The Clover Field


We planted it for the bees. Five thousand square feet of crimson clover. It’s beautiful. A spot of color in the 20 acres of green. To you, it looks like an ordinary patch of flowering weeds. To me, it’s more.

We planted the clover in the middle of what Dad called the clover field. Ironic, I know. I don’t know the story behind the name. I wish I had asked the story at the same time I asked about the flat field, the big bottom, and the little bottom. That’s what I grew up hearing. Where’s Dad? Checking cows in the big bottom. Where’s the garden? In the little bottom. Do I have to gather corn in the flat field? (Insert whine here.)
I remember the clover field being lush and green and fenced for cows. It was bordered with blackberry covered briars in the summer. Time passed, Dad got older, and the briars moved way beyond the edges. The thorny pear trees multiplied, the privet expanded, limbs collapsed, and the grass smothered beneath the canvas of overgrowth. The clover field turned into a mangled mess.
When David and I bought the family place in 2016, twenty acres of scary jungle came in the package deal. We talked about what to do. We talked about ignoring the mess. Pretend it isn’t there. We could let it continue to be the breeding ground for rattleheadedcoppermoccasins,or we could start the process of clearing. We chose the latter.

It won’t be perfect in our lifetime, but four years later, with the help of massive grinding machines and lots of Huckeby sweat (David’s), crimson clover grows in the middle of the field. I think Dad would be happy the ground is coming back to life.

Sometimes it makes me misty to walk or ride through the clover field. I think of Dad. To you, it looks like an ordinary patch of flowering weeds. To David and me, it’s more.


Moments of Happiness

Addison Swing

I love this photo


it’s a moment of happiness captured forever.


it’s the beginning of Addison’s childhood memory of the swing Popi made, and this tree.


it’s a reminder of my childhood memories, and

the memory of passing this tree, a thousand times, in the car with Mom and Dad, crushed between siblings.


it’s walking to the watermelon patch and taking a moment in the tree’s shade.


it’s passing this tree with shovel in hand to dig potatoes to feed us through winter, and

to collect a million ears of corn, tossing them in the bed of Dad’s red Chevy truck.


I walked by this tree to gather blackberries with my belt looped through milk jugs for hands free picking.


this tree served as a protector when mama cow chased me to the fence.


I sat in the shade of this tree with Mom and Dad as they built the house, I now call home.

I love this photo.

It’s a photo of happiness.

There’s No Keep in Beekeeping

Sometimes I wonder about the sanity of keeping bees. Even the word “keeping” is a misrepresentation of what really happens when setting up beehives. Honestly, there is no “keeping”. The bees are free spirited, free to scout, and free to swarm. And that’s exactly what one of my colonies did.

Last winter my heart was broken by the loss of two hives to starvation and the cold. The other absconded. It was a rough first year for this newbie. I marked it up to training, ordered two new packages, and tried again. I realize calling it training sounds cold and callus from the bee’s perspective.

The first new hive grew fast and furious. The queen was a keeper. Or, so I thought. The hive body soon weighed over 50 pounds. I could barely lift. I added supers and watched it thrive. I didn’t harvest the honey. I figured they needed it for the winter. Starving your hive tends to stick with you.

The second colony grew noticeably slower. There was less brood and less honey making. They were calm and peaceful though and I liked it. I figured I could live with the slow production of honey with that kind of laid-back attitude. I do understand now that having two hives is the thing to do so you can compare the colonies.

The days have been so, so hot. Humid and sweltering. I ventilated the hives and hoped the shade of the tree would provide some relief. I noticed what I thought was bearding on the front of the largest hive. It must have been part bearding and part “hey you, we are out of room”.

It happened as the hubby and I checked on the watermelon patch. As we made a pass by the hives, a small black cloud swirled in the air. In the pine tree, a stalactite of bees. We raced back to the house to get a box, but alas, they were gone when we returned. Again, in that moment I questioned my beekeeping sanity.

