Saturday, May 24, 2014


Wednesday morning, having found the entrance the previous day, I put on my protective gear and fired up the bee smoker. then began removing a few pieces of siding from the wall to reveal the underlying boards where the bees were entering.  Within a few minutes, boards were revealed and the first board was removed.  Between the wall studs, there was honeycomb, but the bees were not on it at that location.  Removing boards and occasionally pumping smoke into the hive to keep the bees calm, I worked my way down to the bottom end of the honeycomb which ended within inches of the bottom plate..  There were no bees, brood or honey in these honey combs, so I would have to work upward to find the colony.

Moving higher and higher on the ladder, I slowly removed the outside wall all the way to the top plate.  Yes, the honeycomb reached all the way up the wall, from the bottom of the first floor to the top of the second (sorry I forgot to take pictures of the higher levels).  In the upper half of the comb is where the bees, brood and honey were.  There were far fewer bees than I had expected and much less brood and honey, though I hadn't expected lots of honey this early in the season.

By now, it was mid-day and time to start removing the bees.  Piece by piece, I removed honeycomb, carefully searching each piece for the queen, then placing it in a flat pan.  The pan would only hold a few pieces so it was down the ladder to put brood comb (some were partly filled with honey) into the hive body I had brought for this purpose.  The bees from the non-brood comb were gently brushed into the hive with a soft brush, all the while searching a second time for the queen.  This process was repeated over and over again until all the comb with honey or brood were out of the wall space.  One of the last few pieces of comb was where the queen and her entourage were finally located and were introduced to the hive.  When this was finished, I removed the empty comb from the wall.  All of the honeycomb which was not placed in the hive had been placed in containers with lids so the bees would not attempt to salvage the honey and wax and be more likely to work in the new hive.

As you can imagine, there were bees flying everywhere.  They were now entering and leaving the new hive and defending it, but there were still a good number of bees in the wall space gathering any honey that had been spilled or missed in their old location.  As expected, they could be seen gathering this honey and returning to the hive.  This process would continue for a while.

By late afternoon, with the work done, it was time to let the bees settle into their new home, so I left the hive where it was and made arrangements to come back after dark when the bees would be in for the night.  Sure enough, with darkness, the bees had settled and the vast majority of them were in the hive.  There were a few holdouts who stayed with the remnants of the old comb, but most had accepted their new home.  With a ratchet strap across the top to keep the hive parts from shifting and releasing bees into my Jeep Cherokee during transit and a small wad of green grass in the entrance to keep them from crawling out, I loaded the hive and started the 40 mile trip home.

I had hurriedly cleared out a place for the hive and set up a stand the day before, so upon arrival the hive was placed on the stand, the grass and strap removed and now it was up to the bees.

The next few days were cool and rainy, and with not much in the way of flowers for the bees to feed on, and with them needing to produce honey and wax quickly, I fed them so they could save flight time until they were well established.  As you can see from this photo taken a couple of days later, they were entering and leaving the hive, even though it was cool and damp (when it warmed up, there was more activity but I didn't have the camera with me).  Nothing to do now but wait for the bees to do their work, and to make a decision before the following Friday whether to re-queen. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

TIGHTWAD TUESDAY - Red Banded Bananas

stock photo
You know, I could not even begin to tell you when the last time was that I bought a regular priced banana. Full price is just way too high (although they are still much cheaper than most fruits), and since they ripen so quickly, you can almost be certain to find them on mark down at least once a week.

Now, the title of this post states "Red Banded Bananas", but I often find them in stuffed full bags for a buck a bag or 3 pounds for a dollar.

With bananas constantly getting ripe and going on markdown every few days, it doesn't make sense to ever buy the full priced bananas. I mean, you have to wait for the full priced bananas to get ripe enough to eat them, and by then, you usually come across the mark down ones. I have one relative that buys mostly the full priced bananas. They are usually pretty green where she gets them. Then she complains about wanting one, but having to wait a few days for them to get ripe enough to eat one. By the time she can eat one of her full priced ones, I have usually found markdown bananas TWICE! I just don't see the logic in getting the full priced ones.

One of our stores has a very unique way of marking theirs down. They never have overripe bananas to mark down! Each day they bag up all of the loose, single bananas and mark them down. These are the pretty, not quite ripe, bananas, sometimes still pretty green. Plus, each day, they have a certain number of bags they use and they just "bag up" bananas until they have used up those bags, placing a mark down price on the bag, just as low as the overripe bananas at the other stores. I love this concept! What is even better is when I am out shopping and can catch these, slightly green bananas on mark down, AND the overripe ones marked down at another store. This works extra good for me because with all the work around here, I usually only go in to town once every week or so for necessities. When I find both on mark down like this, I have bananas to use right away, then by the time they are gone, the marked down green ones are ready to eat! Now THAT'S a bargain AND convenient, and keeps me from running out of bananas in between shopping trips! Well, that is, unless my dog Dusty finds them . . . . but that is a funny story for another post.

