Archive for August, 2011

Varroa Mites and Bees

August 30, 2011

I was running out of time to split my hives.  I wanted to put them in nucs to overwinter.

I love going into the hives and just looking.  You can tell so much about a hive through observation.

In this particular hive, I saw a bee with deformed wings.

Side by side – you can see a healthy wing with the deformed wing.

Also, these are young bees because of the fuzziness on the thorax.

The deformed wings let me know that there are mites present – Varroa mites to be specific.

Now I needed to see how badly this hive was infested.

Another one with deformed wings…

But I wasn’t seeing any mites on the bees.

The mites are parasitic and the eggs are laid in the cells where they hatch and feed on the bee larva.

When the baby bees emerge, the mites have attached themselves to that bee.

Finally, a spotting of a Varroa mite.

And this mite was attached to a bee with deformed wings.

However, sometimes the bees show no outward signs but the mite is still attached.

This Varroa mite is on a very young bee – see how fuzzy they are??

They’re so cute when they’re first born!  But I don’t like the sight of that mite.

That mite is about the size of a pin head.  You can see them with the naked eye if you know what you’re looking for.

Typically I’ve seen mites on the top part of the thorax.

If I was going solely on wing formation, I might not have looked at this bee.

Varroa mites are not particular – they will climb on any bee.

The mite situation in this hive wasn’t severe but I’ll still treat.

I don’t use any kind of chemicals in my hives.  I did when I first started beekeeping.

But after I lost a hive to the chemicals – in my opinion, I stopped using them.  Also, I didn’t like the chemical smell in my wax even after I removed the chemical.

For Varroa mites, I shake powdered sugar throughout the hive.  The bees go into a cleaning frenzy and start cleaning each other.  I’ve put screen bottoms on all but 2 of my hives.  When the bees start cleaning, the mites fall through the screen to the ground and there are all kinds of insects waiting for dinner to fall from “heaven.”

This is a basic overview of the Varroa mite.  For more detailed info, check out these links:

This video is very cool with extensive info and actual footage on the life cycle of a bee and Varroa mite-

Good written overview:


Candid Corner: But I just don’t wanna…

August 24, 2011

The prep work is finished, the weather is good, the deadline is closing in, and if I procrastinate any longer – the window of opportunity will be shut.

I know all this…

but I just don’t wanna do the rest of the work today.

Ever have days like this?

I find with farming, I run into these kind of days more often than not.  So much that happens on the farm is season and time sensitive.

Take for instance my dairy goats.  The optimum time for breeding is Sept – Jan.  Five month gestation.  That means, if I want babies to hit the ground in February, I need to have my girls bred in October.  I’m working on the prep work right now because if I miss this window, I won’t have babies in February which means I won’t have does in milk, which means I can’t make cheese, which means I won’t have extra milk to raise a calf, which means in 18 months I won’t have meat for my family.

See what I mean?

My “but I don’t wanna” has far reaching repercussions that go beyond my emotional state at this moment.

Today I need to split my hives.  I’m trying a new theory.  If I don’t split today, my window of opportunity will slam shut and I won’t have bees to sell in the spring.  Nor will I be able to test out my theory until next year – a whole year!

That’s the other nugget of truth I’ve found recently.  Some of the “new” ideas I come up with really aren’t that new.  It’s just sometimes I’m willing to do the work that others didn’t want to do to make the idea a reality.  There’s a lot of really terrific ideas floating around out there – I hear friends talking about them all the time.

The time and work it takes to make an idea a reality – now that’s where the difference is.

In these economic times, some of those ideas could really come in handy – another source of income.  I could use that.

Ahhh – but it requires that I quit talking about it and do it!

…Even when I just don’t wanna.

So thank you for sitting with me while I convinced myself to get off my bum and get outside and do the work.

I know I’ll be glad when the work is complete and that sense of satisfaction supersedes the emotional “dragging of the feet” right now.

