Firewood Weekend

Another glorious start to the weekend.

Well it’s here, the dreaded day the firewood delivery arrives. Perfect weekend weather forecast for it though. Cool and breezy; nothing worse than stacking firewood when it’s hot out or raining.

First year we had the 1980’s Vermont casting stove that came with the house. Never having had a wood stove before I found out this vintage babe could only take 12″ logs not the standard 16″ or better logs cut today. So phoned around and found a place that would supply 12″ logs. Knowing what I know now the other places didn’t have any because they have to cut it special and had sold all there dry wood. Not going to name where I got it from but 2 bush cords of wood. Not really two bush cords either because it was 12″ wood and it was barely dry behind the ears. We would have to be careful opening the stove as the hot sap would spit at us. So not only am I dealing with crap wood but I’m burning oil to keep the house warm (propane furnace didn’t go in till the next fall).

So sometime in August2017  I went on the hunt for good wood and luckily met Rolf from J & R Firewood  . Talking with Rolf taught me a bit about firewood sizes and that 12″ logs were not the norm and I would of had to order my wood last fall for delivery this fall. The wood needs to be cut to length, split and then set out to dry. He had some 24″ logs that could cut in half but didn’t recommend trying to cut dried hardwood. I agreed with that thought. I thanked him for the chat and went on my way. I knew that the bagged firewood you get at the gas bar or grocery store was 12″ so I just needed to find one of them. In the meantime I was also investigating an upgrade to the woodstove, discussion with the chimney sweeper about efficiency had me thinking. There are new laws coming into effect regarding how efficient your woodburning stove must be and my old vermont even with good wood was not efficient at all. I finally did find a supplier of dried 12″ wood way up north at a high cost for wood and delivery. I bit the bullet and bought an upgraded woodstove with catalytic converter (sends the smoke through a special afterburner and burns the smoke into almost no soot going out and reclaims the heat). Call to Rolf and 2 bush cords arrive and away we go.

So winter sets in and wow what a difference, once we get the stove hot we barely see flames and the house is at 74. With the new stove we can also bank a fire to run during the day keeping the pets comfy at 68 and the furnace never needs to run. Money well spent except we are now running a fire 24/7 and using wood faster but less propane. Mid February and Rolf does me a solid by delivering one bush cord. Truck is set up to deliver two loads of 2 bush cords or one load of 4 bush cords. Anyways we squeaked through that awful spring with not a stick of wood left.

That brings us to this year and delivery of 4 bush cords, I like my fires and I’ll be damned if I am going to stack wood when it’s 0 degrees out again. We also had the chimney swept by Heritage Chimney Sweeps. Jeremy did an awesome job and found that the previous two years wasn’t done quite right. After long discussion of how woodstove behaved and what he found we should notice a big difference this year.

This is the designated dumping area for the wood delivery.
This is the designated area full of wood.

Delivery didn’t happen till lunch time but Irene and I made some good progress before the sun went down on us.

Half a days worth of stacking took a big bite out the pile.
Stopped to take in the gorgeous sunset across the neighbors paddocks.

Sunday rolled around and both of us quite stiff. By the time we got moving it was well past noon. Thankfully this year we had a trailer for the tractor which could move a hell of lot more wood front to back than a wheelbarrow.

18hp of 1994 cast iron power. She may be old but she’s a good one.

My helper said her gym time was over and done with after another 3hrs of slugging. Luckily we had beaten the pile to death by that time. Without her help i’d still be stacking.

I finally had to admit defeat and left the mess to be cleaned up another day with just enough time to cut the grass.

So now that we’re ready it should stay warm till December or so…..

Someone requested a pic of a hummingbird sitting still at the feeder.

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Till the next time,

Kevin

 

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Honey Bottling

What a gorgeous way to start the day; at 6:00am this morning the sky was on fire. Today is the day Irene and I get to bottle up our honey collections; it drained through the fine filter overnight and is now ready to be bottled up.

