Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Kid Fishing

    On Memorial Day I drove over to Ellensburg and spent some time with my son James and his sweet family. My eight year old grand daughter, Britton, has been asking me to take her fishing for some time. That was the main goal of the trip, to take the grand kids fishing.  I arrived a little after 1:00 in the afternoon and received the usual enthusiastic greeting from the kids. Even little Nora smiled big for me.  My son, James, had located a "kids only" fishing pond on the east side of Ellensburg. We wasted no time in packing up the kids and heading out to the old fishing hole.

    The fishing experience started out somewhat slowly.  Our side of the pond was pretty weedy and seemed to have a lot more polliwogs than fish. These were not the normal run of the mill tadpoles. These were bull frog tadpoles, about the size of small perch.  We set up the kids with bobbers with worms for bait.  After the normal " kid fishing" comedy of errors Britton succeeded in catching her very first fish.  After appropriate photographs we put her little sunfish back in the pond. Britton was afraid that it was dead, but it swam away vigorously as soon as it was back in the water.
Britton's fish looked pretty impressive from the right perspective

A little less impressive looking here.

    We later moved to a better location on the pond  where the weeds weren't quite so thick. We also switched over from worms to power bait, something pink and sparkling that seemed to better match the girls' attire. As we started fishing in the deeper portion of the pond, we got immediate results. Within seconds of the bait hitting the water, the bobber would begin to move.  Britton caught a nice little rainbow trout about five minutes after we changed fishing spots. We fished that spot for another hour which allowed both Lucy and John to catch a nice little trout too.  Britton also caught another trout, one that was a little bigger than the other three trout.

    John told his fish that he loved him and then named him Max. That lead me to suspect that John was a little unclear on one of the main goals of fishing. However, each of the kids caught their first fish. They all had a great time and we left for home while everybody was still happy.

Britton's first trout

Happy fishermen holding their catch
    John was not happy about me cleaning the fish and none of the kids were enthusiastic about eating their catch.  Since they don't eat a lot of fish in their family that shouldn't have come as a surprise. We had a nice little dinner of pan fried trout with both home made french fries and fried sweet potatoes.  The adults ate the fish and the kids loaded up on the french fries.

    After dinner we spent some time singing and playing.  They had invited some friends to come over for family night. We had two soprano ukuleles, James' guitar, and a bass ukulele. I learned that the Children's Hymn Book has chords listed. I'm embarrassed that in eight years serving in the Primary I never had noticed that.  We sang a wide variety of songs ranging from "He's in the Jailhouse Now" to "Give Said the Little Stream",

     I decided to leave at about 8 pm so I wouldn't get back to Snohomish too late. After all, its only a two hour drive. I didn't count on the Memorial Day Weekend traffic persisting that late. I drove normal freeway speeds until I got to Elk Heights, about 20 miles west of Ellensburg.  All of a sudden the freeway was more like a parking lot.  It took me two hours to drive from Elk Heights to Easton, a distance of twenty miles.  After Easton the traffic started to break up and I got back to normal freeway speeds.  I managed to arrive at home in Snohomish a little after midnight.  It was worth the traffic though. How often does a grandpa get to help three of his grand children catch their first fish?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Snohomish Ward Talent Show 2014

   We held our annual Snohomish Ward Talent Show a week or so back.  It was a lot of fun, as usual.  We have a ward member who sells ice cream machines. He always brings one of his machines to make soft serve ice cream for root beer floats. Ward members are invited to display musical talents, artwork, and homemade baked goods. This year's edible contributions included home made toffee, cheesecake, and my rhubarb pie ( made with a hazelnut crumble crust).

    I played Ashoken Farewell on my fiddle as a musical talent.  Benjamin Goodwin had committed to play backup for me on the guitar.  That commitment went out the window when some cute girl with long red hair asked him to take her to her senior prom. I don't blame Benjamin at all. If I had been in his circumstances I think I would have ditched me too. Fortunately, I was able to find a replacement guitar player. Keith Huntsman filled in on very short notice and did a very fine job.  The best part was that Keith seemed interested in playing together on a regular basis. I found a few other brethren who also seemed interested in attending a folk/celtic/old timey music jam session. Rob Morrill did a wonderful job playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow on the harmonica. Trey Clasen plays bass. Maybe this will keep me out of trouble while Linda is doing all of her traveling this summer.

   My violin student, Nicolai Smith, played Joy to the World. He did a very fine job. Most importantly, he played in tune, the most difficult part of learning the violin. He made me proud.  There were a number of other kids who played or sang.  Young Kayli Kersavage did a wonderful gymnastic performance.  I think my back was a bit sore just from watching her perform.  Tymon John usually posts all of the various performances on You Tube.  I tried unsuccessfully to set up a link. You can find it easily by just doing a search on You Tuber for Snohomish Ward Talent Show 2014.

    Linda has been asking me about her flowers so I thought I would post a photo or two of a floral nature.
There was supposed to be a bumblebee in this photo but she ducked into a flower

The rhododendron is covered with bumble bees

Peony blooms are unable to open without the assistance of ants

Our rhododendron in bloom is spectacular

The iris are also in bloom

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Other Bees

     I have some involvement with bees other than honey bees.  Every spring I set out a lot of mason bee cocoons at our house. I also sell a fair amount of mason bee housing, cocoons, and educational materials at the Beez Neez.  I am particularly fond of the mason bees because they contribute significantly to the fact that I get some sweet cherries almost every year.  The mason bees will work under cooler and wetter conditions than honeybees. Often what passes for spring in western Washington isn't dry enough or warm enough for the honeybees to be reliable early spring pollinators. Before I had mason bees my sweet cherries only set fruit about every third year, even with twelve beehives in my back yard.  Now the trees at least set fruit every year. That doesn't mean I get cherries every year. I still have to worry about late rains that cause the cherries to crack and ruins the crop. At least I feel like I am in the game every year and have the hope of sweet cherries. I have five different varieties of sweet cherries.  Some bloom early while others are later. That variation in the bloom time reduces the risk of rain preventing pollination and also reduces the risk that rain will cause all of my cherries to split. I usually end up with some sweet cherries from at least one of my trees.
Mason bee cocoons are placed on top of the nest blocks in the Spring

