Flannel Jammies Farm

...praising God on our 1/5 acre of suburbia

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

the "truth in advertising" garden tour...

Often I and my gardening buddies will post stunning photos of our garden goodness... perfectly kept beds of always blooming flowers, mega-productive vegetables, and herbs worthy of a spread in bon appetit.   And we do, in fact, often have gardens (or at least spots in them) that look just like that.

My sweet homesteading friend, Lanette, recently moved to Guam.  GUAM!  And just a couple of weeks into her residency, she has a home, kids ready to begin school, farmers markets and growers identified (and visited!), and yes, a new version of gardening in place.  She gives us a "walk around the homestead" in a recent post on her blog,  Homesteading on the Homefront.  (Go ahead, click and enjoy the beauty.)

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that it's been a hard season for me and I have not been able to tend my gardens the way I should.  I'm no help to my "on his second career" husband, who comes home from a long day of work and commuting to be greeted by a honey-do list longer than the monstrous morning glory vines slowly devouring the sunflowers out back.

Below I share with you some of the good, the bad, and the ugly around Flannel Jammies Farm as summer draws to a close.  Try not to judge.  Laugh with me as we greet the fresh start of Autumn.  And say a prayer for Tom as he braves stink bugs, poison ivy, and cucumbers the size of cantaloupes...
rosemary, chive, boxwood basil, peony... and weeds

echinacea:  wanted, dead or alive

sedum:  blooming where it's planted

still life:  rosebush with tomato and pumpkin

my treasured pink dogwood among wandering lambs (ears)

crappy birdbath

oh, the abundant tomatoes (that I can't eat this season)

spooky marigold and black tomato

chives, tomatoes, windows, and pollinators... oh, my!

hibiscus camouflaging a top-bar hive

a Tim Gunn "make it work" moment (ran out of striped boxes)

another top-bar beauty

wish these washboarding bees knew how to rake...

Scarlett's thinking, "that ain't right..."

composter, windows, solar wax melter, and overgrowth, a la Fred Sanford

erectus mysterio

Thursday, July 16, 2015

visiting the bees...

The time is drawing near!  The Spring nectar flow has come and gone, the busy bees have foraged and gathered and fanned and stored and capped tiny cups of sweet honey in the comb.  Very soon now we'll be taking just the surplus from the hives, leaving more than enough to nourish the bees through the coming winter.  We purchased our own extractor this year, a big, gleaming drum that uses centrifugal force to spin honey from frames of honeycomb.  We chose a hand-cranked model with capacity to hold 2 frames (with the option to upgrade to 9 frames)... perfect for our small apiary.

A few days ago we peeked into the hives, assessing their numbers, health, needs, and just how much honey could be shared with us.  We gently lifted off the hive roof and puffed a little smoke from the smoker, our way of asking the bees to move aside to allow us to enter without incident. 

Bee numbers had increased so robustly in all but one hive!  Every one seemed healthy, busy, and ready for more elbow room.  We scraped away any wayward comb and overzealous propolizing.  We checked for brood in all stages, finding eggs, larva, capped brood, and even saw a little bee friend emerging into the world!

We decided to begin feeding a sugar syrup to the one colony with the smaller (but strong!) population, encouraging them to build wax comb and bee numbers.  (We don't usually feed sugar syrup to our bees, but in this case it can prove helpful.)

The tops were placed back on the hives, leaving the bees to their work.  We'll return this week to extract from second and third year hives; we leave all honey stores for the bees in the hives that were started this year, giving the bees the best chance to build their numbers and go into winter with lots of nourishment.

Before sitting down to share on the blog this morning, I was pondering our dinner menu.  What to cook?  What to cook?  WHAT TO COOK?  I came up empty, and wandered out to the kitchen garden to see what might be ready to harvest.  Menu problem solved.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

flannel jammies farm is stepping out!

Flannel Jammies Farm is stepping out!

