I finished the sand box last week in preparation for our Memorial Day cookout. All in all it turned out okay. I give myself a B- grade.  I had precut everything last fall, and set the posts a few weeks ago so there was a lot riding on it all when I went to finally assemble the components.

Turns out the box is level, but quite a bit out of square. In my defense I did complete the task single-handedly, so it’s not too bad considering that fact.

When I went to install the two long side boards, I was off by a good 2 inches it seems, on the side everyone sees of course. So I did the best I could and screwed everything together. You can tell the one board is short and when you put the covers on you can see the one cross board isn’t square in relation to the closest cover panel. Over all though it’s a decent facsimile of what was in my mind and what I had designed on paper.

I designed the box to have three distinct compartments. The center compartment measures about 6′ x 8′ and is filled with sand. I selected “mason sand” from the local landscape material supplier. It’s not overly clean, but it packs well and it’s a larger grain so it is less likely to become airborne. As I’ve stated in previous posts, most play sand is so fine it becomes airborne and if inhaled, the sand is a known carcinogen.

Flanking the sand chamber are two smaller 2′ x 6′ boxes for gravel. The kids like playing in the driveway gravel, so I thought why not put some of that gravel in the sandbox to play with. It would add some variety to play time instead of just sand. Kind of like a gravel pit. In that box I just hauled over some of the #10 limestone from the drive, that had been piled up by the snow plow during Winter.

At the far end is another box, and I filled that with gravel as well. But I chose to have some #411 limestone delivered. I used the #411, which is a mix of natural limestone from dust up to 1″ size pieces, primarily to fix pot holes in the drive, but made sure I had enough left over for the sandbox. Interestingly enough, no one has touched it yet in the sandbox, for whatever reason.

To keep critters from pooping in the sandbox I installed the 5/4 board panels that I made last year. There are four panels, and they allow you cover the box in a variety of combinations, from open to fully closed over the sand area. They make great seating areas for little kids to sit on while playing in the sand, and can be used to drive little toy trucks over. Once again helping with imaginative play.

For a finishing touch I added some large stones that were lying around the yard, to act as boulder in the gravel areas.

Planting Flowers

We’ve been blessed with a beautiful Spring in NEOhio so far. We finally got some needed rain today, but the weekend weather was crystal clear and warm.

I spent Memorial Day planting all the seedlings my wife had grown as well as a few other miscellaneous flowers. Work got semi-busy again this week, thankfully, so I’m not sure when the veggie garden is going in yet. We’re a little late, but I’ll pick up some larger plants, maybe even on sale and we’ll good to go. My thought is to use landscape fabric to keep the weeds down in the garden this year. Right now there are weeds everywhere in there that we’ll have to remove by hand before planting.

With all the activity outside, ticks have been an issue, primarily for the wife who abhors the little pests – crawling on the kids, her, and in the house (they come in on our clothes). So we’ll need to get rolling on our guinea fowl project as soon as possible. Chemicals are out of the question, as is mowing down much more of the landscape, so hopefully the birds can help. Moving is an option that has been discussed as well. As for me, I tend to just ignore the pests; life seemingly endless list of things to worry about doesn’t benefit from additions to it. Maybe I’m daft.

Screen Porch

One surprise hit of spring is the screened in porch. While we don’t yet have a rug, I did make an addition yesterday: a TV. Best Buy had a sale going on and I was able to pick up a TV / DVD combo for under $130 plus the wall bracket cost. Now the porch is a bona fide  outdoor room. Just this morning, as I was turning over the cushions out there after an overnight storm, I thought to myself how great it was out there – with the TV you could sit and have coffee while listening to the news. Just like living in Florida I suspect. So from May through September it’s like having a second family room. Plus the cats love it out there.

Installation of the set was a breeze for the most part. I mounted the unit directly to an exposed stud in the porch frame. And after two big thunderstorms, I see no reason why the set can’t endure the weather under the protection of the porch roof. We’ll bring it in at the end of the season before it gets cold.

Now we just need a rug and I have to finish the ceiling with the grid detail and stain. Oh and build a bar shelf in the corner. Then we may not even have to spend time at all inside this Summer.

