I am registered on all sorts of lists to catch bee swarms around Charleston. The folks at the 911 call center know me. Several exterminators know me. The Department of Agriculture folks have my number. I get lots of swarm calls. I LOVE SWARMS! Catching swarms of bees has to be my all-time favorite part of beekeeping.
A gentleman called me the other day reporting a large swarm of bees in a tree at his house. He lives within a mile or so of me so it was the perfect situation. I ran to the house, grabbed up a bunch of equipment and headed to his place where I met his family and the neighbors too. The cool thing is that I know the neighbor family. Abigail plays soccer for the neighbor and their son plays for me.
Anyhow, Abigail and I walked up to the swarm and it was a good one. It was about shoulder high on a smaller tree from which I could easily cut a branch to remove the swarm. I typically lay a sheet out, place my destination hive on top and shake the bees from the branch into the swarm box. Bees in a swarm are usually not terribly defensive. I typically approach a swarm pretty boldly to see how they roll and rarely have any issues with them. That being said, never touch a swarm of bees because there are still 10,000 or so stinging insects who don’t care much about manners. Call a beekeeper every time.
So, I sent everyone inside where they could watch from behind screened windows and started my tree trimming. Within a few minutes I had the bees in the hive and we were all done but for the crying. Wait…no crying. Just loading the bees into the car.
edit: one of the ladies took these pictures…
I think I like catching swarms for the “show-off” factor as much as anything. The two families that watched the swarm catching were curious and interested and called me crazy! It doesn’t get any better than that!
When I got home, I had three more calls from people with bee swarms…it might be a busy few weeks!This entry was posted in Bees, Nature, WV and tagged Beekeeping, Bees, Honeybees, Pshaw...stingers? I fear no stingers!, Swarms are cool! by warren
Emily’s grandparents have a small pond at their place and every year Mr and Mrs Frog raise their babies there. We usually try to time it right to experience the sheer joy of frog season. I don’t know if you are familiar with how frogs work but Mrs Frog lays huge caches of gelatinous eggs which very quickly hatch and turn into tadpoles and eventually frogs. If you watch carefully, you get to see all of the steps in between tadpole and frog which might be the stuff of nightmares if you didn’t know better. Seeing a pond full of tadpoles is simply amazing! They swim so awkwardly and yet not. When they start growing legs and losing their tails, things get really interesting. It is an absolutely amazing transition and a lot of fun to witness!
Anyhow, we were around the pond last week and got to enjoy the tadpoles in the pond. Abigail loves to catch them in her hand and sing to them. She caught a few and while singing, spotted Mrs Frog. Mrs Frog had a protective eye of course (we could tell) but seemed content to watch us watch her babies. Of course, what are her options? We don’t have ferocious frogs here in West-by-God-Virginia.
Abigail decided she wanted to give Mrs Frog a pat on the back, congratulating her on a job well done with her latest crop of babies. She squatted at the edge of the pond (I had my camera ready fully expecting Abigail to fall into the water) and reached out to touch Mrs Frog. With a flash, Mrs Frog leapt into the water upon feeling Abigail’s fingers. She swam across the pond and under a rock where we could see her one back leg hanging out. We decided to leave well enough alone and just watch from afar. Spring is just the absolute best time of year! There are so many opportunities to experience in the spring. The Frog family delights us every year!This entry was posted in Family, Nature, WV and tagged Did you get peed on? You'll get warts!, Family, Nature, WV by warren
We are doing a little bit of fancy building out in the back yard to convert a bit of space from grass to a food plot. A few years ago I cut down and old tree that was both ugly and in the way. I had high hopes of sawing the tree into boards (just to see if I could) and doing something interesting with it. Three years later, the log is pretty well rotted…and in the way like the tree before it. I rolled it out of the way so we could work and we found a regular entomological wonderland!