I read, researched, asked questions in the beekeeping Facebook group, and tried to decide what to do.  My decision? Do nothing and let the bees do what they do in nature. In the wild, they split to create another colony. They obviously know more than I do.

I did open the hive a couple of weeks ago. There are open queen cells. There’s brood, pollen, and honey. No longer 50 pounds since they gorged themselves when they left, but a good start for winter. My fingers are crossed there’s a new matriarch in there somewhere.

I’ll check the hive in a bit to see what’s happening. I’m confident I’ll still be questioning why I got into beekeeping.


Long Time No Read

I’m embarrassed that I’m almost as bad at writing the Windy Hill blog as I am at journaling. I have the best intentions. Yeah, I know about the road and good intentions. The quote reminds me of the times Mom returned home from shopping and said she “almost” bought something for me.  Anyway, September is last time I updated the site. Crazy and embarrassing.  Lots of things happened since then. The holidays, travel, parathyroid surgery, a new part-time job, and sadly the loss of two bee hives.

When you’re an inexperienced beekeeper, it’s a guess what happened.  I hear it’s normal to lose hives in cold spells due to mites and starvation, but I hoped I would be the exception to the rule. No go. I could not have predicted the feeling of sadness when I realized that Queen Vic and Liz probably starved and froze to death. It’s one thing when you can blame a mite, but when it’s at your own hands, it just makes you sad all over as you clean out the boxes. I had sugar feeders in the hive but they didn’t work for them. Maybe too much moisture. The only hive that survived is the grouchy one with the original queen. See, I’ve been telling folks a little bit of grouch makes you stronger.

I’m not giving up. I received a new package of bees this weekend. Thank you to the hubby for picking up the buzzing box at the post office. It’s amazing that you can order just about anything, isn’t it? I had the hives at the barn next door, but since it is a new start, I moved them to what we call the clover field. There’s not a lot of clover there but they have access to a variety of pollen.  The field was covered with goldenrod last fall.

The weather wasn’t optimum for bee installation Saturday. The wind was howling, and a storm was coming in with cold temps. I decided they would be better off in the hive than in the garage for several days. I don’t know that it was a good decision. Like most things with beekeeping, it’s like throwing a dart. I sprayed them down with some sugar water, shook them out of their confines, hung the queen box between the frames, and stuck the feeder in the front. I noticed right off the bat the bees were pretty laid back. With or without sugar water, they didn’t act determined to get me. I like that kind of attitude. (I can’t say the same for the grouchy surviving hive.) I blocked the entrance to a small entry and left them to hunker down before the storm.

I checked yesterday and they were still home. I gave them a little more warmth by wrapping the hive because of the overnight freezing temps. I thought it was the least I could do after kicking them out of the garage. I’ll give it a day or so, wait for the temps to be above 65, and check on the queen. She had a beautiful green neon dot on her back. She seemed to be off to a good introduction as the other bees weren’t attacking the box. Hopefully she will be a happy little queen, love the new digs, and her new tribe.

For you other beekeepers, good luck! I hope your hives survived the winter and you’re off to a good start. I have one more package of bees coming. That’s a total of three. I figure that’s all I can afford to mess up. Experimental beekeeping is not cheap. If you have any advice, don’t hesitate to share!

The Things We’ve Learned about Charlie

It hasn’t taken David and me long to learn things about Charlie. He’s pretty much who he said he was on that Saturday at the shelter. No false pretenses. No game playing. Just a laid-back lab with soulful brown eyes.


David and I do suspect that Charlie is a bit younger than everyone guessed. Maybe he did try to cover up puppy tendencies. He likes to gnaw on stuff. The cushion, the rug, and his new dog bed. Or he’s in the toddler stage because he acts out by chewing up stuff when he doesn’t get his way.

In all fairness, Charlie has figured out that we are older than he suspected. Why? We are boring. We are quiet. We like being on the porch, drinking our coffee, eating dinner, and watching sunrises and sunsets. David listens to jazz. Charlie has found his own spot in the corner, under David’s feet. He must be ok with the music selection.

