Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cicada Invasion

First line of defense against cicadas!
Nymph stage
This is the year of the 17 year cicada emergence in our part of Ohio.  The last one was the summer after we moved to the farm from Indiana.  I remember it, but I don't think I was spending as much time outside as I do now.  For the last 3 or 4 days, the nymph stage cicadas have been emerging from the ground, where they leave a hole about as big around as a pencil, climbing up onto trees, fences, our deck, anything, to cling to while they molt into their adult form.  


 They are mostly white as they emerge and they will leave the empty husks behind as they become adults and fly away.

There are thousands of these all over our yard, trees, deck, just about everywhere.  I must say the chickens are eating themselves into a food coma and are not even making a dent in the population.  I will not be going barefoot around my yard anytime soon.

Here are the newly emerged adults drying their wings and allowing their exoskeletons to harden.  

So far it is still quiet.  I don't think the cicadas are ready to start their singing yet.    The females will eventually lay their eggs in cuts they will make in young tender tree branches, the branches will die and fall to the ground allowing the hatchlings to burrow into the earth and wait 17 years to start this process all over again.  

Meanwhile, springtime work continues on the farm.  I checked in on the swarm bees on Friday and gave them a new box to expand into.  I observed brood (baby bees) being raised in a couple of the frames in the hive, but it is still a very small colony.  We had used some plastic frames that Sam had acquired in the hive box and the bees don't seem to like it.  They had really not drawn out  much comb on it.   I think they will be happier with the new  frames with wax foundation that they now have to work with.    I also checked the other 2 hives  and will be putting another box on the larger hive this week and maybe taking some honey off.  They were really putting some honey away.  I'll check on them again this Friday.

buckwheat and sorghum planting
I have gotten a lot of the garden done.  I have planted tomatoes, peppers, sunflowers, pumpkins, butternut squash, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, beets and swiss chard.  We still have some carrots and more arugula to put in.  I also planted dill, basil and parsley in my herb garden.  Up by the orchard and bee hives I just planted buckwheat and sorghum yesterday.  >>>>>>

Buckwheat is great forage for the bees and it should flower in July when there is a dearth of other nectars.  The sorghum is an experiment.  We had some planted a few years ago and we got some wonderful dark honey that tasted slightly of molasses.  I am hoping maybe we can recreate that.  Plus, we can feed the sorghum grain to the chickens and if I can devise a way to squeeze the stalks, I will cook down the juice and make sorghum moslasses.  We shall see come fall.

We put in an orchard several years ago and we have had very little success with it.  However, that could change this year.  We have lots of apples and peaches!  I certainly hope the cicadas will not ruin our chance to harvest our first real apple and peach crop.


Just 2 days ago, Sam and I sheared all 5 of our remaining alpacas.  I remember not so long ago shearing was a huge multi-day event for us, doing 4 or 5 in an evening and up to 10 on a weekend day.  On Monday evening, we did all 5 in about 2 hours, start to finish.  3 of these alpacas are 17 years old, so most of the fleece is not worth much.  These seniors just deserve to live our their lives quietly and comfortably. 

This weekend is Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial start of summer.  I was going to be vending at the Great Lakes Fiber Show this weekend, but due to a couple of weddings, Tari and I will not be vending.  We still think we may drive up just for the day on Sunday to enjoy the festival and maybe do some shopping.  And to enjoy each other's company.

Then there is the big wedding.  My older son will be marrying his girlfriend of about 7 years.  My whole family will be there (well most of it) and I am so looking forward to it.  I plan to take lots of photos.

Here is the most recent project on my rug loom.  It was kind of an impulse because I saw the pattern in an old magazine and I had the materials on hand and it is different from anything else I have done.   And I love it.  Even Sam commented on it.   It is made with cotton rug warp like I use for the alpaca rugs and then I am weaving with the same warp and a wool rug yarn in blue.  At least I think it is wool.  It was acquired with a whole lot of other yarn I bought from an estate and it is very coarse, but it is making a lovely rug.  And so much fun to weave.  I am in the process of putting warp for towels on my small loom.  I want to keep something on my looms at all times as much as possible.  

