more woodwork / nervous beekeeper / garden update

Whew, things have certainly been keeping me busy lately! For a few quick updates, inspected my hive for week 2. All went well, and the queen has gotten out of her cage, but I got a bit nervous and didn’t check all of the frames remaining. Not the end of the world the bees still are fed, and healthy, I just want to make sure that the queen is laying. I am so excited about my bees and love this new hobby that I am taking up, but there must be some kind of deep laying, internal response to the hum of bees growing louder and having them fly around you, that makes a person slightly nervous. This is something that I expect I’ll become more accustomed to over time. It’s just such a new experience there is sure to be a learning curve.

Moving on to my birds- wow they appear to be growing at an exponential rate! So fast in fact, that I’d better get moving on their outside home as they will soon outgrow their cardboard box. Probably the most expensive part of owning a chicken is figuring out their housing. At my new house, I am lucky that there is a large coop already built, however it’s been out of use for probably 25 years, is filled with equipment (as it was used as a shed in that time) and will definitely need some TLC (and cash) before I can turn it into the coop that I want. So in the meantime, and since I have only 3 chickens at the moment, I am attempting (with some help from my dad) to save some money and construct my own movable chicken tractor. I’ll be using the design plans from Ashley English’s ‘Keeping Chickens’ book (love her book and blog!). So dad and I have started out by framing the run of the coop. Just a start but exciting nonetheless. What do you think?

As for the garden, I thought I had been doing so well in my planning this year, but as these things go life gets busy and plans inevitably fall a little behind schedule. My asparagus is up from last year, I was gifted some rhubard from my aunt which I’ve added to my garden, the peas, radishes and lettuce have begun to come up and I’ve been enjoying the spinach and lettuce that miraculously overwintered in New England without any help from the gardener!

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digging in the dirt

It was the first weekend in probably a month that I was able to spend at my parent’s house so figured since the weather has been so nice, I’d get to work on their garden a little bit.  I have great plans of gardens I plan to build at my new house but seeing as there is already so much going on this spring, realistically I know that I definitely won’t have beds ready for spring crops.  I’m hopefully shooting for summer!

Didn’t get to too much, just a bit of cleaning up old beds (have some garlic and onions that I left over from last year I figure I would leave and see if anything happened – ie bulbs forming).  LJ and I had planted some lettuce and spinach there in the fall (trying to see if we could grow cool weather vegetables) but nothing came in and I just left the garden to do it’s thing over the winter.  So imagine my surprise to see that one lettuce and three spinach plants made it through the winter and are actually growing.  (We did have an EXTREMELY mild winter though so that could be the exception).

So I just cleaned up those growing plants, threw in some compost from my heap I began last year (not completely decomposed, but hopefully it will help!), and planted a few news seeds- some peas, lettuce, carrots and radishes.  So we’ll see how it grows! Also still no sign of any asparagus spears shooting up this year…. I still have hope as the fonds came up pretty well last year!

tool mama

Had an idea brewing over the winter.  Have kept gardens for a few years on and off but last year I became pretty enthusiastic and quadrupled the size of my garden.  (Keep in mind that’s not saying much- the plot was pretty tiny before)  In any case, I made my garden area bigger and dug a higher fence for it (we had a woodchuck living underneath the shed) so I was pretty pleased with myself.

As I said, I’ve garden here and there, off and on, so I had some great success with some veggies (beans, radishes, cucumbers, summer squash) and not so much with others (onions, pumpkins, broccoli).  From reading around, it looked like some of the plants I had less luck with required a longer growing season (I was a LATE starter and didn’t even get my seeds into the ground until June- yikes!).

Anyways, long story short I came across this article (http://www.motherearthnews.com/Do-It-Yourself/Multipurpose-Plant-Grow-Light-Seed-Starting-Bookcase.aspx)  over the winter and was instantly inspired. I immediately decided this was what I would do for the garden this year- start some of the slower growing seeds indoors (much) earlier in the season.  Plus, I just bought a new house so it would make a great multipurpose bookshelf in the off-season.

When I went to actually begin construction, I realized there wasn’t really much in the way of instructions in this article…  So I came up with my own… wish some help from my dad.  Here are some pictures at different phases of building process.  Hey this total novice wood worker is pretty proud!!  Next project, to build a chicken tractor… (slightly more intimidating!)

where has winter gone?

A month between entries- not a great habit to get into!  But I’m new at this and it’s been a pretty hectic month here (my mother recently undergoing a pretty serious spinal operation) so I’m gonna cut myself a bit of slack.

So I’m sure you’ve been eagerly awaiting to hear what happened to the lye-heavy (I think) soap that I created last month???  Well I attempted to ‘re-batch’ it by basically goggling that phrase and seeing what I found online.  First I checked the ingredients, then added a bit more water and fats (in same ratios as original recipe) and finally I crumbled up my concoction and heated it over the stovetop.  Worried that the mixture might get too hot or burn, I then changed my mind and decided to cover the pot with some foil and placed it in the oven.  Long story short- the mixture never fully melted and I think a lot of the essential oil scent might have escaped in the process…

BUT…. it appears to be soap!  It certainly aint pretty, but after sitting for a couple weeks I tried it out and no slimy feeling (apparently slimy means that means it’s not ready / or there is still too much lye).  Have been washing myself with it for a few days now with no ill effect yet.  So success or failure?  I vote success but you can be the judge.  I figure all learning is a step in the right direction, right?

Well it’s ramping up to be an exciting few months in this neck of the woods and I’ll try to update often as I prepare for all the hope and possibility that spring brings with it.  I’ve been making plans for my 2 gardens (one at my parents house and creating plans for one at my new home!), I just began bee school last week and plan on starting my first hive this spring and finally my lovely BF got me a spot at a chicken workshop in April that might send me home with a few chicks so looks like my household will quickly be expanding.  Think this’ll be enough to keep me out of trouble for a few months!  Oh and in addition to that am busy knitting some baby blankets for two of my very best friends who are expecting their first babies!  More on all this later – life is good!