Charlie probably has notes about us (I wonder where he keeps them) as we have learned the following about him.

  • He loves the soybeans. All we can see is the top of his tail as he tracks imaginary critters through the rows. Or maybe they aren’t imaginary.
  • He knows “sit” and does it well for treats. He’s no dummy.
  • He hates storms and thunder. He goes to the basement. Again, no dummy.
  • He’s David’s dog. He rushes to him in the afternoon, tail wagging, when he comes home from work. I think he tolerates me.
  • He does yoga stretches when he lays down and makes a funny yawning noise.
  • He can climb the neighbor’s gate. I saw it happen.
  • He loves to sleep above the floor. The chair, the extra bed in the basement, and the couch. Anywhere he can get without being caught.
  • He loves bacon.
  • He doesn’t like Pringles.
  • He wants no part of chasing a tennis ball. He looks at David with his “stupid human” gaze. He does like rolling in the grass.
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  • Charlie is oddly particular about where he takes care of business. He will hold it forever, scouting for the perfect spot. Personally, I think he does it just to see how impatient the humans will get.

And finally…..

  • We knew we couldn’t keep him on a leash forever. I mean what fun is that for country dog? We took him to the creek. He did a walk about after a refreshing dip in the creek. We weren’t sure he would come back. Thankfully, before David and I reached the house, we heard paw-thunder behind us.

I think Charlie is keeping us.

Meet Charlie

Meet Charlie. He’s a lab mix. He’s probably 4 or 5 years old. We don’t know exactly. The  puppy is long gone. His coat is dark with a patch of mange. He’s a bit wormy. His eyes are dark like his coat. He seems mature and a little sad.

We don’t know Charlie’s story, but we hope to start a new one with him. David and I adopted him from the pound. The pound called him Richie. We thought he needed a new name with his new story. The pound is a sad place to land. Noisy, crowded, and doing what they can on a shoe string budget. We hope our place will be a happy place for Charlie.

We talked  about getting another dog here on Windy Hill. Waking up to a rainy Saturday, it was a good day to visit the pound. We walked in and there sat a black dog between the cages of barking dogs. With his head on his paws, he ignored the ruckus around him. David and I wanted a low maintenance, laid back dog. No yipping, no puppy chewing, just a low-key canine that might sit and enjoy the sunsets with us. Charlie starred and conveyed, “I can do that”.

We signed the papers agreeing to things like getting him neutered, bring him back versus giving him away if he isn’t a fit, and don’t let him terrorize the neighbors. We signed, took his pills, and realized we had to get him home in the Highlander.Charlie in car

We made a trip to Walmart with Charlie in the back. David went for supplies. A collar, leash, a doggie bed, and bowls. While David shopped, Charlie took the liberty of jumping over the back seat, climbing in the passenger seat, taking over the driver seat, blowing the horn a few times, fogging up the windows, and shedding all over the tan interior. With Charlie sitting in my lap, I recognized the fact I was in a small space with a dog I knew nothing about. It didn’t seem to bother Charlie that he knew nothing about me.charlie in car2

Charlie was introduced to our Biscuit. She sniffed him. He sniffed her and walked away. Biscuit was a bit more disgusted with the fact we had another dog. Charlie seemed to shrug. After all, he just came from a place with a bunch of competition. We put Charlie on the screened porch to start acclimating to the place. He took over the wicker furniture. David put on his new red collar (it looks nice with his black hair) and walked him on a leash. Later, Charlie walked without his leash. David got his steps in because Charlie went to the bridge first thing. I guess he was headed back to town. He will certainly need more time on the porch.Charlie on wicker

We know there’s no promises that Charlie will start his story with us even as we try to start one with him. Stay tuned and wish Charlie luck. Chances are he’s out on the porch creating a story about the two old people that adopted him and made him take a bath.  We are waiting to tell him about the upcoming vet visit……………………..

On a side note, if you’re looking for a dog to love or a kitten to love you (there’s some adorable and fluffy kittens at the Warren County shelter…especially the little gray and white one) visit your local animal shelter. Vist their facebook page at

More Beekeeping Adventures

It’s been a while since I posted my ramblings. The days pass so quickly.

