Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Bees Knees

My co-worker has been better about bringing a camera to the job than I have been.

Here's one where I look a bit too happy to be putting bee candy in a hive, and working without a veil:

I wondered if I was just enjoying the view in this one, then I remembered being asked to turn around to show the bees that were all over the back of my coat, a good reason to keep the veil on:

Here I am on top of the last truckload of bees heading south-there are 320 large beehives below me, this time the bees have the veil:

Happy holidays !

Monday, December 1, 2014


I have a few horse experiences to share from my past week.

The day before Thanksgiving I was still busy at the bee farm wrapping up hives for shipment down south.  The owner was back, and with a team of three we were knocking down the yards.

The owner took over my job of cracking and assessing the hives.  I darted about with the cordless drill closing up the entrance reducers.  My co-worker stayed in his slot of strapping the hives down to pallets.  I also ran interference, hauling boxes of bee candy and helping position straps.

We got to one yard, an Amish farm complete with windmill.  Far off in the distance I could see a group of horses, and as I stepped out of the truck, I said to my co-worker, "oh, I hope the horses come to see me!"

So we went about our business, tending the hives, and J said, hey, Tree, here come the horses!

I kept about my work, and he repeated, "here come the horses!"

So I stopped and looked up.  The hives were backed against a single line, and a group of 8 or so workhorses were coming to investigate.  And I mean workhorses.  They were VERY large.  At least 18 hands, most of them dark bays with white markings-Cleveland Bays? I haven't looked them up, but that came to mind when I saw them.

Three of the herd were more bold, one especially dark one came forward first.  I turned to face them, and unzipped my bee hood to reveal my head.

They were taken aback, literally,  the look on their faces was one of surprise, and they all stepped back. I extended my hand over the fence, but had no takers.

So I went back to my work, but still distracted.  Boss kept working.  I tired to lighten the mood, asking him if his Dad had had workhorses, but Boss was raised around tractors.  Hmmm.

I looked at the herd again.  They were hard to ignore, so huge and close, watching us.  Finally a huge graying chestnut muscled his way through the group, shouldering the others out of his way, and made his way to the fenceline.  I reached my hand out.  I talked softly.  he allowed me to stroke his muzzle.  I wondered what was going on with the heirarchy, the first arrivals appearing to be the leaders, but too shy to approach me, and then the old geezer finally shoving them out of the way to show his courage.

Maybe they just smelled the sugar in the bee candy.

There was a tiny chestnut mare in the herd, a little shetland or welsh pony that had her mane roached and it was growing out at all crazy angles.  She didn't approach the fence, but she clearly had a secure place among the giant geldings.


Sunday we worked at the goat farm.  There is a young Great Pyranees there that is such a handful at one point I nickneamed him "monster".  One of the many bad things he likes to do is torment the Norwegian Fjord filly. Not satisified with that bad behavior, he has moved on to the older Fjord mare.

Sunday we still had quite a bit of snow from our Thanksgiving noreaster. The mare was hanging about the barn area, Monster being loose.  All of a sudden I heard Boss shout, and exclaim, and saw the dog hot on the heels of the mare who was trotting out into the snow laden pasture.

I jogged toward the pasture, "Maaia, HO!" I shouted, while Boss, Mr Boss, and Firebird were all yelling at the dog.  The mare stopped in the field, the dog lunging and barking.  I went out to her, Maia, steady, easy girl, while the dog kept at her, all others yelling at the dog to quit.  The Firebird wisely kept his distance, and I called to him to get a halter.  I muttered, "I am getting her out of this equation."

He came with the wrong halter , but also a lead rope.  Of course the mare chose that moment to trot off, and the whole scene repeated.  I approached her, steady Maia.  I did my quicky lead over the neck and around the nose makeshift halter trick, accidently smacking her in the face with the clip as it sailed over behind her ears...sorry Maia, I said softly.

I slowly led her back to the barn, Monster trotting along at her heels, and put her in the paddock, feeling bad that she was getting punished.,  Monster was still avoiding capture.

I walked over to the pasture gate, he trotting ahead of me, to avoid capture, and I started to shut him out in the pasture.  Boss said, What are you doing?"  Well, I had a plan.  Given the choice of me clipping the lead on his collar or being shut in exile out in the pasture, he conceded and came to me.

He then was tied to his lead in the barn aisle, and the filly and mare let back out.  They eventually worked their way to the farrrrr end of the pasture by the time I had to bring them in.

I love horses, but bringing the horses in I find somewhat of a chore, because they, especially the older mare, choose to get as far away from the barn as possible because it takes longer to fetch her and more grass she can stuff in while you are making the trek. And I have heard the filly won't allow herself to be caught by some.

So I headed out, trudging along the fenceline through the deep slush, two halters slung over my shoulder.  The filly saw me coming and started trotting towards me.  Yes, she literally trotted across that length of hill and field and came right up to me.  Pretty little Estrella.

