Archive for the ‘bees’ Category


adam henry turns SEVEN!

   Posted by: liz

seven years ago, we had just moved into this house with more room than we would ever need (how could we possibly be bursting at the seams in this house now?) and seven acres of grass that needed to be cut. what were we thinking? especially with two boys ages two and one and me, nine months pregnant.

i married up. i married a man with extreme intelligence and talent. he was able to see past our here-and-now. we both saw potential in this home (me as a future bed-and-breakfast, and he saw it as our family home), but i could never see how we would actually fit into it.

now that our baby is turning 7 (today!), we have filled in this huge house, this huge yard with busy boys, lots of family and friend visits, a gentleman farm, and more memories over the past seven years than i can possibly remember.

adam, you were born on a cloudy, cool june 10th morning. Ben Roethlisberger had his motorcycle accident while we were in the hospital with you. daddy left a few hours after you were born to take your older brothers to the zoo and the morning rowan and sawyer came to visit you for the first time, sawyer tried to give you his balloon. he was very upset that you didn’t accept it. it only took a few weeks for sawyer to accept your presence in our family unit. and now he protects you fiercely, laughs at your jokes, and you two share a LEGO building bond that only brothers can. you look up to rowan, your oldest brother so much, and although the 3 years between you sometimes get in the way, you share frisbee games, bike riding, and minecraft playing like best friends. your party this year, is a minecraft theme. you and your brothers can’t get enough of this crazy game, and so, your friends will be treated to mining for gold and diamonds, all the while trying to stay away from those crazy creepers.

happy seventh birthday, our darling. as always, it’s an honor to be your momma and papa!



   Posted by: liz

it’s been so long since last i blogged that i actually forgot my login password. january was my last post, and it’s been the longest time between posts, ever. i’m always thinking of blog posts, always churning ideas around in my head, but never sitting down to write.

this was a particularly long and tiring winter. this spring has been unusually wet and cold. memorial day weekend marked the beginning of the longest stretch of warm weather, and it started out with a cold frost. i guess i could fill you in on the last 3 months, but i don’t want to bog you down with a depressing post. instead, i’ll give you a highlight reel of current things in our family:

- i continue to be so amazed at how the boys and i grow in our relationships with each other. we are together all day long, every single day. there are DEFINITELY some tense and frustrating moments in that. we get on each other’s nerves. we need our space from each other. but for the most part, our conversations and our time spent WITH each other are rewarding, fun, and always growing. even though they are around their mom every single day of their lives, the older two boys are beginning to spread their wings and be more independent. i’m all for this, and i’m glad it’s happening, slowly, but surely. i don’t know what this would look like had we chosen traditional schooling – would they have been much more independent by now? probably. i’m okay with it taking it’s time. i’m REALLY okay that they’re still young boys who are innocent in so much. there is still so much time for them to grow up. slowly.

- that said, there are some stretches of exhausting times when we are together as a family all the time. the bickering and the whining about school work and farm chores and…the list goes on. i get tired of being their teacher and their mother every single day of their lives. it’s hard. it’s hard having them with me on all my weekly errands. it’s hard not having time to myself until evenings (although our evenings are all full these days). it’s just plain hard.
but we did end our school year two weeks ago and have been enjoying the warming weather, and hanging out with friends. both rowan and sawyer had evaluations this year and both of them “passed” with rave reviews from their evaluator. during that time, i realized that adam was reading a book that sawyer was reading previously. sawyer is reading so well these days, but adam has taken off with his reading. he doesn’t sound out words any more, he reads for comprehension, which is earlier than the other two boys ever did. for all the struggles of teaching your kids that you may encounter, there are some pretty great discoveries along the way!

- so i’m running again. i really need to not take the winters off (but how i HATE indoor running, and it’s harder and not at all comfortable to run outside in the winter). i’m signed up for my first 5K of the season. i’m ready! because once i start to run, i can take on the world and all it throws at us again.

- this past week, kenny was rockstar dad and husband again as i took three days in a row to teach a geography and art camp for the co-op that we are a part of. i was out the door well before the boys woke up, and he tended to them and their needs while i taught forty-one 6 to 8 year-olds for three solid days. i came home to dinner already cooked before turning around and heading back out to rehearsal the first two nights, and on the last night, i came home to a beach chair sitting next to the pool, a bottle of my favorite chardonnay already uncorked, and a lovely grilled tilapia, chicken, green beans, and coconut rice dinner, al fresco (with friends joining us at table!). a great way to end those crazy exhausting three days.

