All posts by ruthsoaper

One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure

Giving the flower bed by our deck a makeover this spring is the perfect example of how “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This flower bed was in desperate need of a makeover this year as it had become overrun with grass and various wild plants that I didn’t want there, so technically we can call them weeds. In addition some of the plants that I had planted there a few years back had grown too big for the limited space so it was time for them to go.

I had mentioned in a previous post that my husband was working a seasonal job at a greenhouse that is a large wholesale supplier of annual flowers. While working this job he saw value in many of the items that were ending up in the dumpster and headed for the landfill. He started bringing home some of the items that he thought we or others could use.

To makeover our flower bed we started by laying down a layer of thick black plastic as a weed barrier. The large plastic sheets we used had originally held 2000 lb. bales of potting soil. Once the potting soil is removed from the package the plastic is normally thrown away. Instead my husband brought them home and cut them into strips that we can use as weed barrier where needed.

After we put down the plastic we put a layer of wood mulch on top. The mulch was obtained from a local tree cutting company. In their yard they have piles of mulch that they give away.  My husband went there with several large lawn and leaf bags. He filled them with mulch and brought them home to use for this project.

I had decided that after we had the wood mulch down I would use flowers in pots to add color. We had many pots already stored in our shed and my husband had brought some home that were going to be thrown away. The weather was still too cool for most annual flowers to be comfortable and flourish, but the Pansies that my husband had brought home because they were unsellable would do just fine in the cool Spring temperatures. Though beautiful flowers these pansies were not sellable because the flats were not full, so unless someone came along to take them home they too would have ended up in the dumpster.

It was a few weeks later when my husband came home with the lovely pink Geranium hanging baskets. Though I think they are beautiful, they apparently did not meet the quality standards of the company he works for. While it seems a shame that they would have otherwise been discarded, I respect that this company has high standards and is only willing to sell top quality products. Out of the nine geraniums he brought home we gave two to our neighbors across the street who hung them one shepherds hooks in front of their home and two to our neighbors next door who did the same. We kept the remaining five and I found some brackets that we had stored in our shed and hung some from both the upper and lower railings of the deck. I love that this adds more dimension to this landscape. I also love how the neighbors displays of the same flowers seems to tie our community together.

Then one day my husband came home with three football shaped planters containing large red Petunias and blue Lobelia. The Petunias are so large that the Lobelia is barley visible. He said that they were sitting by the dumpster and he couldn’t stand to see them being thrown away. He gave them a good watering before setting them strategically in this flower bed.

IMG_5107

I have never used flower pots in my flower beds before, but potted plants are a great, low maintenance way to beautify an area. I am so happy with the way this turned out.

IMG_5112

The other piece that I truly love is this old oak block that has been sitting in our back yard for several years. I think it’s original purpose was to be used as a log splitting block when my husband was splitting fire wood with a maul. We have since started using our hydraulic log splitter so the oak block has sat in the back yard unused. It began growing shelf mushrooms and earlier this Spring I noticed it’s uniqueness. I thought it was lovely and I needed to incorporate it in our landscape somewhere. I was a bit hesitant to ask my husband because it is a very heavy piece of wood, but as soon as I mentioned it he helped me load it into a wheelbarrow then he placed it in it’s new home, asking me exactly where I wanted it and how I wanted it oriented.♥  It worked perfectly into this design.

While this had the potential to be quite costly project the total cost for materials for this project was $0. We also feel good that we saved many of these items from ending up in the landfill.

Have you ever found treasure in someone else’s trash?

 

Chickens, Dandelions and Mud Puddles ♥

I am fairly new at being a grandma. My grandson, Jackson, is almost three years old and his sister Adeline is about 15 months old.

I was recently telling my husband that when my kids were little my mom was teaching them to blow bubbles into their milk through a straw. I could not believe that she would do such a thing, because when my sisters and I were young she would yell at us for blowing bubbles into our drinks. Why was it inappropriate behavior for us, yet she encouraged her grandkids to do this? I never understood until this past weekend while spending time at the farm with our grandkids I realized that I am the kind of grandma that my mom was.

It was a chilly spring day and our plan for their visit wasn’t necessarily to spend time outside at the farm. Tina had forgot to bring hats or boots for the kids, and while I didn’t have any extra footwear for them I grabbed a couple of extra hats to at least keep their heads and ears warm.

When we got to the farm the first thing Addy did was begin picking dandelions. This immediately won my heart. I am actually planning on picking dandelions soon since I’ll need some to make my Sweet Dandelion Soap. Having little helpers would be a dream come true.