Once I put her up I still had to trek across the whole field to get Maia.  But she had a rough morning, so I didn't mind too much.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Almost Thanksgiving

The weather has been rather cold for bees, but at least we don't have 8 feet of snow on the ground, my sympathies and prayers to Buffalo, New York area!

My co-worker and I, the "outside kitties", have been busy readying the ten frame hives for shipment down south for the winter.

We have been averaging about 5o hives a day.  There are four hives to a pallet, and usually about four pallets to a "bee yard".

The town is a rural Maine farming community, must be good dirt up there, lots of farms, lots of owner builder camps.  Being an architect nut, I have been immensely enjoying driving from bee yard to bee yard on the  back roads.

The weather has been surprisingly compliant compared to the rest of the country; most of the bee yard locations are sheltered, and the early winter sun has made the job not as miserable as it could be.  There is still snow in the shady parts of the fields, but basically just crumbs.

We have a nice pace worked out.  We arrive at the yard and J starts hauling boxes of bee candy.  I grab the riobi drill and start shutting the entrance reducers on the first pallet, then move on to cracking the top covers while J moves on to the entrance reducers on the rest of the pallets.

Cracking the top covers is a bit like Christmas-what's under there? Are there a pile of bees on top of a queen excluder, buzzing and perhaps flying right at my face?  Will  I see a few bees? Will they be the bright yellow Italians, or the dark carniolans? Will I be met with dead silence and have to press my ear against the top of the frames and listen to detect a buzz in the lower super, or with a stillness that determines the hive is an "out"?

Depending on what I discover determines my next course of action.  If there is no queen excluder, I am to carefully place one on top of the frames and then two bricks of candy and then replace the cover.  Sometimes the inside of the cover is covered with honeycomb and bees.  Bees make use of available space, and I have just used that space up with candy and have to remove the comb to replace the cover.

Being a softy, I want to save every bee, even though by this point I usually have at least a dozen trying to get me through the gloves, pants, hood, back....

So I shake the cover over the candy, trying to get the bees off.  The owner can do this magically with a flick of the wrist, but either I am lacking in skill or the bees are just more tenacious when the temps are30 or a combinations of both....it just is not that simple.  So sometimes I lean the cover in front of the entrance while I am placing the candy, and then shake, and then thump a corner on the ground to get them in the corner of the cover so I can shake them in, but they are clinging little creatures and this usually involves several thumps and shakes and on a rare occasion results in a clump of bees on the ground near the entrance.

There was one hive today that I kept returning to, scooping up bees off the ground-they ball up when cold- and trying to shake them into the entrance to save them.  My seniors on the job scoff at this behavior, but in my greeness I feel every bee matters and keep returning to try and save every stray bee, knowing that a bee too long outside the hive will just freeze to death.  I have flicked many off my coat that had died in  place.

Sometimes they burrow into the folds of whatever-and hours later come crawling out of what feels like every orifice ....and  I have bees emerging from my clothes in the car, the grocery store, my home...

Because when you are working the whole day outside in these temps, you dress in layers.  I found my bee coat doesn't quite come down over my hoodies.  The first few days this week I left my bee hood off until I had to, and then bees had worked their way inside the hoods of my coats.  I wear a sleeveless tank long enough to tuck in, a long sleeved shirt, a fleece hooded coat, and two hood sweatshirts and then the bee coat.  I wear a pair of sweatpants and a pair of jeans.  I gave up on the leather bee gloves this week-the sleeves are just a pain to get over the bee coat and they get cold wet and slimy-and wear a pair of insulated gloves. The bees haven't managed to sting through them yet, although they have been trying. 

Generally if I get a lively hive that comes at me, I back off and start flicking them off, hoping they haven't suicided on me yet and might get back to their hive before they freeze to death.

So it's been a lively week...

The Firebird is getting enquires from colleges about soccer recruitement, just not the colleges he has applied/been accepted to.  So I hope wheerever he settles he will be able to continue with soccer.

The Willow has had artwork accepted to hang at the capital.

My freezer is filled with turkeys @ 59 cents a pound.

Turkey turkey turkey.

Saturday, November 15, 2014



Well I have been pretty busy. Here's a pic I took of a sundog on the way home the other day.

The shop bee colonies all headed south this week.  I wanted to take a pic of the truck all loaded up but it was gone by the time I walked from the employee lot to the front door.

That was a lot of hard work.  We had a freak snowstorm that dumped two foot drifts the week we were supposed to be strapping them up, and we had to spend a day shovelling the hives out of snowbanks.  My feet were wet for two days straight.  Apparently my new boots are not entirely waterproof!

After the snow melted, a cold front came through, and the wind was whipping across the fields.

The day of the storm I was working on the goat farm and managed to walk into a barn door and gave myself a bloody nose for two hours.  We lost power for two days at the house.  So that was quite a week!

This week ended on a high note, I finally found a replacement vehicle.  A big SUV-filled it up today and it cost $50!  Ouch!

