Monday, June 27, 2016


Yesterday we got the call that every beekeeper hates to hear.  "I'm here near the bees and there's a tornado of bees going around."  The hive was swarming!  

Sometimes the hive gets too full, sometimes it gets too hot in the hive, sometimes they just decide it's time to go.  It's hard to always no why bees swarm, but it's natures way of dividing and expanding the hive.  Swarming is the process by which a new honey bee colony is formed when the queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees. In the prime swarm, about 60% of the worker bees leave the original hive location with the old queen. This swarm can contain thousands to tens of thousands of bees. (from Wikipedia).  You can usually tell when bees are going to swarm when you start seeing elongated queen cells at the bottoms of your brood frames.  

Our friend, Alvie, from Wooleylot Farm, has allowed us to set up a bee yard near his farm in Odin He was working his fields when he observed the tornado of bees phenomenon.  After his call, I thought, "Well, I'll go down and take a look."  Sometimes you can find the swarm in its clump and start a new hive with it.  I didn't have a lot of hope because often the swarm goes deep into the forests or it can be up in a tree where I can't reach it.  

I got to the bee yard and after some looking around what did I see?  

An almost textbook perfect swarm for catching!  

They were in a solid clump, they were low enough to reach, they weren't intertwined into a bunch of tree branches, and it was a branch from which I could easily shake them off.  

I set my box under the swarm and give the branch a good solid shake.  Then I put the lid on the box with a small gap.  It was awesome to see the bees start calling each other by "fanning".  This is where they stand outside the entrance of the box or hive and fan their wings to send out the queen's scent and tell the other bees, "Here we are, come here!"  I smoked the tree branch well to get the hive and queen scent from it and watched until almost all the bees were either in the box or on the outside of the box.  Then, using puffs of smoke, I encouraged them all to enter the box and sealed it shut.  

I set up the bees in a hive in the bee yard by my house and when I looked at them today, they were hard at work making it their home.   Success! 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Markets And A Visit to Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam - a city of bicyclists

In our trip around Europe, we made use of the lodging site, Airbnb.  The apartment we stayed in in Amsterdam was located one street behind the iconic Albert Cuypmarkt.  Buildings in Amsterdam tend to be quite tall and narrow.  My Dutch guide on the free walking tour said this was because the Dutch homes were taxed for the amount of square footage on the ground.  Because the Dutch were quite thrifty, they built up instead of out.  Our lovely apartment was three flights up and the stairs are literally almost as steep as a ladder!

Not quite this narrow, but you get the idea. 

My daughter, Heather, climbing stairs. 

There’s no better place to learn about Amsterdam than at the Albert Cuypmarkt. This is the biggest and most popular outdoor market in the Netherlands, with 260 stands set up down one very long street. The Albert Cuypmarkt has been open since 1905, and attracts all sorts of people, from locals to home cooks and tourists. Its diverse stands sell everything from shoes to sex toys to fresh foods such as the typical Dutch raw herring or freshly pressed stroopwafels. Source:

This market opens Monday through Saturday from 9-5 with a dizzying array of items.  

Assorted Fish

(Something I loved about the fish market.  At the end of the day, as the market was packing up, herons would start to show up.  They would stand on the sidewalks and watch from the buildings.  I can only assume they were waiting for scraps!) 

Fruits and Vegetables

(I'm pretty sure that many of the fruits and vegetables are imported and probably not organic, but it was a beautiful display!)

Olives and a kind of sandwich from freshly baked pitas.

More fruits and vegetables

Cheeses and eggs

Vinegars, breads, meats, really yummy looking sandwiches

Fur items can be found at this slightly disturbing shop.

Eggs and cheese

(and *gasp* the eggs aren't refrigerated! - sorry, my sarcasm is showing.  In America eggs must be refrigerated below 40-degrees.  In Europe, you'll find fresh eggs on supermarket shelves.)

The variety and number of booths goes on and on.  Many of the booths are extensions of the stores behind them and you can find clothing and even pharmacy items on sale!

A second market I visited was the Amsterdam Bloemenmarkt.  Founded in 1862, the Bloemenmarkt is the world's only floating flower market.

Beautiful, but sadly, I found it to be quite touristy with all of the shops selling pretty much the same things.  

While sitting in a cafe and enjoying a latte, imagine my surprise and delight to look out and find these sidewalk maintenance workers wearing wooden shoes! 

(Don't you just love cobblestone sidewalks?)

And, finally, a trip to Amsterdam would not be complete without a photo of Gouda cheese!  

(Good bye! = Dutch)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Where I Have Been

Hello all!

You may have been wondering why I haven't blogged in so long.  On May 10th, I left for my daughters High School graduation - in Valencia, Spain!

After her graduation, we left for a grand tour of Europe.  We traveled by train to Barcelona, Spain; Nimes, France; Paris, France; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Neustadt, German; Berlin, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic; and Vienna, Austria before flying back to Valencia, and then, on June 8th, we came back to the United States. 

