Thursday, October 16, 2014

B E E utiful

I have been enriching my pockets and my brain the last few weeks working as an assistant beekeeper.

I have always been interested in beekeeeping, but other things have taken priority and I have never gotten around to  purchasing the hives and bees.

SO when I saw an opportunity to work with one of the largest beekeepers, I went for an interview.

The pay is minimal, but I was intrigued with the opportunity to work in a situation with somone highly experienced in a field with which I have limited knowledge.

I started out in the extracting room, processing hundreds, no thousands, of pounds of honey, super after super, frame after frame.

I had an opportunity to learn about the scourge of beekeeping and the preventative measures, varacoa mites , and followed the beekeeper from hive to hive inserting mites strips in between frames decked out in full bee outfits and marveled at co workers going along in bee coats and no gloves.

I went a few weeks without suffering any stings, but the occasional oops came along here and there, the sting mitigated by promptly scraping the still pumping venom stinger out with a fingernail or other flat object-I found hive tools came in handy.-

Then there was the day I helped unload 5 thousand pounds of honey supers out of the back of the truck back from up north - I disdained bee coat and went with a pair of nitrile gloves, and got stung three times in the back of the neck, once in the thigh, once in the ankle, and once in the hand.  Those were angry bees that day.

I have sorted frames to go south-big commercial operations move the bees south for the winter to get an early start in the spring.  I will stay behind at the shop through the bitter cold building equipment for next season.

I look forward to building nucs in the spring- nuclear hives made up of a queen and workers, brood and frames, a jump start from the typical "package" bees which you basically dunp in a bare hive and start from scratch.

Yesterday I made up "bee feed" different from the bee candy I worked on last week.  This is basically sugar and water, and I mixed 100 gallons of water to a thousand pounds of sugar.  That was into a tank with a small opening which is partially blocked by a large recirculatling hose, so yeah, fun.

Outside with the polite bees and yellow jackets and bald faced hornets all trying to get a sip.

Today we went off to the bee yards and filled the feeders.  Beekeeepers keep their bees all over the place.  We went to three bee yards, they have about thirty or so colonies in each one.  So the beekeeper goes along, opens them up, assesses them like a physician, and we come behind filling the feeders and picking up extraneous equipment,

At one point the beekeeper and I doubled back and started swapping covers around for shipping, so we were pulling the covers off the hives and switching them around.  I picked one up and the bees just boiled out.  Then I realized I had a gap between my coat and glove because the bees started stinging the crap out of my wrist..

So I made a hasty retreat, but the bees came right along with me.  I couldn't take the other glove off to scrape the stings off my wirst, because I was covered in bees.  So I picked up a piece of wood and scratched them out, but my whole wrist is swollen and hurts still.  Those darn bees dove right into the glove I removed  so I was shaking that out and I could feel the stingers scratching me on the back of the bee coat.

The beekeeper tossed me his gloves and went along barehanded-two days out of hernia surgery- in cold sweats- and barked orders at me to gather up the equipment.

Gotta love those tough Mainers.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

ALS challenge

I have accepted the ALS challenge-a few weeks ago, but have been unable to upload the vid, so I have decided to post a screen grab instead.

in honor of Leon, diagnosed with ALS in 1998; a dowser who dowsed my well, and taught me how to dowse.  I challenge my readers to participate in the ALS ice bucket challenge, and to donate, if able, to the ALS foundation to fund research to search for a possible cure for Lou Gehrig's disease.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Almost September

Things have been mostly quiet on the predator front.  I finally gave up and cleaned out the accumulation of guinea eggs after the willow complained about the odor the other day.  I dumped them on the compost pile, which I had been avoiding because I didn't want to draw any egg loving critters.

Later that night we heard some screaming before midnight, and I think it might have been coons fighting over eggs or maybe a skunk and a coon having a disagreement over them.  But the predatory mammals seem to have learned there is a hot line here after dark and have left the live ones alone.

Not so our friend the barred owl.  The Firebird takes care of the geese, and he likes to wait until near dark to lock them in at night.  Deepening dusk night before last, I heard a god awful goose yell followed by a loud "HOO!" and bolted out the back door.

