Tag Archives: bees

Cowpie bingo

There is such a thing. Anyone who lives near or has lived in ranching country knows what that is. For the rest of you: divide a pasture field into a grid. Number the resulting squares, and then have people put money down on a square they think the cattle you let into that pasture will take a dump. The winner gets something as a prize, but the event is generally a fundraiser kind of deal.

Winter in Florida is a lot like cowpie bingo. Every so often, Mother Nature drops by to take a dump on us, just to remind us that while we may be tropical most of the year – and sometimes even all of the year, in some cases – she can and will come down for a short stay, even given her very busy schedule.

We’ve already had six days in a row with freezing overnight temps, with one in the 20s. Then things went back to a rather Florida-like “winter”. Tonight and tomorrow, however, actual winter is back for a two day show, roping us in with the misery it’s creating up north.

Tonight, just before I geared up and went out to turn on a couple of the far taps around 10PM, it was 32F. Two hours later, and it’s dropped to 28F.

The wind has also picked up, as the blue line at the bottom shows. It’s cold. Very cold. And a terrific reminder why I will never live in the northern reaches of the country again. Had enough of that in my childhood, and I’m not anxious for more. We, unlike people in the great north who have to spend a quarter of the year at least playing host to winter, will get right back to our version of it.

In other news….see below the fold, as there’s a pic that may make some people a tad squeamish. If you don’t like blood, don’t go there.

Continue reading Cowpie bingo

When life gives you fish (oil)

So Thursday was a pretty crappy day.

As my small but deluded devoted readers know, I put a hive with a very, very small population of bees in the barn to protect them from the freeze. I had found the queen (yay!) and they seemed happy enough. The past few days have been in the mid-70s, and when I checked on them on Thursday, I found it had gotten too hot in the barn with the heater running: one of the frames had its wax melted, and there was honey and wax all over the floor.

So, I had to clean that, scooping up the honey and wax with a bench scraper, and then washing up the mess. And…the bees were not in the hive box. They were clustered up again the window. I got them down, but did not find the queen. As the queen had one wing clipped, she certainly would not be flying anywhere. She was not in the box, not on the window, and I couldn’t find her amongst the bees that had finally reached their last shift and died.

I was taking a break from the cleanup to get something to eat, and had a coughing fit – a hard one – and my throat started to close. I wrapped one of those cold towels that you put in cold water and then snap to get excess out around my neck and tried to stay calm through the wheezing. It finally eased, and was fine the rest of the evening, although it made me a bit hoarse.

To top off my craptacular day, I was going to do a formula feed through the tube, and when I flushed the tube with water before starting the formula, I felt wetness on my abdomen where the tube goes in, and then on my hands. I wondered if I’d just not put the syringe fully into the tube, but nope: the tube itself had split open at the abdomen side. It’s been in place for eleven months, so it wasn’t terribly surprising, but it was (and is) annoying. When I coughed, a little squirt of belly juice would erupt from one of the holes the blowout had caused. I needed something to hold things together before Tuesday, when I’ll go to the hospital and the doc will replace the thing. I took a small binder clip (the black ones with the wings), clipped it to the tube at my abdomen just before the tube goes into my stomach, then wrapped gauze around that.

Toss in some other stress, and Thursday was a shitty, shitty day. I’ll explain the oil in the next post, as I’m typing this right now and suddenly feel like I’m about to barf.

Until next time, peeps, be well.

Winter has arrived

Floridians in general are not pleased when we have a real winter, despite the shortness of our exposure to said winter. I – a native Floridian – absolutely hate the few real winter days we have. I just don’t like the cold at all. I’ve been wearing two pairs of socks since September because my feet are cold almost all the time. Now, for the arrival of this:

I have on three pairs of socks, my sweats under my jeans, and a sweatshirt over my t-shirt.  For the outside times – like throwing a moving blanket over the big hive out back, a tarp on top of that because it’s supposed to rain through the day tomorrow – I put on my hat, my jacket with the heavy lining zipped in, and gloves. I made a run to the grocery store to avoid having to go anywhere at all this week if it can be avoided.

