BEEginning Again Part 3

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This is a packet of bees.

So, as a complete update, I have my two hives installed. One is doing better than the other but they are both coming along with capped brood and honey present in both hives.

This time I decided, since I had all the equipment, to buy packages of bees rather than nucs. Nucs are basically a mini hive with five frames of honey and brood, bees and an active queen. Packages are simply the bees and the queen. Unlike the nuc, the package’s queen and her new subjects are not formally introduced yet, and this can cause you some problems.  The queen and her retinue come in a separate container.

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A queen container with queen and her attendants.

So we rode over to Chillicothe, Missouri to see Bill and Tammie and pick up our bees. We decided to go in the car and we loaded two packages of bees in the back seat. Would you like to know what will make you a defensive driver? Knowing that, if you break those boxes, you are going to get REALLY busy.

Arriving home we pulled the bees out and looked at them. Here is a look at one of the boxes as seen from above where you take the bees out of.

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Top view of the bee packet.

So here is the trick, I need to get all those bees, the queen and her attendants in a hive without causing major disruption, losing bees (especially the queen) or getting stung.

Step one, the queen: The queen in her little container, is supposed to hang down between the middle frames. There is “queen candy” in one end, which she and her attendants are supposed to eat out, and then the queen should emerge to a grand meeting by her new subjects. Hopefully.

An alternative method is to tape up this hole and hand release the queen about five days after you set up the new hive. I decided, on good advice, to try that. I will tell you the outcome later.

Next, I set up the lower hive bodies and got the hanging feeders ready. We used 4 lbs of sugar to 1 gallon of water. This is the mixture that best stimulates comb making.

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The black thing with two holes in it to the right of the picture is a feeder.

So I set up the two lower hive bodies as shown in the picture above. Please note, almost dead center between the third and fourth frame counting from the left the plastic queen container. They either love her or hate her, hard to say. To that I added another empty hive body. Shaking bees into a hive body is not as easy as it may at first seem and it never sounded that easy to me in the first place. I try to treat the girls like ladies you know.

So I took some advice from Bill George and set them up like this:

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Bee packet upside down over frames.

This allows the bees, who now have food and water available, to crawl out on their on. Thee days later I opened the hive, took out the box and the vast majority of the bees were enjoying their new home.

The queen? I went back a couple days later to free the lady and to put one more set of beetle traps into each hive. When I checked on the queen containers in both cases the bees had already freed the queens. I found the tape lying on the screened hive bottoms when I moved the hive bodies to clean out and put in these traps. Apparently duct tape is not all its cracked up to be, or bees are smarter than we give them credit for.

A tip based on my lessons learned here. When you are only using a small number of frames in a hive box make CERTAIN they are close together. If not you end up with a situation like this:

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Frames too far apart.

The bees have built comb out attaching the two frames together. I lost some brood because of this and I am jealous of my baby bees.

So I checked them again yesterday and the bees are still great. As I said, one hive is behind some but is still doing well. I enjoy fooling with bees and taking care of them, but that isn’t all I have been doing.

New dog runs and new chicken coops have been happening. I will talk about them later.

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BEEginning Again Part 2

The last time I wrote about re-starting my bee venture, I told you I had lost two hives late last year to Small Hive Beetles. This year I bought two packets, and they have been delivered, but first I want to talk about my clean-up for Hive Beetles.

Overall it is pretty simple. You want to kill the beetles and the larva, and you want to clean out any slime or residue from the infestation. As my friend Tammie George at Crooked Hill Bee Keeping says it, “Bees are better housekeepers than we are.” Mainly you just need to get the ugly stuff left by the beetles out, and let the bees do the rest.

Killing the beetles and making certain they are gone is another matter. Small Hive Beetles can live as long as six months. So I did some exploring and asked some questions of bee friends and got the same idea. Freeze the hive boxes, the frames and the foundations. I left each hive box in the freezer for a month.

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This is what we were working with, I had frozen the hive boxes and set them aside until this day.

Then comes the cleaning. I used a wire brush and two different scrapers to get the majority of all the old comb, and beetle residue, off the hive boxes and the frames. After that, I washed them in hot vinegar water. There are some who use bleach water, but I am leery of non-organic solutions.