A very large owl took flight from the edge of the goose fence, over the pen into the woods.  I sent the Firebird right out to lock up the geese. I directed the Willow to look up barred owls in the Audobon Field Guide, and it seemed they preferred smaller prey than full grown ganders.  So I assume that the owl was waiting for the mice and whatnot that come out at night to clean up the spilled goose grain...(geese are sloppy feeders)

I have seen small sparrows in the goose pen pecking at the spilled grain, with the geese a few feet away, and it is a funny sight to see a bird a few inches long  feeding almost at the feet of a large gander,.


We rented Noah a week or so ago.  Right as the movie started, the heavens opened up and it rained buckets.  The sun stayed out.  I ran from one window to the next expecting to see a rainbow, but one never appeared.  The rainbow is supposed to be God's promise that he will not destroy life with flood again and the origins are from Noah and the Flood.

So I was very taken aback but the torrential rain and sun and no rainbow just as the movie Noah was starting!  (I didn't think much of the movie, btw.)

Here is a pic that doesn't really capture what I was seeing out the window:


The Willow and I were able to catch one of the Firebird's soccer games yesterday.  The team played very well, Firebird as stopper all but 10 minutes of the game.  We saw the JV game for a few minutes, and it emphasized how far the varsity has come along, almost looking like a pro team in comparison to the JV.


The Willow doesn't start school until next week, so we have been trying to make the most of the last few days .  Tonight we fired up the old wood cookstove out back, the Willow loading and lighting and maintaining it on her own.  I made the burgers yum!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Ass end of August

wow that was summer?

Two separate sign thermometers flashed 86F at 430 pm today, and I was clad in a long sleeved shirt and jeans.

The house has been cold and damp, temps at night have been kissing 40 and the sun dipping lower with each day passing just does not give the house enough recovery time.

Mold has been starting to creep in the ground level.

The weathermen seem oblivious, claiming that we are below normal for August in temps-having spent 35 Augusts here I will be the first to tell you that Maine is wet and chilly in August.  If you don't get your summer in by the end of July you better be ready to wait a year.

We do have micro climates here-our location at the end of the pond with a stream for frontage does give us a lot more moisture this time of year.  We also have snow on the ground long past the neighbors, since snow blows off the pond all winter and dumps in our front yard.

The garden is really floundering.  The last few years I have sworn that I am going to give up attempting to grow vegetables.  We have been harvesting a few purple beans.  And a single zuccini.  You know things are bad when you have one zuccini by August 20 and no signs of more.  The beans and zuccini were very tasty in a homemade pasta alfredo last night.

We have one early girl tomato turning red.  No pumpkins setting fruit.  The acorn squash look good.  One nice stretch of days I made my way into the garden to find the acorn squash had gone nuts and climbed over the early girls and two rows of beans.  I waded in and pinched the grasping tendrils of their clutches and hauled the squash vines back in their assigned places.

Yeah, I have been busy and not finishing anything,  started trying to repair the torn building paper on the side of the house and went as high as I dared on the ladder and called it off until I could build or beg staging or a higher ladder.  The house is 23 feet on that side.

Been working on the subbie, spent 5 hours digging out a clogged EGR pipe thinking for sure that was the cause of the trouble, and had it run worse than ever afterwards.  Have some spark plug wires on order since it is not firing at all on number one and barely on number 3 and the coil pack is good,  Could be a head gasket, a death knoll for Betsy.

Summer soccer came and went, The Firebird performing well.  Tryouts just ended, Captain of the Varsity team.  :)  And a senior!  The college brochures have been pouring in.  We are both suffering separation anxiety already. 

his senior pictures are coming due,  We went across to the dam and down the stream and I took about 50 pictures over two days, and I think we finally found a keeper.  I decided to have the Willow snap one of the two of use, rather impromptu, but I knew I would want to hold the moment in my heart.

Tempus Fugit.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Things that Scream in the Night

It started with one of the chickadoos.  Early spring the poultry were allowed to free range around the yard, and one of the incubated pullets took to laying eggs under the hay pallet out back.