In other news, the forecast also shifted to the point where we may have sleet and/or snow  in the morning.

While I detest the extended forecast of too damn cold, I am hoping that we get some flurries tomorrow, so my niece and nephew can see snow.

On the bee front, the barn bees may not make it. When I checked on them this afternoon after covering the hive in the beeyard and the wellhead and bladder to keep them from freezing/being iced over from the rain/sleet, there were a number of dead bees on the landing board, frozen to death. I did pull a couple of frames to look down into the hive and did see some bees in there, and I am hopeful they will make it through.

I know the northerners amongst my handful of readers are laughing about my whining about the cold. But hey, there’s a reason I live here and not there, you know.

We will survive the great freezapocalypse that has our local meteorologists having weathergasms much like they did with the hurricanes that visited us last year.  But some of us – me – won’t be terribly happy about it.

Until the next time, peeps: be well. And bundle up if you’re anywhere other than SoCal or south Florida. It’s damn cold.

 

Meet the New Year, Same as the Old Year

Not quite exactly, as it happens. Last year, our redneck neighbor people were pretty quiet on all the “Let’s light fuses on gigantic, big boom fireworks, and oh yeah, the ones that make tiny sounds but have lots of color, and the whirly ones that sound like a drunken piccolo player.”

It seems, however, that redneck neighbor people saved up their pennies from the ass end of 2015 to the ass end of this year, as they are setting off some mammoth (and probably illegal in Florida) booms over there. On the other neighbor side, they are having a new year’s eve party to which they invited people plus all the folks in the neighborhood. The invite said there would be live entertainment. Because we can hear the bass thanks to the amps over there, and because I had to let one of the dogs out, it seems the live entertainment is a mediocre cover band. I suppose in the long run, that’s better than hookers and blow performing the live entertainment.

I don’t make new year’s resolutions because resolutions are basically an every day sort of thing to me, given that I’m fairly constantly berating myself for not doing the things I really need to get done. That makes the first day of the new year just like any other day to me except it has a lot of football games on.

In other news, the beeyard is officially down to two hives. The larger one is doing well, so I left that one in place. They have plenty of bees to keep warm as we move into cold cold weather, not Florida cold weather when it’s 53F outside and we’re wearing jackets.

At some point in the past few days, the rain chances were at the times the temps would be freezing or lower. Alas, now those are gone, and it probably will not happen.

Earlier today:

Now:

The front is sinking down us and WHY CAN’T YOU PEOPLE UP NORTH CONTAIN YOUR INVASIVENESS?

Ahem.

I am not a fan of cold, and neither are my bees or plants. The dogs don’t seem to care as long as there are treats in the house.

Speaking of bees , the smaller hive that has made it through this season absolutely would not make it this week in the beeyard. While there are bees in the hive, the population is too low.  So I thought about it for about 80 seconds and decided I’d overwinter them either in the shed or in the barn. The barn won out simply because it’s a smaller space in which I can run a heater, and there wasn’t anything that needed to be moved in the barn to get a good setup. Now, we have barn bees.

The trees around them are lemons and limes I picked up on Friday. All of them are in bloom, as they are generally everbearing down here, and I didn’t want them out in the deep freeze. I figure I’ll keep them inside for the remainder of the spring, and since I already have grow lights in the barn for the seedling flats, I’ll be able to give the trees an the bees some sun-like light.

The fireworks are going off pretty regularly here now, so I guess it’s time to put my headphones on, jam out to some music and do something or other that needs to be done.

Happy new year, peeps, and may 2018 be a better year than 2017 aspired to be. Be well.

 

 

 

 

Merry what?

I’m not that big on holidays – although in the past, I’ve loved cooking for them – and christmas is no different. I’m also not really good about birthdays, either. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy them per se. I’m not the Grinch, after all. I think once some people (like me) reach a certain age and a certain level of having stuff, I’d rather just take a pass. This most recent thanksgiving, I did take a pass and only made some food to go to the place, without taking myself to the place. Some of that was because I’d have had to wear a mask while I sat and watched other people eat since one, groups of people + kids = germs, and two, I can’t eat like a regular person. So, best to avoid the whole thing. They all had fun, I enjoyed the quiet, and everyone came out a winner.