IMG_5023

Her mom was a little concerned about her pretty pink jacket get dirty,

IMG_5024

but Addy was fascinated by the pretty yellow flowers,

IMG_5026

until Ken broke out a bag of treats for the chickens. We know they are not the healthiest treats for our chickens but every once in a while we give them mini marshmallows. Chickens Love Marshmallows!

IMG_5032

Since the kids couldn’t throw the marshmallows very far the whole flock surrounded them, hoping to be next to snatch up a treat.

IMG_5034

Jackson and Addy had a blast feeding the chickens.

After a while we walked back near the barn. Addy continued to pick dandelions along the way. Ken led us across a grassy area to avoid walking though the mud puddles in the driveway. Nice try Ken –

IMG_5037

but it didn’t take long for Jackson to discover the mud puddles. Before his parents could stop him he was stomping his feet in the water and laughing. As his parents tried to redirect him I said “let him play. When he gets back in the truck you can take his socks and shoes off and put a blanket over his feet,” and that is just what they did.

IMG_5039

I’m not sure but I think Addy might have taken this flower with her. At least I hope she did.

It has occurred to me that as a young mother I would have been concerned about a muddy jacket and wet socks and shoes, even more so than Tina and Ken appeared to be.  Perhaps since then I have gained (grandmotherly) wisdom. They grow up way too quickly. Soon dandelions and mud puddles will be a thing of the past.

Life is too short not to pick dandelions and splash in mud puddles.

You should try it.

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day

I didn’t plan on posting anything today until my husband showed me what he discovered next to one of the blueberry bushes.

IMG_5048

It’s hard to make out, but there are 4 baby bunnies in this nest. They are only two or three inches long. We left the nest undisturbed and did not touch any of the babies so Momma will come back and care for them.

 

Bee Day

Today is bee day at our farm. It is the day that the honey bees that we ordered have arrived and we must set them up in their new homes (hives). This year, as in the past two, we ordered our bees from Osage Bees in Avoca, MI. Osage Bees do not raise the bees here in Michigan. Instead they take orders from local customers then travel to Georgia where they pick up the bees and bring them back to Michigan. We find this to be a great option for acquiring bees, especially after our tragic mail order experience a few years back.

Our order was for five 3 pound packages of bees.

This is what three pound packages of bees looks like. There is an estimates 9000 – 12,000 bees in a three pound package.

IMG_4992

The bees are huddled together in a ball surrounding the queen cage to keep her warm and protected.

IMG_4993

There are a few dead bees in the bottom of each package but that is to be expected.

My husband did all the hiving today, but I wanted to be there to take some photos to share with my readers. You won’t see me in the photos, but in case you are wondering I was wearing a bee suit similar to the one my husband has on.

Before I get into todays activities I should mention that a lot of the prep work has been done over the last few weeks. That involved making sure that we had five hives ready (clean, assembled and set in place).

This morning when he went to pick up the bees I made syrup that we would use to feed the bees for the first week or so. We generally don’t like to feed sugar syrup because it does not have the nutrients that the bees would get from nectar or from honey.  We try to keep enough extra honey on hand to be able to feed the bees if necessary, but this year we did not have enough honey to make that happen.

I will also say that there are many methods for hiving bees and for bee keeping. What is right or wrong is largely a matter of opinion, and what works for one bee keeper may not work for another. If you have seen things done a different way or do things differently feel free to ask why we did what we did.

IMG_4996

Before opening the package of bees my husband opened up the hive that he would be putting the bees in. He also removed the center two frames to make room for the bees.

IMG_4999

He next removed the small piece of wood that sealed the top of the package shut. Removing the piece of wood gave him access to the feeder can. The feeder can has syrup in it and small holes that the bees can suck the syrup out of. There is enough syrup in the can to keep these bees alive for several days. This can was still pretty full.

IMG_5000

As he removed the can he remembered to slide the small piece of wood over the hole because he still wasn’t ready for the bees to come out of the package.

IMG_5002

The next step was removing the queen cage. The queen cage is a very small box with screened sides that contains the queen bee and a few attendant bees. The queen is kept separate during travel to protect her. The safety of the queen is of utmost importance because a hive can not function without a queen.

You don’t get to see the actual queen cage because many worker bees were clinging to the cage. Protecting their queen is a large part of their job. Because it was chilly outside my husband held the queen cage in the hive while shaking and brushing the excess bees off.

