Category Archives: Sustainability

The Beekeeper’s Guide

If you are thinking about keeping bees this year, now is the time to get started.  Get on the phone or the internet and place an order for a package of bees with your local supplier.  Your new bees will arrive around the middle of April and can be placed in their new hive box immediately.

Interested in learning more about beekeeping?

Why don’t you head over to Amazon and pick up my book, The Beekeeper’s Guide.  It will walk you through every step of your new beekeeping adventure.

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2 October, 2014 20:24

Here is the front mow strip with pavers.  Sorry the picture is a bit blurry–it was getting dusky and I was tired.  I’ll take a better picture tonight or tomorrow and post it without all the sand on top of the pavers.

 

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Paver Project

After over a decade of fighting a losing battle against the lawn (read: weeds) in my mow strip, I finally capitulated.  The past few weeks I have slowly pulled out the sod and stuffed it in my trash can.  I can only put a few pieces of sod in the trash cans each week otherwise the cans are too heavy for our local collector.  Reluctant to get dressed down yet again for overloading my trash cans, I have taken the very slow approach.  The mow strip consists of two sides with a tree in a dirt bed in the middle.  My plan has been to replace the grass with brick pavers and leave the tree box alone.  The limit on how much I can put in the trash cans has made it like a slow moving race against time in an effort to get the project done before the snow falls.  A race that I am currently losing.

Upon becoming aware that I was going to lose this race, and lose it bad, I decided to place the order for the pavers and have them delivered.  My new plan was to put in the pavers on the side I have fully pulled the lawn out from and then, when done that side, just pull out the rest of the sod and stack it in the circle.  Each week, as I place the trash cans out in the circle, I will throw a few pieces of the remaining sod in the cans.  It may look trashy, and my neighbors may be irritated, but I need to get this chore done before the snow comes.

The brick pavers were dropped off on Monday.  So on my way home from my day job, I stopped at the local Home Depot and picked up eight bags of sand and a couple other items I needed.  When I arrived home, I immediately got to work.  The dirt was mostly level and I spent a few minutes just getting out the last few tree roots and gluing a cap on the sprinkler pipe that is no longer needed.  You see, this is a hidden benefit of the change, grass demands water while pavers demand nothing.

The work progressed slowly.  I placed the first two lines of pavers down in about an hour.  Each one was carefully placed on a thin bed of sand.  The sand gives the pavers a nice, solid base to keep them level.  Then I hit my first snag.  The sprinkler pipe repair needed pipe glue and mine was bad.  Luckily a kind neighbor happened by and offered to go hunt me down a bit.  He found a can and brought it over.  With that quick repair done, I got back to laying bricks.  And then the rain started up.  Cold rain.  Not fun rain like you find in Hawaii.  I pushed through the cold and wet.  The rain stopped.  And now the light was fading.  Half of the one side was done.

I left the rest until tomorrow.  I think it looks pretty good.  I will post a couple pictures tomorrow of the project.

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Recent Book Release

I recently published a book on beekeeping.  If you are interested, you can find it here on Amazon.  The basic premise of the book is Beekeeping should be both fun and simple to do.  I teach you how to get started and then how to take care of your bees in simple, easy to follow steps.

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Keeping Chickens

Most Recent Chicks

Most Recent Chicks

About a year ago I started keeping chickens.  Ostensibly I purchased them to create a steady supply of food for the family table.  In reality, I think I have them just because I harbor dreams of living on a farm and being completely self-sufficient.  I already have several beehives.  But I digress.  No, we do not eat the chickens.  Just the eggs.  After having the chickens for over a year, I have decided that I really like having chickens and just received my next batch of baby chicks.  Before ordering, I had my children pick their favorite chickens so they could have them as “pets”.  Each of my girls got to pick their favorite.  My boy showed no interest in picking a chicken.   We ended up with a Rhode Island Red, two Barred Plymouth Rocks, a Partridge Silkie Bantam, a Blue Silkie Bantam, a White Crested Black Polish and a Golden Spangled Hamburg.  I purchased them from mypetchicken.com (who, by the way, are excellent to work with).  They showed up this past week.  I can’t wait until December–that is about when they should start laying eggs.

