Mo Bloggin'

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Archive for the tag “Warre hive”

Heat wave!

Eloise with a shrew.

Eloise with a shrew in the grass.

It was a sweltering hot day here in the PNW, our third in a row (with another week to come) and a total treat!  At midday today pretty much everything (except humans, judging by the road noise) was down for an afternoon siesta.  The cats ran out the door the first chance they got this morning; I try to keep them in, but they are enamored of the out-of-doors, and Madeline and Eloise seem to be dedicated to slowly working their way through the shrew population.  I’ve discovered shrews are a little dopey when it comes to self-preservation, and when trapped they tend to roll over and kick instead of squirming and running away.  It’s kind of cute, as they are fat and covered with a plush mole-like fur, but it’s not going to improve the population count, seeing as they aren’t much bigger than a quarter (25 cent piece).  But even the cats are quiet now, all of them finding a shady spot to snooze the day away.  Blackcap sleeps in the pot of thyme on the deck, underneath the now-full canopy of wisteria.  The half of the pot that’s not completely shaded by the wisteria vine is overflowing with blooming thyme, and though I planted chives in the other half, they either failed to sprout or Blackcap’s habits crushed them as they sprouted.  I’ll have to look for another spot for chives (front garden, after I fence it off from all the critters).

I made an omelette for breakfast this morning, though it turned into a frittata by the time I got done chopping vegetables.  It was delicious and

I didn't share, though Farley lobbied hard.

I didn’t share, though Farley lobbied hard.

filling and was basically all I ate all day.  It’s too hot to cook, anyway, so it worked out fine.  A lot of the veggies were locally grown, as the produce is coming in fast and thick now at the farmers market.  It makes me feel bad that I’m so behind in my gardening.  My pathetic, half planted garden is just sprouting, and I still haven’t planted my dozen or so squash plants in my squash patch (mostly pumpkin, but also zucchini, delicata (I get so tired of Word auto-correcting that word to ‘delicate’), some gourds and butternut).  I planted some more potatoes late this evening, once the sun dipped behind the trees, and also repaired the damage from the @#!%&*ing! sheep.  Pebbles and her goaty children (there was a time when I seriously wondered if Pebbles was a pygora goat and if I’d been duped by the person who sold her to me), Minnie and Fergus, leaped over the fence while I was inside the house for a short time and managed to prune two rows of bean seedlings and a bunch of my onion transplants, not to mention all the volunteer borage plants.  They

Pebbles (on right) with Fergus as a lamb.

Pebbles (on right) with Fergus as a lamb.

trampled my beet spouts and ran through my sprouting lettuce patch too.  And of course did a number on the fencing as they ran to get out (who knows how they got in, whether jumping or scrambling over).  It frustrates the heck out of me as now all free-roam privileges are on hold.  If they are out I will literally have to sit guard at the garden patch, and I don’t really have time for that.

If I were a morning person I could have gotten a lot more done out there if  I’d started before 10:00 a.m. today, before the sun got high enough to create serious heat.  But I’m not.  Instead I brewed some tea and read a novel on the deck.  It was a perfect morning for it and I was able to finish the book – The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle.  It would probably be called ‘women’s fiction’ (but not chick lit or romance) if you wanted to fit it with a label or genre, and I enjoyed it immensely.  It’s not often you read a novel that really gets the animals right (behaviors), and rarer still that the animals play a meaningful role in the lives of the humans (unless the book is about this issue precisely).  This was a novel about human characters and their sometimes messy lives and relationships, and, without saying it, how the animals make our lives better.  The title is the most overt, and pretty much the only, declaration of this throughout the book.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It’s the second novel I’ve read recently that has a female veterinarian as the lead character.  The previous book, while enjoyable, was more of a chick lit book than this one.

At any rate, it was a lovely way to spend a sunny summer Sunday morning.  My eyeballs hurt afterward, though.  It’s the same kind of ache I used to get as a kid, when me and my little brother would wake up early on Saturday mornings to watch Saturday morning cartoons for a few hours.  Our eyes would be fixed on the screen for so long that rotating them to look to the side or up would hurt, as the little eye muscles cramped in place.  Evidently reading isn’t much exercise for the eye muscles either.  Ow.

(Baby?) Queen with attendants outside the hive.

Bee mystery: (Baby?) Queen with attendants outside the hive.

The bees were wild in the sun and heat, flying out in great spirals all day, and somehow not colliding even though there are so many that they look like they could use a tiny air traffic controller out there.  An inspection would be a good idea, but that makes me wilt just thinking about it.  It was way too hot to suit up in a bee jacket and veil, and to put on a full pair of pants instead of shorts.  Since the Warre hive is the one that I really need to figure out, it’s all a moot point anyway, because I can’t get in there without totally destroying things (comb is attached to sides of hive, so there’s no way to lift out a bar of comb to inspect it without breaking everything apart).  As I left for a grocery store run this afternoon I noticed a little cluster of bees on the back corner of the hive.  I went out to look and it was a queen, kind of plump, with a dozen or so attendants.  By the time I got home from the grocery an hour or so later, they were all gone.  Into the hive, hopefully!  She was just sitting there; I thought for a minute that maybe she came out because it was so hot in the hive (haha!), but the most likely scenario is that the hive swarmed at some point in the past few days when I wasn’t home, and this was perhaps a young queen readying for a maiden flight.  The only reason I think this is most likely is because of that plumpness – most adult queens I’ve seen are sleeker, more slender than this one looked, so I’m guessing she was newly hatched.  Also, there have been a ton of drones in the hive (peeking in the observation windows) recently as well as hundreds dead and dying drones around the hive.  The hive was very testy today, so I wasn’t able to look in the window at all.  We’ll see what the coming days tell us.


