Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Glimpse of the Gardens



I absolutely revel in this time of year, soaking in every beautiful moment. The gardens are thriving and growing rapidly! Soon the bounty with be plentiful!!!!
I am maintaining 5 gardens right now.. I added a 5th this year ( not pictured) , in which I planted  30 additional tomato plants, more beans , carrots and bunching onions. I also have a smaller side garden which is home to Miss Norahs Garden ( I am sure she will want to share some pictures soon, maybe after she weeds it, haha)
The bugs don't seem to bad so far.. which is strange.. I have seen the cabbage moths fluttering about and have been covering my cabbage with some floating row covers

Right now we are feasting on  Chard, Kale, arugala, lettuce radish, cilantro and sugar snaps.
We should be able to pull some new potatoes, bunching onions,beets, blueberries, and carrots soon!

The only hurdle we have had so far this season, is lack of rain, So I have been having to water. Luckily the days have been super sunny which allows me to use our hose . Our well is run off of Solar so I can only use the hose when the weather permits.. I have been watering by hand as well, but the rainbarrels are near empty again.

What's growing in your Garden??

Thursday, May 14, 2015


I gotta say I get a little jealous of the folks out there with methodical, well thought out, consistent, pretty blogs.
I feel like I was keeping up ok on here for awhile, but now feel like I am getting entirely to busy to take the time to sit down and do this. This is NOT to say that other bloggers aren't busy,, I honestly just think they maybe they use their time more wisely? or maybe they don't sleep? I don't know.. Whatever the case may be, I can only speak for me, and Ill tell ya its been BUSY around here!!
So I figure I would just catch ya up on whats been going on around the homestead!


Everything is growing beautifully in the gardens, and while we could use a little more rain to really make them explode, we are picking lettuce, kale , chard, cilantro, sugar snaps, arugala, and radish..
I have pretty much my entire garden(s) in. all 5 areas,, although I am thinking Of tilling up another tinny spot for more carrots, bunching onions, beets, and peppers.. but we will see if time allows :)


I asked my husband the other evening " Do you feel you are keeping up with the bees?" His response was " I am at the cusp, and could fall behind any day now" ..hahaha, well I guess we know how he feels,,, busy and maybe slightly overwhelmed.  Welcome to the beginning of Bee season!

We lost quite a few hives this winter. its always a hard thing to swallow. We are fortunate to be able to rear our own queens and make our own hives though, RObb has been busy rearing queens, building mini mating nucs, and expanding the apiary. I believe he has reared around 20 successful queens thus far! (that means 20 more hives already, if all goes well!!)
We are currently at about 40 hives and really hope to reach near 80-100 this year.

The SPRING FLOW has started!!! The Tulip Poplars, Holly Trees and Black berries are all blooming. These are just some of the flowers that contribute to our honey flow. The bees are furiously building comb and getting ready to fill them up with that sweet sweet nectar!

Workshops, teaching and more.......



We have had the wonderful opportunity to do some teaching the past couple weeks.
May 3rd we attended Eustace Conways ( you may know him from the show Mountain Men on the history channel?) Turtle Island Preserve for *Families Learning Together* to teach a beekeeping workshop! It was a wonderful day filled with teaching, learning and just chatting with so many like minded folks! We also had a diagram of our Off grid/solar set up and spoke about that as well.  They had everything from woodworking, blacksmithing, hide tanning, soap making , basket weaving, and more!!

This past Monday, we went up to our Local school to teach the 1st graders about Bees. This was our second year invited up talk to them and its always
SO much Fun! We really love the enthusiasm these kids show for honeybees, and all the great questions they ask. We feel very lucky to be able to spread the word about the importance of honeybees!

 We will also be hosting a Queen Rearing Workshop at our home on June 6-7th!

We have about 20 chickens ready to butcher in 2 weeks, with another 20 that will be ready in about another 2 months. We finally finished up an additional chicken tractor for the baby meat birds.
The Little kids

The big kids

So that about wraps it up..kinda sorta.. oh besides the pipe that is leaking under our home , which is on a concrete slab,which requires digging 32" down to find the pipe, taking apart the deck and replumbing that section of the  house.. sigh, we will save that post for another day... Its just so negative haha..