And in the spring, when I have nucs to sell, I’ll really be grateful I got the work done today 🙂

Tennessee Rock Trail – Mountain City, GA

August 22, 2011

Thought it would be a good idea to hike the trail we are recommending for the Ladies’ Homestead Retreat.

Yesterday a friend and I drove up to Mountain City, GA to Black Rock Mountain State Park to hike the Tennessee Rock Trail.

2.2 miles long and an ascent of over 1000′

There is a fee for parking and either you can pay it here or at the Visitor’s Center further on up the mountain.

We chose the Visitor’s Center because they have a bathroom…and a nice gift shop 🙂

Little blue square says “more difficult.”

Little black square says “most difficult.”

We chose the blue…and because that “warning” notice said there were yellow jacket nests in the other trail – no thank you!

Sooooo – the first ascent.  A lot of stairs going up!

To buy myself some “catch my breath” time, I was easily distracted by bugs.

Actually, I’d never seen one of these before.  Anyone know what it is?

It was beautiful!

Obviously this is a popular plant – see all the other bugs on it?

Once we went “up” for a little ways, the trail evened out and meandered through the woods.

It really is an enjoyable hike and in the fall, it should be gorgeous with all the fall colors.

After about 2/3 of the way along the trail, the ascent begins again…

But it was so worth the sweat and grunt…

There are a lot of big boulders at this look out and this is where we will stop to have lunch.

You will definitely have earned the rest 🙂

Is it any wonder why they are called the Smokey Mountains?…

After lunch, the climb back down the trail…all down hill!

If you have knee problems, you may want to take this part of the trail into consideration.

The trail begins and ends at this picnic spot so if you get down the mountain before the others, there’s a nice place to wait.

We did the trail in about an hour and a half.  But taking lunch into account, I’m planning on 2 and a 1/2  hours.

If you’re moderately exercising, you should be fine with this trail.  Most of the trail is very doable and it’s so permissible to take frequent stops on the parts that are a little more strenuous!

Another bonus – it’s minutes from the Foxfire Museum.

Looking forward to hiking this trail again with a lot more friends 🙂

Pig Party!!

August 18, 2011

It was a quiet evening at the Lazy B Farm.

That is until someone mentioned all the watermelons in the back of the truck.

Woohooo!!  We’re gonna have a Pig Party!!

“What??  Did someone mention a party??!”

“Wait a melon-pickin’ minute!  Why do those pigs get all the good stuff?”

“Oh yeah….”

And let the party begin!!

I wasn’t sure who enjoyed this event more.  Michael and Megan who had way too much fun launching the watermelons and watching them smash and explode in the pen…

…or the pigs who ran from watermelon to watermelon noisily slurping up the fruity goodness inside!

The biggest objective for the one launching watermelons into the pen…

do NOT hit the pigs!!

Hog heaven!!

Oops – another close call!

A pigs dream becomes a reality!

“Ya know pigs…”

…ya’all are just so disgusting!”

“What??  You want me to try this stuff?”

“Ummm – I think not!”

And the pigs ate and ate until…

Oh yeah – Party Hangover!!

(See that smile on her lips!?  She had a good time :-))

From Seattle to Lake Stevens

August 17, 2011

After our visit in Seattle, it was time to head to Lake Stevens to the north.

But not after one more trip up the Space Needle…

The views from the observation deck are amazing – especially on a clear day.

Mt. Ranier in all her glory.

There aren’t very many days in the year when the mountain is this clear.

We were very fortunate that the weather was so incredible!

A friend of our family flew in to Seattle because we were staying with her friends in Lake Stevens.

I was lucky on this shot.  This float plane was turning right in front of us while we were on the Space Needle.

Landing spot?  Lake Union – a very popular landing place for float planes.

Time to head to Lake Stevens…

But first a stop at a restaurant at the Port of Everett.  Right on the water…

just in time to watch the sun set while we ate our dinner.

Mt. Baker peeks out over the masts of all the boats in the harbor.

So beautiful…

Loved watching the lights get brighter as night drew nigh.