A mason bee waits inside her nest hole until things warm up

    I also occasionally deal with bumble bees. I received a call from a day care a few days ago in which they pleaded with me to remove a nest of bumble bees from their back yard. The bees had set up a nest in a bird house on top of an old rabbit hutch.  I explained to the day care owner that there really was no significant risk of anyone being stung by bumble bees, especially from a nest that was several feet above the children's heads.  It was purely a matter of perceived legal liability in our sue happy society.  I agreed to remove the nest for a fee and drove down to Bothell early the next morning to do the deed.

    Bumble bee colonies don't persist through the winter like a honeybee colony. They disperse newly mated bumble bee queens in the fall who all look for a place to hibernate during the winter.  All of the queens who survive the winter will then try to start up their own colony the following spring. They don't reuse old nest sites, but always look for a new location.  Finding a new nest site is a necessity because bumble bees are not as neat and tidy as their honeybee cousins. The old nests are basically trash heaps.  The inside of a bumble bee nest looks like someone took a bunch of little wax pots, shook them up in a jar and then dumped them out into a little pile. Honeybees would never tolerate that sort of careless disorder. Bumble bees often nest in old bird houses, a space much too small for a honeybee colony. Whenever a caller tells me they have bees in a birdhouse I know right away that they aren't honeybees.

     My little bumble bee removal project turned out to be much more complicated than I had expected. It wasn't a small little bird house. It was more like a bird house condo with four separate next boxes under one roof.   I had only brought one piece of small mesh hardware cloth the screen off the entrance. As soon as I applied that to the hole which obviously had a nest, I had bees coming out of the other two nest holes. I knew they were separate nests because there were two different species of bumble bees coming out of the other two holes.  I didn't want to leave a large number of homeless bumble bees at the day care so I decided to make another attempt later that evening.

    I came back to the day care at about 11:00 p.m. with a much larger piece of hardware cloth.  I screened in all four entrances at once and slipped a mesh bag over the entire bird house.  I carefully pried the bird house loose from its moorings atop of the old rabbit hutch. My main worry was about the structural integrity of the bird house. I then put it in the back of my truck and drove home.  When I got home I moved the bird house to it new location atop an old hemlock stump in our orchard. I waited until the next morning to remove the mesh  bag and the screen so the bees would have settled down from all of the vibration from their 12 mile trip.   So far it looks like the relocation is at least a partial success. There are still bumble bees coming and going from at least two of the three nest holes.

My new bumble bee condominium

   I should probably do a garden update.  It looks like we have had pretty good fruit set in spite of our wet spring weather. Hip hip hooray for the mason bees.  I have four sweet cherry trees that have set a good crop. My little asian pear tree has set a lot of fruit and we are going to have a bumper crop of plums. I have three different varieties grafted onto my plum tree as a hedge against our wet spring weather.   The Shiro blooms first. Obilnaya starts to bloom before the Shiro is finished, and Santa Rosa starts to bloom before Obilnaya is done.  It takes the plum tree about three weeks to finish blooming which gives me a much bigger window when I might get warmer drier weather for the blossoms to be pollinated. It is too early to tell for the apple trees but I expect a good fruit set based on the weather we've had the last week or so.

     On the vegetable front, I am running very late on putting in my garden this year.  So far, the only vegetables in the ground are some red onions I planted about two months ago and the tomatoes I transplanted this morning.  The tomato starts were a gift from a good bee store friend.  I'm planning on some time off over the next two weeks so I can focus on the vegetable garden.  I'm scheduled to pick up a load of horse manure later this week from another good bee store friend.


Monday, May 5, 2014

First Aid for Hypothermic Ducklings

   As I was feeding the animals a few mornings back, I noticed that one of our ducklings had gotten trapped in the water bucket.  They're getting big enough that I thought I was past having to worry about that.  At first I thought it was dead, then I noticed its beak was moving.  I pulled it out of the water bucket and took it inside. I ran it under warm tap water for about ten minutes, dried it off somewhat , and took it into Linda wrapped up in a towel.  Linda put it on a heating pad under the blankets.  It sat there quietly while the heating pad brought its body temperature back up to normal.  About twenty minutes later it was apparently back to normal. It suddenly freaked out, escaped the blanket, and hid under the bed. Linda managed to capture it a few minutes later and she returned the duckling to the mother duck.  That was the first time in my life that I had the opportunity to apply my boy scout training on first aid for hypothermia. Of course this happened right as I was trying to leave for work. Quentin was unsympathetic when I offered up rendering first aid to a hypothermic duckling as my excuse for being late to work.

    We have had the drake sequestered in the adjacent chicken pen since the ducklings first hatched.  Since he has had almost three weeks to adjust to his newly expanded family, I thought we could try a supervised visitation.  The Drake immediately went into what looked like a jealous rage, chasing and harassing the ducklings.  I plopped the net over him and put him back in with the chickens. So much for time off his sentence for good behavior.  I think he may have to stay in the chicken pen until the ducklings are fully fledged and look pretty much like adult ducks.

    We are finally through all of the package bee craziness. I'm looking forward to turning my attention to other things, including putting in the vegetable garden, finishing my little row boat, and a few other things. Linda, of course, also has some plans for my time.