Sunday, October 24, 2010

Observation Hive

    I finally installed the new observation hive in the store about three weeks ago.  The bees seem to have adapted to their new location. I spent about five days gradually moving the nuc hive closer and closer to the exit I had made to the outside.  They were finally close enough on Saturday, October 2.  This was a day I taught a beginning beekeeeping class for the bee club.  Whenj the class was over I invited those who wished to come over and watch the installation. It actually went fairly smoothly which is nice when you've got a lot of spectators.

    I built a base for the observation hive which includes one deep box with a cleanout tray for removal of dead bees. It also has a second deep box which has ten frames the bees can use for future expansion.  The second deep connects to the observation hive through the lid by means of a 6 inch piece of pvc pipe.  The observation hive can be rotated so that either side can be viewed. Their is another connector goiong out the front of the second deep box which connects to the feeding station and their tube leading to the outside world. They seem to have figured out both the feeding station and the exit.  On nice warm sunny days there is a cloud of bees coming and going from the exit.  They're using the feeding station as well, but for the first three weeks they seem to have gathered mostly wild forage.  They're only using one quart of sugar syrup per week so far.  The queen has decided to stay upstairs so far. I'm thinking the six inch section of pvc pipe is a long stretch of nothing for her so she has had no incentive to go down. Its been a big hit with bee store customers who are predominately serious bee geeks any how.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Better Lucky than Good

     I took Madelynn,  Abby, and their friend Cassie to the Evergreen State Fair on Saturday.  We couldn't leave until after 4:00 p.m. when I closed the Beez Neez.  By the time I went home and picked up the kids, drove to Monroe, parked the car, and walked in from the parking lot, it was 4:55 p.m. when we finally walked through the gates.  The girls wanted to run right away to the Beany Baby booth under the grandstands so they could enter a drawing for  a free beany baby.  They filled out their entry tickets and stuffed them into the box within a minute of the drawing.  One minute later Abby was walking away with her new beanie baby.

     Next on the agenda we shared two elephant ears, one cinnamon and sugar and one with raspberry jam, while we listened to a zydeco band.  Then we walked over to the petting farm where the girls promptly ditched me to spend the next hour or so holding chickens and bunnies. The person in charge of the petting farm is a good friend so I have connections to get them in as helpers.

      While the girls were occupied with cute farm animals, I stopped by the honey and beeswax exhibit to check on my observation hive.  It wasn't looking good as the dead bees had collected at the bottom and were blocking the entrance to the feeder.  We had to take it over to the bee tent at the outside bee booth and do some maintenance, namely removing the top, pulling up the glass sides, and removing the dead bees. I think there were so many dead bees because the weather had been cool and the display hall has the doors open to the outside until 10:00 p.m. every night.  I think they must have gotten chilled as there were also a lot of dead pupae.

     Now that the observation hive was in better shape, I went back to the petting farm to check on the girls.  They were just getting ready to close down and were putting the animals away.  I got to watch Madelynn trying to catch a pig to move him back to his pen. It was pretty funny but unfortunate that I didn't have a camera handy.

     After the petting farm closed we went through the dinosaur exhibit (cheesy and overpriced), looked at some 4H exhibits and all had fair scones with raspberry jam.  I think the two things they enjoyed the most were the petting farm and the 4H exhibits, both of which were free.  The kids took great delight in finding things which had been made by someone their own age.   

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A visit from Aunt Dolores

    Aunt Dolores came to visit a few weeks ago. It was such great fun. She is one of those cheerful people that is just very fun to be around. She brought her guitar so we were able to play some together and she yodeled for the grandkids. It makes you feel kind of sorry for those cuturally deprived kids who don't have a great aunt who can yodel. Yodeling is such a lost art these days that I image that would be over 99 per cent of the population in most parts of the country.

    Dolores spends the summers living next door to her daughter near Eugene. During the winter she lives in Lake Havisu, Arizona, the town that bought the London Bridge.  Its a shame we don't see her more often, but she only lives near us when the bee store is at its busiest.  By the time things slow down in the fall she has gone back south to Arizona.  In addition to the music we did get to spend some time talking about genealogy and their youth in Arkansas and elsewhere, but not as much as we should have done.

     After playing with Dolores, I feel inspired to work harder on my fiddle playing. I even spent a few evenings watching instructional videos on You Tube and have set a goal to learn to do a decent vibrato. A slow song like a waltz sounds kind of flat if you can't vibrato some of the long notes.  I also need to commit more songs to memory.  I'm working on memorizing Ashoken Farewell as that is one of her favorite waltzes.

     My other main incentive to improve my fiddle playing is the weekly violin lessons I'm giving to Madelyn Rosenauer, a friend's 9 year old daughter.  I feel a little guilty nagging her to practice more if  I"m not getting my fiddle out more often.  That is also another incentive for me to watch violin instructional videos so I can do a better job teaching fundamentals to Madelyn.   

Evergreen State Fair

    It's that time of year again.  A friend relieved me a few hours early at the bee store on Friday so I could spend the evening working at one of the bee booths at the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe, Washington. I worked as a host at the honey and beeswax exhibit in the display hall with the able assistance of two of my grandchildren, Autumn and Chloe Kang.  The exhibit features various hive products people have entered in the fair.  Some of the categories include extracted honey, various types of comb honey, pollen, beeswax, candles, mead, and beekeeping gadgets.  The exhibit also has an observation hive which is a pretty big attraction to the general public.  Its a great opportunity to help educate the public about bees and honey and reduce people's fears about bees.  The booth is located between the grange displays and the handspinners and photography exhibits.  Chloe and Autumn are both a little on the shy side but they did talk to some of the visitors and helped people locate the queen bee in the observation hive. Locating the queen is like an insect version of  "Where's Waldo".



    I had 5 fair entries this year.  They have eight classes of extracted honey according to the color of the honey. The color descriptions range from "water white" to "extra dark amber".  Since I had some maple honey this year and it was slightly darker than my blackberry honey I was able to do two extracted honey entries.  Each honey entry consists of three jars, equally filled.  The honey is graded on things like cleanliness and the absence of air bubbles and foam on the top.  I also entered pollen (again three jars), cut comb honey, and a chunk honey entry.  The cut comb honey is simply a square of honey comb cut from a frame and placed in a square clear plastic container.  The chunk honey consists of three jars with a chunk of honey comb covered with extracted honey.





     I did pretty well with my entries.  All five got blue ribbons and three got big purple "Best of Division" ribbons.  I also got a creative presentation ribbon for my chunk honey entry for a grand total of nine ribbons for my five entries.  Rather than just have three uniform pieces of honey comb in the chunk honey entry I did "I Love Bees" using a letter "I" , a heart, and two letter "B"s in the respective jars.  It didn't turn out as well as I wanted as the heart floated to the top of the jar so that it wasn't as readily apparent that it was a heart.  The pollen entry also got a best of division ribbon, but then it was the only pollen entry.  I have to admit that my main motivation for doing a pollen entry was not particularly pure.  The honey judge is a personal friend.  I knew the judge didn't care for the taste of pollen and he would be  required to taste each pollen entry. The pollen is tasted to make sure it has the proper texture and isn't over dried.








