Vanishing Bees, Constipated Dogs, and Mite Infested Chickens: Reality on the Homestead

I’m pretty sure that after four years of reading our blog (If you’ve managed to hang with us that long), you know that this is not one of those that paint a wonderful, rosy picture of homesteading. We would be lying if we did that, and the Lord frowns on lying (among other things).

So you share in our successes, and more often you share in our failures. We hope you can learn from our mistakes and not make the same ones. If nothing else, it might give you a good laugh.

To us, however, this particular post isn’t funny, but it is an example of how quickly things go can wrong, and how bad they can get if you don’t get ahead of them just as quickly.

First, a couple weeks ago, Ed went out to set fresh hive beetle traps and check on all the bees. I was working at my computer, and Ed came in and said that two of the hives are gone. At first, I thought he meant they were dead, and my mind raced to figure out how that could have happened so quickly without us noticing something. Then, I realized he meant they were gone, like swarmed, only we really aren’t sure if that is what happened either.  The two hives in question were the ones  sitting closest together: the original hive that we split last summer, and the nuc that we bought last spring. The split hive, sitting out in the pasture, is still intact. I imagine that Ed will want to write about all that, but it may take him a few weeks to process it. It’s hit him pretty hard.

Then, Monday morning, Chicken Girl came back in from letting the chickens out, carrying a hen with her. She said the feathers around her vent were completely gone, and as she turned the hen around to show me, she gasped and said, “She has mites!” (Oh wonderful.) I told her to take the hen out to the garage and I would bring out the diatomaceous earth.

We have had unseasonably cold weather this week. We’ve had temperatures dip down into the single digits and we’ve even had some snow. That is more like late December and January weather for us, not early to mid November. Monday morning, it was cold and snowing. That’s why I told her to go to the garage. It’s not heated, but it would be out of the wind. So we dusted that hen with the DE, and then we examined the other three in that coop. One more had some, but the others didn’t. We treated them anyway. This morning, Chicken Girl told me she thought the mites were gone, but she’s going to keep a better eye on it. The chickens in the little coop were fine, but Chicken Girl is worried about moving them to the big coop once we get it finished.

Now, for the true highlight of the month. As you know, we have our big dogs, Meeko and Libby, outside in a large enclosure. You know this because we have written several posts about the seeming impossibility of keeping them in it. Two years ago, we reduced it in size by half, which actually put them farther away from the house. We go out to feed, water, and spend time with them twice a day, and were taking them out for a walk with us about once a week. However, once Bam Bam moved back in with the little dogs, the walks became problematic, and we hadn’t done it in awhile.

Libby has always been rather aloof. She isn’t crazy about being handled unless it’s her idea, and it’s hardly ever her idea. Add that to the fact that Meeko is a big attention hog. Getting past him to get to her is a challenge. OK, it’s nearly impossible without someone else distracting him.

Libby is also one of those dogs that gets a thick, heavy undercoat in the winter, and then spends all of spring and summer getting rid of it. By fall, when it’s time for her to coat back up, she looks semi emaciated, but it’s just that she’s lost all that hair.

Well, A few weeks ago, I noticed that Libby’s winter coat didn’t seem to be coming in. She looked even more thin than usual. She was eating the little bit of canned food we give them every morning (in case we have to sneak some medicine), but it didn’t look like she was eating a lot of dry food. We were trying to watch that anyway because she has worn her teeth down pretty far, and we wanted to make sure she could still eat the dry food. That being said, she was still taking dog biscuits from us and seemed to be chewing those just fine.

I wanted to get my hands on her, so I told Ed to get hold of Meeko. I was shocked. She felt like skin and bones. Later that day, I brought both dogs in the house and started watching what she was doing. I thought she might not be getting enough to eat and gave her a whole can of food, putting her in Ed’s office so that she could eat with out having to fight off the other dogs. She didn’t touch it. That was Thursday afternoon (Nov 1). By Friday, I realized that not only was she not eating, she wasn’t pooping. Thinking I might have to have her put to sleep, I called our regular vet. They were swamped and couldn’t get her in until the following week. I didn’t think she could wait, so I found another vet, and got her in that afternoon.

The diagnosis? She was constipated. No, she was Constipated. Her colon was completely full and it was backed up into her small intestine. She had lost 15 lbs! I don’t need to tell you how we felt, do I? The vet did tell us that her blood work looked great. Other than the obvious problem, she is in good shape.