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As I said, it is a mess.

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This view is of a brood frame where the Queen laid eggs. This is what the beetles attack. Honey frames are easily cleaned out and they are clean and yellow. Brood is darker comb and it does not want to come off. Add in the smell of the beetles and it is not pretty.

After I finished I let them dry outside in the sun. I was very happy to see some of the girls (not my bees; they were not here yet), hanging around the old frames, pulling off comb and digging out pollen I had missed.

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It is a sticky job, but someone has to do it.

A word about prevention before I close. My mistake was not thinking the beetles would get to me because I interrupted their life cycle. There was no dirt under my hives for the larva to get into because the hives were sat on concrete. I did not take elementary precautions such as simple cheap beetle traps. Now both of my hives have beetle traps in them, and the ground and concrete around the table where my hives sit is salted with diatomaceous earth.  The tuition at the College of Hard Knocks is expensive to our pocket books, our egos and several thousand bees who I let down. I will make more mistakes but not that one ever again.

The following chart came from my first link at the top of this post which links to an article from the University of Arkansas extension service. I would suggest you look at he whole article, it is very informative.

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Being me, I let some of it wait longer than I should. However, I got it done in time to move the girls and the Big Girl into their new homes. In the next post I will introduce you.

Good Fences Make Good Doggies

The bees will be here on 21 April, so there will be another post concerning cleaning and setting up my hives shortly. However, another matter has taken precedent and I had to attend to it before I ended up pulling what little hair I still have out. (See the post Don’t Fence Me In).

One of the things I try to do in this blog, is save you the time, money, aggravation and extra work I put in to my ventures, before I succeed. As long as I fall on my face in the direction of the finish line, I do not consider it a failure; just another payment on the tuition at the University of Hard Knocks.

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This is what playing catch up with a digging dog looks like.

Let’s talk about dog pens for a second. Two years, ago I built one. It seemed simple enough. Just fence in a piece of land, put the big ugly dog house in it, and insert the big ugly dogs. No problem right? Yeah…. sure you’re right.

The first question is, how much is enough land for a dog? I really cannot say. I have sicced Google on the problem, but have not found a satisfactory answer. First time out of the gate, I enclosed about 100 by 80 feet. Yes, that is 8000 square feet. Yes, I am a fool, thank you for noticing.

Shortly I realized that the north fence; the oldest line of fence I incorporated into my new lot, was totally inadequate. For a number of months, I tried to patch it with little success. I used electricity but that too, was inadequate.

Finally, I decided to back off approximately 60 feet, and put a whole new fence on the north side. Now we are down to about 4000 square feet. A little more reasonable. BUT, and there is always a but, Libby, the non-climber, took a special interest in that new 100 linear feet of fence. After the recent winter, the ground was particularly soft. Libby had a field day and once Meeko figured out what she was doing, the gimpy former climber became a pretty fair tunneler.

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Sixty feet less and a brand new fence.

 

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The first shots in the war for the North Fence

We were off to the races, but when you are patching as they go, you are always behind the power curve. My next attempt was to place pallets around the bottom of the fence; wired in, and nailed together where appropriate. Understand, I am still playing catch-up. While the tunneling duo have a preference for one linear 100 feet of fence along the north side, they have branched out, and it is impossible to predict where they will strike next.
What is wrong with my pallet answer? To start with, the dogs quickly out paced the local Co Op’s ability to supply me with pallets. Second, we are looking at 280 or so linear feet of fence. The average pallet is 44 inches long. That means I will need in the neighborhood of 70 more pallets. That would be a cost of $245.00. Shotgun shells are much cheaper.

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The first attempt at the pallet answer, for what it cost to do this all the way around I could have bought a better dog.

Then Meeko got out, killed a chicken, and wounded another. Enough. But what to do? I was really considering Turkey Shot. In desperation, we tied the dogs out by the barn and let them sleep in a concrete floored feed room. It was a really bad answer, but only lasted about two weeks.

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Tied out dogs them and I both hate it.

Then my lovely wife intervened. She took me out to the dog lot one day, and pointed out one obvious change. Change made: the dog lot is now 40 X 50 feet for two dogs. That would be 2000 square feet. Three or four people have been living in less square footage in our house.