Our land line has been pretty much out since the storm, along with our dialup internet.  So today I invested in a wifi hotspot and some datacredit and now we have wifi!  Ten years on dialup, three years in the subbie, a big week for change!

This week we have to gather up all the local outlying bee yards and get them ready to ship out.  We spent two days making a pile of "bee candy" sugar and water and pollen substitute.  I really can't stand the smell of the pollen anymore. 

We mix the sugar and water in big enamel canning kettles and then cook it on gas burners in a box truck.  Then my co-worker lugs it out and I wait for it to cool to 180, then add the pollen and mix it.  Then I pour it into molds in another box trailer to make big slabs that go right in the hives.  I don't know how many big kettles worth I poured in two days!

We managed to make it a little more fun by rigging the radio out in the yard and cranking oldies.  The first day it was a balmy sunny 50,  Friday was in the thirties and we had a snow squall.  My co worker took a few pics-I am sure I looked quite happy out there mixing bee candy in a snow squall.

At least the paycheck is being put to good use.  :)

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...

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Goat Hunt

Happy Belated Easter!

I have been fortunate enough to have been helping out at the cashmere goat farm the last few weeks.

last year was a barren year, no kids.

this year every doe but the two youngest were bred, and the last few weeks every Sunday we are greeted by bouncing baby goats.

This Sunday we were greeted with the news that an expectant doe had gone missing, last seen in the barn at 9 pm the evening before.

After the combing emergencies, the primary and secondary barn chores attended to,  saplings and Boss and I headed out for a serious search.  The Willow and Boss had already spent an hour searching the pasture borders, but the four of us spread out, with myself along the fence, the Boss along the field, and the saplings spread between.

After we passed the top edge of the pasture the woods spread out so that we lost visual contact with each other.  The woods have been selectively cut for the last several years, and the slash was piled so high it would have been simple for a doe to hide her kids and herself from view.

All I saw were deer and MOOSE tracks, and I ain't talking ice cream flavors.

After an hour and a half we reached logging trails and the logging yard, the saplings hot and hungry for a real productive search involving enough chocolate to send you into a diabetic coma.

So I sent them back for a drink and a sandwich, and headed back with the boss, listening and looking and thinking every grey stone must surely be that wayward silver doe.

I crossed the pasture and saw one of the Great Pyrenees stretched out along the woodsline, and stopped and patted her and continued to stretch my eardrums for the telltale wail of a newborn goat kid, to no avail.

I had several false starts during the search, hearing odd cries and thinking it was a kid in distress, only to find it was robins or crows or pileated woodpecker and wondering if they were trying to lead  me in the right direction.

So we gave up the search and finished the buck chores and had  to head home for our own Easter celebrations, involving  fruitful searches and chocolate comas.

The Firebird and I went back today and he was off the search docket, helping with garden chores.  I had an easy time with the old wethers, not even having to tie the old boys for combing.  I brushed their necks while they tipped their faces up in the wellish call, or just  a good old fashioned goat grin.  One younger  wether had run at my approach, fiber hanging off his neck and rump, and I let him go and turned to an old guy on his knees on a bench.
Eventually he returned, and I let him watch the proceedings,  and then approached him and brushed his neck (which they Especially love) and then his rump (which they don't really like) All without a collar, which is a real coup de gras.

When I first started combing cashmere 7 years ago, the form de rigeur was to double chain the collar and wail away on the goat while they tried to escape.

I have spent the intervening seven years trying to befriend the population, convince them that combing feels good because they are ITCHY when they are sheddding and taking moments of delight when I have to pause to remove the fiber from the brush and the goat looks at me, tilts their head back., and scratches themselves with the tip of their horn.

Willow and I say the goat is showing us where to brush next.

The most shy wether lurked in the background, but he was all shed out so I wasn't too offended.

High on wether good vibes, I then got to head on the hill for the yearling bucks.  They are my personal favorites, because it is their first combing season, and they are somewhat friendly (meaning they like corn) but don't like to be handled (because it has meant injections or hoof trimmings) and I have the opportunity to show them that touches can be nice.  :)

I had my eyes on one particular buckling last week, but didn't get to him.  I caught him today, and he was the best comb.  He didn't object and kept his face buried in his second cut hay.  He had medium length slick guard hair, that when lifted showed a spiderweb of shedding undercoat. Goldmine. 

The Boss and the new apprentice fed and cleaned and headed down to walk the fence in the main pasture with a chainsaw, looking for the missing doe and fixing fence as they went.

Boss told me where they would be when I finished, to come and call when I was ready to go to the big bucks.

The sun was hot, and the combing was rich, so I spent about 45 minutes on the buckling and headed down.

Determined to find the doe, I didn't immediately head out for the Boss, I circled  the old ash in the center of the pasture that I refer to as yraddrassil, to no avail.  I checked in with the Firebird and the gardener.  I circled through the woodline behind the main herd, thinking they would be near the missing doe.  I went by the rock pile along the road.

