Hip Hip Hooray!

Most of our cyber-only friends don’t know this, because we’ve been keeping it secret for security’s sake, but for the last nearly decade we’ve been establishing our wee homestead, I’ve been doing it alone for half the month.

I’ve wanted many times to talk about how hard this has been on this blog where I’ve shared so very many of our ups and downs, bad moods, worse ideas, unpopular philosophies and big defeats sporadically dotted with a few triumphs.

It’s been not only lonely and isolating, but also on more than a few occasions, terrifying, like when the tornado came through in the middle of the night, or the many times I’ve had to manage alone tasks like lambing—including their challenging life and death complications—all of which I have absolutely no previous experience with—having been raised in the burbs. We started with nothing, now we’ve got garden, orchard, dogs—started with chickens and now have poultry, sheep, goats, pigs. When I injured my shoulder about two years ago I was really at my wit’s end.

Of course, it was no picnic for Hubby either. He was offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, on platforms with all dudes, working long days far from home for weeks at a time for all those years. Then he’d come home and scarcely rest before diving in to the book-long homesteading to-do list and climbing learning curve after learning curve. He spent his vacations building coops and corrals and many acres worth of fencing.

Of course as well, he worried about me here alone, especially in the beginning. My learning to shoot gave him a bit of a respite, but considering I suck at it as well as abhor doing it leveled that relief mostly.

We stopped taking vacations, have almost no social life, rarely buy new anything. We both equally dreaded the inevitable moment one of our 4 big dogs died of old age or had a fatal accident while I was here alone. We lucked out there.

The physical challenges were hard enough, but the emotional ones have been exceptionally challenging for me.

Sundays off became a forced ritual after the first few years, a much needed one we’ve become reliant upon now in order to remind ourselves weekly that ultimately we came here for a better quality of life, not to recreate city-like schedules in the country and killing ourselves for some potentially unattainable goal.

So, after all that backstory, I’m beyond thrilled to announce a new chapter for us, one of those blessings in disguise that I hinted about a few posts ago . . .
Hubby’s been laid off!

We’ve rebranded it as early retirement and have already celebrated with champagne and verses of “For he’s a jolly good fellow!”

For he truly is—jolly good and my Great Hero—we’ve no idea what’s in store for us yet and that’s a fun place for us to be again.

Had we not been preparing for this potential outcome our disposition would be very different. And with this post I don’t want in any way to diminish the hardships of the very many families who’ve lost their income in this Plandemic, or those who surely still will.

We’ve been living low on the hog, as the saying goes. It’s been a lot of little sacrifices that are now paying off in peace of mind and time to reflect, rejoice and redesign.

We are not self-sustaining still, maybe we will never be, but we still hold out hopes and intentions toward that goal.

Thanks to the readers out there who’ve stuck with me during my foul tempers, moody rants—now you know mostly their underlying triggers and you can expect more positivity in future.

Or at least that’s the plan so far. 😉

Cheers

“Seasonal Dissonance”

Related to the psychological term ‘cognitive dissonance’ this new Eco-socio-scientism-conspiracy term describes the thermometer and related mechanical device-reading temperatures that refuse to align with the visual and sensory data which would otherwise assure a concerned individual that the season is indeed changing.

A lunch of freshly foraged chanterelles and lactarius indigo—lucky for me, I chose wisely. These are not beginner’s mushrooms and I was really nervous! (Hubby didn’t dare, citing the obvious need that, just in case, someone must live to tell the story.)

”Hmmm, roast pork with spider sauce? Not sure I’m feelin’ ya . . .”

Persimmon seeds in the feral hog scat is a better indicator than that blazing 90 degrees Fahrenheit that’s frying the kohlrabi and beet seedlings before they’re a centimeter above the soil’s surface. Don’t fool yourselves, it’s not just ‘Mother Nature.’

This is that tricky New Micro-Season in East Texas, thanks mostly to weather engineering I’ve no doubt, where no crop, or handler, understands what’s actually happening.

Cardinal flower (lobelia cardinalis)
Big Elkhart Creek 

The days are far too hot for the cool season, the nights far too variable for any season. The hungriest and most prolific garden pests are still proliferating, long from dead from potential threat of frost, but the hungry chickens are unable to benefit because said voracious insects are conveniently barricaded with the young greens and seedlings they so covet within the garden gates where there‘s narry a predator to be found.

If the past few years of weather whiplash are an example, we’ll go from shade cloth over our boxes to in need of frost protection within a few days. Maybe this time we’ll be ready for it?

