Saturday, December 2, 2017

Christmas Countdown Project

One of the fun little traditions in our family is to have a Christmas countdown chain. It's a fun, easy, and inexpensive project you can do with your kids. Even when we didn't have our daughter and granddaughter living with us I would do a countdown chain, just because. The idea is to remove a link every day in December until you have one left. Then it means it's Christmas!

Basically all you do is cut 25 strips of paper and tape or staple together to make a chain. The thinner you cut the strips, the longer the chain will be. This year I cut the strips a little thicker so it doesn't hang so low.

You can make it out of different colors of construction paper like I did this year. Or you could have one color for each week with a separate color for Sundays. Or all one color with Christmas Day a different color. I try to make Christmas Day something special, like all sparkles. You can either number the days or not. I like to number them to make it easier to remember if a link has been removed. I didn't pay attention to if the numbers were right side up when I stapled them together because I did it right before I went to bed. It doesn't really matter unless you are a profectionist or you have OCD or whatever.

Have fun!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!


When we were in Prineville we explored the possibility of getting a box of bees. We took a class together for beginners and it sounded like it could be fun. I was a little scared of the idea because these are insects, not big warm blooded mammals, and I had absolutely no idea how to take care of them. But the class was very positive and we agreed that we would get a box of bees. Eventually.

Things didn't work out for getting the bees while we were in Prineville but we didn't give up on the idea. Earlier this year a local feed store had a bee class (because they sell them) and I went. It wasn't as good as the first class we went to because there were those people that always want to ask a bazillion questions, usually about things that have either already been covered or have not been covered yet. And because it always goes off on a tangent the lecturer never got to finish his presentation. 

The good news was there was a very generous door prize session in the end with a lot of prizes. I actually won a prize. I got my choice of what was on the table and I chose the bee smoker. 

Anyway, long story short we ended up ordering a box of bees. We got the ten frame nuc (nucleus), Italian queen bee, and a whole bunch of her subjects. They weren't inexpensive. When the time came to pick them up from the store we eagerly, if not gingerly, brought the box home. We had a place all set up for them in the orchard area on the south side of the house. 

There was a piece of foam blocking the entry slot and we carefully pulled it away. It took a while but soon the bees were buzzing about.

We checked the bees every so often. I really didn't know what I was looking for but at least I could tell the bees were very active and they were making things on the frames. I never did find the queen but I was sure she was in there somewhere. I felt they wouldn't be so active and building stuff if things weren't good.

We may not have checked them often enough. I've read new hives should be checked once a week. I think we checked once a month. Like I said, I didn't really know what I was looking for, other than to look for the frames getting filled.

Things seemed to be going very well for the first several months. The frames were really getting full.

I had also read that when the first brood box gets full it was time to add a second one or else there was a chance the bees would leave the hive in search of more space. So we got a second brood box and added it to the top of the first.

Several more weeks went by and then we started noticing wasps and bald hornets near the hive. This really scared me because I knew it could not be good. We set up several traps in the area. We also found a couple of bald hornet nests and got rid of them (I'll do a post on them another time).

I checked the bees a couple times to make sure they still were active. They seemed fine and were definitely building in the second box.

Three weeks after I checked the bees there was no activity. At all. We opened the box and there was nothing. Just some wax on the frames but everything else was gone, including the honey. 

I have no idea what happened. Did we add the second brood box too soon? Did they just get overcome by the hornets and wasps? Did they leave and go wild?

I have a terrible feeling it may have been the hornets and wasps.

I'm not sure if we are going to give it another go next year. After all we do have all the equipment already, so all we would need to do is buy the queen and drones. Still not cheap though. And there is no doubt that we do have a wasp and hornet problem. When we first moved here there were tons of wasps but we worked really hard to eradicate them. The difference between then and now was remarkable. But obviously they are still a problem. Worse than I realized.

We still have lots of time before we decide if we are going to try again. Meanwhile we'll let the undomesticated pollinators do their thing.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Burn Piles

We have several burn piles around, obviously from our selective logging from earlier this year. Now that burn season is back in force it's time for us to get busy burning!

We are keeping the piles small, cleaning up little areas at a time. We almost had an incident earlier this year and had an unintentional tree loss because a burn pile got a little big. Enough said about that.

If you look at the picture you can see a pile behind the fire and another bigger pile on the right. We'll probably pull some bigger logs out of the bigger piles to make firewood before burning the not so big stuff.

This is going to take a while.