And here's what happens when I go up to take a shower after a long hard day working outside.  I come out of the bathroom to find the bed occupied!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Bee Adventure

Swarm of bees on fence post    
In April I posted a photo of a swarm trap Sam had placed in a tree in hopes of attracting a swarm of bees.  But this past Saturday, they came right to one of our fence posts along the creek.  Sam discovered them that afternoon while I was in Marietta working at our club's obedience trial all day.  He went up and retrieved one of the 2 swarm traps and brought it down so that the swarm would hopefully move into it.

 The trap is on the ground behind Sam and you can see the bees on the post on the side away from the camera..  

So first,  a little info on bee swarms.  Each hive has one queen bee and literally thousands of worker bees, who are responsible for many jobs, from taking care of the queen and baby bees, to bringing in nectar and pollen and making honey.  The height of spring nectar and pollen flows is a good time for the bees to multiply to guarantee the survival of the species.  So the hive makes a new queen by feeding special food to a baby bee.  Since there can be only one queen per hive, once this new queen is ready, the old queen takes 1/2 the existing worker bees and they leave the hive in search of a new home.  This is a swarm.  They say they will usually alight on a tree limb or building or pole within about 300 yards of their original hive.  Most of the bees will form a cluster around the queen while scouts go out searching for a suitable new home.  Once they find a suitable place, the whole swarm will lift off and relocate.  

So the idea behind catching a swarm is to entice them into a hive we have made for them.  Sam and I have never dealt with a swarm before and the thought of getting them off the post and into the box was a little daunting.  So since it was evening already, we placed the box on the ground near the swarm and hoped they would discover it and move in.  There was some lemongrass oil in the box, which we are told bees are attracted to.  We kept checking throughout the evening, but they stayed on the fence post.

Bees are now in the temporary box
Sunday morning dawned sunny and beautiful, and the bees were still on the post.  It was Mother's Day and Sam's parents were coming over around 12:30, so we decided we needed to go ahead and  move the bees into the box.  We suited up, lit the smoker and off we went.  Sam was to hold the box under the swarm and I was to brush them off the post and into the box.  That really did not work, the bees were clinging to each other like velcro.  So I set the brush aside and scooped with my hand.  Once I did that, many of the bees fell into the box and even more flew up into the air and started swirling around us!  It was so different from when I am working with a hive and they are angry at my intrusion.  In that case, they will "ping" off my face veil and I have no doubt they are mad.  These just flew up and circled and eventually landed, on us.  I got as many bees as I could off the creek side of the post and then I had to climb over the fence and scoop from the other side.  I really wish we had had someone there to take some photos while we did this.  Sam said by the time it was over I had a living pony tail of bees from my head clear down my back to my butt.  Sam had a crown of bees on his head.  We used the smoker to try to get the bees off each other and it helped a little, but not a lot.  Eventually I shucked out of my bee jacket and left it hanging on a fence post and Sam did the same.

Bees in swarm trap box

We left the swarm box close to the post where the swarm had settled because we had other things to do and we also had to finish preparing a new hive as we really weren't quite ready for this.  I hoped to install the bees into the new hive the next day, Monday, but it rained all day.  Tuesday was the day Sam goes to an auction with his dad every month, so I had to go to the office.  I left  the office at 4 pm and raced home trying to beat a thunderstorm to get the bees into their new hive.

I changed my clothes, lit my smoker and headed out to the location for the new hive, which is very close to where we found the swarm, just on the other side of the fence in one of the alpaca pastures.  I got the new hive all set up, then backed the buggy up to the fence and hopped over to retrieve the swarm box, which I set into the back of the buggy.  Then I climbed over the fence again, put the swarm box next to the new hive box and transferred the frames from the swarm box into the hive.

This is by no means a large swarm.  They were still very docile and the whole process went very quickly.   

Once all the frames were in the new hive box, I closed it up and put some sugar water on top.  These bees are pretty much starting from scratch.  They have to build comb so they can raise babies and store honey.  I did give them some drawn comb, but they need to make much more, so I will keep their feeder jar full to supplement what they can bring in.  Now I will just keep an eye on them and see how they progress.

As nervous as we were about moving the swarm, I will say it was quite a rush.  Now that we have done it once we know what to expect and I don't think it will seem so daunting next time.  Now Sam has to build more hive boxes and I need to put together more frames.  We have never had 3 hives at once before.  I sure hope we can expect a honey harvest this June.

