Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Light the Torch!

I love the Olympics.  Like luuuuvvvv them.  Summer, Winter, love it all.  Even the sports that never get televised.  I love the athlete bio stories, the competition, the teamwork and patriotism of cheering for one's country.  (The hot men in althletic gear don't hurt either.)  But this year I've been looking forward to the opening ceremonies for a different reason (let's face it, the Ralph Lauren uniform is stupid).  This year I'm competing in the Ravellenic Games 2012.

Ravelry is a website dedicated to lovers of fiber arts, namely knitters, crocheters, spinners, etc.  There are over 2 million members, and it's a great place to find patterns, info on fibers or yarn, and connect with others who have similar interests.  They are hosting the 2012 Ravellenic Games (it used to be the Ravelympics but they got a cease and desist letter from the USOC, don't ask), an event where you pick a project and cast-on at the beginning of the opening ceremonies and try to complete before the end of the closing ceremonies.  There are events for spinners and stash busters and anything else you can think of.  It's kind of awesome. 

Cascade Heritage Silk Paint yarn, 75% merino, 15% tussah silk
As a way to challenge myself I decided to give it a go this year.  I think I'm aiming a little high, but I'm going to try and finish the Ashton Shawlette.  It will be my first time reading a chart, knitting lace, and blocking the piece.  I picked the Ashton because Dee O'Keefe, the designer, has created a very nice tutorial for doing all of these things.  The instructions for reading the charts are very clear, and other people who've knitted this project all have positive things to say about it, and some were able to complete it within a few weeks, which means it can be done.  Maybe not by me, but it is possible.  Feel free to track my progress, offer me encouragement, . . . place bets about whether or not it will get done in time. . .
(sorry my picture is really bad)
Earlier this week I picked my yarn, wound my cake (after taking the yarn from a skein onto the ballwinder, the resulting center-pull ball is called a cake), and packed everything I'd need into a bag.  Now I just need them to light the torch!

Update:  Obviously I wrote this while awaiting the Opening Ceremonies (which were AWESOME!), and I have made some minor progress.  Complete with chart 1, beginning chart 2.
End of Chart 1.  Doesn't look like much yet . . .

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Beeyard Visits

One of my favorite parts of belonging to a beekeeping association are the beeyard visits (it's really just a field trip for big kids!).  If you're a beekeeper, or interested in beekeeping, I highly recommend you join your local group.  They are a great resource for information, knowledge and equipment, and people willing to answer your questions.  Mine is the Pikes Peak Beekeepers Association (PPBA), and last month we met on a Saturday morning for an informative day of beekeeping at a member' house. 
First off, this was quite a beeyard.  Steve H. has about 8 hives in total (do nucs count?), and has some serious equipment.  This beeyard is in the Pikes Peak foothills, bear country, which makes an electric fence a necessity.  Steve has about a 20'x20' area fenced off, leveled, and filled with gravel as a base to prevent weeds, etc. 
Before we checked out the hives, though, Steve had some of his equipment set out for us to look at.  He's a pretty good handyman and repurposer, and has built a lot of his own equipment, such as a queen marking cage out of a pill canister, and a solar wax melter out of an old cooler, plexiglass and insulation.  I got a lot of good ideas.

This homemade gridded board goes beneath the screened bottom board.  It's used to measure mite count.  The shiny white spots are wax flakes that've dropped off of a bees belly, the yellow is pollen and other debris.

Homemade solar wax melter holding bucket with screen to separate debris from melted wax.

One of the more experienced beekeepers in PPBA, John H., went through the hives with Steve.  Most of us wore at least a hat and veil, but they just worked the hives bare-handed and bare-headed.  I'm not at that comfort level yet.

From l to r: hive, 2 nucs stacked together, single deep containing captured swarm, hive, 2 large hives in back
They discovered queen cups along the bottom of some frames in one very healthy colony, but no eggs in them, and the hive never swarmed.  There was another colony which had a laying worker, and a decision was made to requeen immediately.  You could tell the colony wasn't queen right due to the spotty brood pattern, drone brood (due to all the eggs being unfertilized), and multiple eggs in the cells.
John H. and Steve H. going through the hives.  One of the upper boxes is set on its side due to comb and queen cups along the bottom of the frames.  Yes, all those dark spots in the air are bees, and no, they're not wearing any protective gear.
Drone comb frame (you can tell because it's green), used as part of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).  What's different about this is the multiple eggs in the cells, a sign of a laying worker.

Overall this was a very informative visit.  I got to see what a laying worker in a hive looks like, got some great ideas for improvising equipment, and saw what was possible with a backyard beeyard.  I can't wait unit next months visit.

Monday, July 16, 2012

My Garden Sucks

I haven't even planted my garden this year.  Normally, I wait until Mother's Day weekend, as that's a good date for the average last day of frost around here.  Living at altitude (6200ish ft) in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains generally means spring comes slowly here.  Not so much this year.  We had 80deg F weeks in March, everything bloomed early, and we never really got our spring rains.  Instead of taking advantage of this warm spell, I decided not to trust it and wait until May.  In May DH and I both came down with the crud and were laid low for several weeks, so my garden planting was pushed back further.  Then we were out of town, then we got tornados and hail.  (I tell myself the hail would have just destroyed any seedlings I'd planted.  This does make me feel slightly better.) 

I do have my rhubarb, mint, and some strawberries.  I've already picked the rhubarb 3 times, and it needs it again.  I've been pulling up mint runners for a few months also.

Since it's already mid-July, I'm debating just doing some fall crops like lettuce.  I hate to leave my garden fallow this year, but looking at total days to harvest for the veggies I want doesn't leave enough time, especially if weather doesn't cooperate and we have an early frost.  I think fondly of my corn crop from 2 years ago, and how I want to try pickling my cucumbers someday.
my little corn field in 2010
It looks like we'll be busy with traveling this summer also, so I'm making an executive decision to get the rest of the yard in shape again first.  A sprinkler zone broke so last year we never turned on our sprinklers and the grass pretty much died.  I don't have a problem with dead grass in front, as I'm planning on turning that into a little meadow anyway, but the back yard is a tough loss.  Mostly because with the grass dead, the weeds have taken over.  In a BIG way.  I hate to use chemicals, but I think we're at the herbicide stage before we can replant. 
my previous garden
So the list of Things To Do grows a little larger. 
     - Get sprinklers fixed (done!)
     - Kill weeds, prep for replanting
     - Order water-wise native grass from High Country Gardens
     - Finish garden design for front and have order ready for fall shipping/planting
Backyard in 2012, YIKES!
As you can see, there's a lot of work to do.  I am embarrassed to share these photos, but I think it's important to see how much hard work goes into keeping a pretty yard.  This is what happens when you do NOTHING.  Plus, being in a drought hasn't helped.  The back yard will get the lawn replanted with water-wise grass plugs more suited to our area than Kentucky bluegrass, and the rest of the weeds pulled.  Right now I have to switch into blinder mode every time I sit on the patio with a beer, and I haven't been able to enjoy it as much as in years past. 

Dead lawn in the front yard.

The front yard will get the weeds pulled, the tree trimmed/limbed up, some shrubs moved, and everything ready for planting this fall.  We don't need the lawn in the front, it used more water than flowers will, and even though the soil is horrible (sandy with maybe an inch of topsoil), the area is irrigated so I thought I'd design a nice little flower garden where I can put the plants that require more water.  I have an idea of the plants I'd like already, I just need to organize them into the space according to mature size and height, bloom time and color. 

So tell me, are you a lazy yard keeper, or the neighborhood lawn police?  Do you prefer native plantings, or is water no factor?  Are there things about your yard that embarrass you?