Garden happenings, beekeeping and lots of work

I’m elated to say that this week is my last week of school and from here on out I will be busy taking on all this homesteading!

I’ll start with my beekeeping fun. All the hives seem to be doing well and are laying lots of eggs. The newest swarm that I got has been really busy laying eggs! Great job on picking that queen!

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You can see the brood! 

When we pulled the hive out of the tree being cut down, we put some frames of their brood in there to help get them started and attached them to the frame with rubber bands. Well, they showed me how much they liked those bands!

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They don’t like the rubber bands

The mister has a friend that has a ton of bamboo growing in their yard. That stuff is so invasive and grows too fast! But, they let us cut some for free to turn into tomato stakes and a green bean teepee!

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Bamboo! 

Around the homestead we have been gathering lots of eggs and some delicious strawberries!

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Homegrown food! 

The mycelium from the winecap mushrooms are really enjoying this wet weather!

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Fabulous fungi!

I was also given a fixer upper kind of project by a friend! Her camera strap was looking sad and needed recovered! So, 30 minutes later, I had removed the old fabric and made it pretty again!

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Pretty again camera strap! 

The solar panels did great last month!! Our bill was for only $8.16 and we even got a credit back for over $80 from previous months!

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Solar is kicking butt!! 

So that’s a quick update here on our tiny plot of land in the middle of a small town!

Keeping Busy Beekeeping

It is super swarm season in my area right now and we have been tagged on Facebook and contacted for so many swarms. We decided to split our overwintered hive when we found a queen cell, which brought us up to 2 hives.

Then, we picked a swarm up right in our own neighborhood. So, that brought up the count to 3 hives. And then another in the next town over!

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Our 2 swarms

We were lucky enough to have some old nuc boxes that we could put them into with frames already made. And of course I need to show off the perfect handle that my blacksmith made for the top of the box!

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Our bee catching box! 

For the past 2 days, we have been working with a tree cutting service friend to get a hive out of a tree that he was cutting down. I’d love to show you pictures from me being in the lift, but I was kind of too terrified to take a picture!

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My mister doing all the work! 

I was stuck at school until 4 and then ran up to help him finish up the job. There was comb in there at least 3 feet long! It was a hot and sticky job with loads of angry bees!

As for the rest of the homestead, we are finally harvesting some delicious strawberries!

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Strawberries! 

I also took time to hill all of my potatoes and I’ve been hardening off plants and will be putting them in the garden very soon!

Now my question for you is what is the world is the volunteer plant below?

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pumpkin plant……. maybe? 

I’m hoping to get loads more things planted around here this weekend! Anyone else already have their garden planted?

Greenfest, gardening, mushrooms and swarms

Happy Mother’s Day weekend and I must say that this weekend was so busy! But, it was a great kind of busy. On Friday I spent the evening prepping everything for  Saturday’s Greenfest in Boonsboro, Md while the mister took the boy to go see Guardians of the Galaxy. (By the way, they said it was great!)

It was a really cold craft show, but we sold a good bit of our crafted items!

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Our craft show items!

I sold several gardening aprons, and got lots of compliments on them as well! And I still have 2 in the print below and will be adding them to the Etsy store!

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Love this gardening apron! 

And the mister got a lot of compliments on the railroad spike bottle openers as well as the bolt bottle openers! And I love the garden spades!

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Garden spades and bolt bottle opener

The mister was also able to get the itty bitty greenhouse all set up! Since I managed to accidentally bake my original seedlings, round 2 seedlings are in the greenhouse!

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Greenhouse! 

And we got our first strawberry tonight! I bet you can guess who wanted it! But the boy actually got it and said it was delicious!

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Fruit and veggie thief!

I don’t want to jinx myself, but the mushroom spawn seems to be spreading out well and looks very healthy!

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Mushroom spawn!

Then, just tonight, I had 2 calls for bee swarms! The first one seemed to be some bees that are taking up residence in a house. I’m not sure if I can get them to move out of there! But the second call was a beautiful swarm!

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Honeybee swarm!

I was able to get pretty much every bee! And I’m hoping they learn to love it here!

I was able to get a few minutes of relaxation on the new hammock with my lazy pup!

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Hammocking! 

It was a great weekend and it might take until Wednesday for me to get caught up around the house! I really do love all this fun homesteading life of ours!

Birdhouse gourd growing!

On this very cold day, I’m going to think back to the warmth of summer and the plants I grew! And, up for potential space in your 2017 garden is the birdhouse gourd! I bought my seeds for about a quarter from Dollar General. I figured they would be worth a try!

So, I started the seeds in late May in the house until the threat of frost was gone. Then I planted the seedlings by the chicken run, but you obviously don’t need a chicken run! In no time they will give you beautiful blooms!

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Beautiful blooms!

The blooms were beautiful along the run, and the bees loved them! Very quickly the gourds started growing!

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Tiny gourd. 

And they grew and grew!

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Quick growth! 

