Tag Archives: bees

The big C and its effect on the human body

Well, rancherinos, it’s been another glorious week of remembering the always-there aftereffects of a couple of bouts of cancer and the attending treatment (namely, chemo and radiation) that churn up in the wake of that horrible ship that passes through your life.

This past week – technically, last weekend, I suppose – I started feeling a bit “off” and then got a horrid, watery cough, and then started coughing up some crap out of my face and we decided it was xray time. My back to school gift was apparently a raging case of pneumonia. Everybody else got pencil boxes (does anyone remember those?) and I got this. Rip off.

Still, I saw my doctor, I got an xray, and I got my antibiotics without spending a dime: thanks to February’s adventure, I blasted through my out of pocket limit before this year really got rolling, and that’s a good thing, since this is the third serious bout of pneumo, two of which involved hospital stays.

What have I been up to? Beyond hauling myself out to feed the bees and working, not much. I have definitely been doing nothing to clean up the gardens, which are desperate to be cleaned, because one, it’s way too hot here right now, two, my energy reserves just are not back to where they need to be, and three, did I mention it’s fucking hot? It is. I’ve also not been writing much even though the attitude is there to do it – fighting off things that make you cough almost uncontrollably every ten minutes, which then take you another five to recover from are not really conducive to that. It’s made worse by coughing fits that threaten to swell the throat, and with someone with an already limited opening, can cause a tinge of panic that there’s going to have to be a 911 call in there somewhere. Fortunately, I’ve been concentrating on staying calm after the fit passes and letting things get back to as normal as they can be.

On the plus side, I’ve been reading more books this year, and just finished one that made so little sense, plot-wise, and took away from a series character everything that made him what he is right up to that book, that I almost didn’t finish it. But I did because I am apparently a glutton for punishment. I’m now back to the Lucas Davenport series by John Sandford (currently reading #11), which I left off late last year because it was time for a break from that series. I’m having a hard time finding another series to have on my list that I would like to read – the ultra-jingoistic right wing nutjob novels are not my thing, and some series I found intriguing only have a couple of books in them, which I could read in a day – I read incredibly quickly, which is why libraries were always my thing when I was young and why Kindle Unlimited is fantastic for me now: I can read quite a number of books without bankrupting myself.

The downside to Kindle Unlimited is while there are tons of bad self-published books out there in general, KU is absolutely a giant mountain of them. This is not a ding against self-publishing. It’s where I’ll be starting at first because I don’t want to wait out the usual timeframe it takes to find an agent, and then for that agent to find a publisher, and then for that publisher to get the goods out the door. Do I want some traditionally-published work at some point? Sure, why not. They have budgets and editors and cover designers and PR people that I do not. But if I can show an agent/a publisher that I have a track record and a platform (I hate that fucking term, let me tell you), I think that would help in getting to the traditional route.

College football started today, in the same way restaurants have soft openings: a handful of games, spread throughout the day, not a whole lot of gotta-see games, although OR State versus CO State turned from a neck and neck game into an obliteration by COST thanks to turnovers by ORST.  Later tonight: Stanford (ranked team) versus Rice, from Australia.

And lastly, the weight thing: I’ve been trying to put on some weight in order to improve my overall quality of life and increase my “reserve” (as the medical people say) and to get the feeding tube removed, and have been pounding that as much as I can. I’m now hovering around 100 pounds, something I consider not too bad, considering that I left the hospital back in February at 92 pounds.

Today? Raining, off and on, making it a lousy day to get things done outside even if I were able to do it. Nope, hanging out, doing work stuff, reading in the breaks, and right now getting a shake and coffee down the hole in my face to keep those intake calories going.