Such a precious sight.  See the seagull at the top of this frame?  She was sitting on her nest.

I will say she had a lovely view from her “room”!

The next morning, we visited the Everett Farmers Market.  This is a Sunday market down at the harbor.

A lot of folks came out to buy at the market.

And of course, while visiting all of these markets, I was looking for ideas to bring home to use in our own market in Statham.

Loved this idea!

Ahhh – more cherries!

Creative idea to solve an unavoidable problem 🙂

Lots and lots of flowers!!

Gorgeous radishes – their growing season was about 7 weeks behind ours.

These snap peas were delicious.

Another creative solution to a sometimes emotionally volatile situation.

A pasta vendor!  This particular pasta can only be purchased at a Farmers Market or direct from the factory.

I bought some of the Lavender just cuz I was so curious about what it would taste like.

This was an orange szechuan pasta.  Yep, bought this one too.

This one was made from citrus – interesting…

And of course I had to talk to the lady with the eggs.  Apparently they are a little more strict than we are and there are a lot more fees.

She had to pay state fees, and another fee for each town she sold in.  You’d have to sell an awful lot of eggs to cover all those fees!

Beautiful display…

Even more beautiful food…

Worms!!  They sold everything a person would need to get started with worm composting – even the worms.

Nice packaging ideas.

These seemed to be fairly popular at the markets we visited…

This set-up was on the back of a trailer or truck bed.


Yep – they sold rabbit meat.

Would love to know all the regulations for getting a label for rabbit 🙂

And I stopped to talk with every vendor who was selling beef.  Prices were about the same and so were the practices for growing out the steers.

And what would a market be without bread??

In all the markets I visited, this was the most clever idea I came upon.

This yard art is created from recycled glassware.

It was absolutely gorgeous!

And yes, I was lamenting the fact that I had no room for one of these in my suitcase.

Another creative way to display soap.  You purchased it by the 1/2″ or inch.  The aroma at this booth was intoxicating.

The advantage of going to a market by the water!

These shrimp were huge and had been caught the night before and steamed.

Couldn’t get much fresher than that unless you did it yourself.

Fresh crab!

Another nice idea to incorporate in our market…

So I brought home my purchases with the agreement from our hostess that she would figure out what to do with these items.

She loves to cook!

And boy am I glad I left the cooking to her!!

This Lavender pasta was really good! I have since ordered more directly from the company located in Colorado.

Fresh veggies from the market….

And all this makes for a feast with wonderful friends on a gorgeous night…

in beautiful Lake Stevens, WA!

Candid Corner – It’s Just One of Those Days…

August 16, 2011

Every now and then I have a day when I question why in the world I homestead.

It’s hard work…

and continuous, day in and day out, 7 days a week, 12 months a year.

Logically and philosophically I can give you point after point as to why I homestead, why I grow my own food, why I learn self-sufficiency skills, why I use herbal plants for medicinal purposes, why I go the extra mile to make sure my animals are well taken care of,  why I teach my children at home, why I believe so strongly in this lifestyle.


when it’s an emotionally tough day and I’m feeling lonely and overwhelmed by the workload, that soapbox can be easily pushed aside…

and sat upon.

I was talking with a girlfriend of mine who is also a farmer and has a full time job off the farm.  I was whining a bit to her about how I was feeling today.

We both agreed there are days when you feel like selling all the animals and the land and moving into a subdivision somewhere with manicured lawns and a pool that someone else maintains; the convenience of stores and groceries right down the road.  No tractors to fix, no sick animals to worry over, no anxiety about rainfall, no need to get dirty or work in the heat and cold.   It sounds so idyllic.

And then we talked about politics – but only for a moment cuz I don’t do politics.  We talked about environmental decisions that have been made, the instability and uncertainty of our future.

