I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. ~ Thoreau

Friday, April 30, 2010

Bee-ing Frustrated

Well yet again we are faced with one more completely different and dissenting opinion about what and how we have split our hive. This time it came from the head bee guy of WV himself. You all probably remember last week’s drama. Fred and I found queen cells in the larger of our two hives. We were extremely concerned that our bees would swarm and we would be unable to catch them thus losing a large part of our colony. After much deliberation and many phone calls, we decided to try and create an artificial swarm by taking all of the existing queen cells and a little bit of everything else and isolating it in a new brood box.

I’m sure you will also remember that this did not work out quite as we had intended and there were some serious touch and go moments with our new hive. Well, we are not out of the woods yet. Yesterday was a beautiful warm sunny day. So I packed up the new baby chicks and took them outside for a little dual purpose sunshine and some bee watching. I positioned a cardboard box with the bottom out in a nice sunny spot, put in some food and water for the chicks and sat myself down to observe my bees.

What I saw was not entirely pleasing. The two larger hives still appear to be fine, lots of comings and goings and busy bee work taking place. The little new hive seems to be waning again. Yesterday morning when it did not appear to be as active as the previous day I had taken a stick and gentle scraped the inside of the brood box removing additional dead bees. I did not want the survivors to become trapped. The hive seemed to again perk up after this maneuver but then seemed to slide off again yesterday.

Fred and I had agreed that we would leave them alone till this weekend and that we would just let nature run its course, one way or the other. This is extremely hard for me. I am not a sit still kind of person. I like action and I am a fixer. I once heard a Sunday school teacher describe himself as someone who would hand his problems to God and then five seconds later snatch them back to mull and worry over some more. This is me. That same Sunday school teacher said, you have to finally school yourself to give those things to God and then sit on your proverbial hands so you cannot reach out and snatch them back again. So as I sat there fretting over my little runt hive I finally realized I was not doing them, or myself, one bit of good and I needed a distraction. I would simply have to leave them with God and go do something else.

I packed up the chicks and moved the whole party: me, chicks, dog, to the front of the house. My flower bed, which is soon to be a tomato and pepper patch, was a hot mess. It needed to be gutted and tilled. I got to work and spent several hours weeding hoeing and generally tilling the soil. After I finished with that I decided to go ahead and pull up the sidewalk bricks for the new path to the door. This pretty much ate up the entire afternoon and left me thoroughly exhausted. As I was packing the chicks up to take them back into the house and fantasizing about my shower the phone rang.

It was the head bee honcho himself, the state inspector. I had called and left a message for him last week in the middle of the split crisis in hopes of getting some help. He had just gotten my message but was willing to listen to my dilemma and help as much as possible. As he told me to start from the beginning I could see my dreams of a shower evaporating like tea kettle steam. I plopped myself down in front of my hives and began to tell him the story. Once I had finished detailing the split, the seeming success and the following decline of the bees he paused for a moment and said. “Well…”

Oh brother, it is amazing to me how one little word can be so potent. He proceeded to tell me he figured by screening the hive in what we had ultimately done was suffocate the bees and cook the brood. Now remember, we did not get this idea from any novice beekeeper. This whole hive splitting technique came from someone with years and years of experience. See what I mean about absolutely everyone having a completely different opinion? Frustrating.

His colorful analogy was this: “You know how the ladies’ room is always more crowded than the men’s? Well bees is all girls and you figure girls have got to go to the potty, a lot. So you take you a bunch of girls and you trap them in somewhere and they is basically going to try and beat the door down to get out and go to the potty.” I told you it was colorful. In essence what he told me was the bees had blocked up the hive trying to get out and had killed each other and smothered the brood by clogging up the entrance. He also said that the bees I saw going in and out were probably just robbing that hive of what honey stores they had left.

I do not know, but it did not seem to quite jive with what I was seeing. Regardless, he told me I needed to immediately get in my larger hive, right then, and kill any queen cells to prevent a swarm. He also said to open up the new hive and take any survivors out and put them back in the big hive. I could see my hopes of a shower fading off into oblivion. The upside was he promised to get here on Tuesday to give me a complete bee tutorial. He said we could go through all the hives and learn to identify the queen and everything else. That is really good news because I seriously need some help.

I thanked him and hung up the phone, sighed to myself and proceeded to get prepared to get in the hive. Before I donned my gear, mostly out of curiosity, if I was going to have to junk it anyway, I figured I would pop the top on the little hive and peer inside. I figured I would be looking at a handful of bees at most. I was shocked when I popped the top on an almost full super of bees. At this point I am just completely confused. What do I do? Do I take the Department of Ag’s advice and put them back in the big hive or do I leave them alone. I really was so exhausted at this point I could have just plopped down on the ground, had a nice cry and drifted off to sleep. I didn’t.

I sighed, put the lid down, went and donned my gear, got the sugar water and headed back. I was on my own because it would still be thirty or forty minutes before Fred got home and I was once again loosing daylight. I needed to make a decision. I already had the lid off the new hive so I decided to start there. I removed the super and set it off to the side. I looked down into the brood box and removed all the frames one by one, they were all still completely empty but remember at this point it has only been seven days. There were a few dead bees in the bottom of the box but I think I had removed most of those yesterday when I had scraped it out with the stick. I flicked a few dead bees off the bottom, still unsure of what I should do. I decided that I at least needed to go through the frames on the super and see just exactly what was going on in the hive. So I placed the super back on the brood box and started to go through the frames. One thing I immediately realized was that they had not chewed completely through the newspaper as we had originally thought. Instead, they had simply made enough of a slit to slide through and had left the rest intact. So I knew one thing I need I to do for sure was scrape all of the newspaper out so they would be able to move freely into the brood box. I also planned to examine each frame. I didn’t know what dead brood would look like but I did at least know what larvae and hatchlings look like.

As I went frame by frame I saw lots of capped brood, no new larvae, several drones, lots of honey and lots of worker bees. Once again I was unable to locate the queen but I did see several hatched queen cells. So I am not sure if the queen died in the massacre, was trapped through her mating flight and cannot lay or was just there and I missed her. I think if she were there and able to lay I would have seen some different stages of larvae but I am not sure how long after she mates before she begins to lay eggs. I will need to do some more research.

Going through this super took the better part of an hour. Fred got home during this time and geared up to help me go through the super. We scraped the additional wax off the edges of the frames and cleaned out the newspaper as best we could. We still didn’t know whether or not to try and put these bees back in their original box or to leave them and hope they bulk up. After much debate we finally decided to leave them. As long as one of the other hives does not rob them they do have some stores of honey and are free to travel now so they hopefully will not starve. Also, they have what they need to rear a queen if indeed she does exist.