How do you like the sandbox?

What are your favorite outdoor spaces at your home?




Yard Work

There’s a definitive lull in work this week (and last week). I’ve spent part of the last two days working in the yard: cutting grass, trimming, attending to plants in need and working on the sandbox.

Last things first, the sandbox is done. Turns out one of the posts I set is off by a good inch, so the box perimeter is out of whack. Nothing a strategically places bush can’t fix, but when I put the “cover” panels on, something seems amiss.  Well I’m not going to fuss over it. It is what it is, as the cliché goes. Now I just need sand and gravel to fill the various bays and the box will be ready for bulldozers and excavators.

In the front yard I worked diligently trying to save a couple of our gum trees. We have five. One looks great. Two look okay. And two look near death. I think it’s all the rain water that flows through where they live. I took the brush cutter and cleared out around each tree. I rubbed some Tree-tone fertilizer into the earth around the base of each tree. And then I capped a few of them off with some mulch. I hope they make it.

I also used the brush cutter to freshen up the nature trail. The trail is still pretty muddy and wet, since the deer now use it as a main thoroughfare. One happy occurrence on the trail and elsewhere is, we’ve got sensitive ferns popping up everywhere. It’s a banner year.

Lastly the east meadow has a sparse blanket of yellow flowers. They punctuate the green canvas. The east meadow is by far the most picturesque I’d say. The last two or three years we’ve gotten these great yellow flowers over there.

The Queen Is Dead, Long Live The Queen!

A quick update because I should be working. Mother Nature is going crazy out there, I’m kind of glad to be indoors.

We checked the bees yesterday. Hive No. 1 no longer has a queen. We didn’t see any eggs and I saw several anomalies that I think are queen “cells” where the hive is attempting to re-queen itself for the second time in as many years. I believe they’ll keep making queens until they find one they like and there you go: new queen. Other than the queen issue, the hive looks strong. We took out two frames of honey out of the top medium super. The other frames in that super had either small amounts of honey or brood in them so we left them in the hive. But because there isn’t much room left, we did add another medium box up top.

It’s a tall hive.

I spotted queens in hives No. 2 and No. 3. right away. Hive No. 2 is nearly filled up with comb, honey and brood so we added the next “deep” to that hive. Hive No. 3 is lagging behind a little so we left it as is.

I did get to taste the honey from hive No. 1 and it tasted like, well it tasted like honey. It’s a nice medium color. Incidentally everything (honey, comb, bees) in hive No. 3 is really light comparatively. It’s interesting to compare and contrast now that we have three hives.

Here's a frame from hive no. 1

Here’s a frame from hive no. 1

I don't know enough to say for sure but this may be one of several queen cells being attended to in hive no. 1.

I don’t know enough to say for sure but this may be one of several queen cells being attended to in hive no. 1.

Checking hive no. 1.

Checking hive no. 1.

Here you can see a frame from hive no. 3. the honey, cells and bees are really light in color.

Here you can see a frame from hive no. 3. the honey, cells and bees are really light in color.

Walking past the peach trees we noticed we have little peaches growing where there were flowers just a few weeks ago.  At least something is growing properly.  Fingers crossed we’ll have peaches right out of the gate this year. The service berries are coming in nicely as well.

We have peaches. :)

We have peaches. 🙂

Allegany service berry buds are forming. Actually may be a good crop this year.

Allegany service berry buds are forming. Actually may be a good crop this year.



The wife's red oak, that we planted last month, has grown a foot this spring. All the green shoots are new growth.

The wife’s red oak, that we planted last month, has grown a foot this spring. All the green shoots are new growth.

As I was working today I was distracted by a disturbance on the front porch. A pair of what I believe are ‘Eastern Bluebirds’ evicted the House Finch from its nest. I thought of intervening, and went outside a few times, but in the end I’ll let nature take its course. If the are Bluebirds, then they’re actually a lot rarer than a finch, so maybe it’s okay in the end. I just feel bad because I watched the finches tirelessly build the nest all Spring.

