Wow.  I continue to be amazed at how life fills all the time you have!  I really thought when I retired from the rat race that I’d have too much free time and might even get bored.  Especially when I headed to the Harn on my own, I thought there could be a chance of feeling like I was too isolated and alone.  But that is SO FAR from my reality.

What’s been happening in the past week for me? 

Last weekend Dan and I were down in Alexandria.  Dan helped do some electrical work for a friend and we got to check in with Mom and Tom a bit.  We took a bit of a day off Monday as I think I got exposed to a cold virus while in the Cities.  It was a cold, rainy day anyway and, while I didn’t really have yucky cold symptoms, I did have some morning congestion and just felt like resting after a few busy days.  So there was lots of cuddling with Lucky and some napping.  I did check out the pond Dan dug while I was away and that was pretty cool; loaded videos on that and the potato planting the next morning as we headed to Bemidji.

We were able to finally secure a cistern to replace our broken one.  Kind of bummed that we are going from 1500 gallons to 500 gallons but it’s better than just losing all that water back to the land.  It’s been a pretty dry spring so we need water for the gardens.  Even with hugelkulture, we still have to water some of the time when we go for a long stretch without any rain.  Plus we are nurturing the orchard plants a bit and I continue to plant more stuff!  Connie and Mom, and now Sherry and Char are making the Harn grounds GROW.

We gave our presentation on the Harn for the Leech Lake Tribal College and it was good to present our story as a couple of new homesteaders focused on sustainability and living in harmony with Earth, Water, and Other Beings in Nature.  We were able to discuss some of the things that we are doing to live more lightly and one of the attendees noted that making a commitment to changing just one thing can be a step in moving forward.  I agree.  So, what’s the one I recommend?  OK, my pet peeve is watching someone wash dishes or brush their teeth while the water runs continuously.  So my suggestion is to change how you brush.  I use a glass of water to brush my teeth.  I dip the brush in the water and suds up my teeth.  When I’m finished with all the brushing, I take a mouthful of water and rinse, spitting the rinse water over my brush.  I do this a couple times and then rinse the brush with water from the glass a final time.  All the water is used.  None just runs down the drain without doing a job for me.  If we all did this, we could save thousands of gallons a year!  I also use a plastic tub when washing dishes for wash and rinse water which drastically reduces the water needed.  Any water I run is over these tubs so it is used a couple times.

I spent a couple days working with my bee hives.  On Wednesday I checked the hives for the first time since receiving them.  {Every day I’d hoped to check up to this point had been windy or cold and just not optimal for checking on the bees.  It was still windier than I’d like but it was sunny and far too long since I’d gotten the girls, so I went for it.}

First I opened up the weaker hive and saw kind of what I expected… low population and little brood.  There was honey and pollen being stored but it just seemed like not a lot happening.  Also, I noted lots of dead bees on the bottom board under the frames and it just seemed sloppy – quite un-beelike.  I was not able to find a queen and wondered if they had one.  Next I went to the active hive.  This hive had a damaged bottom board so I’d gotten a hive box with bottom board from Angie at Split Oak Farms and planned to transfer all the frames from the old hive box to this new box.  The old bottom board on the hive box had a space at the back lower corner where the bees seemed to love exiting and entering the hive.  Luckily, the new hive box from Angie had a hole in the back which I knocked out to hopefully give them a similar situation for access.

I began by pulling the hive box with bottom board from the pallet and then I put the new hive box on the pallet where the stronger hive box had been.  When I opened up the hive, I was ecstatic to find a hustling, bustling bunch. I started pulling frames to see how things looked and there were LOADS of bees.  I pulled each frame and placed it into the new hive box.  There was a little tightness but everything fit. This hive box hadn’t been used in a while so I had to squish the frames in a bit at one point.  I was trying to check for the queen but mostly I just wanted to see what was happening and get them re-housed in the new hive.  It was obvious there was a queen as I saw LOTS of brood (workers and drones).  I kept moving frames and ALL the frames had activity.  I thought there might be a queen cell developing (which can be a sign of pending swarm – the hive will start to raise a new queen so the old queen can take a part of the colony and head out to find a new space while the new queen continues in the old location).  With all this activity, I knew it was time to add a second hive box for the bees to expand their operations. I again did not see the queen but, since I was working on moving them, and I was struggling with the smoker staying primed, I just got them moved with the new addition and closed everything up.

