Our family's journey to the heart of a handmade life

From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success

From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success

february in maine

When we began this homesteading journey a few years back, we knew failure was an accepted part of the process. Trial and error..and error..and error. A success deserves only cautious recognition, a slow motion high five with breath held tightly, always an eye on the periphery, waiting for the tide to come in and take the victory back out to sea. And when it does (because it will, the sea is vast and strong and hungry), our hands will coil back to our sides, retracted but only as a spring. A few more turns in a different direction and they will lunge forth again, oblivious to the heavy salted air and its inclination to rust. Our hands will rise towards victory over and over; the drive to live symbiotically with God’s land is written on the very helix of our beings. This way of life is an island in the center of that ravenous sea, and its shores will forever be pulled towards the depths. But we are builders and sailors and magicians, and we will float.

february in maine-001

bee hive

Our bees are dead. The whole lot of ’em, gone. Papa brought the hive inside to try to determine a cause for the apicide and to extract any honey we could. It is still hanging out on the kitchen table, because of course. The only plus of the loss is the amazing teaching opportunity it provided. Babaloo explored the hive from the inside out, a unique sensory experience! She held the giant pieces of comb, some with a deceased worker or two still hanging on. We let her dip her finger into a honeycomb cell, tasting honey direct from the source.  We were able to see and taste the variations of the honey within even just a single piece of comb, light colored to dark, intensely floral to raspberry-ish, the result of different sources of nectar. Even the hive itself has a unique smell, floral and slightly pungent. Honeybees are extraordinary creatures. This loss is hard to take, but we are certainly picking it right back up and getting more bees and hives in the spring.


One of the workers had its tongue out, so we were able to see exactly how they extract nectar

honeycomb and honeybee

I somehow managed to lose my garden seeds. A whole big bag full of dozens of seed packets, pea inoculant, and fertilizer, and peat pots. No idea. Combine that with last year’s missing onion plants, raspberry plants, and asparagus crowns (seriously, just gone), as well as the 20 strawberry plants that froze when I left them outside overnight and the rhubarb plants that Papa lost and the blueberry bushes that probably didn’t survive the winter and the potatoes that grew marvelous plants but zero actual potatoes, and you’ve got an idea what we are dealing with around here. Some of it is our fault, but most seems to be genuine bad luck. So when I talk about the sea of failure, I ain’t jokin’. That water is DEEP.

decontructed bee hive

So, yesterday I placed our garden order with Johnny’s Selected Seeds. 53 seed packets, 100 onion plants, 75 strawberry plants, and 15 raspberry plants. I’ve got about 50 quarts of organic seed starting soil on the porch and 90 more concrete blocks on their way to line the raised beds (however, our roads are already posted. Which means heavy loads are restricted due to the squishy nature of dirt + melting snow. Which means the blocks may not get here in time for spring planting. This usually happens in mid-spring. IT’S FEBRUARY.) I will get into more details about our garden plans later. Right now I am still in that tentative state of disbelief…maybe the seeds will get lost in the mail, or our plant thief will make another appearance (friend of the elusive sock thief that lives in the dryer perhaps?). I haven’t even a general idea of the layout yet. My hopes are staying low and slow this year.

2016- the year of big plans and little trust.

raw honey
Fresh raw honey

I really didn’t intend this post to be so negative, but it’s where my head is at the moment. As the weather warms and our goals begin taking shape, my spirit will lift, it always does. But for now, I will melt into a puddle, drink red wine and coffee and hot soup, and wait.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GND10sWq0n0&w=420&h=315]

(Anyone else a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang fan?)