Welcome to our 1864 farmhouse…life is good!

Monday, October 22

thanks, Capper's Farmer!

A heartfelt "Thanks!" to the publishers of Capper's Farmer for including me in their first-ever Winter 2012 holiday bookazine!


Filled to the brim with handmade gift ideas, yummy recipes, and inspiration for old-fashioned holidays, I'm tickled the publishers of GRIT magazine invited me to join them in this issue.

If you flip through the bookazine to page 12, you'll find the story of how we roast a turkey in our 1860-tin kitchen (reflector oven). It's oh-so easy, and has a delicious, truly roasted flavor. And...roasting it this way frees up the oven for all those Thanksgiving rolls and pies!

You can find out more about the bookazine by clicking here, or if you subscribe to GRIT Country digitally, you'll see it there as well.

A happy, happy Monday...thanks again GRIT & Capper's!

Wednesday, October 17

prepping the hive for winter...

Just like everything else on the farm, it's time to prepare for winter. So we're putting the garden to bed, stacking straw bales around the coop, and creating cozy corners for barn cats. It's also time for the beehive to be readied for winter, and this is a new experience for us.

Our bees arrived in July, and so far they've worked hard drawing out foundation and prepping themselves for the season to come. The bee inspector was out last Saturday, and he says we have plenty of honey stores for them to overwinter and that everything in the hive looks just right...yay, that's good news!

So what are we doing to prepare them for winter? Well, here's what we've done so far. Now by no means are we experts, this is, after all, our first beehive. But with endless reading and talking with other beekeepers, we've completed the following...

Keep inspecting the hive to make sure the queen is there or that eggs are easily seen. (our queen is marked, and was easy for us to spot...all is well!)

Continuously check honey supplies for winter (this food storage will keep them alive through the cold months). We have an 8-frame, medium hive, so our hive body consists of 3 boxes. An inspection told us that all frames are filled, but also lifting the hive from behind is a clue to how much food storage the bees have. Having lifted several 50-pound chicken feed sacks, the weight was familiar to me, and the hive was difficult to budge. Again, a good sign that it weighs the 60 to 100 pounds that it should.

Feed the colony a 2:1 sugar-syrup mixture. Following the Beekeeping for Dummies instructions, we boiled 2-1/2 quarts of water, turned off the heat and added 10 pounds of white sugar to the mixture. Stirring until dissolved, I then added 2 tablespoons of Honey B Healthy to the mixture. Last month,
I also added Fumagilin-B to protect them against Nosema. (1 teaspoon in 1/2 c. cold water stir to dissolve, then added to the sugar mixture...this is only added to the first 2 gallons of syrup mixture.)

Monitor the syrup mixture...we'll keep feeding them until they stop taking the syrup or until the daytime temperatures drop into a consistent high only in the 40's.

 I've glued craft sticks/Popsicle sticks to the 4 corners of the inner cover's flat side. This will give the bees ventilation during the winter...it's important to keep the condensation from dripping back on them as ice-cold water.

A metal mouseguard was put in place to allow the bees easy in & out access, but to keep mice
(who are looking for a cozy winter home) outside...where they belong! 


So that's our routine for fall. As November approaches, we plan to wrap the hive in black tar paper to help it absorb heat (leaving the entrance open). We'll also stack straw bales or provide another sort of windbreak from the harsh winds, and finally place bricks on the hive cover to keep it in place during those strong winds.

We plan to make a ventilation box to place on top of the hive...an empty super with a screened bottom and several screened ventilation holes drilled in the sides. The box is then filled with sawdust or insulation. More reading up on this is needed, as is the suggestion that we keep the feeder on during the winter. I was told the heat from the hive will keep the syrup mixture from freezing, but my worry is that in opening the hive to refill the feeder, I'll chill the bees.

And so it means there is more reading to do, and much to learn. We've found that there are many opinions from various beekeepers, and many options when it comes to what's "right" in his hobby!  And with that said, I do welcome any beekeeper comments...it's always good to learn what's worked and not worked for you. Your input is appreciated!


Wednesday, October 10

fall magic...

The days are crisp now and the colors glorious. Bittersweet tangles over old wooden fences, the scent of woodsmoke is in the air each evening, and fields are covered with burgundy, gold, and russet leaves. This magical time of year has always been my favorite season, and I continue to be astonished by it's beauty.

The temperatures are below normal this fall, making us wonder if winter will be harsh. So amid the fun of hanging bunches of Indian corn, setting out arrangements of mums, and carving pumpkins, we're stacking firewood, bundling up the chicken coop, and reading up on how to keep the beehive warm & snug during its first winter on the farm.

October is a time of harvest...the fields of corn and soybeans that once surround our home have been removed, and our own garden has been put to bed for winter. Except; however, for two prolific pepper plants which continue to shower us with their bounty...I just couldn't pull them up yet! It's a time for tucking away baskets of potatoes in the root cellar and stocking up on needfuls for the winter days ahead. We feel an old-fashioned stirring that it's best to be ready for cold and snowy weather.

Apples are plentiful at the local farmers' markets, and in country kitchens everywhere, October means apple butter, jams & jellies are being put up for winter. Two of our favorites from the farmers' market are Dutch Apple Jam and Apple-Cinnamon Jelly...they are so good spread on warm rolls, buttery biscuits, or just-baked bread.

Yes, these clear October days are worth enjoying to the fullest. It's a fine time to walk a country road, bike thorough fallen leaves, or simply putter outside. These days are made for warming the heart when winter's chill arrives.

As I've heard, "Life is a series of memories..." so let's fill October with the best memories possible.

~fetch a plump pumpkin and give it a cheery grin
~take a walk, a  hayride, a Sunday drive and enjoy the brilliant trees
~rake all the leaves in your yard...then jump in them!
~visit a local orchard or farmstand...bring home a basket of juicy apples
~sit by the fire and read
~travel the back roads
~put extra quilts on the bed
~make s'mores around a campfire & tell stories
~laugh, make memories, enjoy every minute...

Wednesday, October 3

rainy day barns...

It's a rainy day in the Midwest, and that means "check beehive" has been moved to another day's to-do list.

However, the rain didn't keep me from capturing photos of old wooden barns along the nearby country roads. "Real" barns...not manufactured and delivered, not shiny & new, but barns with history, barns with heart. 

If only they could talk.

This barn, situated on a state route, was most recently a tanning salon...imagine!
What I love is the glass addition to the left...it could be a wonderful greenhouse.

The cupola atop the barn has windows that would have let light in and allowed hot air to escape.
It is certainly an elegant reminder of our heritage.
The weather vane, along with several lightning rods, caught my eyes as well.

This barn, with it's rounded roof, sits alongside a very old brick farmhouse on a winding country road.

Behind the barn, silos & grain bins can be seen. To the barn's left, yet out of sight, is another very large barn.
This must have been quite a busy homestead when it was a full-time farm.
Why did I spent part of a rainy morning photographing barns?

Well, it seems these barns, so full of history & American heritage, are becoming things of the past. Before I saw another one torn down, or drove by the burning remains of what once was, I wanted to capture all of them that I could.

As I've said in the past, while the thought is sad, I fear that these vanishing landmarks will soon exist only through photography.
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