2010 in review

The following stats were to delivered to by inbox, courtesy of WordPress.com:

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads:  This blog is on fire!

(LOL, I bet they say that to everybody.)

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,900 times in 2010. That’s about 5 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 50 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 61 posts. There were 180 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 62mb. That’s about 3 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was October 4th with 67 views. The most popular post that day was A Little Color on a Dreary Day.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were theeasygarden.com, networkedblogs.com, mail.yahoo.com, backyardchickens.com, and sufficientself.com(All my favorite forums that I frequent.)

Some visitors came searching, mostly for deworming chickens, ivermectin for chickens, where to find morel mushrooms, ivermectin/bees, and Jason Perlak(Maybe I should drop him an email and let him know he’s famous!  :)  )

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010. 

1

A Little Color on a Dreary Day October 2010     
1 comment

(This was one of my favorites too.)

 

2

Opening the Bees April 2010
1 comment

3

Honey for my Honey June 2010                       
2 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com

(My favorite memory from 2010!)

 

4

Jelly from Wild Grapes October 2010         
6 comments

(I really liked how the photography turned out on this one.)

 

5

SeedsNTrades Shareware February 2010

 

Well, there you have it.  2010 was a good year for me.  I feel I made a lot of improvements in my life this past year and set my mind toward more to come.  There’s so much I want to do.  I love having this blog to collect my thoughts and record my progress, as well as the day to day humor and blessings in it all.  One Sunny Acre will hopefully chronicle many more goals accomplished for 2011 as I work to fully appreciate and utilize the good things in life God has graciously given me and to be a better servant for Him.  I feel so blessed.  I am so thankful for my family and my home.

Moving

…over to Blogger! 

I am in the process of moving all my content at One Sunny Acre over to Blogger, which I’ve found better suits my blogging needs.

The new site address is http://onesunnyacre.blogspot.com/

Please come by and check out the new format and improvements and let me know what you think!

If you are currently subscribed here, you will need to move your subscription over there.  There are several new options for subscribing via RSS/Google Follower/NetworkedBlogs.  I’ll be leaving this site up for a few months to help redirect.  This will be the last post entered here on WordPress.

Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll like the new site.

Free is Good

A couple of projects to work on now that things are slowing down for winter.

I sent my husband on a mission to find a used office desk that he could scrap-pass at work.  His company has a scrap yard/warehouse where employees can get things for free that the company no longer has a use for.  Tools, building supplies, scrap metal, old office chairs, who knows what all is in there (I wish they’d let me in so I could look for myself!)  All you have to do is sign it out.

He hit the jackpot with a bunch of old office equipment they were actively looking to rehome so as to free up a little space.  As with the manure situation, I told him I’ll take what I can get.  He brought me 2 metal work tables, 2 big metal desks and a 4 drawer file cabinet–all in great condition, just a few scratches and tiny dings.  I don’t believe you could destroy industrial office furniture if you tried.

One of the metal work tables has gone to the basement to serve as a laundry table/place for my husband to lay his hunting stuff/place for my husband take his laptop and hide when he has to do the bills.  The other work table and the larger of the two metal desks will go to the garage for extra workspace and storage.  The file cabinet will also go in the garage for tool storage.

This desk is going to replace the crappy, assemble-it-yourself, wannabe-wood eyesore I bought at Ollie’s that I am currently using for a computer desk.  I am going to paint this one a nice forest green to match my kitchen border.  It has lots of drawers, which is the part I am most excited about, to squirrel away all my junk.  I can’t abide clutter.  It makes me crazy.

And then there’s this thing…

Do you see what I am seeing? 

Kitchen storage space!!

I have a decent amount of cabinet space already, but I could really use more.  Right now I have to stack all my pots and pans strategically to get them all to fit (and so I can find them again when I need them.)

I got this antique armoire from my mother-in-law when she was cleaning out her barn.  She brought me a lot of things to put in my yard sale this summer and this was one of them.  She gave $50 for it somewhere.  I put $30 on it and was really surprised it didn’t sell.  It’s in really good condition structurally.  The veneer on the doors needs a little work where it had pulled up here and there.  I am going to add a couple more shelves to the right-hand side, paint it burgundy, distress it a little and rub a black stain into the sanded areas.  I might do a little decorative painting or stencilling on it to make it cute.  I haven’t decided for sure.

I’m going to use it to store all my dry goods in the kitchen (thus freeing up more space for my pots and small appliances) and make a cute little country-prim arrangement on top.  My kitchen needs a more deliberate attempt at decorating and I think this little armoire could be the start of some creative inspiration for me.

I’ll post back later with the end results!

What Do These Bees Know?

Well, we didn’t get our first frost the other night, but we will most certainly see one this Thursday night–if not a freeze.

