Monday, December 26, 2011

IS MY MUSE WAITING FOR ME IN 2012?

2011 was harsh...in the creative, energetic sense. I've felt completely uninspired since mid summer. I thought turning 40 this year would somehow reignite my spirit but no, all energy seems to have gone wherever my muse went.

I never make New Years resolutions. I believe a person can change at any time, they don't need to save it all up for the turn of the year. If I want to change something about myself or what I'm doing I'll do it when the moment strikes. Funny though that the moment seems to be now when we're about to venture into 2012. So...I think this blog post can officially be considered my New Years Resolution post. Having it all written down for everyone to read makes me more accountable to my goals in some way.

Here are my top 10:

1. Read two books a month and share a review of one on my new "writing" blog. Stop reading 3-4 books at the same time, never really finishing one.

2. Buy that Canon and become the awesome beetographer I'd like to be(e) :D

3. Appreciate friends more. Not that I don't already appreciate my friends but I need to show it more.

4. Focus on mastering the whole knitting thing. I've been working on mittens since winter 2010 and still haven't figured out how to finish the dang thumb (and I've been shown at least 3x's). I've set that project aside numerous times but if I don't figure it out I'm going to lose my mind. YES! I tend to obsess over such things and if I don't stop that soon I'll never get anything knitted before next Christmas, which leads me to #5

5. Stop being such a perfectionist.

6. Keep working on my domestic goddess skills. (Gardening, Canning, Cooking, Beekeeping).

7. Be a better blogger. I deleted my blog and found that I really do miss the writing and also connecting with others in the blogosphere. No more talk about deleting blogs. Which leads me to...

8. Blogging on a schedule. All my posts here at Within The Hive will be about creative ventures & family. The other blog will be for writing whatever moves me. I'll have to keep the long-winded posts separate from the creative shares. I've decided I'm going to dedicate one day a week to both blogs once the holidays are over.

9. Stop making promises I won't keep. That is a big one. I'm going to become the "maybe" or "I'll think about it" person. No more using the word YES because I really hate that word.

10. Keep working on staying healthy. More exercise and staying away from animal products. I really really love cheese though and the vegan cheese doesn't melt on hot sandwhiches the way real dairy cheese does. So we'll call that one a work in progress but I have an entire year to get it right, right? :D

That's it. Nothing too complicated. Hopefully by staying a little more focussed my muse will return and I'll feel energized enough to make 2012 my most creative year yet :) I'll be back to blog after the New Year!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

DID YOU KNOW, BEES GET SICK TOO

It has been a while since I talked about my bees so I thought I'd share something new about my awesome girls.

MITES.

Honeybees get mites. The actual term is Varroa Mites.

What are they?

They are itty bitty insects that attach to and weaken honeybees by sucking hemolymph from their bodies, which serves as both blood and intestinal fluid. Once the honeybee has been weakened they become susceptible to certain viruses.

Varroa are destructive and can destroy an entire hive. If infestation is caught early the hive can be saved. Treatments vary depending on the preference of the beekeeper. Some treatments are more effective than others.

We were told in class that ALL bee hives get varroa mites and research has shown that some types of honeybee are better at protecting themselves from infestation than others. Example: Africanized bees tend to protect themselves better than Italian bees. MN Hygienic bees have been raised to defend themselves better against certain illnesses, diseases, etc... including mites.

The key to controlling the mite population is #1 testing your hives mite count and #2 checking for hygienic behavior

(there are other ways to check for mites)

If you know how many bees were in your sample, you can
estimate the number of mites per 100 bees. If there is
brood in the colony when you sample, you should double
this number to factor in the amount of mites in worker
brood. For example, if there are 5 mites / 100 bees, the
total infestation is probably 10 mites/100 bees. If your
colony has over 10-12 mites/100 bees, you should consider treatment. ~University of Minnesota


So... that is the mini scoop on varroa mite.