I finally said – you know what makes homesteading so difficult sometimes?   We don’t HAVE TO do all this.  Every convenience and need can be met if we drive to a store and allow ourselves to be dependent on someone else to make decisions for us.  It’s not like we live in a 3rd world country where there is no choice about food.  Where, if you don’t grow it, you don’t eat; if you don’t milk it, you don’t have milk; if you don’t take care of it, you have no meat; if you don’t work in the hot or cold, you have nothing.  No one is there to bail you out.

Homesteading is a choice.

It’s a choice to be independent and self-sufficient.

It’s a choice to take control of the future for both me and my family.

It’s a choice to be a good farmer and steward of the land.

It’s a choice I am not forced to choose…not now anyway.

So on these days when my emotions don’t quite line up with logic and philosophical views, I may choose to sit on my soap box for a few moments…

and in the quiet and beauty of the land around me, basking in the privacy and freedom of homesteading,

I realize my emotions are fickle and oft change with the wind.

But my choices and beliefs,

those will keep me on track to stay the course.

And what do I choose to do when those emotions of doubt begin to wash over me?

I feed the chickens, and the goats, and the pigs…

and I smile.

Ladies’ Homestead Gathering Retreat – October 28 -30th

August 14, 2011


Location: Foxfire Museum       Mountain City, GA   (

Cost: $195  –  $50 deposit will hold your spot, the remainder due before the retreat

Guests:  this getaway is for adult women who are interested in any aspect of homesteading and desire the fellowship of like-minded women and learning new skills.

Weekend schedule:


3 – 5p   Arrive at Foxfire

6:00p   Italian Dinner

7:30p   Chainsaw and Wood Splitting Workshop

8:30p   Fire circle for stories and s’mores

*lights out – to be determined by you.  Please be considerate of those who go to bed early and they’ll be considerate of you the next morning while you’re still sleeping!



7:00a   Chicken Butchering Workshop

8:00a    Breakfast

9:00a    Bread making – yeast and cornbread Workshop

10:30    Foxfire Museum Tour

Noon     Lunch

1:30 – 4:30p    Herbal Class with Patricia Kyritsi Howell

6:00p    Dinner

7:30p    Free time;

Fire Circle for s’mores; feel free to bring crafts/games with you


8:00a    Breakfast

9:00a    Beekeeping from a Woman’s Perspective

Homestead Management Q & A – planning session

11:00     Lotions, Shampoo, Deodorants Workshop

12:30     Lunch

1:45p     Tennessee Rock Trail Hike

5:00p     Head Home

** We are in the process of putting the food schedule together.  In order to keep the cost down for this retreat, it was agreed that we would all pitch in and bring assigned foods and also help out with kitchen duties.

** Towels and linens are provided

**  A list of “What to Bring” will be sent out to all those who will be attending

Candid Corner – Day 5 and 6 of Juice Fast

August 13, 2011

Today is the beginning of Day 7 but since I’m not sure how it will go, I’ll journal about Day 5 and 6.

Day 5-

This day was by far my roughest.  I was ready on Day 3 to struggle because that’s what everyone had said.

I had several errands I had to run, unexpectedly.  I’d planned on staying home all day but instead I was up and out the door.  I also didn’t walk on this day.  I’ve been wanting to do some sort of exercise every day so I figured I would work outside on the farm for my exercise later in the day.

It was too hot and I never did get outside to work other than regular chores.

When I got home from errands, I was really hungry.  I think that’s the part I don’t like – my stomach growling.  I will admit that as soon as I drink a juice, I’m fine and feel full and then my mind can go back to other things.  But when my stomach growls, food is all I can think of at the moment.

I walked in the door from errands and one of the kids had left some scrambled eggs on their plate and a piece of turkey bacon.  I poured some juice and drank it but it just wasn’t working.

Pretty soon, I’d eaten a few spoonfuls of eggs…and then the bacon.

OMW- it tasted so good!

We have a rice cooker and it had been used the night before.  There was still rice in it…

One spoonful, two spoonfuls.  Then I left the kitchen.

Here’s where I get into trouble.  I figure I’d blown it.  Not just that moment but the whole day.  That makes eating throughout the day easier.