We decided it was too late to get into the big box as it was starting to get cold and the bees were beginning to return to the hive. We will have to get in the original two hives either today or tomorrow and check again for queen cells or signs of swarm. We just do not know what to do. We are so confused and so bombarded by conflicting information. I am starting to come to the realization that bees are, by God’s design, resilient creatures and that if all of these people with all of these varying opinions and methods manage to keep their bees alive then it probably is in spite of a lot of things they do, not because of them.

We left the new swarm as we found it, we did not try to reintroduce it to the original hive. I seriously doubt this will win me any brownie points with the Ag guy when he shows up on Tuesday. I figure he will think I am someone who cannot follow directions or who thinks they know everything. I assure you I am neither of those things but my gut just told me not to put those bees back. I hope we did the right thing. At this point I do not know and there is no definitive way to tell. We are simple force to be patient and wait. We really are not given many other options.

Be still and wait upon the Lord,

Thanks for reading, stay tuned for coop updates,
Much Love,

Peep, peep, peep

The chicks are here. Actually we picked them up at Green’s on Wednesday. They are amazingly tiny and fragile. I would say the absolute biggest of the four is maybe two inches in circumference. Yes, I said circumference, they are almost completely round except for two little toothpick legs that sick out the bottom. Their legs literally look like toothpicks. I wonder how any of them ever make it to adulthood. Fred is already totally enamored of them. I practically had to drag him forcibly from the bathroom last night(they are living in our bathtub at the moment).

I asked him, out of curiosity, since he seemed to so instantly bond with these little birds, if he would continue to eat chicken (we are raising these as laying hens not as meat birds). He paused for a moment and said, “Probably.” When I questioned him further he told me that when he ordered chicken or bought chicken at the market it did not seem like the same thing as these cute tiny fuzzy little eating machines. Once again, this is a prime example of how far removed we are from our food source. I do not oppose anyone eating meat that is their choice. What I oppose is the corporate mass production farms that harm the environment, harm the food and ultimately harm the people who eat it. This is one of the major things that has spurred our slow but deliberate move towards a more eco-friendly sustainable lifestyle.

We were put here on this planet and given dominion over the animals and the earth not to harm it but to sustain it and sustain ourselves so that we could provide companionship for God. We’ve done a lackluster job. Through the years, as I have practice yoga, I have learned that our physical bodies do not exist as something set apart. In Christianity we often want to feed, nurture and exercise our spirit while we neglect or abuse our bodies. For example, we go to church every Sunday, piously listen to a sermon, sing some songs, we may even do our devotions every morning and then, as soon as we are finished, we promptly package that up in a neat little box store it our morality shelf and proceed to eat whatever garbage is put in front of our faces.

When I was a child my mother never let us watch a lot of television, and we were never allowed to watch some of the more violent cartoons. I did not really understand this until I was much older and the only explanation she would give was “garbage in, garbage out.” Now, of course, what she meant was that if we watched cartoon characters beat each other senseless everyday then we would do that to each other. Since we already did a really good impression of trying to murder each other on a regular basis she probably was not too far off the mark. As I have gotten older I have taken this theory of “garbage in, garbage out” much more to heart.

In Romans 12:1 Paul tells the church, “I urge you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship.” I was taught for years in Sunday school that this meant you should not drink or smoke or be promiscuous. No one ever said a word about not sitting in front of the television and eating an entire bag of potato chips (which I have been known to do). No one ever mentioned that I should try to exercise and eat a healthy rounded diet. These are thing that were never said in any context of Christianity but if your body is the Lord’s temple that it makes no sense at all to trash it with the corporately churned out garbage that we call food.

As our family takes these baby steps towards a greener existence I look around me and I am shocked by what I, as an individual, do to this planet but I am even more shocked by what I as an individual do to my body. I do not smoke, I exercise regularly, I get plenty of sleep, I try (although not always successfully) to be kind to others but I think NOTHING of eating tons of processed garbage ever year. Yes, even vegans eat junk. In fact I would say that vegan junk food is probably equally bad, or worse, than regular junk food. Just because something is lacking in animal products does not mean in has not been chocked full of hydrogenated vegetable fat.

We are not perfect and I am not trying to be super preachy here. I am documenting where we are as a family and some of the things that have motivated us to move towards green. We are taking small steps, eating more meals at home (not all but more), trying to get closer to the source of our food, growing more things, raising more things. When we go to the store now we look for things that have less packaging, we try to buy whole fruits and nuts and veggies less boxes of over processed things with indefinitely long shelf lives. We want to be kind to the earth but I think it starts with being kind to ourselves.

Fred has promised that if we are successful with the bees and the chickens that next year we can add a couple of goats to our menagerie. If we are successful in rearing goats and chickens then I will probably give up my vegan ways, at least at home, and begin to once again use eggs and dairy. If the source is wholesome and treated well I do not oppose these things. And I know that if I raise these things myself I will have treated them well.

Come back to find out all about our tiny flock. Also, I will soon update some interesting (and yet TOTALLY different, sigh) information about the bees. I intended to blog some yesterday, but between the bee drama (I will update in a later blog) and my flock of baby chickens I have been extremely busy.

Thank you for reading, thank you for being patient and thank you for praying for us,
Much love,

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bring out your dead...

…I’m not dead yet!” I couldn’t resist a little Monty Python reference  I am thrilled and happy to report yesterday afternoon when my friend Michelle drove me home, as we were pulling into the driveway, there were bees industriously buzzing around the newest hive. I was stunned and excited and could have done cartwheels out of the car! God heard our prayers.

Yesterday evening when Fred got home from work we went out to watch the new hive for a bit to see just exactly what was going on. It is still too soon and too cold to open it to really make any judgment about how they fared so we just watched. One of our books says: a good sign that a new hive has successfully reared a queen is that the bees look purposeful, instead of coming out of the hive and just hovering around without directions. Good worker bees, when leaving the hive, should do so with purpose and return in the same manner. We were hoping to observe just that. What we saw was ever more interesting in the extreme.

Bees can carry massive amounts of weight. You will often see them with their leg pouches bulging with pollen. They carry water, nectar and sometimes honey back to their hives for all kinds of uses. What we never realized until yesterday was: a bee can carry more than its weight, for a significant distance, all in the name of survival.

Can you imagine? I cannot. I know how hard it was to carry all my bunker gear, an air tank, a charged hose and an TNT tool a hundred feet or so into a building. This was with the help of grown men and all of these things together only represented around half my body weight. I cannot fathom picking up a body slinging it over my shoulder and carrying it for the equivalent of miles! This is exactly what we watched the girls do yesterday evening.

