Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, July 30, 2017

No Farmer's Market This Year...

On the Farm!

Yeah!  That is the first time I have gotten to say/write that!  Well, I guess I did say we had our first birthday on the farm in the last post.  Anyway, as you might imagine, we have been BUSY with moving and getting our new home set up.  It took us about a week to move and another month to finally get all the boxes unpacked.  Henry has not unpacked his office so that is the last thing to unpack.  He has been busy painting...first he painted his new office and now he is painting his lab space.  He keeps asking me what color I want the kitchen painted.  I just have so much going on that I am having trouble making that decision right now.

I planted my sunflowers this spring and the germination was just terrible.  I didn't really even have time to trouble shoot the situation because we were just so busy this past spring (wondering if/where we would be moving, filling out mortgage paperwork, talking to the Estate Lawyer several times, blah, blah, blah...  I have been holding out, thinking that the sunflowers will come around.  It seems that they are finally starting to grow but I have just decided that I will not be able to participate in the Farmer's Market this year.  I usually have sunflowers and jam/jelly to sell.  I have not even had time to make any jam/jelly!  There is a raspberry patch on our new property and I have been able to pick about 4 gallons of raspberries but I have not had any time to actually make jam.  We are usually picking blackberries in July and we have not had time to go and get any blackberries.  Now, huckleberry season is starting to pick up and I think we may go this next weekend but probably not again (we went 4 times last year!).  So, it just seems that the stars are not aligning for the Farmer's Market to happen this year.  Time to concentrate on our new home and looking forward to getting back to the Market next year.

Linda (Henry's mom) came out to visit on July 11th and took Joshua back with her to the East Coast for a week.  Then, they came back together this past week and she just left this morning.  It was great to have her here and she took out all the stained glass windows and cleaned the rest of the windows.  She said we have over 40 windows in our house!

Here is a pic of 2 of the stained glass windows (center) and 3 windows that have had the stain glass removed.  These 5 small windows in the living room had a layer of stained glass on the inside of the double pane window.  One of the stain glass windows had already fallen in and there was a bunch of glass in the shag carpeting (lots of fun to clean up...NOT!).  Anyway, another one had been taped together and another one was starting to also fall apart.  So, they had to go.  I love that we can see out more and it lets more light into the room.  Eventually, I would love to put in windows that can open because there is not a really good way to catch a good east wind on this side of the house but that is a very distant project.

Another little project I did was to change out the dated lighting fixtures in the main bathroom.  The old fixture is on the left in these pictures and I took it down and put up a half gallon mason jar with an Edison (filament) bulb shown on the right...not the best pic but I think you get the idea.

Here is a video tutorial of how to do this...I had an existing light cord so I did not have to purchase that part (obviously).

The carpet guy came and took measurements on Friday.  Not really looking forward to those estimates but will be happy to see the shag carpet go.  We are just loving the house more and more each day.  Eating out on the deck most every evening, watching for owls that live in the barns, and taking note of the coyotes that live in the plum patch behind us (insert sad face here).

Denise's parents are coming to visit this week!  They have not been to Idaho for 11 years and have never been to Moscow.  We are going to have a great time showing them around and doing a little sight seeing!

Mark enjoying his dinner on his own private deck!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Story of How We Bought Our Farm...

Buying Our Farm

This post has been in the works for about 9 months...so here it goes...it's like giving birth to our farm buying story...

When we moved to Moscow, Idaho in 2011, things were not looking good for us.  We had been through a financial rough patch and we had to do a short sale on our home in Coeur d'Alene.  In fact, if the house did not sell by September of that year, then we would have gone into foreclosure.  In August, the house sold through a short sale.  From what I am told, a short sale is not as bad as a foreclosure but it certainly is not a shining star on your credit report.  

Once we moved to Moscow and got settled in, Denise went to a local Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University class.  This was an excellent class and we highly recommend it if you are looking for help to get back on track with your finances.  We were determined to learn our lesson and not let that happen again and wanted to get more financially sound.  It took 3 years but we paid off all our debt and have been living debt free ever since.  At the Financial Peace University, we met the mortgage broker that we are using now.