- we are three weeks away from opening night of our second production, The Tempest. the rehearsals have been going so well, the cast is amazing and the sets and costumes are going to be stunning on that stage. i can’t wait for Butler to see that Shakespeare is interesting and fun and not stuffy and boring. we’ve been really busy every single evening and weekend putting this show together. some moments are tense and overwhelming, but for the most part, i’ve really loved the creative process in this production. from the conversations with the actors about their characters, to the evenings i spend at the sewing machine while kenny composes music for the show, it’s been a fun and exciting production.

- our farm is on hold for the moment. at least the sheep, their guard donkey, and our two chickens are happy and healthy. we just haven’t added to to our flock this year, and our honeybees did not make it through the winter. we’ve also decided to container garden on our deck instead of plant our massive yard garden again this year. i’m okay with this. sometimes you just need to take a year off of the hobbies that may consume you.

- we are so blessed. there is nothing hard about our life. we are a healthy, busy, a bit nutty family who has absolutely nothing to complain about.
except the winter weather.


her majesty

   Posted by: liz

no, this isn’t a post about the Queen and Her Jubilee celebrations this week in London…although i was quite impressed with the glorious pageantry that the royal family put on the river thames today.

i’m talking about our queen bee. i checked the third hive today and found larvae right away – they bees and the queen are doing their work, but i caught a rare glance of the actual queen today while checking the hives. fortunately kenny had his phone with him so we were able to get her on camera!  i’m sure you can find her by enlarging this photo – you might even be able to spot her without enlarging the photo. she’s the largest of the bees in the hive. also, the apiary marked her with a yellow dot on her back.

we witnessed her walking around and laying eggs in a few of the cells, and we were able to spot more eggs, larvae, and capped cells (which each hold larva-growing-into-a-bee at which point it busts out of the capped cell buzzing, “hello world! where do i start working?” bees are hard, hard workers. i love them).

your interesting honeybee fact of the day: the “average honey bee” will produce 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. to make one pound of honey it would take 556 workers and 2 million flowers. 50-100 flowers are pollinated during one collection trip. about one ounce of honey is all it takes to give the honey bee enough energy to fly around the world (although the farthest they usually fly away from their hive is six miles).



we’ve got babies!! (update: and bear)

   Posted by: liz

a week and a half after finding themselves traveling from Georgia to the western hills of PA, our bees have settled into their new homes and are already busy making babies.

we opened the hives this evening and pulled out two of the busiest frames from each hive (the ones covered with the most bees).  after observing them closely, we found evidence of eggs (little white “commas” in each cell) AND some larvae already (little white “worms” that would normally send me squealing in gross-out, but these are exciting because that means the bees are growing!). see examples of both in the above picture.

they’re also making lots of honey, and the honeysuckle bush behind them (next to our old barn) is in full bloom. i’m hoping they’re using the sugar water i give them to build comb, and the pollen from the honeysuckle to make honey – how heavenly would honeysuckle honey be?

checking the hives in the heat of the day isn’t easy. as soon as i have my hat/netting secure and my gloves on, my face automatically gets an itch. then my hair falls out of any pony tail and starts to cover my face and by the time we’ve spent only five minutes in the hives, said hair is plastered on my face from all the sweat. i must really love those little bees to allow myself to get into this much of a hot mess over them!

since one of the packages we got a few weeks ago was badly damaged, the apiary is sending us another package of bees in case they don’t become strong enough to survive. so far, the hives both seem to be at equal strength, but we’re due to get the third package this week. we have lots of work to do to get three active hives filled over the next few months. i’m hoping all the hard work that we (and the bees!) get done yield a huge harvest!

and of course, happy, content bees that are strong enough to survive over the winter and start the spring strong!


i wrote this blog post last night, planning to publish it first thing this morning.  soon after we turned the lights out in the house, kenny heard some outside noise near the garage. “oh my goodness…it’s a big black bear in the recycling bin.” i ran to the window in time to see it waddle away with the flashlight on him (i only ever get to see the back side of a running bear. kenny always sees them up close because he has no fear of them like i do). he was running towards the hives, so kenny grabbed the flashlight and ran outside.

