Honey harvest 2014

It’s that time of year again.  Each year around tax day, I add honey supers to my hives. It’s no exact science, but I like to keep honey supers on my hives from, roughly, Tax day to Independence day. The bulk of the Spring and Summer blooms occur during that time period so my bees get an opportunity to work the best blooms and store away honey. Usually this process works well and I harvest several hundred pounds of honey. I see some variance as you might expect…some years I get 200 pounds, some years I get 500+ pounds…either way, a good bit of honey

Trying not to overheat!
Trying not to overheat!

I harvested the honey last weekend with high expectations as the grass around me was green and trees and things seemed healthy.  Unlike my friends elsewhere in the country, we have had a good deal of rain so things are growing well here in WV.  Imagine my surprise then when I cracked the first hive and found only a frame or two of capped honey.  I repeated this same scenario in hive after hive.  The bees seemed mostly in pretty good shape but I found very little honey.

One of the jars of honey this year
One of the jars of honey this year

A sudden mini-panic set over me as I closed up the last hive….something is wrong!  As I pondered it, my only conclusion is that our late frosts, cool spring and abundant rainfall came at the exact wrong time on my ridge top apiary and it left me with a poor honey crop.  As confirmation (I need this now…it hurts my heart you know…), none of my fruit trees bore a single piece of fruit.  My sorghum crop flopped.  In general, it was just bad I think.  As I mentioned, the bees look good so I have to blame it on the weather.  That line of thought settled me down.  I was so frustrated though, that I barely took any pics of the harvest this year.  Instead, please enjoy this picture of my cat…the internet loves cats, right?

My cat

We processed the honey and all-told, we got around 60 pounds of honey. That’s 10-20% of normal so you can see the problem here. Unfortunately, that means I am already sold out of this year’s honey crop. Not a great way to pay for hive repairs or new queens. Alas, that is the life of a beekeeper I suppose…

Marbled Orb Weaver spider around the hive
Marbled Orb Weaver spider around the hive

The only other thing that is noteworthy is this cool Marbled Orb Weaver spider I found outside one of the hives.  He was a pretty thing.  I tend not to mess with stuff around the hive.  I figure everything has a purpose…well, except mosquitoes and ticks…those things just suck.  Anyhow, a pretty spider always goes a long way to brighten my day too!  Next year, we’ll hope my new spider friend brings me good luck and a better harvest!

Other beekeeping stuff

Who is right?

Emily and I are having problems.  We’ve been married for 20 years now, and this problem has festered beneath the surface for as long as we have been together.  She thinks that she is right and I know I am right.  I just don’t know that we can ever come to an agreement on this.

Green bananas...an atrocity!
Green bananas…an atrocity!

You see, she likes bananas when they are obscenely green.  Truly, it is a crime against nature.  I prefer bananas as God intended them…yellow with slight hints of brown.  Although we have not yet sought out counseling for this problem, we may have come across a solution.  I am not sure why it didn’t occur to us until this week, but Emily and I are planning to start buying two bunches of bananas at a time…one that she will (incorrectly) eat immediately, and one that I will let age (like fine wine) for a few days and then eat.  We should be able to manage our troubles this way.  It appears she will not open her eyes to what is good and right, so I think our best shot is to accommodate her imperfections as best we can!

Ripe bananas...the right way to eat them!
Ripe bananas…the right way to eat them!

Math facts

Abigail is in middle school this year.  Kids seem to get interesting starting in middle school.  They think differently.  Well, I guess most folks wonder if middle school kids think at all, but I like the way they think (mostly).  It’s fun to watch as things dawn on the kids as they age…I guess I can almost see the world open up for them to all of the neat things that maybe I take for granted.  But beyond that, they still have that spark where just enough is different and new for them.  They aren’t yet jaded…naivete remains, at least a little.

Abigail Math

So Abigail had a task to use mathy stuff to describe a few things about herself in her math class.  I think this project was sort of fun for her, but she didn’t mention a thing about it until Emily discovered it during open house (yes, we are already in school and have already done open house). I love how she loves PI stuff.  I love how she drew her brother as tall as taller than me and bald.  I love how she drew our 3 cats and 5 chickens as our pets.  This is no artistic masterpiece, but, like most parents, I couldn’t be happier with the result of what comes from my own kids!