This plant served 3 purposes! It obviously gave me gourds, gave the bees some pollen and kept the chickens cooler because the vines provided shade. And they did look great!

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The vines were everywhere! 

Just look at the before and after:

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I love the after! 

Before a heavy frost, I cut the gourds from the vine and stored them in the basement to dry out!

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Harvested gourds! 

After about 3 months, some have dried out all the way! So, to make birdhouses, we cut the hole in the front of those dried ones and pulled out all the seeds and “other” stuff!

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Strange looking seeds! 

I was able to get this big ol’ bag of seeds from just 3 gourds!

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Lifetime supply of seeds! 😆

The mister drilled the entrance hole, some drainage holes on the bottom and attached a chain that we had on the top! And Voila!

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All finished! 

I had to scrub them really well because they grow some weird fuzziness and other moldy stuff on it! (Totally normal!) After it dried, it was stained. But, you can paint them or decorate however you’d like!

These will definitely make another appearance in my 2017 garden!

Kick back to the weekend!

There really isn’t much growing around here right now. It’s getting pretty cold at night and the garden will be all cleaned up soon. We are still able to harvest a few cherry tomatoes.

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Chicken snack 

I was really excited to cut the birdhouse gourds from the vines! These were all grown from a 25 cent seed packet! I’ll be doing another post on growing these in the future!

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Birdhouse gourds! 

The chickens have been clearing out where the 3 sisters garden was and it’s looking great! I threw a pumpkin thre for them and they devoured it!

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Pumpkin eating! 

I had all but given up on the cosmos flowers and they decided to take off! They are beautiful!

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Cosmos 🌺 

And this pretty lady was loving the pretty warm sun! She’s my garden buddy! I see her all around the garden!

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Turtle buddy! 

And I also got all the domestic fun completed too! I made a delicious loaf of bread to put some of my grape jelly on! I also got some laundry hung out and dried! Yippee!

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Line drying! 

This weekend I have a big craft show! Hope that you all have something great planned this weekend!

Luffa gourd growing

I know, I have been posting way too many pictures of the luffas that I have been growing this year! But, despite being told they wouldn’t grow here, I have had a great crop! (For reference I live in a zone 6)

Quick background on this kinda cash crop: in World War 2, luffas were used for surgical operations, filters for the Navy’s steam and Diesel engines and for the Army’s helmet linings. They have also been used for pot holders, doormats, sandles and even mattress stuffing!

So, I ordered some seeds online in the winter and started them inside in April. But early Spring I had some nice seedlings that were waiting for the ground to warm up!

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Luffa seedlings!

I waited until the very end of May and planted them along the fence line. They vine very far! I think they would love a big trellis, but the fence worked just fine!

At first, like always, there were only males flowers. But before too long I started seeing a few tiny luffas starting to grow!

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Itty bitty luffa

Something that totally surprised me was how much this plant flowered! Every day there were new blooms and the bees loved them! I steered clear of the plant in the morning and could watch the bees busy at work collecting pollen!

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My honeybees were in love! 

It seemed like overnight those tiny luffas started growing into monsters! (And I love how you can see bees on the flowers below!)

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Luffa gourds growing larger! 

And I was shocked to see the size of some of them! I’m a tall girl with huge hands and check out the luffa below!

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Almost 2 feet long!

By the end of the summer, I couldn’t even see through the fence due to all the vines!

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Our living fence! 

And I was shocked to find that there were even luffas growing around sunflowers!

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Sunflower trellis

In early September, the dark green gourds started turning a lighter green/yellow. I waited until the plant was yellow and the tough skin started feeling paper-like before I cut it from the vine.

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This one is close to being picked! 

When they are picked, you must peel them. (Just like a banana!) This is my favorite part!!

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Luffa peeling! 

Then I let them sit outside on my warm deck to dry out all the way.

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Dried out luffas

After they are dry, I shake them over a bowl and get the one million seeds out! And for all of my hard work, I am rewarded with over a dozen (so far) scrubbers!

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My harvest, so far

And my plans with them? Well, I am already using a piece of one to scrub the dishes. And I will be making some luffa soap out of another. And who knows what else! I do know for a fact that I will be planting these again next year!!

So, now for the truth. Did you think that luffas came from the ocean? 😊

Little harvest and frugal decor 9/28

We are still getting a few tomatoes and luffas from the garden. But yesterday, we got our first birdhouse gourd. We are trying to leave them on the vine for a while, but one fell off and I knew the hens would make it disappear!

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Tiny harvest! 

We did take the corn stalks and a pumpkin and turned them into our free fall decor! And the wreath is the same one that I’ve used for years! I have to love free decor!

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Free fall decor

And to make the decor even better, the sunflowers out front are looking beautiful!

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Late summer blooms! 

We sold off the rest of the corn stalks and will be delivering them this weekend!

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Corn stalks! 

Everything is surely coming to an end for the growing around here! We will be prepping the ground for the garden expansion and hoping that the cover crop will take off. We still need to get rid of a few items to meet our decluttering goal for September! Enjoy the last few days of the month!