Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Natural Easter Egg Dye

This Easter I wanted to dye eggs with things around the house rather than using the store-bought chemical dyes that we have always used in the past.  There are a lot of websites with recipes, but I mainly looked at this one by Better Homes and Gardens.  I tried onion skins, turmeric, paprika, and beet juice.  The best results came from the onion skins and the turmeric.

I read somewhere that you can wrap the eggs with onion skins, cover with cheesecloth and secure them with a rubberband.  This technique is supposed to give a mottled look.  I may try this approach next year.

Additional Bee Box Dilemma

Bees, bees, bees...they are on my mind day and night.  Introducing the package of bees that will be arriving next week has been in my dreams for several nights now.  I even woke 2 nights ago with, "I must feed the bees tomorrow because the weather has been wet and rainy this past week!"  I kid you not, I can't stop thinking about bees!  One thing has been on my mind for weeks now so I decided to make this post.

With the move last spring I decided to just have one colony of bees so I purchased a nuc from a local beekeeper.  Here's a quick summary of this hive: received nuc end of April with very little capped brood (I was very unhappy with this); middle of May everything looked fine; second week of June the queen had failed and I had her replaced; I fed them a lot more than usual for the entire summer because the nectar flow had mainly ended by July and the hive was really light.  I really had very little hope that this colony would make it through the winter because only 13 frames out of 20 had drawn comb, the remaining frames were still plastic foundation.  Thankfully there were about 4 frames of capped honey that I brought with me from Portland that I gave to the colony.  Somehow this colony survived with only one deep and a honey super with only 13 frames of drawn comb.  What I want to do this spring is add another deep brood box, but where should it be placed?  Should it go between the current honey super and deep, or should it go on the very bottom?  The new deep is a brand new hive body with no built foundation.  I would love to hear what other beekeepers suggest I do so please leave a message in the comment section.

This morning I picked up a large order of beekeeping supplies...enough frames and foundation for 6 more deeps.  A beekeeper can never have enough extra for possible swarms and future hives!

Homemade Soil Blocks

If you are starting seeds indoors, homemade soil blocks are an inexpensive way to grow individual seedlings without using a lot of those plastic individual dividers that eventually crack and have to be thrown away.  It has been years since we have purchased plants from a store so we have very few of those soil dividers in decent shape.  In the video below, Jon gives a brief tutorial on how to make these soil blocks.

Honeybee Sediment on Mite Board

This past weekend we had temps in the 60's and the bees were taking cleansing flights after about 2 weeks of cold weather.  I decided to peek at their mite board and see if there was any mouse poop in case there was a mouse in the hive since I didn't put a mouse guard up last fall.

This is the first winter that I didn't remove the mite board because I was told by locals that solid bottoms work best here.  I have a screened bottom so the mite board slips underneath the screen and acts as a substitute solid bottom board.  A mite board inspection can reveal a lot to a beekeeper.  Jon calls it an "x-ray" view because the heavy sediment areas reveal where the bees are most active; and what's in the sediment reveals varroa mite population levels, pollen, and other general pests the bees may be getting rid of such as earwigs.  This time I discovered a lot of what I believe are honeybee eggs.  I am taking a wild stab at why eggs are being deposited but if any readers have additional ideas, please post them in the comments section.

Awhile ago we had really warm temps and the bees were out gathering pollen (past blog post).  My guess is that with the warm temps that week, the queen started laying an abundant supply of eggs but when the cold weather hit again, a lot of the eggs didn't get incubated because the colony of honeybees was too small to cover the brood nursery.  My second guess is perhaps the queen is laying more than one egg in each cell and the bees are removing them.  I hope this isn't the case because the colony may decide to raise a new queen and therefore swarm this spring.  I'm really hoping I don't have a swarm because the colony is very small already.

Circled in red is one of the eggs deposited on the mite board (click picture to enlarge).

Back to Basics Winter Reading

We're getting cabin fever here and running out of projects to keep us busy.  Thankfully we are still easily entertained with books, and during a brief stop at the local library, Jon found Back to Basics (copyright 1981) among the gardening books.  Him and I enjoy perusing the pages about pioneering basics that were common knowledge back in the day.  This book was written by the Reader's Digest and contains detailed information accompanied with pictures.  In this book you can learn how to build a home, dig a well, make your own electricity, grow your own food, make cheese, and much much more.  These type of books bring out the pioneering spirit in me because I enjoy learning about the old-fashioned way of doing things; and perhaps I will adopt some of these ideas down the road.

My mother recently sent me The Foxfire Book (copyright 1972) which is part of a series that is also about simple living.  This particular book contains information about building a log cabin, crafts, moonshining, preserving food, churning butter, and more.

Finding a Sustainability Group

Moving to Portland, OR to a small rural town in West Virginia has been an adjustment for our family.  Something as simple as grocery shopping has turned out to be a treasure hunt of sorts. In Portland, we shopped at New Season's Market where all of the meat is vegetarian fed without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones.  Finding hormone-free chicken at a store here can be somewhat discouraging and there isn't even hormone-free sausage available.  And need I mention that the nearest glass and plastic recycling is 15 miles away?  Being a newcomer can be rather tough in general and finding those who share similar values can be even more of a challenge.  Jon and I have talked at length how we would like to get in-touch with those who have a sustainability mindset; but how do we find these people?

Last summer Jon and I checked out the local Farmer's Market that had about 5 vendors and stopped by Mil-Ton Farms to learn about their local meat business.  Before leaving, I grabbed their business card so I could place future orders.  This card was then tucked away in my desk drawer until Jon and I recently had a craving for some homemade biscuits and gravy and gumbo, but we couldn't find good quality sausage at the grocery store.  I sent an email to Mil-Ton farms to place an order and was directed to their Facebook page which introduced us to the Tri-State Sustainability Homesteaders group.  We were thrilled to find that this group is meeting for the first time March 16th. For those of you who know me, I am not a Facebook junkie and spend minimal time on the computer so it was a diamond in the rough that I found this group!  Jon and I are really excited to find a group here that we can connect with, share resources, and learn more homesteading skills!  Perhaps we can finally begin our dairy interests within the next year.  Our challenge is finding someone who can take care of the animals when we are on vacation.  In particular we are thinking about raising milking goats.

This weekend I cooked up a batch of vegetable soup and a loaf of Boule Artisan Bread.  The bread recipe came from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by: Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. 

My soups are made with  ingredients leftover in the fridge.  Potatoes, corn, and homemade noodles are great additions too.

Here is my recipe: 
Cook 1/2 cup onion with 2 T butter in soup pot.  Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 2 hours. 
3/4 quart jar stewed tomatoes
3/4 quart jar carrots
1/2 quart jar green beans
2 stalks celery chopped
1 cup cooked barley
1 tsp. vegetable soup stock
1 tsp. thyme

*When I use my canned vegetables, there is usually enough liquid in the jars to fill the soup pot.  If more liquid is needed, add the water used for rinsing the jars.  

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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