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This spring has blossomed for us with new ideas and a new direction. Many things have remained the same, our view of the world and how we wish to interact with it is the same; self-sufficiency is important to us, living as green as possible is very important to us, eating and living a vegan lifestyle is important to us. Doing our best to NOT support the “Evil Empire” better known as “big business” is also very important to us. We’re only two people who can’t really hope to make a huge difference in the world, but that’s not the point, we feel that our efforts, in concert with two other people, and two other people and two other people, is what will make the difference so we do all that we can even though things look fairly hopeless sometimes.

Our dreams of being totally self-sufficient I think were a bit too ambitious for us. In our perfect fantasy we would have the most beautiful and prolific garden you can imagine, free of pests and disease, we would make all our own clothes, candles, furniture, etc. We’d only use bikes or public transportation as a means of getting around, we’d power everything with solar energy, we’d barter for everything else we needed, our land and home would be paid off, we’d be free from money and all the problems is causes. Nice dream, isn’t it… But for us it simply isn’t possible. So, we’ve reined in our dream just a bit, into something we can actually achieve. Some people will say, “you’re just giving up!” But I don’t think so, rather we are being realistic; given our age, our level of fitness, our experience and knowledge, given that we have to work full-time jobs, we aren’t left with enough hours in the day, nevermind enough energy, to achieve all we’d like to…We haven’t given up, we’ve simply discovered what is actually possible for us and being totally self-sufficient isn’t one of those things.


So we finally gave in and bought a new car which we hope will last us for many, many, many years. It’s a Twingo, the tiniest most fuel efficient, environmentally friendly (ha!) car we could find. We try to only go through 1 tank of fuel a month which means quite a bit of bike-riding during the week for my husband to and from work. It adds about 1 hour a day to his commuting time, but it also adds fresh air, exercise and beautiful scenery and a peaceful quiet time each morning to just think and enjoy being outdoors without the stress and frustration of traffic jams.

Bees…

We hope this year to increase our bee hives. We’ve had a few rough years where we had weak struggling hives and ended up losing some of them over the previous winter. We never take much honey from our bees even at the best of times, honey isn’t the main goal for us, we mainly just like having the bees here and knowing that they are helping to improve the land around us which is a good thing for the planet in general. But we haven’t harvested honey from our bees at all in the past 2 years trying to give them the time and resources to build themselves up again. I think those efforts have paid off because our two remaining hives came out of this past winter very strong, healthy and hardy. We should see some swarms from them this summer which will give us the opportunity to create more hives. We will probably take a bit of honey (20-30 jars worth) and leave them the rest which will be quite alot.

This is a shot of our two hives taken about 1 month ago, as they are just starting to wake up and become active. We have since added additional boxes to the top of the hives for honey storage. We had to add the boxes much sooner than usual this year as they are collecting so much. :O)

Our plan is to hopefully move the bees into Warre’ style hives  as I have mentioned before, and to increase to as many as 6 hives during this season. We also want to build 2 or 3 Kenya Top-Bar style hives and keep those on the other side of the property under our apple trees. Those will be my hives :O) It should be an easier system for me to work with, with much less heavy lifting and shuffling around of boxes. Both of the systems we will use are in general less intrusive and hands-on so that we don’t have to disturb the bees as often as is necessary with the more common/commercial style bee hives.

One problem is that we have always had trouble catching our swarms because our bees insist on sitting in the highest branches of the tallest trees on our property, there is absolutely no way we can reach them. So this year we are doing a little experiment, we anchored an empty Warre’ hive to the roof of our porch, we’re hoping that maybe a swarm will move into it (not necessarily a swarm from our bees because when bees swarm they instinctively move a greater distance from the mother hive so they will have enough food, but there are also 2-3 other bee keepers in the area so we might possibly attract one of their swarms, just as they might acquire one of our swarms… it all works out in the end  ;O)

You can see the hive up on the roof in this picture. The box behind and slightly above it is a bat house…we love having bats in our area and will be adding more bat houses on our property in the coming years.

We’ve decided that our main focus crop-wise is going to be fruit. Fruit trees and berries. The reason for this is that for one thing, it’s the perfect thing to grow with bees. Another reason is that not as much space is required for the yeild you will get, we don’t have much space here. And another reason is that fruit is so very expensive! We eat alot of fruit over the growing season and around here we are paying 4 euro for a tiny 1 cup container of berries, it’s really quite insane! Vegetable crops require alot more space and effort to actually make a substantial difference and besides the prices are pretty reasonable by comparison, so growing fruit makes the most sense for us.