There is another finch nest on the next column down, so not all is lost.

I wish I had a nice zoom lens for my fancy camera. I can’t seem to get a good photo from inside the house of the birds.

What I think are 'Eastern Bluebirds' evicted mama House Finch from her nest today.

What I think are ‘Eastern Bluebirds’ evicted mama House Finch from her nest today.

I wish I had a zoom lens for the nice Canon camera. This is good as I could do. Do you know what kind of birds these are? They are blue in the daylight; I think they are 'Eastern Bluebirds'

I wish I had a zoom lens for the nice Canon camera. This is good as I could do. Do you know what kind of birds these are? They are blue in the daylight; I think they are ‘Eastern Bluebirds’

One other note, inside I tried to clean my sink drain. But I can’t get the trap off. The plumbers mounted the pipe too low, so the trap hits the bottom of the cabinet. Turns out most of the excess long hair clogging the drain was accessible from up top. Eventually I’ll have to saw a hole in the bottom of the cabinet to clear the trap and make it removable.

It’s always something around here.

If you know what kind of bird took over the nest, let me know.

Apple Blossom

We went to the sold out John Prine concert last night at the Ohio, and it was awesome. I’m not a connoisseur of concerts, so I don’t know if they are all as great, but after seeing John live, I’m not sure there much need to go to any others.

To celebrate the wife and my wedding anniversary we started out the night with dinner at Michael Simon’s Lolita restaurant, where we enjoyed a delicious three course meal. First off were yummy mussels and an order of bruschetta. For dinner we both got the petite steak which was exquisitely fantastic. To top it off we shared a trifle. It’s a nice quaint restaurant and I’d recommend it to anyone.

We then traveled over to the historic Ohio Theater for the concert. It’s a great venue and the seats I got were the best, in the mezzanine, but right behind the aisle so no one was in front of us; I little tight on leg room but definitely the seats to get in my opinion.

Sarah Jarosz opened for John, and even played a few songs with him later in the night. We had never heard her before but we’re fans now. I liked the soulful country sound of her voice, her wonderful lyrics and guitar playing. Sarah entertained the crowd during her 35 minute set. During intermission we went out to the lobby and got her to autograph a copy of her latest CD.

John darted out on stage carrying his guitar, accompanied by his three band mates playing guitar, mandolin and (what I call a) bass cello, and launched right into ‘Spanish Pipedream’ which was a pure delight. It was the perfect song to start with, especially since the wife hadn’t even heard of John, let a lone his music. I wish I could have somehow bottled the moment….the whole night really.

The next two hours were spent listening to songs, ranging from sad to funny, slow to rocking. He hit upon virtually all the ones I know, including the encore ‘Paradise’ which Sarah came back out for and most of the band mates performed solos. John’s music is as authentic an experience as you’re likely to find that touches your heart and soul; it speaks to the human condition. He truly is a national treasure, a hidden gem. We are all better off for he and his music. I count myself extremely fortunate to have seen him perform live and would see him again in a heartbeat.

Here’s a review of the concert from the PD.

Back home today we cleaned up the house for a guest tour. I love having guests and showing off the house. It’s also a great excuse to clean up around here.

We had a beautiful day for it, sunny, though it wasn’t very warm.

As it turns out, we all took the day off. After we visited with our friends and showed them around, we ended up having an early dinner followed by just hanging around the family room watching movies on TV. At one point I even dozed off. As did the cats, and boys. Sometimes, despite the weight of the world squeezing the air out of your lungs, you need to say ‘it can wait til tomorrow’. I’m tired of it all really; and besides I love the escapism of a movie or two on a lazy Sunday.

Oh, and one of the best parts of today – as I was explaining to our friends that I doubted we’d get apple blossoms this year, I spied a white flower in the distance atop the one corner apple tree. Upon further inspection there are five flowers up there.

Who knows, maybe we will have apples this year.

Our first apple blossoms of the year. Better late than never.

Our first apple blossoms of the year. Better late than never.

Mama deer is about to squirt a baby out. Today I thought she was based on how she was walking in the south meadow. She walked the whole time tail up. I was going to video tape the birth but she rambled behind a hedge row.