So there we have it, folks. Battles being fought between the evil forces of infection who want to kill me and the white hat of modern pharmacology. Seems to me the good guys are once again winning this round.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Lovey, lovey

Checked up on the girls today. It was a (mostly) good day for them to be flying off, foraging for nectar. Usually, this time of year is a real dearth for the bees: it’s too hot, not enough rain, and nothing is blooming. This year, though, we’ve had quite a bit of rain, and it hasn’t run up to 100F+ every single day for weeks at a time as it has in the past.

They’re doing nicely, although I believe one hive may have gone queenless. I stole a frame with capped brood, larvae, and eggs, and put it in that box, and hopefully they will go about their business of making a new queen. As we head toward fall, we will have another nectar flow – one good thing about Florida that  counteracts at least some of Florida Man’s escapades.

In other news, another item to restore your faith in humanity(ish). Lovebirds who have a genetic condition that causes them to lose their feathers. Not only is this video aww-worthy, you can really see the dinosaur ancestors of these little birds.

Lovebirds video

Nice things

Time for more restoring your faith in humanity (RYFIH), rancherinos.

After that scumbag nazi crap up in VA, we could all use some happynicetime, I think.

Today I went out to the beeyard early to feed the bees and check up on a couple to see if they needed another box. It was mostly sunny, and they were waking up, stretching, and getting ready to go about their day, so they were only mildly ticked to have me stomping around and checking them out. There are a couple of them lagging behind their sister hives in growth, but the season is long here, and there is time for them to get to a comfortable size before “winter” comes.

Speaking of bees….honey! It’s a nice division of labor: the bees make the honey. I manage the bees to make sure they’re healthy, fed through the dearth, and are otherwise ok through the year. When it’s time, I pull honey off the bees and bring it out of the yard and into the garage for processing. My sister does most of the uncapping and extraction (when it’s a big pull, we both do some uncapping and get the frames into the extractor). We let the extractor do its work – I have to say here that the larger, motorized extractor is one of the better purchases I’ve made, and has already paid for itself in time – and get the extracted honey into buckets. From there, mom is the primary  bottler of the honey. We had a bit of an issue with the gate on one bucket leaking, so had to transfer the batch into another bucket.

Lovely, dark honey

Next task, after letting the honey sit for awhile to let any bubbles (and pollen) come to the top: bottling.

Before you know it, you have a bunch of bottles to label and sell:

Pure, raw honey

We do not pasteurize our honey. It’s raw, strained only through a medium coarse strainer to catch things like wax and dead bees, while allowing any pollen through and into the jar. Best honey on earth! (Or at least our little part of it.)

That’s it for now, in another post that has taken two days to write. Until next time, peeps, be well.

 

Pictures, we got pictures

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time right now to post them. But today – a day that was supposed to be all rain, all day, turned into another bum forecast for this area. The large mass of heavy storms burned themselves out before they got to us. We did get about 0.15 inches of rain today, which is just enough to be annoying: can’t mow, can’t work on pulling weeds (because getting all the soil off the roots is a pain), can’t work with the bees, and so on.

It was, though, an excellent day for having my niece and nephew over while my sister took care of a few things, and during a break in the rain we did have, we picked some muscadine grapes from the vine in the herb garden. I also found some caterpillars on the foliage. At first, in my addled, needs-much-more-sleep brain, I thought, hey, monarchs! Then I reminded myself they only use milkweed, which this was not, and their caterpillars have no hairs, as these did. We finally identified them with some help from Stacy (thanks!) as grapeleaf skelentonizer caterpillars – an entirely apt name, because that’s exactly what they do to the leaves on the grapevines. The adult moth they  morph into is ugly, too. I counted 15, mostly young ones. Tomorrow, I’ll go on caterpillar patrol and kill them all.

The first round of peppers I harvested the other day is in and drying. By tomorrow morning, they will be fully dried, and I’ll start round two. Given the shape the plants and fruits are in, there will only be two rounds this time. Tomorrow, my sister is coming over, and we will pull the pepper plants that have been chewed away/damaged to nothing, along with the squash and zuke plants the bugs got to. We did manage to get some yellow squash off early from those, and they were delicious. Inattention, however, allows the bugs to take over and destroy things. If only some bright person would come up with a commercially viable solution for leaf-footed bugs and stinkbugs, they’d make a fortune.