One night I went to lock them up as usual, and came up one short.  I checked around the usual places and thought maybe she would turn up the next morning.

I found the feathers the next day, a few yards off the property line not far from where she had been laying her eggs.

I assumed some raptor must have gotten her, because they like to pluck birds after they kill them.  Also, the ice fishing had just come to an end, and several fishermen had been tossing their catch on the ice to flop to their deaths, to be enjoyed later by the bald eagles in the area.

I figured the eagles were probably nesting and the free food supply had dried up, so they saw an opportunity with a wayward hen and took her.

The poultry went on lockdown the next day.  That inconvenienced me to some degree, because I had bought the guineas because I heard they were good at taking care of ticks, and I had to make a pen to keep them in if I couldn't let them free range.

I also had to do something about Chooster, our ancient giant barred rock rooster.  I had been keeping him with the chickadoos after his last hen died, but he really didn't seem interested in any young chicks.  He kind of beat up on the new rooster in the group, Elvis.  But, Chooster seemed to get along pretty well with the guineas, so I decided to keep him in with the guineas.

After about a week I came home and noticed Chooster in the back corner of the guinea pen with blood on him.

I Immediately took him out and examined him, and noticed some bad wounds on his back.  I cleaned him the best I could, he was such a good guy. In retrospect I should have put him on antibiotics and treated the wounds with iodine.  He died from his injuries.

About that time someone dumped two bantam cochins at the pond.  I saw them in the morning standing there looking lost, and when they were still there in the afternoon I decided I couldn't leave them abandoned. There was a piece of paper from the inside of a box near them, so you could tell someone had dumped them.

The hen was in bad shape and was easy to catch.  I figured exhaustion and shock and put her up in isolation with food and water and she perked up but still had some difficulty breathing.  The rooster was a lot harder and I spent some time trying to herd him back over to my house, through the woods around and around.  Finally when the kids got home I had them help me, and once he saw the hen he calmed down and we were finally able to corner him and put him in with her.

She continued to gasp, and I diagnosed her with gapeworm.  I treated her topically with ivermection injectible but she died a few days later.

So we lost the little hen and Chooster and gained a new rooster we named LB. That's because I called him little bastard.  He had red eyes and would attack my hand when I tried to feed him.  Willow took over his care and called him little buddy and got so she could pet him.

Then one afternoon she saw something had tried to dig into his pen.  I figured it was a skunk after the grain, and since it was part of the old goat pen I thought the bedding was so deep it would discourage digging, so I told her to put a rock there and figured that was good enough,

Well the next morning there was another hole and lots of feathers.  We tried to follow the feather trail through the woods but lost it after about 100 yards.  Willow and I felt awful about that.  I found a chunk of hair on the fence and Willow thought raccoon but it didn't seem right to me.  I started thinking Fisher.

During all these events the guineas had been laying eggs.  Lots of them.  The main flock of chickens has also been laying lots of eggs, so I decided to let the guineas keep their eggs thinking they might hatch some.

Two nights after LB was taken, the next day we found something had dug under the fence in the guinea pen and undermined the nest and had an eggs feast.  Like, egg shells all over, and eggs too.

This was getting to be a serious problem. 

I figured given the time of year something must have some hungry babies it was feeding, but boundaries are boundaries.

I looked things over and took stock of what materials I had on hand, and ran a hot line from the goat fence. I put the line about 6-8 inches off the ground all around the guinea enclosures and the goose pen.  That took most of an afternoon.  Then for good measure I found a metal bed rail-the one I was looking for when I was making bow stock-and laid it on the ground right in front of the hot wire where the nest raiding had occurred.

Things had been kind of dry, so I damped the ground and rail down pretty good. I read about 2000 volts on the fence tester. I like my fences to be about 3500-4000 but I recently hit the fence with my arm and shoes on at 2000 volts and it made me yell.  I figured 2K would be good.


