Travel Itinerary

2012-05-17_1375021   Subscriber-false   Marketing-true   Newsletter-false   RegYSNewsletter-false  MicroTransactions-false

Okay…after spending four+ years thinking about this trip, planning this trip, and changing my mind frequently on what to see and where to go, it’s now pretty much set in stone. So here it is:

September 15th: Board plane for Iceland. I don’t know guys. I may be more excited to be in Iceland than any other part of my trip. The more I look at pictures/read about it, the more it just calls to my soul.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/75736121″>BEYOND NATURE Iceland Timelapse – 아이슬란드</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/aprilgarden”>aprilgarden</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p> <p>BEYOND NATURE Iceland Timelapse<br /> <br /> 2013 July. 9 ~ 16 <br /> <br /> – Music : Rise by Tony Anderson<br /> – Samsung Galaxy NX / 12-24 / 30 / 50-200mm<br /> – http://www.aprilgarden.com<br /> – aprilgarden Film (4월의 정원 필름)<br /> – aprilgarden@gmail.com<br /> <br /> <br /> BEYOND NATURE II Bolivia & Chile Timelapse release a film : https://vimeo.com/aprilgarden/videos</p&gt;

September 16, 17, 18th: Iceland.  I have booked tours of the South Shore, as well as horse riding over a lava field, and a tour of geysers and waterfalls. I’m taking an extra bag so I can break my “only carryon luggage” on the return flight. I have discovered that wool yard is actually a lot cheaper in Iceland than in the states, and I am completely in love with Icelandic wool. So I may just have to fill that suitcase, and mail it home once I reach London.

September 19th: Flight to London. The one thing I have absolutely planned for this date is watching the premiere of season 9 of Doctor Who in London! In the theater, if they do a big screen airing…otherwise I made sure my hotel has a television.

September 20th: London. Tour of Highgate Cemetery, canal ride in Little Venice, and shopping the Camden Markets.

September 21 – 22nd: In the morning, I have a tour booked of the Royal Opera House. Then, I will meet up with my friend Alberta and take the train to Leeds Castle, where we have a room booked. I also have an Owl Experience booked at Leeds Castle!  We return to London on the 22nd, just in time to attend a theatre performance of The Woman in Black. I hear it’s terrifying. I hope so! My second friend, Bonnie, will be flying in on the 22nd to join us as well, but she’s not into being scared, so she is going to see Shakespeare at the Globe instead. Wuss. ;)

September 23rd: Oxford. All three of us are taking the train for the day to Oxford. I’m particularly interested in seeing the world of C.S. Lewis. He’s probably done more than any author in shaping my inner self.  Tolkien – and Harry Potter film sites – are also a big draw.  If the weather allows, we plan to go punting.

September 24th: Alberta leaves us to go to Iceland, so Bonnie and I (as the two Harry Potter fanatics) are going to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour.  When we get home, we’ll take in a Cabaret/Burlesque show.

September 25th: Bonnie and I will visit Kensington Palace, and the V&A museum. In the evening, I catch the sleeper train to Scotland, while Bonnie remains behind for another day in London, then Paris.  I’m excited about the sleeper train – it’s something I’ve always wanted to do!

September 26th: I wake up in Edinburgh! Today I will hit all the major sites of the Royal Mile.  Including, of course, The Elephant House Cafe, where Rowling worked on her writing. In the evening, I will take a ghost/history walking tour.

September 27th: Today is my chance to get outside of Edinburgh, and see a little bit of the rest of Scotland. I’ve booked with a small group that visits Loch Ness, Glencoe, and the Highlands.

September 28th: I return to England, via the coastal train. On the way, I’ll hop off at Alnwick Castle. Some of my ancestors lived here, scenes from Harry Potter were filmed here, and they have a fabulous poison garden. Afterward, I’ll continue to York, my next destination.

September 28 – 29th: York. I have nothing specifically booked here, but this is one of those beautiful cities with fantastic history. I’ve always wanted to visit.

September 30th: Leave York for Bath, and on the way, I’ll stop at Hardwick Hall. It was built by my favorite ancestor, Bess of Hardwick – the second most interesting and dominant English woman of her time. (The first being Elizabeth I.)