What did this do for my fencing project? First, it reduced the linear footage of the fence by another hundred feet; now it was 180 linear feet. A hard and fast rule is that every foot you can reduce that fence, is one foot they cannot dig out of. Second, it gave me a vast amount of fencing and posts to work with when I reset the fence.

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The infamous north fence. Note the fencing on the ground. Yes, it does appear to be working. No I do not need to lose weight, that is where I carry my lunch. Several of them.

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Kat helping me line up a pole.

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Me driving a pole with a 6 lb pole hammer. Possibly the greatest invention since fire.

Next, I ran fence wire on the ground ,along the line of the fence, sank steel post every five or so (got a bunch of those too),and strung the fence with the able assistance of Kat, the Chicken Girl. Once I had the fence up, Kat wired the fence on the ground and the standing fence together. I added two short poles on the outside which Kat also wired in. These were to make it difficult for the dogs to push out on the fence. Anyway, as I have mentioned, I have a bunch of poles, short and long.

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The inside of the gate. Note the wire, even Libby cannot dig through that.

Then I pulled out the much abused and busted northern line completely. I laid wire down in the same way I had on the eastern side, added some poles, and put a sixteen foot cattle panel at the north-west corner which Libby seemed to take particular joy in attacking. Let her try to chew through that. After that, we fenced the rest. Everyone was helping there, and the dogs, chained in front of the barn, were watching; wishing we would hurry up and finish.

The western and the southern lines were the most stable. Along the western line, I placed all the pallets I still had. On the southern line, I stretched wire on the inside and the ladies wired it in while I was putting together the gate, and mumbling under my breath. It was getting late, but I wanted them in the new yard.

We hung the gate, and brought over the dogs, who were overjoyed about being able to run in their new home. Libby, of course, was checking the fence line carefully.

What can I tell you that you that will save you trouble?

1. Make a reasonable dog run. One lady, who had multiple dogs, said her 60′ X 40′ foot backyard was fine for three very large dogs.

2. If they are dogs, they can dig. Sometimes they dig just for fun. So find some way to build a no dig zone around the inside of your fence at least two feet wide. Wire fence works well; chicken wire not so well. Also, and this is my next project with the dogs, build them some stuff to play on and with.

3. Give your dog plenty of credit for creativity. When you think you have it sealed, think again.

All during the re-fencing project, there was a place where the fence had been bent and broken about 10 inches wide along the bottom. A number of times I said to Connie, “We need to patch that and slap a pole in there. In the hurry to get the Dweeble Twins off the chain (I hate chaining a dog), we neglected this less than a linear foot of fence. I went out the next morning, and they were gone out of that one little hole.

It is sealed now, and my ego is healing.

Thank You

Ed

BEEginning Again

Those who follow my writing know that I started an experiment with bees last year. I invested in two nuclei (nucs), or two mini-hives with a queen, the bees, some honey and some brood (eggs for worker bees). Along with that I bought all the necessary bee keeping equipment.

I considered success getting through the first winter with one active hive. I did not do that. Luckily for this project, I consider failure quitting. I have not quit. With what honey I sold already, I can cover a lot of the cost of replacing the bees, so this was not quite the failure it could have been and I still have a few quarts of honey left.

So let’s redefine success. I have all the equipment I need and I have considerable more knowledge of bee keeping. I have two packages of bees on order, and I have my copy of First Lessons in Beekeeping. Along with that, I have made contact with other local bee keepers. I am well ahead of where I was last year.

  1. A hive beetle.
  2. A healthy hive.
  3. After a hive beetle attack
  4. Dead bees on bottom board.

So what do I have to do now? First, I need to clean up all my equipment. I would have had to do that anyway. Then I need to look at my set up. The table I had my hives on is too high. This year I will buy some concrete blocks and set the hives up on them.

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When you realize that I am going to have to put at least one more Super on this set up then you can see that it is too high to begin with.

The hives were on a table which sat on a concrete slab that once was the floor of a kennel I tore out. I need to clean that off and perhaps patch it a bit. I need to buy a couple more things like some more beetle traps, a queen excluder, a bee suit for my wife and/or visitors, a couple more deep supers and a couple of shallow supers.