The Willow and I were watching the tube that night and the Firebird called downstairs that something was screaming and crashing through the woods.  I stepped outside and heard all kinds of screaming down the drive a bit, so I jumped in the car and drove down.  I couldn't see anything but the screaming stopped.

I have to admit I must have some sadist in me, because I thought that was pretty funny.

The next day I went out and checked the damp ground for tracks.  I saw LARGE and small feline track.  Uh-oh.  Looked like Bobcat and baby bobcat.

I had seen bobcat track and seen a bobcat within a half mile up the road.  I heard one had been shot a half mile down the road a year or two ago. So I knew they were around but didn't think they would come around.

Two nights later we all heard a bleating that sounded sort of goat like and the Firebird yelled down again.  I grabbed the flashlight and ran out to the goat pen and took a head count. While I was counting goats a heavy chuffing was coming from down the ridge about ten yards away.  The goats and I ignored it. The goats were looking past me down the drive and I was counting goats.

"Huff, huff huff!"

My light is really bad and I couldn't see what it was.  The goats were all accounted for, so I went back in and got the maglight going with fresh batteries and a bulb out of another light. The chuffing was still going on down the ridge.  The Firebird said he heard a truck go up the road right around the time the bleating happened, so I started down the drive to see if a truck was stopped.  The chuffing had moved along the ridge towards the front of the house (I was on the other side) I didn't see anything down the drive.

I went back in the house and Willow and I listened out the bathroom window at the chuffing.

Then a barred owl started calling, first down the drive where we first thought we heard the bleating, then out back where I first heard the chuffing, and then where I last heard the chuffing, and then down to the marsh.  It was very freaky.  It was like the owl triangulated the whole scene.

"Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-hoo?"

We thought maybe whatever it was was in the lower pasture, so I went back out and unplugged the fence so it could get out, thinking maybe it was trapped in there.

Finally I couldn't stand it and went out afterWillow went to bed.  I had the maglight and a stick.  LOL.  I went to the top of the ridge and tried to scan with the light, but the fenceline was just at the edge of the light.

But I still wanted to see what was down there, thinking maybe a hurt deer but not wanting to approach a hurt deer or a rabid chuffing raccoon or bobcat or whatever. I crept about halfway down the ridge and could hear something moving along but still couldn't see it. I called it a night and went in and loaded up my favorite search engine.

I decided that the bleating was a faun, or baby deer.  The huffing was it's Momma.  The next day I went looking and found deer tracks outside the fence on the house side.  So Momma was not in the fence.  The fence didn't look disturbed at all, so most likely it was not baby getting zapped.

Finally I found baby deer track along the drive, but lost them.  No sign of blood. Thought I saw bobcat track by the mailbox.

Did the bobcat grab the faun? I read that bobcat can take faun.

The next night, or rather 3 am this morning, Willow and the Firebird both yelled and woke me up.  Something screaming.  I listened,  Silence.  The I heard a yowl and another yowl. Then an owl-Hoo! Hoo! The saplings insisted it was horrible and went on for twenty seconds or so.  I got up and grabbed the light and stepped out on the deck.

I couldn't see anything and went back to bed, figuring the bobcat or a regular cat had hit the fence.

Right now it's midnight and I unplugged the fence about an hour ago because we had wicked thunderstorms coming through.  Now it is just raining lightly so I am thinking about plugging the fence back in.  I just don't want the charger to take a lightning hit, which it is prone to do with all that metal fencing nailed to trees out back.

I just wish I didn't have to go around the house in the dark to plug the fence in. Who-WHO knows what's out there?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Yay June

Well we've finally had some nice warm weather! Three days of 80's, but it's supposed to cool down for the next few days.

The dandelions have come and gone.  I picked over the lawn for two days and collected enough blossoms for a batch of dandelion wine.  That burbled right away for some days.  Things have been quiet for a few days and I need to rack it (siphon it off the sediment) and let it settle for a few weeks so I can get it in the bottles.

The lilac put on a good show this year, but the blossoms are fading now.  The columbine are in full bloom, singles and double, blue, white, pink.  The rocket is in full bloom, and the first bearded iris opened today.