    It is somewhat ironic that my maple honey entry got best of division for the extracted honey.  The extracted honey isn't graded based on how wonderful it tastes as that is very subjective and different people prefer different types of honey.  If the general public were to taste the various entries and grade them based on flavor my maple entry would probably have been rated pretty low.  Maple honey has an odd medicinal flavor that many people don't care for. Rachel has described it as tasting like cough syrup. While I think it tastes a lot better than cough syrup that is a great example of "Damning with faint praise". It is by far not one of my favorite honeys.  However, it was very pretty and clean so it won the beauty contest so to speak. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Bee Club Picnic

   We hosted the bee club picnic today.  The preparation for the picnic brought a lot of stress into Linda's life, some of which she transferred to me in the form of a lengthy "honey do" list. However, after all was said and done I have to admit that Linda and Rachel did a lot more of the work than I did.  I kept telling her that we were hosting the bee club, not the garden club.  The place ended up looking very nice although we never quite got to everything on Linda's list. Last year the picnic was held at Flowing Lake Park and only about 15 people came.  Rachel suggested that we could jazz up the picnic and improve attendance by having a bee beard contest.  That seemed somewhat inappropriate to do at a county park  so the next thing I knew the picnic was set to be held at our house.

    The picnic turned out very well.  We had over 60 people there.  There was lots of great food and the house and garden got rave reviews.  My favorite comment was when Kinga Thomas told me that she loved our "whimsical" gardens.  Many of the bee club members are into gardening, chickens, or other small animal projects so it was nice that they all said nice things about our place.  The numerous children in attendance were thrilled with the various attractions we have for the grandkids. The bee beard contest was the big finale to the whole thing.  It got a bit of a slow start, but was pretty spectacular at the end.  The slow start was due to a few technical difficulties since none of us had ever done a bee beard before.  I went to great pains to spray the bees with sugar syrup so they would be nice and gentle.  It turns out that I over did that as some of them were a little sticky and couldn't fly when we first dumped them out.   I really love all of the wonderful quirky friends I have from the bee club and the bee store. Most of them have just enough loopiness to make them fun and interesting.

    The biggest surprise for me was when Linda told me that she wouldn't mind hosting the picnic again next year.  The following pictures include our nicely weeded and mulched blueberries, my relatively well weeded cabbage patch, and the front of the house. I'll have to add some of the bee beard pictures a little later.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Good times at the Beez Neez

     My granddaughter Madelynn spent part of the day at the bee store with me on Wednesday.  It was somewhat of a short day because I didn't go into the store until noon.  Rachel covered for me while I prepared a new queen bank before going in to the store.  I had to pull some frames from one of my hives to make up a small queenless hive that will take good care of the queens until they're sold.

     I'm glad that some of my grandchildren really enjoy coming with me to the bee store.  I think some of the attraction is the idea of being involved in a retail business.  They seem to enjoy things like working the cash register or putting prices on merchandise.  Madelynn seems to be more attracted to the bees themselves.  By the time we got down to the store the UPS man had already delivered the queen bees.  The first order of business was to transfer the queens from the shipping container to the queen bank. This is actually fairly involved.  The queens are shipped in a two part cardboard box with ventilating screens.  Inside the carton are 50 queens in small wooden cages, a damp sponge, a hunk of sugar fondant, and about a half a pound of loose worker bees. The process of transferring the queens to the queen bank results in lots of loose bees in the air.  While I was replacing the corks with candy plugs, Madelynn acted like the surgical nurse, handing me the candy plug as I was ready with each cage. She had a veil on, but no gloves and she was also wearing shorts and flip flops.  She has assisted me when I worked a few hives once and seems pretty comfortable with the bees. I think she has what it takes to be a beekeeper. I think some of my best memories of the bee store will be the times I had grandkids helping out.   

     I also had a visitor before I went into work.  Kenny the Frog Guy came by to remove the comb from a stack of old bee boxes.  He uses the wax to raise wax moth larvae. He then feeds the larvae to the poison arrow frogs he breeds.  What I get out of the deal is someone else removing the wax from the old frames so I can put in new foundation.  Apparently, poison arrow frogs raised in captivity are not toxic like the ones in the wild.  What makes them toxic is their diet.  In the wild the frogs mainly eat ants and are able to concentrate the venom in the ants into their skin until the frogs are toxic.  When fed a diet of fruit flies and wax moth larvae the frogs aren't toxic at all.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Goats by Moonlight

   Lately, I've been staking out the goats to let them chew down the blackberries sufficient to allow me to put in a new temporary fence to enlarge their space.  I put the goats out after church (now yesterday) and with company and a few other distractions I forgot to put them away for the night. Of course I woke up at 2:00 a.m. and realized the goats were still staked out.  The two Jacks have a serious talent for getting themselves tangled up in their ropes so I could only imagine what uncomfortable position they would be stuck in for the night.  Anyhow, I couldn't get back to sleep without first going out to put the goats away.  True to form I found each of them seriously tangled with the result being a very short tether and a serious tangle of rope. Goat gordian knots are difficult to untangle in daylight, but even more of a challenge by moonlight.

    An event of great significance took place this past week with the birth of our 21st grandchild, John Wesley Tunnell, on Tuesday, June 30th. I realize that everyone who reads my blog is probably already informed of the great event so this isn't intended to be any sort of announcement.  However, I thought I would take the occasion to express my appreciation to my children for all of the sacrifices they make to bring our sweet grandchildren into the world. For my daughters and daughter-in-law it is literally putting their life on the line.  For all of them it is a serious commitment of their time, talents, and other resources for several decades. Their sacrifice has brought a lot of happiness into my life. Grandpa is the best job I've ever had.  When I have occasion to tell someone that I have 21 grandchildren I feel like I am rich beyond my wildest dreams.   I am grateful that my children have caught the vision of what is truely important in life and are willing to devote their time and resources to the important task of raising their children rather than merely accumulating the things of the world. Some of my friends have children in their thirties who are either still single by choice or married without children. Very sad.
   On Friday I was able to skip work and go to the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle with Luna, Lance, and Britton.  My nephew Gavin and his family had come to visit my mom and were taking their kids to the zoo. They invited me to come along and Rachel was willing to take the bee store for the day and let me take her kids to the zoo.  It was a very fun day. We saw a lot of amazing animals, but the most amazing thing I saw at the zoo was little Britton downing a seriously large ice cream cone.

   I did have one moment of stark panic while at the zoo.  I was watching the meercats with Lance, Luna, and Britton.  Grandma Cozette was resting at a picnic table about 50 feet away while Gavin and Arianne had taken their kids for a potty break.  Anyhow, I was the only adult with the three kids.  After we had been watching the meercats for about a minute or so, I looked down and all three of the kids were gone. I franticly searched the immediate vicinity for what seemed like an eternity but was probably less than 30 seconds,  before Lance popped his head out the nearby meercat play area.  They have an enlarged concrete meercat den as a play area.  The kids apparently thought it was more fun to pretend to be a meercat than it was to watch the real meercats.  