So then I started at the bottom of the field where the Boss said they would be, skirting the woodline, searching, calling, looking for the doe and Boss and apprentice.

I hit the top of the field and entered the woods, straddling between the fenceline and pasture, double checking the ground the saplings covered yesterday.

"Buttercup! Buttercup!"  I called, and stopped and searched 360, and listened..  A few more yards, "buttercup, buttercup!", 360 look, listen.

Then I would hear a chainsaw in the distance, and know the apprentice was ahead in the distance, so I kept on, "Buttercup, buttercup!" look, listen.

Sometimes I would see something grey, and double back or side track to find a boulder or stump.

I passed the log yard.  I found moose poop.  I kept on, lured by the sound of chainsaw in the distance.  Over seven years I had heard stories of the extensive fenced woods that comprised the farm, but had always managed to be exempted from that fence chore.  I was finally seeing the expanse for myself.

"buttercup, buttercup!" telling myself that any doe stuck in the woods for two nights would return my call with a yell, but half wondering if my call wasn't really to hopefully send any moose heading in the other direction.

At one point I came to a vale, or a gully.  I saw Boss and one of the farm dogs at the top on the other side.  "buttercup, buttercup" I called.

The farm dog woofed.  I was surprised that it just became aware of me. " Is that you, T?" Boss called.

"Yes, I will go along and find an easier way across and join you,"  I replied.

I went along and found a good place to cross, and by the time I crested the rise, Boss was off to my left and the chainsaw was sounding ahead, so I left Boss to that side and kept going, "butter, buttercup!"

I finally caught up to the apprentice, hauling the Husquevanna.  We had reached the back line.  I kept her company while she sawed away at blowdowns, gossipping on my behalf about my hypothesis, certain that the doe had died, she thinking that the new farm dog had a part in her demise, me blamng an older jealous doe-my ideas had gotten so fringe at home the night before, the Willow finally said I might as well suggest aliens had abducted the doe....

And still no sign of the doe but plenty of moose sign...

Finally at some point I suggested we get on the other side of the fence and pick up the road and head back, and J said that things got pretty wet after that point (imagine moss and running water and bogs), so I was fine with that...

So we were heading back down the road and came across a bunch of plumbing elbows and a couple cordless drills thrown down in the ditch (probably stolen and dumped) so I suggested we pick the stuff up and leave it along the road and get it later.  While we were down in the ditch, Boss drove by in her Subbie.  J jumped up and waved, but Boss kept going.  So we stood along the road and waited a few and then I said we might as well walk back to the farn since Boss would be coming back when she didn't find us.

So we were walking along the road, exsposing our particular hypothesis regarding the demise of the doe, and I was saying something along the lines that the doe would be found once the crows started circling (in fact, we just stood and watched some seagulls chasing a bald eagle, so I was watching then to see if they were circling a dead doe). and in mid sentence I say, "and there she is"

And there was buttercup, in plain view from the road,behind a giant rock pile, not 100 yards from the gate of the lower pasture, with a bouncing pair of twins.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dug in like a Tick

Like the main character in the movie "Avatar", I see Sigourney Weaver's face and hear that line.

once again I am battling an imbedded tick.

I don't know why I am a tick haven.  I love all animals-except mean ones.  And ticks fall into that category.  Perhaps they sense my compassion for living things and think they can get a free meal.  The Willow said this morning, "Maybe it is because you smell like the woods and not all perfumey."

Funny, she's getting old enough to try and phrase things like that as a compliment.

Whatever the reason, I have had two ticks in less than a week.  Saturday I found one on my neck.  Not "dug in" thank heavens.  Burned that sucker.

Then during the night on Monday my belly was itchy.  Yesterday morning I pulled up my shirt and looked in the mirror and swore violently.  Another tick!  I grabbed it and pulled and felt/heard that distinctly snap.  I burned the tick and looked again.  Yep, dark spot, left something behind.

I went to the sewing kit and grabbed a needle and started prodding.  Yes, the needle is supposed to be sterilized with a lit match or alcohol, but I didn't do that this time. I pride myself with my splinter removal techniques, but something about tick parts stuck in me makes me panic.

The Firebird said this morning that ticks inject something to make the skin tough so that they are not easily removed.  I already knew from experience that they also have an anesthetic effect because you can jab and yank and not feel any pain during the process.  I had suspected they inject some sort of liquefier like a spider to make things nice and juicy, but skin toughener must be part of the process as well.

I finally managed to get the needle behind the tick part and started pulling and the needle broke. AAgh.

Last year or the year before I had a tick leave a part in a bite in the crease of my thigh and spent at least a month trying to get it out before I finally went to the clinic.  The PA took one look and said to leave it alone and stop picking it, that it would work it's way out.  That it wasn't healing because I was picking it. Haha.

