Friday, July 31, 2015

Blog Obituary: RIP Professor & Housewife

A few of you may have followed off and on over the past five (5!) years the other blog I kept called, The Professor and the Housewife with a distant blogging partner. Can you guess which one I was? It was a discussion that grew out of one conversation on a bus in Italy somewhere between Assisi and Rome.

For a minute it seemed like everything was possible.

Okay, that sounds melodramatic and winsome.  If you have ever started a new venture you know what I mean. We'd take the blogosphere by storm! Readers would comment and argue and debate and we'd be leading the charge to civil discourse. We'd do that small thing romantics often dream of--we'd change the world.

Our blog was well tended. A fat spoiled intellectual love child I liked to call Junior. As in, "Dear Professor, I'm traveling to Greece could you tend Junior in my absence? And don't forget to update his Facebook page, he'll be cranky." You get the idea.

We thought we were fascinating ( people always do, don't they?) but few people read it. I now know a few reasons why that I didn't understand when we started. All the cliche ones about reading and commenting on other blogs and using images or solving problems turn out to be true. We didn't solve very many problems--we attribute this (in all humility)-- to a lack of minions. Minions being essential for world changing and/or domination. We were however brilliant (ahem, to our own minds) and tireless in pointing out the problems and yes, occasionally we even recognized our own contributions to them.

So was it worth it? On every level...yes. Nothing will make you rethink all your ideas and opinions like sitting down every week to defend them. Many times what I really thought about an issue only became clear to me as I was writing about it. Having another person call you on sloppy thinking and faulty data will find you soon fact checking everything. Please note that doing this with friends and family on your phone under the table while they are speaking is somehow considered rude (go figure). Publicly saying what you think about politics or religion will ensure that you have some pretty damn good backup for why you think and believe what you do. Our original motto was "Truth springs from argument among friends." We still believe that. But for it to be productive you have to care more about the relationship and the other person than about being right. We sincerely hope you have friends who you can argue with on your way to truth and better thinking.

So Junior is dead, killed off in the end by his inattentive mother. For future reference you might want to know that if you let your Go Daddy account lapse they'll store your stuff for 30 days and then ...poof! They delete it. In my hard drive (where a blogging mom's heart is) live all the words recorded over the last few years. So be on the look out. Junior may haunt us in some other form in the future. He might show up as a book or another blog somewhere down the road. Until then, try and remember him and honor his memory by keeping all your debates and discourses civil. Listen to the other side of the argument. Learn something new.

He would have liked that.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Home Recycled: 31 Days of Simple Projects.

Welcome to Pen and Hive and the series, Home Recycled! I'm on a quest to declutter, simplify, and make the best use of what I have. I'm over being enslaved to the tyranny of new. If waste makes you cringe and if you have more imagination than money then welcome home.  Scroll past the list  to read the post for day one. This is a rework of the original post from my other site so just excuse all the old Restoration Spring watermarks on photos.

2. The Home Recycled Philosophy
3. Less Is More: How I got Here
4. The Rules
5.The Real Purpose of a Yard Sale
6. Home Recycled Field Trip
7.Repurposing a Dresser
8. A Room of Your Own
9. Framing It
10.Naturally Free Decorating
11.Let's Talk Chairs
12.Tools of the Home Recycled Trade
13. Style Influences
14. Two Dollar Insect Art
15. Displaying Collections: Your Home as Storyteller
16. Composting to Reduce and Reuse
17. Makeover Time Table
18. Table Top Clock Part II
19.  Making Over the Kitchen Island and Using Scrap For Trim
20. Salvation for Cute Candle Containers
21. Recycled Ideas for Walls
22. From China Cabinet to Accessory Closet
23. From Drop Cloth to Drape
24. A Dresser Mirror Stands On Its Own
25.The Recycled Wardrobe
26. From Beer Bottles to Juice Glasses:Recycled Glass
27.Recycled Post on Recycled Glass in the Kitchen
28. Easel Rescue and Makeover
29. From Lampshade to Wreath
30. Why Stained Paint is My New Favorite Thing
31.Home Recycled, Always, The End

 I love this idea from WWII. Make do and mend was a popular slogan but I'd never seen this one. Renovation helps the nation. We could add that it helps our finances and the planet. And it appeals to those of us who want to live a simpler, slower, saner life. It encourages creativity and imagination. I never get the satisfaction from purchasing something in a store to decorate with that I do when I put interesting objects on display or makeover a piece of furniture that someone else tossed out.