These two huge beetles dashed around in circles. I dubbed them vampire beetles because they just wanted out of the sun. I think they were actually Patent Leather beetles (Odontotaenius disjunctus). I let them crawl around on my hands and arms a bit, trying to get the kids excited (in a “my dad is so brave and awesome” kinda way). It didn’t exactly work as I expected but I was delighted that the kids at least wanted to touch the beetles. I am a country boy trying to raise city kids to not be too much city and a little more country…touching bugs is a good step on the path. I delivered both beetles to a safe spot nearby…I do not want to harm such cool and beneficial bugs.
We also noticed a large millipede cruising around quickly once we moved a chunk of bark. We could not pick him up but he was super cool though a little shy. He had no interest in posing for a photograph. I am not sure about exactly what type of centipede he is but I think he is in the genus Cryptops. I also learned a little something about centipedes versus millipedes. Millipedes have 2 leg pairs per segment while centipedes have one leg-pair on each segment. Centipedes have venomous legs while millipedes do not. Centipedes are fast while millipedes are typically not. Gosh, there are so many other differences…read some more here.
Anyhow, I think what made me happiest about this log was the worm family we found there. Abigail bent right down and grabbed up a worm. It’s a simple little thing but I love that my darling little daughter will pick up a worm without worrying about it being slimy or wiggly. She relocated a family of worms the other day while some other little girls looked on in shock. I have city kids but even in the city, under a log, lies adventure and wonder and just a little bit of country!This entry was posted in Family, Nature, WV and tagged Bugs and worms and crawly things, Nature, WV by warren
I mentioned mountain color in the last post and as much as I like green, I think purple has to be a close second. We have thousands of wild violets in our yard this time of year. They make a really nice blanket of purple in the still-alive-until-summer green grass we have. I hate cutting grass with a passion and my excuse is usually something along the lines of, “I hate to lose all of the pretty flowers that the bees need so much right now.” It has nothing to do with my being lazy of course…it’s for the bees!
Anyhow, I was perusing the interwebs the other day and a blogger I follow, Woodridge, posted a recipe for violet blossom jelly. Check out the original there but I am going to include the recipe here for my own reference too. Woodridge writes from East Virginia, the lesser cousin of West Virginia…
So, Abigail, Emily and I set about picking violet blossoms the other day. Abigail wanted to take some creative license with the recipe so she included a generous helping of green grass also. I picked it out…I have eaten both violets and grass before and only one is really suitable for my palette. Evidently I misread the recipe too as I insisted we pick twice as many blossoms as we needed. We just made a double batch. Many other recipes I found used less blossoms for a single batch but I figured if some is good, more is better which was in line with this recipe anyhow:
Yield: 5 half-pints.
Anyhow, the jelly is a beautiful light purple and is some of the prettiest food I have ever seen. It has a super mild flavor and is a little earthy…maybe. I am not sure if that is the right word. Wild is more like it maybe? But that sounds bad…like eating poorly cooked ‘possum or something. Anyhow, it is a light, subtle flavor and will be a really nice addition to our breakfast toast. If you have some violets, whip up a batch and let me know how you would describe the flavor!This entry was posted in Food, Nature, WV and tagged Eat more violets!, Flowers are food? Of course!, Nature, Recipe by warren
I love April. In fact, yesterday was the perfect date…”April 25th. Because it’s not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket.” That’s from Miss Congeniality…one of the funniest movies ever. Of course, I would laugh at anything that has Sandra Bullock. I have a secret crush on her. Anyhow, the end of April is perfect I think. Temperatures are nice but really, the colors that pop are what make it especially excellent for me. I took some pictures that don’t even begin to capture how beautiful and vivid the colors are right now (and especially the last week or so).
There is such diversity of life here and the mountains, as they green, are just alive with colors. Dogwoods and redbuds seem to burst out everywhere. While nondescript during the summer, redbuds and dogwoods are the princes of spring! Maples come alive first and give the first reddish tint to the mountains but the real power comes later with the purple and white buds that follow.