I really didn’t have that much but I picked throughout the day.  Couple more spoonfuls of rice with some green salsa (I know it’s weird but I love it!)

Couple bites of a pickle, taste of Dave’s leftover Chinese chicken from his lunch, one forkful of pasta and a couple of spoonfuls of hamburger with a sauce at dinner time.

Not a whole lot but enough to make me feel sick to my stomach.  The morning food didn’t stay long in my system at all.

The rest of the food, especially the items closer to the evening, hit like lead in my stomach and I was so bloated.  Looked like I was about 4 months pregnant, and trust me, after 6 kids, I know what 4 months looks like!  I felt sluggish and had no energy.

My stomach wasn’t growling but I didn’t feel so hot either.

I felt guilty for eating what I had eaten until I made myself look at what I’d learned.  There is never a failure if you learn something from the experience 🙂

I went to bed with a stomach ache and a determination to start over again in the morning.  By the way, that morning I was down 5 lbs from my beginning weight.

Day 6

I awoke very sluggish, stomach ache and my sinuses were full.  There was not the mental clarity that I’ve felt the other days on this juice fast.  I got up early and did chores around the house and walked at 6 am for 2 miles.  My sinuses were running the whole time and I had a slight headache but I did feel better afterwards.

I juiced for breakfast and still felt better but not where I’d been.

Oh, I weighed myself when I first got up and I had gained back 3 pounds!  I hadn’t eaten 3 lbs of food but that’s what the scale said.  Typically that would have been enough to make me stay off the juice fast except that I was so keenly aware of how I felt overall.

So my mission now is to figure out what I’ll be eating when I’m finished on Wednesday.  I’ve realized that carbs, especially processed carbs, do a number on my system.  I’m not a huge meat eater but I really like eggs and fish and hamburger.  Veggies and fruit seem to do best with my system and it’s been more apparent on this fast.

Dave asked me if I was going to become a vegetarian.  No, but I do realize that veggies and fruit need to be the majority of my diet.

Here’s where it gets tricky – not so much now but come winter.  It’s easy to find a lot of fresh veggies and fruit in season now and I can grow quite a bit but winter is tougher.

I did buy seeds the other day for kale, collards, and mustard.  I love greens!

This weekend I’ll be hitting the cookbooks for recipes so I can start planning ahead.  If any of you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

I like feeling this way.  I awoke this morning feeling great.  No stomach ache, no sluggishness, no foggy head, and no joint ache.  All symptoms lead me to believe what I’m doing is having a good effect .  But I know that I can’t juice forever, I need a plan that sticks close to an all veggie/ fruit diet.

Interestingly, it wasn’t difficult yesterday to stay on the juice fast.  Admittedly, I considered for a moment running a couple of homemade slices of pizza through the machine but figured it would mess up the juicer 🙂

This morning, I’m down 2 lbs.  The weight’s not coming off as fast as I’d hoped but it’s okay.

I did this fast to clean out my system and to learn.  I want to know what’s best for my body and how it responds to foods and everyday I’m getting more answers.

At this point, feeling good is more important than the weight.  I figure the weight will come off if I’m eating correctly and have more energy to exercise, right?

It’s almost 6 am and I need to put all my stuff together for the farmers market this morning.  I know what I’ll be buying today – lots of fresh local produce 🙂

Candid Corner- Accountants

August 10, 2011

I don’t know how many of you run your own business but it can be daunting at times.

Today Dave and I are headed to the accountants to talk business and taxes and forms and licenses and whew, starts to make my head hurt.

Here’s my dilemma.  The farm is currently under the umbrella of Ball Family Ventures as a DBA.  I would like for it to be it’s own entity which sounds simple but it’s not.  There are taxes and write-offs and more to be considered.

We’re also looking at a non-profit status for the educational part of the farm.  Really, there’s a lot to consider here too and it all affects the future of the farm.

I love to learn but I’m not so inclined toward accounting stuff – hurts my head after a while.