The bees are as excited as if it’s spring, which gets me worrying. I plan to do some honey harvesting very soon. I have a mean colony who I’ve been giving the benefit of the doubt for well over a year now but who might get the permanent boot very shortly. I got stung in the eyebrow, again, just trying to maneuver around their hive, gently. Just in order to weed!

There’s just no call for that level of aggression around here; they’re clearly asking for some serious retaliation. Sure, the golden rod they’re feasting on was not my doing, but that tree groundsel, excuse me, a meager toll is in order, considering I planted that expressly in that very position for their exclusive benefit.

2nd favorite thing I’ve planted this year: Thai Red Roselle, makes my favorite Kombucha, another favorite discovery of 2020!

First favorite, check back to summer posts, Trombetta squash. We are still eating it!

40 seconds of Zen, OR, as long as I was able to sit still before swatting another mosquito on my nose

Nature=Master Deceiver

“There’s no lie in nature.”

I’ve heard this repeated so many times now, from so many different and I believe well-meaning voices, that I decided it’s high time to add my own voice to this nonsense.

Nature doesn’t deceive. Nature doesn’t try to fool you.

Today this is repeated by quite a few philosophers, conspiracy theorists and ‘truthers’ as a way to elevate nature above man’s conning and cunning ways and to condemn our current fantasy-based reality. I agree our so-called civilization deserves plenty of condemning. But, I do not intend to trade one set of illusions for another.

Apparently this attitude goes way back, to the likes of Walter Russell and an entire camp of German Idealists. I love nature as much, maybe even more, than these guys, that’s for sure. Yet my experience is there are no greater deceptions to be found anywhere else, the worst of man’s worm tongue included, than there are to be found in nature.

You wouldn’t dare!

There are mushrooms so similar that not only a spore print, but a microscope is needed to tell them apart. Poisonous Amanita spissa or delicious Amanita rubescens? Chlorophyllum molybdites, lepiota Americana or macrolepiota procera? Do you want a nice dinner or an evening hugging the toilet? Don’t be fooled, choose wisely!

“Destroying Angel”
the deadly Amanita virosa

Man got his idea for camouflage directly from nature, obviously. In some cases the camouflage is so stealth you could be staring directly at a living creature and not even know until it moves.

Take a walk in the woods and you’ll see sticks that look like snakes and insects that look like sticks. There are spiders that look a lot like bats and bugs that look more like birds.

There are plants like poison ivy, my greatest garden nemesis, that look completely benign, leave no feeling or trace at all in the moment, but 12-24 hours later, long after you’ve forgotten all about it, can elicit a rash so severe you’ll be begging for relief even if it takes the form of a cocktail of toxic pharmaceutical drugs.

That horror story is my arm, on too many occasions to count.

The possum plays dead so effectively he’ll fool nearly any predator.
The most beautiful flowers can kill you.

Datura inoxia

The most disgusting and unappetizing swamp insect can be delectable.

In fact, to say nature is THE Master Deceiver is even an understatement if you ask me. Nature is a raving, lying bitch at least half the time.

Living so close to nature, growing food, co-creating with the land has offered me the greatest single lesson of my life: Cute and nice are the camouflage of prey and pets.

Nature does not play nice. Nice is for ninnies.

It’s considerably more deceptive when man’s hands meddle in nature’s mix as well, quite impossible sometimes to tell where one ends and the other begins.

Homestead Happy Snaps

Bullied in my own hammock! Apparently she’s one of a great many in this country who have taken a few lessons in tyranny.

Ok, so I let her win, this time. At least I got an egg out of it.

I love foraging for mushrooms! I just really wish they were easier to identify. Like good sourdough, it’s serious business, but some folks make it look so easy.

I’m a novice, still, after years, but getting there on the slow boat. A lunch of freshly foraged chanterelles sautéed in butter with a delicious sourdough I’m still trying to master. Along with a whole lot of mushrooms I can’t identify.

We can’t even buy bread like this in our area and I bet there’s a lot of folks in that boat. DIY! Here’s the expert to show you just how to do it: https://youtu.be/UF9dCkKhBnI

Homestead Happy Snaps

We mustn’t let the tyrants and clowns get us down
Joy and laughter can still abound
Mantras and cliches can spout the latest crazes
But it’s Nature that always amazes!

Praying Mantis living on Wandering Jew, seems somehow apropos, no? He really does live there and he’s pretty good company. 🙂
I’ve heard of bats in the belfry, but in the umbrella?!
How about a cuteness contest—goats or sheep? I know my opinion! Share yours below?
It’s very zen to watch the bees, I find. Next time I’ll figure out how to add sound—I love that soothing buzz of what appears to be such well-ordered chaos—Such miracles in nature!

