Adventures in Beekeeping.

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Look how stinkin’ cute she is!!

Beekeeping is such an interesting thing. Because, really, they don’t *need* us to do anything for them. We have provided them a home (which they could find on their own if they needed to), and nearby water (which, again, they could find if they needed to), and flowers and vegetables and things to pollinate (same comment as before), so when I hear people say “honeybees have been domesticated” – that is the most ridiculous statement I’ve ever heard. Dogs have been domesticated. They look to us for companionship and care. Honeybees? They’d probably be healthier without us messing with them.

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Landing zone. Check out the pollen bags!

That being said, honeybees are on the decline worldwide, and having them around for the benefit of not only our garden, but the local ecosystem at large, is the main reason we brought them aboard at the old homestead. And man have we learned A LOT about and from them.

We opened up the hives the last weekend in August, to do a quick check before Winter. This will be the last time we open up the hives until Springtime. We’re rocking this hands-off, treatment-free beekeeping style for lots of reasons, one being this magical thing called propolis. Propolis is a sticky medicinal goo that the bees make from tree sap that acts as a sealant inside the hive. The bees use it for all sorts of things inside the hive, but its big purpose is it completely seals up the inside of the hive, so it acts as insulation and pest repellent. So whenever a beekeeper goes to open up their hives, they are destroying the natural seals that the bees have made.

The best analogy I’ve found is this: Imagine you’re making candy inside your house 24/7, and once every couple of weeks some gigantic being rips the roof off of your house to check on you. After a few months of this, you’re probably going to have pest problems, plus you spend all your time fixing all the damage from the roof instead of being really efficient at making candy.

In my opinion, this is what “traditional” beekeepers are doing to their hives. So we’ve gone the other direction, we are only going to open them up twice a year – Spring & Fall. Because really, we felt awful after destroying their shit the other weekend. The day after we opened the hives, one hive was covered in flies on the outside, and the other was covered in ants. I felt terrible. Now they have to spend valuable time fixing all the damage we did. Now, bees are both resilient and tenacious, so it’s not like they give up, they just get to work. Just a couple of days after our invasion, I saw no more flies or ants, and things seemed mostly back to normal (from the outside).

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On wild clover.

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Do you see her zipping by about mid-left?

Also, a quick rant about human-made beehives. These boxes are almost impossible to deal with when they are packed full of honey, thousands of bees, and you’re trying to carefully stack them back on top of each other without crushing anyone. Each box probably weighs 40 pounds when it’s full, so imagine trying to “gently” place and perfectly balance a 40 pound box of free-flying stinging insects on top of another box without crushing anybody. It’s ridiculous. There has got to be a better way after how-many-thousands-of-years have humans been keeping bees??

Anyway, all we do now is think about how to bee-keep better. (I could talk about this shit all day, by the way).

By the way, you can also tell when the bees are just mildly upset that you’re around by them flying straight into you. Like, you get a bee to the back of the head at like 20mph. They die when they sting you, so this is like their first “warning” for us to vacate the area, which we are happy to abide by. The day after we opened up the hives both of us got bee-head-butted as we walked through the garden… they hadn’t quite forgiven us yet. Can’t really blame them.

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On the plus side – our hives seem very robust and healthy and they are getting ready for Winter like crazy. 4 months ago we put them into a completely empty box, and now they have fully-drawn honey comb and frames FULL of honey. Truly amazing.

We took just the tiniest bit for ourselves 🙂 We’ll harvest whatever is left over come Springtime. We’re more concerned with them having enough to survive Winter.

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Unfiltered, straight from the hive.

Then, of course, there’s unwind time for us too…

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After a day of homesteadin’. Ice cold Mil.

Ralphie.

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When we went to pick up our flock in June of 2017, I had arranged to get 4 ducks and 3 chickens. The woman we were picking our littlest duck up from had mentioned that, oh, by the way, she also has a 2-week-old female blue runner duck available as well, just in case we were interested. We had figured 7 birds was probably enough, then of course, we get there to pick up our little month-old brown runner duckling, and this woman puts this tiny gray fluffy duckling in my hands. There was no possible way I could say no.

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And such, Ralphie entered our lives with the rest of the flock that day.

She was the youngest out the flock, and grew up to be the spunkiest. Outgoing, noisy, curious, and the one to lead the others on adventures, Ralphie became their leader.

