New England Homestead Restoration

Restoring and enjoying an old house in Lakeville MA

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Calling all bees…..

It was a lovely spring day here on Easter Sunday, full of promise of the coming season.  Even though we do not get our shipment of bees for a couple more weeks, we decided to pick the spot to site the hive.  After a bit of walking around and discussion, we were able to agree on the spot to place the hive.


Hive on the edge of the woods


The old carts next to the hive are going to the dump

Clearly, the spot is not totally ready. In the next few weeks, I hope to have the area “cleaned up” a little.  The two abandoned trailers have to go. There is a broken gazebo frame and lots of branches and dead fall for the chipper we are going to rent this week.  Then the bees will have the full advantage of a SE facing hive with a windbreak to its rear. That, and the short flight to the fruit trees, and soon-to-be veggie garden. Now all we need is the salt block in the cinderblock below the hive, since salt is needed as part of honey production, and a birdbath or some other nearby water source, and we’re set to go.

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The Homestead will soon be buzzing…

Ok, we are  now ready, almost, for our next adventure…. keeping honey bees.  We have been going to the Plymouth County Beekeepers Association Bee School for newbees (clever pun, huh), our hive parts arrived weeks ago and have been assembled (love my new air powered brad nailer) and painted.

Some assembly required

Some assembly required

The bees (3 pounds of bees and a queen) were ordered through the Bee School, and we were to get them April  13th. Great, as we have a wedding in Houston the following weekend. Which means, of course, after the flights and hotel are all booked and paid for, the weather gets cold again, and the bees are delayed by the vendor in N.C.  After a few e-mails and a post on the Club’s message board, we are sorted. We have traded our bees with another member who also ordered bees from a different supplier and was going to recieve them the following week – and now she has to fly to Seattle that weekend.  So we will get her bees, a week later than our Bee School delivery, but plenty early enough to get them started on the right path to happiness.  We will try to remember to take lots of picture of the “installation” process and report back in late April on how that goes.

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The Work Begins in Earnest

We are finally having some nice warm days, and thoughts and actions have turned to the “veg patch.”  After a quick look at buying or renting a rototiller, I decided to try calling someone in to do it. What a clever alternative.  I called, two days later a very nice gentleman showed up with his tractor on a trailer, we had a couple of minutes of discussion, a price was agreed, and he was unloading his machine.

overhead of garden 4.3.2012

The garden (seen from above as a slightly trapazoid patch in front of the big pine tree)  was 65 feet by 38 feet, and had not been planted  for a couple of years it seemed. I decided to keep it the same size, though we thought originally that we might not plant all of  it this year. Yea right…. we ended up purchasing enough seeds for twice the area as I try now to plan out the garden spacing and rows.  No problem, says Mr Lemos and away he goes…..and less than 30 minutes later, I have a beautifully tilled garden.


So today (Good Friday) I added some pelletized lime – the soil tested a bit too acid. At the same time, I attacked the tree you can see on the overhead shot casting the big shadow with my very handy pole saw and the electric chain saw.  Two hours later, I had a pickup truck full of branches for the dump – and a lot more light on the garden.  I also composted some manure around the fruit trees (right to the North of the garden on the left side but ahrd to see on the Google shot) and added some blood meal for a nitrogen boost in the area where the apples, peaches and plums are to grow.  All this work was a result of reading the “bible”   –  John Seymour’s “Self-sufficient Life and How to Live it.”  It is a “complete back-to-basics guide” which is perfect for us.


As you can see, we have quite a few seedlings on their way( with about 6 other trays not in the picture also doing remarkably well), but it is too early in our zone to sow directly in the soil.  I have built a couple cold frames which we will use to harden off these early plants (tomatoes, asparagus, onions, chive, catnip and some others.) They are both built from re-cycled wood from pallets I have collected.  Man, is that hard work.  I have broken down 10 or 12 hardwood pallets and was totally knackered. I have ordered a tool designed for breaking them up – after trying a quick tool of my own from galvanized pape. Couple problems there, as the nails resist the prying so well, one side of my home-made tool kept unwinding at the threaded joints. I applied both Thread-Lock” and West Systems Epoxy to the joints and they still moved!  On about the second or third attempt, the 1 inch pipe snapped! Decided it was time for a professional tool.  I now have about 16 pallets stored in the barn and garage awaiting delivery of the “magic tool”.  You can see it in action on YouTube – look for “Pallet Buster” or something like that from Global Industries (and they are available through Amazon as well.)  And the bees will be coming soon (see my next post.)