October 1st: Bath. I’ve been to Bath once before, all too briefly. I have a session at the Fashion Museum’s Study Facilities. They are going to pull some extant examples of beetlewing embroidery, 1830s dresses, and maybe an Edwardian evening dress or two, and I will get to have a couple of hours of hands-on playtime. Photographs are allowed!  In the evening, I want to visit Thermae Bath Spa, and have a soak in the rooftop pool.  Bliss….

October 2nd: Daytrip from Bath to the Cotswolds. I plan on visiting several small villages and just wandering around…  At some point, I’ll be taking a hot air balloon ride over Bath. Haven’t quite decided on a time yet.

October 3rd: Train back to London. I might stop off at Salisbury on the way for a couple of hours. I just have to get back to London by 3pm for my tour of the Angels Costumiers.

October 4 – 5th: Early flight from London, and one night, two days in Venice.

October 6th: One last day in London! In the evening, I have tickets to see Raven Girl, a ballet at the Royal Opera House based on Audrey Niffenberger’s book. In the day, I plan on doing some shopping.

October 7th: Flight home.

I’m quite pleased with this itinerary – it mingles all the history, geekery, and costuming I can fit in, plus a number of things I’ve always wanted to do, and never have. It’s also a bit of a research trip, since after I publish the time travel trilogy I’m currently working on, my next two series will be Victorian Steampunk, and Elizabethan Steampunk. It will be very helpful to be able to actually see/experience the same things as my heroines. And, I’ve spent all the time I wanted, enjoying the anticipation and planning stages. I’m ready to go!

Travel Plans Update

It’s been awhile since my last post on my travel plans, and wow – it’s less than three months before I leave! September 15th is SO impossibly close now.

Remember there was Plan A (Iceland, England, and Egypt) and Plan B (Iceland, England, and Someplace Else)? And the decision between the two was really difficult. I went with Plan A largely because of the Egyptian Revolution, and my hope that I’d be able to get into the country while the hoards of tourists were still too afraid to travel there, but before anything major blew up again. I’m good with some civil unrest.  But after it has become pretty clear that the Muslim terrorists attacking the current government are changing their tactics from attacking government buildings and officials, to striking the government where it hurts more – in the tourist trade – I’m almost 100% decided to go with Plan B. I’m not comfortable with the recent gunfire at the pyramids, and the suicide bombers at Karnak Temple.  It makes me very sad for the Egyptian people though – tourism was just beginning to recover, and they depend upon it so very much.

So, Plan B. Iceland, England, and Venice! I’ll take the ten days I was going to have in Egypt and visit York, Bath, Oxford, Salisbury, the Cotswolds and still have one night in Venice.

veniceAlso, I’ll have time for a few more experiences I’ve always wanted – like hot air ballooning over Bath.

slide2871I’m pretty terrified of heights, but I love to do things to challenge that fear. A few years ago, I did this, and it pretty much took all the courage I had, and it was awesome.

I’m also spending a couple of days in the Penzance/Mousehole/St. Ives area, via the sleeper train from London. Taking a sleeper train has long been something I’ve been dying to do.  And the beaches/coast? So pretty!

st-ives-harbourjpgI hope it’s nice while I’m there. Or stormy.  One of the two!

I’ve also been shopping for travel things. I found this wonderful skirt on Amazon. It really is fabulous; I love the fabric it’s made from. So comfy and cute, and I’ll be able to dress it up or dress it down.  I think I want one in every color for when I’m home. It’s very soft and squishy, so it will pack extremely well. That’s important, because I’m taking ONE carry on bag…and it’s even smaller than the airline’s limit! Seriously, if I weren’t doing active things like riding horses, I wouldn’t bring pants at all. Skirts are so much more comfortable, packable, and versatile.  Did I ever mention that I do all my outdoor work and gardening in a skirt?

skirt

 

I found a great day pack/purse for my “one additional personal carry on item”.  It’s just large enough for my kindle, journal, and of course my various important papers.

And my big splurge – I bought this gorgeous and wonderful new camera.

cameraI’ve had it for a few months now, and I love it to pieces. It’s everything I ever wanted in a camera.

And while I’m on the subject of reviewing products, I just remembered that I never said how I liked my experience wearing Jamberry nail wraps.  Boo.  Hiss. That was a HUGE disappointment.  First of all, they do last quite a long time (I wore mine nearly two weeks before removing them) and they do look gorgeous on. But.