So the vet gave us laxatives and instructions for the weekend, and told us to call her back on Monday. Since part of the laxative regimen required miralax in her drinking water, we couldn’t let the other dogs get access to it. So we confined Libby to our bedroom. Meeko did not like that at all.

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Meeko moping outside our bedroom door.

Monday nothing had changed, so we took her back. That was Monday, November 5th. She got to stay with the vet for a week, and we brought her home Monday November 12th. (The same Monday Chicken Girl discovered the mites). We did go visit her on Friday the 9th. They had a cone on her to keep her from pulling the IV port out. They took it off for our visit and told us to watch her because she’s quick (like we don’t know that!).

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Visiting Day: She was not happy.

When she came home, she was mostly cleaned out (I won’t give you all the details…yes, thank me), but they want her to stay on all the laxatives until Thursday. Then they will tell us how to start backing them off. The good news is that she obviously feels better, she’s eating and she is no longer constipated. However, thanks to the laxatives, she has no control over her bowels. Oh, and her weight had dropped to 50 lbs for a total loss of 22 lbs!

We cannot put her back outside because one, she has neither fat, nor winter undercoat, and it is cold, and two, we have to watch her to see how things are moving. We can see it alright. We can smell it too. We’ve already given her four showers to help keep her clean (yeah, she loves that), and are in a constant state of washing towels and blankets.

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After her bath this morning, she was shivering, so I put a blanket over her. She seemed to like it.

Oh, did I forget to mention the bill? $2365.00! That blew what little budget we had, and we had to remind ourselves that the Lord is our provider. We do the best we can and leave the rest to Him.

Don’t be too surprised if, in the next few months, we write a post about building in new dog pen right off the house, probably utilizing the front door. Also, I imagine Ed will want to tell you about what it was like living with Meeko in the house for a week, without Libby.

However, I think for next week, he might be continuing his series on firearms. He probably needs to get his mind of his missing bees, and cleaning up after a dog with free flowing bowels.

Connie

 

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While We’re Waiting

While we’re waiting for Ed to figure out that washtub bass, I thought I would fill you in on our last year, and share some plans for upcoming posts.

Last August, we took our first ever family vacation. We went to Georgia to visit my dad, then to Charleston SC so Chicken Girl could see the ocean. From there we went to Greenville SC to visit Ed’s daughter, and on to North Carolina to visit Cherokee and see where Ed’s grandparents lived when he was a boy.  We put 2600 miles on my car and made some great memories. There will be more about that in later posts.

While we were gone, James was supposed to stay here and take care of the critters.  Well, that didn’t go quite as well as we had hoped.  To make a long, sad, story short, James was not able to fight his Meth addiction and surrendered his probation. The judge gave him nine years.  The blessing in that is that he is clean and sober.  We pray that this time he gets the tools (and the desire) he needs to stay that way.

In the meanwhile, Bam Bam’s life kind of fell apart too, and he is staying with us again, along with his two small dogs, Rex and Gracie. They have been with us since December. It’s been nice to have him home again, and he is a big help. The little dogs provide a lot of “entertainment” although the cats are less than impressed.

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Bam Bam with Rex (black) and Gracie (white)

The big dogs are doing ok. Some days, Libby really shows her age, but I think we’ve stopped her digging out. Meeko still climbs out, on occasion, comes to the back door and barks! I think he wants to play with the little dogs, who aren’t terribly sure that’s a good idea.

On a positive note, we have finished homeschooling and Chicken Girl graduated on June 3rd. She is now taking an online Voice Over class, since she wants to be a voice over artist.

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Chicken Girl at her graduation party

As for the chickens, with the exception of one hen we lost to illness (we’re not sure what), they are all doing fine. We get between one and two dozen eggs a week, which is more than enough for us.  We are working on rebuilding the coop (again), as well as some new chicken tractors.

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Sunny about ready to fly the coop!

This spring has been an exciting time with the bees. Currently we have four hives. One we bought as a nuc, two from a hive we split, and one we took from an old house. I know that Ed will want to tell you all about that, but I will say I have finally put on the bee suit and started helping him. Capturing that wild hive was amazing!

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The wild hive was behind this wall!