A couple years ago I had a tick imbed in the middle of my back, one place I couldn't pick.  I did have the Willow have several goes at it.  The Firebird doesn't stomach things like that.  I suffered for MONTHS.  Finally I had a friend come over and stretched out on my stomach on the hood of the car and gave him an arsenal of things to get the nasty thing out.  He did get some pieces out, but I kept insisting that more was there because I could feel the needle catching on something, so he kept digging.  He kept insisting he got it all, so I gave up and went to the ER.  HA that doc had a fit. Apparently my friend had excavated a pretty good hole in my back!  And Doc couldn't see anything else either but muttered I was going to have a scar... And wanted to know why I had the bite for months and then just showed up in the ER...

Well, that did heal, and I credit my friend for digging all the pieces and compromised tissue out of it.  Who cares if it scarred-I can't see back there!

And as far as the other one went, the one the clinic wouldn't deal with and told me to leave alone, yeah right! That kept itching and I finally managed to get the tick parts all out.  I would get some out and put antibiotic ointment and a bandaid but after a few days I could tell that it wasn't healing and there was still more in there, so I would have to go after it again.  Such a relief to finally get the last bit out!

So yesterday after I broke the needle I did the bandaid for the wait and see, hoping it would just work out.  Last night it started itching again, so I put some Yarrow tincture, more neosporin, new bandaid. 

This morning it was itching again.  Ok, this is WAR!  I got another needle, ransacked the house for the tweezers, and soaked both in Yarrow tincture (100 proof alcohol).
I broke the needle pulling on it.  I can't believe it!  I got under the head of it and pulled and my skin was stretched up and that thing would NOT come out! So I got a pin.

I got the pin under there and bent the pin pulling.  So I got another pin.  I pushed this pin right through so it was under the tick head.  I tried to get a grip on the tick head with the tweezers as I was pulling up I could see the dark head protruding, but I could not get a grip with the tweezers.  So I walked around with the pin sticking through it for a few minutes trying to come up with a plan.  I felt like a 50-something Goth chic.

Hmm I have some surgical scissors.  How about if I pull up on it and then cut beneath it?  So I gave that idea a try.  The only trouble is the scissors have been used for many things and are not as sharp as they used to be.  It HURT! I just could not bring myself to do it!  I needed another plan... something sharper!

A razorblade! Well, my tools are totally disorganized and disgusting so that ruled out a utility blade.  But, I had several brand new packs of disposable razors....

So I disassembled a disposable razor.  that is not as easy as it sounds.  I cut myself doing it, but I managed to get part of one of the blades free.  They are very small!  I could barely grip it, but I managed.  I soaked it in tincture first.  Then, I pulled up on the pin, stretching the skin and sliced right beneath it.  One side free! Easy, no pain!  I repositioned the blade and , slice!  there was that nasty tick head!!!  No bleeding! Burn that sucker!

That was 6 hours ago, no itching!  A little sore, but I attribute that to the pulling and the alcohol on the wound.  I have neosporin and a bandaid on it, and will change that twice daily until it is healed.

I apologize to my squeamish reader if you are sitting there with your hand over your mouth agape.  But, I hope this post might help others who find themselves in a situation with a stuck tick head. If you have a better method, please let me know!

Tick season is just starting here.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Welcome Spring!

Oh boy, first day of spring!  The equinox was yesterday, but as the Willow and I were discussing this morning, that would probably count as day zero and this as day one!

We've had a long cold winter! 

I am glad that I tapped the maples over President's Day weekend.  We have been in the deep freeze since then.  A couple of days have cracked the freezing mark, but not enough to really get the sap flowing.  I have managed to eek out another gallon or two of sap by draining the small amounts out of the chunks of ice in the collecting jugs.

Two of the jugs I pulled off and brought in the house to thaw before I put them back on, and of course that ended up being one of the few days that the sap dripped a little bit!

I lost track of how much sap I have processed.  I think I started off with twelve gallons, plus a couple more.  I gave up trying to do it on the kitchen stove, and turned over one of my hot water pots on the woodstove  for sap reduction. I can put about a gallon and a half of sap in the pot.  Then of course by the time I want to go to bed, it is at a critical level.  Meaning, it will be burnt sugar by morning but too much to boil down on the kitchen stove before bed.  So, I usually just add another gallon of sap and go to bed.

I have to be careful though, because one year I kept doing that with a larger pot, and went to bed thinking it would be ok until morning, because there was several inches in it.  But I had lost track of how long I had been adding sap, and I woke up in the middle of the night to a house full of acrid smoke and two inches of black on the bottom of the pot.  Ugh.  I couldn't smell maple syrup for two years after that; the smell lingered for weeks in the house.

Yesterday morning we had had several inches of snow that turned to rain, what an icy floody mess!  Several of the animal houses were full of water because there was so much frozen snow the melt had no where to go.

The sap ran a little yesterday. I got two and a half gallons.   One tree had a half gallon of dark sap, and I would think some trickster had urinated in one of my jugs if I hadn't seen that in past years.  I don't know what causes it, but I set that one aside for now.