Mama deer is about to squirt a baby out. Today I thought she was based on how she was walking in the south meadow. She walked the whole time tail up. At one point to relieve herself. I’d swear she was crowning (sorry if that’s not the right term, but I saw more of her privates than I care to admit). I was going to video tape the birth but she rambled behind a hedge row.

It's so rare to have the kitchen clean I just had to take a photo of it.

It’s so rare to have the kitchen clean I just had to take a photo of it.


I Don’t Even Know What Day It Is

That’s the reality, we don’t keep track of days anymore. We’re regressing into some primitive lifestyle where the day of the week holds no meaning. The kids are out of school so we have no cyclical rhythm other than the sun going up or down.

I suppose today is Friday, and I figured I’d squeeze one post in to share random updates.


It’s rained every day this week, and now it’s really cold. Like tomorrow is supposed to have potential for frost overnight, so I’m glad we’ve been lazy and not planted any veggies. Everything is growing at an alarming pace. The yard needs to be cut again. Weeds are everywhere obscuring any semblance of the walking paths we struggled to put in last year. The front yard has a nice pond in it due to the poor grading job; I’m trying to determine if I should put in a rain garden or cut a “V” across the front yard in an effort to drain it. In the back yard there’s a definitive erosion “V” forming that I think I’m going to put in a dry creek bed, wight #57 gravel, about 2′ wide and 30′ long amongst the boxwoods and garden path. It’s becoming a mess back there.

There's a "V" begin created by the boxwoods as the rains swoosh across the property.

There’s a “V” begin created by the boxwoods as the rains swoosh across the property.

You can see the soil erosion pooling by the blueberry bushes.

You can see the soil erosion pooling by the blueberry bushes.


The blue berry plants look horrible. They flowered already but barely any flowers. No blueberries this year, for the third year in a row. You can see them in the pics above by the wood posts.


I’ve been seeing weird caterpillars around the driveway and now a weird cocoon. I’m hoping it’s some sort of invasive species that will kill off my apple trees and or all the other plants we’ve bought. Maybe they’ll turn into giant moths that will encase the house in silk and then sit on it. With my luck I would live through the entire ordeal.

God if you loved me, you'd let this turn into a giant moth monster that eats me.

God if you loved me, you’d let this turn into a giant moth monster that eats me.


Today we saw our first coyote on the land during daytime. Our son spotted and rightfully identified Canis latrans running past the bees and veggie garden out to the pond dike. So we had a lesson on what to do if you see a coyote while playing: quietly walk at a fast pace directly inside the house while also keeping an eye on, and protecting each other. Too bad we don’t have outdoor cats like this guy (click here). I snapped a blurry photo from my studio door window, of the coyote going over the pond dike (apple orchard in the foreground).

Find the coyote. Hint, he's near the red arrow.

Find the coyote. Hint, he’s near the red arrow.


Speaking of cats, and studio doors. We returned from the school picnic to see the studio door wide open. I forgot to lock it, and without a strike plate (left off during construction and waiting for one to show up from the lumber yard for 6+ months) the door swings open sometimes. I feared the worst because the cats are always looking to get out whenever we open the doors. I walked in and saw Dixon in the studio right away, what a relief; one down, two to go. Of course Daphne, a “runner” back in the day, was sitting in my bedroom as expected. That just left our resident dare-devil, Daisy unaccounted for. I just assumed she was dead and gone.

See, just a few days earlier the boys left the screen door open and Daisy got out. Which is horrific because cats don’t come back. They don’t come when you call. They say “f*ck you, I’m free and wild”. So I employed the wife to go get tuna while I tried to keep “eyes on the target” as her, Daisy’s, furry little brown and white ass mosey-ed around in the thickest thorn laden thicket you could imagine, over by the play-set. Eventually the wife came out but then Daisy bolted inexplicably towards the porch. As the wife looked under the back porch I eyed Miss Daisy sauntering up past the “pond” in the front yard, smell the rose bushes and the nose her face into the open garage side door.