I guess the lower humidity and temperature make it so, but even the green backdrop of the leaves and grass are just more vivid than any other time of year too. I suppose I sort of come alive again after the (for me) depressing winter browns. I come to really appreciate the color in the mountains every spring and it just wouldn’t feel right without seeing the change and being in the change. Its in the birds’ songs and the frogs peeps and most definitely in the color of the trees!This entry was posted in Nature, WV and tagged Green is cool, I'm alive again!, Mountains, Spring, WV by warren
Something occurred to me this weekend. In a way, I am a story teller, telling the day-to-day nonsense that goes on in our lives here on this blog. I know that’s pretty much what blogging is all about and it’s pretty cool how I get involved in other people’s lives and how (I suppose) some of you, dear friends, become involved in our lives. I enjoy telling our stories, for, like sands through an hourglass, these are the days of our lives.
Anyhow, this realization came to me while at an actual concert put on by a real, professional story teller, Lorna MacDonald Czarnota. My friend Granny Sue held a house concert where both she and Ms. Czarnota told several diverse stories and sang ballads. I don’t know if you have ever heard a professional story teller, but if you ever get a chance, go and listen.
Granny Sue is our neighbor so I knew her house. She has a fantastic house in the woods surrounded by trees and birds and flowers. Her home is incredible, filled with antiques and mountain heritage and beautiful glassware and books. She invited us to walk about her house and drink sassafras tea and enjoy a variety of snacks. It was a beautiful arrangement and truly an awesome experience. It’s what story telling was at its beginning…friends and neighbors getting together to tell stories and enjoy each other’s company.
Abigail and I had a great time and she re-told the stories we heard the whole way home. I am not sure I am really much of a story teller, but I am delighted that Abigail had so much fun listening and re-telling stories. I hope she will learn some mountain stories and make up some of her own. However she wants to communicate, the wonderful imagination that will be fed from these mountains makes me happy!This entry was posted in Fun, Thoughts, WV and tagged Appalachia, Family, Fun, Mountains, Not a soap opera!, WV by warren
Last weekend I went to an auction that benefits the FFA in Ravenswood, WV. I heard about it sort of accidentally so I didn’t really have any sort of a plan together but I heard that there were several different qualities of junk available.
I have heard people say that at flea markets and auctions, you can only get junk…you can find your plain old, run of the mill junk up through first class junk. As I wandered around the Jackson County Fairgrounds, I was surprised. To be sure, there was a lot of junk available for a few dollars per ton. There was some really great stuff too, and since I really like stuff like this, I spent a few hours perusing the piles.
I think what I enjoyed more than anything was the sound of the auctioneers. Most everyone knows the general sound of the auctioneer’s call and most people wonder how anyone knows what price they are paying for something. If you have never heard a real auctioneer calling, take a listen to a recording I made of my favorite guy.
From the recording, it is hard to tell what is going on I suppose, but I have to tell you, in person, I was never really in doubt about what he was selling (even if he just named it a big box of junk) or what the current bid was when he was calling. If you have never been, go to an auction some time!
I think next year I will go again to this auction and this time, I will have a plan!This entry was posted in Audio, Fun, WV and tagged auctioneers are cool, Audio, Fun, My lips would be numb by warren
We used to have a neighbor who was somewhat less than “whole”. She had a real passion for animals…well, for collecting animals; not so much for taking care of them. Fast forward a few years and she has moved away, and, in fact, her house was torn down. The animals remain and we have grown somewhat attached to some of them. Just so you get a picture of what I mean, we have had as many as 13 cats on our side porch…none of which was ours.
There are fewer now and we have captured the ones that are tame and had them fixed. I guess we should have taken them all to the pound but there are a few that are good cats and nice to pet when we are out in the yard. They stay outside and keep the varmints at bay. There are a number of cats that are feral, and as it is now spring, pregnant. We do not need a dozen more cats around here so we plan to trap the feral ones and take them to the pound. I have a few box traps so this seemed like an easy task. I baited two traps with canned cat food and walked away.
I checked the traps periodically through the day and only succeeded in catching one of the tame/fixed cats…three times. I can’t tell if he is smart or dumb. Dumb to keep getting caught or smart because he filled his belly with good food, knowing that we would just release him. Anyhow, I set them again and forgot about it until morning. I checked the trap Sunday and sure enough, I caught another cat…a real wild one!