Today it is gorgeous out, a little windy perhaps, but well above freezing.  I have been stockpiling smaller pieces of firewood for the old kitchen woodstove that is outside.  Once I get buried in sap and have a nice day, I should have enough fuel to boil it down outside.

Right now I am trying to bake a chocolate Babka.  I had found this recipe online for chocolate doughnuts, which the Willow wanted instead of regular ones.  They are really awful!  It was 1/2 cup of cocoa to 8 cups of flour!  They look like a chocolate doughnut but are soooo bland!  And eight cups of flour! That made a lot of dough!  I fried off the first half and froze the other half.  Then I thawed it and tried a few more last night.  We even tried glazing them with chocolate chips and rolling them in sugar.  Uck!

So, I decided to take the rest of the dough and make a chocolate filling and bake it.

I think I should have added more sugar and butter...lol. still craving!

  I hope it's good I am starving!

Monday, March 17, 2014

A New Project

I certainly have enough half finished projects kicking around, so of course I decided to start a new one.

Perhaps inspired by watching the new Hunger Games moves, "Catching Fire" several times with the Willow (she's a huge fan).  The main character is proficient with a bow.  I had some small experience with archery as a teen, and started discussing some of the finer points with the Willow.

One night shortly afterwards, I was doodling around on the internet and thought I would do some research on bows.

I eventually found a webpage where a guy walks you through how to make your own out of an oak board and basic tools.  The site is called something like, poorfolksbow.

Well, I am not too close to a home improvement store, so I continued searching and found directions on how to make a recurve bow out of a sapling.

So, as soon as the sun was as high as it was going to get today, I headed out onto the property with Peko, my double bitted ax, and a small bow saw.

I thought it would be pretty simple to find the requisite 3" diameter oak, ash, or maple, with a clean straight length from the ground to the middle of my forehead.

I found one oak candidate but thought I might drop it on the power line, so I kept looking. I guess I should have been happy that it went below zero degrees F again last night, because the snow pack was like a brick so no floundering around in loose granular for us today.

In fact, the snow was so solid that once I gave up on the side and front lots and headed down over the ridge, I was worried I was going to slip and fall on the axe.  I already had one spill headed back from the poultry house early in the morning, walking and looking around for a likely bow tree. I wasn't watching my footing and next thing I knew, water jugs and grain went flying, me landing hard on one butt cheek and wrenching every thing above and below that point.

Right after I found the bow saw in the tool area I accidentally whacked myself in the temple with the handle (not the blade,thank goodness) and since I am familiar with the saying bad things happen in threes, I was trying to be careful.

I saw a few nice beech that fit the bill, but I hadn't read  that was a good kind for bow making, and I know from experience they can be very difficult to split, which is why I was avoiding Elm which was one of the kinds suggested.

I wandered down to the fairy glen and found an oak that had two smaller oaks growing on the same stump.  Right variety, right diameter, only both the smaller ones were bowed over from earlier storms.   Hhhm bowed.  I had an idea that I could split it with the bow in my favor, one side for a long bow and one for a recurve bow.

So I set to with the axe.  I was trying to get the most I could out of it, because there was a knobby bit right about top of my head height, so I was kneeling in the snow choked way up on axe handle, tap, tap tap.  Switch sides, tap tap tap, couple strokes with the rusty bow saw til it sticks, then the axe again.

I knew I was going to have a challenge on the back side, because the larger oak was nearly touching the base.  I had the idea to take the blade of the bow saw, and then put it on backwards with the tree between the blade and the handle.  That worked sweet!  In fact that was the easiest the saw has ever sawed!~

So, I felled the small bowed oak and then had to go back to the house for the handsaw to cut the top off the piece I wanted.  That went pretty well, too.

I headed up out of the woods with the 6 foot length of oak balanced on my shoulder and set it on the back step while I scrounged a broken axe head, a hammer, and a small chisel since I couldn't find my other chisel.

Then things got a little complicated.  Because I wanted to split it a certain way, with the curve of it, and sometimes I am just mechanically dyslexic.  And the darn thing get rolling and flopping on the deck while I was trying to eyeball the place and get the axe started . 

I finally got the axe to bite and was smacking it with the hammer trying to split it, and realized if I stood it up and stood on the deck it would go easier.  When I stood it up I realized that I was splitting it the wrong way.  Grrr.

Well, thank good I had left the knobby bit on the top end, because that was making splitting it a touch job, and I hadn't gotten very far.  Only an inch or two had started to crack, so I picked up the handsaw again and sawed that bit off and started again.

That went a lot smoother, in a few minutes I had split the length and had two pieces of oak.  One was thicker than the other, though.

After Peko and I took our walk and met the Firebird, I brought the smaller one in to my perch on the milkcrate by the woodstove because the temps were getting pretty chilly outside.  I dug out my drawknife and started peeling the bark.  I like doing that part.  In a short amount of time I had made a huge pile of curly bark shavings at my feet, on my afghani socks, and all over my lap.  I just noticed I also nicked my jeans and made a small tear.  grrr one of my better pair that actually fit, too.  oh well.