These projects and ideas are going to appeal to people who want to create interesting and inviting spaces to live in,  who want to express themselves through design, or who want to salvage beautiful and well made things from the past. Those who want a home with some character where everything has a story. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I never buy anything new, but am so much more deliberate about it than I used to be. Part of wisdom is knowing where it's okay to let yourself spend extra. Where I've purchased new I'll point that out. Along the way please feel free to comment and share pics of your favorite recycled piece from your home!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Beekeeping: Ultimate #squadgoals

If you are on Twitter or Instagram you have probably seen the hashtag squadgoals. Or #squad. If you haven't heard this or seen it anywhere you likely don't have a teenage girl living in your house and you're following NASA scientists on Instagram. Actually NASA scientists would be a space squad. Pluto would be #squadgoal. Confused? Here's an article from The Atlantic to get you up to date, The Summer of the #Squad

But I look out my window every day and see the ultimate female squad, colonies of bees. Even Taylor Swift would be jealous of these highly organized, super efficient, females working together and supporting each other. A colony of  bees is the ultimate sorority where all the work is done by females and the drones are cast out in the fall to die. Imagine the song that could emerge from that little scenario.  And what they are working on isn't just creating honey, but along the way they just happen to be pollinating our crops and holding our food supply together.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Warning: I'm a Beekeeper


If you know a beekeeper you may know they are...different. I made this list to help you know what to expect.





Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Surprising Reason God is Proud of You

page from journal

Last year I went on a silent retreat and I learned something that kind of shocked me...

After a restful night’s sleep (no television or internet will provide that, by the way) I woke up to find that the storm had passed. I opened my window to hear the bluebirds which populated the surrounding fields and meadows. The cardinal had stopped singing his rain song and moved on to merrier notes. I ate and then prepared for my meeting with the nun assigned to me.  

I arrived for my appointment a few minutes early and found her sitting in her office waiting.  She asked me about my background and what I wanted from the weekend. I'd come to Our Lady Queen of Peace Retreat Center with no expectations. No agenda. God and I were having some issues.  I explained that in the last couple of years things had happened that had shaken my trust in some of what I’d been taught.  

 We are led to believe if you do A, B, and C then X,Y, and Z won’t happen.  “But they did anyway.”

“Are you angry at God?” She asked.

“I was for a long time. I’ve moved on beyond that but I can’t say I trust Him or anyone completely in the way I once did.”

I waited for her to speak but instead she looked at me directly and said nothing (silence is a wise tactic and one I should work on).  I talked some more and wondered if I was rambling. As I shared I realized how tired I was of this story. How the story itself felt tired of being repeated.  I also noticed the story no longer was accompanied by any emotion. I told it as if I'd read it in a book. I stopped talking and we sat in an awkward silence looking at each other. 

"This is the part where you are supposed to impart words of wisdom." I said. 
She laughed, but persisted in being unhurried in her listening and waiting. Finally she asked if I prayed. If I used scripture when I prayed. I said I did, but inwardly thought how little real prayer I’d been doing lately. A void existed I didn’t seem able to find a way across.  She handed me a list of verses to look up along with the instructions “Rest in God’s love for you.”

The new skeptic in me bristled while something else in me breathed in that idea.  I took my Kindle out to one of the porches and sat in the sun. I opened Disappointment With God by Phillip Yancey.  I like Yancey. He doesn’t sugar coat things. He attempts to confront legitimate questions about faith head on.  I’d started this book in January relating with the skeptic he encounters that lead to the book. But when the book took a turn toward faith I put it away.  This weekend seemed like a good time to try again. I finished it before lunch. A passage stood out:

By focusing myopically on what we want God to do on our behalf, we may miss the significance of what he has already done.

Let that sink in.
After lunch I returned to my room. I got out the list of verses the sister had given me. I was familiar with them. "Nothing new here." I thought to myself. Wanting to get the most out of the experience however, I opened the Bible in my room and diligently looked up each one. Nothing much jumped out except that part in Psalm 139 about God marking my travels. Was he marking a map with pins? I have some great travel pics pinned on Pinterest. I haven't been on Pinterest this week. I shuffled my papers to look for "How to Deal with Distractions in Prayer."
I went on to the next verse. Psalm 139:5, "You rest your hand upon me."
An image of me standing next to my father on a gravel driveway under a hot summer sun, flooded my mind. He rested his hand on top of my head then on my shoulder. I thought of the thousands of times I had done that to my own children. I began to think about the meaning of that.
Think about it for a moment. You are standing with your child having a conversation with another adult and you rest your hand on the shoulder of your son, or the head of your daughter. What does that mean? Why do parents do that?