Whenever I tell people who know me that I now keep not one but two honey bee hives on the property, they think I have lost my mind. How does a guy who is afraid of being stung by anything (other then mosquitoes) and/or bitten by flying crawling insects get himself into keeping honey bees?  Why am I afraid, you ask?

-Well, my brothers tried to chop down a birch tree with an active hornets’ nest in it when I was five.  Luckily, my mother tossed me into the trailer with the hornets bouncing off the screen door. Mom and I escaped unscathed. Brothers had a few stings, if I recall.

-My brother and I  sneaked into the movie Killer Bee when I was around 12. That was some scary crap, I tell you.

-I aggravated a hornet the size of my thumb when I was 14 and it slammed against the screen door for 10 minutes ’till I finally found the can of Raid. When I saw the stinger extend out in reflex as it died, I nearly died myself.

-At 15, while cutting grass at the old cottage, I ran over a hidden ant hill that was occupied some very unfriendly flying ants. They chewed up my calves pretty good.

So, for most of my adult life I have avoided flying, stinging things. I kept Raid in business as I always had stock on hand should something try to make a nest in my house, deck, or anywhere I might be.

Just after turning 40, I started down a path of facing my fears instead of running and hiding. FEAR :Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Recover. Most days I face everything.  Some days, I still run for the hills. Yes I still keep Raid on hand should any flying insect try to invade my home space.

When we moved here, I mentioned to Irene that I wanted honey bees at some point. I got the “You’re nuts” look/nod and it was left at that.

The first week here, I met the largest black wasp I had ever seen. I’m telling you, this thing was as big as a hummingbird…well to me it was.  When the second one showed up, pest control was called ’cause I sure as hell wasn’t sharing my home with wasps (I thought they were hornets at the time). Much to the amusement of the pest control company, it was a wasp and he laughingly told me they grow them big north of the city. Anyway, that fall the house was sprayed and protected against wasps and such getting in.

Much to my amazement, in May of 2017 I discovered honey bees trying to make a home in where one of the beams joined the house. Knowing that honey bees were special and in danger, the last thing I wanted to do was kill them. Off to the internet I went in search of a home remedy.  Peppermint oil spray. Yah, that didn’t work at all. Time to get serious and again off to the internet for help.

This is where Dickey Bee Honey out of Cookstown came onto the scene. It was the May 24 long weekend and I was surprised they were open. Knowing this was not something that could be explained in an email or phone call, off I went to visit the bee house. When I arrived, it was quiet in the store and 1/2 of the owner duo Sandi was tending the store. Peter is the other 1/2 and I’ve never actually met him but he has answered some emails. The service they provide is exceptional.

After patiently listening to my problems ,Sandi and I came up with an idea of convincing the bees that maybe there was a better option by putting a hive close by and using some attractants. Keep in mind that Irene thinks I am off to learn how to dissuade the bees, not attract them. Unlike the chicken incident earlier in the year (another blog post another day); Irene was not consulted, I just decided that having bees would be cool and I would face the Irene music later. The Irene music was “You’re nuts but whatever makes you happy”.

So I came rolling home, loaded for bee with hive, stand, jacket, gloves, and some essential oils to attract bees. I immediately set up about 10′ away from the house where the bees were trying to make a home. It was at this point I noticed that since I got home there had been no activity. This was Saturday and all day Sunday.  Then Monday there was not a single bee around house or hive. Well, I thought, “I’ll be damned” and had to make a choice of trying to return the hive or actually become a bee keeper. Guess we know which road I took.

Couple of emails back and forth with Sandi and Peter and the next stage was set. I set the hive out in the side yard which is a naturalized area (approx 1/4 acre) with attractants and crossed fingers that a wild swarm would stop by and like the new place. Three weeks later, didn’t we have wild swarm arrive and hang out for 24hrs!