If you remember, from Monday’s blog, there was a myriad of dead and half dead bees pressed against the entrance to our newest hive. Fred and I basically assumed we had killed our first attempt at “splitting” but decided to leave it alone in hopes that the warm temperature might find some Lazarus bees stepping from their death rags. We are still not sure why the bees did not go back into the brood box when the temperature started to drop we can only speculate that it dropped too quickly and that the rains came too swiftly leaving them stunned and drowning. As sad and upsetting as it was, we realize there was nothing for us to do but wait. So we left them. You can imagine how ecstatic we were when we realized some of them were still alive.

So, yesterday evening as we watched, what we witnessed was quite bizarre. If a bee dies or is killed in the hive you will often see several worker bees dragging the deceased to the front and pushing them out the entrance and off the lip of the hive, like a little unceremonious funeral procession. But apparently a multitude of dead bees calls for a more drastic solution. We watched as worker bees flew from the hive, clutching the dead bodies of one of their sisters in their arms and flying off into the horizon. When they returned they were empty handed. I do not mean they flew several feet or several yards from the hive I mean they flew away until we could no longer see them.

I am riddled with curiosity. I would love to know if they took the bodies somewhere specific or merely a certain distance from the hive and why? Was it because even bees do not like the decaying smell of corpses at their front door or was it to avoid attracting predators or disease? It is fascinating how similar they are to us in their basic needs and impulses. I could not help but be reminded of the Monty Python excerpt when during the plague they go around collecting the dead (and the not so dead) and disposing of the bodies.

All that aside, as interesting as it was to watch, Fred and I decided to help them out and remove the remainder of the dead from the entrance to the hive. Worker bees are notorious for working themselves to death and, of course this was a new hive which had seriously smaller population to begin with. We are still unsure how many of our new colony survives and we did not wish to kill a precious few by letting them work themselves to death removing their dead when really they should be tending the brood and collecting supplies. Also with the temperatures still dangerously low we feared they would easily get out and get too cold trying to fulfill their duties leaving them unable to return and further depleting the colonies numbers.

So we brushed away the remaining dead, which were significantly fewer than we had originally assumed, we don’t know if this was because they’d already efficiently carted off the bodies or if more had survived than we originally assumed. Whichever, there were probably only about thirty dead bees remaining.

Our next major concern was, with the depleted hive number, would there be enough bees to keep themselves and the brood warm through the rapidly falling temperatures which we knew would approach freezing over night. Normally, in a healthy full hive this is only a minimal concern in the spring. Some of the outlying brood towards the edges of the hives will normally succumb to the cold, dying in whichever stage they were but we worried that without a significant number of bees in the new hive they would not even be able to keep themselves warm. We decided to drape the new hive in a comforter, leaving the entrance exposed for ventilation.

We still do not really know where we stand or if this hive will survive but we are reminded in this trial that God perfects his work in our weakness. II Corinthians 12:9 tells us “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” God is faithful and just and he has chosen to spare our bees, for at least the moment. As our first real foray into anything “self-sustaining” the bees represent a great deal more to us than just an investment. They have come to be a symbol of our struggles and the day to day challenges of living a more thoughtful “green” existence.

Hopefully, our chicks will arrive today. The coop is almost under roof. And the next chapter in our adventure begins…

Thank you for reading, much love,

Monday, April 26, 2010

Come Monday, it will bee all right...

…or not. This morning found Fred and me standing out in a drizzly icy cold mist desperately and futilely ripping the wire mesh from the front of our first attempt at an artificial swarm. Today would have been the 4th complete day of secluding the hive. Every proceeding day, since we had isolated them in hopes of rearing a new queen, we have found noisy angry bees pressing up against the wire. Up until this point we had taken that as a good sign. Angry bees are active, alive bees. To create a new colony, bees must be isolated in their new hive from three to seven days. Seven is ideal if the new hive is close to the old one, that way the bees will not just up and go home to their old digs.

Our main concern, up until today of course, had been leaving the new queen in seclusion for too long and thus causing her to miss her mating flight. This would leave us with a virgin queen. She would be incapable of laying eggs and eventually she would have to be killed and the colony re-queened. That possibility was traumatic enough for us novice beekeepers. This morning we learned that we have bigger problems.

As we went out shortly after sun-up our plan was to determine what additional supplies we would need to finish the chicken coop and make a trip to 84 Lumber. We had not planned to do anything with the bees today. Yesterday we moved the new colony to its permanent foundation and with the weather being rotten we were going to leave them alone until the anticipated warm up on Wednesday when we planned to release the hive. While Fred headed down to the building I decided to go ahead and take a peek at the girls and remove the edges of soggy newspaper which were making our new hive extremely unattractive. As I got closer I realized that my new hive was extremely still. Now at first I did not worry too much about this because it was extremely wet and noticeable cool this morning, neither of which are conditions that honeybees enjoy so usually they stay deep inside the hive doing routine maintenance on days like today. Plus, it was only about eight a.m. getting up and out of the hive at this hour is considered too industrious for bees which tend to make warmer flights later in the morning.

The closer I got the more worried I became. Our two oldest hives look normal. No bees at the entrance (they huddle deep in the brood box in a ball when it is cold to conserve heat). The new hive, however, was a mess. Bits of what appeared to be now dead bees pushed awkwardly up to and through the mesh screen. I began to tear at the tape holding the screen to the hive body while yelling frantically for Fred to come up from the building. I didn’t realize it but Fred had stapled the mesh for fear the tape would slough off in the rain. Fred came quickly and began to pry at the staples with his pocket knife. As we finally tore loose the screen we gazed helplessly on the pile of seemingly dead bees crowded at the entrance of our newest hive.

I felt tears well up in my eyes. They’d been strong yesterday evening before the rain. Yes, they had still been crowded at the entrance but I assumed that nature would take over as the rain set in and they would move deeper into the box to unhappily plot my demise. I was wrong. You see bees cannot fly very well once their wings become damp they become veritable cripples. That is why when it begins to rain the bees will suddenly crowd at the entrance to the hive rushing to get back in. I have been told, and seen on beekeeping videos, that bees can drown mere centimeters from their hive entrance as their bodies become weighted down with water and they are prevented from crawling back into the hive by the force of the rain drops. Sometimes when it is warm out and the rains are short the bees will dry out as the sun emerges and there will be a happy ending.