I'm spending a week in recuperation/catch up on the farm mode, but I have amazing photos of Farmer's Markets and Food Halls in many of the countries we visited and I can't wait to share them with you! 

I'll be posting lots and lots of photos very soon!  

Happy Summer! 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Changes In The Idaho Pasture Pig Lineup

We moved around some of our piglets.  Some were sold and one was purchased and we had to get rid of one.  

Tigger, our boar, finally had to go.  He was becoming more aggressive towards the males in our family (I could still work with him) and we worried about the damage he could potentially do with his giant tusks (this picture is old and doesn't show how large they had become).  We won't keep mean animals on this farm - be it pigs, or roosters, or anything else.    

So welcome William, aka "Willy", our new little boar.  He comes from a different bloodline than our females.  He's black and white with touches of ginger and we're hoping he won't develop tusks.  We're watching him, and if he does, we're going to clip them while he's small enough to hold down!  

We've kept one pretty little girl with very good conformation, the orange girl with our sow, Flower, in the picture below.  We'll have two breeding females next year.  There were a lot of calls for Idaho Pasture Pigs later in the spring and we want to be able to fill the need.  I think we're naming the new girl, "Marmalade".

And we kept the female runt and two boys as meat piglets.  These meat piglets already have future homes.  Willy likes hanging out with the "boys".  I put boys in italics because  recently learned an interesting new skill... how to castrate a pig.  It's not difficult, just very noisy, as the piglet does NOT like it!  

Spring is coming on quickly and the grass is growing and you can see that the piglets above are enjoying eating the fresh grass!  

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The High Tunnel Has A New Roof

I have to give a big thank you to the people who came to help put the new cover on the high tunnel.  It's so nice it is to have friends who will show up a 5:30 a.m.!  

Why 5:30 a.m. you may ask?  Because when you put on a high tunnel cover, you want there to be the very least amount of wind possible.  Even a breath of air can make the job a nightmare!

We were lucky and the job went off without a hitch.  Then our helpers sat down to a very hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs with ham and cheese, bacon, hot coffee, orange juice, toast, and a dutch baby, with homemade jams and our own honey. 

I've been working like a crazy woman to get the high tunnel tilled and planted because we have a BIG trip coming up.  More about that later!

The new cover looks so fresh and nice!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Candy Cane's Passing

Sadly, our little dog, Candy Cane, passed away last night. Two years ago, the vet told us she had a bad heart. When I took her to the vet yesterday he told me her heart was only working at 50% capacity.  She died while I held her and stroked her head.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Who Brings The Sting?

Honeybees are much less likely to sting than you think they would.  

I've pulled honey supers off their hive, brought them into the sugar house, and spun out the honey, while having 20 or more honeybees flying around me in the room - without a single sting.  I watch the bees while I work and it seems like they just want to get a little bit of honey and get the heck out of there!    

I've seen honeybees sting for two reasons: (1) Their hive is being invaded.  When you're working the hives, there are always those guard bees who make it their mission to sting you.  They are very upset and they are the ones who fly directly in front of your face, outside the mesh of your bee suit hood, with a high pitched, very angry, whine sound from their wings.  Who can blame them though?  You've just ripped off the roof of their house and started poking around!  (2) Their personal space is invaded.  Occasionally, if you actually put your thumb on a bee, or step or sit on one, they will sting you. 

A honey bee really doesn't want to sting you - it means death to the bee!  Let's say you're sitting out on your lawn chair enjoying a cool drink and a honeybee comes buzzing around you.  It might be attracted to the smell of your flowery perfume, or you may be sitting right where there are some particularly succulent flowers.  Once the honeybee finds out that the flower smell is big being it is most likely to buzz off to other flowers.  Sit still one day and watch what the honeybee does.  

Bumblebees too, I've found are very docile unless they're personally attacked.  You can watch a bumble bee collect nectar and pollen from inches away and they'll completely ignore you.  One time I had a bumblebee fall down my shirt and, oh yes, it stung me more than once before I could get it out!  

I don't have too much experience with yellow jackets, paper wasps, and bald faced hornets, but I've heard they're much more aggressive.  I know people who have accidentally encountered their nests and come out with multiple stings.  

I apologize that this graphic overruns my page.  I had to set it up this way to make it large enough to read.  I found the graphic on Pinterest and would be very happy to give credit to the creator if they would contact me.     

There's an interesting error in this graphic.  It shows an ear of corn as being dependent on bee pollination.  Corn is wind pollinated.  As the corn plant tassels (the golden tops that resemble mop heads), it opens its packets of pollen. At the same time, silky strands become exposed on the lower portion of the plant (where the corn that we eat grows). The pollen from the top of the plant must reach the silk. In the fields, this is done solely by wind and luck. Once the silk is covered in pollen, each strand will become a kernel of corn, and an ear of corn will start to form. 

Although corn is mostly wind pollinated, almost every other vegetable or fruit depends on bee or insect pollination.