Scout camp…a long time ago!

Way back when, I was in the Boy Scouts.  My Dad was the scoutmaster for a large portion of my scouting career so it was doubly neat to be involved together.  I grew up in the boonies, so scouting type stuff was pretty much what we did anyhow…it was just organized.  We were outdoors all the time.  We hiked and canoed and camped seemingly every weekend.  Many kids growing up before the computer age lived like that I guess and I am fortunate to have been a part of it.

Anyhow, we went to scout camp each summer.  As I got older, the time got to be a lot more fun.   I guess we all got confident and a little cocky.  We went to camp and sort of looked for mischief…good mischief, but mischief none-the-less.

Camp Custaloga Town 1986
Camp Custaloga Town 1986

We went to visit my parents this weekend and my Dad turned up an old camp picture from 1986.  Where I lived, our scout camp was called Custaloga Town Scout Reservation.  I have all sorts of fond memories walking about the woods at the camp, mucking around in the lake and rappelling off the water tower.  I did my mile-swim at camp and had a grand time staying up too late acting stupid.  It’s fun to look at this old pic and see faces of me, my dad and my brother…all when we were a lot younger!

Scouting is stuck in a no-win political mess and has to compete with so many activities that are available for young men.  My kids are not involved in scouts because of all of the other things they are in, so they get a similar experience I hope.  I know they find plenty of time for mischief so that doesn’t worry me…it isn’t Camp Custaloga Town for my kids, but rather band camp now…it’s all good!

Guess what it is!

We went to my parents’ house last weekend and they had a surprise for us…now don’t look ahead until you take a guess…do you know what this is?

Guess what it is
Guess what it is

So you know, I have this thing for stinging insects

This is a baldfaced hornet’s nest.  It turns out that these things are not really hornets in the official definition, but are a type of wasp in the same genus as the yellow jacket…of course, both creatures are mean and kinda suck.

Bald faced hornet nest
Bald faced hornet nest

I took a few pics before we sprayed this nest.  I like most critters and leave them where they are when I can, but making a home on the back porch which my parents use all the time wasn’t a good choice!

Hanging out

We’ve been moving very slowly at the deluxe shed lately.  It’s all wired and mostly insulated.  We are just finishing up the crappiest of the insulation now.  Where the stairwell comes up to the second floor, there is, of course, a large opening.  We built a wall on one side to protect the opening (rather than a banister), but haven’t gotten around to the wall on the other side.  Still, I needed to get the ceiling insulated so I was left with a problem…how to insulate the space over the stairwell.

Insulating over the stairwell
Hanging out!

Luckily, I am foolish!  We have on loan a “board” made out of aluminum that is meant to be used on ladder jacks.  It is designed to be placed on stands of some sort so one can work over spaces just such as the one I have!  Only one problem remains…I only have one wall so I couldn’t lay the board across the gap evenly.  Much to Emily’s dismay, I just put a step ladder on the other side.  The ladder has absolutely no extra width so we had to perch the board carefully.  Emily held it as I bounced around on the board and we got the insulation done!

We still have to finish the drywall and a few finishing touches in that area but I should have the second wall built when that time comes around.  In the meanwhile, I will just hang around and get things done as best as I can!

First day of school – 2014

I can’t believe Summer is over!  Well, school has started anyhow…so Summer might as well be over.  Since almost everything is about me, I have to lament that now, with the start of school, I have to start getting up earlier and fight traffic around the schools that I must pass to get to work in the morning.

First day of school 2014
First day of school 2014

Well, I guess it isn’t really all about me.  The early-morning-rise is more drastic for the kids who have been sleeping in until 10 am.  They have to do homework each night and dress in…well…clothes each day as opposed to sleep-wear.  I think both kids were excited mostly and were ready to go back to school though going back this early does feel a little like we truncated our Summer.  Mostly, though, I was more wound up than either of them.  I had butterflies last night and this morning as we waited for the bus.  I ran through my checklist of stuff…pencils and paper, lunch, coonskin hat, binders, agenda, phone…it takes a lot to be a kid in school these days.