But. If you use your fingernails as tools as much as I do, no matter how carefully you follow their directions and stick them down, they are going to constantly get slightly ragged and rough at the tips. Which means you are constantly going to be filing your nails to make them smooth again – at least if you are driven mad by nails that constantly catch on fabric like I am.

The worst thing, though, was the removal. Soak them in coconut oil, was the top recommended tip for gentle removal. I liked that – no harsh chemicals, like with nail polish.  I tried it.  The wraps came off, but they also removed a layer of my nails – which was not obvious, until my nails started splintering and breaking like crazy.  For months.

Months!  It took forever until my nails were back to their normal strength.  Then I did a little more research, and I find out that, contrary to what the sellers recommend, the company says you have to soak them in nail polish remover.  Uh, no thanks. Isn’t this one of the major reasons why I picked Jamberry? To avoid the chemicals?

So between the constant filing (if I wore them regularly, I wouldn’t have any nails left!) and the difficulty removing them, they aren’t worth the pricy price tag. What’s left of my Jamberry sheet went straight into the trash.

 

Garden Update & Dexter’s First Beach Day

It is so unusually hot here – we’re having our August weather in June…which makes me concerned a bit about August.  Never thought I’d miss the rain!  But the beans, tomatoes, and squash sure love the heat. I think I’ll be canning beans in under a week.

Good thing, too, as we only have three cans left from the beans I put up last summer. I LOVE home canned beans! They are so much tastier than store-bought.

We’ll be eating summer squash by next week, too. Beans and squash are my favorite summer foods.

It’s been so long since my last update, that I didn’t post the pics I took a few weeks ago. Here’s the front yard vegetable then:

And here it is now. It’s a jungle!

Though the biggest jungle is inside the greenhouse.

Look – we have the brick floor in! And there are SO MANY green tomatoes.  The melons in there are flowering now, too. I’m hopeful that I’ll actually get a bunch of homegrown melons this year.  Early on, I noticed the three peppers I have in there were getting attacked by aphids.  In the outdoor garden, this would be absolutely NO reason for concern, as within days, the beneficial insects would find them, and demolish them.  I never spray anything in my garden, not even soap solutions. Though those are not nearly so harmful as pesticides, they still disrupt the natural cycle of predator/prey in your garden.  If you let the aphids be for a year, you’ll allow the beneficials to establish a base in your garden, and then you’ll never need to spray anything, ever again.  It’s simply amazing to observe.

Inside the greenhouse, I wasn’t sure if a natural balance would be able to happen, but guess what?  After about a week of tolerating aphids on my peppers, the aphids just suddenly disappeared completely! If I’d had to keep the greenhouse door closed during the day, the beneficials probably wouldn’t have been able to find their way inside, but with this hot weather…yeah, it’s an awesome June for the garden and the good bugs!

We’ve done a few more improvements to the chicken coop/yard, with still more to come.

Inside the coop, mom tore out the upstairs loft. She had never been happy with it, and she finally managed to turn me around to her point of view.

Now the girls just have perches along the back wall, with a wind barrier of straw bales in front. Before winter, we’ll have to put in a little more protection, but it’s working for now.

I also got the signs I designed and painted up.

Each girl has her name, along with a picture of the egg she lays. Plus, a blackboard to write their requests/demands.

Outside in the yard, we’re working on making it more chicken-friendly (more shade, more secret nooks, more edible perennials for them and us). So far, we’ve put up two hog panel trellises.

One has two varieties of grapes growing up it:

And beyond that, to the side against the fence, is another with thornless blackberries and a (still-to-be-planted) rose.

Complete with bench, for sitting and holding chickens. Once the vines get a chance to grow up, it will be very nice for all of us.

The neighbor on the other side of the yard finally put up the fence he’s been talking about since he moved in. It’s probably the most white-trashy fence I’ve ever seen (the posts are all cut to different heights, and the boards are nailed on a definite slant), but it does the job. It’s so nice to have privacy again! And now we can tear down the falling-apart fence that used to be there.  We said we’d tear it down for him before he started building his, but he said he wanted to take it down himself.  Then, he just left it up, and built his new fence in further on his property. So he just gave us about ten inches more land!  Woot!  ;)  He’s an very odd man.

The new fence extends into the side front, which is very nice. And from this view, you can see just how uneven those posts really are!

Anyway, now that there’s a fence, this just became prime real estate. I’m thinking a bunch of raised beds (the ground’s truly bad here) with raspberries? It gets excellent sun.

