honeybee update – expansion!

Big news, folks! Over the long weekend we added a third box to our hive! This means that our bee population is growing to the point that they need more room.

Top view of one of our boxes when the hive was just starting out last year

In a hive, each big box (called a “deep” due to its size) contains 10 frames which the bees fill with eggs, larvae, brood, pollen, nectar, and honey. As the population grows and they fill more frames, they need more frames to fill.

This frame contains eggs, larvae, capped brood, pollen, and in the lower left, some nectar

In a typical first year hive, a third box will be added, but with everything we went through last year we never got there. And without a third box, the population isn’t strong enough to make surplus honey. With it being just the end of May and a third box, this is an awesome sign that we’ll be able to harvest honey this year!

We’re keeping our fingers crossed!

Don’t forget to check out our YouTube channel and subscribe (link below) as well as follow us on Instagram @the.mn.homestead for all our beekeeping and homesteading adventures!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB3wWjfjOOzZVXC6YKUVwGA

balancing homesteading and corporate life

Being a weekend homesteader has some great benefits (time in nature and at peace, balanced with accessibility to stores to run errands along with being closer to friends and family) but I find it increasingly difficult to be there only on weekends.

Monday through Friday, I’m a Project Manager for a large corporation. I really and truly enjoy my job – I like the strategic aspects, planning for the next big thing, and seeing a tangible impact from my work. I feel fulfilled when I’m able to use my brain to think creatively and identify unique solutions and uncover opportunities. If I wasn’t a weekend homesteader, it would be a job I’d be completely satisfied with.

But, I am a weekend homesteader. My soul is full when I’m outdoors, feeling nature seep into my being, keeping a wonderful balance with it – taking wild berries to feed myself while planting trees and flowers for our native pollinators. I never experience joy when I’m at work, and that is the defining feeling and emotion in my world – my end goal. Joy is the essence of being on the homestead.

This picture of the river we’re on is my background on my work computer – it reminds me of the joy and peace I find there.

It seems that each Sunday night as we’re in the truck heading home, I feel more homesick the farther we drive. And each Monday is more excruciating knowing that I have a whole week to go before I’ll be back. My husband reminds me not to wish my life away, but I truly find it hard to stop yearning for weekends on the homestead.

Our goal is to be at the homestead more permanently and we’re setting ourselves up to retire from our jobs here in the cities earlier than most, but it’s still so far away.

So, each day I’ll remind myself to be in the moment and enjoy the parts of my job that fulfill me mentally, and make the most of every second I have on the homestead.

If you haven’t already, follow me on Instagram @the.mn.homestead and subscribe to my YouTube channel (link below) to stay up to date on all our homesteading and future-building adventures!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB3wWjfjOOzZVXC6YKUVwGA

honeybees and other pollinators

As you all know, I love (LOVE) my honeybees! I am fascinated by their behavior and culture as much as I enjoy their honey. The way they interact is fascinating – the dances they use to communicate where the best pollen or nectar is, how the workers sense the queen is dying and begin replacing her. The way they huddle in a ball around the queen in the winter to stay warm and survive.

You often hear the quote attributed to Albert Einstein, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left”. It is typically accompanied by a few pictures of honeybees, or perhaps a hive. I imagine that the vast majority of those that have heard this quote have imagined the honeybee when they hear it.

But honeybees are only a small part of our pollinator population, and not necessarily the most effective in all situations. Bumblebees have longer proboscises (tongues) and can therefore better pollinate certain plants. They also forage in more adverse conditions. There are many other important native bees as well, such as Leaf Cutter and Carpenter.

Additionally, we have wonderful pollinators in butterflies, moths, beetles, wasps, birds… even bats!

I worry that our world focuses too much on the deliciousness that honeybees provide, and neglects to care for our other pollinators. Rather than trying to rid yourself of Carpenter bees, treat your wood then create a native bee hotel for them to nest into instead. Don’t be afraid of the large and noisy bumblebee. And go to bed early so you don’t see the bats swooping about if they make you nervous!

Thank you for caring about ALL of our pollinators! Have some fun making a native bee hotel, put up a pollinator friendly sign in your yard and don’t use pesticides, and teach your kids about our other wonderful pollinators! Our world thanks you!

Stay up to date with all our beekeeping and other homesteading adventures by following us on Instagram @the.mn.homestead and on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB3wWjfjOOzZVXC6YKUVwGA.

Get more of the mn homestead

All –

I’m excited to share that the mn homestead is now on YouTube!