When I went outside to do my chores today, I couldn’t help but notice the mason bees were everywhere.  They were on every flower, sometimes more than one to a flower, having a big knockdown drag-out trying to get the last bits of pollen and nectar before the flowers are all gone.  I’ve never seen so many mason bees before!

 

What do these mason bees know that we don’t know?

There were four fighting over this dahlia.  (I did get to enjoy a few more, by the way!)

And four more on this one!  The little bee at the bottom didn’t stand a chance against these big guys.

 

Here’s a moth trying to get in on the action…

There were hundreds of them on my morning glories.

Even in the withered ones!

I have always had flowers wherever I lived, but I have only been a serious gardener for about 7 or 8 years now.  Never have I seen them like this.

According to the mason bees, I’d say we’re in for another long winter.

Which reminds me, I need to take the honey bees some more sugar-water tomorrow.  My buckwheat is finally ready to bloom, but it will not make it after tomorrow’s frost.  The bees did not get the benefit of it, which really bums me out.  I should have either planted it a couple of weeks earlier or perhaps if I had watered it well during this recent dry spell it would have made it in time.

Well, the hornet’s nests say we’ll have a big, snowy winter.

And the wooly bear caterpillars say we’ll have a never-ending winter.  Ha.  (You really can’t trust the wooly bears.  They like to play practical jokes.)

In addition to the asian lady beetles swarming against the south-side of my house on these recent warm afternoons, there have also been dozens of dang-blasted wasps trying to get inside.  I am allergic to wasps and don’t want to share my living quarters with them this winter.

The spiders have also been bad.  We sprayed for them this year and I have still seen a few in the basement.  Normally we don’t like to spray because of the young’n and the doggies, but after my daughter found a giant wolf spider in her bathtub and nearly clobbered herself trying to get out of there in a big, wet, slippery hurry, we decided it was probably a good idea.

So, if the old wives tales have it right, we will have another hard winter this year.  Last year was one of the snowiest winters we’ve had here in West Virginia that I can recall since I was a kid.

What ill portents have you noticed this fall?  Do you think we’re in for it?  Either way, I’m stocking up!

A Very Blustery Day

What strange weather we’ve had today.  I went over to visit my neighbor for a bit and we heard on the Weather Channel that nearly the entire East Coast was under severe thunderstorm warnings and tornado watches until 9pm tonight (it’s 7pm as I post this.)  It was a record-breaking day for low pressure systems since 1968 if I remember correctly what I heard on tv.

The wind was blowing so much I thought I’d better hurry outside and get some shots of our fall color before all the leaves were blown off the trees.  Between the wind and heavy rains, there won’t be much left by tomorrow.

This is the big dogwood tree in my backyard. 

And the view over to the ridge beyond ours.  The golden tops of the poplars are really pretty this year.

I spotted this big hornet’s nest over the fenceline on my neighbor’s property.  We were really plagued by large bald-faced hornets this year.  I couldn’t leave any apples or tomatoes sitting outside.

They say if the hornet’s nests are high up in the trees, we will have lots of snow this year.  Let’s hope not, because this one was way up there!

The wind was blowing so hard, Little Boy Blue’s wattles were blowing sideways!  He was a bit irritable today with all the wind blowing his tail feathers the wrong way everytime he turned around.  He was very nervous and paced a lot.

Down the fence line in the brushy corner of the yard, I found the chickens working on a new dusting hole.  I’m going to have to come back and fill this one with rocks so they do not create a back door for predators to come inside.

The neighbor’s horses came over to say hello.  I gave them a lot of apples last month, so they are usually happy to see me now.

This is the view back toward the main road.  The bees were very busy today with the temps hitting 83 degrees.  Once the rain came through it quickly dropped to 60 degrees.

You can see the storm clouds approaching from the Southwest.  It wasn’t long after we quit snapping pictures that the rain and gusty winds came through.  It is still raining pretty hard right now.

Dahlias

Bye bye, dahlias.  See you next year!

The weather report says our first frost should hit tonight.  I am having my friends from Sunday school out for a bonfire this Saturday and I was really hoping my flowers would stay pretty until then.  All I could do was go out this afternoon and pick the last of them so that I can enjoy them inside.

This was my first year growing dahlias.  They were much easier to grow than I expected and oh boy, did they put out the blooms.

I also covered a couple rows of spinach, lettuce and radishes out in the garden.  Other than that, you just have to accept it and move on.  The first frost draws the line for me.  Winter is on its way.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

I dreaded it for days–no weeks–prior.  Every time I’d look at them I felt guilty.  But it had to be done.  I had too many free-loading chickens eating me out of house and home and it was time to do some culling.