As for those narrow, little sticky red bands . . . . . those irritate the heck out of me! You can never find the end to untape them. and most of the produce people seem to think they need to be on good and tight, which badly bruises all of the bananas right through the middle. I have had some that, by the next day, only half of them in the bunch were usable because of that tight, little, narrow red band, and THAT isn't cost effective. Course, the chickens enjoy those.

All in All, Red Banded, Pre-Bagged, or Loose . . . . . Mark down bananas are the way to go! Which way do you prefer to purchase your bananas?

Monday, May 12, 2014


Tuesday came and I went to look at the bees.  The house is an old two storied house, in need of repairs and with plenty of small openings for bees and other such creatures to make themselves at home.  I was led to a point on the outside wall where the bees had been seen.  Sure enough, there they were, lovely creatures, flying in and out between bricks nrar a corner.  The bricks in question covered the outside of the wall on one side of the corner, the other side, a narrow wall outside the star well, was covered with siding.

Where the bees were entering through a hole in the brick mortar, made it appear that they were going straight into the wider wall behind the bricks.  With bricks in the way, we went inside, where I listened to the wall with a stethascope.  Turns out that the walls were plaster and lath, covered with a layer of drywall.  No sound a colony of bees could make would penetrate that wall.  Next, we drilled small holes through the plaster so sounds could get through.  Still no sound, not in the wall or the floor, not upstairs or downstairs.  Could they be between the bricks and the wall?  Maybe there would be room 

After a few minutes on the ladder, removing a few bricks, it became obvious that they were turning behind the bricks and making their way into the narrow wall of the stair well.  At least the bricks would not all have to be removed, though those at the corner would have to be pulled out to allow the siding and underlying boards to be removed.

By the time we had found the entrance, it was late afternoon so we decided to wait until the next morning to start ripping out walls.  We were all hoping I could get to the bees by removing boards from the outside of the house.  The alternative would be opening the wall inside the star well which would let the house fill up with unhappy bees.  I don't have to explain the drawbacks involved with this method.  In short, it is always better to keep stinging insects (no matter how beneficial) on the outside of the house.

During the drive home, my thoughts were filled with visualizations of how much of the space inside the wall might be filled with honeycomb and bees, what removing the boards might entail and hopes of a good night sleep.  Tomorrow would not be an easy day.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


First, in answer to the obvious question, no the bees were not in mine or Anna's walls.  This story started last Friday when Anna called me, all excited at the prospect of bees.  But wait, there is a bit of history/background before I start.

Several years ago (actually more than several), I started beekeeping.  My first bees were captured from a bee tree in my woods.  After several years of successful beekeeping, disease wiped out my bees and life and finances got in the way of starting back up.  That was almost 20 years ago.  About four years ago, I decided to make new hives in my workshop and get bees.  Delays and priorities worked their magic but I managed to get most of the woodwork finished for one hive.  By "most of the woodwork" I mean everything wooden except the bottom board.  These hive parts have been sitting on my workbench waiting for me to finish.

Now, forward to last Friday.  I had taken time in the middle of my work day to pick up parts for the truck so I could fix it over the weekend, and was on my way back to work when the phone rang.  It was Anna, sounding excited so I pulled to the side of the road to talk.  The excitement was because of a post on a facebook page she had set up for garden discussion.  Someone had posted that there were honeybees in their wall and they needed someone to remove them.  Anna had told them she would ask me if I was interested, and promptly called me.

Honeybees are always a good addition to a self-sufficient farm, and of course I was interested.  Only one problem.  Remember the bee hive on my workbench?  That's right, no bottom board.  Limited time and lack of the preferred material (cypress is best for bottom boards) would make timing an issue.  Also, there was the matter of foundations.  Foundations are sheets of wax stamped with honeycomb pattern for the bees to start the comb from.  These attach to frames in the hive, and though the bees are quite capable of designing their own honeycomb, the frames and foundations give guidelines to make working with the hive easier for the beekeeper and safer for the bees.

The only option would be to buy the bottom board and foundations from a bee supply.  Finding bee supplies locally is not an easy thing.  You just can't go down to the corner store and pick up hive parts, so all the suppliers I knew of from my beekeeping past were mail order.  Shipping time would be an issue with ordering by mail or online since the people were in a bit of a hurry due to sting allergies.  Extermination was even mentioned.