Hindsight being 20/20 and knowing what I know now, I should have put my grown up pants on and brushed them into the hive and they may have stayed. Almost to the minute after 24hrs of hanging around, they left in a cloud; heading south. LOL Irene and I were admiring them when they did this and we nearly crapped ourselves as they went right overhead and we had no idea what was going on. We never heard from them again.  I guess the condo fees were just too expensive for them.

My patience could only go for so long, so I sent my registration to OMAFRA (Ministry of Agriculture blah blah blah) to legally keep bees and then sent an email to Sandi  to order what they call a NUC.   (a queen, her entourage, some worker bees, and some honey to keep them fed ’till they get situated in their new home).

So when the NUC arrived, things got real very fast. I actually had to suit up and handle these tiny little stinging machines, feed them, and make them a happy and safe home. What the @#*&% was I thinking?! Anyway, face my fear I did.   I  installed the NUC,  fed them, checked them and got them through the winter.

NOTE: What I have learned about bees since starting this, is truly amazing stuff and I could go on for awhile about it…oh wait — haven’t I already??  One thing though is honey bees, unlike wasps/hornets can only sting once (the stinger gets stuck in human skin). Therefore honey bees only sting to protect their home, so if one is careful and polite, most operations at the hive can be done with very little danger of being stung. Yeah… not this boy, I suit up every time!  P.S.  Up until last week when a wasp got stuck in my truck in Alabama, I had never been stung.

We wintered well and were set to go into the summer and make some honey. During the winter, the losses due to bad weather and other factors for a lot of bee keepers were huge.  As if battling aggressive pesticides (that the gov’t finally banned) wasn’t enough, these losses hurt the honey bee population greatly.

I felt we had room for another hive and could do our part to help get the honey bees back on their feet. I had also learned how to build my own brood boxes over the winter, so the expense was minimized. Dickey Bee came through once again with helpful advice; now we have two hives going and have just completed our first honey harvest.

Warm Weather Bee’s Bearding To Keep Hive Cool

BOTTLING THE HARVEST FOR SAFE KEEPING:

Step one: Get all the supplies together and sterilize the jars.

Step two: Let the liquid gold out and capture.

Step three: Melt the wax down and clean up

 

Thanks for reading – See you next week

 

 

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Harvesting the honey

As the summer draws to a close, our honey bees needed some tending to.

In order to keep honey bees happy, they must be provided room to store the honey collected over the summer. Without that extra room, they will either vacate the hive or split themselves into two colonies; the second colony leaving to find a new home. This new home could be somewhere objectionable to humans so it’s best to keep them happy in their hive. The honey collected over the summer is of no use to the bees over the winter and actually makes it harder for them to keep the temperature of the hive warm over the winter.  Thus, liquid gold becomes payment  to us beekeepers for providing lodging, spring and fall food.

How we came to be beekeepers in the first place is a story for another post!

COLLECTING PAYMENT:

Step one: Calmly remove the honey supers from the hive; disturbing the colony as little as possible. Hell of a lot easier said than done. *Brood boxes are the colony’s permanent home for babies & winter food and other than inspection for disease, pests and problems , they are left alone *

Left side two brood boxes. Right side additional two honey supers.

Step two: Setup work station away from hives and begin the extraction process. We ended up with ten racks of capped honey from the two hives. This being our second year with the first hive, ten racks was a good harvest.

Step three: Cut comb into squares and put into comb containers.

Step four: Scrape comb and honey into bucket, mash up, cover with fine filter, invert over another bucket. Let gravity do the rest; separating honey from beeswax. The one tutorial I watched referred to this as the “viking method”.

  

 

Step five: Be patient and let nature take its course. Tomorrow, the liquid gold gets put in the bank (jarred!).

NOTES FROM THE PAST:

2016: Brampton house sold and preparing to transport Justin out to Halifax.

2017: Firewood delivery – Long weekend of stacking in preparation for winter.

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