The cools


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The First Greens of Spring

pea flower :)


The first fresh Greens of spring!! and so it begins!Ohhh happy day! We are building some cold frames this year, so we can have greens years round,, because No one should go this long without a fresh salad from the garden ... We have used our hoophouse in the past, but even in the winter in can get so hot in there , so cold frames will allow us to adust the temperature easily.

Our gardens are starting to show signs of life, These are 2 of my 5 garden spots... They are slowly filling in. Our temps have been cool and while this is not so great for some of my warm weather crops, all my cool weathers are loving it!

I made up some Homemade bread in our solar /sun oven to go with our salads this evening. Perfect meal to end the day..

The Cool Family

Monday, April 20, 2015

Wild Edibles ; Natures garden in your own backyard


Its the time of year where everything is blooming and full of life! Atleast here in the Mountains Of NC. My gardens are thriving and everything is growing beautifully. But My garden ( or yours) is not the only place to find a plethora of edible goodness!
Perusing through your backyard is enough to find at least a little something, and if you live near a wooded area, you are sure to find a bounty of wild edibles!

So here are some photos, tips and facts about the food that is all around us, and often disregarded! Keep in mind, there are many many more out there than the ones I listed ( including Bloodroot which for some reason I saw everywhere yesterday and could not, for the life of me find today, go figure)..

Morel Mushrooms
a prized delicacy! Hunted by man avid wild food lovers, they are not always easy to find . Morels come up in early spring.
Containing 136 IU vitamin D content, B vitamins, including folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin and thiamine.

A cup also contains 28 mg of calcium, 271 mg of potassium, 13 mg of magnesium and 8 mg of iron, 128 mg of phosphorus, 14 mg of sodium.

oh and they are delicious...

I suggest doing a google search on them or getting a book on wild Mushrooms before hunting, as there are some look a likes that are NOT edible and actually extremely poisonous..
Please be sure to hunt responsibly !

Stinging Nettles

Many of you know stinging Nettle as that plant that when brushed up against, leaves a itchy burning rash.. and well, It indeed does, but that is only one aspect of this amazing plants! Nettles are extremely medicinal! they are used for everything from Bladder and prostate problems.. and really the benefits of this plant are endless, so I will leave you with these links :)

Nettles should be picked young( and before they bloom). They can be dried and crushed and used as a tea ( as in the link above) or they can be boiled for 5-10 minutes and used in soups, stews, omelets, etc...
You can even add them to your pesto when blended..
Its a wonder food folks.. :)
oh and yeah once you boil it or dry it,, no more sting, they are ready to eat!
Wild Violets
These pretty little violets are very high in vitamin A and C , studies have shown that these beauties contains more than twice the amount of vitamin c of the same weight of an orange and nearly twice the Vitamin A of spinach!
These flowers make a spectacular Violet jam!
Well I did not take a separate photo, but I am pretty sure we all know what a dandelion looks like ;)
ohhhh dandelions,,, How I feel for thee,,, so many people spray you with ugly pesticides when you have so many benefits!!!!
THey are high in Antioxidants, and are used as a diuretic, in Liver health, Bone and skin Health,,and are used as a digestive aid, just to name a few!!
You can make Dandelion Jam, Wine, and Tea! You can even just eat them fresh in a salad!

oh and leave some for the Honeybees, they love them too :)
Again, no separate Photo, but if you are familiar with ferns, then you are familiar  with those little compact curly cues that emerge from the ground in spring!.. They are so pretty to look at and when Picked from Ostrich or Lady Fern, they are edible!
They are high in potassium, iron, vitamin A and Vitamin C, to name a few!
Sautee them in butter and Garlic,, YUM!
Ramps ( wild Leeks)
These are my favorite. Probably the best tasting onion for cooking!!! They can be found in sandy soils and on hillsides. We were gifted some Ramps from some friends, so ours our in our yard and come back every year! You will often run across them while hunting for other wild edibles.
and last but not least ( and I have not tried these yet)
These produce a tiny fruit that is edible when ripe. GREEN FRUITS (unripe fruits) Are POISONOUS, they are edible when the fruit turns soft and yellow......

Again, these are just some of the many wild edibles Mother Earth has to offer. These particular ones are in abundance in my area ..
So get outside and see what Mother Earth has for you!! Happy Foraging!