See, leaving the garage door isn’t lazy, it’s good planning. She stepped into the garage with me hot on her furry little heels and I closed the door. Granted catching a cat in the garage is no easy task, at least you know you’ll eventually catch her, which we did.

Fast forward back to today. There was no way of knowing how long the door was open; we had been gone for three hours easily. So we started our search, family style of the whole house, by floor. Well luck turns out, there Miss Daisy sat, down on the basement floor, and I saw her right away. Her and Dixon seemed weird, like they had gone out but came back in to our plush confines.

After lunch the wife wondered if maybe someone broke in and was in the house so I finished up my sub sandwich and did my best to search for maniacs hiding amongst our junk throughout the house. As far as I could tell we were / are fine.

Here are some pics of the front pond by the way:

We should have set the house higher so that the grading could have been better. Now we get a pond in the front yard.

We should have set the house higher so that the grading could have been better. Now we get a pond in the front yard.

The other part of the front yard that floods. Sucky grading job.

The other part of the front yard that floods. Sucky grading job.


I went to Toys R Us. Their sand is toxic – it says “not for sale in California” which tips you off that it contains cancer causing silica. But hey, it says right on the bag that it is “asbestos free” so at least that’s a plus, right? I may go with concrete sand which at least is a larger grain size and may not be inhaled, or we have fine pebbles in the driveway, and the boys enjoy playing with those – can fill the box with those.

Hey, at least there isn't asbestos in the sand. Am I right, or am I right.

Hey, at least there isn’t asbestos in the sand. Am I right, or am I right.


We got a rug from Home Decorators on sale for the porch, it was only like $190. Problem is it looks too blue for our decor so we’ll have to return it. We love the pattern though. It’s a shame. I think we need to goto some place in Columbus that has a ton of outdoor rugs and find one in person.

Trinidad outdoor rug from Home Decorators

8′ x 10′ (nominal) Trinidad outdoor rug from Home Decorators

I guess that’s it for a Friday night. Hopefully the rain stops soon and it warms up again. Luckily we’ve been lazy and haven’t planted our veggies because it might frost over the next night or two.

That’s all I got.



Lavender Honey Beer

We’ve got a cookout coming up for Memorial Day. I laid claim to Memorial Day weekend for a friend / family cookout because I’m always jones-ing for a cookout after the long winter, plus it’s the unofficial kick off of nice weather in Northeast Ohio, and it reminds me that I have to buy my wife an anniversary present.

My friend brews beer as a hobby so I put in a special request to have a beer made specifically for the cookout. I like the idea of creating special beers – coming up with a name, creating cool labels, perfecting the recipe year after. Well I know nothing about brewing and have enough hobbies as it is, so best to let the pro take care of the technical beer stuff, and I can glam onto the arty bits.

The thought I have is to come up with four seasonal beers and try to use ingredients that we grow here on the “farm”. We have so many potentially great flavors to choose from: honey, apple, peach, blueberry, raspberry, black berry, choke and service berries, even lavender, sunflower and peppers, just to name a few. Unfortunately nothing other than honey is growing on the farm any time soon. My blueberry, raspberry and blackberry bushes took a huge hit this winter. The peaches won’t be read til Fall, if at all. And I’m not even sure we’ll get apple blossoms this year. The honey is ready but we won’t extract any until late May or June.

So for this first batch of Memorial Day beer I selected two flavors that we at least could have in theory, someday: lavender and honey. They sell these ingredients in stores so we just went that route. I’m calling our Spring beer ‘Lavender Honey Spring Ale. Here is my sketch for the label (full disclosure, I traced the lady for my first sketch from another artist, but will try my hand at drawing my own for the final).

My preliminary sketch for the "Lavender Honey Spring Ale" label

My preliminary sketch for the “Lavender Honey Spring Ale” label

So you get the idea. I’ll steal some mat board from the wife and pull out my pen and ink for the final. It’s actually a fun art project; will be nice to get into the studio for a change.

Tonight was bottling night so I trekked (i.e. drove) on over to my buddy’s house and got to help bottle our first beer (well “my” first beer).

