Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Let's Take a Peek Inside the Hives

Last week I did inspections of six of my eight hives, five that overwintered and one swarm I caught a couple of weeks ago. Here's a quick peek inside the hives!

After smoking the girls with a cool smoke and giving it a minute to waft throughout the hive I remove the top and inner cover. In this case, I also removed the honey super I'd put on when the honey flow started. Those flat brown circles are called "capped brood." They are baby bees waiting to emerge. In the picture above it looks spotty. That's fancy beekeeper talk for not a solid brood coverage. 

This frame of brood looked a little better. See the glistening white in some of the cells? Those are larvae. If you think your kids are wearing you out asking "what's for dinner?" these larvae eat 1300 times a day! They are fed by nurse bees, royal jelly at first and then a mixture of honey and pollen called "bee bread." At just the right time the worker bees seal the cell with the tan and porous beeswax you see in the photo. At that time the bee spins a cocoon around itself. We can't see that part because it takes place under the capping. Inside the cocoon metamorphosis takes place. At the appropriate time a fully adult bee eats through the wax covering and emerges to begin her first task in the hive, cleaning out her cell so it can be reused.

In the picture above you see a really beautiful brood pattern. This queen is doing very well. The holes in the middle of the brood pattern are where bees have already emerged.

Read about how I caught a recent swarm. 

In this picture you can see the bees building out the honeycomb in the honey super. If you look closely you can see that they've already started putting honey up.

I love it when the honeycomb is new. It is snowy white. Notice how the bees line up on the left frames to look at me and see what I'm up to.


I didn't see any of the queens on this inspection day but here's a picture of a purchased queen from last year. Notice that she's marked. When you buy queens they are marked with a different color for each year. It helps beekeepers keep track of how old their queens are.

Next time I try to remember to take my good camera to the bee yard. But it's just so easy when I'm holding a frame of bees to say "Hey Siri, activate camera."

Hope your week is buzzing along!

XOXO Y'all!

Monday, April 8, 2019

Swarm Season Round 1

It's the craziest and most unpredictable time of the year for beekeepers! You'll see bees clustered on cars, mailboxes, the doors of businesses. You'll see beekeepers in trees, on porch roofs, and on ladders. You'll even see bees on the news. Here's a pic of a swarm from a couple of years ago. The sky fills with them and you can see that here.

 Swarm is kind of a scary word to people. It's scary to beekeepers too but for different reasons. Read about how I caught my first swarm here. For a beekeeper, it means that half your bees might fly away and reduce your honey harvest for the season. On the other hand, if we can catch a swarm, it's free bees! We love free bees! 

A swarm is the natural reproduction process of a colony. It means a healthy hive and laying queen have outgrown their hive and are looking for an expansion opportunity. The swarming bees have stuffed themselves with honey before embarking on their journey. Since they have no home or brood nest to defend they are quite docile. If you see a swarm in the spring just leave it alone and it will go along in a day or two. If it's where you just can't leave it because of kids or pets call a beekeeper to come and get it. If you need a laugh you can read my post about catching my very first swarm, Queen Bee Wars: Swarming Mean Girls.

While I was relaxing with a friend on the porch last week my bees swarmed. It's an exciting thing to share with someone who has never witnessed it before. How many times do you see the birth of a super-organism? They landed on a branch hanging over the fence separating our yard from our neighbor's and I went on about my socializing confident that in a couple of hours when I was ready to catch them they'd still be there.

Silly beekeeper. 

When I was ready they were gone. I carefully looked all through the bushes and around my yard. I popped open the compost bin thinking it might seem like an inviting dark space. Nothing. Then my husband suggested we check the neighbor's yard.

Which meant knocking on the door. The absolute worst part of being a beekeeping introvert. 

Explanations ensue. I find the bees on the ground and regret my procrastination. The swarm that could have been so easily retrieved from clipping a branch and lowering into a box in less than a minute turned into a 3 hour ordeal of sweeping up and catching the bees in a box and trying to get the queen. But mostly waiting for them to get in the box...

I was successful on the second attempt and then hung around the yard waiting for the bees to all go in but as the sun was setting about a third of them didn't go inside but hung on the outside of the box.

Near dark, I picked up the entire thing, a box full of bees and thousands of hangers-on and gently placed it over the fence and into a wagon on my side of the fence. Early the next morning while it was still dark I popped (meaning I slammed the box down on top of the empty hive) the bees on the outside into a hive body and then dumped the bees inside in as well. I sealed up the front and wheeled them over to their new home.

