Sometimes you get a swarm in the yard, but it is simply uncatchable.
This is a zoomed-in image of a swarm that was likely from the monster hive #8*, about 50′ up in a water oak near the beeyard. It looks a lot larger than it was, but it was still a nice swarm, and if it had been lower, I’d have made a big effort to get it. As it was, the only thing I could do was set up a bait box about four deep bodies high under the tree, with a touch of lemongrass oil, to try to lure them down. They didn’t go for it. The next day, they were gone. I’d already done two splits from #8, and if this swarm was from that hive, that queen’s genetics are still in that hive, which is what I want: it’s a survivor queen, the last of my bees from 2016-2017, two years lost to chronic, recurring pneumonia.
*I say probably from #8 because that is the largest hive out there. however, #1 was acting a little squirrelly that day, and it may have been from that hive. Weirder still: when the swarm vanished, #1 had an absolute ton of activity going on. I’ve seen swarms return to their home, and if this was from #1, they may have gone right back to the original hive, as we were being pounded by big storms every single day during this period (this pic is from June 1) and hanging out in trees, unprotected, isn’t a good thing.
I’m planning on going into #8 and #1 on Thursday, to see what the girls have to say for themselves, and possibly to make another split from #8 to keep those good genes alive.
Some years ago, when the state and city were blowing up (well, technically, down) the pilings from the original Fuller Warren bridge here in town, I was standing on the roof of a building near the river, capturing it. Those pics are around here somewhere. It was the first (and only) implosion of any structure I’ve ever seen live, and it was pretty cool.
Yesterday, two giant cooling towers from a now-shuttered coal-fired plant were imploded. My brother played hooky a bit from his work to go up and try to see it. Alas, the general public was kept well away from the event, only getting to see the tops of the towers over some buildings and trees. The media and the company’s own cameras, though, got the full show. As always, it’s amazing how quickly something can be brought down, neatly, with proper placement of explosives and detonation timing. Clicking the arrow on the picture in this article will show the video of the towers coming down.
Today, I’ve finished mowing the beeyard and whacked around and under the hives. The new bees have also been fed. I was soaked when I came back in because it is simply hideous out there. It’s the time of the year that I wonder just how in the world the settlers to this place got anything done and made it through to the next season. Were they made of tougher stuff? Maybe. Did some of them give up and go back or move elsewhere? Almost positively, they did. I can’t say I would blame anyone who did on days like today. But there’s still work to be done here at the ranch, and I see out my southern facing window the clouds starting to build. Even if it’s just ten minutes at a time, it’s better to work on something versus nothing.
Until next time, peeps: be well. And if it’s broiling where you are, take care of yourselves and any people or animals for which you are responsible.
Here’s the first day of my “holiday weekend”. For those of you outside the US, today is Memorial Day here. Some years ago, it would signal the official beginning of summer for us here, and we’d have a giant party and feed a bunch of people. The kids (and some of the adults) would go swimming and everyone else would just be visiting with one another. That hasn’t happened in years now because we had a falling out with one group of relatives, and of course I’ve been sick on and off for over two years.
But here’s my day.
0730 Up, take care of the dogs, check their food and water, check the weather
0800 Breakfast and work
0915 Out to gather grass clippings from the beeyard and septic mound to add to my new compost pile
0945 Break for hydration and “work” work
1015 Out to sow the second round of green bean seed
1040 Break for hydration and work
1310 Break for lunch and work
1520 Wake up from falling asleep in my chair
1540 Feed bees and do inspections
1800 Bring in empty bottles and pulled hive bodies, put away tractor, detach wagon, close up shed, make shake with skyr added, meds
1815 Sit down at desk for feeding and work, empty camera memory card to computer
1825 Actually start feeding after playing with the dogs
1838 ACTUALLY start feeding after taking pictures and video of the dogs
1840 Realize just how much my back hurts now that I’m sitting down
1930 Back outside to bag weeds I turned up earlier today, before Alberto pays us a visit
2100 Back inside, treats for the dogs, refill their food and water
2110 Back to the beeyard to close the hive where I left the top propped open a bit, so there’s no chance of getting rain in there
2120 Make a shake, mix my meds, and taking care of business
2221 Power goes out, right when I’m making a response to a ticket, and Alberto hasn’t even arrived yet. Read on my amazon fire to wait it out
2249 Power comes back. Start the tedious task of booting up my system and then getting all my apps started once more, my screen layout in place, and get back to work
At some point doze off in my chair again
2340 Wake up, get some formula and some kefir, set up for another feed, do some more work
Doze off here and there
0130 Have an itching episode on the left side of my neck. Desperately try to scratch an itch that can’t be scratched; down a slug of benadryl before I wind up drawing blood.
In other news, Alberto may be paying us a visit. Not in person, but from some of his hangers-on, the outer bands and what moisture he draws up from south of his center.
We’re going to get some of it tomorrow, and possibly Monday, as well.
This is why I needed to take care of things I took care of today. Wandering around not doing anything in particular is a recipe for disaster here: you have to focus on what needs to be done (a TON of stuff) and how to prioritize it (take care of the bees before anything). And that’s how it went. It was a VERY productive day at the ranch. Tiring, but worth it.
I have a mound of horse poop (courtesy of a neighbor) in the southeastern area of the property that is heating and composting itself, but I wanted something nearer to the front (north) area gardens, so I started a compost pile there as well. It started off with kitchen scraps, paper, some leaves, downed branches I broke down. But now, it also has the grass clipping I mentioned up above, to get a better mix of green/brown material. This is how it looked after that work yesterday.
