Installing bees under a full moon...
My husband has said for years that he wanted to add honey bees and hives to our property. Being a gardener, I knew what benefits and satisfaction that would bring! Bees would be a plus for the garden and our orchard trees and if he was on board, then I would not have to tend the hives alone! So, I decided to sign up for a beginning beekeeping class at a local shop near us. I stress the word BEGINNING. Although I went alone, the class itself was wonderful! A quaint shop, small class of like minded folks who had as many questions as I did. Some had experience, lost hives, dead bees, captured swarms... I listened intently to all the stories, took notes and laid my plan. I was anxious to get home and tell my husband about all I had learned. After class, I carefully put together and order of 2 complete hives, equipment for the beginning beekeeper - things like a smoker, gloves, a hive tool, bee brush and a hat and veil. I also ordered 2 NUCS that would come in at a later date...so I had plenty of time to build my hives and get things completely ready for the newest arrivals! Over the next month, I did just that. I built each super and frame and filled the hive with foundation and eagerly awaited my Italian Honey Bees. The call came and I could hardly hold back my excitement! My bees were in and needed to be picked up within 24 hours!
With my daughter in school and my husband at work, that left me to be the sole chauffer to escort my bees safely home to the hives. I headed out for a 30 minute drive to pick up my NUCS. Upon arrival I quickly questioned my decision. Other folks picking up bees had mesh laundry bags and I wondered why they would be needed. The bees came in a box, right? Sure. A box with holes! When I opened the truck to remove my boxes, bees went flying everywhere! This would not be a problem had I been driving my truck with a camper however, I was in my SUV which meant my bees would be able to fly around the vehicle with me! I have never driven so carefully - with full blown air conditioning to keep them cook and calm, I repeated the words, "Please stay back there, do not sting me" probably a million times before I arrived home. Just as I pulled in the driveway, the first bees out of the box began to fly around my face. We made it. But the installation process was not over.
I wanted my husband to help me install the bees and I wanted the bees to calm down from the drive so I darted from the car (leaving the door open - who cares if a few fly away, right?) and quickly went into the house. Now if you know my husband, he rarely, if ever, comes home from work on time. I was tired of waiting so I slipped into my pajamas around 11 pm. My pajamas consist of a very loose fitting nightgown with nothing else on underneath. So you can guess what is coming... He arrived home around midnight and agreed to go ahead and place the frames into the hives so the bees could get started in their new homes the next morning.
I loaded the smoker. Hint, to do it right, this actually takes practice! Before you need one, try it! I wish I had! I also let HIM wear the gloves and the hat and veil (yes, I was not smart and only bought one set!). But he should have worn them since he was actually handling the bees. The bees should not bother ME because I had the smoker (nervous laugh inserted here), right? So, in my long flowing moo-moo type pajamas, I escorted my husband out to the darkness toward the bee hives and watched as he started to open the boxes and remove frames of sleepy bees. Things seemed to be going well. Slow and steady. One hive was just about installed when suddenly, I felt a pinch, a stick, a burn, something. Right in the middle of my left breast. YES! I felt it again. I looked down and saw nothing. A quick brush against my breast touched nothing - and then another sting! Oh. My. Gosh. I suddenly remembered that lesson from bee school that said bees will crawl up, but they will not crawl back down and so once they are "stuck", they will sting! I knew then at least one bee had flown up my nightgown and could not get out which resulted in the repeated sting attack!. And then another sting. And another. I remember how confused my husband looked as I slowly put down the smoker and started to walk away backwards, toward the house. He called out to me but by that time, I had had enough and I broke into a full blown sprint. The stinging continued. About half way the backdoor, I thrust off my nightgown over my head and into the darkness. I ran buck-naked the rest of the way - except for my muck boots - through the back door and into the kitchen! My husband quickly followed to be sure I was OK. Of course I was and I had learned my lesson! He now tells people our first bee installation was during a full moon...
Counting All Cats!