Because you are proud of them.

Could God be proud of me? Somehow that seemed a foreign concept. Perhaps a result of one too many verses of some hymn relating me to a worm when I was a child. I let that thought come around again. Is God proud of me? If he is it certainly cannot be because of anything I've achieved, or for some glowing example I've been. In reality I'm known best for my snarky commentary on things and love of whiskey. Hardly Christ like attributes. Maybe he was saying he was proud of me because I try so hard. But as I thought about that in relation to my own children, I realized that I didn't love them more when they tried really hard. I kept thinking along that line. Why are parents proud of their children when they are so small they haven't accomplished anything yet? We are incredibly proud of babies! Why?

Because they are ours. Because they belong to us.

This is where the tears began to flow.

I could understand that. I could rest in that. So can you. That God is proud of you just because you belong to him. He sees how hard you are struggling. He knows you are hurt and disappointed. He knows you are tired. He knows you are wondering if you are good enough. But he wants you to know he is resting his hand on you, proud father that he is.

Rest in that for a while and feel loved.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How to Render Beeswax

rendering beeswax

It only took me six months to get around to it. That's because all the websites I visited to learn about how to do it equated the danger level of melting  beeswax to cooking meth. So yesterday while my husband was out of town I figured if I burned the place down I'd be the only one here.

It's a pretty simple process. In this pic you can see the honeycomb as it is after the bees clean it up (after I process the honey I put the comb back out near the hive and the bees collect all the honey I missed and take it into the hive to store for winter) during harvesting season. 

I've crumbled some to help it melt faster.

 The pot was full when I started. It took about 30 minutes over low heat for me to melt it down. When completely melted the pot was about 1/4 full.

There are a few dead bees and some debris mixed in so after it's melted you strain it through cheesecloth. Make sure to use something you only intend to use for beeswax after this. It will be impossible to clean.

Collect your containers to pour the strained wax into.

I heated the bowl I was going to use for straining in the oven first, to keep the wax from hardening so quickly.

Once you've strained it, remove the cheesecloth, and pour it ASAP into the containers. Even though I heated the bowl you can see how much had hardened in the ten seconds it was in there.

I threw the used cheesecloth into the pot while it was still on the burner to mop up the excess wax. I'll use this for a firestarter in the fireplace.

I thought it was kind of funny that the imprint on the wax discs was the recycling symbol from the bottom of the containers. This is my favorite recycling project ever.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Beekeeping 101: Equipment

 If you are going to start keeping bees you'll need some basic equipment. If you pick up a catalog or attend a meeting of beekeepers you are going to hear some terms that sound confusing. Things like "hive body" and "super". Here's a simple explanation of what's what. In the picture above you can see hive bodies. The bigger boxes on the bottom. On the top are shallower boxes called honey supers.

These are frames. I run 10 frame boxes but 8 frames would be easier for me to handle since they'd be lighter when full of honey. You can see on the frames that the bees build honeycomb and fill it with either brood, pollen, or honey. The frame below has an example of all three.

Read more about what you'll find inside the hive.

Below you see the inner cover. which you put on your hive body or honey super.

Over the inner cover you put the outer or telescoping cover which sounds a lot fancier than it is. It has metal on top to protect the hive from the elements. Here's what it looks like all together. The entire hive rests on a landing board. There are several variations of this.

Read the story of an entire season!

Finally, you will need tools necessary to beekeeping.

Last and most importantly you are going to need protection. Getting stung hurts and I want beekeeping to be enjoyable more than I want to look cool. In the picture you can see both kinds of popular veils. There are several variations of all of these.

The cost of start up equipment is going to be around 500 dollars. I started off with a kit that included the basic hive, smoker, veil, gloves, hive tool, and bee brush for about 120 bucks plus shipping. The bee suit and veil I'm wearing in this pic were $65.00. You'll purchase extra equipment as your colony grows and most beekeepers advise starting off with two hives in case something goes wrong. Your first swarm of bees and queen will run about a hundred dollars. 

Read about putting the equipment together here. 