Hit and miss with the veggies.  Older green bean seed failed again, but the purple podded which I saved seed from last year has come up nicely.  Peas are up.  Older lettuce seed was rather a bomb, with just a few random lettuces and a lot of weeds.

We had a moose walk up the driveway and through the lettuce bed and then up on the lawn-I didn't see it, but I wondered what dug the big hole in the freshly planted lettuce patch and then realized it was a moose track.  I back-tracked it up the driveway and it was headed towards the lawn. Just took a short cut through the garden and mis-stepped off the path, lol.

Turnip greens overwintered and are in blossom.  It also blossomed last fall and volunteers are coming up all through the bed.  The collard green didn't overwinter or set seed this year.

Garlic planted last fall is looking good.  Onion sets have sprouted.  Older beet seed sprouted well.  Older dill, basil, parsley, marigold showed poor or no germination.  Older zuccini and summer squash seed appear to have failed, but older acorn squash sprouted at least 20% and have a few nice seedlings in several mounds.

Older pumpkin seed has a few seedlings coming per mound.  Sunflower seed germinated.  Zinnias have failed, but cosmos and impatiens are coming.

old cherry tomato seed has sprouted.  I have 5 out of ten, two year old asparagus crowns have thrown up one stalk each.  The largest one was snapped by Jenny the goat, who discovered the electric fence was off and after stuffing herself in the woods walked through the asparagus bed on her way to the gate.

I broke down and bought a six pack each of early girl and roma tomatoes, and one of cayenne peppers @ $2.50 per 6 plants. 

I had a bunch of potatoes left from three 50 pound sacks I bought last fall.  I also had started digging out the eyes of the ones we were eating late winter and wrapping them in a bit of paper toweling and sticking them in a plastic grocery sack.

I planted the sprouted eyes  a week or so before I planted the well sprouted leftover potatoes. I really wondered about saving the eyes, but those came up very well!! And it has taken a couple weeks for those long sprouted whole potatoes to start showing green, but it has finally happened.  I just have to keep hilling them, and then we shall see how they turn out.

I am really looking forward to some new red potatoes! Too bad the parsely didn't germinate, nothing like new reds steamed and served with butter and parsley! YUM!

I usually don't bother with potatoes because they take a lot of space, and I bought those 50 pound bags for $6 a bag last fall.  But, if I get any potatoes they will be basically free.  And I had fun trying some different techniques and making new space for them, so at least the ground is getting worked.

We are all starving for potatoes here.  Funny, Maine is potato country, too. But the supermarkets are only carrying California potatoes!!! I have been boycotting CA produce because of concerns about things drifting across the Pacific.  I won't say any of the key words.  But I have to wonder why CA potatoes are getting shipped to Maine.

I know Maine still has potatoes available because a truck carrying 40,000 + pounds rolled and dumped potatoes all over the place.

I guess they're shipping the Maine potatoes to California.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Rites of Passage

The Willow and I are on our own tonight,  the Firebird is away at prom.

I had several week's notice, but apparently I was in denial, because last week I enquired when the big night was and was aghast to discover we had less than a week.

Fortunately the Firebird is not prone to anxiety.

We agreed to go on the weekend to check out tux rentals.  I tried to get out of this but the status quo is the boys wear tux's.  The Firebird had saved up his own money and was prepared to pay for the rental.  All it needed was the aging subbie to get us to the city and back three times.

The Firebird came up with some coupons provided by schoolmates for two different rental establishments.  Those boys had the foresight to make early arrangements, and if so many classmates turned in coupons they were entitled to discounts and perks such as free prom tickets and even a free limo.

We knew the general location of the rental places, but driving in the city is no easy task.  The subbie started chuggin at every stop light. We passed the first place and went on to the second, and then he decided the first place was the one he wanted. 

I took the back route and of course came out below the shop, meaning I had to go by and turn around and get it on the way back.

Just as I was pulling out onto the main drag the subbie died.  Then didn't want to start.  I finally got it to start by cranking on it, and didn't dare pull out in traffic, so I floored it in reverse and parked it.