Very early this morning, I went to the doc for my annual checkup, even though I had just seen him two weeks ago. All my bloodwork is normal, except for a couple of items that are slightly out of normal range, but not so far out that they’re problematic. Xrays are good, scans are good, and on paper, if someone just looked at these results, they’d pronounce me in fine health indeed. And that, of course, is what I tell people: outside this cancer business (fuck you, cancer!), I’m healthy as a horse – healthier, actually, than most people. I did talk to him about my right shoulder, which I’ve either torn the rotator cuff or the labrum in, most likely. I’m fairly sure I did this months ago, and it’s progressively gotten worse, but I have ha so many things going on this year, it’s taken a seat behind all that. Now, though, it’s time, and it will probably take an mri to figure out what the problem is. Interesting note: my referral to an ortho doc happens to be to the brother of the doc who handled my radiation oncology work back in 2005 for the first cancer round. He also surgically repaired my primary doc’s rotator cuff injury, so he’s definitely the guy I want.

Tomorrow, we are planning to do some honey extraction – about 10 frames, I believe, that I pulled off the bees in the west yard. I really need to do a full round of inspections on the girls, and tomorrow I also need to feed them, as I’m behind a day on that.

And now, it’s back to tame the helldesk, get that cleared, and eventually tonight, get some sleep that is better than last night’s, which was atrocious even for my baseline of sleep habits.

Until next time, peeps. Be well.

Calling the season

After much thought – thinking on it for days and days, really – I decided to call it a season, garden-wise. I didn’t want to, and it pains me greatly to technically classify this as another lost season (i.e., a failure), but there has simply been far too many things going on, and I haven’t been well enough to keep on top of it.  I’ve elected to not do another round of tomatoes and cukes, as I had planned, and in fact, will not be doing any new rounds of anything at all, even brassicas like broccoli and cauliflower, which are much easier to maintain as they have fewer pests than other plants.

The peppers are doing well, as are the squash, so those will stay until they have run their course, because harvesting those and processing them is not terribly onerous, although it is time consuming to dry the chiles so they can be stored until the end of the season, nature-wise, in order to grind them into their respective powders.

There are two factors at work here: one, of course, and as my handful of readers know, is my health. I am still recovering from the rounds of pneumonia, and I have a lump on my neck no one seems to know what to do with. I also desperately need to gain some weight, which is a difficult task for me even under normal conditions. Thus far, every gain I’ve made this season is knocked back by work in the gardens – a vicious circle that has to be stopped if I’m ever to gain back even a fraction of what I’ve lost since last November through the various illnesses. When I’m healthy, of course, my body is not trying to burn calories to heal and burn calories for the grunt work that are the gardens here at the ranch. That double whammy is too stressful on my system, and beyond just gaining back weight, puts the removal of this feeding tube further out of reach.

The second factor? Time. I already gave up on the social media time sinks, just popping on to twitter briefly now and again, freeing up large chunks of time. But this season in the gardens, it has been taking me twice as long to do the things that are necessary and second nature to me than they do when I am healthy: I tire more easily, and since my lungs in particular have taken a beating, I can’t catch my wind well, as we say down here. For those of you not well versed in Southern-ese, it means I have a hard time catching my breath during exertion. Thus, the time that has gone into doing all the things that need to be done in the gardens, from starting and maintaining flats, to transplanting, to weeding, to bug patrol has skyrocketed, eating into time I need for other things.

