Friday, November 29, 2013

Post-Thanksgiving Wishes

I'm going to overlook the horrible things I've read people have done yesterday and today all in the name of a "good deal" (but SHAME on all of you) and just say I hope your Thanksgiving was...
.....filled with people you are close to and love

 .....comfortable and cozy

......and truly made you happy.
See you in December, my friends!

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cleaning up the Mess

Last week I said goodbye to the bees for the last time, in that I cleaned up the havoc the bear had wrought. 

The picture above is after the first time the bear visited and brought destruction.  I set the hives to rights afterward, got stung twice, (which took 2 weeks to go down) and left the bees alone.  When the bear came back, the scene was much worse and the bees were done for.  Total destruction.  Between that, and the fact that I've become quite allergic, it was time to give it up with the bees.  Disappointing?  Yes.  But necessary.  Twice I have tried, and twice I have failed.  I can take a hint--this is not for me.

So I cleaned up.  I picked up all the pieces that were widely scattered about and thought about any way at all to make the situation turn out to the positive.  There was no honey.  The bear had seen to that.  But there was wax, and I use the wax to wax my cheese with.  Hmmmm....if I could harvest that, I wouldn't have to buy wax, and then I could use it and the bees would not be a TOTAL loss (just mostly a loss).  So I spent several hours scraping the frames that were not completely shattered into a pot like so:

This is a messy, sticky job
And piled all the "cleaned" equipment neatly.

Definitely better than pieces strewn all over the yard, no?

I have rendered beeswax once before, and I remember nothing about how to do it.  What I do remember is what I will tell you here:  Never use anything in rendering beeswax that you want to either keep clean or use for something else.  Beeswax is so sticky, you're pretty much guaranteed to ruin anything you put it in.  That I knew.  But the rest?  I made up as I went along. 

First I put the bits in a pot that I will never use for anything else ever again.  Unfortunately, it was a small pot, so this all had to be done in many stages.  But I put the wax mess in the pot and added water.  Then I heated it up.

Why add water?  Wax burns, baby.  On top of that, there are so many disgusting things in the wax from a hive that you don't want in the wax from your hive, and all of it makes the wax stickier and then it won't separate out.  When the water is in there it will keep the dirt, and the the wax will be clean (presumably) and float on top of all the muckiness.  So it's a helpful thing.  Basically, you take this yucky mixture and heat it up to boiling and then let it boil for a while.


This smells pretty bad.  It's all full of dead bee bodies and icky bee stuff and probably larva and icky stuff like that, and it smells like beeswax (which is nice) and hot dirt (which is not).  But you can see that the wax is starting to separate here and cling to the spoon that I'll never use again for anything else ever.  Eventually, when you see a lot of yellow wax sort of floating in the mess, you pour it into your separator.

This is a highly technical tool, consisting of a piece of old window screen alligator clipped to a disposable turkey roasting pan.  Neither thing which can ever be used ever again for anything other than beeswax harvesting--trust me.

Anyway, you pour your smelly, messy goop into this, and the screen catches all the bee bodies and dirt and cooked larva bits, and the wax and dirty water go through.  Then you wait until the wax hardens on top of the water, and you scoop it out.

This wax is mostly clean, but still has some icky dirty things sticking to it's underside, so it's necessary to warm it all up and filter it again.

This time, don't use water.  Just break up the wax sheets and put them either in a double boiler, or just use a low, low heat.  Melt the wax and then filter it through here:

 This fine piece of craftsmanship is a plastic container from something someone ate once, with a nylon stocking over it.  It is very fancy.  The wax will drain through, like so:

And it will leave the mess on the top, like so:

 But through the stocking, all the nice beeswax will drip, and then you will have, after you have waited impatiently and stuck your finger in it a number of times, a nice cake of beeswax.  Taa daa!!

And that's how it works.  This a long process, and I can see why beeswax is so expensive to buy when I do this.  But I am happy that I did, because now I have more cheese wax, and the hives were not a TOTAL loss--just MOSTLY a loss.  It's so much better. 

The only thing I cannot tell you is why beeswax that I've rendered is so much yellower than anything I've ever bought.  It's probably got something to do with pollen in there or something, but I have no idea.  Either way, it's super yellow and smells nice, so that's alright with me. 

And there you go!  Now you know how to do it, so go on out and render some beeswax today!

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And PS--I finished a little table runner yesterday.  It was a kit given to me by a friend, which sat unopened for 3 years.  I finally opened it, and all told, it took me about an hour to make.  3 projects down!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Challenge For Myself

Every year I say the same thing: "This winter, I'm going to get some projects done." 