We'll have our first Pop-Up Shop
located at Town Center 
on Saturday, July 25, 12-5pm!
Stop by and see us 
(and our honey bees in an observation hive!) 
for raw local honey, beeswax, lotion bars, 
photo postcards and prints, and much more!

Monday, June 15, 2015

giving a swarm a new home...

Some days, the Great Bee smiles and whispers to swarming honey bees the path to a loving home.

This was the case recently, with sweet bees stopping to rest in the maple tree in our front yard.  We welcomed these visitors with joy and gently settled them into a new home.  Here's how...

On a bright Saturday morning, my husband pulled into our driveway and heard the unmistakeable sound of buzzing bees.  He peeked overhead, into the maple tree, and saw a traveling swarm had stopped to rest right in our beekeeping front yard! The swarm was not too small and not too big but just right.

The hubs worked quickly but calmly.  He pulled his pickup under the tree branch and placed a horizontal ladder atop the truck's toolbox.  He also brought out a waiting nuc box, or small hive for a nucleus colony of bees.  This box is a good starter size for a small colony, with only five frames to fill with wax and to protect. Any additional escape routes were covered over, leaving only one entrance open at the front of the box.  The bottom of this box is screened for ventilation.

Reaching up, he used loppers to gently cut the branch from the tree, far enough away from the clustered swarm to ensure they would not be disturbed or harmed.

The branch with the swarm still attached was lowered into the nuc box.  Bees, sensing the Queen's pheremone, should make their way to her.  If the hubs was successful, the Queen would be in the nuc box and the remaining bees would begin their journey into the box to join her.  We soon saw that this was the case and watched as bees made their way through the entrance and clustered on the screened bottom.

After about 20 minutes, the branch was slowly removed and the frames were added one by one, floating and then sinking slowly into the bees in the box.  The lid was added to the box.

My husband also invited the neighbors over to watch the process!  They loved seeing something they'd never witnessed before and were fascinated by how gentle the bees are.

These bees quickly filled out the frames in the nuc box with lovely beeswax, pollen and nectar stores, and sweet baby bee brood.  The five full frames were moved into an 8-frame hive, giving the bees more room to grow their colony's numbers and stores for the winter ahead.   They now reside in the barn red hive behind the bottle tree, nestled among honey bee neighbors.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

the flying Spring (lots of photos)...

Has it really been 3 months since we've visited here?  It's hard to believe!  Spring here at Flannel Jammies Farm:  our daughter's wedding, bees everywhere, newly built raised beds, a pen pal, Easter's joy, helping a high school student with a bee awareness project, achieving full Virginia Beach Master Gardener status, hanging with friends, and so much more!  Rather than bore you with my fumbling words, here are some photos to catch you up to where we are now, in no particular order...

Chatting and stitching with Paulette Stewart
Once Upon a Tea with dearest Cathy
The dogwood Daddy gave me long ago
Our new Tom-built raised beds
Working with Alanna, sharing about bees
Snail Mail from my pen pal
Installing a Natural Playscape at church
Top-Bar Hive
On the road with Joan and Lanette
Spring stitching
Chihuly exhibit with the Zamorskis
New beadboard ceiling and amazing green paint
Working at the Children's Garden
Our daughter designed her wedding stationery
Trista's bridal beauty
Handsome groom
Me and my girl
Wonder what these siblings are chatting about?
The cake, complete with Star Wars quote
The groom's cake
One serious ring bearer
Wedding flowers and smiles
Father and daughter
Walking the courtyard aisle
Tom presenting the bride
The kiss and the cutest flower girl
Our family
Tom's boutonniere
I can have Leia buns, too!
Sweet cousins
A toast (thanks, Joan, for those stunning goblets!)
These ladies...  love my family!

Traveling the Blue Ridge
Dehydrating cherries
Hanging at Notforgotten Farm with Lori Brechlin
Trapping a swarm in a nuc box