We will of course grow a few select vegetables in and amongst our future flower beds and in containers, but not many and nothing formal. I’ve decided that I don’t want any straight lines in the yard, no square beds, no straight rows, which carry the feeling of being man-made and controlled. I want a very informal arrangement which doesn’t feel forced or “contrived”, but which feels natural. Lots and lots of flowers and flowering bushes. In short, we’ve decided to create a cottage garden which will be created in such a way that it will become a sanctuary. Not only for us, but for the local wildlife as well, including the insects as well as the birds and animals.The wildlife in our area has a very rough time these days  just as it does most everywhere on the planet with all the farming, building, pollution, hunting and the ever increasing intrusion by man into their habitats…really, they need all the help they can get and it is what I want to spend my energy and space helping them with. I want to do what I can to create a place which helps and doesn’t hinder them. Of course with our limited funds, time and resources, this is going to take years but now that we have a clear goal and vision, we are off to a good start.

Currently we are working on clearing the land of all the garbage that has collected over the years, left by two generations of homeowners who lived here before us. They were anything but kind to the land here and used it as their own personal landfill. It will take alot of work to replenish the soil and just get the place cleared of junk so we can start planting. We rented a huge garbage container this week and are working to fill it. It will probably take 1 or 2 more containers before we’re done. Unfortunately these things aren’t cheap! But we can’t do much until the garbage is gone.

Another goal for this season is to plant the rest of our hedge, it will cost about 500 euro to finish. We started our thorn hedge about 4 years ago but couldn’t finish it until this year. The hedgehogs, birds and other little critters especially love living in thorn hedges. We’re using hawthorn, blackthorn, wild dog rose, wild apple and wild pear plants to create the hedge. The hedge flowers in early spring which is good for our bees since not much else is flowering at that time. It will take about 4 years until it starts looking like a proper hedge.

One of the things I’d like to grow aside from fruit trees and berries is tomatoes which are also quite expensive. I’m experimenting with cherry tomatoes in our veranda this year, tomatoes don’t do very well here without being covered or grown in a greenhouse so I thought they might do well in our south-facing veranda.

Well, this post is getting quite long now so I will wrap it up here. I’ll continue to post on our progress over the season and share pictures with you. I will leave you with this shot of a trellis my husband built the other day. One of the first plants I bought this year was a climbing rose called “Zephirine Drouhin”. No true cottage garden would be complete without a few climbing roses. So we’ve made a beginning! The rose hasn’t been delivered yet, I had to order it,but it should be here and planted by next Monday :O)

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It’s back!

I had no idea how many people really enjoyed reading this blog, I apologize for taking it down, I didn’t think it would be missed. So ok, I’m putting it back up. There really is alot of good information here, even if I don’t update it all that often.

I’ll try to keep so much dust from gathering in future! Enjoy!

I’m brushing away the dust on this sorely neglected blog to bring you a brief update on the bees.

If you’ve been following the blog you know that last year was not a good year for our bees. The weather was cold and rainy and most of the hives were weak, even without us harvesting any honey, they had a hard time. A few weeks ago the weather started to warm up enough that the bees could leave the hive during the warmest part of the day. Going into the winter we had 4 hives, all still using the traditional German style hives (still no established Warre’ hives unfortunately).

It became obvious during those first few warm days that at least one of our hives was dead, it was silent as a tomb, while the others were all active. Peer opened the hive and sure enough, there was nothing but a big mount of dead bees laying at the bottom. The other hives quickly discovered that this hive was not being defended and they began to raid it taking anything and everything that would be of use to them. Robbing other hives is not something to be encouraged, but we let them do it mainly because they still have a while to go before they will have a reliable food source, nothing is blooming yet. We’re hoping that with what they gathered from the dead hive, they’ll make it through the rest of the winter.

This year we’ll try again to establish some Warre hives and strengthen the ones we have.  More soon!

Hi everyone, I know it’s been a long time, I apologize. There just hasn’t been much to share that anyone would find of interest and life in general is keeping me pretty busy in other directions. But we’ve had a few questions about our Warre’ hive experiment and how it is going, so here’s a brief update.

We started in June of 2008 by building 5 Warre’ hives. The plan was to gradually move the bees from the standard German boxes that we were using, into the Warre’ hives as the bees swarmed. Well, it sounded like a good plan…

That year we had 2 swarms, the first one we caught and moved into one of the hives, unfortunately it did not thrive and died out over the winter of 2009. The other swarm we were unable to catch.

Next, we followed the advice of a local beekeeper and tried to create an artificial swarm. He gave us a queen that he was  going to replace in one of his own hives (he does alot of experimental breeding and so forth). Well that was a complete and total disaster from start to finish. Despite Peer’s best efforts to keep it together, that hive never took and it gradually dwindled down to nothing. The queen kept crawling away (she had a clipped wing and couldn’t fly). The hive was in complete and utter chaos and many of the bees few away…total, TOTAL disaster. Do NOT try this at home kiddies.