I have not treated my bees for mites and yes, I may live to regret it. My first year keeping bees I decided to see how well they'd do "naturally" over the winter. They survived and flourished. I have a new hive that I did not treat but I believe it won't do quite as well. Ya see, we were told something in class that makes me worry. Marla Spivak said "if you can see mites with the naked eye then you have a serious problem." Well, I scraped some brood from between hive bodies and this is what I found:



Now, I know not treating the bees probably isn't the best choice I've made as a beekeeper but I have two issues with treatment. #1 is I would only use a natural treatment like Thymol but the problem has been getting the thymol and the weather (beekeepers will know what I mean about the weather). #2 I've wanted to see how well my bees do (or how long they live) without treatment. Is that wrong? I've read where other beeks have had hives survive years without treatment and I'm hoping mine do the same. Although the 2nd hive being so obviously infested has me worried.

The only option now would be a treatment I'm not comfortable with so I'll wait out another winter and see how they do.

SOAP SWAP REPORT

I received the most awesome bars of soap and a bag of natural laundry soap in the latest swap. There was no theme, just a deadline. We swapped out on Sept. 1st. After years of smelling EO's and FO's I must say that this latest swap was full of the most fabulous scents EVER! Thank you ladies for your friendship and continuing to share your creativity year to year :) I can't wait to use everything!!



THANK YOU AMBER

THANK YOU NATALIE

THANK YOU CARRIE

THANK YOU HEIDI

THANK YOU DENISE

Sunday, October 9, 2011

ELY LIVING ON HOLD... INDEFINITELY

I spent my entire life dreaming about a life in the country. We finally found the ideal location for us in the north woods of Minnesota. Bears, wolves, moose, small town, friendly people, beautiful scenery. We couldn't ask for a better spot, or so it seemed.

Turns out all that driving north to house hunt and countless hours on the internet sifting through properties was in vain. Ya see, Ely has a little secret. Well, Minnesota has a secret. Home & land owners own their "surface" property but not the minerals underneath, which is all fine and dandy if you live in the twin cities like we do. There isn't a real chance in hell that miners will come through here looking for iron or taconite but drive a few hours north and you have a real problem. Why? Because Ely and the surrounding areas like Grand Marais, Isabella, etc... are prime spots for mining. Northern MN is known for its mining. In fact, Minnesota has a long mining history dating back to the 1800's and since nickel, copper and platinum have become hot commodities the mining companies want to move back in. Problem is, Ely is no longer a mining town. Ely is a tourist town. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area, known for its pristine forests and abundant wildlife draw in countless tourists every year and Ely sits right at the edge of the BWCA.

So... back to the mining issue. Although the state of Minnesota owns the right to the minerals much of the land with valuable minerals beneath is privately owned and most of those land owners had no clue that the minerals didn't belong to them. This would be a non-issue if it weren't for miners sniffing in the area.

The DNR, mining supporters (whoever those crazy people are) and state law claim mineral exploration leases are going to create a boom in our slagging economy. (I'll skip the part where I'm tired of our government (local and beyond) claiming that all these political decisions like removing protections of our water, air and land are necessary to create jobs).

The law in Minnesota states: Companies that explore for minerals on private property are required to negotiate with the landowner, and put the property back to its original condition. But if they cannot agree on access, the company can legally condemn the land.

According to Rebecca Otto, our state auditor, none of the residents should worry. There is a very SLIM chance that valuable minerals would be found on their property.

Well, as far as my husband and I are concerned, and it seems the many residents up north feel the same, a slim chance is just one chance too many. Our governor has delayed the mining leases for six months to give the property owners time to appeal to our state legislature which the odds are not stacked in favor of the owners. So for now, we are holding off until something equally as awesome presents itself. *sigh.

I FEEL LIKE I AM LIVING IN CHINA. READ THIS ARTICLE TO LEARN MORE

UPDATE: I checked my deed and I own the mineral rights on my current property. People who live in the twin cities and the communities surrounding the twin cities either own their mineral rights or partially own. Seems this is solely a Northern Minnesota issue afterall. Is it time to country home hunt in Central or Southern MN?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

BEE, WASP, HORNET... IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?