To detail the chicken saga, it started one day with a conversation between my wife and I.  She mentioned the greenhouse was not working.  It seemed to broil all our plants.  The weather just changes too fast where we live.  So I asked if I could take it down and build a chicken coop. It was agreed upon and work began.  I had practice building things since I finished our basement several years ago.  Quickly I laid out a plan, poured a 10 x 8 pad of cement, framed the walls, and then sheathed the frame with some nice outdoor paneling.  Then I stuck some sheeting on the roof, laid down tar paper and shingled it.  Finally I painted the whole inside a hideous color green because I had several gallons of leftover latex from a recent project.  It sounds really easy and fast–it was pretty easy overall but the fast part wasn’t happening.  ( In fact, the coop outside didn’t get painted until June.  And then, it only got finished because my wife and daughter finished it off one weekend when I was out of town. ) Then I moved the first batch of chickens in.  They seemed very happy.  I let them out frequently to run the yard and they absolutely loved those runs.  It took about four months until they were all laying.  Most days we get 4 to 6 eggs.  Quite a delight.  I think we only have purchased eggs from the store twice in the past eight months–once for a party we were hosting where omelets were to be the main meal and the second time for a heavy run of baking that cleaned us out.  If you are thinking of getting chickens–just do it.

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Making Applesauce and Bee Stings

Back to Basics Strainer

Back to Basics Strainer

Three and a half years ago we planted two apple trees.  One is a Fuji and the other is a Granny Smith.  This year, they actually produced enough apples that we had to do something rather than just try to eat them all.  So we made applesauce.  Last Saturday we started the first batch.  After picking about 20 gallons worth of apples (I just stuck them in five gallon buckets), I took them in the house and began to cut them up.  My wife and I cut each apple in half just to make sure there weren’t any bad spots.  It also makes it easier to boil them to a state of acceptable softness.  After cutting them, we would throw them in our largest kitchen pot and boil them for about 15 to 20 minutes.  When the apples were soft–I checked this by piercing them with a fork–we would take them out of the boiling water and start putting them into our Back to Basics Food Strainer.  This is a very handy tool if you don’t have one.  The kids would take turns with the crank.  As you turn the crank handle, the apples are forced through an ever narrowing cone and anything soft enough to squeeze through the fine mesh cone comes out in the form of applesauce.  The seeds, skin, and other strange pieces all come out the end into a separate area.  I fed this to the chickens.  The applesauce was transferred into quart jars.  Whenever we would get seven of the quart jars full of applesauce, we would process them for 30 minutes.  I know, if you live at sea level you only have to process them for 20 minutes.  But we live above sea level.  About 4500 feet above sea level.  And so we process our applesauce for 30 minutes.  The first night, I spent about four hours working on our applesauce project.  We got 14 quart jars of applesauce.

Yesterday, I came home from work early and started making more.  By now, the process was old hat to me and I was able to really get a move on.  In about 3 hours I picked all the rest of our apples and processed them from start to finish.  The result–18 more quarts of applesauce.  And a half a quart that just went right into the fridge for our eating enjoyment.  The only disaster was when I was out picking the next to last bucket of apples.  I went out barefoot–just like I always tell the kids not to do.  As I was coming down off the ladder, I stepped on a bee.  Dang stinger went right into my left foot about an inch or two below my toe line.  I pulled the stinger out but I knew I was in for a bit of trouble.  I tried to hurry and finish the last few runs of boiling and process apples.  But in the end, I couldn’t quite finish it all on my own.  My wife had to go out and pick the last half bucket of apples.  I got all the applesauce bottled and started processing.  I cleaned the counters, but I had to lean on my wife a bit to wash the Food Strainer.  My foot was a bit swollen.  In fact, by this time, I couldn’t move my toes very much because the bottom of my foot was so swollen.  So I chewed a bit of plantain leaf to make it soft and put it on the spot of the sting.  Then I held it on with a bag of ice.  Within minutes, the pain went away.  The swelling stopped getting worse.  And the rest of the night was kind of awkward.  It was like trying to walk around on a ping-pong ball.  But at least it didn’t get any worse.  I was amazed at how well the plantain worked.  It took all the pain of the sting right away.  A great chance to use an herbal remedy.

So I learned several things.  First, two apple trees make a lot of apples.  A lot of apples make a lot of applesauce.  I can’t imagine how much we are going to have next year.  The trees are still only about half as big as they will get.  We may end up with close to 100 quarts of applesauce a year by the time the trees are producing at their max.  Good stuff.  I also learned that wearing shoes when working near the beehives is a good idea.  And I learned that plantain really works.  If you ever get a bee sting–give it a try.  But if you are allergic–get to a doctor or hospital fast.  This is a great remedy for the rest of us who aren’t highly allergic to bee stings.

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