The Long, Hard, Winter

It’s been a rough winter for us on the homestead. As Ed told you, we lost all our bees. By the way, thank all of you who offered him so much encouragement. We really appreciate it. He has decided that if we can make it through some financial difficulties, he will try again.

So, yes, we’ve had some financial difficulties, which we aren’t through yet (prayers always appreciated), and we’ve had some health issues as well. The health issues have mostly been mine, and I’m still trying to work through all that. The doctors can’t quite figure out what’s wrong, although they have some guesses (prayers appreciated there too).

Weather-wise, it has been a cold, wet winter. I have no idea how much snow and rain we’ve had altogether, but the well is overflowing. Remember that drought last summer? Yeah, we’re over that.

0312191700_resized

As you can see, the water is actually out of the well and climbing the cinder block.

In addition to the wet, the bitter cold presented its own challenges. There were several days where the temperature was below zero, and that was without the wind. From what I understand, the local kids have missed at least fifteen days of school due to bad weather.

0114191024_Burst01_resized (2)

Part of the elm tree on the garage and chicken tractor. Thankfully, the rest of the tree is still standing

0114191032_resized (1)

Our car stuck sideways in our driveway

When we finally had some pretty days, Sunny Rooster couldn’t wait to free range himself. Unfortunately, he got out one time too many, and all we found was feathers. Chicken Girl is inconsolable. We put all the chickens back in the big coop. One of Moony’s hens decided she liked laying eggs back in her old coop, so she was getting out too. Praying she’ll get over that. Don’t think Chicken Girl could take losing another one so soon.

The coop renovations never got finished last fall. With all the water, some of the posts started to shift, so it looks like we may have to scrap that idea and start over. Whatever we do, it needs to be soon so we can keep any independent chickens from leaving the coop.

A neighbor, who has veterinary experience, gave our chickens some medicine for the mites. They will probably need to be treated again though. She said the coop will need to be scrubbed out because they live in the wood. One more reason for a new coop.

This picture is from a few weeks ago. Chicken Girl noticed that one of Moony’s claws was curling back into his skin, so she decided to clip it. I don’t know what Bookworm was doing. Supervising?

0201190840_resized

Chicken Girl, Moony and Bookworm

On a lighter note, Libby is doing very well and has gained all her weight back. She still has no bowel control, but it’s solid so we can quickly clean it up. She’s obviously feeling better, except for some arthritis, and often plays with the other dogs. Both Gracie and Rex enjoy playing with her, but I think Meeko is a little jealous of “his” Libby.

0112191052_resized

Libby and Gracie

For some reason, Meeko and Rex, who were both neutered as puppies, have decided they need to mark the house. We don’t know if it’s a dominance thing or an anxiety thing. Regardless of the reason, we need to do a deep scrubbing to make sure they aren’t just coming back the odor, which they can smell a hundred times better than we can. Great. One more thing.

Recently, I had two pleasant surprises that fell right in line with my wanting to “learn it all.” The homestead blogging network that I follow but don’t belong to had a giveaway of the introductory course from The Herbal Academy of New England. I entered but didn’t think any more about it. (I enter things all the time). I was shocked when they emailed me that I had won. So, yes now, I am working through that course, and yes, I’ll be sharing some of that info with you.

The four herb pots that I put in the basement greenhouse for winter are doing very well. The smell of rosemary and lavender is wonderful inside that little enclosure. I should have done it already, but soon, I will get some seeds started. Not sure how much we really want to do this year, but I do have a few herbs that I definitely want to start, so I’ll share that as soon as I do it.

The other surprise was discovering that there is someone here in Braymer who weaves and spins. After I told her of my interest, she invited me to a group of people who are big into fiber arts, so yes, I am learning there too. Got my first left-handed knitting lesson last week, and got to play with a spinning wheel. I need a LOT of practice. So expect to hear more about that too.

Ed has a new series of posts that he is working on that he’ll start sharing with you next week. In the meanwhile, I’m working on my own set of “make your own” posts.

Connie

Advertisements

Bye Bye Bees

So where have I been? Frustrated, angry at myself, and feeling like a rank failure. Oh, did I mention feeling sorry for myself? Yeah. There is that. The last I spoke to you folks about my bees, I had three healthy hives that were going like gangbusters. I had harvested enough honey to pay for the purchase of one nuc I made last year, and everything was going well.

About ten days passed as I did other things, and then I revisited the hives. Two were just gone. I mean empty. I opened the hives and found signs of wax moths, and I thought that was the problem. However, I am wondering about that now and I will speak about it later.

First, I checked the third hive, which was a good three to four hundred meters from those two. It appeared to be fine, showing no signs of problems at that point. I even pulled the lid while not wearing my bee gear to look. They seemed happy and healthy. more about that later.

When I opened the two empty hives I had my second surprise. There were not very many dead bees on the bottom board. No more than a dozen which is about what I might find if I had disassembled a healthy hive. So where did they go? I think “go” might be the operative word here. These bees were not killed; they seem to have just left.

bbbs2

Why I think they just left. Ten days ago at most these were FULL of honey.

This was in late September. I kept a close eye on my final hive, and changed the top board for winter. Then the worst winter I have seen since we moved to Braymer hit us. Early in October we had a freeze that set down on us for over a week. When I checked on the final hive, the bees were dead. Not gone like the first two: dead. There was good honey and no real sign of hive beetles or wax moths. Just dead.

It was the freeze, I was not the only bee keeper in the area to lose hives to this freeze. It just happened it was my last hive. And, for me at that time, the last straw. I was heart sick, guilty, angry at myself, nature in general and, yes to some extent, God. Aside here; it is OK to get angry at God. If you read th psalms David was angry at God more than once. Just as long as you do as David did and try to end your rant with “Thy Will Be Done”. Even if you have to say it through clinched teeth. Oh, did I mention feeling sorry for myself? Yeah, that too.

bbbs3

The other hive with Wax Moths I immediately disassembled and put all the parts in a freezer for over a week. This one was waiting for freezer space and I made certain nothing was getting out until I took care of it.

Things I said to my loving wife, Connie, at the time included but were not limited to, “I liked living with a farmer but never particularly liked farming.” “There is a difference between wanting to raise bees and being able to.” Cut off about five yards of that kind of material and you got the idea. Frankly, somebody probably should have given me some fruit and cheese to go with that whine.

So that is where I entered the winter. I froze all my equipment for a week, some with nature’s help. Then I went inside and tried to figure out what I was going to do about the bees. I cannot afford to buy more bees at this time. That is still where I am at today. Am I going to try to get back in the bee keeping business? If so how? I have a lead on the possibility of some wild bees and there appears to be two hives who absconded right here on the place I might could trap.

So what is God trying to tell me about the bees? Is the message, “Ed, bee keeping is not your thing.” Or is it, “Suck it up buttercup and drive on because you have not failed until you quit.”

Seriously, right now I still do not know the answer, but spring is finally beginning to break. There will be another day unless all the snowfall and the present rain doesn’t drown us all.

So I will go outside, clean up some equipment, save what I can and decide. Do I sell it, or try again? We will talk in a week or so.