We started out by counting out 50 bottles. The batch was about 5 gallons almost.

bottles and caps waiting to be cleaned. My OCD in action.

bottles and caps waiting to be cleaned. My OCD in action.

We cleaned all the bottle in some sort of fancy solution in the sink and let them dry and a cool drying rack. We reused beer bottles by the way though I suppose you could buy new ones.

Bottles drying, ready to be filled up.

Bottles drying, ready to be filled up.

Then we emptied the bucket that the beer was brewing in, into another bucket, leaving behind all the nasty yeasty bits.

The gunk left behind as the bucket drains out into another.

The gunk left behind as the bucket drains out into another.

Transferring beer from one bucket to another.

Transferring beer from one bucket to another.

From there my friend tossed the bucket up on the fridge to let gravity help us fill all the bottles. There’s a cool pipet thingy that allows you to fill up the bottles 12 oz. at a time. I then capped each bottle.  He let me fill a few too. It was a pretty cool experience.

Finished beer, just needs a week to carbonate.

Finished beer, just needs a week to carbonate.

The flat beer will now carbonate for a week. Then we can open one and see how it tastes, carbonated. We actually tasted it tonight and it did not taste like soap, which is good. You can definitely smell the lavender. The beer has a nice color to it as well. It’s just that right now it’s warm and flat so you don’t want to drink a lot of it.

The beer looks good and tastes good.

The beer looks good and tastes good.

I’ll have to find some me time this week to ink the label by hand. Like I said it should be fun.

I’ll have to come up with a few more ideas for Summer, Autumn and Winter.

Beyond the beer, I worked on the sandbox this afternoon. I was playing Mr. Mom watching the boys. It was a nice afternoon outside so we went out, they played and I worked. Soon they were back inside though so I didn’t get much done. I’m trying to get the box done by Memorial Day if possible, which shouldn’t be a problem.

I got exactly 20 mins. in today on the sandbox.

I got exactly 20 mins. in today on the sandbox. I used my favorite screws to mount 2×10’s to my posts. Everything is fairly level.

The only issue I have with the box is, the sand. Normal sand you buy in the store, like at Home Depot or Lowes is silicate made from crushed quartz which causes cancer. So I’m looking for natural safe sand, like you’d find at the beach (presumably made from limestone sea shell like material). The only place I found so far is in California and the cost is astronomical to have it shipped to Ohio. I could make my own, but I need like 2,000 lbs. There is a “natural” sand made by Sakrete that they claim is safe, but really it’s not. I think that’s the route I’ll go and just make sure the sand is “wet” whenever the kids play with it and make sure their hands are clean after. Or the kids may just get dirt and rocks to play in the sand box.

I don’t understand how these companies can market this stuff to kids with a cancer warning label on it.

Anyway, there always seems to be something to worry about. Most people would say “Oh you worry too much”, but then how many people do each of us know who have gotten cancer inexplicably in their lifetime? And it’s not like it’s a mystery, the labels tell you right out of the gate: this causes cancer.

Right now the boys are playing in the mud I created in the sandbox area and are happy enough. Maybe we over think things.

Maybe everyone who comes to the cookout could bring 80 lbs of beach sand as an offering.

Do you have any ideas for what to do with the sand box? Or where to find safe sand?


Mother’s Day

I was going to write something grand and epic for Mother’s Day, starting like this:

The world can be a pretty awful place. But it’s not nearly as bad as it would be if it weren’t for a mother’s love.


I don’t know what my plans were but I do know that at some point I looked at the woman who is now my wife and thought to myself, she will be a great mother.


See, we were together for sometime before we had kids. I guess no thought is worth a damn until it plays out. I couldn’t tell you if she thought she would be or not. I guess it’s not something that ever came up in conversation. I suspect like anything, when faced with an unknown variable, one could say there’s no proof until you see it,. No reason to practically think such things. But a life isn’t made of proofs, it’s crafted from the unknown.


When we were blessed with our boys, she took to it like a fish to water.


Her strength and love for her children leaves one in awe.


