Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bee and garden update

We finally went into the hives this past weekend - everything looks good but I decided to wait a few more weeks to add the second super. One hive had a ton of honey already - the frames were hard to hold up. We removed the inner lid and added a screened lid to give them more ventilation during the hot months. The pictures above are the bees cleaning off the honey from the inner lid we removed - It is all cleaned off now ready to store until the fall.
Our veggie garden is going well too. Besides what we intentionally planted we have plants popping up all over the property that must be from seeds last year. The top photo is our compost pile - it has several types of veggies growing in it and the bottom one is next to the bee hives pumpkins (I think) just growing through the base rock we put down this winter and we have tomatoes starting all over the property. There is one type of gardening that is based on the concept of let it reseed it self. I can see how that would work

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New bees

So we decided to try bees again although I failed the last two years. The pictures above are two different hives We got two swarms from a man I met in my bee class a couple of years ago. Swarms are suppose to be stronger than packaged bees. They seem pretty happy so far and have been very busy flying in and out of the hive and I noticed a lot of pollan on their legs on the returning bees. - more later :)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Solar Class

I'm taking a Solar Design class which is harder and taking more of my time than I expected but I am learning a lot and hope it will help me find a job if I need one - hopefully I don't but you just never know these days.

Last Saturday we installed a Solar system on a pretend roof. I forgot my camera but my classmate Bill emailed me some photos so I can post them here. (thanks Bill) Luckily the roof is at ground level so I don't have to worry about heights. Installing the Solar Panels was easier than I thought it would be. The live electricity part still scares me. The system was 8 modules in series and put out 1.4KW of power. I actually enjoyed this lab.
We got our last quiz back last night and I only got 72% right - I'm not use to doing so bad :( I spent hours last week studying and memorizing all the mathmatical formulas and the quiz last night didn't even have any questions on those. I'm not really sure what to study for this class - there is so much material and what I think is most imporatant hasn't been on the quizes. In the end I think it will be on the certification test so I'm probably not wasting my time at least. Can I live with a bad grade for the class??? Will anyone ever look at my transcripts??? I doubt it.
Ok - so I'm afraid of heights and afraid of getting electricuted so why am I in this class??? Well - I'm hoping that I can get a nice desk job somewhere or maybe a Project Management job at a large enough company where I won't have to do the heavy work. PG&E is at the top of my list right now.
On another note I'm dropping off 2 beehives at a friend's house on Sunday who collects swarms in Santa Clara. Once he gets a couple I will go pick the hives up and bring them home. Keep your fingers crossed that they stick around.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Heaven's Gate

Johnnie built fencing all around our minifarm to keep the aniamls in or out so to speak. Here is the front gate between our driveway and our house. We keep it locked and people have to ring a bell (hopefuylly we hear it) to get in. There are also 5 stars on the gate which symbolize the 5 pets we had when we bought the house. Only 2 of them are still a live now which makes me realize how quickly we've lost so many pets but I suppose that is what happens when they are close in age.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Our yard was nothing but weeds when we first moved it. (See picture 1) There was an old shed that inhabited by mice. I pulled all the weeds by hand (See picture 2) but soon after a new set grew in their place. (see picture3). Knowing what I know now I would have left the weeds and tilled them into the soil. We will get weeds but not nearly as many - and yes I still pull them by hand. All of these areas are now covered with raised planted bed for veggies, the old shed is gone and there is a wood fence around the property.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Here I am with some winter veggies. Radishes grown in fall and spring - they like fairly cold weather, Cauliflower and broccoli are winter crops that we LOVE. Beets like cold weather but we aren't wild about them. We haven't quiet learned to like kale or Swiss chard either but I think we might try that again next year. If anyone has good recipes for those let me know.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tribute to Spike AKA: Mr. Big

Our beloved Kitty Spike was diagnosed with a tumor on his spleen yesterday. He is a very good boy and we love him dearly. Spike runs the house hold and keeps the dogs in order. He also guards the garden - as you can see from the above top photo where is is guarding the new beans from birds. He is a real love bug too. Honestly, he is the best cat I've ever known. It saddens me to say that we will be saying good-by to Spike soon. He will always be in our hearts. Thank you Spike for bringing us so much joy.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Honey Harvest

We finally got around to harvesting our honey this weekend. We borrowed the extracting equipment from Friends. Johnnie capped all the comb using a hot knife. I did most of the turning of the crank - not as a horrible as I thought it would be and we ended up with about 15 cups of honey in the end plus what spilled on the floor :( Our honey is very dark - not sure why that is - but it is tasty. What a mess to be cleaned up though! Our bees took off on us this fall and we have been going back and forth if we should get another hive this spring. We know someone who captures swarms and can get one or two swarms from him. I think we will go a head and get a couple of swarms and hope they stick around this year.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Time to plant seeds