So, the plan: the tomatoes are history, beaten down by too much rain in June, and too much pest and weed burden. Those plants will be pulled for the compost heap and the frames stripped of weeds. The frames where I had cukes and beans will be stripped, weeded, and covered as well. Where we don’t have commercial weedblock already in place, we’ll be putting down heavy mil black plastic to solarize the frames and kill off whatever still lurks in the top inches of the soil – pests and weeds both. The rows of tomatoes have weedblock in place, so will just need covering in the places the holes were punched for the plants.

When the peppers and squash have run their course, those plants will be pulled for the compost pile as well. The rows where the peppers are plants have weedblock, so it will simply be a matter of covering those holes as with the tomatoes. The asparagus rows need to be weeded, but those will not be covered; instead, we’ll use thick layers of straw there, to try to keep the weeds down. Ditto for the strawberries.

And so the rows will lie fallow this season, giving them a break from the constant use we’ve had going for the past however many years. In a month or so, we’ll pull back the cover, and put in some soil-feeding crop – some vetch, oats and winter peas is a good combination that I’ve used before, and I may put in some buckwheat and perhaps some clover as well. After those come up solidly, I’ll cut them off at the soil line, leave the cuttings right in place, and cover the rows up once more, letting it all die off. Before the spring, we’ll pull the covers back, top off the rows with soil and manure, and cover them once again. The rows where we only have plastic down we’ll swap out for weedblock right before transplanting begins. The rows that have bowed out sides from the pressure of soil have to be righted and braced better; that’s a cool weather job, as the edges have to be dug away so the sides can be returned to vertical and braced.

The time I’d otherwise spend in the gardens this season will instead go into the writing bank. I’ve been planning to work on this first book (of about 20, now) in my head since last year’s NaNoWriMo in November, but that got thrown out the window by illness and a bout with pancreatitis (note: the latter is painful as hell). So, I said, “I’ll start in December.” That also was derailed for the same reasons (note again: pancreatitis is a bitch!). I’d lost about 15 pounds over those two months, and headed into January swearing that 2017 would be better, and I’d be able to work on my writing. Enter the pneumonias, the surgeries, the ongoing issue with my neck, the further weight loss, and the time eating monster all of that created when I wanted to get the gardens going this year. The result: a big fat zero on the writing front.

I figure that by next year, when it’s time to get the gardens going once more, I will have regained some weight, which will help the overall health issues, especially when it comes to help keep something like pneumonia from landing me in a hospital bed with IVs in my arms, because my body will be in a better position to help fight stuff like that instead of trying to fight that sort of thing with little to no reserves available. That will also make keeping up the gardens not carve out huge chunks of time and instead return that to the more normal work time I associate with the gardens, leaving pools of time available for writing. This is the goal I’m working toward, and I do believe it is, ultimately, an attainable goal.

My next step from here is to continue to try to adjust my schedule properly in order to get the novel work done first thing in the mornings. Without the worries and constant “I shoulds” intrusions, about the gardens, my mind be free of the stress and guilt over that, which will help my mindset on the writing front. I’ll still be writing here, too, of course, as this writing supports other writing and vice versa. It all also helps continue building and reinforcing the habit of writing on a daily basis: mornings for the main work in progress, afternoons for things like blogging, fleshing out the ideas that pop into my head for other novels, working on poems, and so on.

So that’s the plan, peeps. I hope you’ll continue to follow along for my musings – even if I’m not working gardens this year, I’ll still be thinking/writing about the things that we will be doing out there this year, my thoughts about what to plant next year (and where and why), and of course I’ll still be working my bees.

Until next time, peeps. Be well.

 

Plans, we got ’em

This weekend: probably more on this server thing, but thankfully that is coming to a close, at least as far as our involvement goes.

Other plans: pepper picking time! The cayennes and paprikas are nice and red  – I noticed while getting some mowing time in. That means harvesting, washing, splitting, and drying. It also means a house full of the smell of drying peppers, which is usually not that bad, although there are times when the smell – of that or any other food – is nauseating to me.

I’ll also be making broccoli cheese soup, because I am getting kind of tired of shakes and formula. If things (like my back) hold up, I might even make some cheesy potato soup (with crispy ham!) as well.