How the weeded row where the shelling peas and lettuces were, after getting through another weeding session – I literally worked until dark today, which was almost 9 PM.
How it looked in the dark after I had to stop because it was getting too hard to see, so I had to head in.
Another long, busy day in the books. Until next time, peeps: be well.
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
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.
It appears we are done with “winter”, unless Mother Nature decides to give us the middle finger and gift us with a random freeze.
In the meantime, this is the time for working like an overcaffeinated squirrel on meth to get everything in shape for when we just snap right into summer. The good news is that it’s supposed to be rather balmy and springlike after the next couple of days, and that’s the best time to get some of the larger (sweaty, dirty, annoying) tasks done. Today I got the rest of the bed ready for strawberries and also reset the long side of that particular frame, as it was bowed out quite a bit. It’s amazing what you can do if you paid attention in geometry (angles!) and have some three foot rebar.
Aside: I had been posting daily. Alas, I was sick – again – and that has just started to lift a bit over the last three to four days. Whenever I’d have a scan or xray or whatever and wind up with some Thing that could be addressed with antibiotics, we’d all say, “At least it isn’t cancer!” The past three weeks, after having xrays at the ER and then again at the outpatient center, we say, “At least it isn’t pneumonia!” They both suck. I think this thing on my neck is playing a large part in all this, given that I can express the gunk out through the sublingual salivary gland, and it’s obvious that it’s infected from time to time. Next week, we’re going to a new ENT, referred by my current ENT, who is more of the usual stuff. The new guy specializes in surgical oncology for the ear, nose, throat, and I’m hoping he has some kind of answer for me related to this. It’s annoying.
Back to the gardens: about two weeks ago, I direct sowed shelling peas, carrots, and radishes. Those are up, although the peas have some duds amongst them and need to be resown here and there. In addition to fixing the strawberry frame mentioned up above, I also sowed lettuce, kale, swiss chard, beets, spinach, and pac choi.
In the barn, there are five flats under the light – all tomatoes and peppers. The tomatoes are up, and I saw the first unfolding green stem of a pepper when I needed to get rebar out of the barn. This week, I’ll get the broccoli and cauliflower into flats under the lights. They can, for the most part, take the wild fluctuating temps, and even temps that hover near freezing if Mother Nature pulls one on us.
I’ve also been fixing the fences around the gardens. Rabbits have been in the gardens, both front and back, based on the evidence.
While I’ve been going around, weeding, shoring up frame sides, doing other things that have been neglected the past couple of years thanks to illness, I’ve found rabbit poop here and there. I’ve also found obvious nests out in the front – among the asparagus, but also (amusingly enough) in the carrots – and in the back, in the vetch I’d thrown down as green manure. I’m not building buffets just for them, so closing holes or openings in pieces of the fence is important.
Tomorrow will be another day. Strawberry planting day, to be precise. They’ll go into their freshly turned frame and into the second frame just west of it, and by June we’ll be getting berries to go with all the other things we’ll be harvesting by then.
Time to finish a tube feed and then hit the sack. Until next time, peeps: be well.
Possibly. Who can say, Florida being what it is? That image is from yesterday, as I got caught up in other things before I was able to come back and finish the post. BUT: the forecast now is the same as it was on the 8th when I took that screenshot. It will be around 80F during the days, and around or slightly above 50F in the evenings.
Mother Nature can decide at some point to hammer down on us with more winter days, and she may still get around to that. For now, I’m cautiously optimistic to the point that I weeded out both the carrots/beets/radishes/kale row and the peas/cukes row in order to sow a few varieties of carrots, radishes, and shelling peas. If we get a hit of freezing weather, and sprouting stuff is killed, seed for these things is cheap. I can just throw some more seed into the rows.
Having said that, there are still carrots from last year in the row. I found today that something has been nibbling at the leafy carrot tops. Usually, that equals a bunny – and I have found rabbit nests in the asparagus and carrot rows before. That means another item for the todo list: do a walkaround of the fence, as there’s a gap somewhere that needs to be closed.
Things I did not get completed? Lots. many things. I’m not going to have one of those conversations with myself about why things didn’t get done and how I’m a slacker and bad person, though. Instead, I’m just going to recognize it for what it is: illnesses threw a wrench into the grand plan, and there’s little I can do about that.
I did get the hive equipment out of the barn, as the barn bees didn’t make it. I also cleared the last of the honey off the floor in there, and tested my grow lights. The fixtures I use have two lights. On some of those fixtures, one of the sides will not work, for whatever reason. That’s a bit of a bummer, as I like to spread light out across the entirety of the tables. Instead, I’ll use those at the sides, and let the dead portion of those fixtures be on the outside of the table.
Speaking of bees, with the warmer weather comes the rampup of queens laying and the possibility of swarming. I’m going to inspect hive #8 to make sure they have plenty of room to expand without being overcrowded. When spring officially arrives, I’ll be splitting that hive at least once, and possibly twice. That’s the plan, anyhow: keep this queen’s genes in as many hives as I can.
Time to wrap this up and get back to the various work I need to do.
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.
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.
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.
The front is sinking down us and WHY CAN’T YOU PEOPLE UP NORTH CONTAIN YOUR INVASIVENESS?
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.
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.