I fear this will not be the case for our fledgling hive. They were struck with the doubly cruel force of a driving rain and the rapid decent of temperatures. I am afraid that some of my girls drown and some simply, for lack of any better explanation, died of exposure becoming too cold in the night and being trapped against the screen unable to return back into the brood box. I cannot estimate how many little bee bodies lay at stark and horrifying angles in a tangled mess against the hives entrance. I was appalled and struck dumb by feelings of guilt, loss and failure. Fred reached down and began to remove their little corpses from the run but as he did so we could see the occasional twitch of a wing or a leg. I told him not to kill them although I was torn between the mercy of killing them and the selfish desire to leave them alone in fervent hope for their recovery.

The temperatures today have remained well below what I had hoped and the drizzling cold rain will trap any survivors in the hive at least until warmer dryer temperatures prevail. This leaves Fred and me in a painful and anxious waiting pattern. We cannot open the hive to check for survivors because if there are any they will be few and we would surely doom them by allowing elements to permeate their new hive. When I had composed myself enough to quit sniveling I put my ear to the box and tapped lightly on the side. I did hear a faint buzzing but I do not know how many survivors remain inside. If there are too few and the nights remain cold and the days remain rainy they will surely freeze or starve.

Right now I am very low in spirit. I know that God’s eye is on the sparrow and the beast of the field. I know that he knows the number of hairs on my head and the needs of my soul. I pray that he sees fit in his infinite wisdom to spare my little hive but whatever happens I pray that Fred and I willingly give ourselves to God's plan. The selfish, human part of me does not want our first major attempt at anything monumental to be a failure. I do not want this to set the tone for the rest of our endeavors. I will update as soon as something is clear.

Thank you for praying for us and thank you for reading.
Much love,

Matthew 10:29-31
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Of Our Own Hands…

Yesterday Sarah and I tried our hand at making laundry detergent. My imagination was sparked last week by an article about managing and saving money on Yahoo. The author of the article suggested that we don’t even need detergent to wash clothes because it is really the agitation of the water and rinsing that removes dirty and odor. He insisted detergent is just an expensive waste of money. While I probably would not want to share a seat on the bus with him I was intrigued by his article, however, in the immortal words of my mother “cleanliness is next to Godliness” and to be quite candid I’m just not yet willing to wear stinky clothes nor do I quite agree about the lack of soap’s necessity. I think the author of the Yahoo article must have suspected he would meet with several similar responses so he went on to detail other money saving tips such as how much detergent is actually needed and how to make your own laundry detergent at home for pennies on the dollar. Now this is where I really became interested.

My “plastic guilt” has become almost unbearable. As I look around our house at all the plastic we ship out into the landfill every year I am appalled. There are disposable plastic containers in every room of our house. But what are we supposed to do? It seems like everything “convenient” comes in single sized plastic containers and some things like shampoo and detergent just come in plastic bottles with no alternatives. On a positive note, I have learned, through research and experimentation, what a small amounts of these things we really need to use verses what we think we need to use. For example with shampoo and hair conditioner: a dime size amount is really that, it is a few tiny droplets, not the palm full of product I had been using. I realized right away that my hair was equally clean and took a shorter amount of time to rinse out so there was less time spent in the shower thus less water wasted.

The author made the act of making homemade laundry detergent sound simple, it involved only three key ingredients and a little time and effort. I put a link to this article and the proposition of creating detergent out on my facebook page for comment and discussion. I got lots of interesting comments and emails. Several people had recipes, some for powdered detergent and some for liquid. I almost exclusively wash our family’s laundry in cold water to prevent additional waste and larger electric bills so I prefer to use a liquid detergent versus a powder, which doesn’t always dissolve. The recipe I finally chose was a smash up of a couple different recipes. Here it is:

1 bar of lever2000 soap (this is the soap our family uses normally due to allergies)
1.5 cups of washing soda (I found Arm & Hammers in the laundry isle)
1.5 cups of 20mule borax (also in the laundry isle)
4 gallons of water (roughly)

I started by running the bar of soap through the food processor and grating it into small pieces. Then I put the soap into a small sauce pan on the stove added enough water to cover and heated it on low medium stirring frequently until the soap melted. I then put the washing soda and the borax in the 5 gallon bucket added 3 gallons of hot tap water and stirred till dissolved.

I added the soap from the stove stirred more and finally added a gallon of cold tap water. I continued to stir and once everything seemed to be mostly combined I put a tight fitting lid on the bucket and left it till today. As I type this the first load of laundry is going through the machine now. When I took the lid off the bucket the mixture was slightly thicker than water however not nearly as thick as the gel–like detergent I am used to buying in the store. My main concern with this mixture is that the some of the soap seemed to congeal on top of the liquid and I am worried those bits won’t dissolve in the wash. I gave it a good stir and added 1/4 a cup to a super-sized load of wash before adding the clothes. I will update how this turns out.

We are really hoping this is a viable solution to normal store bought detergent for several reasons. The first of which being, of course, we would like to save money. The second reason being, we as a family would like to make a smaller environmental impact on the world around us and we feel that carelessly tossing out more and more plastic waste ever year is no way to do that. Third, and lastly, we would like to be more and more self reliant making fewer trips to the grocery and if making our own laundry detergent is a way to meet these goals then I am willing to put up with the mess and the extra time and effort it takes to do so. My rough estimates on cost are around two cents a load, I have not worked out the exact math but when I do so I will post it.


The second thing I would like to update on today is Fred and my effort to start building our chicken coop. We have been researching coop designs and talking to people who raise chickens now for several weeks. Originally I was much enamored of something called an “ark” design. This basically looked like a little A-frame made of two by fours covered in chicken wire with either the top or one end acting as a roost. I thought this was very cute. Some of the pluses were: it would be completely portable and it was small so it took up very little room in the yard. Ultimately, we decided this kind of coop, while attractive and low cost, would not suit our purposes.

We plan to start out with three or four laying hens, we have decided on Jersey Giants because when full grown they will be able to hold their own with the dog. We will pick up, these girls at Green’s tomorrow and they will need enough space to move about. Also, since we don’t live in a year round warm climate, we opted for a coop design which would allow us to provide more indoor space and insulation per bird. Fred gathered several designs and sketched out the plans (mostly in his head) of exactly what we would need and how this would all go down. Last night we went to Home Depot where landscape timbers were on sale for less than two dollars apiece, we intend to use these for the bulk of the construction, the drawback being that landscape timbers have rounded off edges and are extremely hard to square up. We also purchased a few two by fours (which were much pricier), some chicken wire and a gallon of “red tomato” paint.