Yesterday, we took Dexter to the beach for the first time.

He loved it, but had serious concerns about the sea monsters that kept passing by in the water. We tried to explain what boats are, but he knows what a sea monster is when he sees it, and he knows it is part of his job to keep a wary eye out to sea.

He did love the water though – even though the waves did freak him out at first.

He was so exhausted on the way home. He just collapsed in the back seat, and didn’t move.

Garden Update

This will be a quick one, folks, because I’m exhausted.  I spent a good share of today shoveling pea gravel, mostly for underneath the ducks’ kiddie pool.  After it’s done, I’ll show you pics.

The ducks are almost entirely gown up now.  They still have a bit of baby fluff on their necks, and their voices are still in the process of changing to quacks.  Maisie has her quack down pat, and she can really sound demanding!  Millie is either a little more laid-back, or just hasn’t figured out her Human-Do-My-Bidding-Now voice.

They are having free-range time in the backyard garden now, and are so enjoying themselves!

So far they haven’t caused any real damage, just slightly squashed one lettuce.

Oh, and they are making an inventory of all the ornamental pools of water in my garden.  Including dog bowls.

The new chicks are doing great.

Freddie.

Charlotte.

And Edith.

Who I am 85% sure is a rooster.  Sigh.  Her comb is bigger, her feet are HUGE, and she’s much more aggressive.  Remember I said I can never get an Ameraucana in my flock because I always choose the one rooster among the bunch of supposedly sexed female chicks?  I said I wasn’t going to pick one out because of this unfortunate penchant, but when I got to the feed store, I saw this one and just fell in love.  Such puffy cheeks!  Such an owl-like face!  I told the clerk I wanted this chick…oh, and one of the others, a lighter colored one.

So at least the lighter-colored one (Freddie) that the clerk picked out is looking like a girl.  I should hire myself out as a rooster-finder, for folks that actually want one!

I finally got the sign I designed and free-hand painted up.

I  have one more sign for the chicken coop mostly done, and then I need to make two more: one for the ducks (Duckingham Palace) and another Out of Eden sign for the backyard.

My veggies are coming along well.  This is my cabbage/runner bean bed.  The picture is about a week old; the beans are almost as tall as I am now.

And the snap peas are even taller than me.  They must be close to 6′, and producing peas like crazy.

I don’t seem to have a picture, but the tomatoes in the greenhouse are a couple feet tall, and setting teeny tiny little fruit.  Outside, I have a few tomatoes that actually ripening cherry tomatoes!  I think I’ll be eating my first tomato this weekend.  So exciting.

The roses are blooming like mad right now.  This is one of my current favorites.  Belle Isis.

And the bees are out foraging.

The Big Spring Projects are (thankfully) winding down now.  Which is good, because I’ll be leaving for Iceland, England, and Egypt in about three months.  I’ve been too busy to even really think about it, and of course, once I get back, it’ll be time to start seriously planning the Big Spring Projects of 2016.  Right now, it looks like we’ll be adding meat rabbits, and possibly a stock tank of Tilapia!  I keep getting drawn to books on aquaponics, and finally I realized I don’t really want to raise plants with fish, but I do want the fish!  Fresh fish, right from the backyard!  How awesome would that be?

And even cooler, it turns out that species of Tilapia that is best suited for my area is also the same fish from the Sea of Galilea – which means I’d be raising the same fish that Jesus and the disciples fished and ate.  I love connections to history like this.

New Greenhouse, Ducks, and Garden Stuff

It has been so busy here.  One day, we think, we will be done with all the major builds/improvements, and then we will be able to relax.

Or, you know, at least be able to keep up with the work that we want to do.

The greenhouse (Early Bloomer, by Solexx) is almost finished.  It’s up, and usable – there is just a few remaining details, like the door handle, the solar-powered automatic window opener, and some trim.

There is also quite a bit of landscaping to be done around it.  I’ve already planted some peas and sunflowers around the back.

Inside, I built raised beds, and spent several hours shoveling compost out of the chicken coop’s deep litter, and carting it by the wagon load into the greenhouse…only to shovel it back out into the beds.  Lots of work, but somehow enjoyable, all the same.  I’m finding that there is true pleasure in hard, physical work.  I used to be a total night owl, staying up until the wee hours of the morning, then sleeping in.  Now I’m so excited to work outside, that I wake up early, work all day in the garden, then collapse in bed around 10pm.