I was reading a blog recently where the author posted a picture of a wasp and called it a bee which is the reason for this post.

I'm not blogging to make fun of anyone who confuses a bee with a wasp. Actually, I didn't even know there was a difference until I took a class with my daughter at our local nature center back in 1998. Up until then, anything that was black and yellow with a stinger was a bee to me. We took the class because I had a major phobia of bees but the nature center taught us that not all stinging insects are created equal nor are they all bees.

This is purely an educational post. Hopefully it will help people identify these insects when they come in contact with them and help them be less fearful of bees.

I will cover the ones most commonly seen in Minnesota. Other states may have different types of wasps or bees, I'm not sure.

THE WASP GROUP

Benefits: Wasps eat all kinds of insects and are great to have in the garden because they often eat the insects that are harmful to your fruits and vegetables.

Temperament: Paper Wasps tend not to be too aggressive unless their nests are disturbed. Yellowjackets get defensive if their hives are disturbed, when they are around food, or during certain parts of the season when food is scarce. Hornets are aggressive when nests are disturbed.

Body: Have a slender body, narrow waste, appear shiny with smooth skin. Slender, cylindrical legs. Wasps are the stinging insects most commonly encountered by people.

Food: Wasps are predators. They eat other insects. They will eat fruit juices as well. Hornets will forage for nectar.

Nests: Yellowjackets, baldfaced hornets, and paper wasps make nests from a papery pulp comprised of chewed-up wood fibers mixed with saliva. Yellowjackets commonly build nests underground and paper wasps will build there nests from overhangs such as a tree limb.

Hornets Nest looks like this:



courtesy of Peregrine Audubon

Yellowjacket Nest looks like this:



courtesy of Local Pest Control

Paper Wasp Nest looks like this:



courtesy of Ace Bees

What do they look like?

The Yellow Jacket



courtesty of The Bee Hunter

The Paper Wasp



courtesy of Snails Tales

The Hornet



courtesy of FCPS

THE BEE GROUP

Benefits: POLLINATION!!

Temperament: Honeybees are docile unless hive is disturbed. When out foraging they rarely sting. Mason bees will not sting unless strongly provoked. Bumble bees are defensive of their hive but more docile when out foraging unless stepped on or squeezed.

Body: Bees have robust bodies and are very hairy. Hind legs are flattened for collecting and transporting pollen.

Food: Bees feed on pollen & nectar from flowers.

Nests: Honey bees make a series of vertical honey combs made of wax. Their colonies are mostly in manufactured hives but they do occasionally nest in cavities in large trees, voids in building walls, or other protected areas.



Courtesy of bees on the net

Bumble bees use old mice burrows, cavities in buildings, and other locations to make their nests. Like honey bees, bumble bees make cells of wax.



Courtesy of Extermatrim

Mason bees (The female) uses existing holes in wood for a nest, the whole will be slightly larger than her body (1/8 of inch) and she puts a mud plug in one of the hole.



Courtesy of Help Save the Bees

What they look like?

Honey Bee



courtesy of NC Pedia

Mason Bee



courtesy of Gig Harbor

Bumble Bee



courtesy of Organic Garden Info.

Much of the information listed above came from the University of Minnesota.

THE CANNING EXPERIMENT, PLUS!

I haven't found much time to blog lately but I hate just leaving the place to gather dust so I thought I'd post a quick one. I've been pondering the idea of deleting the blog again. The reason being, I think if I have to struggle to organize time so that I can get on here and write something then maybe it just isn't something I'm passionate about anymore. The only thing that keeps me coming back to the blogs is other people's writing. I like reading what others are up to on their blogs plus the connections I've made and honestly, right now, that is the only thing that has kept me from closing the blog. Blogging for almost 5 yrs has made for some great friendships :)

With that said... I'm just not sure, so...

