Apiary · Bees · Gardening · Hive equipment · Lazer Creek Apiary · Supplemental Feeding

The Colors (and tasks) of Fall

20191109_Grass
New grass and clover planting with expanded blueberry patch behind – Fall 2019

Plants

The weekend before the drought ended, I turned the soil in the remaining compacted section of the timber company’s loading deck and we sowed a mixture of annual rye, fescue, and White Dutch Clover.  The rains came, and we have lush green grass with an under-story of clover over a few acres of recently cleared land as well as on the deck.  More importantly,  we have eliminated the erosion problem that has plagued us for almost 5 years now.    Oh – and by cleared land, I mean Hubby pushed back some more of the undergrowth between trees so that we could have more room for clover and fewer thorny plants.

We lost one of the magnolia trees planted by the gate in the drought, so when I’ve finished my coffee and this blog, we’re going to plant some camellias and gardenias on that side of the gate so that we have evergreen plants of a manageable size that are beautiful in spring and summer.   I was able to bring some gardenia cuttings from South Carolina, but was unable to get any cuttings from the camellia plants to take root.   By the time we finish that, it will be warm enough to continue getting the bees ready for next week’s cold snap.

20191110 FeedersBees

We constantly had problems with leaky lids (mainly when I put the lids on) when we used bucket feeders, so we’re trying open feeding with our internal feeders right now.  The hives I checked yesterday have a good deal of nectar, but very little bee bread.   We put the pollen feeder back out a few days ago and the bees are hitting it almost as hard as the syrup feeders.   The pollen feeder was a great success during the summer dearth and it was easy to clean up once the fall blooms started.

I went out to refill the syrup while it was still cold enough for the bees to be indoors this morning, but it was not cold enough to intimidate the yellow jackets, so we had to add yellow jacket traps around the feeders.   Those guys irritated me non-stop last weekend while I was applying a  non-skid paint to our ice-rink of a deck!

Hubby was at work yesterday, and the small syrup tank was empty, so I rustled up some bravery and started the gas-operated pump to cycle the syrup in the large tank and then fill the small tank.   Well, it didn’t look like anything was happening once I got the motor started, so I pulled the exit hose out to take a look.  It’s a pretty powerful motor, so once the hose was out (and, yes, the syrup was moving), it wouldn’t go back in.  One sugary shower and a change of clothes later, I got syrup transferred over and had to evacuate the area because every yellow jacket and bee from a  5-mile radius appeared to show up for a free lunch!  I suspect I still have syrup in my hair.

A couple of week ago, I read a blog by Ron Misha about winterizing hives.   He mentioned that his father used to hang a piece of burlap out of the hive lid to wick moisture out of the hives in winter.  We have a roll of burlap, so I am trying that.   We’re going from a record-breaking warm October to lows in the 20s this week, and the hives have more nectar than honey in them.   We’ll add candy boards going into December, but this weekend is all about getting the bees through the coming week.   I combined the weakest hives I came across yesterday and shook bees into others that will struggle to stay warm.   I’m still rebuilding strength in my arms and hands after this summer’s neck problems, so I did not get as far yesterday as I would have liked.   However, the good news is that I stopped when I noticed that I was getting clumsy because my hands were tired.   Sometimes it’s good to be stubborn and push through, and other times it’s better to apply common sense.

I was going to write about some great changes to our landscape and our renewed indecision regarding where to place the house, but I think that needs to wait for another time.   It’s way to pretty outside to sit at a computer for hours, especially when bad weather is going to keep us inside for the next few days.  Stay happy.  Stay warm.  And remember that life is good on the farm!

 

Canning · Cooking · Farmers · Lazer Creek Apiary · Pests - General

Hunter-gatherers

Yesterday, I temporarily deferred my equal rights ideologies and stepped back (way back) into a hunter-gatherer role,  trailing along behind the man of the house, picking berries while he did the manly task!

There are so many beautiful ripe blackberries on our property, but they are so hard to get to.  At the best of times, wild blackberries demand a blood sacrifice,  so I am always weighing the pain-versus-gain factor.   Since my last blackberry harvest, BIL sent us a picture of a timber rattle snake up under one of his blueberry bushes, edging back into some wild blackberries, so that made me even more cautious.

Blackberries
Wild Blackberries

Then, hubby came along and cleared a strip along one of the really good blackberry patches with the bush hog, giving me much easier access — still not  pain free, but easier.  By following in his wake, I was able to harvest 1 1/2 quarts of beautiful, juicy blackberries which I then washed, boiled, and froze so that I can turn them into jam when we’re back in the city.    As a few family members need to avoid seeds and the rest of us don’t really enjoy picking seeds out of our teeth, I’ll strain them and then press the rest of the juice out of them before adding apples and making blackberry-apple jam.  I cheated last year and bought frozen blackberries for a trial batch, but that jam was good enough to make me want to harvest what nature has provided for us here.

Of course the other side of the hunter-gatherer equation is the hunter.   I guess hubby was hunting undergrowth when he cleared those paths for me, but his other hunting chores yesterday involved getting rid of the critters that have been bugging me!   We discovered that the yellow jackets at the gate had actually moved into the gate through a drain hole, so it’s no surprise that they became irritable when we rattled the chain against their home.  They are now in an afterlife of some kind.   We avoid using pesticides whenever possible, but we can’t have yellow jackets attacking guests or us at the gate.   His other accomplishment led to one more restless night followed by a good night’s sleep as two field mice have now been evicted from under the kitchen sink.   There’s a huge hole cut into the back of the cabinet, and we thoroughly spray-foamed that, but that didn’t stop them.  There’s another hole cut in the side of the cabinet to let the drain pipe go through.  We’re hesitant to put spray foam in there because we don’t want it on the back of the oven, but we’ll seal it up with aluminum foil after we’re sure there are no more mice romping around in the walls.    We’re generally believers in the if-you-kill-it-eat-it philosophy, but I draw the line at making mouse and yellow-jacket casserole.  (Actually, I draw the line well before that — there’s still too much suburb in me to eat possum or squirrel, although I did LOVE the dove hubby hunted last fall.)