This year, I even toyed with the idea of not bothering with a tree at all, but (as my mother rightly pointed out) I do have a very young nephew and an even younger niece, and the holiday is for them anyhow. I had to get a followup xray, and after that, I popped over to the Home Depot near it only to find they didn’t have a single christmas tree there.  I did, however, find that they had a very good assortment of citrus trees available. THAT got me excited. I’ll be heading over there to pick up several of them and bring them back to the ranch.

The tree: luckily, it not only ’tis the season for christmas trees, it is also the season where stores are trying to dump their christmas stuff, from trees to wrapping paper to lights. Now, we have a tree that will last for many years – probably well past the time of my own demise – and real tree prices being what they are, will pay for itself next year. It even came with lights, although one is broken in its socket, so I need to do a bit of DIY and get that light out of the socket and get it replaced. It looks pretty good, for an artificial tree. I’ve had them here and there over the years, and christmas tree technology, such as it is, has improved a bit.

Sparkling!

What else is happening at the ranch? Not a whole lot, since your humble narrator has been forced to the sidelines for much of the year. The year has been horrendous in the beeyard, and I’ll be lucky to have three hives when spring/summer ramps up next year. My internal odds are telling me I’ll probably only have one. I did order package bees, with queens, from a place in Georgia, and they’ll likely arrive in May sometime. I’m hoping 2018 will be much less disastrous from a health standpoint, and I’ll actually be able to manage them better in the coming year than I was this year.

The gardens lie silent, waiting. I still haven’t put together a seed order, but I plan to do that over the next couple of days. For 2018, I’m just going to (trying to) stick to core staples and not get a bunch of new/exotic stuff. We’ll see how that works out, because anyone who gardens knows seed catalogs are like crack.

Speaking of the health front, as of yesterday, my latest round of pneumo has hit the road finally and my lungs are totally clear. This time, six weeks to clear. We’re not loving that. Goal for 2018: unsubscribe from that crap. I’ve been wearing a mask when I have to go to places like the grocery store, Home Depot, etc. Anywhere there are a fair amount of people, and those people are touching everything, the mask goes on.  It also keeps me from touching my face while I’m wandering around, and when I get back to my car, I have to wipe my hands down with those germ-killing towels before I can take off the mask. It’s kind of a pain in the ass way to live,  annoying, and probably looks strange to people, but it beats picking up some random bug somewhere thanks to a compromised immune system. Another point: I’m planning to have the feeding tube removed in early 2018. I weighed in at 122 with all my clothes/boots on at the doc’s office, which means 118-119 without them, and that’s about where I was around Halloween 2016, before the first round of pancreatitis hit. It’s enough to give me a bump in the reserve I need in the event I do pick up some malady, and enough that my gastro guy will agree to pull out the tube.

All the news that’s fit to update! Until next time, peeps: be well. And be safe.

Return to discipline

Again.

It’s hard as hell reading about what’s going on in this country today. We all know, and as I’ve said, I try to avoid politics here. But – and I don’t think I’d be alone in saying this, even for people whose political bents are 180 degrees opposite mine – I don’t think there has been a failure in the government of this country larger or more profound  than what we’re seen since January. It’s stressful and disheartening, and it is going to take us years to recover.

That’s one of the reasons I shut down my personal facebook page, creating another profile just to manage a page that I need to maintain. I got tired of the nonsense, and even more tired of realizing how much of the finite time I have left on this earth it was ticking away. The only reason I visit fb these days is to update that page, or to view some funny video someone thinks I’ll find amusing. I can safely say I have not missed it. I had turned more to twitter, thinking I could just scan through it, post a couple of things, and not have it wind up as a massive timesink or add anything bad – like stress – to my life.

Wrong.