We got home from church this morning and decided since the sun was shining we would begin right away. We drug everything into the back yard and immediately began construction. Well, as with the best laid plans, we had several false starts. Fred had one plan in his head and of course I had a completely different one, we were not communicating well nor were we being extremely pleasant to each other. We finally had to put everything down (after two failed attempts that left us with a dangerously drunk-tilting coop) and step away from the situation to reevaluate our plan. It also helped that we took a minute to remember why we were going to all this trouble and exactly where we hope to be someday. After about six hours in the hot sun, learning by trial and error, we eventually got our post set and the frame for our coop/run mostly constructed. We also put down the floor of the coop. It didn’t fall over and knock us on the head and it has not blow over yet in the rain, don’t worry I’ve been out to check several times, so right at this moment I am feeling a somewhat precarious iota of success.

Fred took tomorrow off from work, originally we had intended to go camping and hiking but with the drop in temperatures and the on and off again rain we figured the time would be better spent getting a start on our coop. Since we hope to bring the chicks home tomorrow and they will have to stay in the house for about a month, that gives us a limited amount of time to get their permanent home ready. Wish us luck and please say a prayer.

Thank you for reading and please come back to travel with us down this new and winding road,

Friday, April 23, 2010

Splitting Hives: Beekeeping? Beekilling?

We were told, upfront, when we got into this that we would make mistakes, loose bees, loose swarms, kill some of our colonies and basically, royally mess up before we got the hang of it and settled into a rhythm. Beekeeping is more of an art of exploration than it is an exact science. You can talk to five different experienced beekeepers about one distinct issue and get ten different solutions. See? The sheer number of options is daunting.

Fred and I really did not expect to be forced into hive action quite so soon. We believed with the losses suffered in the industry this year, the poor honey harvest of last year and the heavy winter we had, that we would only need to watch our bees closely for signs of mites or infections, feed them and basically coax them through the year to build up stock. We were wrong.

Late last week we went through the supers (the small boxes on the tops of the hives where the bees mostly store honey) on our smaller hive and found not only honey but brood cells, larva and what we suspected might be queen cells. We slightly panicked. Neither of us know much about beekeeping yet but we have read just enough to realize when you see queen cells you are in for a hot mess. It means that your hive has become too crowded and that your queen is preparing to leave taking with her half of everything in your hive and leaving you with a brand new queen and half your workforce and half their honey stores. EEK! We also suspected if our small hive was laying queen cells our big hive was laying twice as many. You could tell, just from observing the hives, the larger of the two had a great deal more bees and seemed to be getting quite crowded.

We quickly put the lid back on the smaller hive and in our inept, unskilled, freshman beekeeping manner began to bumble through our bigger hive. We were wearing long sleeved shirts long pants and bee veils, this costume had served us just fine through our last few casual inspections of our hives, however, we had not attempted to do anything except ascertain that: yes, there were bees, and yes, they seemed to be making honey. We did not take the whole hive apart nor did we venture down into the brood box (the large squarish box on the bottom of the hives). Like I said, we panicked. We stoked up the smoker and began to pry apart the large box.

Let me take a moment right here to tell you that bees are highly sensitive insects, they are intelligent and can pick up on your mood, smell your fear or your exhaustion and, like children, will take full advantage of whatever weakness you may exhibit at any giving time. Don't let their adorable fuzzy little bodies or the huge dumb eyes of the drones fool you.

They could sense the novice panic rolling off of us in waves and they lined up to attack! They were going to make the most of this opportunity to show us who was boss and take back control of their hive. Well I think that day we made every possible mistake, we over smoked them (which just made them angry), we were rough with the frames (which made them agitated and revealed our lack of experience) and we gave up too soon (which undermined our confidence and made it harder to get back in the box). Plus, we had waited until just too late in the afternoon to get started so we ran out of time and all the bees had come home to the hive while we were working making for a crowded messy situation. At this point we'd only gone through the supers on our small hive and one and a half supers on our large hive. We thought we had queen cells but we weren't for sure.

Saturday morning we went to the KVBA monthly meeting in St Albans and described our dilemma for several of the senior beekeepers, thus our frustration deepened. We heard everything from snuff the queen and let them raise a new one, to kill all the queen cells and that will solve your problem, to it is too late they are set to swarm, to split your hive. We opted to split the hive. Splitting a hive, in theory, is creating an artificial swarm which will make the bees in the original hive think they've fulfilled mother natures siren song and will ultimately leave you with an additional hive, without the need to climb fifty foot up a tree to retrieve your swarm. Everyone wins. Right? HA! Easier said than done.

Of course, like everything else in beekeeping everyone has a different opinion of how you split a hive, however, they all agree on three things: you must be able to locate your queen, you must locate all the queen cells and you must act quickly or nature will do it for you and you will have to chase down a swarm. Um, well, this is not as easy as it sounds. Sunday we made lots of phone calls, collected many varying opinions about the best course of action did more research.

After some intent online snooping we determined that queen cells look like large peanuts sticking out of the frame. Thank God for youtube it isn't just for singing cats after all. We still thought we had some queen cells but not as many as originally suspected we believed that some of what we thought were queens were actually drone cells. We still thought we had a few queen cells and we realized that it was imperative that we act quickly before we had a swarm and could not catch it.

Our major problem was time, Fred had to work all week and by the time he got home & showered (the bees do not appreciate the smell of AT fluid) we were constantly running out of time to do anything in the hives. So we agreed I would try to get through the last of the supers and the contents of the brood box while Fred was at work. Now I'd been stung once on the arm through my shirt while we pestered the large hive on Friday. I didn't care for the sensation (it is like itchy fire spreading through your skin) but I still was not wild about the tip to stern get up some beekeepers wore, especially the gloves, they make it really hard to hold the frames or to remove them from the box.

Tuesday was the first day after the meeting warm enough for me to get in the boxes so while Fred was at work I got the smoker ready, got the hive tool and prepared to get busy. I jokingly told Sarah if she heard screaming to call Pawpaw and tell him to get the hose but NOT to come out of the house. Hmmm, sometimes having a smarmy sense of humor does not work in my favor. I smoked the entrance to the large hive and cracked the top to puff a little smoke in there. I'd determined I would just set everything we'd already gone through off to the side and start where we'd left off. Let me tell you, supers full of honey are HEAVY and bees have grumpy, grudge-baring, long term memories.

I removed the lid, smoked them a little more and with a great effort set the top two supers off to the side. I had some angry ladies out of the hive and on me before I could blink. Although I was pretty well covered except for my hands I had worn flip-flops without even thinking. While I was trying to smoke and calm the bees one especially angry girl got me right on the arch of my right foot! OWWWWWWW! Can you say pain? I can. I dropped my shoe and my hive tool and hopped one one foot back to the house where I whimpered and doctored my foot with a sting swab. Right at this second I gave serious consideration to giving up beekeeping completely and leaving all those hateful little girls out their with their hive torn totally apart to take their chances in the elements. As I was sitting at the table ruminating over the excruciating pain in my foot and brooding over bee infanticide. I realized I had dragged one of my industrious little workers into the house with me.