Weather wise, things have just been strange.  With the exception of about a week of frigid sub zero temperatures, last winter was mild and dry. We didn’t get much spring. It just went from cold to hot, and still very dry.  We finally got some rain yesterday, but we need more.  The grass is dry and crunchy, but the plantain is doing beautifully!

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All the green is plantain. The brown is grass

We bought some fruit trees as well as some elderberry bushes planning to create fruit tree guilds. Well, we didn’t get as far into that as we would have liked, but we did get all the trees in the ground and they are hanging on.

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An apricot tree with mulch inside the drip line. We plan to plant understory plants here later.

Ed and Bam Bam built me a basement greenhouse, so I was able to get some seeds started. The only problem was that when they were ready to go outside, the weather was still too cool, and then the tiller broke down and Ed wasn’t able to get everything tilled.   We improvised and got everything I started planted. Some things didn’t make it, but most are, like the trees, hanging on.

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The greenhouse

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Tomato plants in the garden

After three years,  the blackberries are producing! Then a few days ago, I discovered wild raspberries growing behind the barn. This must just be a good year for berries. The mulberry trees in the fence rows are full of fruit in varying degrees of ripeness. The wild grapes have taken off too.

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Blackberries!

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Wild raspberries behind the barn

Well, I think that is pretty much everything. Hopefully, Ed will have that bass built next week, and he’ll post about that and all the other ways you can make your own musical instruments.

Connie

 

 

 

Endangered Skill #4: Reading the Weather

“I smell rain.”

I don’t know how old I was when I heard my grandma say those words, but I know I was immediately fascinated. It wasn’t raining. To my young eyes, it didn’t look like it was going to rain. What did she mean? I sniffed the air. I smelled something different, something I still can’t describe. I call it “rain”, and it usually means we’re going to get wet.

I probably would have smelled it this week, if I had spent any significant time outside. In two days, we got about five inches of rain.

Weather is important to everyone. These days most of us can get weather information from TV, radio, and the internet. We can watch the radar and get instant information about what is happening right now, and what we might expect next.

That being said, have you ever noticed how often the predictions are off a little? How about dead wrong? Did you ever hear about the lady who called the local weather man to ask him why she was sweeping six inches of “partly cloudy” off her front porch?

Have you ever been some place where it was raining on one side of the street and dry on the other? People on both sides of the street listened to the same weather forecast. One side will say the forecast was right, the other will say it was wrong. The Economist has an interesting post about the subject of weather forecasting accuracy.

So, if our professionals have trouble predicting the weather, what are the rest of us supposed to do? Further more, what did our ancestors do before there were professionals as we know them today?

Well, there are some things, like smelling rain, that seem to be at least as reliable as our local meteorologist. One of the reasons we listed reading the weather as an endangered skill is because it’s one of those things for which we rely so much on technology, we forget to use our own senses. We just need to get our heads out of our cell phones and pay attention.

The first volume of the Foxfire series, simply called “The Foxfire Book”, has a chapter called “Weather Signs”. At first glance, you might think you are reading a bunch of old wives tales, and some of them might be, but not all. Here are a few samples from page 208:

“Forecasting Winter By Animals
It will be a bad winter if:
squirrels begin gathering nuts early (middle or late September)
muskrat houses are built big.
beaver lodges have more logs.
the north side of a beaver dam is more covered with sticks than the south.
squirrels’ tails grow bushier.
fur and hair on animals such as horses, sheep, mules, cows and dogs is thicker than usual.
the fur on the bottom of a rabbits foot is thicker.
cows’ hooves break off earlier.”
And the list goes on for three pages, and includes methods for predicting other types of weather as well.

Chicken Girl’s dad grew up in a logging family in rural Kentucky. Once, when we lived there, I noticed the leaves on some of the trees had turned upside down, showing their undersides. I mentioned it to him, and he said the trees were expecting rain.  I’ve seen it bear out more often than not. You can notice it from a distance, because the underside of leaves are usually a different, more subdued color.

Dad has lived in Georgia since 1970, and he has told me many times, when the weather is coming straight across (meaning out of the west), it won’t be that bad, but if I comes up from the Gulf, (out of the southwest), “we’re going to get it.”

Dad also says to gauge what kind of winter you’re going to have, look at horses and cows. If the winter is going to be a bad one, they will “coat up”. That means their hair will get thick and woolly-looking. Sounds like one of those “signs” from The Foxfire Book, doesn’t it? I’ve actually noticed this looking at livestock while riding down the road, and on our own dogs, particularly Libby.