At the beginning of 2016, we had a small scare when we were told that the owner of the house we were renting might want to sell the property and we would have to move that summer.  I guess we just assumed we would be living there until we were ready to purchase our farm...totally forgot that someone else owned the property and might have different plans for the rental house.  This got us thinking about starting to look.  (Luckily, he decided NOT to sell the property and we continued to live there as we set things in motion to look for property.)

The summer of 2016, we got pre-approved for our mortgage loan and started looking for properties.  It seems that about 1 house a month would come up for sale that fit our criteria.  The main criteria was at least 3 bedroom, 5-10 acres and located within 5 miles of Moscow.  Henry also wanted a tub sink and a home with a basement and 2 car garage.  We set out to look at homes that might fit these criteria.  Right away at the first place, we loved the house but the land was too hilly for putting up chicken coops and rotational paddocks.  A couple of the homes that we looked at after that were very old (over 100 years!) and needed LOTS of TLC.  The one place in particular had a beautiful 6 acre level  pasture that would be perfect but the house was too small.  One house we looked at was very nice and had level property but out of our price range.  By this time, it was November and there were not a lot of properties coming onto the market.  We were told that things would pick up again next spring...

On November 7th, Denise attended the retirement party for Cinda Williams.  It was a Monday and the boys had Special Olympics bowling practice.  So, Henry took the boys so I could go to the retirement party.  Cinda was the Sustainable Ag Coordinator through the University of Idaho Extension.  I had met her at several small farms meetings and she helped to coordinate the Beginning Farmer class that I took last year.  At the retirement party, Collete DePhelps (Associate in Community Food Systems & Small Farms through U of I Extension), came up to me and said that she knew of 30 acres that was going to be put into a land trust to be farmed.  She explained that there was 10 acres beside the 30 acres.  The 10 acres was going to be divided into 10 - 1 acres housing plots.  So, the person that manages the 30 acres would have one of the housing plots for a home site.  This sounded interesting but 30 acres also seemed like a lot of land.  She said she would have more details after Thursday that week. 

It just happens that the next Wednesday, there was a Rural Roots meeting.  Collette introduced me to some people at the Palouse Land Trust.  The Palouse Land Trust was going to be in charge of the 30 acres that was to be farmed.  When I met them, they mentioned that there was also a separate house on about 5 acres that would be for sale.  This sounded much more interesting to me because 1) we would not have to build a house and 2) the land size is smaller and more what we could manage.  

Nick, with the Palouse Land Trust, said he would contact me and the owner to set up a meeting.  Then, I waited to hear from him.  It seemed to take forever but finally we had arranged a meeting for December 8th.  It seems that the Executor of the estate lives in Montana and would be passing through the area at that time.  So, I went out at 7:30 in the morning to meet them at the house.  I met the Executor and she showed me around the house.  I left my minivan at the end of the driveway.  There was snow and I had bad tires and didn't want to get stuck (I have since gotten studded snow tires).  Her parents built the house and then actually lived down in the basement portion for 10 years while they finished the upper level.  So, the house is kind of like a house on top of a house.  There is a kitchen, dining area, living area, and 3 bedrooms on each level.  The house seemed huge to me because it is about twice as big as the house we currently rent.  There is also a 2 car garage and a HUGE root cellar.  I was so happy about the root cellar.  There is a wrap around deck on the top level and a patio on the front of the house and a screened porch and patio on the back of the house.  Also, there are 2 barns.  One is in kind of poor shape but the other has a lovely corral.

The next week, I was at the Rural Roots meeting and the President of our group came up to me and said, "I hear you are interested in buying the Montgomery place."  I was shocked because I had not really told anybody that we were even looking at it!  Come to find out that she is best friends with the Executor of the estate had talked with her the night before we met at the property the week before.  So, she put in a good word for us!

There is actually another house out there on another 5 acres.  The Executor's sister and brother-in-law live in the other house.  The 2 properties share a driveway.  I really wanted Henry and the boys to see the property.  Executor said that her brother-in-law, could let us in and she gave us his phone number.  So, on December 26th, we headed out to the property.  Henry seemed to like it and we took a good look at the barns and garage.  (There is a tub sink so Henry was happy).  

