False economy

I went grocery shopping today. I look around at various cuts of meat and try to decide what I could do with them and then I will plan other meals around them. As I was looking at the various items I decided that I was going to buy a prime rib.

At first you would think that’s a lot of money. But I submit the following. I will get seven meals out of a five pound prime rib. Since the prime rib was less than $50 , seven meals for $50 is much cheaper than McDonald’s, 7 Big Mac meals large with extras.

Consider the health benefits of cooking at home.  I use coconut oil when I fry.  Veggies instead of fries. 

  I don’t drink much soda, and when I do it’s made with cane sugar not high fructose corn syrup.

I can show you studies showing the correlation between the stabilization of HFCS and the beginning of the obesity of America.

So a week’s worth of lunch or supper, more since I will space the rib out amongst other things, for less than $50 really isn’t a bad deal.

Happy Thanksgiving

So here I am at work on Thanksgiving.  Many people would be unhappy about working today.

My take on this is I get to work on things I know need work but are not important in the eyes of the powers that be.  Until they don’t work any more.  We don’t have spares of them, and it takes at least a week or so to get one.

There’s nothing complicated, it’s just straightening and gusseting parts that aren’t made to be pushed on.  Checking common wear points and ensuring the pieces that are supposed to move do, and the ones that aren’t, don’t.

I also have to make sure that all of the forklifts get put on the chargers so they will be ready to go when the plant starts back up in a couple days.

And I have to walk around the buildings and make sure that they’re not burning down. The nice thing about being a certified forklift operator is I don’t have to walk much because I can drive the forklifts instead.

Plus it being a holiday I’m getting paid holiday pay plus my regular pay so that’s an added good thing. I will trade a day that I was supposed to work anyways for extra money the ability to work on something I like to work on and be able to do it unmolested. I believe that to be a win for me all the way around.

So Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and while you’re digging into that turkey and stuffing and taters think of your friendly Mad Uncle Dave and give me a smile

Lately

Every morning before I leave for work, I take the dogs out to take care of doggy related things. While they are busy with the dog stuff I have the opportunity to enjoy the morning stillness before the chaos of the day.

Since it is now still dark out, I tend to look up. Really, more people should do this. I spent some time in the U.S. Coast Guard and besides the obvious learning the navigational stars, I had years of opportunity to look up without the light pollution prevalent in the populated areas of the modern world. Few people have seen the sky as I have, and it truly is a shame. Staring into the bowl of stars, seeing cascades of “falling stars”, and the Milky Way shining brighter than most people will ever see. Gave me a sense of perspective – I’m a minuscule mote in the cosmos.

Despite the fact that I live in a populated area, this small town isn’t too bad for stargazing. I see familiar stars and constellations. Planets come and go, right now Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are visible to the naked eye. Sirius, the Dog Star follows Orion in his annual journey through the sky. Rising above the horizon in the morning in October, Sirius portends the arrival of fall, and the cold of winter to come. I always feel ambivalent about the arrival of cold weather – it’s a break from the swelter of SW Virginia summers, but increased energy consumption because we have to use lights, and I do turn the heat on because I’m not a fan of being uncomfortably cold.

The trees lose their leaves, the bees put up the last of their groceries for the winter, and the other bees try to steal the groceries. The walnut trees drop the nuts, squirrels stash them away for their winter. The circle of life in scale both grand and tiny.

It’s not cold enough yet to get all bundled up in winter coat, thus far a hoodie is enough to ward of the chill. I see the folks who grew up in this part of the country wrapped up in so many layers they can barely move, and it’s 50 degrees out. I just smile, and wonder how they would react to a nice crisp 50 below morning.

When I was a young’un I had a Ford Pinto. I had gone up to Saranac Lake to visit my little sister. As was my routine, before starting the Pinto, I checked the oil. It was down a quart so I grabbed one out of the back seat, shoved the metal spout in the can, and tipped it up to replenish the engine oil supply. The familiar glug glug glug didn’t happen. After a few minutes, I lifted the can and the oil was still in it. I pulled the spout out, brought the can inside and opened it with a can opener. Took a spoon and used the spoon to dig the oil out of the can and into the top end of the engine. The trusty Pinto did turn over tho slower than usual. The fuel air mixture fired and she started. I let her run a while to warm up before I left. Thing is, I was in my boots, jeans and a t-shirt while all this was going on. It felt crispy cold but there was no wind at all. Went inside, put on my jacket, grabbed my bag, said goodbye and left. On the way out of town, the radio said that Saranac Lake had just set a new record for low temperature, -52 Farenheight. Yes, 52 below. No wonder the oil didn’t flow. I was out in it in a t-shirt.

In 3 more months, Orion will be setting when the dogs and I go out to take care of the dog related things. I will look up and smile, knowing that soon it will be warm enough to check on the bees, and the winter coat will return to its hanger for the next 8 months or so. The power and gas bills will diminish, and the people will soon start complaining about how hot it is.