Continue reading Return to discipline

My life with critters

Critters I have rescued from inside my house and relocated back out into the world where they belong:

Honeybees, of course. If you keep bees, you’re going to wind up with some inside here and there.  Fortunately, they generally head for the windows, where they can be captured and let loose outside to head back to their hive. This catch and release does not apply to hornet, wasps, or yellowjackets, all of which have met their demise for their arrogance in invading the house.

Birds. One day while going about my business, I heard an odd fluttering and some soft thumps. After tracking down the sound, a small wren was hanging out under the table we use to fold laundry. That came in handy, as it allowed me to grab a light towel, toss it over the wee thing, and let it back outside. There was a sequel to this, with another wren, but this time he/she evaded capture for about ten minutes, with the chase moving from the dining room to the kitchen to the laundry room until finally I cornered him/her and took her back outside.

Lizards. We have, on several occasions, found lizards using the outside of the house as their fun sexy time pad: on the columns of the front porch. On the gutter downspout in the pool area. On the handle of the fence that someone is about to use. In the gardens. The lizards don’t even have the decency to blush and move away from one another as, say, teenagers would when caught in a delicate situation in a not-well-thought-out location. Nope, nope, nope. They simply stare at you as you move past them, and continue their business that you have rudely interrupted. Luckily, I have not encountered any duos getting it on in the house. Single lizards looking for a good time do sometimes wander in, though. I have to say that attempting to catch the lizards is often frustrating and not entirely effective with a head-on approach. Instead, I use the same technique I used when herding the chickens toward the coop: with my arms spread out to either side, the lizards generally move away in a fairly straight line. This allows me to direct them to an open door and send them back outside. I have caught two with my hands out of sheer luck, but most of the time, it’s a lizard roundup and herding.

Frogs. A number of them. Summer and spring brings out the peepers and tree frogs. I generally use them as a harbinger of when to transplant seedlings from the barn to the gardens: the more frog butts on the windows I can see from my desk, the better, as they are not terribly fond of cold weather. We have that in common, they and I. Most of the time it is tree frogs that must be captured and taken outside. The trick is to get the captured one back out into the wild without allowing another to pop in and take its place. Generally, I capture them with my hands, as it’s much easier than using, say, a tall cup as I do for the bees. To demonstrate their thanks for the rescue so they don’t starve to death in the house and turn into a mummified little body that I have to remove (because my mother and my sister refuse to touch them if we’re all together and we find one), they usually pee on my  hands.

By far, however, the oddest critter I have had to remove from the house is the dragonfly that somehow managed to get inside yesterday. I heard wings and the tinkling of an insect hurling itself at the recessed light bulbs in the kitchen. In the past, that has usually been a wasp or other critter that I am not terribly charitable toward, and is an omen of impending death. Yesterday, however, the dragonfly got tired of that set of bulbs and moved to the ceiling above the dining room fan, and that’s when I realized this was a brand new experience. Using a broom to extend my reach, I crawled up on chairs and tables and tried to urge it to the door that I’d opened in the dining room. It was near dusk, though, and the dragonfly was very confused and continued to bang against the light bulbs. We turned out the lights and tried to push it a bit toward the door, but the light coming in through the windows in the dining room was brighter, and it headed there. That was my big chance! I held the dragonfly down gently with the broom, and softly pushed it into the cup we use to catch bees. I released the dragonfly out in the poolyard, and it flew away without so much as a thank you. Such is life in the wild, I suppose.

That’s all for today, peeps. Until next time: be kind. And be well.

Childhood tales come to life

This is wisteria.

This is Sigmund, a Sea Monster.

I see some definite similarities here, although my personal monster is land-based, not sea-based.

Unchecked, wisteria can rapidly take over its own space and then make designs on the space all around it. It’s great at embracing empty space you have you don’t plan to fill any time soon. At the time I put it in, I didn’t have any grand designs for the front garden area. When I did get those plans in my head, each season involved cutting it back. Severely. Mercilessly.

And it kept coming back, its tentacles running again, either along the ground or hanging on the rabbit fence and pulling it outward as the mass of stems followed along, feeling their way along, looking for something to grasp and to root it before sending out another runner to declare to the next space that more stems would be following in its track.