Last night, I loaded our first video. In it, I share some of our background, the homestead we’re building, and why building this lifestyle brings me such joy.

I’ve pondered starting a YouTube channel several times over the two years we’ve had our land. I’ve always been very concerned with showing my face to the public – not that I dislike myself, it just made me feel weird. If you follow me on Instagram (@the.mn.homestead) you’ll see that I didn’t post a picture of myself until a few weeks ago, though I put pictures of hubby up all the time.

An example of a great hubby pic

As we continued making progress on our cabin, as I foraged for wild ramps and prepared for berries, as we have been dreaming about our next projects, I’ve been revisiting the channel idea. A few people on Instagram have also commented that they’d like to see more of what we’re doing, as have family and friends we don’t see regularly.

So, after years of pondering the idea and a few months of seriously considering it, we’re off and running! As with this blog, I’ll be posting weekly. The content of the video and blog won’t be the same, so you will get fresh ideas, insights, and enjoyment through all the ways you can interact with us.

Please check out our channel, like, and SUBSCRIBE so you’ll stay up to date on all the adventures!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB3wWjfjOOzZVXC6YKUVwGA

Along with subscribing on YouTube, make sure to follow this blog to get notified of all our new posts as well as follow us on Instagram @the.mn.homestead for our latest and greatest!

Thank you so much for joining us on the homestead. We’re thrilled to have you here!

Spring is Springing

The first official sign of spring is here! Or at least, what I consider to be the first official sign – wild ramps (aka wild leek, spring onion, wild garlic)!

The first spring we were at the homestead, I was wandering the woods and began to notice a sweet onion and garlic scent. As I wandered further, it became more and more intense. As I have a strong obsession with onion and definitely garlic, I was getting pretty darn excited.

After traversing a small embankment, I came across a beautiful sight – literally hundreds of small, green clusters tantalizing me with their scent. I soon learned they are wild ramps.

In the intervening two years, I’ve been on a journey to perfect the art of the wild ramp. They are a delightful topper to a salad, particularly a sweeter one. I also love them sautéed on top of my steaks, and have been known to pop them straight in my mouth to nibble. And don’t forget the leaves – they’re very edible and tasty too! Here are some of my favorite recipes – enjoy!

  • Strawberry and wild ramp salad
    • 1/2 C fresh strawberries, chopped or sliced
      1/4 C walnuts, chopped
      2 C baby spinach or baby kale
      1 oz goat cheese
      2-3 wild ramp bulbs, chopped
      1 T balsamic vinaigrette
      Drizzle of honey
  • Mix. Serves one.
  • Wild ramp hobos

    • 2 medium red potatoes, thinly sliced
      1 large carrots, thinly sliced
      5 – 6 wild ramps bulbs, chopped
      1/4 lb ground sausage, pulled apart

    Wrap all ingredients in tin foil twice, then cook on a hot grill for 1.5 hours. Serves two.

    Wild ramp scramble

    • 2 eggs
    • Leaves of two wild ramps, chopped
    • 1 oz feta cheese
    • 1/4 yellow belle pepper
    • Salt and pepper to taste

    Scramble eggs in pan over medium heat until they begin to set, then add all other ingredients except cheese, stirring occasionally until thick and with no liquid. Add cheese and scramble for a few more seconds. Serves one.

    Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @the.mn.homestead for more foraging recipes and homesteading adventures!

    Happy Easter!

    Easter is at the best time of year! Spring is either around the corner or just starting, and the days are getting longer. It’s the perfect time to come together with family and loved ones.

    We were lucky enough to have splendid weather this year – temps in the 70s, abundant sun, and not a cloud in the sky. I’m a freeze baby and was even in a t-shirt for some of it!

    The kitties were loving the warm spring air too!

    This is my husband’s and my holiday, so we get to host, and always have so much fun! It never fails – we worry that we’re going to run out of food, so end up with enough to feed 40 people rather than our 20-ish guests.

    We kicked the day off with a snack smorgasbord with assist from the family – deviled eggs, Texas caviar, taco dip, cheese and crackers, pickles and stuffed olives, chips and dip… all the goodies!

    After we’d each had an entire meal of appetizers, we moved to the main course, which consisted of a pound of ham a person (literally), two huge pans of cheesy potatoes (yummmmmm), glazed carrots, asparagus, my great-aunt Lydia’s foundation rolls (heaven!) with my homemade wild berry jam, and my grandma’s famous strawberry pretzel “salad”.