As I watched her bang ineffectually against the sliding glass door I realized what a big meany I was and that my bees we simply acting as God had programed them. Like good little soldiers they were defending their homes at any cost with the ultimate sacrifice of their fuzzy little lives. You know, they really will go out of their way not to sting unless threatened because stinging equals death. The only honeybee that can sting more than once is the queen. I scooped my little worker up and tossed her out the door so she could return to her sisters and I began plotting my next course of action. I had to get back out there and I had to do it right away. I couldn't leave my hive exposed but how was I supposed to deal with all those angry bees?

I put on socks and boots and limped back out to the building. I thought if I could just find a pair of my father-in-laws abandoned coveralls I would slip those over my clothes. I'd also been told that bees could not sting through latex kitchen gloves so I'd dragged those out with me. As I was pilfering through the building I tripped over my bunker gear. EUREKA! If fire can't get through it, neither can a bee. The best part is it is sealed at every imaginable entrance so bees couldn't infiltrate. The worst part is it weighs about 30lbs and will make you sweat like a fiend. But it seemed like the best option at the moment.

I had a bittersweet moment of reflection as I donned my old gear and then I cracked up as I realized how moronic I looked wearing bunker gear fastened tip to stern over kitchen gloves and a bee veil. But I didn't have a lot of time so I restoked the smoker which had burnt out by this point, grab the hive tool and limped back out on my throbbing foot to rejoin the fight. I quickly learned that "bees can't sting through kitchen gloves" is a myth so I beat another hasty retreat back too the building and put some black work gloves over my kitchen gloves.

Take three. I finally made it back to the hive, smoked them again and got to work. The brood box of the largest hive was a mess. There was wax everywhere bridged between frames and glued to the bottom screen. I felt like an evil predatory villain as I scraped half emerged bees from their cells and tried to clean wax and larva from the edges. Needless to say the bees did not appreciate my murderous rampage either.

They were angry. Even knowing full well that I was impenetrable to their stings it is a disconcerting feeling to have angry bees crawling on every part of your body, also as they buzz around and gather in mass they create heat. The temperature change was noticeable through my gloves. Not to mention, I knew that every little soldier that stung me was sacrificing her life unnecessarily and ineffectually. It was sad. I know they are just insects but they are mine and I am already attached to them with a vested interest of time and money. I want to create a symbiotic relationship where we meet each others needs, not kills them uselessly. So by the time Fred got home I'd made it through the brood box of the larger hive. I found no queen cells and worse I couldn't find the queen.

Fred exited his car to the sight of me thirty or so feet from the hive sitting on the ground in full bunker gear covered in angry little bees singing "Jesus Loves Me" at the top of my lungs and puffing the smoker at my head trying desperately to calm them down. I'm sure at that moment he consider having me committed and tossing the hives in the river. From a safe distance he asked what I thought I was doing, I snapped that I was obviously getting my hair done. My frustration level had peaked but at least I had managed to put the hive back together. Fred went into the house and I went into the building and managed to extract myself from my garb and make into the house.

We discussed what we should do. Unable to locate the queen in either box should we kill all the queen cells and risk a swarm? Should we look again? Should we leave them to swarm and try to catch it? We were at a loss, with too many options and not enough education. I called the president of the KVBA and asked his advice. He told me even if we couldn't find the queen we could still create and artificial swarm by removing all the queen cells to the new brood box and letting them hatch and rear a new queen without the old one leaving. The only risk, he said, was that we would accidentally move the illusive old queen into the new box and leave the old box queen-less. Worst case scenario, he said, was that at some point we may have to requeen one or the other or both boxes. Well this did not really sound like the perfect solution but we were running out of time and options. Plus, if we did it this way it would allow us to take all the queen cells from both boxes and not just split one or the other, thus preventing a swarm from either box.

The invaluable tip that he shared with me was this: A 1:3 solution of sugar water with 2 drops of peppermint oil would (with light smoke) calm and disorient the bees, masking their natural pheromones and allowing you to combine bees from both hives without causing a war.

Fred took half a day off Thursday because, frankly, this is too much task for one novice beekeeper to handle alone and it is something we want to do together. We want it to be something that brings us into greater harmony with each other and nature, not something that becomes one person or the other's "chore". Fred got home about 10:30am on Thursday and we did some yard work and maintenance around the property waiting on the temperatures to rise enough to get back in the hives. Finally it was warm enough, we suited up, got the smoker ready and realized we didn't have a spray bottle for the sugar solution. SIGH. Off to the dollar store to pick up a spray bottle.

Once we were finally ready we decided to start in the biggest hive where I had left off. I knew there were no queen cells in the brood box so we could move back up into the supers below the excluder. We smoked and sugared the bees, set the top supers off to the side and covered them with a tarp, this kept those bees from getting angry and coming to join their sisters in the fight. The sugar water was like a magic elixir, it kept everyone much calmer than before and allowed us to use less smoke. We went through the supers and found queen cells, brood, honey, drone cells and pollen in one. We prepared the new brood box by screening in the entrance and laying a sheet of newspaper with a small slit across the top. We moved the entire super to the new box and covered it with another sheet of newspaper and the lid.

We then replaced all the remaining supers on the big hive and prepared to get in the little hive. We went through everything below the excluder on the little hive and realized that what we had mistaken for queen cells in the little hive were actually drone cells. We didn't find any queen cells in the little hive at all which is relieving. The one disturbing thing we did find, though, was in the brood box. The bees had apparently only filled one side. We aren't sure what this means but we cleaned it anyway and moved the cluster to the middle and the empty frames to either side. We put the small box back together and went about the task of topping the new box and making sure the bees could not escape.

Fred was concerned that we should remove the sheet of newspaper. The newspaper was originally to act as a temporary barrier if we had combined supers from both hives. We decided to leave it. The bees could chew through it and it would only be more traumatic for them, and us, to mess with their new hive anymore. We were told we would need to leave the new hive sealed for seven days to prevent the bees from abandoning the new hive and going back to the old one. By the time we put away our gear and emptied the smoker we realized our fears about the news paper were unfounded. The bees had already chewed through it and were clustered against the screen blocking the entrance buzzing angrily. It is a depressing sight to watch them fight so hard to get out and knowing we have to leave them there for at least four to seven days to create a new hive.