If you’ve read any of my earlier post on my beekeeping adventures, you know I requeened one of the hives and started another hive last month. Now that it’s over, I realize it was a good learning experience (sort of like raising teenagers). After the two-week checkup, it seemed Queen Liz and Victoria were successfully doing their thing and the original queen was good too (I should give her a name, so she doesn’t feel left out). Other than feeding, I decided to leave them be for a while. A rest from my prodding hive tool. By the way, between David’s hummingbirds and the bees, we need sugar cane in the field instead of soybeans.

From everything I’ve read and watched, August and September are varroa mite treatment time. This is the part of beekeeping I’ve been dreading. It encourages me to move to Australia where no mites exist. It seems so complicated compared to treating the dog for fleas. There’s so much information and opinions about mites and beetles. Suggested treatments include organic, essential oils (who knew there’s a difference in food grade and aromatherapy), strips, oxalic acid, or do nothing. As a newbie, the opinions and options are overwhelming. I thought about ignoring it all and pretending MY hives would never have mites, but that attitude will likely doom the girls to a winter death. We’ve been through too much to let that happen.

This brings me to the testing for mites. Alcohol wash or sugar shake? Certain death or be cleaned off by your sister bees. Sugar shake it is. This past Saturday my goal was to test the hives. First, I should have listened to the ladies when they gave the signs they wanted no part of testing. There was a hard rain the night before and it was clear right from the beginning they were not in a good mood. I chose to ignore. Bad idea. Layering on top of an already bad disposition, I took 300 rowdy bees and placed them in a jar, dropped in powdered sugar, rolled it around, and shook for a full minute over a white bucket. You tell me what kind of mood you’d been in after that. After a sting through the gloves and two angry guard bees chasing me to the barn, I waved my flag and said no-way to testing the other hive.

The single test did reveal a few small brown spots that could be mites. Bad eyesight and inexperience did not confirm anything 100%. I went back later and used cooking oil spray on the white boards under the screened bottoms to monitor mites (another testing method found on YouTube). Twenty-four hours later, I pulled the boards. Yes, there are some little brown round spots, but again, inexperience and eyesight will not confirm mite infestation.  Using the better safe than sorry method, I’m treating in the next week or so. I’d rather give them a drag off a fogger using oxalic acid and 190 proof grain alcohol than risk the death of the hives (I’m following Dave with Barnyard Bee’s advice). On that note, one can buy anything from Amazon.

Stay tuned as my fogger, 190 proof alcohol, oxalic acid, and respirator arrive in the mail. One small propane tank from Walmart and things should get interesting. I think the mention of the propane tank scared the hubby.

Cook and Food Stylist for a Day

The Regional Telco Magazine is written and designed by WordSouth, A Content Marketing Company. It’s created on behalf of about 20 telecom companies across the country. It goes to 275,000 readers. That’s a lot of eyeballs. I’ve worked with WordSouth for about 8 years. Talented people and great friends. In each magazine, there’s a recipe. I mean a magazine isn’t a magazine without a recipe, right?

WordSouth found themselves in need of a cook and photographer for a couple of upcoming editions. My sister Shelly, Miller Photography, has worked for WordSouth before doing some cover and employee photos.  Although her clients are mainly business, sports teams, family photos, and senior photography (high school not people my age), she has experience in the food styling arena. That makes one of us.

Next, a cook. Someone to prepare the recipes. This is where I come in. I really don’t consider myself much of a cook.  Granted, I have a brand new renovated kitchen, but Hello Fresh has been more my speed since retirement. I can follow a recipe though. How hard can it be?

The tides turned a bit when one recipe turned into four. Shelly determined it would be more efficient to photograph several of the recipes at the same time. Something about setting up the lights and equipment. I understood trying to be more efficient, but then the recipes arrived. It just got scary.