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About a month ago, we came home one afternoon, and Ralphie – who typically is first at the coop door waiting to come out and making a whole bunch of noise – was last of the group to come out. She was very quiet, lethargic, very unlike herself. I knew right away something was off with her. We kept a close eye on her that afternoon. She didn’t seem like she was in any pain or anything, just wasn’t being social with the group like she normally is, quiet, off by herself. We even picked her up to make sure she wasn’t egg-bound, that wasn’t it. She just seemed like she didn’t feel good. Later in the evening she laid down with Cedar (the red chicken) for awhile before we put everyone back in the coop for the night.

The next morning, R found Ralphie had passed away overnight. Our best guess is a black widow bite got her.

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R built her a little wooden box and we buried her down by Amelia. While he was constructing her box, I put Ralphie out on the ground to see if the other animals wanted to say their goodbyes. The birds weren’t too interested, but Loki went and sniffed her and laid next to her until we buried her.

The rest of the flock was a bit quiet and lost for a few days following her passing; Cedar especially seemed quite sad, they were buddies. They have since adjusted pretty well, and Kachna (the black duck) seems to be the new leader of adventures.

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Ralphie was certainly a special duck and she’ll be missed. RIP Ralphie.

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Checking off projects…

So since I basically didn’t work for 2 months, I was able to check off a bunch of projects around here, and the best part is a lot of it is stuff that we don’t have to worry about again (maybe for a few years at least)!

First, I tackled skirting the house. The main reason – to keep skunks out. We literally have pallets of bricks that we got for free a couple of summers ago, that we’ve been using for a variety of projects here and there, so we thought, why not use them for this too. They were free after all!

Skirting is a ton of freaking work, however.  Digging, digging, moving gravel, leveling un-level ground, stacking bricks in a way that they stay together and fit under the house… The worst of it was getting under the deck on the other side and skirting under there. So dirty.  Also I was sore as shit after this was all over.

For the front of the house, we decided on a combo brick/lattice/chicken wire situation for aesthetic reasons. I think it turned out lovely!

And so far, the only breach has been a squirrel, so we consider that a victory.

R also built this beautiful front step to the deck! Leveling the ground was the worst part (no surprise there), but then I got to stain it and look how pretty it turned out!

And, staining. I have done so much staining. Refer to this post for more on that, but I also finally *finished* the deck. The floor got it’s last and final stain for the foreseeable future.

Here’s some pics of the outdoor shower we built, as it was in progress:

It is actually quite nice and cozy to take a shower in there! Like showering in a tiny greenhouse!

We accomplished so much that we’ve started adding on fun things to do around here, including a pull-up bar and darts on the deck! We also have a hammock, slackline, and bag toss all set up.

And of course, the usual goofy Loki picture for you…

Kitchen Remodel.

Well, as you might imagine, remodeling inside a tiny house can be challenging, but also doesn’t really take up a whole lot of time and is typically not super costly. I mean, you don’t need a ton of material to remodel a kitchen that’s not even 7 feet long and is basically inside your living room. Unless, of course, you’re us, and you decide to make it super awesome and use some crazy compound called epoxy to make your new countertop look like a bar top. Because if you know us at all – we go big or go home.

For a quick reminder, here is a before picture of our kitchen:

We’ve lived here for almost 5 years now (crazy, right?), and we sort of pieced this together when we first built it, based on what we could afford at the time and our skill level. Well, our skill level for building stuff has exponentially increased, as well as our budget, and we decided it was time for an upgrade. Also we didn’t have the forethought to seal our old original countertop, so over time it started to develop mold, and since we used rough cut wood it actually shrunk over time, which created huge gaps in our shelving and countertop. Which creates a huge mess, as we discovered.

You live you learn.

So we went on a hunt to find the *perfect* new countertop. R swung by our local sawmill (where we’ve gotten lots of stuff over the years) and scored an awesome 16′ chunk of rough cut for $45. We cut that sucker in half, and decided to make two awesome countertops out of it. I really wanted that shiny bar top look, so we bought some epoxy and got to sanding!

The sanding was really the most time-consuming part. We actually bought a Ryobi sander specifically for this project. We cut a hole for the sink and then prepared for epoxy. If you’ve never used it, that stuff is crazy. Almost as soon as you mix these two liquid compounds together, they start to heat up and harden, so once you start mixing, there’s no turning back. You basically sacrifice 2-3 plastic mixing containers, stir sticks, brushes, and plastic spreaders because there’s no cleaning that stuff up afterwards. Oh, and you need to have a blowtorch handy to scorch the bubbles out of it while it hardens.