I remembered that I had most of my photos loaded on the Costco site and although I'm no longer a member I was able to retrieve some of my old photos. Here is the greenhouse Johnnie built last year. It was actually an aluminum kit from Harbor Freight but when we opened it up it had so many screws and other parts that Johnnie decided just to use the panels from the kit and build it out of wood instead. It turned out really nice. It is 10x12'. Harbor freight has really good prices for greenhouses in case you are looking for one.
It is getting to be that time of year to start the spring seedlings. Johnnie started planting flats of seeds yesterday. He planted some crook neck and some zucchini seed. We plan on planting tomatoes of course - not sure how many varieties this year, cucumber, may be spaceship squash, a bunch of winter squash: acorn, butternut, spaghetti and beans of course. Last year we harvested 12.5 beans and that is after they were shelled and dried.
Johnnie always wants to plant watermelon but I don't think it does very well and it takes a lot of watering and since we will probably be on water rationing this year I would prefer not to plant it.
I ordered a bunch of herb seed from Seeds of Change with the gift certificate I got for Christmas (along with a soil ph meter). I want to plant a beautiful herb garden this year - maybe in a circular pattern.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

fireplace before and after

When we bought our house 2 years ago there were a lot of ugly factors we knew would have to be taken care of. The house was built in 1962 and I don't think it had any remodeling since then. One of the biggest ugly factors was the fireplace. It was almost one entire wall of the living room. It was originally floor to ceiling brick and about 10 feet across. The people who owned the house before us tried to do something to it. Notice I said tried. They did a faux plaster look with exposed brick. They didn't bother with plaster but rather used colored mortar. It was extremely ugly (see top photo).
Right from the start I wanted a river rock fireplace. I love river rock. Something about it reminds me of a cottage. I love cottages and anything like that with the shabby chic look. We were able to get a bunch of free river rock from a couple that my mom knows. The husband is the head of the agricultural history museum and when he came over to look at our old manure spreader that we wanted to donate he offered us the rock and we gladly went over and picked it up. Johnnie did all the rock work and I think he did a really good job. Th mantel is made out of a piece of black walnut that our neighbor gave us. Johnnie also built the cabinets on each side - which are not done and I'm not sure when they will be but someday.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Ground hog day - early spring

I've been in a bad mood for three days and still feel crabby today so I decided to post a blog about sun flowers which are very beautiful and sunny and make me feel good when I look at them. Last year we grew sunflowers from seeds that we saved from our sunflowers from the year before. They where about 15 feet tall and the stalks were 2" in diameter. They were magnificent. The top photo may look upside down but that is what the flower looked like when I stood under neath it to take the photo. The heads on that type where well over 1 foot across. The bees loved them.

Speaking of bees, the almond tree is in bloom right now and I am happy to report that there were bee's all over it yesterday.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

saving energy/saving money

I wanted to share a thought with any of you that might be considering Solar. This came from a 2 day solar class I recently took from the Solar Living Institute. Don't bother with Solar until you've done everything else to your house to make it more efficient. If you don't you will need a lot larger solar system. Solar is very expensive so you want as small of a system as you can have. Plus if your house is small like ours there is limited roof space that has the right sun exposure and no shade. Shade is another huge consideration. If a pannel is shaded 20% it will not create any power.

Our PG&E bill was horribly high last month. It was a cold month and I was home from work for two weeks but still it was quite a shock to me. We live in a small house that was built in 1962 and has very little insulation. We (Johnnie's nickname) installed more insulation in the attic this past week - only cost about $350 but will save us a ton over the years. We also took our second refrigerator to the dump and got rid of the old electric space heater he used to heat up the room in the garage. We plan on looking for a more efficient refrigerator in the next few weeks. Our current one ueses up 1000 Kwth per year - not sure what that means dollar wise but I'm sure we can do a lot better. We are considering getting rid of the dryer and just using the clothes line but I like the option of using the dryer but will we use the line????

Speaking of clothes line - last year or was it the year before when I went to home depot to buy it I asked where they kept them and the girl working there had never heard of a clothes line. I couldn't believe it - how spoiled have we become? I ended up buying a retractable one off ebay but to be honest have used it very little. I pledge to use it more this year.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pet Magnet

I planned on showing some before pictures of our property but realized this morning the memory card they were on was the one I lost a few months ago :( So instead I've decided to tell you about our farm animals. We have 3 dogs and a cat. Dutchess, the black lab is 13 years old. She is getting near the end of her days but keeps bouncing back. Ginger is our 4 year old yellow lab. She is a bit psychotic - she is afraid of everything including walking on the kitchen floor. Lillee is the 1 year old pug - she is also known as thorn (in my side) and PITA (pain in the a...). The cat's name is Spike but I call him Mister Big because he runs the house hold. He isn't afraid of any of the dogs. He is about 13 or 14 years old. Any time I sit down the pets are all over me and so the name of the blog pet magnet

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Trying out the blogging thing

I went to the ECO farming conference last week and was very inspired and thought I would start my own blog just for kicks. I will focus mainly on the "mini farm" we have created out our home. We have 10 fruit trees, 2 nut trees, a green house, tons of veggie beds and even some chickens. I also love to do crafts so I might write about that occasionally as well.