Well, I thought we were screwed.  I let it sit a few minutes and did my usual wiggling of various things and checking oil and planned my exit.  I think the Firebird started to suffer some anxiety at that point.

I started it up and headed out a different exit figuring if it stalled there we would be on a side road, but we made it onto the main drag and down to the tux place chuggin along.  Phew.

A young man from the Firebird's school was ahead of us and the two young men that worked the shop had things well in hand.  I was as new to tux rental as the Firebird, and I had imagined a sort of set up similiar to Madame Pomphrey's  on Harry Potter with a couple of young lad dashing about with measuring tapes and that was pretty much the scenario.

The Firebird laid down his deposit and we left with instructions to pick up/fitting two days before the big event.

That left things up to the subbie.

In the meantime I have spent hours and hours online trying to trouble shoot the subbie's problems.  Everytime I type the symptoms into a search engine I get a different answer. So I have been saving a bunch of money on fuel because I don't dare drive it anywhere.

Well the pick up day arrived, and away we went, the subbie coughing and sputtering the whole way.  It stalled coming off the interstate.  It started right up and I left it in park until the light changed,  Then I pulled into Wally world to pick up an air filter and some SeaFoam, and it died in the parking spot.

We went into Wally world and I bought the filter and the Seafoam, and had the hood up putting the air filter in when a good samaritan stopped and asked if we were all set.   I started up a convo with him and he had a cel reader, and although I had no cel light on I thought it couldn't hurt, and it came back EGR valve.  I suspected the subbie was having vaccuum issues, so that fit, and I thanked him and asked him to pray for us and away we went to the tux shop.

I was lucky in that we hit all the lights green, and we sputtered along to the shop to find it filled with young men picking up their tux's.

The Firebird put his name on a list, and some of his schoolmates arrived, so I took advantage to leave him with his chums and went out and had a smoke and eyeballed my plan of attack for exiting, to the point where I counted how many seconds the light on the main route remained green.

Finally it was his turn to try on his tux, which he did behind a curtain and of course didn't come out to model.  He said everything fit so away we went.  He put it all on when we got home, and I took some great pix of him on the lawn.

Well, the only catch was he still needed a corsage for his girl, and I had bailed out of the city because by the time he remembered to remind me the florist was well back five or six traffic lights and I was too chicken to turn around.

So yesterday morning I decided I would take out the EGR and clean it and hopefully get the subbie going to get to a florist for the corsage.

I couldn't find my sockets but luckily had a regular wrench that fit .  I am not very  mechanical so I was definitely suffering some anxiety.  I got the top bolt loose without too much issue.  But the bottom bolt would not free up.

"lefty loosey, right tighty" I chanted, and checked the first bolt to make sure I was turning in the proper direction.  I tapped the wrench with a hammer.  Nothing.  I thought I might have been bending the wrench.  So I switched the wrench so I could pull up on it, and put some good pressure on it, and the nut came free!Yay!

Then I saw some blood on my hand.

"oh, must have nicked myself," I thought.

Then my hand was covered in blood. 

Geez, what have I done?

Apparently my thumb hit the cable and sliced a good one.  But now I had the EGR valve nearly free, so I put some pressure on it to stop the bleeding and tossed a couple of bandaids on and finished the job. 

The car actually started afterwards, but didn't run much better.  Still I went off to another town and went to the transfer station (praying the subbie didn't die with a load of trash in the back), the bank, and yes, the florist to pick up a corsage.

Then I learned one does not simply drop into a florist at the height of prom and wedding season and ask for a corsage.  These things should be arranged in advance. But the nice ladies took pity on my situation and quickly whipped up a lovely corsage to order on the spot.

I filled the subbie up with a fresh tank of gas and some STP stuff and sputtered my my home.

Now the Firebird has gone off to the big event, in his tux, with his corsage, with a lift from a classmate.  The lad had some trouble backing the truck around in our drive, missing the drive altogether and pulling out with a bang! Which happened to be my reflector-on-a-stick I have marking the culvert, which somehow got hung up on the bumper of his truck.

At least he didn't get stuck in the ditch...