And every year it never happens. 

The projects I'm talking about are the kind of things like quilts and sewing projects that have been waiting for a long, long, long time.  I need to go back a little to tell the story, so if you'd indulge me for a moment, here it is.

Back when I was a suburban stay at home mom with two small children, I lived in my sewing room.  Every day I turned on my sewing machine, and I completed one quilt after another after another.  I spent the whole day in that room many times, because, other than taking care of my children (who were in school and preschool), gardening outside a bit on a small patch, and cleaning the house, I had nothing else to do.  It kept me busy, so it was good.  It was like my job, and I really enjoyed it.  I bought a lot of fabric, I tried a lot of new things, I was very creative. 

Fast forward a whole bunch of years and a lot of upheaval, and here I am, on a large patch of land with a lot of animals and a gigantic garden, and I spend no time in my sewing room.  There's no time to spend!  Between working, taking care of the animals and working the land, ha!  Sewing doesn't get done.

But there are many projects that I started long ago that moved with me and now hang out in the corner of this room, taunting me.  They have for years.  In fact, I figured it out last week, and the newest project of my unfinished project pile is 4 years old.  Others I don't even want to know how old they are--many, many moons.  It bothers me that they are there, incomplete.  And every year I decide I'm going to whittle down that pile, and every year I don't.  So this year, I am issuing a challenge to myself:  I WILL get that pile down!

So from time to time, expect a picture or two of a project that has been finished.  And yes, I will admit how long it's been sitting.  I'm going to start myself off here, and show you a couple I finished this past month, when things started to "slow down" for me.  Ready?

This one I started last year, so it's a young'un!
Nice, crooked picture.  :) 

Embroidery patterns were freebies from Red Brolly.  The rest I made up.

This one is 3 years old, and was waiting for embroidery and quilting.  I'm happy I got it done when it's still Autumn!!!

And now for a work in progress.  I should tell you that I can't just sit.  I have to have something to do with my hands, so usually I crochet or stitch.  I have been cross stitching since I was 11 or 12, so that's usually my fallback.  I don't do it too much anymore because there is never enough time when the days are long for me to sit and get into a large project--or there are just too many other things to do.  When I do do a cross stitch project, it's usually a small one.  However, this one I have wanted to do for maybe 6 or 7 years.  Finally I started it, and I am going to finish it by December 2nd, because I have a framing coupon I want to use on it.  If I miss that deadline, then this project is going to go with the many others that have been finished and will never be framed.  That's a sad place to be, so I'm trying to get it done.  Anyway, I started 2 weeks ago, and this is where it is now:

I will get it done!  Or die trying.  :)

And that's it.  Definitely not my normal post, but if you see a picture of a finished something on here from time to time this winter (and you will!), you'll know why!
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Friday, November 15, 2013

Looking Back to Move Ahead

Today I get older. 

Ok, ok, we all get older every day, I know.  But today it's "official", as it's my birthday.

I usually spend the day (or part of it) thinking about what I've done this year, how many things I've accomplished, what went wrong, what went right.  And then I'd share it with you.  But I'll be repeating myself on New Year's, most likely, so I think instead of giving you a long, long list of highlights and lowlights, I think I will:
  • Have more coffee
  • Listen to Christmas carols in the car (because I'm not allowed to in the house--YET)
  • Clean the house a bit
  • Bake some chocolate chip cookie bars (before my children and husband eat ALL the chocolate chips)
  • Go outside and sit with my goats (It's my birthday--just pretend I don't do that every day, ok?) 
  • Work on a little quilt that's been waiting
  • Scritch a purring kitty or two
  • Look back and be proud
  • Look around and be thankful
  • Look ahead and be hopeful
And I think that'll about cover it.  I hope you all have a wonderful day as well!

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Putting My Ducks in a Row


My long-ish term sub assignment ended on Wednesday in a flurry of activity.  The job was always very complex, but Wednesday was super busy on top of all that.  This is pretty typical for me, and I think anytime I've ever been leaving something or ending something, I will have lots and lots of quiet days UNTIL the last day, which will be completely insane.  I never seem to go out quietly.  :)

 Anywho, the job I did was complicated, and except for a little previous experience when I had subbed for the same woman here and there, I had no idea what I was doing, and made it up as I went along--and I asked a lot of questions.  As time went on, I figured it out, and then I wasn't as lost as I was in the beginning, and then the job got fun, and the people warmed up to me, and I to them, and it got to be a really nice place to work.  And in the end, I was sorry to go.  Most surprisingly, they were sorry to see me go, and my last day I came in to find that I had flowers and a lovely card waiting for me on my desk.  I got hugs from everyone.  I was beyond touched, and yes, I cried a couple of times.  They grew on me, that group.  They really, really did.  I miss them already.  Luckily, I will be back there from time to time, and we'll see where it goes from there!