Thursday, July 1, 2010

New Bamboo

   Marilyn Richardson, a friend from the bee store, dropped off a little present on Tuesday.  It was a start of black bamboo.  I planted it later that evening in the future duck pen annex.  I kept some geese in this area for about a month and they completely removed any vestige of grass or weeds in that brief time.  After my experience with the golden groove bamboo I am not so paranoid that I have to have the barrier in place immediately upon planting the bamboo.  This start consisted of just the rhizomes and roots with no active culm so it is stealth bamboo at this point.  There are several other kinds of bamboo I would like to grow.  I'm mainly interested in varieties that are both edible and provide building materials.  I spoke with several people at the American Bamboo Society booth while at the Seattle Flower and Garden Show this year.  One told me that the main edible bamboo variety will grow well in Western Washington.  I'd also like to have either Henon or Rubro Marginata, both of which produce edible shoots and grow fairly large.  I probably won't add any more bamboo until we move to larger acreage as I'm not sure where I would put it. 




    My little water garden is doing well.  I had divided the water lily when I put it out after it spent the winter in a bucket in the garage. The main plant has already produced two flowers and the two divisions are growing nicely, producing ever larger leaves. The irises have bloomed and need to be moved to a larger pot. The miniature cattails are also growing nicely. I was considering getting some water hyacinth like I had last year, but the water lilies have filled the space.

    I still don't have half of the vegetable garden planted, but what is planted is growing nicely.  I'm expecting a bumper crop of cabbages and potatoes.  The black currants are ready to harvest and the red currants soon will be ready.  I usually just run the currants through the steamer juicer and can the juice for later use.  We're  enjoying the fresh strawberries every day.

     I'm still working on expanding the goat pasture.  The goats have eaten their way through the tangle of blackberries to our property line.  Now, I just need to drive about ten more fence posts and I'll be ready to hang the new fencing.  The goats should completely destroy the remaining blackberries in their expanded enclosure before the end of the summer. At least that is the plan.

Island Getaway and Walk for the Cure

     Linda and I spent the weekend (or most of it) in a cottage just north of Mutiney Bay on Whidbey Island.  We had a lovely view of Puget Sound, hunted for shells, agates, and driftwood on the beach, and watched the ships go by.  We saw everything pass by from cruise ships bound for Alaska and large container ships all the way down to sailboats and fishing boats.  A wonderful week end.

     We drove down to Seattle on Sunday morning in order for the entire family to walk in the breast cancer walk. I ended up pushing Elise and Lily in the stroller for a good part of the walk.   It was really fun to have everyone together.

    We came home at about 2:00 p.m.  I went out to check on the animals and found that one of the goats had gotten himself into trouble again.  Somehow Black Jack had managed to squeeze most of his body through the manger all the way up to his back hips. I was amazed that he managed to get his  front legs through the manger, but even more that he was able to get his belly past.  Its very fortunate he didn't manage to get all the way into the barn as then he might have eaten himself to death on the grain.  Chet helped me cut the goat free of the manger.  I then put ropes on both goats and moved them out to work on the blackberries to allow me to fix the manger without any unwanted assistance from the goats.

   This is being posted some time after the event due to getting busy and not getting back to it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Duckling Update

    Its officially over. Both hen ducks have abandoned the nest.  There are just three lonely eggs left in the clutch. I probably should do a disection and see how far along they made it.  At this point I believe Beatrix Potter had it right.  Jemima Puddle Duck appears to be the rule when it come to hen ducks. Most ducks are insufficiently serious to set on a nest and hatch their own ducklings.  Its sad, but the next time I want some ducklings I will either have to incubate them myself or just buy them.  The only up side is that the runner duck hen has started to lay again so we have fresh duck eggs again.  I was so hoping to have some cute little ducklings for the grandkids to enjoy.

    How does my garden grow?  The potatoes are doing great as well as the 55 cabbage starts I planted.  Other than four tomato plants and a few winter squash plants that is the is the sum total of my garden thus far.  I still have about eight planting beds I need to weed and plant.  Not that I've lost much by being late this year.  With the wet cool spring we've had its been a perfect year to plant cabbages and potatoes. I would still like to get some carrots, beets, and rutabegas planted in keeping with the cool summer theme as well as some zuchini, cucumbers, and more winter squash.  I would like to be able to can some saurkraut and pickled beets by the end of the summer.

    My bamboo is taking off pretty well.  At least I finally have a couple of full  size culms growing.  They are up to 12 or 15 feet right now and look like they will make it past 20 feet.  Technically the bamboo is part of the vegetable garden and I hope to be able to harvest at least a meal's worth of bamboo shoots next spring. I didn't expect it to take so long to get the bamboo established.  I've had it over three years and I've yet to harvest a shoot and it hasn't gone anywhere near the barrier I worked so hard to put in place.

    I started off my morning by visiting my barber, Paul Barber, in Everett and doing the usual swap of a jar of honey for a haircut.  He was happy to give me a serious buzz cut rather than the usual.  I ended the day by going to Becky's little buzz party and was surprized to find my wife getting her hair buzzed.  I think Becky was impressed with the show of support and fortunately, it will grow back.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Duckling Update - Day 16

   The Rouen  duck is still sitting on the eggs, but we are down to just seven eggs, five blue and two white.  I still don't know if the duck is merely getting rid of the bad eggs or if the rats are stealing them. I put out more poison out for the rats just in case they are the problem.  Rats seem to be a perpetual problem in the vicinity of poultry feeders. I haven't seen the runner duck taking a turn on the eggs in over a week so the Rouen duck has sole claim at the moment.

    My little water garden is doing well. The large water lily has a flower that is starting to bloom.  The three smaller water lilies have all sent up miniature lily pads, each new leaf slightly larger than the previous one. The irises are also starting to bloom. The miniature cattails are growing.  I have three feeder goldfish still alive after a month or so. Initially they were eating the mosquito larvae. I'm not sure what they are eating now. I probably should start feeding them.  I have some fertilizer tablets for the water lilies which I put in with each plant when I divided them a month ago. I'm supposed to give each lily a fertilizer tablet each month, but I've procrastinated putting them in. The package claims they won't hurt the fish, but I'm suspicious.  This is my practice water garden.  I'd like to have a much larger one some day. I took a photo of one of my bees (ear tag C-27,119)  foraging for water on a water lily of all things. OK, I don't really know that its one of my bees, but I think the odds are pretty high that it is.