    I’m in a food coma just writing about all of it! I’d love to post a picture of the feast like a good blogger, but I was too busy eating, laughing, and being joyful to take a snap of the feast.

    I did get one picture of me, my sister-in-law, and my mother-in-law toasting the day!

    The day ended with a few more leisurely hours spent chatting, laughing, teasing, and feeling blessed. And, of course, a homemade blueberry and a homemade peach pie, homemade ice cream, and candy!

    I hope all were able to spend some wonderful time with your family and loved ones this Easter. Blessings and joy to all of you!

    Gramps is 90! I truly treasure every moment I get to spend with him ❤️

    Don’t forget to stay up with all our homesteading and family adventures on Instagram and Facebook @the.mn.homestead and on Twitter @themnhomestead

    Making time for sunsets and rises

    My intention in purchasing a DSLR was using it for wildlife and landscape (nature) photography. With such little free time during the week after work (and dearth of wildlife to photograph)and much time spent on cabin construction on weekends, I’m finding my time for that type of photography quite limited.

    Instead, I’m focusing most of my time really learning the camera on sunsets and sunrises. Now that the sun is setting later, I’m finding it easier for me to take some time after cabin work to meander up the dirt road to a large field to capture the view. Some mornings, I can also pop out of bed to see the sunrise (though this is a less frequent occurrence – weekends were designed for sleeping in until at least 7!).

    Good morning!

    As the Golden Hour approaches each evening, you’ll find me brushing off sawdust, finishing the stain on the last few boards I’ve been working on, and grabbing my camera bag.

    It’s not far down the road to where I begin to get some great sunset views and I start clicking away. I enjoy snapping a few photos, adjusting the settings, and taking a few more. I find that adjusting the ISO is one of the biggest factors in capturing the sunset the way my eyes see it.

    My other favorite part of capturing sunsets and rises is taking time with each part of it. t first, I always focused on the most vibrant part of the sky, what one typically envisions when thinking of a sunset. Over time, I’ve learned to turn around, away from the brilliance, and appreciate the soft glow and muted colors that paint the rest of the sky.

    This view is what I saw when I turned my back on the sun in the picture above.

    The difference is stunning and in no way less beautiful.

    I’m going to keep making time for sunsets and rises, and I hope you’re able to make some time in your busy days to enjoy them too.

    Check out all my sunsets and other homesteading adventures by following me on Instagram @the.mn.homestead

    Energized and excited!

    Energized and excited – that’s how I find myself starting this week off! I can’t believe all we’ve gotten done in the last few days! Seeing the walls go up inside make our cabin (and future home) more real every day.

    A few days ago, we had our beautiful knotty pine boards delivered and WOW are they gorgeous! We bounced out of bed the next morning, and as hubby started getting himself all set to put them up, I hauled some boards inside and started staining. We got into a great rhythm – I stained the boards, moved them onto the scaffolding to dry, then he grabbed them and onto the wall they went.

    It always amazes me how stain makes wood come alive again. Every grain leaps out, the knots bloom in front of you, and the depth becomes greater and more mellow. As I worked throughout the morning, the rhythm of smoothing the stain onto the board, the beauty of the wood, and the sound of my husband hammering up the boards I’d completed lulled me into a space of calm and contentment.

    After being in my happy daze for an hour or so, hubby called me back to the present moment by asking me how things were looking. For the first time, I noticed his progress. Half of a wall of our living area was up! Seeing our walls coming to life was amazing! It’s incredible how half of a wall can make such a vast difference in feeling like you’re in the middle of a construction project to feeling like you’re making your home.

    Seeing the wall in the living space made us eager to see how different the rest of the home would look with the walls up, so despite having only half of two walls done, we moved to the bedroom. Our came the circular saw and I moved from the job of stainer to stainer/cutter. Back and forth we went, me staining boards, cutting them to specification, then handing them along to be hammered up. Working in the living space and hallway didn’t allow me a glimpse into the bedroom, so after not too long a time I had to take a peek, and just as with the living area, our construction project moved another step closer to a home!

    I am eager to charge ahead with our home and take you along for the ride, so keep following me on Instagram @the.mn.homestead to see our progress!

    We officially have a second-year hive!

    Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!! OUR BEES MADE IT! Our beautiful, lovely, tenacious and resilient honeybees made it over the winter! Despite a survival rate of only about 55% in Minnesota, a straight week of temps down to 30 below F (almost 60 below F with windchill), record snowfalls, and a major lack of sunshine, our first-year hive has become a second-year hive!