I planned to call Lewis when I got back to the Harn but… as is typical, something distracted me.  I don’t know what I did really with the rest of the day but I kept busy.  I spoke with a retired friend in Alex this weekend and she agreed that this is how life works for her too.  She is constantly busy but couldn’t tell you with what.  That is totally it!  Maybe it’s cooking, cleaning up, reading, getting a call – whatever, it definitely makes for staying busy!  And I’m super happy.

Thursday I called Lewis to ask his advice on the bee situation.  He noted that he’d given a frame of brood to the weaker colony prior to giving it to me, which he had told me when we picked up the hives, but we agreed that didn’t seem to have done the trick.  He suggested moving a second frame of capped brood (mostly developed and ready to hatch worker bees) from the strong to the weak hive.  BUT… if I did this, I had to be SURE not to transfer a frame with the queen from the strong hive into the weak hive. I questioned whether that queen would be in the top hive box, but Lewis was sure the queen would still be in the lower hive box, since I’d just added the top box yesterday.  Since I was going to be heading to Alex to meet with Mom the next day, I knew I needed to do this that day.  I tried calling in a beekeeper friend but couldn’t get in touch with anyone so… I headed out to give it a whirl!

I pulled the weak hive top cover and checked a couple center frames – smoker working better today but I was still nervous about how much time I’d have so I worked quickly.  I was able to find the queen on the weak hive right away!  I pulled a side frame with almost no activity and put it aside.  Then I headed to the strong colony and pulled the top cover and flipped it over.  I set the top hive on the cover so just in case my queen was in top, she wouldn’t drop into the grass.  I pulled a frame and checked it for brood and didn’t see the queen. As I placed the frame into the weak colony, Dan asked about the bees on the frame… I hadn’t asked Lewis about that so, I hope those worker bees are OK in their new location.  🙂 A fellow beekeeper thinks that perhaps those bees will fly back to their home hive.  We’ll see.  I looked at some more frames (spent more time than I realized…) but didn’t find her.  I am sure hopeful she is still in the strong colony hive box!   I did confirm a couple queen cells developing in the strong colony so, I should be OK regardless but it definitely will lose me a few weeks if I put the strong queen in the weak hive box.  So much to learn…

Here’s a couple videos:

In addition to beekeeping, I also started some seeds that afternoon.  I know, I’m WAY behind schedule.  But, we’ll see.  Some people aren’t putting out plants until mid-June.  I figure we’ll see how things go and I’ll probably get a few plants from the nursery or friends.  Char says she’s got a few things for me.  God love her!  She’s really helping this homestead to start out with a lot of help garden wise.  Oh, and we watched the Bee Movie – you know, the one with Jerry Seinfeld – and I realized how much of a load of crap that movie is!  I mean, the main character is a BOY BEE!  And so much of the film focuses on guys doing all this work.  What BULLSHIT!  It’s the GIRL BEES that do ALL the work!  I mean, besides that donation of sperm from the drones, everything that happens in the hive is done by the females.  Ah, so frustrating.  It’s definitely an interesting experience to watch this movie now that I know so much more about bees.  It’s fascinating to see all the social aspects of that film – the mosquito is a black dude (Chris Rock – a fave!) and there is so much on that topic I could spout off about too.  Anyway, if you watch it, look for all the conditioning.  It’s annoying but helps you realize how we socialize ourselves with film.  Guess I expected more from Jerry.  Oh, and we saw lightening bugs tonight when we went out to pee.  A little phenology for you.

I started off Memorial Day weekend (holidays mean nothing to me anymore) with a trip to Mom’s.  I was getting the truck title transferred and was gonna go with her to the doctor.  I am SO GLAD I got there in time for that as I think it was a help for me to be with her.  She did SO much better getting this shot than she’d done in the past.  I think part of it was being a tough momma in front of her baby.  🙂  I was also able to sneak in a visit to Cherry Street Books to see Anne and that was wonderful.  I am so glad she was hired to take my vacancy – I definitely feel like she’s a well-read and customer-focused person.  I was able to see book club buddy Mary too and that was fun.  I really miss everyone from the book store world.