I’ve done some checking of it, cutting off many of the tentacles reaching out to invade all the other areas of the north garden just to be able to move among the raised beds in the general area where it sits and contemplates how to proceed to eventually become a small planet unto itself. The goal is to remove the entire plant. It would be much less problematic if the flowers held an aroma that was not offensive an smelled like wet, sweaty, mildewy gym clothes that had never been washed. But they do, and although the bumblebees seem to love it, the humans who have to work around it do not.

We have another variety whose flowers hold a scent much more agreeable, and that one will replace this one, without offending the noses of the people attempting to work in peace and harmony beside it. And so it goes at the ranch…

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

Heading for a Fall

We may finally be heading toward fall here at the ranch.

The maples have discarded most of their leaves, the water oaks are following suit,  and the wind from the north carries with it the promise of our little piece of the planet cooling down just a tad.

(Two days later…)

Our forecast stands, thankfully: cooler weather will definitely help me get the gardens pruned back of weeds and covered for the next few months. And by “me”, I mean I’ll be pulling weeds and my sister will be putting the weedblock down. She hates weeding. And that’s okay, since I’m having her do the heavy lifting – I’ve done something to my shoulder and either damaged my rotator cuff or the labrum. I’m leaning more toward the rotator cuff, because of the clicking and popping and it hurts pretty damned badly to raise my arm. My right arm, I should clarify: my good arm, since the surgery from the (fuck you, cancer!) cancer removed muscle and nerve tissue from my left arm and while I can carry stuff with that arm, mostly, I can’t raise it up over my head like a normal person would. So, two damaged arms. One from surgery. The other probably from throwing the ball for the puppy without being warmed up sufficiently each round. The round where it popped was apparently the one that was trying to my attention and tell me to stop doing the stupid thing.

Cooler weather also brings in the time for making (which sounds like something out of  fantasy novel, and who knows, that may very well be somewhere in the fantasy trilogy that’s bouncing around in my head). I can make a huge batch of hot sauce made from tabascos – obviously I can’t just call it “tabasco sauce”, since McIlhenny would probably sue me to death, so I need a name for it. But that’s a thing that needs to be done with all the windows open and fans going, and I still have to wear a mask while making it. The upside is that once made and stored properly, it will not lose a lot of flavor as it ages. It won’t go bad – there’s just vinegar, salt, and tabascos in it, so it’s by far the simplest thing I make as far as processing the harvest goes. But if it’s stored in a warm, hot place, it can lose some flavor.

The other item: some more coffee roasting. We’ve decided that really does have to be done outside, because some of the roasts are darker – I made an absolutely miller batch of columbian/sumatran been mix, roasted dark – but it does smoke a little, making the smoke alarms go off, and the whole house smells like a coffee processing outfit. The latter is not so bad, but the former is annoying. Since the weather is agreeable, I’ll be roasting up some combinations for my taste testers to do some trials. I did a medium roast on some Indonesian beans that my mom really liked, so that will also be on the agenda. Want some? Drop me a comment here, or drop me a note via email (clients: in a ticket is fine, it will reach me). It won’t be packaged in anything fancy, like an actual coffee bag, but we will vacuum pack it. Specify whole beans or ground – I recommend whole bean if you have a grinder, as whole beans retain their flavor longer than ground, but the ground version won’t be so much that you can’t drink it in a timely manner.

Meanwhile, in the beeyard, the swarm I caught last season swarmed away, and one of the new hives had to have killed the queen, made a new one, and absconded. In the newer hives, the queens have one wing clipped so they can’t go anywhere. And since I’ve been ill pretty much constantly this year, including three times in the hospital, I’ve not been able to pay attention to them as I would have liked. But, I did get out there the other day, and did a few quick inspections. Most of the boxes are bursting with bees (yes, I do like some alliteration), with one that’s straggling pretty badly, and I’m thinking that next season I’m probably going to have to commit some regicide and put a new queen in that box.

