There is NO Giggling in the Tree Stand

img_5117It was a normal Saturday at the farm. Superman got up early, early with Adam to go deer hunting. Without even a glimpse of the famed 10 pointer, he was seeing on his motion camera set up in the woods, Superman got busy cutting stuff down around the farm. As is usual, he about killed himself on that tractor. He thinks he’s invincible. He tells me later how he almost bit the dust as he was trying to move some huge log out of the way and cutting branches at the same time. A branch hits the mechanism that lifts and lowers the bucket, which this great big log is resting. The bucket starts rising up, up and up, the log rolls down onto the tractor toward him! He yells “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa!!!” Dang.img_4608Meanwhile, I’m at home, happily in my craft room, totally oblivious of the potential widow maker happening at the farm…thank goodness. Anyway, later that afternoon, I planned on going down there to visit my girls when the temperatures warmed up. Bees like you checking on them when the weather is pleasant, not chilly and rainy. I showed up, did my inspection of the hives and planned on going back home.IMG_5122.jpgBut Mr. Mr. suggested something different. Why don’t I sit in the deer stand with him? Well, I really wasn’t dressed properly. I had on a bright blue t-shirt and purple shoes.IMG_5125.jpgHe handed me a camouflaged jacket and hat. I worried “What about my shoes? I don’t think deer like purple.” He said “Here, carry this camo fabric. I need to make a skirt for the stand. It will cover your shoes.” Make a skirt?!? That sounds we’re going to be crafting! I’m in!IMG_5127.jpgFYI…you have to get into the stand waayyy before the deer start their carousing around. OK. So we are at the barn, the tractor just minutes ago was roaring, lawn mowers at the neighbors are going, dogs are barking, roosters are crowing but Superman turns to me and whispers “Stick close to me and be very very quiet.” Seriously? We have to be quiet?IMG_5128.jpgWe quietly walk through the pasture. Well sorta. It was like walking through a room with the floor covered in bubble wrap. The grass had been cut in the past week, so the ground was dry and crackly. Every step was crunch, crunch, crunch. It reminded me of coming home late as a teenager and trying so hard not to wake the parents, but hitting that squeaky step. ugh.

So we got to the tree stand that Adam’s friend had reportedly seen some deer from that morning. Superman gave me the hand up signal to stop. Then the two fingers to his eyes to tell me to watch him. (I am trying so hard not to laugh.) When the coast is clear, he signals for me to come.IMG_5129Yeah, it’s pretty high up there.IMG_5132But the view is worth it. It is hard to tell by looking at this picture, but we are high up.IMG_5142Much to my disappointment, there wasn’t much crafting going on up here. We zip tied the skirt to the stand. Of course, when it was my turn to zippity do dah, although I was pulling slowly, I got the look  from Superman for zipping too loudly. (Puhleez)IMG_5138The skirt is up and Yup my shoes are hidden, because these purple shoes would definitely keep a deer from showing up.IMG_5139Ok. So we are all ready to go, right? Nope. Now we gotta spray doe estrous all over the place. I guess its like Magic Potion #9 for bucks. I hear they go crazy when they smell the stuff. (hee hee) Forget that we are suppose to be very very quiet, this guy beside me is rummaging through his backpack, zipping and unzipping, pulling out noisy water bottles hats on, hats off, gloves on, gloves off. Then I get a wad of mucus lodged in my throat and I ever so quietly try to cough it up and I get the look.IMG_5145OOPS! Someone dropped his hat.IMG_5140This is really serious business. I’m given the “two fingers to the eyes” signal with a thumb pointing behind us, meaning I’m in charge of keeping my eyes sharp to any movement in the rear. ( I really want to throw a salute, but I don’t. I just turn in my padded seat and check things out out back.) I hear leaves crunching, I look closer and see it is only a squirrel. I got kinda excited there.IMG_5210I know, I know, I’m suppose to be quiet. As I try to settle in to enjoy this moment in nature, the lawn mowers are still going, dogs are barking, roosters are crowing, mommas are fussing at their kids, the Harley roars by on the road, and someone on the neighboring farm shoots off his gun. But I am suppose to be very very quiet. I think this is kinda funny. I whisper to Superman my silly thought, but he doesn’t think I’m very funny. Which in turn makes me giggle. But there is NO GIGGLING in the tree stand.IMG_5135I think we’re all settled in, each with our appointed duties, now it is time to wait.IMG_5132And wait.IMG_5215and wait. It’s getting dark now, surely the big guy is going to come out of his hidey hole. The sun has gone down. “Um, so how much longer do we wait?”IMG_5219Superman shows me five fingers. He pulls out his green light, which is kinda cool. We can see the wildlife, but they can’t see us. He tells me later that after the sun goes down his binoculars give him about 15 minutes of light. Then the green light helps light up the area unseen to the critters.

In the end, we saw n.o.t.h.i.n.g. I know from watching my guys all these years, there is a science to all this hunting. The camouflage clothes must be washed in no-scent detergent and stored in containers with earth wafers. (These are little discs that smell like dirt.) It is a definite test in endurance and patience. There is importance in which gun you use and which stand you sit in.IMG_5223Ok I admit, I’m not a hunter, but I did enjoy being out there just listening to the sounds of crickets, birds and leaves falling. The warm air turned cool as the sun set, bringing fresh air to my lungs. I appreciated the opportunity to just sit, watch and listen. On one hand I’m glad the big guy didn’t show up, but on the other, I am a little disappointed to not see a doe. (Superman will only shoot an 8 point or above.) I’m not sure, but my purple shoes, small hacks dislodging phlegm, little fits of giggling, and 219 flashes off my camera MAY have scared off the deer. Maybe. I don’t really care. IMG_5224Because most importantly, I appreciate the fact that my guy wanted me to sit in the stand with him.