So essentially R mixed the compounds together (and it’s for a very specific amount of time), then started to pour it on the boards while I’m ready with a spreader and a brush to attempt to get it to even out and cover all of the wood before it hardens. Every video we watched on this process, someone is like, “you don’t have much time, so don’t think about it, just do it!”, so honestly we probably rushed a little more than we needed to. It dripped off the sides for a lot longer than we were expecting.

But! In the end we had two beautiful glossy coated bar tops!

We let those sit for about 4 days to fully harden before we did anything else with them, then we dismantled our old kitchen and set up the new one! All of the other wood we used wasn’t rough cut so it won’t shrink this time, and we stained it all so it would stay protected from water and whatever else. We even added a backsplash!

Doesn’t it look great! We have more space and it’s all shiny and pretty. Now, what did we do with the other piece? We put it on our deck as a bar top! Actually we even have a third shorter piece from the same chunk of rough cut that we’re not sure what to do with yet, but it got epoxy’d too and is sitting in our loft. We’ll find a purpose for it someday.

Next event – a Deck Party with all the finest meats, cheeses, and ales. Loki approves.

Bees!

The bees have arrived!! We’ve been waiting for a year for them!

Well hi little lady.

We picked up two 3-pound packages of bees on April 25th! One package of Carniolans and one Saskatraz. A 3-pound package of bees has approximately 10,000 bees in it, so we had about 20,000 bees to transport home! We put them in the backseat of the truck and covered them with garden row cover, and it was so cool hearing them buzz on the drive home.

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Preparing for installation!

Package installation is a fun process! We read a lot of articles and watched several videos on the process. We felt as prepared as we could be! There’s really no way to be totally prepared until you actually open up the packages and do it. The queens come in their own little box inside the package, and you have to take out a cork (and make sure she doesn’t get out!) and replace it with “bee candy” so the bees slowly eat the candy and release her over their first several days inside the hive.

Then you spray the packages with sugar water to sort of weigh the bees down a bit, then you literally dump them into the hive! They kind of roll out like a ball. Of course quite a few take flight and everyone is a bit confused, and there’s a handful of casualties as they crash into each other, but overall it was pretty successful.

                                                 

The Carniolans (which we have named that hive the Clutch hive) were a bit more excitable than the Saskys (now the Stellar hive), and there were A LOT of bees flying around when we went to install them. I had to actually take a step out of the madness for a minute because having that many bees around your head is a little intimidating. We had our veils on, but still.

After we got everyone installed and the hives put back together we cracked a beer and sat in the garden and watched them. And the burning question – no stings 🙂

So beekeeping is an interesting thing. There are a lot of different philosophies and opinions about how you should do things. We are more on the hands-off side of the spectrum, and try to keep the same philosophy with their care as we do our other animals, and ourselves for that matter – let them do their thing, don’t interfere with treatments/chemicals/medications if at all possible, and give them a safe place to live. We trust that the bees know what they’re doing.

For example, we were told on the 3rd day after installation to open up the hives and make sure the queen had been released, and if not, to release her ourselves. Well, on the 3rd day it really just felt too soon, I mean, they just got here. So we made the decision to wait another day. That day I get an email from the local beekeeping association saying that at least 2 people had lost their new packages because they checked on the queens on day 3, she wasn’t out so they released her, and the bees immediately absconded (left). Gone. Flew away. And ya know, maybe if she’s not out yet just leave her in there longer (which we were thinking we would do all along).

So on day 4 we checked on them, both queens were out, and they were working away! Truly amazing how much comb they had built in 4 days. We spotted the Stellar queen, but not the Clutch queen, but figured she must be in there because they’re working and happy. We didn’t mess with them long, just a quick check and put their hives back together.

The next big thing that EVERYONE has an opinion on is mites. We were given an acid treatment to give them 7 days after installation for mites. I have read so much about mites it just makes me sideways. Yes, varroa mites are destructive little things. Yes, mite control is important. But, an acid treatment never sat right with us. Just a week after getting them we’re going to dribble them with acid? (Yes, everything says it’s perfectly safe for the bees… but still).

