Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Here comes the heat wave!

Things are really starting to heat up down here.  We are starting the four hottest months of the year.  I would love to tell you that I am ready, but I don't think I am.  It has been nice this spring.  We actually had a spring!  A rare thing in the great state of Texas!  We have had showers and everything, but unfortunately, I think it is coming to an end.

I really want more showers.

The bees have been working and kicking it into high gear.  The honey is stacking up.  Literally.  I have one hive that is six boxes high.  I may have to start carrying a step stool.  I had hoped to have everything built and under control, but I have had to place another order for bee equipment and the shop is not a pleasant place to hang out any longer.  Even with fans going, it is a little toasty out there.  As much as I would like to crank the air conditioner on full-blast and stay inside, giving myself a manicure, it ain't gonna happen.  I did want to take a moment and share another little adventure with you.

Last week I was out working bees on our place.  There were seven hives here when I started.  I took a moment and scanned my bee book with my bee worksheets, so I could get an idea of what I may need.  Once I had my list, I went to get the lawn mower, only to find I had limited fuel in the tank and an empty gas can.

Dang it.

I took another look at the list and decided I could probably make it on the fuel I had, if I didn't mess around any.  Then I loaded up the little trailer I pull  behind my riding lawn mower, and headed out.  I started with the hives in the front of the property and was pleasantly surprised.  These bees have been feasting on the endless fields of Indian Blanket.  I made quick work of them, assuring they had plenty of room and everything they could possibly need.  Then I headed to the back of the property.

Now, to get to the back of the property I have to cross the creek.  The lawnmower does not always like crossing the creek, but we had had a rain and the ground was a little soft.  This aided in getting the traction I needed to make it up the other side.  I made my way across a field of wild flowers to the back corner of our property.  Once I got back there, I killed the mower to conserve fuel, and quickly noticed a ton of Johnson Grass growing up around my hives.  I may have cursed a little for not thinking to bring the weed eater, but got over it and just started pulling the stuff out of the ground.  The rain had softened the ground enough so this task was not an epic tug-of-war battle.  As I was pulling the grass, I was tossing it over the back fence into a neighboring pasture.  It was during this time I looked up and noticed this...

In that pasture, hanging off of a little scraggly tree, a huge swarm of bees!  I may have cursed a little at this point - Due to the fact that I thought these may be my bees!

I was really going to be aggravated if I had a hive swarm.  It is a battle to prevent and I felt I had done everything I could.

I immediately started working the hives back there.

I was surprised again when I noticed the large number of bees in my hive boxes.  This is a good indication these were not my bees.  At least not from the hives in this location.  My thought process then began to devise a plan to get these bees!

No one lives on this property.  It is about twenty acres and they run a whole herd of llamas back there.  I also knew that the front gate would be locked.  The only way in would be over the fence.  Two fences actually because we have our back fence, then there is a foot gap and another fence.  It has been a while since I climbed a fence, but I felt I could manage it.  The bigger trip would be climbing back over with a box full of bees.

I immediately started thinking of what box to use?  How was I going to manage this?  I needed to go back to the house, but then, there was my lawn mower with limited fuel.  Running out of gas would not be the end of the world, but it would mean carrying a gas can at some point.

Did I mention it was pretty warm on this day?

I left the lawn mower and started walking to the house.  The whole time, trying to think of a plan.  When I get in this mode, things tend to speed up.  I am sure I was speed walking.  About half way across the field, my phone rings.  I look down, and who do you suppose it is?

The Man in Charge!

This man was traveling on business in another state.  Some how?  Some way?  He picks this very moment to check in on his wife!  I don't know how he does it, but he has an uncanny knack for calling right before I do something crazy!  I could recite countless stories of this very scenario!

I had to answer, and the first thing he asked, "What are you doing?"

Out of breath from speed walking, it wasn't like I could get away with, "Oh, nothing."

After a brief explanation, his first question, "Are you there alone?"

Well, of course I was!

Then, in usual fashion, he starts trying to help me find the safest way to manage this job.  It's what he does.  He's all about safety first!  He recommended a ladder, but I explained the lawn mower situation and that I was already out of breath.  How was I going to grab everything I needed and a ladder and make it back out there?  Then, he said I should drive my truck across the creek.  We've done this before, and as I recalled, it was quite an event.  I had my doubts about this.  I even mentioned the rain and the wet creek.

"You have four-wheel drive!"

After much discussion, I relented.  I made it back to the house, got off the phone, and proceeded to load up my supplies.  In the process, I got a call from a friend that lives down the road.  He's a local fireman.

Me:  Where are you right now?

Him:  On my couch.

Me:  Okay, so if I get my truck stuck in the creek, can you come pull me out?

Him:  Sure.

Him:  Why are you crossing the creek in your truck?

Me:  To get some bees.

Him:  Where?

Me:  The llama pasture behind me.

Him:  You can't go through the gate?

Me:  Locked.  I have to hop the fence.

Him:  Okay.  So, if I get a call and it's garbled or silent, I know it didn't go so well.

Me:  Just cut the lock and come back there and get me.

Now - please note, he did not offer to come help me!


I opened the gate to our pasture, put my truck in four-wheel drive and headed for the creek.  You have to cross at an angle, and it's been so long since we've done it, a tree has grown up where we crossed the last time.  This prompted me to exit the vehicle and climb down in the creek to inspect my options.  Once I had a planned route, I hopped back in, hit it at an angle and punched it.  It was like Dukes of Hazard out there.

Surprisingly - I made it across relatively easy.

I made my way to the back, and started unloading my stuff.  Basically I just dropped most of it over on the other side.  I grabbed the smoker and hung it on a t-post.  The last thing I needed was to drop it and start a fire.  I grabbed the ladder and climbed over, not without getting hung up on some barbed-wire on the way.  This gave me a moment of pause - I didn't need a hole in my pants!

To give you a gauge as to the size of this swarm, this box is about a foot tall.  Here's a closer look.

Once I got a good look at the situation, I realized that this swarm was hanging on a branch that had broken under the weight of these bees.  Luckily, I had grabbed my pruners when I was in the garage, so after a quick cut above them, I was able to hold the branch over the box and give them one hard shake.  They dropped in like a rock.  I put the lid on them, and then strapped it down.

The next task, getting us all back over the fence.

This was not as easy as I had hoped, and after getting caught in the barbed-wire again, it was a little scary for a bit, but we managed.

Take a closer look at the shot above.  You can see all the bees flying around.  Mad bees!

Then it was back across the creek!

By no means was this activity OSHA Compliant!  The Man in Charge would be horrified if he knew all the details of this event.  As much as he promotes safety at work, it is not always a possibility out here on the farm.  Luckily, things went well.  I did not get stuck.  I did not fall on my head.  I did not drop an entire box of mad bees, and now we have eight hives here.

All in a day's work!

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