I’m a poster child for self isolation

First of all, self isolation is something we often do by choice. It’s not quite the same when it is necessary and lives are in danger. But … I am already well versed in bread and yogurt making. My victory garden plans are coming together and now I have bees and can call myself a beekeeper.

Since my initial setup, I generally let them bee (hehe) but had to make a grocery run for them! to make more sugar syrup while we waited for pollen to appear. I hope they appreciate it. Here’s what they have been bringing back to the hive.

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Look at those pollen packs. Yesterday, I finally did my first hive inspection, it’s been cold here and I didn’t want to chill them, and I have been a tad nervous. So I started my smoker, suited up and took the hive apart to inspect. First minor disaster was that the nuc package I bought (5 frames of bees already started) had been cemented to the bottom of the sugar water feeder so when I took that off, 4 frames came with it. Not ideal but I made do. I scraped away extra wax and inspected. And it paid off. First I could identify drone vs worker bees. I saw pollen and maybe honey in the cells. And when I got to the original nuc frames, I saw eggs!, larvae! and THE QUEEN!! Ok she was marked with a big blue dot that made it easier to find her but I was stoked nonetheless. Besides that meant I hadn’t accidentally killed her yet. So I put everything back together and will decide if I have to make another sugar run.

I have proven that it only takes six weeks to establish a habit. My daily walks are of utmost importance and now I always make time for them. I realize how lucky I am to be able to go outdoors during this time. Our son in NYC has not left his apartment since March 9!!! Our daughter in DC is an essential worker in construction and only goes to and from work in her car. So hard for them. I am able to walk for hours without seeing another person. The other day, this was one of three horses that came running up to me as if they were greeting an old friend.

We’re also lucky to be able to walk to view points like these.

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I have tried to take control of my life by organizing the house, tidying up and getting rid of things. I just learned that since I started selling items on eBay in 1999, I have sold $9,000 worth of goods, including one old car. So I sold some more. And I cleaned grout, definitely over the top, but who puts white grout in the kitchen. I bought a brush to use with the drill and it made easy work of it. Some parts came out better and now…

Adventures in cooking continue: Latvian piragis, gnocchi, doughnuts, pumpkin pie…and the waistline shows it despite those walks.

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I have sewn masks for family and friends and have tried many different types. I like the fitted with ties, elastic bothers my ears but I also made some button bands for the back of the head.

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And I knit, weave, sew and quilt. I made this darling baby quilt yesterday.

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And finished my tee shirt quilt a few weeks ago. We used it for quite a while before I tucked in all the ends.

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And then I went over the top. I made a video for the grandkids, which may have only confused them as to my sanity but I was trying to recreate a Charlie Chaplin magic trick. Don’t judge me too harshly.

Staying alive.

 

Bzzzzzzz … our population exploded

And now I am a beekeeper. I began learning casually about beekeeping, BC. My third Cornell Cooperative class was canceled due to isolation policies. So I took to the internet and books. Initially my thought was this might be nice to do sometime in the future. And then I found myself with time on my hands. We all know I don’t have enough hobbies.

So I ordered the hive parts and kept reading. I placed my order on the first day the supplier, Betterbee, began working exclusively from home so it was a memorable experience. The hive and accessories arrived and I gradually prepared them. I stained all the exterior parts. And kept reading. I ordered my supply of bees. And kept reading. There is an amazing amount to learn about the bees themselves and the beekeeping. I installed the foundation, a honeycomb like surface, in 40 frames. And kept reading.

I tried to figure out how to put on the helmet and veil. No easy task. I lit my smoker to make sure I could use it when needed, The smoke interferes with the bees’ communication and makes it “easier” to work with them.

I received notice that my bees had arrived and I could drive an hour and a half south to pick them up. Temperatures were predicted to be cold here, below freezing some nights, but I was assured the bees would do fine. They clump together to keep the queen and young brood warm. So there was no putting it off.

I made the journey south yesterday. The nuc (nucleus colony of bees including a queen and a few frames of honey and about 10,000 worker and drone bees) was packed in a bag, I put in my trunk and began the ride home. My beekeeping gear was in the car in case some disaster befell us on the way home. But none did.

Tim readied himself with the camera while I geared up. First step, get the box out of the trunk – all that buzzing – and get the bag off the box. Made me glad that a) the box was in a bag, since many had escaped out of the box; and b) the box was in the trunk!! First step not too bad. Hundreds of bees made their way out of the box while I finished getting things ready.

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I brought sugar syrup, to feed them until nectar starts flowing, out to the hive and made room in the lower box for the new frames with bees.

Then came the scary part. Once my smoker was smokin’ I lifted the lid off the nuc and gave it a puff to clear the bees off the top of the frames. Then, with buzzing around my veil, I pulled the first frame out and transferred it to the hive.

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I tried to keep my movements smooth and calm, but there was a lot of noise around me. At some point, I realized my smoker had tipped over and little flames were trying to lick the grass; I will have to improve my smoker stand for next time. Things went quickly and it was too cold to spend much time looking at each frame.

