A Cranberry Merchant

Reading over Ed’s post from last week, I decided I wanted to add my own two cents to what he said, as well as catching you up for this week.

Yes, we have been crazy busy. When he started saying all the things we were busier than, I could just hear grandma say, “Busier than a cranberry merchant”.  After Ed’s post last week, I decided to try and find the source of that saying.  Google gave me the answer in the first result. Subsequent results said the same thing. When you add the words “in November”, the phrase makes perfect sense. November is the time of Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving is the time for cranberry sauce. As a matter of fact, you might be hard pressed to find cranberries at other times of the year. So, yes, a cranberry merchant might be very busy in November.

Ed truly loves the bees. It’s fun for me to watch him watching them. I am, however, looking forward to getting my own bee suit, so I can get a good look myself. As it is now, I can get about ten to fifteen feet away, and watch, without drawing the attention of the irritated bees.

I don’t think Ed mentioned it, but Kat has named the hives Sparta and Athens. Sparta was named first, when I pointed out to her that the bees would cast out those members who weren’t able to pull their own weight…kind of like the ancient Spartans that we were covering in school. Of course, the other hive had to be Athens. Interestingly, the hives’ behavior seems to mirror their respective namesakes. Athens is definitely more laid back than Sparta.

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Athens on the left and Sparta on the right.

Jim’s death took us all by surprise. I couldn’t have been more proud of how Ed stepped up to help, not only for my children and I, but for Jim’s family as well. Jim’s brother went so far as to tell Ed that he is “family now”. Katherine was definitely daddy’s girl (the only girl in a total of six children, and the baby), and she had him wrapped around her little finger. She was actually concerned that she wasn’t crying like Bam Bam, and I reassured her that everyone grieves differently and it was ok. She’s brought him up a time or two since then, but that was it. I was kind of waiting for something to break, but wasn’t sure if it would.

Then the dogs killed those two chickens. She fell to the ground and just screamed. I told Jim’s sister later that I thought some of that might have been for her dad too. In any case, it was hard to watch. My heart just broke for her. Then a few days ago, Moony came up missing. After looking and calling for a couple hours without locating the runaway rooster, Katherine just sat and cried. She told me she was a terrible chicken keeper. I told her it was not her fault, and we just had to pray that he was alright. The next morning, Ed and I had both gone out to the coop at different times hoping he had come back, but he hadn’t. At least, not where we expected him.

Ed was out near the other pen, also known as Sunny’s bachelor pad, when he heard a rooster crow nearby. He was looking right at Sunny and it wasn’t him. He heard it again, and it was coming from inside the garage. He came to get me and we both went back to try and find the source. Ed was checking the rafters and I was checking the corners. There was Moony, sticking his head out of a bunch of boxes in the back corner! He may have been there the whole time.

That very day, Ed and Kat worked together to cover the top of the chicken pen, so no one can fly out again.
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Hanging out after the work was done.

The rain finally stopped, and the sun came out with a vengeance. For about two or three weeks, we had 90 and hundred degree days. That is not June weather for Missouri; July or August maybe, but not June. Now, the weather people are saying we need to be prepared for the possibility of 4-6 inches of rain this weekend. I guess we’ll see. We had a little shower this evening. The clouds looked ominous, the temperature dropped and the wind picked up. It rained for about ten minutes and the sun came back out.

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Those clouds were rolling!

Like Ed said, we’ve both been dealing with health issues. That’s part of that whole “Old Folks” thing. I had an endoscopy yesterday. I do have some issues, but the doctor wasn’t overly concerned. I just need to watch what, how, and when I eat. He didn’t say so, but I know that losing some weight would solve a lot of the problem.

The foot surgery is another matter entirely. I have a bone spur, along with a “diseased” Achilles’ tendon. They are going saw off the bone spur and remove the diseased portion of the tendon. After the surgery, its “no weight bearing for three months”. The doctor told me it would be either a wheel chair or a knee scooter. I chose the knee scooter. I’ve been told twice now to get it early and practice. Yes, I have already apologized to Ed in advance, because I know it’s going to drive me crazy.

I started a bunch of tomato seeds back in April and just now got all of them in the ground. I think there are about 30 plants in all. I noticed blooms on a few plants today. I also planted sunflowers, okra, and a few other plants here and there. After I knew I was going to be out of commission for at least three months, I decided not to try and plant anything else this year.

