Monday, March 23, 2015

Bee Keeping Class; Wistera

Reminder about our Bee Keeping Class set for Saturday, March 28, 2015 from 1-3pm.  What a fun afternoon planned. Mr. Valadez is going to bring his bee truck; a live hive encased in plastic so we can see those busy bees working.  He will explain about the family of bees; making honey; take apart a hive so you see how it works; all about the lives of bees; honey tasting; and much more.  Light refreshments, handouts provided all for $25.  Call 530-846-3344 or email  I am only giving this class once, so if interested in having bees at your place or learning about bees, this coming Saturday is the day here at Windmill Farm.
Have you seen the beautiful Wisteria blooming?  You never notice one around until this time of year and you suddenly see it up a tree; or across the front of a house or even some people have them cut short into a tree shape.
They are so interesting and beautiful when it blooms.  But it can kill the tree or do a lot of damage so keep an eye on the structure where it climbs..
When we built our house in Nevada City, we saw in a Sunset Magazine an article showing a wisteria plant growing across a patio cover with millions of blossoms hanging through the slats of the cover, it was a purple blossom wonderland.  And the ground was covered with little petals.  We decided we had to do that with our patio cover.
The patio ran about 60' all across the back of our house.  We planted one plant at each end by a post and one in the middle.  Each year we would pull up all the new vine like shoots and kept running it across the top and over the cover.  Within about 5 years, it looked just like the photo, beautiful, beautiful huge purple clusters of flowers; big bumble bees buzzing around and pedals on the ground.  And the sweet smell would just engulf you.  People would come to our house during the blooming season just to see it.
One day we had the back french doors open letting in the nice breeze and where I was sitting, I got the impression the huge patio post was leaning.  I mentioned it to Frank and we just let it go.  Then Frank noticed it too and we really took a good look at the patio cover and was so shocked.  Each plant at the ends were pulling the cover, and it had pulled it away from the house and it was leaning to one side.  Something had to be done, sadly, it had also started to pull through a window near the bathroom and pulled off the house drain spouts.
Before winter when the leaves had died off, we had to do some major pruning, eliminated the plant in the middle and after than, kept it to a very certain size.  In the mean time, the whole patio cover and back siding of the house had to be replace, it had grown into the wood.
In our Gridley house, the family of the original owners of property from the 1920s gave us a photo of it and it showed a rose at one cover of the front portico and a wisteria at the other end, both were gone.  But when I started watering around the front shrubs and did some weeding, out popped a wisteria branch.  We start it up the round post and it is now about 15 feet tall and running across the lattice work.  The original old 90+ year wisteria, alive and well again.
I do love it but we keep it very well contained on the post and last year, we cut some back and found it had grown into an air vent near the roof and had gone inside the attic!!!  My wisteria lesson to people, keep it contained; make sure the support for it is strong, preferably iron; keep it away from your house; keep it away from your larger trees or it will become the ruler of it all!!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Love The Windmill History; Love The Windmill Parts

We have always loved windmills and pump houses (tank houses) used on farms.  We love how they look, love the function of them, how primitive yet well designed for what they needed to get water from the ground to the surface to use for animals and humans.
At our property in Nevada City, we purchased an old 1880's windmill from a cattle ranch that was tearing it down and put it on top of our well house.  It always made a distinctive sound when it turned.  We could tell if it was a mild wind that day or a strong wind by the metal screeching as it turned.
We moved that windmill when we sold our house, to the house in Manton when we re-located. Frank had just erected a tall metal stand for it and it was working a couple months before the forest fire went through and burned our house and everything around it, including the windmill which was melted to a big heap on the ground.
When we purchased this Gridley farmhouse, we knew we needed another windmill to have on the property.  Aeromoter windmills are our favorite brand, there were many, many companies that were making windmills in the early 1800s, but Aeromoter was the biggest and most popular manufacturer.  Frank found one on line; again made another metal stand for it; and with a friend took the tractor, ladders, ropes and pulled the windmill into place.  Hence started our Windmill Farm.
One day I was shopping at a antique co-op and saw a wooden miniature windmill, I bought it and gave it to Frank as a gift.  That started a miniature windmill collection and a semi-understanding about what they were and why the difference of sizes.  A few of the miniature windmills were, actually considered salesman samples.  That means when a person who worked for a windmill company would travel across the US selling them to farmers and ranchers, he needed to show them what it would look like, it was a lot easier to carry a miniature in his suitcase!!!  But other windmills we found were for miniature child's (or adults) railroad train sets.  Since railroad sets come in various sizes, so did windmills.
My favorite miniature windmills are the ones hand made by someone from the turn of the century to the 1930s.  But are very hard to find and I haven't seen one for sale in several years.
The next collection to start was when Frank built a storage shed and it had this big blank wall off his shop.
 For a birthday gift, I found a windmill "tail" on Ebay, had it shipped and gave it to him.  Then I found a few more tails with different manufacturer names on them and different shapes.  I found a few wheels (that is the part that spins around).  And as the education about windmills increases, I discovered that very early and primitive windmills wheels were made from wood!!  I had to have one of those but most were rotten.  I did eventually find one that was 1/2 of the wheel which wasn't too large to ship.  Most of the ones I found came from Ebay.  I even found a windmill tail that was manufactured by "Baker" so we purchased it and gave it to our daughter & son-in-law for Christmas one year.  Their last name is "Baker".  They have it hung on their wall inside the house.
I have noticed in a few decorator magazines and on television programs, the windmill parts are showing up on walls.  And windmill parts are becoming more and more expensive.