It sounds so easy as I read it here, but there is always a big adrenaline rush when catching a swarm and then again when hiving it. 

We are now experiencing several days of rain, so they are stuck inside getting used to their new home. I was glad this queen didn't get away as she is stellar and this hive had 3 times as many bees as any of my other hives.

Now we'll wait for the next sunny day and see if any other hive is feeling swarmy.

Hope you have success this week whatever you're up to!

XOXO y'all!

Friday, March 29, 2019

How To Paint a Faux Brick Floor on Concrete

painted concrete brick

Spoiler alert: This isn't my dream brick floor in an English cottage on a sheep farm. Or a villa on my lemon farm in Italy. Whatever. Sometimes a girl has to improvise and create the home of her dreams in a mid-century colonial in Tennessee. I don't even care because this might just be my favorite project ever. I know. I know. You've heard that before, but y'all, this time I'm serious.

painted brick on concrete

I was so excited about this project that I broke the number one rule of wifedom: when your husband offers to buy you something you should let him. I turned down black and white square tile (my other floor fantasy) because I adore exhaustion, sore muscles, and scrounging around for some expired muscle relaxers in my medicine cabinet at 2 A.M.

Speaking of husbands, if you need to do this before he realizes what's up, read Guerilla Decorating: A 5 Step Guide to Decor-Revolution. 

If you missed the previous post about prepping to paint concrete, you can read it here.

I think I left out that part of the prep is definitely going to be creating a sample board to nail the color combo down. Obviously so you can then completely ignore it. 

painted brick on concrete

When I imagined doing this project I envisioned a regular size paint roller on the end of a pole where I would knock out this floor painting business before lunch. Oh, wait. I forgot who I was. I should have known I would want to paint each individual brick a different color to achieve the most realistic look possible. 

How to Paint a Faux Brick Floor:

Note: If you were painting a floor all over for a smooth finish the prep work would be much more intense. For this project, I used the imperfections to mimic actual brick. Plus I do not like intense but can completely get behind imperfect. 

1. Clean and prepare the surface. This includes using premixed concrete to fill holes created when the carpet was removed. Sand the patches smooth after they dry and sweep up any dust and dirt. I swept and then used a shop vac.

brick stencil on concrete floor

2. Lay out the stencil according to your design. For this floor, I wanted an edge of straight brick which I thought looked more authentic than a brick pattern that just disappears under a wall.

faux brick

3. Choose and mix paint colors. This depends on the color of brick you are trying to recreate. The outside of our house is red brick but I wanted a good bit of pink to tie in with the cabinets and countertops. The base color was Jolie Terra Rosa, with hints of Sage, Legacy, Palace White, and Rose Quartz.  Have y'all figured out that I'm just making everything up as I go along?

4. Hold your stencil in place with painter's tape then use a roller to apply the paint. A big one if you are normal. A tiny one if you are trying to recreate each individual vintage brick you have ever seen. Because the bare concrete is so absorbent I was able to skip the normal offloading technique which is stenciling 101 and go straight to the concrete. I painted the center of the bricks first (offloading a lot of paint) then worked toward the edges to keep paint from seeping under the stencil

faux brick on concrete

5. Distress. When the basic painting was done I flicked paint, mixed up a whitewash and spread it out in various spots to mimic extra grout, and sanded to achieve a flat clay like finish.

6. Seal with concrete sealer if desired.  I'm in a holding pattern on this part because I am so happy with how the faux brick turned out and I don't want to ruin it by adding shine. Also, I'm not sure I'm done doing things to it. I'm on the hunt for a completely flat/no shine/matte sealer for concrete. I mean let's just toss aside the idea that the point of redoing the floor at all was to seal it and make it durable.

painted brick

7. Enjoy your new floor! Because Jolie paint dries on concrete so quickly you can replace furniture and walk on it the same day. Actually, you can walk on it pretty much immediately. Remember when I painted the porch and it took days to dry? Not this time!

pink counters

Note: for all of you people I see posting on social media to ask about who has a good full body workout, look no further. 

painted brick

Even though the cottage floor project was physically challenging because I got up and down off the floor 5,728 times it turned out even better than I expected.

brick colored paint

Cost for this project:

$35.00 for the stencil (I don't remember which one I ordered and the packaging has no name, but there are several online that look like it.)

$38.00 for a quart of Jolie Terra Rosa

$12.00 for concrete patch

The other various colors of paints I had already in sample sizes. Colors mentioned above. The total was less than a hundred bucks but I did already have the necessary tools like the mini roller and sandpaper.

