top-bar hive beekeeping

I may have stumbled upon a less expensive and more natural method of hiving my bees that will result in the need for less equipment and better honey and honeycomb. Top-bar hives allow the bees to design their own comb to suit their needs, with varied cell sizes, which creates a more natural and efficient habitat with increased immunity to disease and mites. All I did was google "permaculture" and found this.

I love permaculture design.

I plan to research top-bar hive beekeeping further.

If anyone out there knows anything about this, please, offer your wisdom and knowledge. Thank you!


Hottie beekeeper

I hope this contest is still going in April. I got this one in the bag. Haha, just kidding...sorta.

Hot Beekeepers: Pick the Cutest Beekeeper

Composting with worms and little, or lots, of space

Here's my latest article!

My little buggers seem quite content. They're well fed on veggie and fruit scraps and tea leaves, and their home seems suitably damp and smells earthy and rich.

sexy tea

Sexy Tea: try with cream and honey or plain-jane. Either way, sexy.

1 part dried cherries, chopped
1/2 part vanilla bean
1/4 part cinamon
1/4 dark chocolate

Steep for 15 minutes in enough water to cover the ingredients but not enough water for the pot.

Add 2 parts assam tea and more hot water. Steep for 3-4 minutes.



Here's a cute little craft project to try at the next lady's craft night that, with the right paper, would be lovely hanging in windows. Maybe I'll work on it during craft night on Thursday, although I'm also working on a braided rug, applique curtains to hang below the living room table that holds the turntables and mixer, a knitted scarf, and an embroidery/cross-stitching project that I designed myself. All these intentions and ideas! Creativity! Joy! Productivity, tomorrow.

But seriously, tonight, I'm going to finalize my seed plans. I think, as of now, I have about 100 packets too many picked out. Also, I've been eating poorly of late, so I'm dreaming of kale and quinoa and yams and some yummy concoction of sorts for dinner and then some nourishing tea.

My latest and best recipe: Drink to calm the nerves, aid digestion, soothe anxiety, and induce sleep.

1 tsp. organic german chamomile
1 tsp. peppermint
1 pinch of lavender

Steep 5-10 minutes


An apiarist on the rise

I did it! I just ordered 1 package of Italian honeybees with a queen from Portland's Ruhl Bee Supply. Now, will we build a hive or order a starter kit? Let the games and research begin! In a little over 3 months, I will officially be a beekeeper/apiarist. (My gratitude to Bee Outside for the photo in exchange for a little publicizing of their store.)


great fluff

Hiked a mile up Mt. Hood today along Timberline Ski Resort's boundary. It took us an hour of trudging uphill through powder and more powder while the snow stung and swirled around us, and only four minutes to make our way down! Next time, we're going to try for at least two miles. Anyone have any snowshoes they can lend me?

book 6: Made from Scratch

Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life by Jenna Woginrich

Honestly, I wanted to hate this author, Jenna Woginrich. She's 6 years younger than me, hails from my home state, lives the homesteader's dream, and has published her own book. I mean really, what's not to envy and despise? (Besides which, her blog is gorgeous!)

Ok, seriously, what's not to love? She feels like a kindred spirit (and I have a vague notion that she'd get really excited by that quaint, archaic sentiment). Her book is a lovely, endearing introduction to homesteading, and she honestly and spiritfully acquaints the reader with her own first-hand and first-time experience, for she herself is a novice (or is throughout the narrative). Even if one wanted to hate her, she couldn't after reading about her trials and tribulations with bears, bees, and bunnies. She's inspired me to say "screw it!" and search for deals on beekeeping kits for THIS season, search for and start raising some rabbits (I get to pet the rabbits, George!), bake some homemade bread, and possibly even dust off my guitar (but maybe after I've mastered knitting scarves and sewing BRC costumes!).

This is a charming little book for the beginning homesteader/gardener/sled dog raiser, etc. And even for the slightly more experienced, it's a fun, fun read (nothing wrong with some new ideas and some inspiration, even if you won't learn a whole lot about how-to). I look forward to hearing more from this animated, creative writer/farmer/designer. Check out her blog.