And another trip to the NOC, to set up a machine for someone who is upgrading his existing server to a big dog machine, so that is one ray of sunshine in an otherwise shitty and even more sleep deprived than usual week.

On a completely other note, meteorology really is one of the few jobs that you can be consistently wrong and still have a job. Today’s forecast: no rain, at all. Literally, a 0% forecast. Then a nice cell rolled right over us and brought about .2 inches of rain. Not a lot, and better than none.

Also on the menu for this weekend: taking stock of my sad, sad tomatoes, seeing what can be recovered, going through my seeds and finding some short maturity varieties to start another flat, and, of course, weeding. The weeds are not as bad in the frames where we’ve gotten the plastic or the weedblock down, but the edges are a nightmare because of the bowing of the frame edges (to be fixed in the fall, because that’s a heavy duty job). It’s also time to feed the bees again: the other day, I added additional brood boxes to two of them, so they are making progress.

Right now: more database wrangling, and then a brief stop for a nap before getting back up and doing more.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

The plan was

To write. Because it’s time to, as Neil Gaiman says, make good art.

I’d been moving sites around as we retire older servers, and finally got to bed this morning somewhere between 4 and 4:30. A few hours later, I get a notice to my phone about a customer server. Nothing is responding. I try to log in, get a login incorrect error. Huh, that’s weird, the client is unlikely to have changed the password without telling us. I try it again, same deal. Well, hell.

So by 7:30, I’m up and around and chatting to the client, and something very bad has happened – I won’t go into details except to say it is something so bad it makes your heart stop. The plans to write this morning and perhaps a second, smaller session this afternoon? Gone.

Off to the NOC to do some recovery on this client’s server. Spend a large number of hours reviewing the damage. Build a new machine because all his sites have to be transferred off the existing one. Deal with other client stuff throughout.

Finally, I’m shot at about 2-3 AM or somewhere in there. Crash out, wake up again at 7:30 (I am now typing this on Monday, the next day here), realize I have to go get blood drawn to check various things, drive out to the hospital (again) where I was in the ER back in February to get my records for that visit, as two previous requests to relay those records to Mayo resulted in the records not being sent because they didn’t have my fax although the transmission was good, then the records not being sent because the form I hand delivered to them, in person, wasn’t done (and a bonus: they lost my form and couldn’t find it when we called asking them where the records were), and then to Publix to pick up my meds.

Off I go right out the door, because the bloodwork has to be fasting. Do all of these things today, and I am back, in my chair, at my desk, at 10:50. That is not bad at all, and shows that focused work can be truly productive – and those tasks involved other people, as well. I wonder how much writing I could get done in three hours without people (real people, anyway) being involved in things I need to get done.

Sine we’re still dealing with this server, and some defacements of pages, and because I had to mow beeyard #1 as it hasn’t been mowed in three weeks, and because I needed to feed the bees and add a second brood box to one hive, and because work has been a steady drip, drip drip of things going wrong for people, no writing today. In fact, right now I am very sleepy, and if I didn’t have to transfer this guy’s sites off his server to the new box, I’d probably go hit the sack for a bit. I actually may not do that immediately, but run something that I won’t go into detail about, and then transfer the sites after that.

Now, I wait for something else to finish on that server, and I have titles popping in to my head, so I’m writing those down. Something productive in the writing arena after all! And the day has been productive otherwise, even if it seems like treading water.

Treading is better than sinking, though.

More later, peeps. Be well.

Hotties

No, not those kinds of hotties, you pervs – get your mind out of the gutter!