ANNNND…he took me to the Lighthouse Fish Camp in Pacolet, SC! Fish camps will have to be another day. Let’s just say they are a historical fact here in the Upstate.

Thank you so much for dropping by!


The Worried Beekeeper

Several weeks ago I opened my boxes to find millions of hive beetles. The small hive beetle is one of the evil destroyers of the honey hive. They have a hard shell, thus the bees have a hard time killing them. They love the dark, so as soon as I open the box, the beetles quickly skitter away. Because the bees have a hard time controlling them, the beetles reproduce rapidly and make a mess in the hive, which we all know bees don’t like. I talked about this issue here.The next thing I needed to worry about is the dreaded varroa mite. Article upon article in the beekeeping community right now is about taking care of the varroa mite. These guys look like tiny red ticks. They seem to love to attach themselves to the bees thorax and lay their eggs in the bee larva cell, which of course kills the larva. Larva grow into bees. Without larva, there are no bees, no hive, no honey. I did two different tests to determine my mite level.

One test involved two jars that are screwed together with a screen in between. I was suppose to gather a cup full of bees, (I totally had no idea how to do this. I guess I should have done some research first.) Then I put the gathered bees into the jar with a few ounces of rubbing alcohol. This would indeed kill those bees, but it was the sacrifice I have to make in order to save a whole hive. I swirled the bees around the alcohol to dislodge any mites that might be present. Then turning the jar contraption upside down, the mites and liquid pours through the screen. Then I would count the number of mites. I had about 4 tiny red mites. The experts all say to not wait until there is a problem, “Bee Proactive!” So I bought “Mite Away” pads.

I made a rookie mistake and opened the package inside the barn. OMG! I about passed out from the fumes. I placed the pad on top of the frames and waited a week. I did another test to see if there were any mites again. This time I place a grid board that is covered in Vaseline under the hive. The idea is that mites will fall down and stick to this board. A week later I pull it out and count the number of mites. Again, I am a complete rookie, but to my untrained eye I saw no mites! Yay!!! I see lots of pollen and bee debris, but no mites. I do a happy fact, y boxes feel nice and heavy, which tells me they are full of bees and honey. Each box can weigh around 40 lbs when in a healthy state.Two weeks go by, I’m thinking my hives are the bees knees

Then I open the green hive and am astounded at how bad it looks. It looks almost empty! What used to be frames of pollen, eggs, larvae, capped cells and loads of happy bees, I now see frame after frame of emptiness. There are a small number of bees buzzing around, but nothing like the sweet hum I had just a few weeks before. I am in a small panic. The yellow hive looks amazing! Everything looks as it should. But the green one is very sad.It is the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, so I have to wait until Tuesday to call the bee store for help. I really am worried that I’m going to lose a hive. Finally I get to call Carolina Honey Bee and ask Kelly what I should do. I can’t see a queen, but then I really don’t know what I’m looking at. Am I queenless? Without a queen to lay eggs, there won’t be any bees born. She suggests that since we are in dearth, no nectar flow, that maybe I should add pollen patties to help the bees nutritionally. We decide to try this first, then if I don’t see any improvement, then we can try adding a new queen. Three days later, I went over to see what was going on. Lookie here! Lookie here! I’ve got action! In just 3 days, we’ve got the rainbow effect going on with capped brood and pollen surrounding it. Beautiful!In just a few days, this frame from the top box went from being dry to glistening with honey and the beginnings of capping. The girls have a long way to go to be prepared for winter, but I know they can do it. They have 10 frames front and back that need to be full of capped honey in order for them to survive the winter. This little peanut shaped cell is a queen cell. This was not here on Tuesday. So if the queen of this hive had become ill or died, the workers would have taken care to raise another queen.Here is another queen cell or two. The workers decide whether or not a queen is needed. They somehow know and build her a special cell. They feed her gourmet meals fit for a queen of royal jelly. If several of these special cells produce queens the bees will choose the strongest one and kill the rest. Hey, they know what they are doing.The bees are so thankful for this boost. Check out those two gals who went a bit overboard and gorged themselves to death. Actually I may have squished them on accident when I closed the box up the last time. I think this is what I look like sometimes after gorging myself on some amazing dessert involving chocolate.

Here’s a video I shot of me putting bees from one box to another. I had thought that the bees were doing so great that I could put a box on top, that they would fill with honey for me. I really jumped the gun in this one. So I needed to take each frame and knock those bees back into the established hive. This was done weeks and weeks before I started having all the pest trouble. It’s still kind of cool to see how it is done. Hey! Check out my new wagon! To walk to and fro from the barn to the hives, I usually have my arms full. This baby has been such a helpful piece of equipment.

There is so much to learn! God made these little critters perfectly. I’m the one who is messing with success by keeping them. I don’t know the reason why bees that are kept are different than honey bees in the wild. I need to do some research. But when I decided to be a beekeeper, I made a commitment to take care of them. There is a fine line in letting them do their God-given thing and helping them thrive. I’m making lots of mistakes, but I’m also learning so much.

Thanks for all of you who are interested in this little adventure I’m on with these buzzing girls.