Since my last post I have taken my alpaca rugs off the big loom.  I have yet to finish the ends, however.

I also have a new project on my small loom at home, which I will post more about at a later time, but here is a sneak peak:

 There is not a lot going on otherwise.  We still have shearing to look forward to.  Maybe this Sunday we will get to that.  The weather has remained very cool, so it has not been an issue.  

Grover and I do not have another trial until June 18 and 19 and that will be in Sharonville, in the Cincinnati area.  Between now and then is the wedding of Ian and Michelle out in Oregon, which I am very much looking forward to.  For many reasons.  Both my brothers will be there and there are very few opportunities for us all to be in the same place these days.  Ditto both my sons.    And of course we will be officially welcoming Michelle into our family.  It is going to be so much fun!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

May is Here

I have to say that, though it has been rather cool, the wildflowers have been spectacular this spring.  We had a very warm few days, but then the cool weather and rainy days have set in, which is more typical for this time of year I think.  The trees are leafing out and everywhere I look in the woods there are tiny colorful flowers and green, green green.

Just after my last post, Grover and I ran in our April agility trial.  It was a 3 day trial.  Our first day was our best.  We got second place and our Novice title in FAST first thing in the morning and then got first place and our Excellent title in standard.  I consider that a success.  So for Saturday we moved up to Open FAST and Masters standard.    The FAST class is always first thing in the morning and I have been entering it to get Grover out and on the course before the standard class in an effort to get some of the crazy out of him.  It really does seem to help make that standard run a little better.  Unfortunately, we did not Q again all weekend, but our other runs were pretty good, except for Sunday's standard run which was terrible (no FAST class on Sunday).  It was our first run of the day and Grover often does not do well on the first run.  But in all I was pleased with the majority of our runs.  I have entered a trial in June in the Cincinnati area and will know next week whether I get in or not.  If they have too many entries they will draw to see who gets in.  We are not trialing in May.  I wanted to go to a trial in Pennsylvania, but could not find anyone to room with, so decided against going.  That's ok.  There's a lot to do this month already.  
This Saturday our dog club is holding an Obedience Trial in Marietta and while we are not entered, I will be there all day Saturday to work.  I have never seen an obedience trial, so it will be new to me.

I have planted more lettuce and beets and  swiss chard in the garden.  I have tomatoes and peppers and herbs started in pots.  We are already enjoying the lettuce Sam planted under the cold frame as well as aspargus.  Sam picked some wild ramps last week and we have had those with the asparagus and in salads.  They are very good.  Kind of garlic-y/onion-y in flavor.  Sam has been quite disappointed in the lack of morels this spring.  He has found very few. 

We need to get our 5 alpacas shorn and may do that Sunday if the weather is good.  This will be such a change, even from the 20 or so we sheared last spring.  We will finish in only about 3 hours, start to clean-up.  I suggested going through our combs and cutters and using the worst ones and then just throwing them out instead of sending them out for sharpening.  I am sure we have some that we could do that with.  

Our son's wedding is only a little over 4 weeks away.  I have been busy figuring out hotels and car rental, etc.   Part of the pre-wedding festivities include the wedding party attending a Portland Timbers soccer game on June 1st, so I even ordered Timbers T-shirts for Sam and me so that we can be in the spirit.  It should be fun.  I am really looking forward to it.

I have a couple of rugs on my big loom here at the office.  I should get those off today or tomorrow and then I think I will weave a  rug that is not alpaca.  I found a pattern in a magazine and I think I have what I need to make it, so I shall.  Always fun to try something new.

I am almost done with the top part and sleeves of the lace sweater I am knitting.  I plan to take this to Oregon with me at the end of the month, and I am on track to be finished.  I really like how it is turning out.

This is how things often look on our stairs at home.  The boys are keeping an eye on the driveway because you never know when someone might show up:
And oddly enough they find this a comfortable place to sleep.



Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Fabulous Weather Means Lots of Outdoor Time

We were blessed this past week with sunshine and warm to very warm temperatures.  I was able to complete some tasks outdoors that have been waiting on just that type of weather.

On Thursday, I bleached the maple taps, finally.  This is cleanup that is best done outside because it is just messy and warm weather is required because one cannot do this without getting wet.  Once I run bleach water though the spyles and tubing I hang them on the fence panel to dry.  It works well.