The good news is we have managed to clean up both hives and hopefully prevent a swarm. The potentially bad news is we have no clue what we are doing and still have been unable to locate either of our queens and may have just killed a whole super of our bees. I know this is a process of trial and error. I know that life is cyclical and thing will be born and things will die. That does not make me any bigger of a fan of killing my bees.

In Ecclesiastes 3:1-3 the Bible tells us "There is an appointed times for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven- A time to give birth, and a time to die...A time to kill, and a time to heal..." As Fred and I move forward into our "greener" existence, as we become closer to our food source and to our lives as we believe God intended, I find this passage of scripture, the whole chapter, more and more poignant. We as a culture have become so artificial and so determined to control and adjust these things that we forget there is a basic and unalterable rhythm to life. That ultimately we have no control.

Still, having realized that and working towards excepting that truth, as we walked back out to our hives at dusk to check the general well-being of our bees, I was momentarily grieved to look down and find one of my bees trapped between the super and the brood box. Her abdomen and thorax were partially crushed and her front legs and antenna were still struggling to free her body. I had a moment's pause and a wave of sadness as I reached down to snuff her life. I knew she lay there suffering and struggling and I knew it was my fault for a lack of caution and a lack of knowledge. The personal struggle of her tiny little life and her natural push for survival touched my heart.

As I mourned the loss of this one tiny creature I thought of all the others we had inevitable and unintentionally killed in the varying stages of their existence. I thought of how much God loves us and how he is not willing to loose one of us. I know the grief I felt over one tiny little bee and how, even as they railed against me and attacked, I still cared for them. I feel this translate into God's care and love for all humanity and how badly we must hurt his heart when we fight against him and intentionally or unintentionally hurt each other and abuse his creation, his gift to us.

Stay with us and come back to read about or success, or failure, in creating this new colony. Also we plan to begin work or our chicken coop soon and I will try my hand at making laundry detergent...

Much love,

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Fred & I have been talking about "going green" and "living off-grid" since we met but until recently, like most of our friends, family and acquaintances, we were just too caught up in the rigors of day to day living to even consider the effort it would take to shift towards a more sustainable life. Sure, we saved our cans, we tried to pick "organic" at the market, and we talked a good talk. But like most people with busy lives we didn't want to spend our precious little free time doing more work. Instead we wanted to camp, ski, go to movies, sit on our behinds, etc. Living the kind of life we dreamed of just seemed like way to much effort.

Then in September of last year, when I was benched on medical leave unsure of whether or not I'd be able to return to my job, suddenly I was left with unlimited time. I like to cook and baking is a great stress reliever for me with a finished product that allows me to garner praise from loved ones, so it is a win-win. I started baking like mad. I baked so much we couldn't even consume it all. Well, we could have but then we would have needed new clothes. So Fred suggested I begin entering my treats in some of the fairs.

Before I entered we decided to go check out the competition at the Kanawha County Fair. While we were milling around the fair grounds we saw a display of bees. Beekeeping is always something I have found fascinating. The matriarchal society, the almost entirely female population, the sheer economy of the hive and a worker bee's utilitarian existence are amazing things. We struck up a conversation with a gentleman we now know as the president of the Kanawha Valley Beekeepers Association. He saw our obvious interest and smelled fresh blood like a shark. He began to expound for us the different virtues of beekeeping and invited us to come to a meeting if we were interested.

Fred and I decided that we were interested, enough to at least spend a Saturday morning on the endeavor, so that next month we headed to the St Albans' library to experience a beekeeping meeting. We soon realized that the president's blood lust was not unfounded, we were the youngest people in the room by possibly decades. He was desperate to infuse the Association with some young members who would have the energy for all of the extraneous activities vital to the funding of the Association & the promotion of beekeeping. What had we gotten into?

At this point we'd checked out "Beekeeping for Dummies" and had bought a couple other books and done copious amounts of reading. We had begun to realize the critical part bees play as pollinators in America's food industry. Beekeeping seemed daunting but not unmanageable so we had pretty much committed ourselves to the course in every way short of actually obtaining bees. Our problem was funding.

We had decided, with much research and discussion, that it was important to start out with at least two hives. This way if there was a tragedy in one of the hives, say colony collapse or worse foul brood, we would still be able to salvage and split the second hive without completely starting from scratch. We had determined we would need an initial investment of around eight-hundred to a thousand dollars. While this isn't an insurmountable amount of money normally, right then, to us it was. Remember, I recently became unemployed so we were struggling under the consumerism of the Christmas season in addition winter heating bills and doctor expenses from my medical issues, it just wasn't in our budget.

While at the meeting we met an elderly gentleman who had been a beekeeper most of his life. Due to increasing physical problems he was ready to get out of beekeeping for the most part & wanted to "pass the torch". He offered to sell us his hives and the bees in them for one-hundred-fifty dollars a piece. This is cheap, we couldn't build our own boxes for one-fifty let alone populate the colony with new bees! We took his name and number and went home to cook our books again. At this point we estimated if we bought two of his hives, and the minimal equipment we would need to tend them, we would have an initial investment of five-hundred dollars. This was a much more reasonable and obtainable investment for us but still we deliberated and we dithered about a little too long.

The early cold snap and bitter jump into winter made it impossible to begin immediately. So we put our plans on hold, checked out more books and burrowed in for winter. When spring finally arrived we figured we had missed the bus on the discount hives but we were still willing to move forward. We began research breeds of bees and Fred made a phone call to the president of KVBA, where we were met with more disappointing news and yet another set back.

It seemed, he told Fred, that WV beekeepers all around the state were in trouble. Between the bitterly cold winter and the rampant colony collapse disorder beekeepers all around the state had lost unbelievable amounts of their bees. Some people were even reporting a complete loss of their entire stock. Now I am not talking about novice bee hobbyist here, I am talking about professional beekeepers who's livelihood depends on their harvest. Bees that had been fed and tended all winter were dead, or worse, just disappeared. He told Fred there were no bees to be had, people had scrambled to rebuild their stock and had bought all the bees on the market. This did not bode well for us. If these men and women who had kept bees their whole lives were failing how could the two of us make a go and where would we get the bees?

We decided to make one last push. I dug around in my wallet until I found the number of the gentleman who wanted to sell. We held little hope that he would have any bees left or that if he did have them he would still be willing to part with them at such an affordable aforementioned price considering the sudden and desperate need on the market. Fred called and I can honestly attest to the chivalry and brotherhood of beekeepers in this state. Yes the gentleman still had four strong hives and yes he was still willing to sell them for one-hundred-fifty apiece. He told us we could come out to his property whenever we were ready & that he would help us seal them up and get ready for transport.

