Busy bees

The bees are busy! Still sucking down sugar syrup and building comb like crazy. We have been adding boxes to the hives as they fill up with bees and capped brood. The hives now have three brood boxes each. (The top box is a feeder box.)
The beehives - three brood boxes deep
These three boxes will be where the queen hangs out – laying eggs, making more bees. In a week or two, when the third brood box is full of bees, we will start adding honey supers to the top of the hives. We'll add a queen excluder between the brood boxes and honey supers to keep the queen from laying eggs in the honey. I don't know about you, but I like my honey to be larvae-free. 
Here's a frame of bees, with some capped brood and some open comb that new bees have already emerged from:
Frame of bees
During our inspection today, we saw both queens. The queens are much larger than the other bees and their abdomens sort of shine, making them stand out in their crowd of bees. Here's Ramona's Queen:
Queen Ramona
And Beezus' queen, who was a little camera shy:
Queen Beezus
After our inspection today we built 6 more boxes and frames to fill them all. We are ready for the rest of the season. Bring on the honey!

Weekend update

Our three-day weekend was packed so full, it just flew right by. We did lots of work, but left plenty of time for play. We got a few final things planted in the garden, including 6 red bell pepper plants for Walter. "I really like red peppers now," he says. We'll see if we can get them to grow this year. Last year's peppers were a bust. 
I spotted a nearly ripe strawberry on Saturday, but unfortunately, something else spotted it as well. By the time I went back to pick it on Sunday, it was already half eaten. It looks like we'll have a big crop this year. I hope whatever hungry thing that's out there is willing to share with us. 
Nate runs the half
Nate ran on Sunday, but the full marathon was cancelled because of the heat. He ran the half in 1:44, finishing up just before it got really hot. Walter and I cheered him on at the finish line. Now he's on to training for the Chicago marathon on October. 
We picnicked in the shade on Sunday afternoon. Molly even got to enjoy some picnic food when she sneaked a whole PB&J right off Walter's plate. That silly dog will eat her food one piece of kibble at a time, but can swallow a sandwich in one gulp. 
Grilled pizza
Finn jumps
Grandpa Ed, Kyla, Grandma Barb
We spent lots of time with family and ate lots of good food. We cleaned, we sewed, we worked in yard. I wish this weekend could last just a little bit longer. Three days wasn't quite enough!



It's here! It's here! My chicken catalog is here! (Um, yes, I know how crazy that sounds.) Squeal! The chicken catalog is here!
You see, I went to a chicken class a few weeks ago. (I know, that sounds crazy too.) I just wanted to get an idea of what raising a few chickens would entail. How do you start? What are the day to day chores? What's the return on investment? I was so happy with what I learned that I ran right home and ordered a chicken catalog. A few chickens – 4, maybe 6 hens – would be a nice addition to our little homestead. I've even got Nate convinced that it's the right thing to do. But we're not ready for chickens just yet. We need to do some planning, build a coop, and spend some time pouring through this chicken catalog, finding just the right breeds. I hope to have this place chicken-ready by next spring!



I've got WAY more exciting stuff than peas tonight! Part of what's been keeping us busy the past few weeks is house stuff. And part of that house stuff was a broken water heater, which led to the discussion of replacing our furnace, which somehow snowballed into installing a geothermal system. We're going to be energy efficient! It's going to cost less! And they are going to dig up the whole front yard! The excavation began today.
Since it's not every day you have a giant trench in your front yard, we did a little exploring while the worker (I've been calling him Mike Mulligan) finished the job. 
Pretty cool stuff having a great big digger at our house. Walter gave me the details on how the job is going to be finished up:

He's right. The pipe and all the dirt goes back in the hole tomorrow. Then we work on getting the yard back to normal. The grass will have to grow back, of course. We had to sacrifice some blackberry bushes for this, but Mike Mulligan was careful not to hurt the fruit trees and stayed a safe distance from the bee hives. I can't wait to have this done. It was an unexpected, but much-needed improvement. And it came with a digger!


Peas 'n things

Oh my, it's been weeks, hasn't it? There's been so much to do and so little time for picture-taking and post-writing. So today, a quick overview and some pictures of pea blossoms. Sometimes the camera is just drawn to the peas.
And those peas are doing great. They were our first planting of the year and they are already climbing up taller than Walter – no small feat! We planted the rest of the garden last weekend and I'm seeing lots of things popping up already. It happens every year – those first seeds sprout and I'm as excited as a kid on Christmas. 
All that gardening last weekend and perhaps my attempt to do a cartwheel (why?) caused my neck and back to go out. The kind of "out" where turning my head meant turning my entire upper body. One week and several chiropractic adjustments later and I'm just about back to normal. And normal feels good! Maybe we need to feel bad sometimes just to remind ourselves how great "good" feels. But no more cartwheels for me for a while, or maybe ever.
I hoping that Walter gets that great "good" feeling soon. Today he was diagnosed with his very first ear infection. Poor kid, his little body like a furnace on this already hot day. We sweat it out together on the couch, playing games and watching Dinosaur Train. Almost 4 years without an ear infection – I realize how lucky we are. 
Nate is exactly one week away from running the Madison marathon. His training has tapered down and I plan to load him with pasta and protein all week long. Send encouraging thoughts his way!
I guess that's it for today. I'll try for a little more than just peas next time...


Trees are terrific

We invented a new game. It's called "Run around and touch every tree." 
To play: Run around and touch every tree.
The rules: Run. Touch every tree.
The game ends when you're exhausted or you've touched every tree. Whichever comes first.