The next step was to glue or plastic wrap the ends and tie the wood to a piece of metal like a bed frame.  I slapped some ELmer's on the ends and wrapped them with wrap for good measure (I feel like I may regret that later)

I just happened to have a metal bed rail under the house, so I crawled under and grabbed that and looked in vain for another one, because I have two pieces of oak.  No luck.

Well, you know how these instructions go, "tie the oak to the metal, ends first, then run a block of wood under to flex the wood, then tie the middle down."

Sounds simple enough. 

  Well, I HAD to pick a piece of bowed wood.  Yeah.  HAHAHA I started by wiring the ends to the rail, and then tried to bring the middle in.  The wire stretched.  The rail kept rolling trying to crush my fingers.  I tried having the Firebird stand on it while I wired it, but I could not get the wire tight enough.

I finally gave up , un tied it, turned it flat side down (the directions said tie flat side out) tied the middle first and then forced each end in, and even resorted to the infamous duct tape.  I felt sort of like a sicko tying up a struggling captive. 

I think I have it well enough that when I get to tapering the ends it will work out.  I didn't mention that after I peeled it, for some reason the bow was side to side and not front to back.  So I don't know what happened there.  If it had been front to back like it was supposed to, it would have been much easier to get it down on the rail, but curved the other way it was very difficult.

So now I am going to go out and get piece number two, the fat Momma, and see how that one goes.  I guess I am going to tie it or tape it to the same rail since I could only find one rail.  I do have a crib rail outside wired to a not in use temporary goat shelter, but it is only about three feet long.

I'll see how this piece comes out and then decide. I don't want it to dry out and crack now that it is split.

Then I have to wait two weeks for them to dry, but in the meantime I will need to make a bow tiller, which I am excited to see how that will go.  The tillering of the bows, not the making of the bow tiller.

  I do wish I had better wood than that bowed piece, because it is not totally clear either.  I found a couple small black knots and am hoping they don't make weak places in the bows.  But, I don't expect to make a perfect first bow anyhow.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cabin Fever

The days start to blur together like my vision at the end of the day as I peer blearily at yet another page of some random novel as the light fades to gloom.

Those big January projects that have accumulated for years spend another winter neglected as I crouch in front of the ancient woodstove shovelling more damp wood and huffing another cigarette while trying not to ignite the latest paperback in the other hand.

The laptop has even taken up a semi permanent home a mere two feet away from the stove, waiting for pages to load on a backwoods dialup connection, kept company by a teetering stack of disintergrating cookbooks.

Butter for that days baked goods softening on the shelf behind the stove-bread, cornbread, peanut butter cookies, scones, oatmeal cookies with dates or raisins, sugar cookies. The creeping cold creating havoc with the metabolism, causing cravings for carbs, sugars and fat to remain unfullfilled no matter the volume.

Finally last week a few days cracked the freezing mark, and I emerged with the 100 foot cord and the power drill to spend several hours putting 12 taps into the nearest sugar maples.  The trees took advantage of the break in the weather, too, and every empty jug suddenly became filled with beautiful clear maple sap.  I started burying jugs of sap in the huge snow banks, no way could I keep up.  I spent two days and eight hours reducing four gallons of sap on the gas kitchen stove, the house smelling of sweet sugar.  We promptly devoured half the hot syrup on a double batch of homemade griddle cakes, mixed with jumbo fresh eggs from last spring's chics, now just starting to lay with efficiency.

All good things come to an end, another twist in the jet stream has plunged our lows around 0F and our highs won't top freezing for the foreseeable future.  The sap is frozen solid in the buried jugs, frozen in the collecting buckets, and frozen mid drip in the taps.

Even afterschool sports have come to an end for the Firebird, who participated in indoor track this winter, his first.  I think his teammates that had encouraged him to join were kicking themselves after he beat their times in high hurdles and their distances in long jump.  He qualified in all three of his events for regionals and placed well, but not enough to qualify for states. Still an amazing performance and quite an athlete.

So now he is riding the bus home in the aternoons. Not really home, since the bus drops him off a half mile down the road.  I decided that Peko and I could use the exercise to work off some of those accumulated cookies, and started hustling out the door to meet the Firebird at the end of the road.

The first day Peko and I were trucking along, well not really trucking.  Peko came to us housebroken but not exactly leash trained.  His idea of a walk has me at a half jog, until he finds somewhere interesting to sniff, and then we come to a screeching half while he manages to squeeze two or three drops of urine on whatever it was he finds worth smelling for three minutes. Then we're off again.

On this particular afternoon, we were well along the wild wood zone.  We have two neighbors between us and the end of the road- one practically next door and the other at the end of the road.  The rest of the stretch is home to the turkeys and rabbits and deer and moose and squirrels and the occasional bobcat or coyote or fox- if they have managed to escaped the locals that like to run them down with dogs.