I’ll bet you’ve heard this before:

“Red sky at night, sailor delight.
Red sky at morning, sailor take warning.”

Dust and water vapor particles in the atmosphere indicate weather conditions. The amount of each also determine the colors we see at sunrise and sunset. For a further explanation of that and some other good information for understanding your local weather patterns, look at this post from How to Provide for Your Family. In it, the author mentions that leaves turn over when the wind is coming from an unusual direction. Could that also be an indicator of rain? I don’t know, but it might be interesting to find out.

The post also mentions that the high humidity/low pressure combination that signifies a cold front, and often precipitation, can produce bodily aches and pains, as well as “antisocial behavior”. Ed and I can both attest to the bodily aches and pains part. As for antisocial behavior, I do know that people seem to get testy when the weather is hot and humid.

Weather has always fascinated me, and I love thunderstorms, but I’ll be honest. My mind just will not grasp the science part of it. I don’t know why, and it’s a little irritating, because I have to keep researching the same information. To quote Chicken Girl, “It just doesn’t stick”.

In other homestead news:

My camera had an accident and is out of commission. If I can’t fix it, which I probably can’t since that is way beyond my skill set, I will have to get another one. In the meanwhile, I got the gorgeous pictures you see in this post from Unsplash.com.

Adora, our injured cat is still recovering. Last Saturday, she came running when she heard me open the back door. A few hours later, she left a dead bird on the front porch. Unfortunately, Wednesday morning, I noticed her left hip looked swollen and it was hot to the touch. I called the vet, and we made another trip to his office. He said it looked like it was an abscess, but it was going to need to come to a head before he could do anything with it. In the meanwhile, he gave us some liquid antibiotic to give her. Either that will make it go away completely, or help bring it to a head so that he can lance it. While we were there, I told them that Chicken Girl though she had found more bites on the back of her head, so they shaved it to get a better look. They confirmed the bite marks, but said they looked ok for now.

With all the rain,we renamed the holes the dogs dug in their pen “Lake Libby”. However, after rain stopped, and the water soaked into the  ground, we discovered most of the holes had filled in. Now they can dig them all out again.

Ed broke down and bought another push mower. He managed to get the front yard mowed before the deluge hit. That’s a start, anyway. We wont talk about the fifteen foot high ragweed that has buried the burn pile and our wheelbarrow.

Connie

Other posts in the Endangered Skills series:

Eight Endangered Skills
Endangered Skill #1: Shoe Repair
Endangered Skill #2: Black Smith
Endangered Skill #3: Small Appliance Repair

Homestead Update

Since Ed updated you on the bees I thought I would  update you on the rest of the homestead.

A couple months ago, I found out I had an umbilical hernia. While we waited for the insurance company to decide if I could have surgery, and then get said surgery scheduled, my doctor gave me one order: No lifting and no straining. Great.

I had visions of spending another summer completely out of commission. I am now happy to report that I had the surgery, it was a success, and I have just been given the go ahead to gradually increase the work I am able to do. Yes, I am obeying the “gradually” rule because I really want to get better.

Since I didn’t know for sure if I would be able work outside this summer, I decided to not have a garden. For the first time in years, I did not buy any seeds or plants. I keep feeling like I’m forgetting something. I am going to use this summer to plan next year’s garden, and work on getting the ground ready.

My camera got knocked off the table with the lens open, and suffered some damage. Sometimes, it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Chicken Girl took these pictures, and had trouble getting consistent focus.

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Thyme growing inside the tire. If you look closely at the right side of  the picture, you might be able to make out the blue flowers on the Borage plant.

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Love in a Mist

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Wild grapes

The thyme survived the winter, and there are some volunteer sunflowers.  Last summer, I planted some Borage and Love in a Mist, but they just decided to come up now. Gotta love those unexpected blessings. I’ve found wild grapes growing in one of the fence rows, and some of the mulberry trees are producing like crazy. The blackberries we planted last year survived for the most part, and a few plants even have some green fruit.

The lawn and weeds have taken off too. Unfortunately, one of our weed eaters, and both lawn mowers are out of commission. Ed will probably want to tell you about that. I did pull a few weeds yesterday, but I got tired quickly, and decided I probably shouldn’t over do it.