On Friday, which was even warmer, I bleached and scrubbed the remaining buckets, about 30 or so.  Now all this is put away until next February.
 I also washed the handspun alpaca/shetland yarn I have been working on.  I wanted to see if it would finish out to the size I wanted it to be and yarn changes a lot after spinning once you wash it.  It tends to "bloom" a little and get loftier.  At least that is the hope.  And I am quite pleased with this.  My plan it to spin enough for Sam and I each to have a sweater from it.  
Saturday I checked in on the bees and gave each hive additional room to expand in the form of another box of frames.  I took the sugar water feeders off as I think there is now enough natural nectar and we don't want honey made from sugar water.  The bees were quite docile, which I appreciated. 

Sam decided he would like to catch a swarm this year if possible, so he made a couple of swarm traps with some drawn comb and lemon oil in them to attract bees who might be looking for a new place to live.  Swarming is how bees multiply;  the worker bees make a new queen and the old queen takes half the hive and leaves to look for a new place to set up house.  Our hope is that if a hive swarms, they will find our "trap" and move into it.  Sam put one trap up by the pond and one along a path we walk regularly just up from the house.

We will keep an eye on these and if we see bee activity we will go up after dark, close the entrance and bring the box home to install in a hive.  Incredibly, after Sam put these up, he found a wild bee colony way up in a sycamore tree not far from the pond.  I will also be watching that over the summer and maybe I can get some photos.  It is not easy to get to, though.

I also got out my deck furniture and cleaned it and we ate our first dinner of the year on the deck.  We eat most meals outside from spring through fall, weather permitting.  And it is so wonderful to be able to do that once again.

On Sunday I mowed the agility practice area and set everything back up again.  Grover and I have a trial this weekend, and we had some trouble in class last week with the tunnel under the A-frame.  He will choose the tunnel over the A-frame, even when I give clear direction that I want him to take the A-frame.  So that has been an area we are working on.  Notice on the tunnel that my sand bags are made with cat food bags.  They work well for a while, but they eventually break down in the sun and I have to re-bag them.  So I looked around on line to find a way to make vinyl bags and found a blog with some directions to do so.  Yesterday I made 2 sets of tunnel bags.  I still need to fill them and cut the straps that will go across the top of the tunnel, but so far I am pleased with how they turned out.

 They are made of Marine vinyl, which is meant to be outdoors, so they should not disintegrate in the sunshine, and sold in many colors (to my surprise) at JoAnn Fabrics, so easy to come by and a reasonable price if you have a 50% off coupon, which I did.  And these will look a lot better than cat food bags and baling twine.  I need to make some more to put on the teeter and the tire, but they do not need to be joined together, so will be a little easier to make.  

The lettuce is doing well in the garden.  I uncovered it on Friday since it has stayed above freezing at night and I've been watering it since it has been quite dry.  I think I will plant some beets and some swiss chard next week since I will be away all weekend.  I think we should be getting some rain in the next couple days, so the soil should be good for planting.  Sam has been hunting for morels in the woods (that's how he found the bee tree) and is hoping that some rain will make them pop up.  He has found a few, but it really has been too dry for them.  

 From the look of the maple trees in our yard, the deck will soon be covered in pollen and the bees will be buzzing in the branches. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Just a Quick Post

We are still kind of in a holding pattern around here waiting for spring to really arrive.  We've had a few nice days, but in general, it has stayed pretty wintry.  We have had lows in the 20's over night many nights, and even a covering of snow last week.  However, the forecast is calling for 60's today (and we have bright sunshine) and a warming trend continuing through the weekend.  I have no plans for the weekend, but I do need to work on my beehives and I think it may be about time to get the deck furniture out of the barn. 

I peeked into the  top of the right hand hive yesterday  morning and the feeder jars are empty, which is fine because we don't want sugar syrup mixed in with the lovely wildflower honey that I hope to have to harvest in June.  It was sunny, but quite cool, so the bees were not yet out and about and I can quickly lift the lid and look inside where I have quart jar feeders on top of the inner cover.  So I need to get those off the hives and give each hive another box of drawn comb.  

Grover and I attended an all day handling seminar last Friday in Huntington WV.  We drove down Thursday evening in a steady drizzly  rain.  I was delighted, despite the rain, that I-77 between Parkersburg and Charleston seems to have been lined with redbud trees, and they were all in bloom.  It made a dreary drive a little less so.  

