Saturday, December 30, 2006

Red Snow, Blue Snow?

Red Snow, Blue Snow?
Well, think about the recent elections for a moment. Now we just had about 3 feet of snow in the past two storms and I've noticed a sort of Red/Blue divide in the reaction. We live in the country and have some 400 feet of driveway. All of our neighbors are in a similar situation - there are no "cul de sacs" around here. When the snow storms hit, there was a drive to demonstrate self-sufficiency. People cleared their own drives, dug out the best they could and helped their neighbors dig out too. People expect and prepare for every situation.

So when we watched some TV news coverage of the storm from Denver recently it seemed to be a quite different reaction. There was a lot of complaining, moaning and blame going around. "Why hasn't CDOT cleared my cul-de-sac?" "Where are those road crews anyway?" There seemed to be a sense of: Poor pitiful me, why hasn't the government stepped in to help me out?

So sometimes it takes a crisis like this to bring out the world-view of people
. Some believe they should take care of themselves and be prepared, while others seem to think everything should be the responsibility of someone else.

Friday, December 29, 2006

December Blizzard v2.0

Posted 3PM December 29th: Just like the original but with new features. This is the second major blizzard in a week. This time we got a new feature with the blizzard - a power blackout. This new blizzard hit last evening and by 10 PM we had about 8 new inches on top of the old snow from before Christmas. About 9PM last night, the power went out suddenly and without a flicker. We could tell it was going to be out for a while. We scrambled to locate flashlights and candles and thought we were set for the evening.

But then I remembered that while we did fuel the car & truck before the snow started, I had neglected to get some extra fuel for the generator or for the John Deere. I got the tractor out and started plowing a path to the road and by 10 PM, was ready to go out looking for gas. Kenny and I took the SUV and drove about 6 miles south and passed by a half-dozen gas stations - all closed and all without power. We turned west toward Louisville and went a few more miles and saw no power anywhere except for a few emergency generators. By then the blizzard was ragging and the winds were blowing the snow at 30 MPH. We turned around and returned safely home empty handed. We got a few extra blankets out and decided to leave the generator off for the night (no heat).

Sometime during the night the snow stopped and the power was restored. In the morning I finished plowing the drive and went out again with Kenny for fuel (just in case). The weathermen were saying that the situation would get worse later this evening when the second wave would hit. At the first station, we found power, but the pumps were closed - no fuel! We continued on a few more miles down the road and found another station pumping the precious unleaded. We returned with a fresh five gallons of the stuff and felt ready for the next wave.
Get up to the minute weather data for our storms at this link:

Here is what the National Weather Service said today:

Urgent - Winter Weather Message National Weather Service Denver Co 1125 AM MST Fri Dec 29 2006 ...Heavy snow to continue today for most areas of northeast and north central Colorado... .bands of moderate to heavy snow will continue to affect the northeast plains of Colorado through this afternoon. West of interstate 25...only light snow is expected through the day. Stronger winds over the northeast plains will also cause near zero visibilities in blowing and drifting snow. North winds from 15 to 30 mph can be expected with some gusts up to 35 mph. The storm is currently centered over southwestern New Mexico and is expected to move slowly northeastward into the Texas panhandle by Sunday morning. This track will produce strong winds and heavy snowfall for the northeastern border counties of Colorado now through much of Sunday. This storm track could also produce heavy snowfall for the rest of the plains of northeast Colorado, the front range foothills and higher mountains east of the divide for much of the weekend. This includes the Denver metro area and all the urban corridor. There are still uncertainties regarding the duration of the heavy snow west of interstate 25 and whether heavy snow will redevelop near the mountains this weekend. Because of this a winter storm watch continues through Saturday night for the north central mountains and front range foothills and the plains through Sunday afternoon. All people planning to travel across northeastern and north central Colorado today through the weekend should be prepared for road closures and very difficult winter driving conditions. Roads will be icy and snow packed and blowing and drifting snow will become more of a problem on the plains with time. You are urged to avoid any unnecessary travel and carry items such as a shovel, food, water and warm clothing if you do go out. The storm has also disrupted air travel at Denver International Airport. Air travelers should check with their airlines for delayed or canceled flights.