Yeah, I know. Its like a whole new language isn’t it? When I first started attending beekeeping meetings, reading books, and watching videos, jargon that I did not understand kept washing over me, leaving me as confused as a dog at a whistling contest. If you are interested, you will read books, check web sites and just stop people who are talking about supers and bottom boards and what all, and ask them, “What does that mean?” Most will answer willingly.

As I continue with each post, I will publish a list of bee related terms and what they mean. You are welcome to steal it. I probably did.

Ed

Apiary: A site of one or more managed bee hives.

Bee Brush: A soft brush used for swiping bees off a surface.

Bottom Board: Floor of a bee hive

Brood: Describes all immature phases of the bee: egg, larvae, prepupae, or pupae

Super: General term for boxes (9-1/2-, 6-5/8- or 5-3/8- inches tall) comprising a beehive. Term is more appropriately reserved for honey production boxes placed above the brood nest.

Fits Like a Glove

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This is the damage that can be caused by an adjustable wrench and a hard head.

The picture above explains why you wear work gloves. I wrote a blog post about the incident, but here is a condensed version. On the day in question, I was pulling on a very large nut with an adjustable wrench. It was holding a pulley on my riding lawn mower. One of the last thoughts I recall, before I skinned a knuckle to the bone and hurt another was, “Hey Buck, don’t you think you need to put on those high dollar work gloves you paid for?” Of course my answer to myself was, “I’ll go get ’em in a minute.”

Work gloves. We all need a pair. I work in food service, when not stumbling around my five acres cutting myself in various ways. When working in food service, it is not a good idea to have hands covered with cuts, scrapes and stains; so when working with wood, paint or other things like that, gloves are a good idea bordering on a necessity.

Me? I like leather gloves. So now I should give you a practical reason for that, right? There is none. I like leather gloves because they look, smell and feel like leather. That is a tactile sensation that dates back to my days on Grandpa’s farm.

My last two pair of work gloves were made by Kinco, and were made from buffalo leather. I have the second of those two pair sitting here beside me. This pair lasted me about three years, the first pair, almost two. This pair lasted longer because I was really reluctant to give them up.

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That spot on the back of the left one? Its my blood from putting up fencing. The gloves protected my hands and fingers, but not my forearms. The right glove’s finger seams are wearing out and have split on the middle and third finger. There is a hole worn in the middle finger of the right hand. All over the palms and fingers of both gloves ,you can feel the leather worn thin and supple. The right thumb has a small hole from some incident now forgotten. The list of scrapes, broken laces, and worn thin spots would take up pages. So why want to keep them? Why put off buying a new pair?

Because they fit me like a glove. Anything leather; a coat, a hat, a boot, a glove, that begins near the correct fit seems to adapt to the body with time. I wear a medium glove, but my hands are different sizes, and my already unique hands have been modified by time and damage. With time, sweat, use and blood, leather gloves become a part of your hands. They no longer just fit; they fit like a glove.

Before I bought my “dress boots” some six years ago, I had worn a pair of boots for untold years. The soles and heels were all but gone, and the uppers were wearing through in places. When I checked on a re-sole and heel job, it was going to cost nearly as much as buying a new pair of boots. So I bought these boots. After six years they are beginning to break in.

These gloves? They have not only protected my hands, they have become part of my memories. A lot of the story of my last couple years are sweated into them. So no, I will not throw them away right now. I will put them in my stuff drawer where I can find them, accidentally, every once in a while.

Maybe, after a couple of years I can write a follow-up to this post about this pair.

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Ed

How Not To’s

When Connie suggested this blog to me, and we talked about a theme and such, I pictured a series of articles about how to do the wonderful things we were going to do on our homestead. There has been some of that, I admit. I have written a handful of articles on how to do this or that and sometimes, the other.

But it seems to me, that a larger number of my contributions have been “How Not To’s”, not how to’s. Why? To be honest, this is my first attempt at homesteading. My time as the live-in grandson of a farmer ended early, and there was little, if any, input from the grown men in my life about how to build and make things.

I told a local friend last week, that I envied people raised here because they took for granted things I had never been allowed to learn. I told him, “My basic skill sets are writing, cooking and thanks to the U. S. Army, breaking things and hurting people.” I have spent the last almost two decades trying to unlearn that last one.