This project start to finish took a solid 5 days from moving the furniture out to putting the furniture back.

painted concrete

In the pro column for this project is the fact that If I get tired of this faux finish the floor is ready to put tile down. It was inexpensive and gives you a lot of visual bang for your buck. The only con was the labor. But it's like having a baby. As soon as you see it you forget all the pain involved.

I'm already imagining a brick patio...

XOXO Y'all! 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Guest Cottage Makeover Review

Sometimes in the midst of a daunting project it helps to look back on how far you've already come. Please remember to take before pictures of your projects! Later you'll be so happy you did! I love a good hideous before pic.

If you have been reading along with me for a while then you are familiar with the amount of whining and procrastination involved in my trying to decide what to do about the floor in the kitchen and living area of the guest cottage. I just couldn't face pulling up the carpet and linoleum myself even though I did that in our entire house twenty years ago. We paid someone to do that part and I was left with an ugly concrete floor. Or as I saw it, a blank canvas.

 For full insight to my procrastinating ways Read The Concrete Floor Chronicles. 

Last year I had ordered a giant brick stencil because I have always wanted to paint a floor. Weird. I know. And plus I really do love the whimsy of a faux finish. This space where I overwinter plants and sling honey and process beeswax is the perfect place for painted and sealed concrete. This is a workspace for me, so a practical durable floor was the main goal.

Nothing about this photo says "Yes, carpet is a great idea for this space!"

In an upcoming post I'll be sharing about the floor how to and reveal but first let's look back on how far I've come with this space.

Here is the before before. You know, the before, before this before.

Read about the real beginning of this project here. 

I wish I had taken a picture of the carpet and linoleum but it looked so bad that as you can see in every picture I'm working hard not to show it. Anyway here is the before. The before after the before above and before the before in the coming reveal. That's clear, right? Anyway, at some point in the process, it looked like this!

Read about how I dealt with pink countertops: Pink Countertops Aren't just for Barbie. 

I did find this one photo with some of the carpet in it. I know it doesn't look that bad but this side of the room was the cleaner one.

This was before I painted the hutch. Read How I Gave My Hutch a Vintage Update.  As you read it notice how cleverly I avoid the carpet in every photo.

Here's a pic to give you a sense of the size of the stencil I'll be using. I've had this stencil for a year. That's how scared I was of this project. 

Here are some more photos of the floor sans carpet and linoleum.

This is the part of every project where I think "What have I done?" You can't go back and moving forward is scary. It's just part of the process! Do not be intimidated by the ugliness.

In the case of this project, I'm actually going to be using that ugliness to my benefit.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Winter Escape to Mexico

I was so busy recovering from the January of Hacking and Project February that I never wrote about our mid-winter cruise to Mexico. It was a trip that grew from us and another couple to a group of ten. Now on any other kind of trip, I'd say ten is far too many. Too many to get seated in a restaurant without reservations, too many to even get a consensus on where to eat. Plus in a group that size, you can just about bet at any given time someone won't be happy.

All of which makes a cruise the best option for a large group of people. You hate the stand-up comedian? Go hear some music instead. You're too tired to go to the show after dinner? Go to your cabin and read a book. You've had enough of being sociable (where are my introverts?) find a quiet corner and people watch. And the same principles apply in port. If everyone's going shopping and you want to snorkel, you can do that. Every person could actually do a different activity during the day and end up back at dinner together to share their experiences.

Did you miss last year's girls' trip? 

Girls Gone Mild: who knew we liked rap? 

Emotional Outbursts and Strip Karaoke

First Time for Everything List 

Here are this year's highlights: 

Train to NOLA: This is one of the things we love about this trip. Yes, you have to get up at the crack of dawn but once you are on the train you can relax and start your vacation. It has the added benefit of not having to drive or park a car in the Big Easy. 

Evening in the Quarter: 

Consulting an app to find a restaurant is a waste of time. The standards for food are exceptionally high and in 33 years of travel, we have literally never had a bad meal. A restaurant putting out subpar food just isn't going to make it. We have a few places that have been our favorites over the years but we also have great success just walking around and trying new places. Honestly, you can't go wrong. Some of our old standbys have been: Red Fish Grill, Acme Oyster House, Menas Palace, 21st Ammendment, and the Bombay Club.

But on this trip, we stumbled upon The Governor, which was awesome and I took the ladies to one of my and my daughter's favorites, Maison Soule the next morning for breakfast. Bottomless mimosas? Yes, please. 

