Tuesday, March 11, 2014
I know it is often really tough for preppers or survivalist to stay the course. The signs and directions can be so obvious but the pace getting there can take so long that you often question if it is even worthwhile to prep. Believe me I know.
Sometimes you wonder if you are prepping for yourself or for the great great great grandchildren you will never meet.
Many of us manly types lose our testosterone as we get older than the next thing ya know we are being carted off to an old folks home in Florida so family members can have easier access to the shopping centers and all our years of prepping go up in smoke.
Ya that was a shameless potshot let's see if the target notices.
Well Ladies and Gentlemen, friends and patriots I am here to tell you even if you happen to live near wealth redistribution central (IE Washington) or one of it's well to do satellite cities and cannot see how the very life is being sucked out of fly-over country with your own eyes, the chart at this link should tell you all you need to know.
U.S. Total Gasoline Retail Sales by Refiners
If you can find a month with less total retail gasoline sales on the chart that is lower than December 2013 my hat's off to you.
I don't think that chart has done anything but decline each month since April 2009 if I am not mistaken.
The bottom is falling out of this cheap energy, big government, Multi-Cult love fest fast. Just in time deliveries and cheap abundant food are soon going to be much more shaky and expensive. Your prepping and self sustainable efforts are not in vain as that chart clearly shows.
Our government can screw with some numbers. They can pay the cheerleaders to scream recovery and pretend all is well but our economy runs on fuel and that's one number they cannot change.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!
Monday, March 10, 2014
The afternoon was much better than my morning to say the least. I got more done today than I have in the last two months I think. All first year bee hives that survived were given a feeder of syrup to go with what remains of their dry sugar inside the hives. I am pretty certain that although we will get a few more frosty nights I doubt the inside of the hives will get low enough to freeze sugar syrup this late in the year. I refilled the hummingbird feeders and the girls were actually hitting them as well in each location and every hive was showing lots of activity and plenty of girls coming in with full pollen sacks on their legs.
Pollen coming in means brood is being raised. The Spring build up has begun!!!!
By mid afternoon the temps were pushing the upper 70's and my mother came and found me out at the West Apiary to inform me that today was load up the slaughter lambs day.
I had forgotten about that.
She also informed me that I was going to have to do it on my own because no one wanted to be part of the sacrifice....
What friggin sentimental loons.
Now I must admit the six Whethers we took to the slaughter house have not made it any easier this time around. You ever heard that old saying "More full of it than a Christmas Turkey or Goose"? Well these guys have been convinced for the last few weeks that they were chosen by the gods to live a carefree life of leisure forever. They remained after the big market culling and they just knew they were left because they were such perfect specimens of sheep-dom and everybody loved them too much to see em go.
These guys have been running around acting like big wooly dogs for the last two weeks. One or two of them will climb the fence panels just to get their necks rubbed and my darling wife and mother have been petting them and hand feeding them despite my warnings. They even named one or two.
So be it....
I did not start this experiment in small scale farming to raise pets, but I was also smart enough to know I would not get the help loading up these critters I had been promised either. I have been well ahead of these people for over a year now and they didn't even know it.
When I put in the two temporary dry paddocks (They will eventually become permanent) I arranged them so each paddock had an entrance into the barn by putting a sheep door into a stall. The barn has eight stalls but one was converted into my tractor bedroom and now one on each side is a sheep stall. When I close off the center of the barn in essence I now have a series of compartments that allow me to separate sheep easy as taking your girlfriend to prom. They don't even realize what is happening. I simply let a few in the first door thinking they are getting fed, close that off and open the second door depending on who get's through I then take a bit of grain into an open stall and wahlah, the separation has begun. After the six slaughter lambs (that are now 11 months old) were all in one stall I arranged my gates so they had a straight run right into the stock trailer and I just lead them right in with a bucket of grain.
No fighting, no bolting, no running or wrestling needed. The last run is with others so they go with the crowd just like sheep were meant to do.