We did get some nice lettuce in the cold frame, but the spinach never came up. The onions we planted last fall came up though, and we still have a couple in the ground.

In addition to the trees we planted in the back field, we also planted ten blackberry bushes. I think we have about eight left. A few of them are really coming along.

Ed went to his first regular shift at his new job tonight. He always did like working thirds. Kat is now calling him a bat, because he’s working nights.

Well that’s about it for now.

Connie

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Busier Than…..

“Busier than a long tailed cat in a room fulla rockin’ chairs.” Now there is one that paints you a picture. Much like “Busier than a one armed wall paper hanger.” or “Busy as a one legged man at a butt kickin’ contest.” All good old fashioned ways to describe my last few months.

So the next question would be: “Busy doin’ what bud?”

Funny you should ask:

I believe the last time we talked, I was discussing getting some bees. On 30 April 2016 we became the proud owners of two hives of Russian Honey Bees, and no, they do not do that funny little dance.

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What you see here is me moving the two Nucs into their new homes.

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This is moving the bees with stuff into their new homes. It is a very interesting process. Bees have a remarkable sense of direction and place so I opened the little holes in the Nucs the night before and set them directly where the hive was going to be. That way I could work while the foragers were out and they would be able to come home to their new house. It worked fine.

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This pic was taken before I had any bees in them, but it is what, two months later, the hives look like now, with two deeps and one super.

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This was taken two days ago. Because of back trouble, I had not been in the hives for about two weeks. At least in this one, the bees have already about filled up the super with honey. What I am doing is breaking loose the glue (propolis).  Interestingly, it is the substance used to make the varnish used on Stradivarius violins. Oh, honey is heavy. I estimate this super to be about forty pounds and it is not full yet.

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It’s HONEY!!!

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This comb broke off one of the supers. I have one hive that is kind of a free spirit. The plus was that Connie and I got a taste of our own honey. It was great. Kat did not want any because it is neither chicken tenders nor pepperoni pizza.

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This is a smoker. Bees are a lot like Willie Nelson, give them a little smoke and they settle right down. The tool in my other hand is essentially a pry bar to break loose the propolis which is really good glue. The tool lying to the far left of the picture is used to pick frames out of the supers or the deeps. I will show you next pic.

 

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We got a lot going on here, first, all those bees flying around me are a mite displeased. Second, that is the tool I was talking about. I thought I could do without it, but it is very hard to pull frames out with your gloved hands. Finally the frame has honey around the edges (the white parts are capped honey) and brood in the center. Most of the center has already hatched so the queen will be back this way shortly. Down around the bottom and the edges you see some capped brood. Can you tell this stuff just amazes me?

 

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For the three of you I have not bored to tears here is another look at a deep frame, with both brood and honey. I met the Queen herself on one of these, she is about half again bigger than the other bees and looks, well, regal. I think she ordered me beheaded.

In my last post, I also discussed more chickens. We got those too, with limited success. We bought a total of ten Rhode Island Red pullets (at least that was how they were advertised) of which five made it to adulthood. Two were apparently cleverly disguised as pullets because they had grown up to be roosters. OOPS. If, at this point, you are thinking of an inappropriate joke well…. me too, but we digress.

For some reason, after reaching adulthood one rooster and one hen decided to go over the fence and visit the dogs. This was a fatally unwise decision on their part. No, I did not shoot the dogs, though I did make my disapproval known. I did not shoot them because first, the chickens had come to them, and second, I already had Miss Katherine in a complete funk over the dead rooster and hen, so having to say goodbye to the dogs would have made that matter worse.

But, as Claremary said in one of her comments, farm life can be harsh. We already have a little graveyard on the place. So now Aero and Sleepy are buried with Marshmellow, Loki and Ice Cold, the Beta.

So we move on with what we have, which includes our two original roosters who are grown, full of vinegar and kicking each others butts daily.

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Katherine named him Moony because he has dark tail feathers. I just call him Brewster the Rooster.

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This one is Sunny (white tail feathers) I call him Rooster Cogburn. Since they have reached adulthood we pretty much have to keep them apart.  If not, they will fight each other constantly.

