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!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

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.