As you can see, the inside floor still needs to be installed.  We’ve bought some lovely brick.

At the far end, will be a potting bench, once I have time to build it.  To the left of the door, is shelving for starting trays of seedlings.

I’ve planted a bunch of tomatoes, melons, and peppers in the beds.

In the front vegetable garden, I came up with a good idea for trellising my beans.  I put in two t-posts, then built a frame of wood and wire that fits between them.  It is zip-tied securely into place.

At the end of summer, I can cut the zip-ties, and store the frame out of the weather.  Next year, I can put two more t-posts in a different bed, and put the frame up there.  Some years, I’ll have a frame between the posts, other years, I’ll use the posts as tomato tie-ups.

The Indian Runner ducklings are getting so big.  Their chests are completely feathered in, and feathers are coming in on their backs, faces, and wings.  They are still very, very cute.

They’ve changed so much from just a few days earlier…although they still like to snuggle with each other.

Josie and her chicks are doing great.  I need to get some more pics; this video is from a week ago.  They have lots more feathers on their wings now, and their tails are coming in.

What’s this I see?  What’s that in your hand?

You have a new camera????

Well, then!  Time for some beauty shots of what’s blooming in the garden!

Peonies.

And roses.

And after years of never seeing butterflies, I’m finally seeing visitors in my garden.  This one seems to come here a lot.  It’s very shy, though, and even though I hunted it as stealthily as I could, this was the best shot I could get.

Is that a Painted Lady butterfly?

And Peabody and Nefertiti say goodnight.

For those of you who are interested in keeping quail naturally, a friend and I are running a new facebook group: Natural Quail Keeping.  Feel free to join and start posting pics or asking questions!

 

Introducing Chicks to a Broody Hen

Sometimes this works with a broody hen, sometimes not.  Sometimes it works, but you have to be a lot more stealthy about it.  I’m lucky, because my broody Barnvelder hen, Josie, will just take chicks straight-up, with no fuss.

I just went to the feed store, and bought three chicks.

Frederika (Freddie)

Edith (Edie)

Both of these are Ameraucanas, and will hopefully lay green or blue eggs.  Edie is already my favorite.  I think she looks like a fat little owl.

And then there’s Charlotte (Lottie) who was supposed to be a Speckled Sussex, only there was some kind of problem at the hatchery, and we had to chose a different breed instead.  We chose a Buckeye.  They are supposedly great mousers!

Here is a video of Josie meeting her new babies.

Josie is such a great girl.  I used to get annoyed with her constant broodiness, but now I’ve learned to appeciate her mothering skills.  It’s so brilliant, being able to bring new chickens into your flock through this method.  There’s no fuss with pasty butt, heat lamps, or messy brooder boxes in your house.  And best of all, by the time they are grown up, they are peacefully intregated into your flock!  And if your hen is as friendly as Josie, she teaches her chicks not to fear humans.  It won’t be long before she’ll be showing them how to jump up on my lap!

I transfered Loki and his girl out of the roof garden coop, and into the smaller one, so I could clean the big coop out and use it for Josie and her babies.  While they are young, I like to give them a little extra  privacy away from the Big Hens Who Are Terrified of Babies.

Josie will be a couple of days coming out of her broody state.  If she were hatching eggs, she’d have to wait for all of them to finish hatching, so even though she has her babies, her body tells her she still needs to sit still on her nest and wait.  Meanwhile, she talks continually to her babies, teaches them to eat food (and not to eat poop).

Yesterday I introduced them, today I took a second video of them.

If you’re interested in why hens go broody, I HIGHLY recommend this article by the Holistic Hen. What she says makes so much sense.  It’s completely true that Josie used to be the absolute bottom of the pecking order…and after her first batch of babies, went straight to the top.  The only hens that give her any sass at all are her two daughters.  Of course it doesn’t help that she’s such a natural mother that when she finds something yummy to eat, she can’t resist giving the “Come babies, come babies, I found food for you!” call.  Her two-year old daughters come running, and when Josie sees them, she realizes her mistake and snaps up the goody herself, leaving her daughters standing around looking confused.

And let’s end this blog with two ducklings in a basket.  Just because I can.