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Has it stopped snowing yet?

When we moved from Chicago to Munich in 1996 we looked forward to a milder winter, since the bitter cold Canadian winds would not be blowing down on us. Hah! What we got, 5 or 6 months later was a record-breaking cold winter in Europe. It was 21 degree below zero Fahrenheit on New Year Eve, and stayed that cold for days. In fact, it was the first winter in over 50 years that it was cold enough long enough for the canals in Holland or some place to freeze well enough for a historical skating race to be held again. Well, we seemed to have the same luck with our move to Lakeville.

We arrived just in time for ” the Blizzard of 2013.” The moving company informed us by e-mail that our container had arrived in Boston and could be delivered the following week. I wrote back, with one eye on the weather forecast running on the TV we borrowed from our summer-house, that “next week would be fine, but given the weather forecast, perhaps we should wait until the next week to pick a date.” We went to bed on Thursday with an expectation of “6 to 8 inches of snow” for Friday. Friday morning we awoke to a very cold house. The power was knocked off overnight by the storm. I was still snowing quite hard and now no heat, no lights, and a very short supply of running water (to flush with.) We had stocked up on a few essentials, drinking water, bourban, bread, milk and firewood. We started out OK, as the stove uses propane, which was uneffected by the storm, so had a hot breakfast but we were, for all intents and purposes, snowed in.
Nemo found us.

A very large container indeed……..

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Well, they did it!    They got all of our ‘stuff’ into the container – albeit a 40 foot high cube one (taller than standard 40 foot shipping container.)  The container complete with trailer, tractor, and driver arrived at just before 10 am.  It was carefully backed up the cul-de-sac  to where the Bishop’s Moves truck was parked across the end of our driveway.  This allowed them to use their ramps into their truck and then shift the boxes into the container. As you can see in the one photo, there is a rather steep driveway they had to climb before they even got to the ramp.   These guys were good and strong.  I missed the sight of them getting the cast iron-framed piano on board, using a set of wheels to roll the bloody thing most of the way.  They did admit “that was heavy”  but that was the only gripe/complaint/comment I heard the whole morning.


The movers loading the container.

Here is better picture of the slope they had to deal with…..

Standing at house level

Standing at house level

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Packing Up to Leave the UK

Well, two days into the 4 day packing schedule and we seem to be on target.  The house is pretty much done – to the point that I am siting on a chair borrowed from daughter, we have no kitchen table or chairs, etc.  Tonight – and for the next two weeks – we are going to be limited to a couple sofas and a few borrowed chairs. The crew of 4 or so is currently tackling the garage/workshop – 3/4 of a two car garage was filled and they need to repack or wrap it.  Tomorrow they will go to our storage place and pick up 300 cu ft as well as tackle the garden stuff – lawnmower, tools, teak table, etc.

Thursday they will bring the 40 foot high cube shipping container in the morning and then spend the day loading it.  The crew will have earned their money I think.  In the midst of this, Leslie is going around cleaning and painting.  She plans to pretty much paint the whole place, and then the guy will come and install new carpets throughout.

Two of our daughters have been living here “temporarily” since summertime, but both have found new apartments.  Does get a  bit tearful every once in awhile, but mostly we are looking forward to the new adventure.  I spend my spare time on Boston’s Craig’s List looking for stuff I will need once there, like a riding mower or lawn tractor.   Friend are currently stopping by the place on a regular basis to make sure everything is OK, which is a great favor and a big stress reducer. We will arrive late in the evening when we go, so I am glad not to have to worry about trying to find out why the furnace won’t light or why the lights won’t turn on or such.

Am also looking at the pet rescue sites, as I plan to get a dog as soon as possible after we arrive.  With such a big place and some much land, it just seems right – and I miss the companionship dogs provide.