Don't let the cost prevent you from taking up this hobby if you want to. Remember you'll be able to offset part of the expense by selling your honey. Compared to something like golf which just costs money it's inexpensive. And you'll be creating something of value as well as helping save the planet and our food supply in the process.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Harvesting Honey 101

beekeeper suits

One of the perks of being a beekeeper (in addition to having something to talk about at parties) is the honey. But let me tell you if you are thinking about getting a hive or two, the collecting is a lot of work. you'll sweat buckets and smell like honey and smoke when you are finished. That's why when a young adventurous friend, Katie, who writes a blog about living in Spain called Suitcase Lioness, volunteered her services as a bee intern I jumped at the chance. It takes a special kind of person to be willing to wear something that looks like some NASA astronauts went to clown school. Beekeepers are a quirky bunch.

 Read about that time I had a bee in my bonnet here.

This is a harvest of spring and early summer honey. Swarm season is officially over and I've got three first rate queens laying away. So how do we know when to harvest the honey? Here is what a frame looks like when I put the super (a box containing ten frames) on. The frames I use have a plastic foundation which the bees will cover with honey comb.

The first job the bees have to do is make honeycomb to put the honey or brood in. We call this drawing out. This is a frame in the honey super so I have placed a queen excluder between the brood chamber and this box. As soon as they get some comb built they start filling them with honey. Here's a post about identifying what's on the frames.

In the picture above you can see the wet honey in the cells and then on the right you can see some honey they have capped. This means that the bees know that the moisture level in each of those capped cells is perfect (around 18%). Once sealed the honey will basically last forever.

 Read about Catching My First Swarm!

I check the hives every couple of weeks waiting for almost all the frames to be full of honey. The super full of frames that weighs about five pounds when I put it on there with one hand will weigh a good thirty pounds when full of honey. Once I see 90% of the frames are capped I add the bee escape board. You can see the top of it in the pic below. It's got a sort of a maze on the other side and once the bees go back down into the brood boxes they can't find their way back into the honey super. Unless you leave it on more than a couple of days. Those girls will figure it out because they are on a mission to get back to work up there. Some beekeepers use fume boards to drive the bees out of the supers. I am never using any chemicals in these hives. I want to be able to assure people who buy my honey these hives are completely chemical free.

Once the bees are out of the super it's time to harvest! For a post covering an entire season with more pictures read Honey: Start to Finish

 In the picture above you can see how many bees were trying to figure out the maze when we opened the hive. And below how quickly they disperse to go about their business. We are looking at a frame that is about half capped.

Almost every frame was capped all the way to the edges so this was a great harvest. The intrepid Katie, got to take it to the honey kitchen and jar it up herself to serve to visiting friends this week. As a beekeeper this is my favorite way to enjoy honey, scraped right off the frame and into a jar. It leaves no doubt that you are getting 100% pure raw unfiltered honey.

And in Katie's case, bragging rights.

Special thanks to my son, Jared for offering to photograph our escapades!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

What To Do Now

Let me know if this sounds like you, here's what's on my plate right now:

Painting cabinets in the guest house, trying to harvest honey, designing and printing labels for the jars, cleaning the house after almost a month of resting my shoulder from a torn rotator cuff, trying to finish the garden project I was in the middle of when I tore it, tending the garden and bees, applying for the Tennessee Master Gardener course, reading 3 books, and planning a vacation. And the DVR is full of things that need to be watched before they can be deleted to make more space. The recycling bins need to be emptied. I need to make a hair appointment. I need to write a blog post and edit the pictures I took the other day. Find the projector and old family slides to show when family comes to visit later this month. Get back to working out. Take a load of castoffs to Goodwill.

And what did I do this morning? I pinned more pins on Pinterest of projects and ideas. Pinterest falls under the heading of fake productivity. It makes you feel like you are getting something accomplished, until you look up at your reality.

 Clearly, I have a problem with focus. A sort of project ADD. Yes, of course I'd like to start 5 more projects while my front garden is a disaster and you can't even walk to the door. Why wouldn't I want to paint the cabinets in the guest house in the middle of the honey harvest? And let's face it, it's always time to start another book.

If this sounds like you then join me today in finishing something. Anything. Just one thing no matter how small. The laundry. A book. A half watched movie. A semi-organized closet. Something!

And no more pinning until we do. I know that's hard. Pinterest Land makes us feel like we are getting things done, but it's an illusion unless we are pinning and doing. If you don't have any unfinished projects in the works then pick something you've pinned and do it today. Not adding your dream kitchen but something small. Something that would take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. A recipe. An exercise.

You create momentum by starting. The satisfaction is in finishing.

We can finish something today.

So what to do now? One small thing done with focus.

Let me know what you get done!