Funny Friday

I hope y’all have a fabulous holiday weekend here in the States and if it’s not a holiday where you reside, I hope it feels like one anyway. I thought I’d share a bit of inspiration toward that end.

Rebel Hen: “I lay where I choose!”
Kids orders: “Plant more Mulberries!”
Handy Hubby’s handiwork makes me soo happy! Maybe my new grow light station is not that funny, but it sure is fun. (No illegal plants were tortured to capture this photo.)

And best of all for everyone, guess what, there’s a 99% chance you won’t die of the Covid cooties, yippie, let’s celebrate!

So funny, do yourself a favor because laughter is the best medicine! 🙂

For the LOVE of BEES

If you plan to join the growing number of hobby beekeepers the very first step should be to define your goals.  I learned that the hard way.

It’s a wonderful thing to see the popularity of beekeeping keeps increasing.  I love beekeeping for many reasons, but when I was first starting out the learning curve was very intimidating.  And that’s coming from someone who usually adores learning.  

Not only was there loads to learn about the bees themselves, but also about how to manage their colonies, which changes depending on your hive type, which is dependent on what your goals are as a beekeeper.

The first question to answer for yourself as a newbie is if you are interested in beekeeping as livestock or as habitat provider, or maybe both.

I had several mishaps in my first years because I hadn’t asked myself this most fundamental question.  I hadn’t asked myself this because in all the books, forums, courses and club meetings I’d attended, no one asked this question.  The general assumption is always that the beekeeper is interested in bees as livestock, because that’s what most want.

In this case, follow the commercial standards, using their Langstroth hives and peripheral equipment, their treatment schedules for pests and diseases, and their feeding programs and supplies, and you should be good to go.  You can buy nucs (nucleus colonies) in the spring, and if all goes well you’ll have some honey before winter.  This is by far the most popular route to take in beekeeping.

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Our only Langstroth hive on the homestead, bedazzled with old jewelry.

But it’s not for everyone, including me, which took me a few years to figure out.  Honey, pollen, wax, propolis, royal jelly, queen rearing, and other processes and products from beekeeping are the main goals of this style of beekeeping and there’s lots to learn from the commercial operators who have mastered many of these skills for maximum efficiency and profit.

However, if you are interested more in providing habitat and learning from the bees, and creating truly sustainable, long-term, self-sufficient colonies in your space, following commercial practices is really not the way to go, and can lead to a lot of expense, confusion and frustration.

In the hopes of encouraging more beekeepers to become honeybee habitat providers rather than livestock managers only, here are a few tips and resources.

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The bee yard of Dennis Kenney of Jackson-area Beekeepers Club, with his preferred horizontal hive style.  Horizontal hives differ from Top-bar hives in that they have full frames with foundation.  Benefits of full frames is ease of management and stability of comb.  Drawbacks would be the added expense and the artificial, manufactured foundation and its potential contaminants.

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  • The conventional practice is to keep all your hives in a ‘bee yard’ for reasons of convenience and space.  This is antithetical to bee colonies’ natural proclivity to nest far from one another.  It creates problems of diseases and pests that spread rapidly in conditions of overpopulation, which is why so many treatments are needed, and then feeding when nectar/pollen flow is scarce, as well as being hyper-vigilant in your regular hive inspections to find issues immediately before they spread.  Now that I have spaced my 6 hives out around a very large area I’m having far more success.  But, only time will tell!

What else I’ve learned:

  • The typical Langstroth hive is made for easy transport and standardization purposes for the industry mainly, but they are not ideal for the honeybee habitat provider, because they are made with thin walls in order to be lightweight. This means they are poorly insulated and so not suitable for the long-term stability of the hive—getting too hot in summer in southern climates and too cold in winter in northern climates.  Our top-bar hives and nucs have thick walls and insulated roofs. 

  • If you want your bees adapted to your area and climate you don’t want to do the conventional practice of buying new queens every couple of years.  Ideally, you’ll want your colonies to produce their own queens.  Queen-rearing will remain an essential skill for a more advanced beekeeper, because occassionally you may still want to make splits to increase your numbers or to replace weak colonies, or to re-queen another hive displaying poor genetic traits. 
  • When the colonies are weak, depending on the issue, they may need to be culled. This is rarely suggested by professional beekeepers who promote regular treatments on which the weak colonies then become dependent, while still spreading their weak genes on to subsequent generations and their diseases and pests to other colonies.

