The kids are staying with my parents in PA this week. They finished school a week earlier than Emily so it was a perfect opportunity for them to visit up in Yankee-land. So we delivered them over the weekend and spent some time with family. I always think back to my roots when I “go back home”. I live in a city now, albeit a small one. I have lived in a big city and several places in between. Cities can be fun and all but I am and always will be a country boy.
Ok, so when I go back home, I get to pondering. I don’t want to sound all sappy and stuff, but it’s so simple to enjoy the simple things. It’s dark and quiet where I grew up. Most nights you can hear the whippoorwills and see more stars than you can count. Most days there is nothing better than riding around the yard on a lawn tractor doing whatever you feel like and playing in the hose (does anyone else say it like that?) or sitting on the front porch talking and napping. It is pretty hard to beat living like that I think.
Anyhow dear friends, it occurs to me that some of you may not have ever heard a whippoorwill’s song. It’s simple but sort of an anthem to country living and you simply must hear its call. My mom and I walked around one night until we got pretty close to one singing so I could record it. Have a listen:
Being kid-less this week also makes me remember back to when Emily and I first met and fell in love (we still are of course, but those first years are so special). Anyhow, as much as I love country living, I love Emily deeper than any holler and taller than any pine tree, tall upon the hill…so, since I can’t sing with a durn, let’s all enjoy a little Randy Travis singing my thoughts to Emily
Isaac got into a fight this weekend. His eye got all messed up but you should see his nemesis…dead.
But let’s back up a second. Sunday was a beautiful day so we decided to head out to the country to work on some things. We planted several fruit trees and blueberry bushes over the last few weeks. We needed to water them and also to surround them with fences to keep the deer and other critters out. The weeds had also gotten sort of out of control a bit too so I need to run the trimmer. It seemed like a perfect time to head out and enjoy some time together.
So, I ran the weed trimmer all over the place even trimming up against the beehives. I figured that I would be met with a few angry bees but I ran the trimmer within 20 feet of the hives for around a half an hour. I didn’t get so much as a single sting.
We dug and set 7 fence posts in concrete and then I broke out the tiller to break up some new ground to plant a few green beans. The kids were sitting in the shade somewhat nearby reading their books. So, I started tilling and the bees started in on me. I got 3-4 stings pretty quickly on but I decided to push on through. The kids and Emily were not having any trouble so I figured they didn’t like the tiller motor. I got maybe a dozen stings all together but no one else had trouble. Now why on earth I could run a trimmer right up against their hives without a problem baffles me since the tiller was a fair distance away. Anyhow, Isaac got a sting in the lower eyelid. It looked sort of ugly pretty quickly and went down hill from there. He was feeling pretty miserable and just needed to lay down and rest some I think. Poor kid…but you should see his attacker…she’s dead.
The other day, Emily and I were working around the yard. I was mowing and Emily was planting a ton of new flowers that we got. Well, actually we got them 3 weeks ago but that’s beside the point. Anyhow, as we toiled away, the kids were doing…nothing. I have seen this trend before and am pretty sure I was not able to get away with that when I was a kid. Sure, I had my goof-off times, but I definitely helped out doing work too.
Seeing an opportunity for a lesson in life, I asked both kids to drag themselves away from their books (yeah, I know, I could have worse problems than kids who read) and come outside. We have a number of outdoor chairs that we never use. We never use them in part because we never clean them off. The other part is we hate mosquitoes but that’s not the point of the story. Anyhow, I asked the kids to get soap and a brush and scrub all of the chairs.
They fussed and whined. There were ants and spiders on the chairs…and dirt too! After a bit, I got irritated and grabbed a chair, ants and all, and told the kids to “grow a pair” and just carry the chairs to the driveway. Isaac knew what I said and smirked, but I had to explain that phrase to Abigail. Yeah, I got a lesson too…keep my mouth shut!
Anyhow, they got going and had a lot of fun with it I think. Towards the end, they were negotiating for payment. I didn’t really have payment in mind when this all started. I had to laugh at their conversation though…”We’ll do it for a dollar a chair”, said Isaac. “No, I’d rather do it for 25 cents a chair.” Back and forth they went a few times but they settled in on 5 cents per chair. There are only 6 chairs so they were looking at 30 cents each. Heck, with that sort of deal, I could be persuaded to pay! I gave them each a buck for the humor. Well, 70 cents for the humor and 30 cents for the work!
It has been a really busy swarm season for me this year. I think the mild winter allowed a lot of bees to survive that otherwise would not have made it and many colonies started spring build-up earlier than normal. I think that I love catching swarms more than any other part of keeping bees. I like seeing them en masse out where they can be “checked out” and I love their temperament. I love being the brave bee man who dazzles audiences and makes women swoon and men blush.
