I can’t believe how long I’ve been going between posts. I have no real excuse, other than my life seems to be an endless stream of appointments for the kids coupled with hours of weeding the gardens (followed by removing dozens of ticks every night).
Thankfully, there’s something else that’s been endless recently: wild blackberries. Every year I’m astonished at how much more there are than the previous year. It’s also a time game, though. You have to pick them just at ripeness or risk losing them all to japanese beetles and birds. Since I don’t always have time to do anything with the bucketloads I’ve been picking, I’ve been letting the kids eat them all in one go. With the solstice, though, I decided something special needed to be done with them. So I made ice cream.
I started by heating up the berries with some sugar and cinnamon on the stove and lightly mashing them to release some of the juice.
While that was cooling, I used a Ben & Jerry’s recipe for the base. It basically entails whipping eggs with cream and sugar until fluffy. Super easy and quick.
Then the berries were added, and I poured as much as I could fit into the trusty Cuisinart ice cream maker.
There was just enough left over to make popsicles.
When the machine had finished churning, I froze the ice cream an additional few hours before serving.
Has everyone else been crazy busy and absolutely astounded that it’s already June, or is that just me?
Every ounce of energy has been spent on schoolwork, carting kids to various appointments, gardening, and work.
I DID manage to finish my Chimney Fire Sweater, though! I haven’t taken any pictures yet because it’s a thousand degrees outside, but soon! That’s the upside to having my kids going to lots of different meetings: lots of knitting time for me!
The garden has been incredibly frustrating and slow, but it’s coming along. I lost a lot of the pepper and tomatoes I started by moving them out too soon. There’s still plenty there, though, and keeping up with the weeds is of course a daily struggle. The worst part is the ticks. Every day I’m pulling about a dozen off of me. And trust me, I’ve tried everything.
I’ve used every essential oil and bug spray on the market, including the crazy mostly-DEET kind, to no avail. I even went out in the garden in my damn BEE SUIT and still pulled a couple off my back and neck that night. They freaking love me. The harvest this year better be worth it!
I put up deer netting after learning from last year’s total tomato loss, and I’ve got plenty of diatomaceous earth and Neem oil. Once the plants get big enough to withstand them I’ll probably try and keep the ducks in there, at least part-time, to help with the bugs and weeds.
The honeybees are doing very well. I’ve added another box to the hive, since they have mostly filled the two they have already.
They seem to be happy here. We definitely have plenty of wildflowers, and I just confirmed that we have several wild American Elderberry trees! They’re all in flower right now, and I’m crazy excited to have them.
What post would be complete without cats? Widget and Poppet are such fat and happy things.
And then there’s Pippa, who’s starting to show her age, but certainly not acting it.
I went out this evening fully intent on taking plenty of good pictures of the flock in this glorious weather, and realized my camera battery was dead. So, I used my phone.
Everyone is doing very well on the plentiful grass, and the new honeybees are thriving. I’m hoping the temperatures stay reliably warm now, because I’ve transplanted my tomatoes and peppers into the garden.
Oona chose watermelons to grow in her garden space, and if we can keep the ducks out, I think she’ll be successful.
A few days ago I made a honeycomb cake in anticipation of today.
It didn’t last very long, but it made me happy to think about how close I was to being a beekeeper again. And today was the day!
I drove out to Scottsville this morning to pick up my package of honeybees. It had been postponed a day, which is probably okay considering it rained a bunch yesterday.
The lovely folks from Scottsville Supply Co handed me my bee package and queen cage, and off I went, the sound of thousands of buzzing honeybees filling the car. I serenaded them with a bit of Hamilton, but I don’t think they were too into it.
The queen is in her own separate cage. These bees have not been “bonded” to her yet, so she’s being attached by rubber band to a frame in the hive, which is blocked by sugar. The rest of the bees are then dumped into the hive with her, and this evening I will make sure the hive is closed securely and “lock” them in with her for now. In the time it takes for her to eat the sugar and emerge from her cage, the bees will have fallen under the spell of her pheromones, and that will be that. A queened colony!
The can contains the sugar syrup they were shipped with. There were still quite a bit in there, so I’m leaving it for them to continue to feed from while they acclimate. Since there were still a lot of bees in their plastic bus after shaking most of them out, I decided to leave that in there, as well. After a few days I’ll go out to check on them and I can remove it then, and hopefully remove the entrance reducer and allow them to go forage for pollen on their own.
Go bees! Draw comb! Feed your queen! And pollinate!
With the ewes showing no signs of being bred there was no reason to keep them in the front pen anymore. The grass in the back was starting to really look a tad tall, so I made the decision to move them last night.
Perivale and little Ram were the first to head out. The halter was NOT popular. However, all the ladies figured out it was easier to deal with it and get back to the fresh grass. Darby, on the other hand, well. Let’s just say that boys are the worst.
“No, lady, the fresh grass doesn’t make up for the halter.”
There’s tons of work to be done (will there ever NOT be? Unlikely!), but I am falling in love with my little corner of the world all over again, and from the contented noises the flock was making, I’d say they are as well.
I’ve watched our friend Emily shear our sheep for several years now, and it never stops being mesmerizing to me. Her speed has increased dramatically over the years, and the ease with which she handles even the biggest sheep is wonderful to see. Yesterday she arrived after shearing probably 100 other sheep and goats on various farms in the area and got ours handled in less than an hour. Which was a good thing, because it started sprinkling just after the last sheep was done. The wool was packed off on bags with her, off to be sold to the wool pool. I have a substantial amount left here for hand-spinning, and until we decide what direction we are taking this venture, I’ll be allowing commercial buyers decide where it will go.
The disappointing news is that it looks fairly certain that our ewes are not bred this year. But, that gives me another year to prepare and plan. The good news is that everyone is fat and healthy.
As soon as the weather clears out and the thunderstorms (and tornado watch) have passed, I’ll be moving everyone out to the back pasture, where plenty of fresh, green grass awaits.