So Saturday I shipped my daughter off to Nana’s house and got down to business. 

We did seven stewing hens in about 2 hours.  A record time for us!  This is our 5th time butchering and you really do get faster as you get experience. 

I think the first 2 or 3 hens I apologized to and thanked them for their sacrifice, but it got easier.  My husband does the killing and plucking (or skinning) and I do the cutting up part.  It’s a good system for us.  Honestly, what relief I felt (as I do every time) to have less crazy chickens to worry about.  I had 39.  Now I have 32.  39 chickens are too many for me.  Too much drama!  And I was finding myself filling the feeder far too often. 

When we were done processing our stewing hens, my husband came over to me and said, “you know, when you get married you think you know what makes a woman happy…until you see how she looks at you after you kill a chicken.”  My Bright-and-Shining-Farmer.  He knows that getting projects done and worries off my mind is something worth more to me than diamonds.

Now if these new pullets (all 26 of them) will just start laying here soon…  I really hope I don’t have to feed them all winter without recouping any of my costs.  I usually get my chicks in March or April.  I was a little late this year.  Plus I haven’t had any eggs for sale in over a month since the older girls began moulting. 

I kept the five Easter Eggers to assure us of eggs over the winter.  They have been wonderful layers all along and I may keep them an extra year or two if they keep up the good work.  Two of them, Kitten and Sunbeam — they have become pets.  I think they will be with us for a long time.

                     

Once the last of the Black Australorps were gone, Little Boy Blue the cockerel (young rooster) realized his advantage and immediately seized upon it.  He jumped a couple of the EE’s just to show them who was boss.  I dislike him already even though he is good-looking.  Rooster attitude just rubs me the wrong way.  I told him he better watch his back or he’d be next in the pot.  Bad roosters make good dumplings!  As long as he doesn’t get smart with me I’ll allow him to hang around my coop and eat my feed for a while.  This may be the last time I let Murray McMurray Hatchery trick me into falling for their “free” rooster ploy…

Blue Splash Andalusian cockerel

Eat, drink and be merry.  That’s the life of a chicken.  They take no thought for tomorrow (Matt. 6:25-26).  They just enjoy today.  Eating, dust bathing, laying in the sun, chasing bugs, eat some more, go to bed early, get up early and do it all over again… Isn’t that how we all should be?  And not worrying about things we’ve put off until tomorrow.  I’m a little jealous of how easily it comes for them.  I’m going to have to start channelling my inner chicken.  Especially the early bird part, because I am so not.

It’s been a couple of days now and my daughter has not noticed that there are any chickens missing at all.  She has plenty left to entertain her.

One evening not long ago when we were having barbecue chicken for dinner, my little girl got out of her chair, drumstick in hand and looked out the window and declared, “thank you chickens for my chicken!”  She really likes her chickens, but her statement rings truer than she at this age can quite know.

Always got a chicken in her arms! 

A Little Color on a Dreary Day

It has been unseasonably cold the past few days.  I’ve been a little under the weather anyways and this dark, chilly day makes me want to take some more NyQuil and go back to bed.

I had to go outside to feed the chickens and get the mail, so Ava and I stopped to smell the roses (and pick some strawberries) along the way. 

These are a few shots of what is still in bloom in my garden this early October.  Knowing that winter is on its way, I’m going to try to appreciate all this color while I still can!  Two more weeks and we’ll be looking for our first frost…

Click on any of the images below to see a larger version.

Tomorrow will mark two years since my husband’s father went to be with Jesus.  He was always one to stop and smell the roses and encouraged others to do the same.  You can see pictures of some of his famous roses and read the tribute I wrote for him last year here.  I hate that my daughter wasn’t old enough to get to know him.  He was really an amazing person and more like a father to me than an “in-law”.

Jelly from Wild Grapes

I couldn’t get my hands on any Concord grapes this year.  But it was a good year for the wild grapes and I came across a nice cluster of vines attached to a fallen tree which made them very easy to reach!  I’ve always wanted to try making jelly from wild grapes and this was the year to do it.  I ended up with a peck basket full.

They are small, but mighty!  Wild grapes look a lot like your regular Concord grapes, but they are much smaller.  Their seeds are still large and there is very little flesh to the fruit.  All their flavor is contained in the skins.  They have a deep, wine-like flavor.

Here is a cluster beside a few store-bought seedless red grapes for size comparison.

Once I got them all plucked, I was surprised how many grapes I actually had.  They filled my 8 quart stockpot about 1/3 of the way full.

I prepared the juice as outlined in the Ball Blue Book, adding just enough distilled water to cover them by about half an inch.  This was brought to a boil and simmered gently for an hour or so, until the fruit was well-cooked and soft.