So yesterday I was back home.  I decided to take yesterday and today off, since Monday is a holiday, and take the 5 days to catch up.  Yesterday I ran some errands and moved furniture.  Actually, that's not the truth.  My husband moved the furniture because he "felt like it", and I just cleaned it up and worked on a project that needed working on--the hooks we use to have our kids hang their school stuff from.  Despite heavy duty wall-anchors, the hooks ripped right out of the wall, making a hell of a mess.  I have repaired the tears, and am working on getting the hooks mounted to wood, drilled right into the studs of the wall, so it doesn't happen again.  I'm about done, and will finish today, I think.

 In addition, I made some cheese--pepper jack!  I dehydrated a few jalapenos from the garden, a small bell pepper, and some cayenne that I had hanging in the dining room (doesn't EVERYONE have cayenne peppers hanging in their dining rooms?) and cut them up to teeny pieces and put them in the curds before pressing.  It looks gorgeous, albeit a bit lumpy, because monterey jack tends to settle fast, under small amounts of weight.  With the fancy brick method I use (ie: putting bricks on top of the mold to act as weights--it's very technical), I usually wind up with a somewhat lopsided monterey jack, as the bricks sit more on one spot than on the other, and the curds are very soft and can settle unevenly.  But it's my birthday next week, and a little bird has told me that there may be a cheese press in my future.  That would certainly solve that problem!

.....And my son was just reading this over my shoulder and said "It's your birthday next week???".  Aaaaaaahhh, I feel SO loved.

OH boy.

Today I will finish that hook project and then go outside to clean out the coops, because the chicken coop is about a month overdue for it's heavy duty fall cleaning and NEEDS it.  I also need to get to the ducks and geese and their houses as well.  So I'll be busy again, but it'll be good busy, as always.

In other news, Cynthia hits the big 8 month mark on Wednesday, which would mean time for breeding.  However, Cynthia, my little free goat who was given to me as "payment" for work I did for someone, has not grown ONE iota over the summer and is nowhere near the 80 pound mark that I use as a yardstick for breeding readiness.  (All right, maybe she's grown 1/2 an iota.  But she's still nowhere near the right size).

Old picture, but she's not much bigger than this now
Cynthia has grown a bit, but at 8 months, she is smaller than the three "Nupines" born this June--even the bottle fed girls, who are always smaller than a dam nursed baby, like Tallulah.  So methinks I have a "Minimancha" on my hands.  Cynthia was one of two, and first born.  It makes her unlikely to be a runt.  Cynthia's mom was small, and her dad seemed very small to me, especially knowing the size of other bucks.  Dulcinea, who is also a LaMancha, is not as big as Minerva and Lilly, who are Alpines.  However, she was never this small.  Either Cynthia is going to have a HUGE growth spurt over the winter, or daddy had some pygmy in him (which is what I thought when I saw him), and it came out in little Cynthia.  My bet is on the latter.  Either way, if Cynthia doesn't surprise me by growing a huge amount in a short time, I'll have to start looking into finding her a male her size.  My boys are too big for her, and that won't go well.  If she never gets big, though, I will always have a lap-sized goat to cuddle.  And let me tell you, that's not a bad thing.  I love my Min, but 110 pounds of goat on one's lap is no pleasure.  Mostly she's all front knees when she tries.  But having a little 50 pound dumpling sit with you, that's a sweet thing.  She's like a REALLY big cat.

And speaking of....  

Thank you for all your kind words about Icky.  He did come in, and it was the right decision.  Icky's natural state of being is "purr".  He can be picked up and hugged and the motor runs right away.  You can stop and pet him, and the motor starts going.  He always wants to see where we are going and usually will either follow, or wait for us.  He has stopped fighting with everyone, except for when they all feel like fighting, which cats sometimes do.  He's not singling anyone out, though, and honestly has blended in like he's been here forever. 

And it feels like he has.  It's funny, but I do think that cat knew that this was going to be the way it was.  When you call his name he turns and looks at you, and he will hold your gaze while you talk to him.  He's a special one, that's for sure.  I feel very lucky I came upon him in the road that day.

And I think that's about it.  I'm off to finish one job and start another.  Have a great day, my friends!!

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