Framing for the new bees

No, I’m not framing up walls so they can move in to the house here. I’m building frames for the hives that need to go to the beeyard so they’ll be ready when the new bees arrive on Wednesday. I’ve been sick most of the week, which scuttled my plans to be building frames during that time and making sure the new setups were ready to go. Such is life, though.

I also did some cleanup of bee gear, which was rather unpleasant in some cases, as I’d let frames hang out in hive bodies on the driveway until I could get to them. And I never got to them, which is how this saga happens. Both wax moths and small hive beetles love it when you do this, because it allows them to go in, undisturbed by bees, and create messes in the unprotected frames.

You can’t really see it in this image, but when you open a hive and get hit with a sickly-sweet, rotting sugar kind of smell, you’ll know there have been wax moths and small hive beetles in the box. Then you pull out a frame.

This is web and cocoons of wax moths. They like the dark comb where brood have been, and will invade it if the hive is not strong enough to fight them off or – as in this case – the hive bodies are just sitting around outside, empty.

This is a closeup of some of the crap: some webbing and dead cocoons. The larvae will eat into the wood of the frames and the hive bodies. The moths will happily go right into the carveouts the larvae have done and lay more right in them. It’s a nasty business cleaning up damaged gear and sometimes just not worth it.

Some of the frames in the hive bodies had honey in them – good honey, not honey rendered worthless and useless by small hive beetles and THEIR larvae. The bees will find the good stuff, go to the frames, chew open the capped honey, and start transferring it back to their home hive. The bad honey that has (or had) small hive beetle infestations they will not take. We also do not take it: it goes in the trash.

All those open cells that make sort of a rainbow above the bottom middle have been painstakingly chewed open by the other bees in the yard, and their content transferred just as painstakingly back to their home hives. Here’s a closeup of how ragged it looks afterward.

The edges are jagged and you can see some of the cappings inside the cells. normally, were this just a frame of honey that for whatever reason we wanted them to take – in this case, we wanted the beeswax from this rainbow area, because it was lighter in color and that is what we want for our beeswax melting – we would wait for the girls to do their thing, then put the frame into a hive. The bees would then clean this up, taking out the debris and repairing the outer edges. This frame, though, had hive beetle-contaminated honey on the other side and was trashed. On this side, I scraped the wax off into the bucket where we hold our wax that is to be melted so it can be turned into whatever it will ultimately be (lip balm, candles, and so on).

I wound up making about 60 frames today, and between that and what I’d already done pre-sickness, we are now ready to give the newbees their spaces. I have a video of some of that process on my youtube channel, and I’ll put it here in a post tomorrow.  There are videos dating back to a few years ago, before chronic pneumonia and hospitals became my besties.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Bad movie night

Some nights,  you just have to MST3K it.

My night started with Jason Bourne. I saw the first one – I’d read the book ages ago, of course, while I was in high school. And I think I saw pieces of The Bourne Ultimatum. But this. This was Tommy Lee Jones chewing through scenery, Matt Damon doing his killing machine thing, Julia Stiles dying for no good reason except as a whistleblower who for some unfathomable reason decided Bourne needed to see files, Vincent Cassel as “The Asset”, blowing away civilians left and right, and Alicia Vikander looking pretty useless and on the verge of tears most of the time. Apparently, she existed only for Tommy Lee Jones to give orders to through his clenched mouth so we know just how serious and pissed off he is, and for him to double cross her. Can’t give the protege any ideas now, can we?  For whatever reason, the director thought all the action scenes needed to be jerky, just to remind us that THIS IS AN ACTION SEQUENCE. And to give us motion sickness. Here’s a tip: if there are fires and gunfire and car chases and riots and hand to hand combat, that’s action enough. It doesn’t need any help if the action sequences are good. And mostly, they were not. Even the control room, which apparently no one left for very long, had weird camera angles and nausea-inducing transitions while they were hopping around, taking over other countries’ CCTVs, so they could find Bourne and send yet another kill team on a suicide mission to take him out. The plot, if you can call it that, was insipid, Vikander’s “remote deletion of unencrypted files on a laptop a world away from where she was” was so stupid that I actually laughed out loud, and the ending, of course, ambiguous. Where will Bourne go? Off the grid again, only to return later for revenge against the agency that took his entire life away? Let’s hope not.