I allowed that to cool enough to handle, then poured it into about 8 layers of cheesecloth.  I like to tie the bag from the handle of a cabinet and let it drip overnight.

Now this is something the Ball Blue Book will not tell you and I learned from my mother-in-law.  You must allow the juice to passively drip from the bag.  Do not squeeze it!  If you do, you will cause your juice to become cloudy.  You can put the pulp back into the pot with a little more water and repeat the process to get some more juice out of it if you want.

Isn’t that a pretty color?

Now, yet another thing the Ball Blue Book will not tell you:  for the clearest possible juice, you should let the pitcher of juice sit undisturbed in the refrigerator for 24 hours or so.  This allows the tartaric acid crystals to settle out and they will form on the bottom and sides of your pitcher.  Do not stir or disturb at all.  When you gently pour out the juice, they will stay behind in the pitcher.  Tartaric acid is very sour.  This is the same compound from which cream of tartar is derived.

I made my jelly following the Ball Blue Book recipe.  The first batch I did was with pectin.  It made a gorgeous, burgundy colored jelly.

I had enough juice left over to do a half batch of grape jelly without pectin (also in the BBB.)  It came out very nicely too.  I think next time though, I will dilute the juice by one-fourth.  The no-pectin recipe had a stronger, purer, wild grape flavor as a result of being boiled down.

The flavor of this jelly is so much more complex than that of regular grape jelly.  I like that it has a little extra punch of tartness.  It has a deeper flavor and I’ve thought hard about how to describe it.  I would say it has a lambrusco grape/tart red cherry flavor.

I ended up with 5 pints and was very pleased with the results for my effort!

Visiting the Bees

Today turned out to be a nicer day than I expected; sunny, warm and slightly windy.  The morning started out cold, but made its way up to 72 degrees by the afternoon.

My mother-in-law, Carol, came up early to entertain Ava for the afternoon.  Once I got dinner started (potato soup), I grabbed up my gear and hurried down to go see the bees.

Although I observe them from outside the hive often, the August heat and humidity prevented me from donning the full bee suit and going down to take a peek.  My wasp sting scare set me back a little also.  It took two more stings–bee and wasp–for me to discover that with enough Benadryl (about 4 doses of the liquid version), I can be sure that I won’t have a crazy allergic reaction.

Prior to that I had just put on another super, experimenting with top bars.  I found out later that the bars I used were too narrow and even with waxed guide strips they would not likely make nice comb.  I expected that they would just go ahead and make freeform natural comb and I wasn’t too worried about that since I had a queen excluder on.  I figured I could still harvest it, even if it were a mess.

But I was not expecting this:

A completely empty super!  Peeking down between the (horribly inadequate) top bars I saw nothing–nada–they didn’t do anything upstairs.  All that time, wasted. 

The brown screen you see is the queen excluder.  It keeps the queen from moving up and laying eggs in the honey super.  Like I said, I was prepared to deal with freeform comb.  I figured they’d just draw comb diagonally here and there, like they did with the lid when I had the mess to fix earlier this spring.

Ah well, I guess I am learning.  At least they are still alive, haven’t flown off and appear to be completely healthy!  I’ll do things differently next year.

Now this was something I was glad to see:

 

The inner cover was nice and clean.  No ants this time!

My husband has come with me all the other times I have worked the bees.  Today, with the day length getting shorter, I couldn’t wait for him to come home and I worked them by myself.  It was actually much more relaxing for me not to have to talk through it.  I just took my time and enjoyed their buzzing company.  No pressure.  I worked off all the burr comb that I could see on the upper deep, pulled out a couple of frames to inspect and put everything back together.  I’m going to leave that empty super on there just like it is.  I will use it to accommodate a Ziploc bag sugar-water feeder with some terramycin in it when I go back to look at them next week.

I’ve got buckwheat sown in most of my garden plot right now and with all the rain we’ve had, I expect it will germinate soon.  This is the first time I’ve planted buckwheat for a cover crop, but what I’ve read on it says that it should be in bloom 3 weeks after it emerges.  It’s a favorite food source for bees and will make for nice fall forage for them.  I hope that with feeding them and adding on another super, maybe they’ll put up some buckwheat honey.  I will probably just leave it on there for winter, just to be sure they don’t starve out; although what they have now should be enough.  It’s the same set up I wintered them on last year.

After my husband got home and we all had dinner, I left myself very little time to go out and look for mushrooms today.  I got about a half hour to walk the tractor path back into the woods on my Dad’s farm.  I didn’t find any mushrooms, but I didn’t go home empty-handed.  I found some big persimmons.  Ava liked them and said they were like jelly.  They taste better than they look.

There was also a very pretty sunset this evening as I was coming back across the hayfield.

 

It was a good, fairly productive day.  :)

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