Saturday, May 31, 2014

A new gardening season

Well we are finally all planted for the season after a frigid spring. At the beginning of the spring the guy who owns the house to the north of us had a giant mulberry tree taken down. This tree provided lots of wonderful shade for our backyard and I was sad to see it go. It had some rot though so it had to come down, still sad. The one bright side of it is that our veggie beds now are full sun all day long, which I think will make for a dramatic difference in our crop yield.

Steve and I switched beds this year and he planted mostly hot peppers and I did my usual herbs, leafy greens for salads and basil. I did add some tiny kale seedlings that a neighbor gave me and they have totally taken off since I planted them in the bed last weekend. Still unsure what I will plant when the salad greens bolt. We also planted about 10 heirloom tomato plants on the south side of the house, as we always do. Looking forward to a lot of salsa soon.

We let Harriet pick out her own flowers at the farmers market for a pot. She was very excited to plant them as well as a little spruce tree from her Uncle Dave. Note the wonky sunglasses.  

My mom came over and picked a bunch of rhubarb for baked goods and Harriet assisted by bagging and counting the stalks. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Josh and Yen's wedding

I'm a little behind on posting here, a couple weekends ago my second cousin Josh was married to Yen. It was a lovely wedding at the Semple mansion in Minneapolis.  I had never met Yen before and she is a wonderful addition to the family. Hopefully we will see more of them in the future since they recently bought a house a mile away from ours.

We had a lot of fun catching up with extended family. Here we are with my second cousin Neil and his wife ARong. I hadn't seen them since their wedding 7 years ago in DC.  Both Steve and I were happy to get the time to talk with them so much. They now have a son (below) and another baby on the way and live in Washington state. I wish they lived closer.

 3rd cousins Philip and Harriet (with a fake smile).

Cousins: Krismar, Kathy, my mom and aunt Sylvia (with eloise)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Urban beekeeping

A dream of mine has finally come true – we are now the home of approx. 20,000 honey bees. Ever since I took the U of M extension beekeeping class I have wanted to start up beekeeping, but I just felt like I needed a mentor to help me get started. As recently as last summer I had discussed doing it with our next door neighbor, but felt like life was too busy and I didn't have time to do it and didn't want to invest all the money in it if I didn't really know what I was doing 100%.

Fast forward to a couple months ago when our neighborhood association sent out an email on behalf of a beekeeper who was looking to keep bees in our neighborhood and wondered if anyone was interested. I discussed it with Steve and determined that this might potentially be the ideal situation to learn from an experienced beekeeper and also not fully commit to doing all the work it entails. So I emailed back saying that we were interested and wanted more information. Turns out it is a woman named Chris who lives in an apartment in uptown and needed a place for her bees. She has been keeping 2 hives in Powderhorn at someone else's house for the past few years and wanted another location. The hives have to be spread out by a few miles so that there is enough for the bees to forage. She came over to chat and meet us and we decided to move forward. Steve and I had already determined that the ideal spot for the hives would be on our flat roof above our family room. There is virtually no place to put it in our yard and the hives have to be in a fenced in area as stipulated by the city in order to obtain a permit. Also the bees need a spot with full sun.

By the end of the summer when both the hives are filled with honey the hives could each weigh 500 lbs so that was our main concern. After some consulting with some roofing professionals and a structural engineer, they deemed it safe for the roof to bear that weight.

Chris has said that I was welcome to help as much or as little as I would like/have time for. With all her experience, I am very eager to learn as much from her as possible. Our package of bees came a bit earlier than we were ready for, so we kept them in Powderhorn for a bit until the city gave us the ok to move them to our house. The bees come in the mail from California and can be in the box they were shipped in for a week. They are given a can of sugar water to sustain them.

Here I am releasing 10,000 bees, no biggie. You spray them with sugar water to calm them a bit and then dump them in the hive box. You really have to whack at them to get them all out.

Bee dump.
This is how the queen comes. There is one queen per package of bees (one package = one hive). You can see how there are many other worker bees tending to her and feeding her. After you pry off that mesh you have to be very careful that she doesn't fly away or get crushed when you are putting her in the hive. No queen means a dead hive.  If you do accidentally kill her or lose her. you can order another queen, but it is a bit pricey.

So we unleashed the bees into the two new hives and then we left them there for a few weeks. We moved them onto our roof last Sunday because the conditions were right. You have to do it when it is either dark or under 50 degrees and since we have to go in and out Eloise's bedroom window, the morning seemed like the other time. I got up early on Mothers day and helped her move the hives. We put a screen over their entrance and exit hole and ratcheted it down with straps and threw the boxes in her car.

This is how they look now up on our roof. They will continue to get taller with more boxes and frames as the season goes on and as fall approaches we will harvest the honey. She will get the majority of the honey and we will get some of the harvest. She said last year she got over 5 gallons of honey.

Here she is organizing the frames so that they are an equal distance apart from each other. The bees will mess up the honeycomb if the spacing is incorrect. The hive boxes need maintainence every 7-10 days, which involves rotating the frames in the boxes and adding new boxes on top as the hive grows. At some point we will put a queen excluder on which will keep the queen down below and above the excluder will be just honey frames.
We spotted the queen on the frame (closest to the edge). It is also interesting to see how they are forming the honeycomb on frame. The black sheet is just plastic to help them start.

Well, more updates to come in the next few months. It will be exciting to see our plants being pollinated, to help the environment as well as learn as much as possible.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Murals lately

Here are some of my favorite murals I have seen lately. This one is outside of Quang on Nicollet. I obviously love the pandas. The colors are great too. It's funny, now when we are driving anywhere and Harriet seems a mural she tells me that I need to stop and take a picture of it. Seems like she knows the drill by now with this.

This one is on Snelling in St. Paul done by the Broken Crow guys. I love this one sooo much!
 A close up of my favorite part, the hippo.

Off of Lake Street by the Midtown Global market.

 Intermedia Arts garage.

 Jungle Theater, done with direction from my friend Elissa.
 More intermedia arts.

 Fujiya Koi.

Random fence in Powderhorn.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Knit socks

It's pretty rare that I make myself anything, but I switched gears from toys and make myself these. Wool socks just in time for summer, right? I made them with this pattern. Although not technically hard, they were kind of drag because I was impatient. I am used to projects being so quick and knitting with fingering weight yarn on size 1 needles is sloooow going. I loved the self-striping yarn which kept my attention though.

Fits like a glove....sock?

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

May Day

It's May Day once again. After a long winter, Minneapolis reemerged to celebrate spring and it was a great day to do so! We met up with friends, my cousin and aunt and had a great time!

  Beekeeper of sweet wonder.

Queen bee.

Colony collapse disorder.

Funky lady.

These best buddies enjoyed the parade together.

Anti-fluoride people.

More of the same with skeletor, this massive float was a bit of a logistical nightmare.

Ears. [?????] Nothing surprises me in this parade.

This baby gives the parade a thumbs up and peace sign, which seem appropriate.