I've been trying to focus on quite a few things recently. #1 Writing More. #2 Country Home Hunting. #3 Preparing for said life in the country (canning, knitting, gardening, etc...) and #4 reading more books.

#1 Writing
Well, I never talked about my writing so I won't start now.

#2 The House Hunting
Not going as well as I expected. My hubby and I are planning an "eventual" move north and thought now would be the perfect time to buy a home, with the market being what it is. Turns out, the people up north haven't noticed the down turn in the market yet. Actually, it isn't really the people up north, it is the people here in the cities that own the homes up north that we went to look up. I can't say I blame them though. If we had to sell our home right now I certainly wouldn't want to take a loss on it. The market is scary and after all the work we've done on our own home it would be heartbreaking just to sell if for pennies. So we are waiting for the perfect opportunity to present itself so we can have our life in the country that we always dreamed of.

#3 Preparing for the Country Life
Years ago when I told my mother I wanted to be a farmer (I was a child), she would laugh. Not a rude laugh, my mother was never rude, she would giggle and remind me that farmers would wake up at 5 a.m. and I couldn't manage to crawl out of bed before noon. Ok, not quite that late but you get my point. When I got older and managed to drag myself out of bed when the birds began to sing my mother rained on my parade once again by informing me that country life was much different than city life (she grew up like Laura Ingles so she knew what she was talking about). I knew country life was different but it took my purchasing the "Countryside Magazine" to figure out just how different it was. Canning foods for long winters was the first thing that caught my attention. I would talk about canning, read about canning, think about canning, but didn't get the courage to actually CAN until last year. The reason being, because no matter how much I learned about canning I could never shake all the horror stories I heard as a kid. My grandmother passed on a story about how a pressure cooker blew up in someones face and then of course there were the stories drifting around about getting botulism from improperly preserved foods. YIKES! So last year I canned my first batch of strawberry jam and after about a month I tossed it all out because I was too afraid to try it. How is that for neurotic.Well, I decided to try again. This year I thought I'd attempt dill pickles. I planted my garden, got a great bunch of cucumbers. The dill was ready long before the cucumbers so I ended up buying the dill at the store. Found a "how to video" online (I'm a visual learner) and gave it a shot.

My harvest:



Of course, it didn't go so well.

I THOUGHT I had the right size pan for the size jars I was using. Turned out I was wrong. Ya see, there is a label on the pan that states what size jars it fits and you'd think I would read that but nooooooo, that would have been way too easy. Instead I just guessed and my guess turned out to be wrong. After canning several jars of dill pickles I had no pan to place them in. I made a mad dash to a local store but they didn't have a large enough pan either. It was already late in the evening and everywhere else was closed. The dill pickles were trashed. So I tried again.

Got the right pan this time:

And made some pickles:


I've since learned again that I didn't do them exactly right but I'm getting closer to perfection. I will open these in 6 weeks and see how they turned out.

#4 Reading More Books

Right now I'm reading two books. Alternating back and forth, which my kids think is weird but I like it. "On Writing" by Stephen King. I read it when it was first published and here I am reading it again. The other book I'm reading was a title suggested to me. I'm actually enjoying it, which is a surprise because I'm not a big fan of fiction. (which you are now probably scratching your head at considering I'm reading ANYTHING by Stephen King). The book is called Miss Peregrines Home of Peculiar Children. It isn't even adult fiction, it came from the teen section, but when two adults suggest it, why not, right?

So that is what keeps my mind busy right now. Along with the bees, which are doing well. The bunnies, one of which is really really sick and probably won't make it. The children, getting ready to return to school next week and quite a few other things in between but I won't bore you any further with the details.

Before I sign off I want to say thank you to DixieBelle over at Eat at Dixie Belles for her generous blog award. I promise to post about that one soon. I'm compiling a list of bloggers to share it with :)