I’m referring to this sort:

This was just before 3 PM local time, with a temp of 93F and a heat index of 110F. You know that phrase “It isn’t the heat, it’s the humidity.”? This week has matched that phrase. This morning I popped out to the beeyard to check a few hives to see who needed a second brood box and to generally make sure there were a good number of bees and stores in those hives. At that time, about 9:30 AM, it was already 84F with a heat index of 92F. I was so soaked with sweat when I came in I had to change all my clothes. It was like wearing a swimsuit, and I had to peel all my clothes off my body, they were that soaked – including my socks.

But that’s ok. This is Florida, after all, and while some days are not all that pleasant, I expect this, and I chose to live here. Making it through the summers is my version of climbing Everest: how far can I push myself without keeling over?

I rolled out of bed at about 7:30 this morning, and this is what greeted me:

Foggy morning at the ranch, which turned into a burner of a day. It all burned off by the time I went out to the bees, and then Mother Nature did her thing by bringing the heat.

The gardens are still a work in progress, and there is still more work to be done. However, each year, I keep refining the processes out there, and I think next year will be even better because of the changes I have in mind. That refinement is what I’m trying to do in other areas of life as well, from outdoor work to the helpdesk where a new user accused us of selling his email address to spammers. He had registered a domain, and naturally, since WHOIS information is public, and the spammers watch new domain registrations, he started getting spammed. He also told us this was “very unprofessional”. I counted backwards from five, then pointed this fact out to him and offered to use our masking info for the domain, so that we would get the spam and the phone calls. He took up that offer. Problem solved, and for me, no being pissed off because of the rudeness some people shoot our way for no reason.

I’ve now posted to the blog here daily since the 24th. It’s a start, and helps me get into the groove of making writing a habit. It occurred to me that I wasn’t making writing one of my top priorities, being too busy with the business, doctor visits, and so on. I made the decision to make it a priority, just as the business, my gardens, and my bees are. I had started a web site as a hobby type of thing, tracking deaths in any given week, I realized that was a major timesink, since I had to pick from the lists, then go do research to build the short blurb I’d give to each. That one had to go, because it took away time I wanted to assign over to my writing instead.

There’s another major shift I made that freed up a ton of time. But that’s a story for tomorrow.

Be well, peeps, and I’ll blather more at you soon.

Where there’s a will

The thing about owning old-style crafted anything – like desks, for instance – is that when it comes to repair and you don’t have a full woodworking studio and all the tools that come with it, sometimes you have to improvise.

One of the drawers has been sticking, badly, and I finally got fed up with it tonight. I unloaded it and found the sides of the drawer were bowing out of their joints at the front. There are no nails or screws in the construction of the drawers except in the handles: the sides were simply groove cut in a tight fit and glued. So, to get them back in order, I brought out my handy wood glue. On a tangent here,I also use the glue on the joints of the bee frames when I’m building those, as well, to supplement the staples, as the bees propolize everything and the top joints get the most pressure when you’re trying to get them out for inspection. Tangent over.

I reglued the joints and then used some heavy things I happen to have around instead of going outside for (wet) bricks. Books, of course. After this dries, I’ll turn it over to do the other side, using the same weights. There’s a notch toward the front so a metal frame for folders can be placed, but the frame joints are 1/4 inch, and the notches are slightly smaller than that – no doubt this is what has caused the tops portions of the sides of the drawer to lose their grip and not seat firmly in their joints. Luckily, I do have a 1/4 inch wood chisel to open those notches just a hair in order to get the metal frame to sit evenly.

Once this is repaired, it won’t be such an ordeal to get the drawer open and then closed once more, and that is a Good Thing.

 

Hello, sports fans

It’s been awhile, yes. A big thank you to Damian, who noticed I had a script kiddie “hack” the site – not a hack per se, just a defacement, like a tagger on a building wall more than anything else, but annoying. If you’re running WordPress, you need to update to 4.7.2. This is pretty much their equivalent of a hair on fire announcement.

“WordPress 4.7.2 is now available. This is a security release for all previous versions and we strongly encourage you to update your sites immediately.”

So, thanks to Damian, I cleared out that defaced post and got this here blawg, plus the others I maintain, updated.