We have very little traffic, and it is not usual to make the walk up and back without encountering any vehicles on the road.  Anyhow, I spotted a silver SUV coming towards us, and I thought it was the near neighbor, an nice older lady that I had been meaning to visit.  I peered nearsightedly at the windshield as the vehicle approached, and at the last second I realized that it was, in fact, not my neighbor, but some good-looking young man that appeared half my age. My eyes went back forward and the mismatched battered work glove on my left hand came up in the standard, "Hello stranger, I see you" greeting that I employ in such cases.

The SUV passed, and Peko and I kept going, me half jogging and stopping and proceeding until several 'have to drip pee on this spots' later, I thought I heard an aircraft overhead.  So while Peko was sniffing and trying to summon forth the obligatory drop of urine, I swiveled my head like a turkey in a rainstorm trying to locate the source of the sound.

Then I spied the silver SUV coming back towards us.  In the intervening span since it had initially passed I had realized my personal appearance.  I was wearing a pair of size 12 Kamik snow boots of the Firebird's that were so large I had to put on a pair of afghani slipper socks to keep my feet from sliding around in them.  I had on a pair of jeans I had been basically living in.  The aforementioned mismatched tattered leather work gloves.  Several rattie hoodies topped with an old navy blue goose down nylon snowcoat, which had suffered enormously from contact with bits of pasture fencing and was shedding feathers and down like a goose caught in a weedwhacker.  And my hair hadn't seen a comb and I think my head must have resembled the fur on an orange persian cat that got too friendly with the strand of christmas tree lights.

So I did what any self respecting woman would do in such circumstances, I stuffed the unruly mess of hair into one of the battered hoodies, wiped the drip forming on the end of my nose on the back of one of my gloves, turned an about face, gave Peko a yank. and kept going.

It seemed forever for the SUV to come up behind us, perhaps I was really building momentum in my horror of the situation.  I could suddenly hear the bass speakers thrumping along, and as the vehicle came abreast I hazarded a look out of the corner of my eye to see the passenger window half down and the driver leaning over.

Then I heard the music.  LEd Zeppelin, Whole Lotta Love, Robert Plant in the midst of belting out, "I just wanna make LOOOOOOVVVEEE to you!"

Well, the driver must have got a good look at my face, perhaps it was my smirk or maybe I had cookie crumbs stuck to the snot on the end of my nose, but he then accelerated to the end of the road and turned left.

I guess Cabin fever only goes so deep in February.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Happy Birthday

Funny, the Willow just looked over my shoulder and asked, "why are you on google docs?"

Because since the resumption of the school year, I have become aware of the fact that everything a child in the public school system does is part of the google enterprise, or the apple enterprise.
.docs on the Ipad.
and of course the privacy notice states that those companies can do whatever they want with the information.

Which is one of the reasons that I have become unreasonably quiet online.

But, give me enough dandelion wine and I can still recall a password and a place to run my mouth.

Dandelions picked at the height of spring, on hands and knees observed by a herd of thirty cashmere goats, their seconds.

For although the field at a distance was blaze of golden yellow, on closer inspection the blossoms were average size, the goats having taken the top choice blossoms as soon as they opened.

I think my shoulders got sunburned that day, as I crept along with the the dreaded plastic shopping bag, snap, snap, snap, the goats a few dozen yards away on the knoll chewing their own morning's accumulations of blossoms.

I may have stripped down to a bra, but can't recall as I was caught in the moment, snap, snap snap...

I hustled the blossoms home, already starting to wilt in the heat, and put them on the stove with fresh drawn spring water, orange and lemon zest and juice...blond raisins, heck, a little of this, a little of that, I tend to be a cook that flies by the seat of her pants or the cup of her bra as it were in the height of the spring solstice...

I converted gallon water jugs by melting a hole in the cap that fit the airlock...one of my knife steeles was the proper diameter after a few trial runs with various screwdrivers over the propane burner.

and they sat on the shelf for several weeks and then were racked, or siphoned off and re-jugged and topped off with more spring water...and eventually bottled in sanitized beer bottles for the winter solstice.

when they were passed out as gifts to a select few- although bottled a little late they were not quite ready at the solstice.

But now, a month later, it is summer and spring in a bottle, clear and sweet and intoxicating.

Polar vortex I moon you with my bottle of springtime,

last week we had a bit of a warming trend, a few days above freezing, and I took the opportunity to get 3-1.2 gallons of birthday beer on the brew,  3 pounds of amber malt, about a pound of corn sugar, a pound of dark crystal malt for the boil.,.1/2 ounce of goldings hops for the boil, the other half ounce for the ferment,

Huddled around the second floor stovepipe with a scabbed hot water jacket and some aluuminum flashing
(my place is cold in the winter for brewing an ale)

took off like a bast***** racked and bottled in six days and could have done it on day four..

and hoping that the prime completes in a week.

because it is called "birthday beer" and I plan on cracking it within a week.

because the dandelion wine is going fast...