Been quiet lately

Just because I haven’t put anything out lately doesn’t mean I haven’t been a busy bee. There are so many beekeepers out there, and we’re all going through the same things. I felt that I had nothing of significance to add to the din.

I’m up to 8 colonies (9 for a short time). At this point I am breaking my inspections up and doing them over a 2 day period. Yesterday was 1-4, today was 5-8.

Nothing of significance noted in 1 and 2. There has been a late June – July nectar flow that took us by surprise, and hive 1 had 2 full honey supers. Some of the honey has a purple/grey tint, and I noted purpleish pollen in the brood supers. I put a new honey super on and after I finish writing this will extract the honey.

Hive 3 got moved into a new bigger house, and next inspection they will get another brood super.

Hive 4 was the surprise, When I looked in they were queenless. That explains the cranky bees that stung me through the suit. Later on made arrangements to pick up a queen for this colony.

Hive 5 is booming, no surprises, they’re doing just fine.

Hive 6 is also doing well. This queen is friendly and will pop up and say hello. They colony also had 4 capped queen cells on 2 frames. I moved these frames into hive 4, let’s see if they’ll raise these queens.

Hive 7 is another nuc, they’ll get moved into a bigger house next inspect. They’re doing just fine.

Hive 8 is also queenless. I’ll put the queen I’m picking up this evening into this one and see how they fare.

I’m at the point where I don’t want to expend the apiary any more. 8 hives are enough for me to care for. I am, after all, doing this as a hobby. I have made hobbies into businesses/lines of work before and I found that I no longer enjoyed doing them. I still dig bees and beekeeping and so next year, when I am splitting my colonies for swarm prevention, will sell the colonies to other beekeepers, and maintain my apiary at this level.

I may add 2 more colonies next year, as I want to experiment again with Top Bar hives. I had really good luck with them the last time I had top bar hives and there have been some changes/improvements to the design since those days.

But that’s next year’s tale.

d

Capitalist honeybee aggression

Despite having lost 3 out of 5 colonies over the winter, I am working towards expanding the apiary. I am building another stand to hold 5 more hives.

I may have mentioned that one of the hives is somewhat aggressive. I don’t mind that much, except for 2 reasons: there are a couple little kids across the street, and I can’t do anything within 15 feet of the hives. Once the foragers are really active there’s no work happening nearby.

This queen is a red-dot, which means she is going on her third year! Although she is ageing, she is a phenomenal layer of bee eggs – perhaps the best I have ever seen. The downside is her progeny are aggressive. As much as I hate to say it, I may commit regicide and replace her with another, in hopes that this hive will lose the aggressive tendency. Like so many things in life, this is a crap shoot and I may end up with an even more aggressive hive, or a queen that just can’t lay eggs worth a darn.

Most of the building happens near the house where there is power and I can hear whatever I have decided to listen to while I work. Yesterday was The Disco Biscuits, today is Daft Punk. It is also far enough away from the hives that I can work unmolested. Even though I have a couple containers nearby of uncappings and honey that didn’t make it to the bucket, the bees are too busy cleaning them to be bothered by me.

Yesterday I measured out where the new stand was going to be whilst dodging aggressive bees. Waited until almost 7 pm to fire up the auger to drill the holes. Why an augur you ask? It’s really quite simple. I hate digging. Turning the goon spoon rates right up there with impacted teeth and walking on a broken ankle. I know this because I have been through these things. The augur was less than $200 and in my book has already earned its keep, having drilled over 20 holes so far.

One of the ladies cleaning a bucket

While starting the rails I also processed some wax, mostly uncappings and burr comb cut out of the hives while doing inspections. Put them in a pot of water and bring to a boil. The wax floats to the top, then a layer of nasty stuff, then the water with dissolved contaminants. I used a foam paintbrush to apply the melted wax to some plastic foundation. The rest of the wax was allowed to cool and harden. I will re-melt and strain it then pour into a container for later use.

Melted wax
Black plastic foundation with wax applied

Put the posts in and poured the cement, using stakes and small line to keep them level until the cement hardened. While I was out with the dogs yesterday, we stopped at the local lumber place and got the rest of the supplies to finish the project. I will spare you the details of the build, if you want to know that stuff contact me.

Posts in place

Today I built the rails and carried them up to the posts, only got stung once for my troubles. Think I will fire up the little mower and do around the house and wait until 7 tonight to finish assembling the stand.

So here is the result, newly finished. I still have to install eyehooks for the straps to attach to. Had enough for today, this wasn’t the only project on the list. Tried to get the wee mower to start, but I didn’t get all the old gas out of the tank and the plug is likely coated with varnish. How I miss the days of Gulf Purple (103 octane with real lead). You could leave the tank full of that stuff, let the bike sit through a northern New York winter, jump the battery and the bike would fire right up and do great smoky burnouts (soon as I let the oil circulate and warm up enough to vaporize the condensation from sitting all winter).