We made a trip to Poca to look at the hives and discuss the ones we wanted. We shook hands and told him we would be back on the first warm evening with cash in hand to pick up the two hives we had selected. We were in for another cold snap though so it was several weeks before we were able to get the bees. It work out for us because it gave me some time to teach a few more yoga classes which allowed us to earmark the money for the hives. We bought a couple of bee veils, a hive tool and a smoker and set out to gather our lot.

We arrive in Poca at dusk. To move a hive you must wait until dark when all the bees have come in for the evening, otherwise you will simply move an empty hive. We staple the entrances of the hive boxes closed and sealed them together with ratchet straps, loaded up the back of the truck and headed home. I can tell you it was a very slow nerve wracking trip home, every pot hole felt like a moon crater and every stop was jarring. We were afraid when we got home we'd have a truck bed & topper full of swarming angry bees but God is good and as with all our fumblings, He provides.

We bounced into our driveway hives intact and breathed a heavy sigh of relief and said a grateful prayer of thanksgiving! We'd been warned that the bees would be irritated from the move so to leave them alone a bit to calm down before unloading. We left them in the truck bed, grabbed a bite of super and debated our next move. We had to unload them that night otherwise we ran the risk of killing a bunch so we headed back outside to knock around in the dark and pretend like we knew what we were doing. By this point it was hours past our bed time and we were both tired and cranky. Beehives are awkward heavy things and must be positioned just so for proper ventilation and what not.

We had left the hives closed with screen & straps while we jostled them around onto the stands. Once we had them placed we knew we would need to remove the screening as soon as possible to allow the bees to orient to their new surroundings. We got them situated and debated who would take the screens off. Fred finally said he would and went back to the truck to start putting on all of his safety gear, I'd had enough. I was tired it was cold and I wanted to go to bed.

I approached the hives from the side, took a deep breath, closed my eyes and reached down to rip the screen from the front of the first hive. I waited for the stinging sensation and hum of angry bees, it never came. What I did open my eyes to was a comic look of horror on Fred's face. I think we both though I would be stung to death but at that point I was too tired to care! When my rash decision garnered no fatal or painful results I boldly marched to the second hive and ripped the screen from it's entrance. I was a woman of power! :)

Fred and I stepped a safe distance away and waited. I think we both fully expected to stand there and watch our swarm up bees take flight in the air, abandoning us and leaving us three-hundred dollars poorer. Nothing happened. Our bees were in for the night and apparently perfectly content to stay there. SUCCESS! Fred and I went in and went to bed high on our momentary victory.

We've had our bees now for a couple of months, we've been in the hives, looked around, moved a few things and found we have queen cells. This is good and bad. It is good because our queen is laying, it is bad because it means the colony is crowded and ready to swarm. So in a couple of hours, when the temperature is warm enough Fred and I will attempt to make our first hive split and create a new colony. Come back to see our results...

Much love & hopefully much honey ;)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A little about us, our hopes and our dreams.

Fred and I love to be outside. That is pretty much from where all of this, our desires for a "greener" life, stems: our love of the outdoors. This blog will chronicle our hopeful, baby steps towards a more earth friendly, God driven, sustainable life. We are dreamers by nature and sometimes we out dream our means. We are imperfect humans who get angry and make mistakes. We are Americans by birth so we want what we want and we want it now. We are learners by choice, with some formal (useful & useless) education between us. As we age and grow we find we have much more to learn from the Bible, from people with experience in our interests and from the endless resources available at the library and on the internet.

We aren't trying to start a revolution (except in our own home) we simply want to document what we are doing for ourselves, as a learning tool, & to interact with other like-minded people who also sense there is something more for all of us if we merely try to lead a more thoughtful, less busy existence.

I was a vegetarian for many years, I've been a Christian (although an imperfect one) since I was a child, I became interested in yoga as a young adult and since Fred and I have been married I've transitioned into a dietary vegan. Simply put, it is my personal belief that you are what you eat. If you eat things that are unsanitary, that have lived lives of pain and torture or that are chocked full of chemicals you will be unhealthy and unhappy. I will state once again I am not perfect I do own leather shoes & handbags, throwing those away will not save any more animals. I will point out though I am not eating my old shoes either :)

Fred is also a Christian, he is an accomplished outdoors man and an avid fisherman. He is obviously not a vegan but we share an equal passion for a more healthy, less separate connection to our food and our food sources. Fred works a factory job where he is trapped indoors all day. We know that for now that is where God has put him to financially provide for our family. Some day though, Fred & I both dream of a life less enslaved to a time clock. We are planning now and working towards our future. Fred will hopefully also make posts on this blog and not leave all the writing to me, so I will leave off here and let him tell you more about himself in a later post.

I am not opposed to others eating meat. I am opposed to them eating poison. We don't have some hidden agenda or any political ambitions we only want to help our family and work toward being the good stewards of the earth that God charged us to be. I myself would consider renouncing some of my vegan ways on a limited basis, were we able to raise our own eggs, milk and honey. This is part of what we will be documenting as we move towards green. We will try to discuss our choices and our reasoning. We know we can't do it all at once so we are taking small steps, starting with little things and dreaming of a bigger picture. We've started with two beehives & a porch garden. We hope to soon include some chickens and a compost pile. Some day we dream of solar & wind power, a few goats and a spring fed well.

People may call us liberals, people may call us hippies, people have already tried to discourage us although with nothing but the most well-intentioned motives. We have heard everything from it is too expensive, to bee/chicken/gardening is too difficult and too time consuming and too dirty. We are not afraid of hard work and we know that what is even more difficult than managing these tasks is battling cancer and other illnesses caused in part by the things we eat.

I made the transition to veganism in my life out of laziness and convenience. I could not live with the repercussions of eating things I knew to be so harmful yet I had neither the time nor the inclination to raise those things myself. Last year all that changed. As a medical condition made it impossible for me to continue in my job as a firefighter I found myself stuck at home eating over processed junk-food (yes there is vegan junk food) listless and with no direction. I am now left with scads of time and limited means of transportation. It took a while for me to get past the crushing disappointment of loosing a job I'd worked so intently to have, however I now realize that God has given me a great opportunity that very few people are ever afforded. I am home with unlimited time to make something out of our little patch of dirt.

So Fred and I have begun our journey with 2 beehives and a dream. We hope you will all feel free to post comments and suggestions. Don't be afraid to offend or correct us but please don't pick fights either. We want your help and your suggestions but we have plenty of our own sarcasm and challenges, so you can keep those :) We hope you will enjoy this journey with us and we hope maybe you'll be inspired too!

Thank you for reading and please come back,