Northwest Weld County- Boulder And Jefferson Counties below 6000 feet/West Broomfield County- including...Fort Collins... Hereford... Loveland... Nunn... Arvada... Boulder...Golden...Lakewood...Longmont 1125 AM MST Fri Dec 29 2006: Winter storm warning is cancelled… Snow and blowing snow advisory in effect until 6 am MST Saturday. Winter storm watch now in effect from Saturday morning through Sunday afternoon. The national weather service in Denver has issued a snow and blowing snow advisory, which is in effect until 6 am mst Saturday. The winter storm warning has been cancelled. The winter storm watch is in effect from Saturday morning through Sunday afternoon. The bands of heavier snow showers are expected to remain east and south of Denver. Therefore the winter storm warning has been downgraded to a snow and blowing snow advisory. Additional accumulations of 2 to 6 inches are still possible through tonight. The potential still exists additional heavy snowfall and strong winds Saturday through Sunday as the storm continues to move slowly northeastward. Additional snowfall accumulations of 6 to 12 inches will be possible over the weekend along with areas of blowing and drifting snow. A snow and blowing snow advisory means that visibilities will be limited due to a combination of falling and blowing snow. Use caution when traveling, especially in open areas. A winter storm watch means there is a potential for a hazardous winter weather event in and close to the watch area. Significant snow accumulations may occur that could impact travel. Stay tuned to the national weather service or your local news media for the latest updates and possible warning concerning this potential winter storm.

Blizzard Update: Dec 21, 2006

Update: 10AM, December 21st: We are officially "snowed-in". After about an hour attempting to clear the driveway, I gave up on the John Deere. The snow was so far over the top of the snow blade, it was not able to go straight down the driveway. See the pictures below. The boys are having a great time digging forts in the snow. We've got fresh bread in the oven and plenty of hot cocoa to keep us warm. My official report was 25.5" for the 24 hour period ending at 7AM this morning (see map), but as you can see from the new yardstick photo, it is showing 28" now. (Be patient while the pictures download. The snow drifts may be impacting our broadband connection.)

Blizzard Report: Dec 20, 2006

Posted: 10PM December 20th: This has been the biggest blizzard we have had since we lived in Colorado for the past 7 years and it's not over yet. We measured from 14 to 20 inches of snow in most places of the yard. With the winds some of the drifts were over 4 feet deep by sunset.

Here is the weather service warning for that night:

URGENT - Winter Weather Message
National Weather Service Denver Co 359 pm MST Wed Dec 20 2006
...Strong winter storms to continue over northeast and north central Colorado tonight into Thursday morning .a major winter storm will continue bringing widespread moderate to heavy snow and blizzard conditions to northeast and north central Colorado this tonight into Thursday morning. The storm producing this weather is centered over the extreme southeast corner of Colorado. It is expected to move little through Thursday morning.

At 4 pm MST...snowfall amounts over the plains range from about 6 to 11 inches so far with the storm. The urban corridor has seen about 9 to 14 inches so far. The foothill and Palmer Ridge...including the southern and southwestern great Denver area have had 14 to 21 inches thus far. The higher mountains east of the divide have had 12 to 22 inches so far. Wind gusts of 30 to 40 mph are widespread across the plains with snow drifts up to 6 feet. Travel has become impossible this afternoon across most of northeast and north central Colorado. Travel is not recommended through Thursday morning.

Boulder and Jefferson counties below 6000 feet: 359 pm MST wed Dec 20 2006: A blizzard warning remains in effect until 12 pm MST Thursday. Snow heavy at times will continue into Thursday morning. Total accumulations of 12 to 24 inches are expected in most locations by Thursday morning. As much as 30 inches of snow will fall in the southern and southwestern metro Denver suburbs and the Palmer Divide area. North winds of 20 to 35 mph will produce blizzard conditions. Travel is not recommended through Thursday morning.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Harvest Update

We pulled the last of the season's carrots this past week. The carrots kept going all the way to Thanksgiving this year! The total harvest for carrots this year was 74 lbs.

The first carrots were planted April 1st, then more about every 2-3 weeks later through June. With the staggered planting we had a nearly continuous harvest of carrots for 22 weeks, with an average of 3.36 lbs per week. We planted nothing but organic Scarlet Nantes this year. They are very sweet, tender and very well suited for this climate.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Taste of Winter

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Prepping the bees for winter

We did some of the final preparations of the bee hive for winter this week. Our recent inspection showed so much stored honey and nectar that we decided a fall feeding was unnecessary. After the bees filled all available space in the deep frames with honey, they must have got busy building burr comb in nearly every crack and crevice and filling them up. When we pulled the frames to inspect the upper deep, we cracked some of this burr comb and the honey leaked out below. The picture below shows the view down inside the upper deep box, with some of the spilled honey. The capped honey can be seen on the outside frame. Some of the burr comb also remains between adjacent frames.