So I read and read and read and read some more, and we decided to try a sugar roll test, which I’ll admit did not go well and we hated it. And apologized profusely to those poor bees. I’m not gonna go into details, but they survived and weren’t too beat up (and I got a cute picture out of it), but we decided to never do that again. Instead, after more reading, we decided to sugar dust the entire hives on day 8 after installation. There are two theories to sugar dusting – one is the mites lose their footing and fall off the bees, and two is the powdered sugar encourages the bees to groom more, so they get the mites off. Our hives have screened bottom boards and the mites are small enough to fall through to sticky boards that we placed underneath the hives. The sticky catches the mites and we count them about 24 hours after dusting. This is nice because we don’t have to open the hives again

After dusting, we got 9 mites out of Stellar Hive and 0 from Clutch Hive.

Frosty bee.

We took the opportunity to take pictures of both hives activity before we sugared them. We were so amazed by how much they’ve built in a week! Busy as a bee is not just a figure of speech.

Look at all that beautiful comb!

This is actually the prize photo – the queen is in the bottom left, and if you zoom in real close you can see eggs in some of the comb cells!

We are going to open up the hives again this next weekend and sugar them again just to be sure of mite numbers and to see their progress so far. Unless we have a crazy mite number, we probably won’t bother them after this for at least a month. We love sitting in the garden in the afternoons when they’re busiest – simply watching them do bee stuff.

Beekeeping is so fun and so interesting!

Strange (and Busy) Springtime.

Well, regardless of a global pandemic, life does not stop here at the homestead. In fact, since I’m out of a job at the moment, life has been moving along faster than usual! I get the amazing opportunity of a lifetime instead. I get to stay home and get a jumpstart on all of our Springtime things! I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, we work WAY harder at home than we ever have at a job in town. I’m whooped, and sore, and exhausted, and sun-soaked, but life is so rewarding here at the ranch.

So, let’s see, here’s all the things we’ve been accomplishing so far this Spring:

R built a pond for the girls! It has exponentially increased their quality of life, and we created a wildlife watering hole! We got turkeys and robins and doves and all sorts of wild birds enjoying it too. Plus we get to sit down there just outside of the “splash zone” with a beer at the end of the day and enjoy the shenanigans too.

We built more fencing at one end of our property, parallel to the road. Mainly because I worry about loose dogs coming after the girls when they are out foraging. Having another barrier up is huge for our peace of mind.

Staining. Staining. More staining. I’ve spent hours and hours and hours staining everything. The deck, the house, the beginnings of a front porch, the fence… Then the weather got weird there for a couple of weeks, so took a break from staining. But there’s still more staining to be done… oh so much staining. I actually don’t mind it, it’s one of those brainless activities that I kind of enjoy. There’s just SO MUCH OF IT.

I started skirting our house for skunk-repelling purposes. We got a ton of free brick from the town last year and now we’re finally putting it to good use. Man, this shit is a lot of work too. Digging, leveling, moving bricks, more digging, more leveling, oop, gotta take that section apart because it shifted weird, do it again, more digging… etc. Luckily it’s one of those projects that once it’s done, it’s DONE.

(I was unable to get a couple of photos uploaded for this section for some reason… maybe in the next update!)

We started on an outdoor shower! Since we don’t have running water and all, normally we would shower in town at the community center or the hot springs resort… but… everything is closed now. And our wonderful neighbors don’t mind us using their shower, but their water pump needs some TLC, so while we wait for a new pump to arrive, we decided we’ll get super-homesteady and build an outdoor shower for us anyway!

We’ve been doing a bunch of general clean-up around the property. We’re calling it Beautification Project 2020. Lots of dead brush has been accumulated, limbing trees, raking up bark and duff and all kinds of crap. Also Loki destroyed a bright orange frisbee last year sometime and I’m finding little tiny pieces of bright orange plastic everywhere… so that’s fun.

Also Loki and I played arts and crafts one day…

I made homemade cinnamon rolls from scratch! If you’ll refer to the time I baked bread here a few years back, baking anything here is a whole logistical nightmare. But, a fun nightmare? Anyway, so it was a 4 hour process making cinnamon rolls here, and I had a good time doing it. The recipe made 18 rolls, and 12 of them turned out great, the other 6 I burnt to shit… oh well. Can’t win ’em all.

This weekend we’re adding thousands of girls to our family! We’re bringing home two packages of bees! I’M SO EXCITED I CAN BARELY STAND IT.