And yet this is a big deal and I can’t blow it off or hand it off if I want to run a successful agribusiness.  I need to understand how this all works.

In the great process of streamlining my life and focusing on what I believe I’m called to do, I’m talking with a friend about doing my books on a monthly basis.  Easy enough, but I still have to know how the system works in order to give her the proper info.

I love running an educational homestead.  I had no idea when I started what it takes to run an efficient successful educational homestead.  And by successful, I don’t mean making lots of money – I mean paying the bills and trying to stay in the black.

So I’m off to the accountants this morning to listen and learn and hopefully ask intelligent questions which will further my understanding!

BTW- the juice fast is going very well.  Yesterday was supposed to be the rough day but it wasn’t for me.  I was home all day so maybe that helped.  What i’ve noticed is that some joint pain that I was beginning to notice is gone.  I walked down the stairs today like I’d been up all day.  Typically I’m a little stiff first thing in the morning.  Biggest thing is remembering to drink enough water throughout the day.

Total loss: 3.9 pounds

Trip to Seattle WA – Pike Place Market

August 9, 2011

I couldn’t wait to get to Pike Place Market when we were visiting Seattle.  I have such fond memories of the market.

Before we had children (how long ago was that???), Dave and I would go to the market on a Saturday morning and meander through the stalls, tasting the different produce and coming home with an array of different fruits and vegetables.  And if I was very good, (and I was!) a huge bouquet of flowers.

The sights and smells are so nostalgic but to new comers, can be a little overwhelming.

Ever heard of a Doughnut Peach?  Well they grow them in WA.  Taste the same just look different…

These garlands were so beautiful!!  All hand made with local produce by one of the guys who worked this stand.

If only I had more room in my suitcase!

And the lavender!!!  It grows so well in the Northwest.  Lavender has got to be one of my favorite herbs.

I grow a little bit here but my plants in GA don’t look anything like the plants I had in Seattle.

And the fragrance…

nothing compares.

Pike Place has expanded since I was last there.  It now spills out into the street…

Loved this concept.

A farm truck use for educational purposes.  Great idea!  They drive the truck around to schools and places where kids are to teach agriculture.

I’m thinking GA needs one of these 🙂

Anyone got a truck they’re not using??

One of the shops by the market made cheese.  We just happened to walk by when they were cutting the curds.

Now that’s a lot of cheese!

The market is always full of flowers.

The weather in the area is perfect for growing flowers – so beautiful.

These are some of my favorites – Sweet Peas.  I only wish the photo was a scratch and sniff!

The market sells a lot of items besides produce.

Like honey and honey products…

I do believe this was one of my favorite stalls at the Market 🙂

And yes, we arrived just in time for the Cherry season…I’d forgotten how great these cherries taste.

Every chance we got, we’d buy cherries.

Fortunately, if the crowds get to be too much…

There is a park right across the street where you can sit and enjoy the scenery

and all the terrific goodies you purchased from the market.

Eco-friendly police 🙂

Did I mention the flowers?  Hanging baskets like this are everywhere…

If only I had more room in my suitcase!

The street of Pike Place even had flowers growing on the tops of their buildings.

At first we weren’t sure they were real,

but they are.

More and more produce – the colors alone of all that fruit were breathtaking.

How does one choose?

Ahh – it wouldn’t be Pike Place Market without the infamous Pike Place Pig.  It’s a gigantic piggy bank!

The market is unique in that it draws food from both the sea and the surrounding fertile valleys of the mountains.

Oh yum!!  Probably one of my favorite kind of fish…but only from the Northwest.

Ever seen these?  Lychee nut?  The meat inside is white.

Bet you’ve seen the nut just not the nut with the outside.

The snap peas here grow bigger than any I’ve seen elsewhere and boy were they sweet!

Talk about big – these raspberries were as big as the end of your thumb and the flavor was unbelievable!

And of course, tired from all that tasting and sniffing, and looking…

We had to re-energize ourselves with a cup of Starbucks coffee and pay homage to it’s birthplace – Seattle.