So with plenty to eat, we needed to focus on treating for the mites. Still being new to this, we chose to go with a natural product and stayed away from the chemical fumigation processes. We chose to go with Apiguard, but some shipping problems delayed our installation until the weather cooled off last week. We began the treatment on October 10th.

We also added some top ventilation to the hive in the form of a homemade 1”x 2” spacer that sits directly above the upper deep box, just below the inner cover. I notched a portion of it to match the middle opening of a standard entrance reducer. This opening sits at the top of the hive, increasing ventilation and air-space above the hive, and makes room for the Apiguard tray. The bees can also learn to use this as a secondary entrance while it is installed.

Finally we installed the mouse-guard entrance reducer. This is a metal cover for the main hive opening that is tacked in place and has small holes for the bees to enter & exit. It helps them defend the hive against raiding bees and keeps the mice out. The upper spacer and the mouse-guard can be seen in the photo below:

Sunday, October 01, 2006

2006 Harvest Summary

As of Oct 1st, most of the 2006 harvest is over. We had a very early freeze this year, which hit us on September 17th. This ended the production more than a month earlier than in recent years. We've also had a severe draught this year, with only 4 inches of rainfall between April 1st and September 30th. The spring was very, very dry with only 1 inch of rain for the critical period between April 1 and June 30. We kept the irrigation going in the garden this year at normal levels, but it doesn't seem to satisfy in the same way as natural rain. We cut the watering of the lawn areas way back to barely maintain life in the lawn and the trees.

One notable difference this year was the addition of the bees. They arrived too late for the spring fruit blossoms and perhaps as a result, or maybe from the draught we had virtually no fruit harvest this year. No apples, no cherries, no blueberries, no strawberries, but our vegetables did well overall with a total production of 801 lbs.
  • This year our overall champion for single plant production goes to Colin's pumpkin which produced 112 lbs.
  • We set new records this year for production of carrots, cucumbers, garlic, tomatoes, peppers and rhubarb
  • And we harvested our first honey!

This year's harvest totals compared to last year:

  • Cabbage: 11.2 lbs (new)
  • Cantaloupe 10.3 lbs (new)
  • Carrots: 74 lbs (up 89%) [updated 11/27/06]
  • Cucumber: 83 lbs (up more than 2x previous record)
  • Garlic: 4.2 lbs (up 24%)
  • Green Beans: 15.4 lbs (up 57%)
  • Honey: 48.5 lbs (new)
  • Mixed Salad Greens: 5.8 lbs (down 49%)
  • Onions: 23.4 lbs (up 23%)
  • Peppers: 54.4 lbs (up 11%)
  • Pumpkins: 121 lbs (down 25%)
  • Rhubarb: 23.3 lbs (up more than 2x previous record)
  • All Squash: 83.3 lbs (down 48%)
  • Tomatoes: 175.7 lbs (up more than 100 lbs!)

Monday, September 25, 2006

September Hive Inspection

We attempted to do an inspection of the hive today. This was to be the first full inspection since we put the supers on and removed the honey. There was some good news and some bad news.

The hive presently has two deeps and we removed the honey supers 2 weeks ago.

First the hive seemed very strong, even on a hot, calm day when many of the bees were out foraging, the hive was very crowded. We also found pollen stores, brood, larva and even spotted the queen in the post-inspection review of the photos. (She's in the photo above.)

The bad news, after combing more than a dozen close-up pictures later, we did spot one bee, tending the larva with varroa mites on her back (center in the photo below). This means we must start treating for the mites.
Even after our first freeze and several frosty mornings, we still have many warm days and many flowers still quite active in our garden. On warm days we see many bees on the late blooms including: aster, butterfly bush, spirea, russian sage, salvia, stonecrop and other hearty perenials. The photo below shows one of the workers on an aster, taken yesterday.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Apple Blossoms?

Here it is later summer, after the first freezing temps of the season and I'm out looking over the impact in the garden and what do I see? Apple blossoms in full bloom! This tree is confused.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

First Frost: Sept 17, 2006

We had our first major wind-storm of the season yesterday, with gusts topping out at 45 MPH and steady winds of 35 MPH for several hours. This of course wrecked havoc on the garden. One of the bean towers was toppled, many of the tomato and pepper plants had torn limbs or were otherwise tossed about by the high winds.