Mother and Wife did actually stand there and close the trailer gate for me. How nice of them. Then it was just a simple matter of running them up to the slaughter yard and unloading. Ya I know in a grid down situation I would have to actually do the dirty part myself but right now I am fine sub-contracting that part out, thank you very much.
In a day or so after I get all the bills figured out and poundage returns I will do a cost/numbers rundown but I am betting it comes out pretty reasonable.
I even had time to go back to the barn and get most of my repairs and renovations finished this evening that I need to get done before lambs start popping out once again. The ewes will be coming all together again tomorrow night and shearing day is set for this Saturday. I can't wait.
This is the break even year. Once past this year the numbers should start coming up to a slightly more significant profit margin if I have done my math right. The key so far is keeping enough stock that pay off against the expenditures of fuel more than anything else. Again though we have a real advantage in the fact that we produce all of our own hay. If we had to buy it it would take much larger numbers to break even. As I figure it going back to smaller cubes instead of the larger round bales will increase the margin significantly as well since it will reduce waste by quite a bit. That is a study for next year however.
I then retired to my porch as the sky darkened and watched the flights of ducks going from field to pond until the darkness swallowed them up. We still have some Canada geese around but for the most part the huge flocks of snows and blue geese have been replaced by Teal and Mallards now. A sure sign Spring is definitely here to stay.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!
Well the gravel truck showed up this morning. The whole idea behind my having it delivered and not getting it myself was so the driver could just tip his bucket and drive forward thereby releasing the gravel right where I wanted it and creating a nice new drive from the back of the barn along the side.
Alas it was not to be.
He showed up in a shiny new dump truck. Diesel. By looking at it, it looked even bigger than the five ton trucks I dealt with in the Army.
I told him to be careful and that he may want to spread it backwards instead of forwards so he could have some traction. He walked back there and decided it was firm enough. I told him that was deceptive because I had been dumping wood chips back there trying to get some slope on the ground and that under all those wood chips was a swamp.
No one ever listens to me.
Sunk down to the dual axle he did. I thought I was going to have to get the big Massy tractor out to help pull him but nooooooooo... He dumped the entire load right there.
Our newest breeding ewe could tell I was pissed. She was still hoping I would scratch her neck and feed her some hay though.
After he lightened the load the truck came out finally but now I am going to have to spread that pile out with the tractor and I wasted the extra charge for delivery as well. At this point I will just make a wider gravel area behind the barn and order another load to finish out the run along the side of the barn I guess.
It really wouldn't be an issue if my parental partners would just listen to me and feed square bales when it's wet but nooooo they insist on running round bales and using equipment that is entirely too heavy for the wet ground. I can run my Ford tractor over it all day long and not make a rut but the big Massy just tears it up.
Anyway just in for a bite of lunch and then it's out to feed the bees. Going to put the syrup feeders back on the smaller hives as I believe it will be warm enough for them to use it now for a while.
The busy season is starting once again.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!
Sunday, March 9, 2014
It's been quite a while since we got any real rain or snow around here. We got a little sleet with that last arctic blast but not much, yet as things are thawing out the ground is remaining pretty wet and the rush is on to get the big trunks and trees I have left down out in the woods before the rains start. In another few weeks I won't be able to get out for two months or more and then after that the underbrush will be so thick I would spend more time trying to walk through it than I would cutting any wood. The next few weeks is when I try and get as big a jump on next years firewood supply as possible. As usual I have a number of large trunks laying around that need to be split and a couple of good sized green trees that had to be cut for one reason or another that I can stack to cure this Summer.
There is just no telling exactly how much time I have either. It could start raining this week and not let up until May. It's happened.
I also need to get the garden tilled if it manages to dry out a bit more because as with the firewood hauling once it starts raining I won't be able to do anything with it until it stops.
The next few months are probably going to be complaining about the rain and stressing out over the ruts. I hate ruts they just make my head want to explode. I've got another load of gravel coming in this week and I am sure it will just disappear into the mud as well.