 

Ducks, Bees, and Growing Things

The garden is growing really well.  This is probably my favorite time of year among the ornamentals.  Notice the new greenhouse – still a work in progress, but slowly getting built.  Everything in it should grow extremely well, after I made a blood sacrifice Monday while working on it.  Yes, my knife slipped, and I made a nasty cut on my knuckle.  I could probably have gotten a stitch or two, but since I don’t care about scarring, I didn’t bother going in.  It’s healing nicely, but it’s awkward working outside without the use of my left forefinger!  Not to mention typing.

I’m hoping we get the greenhouse finished soon, because I have three cold frames and some indoor growlights bursting at the seams with little tomatoes, squashes, and melons!  The melons and a few of the tomatoes will go into the greenhouse and stay there; the rest just need a bigger place to grow while they wait for warmer weather.

My potatoes-in-trash-cans are growing nicely.

And I have itty bitty apples on the columnar trees I planted.  First apples!  Squee!

The grapes have TONS of fruit on them.  It’s going to be a bumper year.  I just put the vines in last year, so this is the first year for fruit.

The strawberries are also going to town, setting fruit.  Especially the alpines.

Something new I just started is growing duckweed.  All you need is water and sun, and it reproduces like mad.  It’s terrifically good for ducks – and other poultry.  I want to add it regularly to the duck pond once it gets going, and also skim some off for the quail.

The bees are so cool.  I love sitting right next to the hive and watching them going about their business.  They fly around me and investigate me, but are not aggressive at all.  I try to spend a few minutes with them every day.  They say bees can recognize humans, and I’m trying to make them realize that I mean them no harm.

And the ducklings are beside themselves with excitement!

They have officially moved outside into their Big Duck pen!  I still have their Ecoglow Brooder out with them for a heat source, but they didn’t even get under it once all day.

They are such sweet little girls.

And tomorrow we are picking up Josie’s new babies at the feed store.  She’s been very patiently waiting for them, growling whenever I disturb her in the nestbox.

I’ll try to get a video of the moment of first introduction.  It’s such a magic moment.

 

Ducklings, Quail, and a Greenhouse, Oh My!

First off, the Indian Runner ducklings, Maisie and Millie, are now a week old.  Ducks grow so freaking fast!

We’ve been letting them out to run and play in the living room, and today, because the weather was so lovely and warm, they got to go outside and have a bath.

While I was outside with the camera, I also took a few pictures of the quail.

A gratuitous shot of Peabody because he is a camera hog:

And then I visitied Loki and Isis.  When I open the door to the coop, Isis always comes running right up, expecting treats.

If I don’t immediately comply with a handful of seed or greens, she sometimes attempts to walk (always very calmly) out of the coop to go get her own greens.

It’s at this point that I give in to her wishes…

I really, really like these Golden Italians.  They are so docile and sweet-tempered.  Though Loki is always slightly suspicious of my motives.  He’s a good male, and protective of his girl.

Speaking of quail, I said I’d show you pics of my new coop.  It’s smaller than the others – I originally meant it to hook onto the from-scratch greenhouse I was going to build.  I wanted to make sure they had an outside area they could escape to if the interior of the greenhouse got too hot.

The entire top lifts, for easy access to the quail.  I wouldn’t have a top *quite* like this, if I didn’t trust my quail to be so tame they wouldn’t fly out.  As it is, one of the girls does *pretend* she’s going to fly out if I’m not quick enough with the treats.  But once I drop seed or greens in the pen, they all let me pet them, clean around them, and do whatever else needs to be done without fear.

Notice the chickens looking on.  They have severe quail-food envy.  The highlight of their day is when I scatter a few quail crumbles on the ground for them!

We aren’t doing a from-scratch greenhouse any more, for a variety of reasons.  The biggest one being that we found a kit that is everything we want, for a reasonable price.  It’s the Early Bloomer, by Solexx.  We have the frame up, but we were accidentally sent the wrong size of anchoring/tie down pieces, so we can’t put the skin on it until we get those in the mail.

The company, Solexx is AMAZING to deal with.  They are willing to answer all our questions over the phone, and after we bought one, the guy who gives help on building it gave us his personal cell phone number in case we had trouble and needed help after hours or on the weekend!  Wow.  That’s customer service you don’t often see.

If you’re looking for a greenhouse, I highly recommend checking them out.

And what’s new in the garden?  My beans are coming up like wildfire!