The next thing he did is not recommended practice, but because of his schedule for the next few weeks it was necessary. He placed the queen cage in the hive and removed the screen so that the queen could get out.

Normal procedure would have been to keep the cage intact and allow the worker bees to get her out by eating the sugar candy that is used to plug one end of the cage. This process usually takes a few days but it is important to check after a few days to make sure she is out. My husband is just not going to have the time to do that check.

 

IMG_5005

After the queen was in the hive my husband emptied the rest of the bees into the hive. In past years when we have done this we have found that when the package is open many bees are eager to get out and bees begin flying out and around the area. Our experience today was different. Presumably because of the cool, cloudy weather the majority of the bees stayed in a ball – huddled tightly together.

IMG_5007

Shaking the package

IMG_5010

and smacking it on the bottom is what needs to be done in order to get the bees out of the package.

There are usually a few bees left in the package so he sets the package on the ground next to the hive so they will find their way in.

IMG_5012

Since we don’t like to open our hives often and disturb the bees he adds a queen excluder and a honey super (the third box). He then put the feeder on top and puts sugar syrup in it, before placing the top on the hive.

IMG_5013

This one is finding it’s new home.

IMG_5014

As I was taking pictures I felt something tickling my hand. I looked down and found this girl checking me out.

IMG_5015

She  seemed to be tasting my skin but certainly had no ill intentions. One of the precautions we take when working with the bees is to not wear anything scented (perfumes, deodorant, hair care products) as the bees might be attracted to it.

IMG_5016

So maybe I am just that sweet. LOL!!!

I only stayed around for the first hive but my husband repeated this with each of the other four hives.

He then reported to me late this afternoon that all of the hives were active and after the sun came out there were busy bees all over the dandelions.

This was a good day!

 

A Blessed Weekend

Before we get to the weekend I have to tell you what happened Thursday. I was standing on our deck when I saw this family of geese walking down the sidewalk in front of our house. I was caught a bit off guard. I have seen geese walk through our neighborhood on a couple of occasions and it always seems strange. This is the first time I have seen them with a gosling. As soon as I saw them I ran in the house for my camera, but by the time I returned they were nearly out of sight. They were headed for a ditch that runs through our community. I pointed my camera, pushed the zoom button to the max and clicked in their direction. I am surprised that I got a decent shot of them.

Looks like a fun family outing.

IMG_4963 (2)

Saturday was the craft sale at Special Dreams Farm and what a great day it was. Like all outdoor events weather is always a concern but this day was blessed. The weather was variable, sweat shirt weather for sure – sometimes cloudy and sometimes sunny, sometimes calm and sometimes windy but not a drop of rain fell on us and considering how many rainy days we have had this spring we were most thankful for a dry day.

Even better than the weather was the company. I was set up between my cousin Abbey and my sister Kathy. My sister Jamie and my cousin Laurie, Abbey’s Mom, were also there. I guess we could call it a family affair.

IMG_4964

This was Abbey’s first craft sale. In fact I believe it is the first time she has sold any of her art work. Some of her pieces were painted, some were done in pencil and others were done with a wood burner.

IMG_4965

I think she is very talented

IMG_4966and judging from how many pieces she sold I would say that shoppers agreed.

IMG_4967

Like Abbey, I had a good day for sales. My dehydrated Garlic Granules and Garlic Dill Dip Mix were both big hits.

IMG_4968

Kathy sells memory bears that are custom made. Customers provide the garments, usually shirts, that she makes into bears. Often these are done in memory of a loved one who has passed away and the clothing would be something that was worn by that person, other times they may commemorate a special place or event.

There was a steady stream of shoppers throughout the day, some of which included more family members and friends, and many who were there to support this wonderful organization.

I received a follow up email from the Director of Special Dreams Farm thanking me for attending and saying that they are planning to hold this event again next year. I will definitely plan on being there.

Sunday we had glorious weather and the icing on the cake was that my husband had the day off from work. We spent the day together just catching up on things that needed to be done. We potted some more of the plants that he had brought home and made sure all of the plants had water. He got the small lawn mower going and I cut the grass at the house, while he cleaned the chicken coop. He also got the riding mower going at the farm, but the grass there was too wet (muddy) to cut. It’s hard to say when I will be able to start cutting the grass at the farm because today brought more rain.

I didn’t take many pictures of our Sunday activities. In fact I only have this one to share.

IMG_4987

Our cherry tree has begun to blossom, and while I enjoy the beautiful blossoms I will be praying for a good cherry crop this year.

Thanks for reading and I hope your weekend was blessed as well.