Like any collection or hobby, you end up with books about the subject; miniatures; the real thing; parts; a knowledge and a love for anything related to it.
My ultimate acquisition would be to someday find a complete wooden windmill-wheel with a wooden tail.
Maybe someday.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Spring Flowers; Beekeeping Class

Everything is budding out almost as you are looking at it.  The fruit orchards are amass of whites and pinks with some trees already having small leaves.  The pomegranate trees have red tips.  Those trees are a little different, they get their leaves first and then they get their orange/red blooms that turn into the most amazing miniature pomegranates.

The hydrangeas are leaving out; the roses already have buds; the Cecile Brunner rose is starting to bloom;
the lavendar has purple blossoms;
the canna-lillys are pure white; and the Russian Sage has pops of purple on the most beautiful silver stems and leaves.
On the corner of our house I have a tall white Camilla that is blooming.
I think the combination is so perfect because our house is a sage green with pure white window frames and jet black gloss window sash.  The leaves on the Camilla's are a dark green and the flowers are almost rose like in shape but pure white.
On one of the other windows, I have a dark pink Camilla and a light pink and even one with stripes of white.  They are a beautiful shrub to have, just on their own without flowers, they are striking but when they bloom, it starts out slow and then one day you realize it is covered with flowers.  Did you know that as the flowers drop, you need to clean them up right away.  The longer they lie under the bush, it contaminates the other flowers that haven't bloomed yet.  Keep the Camellia beds neat and tidy and the bush will stay healthy.
Even the rosemary bushes have purple blooms on their tips enticing those bees to move from one beautiful bud to the next.

Speaking of bees, we have finalized our bee class.  And what a fantastic class it is going to be thanks to Mr. Valadez from Orchard & Field Pollination and Honey.  The date is March 28, 2015 from 1-3pm.  Mr. Valadez is going to bring his big truck that he uses to transport all the hives.  He has storage boxes on the side of the truck where he keeps the tools and special clothing to work with the bees and he will be explaining all their uses.  In addition, he told me he is going to bring a plastic covered encased hive showing the little bees at work so you can see the honeycombs.  He is a professional beekeeper and we are so fortunate that he is willing to tell us all about the lives of bees; how the hives are built; what it is like to be a beekeeper during this busy time of the year for him.
Then we will hopefully have several types of honey to taste so we can imagine the different orchards the bees have visited.  I am told that the most coveted honey is made from orange blossoms.  The cost of the class is $25 and children under 8 years old are free, over 8 will cost $10.  We will have light refreshments, drinks and handouts.  Space will be limited so people will need to register and pay soon.  

Frank helps me out on all my classes, but when it comes time for the class to begin, he is MIA.  He is a pretty shy guy but for the beekeeping class, he said he wants to be there.  He has always been interested in bees and with our vegetable and fruit trees, we really have needed to get a few hives.  Frank is hoping he learns enough and with Mr. Valaez's help, he will build some hives himself.  He wants to build a couple that are antique looking or possibly European looking with some fancy detail.