Today’s entry will not be any different. The basic thrust is going to be: This is what I did wrong. Don’t do that.

Anyone who follows our blog knows that early last spring, I set up two bee hives and started keeping bees. Things went well, perhaps too well at first. We harvested honey from June until August, and sold more than I ever hoped to the first year, while keeping more than enough for our uses. Honey will keep indefinitely, as long as it is harvested from capped combs, so keeping extra is not a problem.

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This is a picture of me opening the nucs last spring to put the bees in their new homes.

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Same bees, a month later. Like I said, they just took off.

Late in August I began to notice my bees acting strangely. One hive was robbing the other. I knew from study, that his meant the hive being robbed was weakening. I blocked most of the entrance to that hive, to reduce the open space the weak hive had to defend, to try to save it, but the hive was too far gone.

What I did not know until too late, was that this hive was infested with small hive beetles, and the second hive was well on its way to being killed too. At that point, I bought Beetle Traps, but that was closing the barn door after the horse has got out. Both hives were lost that quickly.

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This is a small hive beetle.

I should have had beetle traps in place from the beginning. I should have taken more care to look in the bottoms and the upper corners of the hives for beetles. I should have been more aggressive in making certain the beetles did not get a foot hold in the first place.

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This is a beetle trap with not nearly enough beetles in it. Too little way too late.

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This is a ghost town, but it won’t be around May, Lord willing.

The bad news is, this course in practical bee keeping cost me about three hundred bucks in bees. The good news, finding the positives in the negatives, is that I sold enough honey to defray most of that cost. I have beetle traps for both hives and I will know better next time.

I tell young people I mentor and train the following: “Experience simply means any mistake you are going to make, I have already made, and learned how to overcome.”

So the beetles got me this time, but I will be ready next time. I have already frozen the hives to make certain I kill all the larva. So before spring I must:

1. Scrape the hives, clean them and prepare them for the new bees. This time I bought packages. Packages consist of a queen and her bees. They take a little longer to become established, but I already have everything else I need, so I want to start that way.

2. Set up bee traps in and around our property. I will use the boxes I have left from last year’s nucs for traps, and use lemon grass oil and bee’s wax for bait. Hopefully, if we have some swarming in the area, I can pick up some more bees.

3. Buy a couple more deep and a couple more medium hive boxes. One of my problems last year was that I was not prepared for the population explosion of bees I experienced.

Except for the traps, all must be completed and ready to go, along with cleaning out the bee yard and preparing it to receive the hives, by late March. The traps can wait another month, maybe six weeks because they depend on bees seeking new homes. That should be plenty of time, if the dogs stay home and the Creek don’t rise. This year, because we upgraded our blog, I can post you some videos of our progress. Maybe that will help you, and maybe you can help me by giving me some advice based on what you see me doing.

I said earlier, the Army only taught me how to break things and hurt people. That is simplistic. The Army taught me a lot more than that, and a lot of it has to do with dealing with set backs and failings. The best one is simply this, “The winner is the one who gets up one more time than his opponent.”

It’s gonna take a lot more than some beetles to beat Connie and I.

Ed

But Why??????

The dogs keep escaping. Anyone who has read my blog entries, facebook postings, emails, letters, prayer lists, rants, and things casually written on out house walls, knows that my dogs keep escaping. It is a continuing theme, as it well should be, because my dogs keep escaping.

It used to be mostly Meeko.

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Hi, my name is Meeko, I am very good dog. Good at escaping, excellent at making an all around nuisance of myself and the world’s greatest licker of unsuspecting faces.

Meeko has been known to literally go through a welded wire fence. Push with the head, get a paw in there, heave and struggle, and BOBS YOUR UNCLE, you’re out. His favorite method, however, has always been up and over. If Sir Edmund Hillary had only had Meeko along, he would have made much shorter and easier work of Everest. Meeko was the ultimate climber. No fence was high enough to withstand his assault.On his way out, he was often able to press the fence down, so the more gentile Libby could step over and have a run with him. We will discuss the difference in capturing techniques for the two dogs shortly.