Another thing that is guaranteed to happen is the parents will absolutely NEED something done or some piece of heavy equipment that REQUIRES them to drive over some part of the place that is soaking wet thereby creating more ruts.
It never fails. Usually it has something to do with my mother's white elephant horse trailer too. That thing is always right in the way no matter what.
I foresee a lot more time devoted to bees than to land grooming or reclamation over the next several weeks. Less mud to worry about.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Typical March weather gave me a chance to get out there and finish tearing apart and cleaning up the dead out hive I had started Thursday since today was cooler and back in the low 40's and the girls weren't flying.
The girls from the Garden Hives had managed to rob it completely of all the remaining honey Thursday afternoon and Friday which was a good thing and why I didn't interfere. There was a few pounds of honey left on about three brood frames with a nice pattern and I didn't want it to go to waste.
The remaining honey however made me curious as to why this hive died out. There should have been plenty of stored left for them to finish off Winter. This hive also had been a pretty large swarm I captured back in early June and had built up pretty well over the Summer. It really surprised me when I found it dead last month.
Inside I found comb like you see above and below here.
The second pic here is a frame the grls had just started building comb on to the bare plastic. Can you see the problem?
There are literally queen cups everywhere. There are eight full ones and another two partially built just in the two pictures above. All of them are open but look at the next picture.
The queen cup you see here was sealed and inside was a tiny dead half formed queen. I pretty much squished her into goo trying to get it open but this cup was on what would be called a perfect brood frame that had honey all around the edges, some pollen stored on the bottom and the remains of larva/eggs in the center.
Another thing interesting about all these queen cups is they are in the middle part of the frames which means they were more than likely emergency cups created over eggs that had already been laid after the death of a queen. Swarm cells are usually at the bottom of the frames and replacement cells are usually at the top so this colony going queenless was not a planned thing.
So for one reason or another the Queen died in this hive and they did not manage to get a new one up in time. I wonder if maybe one did hatch but was unable to take a mating flight or even have any drones available to mate with. Had it been Summer I could have easily either transferred some eggs from another hive or ordered a new replacement queen for them.
All in all I counted some 15 queen cups on about five frames they had managed to build up so I would say this dead out was a fluke or accident and had nothing to do with food stores or maybe even the cold directly.
At least I have five full or partially built up brood frames for this year's swarms to start on and about half gallon of burr comb to melt down and use.
Honestly the built up frames and surplus burr comb are worth their weight in gold they are so useful. I use bees wax for everything from candles to reloading and in a grid down situation it would be a major product from the hives for trade. Why I already have people stopping by wanting to buy bees wax as a matter of fact.
So it wasn't a total loss I should be able to replace the bees with a new swarm this season and bee back in business with these frames and boxes within the next month or so.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!
Friday, March 7, 2014
I spent the afternoon banging together the Missouri Screened Bottom Board Mk. III this afternoon. Yes there will be a Mk. IV but I believe I finally have all the particulars worked out so the Mk. IV will become the standard issue model.
Missouri is a challenging location to keep bees. It has days as hot as Florida and Texas in the Summer and as cold (Or colder this year) than Alaska in Winter. Not as many in either category overall but it means as a beekeeper I have to kinda mix things up a bit.
The screened bottom board is almost essential for keeping bees without chemicals these days due to the mite problem that has been growing since the 1980's. The theory is you can throw powdered sugar on the bees and when they pick the sugar off the bees also pick off the mites. The mites then fall through the screened bottom and out of the hive. Also beekeepers way down South will use the screened bottom board so the hives stay a bit cooler in Summer.
In Missouri (and I am sure other places as well) we need the screened bottoms for the mite problem but not really for the cooling issue as it doesn't stay that hot here that long. However the commercial screened bottoms look like the one below.