But I wrote these words last night and then I got tired. And I spent all day with the family, and walking the land this afternoon. And you know what, it doesn’t matter how I write in celebration of the mother that my wife has become; being grand about it may even miss the point. Life pretty much wears you down, but despite all the grinding, there she is being the best mom in the world to our kids.

She is the best mom.

I asked my kids.

They told me so.

I see no reason to argue.

She is everything to them. She does it all and they adore her rightfully so. There is a laundry list of things she does: cleans bathrooms, makes meals, acts as their chauffeur, fixes ’em up when they get hurt, is the chief snuggle buddy when they need a hug…does laundry…she gives every bit of her energy and heart openly to raising our children.

It’s a thankless job, save for seeing the joy on our kids’ faces when they are happy, and the comfort she provides when they are sad. On top of it all she works multiple jobs at all hours of the day and well into the night. (She’s working on her art as I write this, in fact. Tomorrow she’ll bake cookies before school. I’m tired just trying to keep track. She does this every day, of every week.)

She has built this home that we enjoy, with patience and a bottomless supply of energy. I don’t even think she sleeps at night. Maybe she’s a robot or something. All I know is that those kids, and me too, are lucky to have her. So Happy Mother’s Day to my wife. I don’t say it enough, but we appreciate the heck out of you.

We did spend much of the day outside, so here are today’s Spring pics to share. I love that our land has a ton of flowering trees. Today was peak I think in terms of flowers. It’s amazing to come up the drive, over the rise and “poof” see all the flowering trees. Presumably the seeds were carried by the wind from surrounding properties over the years. Like some sort of suburban landscaping fallout. The result is absolutely stunning. The photographs do it no justice. I think today, or the week of the bloom, is my favorite time of year on the property.  Enjoy!



Bee Check

We inspected all three hives the other day. This was the first check for hives No. 2 & No. 3 since we installed the packages a week ago.  I believe we saw queens in the first two hives, but not in the third hive. But we did see eggs in all three so we should be fine.

Christine is the expert at finding bee eggs. I couldn’t find an egg if you handed me a carton. Eggs are about all she looks for. As soon as she sees them, the frame goes back in the hive, making it tough for me to take photos.

My expertise is seeing the queens. I usually spot them right away. I don’t know why, maybe it’s just how my eye or brain works, but I can pick her out of a crowd pretty consistently. To the point that I get worried if I don’t see the queen.

The hives all looked good. No. 1 has a ton of honey that needs to be extracted, and replaced with blank frames. This endeavor will need to take place later this month, once we get our hands on some equipment to extract with, and containers to hold the honey frames. Hives 2 & 3 are both well established with egg laying queens, who have acclimated with their fellow hive mates.

Hive No. 1 had a ton of drone cells, including a bunch growing in the margins between frames. I had to play god and scrape them off, killing countless drones in various stages of development; to clean up the frames.  It was sad to see their nearly fully developed bodies flung into the tall grass.

We run a pretty tight ship.

At one point a cluster of drones exploded as I scraped, sending white drone liquid up through my mesh face screen into my nose and mouth.


Elsewhere the yard is exploding in a different way as all of the flowering trees are starting to bloom. I don’t know if it will be as incredible as last Spring, we’re running about three weeks later, but our peak should hit in a week or two. The dogwoods started blossoming this morning / last night.

So this is going to sound strange, but I’ve been watching the trees and plants so intently over the last two months that I feel as if I have seen every leaf sprout; from bud to feeble sprout to fanned out sun catcher. I walk the land scanning the plants and trees. I don’t linger too long because there is a lot of ground to cover, but I swear I’m some how attuned to the trees and leaves. I can tell how they look different from day to day. Mentally I have a diary of what bloomed when, and to what extent. I look at the crab apple by the garden and wonder why only half has bloomed. I stare at the finger like leaves of the Japanese maple and our other maples. I study the oak leaves on Christine’s Earth Day tree.

And it’s not just our land, I study the leafing process going on throughout the valley.

I’m convinced our property has its own unique micro-climate, based on what’s leafing and blooming elsewhere.