In January, my mother-in-law came out to visit for Mark's birthday.  We went out and brother-in-law showed us around the house again.  Then, I asked if they might consider selling the house to us.  He said I needed to talk to Executor.  I emailed her and we set up a time to talk on Saturday, January 21.  She seemed to think that we could get this worked out to sell to us and was going to talk to the estate attorney.  One small problem is that there was to be an estate sale on January 29 but due to all the snow, the auction house could not get their truck down to load the items.  Then, at the last minute, they got everything loaded up so the sale progressed as planned.  We were in the process of trying to get our taxes done so we could get our financing set up so it seemed that we were both working to make this sale happen.

Early February - Had to redo the pre-approval for the mortgage with our new income taxes completed.  Got approved for our home loan.

Read a book about making hard cider (there is an old apple orchard on the property!)...trees need a lot of TLC...


March 11 - we got a draft sale and purchase agreement with a potential April 28th closing date!

Mark attack...(see blog post from May 7 if you do not know what this means...)

Told rental company for our current house that we are going to buy a house and that we do not want to renew our lease!

Bought a table for our new house!

March 24 - got Purchase and Sale Agreement signed and escrow check to lawyer!

March 28 - Call from Executor saying that the probate was being challenged...not sure what this means for us buying the house.  Met with Estate Lawyer that is handling the probate.  He said that one of the Heirs is asking for the house to be re-appraised (we had offered to purchase the house at the appraised value).  The original appraisal was about 18 months "old".  So, it was decided to do another appraisal...

Waiting...Denise spent most of this week crying...it seems we were losing our dream farm...we already told the rental company we were moving so if this deal falls through, we will mostly likely have to pack up and move to another rental...yuck!!!

Denise started taking St. John's Wort for mood health...

March and April have been challenging months for the Wetzel's with the possibility of losing our future farm and Mark's aggressive behaviors...


Praying to St. Rita, Saint of the Impossible...click picture to read about her.  Interesting story of her as a baby and bees...


April 27 - appraisal is complete.  Price went up A LOT, but still within our budget.  Henry and I made a new offer on the property.

April 30 - call from Estate Lawyer.  One of the Heirs hired a Lawyer to continue to challenge the probate and a court date of June 5th has been set.  Increased our offer (again).  We are now at the maximum that we can get for a home loan (this makes us very nervous).   Estate Lawyer is going to present it to the Heirs Lawyer.

May 7 - our dog got sprayed by a skunk and our rental house smells like skunk...always thought this would be something to happen on the farm...not here in town..LOL

May 15 - Lawyers have met and talked...expecting a call any day to hear if our offer will be accepted...

Waiting nervously...

May 24 - FINALLY GOT A CALL SAYING THAT THEY HAVE ACCEPTED OUR OFFER and withdrawn the challenge against the probate!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

June 2 - Signed lease agreement and addendum to Purchase and Sale Agreement.  We can move in June 23rd.  Closing set for July 14th!

June 7 - Hired an inspector to look over house.  He suggested we have the septic scoped and get more information about the well.  This is the first time since January that we have been back to see the house!  Lots of work is needed on house with some random maintenance needed.  The grass has not been taken care of at all and it is up to my chest.  Makes it a little hard to walk around the property.

June 10 - Purchased Polaris Ranger from friend (Thanks Dennis!) and moved to garage at new house.

While Henry was busy unloading Ranger and trailer, Mark and I were inside having some lunch.  Mark kept repeatedly saying, "Move, move, move...".  This was completely unprompted.  I had not said anything about moving.  I was too hungry and busy eating my lunch.  Of course, the minute I get my phone out to record it, he clams up...

June 12 - Had septic line scoped, looks good.  Minor root growth at places where joints meet.

June 14 - Had someone come and work on well...it's good!  Some sediment build up in pipes...will have to address this at some point.

June 23 - Moving Day!  Thanks to our friends for spending the ENTIRE day helping us move.  It actually took us a complete week to get everything moved over...we have WAY too much stuff..

June 27 - Appraisal for our mortgage.

June 28 - Appraiser said that the County Assessors Office has our house still listed on the original 55 acres!  Call Estate Lawyer...he said that it has been surveyed but not split and will take care of it.