Just like the faulty logic of ‘herd immunityin the vaccine debate among human populations, many commercial beekeepers use the same complaint about those of us who want go au naturel, that is, treatment-free, with our bees.

Many scientists and researchers are trying to raise public awareness that this is not how herd-immunity works, not in livestock or in humans, and I applaud their efforts.  I personally find referring to populations of people as a herd to be insulting.  I think it actually trains individuals through neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) to think of themselves and each other not as unique and separate individuals, but rather as cattle to be managed.

  • You’ll also want to mostly forgo the conventional practice of swarm prevention.  The goal is for the bees to become self-sufficient, as in the wild, where colonies can live for decades with no hand from man to aid or to disturb.  Some of these colonies are enormous, like one we found in an old oil barrel, there for over 15 years and thriving with multiple queens in the same colony, which most likely swarmed annually.

Swarming is a natural, bio-dynamic process performing many different functions for the colony, hygiene being an essential one. Everything the beekeeper takes away from their natural processes is a stress on them which must then be alleviated by other, most likely artificial, means.

  • Plant perennial and annual crops the bees like for your area and climate.  Here in the south there are plenty of plants that bloom at different times most of the year, giving free bee buffets from early spring to late fall, like: bluebonnet, white clover, hairy vetch, wild mustard, vitek, morning glory, trumpet vine, yaupon, and lots of garden herbs and crops, too.  It is my greatest pleasure to harvest cucumbers, peas, beans and arugula surrounded by forging bees—they love them as much as we do!

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Experimenting and observing is the most fabulous feature of the honeybee habitat provider! 

I know a homeschooling homesteader with an observation hive in their house that the children treasure.  Not only do they learn from these fascinating creatures about how they operate in the hive, but how they are connected to the seasons and to their environment.  They’re learning constantly from the colonies’ successes as much as from their failures.

I practice slightly different techniques with each hive to discover which methods work best here on the wee homestead: one hive has a screened bottom board, one I keep with a reduced entrance all year, one’s in full-sun and another partial shade, and so on.  Not that this will necessarily solve the mystery of colony failure, but every bit of data helps!

Some unconventional resources:

Books

The Shamanic Way of the Bee: Ancient Wisdom and Healing Practices of the Bee Masters by Simon Buxton (2004)

The Dancing Bees: An Account of the Life and Senses of the Honey Bee by Karl von Frisch (1953)

Top-Bar Beekeeping: Organic Practices for Honeybee Health by Les Crowder & Heather Harrell (2012)

Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture by Ross Conrad (2013)

Sites

Treatment-free Beekeeping YouTube Channel

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCC_Yb2d_9M09hcaWlghVZDg

The Bee-Master of Warrilow by Tigkner Edwardes (1921)

https://archive.org/stream/cu31924003203175/cu31924003203175_djvu.txt

Biobees

http://biobees.com/library/general_beekeeping/beekeeping_books_articles/BroAdam_Search_for_Best_strains2.htm

Dr. Leo Sharashkin

horizontalhive.com

Spring Chaos to Summer Swelter

The geoengineered ‘tornado’ this spring has been a big setback for us, but we’re adjusting with a blossoming ‘f**k it’ attitude that will surely see us through the misery of the current hazy-swamp setting per the weather controllers.

BE7E2441-5C49-4460-A650-79BE67B77BC1The ‘feels like’ temperature promises to remain in the 100s for a few months, no doubt.  Most folks around here say that’s normal, but that’s because most folks alive today have been living with modified weather for decades without realizing it.  Weathermodificationhistory.com

Since the politicians and select scientists have partnered up to bully the public into buying their global climate change scheme, the few who even notice the atmosphere is different think the technocrats will swoop in and fix it all up again.

 

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Seriously?

The ‘f**k it’ attitude is necessary to maintain sanity currently, but knowing it must be temporary makes it especially bitter-sweet.  Downed trees remain a keen reminder still in looking out through any window of the house. 

But, I’ve adjusted to them now, labeling them in my mind as satanic yard art.

My shoulder injury persists, Hubby’s working loads of overtime, and there’s plenty to do just in maintaining what we can without tackling a difficult clean-up project just now.  Or just about anything else.

As a bonus, the birds love it, we have cardinals nesting, super happy woodpeckers, bouncing bunnies, and the sheep are cooperative enough to take on the garden mess for me.