March Mudness

It’s driving me mad.  Not to belabor the topic (see previous post) but I think I’ve reached the breaking point.  I woke up this morning to more snain (my term for the miserable combo of mixed snow and rain), this time the ground was white.  It was gone within the hour, as the snow quotient faded and the rain kept coming.  The ground is saturated, soaked, soggy, drenched, sopping, waterlogged, and whatever other word applies to the squelching, sloppy mess out there.  I spent the afternoon today vacuuming and washing the area rugs, and as soon as the dogs went out and came back in, it was as if I’d done nothing.  It’s enough to drive me over the edge.  When it was coming down in sideways sheets during one particularly schizophrenic day of weather last week I looked out the window at work and forgot to delete the expletive.  

I suppose it’s better than freaky tornados (in Michigan last week, an area that doesn’t get tornados historically), but the creepy 70s weather in Chicago (creepy because it’s March!) sounds much better than it should at this point.  A friend lamented with me about the weather and remarked that maybe we were in for another spring and summer like last year.  I didn’t even know how to respond to that.  The first thought is to drop the speed loader into the chamber.  The second is to pack up the farm and head out for drier territories, in a rig similar to the Clampitts’ but without the advantage of Texas tea to support the move.  

We did have a downpour-free day on Saturday (and Friday, too).  After the morning snain it actually cleared a bit and I even saw a weak shadow or two.  It was nice enough to let the sheep out to nibble on the early spring growth, which I do whenever we get a day like this.  It makes them happy and that makes me happy.  Their shearing went well two weeks ago.  I moved them into the shed with the panels up and they did well (thought there might be some freak-outs as they’d never been confined that way before).  When the shearer got here (10 minutes earlier than I expected) I was able to move them in the small holding area (so no rodeo chase, like last year’s circus) and it went smooth as buddah, with Eifion Morgan, shearer extraordinaire, zipping through them in less than 30 minutes (shearing all five, hoof trims, vaccines and worming).  They all felt tons better without a year’s growth of itchy wool, though the cold weather has been a bit of a trial.  In two weeks they’ve gained some fuzz and a little bit of cold tolerance (and they each have their own internal furnace with the rumen works), so I don’t see the girls shivering like I did that first week.  And the good news is that both of the girls look to be gestating!  Yes!  Nothing outwardly noticeable (still at least a month to go yet) aside from larger than normal teats.  No other mammary growth yet.  I’m making my list and slowly getting my lambing toolkit ready, and next month I’ll be putting the panels back up to exclude the boys from the shed and keep the girls (and the babies!) protected from them.

 Though it still feels like January, the days are getting longer and nature is slowly waking up.  The Indian Plum buds are nearly open, and of course the nettles are coming up all over the place.  I harvested a pound or so of nettle tops yesterday (wearing gloves of course) and had some with dinner (in a stir fry with some of my home grown chard from the freezer).  I have some more drying in the oven, and the rest are in the fridge.  I decided to try harvesting maple sap, too, after I read a great (cook)book by Jennifer Hahn called Pacific Feast: A Cook’s Guide to West Coast Foraging and Cuisine.  Big leaf maple are not sugar maple, but the sap is usable, according to the book.  I ran to the hardware store to get some makeshift equipment to stand in for maple spiles and came home and drilled a couple trees.  I have to say the production was underwhelming, though without a covered bucket the rain kind of ruined my experiment anyway.  And when I read it takes 40 gallons of sugar maple sap to make one gallon of syrup, well, that was the end of that experiment.  The sap I collected tasted like water, so I imagine it would take even more than a 40:1 ratio of big leaf maple sap to make enough to cover a pancake or two (a gallon of sap to make a half cup of syrup?).  Since I can’t remember the last time I had pancakes, much less maple syrup, my experiment was abandoned.  The buckets have been collecting mostly rain; the water is tinted yellowish brown, so who knows if that’s sap or tree dirt.  I’m now merely curious to see what kind of sap flow I might get; with all the rain the trees have plenty of water table to draw on.                                                   

With our semi-nice day yesterday the bees were out a bit, thought nothing like our spring tease in February, when they were out in force.  These cold wet days are hard on them.  I popped the lid to see what was going on and decided to give them some honey.  So the little bit of honey and comb I harvested last year mostly went right back to them.  I put it in there, in some Zip Loc baggies with a slit cut into it and closed the lid.  A short time later I took a peek and saw them belly up to the honey in a crowded line along the slit in the baggie.  Oh.  Hungry bees.  I put some local honey I purchased last fall in another bag and put it out there too.  Now I’m hoping for some warm weather so I can get out there and open things up to put the feeder in there.  It’s too cold to open the hive like I need to put the syrup feeder in there.  Fingers crossed they’ll make it and will thrive again this year. 

And last week I ordered my 2012 package of bees for my new hive.  I purchased a Warre hive from House of Bees, a vendor at the Country Living Expo last January and am excited to get it started.  It’s a top bar hive, which is the kind of hive I wanted from the very beginning.  This means there are no frames for the bees to use for honeycomb, just a bar (top bar) that they’ll build their own comb in the size and shape that they want.  Judging from my few foundationless frames in my Langstroth hive, the bees will love this.  They build gorgeous white comb in the foundationless frames, in preference to the frames with foundation (a pre-loaded honeycomb patterned board they use to draw out the comb).  I still need to paint the hive, but since the new bees won’t be here until mid-April, I’ve got time.

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