The movie on after that, as it happened, was The Hunted, also a Tommy Lee Jones movie. I passed and went to The Mechanik (aka The Russian Specialist), with Dolph Lundgren as an ex-Spetnaz officer going after mobsters, revenge for the killing of his wife and child, yadda yadda. I had to look this one up, and discovered Lundgren has a degree in chemical engineering, received a Fulbright scholarship, and is in general an extremely intelligent dude. That read through of his bio was far more interesting than this dreck. It’s unfortunate his intelligence and talent were not for writing and/or directing, both of which he does here. The obligatory final standoff scene is on as I type this. Bad guys get shot but remarkably are able to stand again and fight one of the good guys, Lundgren goes off to hunt the mobster, etc. What a horrible, horrible movie this is.

It must be Dolph Lundgren night here on this channel, as the next movie up is Blood of Redemption which is about – you guessed it – a bad guy/gangster dude seeking revenge on someone who ruined his criminal empire and killed his father. Can’t wait for that one, seriously. Can’t wait. I’m sure it will be just as delightful and well-written/well-acted/well-directed as this one.

This is all background noise to maintenance I’m doing for work, along with troubleshooting peoples’ issues with apps that they can’t even give me the right username for so I can log in and see what the issue happens to be.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Prepare yourself

Squash is coming.

I’m not kidding.

A few years ago, when chronic pneumonia was not a mainstay in my life, and before a swallow test showed why, I grew squash of both the green (zucchini) and yellow (yellow) kind. The problem with squashes, as anyone with a garden knows, is that they are sneaky little bastards. You’ll go through a picking session, ooh and aah and marvel over how one seed – one seed! – can produce such abundance.

Squash and zucchini April 29, 2015

This can lull you into a state of mind where you are not as alert as you could be.

As you should be.

Because – again, as anyone who gardens and plants squashes know – you will miss some.

“Wait, Captain, what do you mean ‘miss them’? How could you possibly miss any?”

Sneaky little bastards is how: they play Jedi mind tricks and your gaze slides right over them in search of the next fruit to pick. This is not just for squash, mind you: the same thing happens with okra, among other things. But squashes are in a category unto themselves and are by far the tops at this game.

So, you overlook some. Some, you think, might need another day or two to get to the proper length, but then you get busy, perhaps with the bees, and before  you know it, it’s been four days, and you have to steel yourself to go back out to the plants, wondering if any have attained sentience and are awaiting your arrival to ambush you. What you find is a collection of squash that varies in size from “decent, normal eating” to “small child”.

Zucchini and squash May 22, 2015

It may be difficult to put this into context, given that there is no true frame of reference for the upper part of this scale. Allow me to assist.

Giant zucchini, small child, May 2015

The harvest size is so large, it can in fact comfortably seat two small children, and probably three.

Giant squash and two small children gnawing on raw okra pods, May 2015

Why do I sound the alarm bell? The zucchini plants – two of which made it out of four seeds sown – are putting out the beginning of their flowers. The yellow squash, however, always earlier, and very prolific, are coming on. Fast.

Squash, May 2018

This was yesterday. Tomorrow, they will all be another inch longer, at least. It isn’t quite visible from this angle, but this plant has SIX in bloom squash forming. There are five yellow squash plants. While I know everyone thinks math is a waste of time in school, in gardening and farming there is very real math, and you should know it.

Especially if you grow squash.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

Attack of the scum

So yesterday I had to give in and go to the doc. Pneumonia, ruled out. Ear infection(s), ruled out. Sinus….bingo. The stuff that can come out of your face is remarkable in the collection of colors it takes on when you’re ill.  Probably should have gone sooner, but I hate waiting around in medical offices, even though they’re like a second home to me now. And I also hate antibiotics because of their – how to put this delicately? – rather deleterious effects on the gastro system. But that’s where we are.

The interesting thing about this is the weird drug interaction effects I’m having. I took all my meds with a feed – everything goes down the tube – and about five minutes later I felt stranger than I’ve ever felt on meds. In my mind, I imagine this may be what those folks back in the 60s felt when experimenting with various narcotics. In the here and now, it made me a bit of a zombie. On the plus side, I am catching naps here and there, thanks to it all, which is good since I’m an insomniac and every little bit helps.