So we began the spring of 2009 with 1 dead Warre’ hive and 4 hives in standard German boxes. Two of those hives were really weak and the other two, while not quite as weak, we felt were not strong enough to harvest honey from and so we didn’t. We left them completely alone for the most part to see if they could build themselves back up over the summer.

With the exception of one hive, they continued to be weak. The summer was not a great one for bees, it was cold, dark and rainy much of the time so this didn’t help matters. There were no swarms at all over the summer so we never got the chance to start another Warre’ hive.

Since they were doing so poorly, we also checked them early for mites and they seemed to have quite a few, even though Peer had, as per standard mite treatment recommendations, treated them the previous autumn. So he treated them again. We think that we’ve lost yet another hive this autumn due to the mites and then the wasps moved in, the hive was not strong enough to fend them off. So we are down to 3 hives. I think we may lose another one or two over the winter since they are already weak going into it…

It might be that we have to buy new bees and start over again, but Peer wants to give these guys a chance first. We’re in no rush, we don’t really care about the honey, for us it’s not about the honey, we just enjoy having the bees here. So we’ll be patient and give them a chance.

And so, needless to say, it was a very bad, bad, bad, bad year!

I hope that next summer I’ll have better news!

This is a subject that literally leaves me feeling sick inside. It infuriates me, it scares the Hell out of me, it makes me despair for the future of this planet, it leaves me feeling sad and confused as to how and why any sane, rational, caring human being could involve themselves with this. Something has got to be done about this company…

Many countries are resisting, they are banning GMO crops and Monsanto’s products and technology but it still creeps in around the edges. Many countries have tried, but are now losing the battle. Globally, thousands of farmers have had their lives destroyed by this company. Many cultures have lost their native crops, they’ve become ill and have unwittingly become dependent on Monsanto for their very livelihoods.

Hundreds of seed companies are now owned and controlled by this company and thousands of plant varieties are disappearing, never to be seen again. Thousands of people are sick and dying due to illnesses caused by the pesticides, chemicals and animal growth hormones made by this company. Why aren’t more people talking about this? Why aren’t people doing something about it?

I think many people simply don’t know the whole story, don’t realize how serious it is. And what can the average person do about it anyway?

I think that voting with your wallet and your fork, is a step in the right direction. Buying locally grown food from small farms will help, support your local farmer’s markets and CSA programs. Avoid pre-packaged, processed and refined foods, most of them contain GMO ingredients. Avoid fast food restaurants. Prepare more meals at home using fresh, local, whole food ingredients. Cut back on, or better yet, eliminate all meat and dairy products which are full of cancer-causing hormones (not to mention antibiotics and other nasty things). Let your representatives know what you think. Be vocal about it! Stay informed and do your research. If possible, join and support organizations created to fight against this company (see links below). This problem really does affect us all. So assuming that lack of knowledge is the biggest factor, I’m providing a link to this in-depth documentary. Please watch it and spread the word, we can’t continue to sit by and let this happen!

“The World According to Monsanto”
This is part 1 of a 10 part documentary. You can watch the other parts on YouTube, just click on the video screen below. The whole thing is about 90 minutes long, it’s time well spent!

For more information, check out the following links…

Millions Against Monsanto Campaign

The Campaign – Grass Roots Political Action

The MonoCulture of the Mind

Farmers Launch Anti-Trust Lawsuit Against Monsanto

Global Research – Biotechnology and Gmo

Films and Documentaries:

Food, Inc. (at theaters and on DVD)

Food Matters (view online, DVD)

HOME (view online, DVD)

The Future of Food (view online – USA only)

GMO Trilogy – Unnatural Selection (view online)

Seeds of Deception (view online)

HOME…

a film by Yann Arthus Bertrand

Just a quick note to tell you about a film that I think is of huge importance and which carries a strong and impacting message for us all. I hope you will take the time to watch it and to consider the message it brings. It is so important to our world, to our way of life and to the future generations who follow…

This movie was made and sponsored so that it could be shared freely and watched by all, so please do!

Here is the trailer…

You can watch the entire film directly from the official website or on YouTube.

Here is the official HOME website:
http://www.home-2009.com

YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqxENMKaeCU



Taking a Break

I guess you already noticed that…lol! Well this summer is just proving to be too much for me, there’s too much going on and too little time to do it in so something has to give. Unfortnately it has to be the blog(s). I can’t keep up with it all so until things slow down, you won’t find much new here. When life returns to normal, I’m sure I’ll be back!