The dogs have finally decided to stay put. Ed is two thirds finished with a new dog house, and they have already moved in. Libby is still digging like crazy, but she has found other places beside the fence. We just have to watch for the sink holes!

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Meeko and Chicken Girl “helping” Ed build the new dog house.

My mom’s best friend decided that Chicken Girl needed a better chicken coop, so she bought one and had it shipped to us. Moony and his girls are living there, and Sunny and company were finally moved from the oldest coop to the new one that we built. Everyone seems happy for now, and the eggs are coming steadily again.

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Moony and the girls in the new coop

Chicken Girl and I finished the school year, and we were both ready. Several months ago, I told you we were getting ready to start dissection in Biology. She did one crayfish, and begged me not to make her do any more. I didn’t, but I adjusted her grade accordingly. Oh, she just had a birthday. She’s seventeen. Time sure flies.

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Chicken Girl and the unfortunate crayfish.

Last week, we had three days in the 90’s and three nights of some intense thunderstorms. We didn’t have any serious damage; just a few limbs down off the big elm tree near the garage. One of those mornings, I stepped out on front porch just to take a quick look around. The weeds all survived. So did this guy.

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Frog just off the front porch.

This morning about 5:00, Ed and I heard a dog barking in our front yard. It wasn’t one of ours. We got up, looked, didn’t see anything, and went back to bed. When we got back up later, I realized two of the cats were outside. Captain came in, but Adora didn’t. We found her this afternoon. She was alive, and she didn’t have any marks we could find, but she was obviously not good. The vet couldn’t find any marks either at first. She has super thick fur. When he finally did find them, there were three or four bite marks and they were on her back end. So, he gave her fluids, antibiotics, steroids, and liquid nutrition. He said to bring her home, keep her warm (her temperature was below normal), and call him in the morning to let him know how she’s doing.  Now she’s covered up in a box in Chicken Girl’s room.

This is a picture I took of her a few days ago: A living bookend. I thought the glowing eyes were funny. IMG_2114

Well, that’s all the news for now.

Connie

 

 

 

New Hens and Other Updates

Ed is feeling better and working to rebuild the dog pen. He hoped to finish today, but the weather has not cooperated. Cold and wet is not a good environment for someone barely over an upper respiratory infection, so he spent yesterday working inside. He worked some this morning, but then went to bed, because he has to work tonight. When we finish new pen, we’ll show you what we did.

Last week, I had the opportunity to purchase six grown Rhode Island Red hens from an acquaintance who had more than she needed. When the hens were delivered last weekend, we learned they hadn’t been handled much. Chicken Girl was going to have her job cut out for her.

When we first got them, we dumped them in the chicken tractor…literally. They came in a dog crate and the old owners upended the crate under the tractor, while we blocked the sides to prevent escapes. The funniest thing was that within five minutes of getting them in the tractor, Moony Rooster escaped his pen and came running to investigate the new girls.

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Moony Rooster

That evening, we decided we needed to put them in the big coop with the other chickens, because the tractor doesn’t have much in the way of shelter. That was an experience for Katherine. First, raising the tractor enough to grab a chicken that didn’t want to be grabbed. Then trying to hang onto it long enough to get it into the pen. Once she got them all in the pen, then she had to get them into the coop. Still, once she gets hold of them, they calm down quickly. She only got scratched once, and she considered that a win. Every day, it seems that they are easier for her to handle.

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Sunny Rooster and three of the new hens

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Katherine says this is Voca Hen. I’ll have to take her word for it.

The six new girls and the two old ones are having to work out their differences of course, but that was expected. Like she always has, Tundra Hen escapes several times a day. Then Moony Rooster follows her. Day before yesterday, during one of the many daily escapes, Katherine had a moment of panic when she realized Tundra was inside the dog pen. Then she remembered the dogs weren’t there. Later however, when when Ed was moving the dog house, an egg rolled out. Then I noticed the second egg inside the house. I guess Tundra was feeling a little crowded with her new coop mates. Coop improvements will be coming soon.

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See the egg?

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Close up

 

Have a great weekend,

Connie

More of the Same

It was a quiet week on the homestead, except when we were putting the dogs back. It seems like we spent most of the week just doing that. Three times in one day nearly sent Ed and I both over the edge. However, we did agree that we could be thankful that the weather has stayed fairly warm, so we weren’t having to try and do all that with ice, snow, and frigid temperatures. On the other hand, if the ground had actually frozen this year, Libby wouldn’t be able to dig out!