The seminar was a lot of fun.  It did make me feel like I still am such a novice.  The instructor was very entertaining and  extremely knowledgeable.  I hope I will be able to put some of what she taught to use because I think it will only help me to be clearer in what I want Grover to do.  

Sam got my A-frame set up and I have sent Grover over it a few times.  The last few times I have taken him out to practice, though, it has been incredibly windy and we have not stayed out long.  My wing jumps keep blowing over.  We do have an upcoming trial next week.  It is a 3 day trial in Zanesville and will be the last one held there until September.  

Last week I said something to Sam about tearing down some of the fence in front of the garage, between the driveway and where my agility stuff is.  I came home from work the next day and he had already started.  This was fence we put up in 1999 when we got our first alpacas and many of the boards were broken and the wire behind the boards was very rusted.  This will make the area much easier to mow.  The rest of the fence will stay up, so I still have fencing around my agility practice area.  I just can't see us ever having to use this area for pasturing animals again.

 I started a lightweight lacy sweater, which I hope to have finished before we travel to Oregon for Ian and Michelle's wedding, which is less than 2 months away.  I think Oregon in early June is likely to have some variable weather so this will make a nice layering piece.  Here is a link to what it will look like when finished:
Lacy cardigan

I need to get some new rugs on my loom.  I may start working on that yet this afternoon.  



Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Officially Spring!

I think Rowdy's favorite part of the day that does not include food is our early morning walk.  It is easier on him than the longer afternoon walk, which he still goes along on. I can tell he hurts, but while it still makes him happy and he wants to go, he can go.

I used to try to do a blog post weekly, and I know I have not done so recently.  The tail end of winter is just not a great time to get out with the camera and since this is pretty much a photographic journal for me, I don't like to post when I have no photos.  Things may pick up here now that the weather is improving almost daily.  

Sam has already planted lettuce/arugula under the hoop frame in the garden and done some tilling.  The bees seem to be doing well and the next warm day we have when I am at home I need to open the hives and possibly add more space for them.  I am thankful we had a mild winter and they over-wintered all right.  I may get a honey harvest this year.

One of my recent projects was to build 3 wing jumps.  I needed to add a few jumps to our practice area and decided this was the way to go.  I enjoy building this stuff.

Here is Grover demonstrating his jumping skills.

In a little over a week, Grover and I are attending an all day agility seminar in Huntington WV.  I'm looking forward to it.  While we go to class every week, it will be nice to get input from another source.  It will also be good for Grover to experience a new facility.    Since last August, we have not run anywhere other than the club's practice building and the Fieldhouse in Zanesville.  I hope to go to some trials at other venues again this summer, and it will be nice for Grover to go someplace different prior to

Sam also built me a practice A-Frame, which I have been working on painting.  It is heavy, so once we get it out in the field, it likely won't move very often, but it will be nice to have.

I was just having fun with the camera yesterday, calling Grover through the weave poles.  Rowdy knew there were treats at the end, so he was running along.  

It looks like I will need to get out in my practice field with the mower before too long, doesn't it?  Our neighbors have already mowed.  I think it goes against all Sam believes in to mow before April 1st!  We'll see if he decided to mow the yard today while I am at work.  

I finished a  sweater a couple weeks back and never got any good photos of it until last week.  I absolutely love this sweater.  

I really don't have any projects going right now except a pair of socks, and that is nothing to get excited about, in my opinion.  I'll come up with something soon, I hope.  Meanwhile, I do have spinning ongoing, and a scarf on the small loom.  My big loom is empty and I am trying to decide what to put on it.  I think I may need to get some rugs going.

My son Ian's wedding is coming up in just over 2 months.  We have our airfare booked and I have bought my dress and some new boots and a jean jacket to go with it.  I still have some travel plans to make, but I know the time between now and then will just fly by.    I am really looking forward to the big event.  Both my brothers will be there, both my sons, my mom and Sam's mom and my aunt.  And my sister-in-law, niece and nephews, who I have not seen now in over a year.  It should be a great time.  That and Michelle becoming an "official" member of our family.  I wish everyone could attend, but it is a long way to travel and I understand some people just can't make it.