This was followed by clear skies and calm winds overnight, which allowed the temps to dive to an "official" low of
34.4º F which is measured at 5' above the ground. However I recently installed an additional sensor at ground level to detect frost, which recorded a reading of 31º F. This sub-freezing temp was confirmed by the fact that this morning all the leaves of the squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and a few tender annual flowers were frost-bitten and dead.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

2nd Honey Harvest

We harvested the second honey super today and tried the escape board this time. While it seemed to be no more effective than the BeeQuick on the fume-board, we varied the process slightly which seemed to help. This time we loaded the super on the trailer, quickly covered it with a towel and I jumped on the tractor and high-tailed it out of there.

After moving a safe distance from the hive, we removed each frame and bumped and brushed all the remaining bees away. Since we were far enough from the hive, the swarming was not quite as bad. Once again we avoided any bee stings.

We also let the frames warm-up a few hours before we started the harvest, which also made the process go much more quickly. After we measured the last bottle we had a total of 21.5 lbs from this super. Not as much as the first one, but more than we expected.

This brought our first-year hive total to 48.5 lbs of honey. From everything we've read and heard, this is a very impressive yield for a first year hive. The hive seems very strong right now and again no signs of any pests at this point. We will do a full inspection in a few weeks and see what we find.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Honey Harvest

One super-frame filled with capped honey.

The uncapping process

The extraction process

Some of the first honey oozing from the extractor

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Filling the first honey-bear.

One pound of our first honey crop.

A sample of the 27 lbs of honey we harvested today. We left one on the hive that was not yet capped off, so we'll check on it in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Drying Onions

In previous years, we dried our onions by tying them up in the barn. While this method was mostly effective, we got quite a few that spoiled while drying and ended up mushy.

The first photo shows the original method.

This year we tried a new method. After suspending a wire shelf from the rafters of the barn, I place the onions on the shelf after cutting the tops off flush. Since they begin dripping almost immediately, they have to placed with the cut-off top facing down, so the drippings don't run all over the onion. See the picture below that shows the onions dripping from the new shelf (click to view it full size).

Here is a sample of the payoff. Beautiful onions, dried and ready for storage, with no softies. The only downside, is if you walk under the shelf for the first few days, you might need an umbrella!

Sunday, August 06, 2006


The first picture is our realization that the first honey super is FULL of HONEY!

The next picture shows the end frame with fully capped honey! Time to put on the next super.

The last picture shows my son Kenny who assisted today with second super on the hive. Gosh, we're going to need a step ladder to get the honey next month.

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Celebrity Tomatos!

One of the fun times with summer is being able to walk into a supermarket and laugh at their produce knowing full well that everything in my garden is better looking and better tasting. I find that I especially do this with tomatoes. There is not a tomato at the store, no matter how pretty it looks, that matches a garden tomato. Of course, that does not stop me from going over to the produce section just to check out what they have and make comparisons. I find that I am subconsciously making comments under my breath like, "You call yourself a tomato", or "You probably aren't even juicy". It isn't the nicest thing to do but I justify it by knowing that it is all true.

Another reason to have a garden, it relieves stress. I often find myself in the garden, at the end of the day, picking vegetables or watching the bees. It has a calming effect. If I really need a "pick-me-up", I just pop a few sungold cherry tomatoes in my mouth and that always does the trick. David has also discovered this. He often sneaks off to the garden after work and if I look real close, I can see the evidence of tomato juice on his lips. Whatever the reasons, I always come in from the garden happier than when I went out. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Cucumbers Galore!

The garden is in full swing. Just before we left on vacation, I took a head count of all the squash, tomatoes, cucumbers etc. I carefully made a mental note of what would be ready to pick when we got home, in just over a week. We had already had some zucchini and yellow squash and I thought we would have some giant ones to pick when we got home, (and we did). The cucumbers however, were small and I could only find a couple of starts on either plant, but leave a garden alone and it will do crazy things. When we arrived home, we of course ran out to the garden to see what was growing. The cucumbers were everywere on the plants. I think that I picked atleast ten that night and another seven tonight.

I don't want to sound like I am complaining. I would much rather have a plant over produce than struggle but now I am going to have to think of new ways to eat cucumber and new friends that might want to adopt one or two. I have never had a cucumber plant that is so prolific.