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In the afternoon sun, resting up for tonight’s digging!

Ed’s pallet plan seems to be working. We just need to be able to get our hands on enough pallets. To do the whole fence line, will probably need about 75 pallets. How many do we have now? Nine. Yeah, it’s a work in progress, and basically damage control for now. We find  where she’s digging and block the hole with a pallet. For two days in a row, we went out in the morning and the dogs were still in. These days, that is a major victory!

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Pallets on the gate side of the pen

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Two more on the opposite side. This is where they’ve been working the most.

I had some concern that the chickens were taking lessons from the dogs, because Moony rooster has been leaving his pen three or four times a day. I think Hoppy rooster may be picking on him, and he just needs a break. When I mentioned moving him, Ed said something under his breath about putting a diaper on him and bringing him inside. Um…no. Not doing that. Katherine and I did notice that the hens seem to be a little protective of him though. It’s kind of cute. Oh, and they have started laying eggs again.

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Rooster on the loose!

Like I said, it was a quiet week, so I don’t have much to tell you. I need to start thinking about starting seeds for this spring’s garden, but I just haven’t been able to get much into it. To be honest, I’m just tired. I’m carrying too much weight and I’m still having some problems with my foot from last summer’s surgery. I’ve gone back to cutting sugar and other processed carbohydrates. I feel a lot better when I keep with a paleo type diet. The most exercise I’m getting is up and down the basement stairs, and back and forth to the dog pen. I need to work on that too.

This weekend, Katherine will start the dissecting part of biology. I’ll have to let you know how that goes.

Connie

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

We Surrender!

Well, no we don’t , but those words did come from Ed’s mouth yesterday as we were leaving for a day trip to Independence.

As I walked out the back door, I looked out across our front pasture. None of the pastures were mowed last fall, and they are  overgrown. Something caught my attention, and I went back into the house for the camera. A plastic grocery bag, caught by the wind, was caught in a bare sapling. As Ed and Katherine turned to see what I was photographing, Ed laughed and said, “We surrender!”.  I had to admit, the bag did look like a white flag.

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See the white spot in the middle of the picture?

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Here’s  a closeup

We all had a giggle and got in the car.

Let me back up a minute. Night before last, late in the evening, we had a thunderstorm. Yes, that’s right. A thunderstorm in January, in northern Missouri. I didn’t see any lightning, but I did hear the thunder and the rain. It poured!  So, yesterday morning, everything was pretty soggy. On top of that, the weather must have remembered where it was, because it was windy and getting colder by the minute.

As we made our way along 116, Ed said that it looked like we might be going into some fog. We’ve had a lot of fog lately, so I really didn’t think that much about it until a few miles later. The air became cloudier and I had a moment when my mind had to make a small shift and remind me that fog does not blow across the road…no, snow does that.

Ed asked if I thought we should turn around. I didn’t, and we were out of it in a few miles.

The rest of the day went pretty much as planned, and we got home in the mid afternoon.

The dogs met Ed as he got out of the car. Then Meeko decided he should come across the driver’s seat to say hello to me. While Kat and I carried in groceries and other things, Ed went to plug the hole. It didn’t take long.  They have found a new place, but Ed will have to get more pallets before he can fix it permanently.

I think Ed is right about the free roaming dogs being the major catalyst behind the escapes, but I also think they might get a little bored. Let’s be honest, they have nothing but time when it comes to figuring out how to escape.

Kat and I have slowly eased back into school after the holidays, and this last week, in Biology, we looked at fungi.  We collected two different types from outside, as well as a mushroom from the fridge. She was able to get some spore samples and look at them under the microscope. Her overall takeaway is “Mushrooms are cool!” Next week, we move on to sea life. We’ll be starting some dissection soon. I’m not sure how well she will take to that.

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The three specimens

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Investigator Kat

Ed and I went to the monthly bee club meeting on Monday, and Ed was able to order new bees. They should be here in April.

Hope everyone enjoys their weekend!

Connie

Damage Control and Starting Over

That is how I would describe the last few months on the homestead. Kind of like one step forward and 250 steps back.