That continued from the time Meeko was with us (2010) until November 2015 when he, while trying to climb out, got his foot caught in the fence, dislocated his right hip, and spent six weeks inside wearing a lampshade The whole ordeal cost us about five hundred bucks, which we just recently paid off. The injury, which still gives him trouble, has slowed Meeko’s climbing to a near stop.

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Hi, Meeko again, just after doing a header without taking the footsie with me. OUCH! But it’s cool, I think my hat is much nicer than Ed’s don’t you?

Yet my dogs keep escaping.

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I was working and Connie wired this dog kennel into the outside of the fence as a temporary patch until I got a day off. The next day it looked like this.

These dogs have, plus or minus, half an acre of scrubby brush to play with. Birds, rabbits, and what not visit them. They have a house and all kinds of open ground to run in. These dogs are well fed and watered, yet they have worn a trail completely around the inside of the fence and, way too often, we find them out and running come evening or early morning.

Why do my dogs keep escaping?
Libby next took up the mantle of escape artist most excellent. Libby had shown a propensity for tunneling even way back when but, after Meeko’s accident, she developed into a tunneler that would make a Welsh coal miner blush from his inadequacies. I would hazard a guess that if you combined her tunnels end to end, you would have dug a decent WWI defensive trench.

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Hi, I am Libby, I do not stand for pictures well because I sense you want me to. I am an older lady but still have a lot of spunk. Also, if I keep digging any deeper, I am going to have to learn to ignore people calling me in Chinese.

She also, even though she is getting on, has no dental problems. She will get any fencing, or troubling chicken wire we put down, in her teeth and bend it out of her way. I cringe when I think about it. So, since Meeko’s over is blocked, Libby bet on the under, and has been beating the house fairly consistently.

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Please note the bent up welded wire fence. Libby did that with her teeth. You just touched your mouth didn’t you? Yeah, that looks like it would smart. I covered the whole mess with chicken wire, hooked in with pig clips and weighed down with pallets. So far so good but she still tries.

I have a word for you: Pallets. She, so far, has been stymied by pallets laid along the bottom of, and attached to, the fence. Note: I said so far, but I might want to go check before I go much further. She IS a resourceful old lady.
Still…. why? Libby was a town dog and had no run to speak of, and Meeko cares about nothing much more that Libby or us. As long as we all appear happy, he is delirious. When he does escape, he is so proud of himself he comes directly to show us how smart he is.

Let me take a moment and compare and contrast how, after an escape, you recapture each dog.

Meeko: Yell, “Hey Meeko, come here!” and he comes. I do not believe it really matters who yells. He might just come to anybody. I am certain that it really doesn’t matter what you yell. “Meeko” is just proforma. Yell whatever you want. He will come.

Libby: Forget about it. She will not come until she is ready and, when she does come, she is more likely to give you that lopsided Libby grin and bolt right or left at the last minute. You see, when she was young she got the message that playing chase was a fun game and, if you came when called, that was the end of the fun game.

Treats? Good luck with that. I have personally offered her everything from raw meat up to (but not including) a child. She will ignore you. There is always time for treats when the game is done. Live rabbit, squalling cat, or two pounds of ground round, are not worth the end of the game.

So the best way to catch her is to let her run herself out or, better yet, don’t lose her to begin with.
But WHY do my dogs keep escaping?????

For Christmas I got an infrared, motion activated, game camera . On the very first night we put it out, we got a hint of the answer to that question.

What I have not mentioned was that not only was there a beaten path around the inside of the fence, there was also one along the outside of the fence. Perhaps not as well worn as the inside path, but easily seen and followed.

Find below some pictures of our dog’s visitors:

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Hi, I am the big, unleashed Rot that is not supposed to be here, I guess I am busted.

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This is the other one. I have only seen him/her once in daylight and at a goodly distance.

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I have business elsewhere as you can see but, based on the fuzzy tail, Ed wonders if I might not be a Fox On the Run. (For Tom T Hall fans everywhere)

The Rottweiler is a dog that should not be on our land period. I am very certain he killed another dog last summer, even if by accident. He runs with a big yellow lab whose picture I did not get, but we did see both of them here, the other day during, daylight.