Lots of other things are going on in our garden. We did get some bok choy, despite the very hot June. We will be picking cabbage soon, that is a first for our garden. We are just starting to pick our first tomatoes and the bees seem to be enjoying all the varieties of flowers and vegetables they have to choose from. And finally, we are now collecting honey for ourselves. The bees are doing very well. We put our first honey super on a couple of weeks ago. I can't wait to taste the honey at the end of the season.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Busy Bees

1. A worker bee collecting pollen from a poppy

2. The Queen Mother (with the white dot)

3. An air-conditioning bee fanning the hive

4. That's the beekeeper after installing the first honey-super
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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Snow Peas are Here!

After much anticipation, the snow peas are finally here. I ate my first one right off the vine yesterday. That is a privilege I look forward too, especially with a plant that is new to my garden and highly anticipated. There are several more ready to picked today. I can already taste the stir-fry, that is if I can manage not to eat them all before I get back to the house.

The rest of the garden is doing relatively well. I transplanted all of the plants from the sunroom to the garden. The major difficulty we are facing this year is the lack of moisture. I can water and water but plants just do better if they get a healthy dose of natural rain water. It has also been unusually hot for May and June. We are already into the 90's. This causes all of the spring vegetables to bolt quickly. I am having a much shorter season for spinach and swiss chard. The only good news about the heat is that the peppers really like the dry heat.

The bees are great. I find that I have a new interest in bees. I have never paid attention to them before but now I find that I just stop and watch what they are doing. They probably think of me as the stalker lady. Luckily with the bees, they seem to know what they are doing because I still feel clueless as to what my job is. Maybe it is just to be an observer and to grow a great garden for them to play in.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Second Deeps go on hive: May 26, 2006

The second set of deeps were installed last Friday, (5/26) just before we left for a camping trip. The first deep was filled with brood on 6-1/2 frames and some of the outside empty frames were moved inward. The top feeder was refilled and a new pollen pack was added.

When we check them this week, we'll need to open up the entrance reducer a bit. There seems to be a traffic jam most of the time at the front door. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Lupines today, no frost!

I just wanted to show that the lupines suffered no harm from the last frost, and are doing very well today. Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 15, 2006

Amazing Bees

Bees are amazing creatures. Truly one of God's finest creations. I guess you figured out that I spent some time with the bees this past weekend. I was more nervous about this encounter than I was installing them. I think that it had something to do with the few blunders I experienced while trying to introduce them to their new home. It would not have surprised me to see them laughing at me when I peeked inside. Luckily, this did not happen. In fact, the bees look busy and happy. Well, I am not sure about happy but they did look busy and by the looks of things they had spent the week doing bee things. They only seemed mildly upset at my interruption of their work. The hardest part for me was to stay focused on what I was supposed to be doing. I needed to check on the queen and see if she had started laying eggs but all I wanted to do was watch them. Luckily I had David there to keep me on task. I can't wait until I can visit them again.

The garden is also a great pleasure. We have had several warm, sunny days to work outside and play in the dirt. We have also started harvesting spinach and lettuce. There is nothing like a salad that was just picked! Hopefully, I will be able to put the warm season vegetables in the garden this weekend. My tomatoes and peppers are sunning themselves, even as I type, on the deck. The only downside to this is that my sunroom is starting to look vacant as I move more and more plants to the outside for the summer. Oh well, I would rather be sitting on a bench outside enjoying my plants anyway. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Installing the Bees

I can finally call myself a beekeeper. The bees arrived on Friday and I installed them on Saturday. That was quite an adventure. I was not too nervous and I look forward to my next opportunity to open the hive and see how successful my bees have been at establishing a new home. I did discover that reading about installing bees and actually doing it are two different things. I had read several books beforehand, to get ready for the big day, but I still managed to mess it up. Luckily, I don't think I messed it up too much but I am not sure how confident the bees are in my abilities.

The first problem that I had was getting the food can out of the box. This has to be removed to get the bees out. I was so preoccupied with trying to wrestle the can out that I forgot to hold onto the tab that was holding the cage with the queen. The queen box ended up in the bottom of the box, covered in about 10,000 confused bees. I was left trying to figure out how to get it out. I dumped some of the bees in the hive and then had to stick my hand in and grab the box. I tried hard not to think about the fact that I was sticking my bare hand into a box of bees. There was a moment of thinking I might have chosen the wrong hobby. Luckily, I got the courage and finally got the queen and the bees into the hive. I may have done a few of the steps out of order but hey, I got the bees in the hive. I figure that is worth something.