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85F6D33B-6E44-4ACF-A288-2A82BFCAE4D2Since I can’t make cheese or garden or can, I’ve been trying to foster some new hobbies.  Learning to paint and sew helps to pass the time, but mostly they are too sedentary for my nature.  I’m trying to adjust. 

But, it feels like trying, as does reading, which doesn’t fit so well with the ‘f**k it’ mindset.  For now we join the masses in their preferred great American pastime of apathy, avoidance and distraction by binge-watching movies with a good buzz on.

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Now what bee in her right mind wouldn’t find that to be a pretty home?!

 

The bees are growing fine without my participation, yay!  And, I think I heard Mr. Dragonfly volunteer to help me train the young grape vines.

DF2E3819-B11C-4FFE-BEFF-48AA1D0B61A6The roses aren’t happy suffering through brambles and grasses, but they’re handling their neglect with grace nonetheless.

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But, there should be butterflies all over these zinnias, and that’s cause for concern.

Which then reminds me, it must be cocktail hour.  Like Grandma used to say, “It’s 5:00 somewhere!”

 

Gates Solves Pooh (again)

I just love the high tech solutions and big global money that pours into problems once solved long ago before the oligarchs in control of the tape worm economy started sucking the world dry.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spends $200 million on toilet technology!

No, the problem is surely not that mass overpopulation in highly condensed areas is an obvious crisis for millennia, collapsing cultures repeatedly, because technology always has the next great solution.  Really!

As this fascinating documentary on the history of the toilet demonstrates, the rural folk of Wales have had the best toilet all along.  The composting toilet, no smell, no flies, then used to fertilize the garden.  But Gates call their chemical plans for the perfect toilet ‘sustainable’ and ‘green’, of course.  Because ‘green’ actually means $$$, for them!

Though you’ve got to leave it to the Japanese to take delicate matters to a whole new level.

This is well worth a watch, for those interested in crap that really matters.

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Cob house, waterless composting toilet

The Value of Venom

Honeybees know the value of their venom, they give their lives for it.  We know how precious is the value of the honeybees’ venom, understanding it as both cure and poison.

In natural healing bee venom is used for all sorts of cures, a number of them painful.  Honeybees can be merciless, even to each other, for the ‘greater good’.

What did I find today outside one of our hives but droves of drones, those are the males, kicked out by those bossy female workers who clearly decided they could no longer be supported. They will also kill and replace an unproductive queen without hesitation.

And me, being the opportunistic and cunning human that I am, collected these evicted dead bodies in order to make Podmore, considered an exceptional traditional medicine used to cure all sorts of ailments.

Quite unknown to American beekeepers, I wonder why, considering its value? Could it be they don’t like the thought or action of collecting dead bees?
Podmore

This reminds me of another big related beef I have with our current cultural climate: Weakness is not a virtue.  And neither is positivity.

I like the way Micheal Tsarion just put it in his last podcast, because I think it’s spot on. Our Prozac smile culture is in a “regressed state of animated autism.”

The Reign of the Terrible Mother

Optimistic bias undermines preparedness and invites disaster, according to sociologist Karen Cerulo.

In Barbara Ehrenreich’s 2009 book, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, she underscores how hard Americans have been working to adapt to the popular and largely unchallenged principles of the positivity movement, our reflexive capacity for dismissing disturbing news, whitewashing tragedy as a ‘failure of imagination’ and relentlessly spinning suffering as little more than a growth opportunity.

While in fact I am writing now out of a spirit of sourness and personal disappointment, unlike Ehrenreich according to her intro, I nonetheless find much value in her final paragraph: “Once our basic material needs are met—in my utopia, anyway—life becomes a perpetual celebration in which everyone has a talent to contribute.  But we cannot levitate ourselves into that blessed condition by wishing it.  We need to brace ourselves for a struggle against terrifying obstacles, both of our own making and imposed by the natural world.  And the first step is to recover from the mass delusion that is positive thinking.”

The bees know.

One of the very many things that fascinate me about the bees is that the Freemasons so covet it as a symbol.  I can imagine there are many reasons for this, most of which will probably remain a lifelong mystery to me.

At some point the bees simply refuse to adjust any more and they swarm, this is a natural, healthy, cyclical process, which most American beekeepers try to avoid at all costs.

We seem as a culture to abhor natural processes.

As cruel as this is sure to sound, could it be that maybe swarms and cullings are natural processes for humans as well as bees?

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Moving colony from nuc to permanent hive.  How you like my fancy paint job? 🙂

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Setting up a swarm trap. Open invitation to immigrants, move-in ready!

My new honeybee hero and virtual mentor: Dr. Leo Sharashkin!