i stayed on the front porch yelling things like, “do you see him?” and ” get back inside!” and “does he see you?”  and then all i could hear from the other side of the garage is tree branches rustling and snapping. of course, in my mind i see a black bear tackling my husband. then i was assured by kenny’s unfrightened voice, “he’s up the tree now.” he ran inside to get a firearm to scare the bear away.

kenny tells me to get into his car and shine the headlights onto the tree where the bear is. i look at him like he’s nuts because that would require me to STEP OFF THE FRONT PORCH and into the infested black bear territory. he needs the lights because he can’t shoot and hold his flashlight at the same time. he keeps telling me i’m safe as i reluctantly walk towards the car (which is inches away from the bear. okay, i’m exaggerating a little…) muttering things like, “you OWE me!” and “you don’t know how scared i am right now” like a baby and slam the door shut behind me as i turn on the headlights.

he shoots into the air (a shotgun, the loudest shot of all). no branches breaking or bear thumping to the ground to run away. just echo and silence.

kenny then walks over to the tree and shines the light up. and the bear is sitting on a branch, about 10 feet up, backside facing, head turned toward him. he snaps a picture while i yell things like, “you’re NUTS!” “GET OVER HERE NOW!” as though he is a toddler. this picture reminds me of the “proof that bigfoot exists!” photos. you just can’t really see the bear, but he’s there. the dark area to the bottom, right of center is his backside sitting on a branch. his eye and snout are turned toward the camera, just below the flash.

i went out this morning and found lots of broken branches underneath “his” tree, and a gift he left for us.

we camped out on the deck watching for when he’d come down himself so that we would make sure he didn’t go toward the hives. i forgot to mention that the tree he was in was right next to the hives. he either smelled the bacon-baited electric fence, or the bees/honey/comb. if he went for the bacon, he probably got a hefty shock, so hopefully he won’t be returning soon. i’m happy to say the hives are safe and sound right now. i’m so thankful we put the fence up right away this time!

he finally dropped down and left around 12:30. i’m hoping this doesn’t happen again, but that’s the adventure of farm-living, i guess.

and i wouldn’t trade it for anything.




honeybees, take 2

   Posted by: liz

our two packages of honeybees arrive at the post office this morning. at 6:35 a.m. the post office called to tell us they were in. i had been up for an hour already, and suspected we’d be hearing from them this morning.

the boys finally woke up around 8:15, and by 9:00 we were in the car, on our way to pick them up. when we arrive at the post office, the postal worker warned me that one of the packages looked a little “bad.”  this meant that there was a lot more dead bees on the bottom of that package than the other one. you can tell the difference in the two pictures above – the bottom photo is the stronger hive (less dead bees).

the boys and i sprayed the cages with sugar water every 45 minutes or so. the buzz would “hush” when they were sprayed and after 10 minutes or so, the buzzing would be loud again. our beekeeping book says, “Listen well. The humming will subside and your bees will sound more contented as they feed. Volume will change with hive conditions, but the sweet and low tone of that contented sound is a delight to the beekeeper’s ears. Try to memorize it.”

when kenny got home from work, we got our hives ready. the frames we put in already have old “drawn comb” on them (from our previous beekeeping days), and the new bees will clean them up  and open them up so the queen can lay eggs in them, the workers will feed the larvae and the hives will grow more and more bees.

the apiary from which we ordered the bees will be sending a replacement hive (we just have to pay shipping) in a few weeks. so we’ll know whether or not we have to merge it into the weaker one, or just start a whole new hive. in two weeks, we should begin to see active growth.

now, our busy work begins. i’m off to Sam’s in the morning to get a 50 lb. bag of white sugar. we’ll be making sugar syrup (one part sugar to one part water) to help the bees in their building. they’ll begin to find pollen sources, but this time of year, the beekeeper has to help the bee out. wintered bees will be busy carrying out dead bees and all of their winter excrement, and new bees (like ours) will be busy building comb and tending to the queen.

so excited to see these hives get higher and busy…and looking forward to a full harvest!