Today’s goal: a shower. Simple. It will probably sap all my energy, but that’s what feeds are for. I’m a little pissed because my plans had been to transplant the rest of the seedlings from their flats, as it is WAY past time for that, but I just don’t have it together enough at the moment. So, maybe another day of not doing much of anything will prove to be what I need.

I know this one was supposed to be done yesterday, but eh, life called and wouldn’t stop yammering. You know the type.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Moonshot

No, I am not building rockets in my back yard to take me into space for a quick trip to the moon (although I would, in a heartbeat, climb aboard a capsule on top of a rocket to get to the ISS).

I finally got a new camera to replace my old Fuji, my “pocket” camera. Its age is showing. I picked up a Canon PowerShot SX730 and it is fantastic.

Here’s a longer shot. Jupiter is to the right and up from the moon.

I’m quite pleased with it: the zoom is excellent, as is the micro function, and those are the two things I use most often aside from standard mode when I am doing some photography.

Just a quick one tonight. I’ve been working out in the sun all day, getting  some rows ready for the rest of the transplants from the barn. My goal this week: get them all out into their homes for the season. I’m hoping to be able to get that done in just a couple of days. Naturally, I will be back to tell you all about it.

Until then, peeps: look to the skies. Be well.

 

Reading

I’m sure people already know this, but I’m a voracious reader, and always have been. Throughout high school and even after graduation, I was deep into science fiction and fantasy even more. For a time after high school, I thought I would write fantasy. I had ideas for stories to tell in the worlds I’d created. I started a few, but never finished, and gradually drifted away from that realm and into mysteries.

We had a bunch of Agatha Christie’s work in the house when I grew up, John B. McDonald, Robert Ludlum, Robin Cook, etc. – the spectrum of the mystery/thriller genre. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized those were the kinds of books I really wanted to write: puzzles. I love puzzles and always have, and ruminating on things now, I realize that every piece of literature really is a mystery at heart.

Will the lovers in that romance novel finally be together at the end? Or will they meet some tragic ending, like Romeo and Juliet in their play? Will the crime be solved? Or will it go cold, waiting for the right person to pick up the case? Will the main character in that literary novel find the thing they are seeking, whether it is a lost relative or a greater understanding of themselves or the world at large?

I’ve read two books in two days, both with series characters, and both the first book in their respective series. I do like to find series, because you (usually) get to see the evolution of the characters over time. The first series is by Steve Hamilton, and features Alex McKnight. The second is from  William Kent Kreuger and features Cork O’Connor. Both series are set in the upper Midwest. I’d say I recommend both, and although both had first novels in the series that were good, I like to hold on to recommendations just in case things go horribly awry deeper in, frustrating me for having to go find another character to read about. And of course, it reminds me that anyone can write and get through the process.

Now – over a span of decades “now” –  my head is filled with ideas for mystery/thriller novels, featuring various characters. I struggle with writing their stories, the little niggling self doubt creeping in, trying to convince me I am not now and never will be a good writer, thanks a douchebag from my younger past. I tell myself his voice is not one I should listen to, because my adult self sees the egotism, insecurity, and manipulation are his failings, not mine. It’s difficult to shut out that voice, but I am resolved to kick that asshole to the curb and write the things I know I can, and that people want to read (as I’ve had people tell me they want the rest when I give them samples). I can do this. And I can say to others who have gone through similar experiences: WE can do this. it is possible. And what could be more satisfying than showing the ghosts from our pasts that we did what they said we could not?

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Me against the lima beans

I am not a fan of lima beans. Never have been. Never will be – especially now, for reasons I’ll get into in a post down the road somewhere kind of soon.

Despite some attempts by people to disguise lima beans by calling them butter beans, the fact remains that they are still lima beans, and thus unworthy of appreciation by me as an eater.

However.

There are these weirdo people in my family who like them. A lot. Particularly in my mother’s Brunswick stew – which has, among its numerous ingredients, some of my pulled pork in it!

But back to these beans. I’m a big fan of other beans: navy beans, black beans, pinto beans, black eyed peas, kidney beans, garbanzos. Beans! Lot of beans!