June 29 - Mortgage company asking for documentation.

June 30 - Frantically cleaned rental house!

July 6 - Title company asking for documentation.

July 10 - Estate lawyer still working on trying to get the property "split"!  Makes us a little nervous...

July 13 - I send an email to our mortgage broker asking..."Is this still happening?" in regards to the closing.  Our closing is supposed to be at 8:30AM on Friday, July 14th but I still had not heard if this surveying split thing happened...

July 14 - Henry and I went out for breakfast (it is Henry's birthday today!).  We were so lucky that Henry's mom was out for a visit and stayed with the boys.  After breakfast, we headed to the Title office...not sure if we were even going to be signing papers but, I am happy to report that they had all the cd's, aka, closing documents, and we signed our lives away.

Happy Birthday Henry to 30 years of mortgage payments!!!

First Birthday celebrated on the farm.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Supersedure Bee Cells


A few weeks ago, I took some pictures of some odd looking cells I found in the bee comb.  See the ones that look like an upside down cup?

Supersedure cells to produce a new queen for the hive in an emergency when the original queen is gone.
I didn't really have time to follow up on these odd looking cells.  I have since learned that they are called supersedure cells.  Hives produce them when they need to raise a new queen.  I placed the package and queen in the hive on May 4 and I took these pictures on June 4.  For some reason, my original queen died (I am guessing.).  

On June 4th, I checked the hive and found these supersedure cells but I didn't really understand what they were and so I just left them.

One week later, I check the hive again and I am noticing that I could not find many eggs and there is VERY little brood.

One week later, ( now June 18), I cannot find ANY eggs or brood.  I am starting to freak and realize that my queen is gone!  I start calling at least a half dozen places to try and find a new queen.  Honey bees only live about 5 weeks so as long as I can get a queen in there right away, I can maybe save the hive.  

Finally locate a place that will have a queen available the next week (week of June 25).  Things are hot in California so the queens will not be shipped during excessive heat.  I am super nervous because I realize that my bees are probably already about 3 weeks old...since I first noticed that there were not many eggs/brood...

I got a queen from Tate's Honey Farm.  Click to learn more about Tate's:

I received the queen in her queen cage with 3 nurse bees the mail!  I took her out to the hive and opened it up and placed her on a new bar.  You have to leave the queen in her queen cage for 3 days before releasing her into the hive so that the bees have a chance to accept her.  I decided that I should take a quick look in the hive.  Much to my surprise, there was brood!!!  I could not believe it!  So, I grabbed the "mail order" queen back out.  It appears that my hive knew that their original queen was weak or had died and they made the supersedure cells and then made their own new queen!  The weeks when I could not see any eggs/brood was the days when she was growing.  Then, she went out on a mating flight and came back and started laying eggs.  

Side note:
Once, I realized that my queen might be gone, I started looking for a swarm cell that hangs off the bottom of the comb that might have a new queen, but, of course, I did not find any of these because the hive was not getting ready to swarm, they needed to make a new queen for themselves.  
Swarm cells that are producing queens to swarm and leave the hive.
I was not familiar with the supersedure cells (the ones above that look more like cups in the middle of the comb).  I found this information that explains the difference:

Beekeeping nomenclature can be vague and confusing, because there is no one beekeeping terminology authority, here is a description of supersedure cells from beekeeper, Rusty, of HoneyBeeSuite.com :

A cell hanging off the middle of the frame somewhere is usually a supersedure or “emergency” queen cell. A cell hanging off the bottom of a frame is usually a swarm cell.

Supersedure cells are often begun after the eggs are laid. The bees, knowing they need to replace the queen, begin feeding royal jelly to a young larva they have selected. They build a supersedure cell around this larva (or several larvae) and it hangs down from the face of the comb. Swarm cells, however, are built in preparation for swarming and are not intended to replace the queen, but to raise a second queen. This way, there will be a queen for the part that swarms and a queen for the part that stays.

I gave the mail order queen to our 4-H leader that may be splitting a hive and needed a queen.  I am just so happy that nature took over and now I have a queen that has been locally mated!  Maybe the offspring will be better suited to this environment and make it through the winter this year.