We’ve been watching bee videos, we assembled some frames (that was a ridiculously-intricate project, but they turned out awesome), getting feeders ready, stocking up on sugar… I can’t wait until we get them home.

Then there’s the usual perennial stuff is coming up in the garden, garlic we planted in the Fall is growing nicely, and we’re getting ready to plant a bunch more stuff this weekend, both colder-hardy stuff outside and start our other seeds inside.

Cedar likes to help mix up the garden beds while I weed.

Chives!

Ok, that’s all I got for now. I’m going to stain more today. It never ends. Til next time!

Winter Projects.

And once again, here we are, MONTHS later. Well, to be honest, Winter got away from me, we had some family things happening, the holidays, job changes, etc, etc… But I’ve learned that the theme of life, at least for right now, is “better late than never!”

Cozy.

Nevertheless, here’s what we’ve been up to:

First off, the deck is 98% complete! Final finishing touches are a handful of braces at the tops of our posts, it needs a good coat (or two) of stain (which will happen in the Springtime), a bit of trim in certain spots, we’ll set up a few lights out there, and it will be DONE. The railing is complete, R built an awesome gate, and we even fixed up our door that leads into the sunroom, so no more trudging through mud, snow, Loki’s poop spots, whatever, to get onto the deck. We couldn’t be happier, or more relieved.

Plus it looks fab. We can’t wait to basically live out there this Summer!

Sometime in December we re-did the bird’s coop roof. Man, those panels were BEAT UP after almost 3 years of weather and bear break-in attempts. We took the cracked ones down, added thick wire netting to rafters, and doubled-up fresh layers of paneling. I also added another layer of insulation to the inside of their coop. The girls are secure and protected!

A nice little sunset…

Our resident deer friends.

Of course I did solar xmas lights again! It’s one of my favorite parts of Winter!

We’ve had 2 100-watt solar panels stored in our loft for the last year or so, and have simply lacked the time to put a legit solar system together. About 6 weeks ago, we tackled the first step: the two panels are attached to the roof! We figured as long as we could get the panels mounted before too much snow hits, we can just feed the cables inside the house and over the Winter we can work on getting the whole system put together. Well, now that part is done, and we were quite looking forward to wiring the whole thing together.

Lookin’ legit.

We got a DIY solar system book, we looked at a bunch of youtube videos, we were feeling pretty good about the whole thing. Then, we got up into the loft with wires and batteries and all the stuff… and we looked at each other like, yeah, this is out of our wheelhouse. We can give you LOTS of advice about living off the grid, but hooking up a solar system, for whatever reason, is beyond our comprehension. I shouldn’t say that, we can comprehend it, but we figured we’d rather pay someone who’s definitely knowledgeable about this stuff to hook it up for us, so we don’t accidentally mess up a battery or a panel or whatever.

Then, as I said before, the Winter got away from us, and for now that’s where that particular project sits. It’s a little amusing because we’ve already gone this long without having a “big” solar system, so we’re really not in a big rush. I mean, what are we missing, really? We have lights in the house, we’re cozy with our woodstove, and it’s easy enough for us to charge batteries and other things in the truck or when we’re in town at our normal jobs.

A peek inside the sunroom – note the awesome pictures on the wall and the stack of firewood.

Other than that, Winter is… Winter. It hasn’t been as snowy as last year was, but snowy enough. We’ve made our list of projects for this year, and started to sift through our seed catalogs to see what we want to grow this year. Our big thing this year is we’re adding 2 beehives to the homestead! 2 bee packages have already been pre-ordered and they are arriving April 25th! We are SO excited.

One of my favorite Winter things – snowy morning with coffee in the sunroom.

Our days are spent working during the day, then walking Loki through the snow (or mud, depending on the day), hanging out with the birds as much as we can, sitting by the fire… I read or write, R plays his guitar. We watch storms roll in and out. Life is pretty rad.

They’re not particularly fond of the snow… but you can’t stay “cooped” up all Winter! Ha! Get it?!

I hope you all are having a wonderful Winter too.

Loki is definitely NOT spoiled.

 

Deck.

We’ve had this idea in our heads for awhile, that after the house was moved to its permanent location, we would build a covered deck on the side of the house. We purposely built our sunroom last year in a way where we already have a door on the side that will lead out onto the deck. As with most of our big construction projects, there’s a few different stages that I’ve noticed as a consistent pattern.

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Posts up.

