Back in the Swing of Things

Hello there! How are you? It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I decided to dust off this blog again because I have some exciting things coming down the pike. I’ve been doing some exciting things since last updating this page, but have only been documenting on Facebook for friends. Recently, a friend reading my updates suggested that I move it over to a blog, so I am updating again. (Thanks for the encouragement, Greg!)

So, what exciting things have I been doing since 2016? A whole bunch!

Gardening: I continued to garden and made a few more raised beds for vegetables. I also decided to take a shady bed up against my house and make it into a goth garden, planting only black and red flowers. I have black helleborus in there, with lovely red coral bells and red bleeding hearts. The helleborus is blooming beautifully right now (though not as black as promised), and the bleeding hearts are just starting to emerge. New for this year: I planted black Asiatic lilies and black tulips, which should come up this summer and next spring, respectively. I also ordered black and red rose seeds, which will be hard to grow, but amazing if they thrive.

This season, I plan to grow sunchokes, bok choy, cascade hops, cucumbers, asparagus, broccoli, beets, and possibly something else too. The sunchokes, broccoli, and beets are in the ground already. The hops and asparagus are perennials and will come back from last year, and I have to wait for warmer weather to plant the rest.

hellebore

Midnight Ruffles Helleborus from Wayside Gardens

Building: I continued to build more pallet stuff! At the beginning of 2017, I was unemployed for several months, so I put my energy into building a pallet bar, something I always wanted to do, but never had the time for. I had the pallets in my back yard just weathering, so I got to work. I eyeballed most of it and based the dimensions on a 100″ piece of 2×4 I pulled from an extra-long pallet. I used a 11.25″ wide board for the bar top and stained it to match my patio furniture. I also loved the look of the weathered wood, so I thought the orange would help it pop. I made the stools out of 4x4s and pallet board using this tutorial. The tutorial called for 2x2s, but I liked the look of the thick wood better. I hope they weather as nicely as the rest of the bar. The total cost to build the bar was $50, which mostly went to buying screws. The stools cost another $50 because of the lumber. But they are both solid and will not go anywhere for years. (I had to build the bar in place since it is so heavy!)

bar and stools

Drinking outdoors has never looked this good.

Bees!: So the biggest reason I dusted off the ‘ol blog is because I am embarking on a bee-autiful journey, learning about honey bee husbandry. I am currently taking a five-week course on beekeeping through the Central Maryland Beekeeper’s Association. It will give me all the knowledge I will need to keep a hive alive for a year. Their monthly meetings and mentor program will let me hone my knowledge and keep my hive alive for (hopefully) much longer.

I am very excited about getting bees. I’ve wanted to try my hand at beekeeping since I first moved into my house and realized Baltimore County will let me keep them. First and foremost, I want to do it because bees need saving. Bees are an essential part of the ecosystem and without them, we would not be able to sustain ourselves as a species. Having hives in my back yard will also help my local ecosystem (i.e., my garden) with pollination, giving me more vegetables and flowers.

Then there is the honey. A well-established beehive can produce up to 60 lbs. of honey a year. Of course, bees need a good amount of this to live, but not that much. I will be able to collect honey next summer if all goes well. My plan for it is to make mead (honey wine) out of a good deal of it. I’ve done small batches from kits before, but never from scratch. I really want to make lavender mead using the English lavender I grow in front of my kitchen window. There is also wax that I can use for a whole bunch of things, from candles to lip balm. I see lots of bee-related gifts given in my future.

My nuc (nucleus colony) arrives on April 7. This is a starter bee colony, with an established queen. I am using a 10-frame langstroth hive setup. The nuc will take up five frames of it to start, then will (hopefully) rapidly grow throughout the year. I will be updating this page with as much bee-related stuff as I can think of. There will also be bee-related gardening, as I need to make sure the bees are fed and happy. And it’s another excuse to plant pretty flowers, as if I need one.

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