Wednesday, August 6, 2014

And some people wonder why we eat them...

First thing I do when I get out of bed in the morning is let the dogs out.  Then I swing by the coffee maker to turn it on before heading back to bed until it's brewed.  Then it's time to hit the floor, jump into some clothes, put my face on, and head out.  It usually goes uneventfully.

But not today.  This morning had to be different.

As I was getting ready, the dogs started barking.  And kept barking.  And kept barking some more.  I ignored them, thinking that asshole squirrel was sitting on top of the well house taunting them again, the little jerk.  About the time I started thinking I should go out there and intervene, they quit.

As I gathered up my keys and poured that last cup of coffee for the road, they started up again.  I headed out the door, ignoring the chorus of upset heeler and confused weenie dog, thinking how I was running early and would get the store opened and ready to go by the time Boss Man Scott got there, being all happy about that.

Until I see a cow go by with a tarp on her head.  Dragging twenty feet of it behind her.

My heart sank.

Those of you who grew up on a farm or live on one now know that feeling: the sudden stop, holding still for a beat as you shift gears, realizing that your plans for the foreseeable future were just rearranged for you while simultaneously beginning to devise a plan to fix it.

At least I now knew what the dogs were barking about.

I heaved a big sigh and walked to the truck, watching as the cow ran behind it towards the creek and around the corner out of sight, wondering how this one was going to play out.  Again, Country People, y'all know the drill - you just have to go for it, dive right in headfirst and see what happens, hoping a plan presents itself along the way.

I put the truck in reverse and backed it down the close quarters to the creek.  I'm not sure why I backed it down there instead of driving the right way.  I vaguely recall a fleeting thought of chasing her around in reverse like back in my demolition derby days, thinking she might get stuck on her own in the melee, and being in reverse I'd have an out if she got mad and came at me.  But I really didn't have a great idea of what I was doing.  Really.

As I came around the corner and headed down the hill, I saw her standing there on the other side of the creek facing my way, twenty feet of tarp laying in the creek between her and me.  I saw my chance, aimed for the tarp, and gunned it.  In the next four seconds I saw the mud, thought I might get stuck, thought of how it'd put everyone in a bind at work if I couldn't come in because I got the truck stuck, imperceptibly lifted my foot off the gas as I contemplated that versus cow-with-tarp-on-head-home-alone-all-day, saw her move as if to walk away, remembered I have a tractor to pull the truck out, said To HELL with it!, gunned it some more    ...   and   !!!

... landed on the tarp.  WOOT!  SHE WAS MIIIIIIINE!!

As I was looking in my purse for my pocket knife to cut her loose, I thought, "If I'm careful and lucky and avoid becoming a Linda-ka-bob, I might still get to work only a little late!  But Boss Man Scott will never believe this.  Who in the hell in their right mind would?! ... Pictures. ...  I need pictures.  Pictures would definitely make this an excused tardy."

As I got back in the truck to finally start my commute to work, I texted him the third picture on this page, with this message: "Running about ten minutes late. Dumbass cow got stuck in a tarp and I had to rescue her. And people wonder why we eat them..."

She didn't even say thank you.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Stop, Thief!

I inspected my hive Saturday, adding more pollen sub and sugar syrup.  I've been feeding them since, as a new colony, they need a little help since we've been in a dearth (no nectar or pollen) almost since I got them.  Since sugar syrup turns bad in as little as three days in hummingbird feeders, I was concerned about it in the hive as well, even though I don't add that much at one time.  I'd read about adding a tablespoon or two of vinegar to a gallon of syrup to help it keep longer, so thought I'd try it.  I'd also read Michael Bush's admonitions on the forums that doing that can set off a robbing frenzy, so I watched the hive closely.

Sure enough ... a few hours later I saw what looked like a swarm all around the hive.  TONS of bees flying all over.  Probably from the bee tree across the creek, or from the one over on the Krause's place (not sure exactly where it is, but I beelined it to their fenceline last year so I know it's somewhere over in their east pasture, probably just a quarter mile from my house).

Man, it happened FAST!  I had been looking out there every ten or fifteen minutes, and between one check and the next fifteen minutes later, there was a bee cloud.  Amazing.

I ran out there and watched closely to make sure it wasn't just them still a bit upset from the inspection, saw fighting and lots of bees going in with empty pollen baskets and coming out with full ones.  Yep, robbing.  I knew because of reading everything bee-related I could get my hands on that I had to do something NOW.  I remembered something I'd read - I ran to get a sheet, covered the hive, poured water over it, watched for a while to make sure nobody found any holes I might have left open, and went back inside to think some more.  By this time it was almost dark, so that and the sheet stopped it.  For now.

I uncovered it in the morning and kept a close watch, knowing, again because of what I'd read, that there was a very good chance it would start again.  Sure enough, once the sun got up a bit it started again.  But I was ready.  I robbed a piece of 1/8 hardware cloth off a top feeder I'd just bought, made a Billy Davis robbing screen (thank goodness I'd read about THAT one, too) to cover the top entrance that was getting the most action, and reduced the bottom one.

It did just what I'd read - the robbers kept trying to get through the robbing screen directly in front of the entrance, not even finding the open ends.  In just a few minutes, there was a mob of them right there at the hole.  I watched for quite some time, grinning and laughing at them (yeah, schadenfreude - I had it), seeing that some robbers who were coming out of the hive got lucky and found the end exits to get out, but none that I saw figured out how to get back in.  I watched for a bit 'til not many more were coming out, and covered the bottom entrance with wet towels, as well as the ends of the robbing screen, leaving the area over the top entrance open for ventilation (didn't know how long I'd have to leave them like that and was nervous about them overheating).

I went back inside, but kept a close watch on them still.  By nine or ten the bee cloud was gone.  I left it covered for a couple or three more hours, then uncovered it and kept watch closely, thinking I may have to cover it up again.

But it didn't start again!  WOOT!!  Started about 7:30 the night before and was over by noon the next day.  Now, two days later, still no robbing and the girls are still in there, happily working away (yeah, didn't want to disturb them even MORE, but I just had to peek a little).  I'm still looking out there every fifteen minutes, and likely will be every day for the next week or more.  But I'm cautiously optimistic.  Excitedly, but cautiously.

Because I'd read all that, I didn't panic because I knew there was a solution and it was in my brain because of all the reading I've done on forums, on Michael Bush's site, in's books, and elsewhere.  I just had to stay calm, think for a minute, and find that solution.  And I did.

Some pictures of the hive today with my handy dandy robbing screen.  I've got some more hardware cloth on order and will make one of these screens for every entrance on every hive I ever have.  Billy Davis, you are one smart man.

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