January wonderment

The ghosts of last summer feed the soil, and life begins anew.
Bulbs shoot forth green, and the cherry blossoms redden.
Baby rose leaves appear while pansies continue to  bloom in defiance of this mild winter.
And as spring works her way toward us, we have worms composting our food scraps in the basement, sheet mulched raised beds absorbing nutrients, wine fermenting in our basement, beer brewing and carbonating, compost rotting in bins in the yard, seed starting class scheduled, and dreams of bees.

Book 5: Worms Eat My Garbage

This fun little book is a great teaching tool for worm-novices on the wonderful world of vermicomposting, aka composting with worms. Both informative and motivating, it also has the cutest, funniest illustrations ever.

More on my own worms soon.


Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter

Book 4: Ashley Rhodes-Courter wrote the first draft of this book, her story, while in high school and revised and published it in her early 20s. Tossed in and out of foster homes until she was adopted at the age of 12, this story is her way of voicing the struggle for thousands of kids without parents and advocating for better laws that more fully protect foster kids, caring volunteers, loving foster parents, and adoption.


Warning: scathing review with spoilers

book 3: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I've seen and heard a lot of hype about this book, but the only good thing I really have to say about it is that it has some good stock photography from the Ringling Bros. Circus from the early 1900s. Other than that, I think I'll use it as an example of what NOT to do in my creative writing class, including stiff dialogue and cliched characters that I can't imagine any reader really caring about. Take one of the central characters, Marlena, for example. Here's what the reader learns about her: she can ride a horse and an elephant, loves horses, is attractive, likes to burst into tears, is married to a paranoid schizophrenic, and is in love with the protagonist. That's it. That's all you get about this one. And her husband, the so-called paranoid schizophrenic: perhaps this is the author's way of trying to make this antagonist more complex, more sympathetic. Whatever. Yawn. He's extremely violent and abusive one minute and sickeningly charming the next (meaning he says things like, "I'm so glad you came by. Oh, pardon my manners, would you like a drink?"). The most interesting character in the whole book is Queenie, the dog. This is just one woman's adamant opinion of this dull, lifeless, poorly written book.


follow your bliss

Birthday's are somewhat existential experiences: despite the well-wishings and lavishings of attention from friends and loved-ones, the experience is essentially one that happens alone: only I am turning 32 today and thus, I must look in the mirror alone and reflect. I am primarily responsible for how I got to where I am today, and I steer this craft that guides me into tomorrow. And I have to say that with the exception of financial matters, I am at peace with my past, joyful about the present, and excited about the future. I don't aspire to have this blog serve as a long-winded self-absorbed narrative, but I don't mind sharing a few of my inner observations and reflections. I will state that I hope to give more of myself in the next year, to my family, to my true friends, to my students, and to random strangers. I'm practicing giving that doesn't take from myself: compliments, cards, a sympathetic ear, sharing of ideas, giving my creativity, as opposed to enabling unhealthy and destructive behaviors or allowing others to be greedy of my time or jealous of my happiness. I want to give randomly and frequently from a sense of love and creativity rather than from a position of guilt or coersion. "Follow your bliss," said Joseph Campbell. How easy it is to give when one is heart-fully following one's bliss--at least for the goodhearted.

Speaking of giving, I hope people search their hearts and find a way to help those in Haiti through this terrible situation. $10 will buy some much needed medical supplies. The Clinton Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, World Vision, and the Red Cross are all accepting donations.


sew, cook, plant

Here's my first pillow. I sewed it the other night using material that I am also using to make my applique curtains. As a novice seamstress, I am thrilled that I figured out how to do the blind stitch with minor vexation.

And, happy birthday to me! Yesterday, I opened the door to find a package from Amazon from my parents (thank you!). Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and The River Cottage Cookbook (thanks, Erin, for the recommendation). I was bewitched by Julia's updated introduction, especially when she discusses her Paul ("my Paul") washing dishes in a tiny powder room for Simone Beck and her while on book tour.

I need, I need, I need to order seeds! My seed catalogs started trickling in. This weekend, while curled up in a yurt by the sea, I'm going to dream of gardens and heirloom tomatoes!