It was a Tuesday when our buyer arrived to pick up the buck we had sold. She was coming from Ohio so she had a long haul home and didn't stay long at all . She arrived about noon, we chatted a bit, gave her his supplies and sent them on their way. I was a little sad to see him go, but it was time to enjoy a new buck and introduce new bloodlines in our herd. That evening, we went out to call in all the outdoor cats, a ritual at 11 pm each night. We do it to try and spare them from coyotes and give them a safe place during the darkness. They all go out again at 6 a.m.. That night though, our favorite (and sometimes "indoor") cat, Beans, had not come when we called "Kitty, Kitty". He was no where to be found. My daughter automatically thought the worst, began to cry and didn't want me to give up the search. I went out again with the spotlight at midnight and again at 6 a.m.. No Beans. I drove the field looking for parts (just in case). I drove the road frontage, looking in the ditches. No luck, which was good, he may still be alive. I told my husband, I didn't remember seeing him since the buck left. That was funny. Beans liked this buck. He spent a lot of time in the buck pen and would even curl up with the goat on occasion. My husband asked me if I thought Beans had possibly gotten in the car with the buck. I hadn't seen him jump in. He hadn't seen him jump in. "Wouldn't that woman know she had a cat in the car?", I asked. So, I decided to text her and ask, knowing it was a long shot. I sent a message asking if she had seen an orange and white cat and sent her the picture in this post! She immediately responded that she HAD seen that same cat the night before! I was shocked. She was shocked. And she said she was SURE it was the same cat. She had driven all the way home with the windows DOWN (to reduce the buck smell) and stopped TWICE for bathroom and food breaks and Beans had stayed in the car undetected. He could have jumped out anywhere along the route and been lost to us forever! So now we knew, our beloved Beans was in Ohio! I told my daughter who proceeded to cry harder...we were not sure if she would still find him there when she returned home from work. As it turns out, she did! He didn't go far from his goat buddy at all. He was up a tree near the barn and would not come down. I can only imagine he was wondering what was going on, where his people were or if he would ever see "home" again! Her son climbed the tree, retrieved the cat (without incident to anyone!) and she texted me a photo to confirm it was him once she had him securely crated... I hopped in my car and headed to South Central Ohio! A mere 5 hours later, Beans was home! We are so happy and thankful to have him back and from now on, we will count all cats before anyone else (visitor or goat!) leaves our farm!
Building the Goat House
It wasn't long before we knew we loved the goats and wanted to do more...and have more... and show more...
So we bought a few more goats and then started planning to add Goat Guardians (aka Great Pyrenees Livestock dogs)....and soon we didn't have room in that little dog kennel and so dog kennels attached to more dog kennels to make more space. An old playset was moved in to give them climbing room and plastic dog houses and a make shift shed gave them adequate shelter. They had wooden pallets to sit on when the ground was wet and they happily head butted each other to see who would be "king of the pallet"... Eventually they outgrew the dog kennels and we knew we needed to expand and give them a real pasture and a nicer shelter and so we began to plan the fencing and the building of the goat shed. My mother volunteered my father and both parents ended up building the shed to include a wooden platform and dirt floor, a 4 x 4 closet space and plenty of ventillation! We mostly supplied the money to purchase the building materials and the little muscle it took to paint when it was completed. The entire build took about two weeks and then the fencing came when the ground was finally soft enough to drive posts. Now we have a Billy pen for the boys with a water trough and plenty of shelter and a nice layout of three pastures and a spacious goat shed for the girls to romp and play all day!
A Turkey Pan and a Big Spoon
I chased two of them away at 9:00 and then sat in the garden and just listened to their cries in the dark distance. It seemed like something from a horror movie sound track, but it was in our back yard! Even though it was kind of cool to see them so close, I was hoping they wouldn’t be back. But at 11:30, Angel, our Great Pyrenees guardian dog, was frantic again, so I got up to investigate. I spotted movement behind the goat pen, just past the edge of the spotlights’ reach in the yard. I yelled at my husband, ‘They’re back, bring a light!’ and ran to the backdoor barefooted, but with my weapon…I had prepared myself since the initial sighting at 9:00 and I was determined!
I had to drop the flashlight because my hands were full, but I knew the general direction of their location. I was running towards them in the dark in just an oversized nightgown, with my turkey roasting pan in one hand high above my head, slamming it with my big metal spoon in the other hand and screaming and whaling like a banshee. For a moment, I thought, maybe there are MORE than the two that had arrived earlier. Maybe they would attack a HUMAN. It’s mating season and they are more aggressive right now. But I couldn’t think that way, I had to run toward them to make THEM afraid of ME. I had to protect the goats. I focused on the dark. I huffed and puffed and ran as far and as fast as I could before my shortness of breath and the cold air left me heaving and doubled over at the edge of the wheat field. Of course, my thoughts turned to my husband now, where was he? Maybe it was only seconds, but it seemed to be taking WAY too long to get his shoes on! He finally came to my rescue and brought the spotlight. He shined the light along the tree line and we could see the glow of the yellow eyes looking back at us from the farthest corner of the property. A few more bangs and yells in their direction sent them over the hill to the back fields. With another scan of the tree line, we decided it was all clear and went towards the house and let Beans and Barney (our outdoor barn cats) slip into the garage. Neither goat nor kitty would be on the menu at our house tonight.
I couldn’t sleep after that. I was afraid they would be back again. I stayed up and nervously waited and watched until 2 am, then reluctantly turned it over to the dog. It was her job after all, and she was good at it. When I finally fell asleep, I dreamed about eyes watching the house from the tree line. They glowed bright yellow, just like the coyotes’ eyes last night. 6 pairs of them.
Today, I am buying ammunition for the 20 gauge. After work, of course. I think that will be more effective than a turkey pan and big spoon.