Whatever the climate, there’s no denying some of our plants don’t seem like they’ll make it, such as many of the New Jersey Teas that the rabbits decimated last year. Others are growing from the base up all over again, such as the berry plants and hydrangea, so I’m left to wonder how they can get big again in so few Spring and Summer months. I’ll search intently for any sign of budding or leaves on every plant if I have to. It’s sad when I see nothing and expect the worse.

I cut the grass for the first time this year, hoping to make the yard look nice for the upcoming flower show Mother Nature is going to put on. And as I write, the rain is falling in buckets outside. Which is good. We can always use the rain. Hopefully it won’t knock too many flowers off though. I scramble to close window a little to keep the raindrops out.

This whole process of Spring around here is amazing. The house is more than just a structure. With the bees, yard, house…all of it, it’s more like some sort of vessel we’re keeping afloat or managing. There are just enough levers to push and pull to make the whole lot seem bigger than ourselves, yet still not too monumental. After all it is just a home. But at least it’s dynamic in so many ways. Like a ship at sea, there is something to do and think about 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I try not to think too much about yucky stuff like paying bills and keeping the lights on. Or the fact that tick season is upon us – and it looks to be a banner year. Instead on focusing on that too much though, I relish in watching the plants grow. And try to work hard managing everything man-made and nature-made (all my garden posts should be pulled and reset the right way, for example).

Despite all of this I do try my best to smell the roses. This is kind of ironic because Christine’s rose bushes all but died over winter. The large one has but three tiny leaflets at its base.

In an effort to enjoy life I took the Jeep out with the top down for the first time since August. The boys try to get out and play as much as possible too, now that the weather is constantly warm. So “rose smelling” is going well.

There’s nothing else really to say. Just enjoying Spring. And that’s enough.


A cute picture of rabbits kissing.

A cute picture of rabbits kissing.

Here’s a picture of baby rabbits kissing. Every night we have the freaking ‘Rabbit Show’ outside at dusk, with rabbits running everywhere doing god knows what to each other. The kids watch, the cats watch; occasionally I even gawk a little as they race back and forth. There are a lot of rabbits this year. My plants are doomed. I don’t even care.

Inside around 10pm the cats freak out and do everything in their power to make me lose my shit before I go to bed. Seriously, no one wants me to live past, say 44, around here I think. The cats hiss, chase each other, and Dixon tries to assert his masculine wiles on anything with four paws that will sit still for a second around here.

“Look dude, I’ve got hands and no tail, back off!”

Today was a great day spent with my boys, but all I did was bitch about not getting any work done. I’m tired of being mean and miserable but I really like living here so I guess that’s the trade-off. Since I was Mr. Mom today I took them with me to a work appointment at a metal shop, which I think they thought was cool, save for the fact that I Mother Hen’d them; limiting their exploration to the inside of the car.

We did go out to lunch which was nice. That’s the one thing: dad doesn’t do lunch at home. Primarily because we don’t actually have any food in our house – though I do believe we have yummy turkey to make a samich tomorrow. But who wants a turkey sandwich today when you can go get wings and a coke with dad.

After lunch we went back home and the roofing guy stopped by to fix the droopy snow rail which had been bothering the bejesus out of me for quite some time. With that off the list I can focus more attention upon my doors which bother the f*ck out of me – I doubt the dealer will ever tell me the parts are in to fix them. I’ll be the dude on the 6 o’clock news who snapped and beat his air tight doors in with a sledge-hammer. I can see daylight in the corners of my overly expensive Therma-Tru doors. So much rage. You know what, don’t even bother buying them (no one wants to help if something goes or was installed wrong) unless you need an OCD trigger every time you leave the freaking house.

I spread some mulch around some trees that needed it, while my kid dug for worms.

We capped off the day picking up provisions so my friend could make custom spring beer for us. Lavender and honey flavored pale ale. And no, not our honey. I had to go buy wildflower honey at the store because, while we have honey, we’re not going to extract it until late Spring.

Now I’m just old, angry and bitter. So I’ll stop here.

Enjoy the rabbit picture folks.

What’s running around your house?

If you could make your own beer for Spring, what flavors would you include?