Connie misplaced her camera; it showed up in a box of seeds. Things have a habit of doing that in our home. I misplaced my Barlow for a couple months and found it in my pencil/pen cup on my desk. So we do not have a lot of picture of the Rhode Island Reds. Also, we did lose six months of pictures when Connie’s computer went haywire. We will have more shortly.

On March 30,  Jim Williams (Connie’s ex-husband and the children’s father) passed away. Jim, like me, was retired military. Jim, like me also, was a drunk. By the grace of God, I have been sober for seven years.  Jim was not so blessed. Anyway, he had no one to take care of his arrangements, except a young son who, though grown, was not prepared for those issues. Neither were we, for that matter.

First, there was the funeral expense. Although he had left enough to handle it, the money was not going to be available. After some consideration I talked to Connie and we handled it temporarily. The man had been her husband for many years and, besides that, he was a veteran and we are too.

Next came the family: one son from Germany and several family members from Kentucky. We had the son from Jim’s first marriage, Jim’s brother from Kentucky, and two of his nieces. It was a bit crowded but everyone was wonderful guests, and we gave Jim a fair send off.

In May, we planted some trees Connie got from the Missouri Department of Conservation for a very reasonable price. We had thirty trees (that’s a lotta holes by the way) of which we  got about twenty in the ground. We now have a possibility of about fifteen making it. A little hint: bunnies LOVE witch hazel.

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Me digging another tree hole. Note to self: You need to lose some weight Hoss.

Then there was the job, which was not working out. So I have taken another one, which has a higher earning potential. It will be four ten hour days instead of five eights. So let’s add some job stress, and then a job change to the mix.

Then we had the rains. Missouri had been under drought conditions from around 2009 until last year. Well, that’s over. The Good Lord made a promise to Noah that He would not flood the whole earth again. He said nothing about flooding Missouri. That was left open for consideration.

During one of the worst of several bad rainstorms, I noticed that a drain in the basement was backing up. Thus began the reign of broken things. This drain was hooked to what turned out to be a gray water line, so every time we used the washer, sinks or showers, we had water back up. Actually it was better than I suspected. I was afraid that the septic was backing up.

Next came the truck. I got off from work one evening, and it appeared to me that the safety switch, that kept me from starting the truck without the clutch in, had shorted.

Then came the oven, followed by the air conditioner. Not to be outdone, Connie’s computer went belly up, and then mine committed hot computer suicide.

Wow! Do I need to tell you that I, a bumbling repair man at best, was a little overwhelmed? Finally I realized that it would likely be best if we did something about this mess. So we prayed a lot, and then:

I had already replaced Connie’s computer before mine went out so we restored her old one to factory settings and I took it. We also managed to get a lot of the saved stuff off of my computer and we had quite a bit of Connie’s already on an external hard drive. Computer situation solved.

We called a plumber from Chilicothe, Mo who did drains and septic tanks. If you are in the area and looking for a plumber, message me I will give you his number. I was ready to spend a grand on this without blinking. After ten minutes he had determined that it was a plugged gray water drain, that went into the ditch by the road. Apparently this is done a lot in Braymer. Within forty minutes, he and his partner had cleared the clog.  No mess, no trouble, and two hundred bucks well spent.

As for the truck; I have road service as part of my insurance. It was not the clutch safety switch, it was a loose battery cable which was shorting out. Total cost: one hundred and ten bucks. After I get my refund for the tow, ten bucks. I can live with that.

The AC looked scary. Connie and I cleaned up a 5000 BTU window unit we had from the old house, and put it in the kitchen. I called around, and what I heard scared me badly. At church, I shared all this in Sunday school class, and the Minister gave me the name of the man who worked on the church’s AC. I called on Monday, he came on Tuesday.  Total cost: ninety bucks.

So what I would have estimated as a total of about two thousand dollars, came out to more like five hundred dollars. I can live with that, although five hundred ain’t chump change either.

And that is the way the last five months have gone. “Busy as Cranberry Merchant.” Connie’s great-grandma used to say that one. Neither one of us know what it refers to.

Oh, and then we have the medical things. I have been scoped from every conceivable angle. Connie is going to get endoscopy next week, and next month she is going to have her foot and ankle operated on. Oh yes,and my gimp back blew out on me, but that is fine now.

Beside all that, everything had been fine.

Ed