The finished product

Not what I had planned

Today was supposed to be about making more beehive components. Made a hearty and tasty breakfast so I wouldn’t have to stop for lunch, planning instead to work through the day.

Went down into the shop. Set up the table saw to make the first series of cuts. Fired up the vacuum system, hit the switch on the saw.
The roar of the vacuum system did not get drowned out by the whirr of the saw because there wasn’t any whirr.


Since vacuum and saw get their power from the same place, it just had to be the switch on the saw.
It wasn’t.


Bad outlet.
Goosenargh (nonsensical word inserted to protect the tender eyes of the easily offended who may read this)


Off to Tractor Supply, closest place that might have outlets and boxes. They have outlets, no boxes.
Goosenargh!


Off to 84 Lumber. They have outlets AND boxes! Got a double box and 2 outlets and the appropriate cover.


Spent the rest of the morning removing old single outlet box, stretching wires so I had room to make connections without having to deal with too-short house wiring, and installing my shiny newly purchased double outlet box.


Left the 15 amp breaker for this circuit instead of upgrading it to a 20 amp in the circuit breaker box because I’m not sure what is downstream of the new double outlet and I don’t want the house wiring to do the toaster element thing when I’m not here.


Still, I made an inner cover, a telescoping cover, and primed the undersides of the 3 screened bottom board hive stands I designed.
I would normally make a run of the same item, but I am teaching myself to set the saw up to make different cuts so making different items means more time spent on setting it up.

Beekeeper’s work is never done

So most people think that beekeepers get to take the winter months off. That’s not necessarily so.

I plan to at least double the apiary this coming year. That means I need to build hives and frames. The hives need painting. I am going to build some top bar hives as well, meaning hours of woodworking. I’m a mechanic not a carpenter so I have to work twice as hard to build them.

There’s all the back issues of beekeeping magazines to read to review what I need to be ready for next year.

There’s also armor to make so I can go fight next season.

No, in all reality the winter is the busiest time of the year for beekeepers in the northern part of the country.

330 A.M. beekeeping

One day last week i was walking past the hives and noticed that there was a lot of traffic around both of my NUCs (a NUC is a small hive used for making a new colony).

I had added anti-robbing screens to both NUCs to help the small colonies keep what they had worked so hard to put away. Robbing is where bees, wasps etc who don’t live there come and steal what the residents worked so hard to store away for winter. The small piece to the right of the jar (a feeder) can be removed. It was out of place and there were bees coming and going through that opening instead of climbing up the hive body and out the opening at the top of the screen.

I pushed the misplaced pieces of wood all the way into the hive openings and continued about my day.

At 3:15 this morning i realized what i had done – completely closed the openings to the NUCs!

By 3:30 i was out there, pretty much dressed, flashlight gripped in my teeth, removing the screens, feeders, and small pieces of wood, replacing them with simple entrance reducers.

You would thing that at 3:30 in the morning with the temperature under 60 the ladies would be blissfully asleep or at least lethargic enough that my bumbling about wouldn’t bother them. This was not quite the case. One lady really didn’t like my poking about in the dark and buzzed around telling me all about how she didn’t appreciate being woken up, the door to her house being ripped off, some wooden monstrosity shoved in its place, and how her sisters just don’t listen…

Of course there’s no going back to sleep after early morning gonzo beekeeping so i had time to breakfast and write this missive. Hopefully they didn’t consume lots of the winter stores while shut in the NUCs for many days. Might have to feed these two. I’ll check in a few days when i can look when there’s light outside.

Morning would

In the mornings before I leave for work, I take the dogs out for a while before they spend the day cooped up in the house. While they are doing dog stuff I tend to look up at the sky checking out the stars now that the days are shorter.

The constellation Orion is very easy to spot, and is known as a winter resident of the night time sky.

Orion is now in the morning sky ahead of sunrise. It always makes me a little bit sad because seeing Orion means that soon I will have days where I won’t see the sun except for maybe a total of 5 minutes when I take breaks at work and have to go outside to get to the break room.

Not a fan of winter though Virginia doesn’t get real winters like we had when I was a lad in New York state near the Canadian border.

We will make it through the winter, not complaining about the cold because in six months summer will be back with the 90+ degree days.

Each has it’s downfalls and pluses, so there’s no sense in complaining about the weather each season brings. Better to enjoy what each offers and look forward to enjoying what the next will bring.

Wheeeee!

I used to have a great memory for things like usernames and passwords. As the years have gone by. I have cluttered that space in my brainium with the usernames and passwords of so many past web sites that I no longer can reliably keep them straight.

This results in getting locked out of my current websites/pages then I say bad words and then am ashamed of this.

Mud