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There’s the planning stage, which is the fun part. We get to imagine and fantasize and draw out exactly what we want. We figure out how much money we’re going to give to Home Depot (which is always a lot), and how much material we’ll need, and where to store that material until it gets used, etc.

We’ve had our plan for the deck for quite awhile.

Then there’s the ground-breaking stage. This stage usually sucks. This is the stage where we start to notice where things are going to inevitably go wrong, where shit doesn’t line up right, and where we either bought the wrong materials, or not enough of the right materials. Luckily, this stage doesn’t last too long, as once we get going, things start to flow a little easier. When problems arise, there are long moments of staring and thinking, and this is sometimes the point where we crack our first beer.

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If I never have to deal with another rafter again my life will be complete.

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This is right after we pushed through the “let’s give up” stage.

The progress stage comes next. This stage is pretty fun, actually. We are in a groove by now, and we have an understanding of exactly what to do next. For the most part, we have ironed out most of the potential issues and we just… flow. We make a lot of progress, and we can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We can see what we have actually accomplished.

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The deck – almost perfectly level. The house – not so much.

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Loki “helping”.

Then there is fine-tuning and completion of said project. This stage is usually time-consuming, with a lot more thinking and staring moments, so we can be sure that everything is actually done right. Like, the roof isn’t going to leak, we didn’t forget to screw something to something else, all the walls and bracing are stable, etc. We often add extra screws or brackets or sealant or trim or whatever to said project at this time.

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Plywood up! Do you know how freaking heavy plywood is?

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Metal up! And, do you know how slippery and sketchy being up there is?

Then we actually get to ENJOY said project! At this point we usually smoke a cigar, open a bottle of wine, and get to pat ourselves on the back for accomplishing something else that’s totally awesome. Sometimes we add up how much we’ve spent on said project too (but sometimes we just try to forget that part because we just don’t want to know).

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Railing! This part was CAKE compared to the rest of it.

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The deck seriously felt like it would never end at some point. During the “progress” stage, we discovered that just because we had spent an incredible amount of time and energy making sure the foundation of the deck was square and level, the house, unfortunately, is neither of those things. So trying to connect a square level thing to a non-square-level thing was not only frustrating, but added hours of extra work for us. But, like we always have, we persevered. We’ve never given up on a project before, and be damned if we were going to give up now (we came the closest we’ve ever come though. I mean, does this deck really need a roof??).

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Looks rad, right?

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At the current moment, everything is finished except for a gate and some of the fine-tuning stuff. But overall, it’s looking good and we have been able to enjoy it a bit! Sadly, the days are crazy-short now, so we only have an hour and a half or so of daylight after we get home in the afternoon to work on stuff outside.

The most rewarding part: R & I did it all ourselves. Just the two of us. Whew.

I never want to measure angles for a rafter, lift an entire sheet of plywood, or be on top of my roof ever again. (wishful thinking).

Winter is a-comin’!

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After a really hard day of helping.

Catch-up.

Well, it’s been what, almost 8 months since I posted here?! That’s insanity. But, this is a perfect example of how I try to live my life… in the moment. We did accomplish some projects this year, but nothing like last year. We spent a lot more time this year just… chillin. Sitting outside with the dog and the flock after work, and simply enjoying our little piece of paradise.

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The gals.

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Loki and I enjoying a snuggle.

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When I make the chickens take selfies with me.

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Morning coffee bliss.

Today we woke up to our first snow! A dusting, granted, and it is all melted by now, but even still. It was wonderful to see those big flakes drifting down early this morning. Summer ended quickly, and Autumn did not hang around long. The leaves are changing and dropping fast, and the temps are dropping into the teens already at night. We made sure we were ultra-ready for Winter this year! We have nearly 6 cords of wood split, stacked, and covered (most of it is seasoned for use this year, some of it will have to wait until next year). As a comparison, we typically go through 2 – 2 1/2 cords during the Winter. However, this last Winter, we ran out of firewood in March. Then it just kept dumping snow. Thank goodness for our neighbors who let us use their firewood stash. We won’t let that happen again. Lesson learned.

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Firewood splittin’ day!

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Long day.

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Autumn!

This will be our 5th Winter out here! This month we have spent winterizing our property and throughout the Summer we worked on sealing up our house a bit more. We have new siding on the house, all of our windows are freshly sealed, and now with our sunroom, we have plenty of passive solar energy. Over the last week or so we took down both of our greenhouses; two less structures to worry about when we get 6 feet of snow.