I’m growing so many different kinds of snap beans this year.  I want to can millions of them!  Seriously, those beans I canned last year are so yummy.  I’m also growing a couple of varieties for dry beans.  Black Turtle and Saxons, neither of which I’ve done before, and Scarlet Runner Beans, which I do every year.  The hummingbirds LOVE the flowers, they are gorgeous on the trellis, and the dry beans are wonderful.  Similar to a pinto, I think, only creamier.  Since I tried them as dry beans, I don’t bother picking any of them as young snap beans.

And here’s a picture of one of my favorite flowers, Forget-Me-Not.

Oh, and I almost forgot – we’re getting three new chicks this year!  My broody hen, Josie, went broody at just the right time this year, so I reserved two Ameraucanas, and one Speckled Sussex.  Every time I get an Ameraucana, it ends up being a rooster.  Every. Freaking. Time.  So this time, I’m getting two.  My luck couldn’t be that bad, could it?

Don’t answer that.

Bees and Ducklings are Here!!!

Friday was an eventful day.  Not only did we pick up our three sexed Fawn and White Indian Runner ducklings, but we got the call that our package of honeybees was also ready!

First there was some bad news though – one of the first things I always do in the morning is check email and facebook.  One of the very first things to pop up on facebook was a story about a horrible accident on the nearby freeway involving a semi tipping over while delivering Belleville Bees.  I ordered my bees through Belleville, and I was so sure that this accident was involving the delivery of the package bees!  Would I be getting bees at all this year?  It was a moment of great disappointment, as I’d been looking forward to having bees again for nearly a year.

It was quickly obvious, though, that these were hives being delivered to pollinate a field.  What a horrible, horrible accident.  I heard there were 3.7 million honeybees on that semi, and while beekeepers were able to rescue some, many more were either crushed in the accident, or killed on purpose by the firefighters spraying foam.

Our package was fine, though, and was SO MUCH MORE HEALTHY than the package we bought last year, which arrived with a dead queen and more than an inch of dead bees on the bottom of the box.  This one had only a few dead bees.

Last time, we got Italians.  This time, we were swayed into getting New World Carniolans by a local beekeeper, who thinks they are the best for my area.

Hiving a new package of bees is an exhilarating experience!  Even though you are literally touching bees, having them crawl on you, and buzzing all around you, it never feels frightening.  It’s just one of the most awesome, incredible feelings!  Neither one of us were stung, and even though we were just wearing jackets with veils and rubber dish-washing gloves rather than a full suit, we never felt like we were in danger of being stung.  It’s just so, so cool.

Our hive is a Warre hive, and one of the nice things about this particular one (made by Sweet Valley Hives) is the queen release ring system they have.  Instead of hanging the queen cage down inside the hive, you just slot it into the side of the hive. In this picture, you can see the bees crawling around this slot, checking things out.  The white tab you see is part of the queen cage – it’s the hanging strip.

When it’s time to see if the worker bees have accepted her and freed her from the cage, it’s as simple as pulling the cage out of the side and looking!  Today, I did just this – not wearing any protection at all, not even gloves – and the queen has been freed!

The bees have already also made a large section of comb, and today I saw about five bees coming into the hive with pollen.  Unlike last year, I think this lot of bees are off to a great start.

I made a quick little video right after we hived the package of bees.  The audio isn’t very good, but you can see all the bees flying around us.

After we picked up the bees, we went to Valley Farm Center for the ducklings.  They are one of the few places that offer special orders of breeds, and also sexed ducklings.

Sadly, the ducklings must have been exposed to something nasty, because just a couple hours after we brought them home, one of them started having trouble walking and was staggering around.  Within another hour, she died in my hand as I was holding her.  Mom did some googling, and found out that the symptoms and rapid onset and death matched exactly Duck Viral Hepatitis, which is highly contageous among waterfowl, and has a 90% mortality rate.  I called Valley Farm Center, and learned some of the other ducklings that came in with ours were sick/dying.  Terrifed we were going to lose all three, I sterilized the brooder box, and everything in it.  I don’t know if that did the trick, but it’s now past the 48 hour incubation time for DVH, and the other two ducklings are in perfect health.  I think they are going to be ok.  Whew.

We named them Millie and Maisie.  Maisie (surprise, surprise!) turned out to be a crested Indian Runner.  I’m happy about that, because I love crested ducks!  You can just see her little topknot in this pic:

They are both so cute.  I really think there is nothing on earth more adorable than a duckling!