I took this one out to the woods and let him go. He didn’t stick around for pleasantries which suited me just fine!This entry was posted in Nature, WV and tagged 'Possum!, Nature, WV by warren
So over the weekend, Emily and I went on a road trip to Pleasureville, KY. Thumper told Bambi what his Mom had pounded into his head, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”. In regard to Pleasureville, KY, I will follow the Thumperian Principle and let you visit sometime to make up your own mind.
Anyhow, back to my main purpose…let me give you some back story… Sorghum is a plant native to Africa that was first raised in the United States in 1853 or so. Much like sugar cane, sorghum cane has a sweet core that can be pressed and boiled to make sorghum syrup (some people call it molasses or sorghum molasses. Molasses is technically made from sugar cane only).
It was commonly grown on farms in the south where sugar cane wouldn’t thrive (i.e. the mid-south) so families could have access to sweetener. Anyhow, as family farms declined in number and as artificial sweeteners grew in popularity and cheap labor (I read this as large farm families) became less accessible, sorghum fell by the wayside.
There really isn’t anyone making sorghum presses, at least not in the old style, so the only ones left are 100 or more years old. There are a few old cane mills left but they are becoming more and more scarce as old-timers pass away and old farms rot back to the land. There are a few people still willing to turn loose of an old cane press they have laying around, but it is hard and expensive to find them. That brings us to our trip to KY. We bought an old sorghum cane mill made by the Chattanooga Plow Company from a guy who had one there.
I have another bit of info you didn’t ask for but I am going to tell anyhow…Chattanooga Plow Company made plows and basic cast iron farm equipment and was a very large producer in the mid to late 1800s. They were bought by International Harvester when it appeared John Deere was going to get into the harvester business. JD had been absent in that market while focusing on plows and similar implements. When IH got word that JD might be getting into harvesters, IH decided to get into plows. (Read a really interesting history here). So, ultimately, my cane mill is in the International Harvester family.
I also have bees, as you may know, so you could say I have a thing for sweets. What really made me think about raising sorghum though, is a recent article in Mother Earth News (here’s the article). Basically, as folks long to understand old ways and to eat natural food or produce their own “stuff”, sorghum has enjoyed a bit of a revival. I read the story in Mother Earth News and read a bunch more online and was hooked on the idea. Getting started in any new endeavor can be a problem if you do not have folks around who understand how to do things, like, say, grow and process sorghum.
I am very fortunate that Granny Sue, my neighbor, used to process sorghum on her farm and the man who originally owned both her land and mine, also ran sorghum. I think this new project was meant to be! I have a few months to restore this old cane mill while our sorghum grows, and I will be sure to keep you up to date on that process. I hope some other folks in the area will plant sorghum so we can have a regular old fashioned sorghum cook-off. I think that’s a big part of the old ways too…doing thing as a community.This entry was posted in Food, History, WV and tagged "Pour some sugar on me!" - Def Leppard, Cast Iron, Old ways, Sorghum by warren
I have been remiss in writing about a significant event that took place last weekend. Isaac plays in his school’s jazz band and they had a regional band competition and rating. I had a certain expectation of how the middle school band would sound. I mean, I have heard Isaac play a lot at the house, but getting an entire band to play together is another thing…and middle school kids…well, they aren’t always known for their attentiveness to detail.
We headed to Huntington to one of the high-schools where school bands had been playing all day. Band kids are super cool and mostly a lot of fun to hang around, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend my day sitting in an auditorium listening to a bunch of hormone fueled kids screeching out jazz tunes.
I couldn’t believe how wrong I was about pretty much all of my assumptions. I still think band kids are really cool, but I had no idea how awesome they could play a huge variety of jazz tunes. Most of these kids had only been playing 1-2 years but to hear them, you would think that they had been playing since way before puberty. Anyhow, their music speaks for itself so without further adieu:
Extra points to anyone who can identify the names of the songs! I am so proud of all of these kids. They did one heck of a good job and all of their hard work definitely paid off. They were given a superior rating, the highest rating possible!This entry was posted in Audio, Awesome, Family, WV and tagged Band kids are the coolest! by warren