Tractor delivery
Our new tractor

Even though I spent much of the day taking on more-than-usual traditional female tasks, I did start the day having fun on our new Kubota tractor!   I have been hesitant to bush hog on borrowed tractors, even though BIL and our neighbor have shown more confidence in my abilities than I’ve believed myself to have, but I quite quickly became comfortable on relatively flat land knowing that if I damaged something, it would be something I was paying for!    I even found it easier to back the tractor up than to back my car up because I can see where I’m going so much better.   However, that became tricky after a while because of my on-going neck discomfort (I can’t call it pain right now) and my bi-focals.   While bi-focals are great for many things, they don’t work well for looking back over one’s shoulder or for checking bee hives.   I have an eye appointment next week and will probably get a pair of long-distance glasses and a pair with which I can see bee frames.    I’m not sure how I’ll juggle three different pairs of glasses — maybe the eye doctor will have a better suggestion!

Our other exciting 15 minutes yesterday was when we had to combat a waterfall running down the inside of the RV door!   Hubby made adjustments to the strike plate for the door latch and that kept the rain out, but in the time that took, the torrent filled a casserole dish and soaked a bunch of towels. (I wish I had a picture to post, but we were both a little too occupied to grab a camera!) It’s times like these that make me glad I brought every old towel that we had at the house here.  Sure, they take up space, but sometimes they come in handy.   We started today with a trip to the laundromat and that led to reorganizing towel storage — what better time to do it than when every towel in the house has just been washed?

It’s a beautiful sunny day,  the trails we cut last year are now trails again, and we can see the stakes for the house-site again.     Life is good on the farm!

 

Farmers · Lazer Creek Apiary

Driving a tractor

My husband and brother-in-law (BIL) both have the amazing ability to treat me like a princess while concurrently challenging me to expand my horizons.  They also know that while I am likely to insist that I  just want to watch first if my husband shows any intention of getting me to try something like using a circular saw or driving a tractor, I am far less likely to stubbornly wimp out in front of my BIL!   I don’t know if they had this in mind when my BIL told me which side of the tractor to climb up on and then calmly proceeded to instruct me on how to start it, move it, and use the implements.

Once I had the basics, I was tasked with picking up a wood post with hay forks.  After what seemed like a 500-point turn, I had the tractor perpendicular to the post and BIL kept motioning me forward, and forward, and forward……   Now, on one level I knew that he could move out of the way if the tines came too close, but my English 4 students have been watching A Knight’s Tale, so I could not help but envision the impaling of BIL by my mechanized jousting horse in a A-Knight’s-Tale-meets-Christine video clip that insisted on running through my head.  He patiently and fearlessly stood there and then celebrated my small success with me once the post was on its way to wherever I took it next.

Patience:  I think I value and admire it so much because I have so little of it myself.  I do have a hidden well-spring of it that opens up when I am tutoring a student, but most of the time my husband has to endure lots of huffing and eye-rolling when he’s being detail oriented and I’m just wanting to jump in and figure out the details as we go!

Back to the tractor.  I drove it uphill and in reverse out of the woods the next day, which was a little scary because it tilts a whole lot more than feels safe.  If it were a motorcycle, it would have keeled over, and I know what that feels like!  I will come to trust it in time, but for now rough terrain makes me very nervous.  I spent a good bit of time on level ground breaking up piles of tree branches that had been decomposing for years and then picking up some of the trash (tires, mattresses) that had been dumped in the clearing.  I earned some undeserved praise for fortuitously spearing a Cola can that I couldn’t even see with a tine on one of my many attempts to spear a tire that had been irritating me for months.  I was so happy to get that tire out of there and gained confidence in use of the tractor controls when I subsequently had to shake the thing off onto our trash pile.

Tractor controls still baffle me to an extent, as do many other mechanical things.  My inability to remember whether the clutch or the brake is on the left on a motorcycle is the reason I no longer drive my motorcycle and the reason I know what it’s like to fall off one!   When my husband or my BIL motion for me to raise the bucket, I look like I’m crossing myself as I try to remember which direction does what and then I still get it wrong most of the time.  I keep reminding myself that it took a while for shifting gears in a manual transmission car to feel natural and to not let my lack of patience with my progress defeat me.

As a tilting tractor still makes me nervous, the men took care of bush-hogging the deck and the front of the property.  It’s simply amazing what a difference that makes.   The deck is larger than we thought and we will have more than enough room there for gardens, orchards, and greenhouses.  The erosion ditch running outside the tree line at the front of the property is not as bad as we thought it was.  The culvert up by the road is in good shape.  The tractor work this weekend answered so many of our questions about the land.   The gate we built  makes it less likely that anyone will add more trash.   There’s one more trash pile to clean up, and then we’ll be mattress and tire free.  The spooky blue bag that I suspect belonged to Bluebeard will soon be gone and my imagination will no longer have to wonder just what is in there!

We are making progress.  And maybe, just maybe, parallel parking my car will not seem so hard now that I’ve driven a tractor.