You can now find my husband and I standing at the window, with a pair of binoculars, looking at the bees going in and out of the hive. I am sure the people driving by think we are perverts or something but there is some sort of thrill watching bees. Next time you see a honeybee, take a moment to watch her closely, it is really quite interesting.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Bok Choy Debacle

I have heard, or read, somewhere that you can't consider yourself a gardener until you have killed atleast one of each variety of plant in your yard. Once again, I have proven that I am a great gardener. You know the rule that carpenters have, "measure twice, cut once"? We need a rule like that for gardening that would be something like this, "look twice, pull once." Last week, I was feeling a bit stressed so I decided to pull a few weeds. That usually helps and I am never short on weeds. I quickly assessed my spring box, trying to decide what was weeds and what was new sprouts, then I got to weeding. At the end of the box I started to feel better until I looked closely and realized I had just pulled all the baby bok choy sprouts. I immediately panicked. I looked in my weed bucket hoping to see the little sprouts laying there and I could quickly replant them. I know, stupid idea but I wanted my bok choy back.

After sitting in mourning for a few minutes, I decided I had better let David know what I had just done. He wasn't too happy. It wasn't that he was mad but I could almost see him thinking of the Singapore Stew, Stir Fry, and garlic bok choy that would be missing from our spring menu. We both had a few moments of silence trying to come up with a plan B. He wondered if a nursery sold bok choy sprouts that we could plant. Now I don't know about what your nursery sells, but I have never seen a bok choy plant. We scratched that idea. In the end, I replanted the seeds but I am not sure we have enough cool weather left for them. I might have to retry again in the Fall and pray that we don't get an early snow. I will let you know what happens.

On a happier note, we will be able to start eating early lettuce this week. The snow peas are about ready to start climbing the trellis and I have my first carrot sprouts shooting out of the dirt. The bees also are set to arrive this Friday. I am so nervous. I feel almost like an expectant mother. I think David has spent more time helping me get my hive ready than he did assembling our first baby crib. I am pretty sure though, installing bees will be easier than giving birth!

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Why Bees?

Why Bees?
(Guest entry by David)

Many people have asked us “Why bees?” So here is my answer.

Last fall we began talking about increasing our livestock. We’ve always liked goat cheese and thought a few goats would help keep down the weeds in the yard, reducing the need for the John Deere. There are also a few goats breeds that can be raised for meat. With just 2 acres and a nice barn, we could easily take on a few goats.

Sheep were also a consideration. The neighbor’s boys raise sheep and have won numerous prizes in the county fair for their little lambs. The wool could be used or sold , or we could sell the offspring

Similar to sheep, we also considered another trendy animal – Alpacas. They make very gentle and loving pets and have valuable wool and a breeding pair can provide a significant income.

Ostriches are also trendy in some locations, be we never seriously considered them in our climate. However we considered a variety of other birds including chickens, turkeys and peacocks (we have plenty of “free-range” geese already).

I’ve also dreamed of having horses for a long time. Last fall I even bought a couple of books on how to keep horses on small acreages. I began a brief self-study on the needs of horse keeping.

One of our criteria was that we wanted something that would be productive. We wanted something that could provide useful food or some other form of gain (riding also counts) for the trouble. Being the engineer I am, I began to think about the benefit to effort ratio of various choices. That got me thinking about the efforts.

As I dug into the horse books, I soon realized how MUCH work they are. Sure I have three strong boys, but none of them are begging for a horse, so adding more to their chore list didn’t sound like a good idea. I was also reminded how much I don’t like the flies that come with horses.

At one point during our consideration, Becky and I started planning our summer vacation. I suddenly realized how hard it would be to find care for most of the animals we were considering and how tied down to the house we’d be if we had goats, chickens, or alpacas.

In one of the gardening magazines there was an article about beekeeping. Becky asked if we could do that on our property and she was serious that she would even consider bees. I quickly went through the benefit to effort ratio for bees: There are no worries about buying feed or keeping them watered, you don’t need any fencing to keep them contained and best of all, there is no shoveling of poop!

On the production side, a single hive of honey bees typically produces about 100 pounds of honey per year. Finally the clincher was that we could still go on a vacation for a full week or two and never have to hire anyone to care for them while we were gone. They are very low maintenance and only need attention a couple of times per month during the flowering season and during the winter, no attention at all. Best of all Becky agreed to be the official beekeeper and I am just the helper.

The bees are due to arrive on Friday of this week, and I’ll be out there with the camera as Becky puts her bare hands into the box of 30,000 live honey bees. Let the buzzing begin!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Frost on the lupines

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