The cools



Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Beautiful Easter Sunday


1 of 4 Queens that have hatched, this is one of the biggest virgin queens we have reared, she is at 1 o clock in the photos and is walking away,(pointed rear end )

                                                                        Recycling bin
                                               1 of my 5 gardens ( back garden) taken from Norahs tree house
Robb in Bee yard 1

A place to rest :)
We spent the Entire day outside day, it was the perfect way to spend Easter Sunday. The temps were in the mid 60's and it was a good solar day ;)  After the basket hunt and  annual chocolate breakfast sugar high,haha, Norah worked in her garden and got all her veggies in! She is  going with a purple theme this year. She has planted potatoes, Purple Kale, Purple Cauliflower, Purple Carrots and Purple Beans! She watered and even weeded around the rocks ( last year she didn't weed her garden much, and lets just say there were lots of tears come august, when the weeds were as tall as her,,haha)

Rob got into the hives today, to check on some Queen Cells,, We had a couple queens hatch today! If you look at the photo,  (its not the greatest pic) the queen is at 1 o clock and is walking away, you an only see her hind end :) She had only been hatched a few hours when the photo was taken.

Robb also built us a nice recycling bin, we have been using a trash can for the past 10 yrs.. without a lid,, haha, so you can imagine how messy that looks on the backporch... This one is made with recycled wood and has room for 3 buckets on the inside, it looks much nicer and will make recycling easier as everything will be pre-sorted! 
He Even had time to break out the chainsaw and make me a chair out of an old stump that is inside my back garden area,, isn't it cute ? :D

and me? well I weeded, seeded , planted, and hand dug some new spots for annuals, all day!... I am making good headway on planting .. Ive got almost all our cool weather crops in, so far I've planted, Potatoes, onions , Broccoli, Cauliflower, spinach, ,Kale, lettuce, strawberry plants, swisschard, radish, carrots, beets, arugula, cilantro ( and I might be missing something ;)
as soon as I am sure we are past our frost date, I will be planting, Beans, Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Squash, cucumbers, sunflowers( well I cheated and put some sunflowers in today ;) watermelons , sweet potatoes and winter squash,....

We all have a bit of sunburn, and are tired, and boy what a good feeling it is!

I hope everyone had a blessed Easter Sunday..
The Cool Family


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

recycled , reused, and repurposed; projects on the homestead

Having fun making some improvements inside and out this  past week :) Our new hoop house is done! My folks were here to visit last week and helped put the plastic on.
 If you are interested in how to make your own hoop house be sure to check my next blog post! I will have a basic how to on how you can build your own!

Most everything in our home is second hand or recycled. Not only because we cant really afford new but because I find a total thrill in buying something used for a fraction of the cost(who doesn't love that rush! haha), and knowing that I am treading lighter on the earth buy reusing something is important to us.

Our hoop house is made with almost all recycled materials. The base and the plastic are the only two things we bought new.

RECYCLED items include:
wood for framing on walls, rustic wood on the outside, those super duper cool camper windows, the pvc conduit piping, the door... oh and those gorgeous gold ceramic pots ;)

I was also able to spruce things up inside the house ! I went shopping with my mom, and ya know when you go shopping with your mom, you naturally go to the thrift store and buy a light pistachio green retro couch ;) Got it for a steal and its in amazing condition!
My living room is quite dark ( I love earth tones,, browns etc, maybe a little too much,) so brining some color into the room and brightening it up was a great idea.....

The bluebird curtains are made from Old/Recycled sheets I scored at the goodwill. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them, I thought maybe some clothes for my little one. My mom mentioned that curtains would look cute, and she was right ;) I finished them up yesterday and they turned out lovely.
Stay tuned for the "How to build your own recycled hoophouse " blog.. I will need my husband to sit down and blog with me...
Hopefully we can find time in the next couple days to sit down and get that done..


The Cools

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Spring Awakening

I do believe spring is officially here ( and hope I don't kick myself for sayin so)! . Mother earth is waking from a long winters nap. The Maples are finally blooming( about 3 weeks behind last years bloom time) and its a big relief for us as beekeepers, because it's the first real source of pollen for our bees!
daffs are up and ready to bloom, early spring perenniasl are popping through the soil, garlic is taking off and our Hens are laying like crazy..

I am hoping you are seeing signs of bring in your neck of the woods!!

The Cool Family