Speaking of updates, what’s been happening at the ranch? A bunch of things, bleeding over from the suckage that was 2016. Last year was rather a horrible one from every single angle: professional, personal, ranch. I was sick off and on most of the year, and late in the year I found a big lump on the right side of my neck. Those of you who have followed me know that the cancer back in 2005 was on the left side of my neck. This thing ballooned up so big that it finally burst – or, as the doctors say, “spontaneously drained”. There’s a very hard lump in there, surrounded by infection. At this time, since I have kept draining it (which is disgusting) it is much more contained at the moment, but still painful.

After five months, we are now heading toward surgery to remove it. Tomorrow. We’re not entirely sure ow long that will take, since even with multiple types of scans,  they can’t quite tell how large it is or how deeply it goes. We’ll see tomorrow – well, they will, and they’ll let me know afterwards. They have a 23-hour “observation period” which means I will be stuck in hospital overnight, dangit. No day surgery for this one, because, as I mentioned, there’s no way to tell how deep it is or how much they will have to cut if the pathologist says there’s something there and the margins are not clean. That means I’ll be hauling my laptop up and leeching off the hospital’s wifi, which should be at least marginally better than the sucktastic ISP I have now.

So what happened in 2016?  Pneumonia a couple of times, for one. General grue some others, including when my sister came back to the US for a visit, bringing whatever German germs they have over there. The garden was a disaster, since one of the times I was quite ill was around Memorial Day, when things are starting to go full blast in the gardens. I was sick for a couple of weeks, managed to keep the bees fed, and that was about it: everything else spiraled out of control for the most part. We had no significant harvest as we’ve had in years past, and only a handful of tomatoes.

(Insert four days here, as I did not finish this post on the eve of surgery on my neck. Surgery: done. Recovery: continuing. No hospital stay: hooray!)

At the end of the year, I go this lump thing going, and in the bee yard, I lost 20 – yes, 20 – hives.  I think some of that was due to the incredible weird weather we had deep into the year. In October, we were still seeing temps in the 80s, the queens had not been shut down by their respective bees, so they wanted to swarm and had to be split. I suppose I could have just continued to pile brood boxes on them, but I don’t think it would have made a difference in how things turned out: there simply would not have been enough bees to cover all of the brood as the 80-degree days suddenly snapped to low 70s and the overnights to 40-ish, in exactly the same way a swarm or split would not have enough bees for the same thing.

Another problem: absconding. I hesitate to call it colony collapse disorder, although at least three I know fit the conditions: plenty of food and pollen, no masses of dead bees, and the queen left behind with a tiny group of young bees. As in plenty of cases I’ve read about, there didn’t seem to be any problems inside the hive at all. They were healthy, not overly burdened by mites, beetles, or other pests, and then one day they were just gone. One, in fact, disappeared in the course of a day: I’d checked the hive the day before, and the next day, poof! No bees.

It’s disheartening, to say the least, when you’ve busted your ass on 100+ degree days taking care of the hives only to find them gone. A few of the hives had dwindled to almost nothing and were holding their own, but eventually got robbed out by other, stronger, hives. That, too, is strange: the strong hives had plenty of stores, so didn’t need the piddly amounts that were in the weaker hives, and in one case, didn’t have anywhere to really store that excess anyway. It’s an odd life, taking care of bees.

One thing I tried in late 2016 was in-frame feeders. They take the place of one or two frames in a hive body, depending on what size body you’re running in the yard. These have a cap and ladder system that is supposed to allow the bees to go down and gather up the syrup the frames are filled with and crawl back up without drowning. I know a lot of people use them. They’ve had great success. The migratory keepers use them a lot. What I got? A bunch of drowned bees in some, and in other hives, a ton of drowned bees. I pulled every single one out of the hives. While they are convenient, holding a gallon (or two) of sugar syrup to reduce the number of times you have to make syrup and refill, the tradeoff in dead bees did not work for me. If I have to hump 50 jars out for feeding when it’s necessary, then that’s what I’ll do. Lesson learned, in that those types of feeders are not for my beeyard.

