5.1.2012 Flies, bees, birds and not what I had planned.

Did you ever have one of those days?  You know the kind I mean.  You wake up and, over your morning coffee, you sort of map out your day – what chores need doing and their relative order of importance.  But as soon as you step out the door something not on your list demands your attention and that’s pretty much how the rest of the day goes.

I had intended on dressing two chickens for dinner and moving the vacant breeder tractor down to the laying pasture so I could put my big chicks out on pasture.  I thought I might be able to get that done by noon and then do some work in the garden after lunch.  Uh-huh.

During morning rounds I realized just how low I was getting on fuel for the mowers and the tractor.  Since I use the riding lawn mower to tow water and feed to the chickens every day, having fuel for that is sort of important.  Which meant I had to make a trip into town.  Yeah, well, I needed to get egg cartons and go to the bank anyway.  While I was in town, I got a call from my local bee pusher.  My two new hives are ready and could I pick them up tomorrow evening.  Sure, no problem.

After off- loading all the fuel, I spent a solid hour cleaning up all the equipment I would need to house my two new hives.  I made a couple of nasty discoveries in the process.  When I took supers full of frames off hives last year, I bagged them and put them in the freezer.  At least I thought I froze them all.  I pull out one box and the frames were covered in mold, mildew and insect slime.  That whole thing is now headed to the burn pile.  I also have a box full of frames that apparently had traces of uncapped honey in it.  The remnant honey has fermented, badly.  The box is okay, but the frames are very suspicious.  I may end up burning those too.

I stopped by to check on the bees.  It’s been a little more than a week since my last visit and about 5 days since I last fed them.  15 of 16 of the frames in the two brood boxes are full.  There were a lot of bees in the brood boxes and many more up in the honey super.  And yes, finally, the bees are beginning to make some honey.  I had several frames in the honey super that were about ¼ full of uncapped honey.  Yay!

The first honey of 2012. It’s not capped, but it’s that darker area in the upper half of the frame.

Down in the brood boxes all was well until I got to the second to last frame.  By then my smoker had gone out, there was thunder rumbling way off in the distance, I had just banged a frame pretty hard annoying the bees more than just a little.  The bees were getting cranky.  I was getting nervous.  My two year old Tyvek painter’s suit has quit a few large holes in it, leaving me vulnerable to attack.  In the second to last frame I found this:

Drone comb – sideways. I have such creative bees. Why do I seem to get all the “think outside the brood box” architects?


It is drone brood put in sideways.  I should have cut it out.  But as I said, I was getting nervous and getting a second opinion isn’t a bad thing, especially when you consider my track record with bees.

While I was cooling off afterwards (Tyvek is really hot) the UPS truck passed by the house out on the road.  Moose dashed off the porch, hackles raised and barking furiously, you know, just to make sure that evil UPS truck doesn’t come  into her space.  She really doesn’t like that truck.  Don’t know why.

I did get the chicken tractor moved after that using the Kubota.  It had a long way to go across the pasture, downhill, uphill and over the earthworks.  More thunder.  Sky is getting dark.  Gather up the eggs and check on the state of purpleness. . . .

What is that, you say?  Well, last night, I snuck down to the laying flock and sprayed every feather-damaged bird with a product called Blu-Kote.  Except it’s not blue.  It’s purple.  A vivid, royal purple that does not easily wash off.  But it’s supposed to taste pretty nasty and thus it discourages feather picking.  It also kills germs and fungi.  (My respiratory system should be pristine and quite purple today.  Hard not to inhale the stuff when you’re working in such close quarters in the dark.)  There didn’t seem to be any new feather damage this morning.  The egg count is up to 21.  (from its low of 12 day before yesterday)  Course last night wasn’t cold.  Even got a Dorking egg today.  Haven’t seen one of those in ages. The hens and Mr. Majestic up in the coop are having a field day.  There are tons of worms underneath all the old straw left in the run from the winter.  The old chicks want out.  The middle aged chicks aren’t sure of anything anymore and the babies, well, they got kicked out of the house this morning.  Quasimodo, the chick with his head on sideways, has lasted longer than any of us thought possible, but I expect he’ll have finally passed come morning.

By the time I got the tractor back in the hay barn, the warning rumbles were over and we had one of those 20 minute frog stranglers.   Cleaned the eggs and headed out to soccer practice with the youngest.  The garden went untouched.  I still have two chickens that need to be butchered.  Another day, perhaps.  The garden isn’t going anywhere, and neither are those two worthless chickens.   Two years on (to the day) into this farming adventure, and I’m still not anywhere close to being on schedule.  But the flies are.  They were here in droves when we moved in on May 1, 2010 and they are out in droves today.  Even followed us to soccer and kept me company while I blogged.  Two years.  Wow.  Time flies and the flies never really go away.

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