I took the opportunity of their daylight visit to do some target practice, with our 12 gauge, firing at a Juniper tree that was just to the Rot’s left. The remarkable thing is the beast not only seems to recognize a weapon. He seems to know something of calibers, gauges and sizes. He just moved away when I brought out my pellet gun, but I stepped out the door with the shotgun he suddenly remember a pressing engagement elsewhere!

There is another trespasser that we don’t see often. A black and white mixed mostly Border Collie I believe and we have a blurry vision of what probably is a fox.

Thinking back, we had the same thing happen at our old house. Meeko had quit attempting to get out until folks moved in with two little dogs which were allowed to run loose.

So, having finally got enough breathing space, I got a chance to write a blog post.

Thanks for reading.

Ed

Holding On (By the Skin of My Teeth)

Last Thursday, July 21, Connie had her heel and Achilles Tendon operated on. She will not be able to put weight on that leg for three months. That would be approximately 13 weeks, or 91 days. If you really want to know exactly what your partner does around the old place, put them off line for about a week.

Yeah, all that stuff.

So this last week I have worked 40 plus hours, put at least one real meal a day on the table, tried to make certain Connie was comfortable, did the minimums to keep the critters alive, had an occasional talk with the Lord God and slept. That would be about it. Had Katherine not enlisted to take care of her mother some of the time, I might not have been able to do that. On top of that, I am just not pleased when people start cutting on the love of my life. Makes me kinda want to punch them, but that does not seem appropriate in this case.

So the first week is about over. We have a follow-up with the doctor tomorrow, and Connie is beginning to get around a little better. After waking up early this morning to finish cutting my knee high lawn, and fighting back the rag weed and various poisonous prehistoric plants that are taking over my dog lot, I fell out for a nap. I woke up to find the dishes I had washed after dinner last night put up, the new dishes on there way to clean and a plate of French Toast and bacon courtesy of Connie and Katherine waiting for me. Thank you both.

Speaking about the lawn. Let me continue a little about things I would have done differently when I started this little experiment in Green Acres-ism. No matter how tough and resilient you might think you are, if you have an acre yard (plus or minus) you do need a riding lawn mower and a gas powered weed eater.

At least, if you are in your later years and have any intentions of doing things other than cut your lawn. If not a riding mower, I would suggest goats. That does not mean you need a high dollar rider. I bought mine used from a friend for $250.00. The gas trimmer I got at Lowes for about seventy bucks. (Lowes has a 10 percent discount for military veterans; bless their hearts.)

I set out on this adventure with my 5 HP push mower and an electric weed eater. From the closest outlet, which is just inside the front door, to the farthest point of my front yard is about 175 or so feet. I needed the gas weed eater. And I really got tired of taking two plus days to mow the lawn. Also, this next year I am planning to get a wagon I can pull behind the mower, to do some chores around the place.

Another answer that is a work in progress, is just getting rid of the lawn entirely. We are working on planting it in an edible garden, but that is Connie’s project and she is in no shape to work on it right now..

The bees are going like gang busters. We have harvest a gallon of honey from each hive and they are still full to overflowing. I am going to have to get at least one more super or rob them again this next week. Maybe both.

As I said, I am involved in a project to cut down and kill a very intimidating forest of weeds that are growing, well…. I guess like weeds. To supplement the physical labor of cutting down these monsters I wanted something that would kill the beggars while not poisoning my dogs, chickens, bees or land for a couple more generations.

I had heard of something and looked it up. This is the basic recipe that I am following.

Take one gallon of cheap old white vinegar, pour it in a bucket. Add one cup of table salt and stir it up well. To that add one tablespoon of dish washing liquid to make the stuff stick better and stir that in. Put your product in a closed, marked container and put some it in a spray bottle and spray your plants.

I cannot endorse this recipe yet and it is indiscriminate, it kills the good stuff with the bad if it works as advertised. Connie or I will report back to you on it, when we know how it works.

I will close this rambling post. I hope something in it is interesting and helpful in your walk. Any prayers for my lovely wife will be appreciated. Also, I will put all you folks on my prayer list. Don’t worry, I don’t mind if you don’t believe in God, He believes in you.

The night before they took my love in for the operation, I slept very little. At the hospital in Chilicothe, Mo. Just before the operation, Connie, Katherine and I joined hands and prayed. When I looked up the nursing staff and the Doctor were in prayer with us.