I also picked up, courtesy of the vast intarwebz, an idea for controlling small hive beetles. These little assholes get into the hives, poop everywhere, go through the comb, ruining the comb AND the honey in it, and are generally a royal pain in the ass. Specialty food/bar prep towels, cut in squares, and laid on the two back edges between two hive bodies has done more to keep the small hive beetles under control than any other non-chemical way I’ve used. The towels are thicker than usual paper towels, and have some tufting to them. The bees will pick at it, because it’s a foreign item in the hive and they want to clean it up and get it out, but more importantly, bees herd the beetles into corners on their own. When they do that without anything in place, the beetles are still alive and they will break themselves out when the beekeeper removes a frame. With these towels in place, the beetles get stuck, very much like velcro, because they have barbs on their legs. Leave the towels in for a couple of weeks, and then change them out for a fesh set. I thought I had a photo of some of the beetles caught in a couple of the hives I tried it in, but I can’t find that, so I’l just take some new pics on my visit to the beeyard tomorrow. I’ll be inspecting a few more hives, feeding the ones who need it, and generally getting them ready for “winter”, such as it is here.

Enough of the almost all word dump that doesn’t even do justice to anything. Until next time, peeps: be well.

Out with the old

…and in with the new.

It’s very easy to let the blog sit, idling like a giant pickup full of guilt. I started this post on the 1st, and here we are at the 3rd. My goal was to turn this into Blogtober, posting something – anything – every day. That’s mainly to get myself used to prioritizing writing and to create a habit, both of which I desperately need. Yesterday, I had finally gotten to bed somewhere between 4:30 and 5 AM, woke up a couple of times, and then was shocked out of that just after 8:00 AM by the arrival of my sister and the soul eating baby, who is now a soul-eating princess. I got a nap in, but I need to start getting to bed at a more reasonable hour (even quasi-reasonable, for me) to try to get maybe 3-4 hours of continuous sleep. Last night, I finally made it to bed before midnight, but woke up every couple of hours. The last one was between 5 and 6, and that last one until 9 was solid. The last one also had the most crazy dream, too.

Anyhow, this is the first post in my own little Blogtober. It’s been fairly quiet, work-wise, and my intent was to get up, shut off my internet connection, get my coffee and shake breakfast, and then write, first thing. But I got up suffering from the dizzies, and got sucked into dealing with some work-work, so here we are, shortly before 2 PM. I expect to be able to do the “write first thing in the morning” routine at some point (or at least I hope so). I’ve read you should do the hardest things on your agenda first, and while the actual writing is not hard – I write quickly, because a lot of the time, the scenes are in my head – getting myself started writing even when those scenes are so clear in my head, is. So I’m thinking if I can throw these words here on ye olde blogge into the void when there’s nothing particularly planned or in order, it will give me a boost on writing up the real stuff (not that this isn’t real, it’s just real in another way) as well.

It is incredibly windy out today.  We had a noreaster for a coupe of days that brought rain and wind, but we seem to have settled in for just wind at this point. I don’t like working the bees when it’s really windy like this, because the bees are getting blown around on the frames and it make them a bit frenetic. It (the wind) also makes my ears hurt when it’s rocking like today, and it’s too warm to wear my hat with earflaps. But they seem to be thriving even with my rather benign neglect from all the health issues this year – including yet another round of pneumonia last month, plus yet another hospital stay – so I reckon they can hold themselves another day or so before I bring out new feed and have a look in some of the boxes.

The gardens are just an overwhelming mess. We’re starting to see the days in the low to mid 80s, and with this trend, I’ll be able to get back out there and start slogging through the things that need to be done so we’ll be ready to go next spring – and with a better battle plan next season, with the number one item being “Don’t get sick, dumbass!” on the list. Three hospital stays so far this year is a record, as is six rounds of pneumonia so far, and I’d prefer those be kept to a minimum of zero. The latter probably won’t, just because the swallowing issues mean I’m always a candidate for aspiration pneumonia, but I’d like to start monitoring myself a bit more closely to catch them early if at all possible. What’s that? Anything is possible? From a literal standpoint, this is, of course, complete nonsense. From a hopeful one, it is. I’ll focus on that one.

Until tomorrow, peeps: be well.