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The greenhouse has seen better days. It was time to take her down so we can re-build her next year.

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Partway.

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She gone!

We have been working on a deck as well! We were able to knock out the foundation in a long weekend, and this coming weekend we’ll be working on the roof (the whole thing will be covered), and sometime in the next couple of weeks, a railing. Two other projects for us before Winter really hits: some maintenance on the bird coop (needs new roofing before it gets too much more weather), and we’re planning on setting up a legit solar system on the house. We have all the pieces for a nice solar system, just have to put it together. If we’re feeling frisky, we might put a solid roof on Loki’s run too, we’ll see.

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Deck!

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Loki helping.

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Can you spot the popcorn he’s getting ready to catch?

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Post-stain.

And guess what R and I decided we are gonna do next Fall? NOTHING. No more big Fall projects for us!

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We gave the cornhole boards some new life! Vikings colors with CU Buffs Ralphie logos!

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Just a beautiful CO evening.

We didn’t do a huge garden this year, the weather didn’t cooperate at the beginning of the Summer, so a lot of our seedlings didn’t do well after transplant. We did manage to get a TON of tomatoes and tomatillos. The cucumbers did pretty well, and we even got a handful of okra this year. None of the squash or pumpkins were successful. Can’t win ’em all. The egg supply was AWESOME from the ladies this year! The ducks are still dropping almost every day. They are all doing great and they just bring us SO MUCH JOY. Loki and Cedar are buddies and it is just so comical and awesome when they lay down next to each other. So stinkin’ cute (I wish I had a picture).

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Girls!

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Beggars.

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Mmmmm, cantaloupe.

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Great job, girls.

As I was going through pictures to add to this I realized there was more we accomplished this year, but I’ll save that for another post! Good to be back 🙂

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He hates when I post pictures of him, but I can’t help it. This shows the new siding on the house too.

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Another perfect Autumn day.

Snowmaggedon.

Our little town got pummeled with snow a couple of weeks ago!

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That’s R in the background trying to get some snow off the roof.

We got 6 feet of snow in a week. The office I work in was shut down 4 out of 5 days, and we got to spend that time at home both dealing with, and enjoying, the storm. I don’t even want to think about how much snow we shoveled… just a crazy amount. We were all sore – Loki included. Because he does things like this:

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Goofy dog. He loves it.

A lot of our energy was put into making sure nothing we had collapsed… like the dog run, the bird coop, the greenhouse…

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During a peek of sunshine between snow storms.

Our house stood up to all the snow very well, the woodstove inside heats up the roof pretty quickly and big sheets of snow and ice just slide right off. Since we kept up with it pretty well, we haven’t seen any major damage on any of our structures because of the heavy snow.

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It was awesome being able to snuggle up in the sunroom with the woodstove going, just watching the snow come down. It just wouldn’t stop! We are so happy to see it all too, even though it is hard to deal with that much of it at once. Southwest Colorado has been in such a terrible drought (last Winter we got basically no snow at all), so to see all this on the ground is a relief. We’re hoping some of our poor pines that have been looking so sad come back to life this Summer, and the wild plants should actually flower and fruit this year, providing some much needed food for the wildlife. We’ll actually have a RIVER in town this year, instead of a sad creek! And fire danger shouldn’t be as bad as last year.

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As we were continually trying to keep our driveway clear so we could get out if we needed to, we eventually came across the issue of not having anywhere to put the snow anymore…

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You can only throw snow so high at some point. I mean, look at that! That snow pile is like 8 feet high on both sides! At one point I gave up and starting throwing snow to the other side of the road. Then, of course, the plow comes by and piles up another 2 feet of snow/ice chunks right in front of your driveway. It’s great. Luckily we had stocked up and didn’t have to go anywhere for 4 days. We were snowed in and it was awesome.

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Eventually, the sun came out and the storm had rolled by. I couldn’t resist doing a few  minutes of yoga in the snow…

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The birds handled the storm pretty well – their coop held up fantastic and the chickens got a little curious and hopped out a few times into the snow. One of them even started laying eggs again!

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Check out how high it got next to the house…

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It made for an interesting week for us, that’s for sure. We got a workout and a half and felt extremely grateful for the sun when it came back out. Now it’s March and it has been sunny and in the 40s this week, so the piles of snow are melting fast into big muddy messes!

Springtime is going to be absolutely beautiful here.

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