I also stopped by Special Memories to see Marlys. She’d just put away a puzzle so I didn’t get a chance to find a few pieces but it was really great to catch up with my old friend.  And then I headed to 2 Guyz Pizza for my favorite GF pizza.  Mom’s favorite is the 2 Guyz Favorite – so that’s easy to remember!  They are top notch!  http://www.2guyzpizza.com/ I think Tom was happy to have pizza too so we had a great evening.  Even opened up a bottle of Sauterne – definitely Tom’s fave!   After dinner, Mom and I headed down to the lake shore for some plant gathering – she had some iris and a French lilac she wanted me to have.  Plus we had to burn sticks!  (Mom’s second favorite thing after mowing the lawn on her rider.)  All in all, it was a relaxing and fun evening.

Saturday I packed up and then Mom and I grabbed a couple of “Rita’s Hostas” for me to take up to the Harn.  She threw in a few more things that had grown into the driveway while I showered.  More planting!  And then I headed north as Mom got on her mower. 🙂

I was headed to the Nemeth Art Center for the Beagle and Wolf Bookstore’s book signing for Amy Thielen’s Give a Girl a Knife5-27-17 Me and Amy ThielenThis is a fun memoir of her adventures in NY and in coming home to MN.  She really recommends coming home.  I hope to read it soon.  So, anyway, I was hoping to hook up with new friends Bruce and Cheryl and also to see Amy’s husband Aaron again; we’d met him briefly at Bruce & Cheryl’s.  He adorable.  He had a load of colostrum for Amy.  The only reason I knew this word was because I nursed my son so I was a little concerned about what she might be making with it.  I had to ask.  I introduced myself to her at the end of the gig and she said she actually froze that, took it to NY, and made them a pudding out of it!  (It was cow colostrum.)  I also explained to her about how her show gave my mom hope for me to be a TV star when I moved out to the woods – not gonna happen – and how my husband was tired of hearing about how adorable Aaron is.  Not sure that was what she wanted to hear so I didn’t tell her that he’s now going to get tired of me talking about how adorable SHE is.  And she is!!  She is so tiny!  But she’s a giant bubble of personality. The event was Standing Room Only. She did a short reading from the book on arrival and people who were late missed it.  It was a cute story on working in NY while pregnant.  She’s super cheeky!  I realized her short reading was so she could spend the majority of the time socializing with her fans.  She was so happy to see everyone that I swore she knew them all for years.  Aaron assured me she didn’t know the people she was with when I mentioned to him how she seemed to know EVERYONE.  She is just a super fun and hospitable Midwestern girl.  Just don’t call her a Homestead Honey… or so says Bruce. 🙂

I have to share that this Nemeth Art Center is a hidden gem.  http://www.nemethartcenter.org/about.html  They have a standing Gabor and Edith Nemeth Study Collection that includes 42 European paintings, some dating back to the 16th Century.  They accompany this with amazing contemporary art. There is also a quaint historical museum downstairs.  What a fun place.  And the guy who runs it, Michael Dagun, is pretty amazing too.  Friendly and welcoming – you need to check this place out.  There’s an upcoming Opening Reception & Symposium June 24th from 2 – 5 pm for their current exhibition.  I’m hoping to make it…

After that fun I headed to the Mississippi Headwaters Hostel to talk with Sara about work schedule plans.  I stopped by Rock Creek to fill up on gas, pulling in right behind Kelly.  I think I came around the corner a bit too fast for her…  I swung wide at the corner so I wasn’t RIGHT on her butt but I’m thinking it was a little too close for a momma with kids in the car.  :-/  So much for not tailgating people anymore!  I guess it is rare these days but I definitely see how when I’ve got a TON of stuff happening, it’s easier to slip into driving a bit faster too.  Have to watch that…

I ended up spending quite a bit of time talking with the guests at the hostel and checking in with Sara – it had been a while since I’d seen her.  I imagined, years ago when she was about the only person we knew up here, that once we lived here, we’d see her all the time.  But she’s so busy and we’re so busy that it’s lucky if I see her once a month!  We talked about everything that’s been going on since we last chatted and then put in some screens and moved storm windows down to the basement so I earned a few bucks too!  I really love working at the hostel; it’s fun meeting people from all over.  There are loads of great stories to hear.

Lucky was happy to have me home to feed him later that evening.  He whined and cried to me about how lonely he’d been.  And then he curled up with me a kept me warm all night long.

Dan’s coming home from his weekend at the Boundary Waters for Cliff’s Bachelor party – sounds like they had a super time.  It will be good to see him.  And we’ll start another busy week.  We’ll be heading to Char & Wyatt’s for a cookout Memorial Day but will likely also sneak in some Yarn Basket shop organization and maybe putting up some light fixtures.  There’s always something to keep you busy once you’re “retired”!!