    My bamboo is growing well this spring.  It only sent up four new culms, but two of those are much bigger than last years.  I expect that next year It will finally begin to spread out.  I put in a serious 18 inch deep bamboo barrier soon after I planted the bamboo.  I didn't realize that it would take several years for the plant to finally get its root system established.  Technically the bamboo is part of the vegetable garden as I picked a variety with edible shoots.  Maybe next year I'll get my first harvest of bamboo shoots. The variety I planted is aureasculcatis "Spectabilis".  I got the start for free from someone who was moving and had a lot of bamboo in their garden.  I had a chance to get a free start of black bambo, but I was too busy to dig it up at the time of year when it was best to do that.  According to the folks at the American Bamboo Society March is the best month to do divisions or to transplant bamboo.  March is a pretty busy time at the bee store.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Duckling update: Day 11

    The mother duck who started sitting on the nest (the slate blue runner duck) appears to have lost some of her interest in the eggs.  Fortunately she has been replaced by the Rouen duck so the eggs are still being incubated.  I've seen them sitting on the eggs together several times so it may be that the larger hen duck has crowded out the smaller hen duck.  I suppose it is also possible that they have a schedule written on the wall inside their little shelter and its the other duck's turn this week.  Personally, I'm suspicious that there may be a basis in fact for the Jemima PuddleDuck story by Beatrix Potter. I think hen ducks as a whole are somewhat less dedicated sitters that your average banty hen. 

    A few of the eggs have been culled by the ducks so we are down to 9 eggs in the nest.  I think the ducks can tell when an egg isn't progressing as it should and its a good thing that they can eliminate the "bad" eggs.  That would be like sitting on a ticking stink bomb.  An incubated infertile egg will eventually explode. You wouldn't want to be around when that happens, much less sitting on it.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Tale of Two Bad Goats

       Last Saturday (May 8th) I worked at the bee store until about 4:30 p.m., then hurried home for a family dinner and combined birthday celebration for our May birthdays ( My son James, grandaughter Abby, and grandson James, aka Boo). We had children and grandchildren visiting and it promised to be a good time.  However, the party was literally crashed by our two goats who picked that particular day to discover the weakness of the old green gate to their pen.  At some point earlier that day they realized that the gate was on the verge of failing.  They then spent the next several hours butting the gate until it finally gave way.  I arrived home with dinner ready and our two caprine escapees tied up in our former raspberry patch. 

      After a somewhat short family dinner and singing of happy birthday I spent the remainder of the waning daylight hastily constructing a new gate for the goat pen.  Fortunately I had on hand a fairly stout pallet made of inch thick plywood and 4x4 oak.  As the daylight turned to dusk I was putting the last few screws in the new and improved goat pen gate.  The only down side to the new gate is it's lack of a few coats of bright green paint like the old gate had.  I think the pallet had been used for some heavy piece of machinery as it seemed to be very stout.  After I had re-installed the goats into their pen, their first order of business was to test the strength of the new gate.  After each goat had given the gate of few butts, they reached the conclusion that the new gate was no pushover and went back to eating the bark off the trees in their pen.

    The goats' confinement in the former raspberry patch, now overgrown by blackberries, was intended to keep them from further mischief until such time that I could replace the gate.  Left to their own devices goats have an unhealthy inclination to eat things like rhododendrons that are poisonous. From a goat's perspective their confinement in the erstwhile raspberry patch was actually a nice reward.   They are perpetually hungry and always act they haven't eaten for days.  By the time I finished the new gate, the raspberry patch was somewhat less overgrown by blackberries. We've started staking the goats out during the day so they can do some blackberry removal for us. They are so enthusiastic about this activity that we literally have to drag them back to their pen at the end of the day.

      I'm currently working on enlarging the goat pen to several times larger than it's current size. I have several goals in this. My first goal is to harness their ravenous appetites in the removal of the blackberries on a portion of our property.  My second goal is to spend less time and money feeding the goats. I purchased 100 yards of appropriately strong fencing material a few weeks ago, but I haven't had sufficient free time to get the job done.  About all I've done so far is to set a few of the fence posts. The goats require fairly strong fencing as they like to place their front hooves on the wire in order to gain a bit more altitude. A good part of the fencing I used in the goat pen is some welded wire that I got on the cheap at a garage sale.  The welded wire tends to separate when the goats place their hooves on the horizontal strands of wire. The new fencing material is a thcker gauge wire that is twisted rather than welded.

Busy day at the Bee Store



We had a busy day today with the recent arrival of queens. We also received a shipment of three pallets of bee boxes from Shastina Millworks. I spent the last two hours of the day unloading the pallets and stacking the new inventory in an easily accessable place.  The three pallets totaled almost two tons of woodenware. The labor was lightened by the presence of Lance and Luna. They sat for a while on top of two of the pallets while I unloaded the first pallet. Then Luna started giving me hand signal directions like they guide in airplanes as I moved each dolly load of boxes into the store. I ended up giving them dolly rides back outside the store.

All Hail the Queens

    Today (June 2) was a busy day at the bee store.  Although things have slowed down somewhat since the package bees, it is still a struggle to keep up on assembly orders.   The big deal today was the arrival of a shipment of 55 queen bees this afternoon from Wooten's Golden Queens, located in Palo Cedro, California.  We've been anxiously waiting for them as they were supposed to arrive last week and several customers are anxious to get new queens.  Several of them have to be shipped elsewhere, but they arrived too late in the day for me to be able to get them sent out today.  I did manage to get them transferred to two queen banks.  I put them in a small 5 frame nuc box that has a few frames of bees with a fair amount of capped brood.  As the capped brood emerges over the next 12 days it will provide a constant source of young bees to act as nurse bees for the queens.  The queen cages are placed in a modified frame that keeps the worker bees from chewing through the candy plugs and releasing any of the queens.  The queens stay healthy longer in a queen bank and allows us to provide a better product to our customers.

    The queens arrive in a "battery box" which has a bunch of little queen cages in neat little rows all covered with lots of loose bees.  I spray them down with a little thymol scented sugar syrup to ease their addition to the queen bank.  The thymol is supposed ot mask their scent and make it harder for the bees in the queen bank to discern that the bees from the battery box are not from their hive. I also spray thymol scented syrup on the bees in the queen bank.  Apparently I didn't spray quite enough today as I still saw some combat between the workers.

     In order to prepare queens for shipment  I have to add at least three worker bees to their cage so that they have some attendants to care for them until they are installed in a hive. This involves grabbing worker bees by their wings and stuffing them business end first into the queen cages. This is a bare-handed job as it requires some dexterity to catch bees by their wings as they crawl around on the queen cages. The amazing thing for many people is that I can cover the hole in the queen cage with my finger and never get stung.  I have taken an occasional sting when I wasn't able to secure both pairs of wings to prevent the worker bee from stinging.  The bees are quite agile and can easily bend around to get me if I don't get both pairs of wings. I've gotten reasonably good at this so I usually don't get stung.  Once I have added workers to the queen cage, it is simply a matter of preparing a priority mail box with a screened vent hole, adding several hot pink warning labels ("Live Queen Bees" "Keep Ventilated" "Keep Away from Insecticides" "Keep at Room Temperature") and transporting the package to the post office.

    Obviously selling queen bees is a fairly big hassle.  We are usually lucky to break even on queens by the end of the year as they are a very perishable product.  When customers complain about the price of queen bees I advise them that if they really knew all that went into producing, handling, and shipping queens, they would be amazed that they are so cheap.  However, it doesn't feel cheap when you pony up $27.13 after tax for a relatively small bug.  We mainly sell queens as a service to our customers.

Local goats working hard

    I'm trying to expand my goat pen to provide them with a little more pasture.  I've bought the fencing and I think I have enough of the metal posts.  As I was contemplating cutting a path through the blackberries I had the bright idea of letting the goats do the work for me.  All I have to do is drive in a metal post where it want to expand the fence and tie one of the goats the post.  Within a few days of work the goat has eaten back the blackberries to the point where I can drive in the next post.  So far it has worked fairly well.  The only glitch is that the goats have a tendency to get themselves tangled up after two or three hours.  Otherwise we're making good progress and the goats have taken to the work with great enthusiasm. In fact they complain very loudly if I don't stake them out in the morning.

   I can't think of another creature that is so ruled by its appetites as a goat is.  They live to eat and their stomachs are a bottomless pit.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Duckling Update

   While the mother duck appears to be doing fine sitting on the eggs, four of the eggs in the clutch disappeared.  I'm not sure what happened, but I think rats are the most likely suspects.  Fortunately, I had collected eggs from the nest about five or six days before the mother duck started sitting.  I had taken them down to the bee store to give them to a friend with a broody hen.  Since the friend didn't come by to pick up the eggs, I added about 7 of the newer eggs to the nest.  I was concerned that if any more eggs disappeared the mother might give up.  In the mean time I put out some more rat poison.  The duck pen is fairly secure so I'm not sure what else could have gotten in the pen to take the eggs.  Anyhow, we now have ten eggs in the clutch, with June 28 being D-day (duckling day) for the seven eggs I added.

     Rats seem to be a perpetual problem when you have poultry feeders.  I seem to have to poison them off on a regular basis.  I usually put the poison down their holes and put a rock over it to make sure nothing else gets a hold of the poison.  I was hoping our new barn cat would make a big difference, but I've yet to see him bring in a rat.  I put his feed out in the goat barn to make sure he visits the barn at least once a day. I haven't seen any rats at the goat barn, but he hasn't made much difference around the duck pen.

     Rachel worked at the bee store today so I spent the day weeding, mowing lawns, and painting bee equipment.  At the end of the day our strawberry beds are pretty well weeded and the lawns aren't in bad shape.  However, there is still a lot of beehive parts that need painting.  Lance helped me paint for a while, but he is only good for about ten minutes of painting when it isn't raining.  I'm trying to get all of my stuff repainted as we are hosting the bee club picnic at our house this year. I don't want my beehives to look junky.  The reason we are holding the picnic at our house is that Rachel decided we needed to have a beebeard contest at the picnic.  It sounds like a fun time, but they frown on activities like that at public parks.

  I also drove up to Marysville this afternoon with Lance and picked up an elk hide from Quil Ceda Tanning.  The untanned hide was a gift from Bob Hazelbrook, a bee store customer who is a serious hunter.  I paid to have it tanned with the plan being to make some moccasins with it.   

Monday, May 31, 2010

Heavenly Hazelnut Pie

   I have a new pie recipe to share.  I made a rhubarb pie today and mixed up enough pie dough for two double crust pies.  After I cut up the rhubarb it became obvious that I had only picked enough for one pie.  As I was considering what sort of pie to make for the second pie Rachel showed me an old recipe card she had found for "Heavenly Hazelnut Pie".  We still have about three quarts of  shelled hazelnuts on hand so hazelnut pie it was.  Since this recipe only required a pie shell I had enough crust made up for two more pies. The basic recipe is as follows:

        1 1/4 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts
        1 6oz package of choclate chips
        1 9 inch pie shell, unbaked
        3 large eggs
        1 cup of honey
        1/2 teaspoon vanilla
        1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled

     Sprinkle nuts and chips over the bottom of the pie shell.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, honey, and vanilla.  Blend in the butter and pour the mixture into the pie shell.  Bake at 325 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes or until firm.  Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.  Makes eight rich servings.
Optional: serve with ice cream.

      Since I had two pie shells, I decided to try a little variation on the recipe.  I only had enough liquid honey on hand for one pie ( an embarrassing confession for someone who owns a bee supply store and sells honey), so I used brown sugar for one pie rather than honey and substituted butterscotch chips for the chocolate chips.  Both pies turned out very well and set up nicely. Linda told me that they truely were heavenly. However, she liked the original recipe chocolate chip version better. I used three duck eggs in each pie which is probably the equivalent of using four chicken eggs.

     I use a pie crust recipe from the Mormon Family cookbook.  It really is a pretty simple recipe and turns out well.  The recipe for the pie crust is as follows:

      2 1/4 cups flour
      1 teaspoon salt
      3/4 cup vegetable shortening
      1/3 cup cold water

     I usually just put in half a teaspoon of salt and sometimes I omit the salt.  I blend the flour and shortening with a pastry cutter and then add the water gradually while I toss the flour and shortening mixture with a fork. I'll try to get some pie pictures uploaded tomorrow.

     It actually was sufficiently warm and dry this afternoon that I was able to go through a few beehives.  I was pleasantly surprized to discover that one overwintered colony has put away about eighty pounds of maple honey.  I knew they had stored some maple honey, but I didn't expect that much.  We don't get maple honey every year as it depends if the weather is warm enough and dry enough for the bees to forage when the maples are in bloom, usually during April.  Some years it seems to rain the whole time the maples are blooming.  Not everyone likes maple honey as it has a strong menthol flavor.  Some people even describe it as tasting like cough syrup.  I like it, but I can understand why many people don't.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Duckling Countdown

   Finally the mother instinct has kicked in and one of my ducks is setting on a clutch of seven eggs.  I had about given up on them.  I have two hen ducks.  One is a Rouen duck (a sort of domesticated mallard) and the other is a slate blue runner duck.  The runner duck is the one that decided to start setting on the eggs.  It takes approximately 28 days for duck eggs to incubate so I calculate that we can hope to have ducklings on about June 26.  Since ducks are somewhat nervous creatures I'm going to ask all of the grandchildren to try and give the mother duck some privacy. If we give her some peace and privacy I think there is a better chance that she will persevere through the four week incubation period.  She is setting on  a clutch of seven eggs, four from the Rouen duck and three of her own eggs.





     My little water garden is doing well.  I had taken the water lily out of the water garden and put it in a 5 gallon bucket in the garage for the winter.  They are fairly winter hardy if they are in a pond that is large enough where it won't freeze all of the way down to the plant. My two half whiskey barrels are small enough to freeze all of the way through in a prolonged winter cold snap so I thought it safer to overwinter the lily in the garage.

    When I took the lily out this spring I noticed that there were several smaller plants in addition to the main plant.  I read in one of our garden books that water lilies are fairly easy to divide.  The book said to use heavy clay soil and to cover the soil with pebbles.  I divided our water lily into three pots and left one smaller plant in with the main plant. I buried a fertilizer tablet in each pot.  A month later the lilies are thriving. The main plant has put out 4 new leaves and a flower bud has reached the surface.  All three of the smaller plants have put out a new minature lily pad.  I think I'm going to have some extra water lilies to give away at some point.

    When I first fixed up my water garden this spring I had a good number of mosquito larvae living in the barrels.  I bought a dozen feeder goldfish which I added to the garden.  Now, a month later I have four goldfish left and no mosquito larvae. The surviving goldfish are significantly larger and I suspect they may have eaten some of the other goldfish. The only dead goldfish I found was one poor fish that got sucked into the water pump.
potatoes

    We are a bit behind in getting our garden put in due to all of the rain we've had lately.  So far all I have are five rows of potatoes, a few volunteer potatoes from last year, and some shallots.  I'm hoping to get some more progress made on our garden tomorrow.  I have some tomato plants that were a gift from a bee store friend that I would like to get planted. I'd like to cover the tomatoes with a row cover until the weather warms up and dries up. I'd also like to put in more cabbages than we did last year. I've gotten positive feedback on last year's homemade saurkraut so I'd like to do more of it this year.
red currantsblueberries

     Some of my cherry trees have set a fair amount of fruit while others have very little.  It all depends on when the weather was too poor for the blooms to be pollinated.  Happiness is having a variety of cherry trees that bloom at different times. My Rainier, Lapins, and an unknown variety all have a fair amount of fruit forming. My Bing, Lambert, and Hudson all have very little fruit.  My asian pear tree has no fruit at all, the plum tree has about the same as last year,while the blueberries appear to have set a bumper crop again. The red and black currants also have set a good crop.  We will probably have ripe strawberries in another week or so.
 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Package Bees

    This is a delayed post because I was way to tired at the time to finish this.  Besides, I didn't have pictures at the time. 

    Today (April 16) was the first day package bees and I am so tired. I left on Wednesday with my friend, Quinten Williams,to pull our bee trailer down to Redding, CA. Quinten did most of the driving.  On Thursday shortly after 2:00 p.m. they started loading up 550 boxes of honey bees into our trailer and we pulled out of town at about 3:15 p.m.  Once they load the bees into the trailer it is a straight shot back to Snohomish, only stopping for gas.  We arrived in Snohomish with the bees at about 1:30 a.m. on Friday.  I spent the morning removing the packages from the trailer.  Everything is stapled in place so the load won't shift and the bees will have ventilation.  It usually takes me about four hours to remove all of the stapled lathe strips and get all of the bees out of the trailer. The first picture below shows the inside of the trailer with all of the packages still in place.

    Once again my 78 year old mother was pressed into service vacuuming the hitchhikers off the bee packages. Linda spent part of the day ferrying bees down to the store and then relieved Grandma vacuuming hitchhikers. When they make up the bee packages there are bees flying everywhere. Many of these "lost souls" latch onto the packages so there are a lot of loose bees that make the trip from California. The hitchhikers don't go to waste. Our special bee vacuum sucks them into a cage without hurting them.  When the cage inside the bee vac had lots of bees I used it just like a package and installed them into a hive.

      Rachel spent the entire day at the bee store.  We had several good friends who helped out at the store. Terry Johnson and Dave Pearson handed out packages while Dave's two daughters helped Rachel in the store.  I don't know how we would be able to do the package bees if we didn't get so much help from our "bee groupies".  Over 350 of the packages  went to their new homes on the first day. We still have a little less than 200 left to hand out tomorrow. That may actually feel like a light day in comparison to today.

Adventures in Woodworking

    I don't have many regrets in life, but I have always regreted my relative ignorance as to the proper use of woodworking tools.  There have been a lot of times when I have wished  that I had taken a few shop classes in junior high or high school.   Today I made some significant progress in addressing that difficiency in my education. My friend Quinten taught me how to set up a jig on the table saw to do box joints. There is something magical about fitting the pieces together and having them fit snugly. The whole point of making box joints has to do with a particular bee hive project I'm trying to do.

    I'd like to try a Warre hive this year.  It's a type of unconventional hive which has smaller dimensions and is supposed to make it easier for the bees to make it through the winter using less honey stores. They look really nice as well, considerably more decorative than a conventional beehive.  Most people do them as top bar hives where the bees build comb suspended from top bars with no enclosing frame.  That works well for people who really don't want to manage their bees, but simply want to let the bees do their own thing.  I wanted to do one with frames.  That way it would be easier to look in on the bees once in a while and I would have the option of doing extracted honey.  The only options for top bar hives is "cut comb" or "crush and squeeze".

     I finished cutting out my first box this afternoon. The box joints look so much better than simple butt joints and are much stronger joints.  I feel much more like a real woodworker.  Next I want to learn how to do dovetail joints using my router table.  I got a nice router for Christmas a year ago and a friend gave me a nice router table.  So far, all I've managed to do with it is to install the router onto the table.    

Cheesemaking 101

     As a celebration of the completion of the annual package bee frenzy I took the day off work today (Tuesday 4/27/10).  I left the bee store in the capable hands of a friend while I attended a cheesemaking class with two of my daughters (Rachel and Lia). The class was the result of bartering with Gretchen Wilson, a friend from the spinner's guild.  It's truely amazing what can be purchased using honey as currency.

      Gretchen raises Friesian sheep, a milk breed, and makes the most wonderful pecorino cheese.  She operates a custom carding business known as Gretchen's Woolen Mill and is also a weaver.  Gretchen and her husband live on a small subsistance farm they call "Quiet Waters Farm" located about ten miles east of Monroe.  Rachel, Lia, and I, together with four year old Lance, made the trip to Quiet Waters Farm for the cheese making class.

            When we arrived, Gretchen already had 2 gallons of sheep milk warming on the stove in large enamelware pot.  Since she had used this morning's milking it hadn't taken long to get the milk to the desired temperature. When the milk reached 90 degrees fahrenheit, Gretchen added the rennet and the bateria culture and set a timer for one hour. The rennet is made from the stomach lining of young calves and contains enzymes which cause the milk to coagulate or set up. While we waited for the rennet to do it's magic, we enjoyed a brief tour of Quiet Waters Farm and watched a Martha Stewart video on cheesemaking.

     The next step involved cutting the newly formed curds into cubes, (approximately) so as to facilitate separating the curds (solid) from the whey (liquid).  After the curds were cut, the mixture was gradually heated to 118 degrees in order to further shrink the curds and make a drier cheese.  A timer was set with 45 minutes being alloted to the shrinking process.  The curds were periodically stirred very gently during this process to keep them from clumping together.  However, the curds were removed from the heat as soon as the mixture reached 118 degrees fahrenheit.  The temperatures are very critical to the success of the cheese and vary according to what sort of cheese is being made.  Each particular bacteria culture needs a certain amount of warmth for it to grow.

    Upon completion of the shrinking process, the cheese press was lined with cheese cloth and the whole mixture was then poured into the press.  The press is used to squeeze more of the whey from the curds. The cheese is removed from the press the following day, rubbed in salt and transferred to the "aging cave", a special type of refridgerator set at 45 degrees.  After about a  week of aging the salt is fully absorbed and the surface has dried to form the start of the rind. At this point the cheese is rubbed with olive oil, then aged for about 4 months. When the cheese is fully aged it is transferred to the fridge.

      Gretchen had about six cheeses aging in her "cheese cave".  She had a finished cheese in her fridge that she kept in a ceramic cheese bell. She served us some pecorino cheese, with sliced apples and homemade bread as a light lunch.  Gretchen actually makes several types of cheeses in addition to the pecorino we saw her make.  She also makes a harder grating cheese, a sheeps milk version of mozzarella which she calls Ewesarella, and yogurt.  The sheeps milk is much higher in milk solids than either cows milk or goats milk.  Two gallons of cows milk would have produced a much smaller cheese.

  This is a somewhat simplified version of the whole process.  I didn't take notes at the time so I wanted to write this down while it was still fresh in my memory.

      When I retire for real the plan is to sell our house and move to a place on acreage where real estate is much cheaper than it is here in Snohomish County.  If I had 5 or 10 acres to play with I'd like to keep a small flock of sheep. I've given a lot of thought to various breeds and right now I'm thinking the Friesians would be  a good choice. I really like the idea of being able to do homemade cheeses. (Gretchen's cheeses are absolutely wonderful.) The crossbred Friesians are also fairly thrifty and tend to have at least twins if not triplets. I've spun wool from Gretchen's sheep and they seem to have a decent fleece for spinning.
   

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Illness, an Execution, and Package Bees

  I picked a bad day to come down with the flu. It wasn't the very worst, but close to it.  I wake up with the flu, the day before our second delivery date of package bees (Thursday morning). So I'm lying in bed feeling badly about all the work that I'm not doing at the bee store and all the work that my red headed daughter is now shouldering when Linda bursts into the room complaining about all the noise that the two guinea hens are making. I was a little concerned when she asked about the best way to kill them. I gave her my advise as follows:

   "Why don't you wait until I'm feeling better and after the package bees are done. Its just a few more days. Then I'll take care of them."  When that didn't placate her, I advised her that either wringing their necks or cutting their heads off would work just fine.  With most women that little exchange could be termed as "calling their bluff."  Not so with the woman I married. Within 20 minutes she had wrung the neck of one of the guinea hens.  The white one escaped that fate only because Linda was unable to catch it.

    Later, when I told the tale to my friend, Quinten, he said (after he had stopped laughing) that I should definitely add that to my list of reasons why I'm glad I married her. He was obviously impressed with her grit and tenacity.  I have to admit that I was mildly surprized that she carried out the deed so quickly. I didn't doubt that she was capable, but I had mistakenly assumed she was merely putting pressure on me to do the deed soon after I was feeling better. Linda's spunk is definitely on my list of reasons I'm glad I married her. However, if she ever threatens to wring my neck I will probably be less inclined to dismiss it as a mere idle threat.

   As for the package bees... We received a lot of help from several good friends and by Friday morning, most of our assembly orders were ready.  Package Bee Day, Part II actually went very well. Tim Beuler was there right at 7:00 a.m. to drop off 200 packages of bees.  Quinten showed up at 8:00 a.m. and assisted me in pulling off the lathe strips that connect the packages into groups of five and vacuuming off the loose bees from the outside of the packages. Rachel came in early to finish a few assembly orders. Shannon Boling and her daughter, Savanna, were there by the time we had opened for business.  Rick Jamsgard and Dave Pearson came by later in the afternoon. The day went well and most of the packages went off to good homes before the end of the day.  We've had a good year so far, but we've only gotten by with a lot of help from friends. From my perspective, the only significant down side to the bee store is that six months out of the year it is more work than I really like to do.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Be Careful What You Ask for..

     We had a quiet house last week with Rachel and her children down in Oregon for spring break. I had commented to Linda that I missed having Lance play with my spinning wheel. It seemed kind of sad that when I came home from work the wheel was always exactly how I had left it. Rachel and the kids finally got home on Friday night. Lance started making up for lost time the following day.  I had been spinning a lot on Saturday while I listened to two General Conference sessions.  As a result I had a lot of one ply wool on the bobbins when I left with my son-in-law to go the Priesthood session on Saturday evening. When I came home it was obvious that Lance had spent some quality time with my spinning wheel.  He had successfully transferred some of the one ply yarn into four little balls of yarn using my ball winder. (Pretty impressive for a four year old). He was less successful in plying two single strands into two ply yarn with the spinning wheel. It took me about a half hour to undo the rats nest from the flyer. I was actually quite impressed that he had paid enough attention to attempt to duplicate the specific activities he had seen me do. I consider the rat's nest a small price to pay for Lance's avid interest in my hobby. I should have taken a picture of the aftermath, but thoughtlessly staightened out the mess before I realized I had missed an opportunity.

    I really don't mind the grandchildren playing with the spinning wheel. There really isn't much they can do to damage the spinning wheel as long as they don't take a hammer or a hatchet to it. Usually I just have to put the belt back in place and every once in a while I lose a little bit of yarn or carded fiber. I love the fact that they're interested in the spinning wheel. I would hate for them to have memories of me being grumpy about it.

    I'm currently spinning some dark brown shetland wool that was a gift from a student in one of my bee classes. It is relatively soft and I suspect it will make good socks, hats, and mittens which is mostly what I knit. So far I've been given two fleeces by bee class students and three others by a member of our bee club. Between those fleeces and the goats I'm pretty well supplied with fiber to spin. Linda has been pretty patient so far with the four bags of carded wool currently in the loft.

     We are only a week away from package bee week.  I got some help today from several friends today as we're trying to get the trailer in shape for the trip.  Quinten Williams hauled the trailer to the bee store for me and Don Smith welded a new hinge onto one of the doors.  It's an exciting time, but I'm feeling a bit of stress.  The store has been really busy the past two months as we are continuing to do better each year than the year before. I pray for the success of our business and then stuggle to deal with the resultant growing pains.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Serious Redneck Moment

    Being a college educated, non drinker, non smoker, and non chewer, and still being in possession of most of my teeth, I'm not inclined to think of myself as a redneck.  I do have to admit that I have an affection for firearms and fiddle music, but I still think I don't fit the general profile.  However, this afternoon I had a serious redneck moment.

    It all began with something new I'm doing at the bee store.  I bought some thymol crystals on line as an additive to the sugar syrup I feed my honeybees.  Thymol is a substance the extract from thyme essetial oil so it is a sort of herbal extract.  A small amount of thymol added to the sugar syrup will prevent both mold and fermentation and is likely to kill a troublesome fungal parasite called nosema.  The problem is that thymol isn't water soluble.  The thymol crystals need to be dissolved in alcohol as a pre-mix before it can be added to the sugar syrup. Given a choice of using rubbing alcohol or something like vodka or everclear, I opted for the everclear (151 proof grain alcohol) as being less harmful to the bees.  This put me in the uncomfortable position of having to visit our local Washington State Liquor Store to purchase 151 proof Everclear.  Since I'm making up the pre-mix for sale in our store I needed to buy several bottles.

     I visited the local liquor store at about 3:00 p.m and purchased two fifths of 151 proof Everclear.  On my way home I stopped by the post office to send off a few mail order packages.  When I got back into my beater cargo van and tried to start it, the shift lever came off in my hand.  I felt like I was back in one of  those old slapstick comedies where the driver hands the steering wheel to the passenger.  My efforts to reinstall the shift lever were not successful so I decided to just walk home and call someone more mechanically inclined to help.  The key is stuck in the ignition because I can't shift the van back into park and I can't lock up the van with my only key inside.  As I was getting ready to walk away, it occured to me that it probably wasn't a good idea to leave two fifths of Everclear on the floorboards of an unlocked van.  So I set off for home with my two fifths of everclear in a brown paper bag tucked under my arm.  I was halfway home before the irony of the situation hit me.  Here I was walking home with two fifths of Everclear because my old beater van broke down on the way home from the liquor store. I would call that a serious redneck moment.

     An hour later a good friend reinstalled the shift lever and the cargo van is mobile once again.
         

Monday, March 22, 2010

Shearing Photos

          So we finally have some photos of the goat shearing. I'm not sure what happened to the actual "before" picture so we will have to make do with  the closest thing we have to that.
       Here we have the "after" photo with Black Jack looking quite a bit smaller, but no worse for wear. I'm not very fast, but I managed to get the fleece off without any blood being spilt.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Shearing Time

      I finally got around to goat shearing today.  Linda helped restrain Black Jack so I could concentrate on shearing and avoid an inadvertant amputation.  I find the goats to be a bit more difficult to shear than a sheep.  Not that I am any expert on shearing, but the sheep I have done have always been more cooperative.  I use hand shears and I'm not very fast . Black Jack was not cooperative at all and I finally had to resort to tying his legs together.  Lance was very sympathetic to Black Jack's pain and started singing a lullaby to him to try to calm him down.  Due to my delay in shearing him some of Black Jack's fleece had started to felt.  Between the felted fleece and Jack Black's attitude it took me a couple of hours to get him sheared but we finally got through it.  He finally began to accept his fate when we were about 80 percent finished. After two hours on my knees I could barely walk. As a result White Jack got a reprieve on getting sheared today. Luna's contribution to the shearing was that of official photographer

     Previous to the shearing, Black Jack had been the dominant goat. After shearing he looked about half the size he did before shearing.  When I put Black Jack back into the pen, White Jack immediately began to assert his dominance.  He'll be the big goat for another few days.  Once I get White Jack sheared, they will be on equal terms again.

     I don't like washing and carding fibers that felt easily so last year I took my pygora goat fiber to Gretchen's Woolen Mill, a local custom carding business. I had her blend it 50:50 with wool and I was really happy with the results.  The blended fiber has the softness of the pygora and the memory of wool.  I did a couple of tam hats from the wool/pygora blend and they turned out well. I'm always amazed at how you can take something that is dirty and smells bad when it comes off the animal and turn it into something wonderful. Shearing is a big hassle but the end result is worth some trouble.  Also I think the grandkids really enjoy getting a hat that comes from a goat they know. 

    I spent the morning watching Lance and Luna while Rachel worked at the bee store. We took care of the animals, built a fire, collected eggs, and generally had a good time. They were really excited when they saw that our peas are starting to come up.  They also helped me with the mole traps. They drew the line at helping me with the bees. They watched a movie while I opened a few hives. I think our high temperature today was in the high sixties so I was able to take a few hives down to the bottom board.

   I'm having technical difficulties getting the pictures out of Linda's camera so Black Jack's before and after pictures will have to wait a day or so.
    

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lemon Pie Followup

    Last weekend my grand daughter, Madelynn, spent the weekend with us.  On Sunday afternoon Madelynn and I made two lemon blender pies as featured in an earlier blog.  I like them, but I realize that they are a bit tart for some folks.  We took one of the pies to Madelynn's family when we took her home that evening and I gave the other one to a good friend, Quinten Williams.   He gave me some feedback on the pie tonight.  He gave a piece of the pie to his 6 year old stepdaughter.  Upon tasting the pie she exclaimed, "Why did you buy this?"  Quinten explained to her that I had made the pie.  She then stated, "He should have had his wife make it."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Flower and Garden Show

     I am relieved that the NW Flower and Garden Show ended a few days ago and I still have a voice. We have had a booth at the show for the past four years to sell mason bees. I always enjoy the show, but I'm always glad that its over.  Between setting up the booth, working at the booth for five days, and taking the booth down, its been a very long week. I am very grateful for the help of some very good friends and family who helped me get through it. We didn't do as well as we did last year, but we didn't lose money either. Attendance at the show was down due to the economy so our sales were off some too.


     This year's show had a self sufficiency theme which I certainly endorse. Three of the display gardens actually had some sort of chicken coop. I took some pictures at the show with my phone, but I'm still trying to figure out how to download them to the computer. I may need to mooch some of the pictures that Linda took with her camera. One chicken coop was made from an old truck, with the chickens roosting in the cab. My personal favorite was a "John Deere" theme chicken tractor made from a fifty gallon drum.

      Rachel Kang did a very fine job as our cashier for the first four days of the show. Rick and Theresa Jamsgard helped on Wednesday. Terry Johnson, Linda, and Sofia Romero came on Thursday.  Sofia promptly wangled a position as cashier trainee. Sherry Russell and Sofia helped on Friday.  Beth and my daughter Rachel came on Saturday. On Sunday Sherry, Shannon Boling, and Shannon's daughter, Savanna worked at the booth. All of the non relatives are friends from the bee store. Having lots of help made it a much more pleasant experience and is the only reason I had any voice left on Monday..
     On Monday I had to get up at 5:00 a.m. in order to get to the Convention Center by 7:00 a.m., our scheduled time to get onto the loading dock so we could dismantle our booth. I am so grateful I have friends who will cheerfully get up that early in the morning to help me. Don Smith helped me set up the booth and Quentin Williams helped me take it down. It felt very good to have it over and I celebrated when I got home by working in the garden with Lance.



      Lance and I had a great time working outside.  We fed the animals, pruned one of my grape vines, planted peas, and shallots, and set a "have a heart" rat trap I borrowed from Quentin. I actually don't have much of a heart where rats are concerned. It just means I have to drown them after I catch them. We baited the trap with peanut butter and set it up near my new "Chicken Chateau". We also played a little bit of half court croquet. Lance stuck right by my side until Linda came home.  Then he dropped me like a hot potato. I actually don't mind that the grand kids like Linda best. I feel like I score a lot of points with them just because I'm part of a package deal. Linda is a rock star among grandmas so I don't mind being her sidekick. I always use prunings from my grape vines to make a trellis for the peas. Lance had a great time planting peas and pushing in the grape vine sticks.  Lance is a little fuzzy on the concept of proper spacing of seeds so I will probably have to do a little thinning when the peas come up. He made a great point of telling people that he had planted sugar snap peas.
      When Lance got up on Tuesday the first thing he wanted to do was check the rat trap. I made the mistake of telling him that I had already checked it.  I'll make sure I don't ruin the suspense for him tomorrow.