Sailing Day: 

Well done, Carnival! The most seamless and hassle free check-in and embarkation ever! I had that one burger I let myself have every year from Guy Fieri's as we set sail and watched the skyline fade into the distance. It's a fascinating ride down the river to the gulf that takes about five hours. You see things from the ship that it's impossible to see any other way like the Domino Sugar Plant.

Day at Sea: 

Sailing across the Gulf of Mexico means a whole day for relaxing, touring the ship, and doing whatever fun activities are going on. This night is also dress up night and it's fun to see everyone decked out in their finest. It's a people watching extravaganza!


This was a day of shopping, eating, and drinking. Mostly shopping. You have to love a place where when you are shopping they offer you shots of tequila. I mean that's a brilliant business model. And very effective if my last Visa bill is any indication. 


More eating and drinking. Then massages on the beach. If you'd told me I'd ever be laying face up on a public beach in my bra I'd have called you a liar.

Day at Sea:

This was the day I had so much fun dancing on the deck my feet caught on fire. Okay, let me explain. The music in the club every night had been abysmal so no one had hit the dance floor. So on deck when they bust out the Cuban shuffle and YMCA my friends and I were all over it. Now I did notice my feet felt kind of hot. And as I looked around I made a mental note that everyone else had on flip flops. When I sat down my feet still felt really hot so I looked at the bottoms of them. Blisters. Big ones. And red burn marks.

Cue This Girl is On Fire. 

My husband went to the infirmary to get me some medication to put on them which helped but I walked like I was 110 the rest of the day. Moral of the story: put some dang shoes on when dancing on a sun hot surface.

The train ride home: I love Amtrak's little roomettes. It's perfect for when you aren't going far enough to get a real sleeper car, but need a door that closes because you're an introvert and have far exceeded your social interaction quotient for the week.

This week is the ten year anniversary of the most magical trip I've ever taken. Read about my first visit to Italy: Why I Always Celebrate the Ides of March. 

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The 5 Decisions You Need to Make Before Buying the First Plant

Have you ever purchased a plant because you liked it in the garden center and then got home and walked around with the thing wondering where to plant it? I know. Me too.

The biggest mistake I made as a young gardener was just rushing off to the nursery with my wallet and absolutely no overall plan. I'd buy any plant I thought looked interesting or pretty with no thought to where it might go or if I had the right conditions for it. I must say the cottage style garden I had was more forgiving than other styles, but man, did I waste a lot of money. Now with a plan in hand, it's easier to make decisions and stick to my budget.

Let's save you tons of money and frustration and hours of labor. 

Here are the 5 things you need to decide before you buy your first plant. If you've made your vision board you'll find deciding these things much easier. If you missed the post on how to create your vision board read this. 

1. Layout of your garden.

Where will the garden go? How will it be shaped? It is sunny or wet? You'll need to do a bit of research to create the layout that you want. Thanks to Pinterest there are plenty of designs you can use or you can create your own. Once you know about the drainage and sun situation you can have your soil tested to see if it needs amending.

2 Pathways and materials.

Do you want a winding path that disappears behind a row of trees or a straightforward path to get wheelbarrows full of mulch down? Will the path be gravel, dirt, mulch, brick, or something else? This is worth spending a big part of your budget on since it is what you'll be looking at in winter when the garden is bare. It's also the most labor intensive part of the job and you want to get it right the first time. (voice of experience here.)

3. Your garden philosophy.

This is both what you want the garden for and how you wish to work in the garden. Is your garden for growing food or entertaining? Do you want to do the old fashioned double dig or go the no-till route? Do you want to create a habitat for wildlife? Are you concerned about pollinators? (I know you are!)

4. Kind of containers and garden furniture you like.

Nothing complicated here. For most people with a sense of style, you'll know what kind of accessories will best compliment your garden. If you aren't sure just keep referring to your vision board and look for the things most like the pictures you see there.

5. Plants you are going to plant and where will they go.

Do a little research. Sit down with a book of things that do well in your area. Ask older gardeners what they've had success with. Maybe you remember a plant from your mother or grandmother's garden. Make a list and do not go seed or plant shopping without it. I know. It's hard. But you'll thank me later.

We are entering March and on any sunny warm day, most people will head off to the nursery or big box store to buy their plants. But you are going to know better. First, in the mid-south, it's still too early to put things in the ground but also most of those folks don't have a plan. This is the time (while you are excited about your garden but can't safely plant anything yet) that is perfect for planning and research.

Let me know how it's going!

XOXO Y'all!