a more serious reaction, though a talk with a volunteer rescue squad member told me they do carry epinephrine on their trucks.

Today we have rain, so I’m off the move the pots and barrels around and pick tomatoes. This afternoon while it rains, I will can another batch of pizza sauce and use some of it on tonight’s dinner.