First day of school 2014

This is Isaac’s first year in high school and Abigail’s first year in middle school.  Both are significant changes which scares the daylights out of me.  How can it be that my sweet little children are becoming people…er…I mean how can it be that they are growing up?!  Isaac is taller than me and Abigail is nearly as tall as Emily.  They have grown-up voices and wear grown-up sized clothes.  They watch The Daily Show and understand it.  They are starting to think about what they want to do for a living and where they might go to college.  It’s scary!  I think that means I must be a grown-up too!  Terrifying!

It’s true you know…one day you are holding your newborn baby, the next day they are shaving eating two full helpings and casting a shadow bigger than mine…don’t blink!

2008   2009   2010   2011   2012   2013

Taters and maters

I just like saying that title…it is like so many words or combinations….it’s just a fun thing to say.  What words do you have like that…stuff that’s just fun to say?

A huge tomato!
A huge tomato!

Anyhow, I’ve long posted on gardening endeavors so this is in that tradition.  We have a little habit of planting too much and then filling our kitchen full of food that we can never hope to eat before it goes bad.  We go a little pioneer (or more like early 20th century) on it and can everything!

Our All-American pressure canner
Our All-American pressure canner

It seems like we can never start the canning process before 10pm though.  Anyone who has ever canned knows that starting that late has its good and its bad aspects…it’s usually cooler later at night and canning makes things in the house pretty hot.  Canning also sometimes takes a long time so starting late might mean sleep deprivation.  In our case, we just never have time before 10pm so heat has nothing to do with it.

Getting ready to can some hot garden mix
Getting ready to can some hot garden mix

Anyhow, the other night, we started spaghetti sauce at around 10.  Spaghetti sauce is a great way to use up a lot of tomatoes…our recipe calls for 30 pounds at a time.  We add spices and veggies and meat and fungus mushrooms.  Adding those things means we have to pressure can and boil the living fire out of the jars.  Tomatoes alone are pretty acidic so any nasties can usually be killed with straight-up boiling and letting the acids do their work.  Adding the other stuff prevents that so pressure canning is necessary…pressure canning simply allows the temp to get a lot higher.  Our recipe calls for the canner to stay at temp for 1 hour.  Talk about a late night!  We did clear out most of our tomatoes though and we will have lovely vittles this winter when spaghetti will taste especially awesome!

Some of this year's potatoes
Some of this year’s first crop of potatoes
Starting the second crop of taters
Starting the second crop of taters

Speaking of awesome, home-grown veggies are usually in the own league compared to store bought.  I think the biggest difference comes in potatoes.  Taters are easy to grow and are just so much more tender and smooth to me when I grow them.  It’s striking and makes it well worth the work of digging the tubers.  This year, we planted one crop which we harvested in July.  We turned right around and planted another crop which appears to be doing very well!  I love the idea of two tater crops this year!  We usually plant once and take what we get, but the taters were just too good to pass it up!

Credit card thieves suck

We have a credit card like just about everyone.  We use it to buy pretty much everything so we can get points which we enjoy.  Every month we always pay it off in full so it really works for us.  It’s a somewhat typical story I suppose.  We are pretty mainstream consumers.  Of course, we buy stuff online, and not infrequently, but it is usually from pretty well known places.  Of course, nowadays, that doesn’t matter much.

So, just yesterday, we got a text message and an email from the credit card company saying that our card had been compromised.  That’s not necessarily odd any more (though it really sucks), except that this is THE FOURTH TIME THIS YEAR!!!

One time we caught it and three times the card company caught it so I am thankful that the credit card issuer has things in place to protect us and that this wasn’t our responsibility, and that it was cleaned up quickly and easily,  but it is a real drag to have to change the card number on all of the accounts that automatically draft against the card.  It’s a pain as we go “cardless” for a day or two while the new cards are shipped to us.  We keep some cash on hand so it’s not like we are doomed until the new cards arrive.  It just always seems that we need gas or coffee or medicine or something that can’t always wait a day or two (no, coffee cannot wait a day or two).

Of course, this is  just a rant and I know the a-hole thieves don’t care a bit, but if they did, I would tell them that they suck, that they are mean people and that their moms would be very sad if they knew what they were up to.

Bugs and stuff

Not much to say…just a few pics that I though were pretty cool.  07_03_2014 083

07_21_2014 071

07_03_2014 093

07_03_2014 097

It is only early August but it feels like Summer is over.  School starts on Monday and the temps feel like late September.  This has been the weirdest Summer!  Anyhow, we are still alive and kicking here in WV!