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I had to “shake” the rest of the bees that weren’t on frames into the hive and some on the grass. I put the last frame in, added the sugar feeder and tucked things in for the night.

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When I went back an hour or so later, all the bees had made it into the hive, through a tiny opening in the front. The entrance is “reduced” as you get things started to try to prevent them all from getting up and leaving (I think).

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I went to check on them first thing this am. It was 37 degrees f but the sun was already on the hive. Not a sound. One dead bee in front. I hope they haven’t flown the coop. Or perhaps that can be my next hobby.

 

Eating on the edge

My pantry is generally well stocked and we are eating our way through it. This week was a little iffy. I opened a can of sweetened condensed milk that expired in 2017. It was tanner than usual but seemed fine in my coffee. I froze some with a batch of yogurt that had failed and called it ice cream.

Today I opened a jar of peach jam from 2018. Lid was sealed, delicious.

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I have been making all sorts of bread; I may have recreated the soy linseed bread that is sold as a mix in Australia but is impossible to buy here. White bread, english muffins and yesterday, no knead bread.
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Soil sprouts are doing well indoors and I added some to lunch.
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Polenta in the instant pot, is easy, creamy, cheesy, and delicious! This recipe alone makes the instant pot worth its weight.

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Yesterday was a trifecta. The aforementioned bread, apricot almond scones and apple pie.

Since I have a lot of root vegetables, potatoes and carrots are often on the menu. The other night was gnocchi in a butter herb sauce. Made half a batch and froze half of that batch. Well worth it and only used 2 potatoes. Plus they are fun to shape over your thumb with a fork.

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I have an old mixmaster from the 1970’s ( I found the same one we used on Deal Island on eBay) and have souped it up with many accessories. I use it to bake cakes and cookies, juice oranges and for the first time I made a batch of chicken sausages with the grinder. I was intimidated before I started but it was easy and fast. What I did not have was a sausage stuffer, although I had the the casing from a local grocery that sells it during hunting season. A stuffer is on the shopping list. I spiced it up for breakfast patties and they were great.

Tim has a mouth full of sweet teeth, which takes a lot of baking to satisfy. I made cinnamon buns for easter, 8BA1C499-C93F-41A3-ABF1-C7245F4579CBchocolate chip cookies, coffee cake (again from a less than satisfactory batch of yogurt), stovetop vanilla custard ( a recipe from my daughter who is the newest cook in the family since she has been home – in DC).

Dinner sometimes suffers when I have exhausted my cooking mojo with desserts and the like. This weekend it was hotdogs (uncured, thank you very much) and last night French toast. Latvian piragis have been requested, maybe tonight.

On a more serious note, I am grateful for what we have and worry about the long term economic effect for others. So far I have contributed to two local food banks, and if you are able, I encourage you to do the same in your community.

Lucky to have memories

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I know the Deal Island Lighthouse is looking spiffier than the last time I saw it since it has been refinished and painted.   No one can currently admire it though because Tasmania Parks and Wildlife is closed.

I was brought back to our time alone on this beautiful island in Australia by a book I am reading. The phrase was,  ‘and then before you know it, Bob’s your uncle’. Cracks me up every time. On a side note, my iPad lost the ability to type quotation  marks and I can’t find them.

Hanging out at home

Here are some images I caught of the other creatures hanging around the house this past month. Tim just cleaned and installed several of the bluebird boxes and we have our first guests, a happy couple looking for a new home.

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Elli is just bored to tears. Not that her life is any different now than before.

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I used to enjoy capturing the wildlife outdoors. I moved the wildlife camera around to find the best animal paths. In the past, I have seen coyote, fox, my previous cat and Tim. That is until I couldn’t remember on what tree I last placed the camera. So I got a new one and will try to keep better track of where I leave it.

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We’ve had takeout dinners from a few local restaurants and even tried pick up shopping. I had a running dialogue with my shopper via text and never had to get out of the car. It was a little disturbing though when I tried to order yeast and was directed to monistat!!

But on the way home from our grocery pick up we were entertained by these kite surfers who took social distancing to a whole new level.

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Still waiting…

in place. The new reality. At least the place is beautiful and offers plenty of room to enjoy nature alone. I walk for about two hours a day and rarely see anyone.

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This view looking west towards our little homestead always gets me.

So what have I been up to in the little cabin? I’m always sort of on edge while I wait for the worst to hit our rural county. There is a chance I will be called in when it does. But in the meantime I have to keep busy.

Like everyone who is lucky enough, I do a little work from home most days. Those walks eat up a good chunk of time and do wonders for my psyche. They haven’t helped shed any pounds from all the baking I do these days though.

I had a virtual party last week with my family and it was the most fun I have had in a long time.  Since they live in urban areas, I was able to have cakes delivered to them. Tim generously offered, but I baked my own birthday cake. It was a little over the top with decorations but delicious. Actually I baked half a birthday cake.

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I picked up these cards at the last trip I made to the post office. I went because I was shipping some masks to family and friends.

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We had cake, played games and laughed for hours! I highly recommend it. My French lessons continue on Zoom as well.