First, meatloaf cupcakes with cauliflower frosting (I struggled to get over the cupcake part). Second, lava cakes. Ok, I can do lava cakes with whipped cream. Who doesn’t love chocolate?  Next, sausage and cherry stuffing. Cherries? Can I find a turkey in July? (Thanks grocery store for searching the back freezer.) Last, more stuffing. Thank goodness, it is stuffing in a 9 x 13 baking pan and no bird.

The preparation starts the night before. The stuffing recipes call for five cups of chopped onions (I need goggles), four cups of celery, nine cups of bread cubes (I bought too much bread), and 6 cups of crumbled cornbread (can I find that in the bread section), and a 14lb frozen turkey trying to defrost (sing this to the tune of 12 days of Christmas). Amid the chopping and crying, I received a text from WordSouth saying, “you can do half a recipe”. Dang, why didn’t I think of that?

It was a full day of cooking and photographing. The cauliflower frosting gave us some fits. Nothing a little time in the freezer didn’t fix (not me, the frosting). The lava cakes were scrumptious (yes, we ate them after the photos). I learned a food styling trick with the turkey. Broil it in the oven until it’s a pretty bronze, photograph it, and cook it later. The cherry stuffing was cooked thoroughly, and it was delicious. The last pan of dressing was set on a table decorated for fall (thank you to my sister Kathy for all her fall decor). We wrapped up the day with our hubbies sampling the odd mixture of dishes for dinner. We told them to pretend it’s Thanksgiving in July.

In the end, my renovated kitchen was a disaster and all dishes were dirty. Even so, it was a good day and a new adventure. Retirement does not mean boring. I also discovered that I continue to learn new things. Like how to broil a turkey (still frozen) making it appear delicious and toasty in a photo. And more importantly, will readers really be able to tell if I chopped 5 cups of onions? Didn’t think so.

5-4-3-2-1 – Windy Hill Consulting

I read a lot. I like blogs, books, quotes, and stories of positivity. I read diet books too, but none of them have made it happen for me. For my birthday last week, my son gifted me Kindle Unlimited. I tell him he’s my favorite son.

Since I’ve left the 8 to 5 schedule, I read more casual stuff like beekeeping for beginners and Hello Fresh directions. Still, I do love a professional read encouraging me to use my brain cells and take advantage of the time I have left to do more. A perfect example, The 5-Second Rule written by Mel Robbins. Her book spoke volumes to me because I’m a procrastinator when it comes to personal goals and decisions. I admit it. Give me a work project deadline and I’m all over it. You know, the type A, fear of failure thing. Make it about personal growth and I’ll sit on it for days. Fine, months or years.

I loved my job in telecom marketing and would have worked longer if my work address had been in my home zip code. I was spending more time sitting in Nashville traffic, growing tired of leaving David on Monday mornings, and realizing life is short. So, I hung up my driving gloves last December. When I told the locals and industry friends I retired, nine out of ten asked what I planned to do next. My eye sometimes twitched. I changed up my replies between consulting, teaching, and drinking coffee. Drinking coffee is certainly the easiest.

Mel Robbins’ complete concept is to stop putting off stuff. Stuff that is uncomfortable. Her single tool is to count from 5 down to 1 and then just do it. Sort of like Nike with less perspiration. First time I used it was after attending beginner beekeeping class. I knew I could overthink starting beehives for months. The class ended at lunch. Sitting in the parking lot with rain pouring down, 5-4-3-2-1, I called the local beekeeper to order two colonies of bees. 5-4-3-2-1, I ordered two new hives boxes from the neighboring county. Money spent. Commitment made. Three hives now in the yard.

Next, 5-4-3-2-1, do I want to consult or teach? Can I do both?

5-4-3-2-1, fill out application to teach at Motlow Community College.

5-4-3-2-1, choose a name for your consulting company.

5-4-3-2-1, write a business plan.

5-4-3-2-1, sign up for free classes in Chattanooga at the TSBDC (I highly recommend their seminars.).

5-4-3-2-1, hire a graphic designer for a logo.

5-4-3-2-1, hire a webpage developer.