Not limas. There’s just something about the way they smell and taste that makes me want to barf. It ranks slightly below liver as a never-ever-ever food for me. Just because I won’t eat them, though, does not mean I won’t grow them for others. Or try to, anyhow.

Because limas are a lot like corn for me, for some reason, except instead of being overrun by armyworms, the limas just don’t do…..anything.

The first year I grew limas at the ranch, I picked a pole bean variety. Easy, right? Same as black-eyed peas. Throw them in the ground, get the trellis up, and basically forget them until they’re ready to go. That variety produced a lot of greenery, but not a lot of flowers, and just a handful of pods. The next couple of years, I tried bush varieties. These flowered like mad, but never produced anything. I never got around to them the past couple of years because I was sick almost constantly, but this year I found two more bush varieties and decided to give them a go. Again.

They’ve germinated. Again. We’ll just have to wait and see if they give us – or, rather, the people who eat these yucky beans – a bountiful harvest. In the frame on the left, both rows are limas. In the frame on the right, sugar snap peas and green beans – neither of which I view as anything other than delicious.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Welcome to spring, Florida style

Finally.

We’ve had a bit of unsettled weather here at the ranch – Mother Nature has been a tad ambivalent about letting our “winter” go. Overall, it was a mild winter, with only a handful of overnight freezes, and if I ever get a greenhouse up, even those won’t matter. How mild was it, overall? So mild that these guys were all over the place at the end of December.

He and his pals vanished to wherever it is they hide out during cold weather a short bit later, as January brought with it not just a freeze, but sleet/freezing rain at a time it is normally dry here.

While that didn’t last long, it surely did make for some fine pictures: icy pines above, my iced over pear tree below.

Usually, I start the flats in the barn under the lights just after the first of the year. I’ve found, though, that the seedlings tended to get a bit leggy even with the lights right over them, and they were definitely getting rootbound before I’d be able to plant them out after two months in. The transplant date was also kind of iffy: do we go with our “official” last frost date for this area, which is around my birthday in March? Take a chance as I did several years ago and kick the seedlings out of the barn in early March, hoping there will be no surprises? Or do I change the entire thing?

Of course, it’s the latter: I started the flats in February this year, and just started putting out the seedlings over the past week and a half. I also waited to direct sow the other crops until April. That gut instinct turned out to be the right one: we had ourselves some random overnights right near freezing at the end of March, and some coolish temps in early April that would not have been all that great for germination of the directly sowed items beyond the shelling peas (and even half of those croaked because a few days later it was 87F before returning to milder temps).

Speaking of germination: for the first time ever here at the ranch, we have had 100% germination of all the tomatoes and peppers. It is astonishing: 274 tomato plants, and  227 peppers. I also have assorted brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.) and those appear to be at 100%, but let’s face it, the stars of the gardens are tomatoes and peppers, by far. This is also about the time of year I usually decide to tilt at my personal windmill and try corn (again), but I’ve decided to let that be this year and not deal with it.

Meanwhile, the blueberries, which I’d basically ignored and which I had not cut back, as “they” say should be done, are coming along nicely. I noticed the first blooms at the end of February, and at the end of March, even through some weird, drastically changing temps, it had started forming berries,

And now, we’re here in April. Lots of tomatoes and peppers in the rows, the directly sown zucchini and squash plants are nice and big, and they are now beginning to flower and form fruit, going from this

To this

In just five days.

Things are looking up at the ranch.

One other programming note: I was doing pretty well a couple of months ago, writing up something every day. Then life intruded at some point and once again, I did not see it through. This time, however, I am: I will post something, every day. It may just be a picture of something and a few words. It may be a recap of what’s going on in the gardens or with the bees. It may be about tech. Or it may just be ruminations on things. Whatever the case may be, the discipline to do this will help feed the discipline of writing every day on the novel side of my world, which has also suffered from my neglect.

No more.  I don’t need anyone’s approval, I don’t need to care what people may think, I don’t need to worry about failure – this is one of my worst fears – and I don’t need to worry about anything else in this world beyond calming my mind, focusing on the story I’m telling, and then tell it: write it straight through, without going back to edit until the work is complete. I hope my handful of readers, whoever you may be, will be watching my journey through all this, but even if you aren’t, I still have an audience of me, and sometimes that is (and has to be) what carries me through.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

 

Reflections on gardening, cooking, and life