Look! Here is Millie asleep in my hand!

In garden news, we finally demolished the falling-down, rotting shed in the chicken yard.  I should have gotten pictures of its decrepid state, but I forgot.  Here’s a picture of the new space I have to work with.  I’m still planning what to do, but I think it will involve another grape trellis.

There beyond the make-shift fence, is the bee yard.

I planted some pasture mix beyond the hive, which is starting to green out now.  When it’s more mature, I’ll let the chickens in for a  short time every few days to get some green forage in them.  The trash cans are my container potatoes, the bed at the bottom is seeded with millet for the quail, and there’s comfry, kale, and blackberries as well.

All of the fruiting trees and vines are doing REALLY well.  The hardy kiwis are covered in buds, which is so exciting.

The fuzzy kiwi is growing well, but because we only planted it last year, I don’t think we’re going to get fruit.  The fuzzy green-and-red leaves are beautiful, though.  It still kind of blows my mind that growing kiwi is even possible here in the Pacific NW.  It just seems like such a tropical fruit.

Also fun is the “Tiny Tim” tomatoes I have growing in the kitchen window.  This is a mini variety that does well in lower light, and only gets about a foot high.  We have little green tomatoes already!

Oh, and do you remember when I said we weren’t getting a greenhouse this year?  Yeah, I need to stop saying things like that.  A while back, I said I’d built my last quail coop…since then, I’ve built another.  A little one just for the extra girls.  I need to get pictures up for you.

And now, after I said no greenhouse…we’re building one.  From a kit, though, not from scratch.  Mom found this company called Solexx, and their product sounds perfect for us.  The kit is arriving tomorrow, so this weekend, we’ll be putting it together.  I have all kinds of little melons and tomatoes started just to put in it!

Garden Update

Everything is growing and green!

Every year, I’m chasing my tail trying to accomplish a long list of projects, remodels, and maintenance in the garden.  And even though I never get anywhere near the end of that last, it always feels so good to be out there working.  Even the total grunt-work and the occasional icky bits are so much more enjoyable than not being outside.  And slowly, we are getting things done.

This year, building the greenhouse has been pushed back until next year, in favor of building the paver patio addition and pathway.  It’s a good tradeoff.  We’ve also put up a clothesline in the back yard.  I love line-dryed clothes.  They smell so incredibly good, plus they have that fresh stiffness that is so preferable to soft.  Can I say that I just hate fabric softener?  Ick.  (I also hate thick plush towels that are too plush to properly soak up water, and too thick to wrap around your head.  There’s a reason I always buy the absolute cheapest towels I can find, and it’s not because of cost!)  Anyway, that was a digression…we’re here to talk garden!

I’ve also chosen and planted a bunch more fruit trees and shrubs.

Three more blueberries: Jersey and Bluecrop

Two red currants: Cherry Red

Two peaches: Indian Free and Charlotte

One pear: Seckel

One apple: Arkansas Black

Two cherries: Tartarian Black and Royal Anne

Two plums: Coe’s Golden Drop and Mirabelle

Purple raspberries: Brandywine

Next year, I hope to put in four more apples, and then we’ll be done…except for possibly another couple of grapes.  I’m thinking the chickens need a Concord grape in their run.

All of the new trees are leafing out, which is always good to see.  Following the directions in Growing a Little Fruit Tree, we’ve chopped them off to knee height.

The columnar apples I put in last year are blooming for the first time.  They are so pretty and SO sweetly scented!

Plus, I put in a bunch more strawberries, of a variety called “Mara des Bois”, which is a cross between a regular strawberry and an alpine/wild one.  It’s supposed to be similar in flavor to the tiny alpines, but in a standard size.  If that’s true, it’ll be amazing!

The duck coop is almost done.  The foundation is in, the top part mostly just needs hardware and doors attached, and then it needs a roof.   Weather permitting, we just *might* get it done before next week…which is good because that’s when the ducks are arriving!

Ducklings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And because I don’t have any duck pictures, I’ll end with a few pretty blooming flowers.

The smell of pansies is the smell of Spring, to me.

This is one of the new lavenders that’s blooming. It’s called “Raspberry Ruffles”. Perfect name. I hope it survives in my garden. Fancy lavender is sometimes iffy for me.

« Older entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 134 other followers