The bee hives are ready and just waiting for warmer weather…and the bees. Not yet though. There’s a chance we will still get some snow tomorrow.

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In the meantime, I will continue to bake, cook, read,  binge watch, knit, quilt and weave. And stay in place.

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Lucky Tim

I’m a good isolation buddy. I am easily amused and find plenty of things to keep me occupied. I have time to tackle a lot of long term projects. I went through all my photos and placed a lot of them under the glass on my desk blotter.

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Although it’s harder to find things that drop on the desk, it makes me smile every time I see it. Lots of memories.

E574EE45-10AD-4727-97F9-53CFD67FDB74A zipper broke on a favorite fleece vest so I decided to weave another band (it also made the vest a little bigger) to insert a new zipper. Tickled pink with it.

We’ve been spending about every other night in the cabin and I did a lot of the sewing by candle light.

It hasn’t stopped us from streaming our movies and I sleep like a baby with rain falling on the metal roof and coyotes howling nearby. Somehow it seems like all is right with the world.

 

But it’s not. We had family members affected downstate by The Virus, one critical, and it seems like a ventilator at Stony Brook hospital saved at least one life. I and everyone I know are having lots of emotional swings. I find long walks and staying connected any way I can to friends and families helps. Both of my kids have had video virtual gatherings with friends where they got all dressed up and chatted from home.

I embarked on a new adventure. I am going to keep bees. I got dressed up myself. My empty hive parts arrived last week and have applied the first coat of stain. Today I began putting wax foundations in the hive frames. I need another coat of stain and then wait for the bees to arrive.

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I’m almost ready. Better learn how to use the smoker first.

In the meantime, I cook. Tim gets basically anything he asks for.  So far on request, I have made donuts, apple pie, English muffins,

4B1BE146-8E4E-4417-BD44-4973EE1D9477cream caramel, lasagna, salmon, fresh pasta, potato pancakes, and today, roast chicken and Anzac biscuits.

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It warms our hearts to eat biscuits that I first made during our first time on Deal Island in 2011. A lifetime ago.

Stay well.

Our own island

450A7A28-502C-491D-BC2F-E6F7F7CB9458That’s what it feels like at home. We are well stocked with the usual provisions- flour, butter, eggs, milk, coffee, but no chocolate. By default we gave it up. We’re only missing the ocean.

We are complying with New York’s PAUSE order. I work a bit at home. I get outside for an hour and a half a day and walk/run, listen to books, nature, practice french. I go offline a few hours every day.  My kids brag about grubhub and food (and wine) delivery in urban areas. Not here. We’re on our own.

I’ve been creative in the kitchen: irish soda bread 82B95CD2-34E0-427F-BB8F-4818DACC61B5and corned beef, rustic white bread, donuts, pecan pie. They will have to roll me out of here.

We’ve been retreating to the cabin, which brings solace.

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I’m ticking off my list of house projects, knitting, spinning, and quilting.

This little guy makes me laugh.

We wait. Thinking of those who have been touched by this and wishing them well. The mountains will remain.

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Waiting for the storm to blow by

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Happens all the time on islands and I wish that was where we were now. Gale force winds, high seas make travel impossible. Today… It’s sunny out, the wind is calm and travel is impossible. I feel like I am in a bubble waiting for a huge wave to pass over my head or for a fireball to go screaming past. Lack of testing means we will never know how many cases are nearby in our rural community but the bubble won’t last for long. Just got word that I won’t be seeing patients in the office for a while.

On the other hand, we are accomplished, self-isolators. There is plenty to keep us both occupied when we are not singing happy birthday and washing our hands. Tim built a beautiful bed for the guest room based on one we slept in at White Pine Camp. I helped. He coached me when I had to cut down the trees for it last winter when he had a broken wrist. (I made the quilt too, but that’s old news).

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I finished a bag I had been crocheting for months

4F653D44-FC13-477C-B31B-6714E97E22C8and started a new sweater. The kindle is loaded with good books, the wood box is full and I get to cook three meals a day.

Just like when we are on deserted islands.

Fire and Ice

One of the advantages of living near the site of two former Winter Olympics is that world class events often take place right in our backyard. Last week we watched speed skaters on the olympic oval where the 1932 events were held. Not much has changed with ice maintenance. Between heats, staff skated with buckets of water to fill in the grooves.

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They also did something with a CO2 fire extinguisher to repair the ice, which intrigued me. Here is all you may ever need to know about Olympic ice rink maintenance. For a rapid repair, they fill in holes with room temperature water and slush and then hit it with pressurized CO2 for a quick repair.

The skaters were almost horizontal on the curves. They had special gloves to touch the ice.

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Some of the skaters were just a blur, or was that my mad photo skill.

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We are still able to take the ferry across Lake Champlain to Vermont. I go every couple of weeks to study French. The views and ride are always a delight. Last week there were ice covered cliffs with ducks swimming beneath them. Sometimes the only open water is in the ferry path.

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And the cardinals continue to enjoy our copper ash tree and sunflower seeds. No filter this time.

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