Anna went on line in search of bee supplies while I finished my work day.  Searching online led to a small, home based business in Tulsa.  A bit of a drive but worth the time savings, if they had what we needed.  Monday would find me on the phone to Ozark Bee Supply in hopes of finding the needed parts in time to save the bees from extermination.

Bright and early Monday morning found me on the phone.  Of course Ozark Bee Supply had what we needed, but being a small home based business with no set business hours, they would not be there that day.  Disappointment was hard to disguise in my voice I am sure, but in light of the circumstances, arrangements were made for me to pick up the supplies that afternoon.

There are reasons I like small businesses and dealing with real people, accommodation, quality products and reasonable prices are a few of those reasons.  I found all of these with Ozark Bee Supply and an added measure of helpful advice.

By early afternoon I had picked Anna up at her house and we were on our way to Tulsa to pick up bee supplies and do a bit of other shopping.  The other shopping stories will have to wait for another time.  Meanwhile, at the end of the day, though there would be some required assembly the following morning, we were almost ready to attempt the rescue.  With equipment in hand, I called the homeowner to make arrangements to assess the situation.  We agreed on a time for Tuesday. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

(AF) Need Your Input on our Info Links, Please!

Hello, Everyone! Not sure weather to say Good Morning, or Good Nite. After I type this, I am going to finally go to bed for a bit, so for me . . . Good Nite.

One of our wonderful readers was so kind to give us some feedback on our InfoLinks advertising. And YES, we LOVE constructive feedback! She mentioned that the InfoLinks was getting annoying when trying to read our posts. She also stated that they blocked some of the post content from being able to be seen.

On our end, we can't see that anything is being blocked. We would greatly appreciate it if someone on the Reader End could explain this in more detail.

We want ALL the feedback we can possibly get from our Readers in reference to the InfoLinks advertising we have on our Blog. We want our readers to be happy and really enjoy sitting down and reading our blog. So, if we find that this advertising platform is causing difficulties for our readers . . . . making it difficult to smoothly read our posts, we will certainly remove it.

Thank you very much, in advance, for all of your valued input! And thank you for reading our blog!

UPDATE:  I tried to temporarily turn off the Infolinks . . . funny, it didn't work. You are supposed to be able to do that. I set it to only ONE link per page .... funny, that wouldn't work, either. This does NOT make me happy. The options are there, but it isn't working. And in answer to someone's question... "Are you making money at it?" NO, in all this time, we STILL have not made it to the first payout.

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Yes, I am serious, I planted corn in a stump patch.  About a month and a half ago, I decided to clear the trees at the north end of the garden.  The small patch of ground in question is good soil, and with a little work (alright, a lot of work) it will be a good addition to the main garden.  The first photo, is of the piece of ground in question immediately after I cut the trees into firewood, before the brush was burned.  In the background, you can see the trees, which is what the newly cleared patch looked like  the day before.

Over time, I burned the brush and moved the firewood, then marked off where it would need tilled in relation to the new fence line at the back edge.  Now it was ready to till, as soon as I could find the time.

In case you have never tried it, tilling or plowing in a stump patch can be an interesting process.  My first such experience with this concept was when I was very young (seven or eight years old).  My Grandfather had farmed all his life with a team of horses and I wanted to learn how.  He showed me how to put on the harness and hook up the plow, then we went to plow his garden.  There was a newly cleared area at the edge, and sure enough, the plow caught a root and jumped sideways, throwing me down.  My Grandfather laughed and explained how if I had been taller, I would have been kicked in the ribs by the plow handles.  Years later, while breaking a mule to plow, I experienced what he was talking about. No fun at all, I might add.

Over the years, I have also plowed in new ground with tractors.  There are no plow handles to kick you in the ribs, but it can make for a wild ride at times.  Also no fun at all.

Day before yesterday was my first experience using the garden tiller among stumps.  With a good deal of effort, some cursing and numerous stops to cut elm roots from around the tiller tines, the small patch finally got tilled.  Not a pretty job of tilling to say the least, but it was tilled deep enough to plant.  During this process, I found that under just the right circumstances, the tiller handles, like old fashioned plow handles, can thoroughly kick you in the ribs.  Yes, I have very sore ribs (bruised, not broken).  Almost fifty years later, and with different equipment, the process remains the same.  You guessed it, still no fun at all.

As you can see in the second picture, the small patch looks a little different.  What you can not see is that I planted corn among those stumps this morning.  The rows are not straight and there are skips where the stumps are, but given good weather (including a bit of rain), a bit of mercy from the munchers and, of course, a few good  blessings, there will be a bit of corn grown there this year.

It will take a few years for the stumps to rot out, but experience has shown me that it will get easier each time it is worked, and soon it will be as good as the rest of the garden.  I can almost taste the fresh corn now.  YUM!