Riot for Austerity fist with Thermometer

Well, it’s again 2 months since I calculated our last riot. I’ll average May and June. Last year’s averages (calculated here) are mentioned as a baseline. I use this calculator.

Gasoline. 14.528 gallons per person (pp) in cars + 10 miles pp on public transport.

35 % of the US National Average

(Last year’s yearly average: 24.8%)

Electricity. Our electricity bills is back to normal: 352 KWH (all wind).

10 % of the US National Average

(Last year’s early average: 18.2%)

Heating Oil and Warm Water. It’s just our warm water that was heated now with 9.35 gallons of oil.

15 % of the US National Average

(Last year’s yearly average: 77%)

Trash. The usual: 10 lbs pp.

7% of the US National Average

(Last year’s yearly average: 7.3%)

Water. Our rain barrels are paying off but there were still many periods when I had to water the garden with tap water. Hence the still unusually high number: 1134.5 gallons of water pp.

38 % of the US National Average

(Last year’s yearly average: 16.5%)

I was very happy with how this session’s pots have turned out, especially the glazing. I never seem to have any inspiration when glazing. This time around I went for a common theme: turquoise (which is matte,  as I found out last time) overlaid with a clear glaze (which makes the whole thing shiny).

Here is a video of my wonderful teacher, Lisa Dolliver. Her work is for sale at  her studio, Earth Changes, in Maynard, and her pieces are featured in the WGBH auctions (for which this video was shot).

This should have been a joyous day, a glorious day. Instead there was cussing. I don’t often cuss, so it was shocking. What happened? The chipmunks got to the first tomato of the season.

THE first tomato.

The ICONIC tomato.

The one you take a picture of:

Its good side

Its chipmunk side

They also got the second one, which wasn’t nearly ripe. There are, by my latest count, hundreds of tomatoes ripening in that hoop house. At this rate we’re not going to get to eat any of them.  The chipmunks have dug tunnels underneath the sides, so putting on doors will not help. What do you think? Coyote pee?

I drive the speed limit and blink even when I’m the only one on the street.

I pay my (one) credit card bill, my taxes, my library fines.

I smile, I make peace, I don’t gossip or speak ill.

But I am no goody two-shoes.

I am the most subversive person I know.

I grow my own food.


husk cherry

brandywine (?)





fava beans

and earth

Happy Summer!

On this hot sunny day what did I do but seek out the two hottest areas of my garden.

First, the compost bins. They looked pretty tame, on the surface. Then I stuck in my fork and woosh, the temperature rise was immediately apparent.  I  persisted, turning, consolidating and sifting out the finished stuff. I do the sifting by hand – wearing heavy-duty gardening gloves – pushing and rubbing the stuff through the wire mesh into the garden cart, then scooping up the bigger bits and throwing them into the next bin. I love the sensation of the heat. I realize this is soil in the making, imagine volcanoes, tectonic shifts, geological eras…

And it smells so good, like my mushroom bed, actually, with a fresh, nutty smell. Could it be mycelia? (UPDATE: See two days later.) It’s a distinctly, wholesome fungal smell. There weren’t many worms in it and was dominated instead by the tiny creatures that collectively look like a white powder.

The compost in the Earth Machines (EM) smells very differently. It’s always too wet and a bit anaerobic, especially at the bottom, giving it a sour, rotteny smell. Still, it’s always loaded with earth worms and other large crawlers. It composts much slower. That might be a function not so much of the enclosure but of the raw materials: kitchen scraps, including meat, fish, oil and dairy, versus pure plant material in the garden bins.

In any case, today was the first time I moved the half-finished, smelly stuff from the EM to the open bins in the garden. Let’s see if the rodents start mining it for half-decomposed bones. I will post our home-made compost bin plans and the pictures of its construction soon, because I am quite happy with it, except for one aspect that we can easily change.


As if I hadn’t sweated enough, I had to jump into the real sauna. I brought the finished compost, still warm, into the hoop house. It was a whopping 94 F  (34 C) in there. I rigged up a fan to circulate the air a bit. The tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and Chinese Lanterns in there (the latter confined to pots) seem to love it. I weeded, top-dressed each plant with three generous handfuls of compost, then watered it in. A couple of hours later, I swear, they all looked even happier.


I used the rest of the compost on the berry bushes, then watered that in as well. They tend to get neglected a bit and I haven’t seen much growth since transplanting them. I don’t expect berries from them this year. I do from the strawberries up front, though. They have all had a chance to recuperate from being grazed by the bunnies/chipmunks, thanks to the netting I put over them.


I hope to have more compost in a matter of days if I turn the new piles once a day.  Then the rest of the garden can partake of the black gold as well. Next up as well: trellising the tomatoes that are outside, as well as the beans.

Exactly three days after installing the sticky board underneath the hive, I pulled it out. Fascinating what’s all on that sticky board: dropped pollen, nectar, honey and propolis, dirt and dust, little insects and… varroa mites.

Yes, there were mites, tiny fat disks a dark reddish brown, all of them stuck to the board and some of them still alive, little legs squirming. Too bad, suckers!

Using our magnifying glass I counted and Amie kept score. Thirty of them. I was alarmed. Maybe I had even thought my bees wouldn’t have mites, even though I knew that all bees in most parts of the world have mites.