    All winter, I’ve been checking on our ladies. I’ve been putting my ear to the whole drilled in the hive to listen for the tell-tale hum, I sat around on warmer days to see if someone would peek her head out, and prayed like crazy for them to make it. Practically, knowing everything I mentioned above, I knew the changes of survival were low, and with each check my anxiety grew because with each passing day, my hopes became higher and higher that they’d make it.

    AND THEY MADE IT!!!!!!!

    Not only did they make it, but they appear to be doing really well! It finally hit 50 on Saturday, so with hope and apprehension, hubby and I opened the hive. My first happy dance moment came right away, when we popped off the outer cover and bee candy we had sitting on the moisture board and saw tons of bees flitting around on top of the frames and eating the candy.

    As we pulled the frames out, happy dance #2 came out because not only was there was not only BROOD COMB there were eggs and larvae! Our queen is already fast at work. What a trooper.

    We didn’t’ clean the hive out (scraping off the burr comb, sweeping out the dead bees) because it’s still been fairly cold and will be chillier again, so we didn’t want to have them exposed for too long, but I am ecstatic. We put some pollen patties on both boxes and sugar water as well.

    That’s all I have for now because I am happy dancing on cloud nine and will be for the foreseeable future.

    Don’t forget to follow me and all our beekeeping and homesteading adventures on Instagram @the.mn.homestead!

    Welcome home Wulfrick

    I have a handsome new man in my life! His name is Wulfrick and he’s a rescue cat. We brought him here to his forever home early last week.

    Wulfrick has a sad story, but I’m so happy that it led to him being ours. Let me tell you a little bit about how he came into our lives.

    Last fall, one of our two precious strays, Belle, got cancer at only 3 years old. I won’t go into it because it’s still too hard to think about, but in the end we had to put her down. We chose to give our other cat, Spoof, a chance to decide if she wanted to be an only cat. For the last few months, we’d been giving her the same tons of love we always have and letting her decide if she wanted a pal. Several months in, it was clear she did.

    Our beautiful Belle
    Our cutie Spoof

    Of course, this brought us down the adoption path. I searched many of our local shelters online before making the rounds, and one in particular caught my eye, a big guy named Toffee. He’d been in the shelter for two years, a full two thirds of his 3 year old life. How miserable! I knew I had to meet him.

    To the shelter I went, and here is where the story is quite bizarre. I explained to the front desk that I was in want of a cat, and one of them took me in the way back to the cat area.

    To get there, we went down a long hall which appeared to be used for storage. There were mops and boxes, and some empty cages. As we headed further into the building, I saw that one of the cages was in fact occupied – by Toffee! Though the worker was charging past with no thought to him, I stopped her and explained that I had wanted to meet him. She gave me an apprehensive look, and agreed to open his cage so I could say hello.

    I pet him for a few minutes with her hovering behind me, and then he decided it was his moment of freedom! Out of the cage he leapt, bounding down the hall and under a box. Rather than try to grab him, the employee told me she’d let us “get acquainted” and shut me in the hallway with him.

    I obviously thought that was odd, but I was set on meeting Toffee, so I wandered over to say hi. He wasn’t having it, hissing and trying to bite me. I thought I knew why the employee scampered when he came hopping out, but I also knew that being in a shelter for two years would likely have a big and probably negative impact on an animal, so I chose to spend some time gaining his trust. 45 minutes later, I’d been allowed to touch his belly. No rubbing allowed, but I considered pets on the head and back and a tummy touch quite an accomplishment. He was clearly scarred by his two years in the shelter, but I knew he didn’t deserve to stay stuck there.

    After our bonding session, I knew Toffee needed to be a part of my home, so I paid the adoption fee but continued to be confused about the staff’s attitude toward him – it took two of them a full five minutes to get him in his new carrier and when they came out with him, one said nervously, “he was pretty good!” as she took thick padding off her arms. I don’t know if it is his size (he’s 15 pounds of massive Maine Coon beauty) or if they never got to know him as so his hisses were intimidating, but I am so thankful he came home with me!

    We’ve had Wulfrick (his new name) home for almost two weeks now, and there is nothing intimidating or scary about him. He and Spoof aren’t best friends, but they have no issue with one another. He loves face and chin scratches, follows me everywhere, and sleeps on my pillow at night (which leaves no room for my head, but I don’t complain).

    I am so sad but so thankful that it took someone two years to see how wonderful he is, and I’m so happy our home is his forever home!

    Our handsome Wulfrick

    Make sure to keep up with all our kitty and homesteading adventures by following me on Instagram @the.mn.homestead