You can right off see the entire bottom is one big screen. While this allows more mites to fall through it also allows a lot of cold air to seep in as well. You can place them on top of a solid bottom but that kinda defeats the purpose. The flimsy plastic removable bottom is almost worthless in Winter as well. Also the half inch boards used to make them tend to fall apart faster. I have added in my own reinforcing and solid plywood removable bottoms but I wanted something a little more sturdy and snug for the Winters around here so I started designing the bottom from the first picture and also thought I would go with a half screen which will still eliminate many mites but allow less cold air in.
What ya do around here is wait for a few really hot days with warm nights and completely remove the sliding tray (pictured above) and dust the bees with powdered sugar. Let em clean themselves off and then put the tray back in.
In Winter the tray is deep enough to place a sheet of insulated foam in as well to cut down on heat loss.
However I discovered a few other useful side effects of this design. For one thing I started placing those little plastic ant and roach traps inside the tray last Summer. The bees cannot get into them because of the screen (which is smaller than they can fit through number 8 hardware cloth if ya want to know) but the ants, roaches, mites and even small hive beetles will go into the traps and get stuck.
A simple and easy way to help keep my hives pest free without chemicals. I just change out the little traps every few weeks. I could even place ant poison in there if Iw as so bold as the bees still can't get to it and the ants will carry it back to their tunnels.
The addition of the traps is why I am making a Mk. IV as I designed the tray a bit deeper. Mk. IV will also have a tray back that fits snugly under the bottom board instead of up against it.
I also use slightly wider bee spacers as it helps accommodate slightly different sized supers and the 2 x 4" supports make this bottom board much sturdier than commercial ones I have purchased. I just go ahead and add my own landing board front as well.
I may decide to make the screened opening a bit larger with the next model since I have figured out how to enclose it for Winter now. The addition of the insulation will more than likely make it more snug than the actual board overall.
This Winter I had managed to convert all my old screened bottom boards to take plywood inserts and had the first two versions of my Missouri Bottom Boards in use and my girls seemed to over Winter much easier despite it being much colder than normal.
Maybe I am on to something?
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!
I went out first thing this morning to try and take some pictures of the dead out comb. I think I can explain what happened to this hive or at least show in pictures a few theories as they obviously died out with plenty of honey still in the hive.
However within about 2 minutes of my fiddling with the frames the girls from the garden hives had other ideas.
See all those bees down in that comb? Those are all very much alive. They are raiding all the honey left in those combs and there was a significant amount left too. The ball obviously got itself trapped above the brood chamber and starved to death with plenty of honey below them to eat. When it gets really cold the ball will not move down, or so I have read, which means they sometimes starve.
However there are some other issues I will take pictures of when I can get back into those frames. For the time bee-ing what is in that box is the realm of the bees and they are not taking kindly to my messing with them. I could put on my suit and finish the job but I think I will just let them take what they can on such a warm day. Tomorrow is suppose to be cooler once again so I doubt the girls will be flying and I can finish the job.
This is a picture of the pile of dead bodies I pulled out of the hive yesterday. I have read you can leave the dead bees in the hive and when you put new bees in it they will clean it out but I don't do that. For one thing the dead bodies inside the comb begin to decay and rot and will begin molding quite quickly. I remove any comb that has dead bees stuck in them and let me tell you it is a nasty smelly mess and to leave it in there cannot be healthy for the next group of bees in my opinion.
I got squirted with dead bee juice several times yesterday afternoon as I was removing them from the comb they were stuck in. Let me tell you it stinks too. A heavy sweetish kinda smell I have not come across anywhere before. As I said it cannot be good to leave those bee corpses rotting in the cells.
Also this hive died out before any new larva was laid which I think gives a clue as to what happened.
Anyway the ground is still wet and frozen and the bees have taken over my other project so I am going to go hit the shop this afternoon. I just wanted to post a couple of pics. There are literally bees everywhere outside today. On the porch, in the driveway, in the compost pile. Everywhere.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!