There’s no going back from starting the development of a business website unless you admit failure before you begin. Starting a business is scary. All aspects are scary. If not, no one would be reading The 5-Second Rule to get over the humps. I did find that writing content for your own website is like a mirror. A self-examination into the things that you enjoy and do well. Equally, the things you don’t want to do because they aren’t fun (like wrinkles). It’s not a bad exercise for this spot in life. It’s a confirmation of why consulting and teaching is a good choice.

I admit that without the 5-second rule pushing me along, I’d still be pondering the next step over a cup of coffee. Here I am though with a new website launched moving forward into the next adventure. Whether anyone hires me or not, at least I can tell people that I’m a consultant versus a professional coffee drinker.

Need some marketing help? Putting off a project because there aren’t enough hours in the day?

5-4-3-2-1, visit my website, give me a call.  – Windy Hill Consulting

Now There are Three

Many of you may tire of my chatter about the bees. Honestly, I get tired myself from my own lack of experience and watching YouTube about bees. Granted, they are fascinating creatures, but I’m beginning to think they are like putting children through college. Every week there’s a new expense.

If you read my post last week, you know that I THOUGHT the hives were queenless. Evidently, they were just taking a rest. When I opened them up a few days later, there were eggs, larvae, and capped brood. I was mixed with happiness and indecision because I had already ordered their replacements. After all, my second opinion had said, “Your bees will be dead in 6 weeks.”  I had $100 of shipping and new bees on their way. Like I told my fellow bee association member, we beekeepers can be our own worst enemy.

Thanks to Wolf Creek Bees here in middle Tennessee, Queen Liz and Queen Victoria arrived on Friday with lovely red marks on their heads (I’m hoping the red will help these old eyeballs). I placed them on the kitchen counter, covered them with a dishcloth, and wondered what to do. I wasn’t positive the original queens were in there, but eggs didn’t get there by themselves. If they were still in there, I now had too many queens.

Despite the 90-degree weather, I suited up and went into the lower hive on Friday. This being the hive that I had never located the queen. After examining several frames, I spotted her. Matter of fact, she seemed to run straight at me while I unsuccessfully attempted to wrangle her. I’m guessing she was a bit perturbed because I kept taking the roof off her house. Next thing I know she’s out of the hive on the ground. In that moment, I had to decide. I ended her life then and there. After all, Queen Vic was sitting on the cabinet waiting for her colony. It was still sad.

I started with the next hive. No luck queen hunting. Chances are she heard about the neighbor. I called dehydration and went to the house. Saturday morning, I convinced David to go with me. Four eyeballs must be better than two. The day before I smoked the hive a lot and put a queen excluder in between the two brood boxes. I thought I might narrow the search to the bottom box.

Suddenly, there she was. Like the first queen, she was making her escape to any dark corner available. Running out of the box and down the side, we lost her in the crowd. Persistence paid off. David spotted her hiding under the box handle. I caught her and held her in my glove. David asked what now. I just couldn’t bear to end her life.

I put her in a nuc box and closed it tight. I came back to the house, called another bee association member, watched Dave at Barnyard Bees split a hive (I hear Dave’s intro in my head at night…this is Dave with Barnyard Bees) and went back and did exactly what he said. David wasn’t thrilled about catching the queen again, but he did, and we put the original queen back in her hive. I mean, she did nothing wrong. Queen Liz went into the new split and now I have three hives.

There’s many reasons it may fail. The hive is a new one. It’s late in the year and I’ll have to feed them like male teenagers. The bees may all go back to the original hive. Right now, the nuc is sitting on my front porch among the potted plants. They seem to like their new red spotted queen just fine and working their way through the candy glob on the end. Same for Queen Victoria in the other hive.

As I heard David telling our son, it was a stressful week for these beekeepers. Most of it coming from the inexperience and lack of knowledge about beekeeping. Believe me when I say, there’s more to this beekeeping thing than you can imagine. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret starting, but maybe I should have given sheep or chickens more consideration.