Peanut butter brownies

Yesterday, I couldn't find a good recipe for peanut butter brownies, so I created my own:

Jessica's Peanut Butter Brownies

1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup peanut butter (chunky recommended)
2 cups sugar
2 t. vanilla
2/3 cup cocoa
3 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 t. baking powder
dash of salt

2-4 handfuls of dark chocolate chips, optional

Preheat oven to 350 and grease 9" X 11" pan. Melt butter, stir in peanut butter, sugar, vanilla, and cocoa. Mix in eggs. Add flour and baking powder gradually, stirring until all is well mixed. Bake for 25 min. (I like my brownies undercooked).


Getting Started in Permaculture

Book 2:

They're not kidding with the "getting started" bit. This book's a simple guide to starting a garden that includes the principles of permaculture. Sometimes, it's too simple (seed germination directions say nothing about lighting). However, there are a lot of great ideas, from creating an herb garden out of recycled tires to building a geodesic-dome shade house for plants.

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer

Book 1: Novella Carpenter turns a vacant lot in the ghetto of Oakland into an urban farm and lives to tell the tale of trials, errors, and homegrown feasts. Divided into three sections, she narrates the evolution of her urban farm, from poultry to large mammals (with mishaps with her veggies and bees as well). Her story is speckled with characters who inhabit the neighborhood and help or hinder her along her journey.
Warning: this book heavily focuses on the raising, slaughtering, and butchering of one's own meat. As a carnivore, I admire her lack of hypocrisy and her desire to be close to her meat; meat is sacred to her; she knows where it came from and respects the animal she worked to raise. However, a person who opposes the slaughter of animals for meat under any circumstance (even organic, free range, etc) may find this book difficult.


Seed season: where to order seeds

Here's my first Examiner article of the new year! Now it's time to order my own seeds! I ordered several catalogs around Christmas, and each day, I eagerly check the mail. But alas, none yet! That's okay: I learned about some new ones while writing my article. And I want to go visit The Thyme Garden next spring. From the photos, they implement the mandala garden design beautifully.


New Year's Resolutions

I haven't created any new year's resolutions in a while, but 2009 was a year of amazing growth and productivity, and I'd like to continue my momentum as much as possible. In the past, new year's resolutions seemed like a set up to failure: I'll lose 10 pounds; I'll finally have the body I've always dreamed of; I'll become someone else; blah blah blah.

Instead, I do want to push myself, but I don't want to become a new person. I do want to set goals for myself that may end in failure, but I want to state them and try to achieve them nonetheless, in the hope that I learn a lot along the way and have a blast doing so, just like I had a blast learning how to sew, knit, make tea, and garden in 2009.

So, here they be (warning, some of them may sound enigmatic to all but me or some who closely know me/share these goals):

Garden: This year's garden's primary focus (our first year at this house, with this garden) will be to grow as much fruit, vegetables, and herbs as possible, starting with seeds in February and not ending in fall but continuing on with winter crops. I hope to have enough produce to can, dehydrate, freeze, and give away with the goal of someday having a yard that sustains my need for produce as much as possible. I will make as much of my own compost as I can, including starting my own little worm farm and helping feed my neighbor's chickens greens in exchange for chicken poop. If I find free/cheap bee kits, I will start bee-keeping. Otherwise, I will wait until next year as bee keeping is an expensive trade initially.

Arts/crafts: I want to keep the door open here, but primarily, I want to become a confident seamstress, able to confidently follow a pattern, do applique, and make functional, simple items such as curtains, bags, blankets, and clothes. I would like to continue knitting/crocheting, and I would like to continue the communal aspect of arts/crafts with bi-weekly gatherings with interesting, fun, creative women. Finally, I want to finish my embroidery plan and if I enjoy it, continue with others, because these projects are creative and worthwhile.

Writing: To continue writing for the Examiner, with a minimum of 2 articles per month. Also, to start researching for and testing my own ideas out, taking notes, and writing drafts for my book. In a year from now, I should be ready to start compiling notes for a first draft.

Reading: 50 books.

BRC: City Stories. Collaborative art project, mixed media.

Career: to get a full-time teaching job or figure out something else...my own business? go back to school?

2010, I've got a big grin on my face. The joy of beautiful work, wonderful friends, beloved family. Here we go!