Typically it is a pretty straight forward process and is actually pretty safe (for me…I know what I am doing. Do not try this at home unless you know what you are doing…10,000 angry stinging insects in a typical swarm will not end well if you do it wrong). Usually I survey the bees a few minutes before digging into the capture. The only hairy part of catching a swarm is usually climbing into the tree with a box of some sort in which to capture the bees.
I have caught two swarms recently that have been interesting though. A few weeks ago I had a message on my phone from a family who had a swarm of bees in a tree outside their home. They had small kids and were nervous of the bees being in the playyard. It was 8:30 pm or so when I discovered the message so I headed to their place a town west of where I live. By the time I got to their place, it was 9:15 or so at night. After driving, I wasn’t about to walk away from a nice swarm, dark or not. The man of the house left a spotlight aimed up in the tree while I climbed into the tree. I was able to scoop the bees into my box and climb back down in the dark. Luckily, that went off without a hitch. Catching a swarm after dark is not a good thing though. Usually bees disturbed after dark assume the perturber is a bear or other critter which has bad witchery in mind. Luckily, I did not smell like a bear I guess!
Sunday, I was at our place in the country for a little bit to do some work and I needed to attend to the call of the water gods. As I completed the…uh…task, I happened to turn my head to the right and not 18 inches from my face was a huge swarm of bees. I was near the bee yard so I assumed the buzzing noise was from the bee yard, not from a swarm hanging right beside me. It was pretty exciting to see the swarm pretty close to ground level but I was without a bee suit. “What should I do?” I asked myself. “Be a honey badger (some language)of course!” So, without a suit, I proceeded to gently cut the inch thick branch from the tree and move the swarm to the hive box I happened to have sitting in the bee yard. A number of bees fell on my sleve but I only got one sting…one sting from a bee anyhow. Somehow in the process of moving the swarm, I skidded the handsaw across my hand which left a lovely opening in my skin.
Well friends, I do love catching swarms but I cannot really suggest that anyone catch swarms after dark or without a bee suit. In both cases it turned out fine, but unless you are a fool or a beekeeper who rocks like KISS (I will leave you to decide which case describes me), you should catch swarms in the usual and safe manner. Sometimes I get swarm-drunk (Wasn’t KISS drunk a lot of the time? hint, hint) and can’t help myself!
It’s been a long standing tradition that every May, we gather and watch the KY Derby with Emily’s people. Well, really we gather to eat KFC chicken. We usually spend three minutes researching our favorite horses and then cheer for another two minutes. We cheer…vigorously which is quite exhausting. Try cheering solid for 2 minutes about a horse. Of course, after all of the excitement, we need to re-fuel so we eat derby pie.
Even when we lived in KY and TN, we upheld the tradition, even if it was just the 2 (then 3, then 4 when Abigail was born) of us. When we moved back to WV, we petitioned the gang (yes, they are a gang) to add a new part to the tradition. For the last few years, on Derby day, we also wear “fancy” hats.
I take great pride in making my hat each year as do most of the gang. Abigail made ribbons for the hat-wearers for the best hats. I am proud to say I won 3rd place this year. My hat was…well, you tell me. I don’t know what it was other than Derby-worthy.
Those drunken women at the real KY Derby have nothing on our hats…and we aren’t even drunk!
It’s been awhile since I wrote about the work we have done on the cabin. Spring soccer season started for both kids so our trips to the country have all but stopped.
Anyhow, before soccer started, we made some good progress on getting siding up on the side of the cabin Emily calls the back (but everyone else calls the front…except me, I support me wife of course!). Siding is pretty easy thankfully so we made pretty quick progress. The plan is to build a covered porch on the back(front) so we sided up to the point where we will tie the porch roof to the house.
We had a covered porch at our place in Nashville when we lived there. Even better than being covered, it was also screened in. We haven’t officially decided whether to screen in a portion of the new place but I suspect we will have some sort of mosquito shelter.
I made the call to the electric company to get power turned on to the place. My original hope was to bury a large portion of the line that crosses our property but the price went up significantly since I first talked with the power company. So, uh, I like the idea of a loverly powerline crossing my view of the forest. Anyhow, we will soon have power to the place which is sure to make the kids happy…they desperately want a fan they can sit in front of while we work. Ahh, the life!
Isaac, my Dad and I hauled concrete block out to the place so we can begin the work on enclosing the bottom of the place as well. There are just so many things that all really need to happen at the same time. It will be an interesting summer of construction!