But my bee books told me that the threshold – the point at which you need to consider treatment – is a “mite fall” (the amount of mites that fall onto the sticky board as the bees grooms themselves) of 40-50 a day. What a relief!

I’ll do another mite count in the middle of Summer, when the mite population is at its highest. In the meantime I didn’t put the sliding board back in, so now the hive is open at the bottom except for the screen. We are getting some more hot and humid weather and the bees will welcome the extra ventilation.

The bad news is that my camera seems to be on the fritz. Everything works  but it will no longer focus – a severe handicap. Maybe I pressed some button that I don’t know about. I wish I could take a picture of the sticky  board for you, and of my kale substitute for sauerkraut (so yummy and much easier to grow than cabbage), and of Amie’s latest drawings. I am so dependent on my camera, not in the least for blogging inspiration…

Bees coming in on the landing board

The hive was getting very crowded, with 8 frames entirely built out, so today I added the second brood box. The colony should build out 10 new frames much faster than they did the previous 9 ones, because there are many more bees now, and the colony is growing every day.

I also replaced the full bottom board with a screened one, which will improve ventilation over the next couple of months. This bottom board has an added feature. It has a slot for a board that slides in through the rear of the hive (handy, because I won’t have to disturb the bees). On that board I put a sticky board to trap all the mites that fall off the bees. If you have a full bottom board, mites can just crawl back up again. If you have a screened bottom board, they fall onto the ground and can’t make it back, but you also can’t count them.  I will return in 3 days to see how many have fallen onto the sticky board, and I’ll be able to do an assessment of the mite population in my hive.

I wanted to build this bottom board myself, but with DH away for a conference I couldn’t figure out which of our vast array of power tools to use (and how), and the colony couldn’t wait until he gets back. So over the weekend Amie and I drove to a beekeepers supply warehouse, where I stuck strictly to my shopping list, and I bought this thing.  I wish now I hadn’t forgotten to photograph its ins and outs, so I could reproduce it…

In order to put this new bottom board on, I had to lift the first, filled brood box and put it aside, and I was surprised at its weight. Inspections will get harder from now on. Imagine moving and inspecting two brood boxes, three honey supers…

One of the neatest thing with this hive manipulation was the honey bee – bumblebee fight. Just as I arrived, a big fat bumble was approaching the hive – they try to get in and rob the nectar and honey. A guard bee was warning it off. I grabbed my camera and took some pictures. Not the best – it was cloudy – but it gives an impression of the situation:

Warning stance?

The honey bee gets her stinger into the bumblebee!

The bumble bee managed to get the writhing bee off her, then beat a retreat. The bee of course perished right there. What a saga!

It’s been a while since I wrote about Amie’s art. This has become a garden (and beekeeping) blog, no doubt about it.  But while the blog has changed, in one respect Amie has not: she is still an artist.

Ever since a boy at her preschool claimed that she is not, she has been working hard at her art. She draws at least an hour a day, longer more often, depending what else the day has to offer. She goes nowhere without her field bag, bulging with paper and an array of pencils or markers. She is never happier than when I buy her a 20-pack of legal writing pads.

A couple of days ago, when we were drawing together, she was telling me that you have to practice long and hard. You have to be 90 to be an artist, it takes that long! I said few people live to be 90, really. Okay, she said, 70, no, 71 . That was as much as she wanted to compromise. I think it keeps her safe from expectations, her own especially. She gets quite upset when someone insists she already is an artist. She insists that she is really a “half artist”, not a “full” one.

Her art-making these days is more independent. Once in a while I sit with her to draw and then she’ll copy some things of mine that she finds interesting. Mostly she draws on her own. She doesn’t have a special place yet, and draws anywhere and everywhere: on the bus, in the car, in restaurants, at playdates, at the dining room table, at her desk, on the floor, on the bed… Sometimes she’ll come and sit next to me and quietly work away, or keep up a running comment. Other times she is happy quite by herself in the room.

These days she concentrates on patterns of shape and color. She loves to repeat and arrange random objects on a page. These are blankies and hats:

These objects are sometimes named, like “blankies” and “hats”, or they are simply “designs” or “decorations”. The strip and the two blocks in the drawing at the top are “pieces of candy” thrown up into the air for the bird to eat, but in the drawing below, they’re just “decorations”.

She likes to schematize objects too, oftentimes things that she feels are necessary in most pictures and that she has drawn often before, like the  grass in the drawing of Rabbit and Roo and the sky and the sun in the drawing of the playset (ladder, slide, swing):

She likes order on the page. Nothing touches, things are separated. In the drawing of Rabbit and Roo, they are holding hands. The drawing below, on the left, is of a dragon climbing a wall. And of the drawing of the  fishes she actually said: “See, these [the yellow dots] are separations.”

There are elaborate stories. Most of the drawings you see here are from a book she is making about a bird called Yellowfinch and his family – who are actually sparrows.  Here are two more drawings from the Yellowfinch series:

This schematizing, separating impulse is a new development, and the drawings you see above are all no more than a week old. The following drawing – my favorite – of a giant with a tiny head and belly button, which she made a month ago, already shows these inclinations:

Here is Amie about how she is an artist: