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.