When we first started this blog, our thought was to chronicle our journey into homesteading while we deal with the challenges of getting older, as well as dealing with a teenager who has challenges of her own. The challenges seem to have taken over, and there hasn’t been much growth on the homestead. That includes keeping up the blog, and for that, we apologize.

When I started to write this post, I had to look over the pictures I did manage to take over the last four months to give me some perspective and see that there was some progress, albeit not nearly as much as I would have liked.

I’ve been scooter and crutch free since the end of October, but I still have a lot of pain and stiffness. I don’t have much stamina and tire easily. The doctor said it could be six months total before I am completely healed, so we are looking at another six weeks or so. The Lord must really think I need to work on my patience!

Ed’s work schedule leaves him unavailable four days a week, with the other three days for trying to catch up. It’s not working out all that great, especially since he has to spend at least part of the time finding and fixing the new dog escape route. That deserves its own blog post, but let’s just say that Meeko meets us at the back door nearly every morning now. Libby has got out several times too, but she insists on digging her way out and Meeko just finds new places to go over. Apparently, he has forgotten that is how he dislocated his hip last winter.

The garden was mostly a bust; and what wasn’t, mostly rotted on the vine. We did collect a few tomatoes, and I did manage to make some bread and butter pickles from the over sized cucumbers. I found the recipe here (You have to scroll down the page a little to get to the recipe). They were really good, and I am not a big fan of bread and butter pickles.

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Romas

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Lost in the jungle!

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Finished Pickles

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I know it’s hard to tell, but this is basil. I hope I get some volunteer next year.

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Awesome Elephant Ears. I think I was supposed to dig them up before it froze. Too late now.

The first week that I was able to get about without the crutches, I decided that Kat and I would harvest the sunflower seeds The same day Ed decided to start clearing the fence row between the yard and front pasture. We both worked about two hours and I pretty much wiped myself out. From Ed’s side of it, when he quit for the day, there was a spot where you could actually tell there is a pasture on the other side of the fence.

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Sunflowers off the front porch

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Sunflower heads

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Seeds and Chaff

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Ed in the fence row

The okra continued to grow into November. We had a super mild fall and only recently have had freezing temperatures. I decided to just let it dry on the vine in hopes of collecting seeds and using the dried pods for art projects…They are still out there.

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Okra “Fingers”

We collected quite a bit of honey, and even sold some locally, but then the hives were infested with hive beetles and the bees died. So, we are working on cleaning up the hives in hopes of getting new bees in the spring.

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Dead bees on the hive bottom

A few weeks ago, Ed, James, and Kat, built the new chicken coop. We officially have three roosters and two hens. The jury was out on Hoppy’s gender for quite a while, but his crowing made it official. Since we discovered that a single rooster’s amorous tendencies are more than one hen should handle, we decided to separate the girls from the boys, by building a split coop. The plan was to run fencing between the two sides, but the weather caught up with us. The first night the roosters all stayed in the same coop, Sunny attacked Moony and Hoppy. There was a LOT of blood. So now,  Sunny stays in “time out” in the old coop, while everyone else seems to be getting along fine, at present, in the new one. Yes, we know we still have one rooster too many with the hens, and that really, there needs to be more hens for the one rooster. We’re working on that. The girls, particularly Scarlet, did start laying eggs this fall, but they have stopped now. We got a couple dozen fresh eggs anyway.

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The New Coop. Notice there are two drop down doors. Only one is open.

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Shingles we found in the garage when we moved in. Just right for the chicken coop!

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Hoppy the Rooster

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Eggs!

So what else happened since July? In August, James had a relapse of sorts and is back on probation. Bam Bam got married in September. I turned 53 in October and Ed turned 66 last week. James and I have both had to deal with some Bi Polar issues and we’ve all dealt with a stomach bug that cost Ed a week’s work. That, of course, caused us some financial strain, but the Lord took care of us, just like He always does.

On a positive note, school is going pretty well this year. We finished a study of ancient Greece and have moved on to Rome. In American History we are finishing up the “Gilded Age”(1877-1912ish) and have formed strong opinions about Herman Melville’s writing.  Have you ever actually read Moby Dick?  Now, only morbid curiosity makes us keep reading.

Katherine has discovered a handicraft that actually sparks her interest: candle making! We did manage to get some bee’s wax, so we will be playing with some of that.

Although I plan to get back to consistent posting, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to keep up with it until after the holidays. If I can’t, Ed and I  both want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year.

Connie

 

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.