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Cleansing Flights

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This has been a strange winter as far as temperatures go, and we’ve been bouncing between thaws and deep freezes throughout the season. On days when the temperature gets up to about 55 degrees, the honeybees will relax their tight cluster sine they don’t need to stay warm together, and they’ll leave the hive to fly around a bit.

These are known as cleansing flights, and it lets them stretch their wings and get a little fresh air for a bit while they can. Three weeks ago we had a day in the 50s — and with sun, to boot. The bees from our swarmed hive were out and about, enjoying the fine weather! 
There were no signs of life at the other hive, and it didn’t feel quite warm enough to open them up to have a look. The next time we have a day when the temperature is above 55 degrees, I’ll take a peek inside to check the honey situation. I’m not convinced that there’s enough food in either hive for a whole winter, but if the weaker colony has already died, I can look for any used honey stor…

Desert Blooms

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Last week I took a much-needed vacation to Palm Springs, California. Since that’s in the warm desert where it never freezes, there were plenty of flowers to enjoy. It was great see so much color when all we have here at home is gray and brown. 

Mimosa

Bougainvillea

Trumpet creeper

Cosmos

Orchid

Jasmine (maybe?)

January Thaw

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It’s been a truly strange stretch of weather around here this month. After a nearly two-week cold snap with temperatures bottoming out below zero after Christmas and stubbornly refusing to get above 20 for a good 10 days, we had a rebound that ended in a couple bizarrely humid, 60-degree days. Add several inches of rain to that, and this is all that’s left of the blizzard:

Alas, not everyone made it through the cold spell. Kirk found Louisa Catherine dead in the chicken run the other day. As with our other chicken deaths, there are no clues about what happened. Chickens die suddenly and — as far as we know — quietly. 
If you’re not sure which chicken was Louisa Catherine, that’s because she never did anything noteworthy enough to mention. She was a gold-laced Wyandotte and cute as a chick:  

She wasn’t a great layer, and I think she was the only chicken who could tolerate Lizzy’s craziness. She mostly kept to herself and was pretty far under our radar. 

Louisa Catherine is the one in…

Brr...

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The big story of the end of the year is the weather; specifically, the frigid temperatures that we’ve been forced to endure for the past several days. It’s been a struggle to get out of the single digits this weekend, and the cold snap is expected to last well into the New Year. By the time it warms up again, we’re likely to have ridden out 12 days in which the highs didn’t crack 20 degrees.


This arctic blast means that our carrots and parsnips are well and truly frozen underground, and all of our greens are probably done for. Even kale will struggle under cover with that type of deep freeze, though it will begin to put out new leaves as soon as it warms up a bit. I’m not sure about the leeks, but the underground bulb will probably be fine once we are able to dig them up again.
In the meantime, we're staying inside as much as possible!

It’s Official!

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My book is officially out there for you to buy! You can get Both Sides of My Skin in paperback or as an ebook by clicking HERE

Or if you’re feeling lucky, you can enter my publisher’s giveaway promotion on Goodreads to get a free copy by clicking HERE. Good luck!

Winterizing the Hives, Part 1

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It’s been a very difficult autumn for us this year, and I just haven’t had the time, energy or inclination to write much about the garden — or to actually do much in the garden. We’ve let a lot of things slide, and have only just gotten around to raking leaves and doing the general post-frost clean up today (even though said frost was almost a month ago now).
We have, however, diligently done our duty for the living creatures here, including the bees. Somewhere around Halloween we got the hives ready for winter by closing up the extra entrances and protecting the remaining door with hardware cloth so mice can’t get in:

We’re not at all sure that our hives have enough food stored to make it through the winter, even though both seem pretty strong. When our original hive swarmed over the summer, the ones that left ate all the honey in the original hive to be ready to make the journey. That meant that both the original hive and the new one were basically starting from scratch with winter…

End of the Line

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Last night temperatures here dropped into the low 20s overnight — and for many hours. That’s officially the end of the growing season, as you can see by the state of this butternut squash vine:

It was quite a cold morning, and the frost stayed on everything well after the sun came up. It was quite pretty, too:

We had already picked our tender fruits last week in response to an (unwarranted) frost warning, so all we had to do last night was put up a few last tunnels over some of our greens:

We tossed an old army blanket over the beets and cut a last harvest of Swiss chard. I left the celery alone, and it doesn’t seem much worse for wear this morning — it’s pretty tough. Still, we should probably bring it in by tomorrow, since the cold looks to be getting worse before it will get better. 
After a very warm fall, it looks like fall is here to stay.