This year, I’ll be rebuilding the beeyard. I picked up four nucs from Jester’s down in Mims – almost two and a half hours from here, one way, and it was funny driving back two and half hours with the back of the car humming. All of those are doing great, as they should. Nucs, for those not in the know, are smaller versions of hives. They usually have five frames, with brood, honey, and pollen. The queen is in the box with her bees, and when you get them home, ideally you should swap them over into regular hive bodies. When I returned home that day, it was late and starting to spit rain, so they hung out in the nucs until the next day when I hived them. They didn’t seem particularly bothered by the delay, and I had to add second brood boxes already to all four of them. If you need bees, you’re a small keeper, and you live somewhere that isn’t too far away, give Jester’s a call – I’m pleased thus far with this group that I have, and I can’t wait to see how they perform once spring arrives.

I also ordered 15 packages from Rossman to rebuild the beeyard.  It’s a fairly big expense, but not an overwhelming one, and will get us back up to the numbers I want faster than dealing with splits would, especially since I don’t have a huge number of hives to work with relative to splits.

For the gardens: I have flats in the barn under the lights, and they are all up. In a couple of days, I’m hoping to have this neck thing not hurt so much so I can do the next round of flats. I also sowed carrot, radish, and beet a week or so before surgery, and was planning to do a successive round of those today, but that’s going to have to be pushed back as the flats have been. My goal this year is to have better succession planting and thus better management of what’s on hand and growing throughout the year. It would also help to not be seriously ill this year, and I’ve decided I’ll just have to start wearing a mask if I have to be out amongst large groups of people. In fact, my sister warned me yesterday that there is some kind of nasty flu-like thing making the rounds out in the world, and my brother in Orlando is ill, and says there’s something down there, too. So, masks it is. I’d rather look silly than be down for the count for three weeks and not be able to tend things normally.

For the log/online life: I got off facebook at some point in the middle of last year, and at the end of the year, I deactivated my account. That has freed up a lot of time, removed some stress and pressure, and in general has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I maintain my author page via an account I created just for that purpose: that account has no friends, follows no groups or people, and never will. It’s just there to give me entry to the page I set up, which is not updated on a regular basis right now – because really, do you see established authors hanging out on facebook all day long? No. They are either there to post once in awhile, or they have assistants to take care of their social media. Seriously, the next time you’re on any of the social media stuff, start a timer and see how long you’re on them when you finally exit. It’s astonishing how much of a time sink they are. If you have other things you need to do (write words, repair the sink, do a workout) use social media as  reward – set that timer for 30 minutes or an hour or whatever after you’ve done the task you want/need to do, and when the timer goes off, you’re done. Close them out and go do something else. Maybe one of these days, people will once again appreciate the nature of long form exchanges, like this, instead of 140 character bites or the inanity (“I had nachos!!!”) of most of what people post on social media. Life is too short to watch bad movies, read bad books, or waste years of your life on social media.

One of my goals this year is to post regularly here – ideally, I’d like to do that daily, even if it’s just an image from wandering around the gardens or bees. Notice that I did not say resolution, but goal. I’d like to make it into a habit, and I suppose this post is the beginning of making that habit.

Speaking of habits, I stumbled across a gamified (how I can’t stand that word) habit creator/to do application. It’s over at Habitica.com – it’s free and it’s fun. Some of the functions are not things I’m using (battling monsters with friends, for instance) because I simply want the to-do portion of it. I do still like Todoist, but I find Habitica the one I turn to more these days.

And now? Time to get back to doing some work – work work, as I’m not quite ready for the other work for the gardens and bees just yet. I’m getting there, though.

Hope your new years are falling into place for you, my handful of readers.