Next, after we had to go out, Kat and I went for breakfast in the cafeteria. At our table we joined hands and blessed our food. I have an old soldier’s awareness of what is around me, so I knew that the tables next to ours and the people walking by stopped while we prayed.

I love the country.

The Art of Messing Up

 

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This is one of the earliest pictures of the house we have. She is a nice place, warm and snug, with enough land to keep this old fella busy until the Lord calls me home.

 

Doing things right is often overrated. Don’t get me wrong. It is truly wondrous to see a person with a high level of skill, attack a task with a speed and accuracy that leaves us all breathless with awe. Still, you have to ask yourself how they got that way don’t you?

Do you think B. B. King came out of the womb playing The Thrill is Gone? Was Mohamed Ali floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee when he was in diapers? Did Michelangelo design helicopters, and paint masterpieces in preschool? I doubt that very seriously.

In all things, there is a learning process. No matter how gifted you might be, there is that period of time when you hit yourself in the thumb with the hammer, trip over the shoelaces of your dancing shoes, and drop your musical instrument on your foot. For an old reprobate retired soldier turned fry cook, the learning curve for a homesteader is pretty steep. Picture the wall of the Grand Canyon; that kind of steep.

We are coming up on the end of our second year on our homestead. I want to look at some things we did well, some things we did badly, some things we did not do at all, and some things we should never have done.

It bears repeating, doing things right IS highly overrated. I am one of those people who improves his skills by getting dirt under my fingernails. I can read a book, listen to an instructor, watch a video, then pass a test with flying colors. However, until I am turning information into action I have not really been trained.

Learning is the assembly of facts; training changes behavior. You can read every possible book on horsemanship, but your really not a rider until you are sitting on your butt looking up into the eyes of the horse that just made a fool of you. THAT is lesson number one.

So the first thing I will tell you, is that I regret spending way too much time being afraid of failure. That does not just apply to the homestead; that applies to my life in general. However, we will narrow it down to the homestead and these last couple years.

A lot more would have happened around here, were I not afraid of looking like a fool in general, and incompetent in particular. If I had taken most of the time I spent figuring out what I did not have or know that kept me from doing something, and just did it, I would have accomplished a lot more.

So, my free advice, worth every penny you paid for it, is do not fear doing things wrong. Anything worth doing is worth screwing up a couple times. Do not judge yourself against others and particularly against those you believe to be expert. You are going to start any project with the skills you have now. Done right, you will finish it with more, better, and broader skills. Even if you fail completely, you will still have learned how not to do it and what you need to know to do it.

So what are my regrets? Sit back and relax this might take awhile:

When we were shopping for a home, I went in prayer to God and ask Him to close doors if I were heading in the wrong direction. Doors just flew open to getting this place. For that reason I believe this is the place the Good Lord wants Connie and I. However, my first thought on this matter, is that we bit off more than we were, and still are, able to chew.

We considered, what we thought was carefully, and decided on between five and ten acres. Seemed reasonable to us at the time. We are two years in, and have not fully used two acres. That two acres includes about a quarter acre dog run, inside which the dogs sometimes even stay. So my takeaway?

Really give thought to how much land you need, but, if you must err, err on more than less. I can always let three acres go wild, and let somebody hay it just to knock the stuff down, but I cannot figure out how to make more ground.

Before you buy it, know your place. Had I known everything I know now, I would have still chosen this farm but:

I should have noticed that most of the center east-west cross fence was simply trash, and a lot of the boundary fencing is going to need replacement.

I should have learned that if the gates were not hanging on the fences (they were in the lean-to on the barn), they were not considered part of the property. That little mistake is going to cost me a bit.

I should have asked more questions about the septic system, but the two year old roof dazzled me with its brilliance.

I should have stopped, and talked to Connie about the interior decoration of the house (every man reading this just went to sleep). Let me leave this next statement gender neutral: The fact one of you could care less about the Disco Ball in the Den, does not mean the other one feels that way.

So there are some examples of the things I intend to talk about during the month of July. August 1st we will have slept in our home for two years. If I had it to do all over again, and with all I have learned since then, I think this is right where we need to be.

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