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.