Monthly Archives: August 2011

The only reason I go there

There are many places I go to that really only have one draw.  If not for one or two things, I would never go there.  I am sure we all have those sorts of places.  In recent experience, two places in particular come to mind.

Walmart used to be a fun place to go and look at the latest and greatest stuff I would break and throw out in the next  few months.  I enjoyed looking at people and buying donuts or a bargain movie.  Lately when I go, however, I feel like I am in a Mad Max movie, only with long lines and even worse personal hygiene.  Walking through the parking lot really is dangerous now too.  In frustration, I guess, folks whip around illegally parked cars and older folks in electric scooters and put everyone at risk.  Cutting across lanes and general craziness make me hesitant to get near the place.

Sometimes, though, I have to go to Walmart.  We need this or that and the only place that has it is Walmart.  I have found a new stress-less way to get through.  I stroll past the lines that stretch for miles, find my item and then head for the ammo counter.  I own guns and like to shoot so buying ammo to plink at targets is fun anyhow.  I don’t like when folks check out at specialty counters if they are not buying items from that area so I always feel obligated.  Doggone it, I hate to buy ammo for my plinking habit, but in the interest of preserving check-out etiquette, I always buy a box of some ammo.

Emily needed a Valentine’s day gift last year, she got a frying pan and a box of ammo.  Kids need notebook paper, they get a bonus box of ammo.  I need a box of ammo, I get a bonus one to go with it!  See, it’s perfect!

Ok, so the other place like the ammo counter is the ball park.  Ever since my time as a little leaguer, I have hated baseball.  Really, I didn’t hate baseball until the one year when a preacher in town was the coach.  By association, I learned to hate baseball.  So, last night, my company went to the local minor league park and we all watched a baseball game.  The WV Power played some other team.  “We” lost so I don’t’ even care who it was.  Come to think of it, I don’t care even if “we” would have won.  Anyhow, back to the story.  Abigail and I went to the game and we both had the same mindset.  We went to the game for the junk food…nothing else.  She had a hotdog and Dippin’ Dots and I had nachos and vinegar fries…and a half-gallon of Mt Dew.  When the food ran out, our patience did too.  We hung around awhile but 5 innings was all we could take!  The only reason I go to a baseball game is for fries with vinegar or a box of nachos.  If they had an ammo counter there….

I guess everyone has places that the go to that are less than awesome.  I just like to find things to make my time there bearable, if not pleasant. And with ammo or nachos as a reward, I have found much patience…

Solar wax melter

In a comment yesterday, Ed mentioned reclaiming wax after the harvest is done.  For lots of people, honey is what they think of when they think of beekeeping.  There are tons of other things that beekeepers can harvest or use from the beehive though.  Wax is a big item on that list.  In one of yesterday’s pictures, you can see that wax capping that covers mature honey in the honeycomb.  When I extract the honey, I have to remove those cappings with a knife to allow the honey to be removed from the comb.  Some folks might be tempted to throw all of that wax away, but those wax cappings add up quickly.

When we process honey, we uncap the honeycomb on the frames, place it in the extractor, run the extracted honey through a kitchen strainer to remove cappings and pour it into a bottle.  That is the extent of our processing.  Besides making a more pleasant looking honey, we run it through the strainer to harvest the wax cappings in particular.  So, I collect the wax cappings from when I use the knife to uncap the comb as well as the little bits of cappings that come out in extraction and let them drain (as both are covered in/full of honey still).  The bees are given access afterwards and they complete the bulk of the clean-up for me.

After the bees have their time, the cappings get thrown into my solar wax melter.  It’s basically a black wooden box with a baking pan and a bread pan inside, covered by a sheet of plexiglas.  The box rests at an incline so it faces the sun properly.  The baking pan has 3-4 small holes drilled in one edge at the bottom of the incline, and the bread pan sits under those holes.  As the sun passes through the plexiglas,  it heats everything inside like crazy, just like any greenhouse would.

The honey begins to melt and runs down through the small holes into the bread pan.  Any bee parts or other detritus are too big to flow through the holes.  Honey sometimes flows with the wax but the melted wax floats on the honey very nicely.  After everything cools, the wax hardens and comes out very clean.  I pull the wax out, feed any honey to the bees and marvel at how awesome the wax looks.  And let me tell you, the smell is incredible!

So, once the honey is cleaned (and yes, truthfully, it sometimes takes a few runs), it can be used for anything where wax is needed.  Usually, people make candles but folks also use it in soap, for quilting and woodworking (as a lubricant) and for handlebar moustaches!  Honey is a major crop from the bees, but wax is also significant and just plain cool.  And what better wax to process honey than with the help of the same sun that allowed the bees to make it in the first place!


Your honey for nuthin’ and your licks for free

We harvested honey this weekend.  We usually seem to pick the hottest day of the year to harvest.  It’s not because we like to do it on the hottest day of the year…it just works out that way.  So, my father-in-law came over on 6:30 am Saturday at my request.  “We’ll start early and beat the heat.”  Of course, it didn’t occur to me that the sun isn’t truly up then.  Bees get pretty testy when they are disturbed before the sun is shining bright in the sky.  It’s also best to give the worker bees time to get out into the field.  Fewer bees in the hive come harvest time is always a good thing.  So, our early start didn’t exactly start how I expected but we still did get going with the harvest.


My father-in-law holding honey in the comb and an edge-on piece of comb

I have previously sworn off smoking the bees and the smoke/no-smoke argument is a religious debate amongst beekeepers.  Personally, smoking bees leaves me with a bad cough and I can never find rolling papers anyhow.  Um, no, actually, smoking bees with a smoker is what I mean.  After last year’s episode, I decided that for the harvest, I would return to using smoke.  As much as I hate to admit it, I am certain that the smoker made our harvest easier.  For most interactions with the bees, I still do not think that using a smoker is necessary, but harvesting is not a typical interaction.



Brood (aka baby bees) on the left, honey on the right.  Don’t confuse them on harvest day!



So, we pulled off all of the honey from the hives and promptly headed off to a soccer-palooza in the heat of the day.  It was fantastic to…uh…have a break in the middle of honey harvest.  After 4 or so hours of  ball kicking, we returned to the honey-house and worked until every drop of honey was extracted, bottled and/or licked from our sticky (but exceedingly clean) fingers.

Click: Honey Flow Video                             Click:  Bees Cleaning Honey Supers

It’s great having bees.  We don’t pay for honey any more, but I am not sure you could say honey is free.  We definitely take our licks and they seem to be free though.  My back is sore and my arms are tired.  All told, we harvested around 150 pounds of honey which is much less than I expected or hoped for but it’s better than none!

Of course, the title to this post is a nod to the awesome Dire Straits Song linked here!  Nothing at all to do with bees unfortunately…

More info about my bees and beekeeping

Summer? Over?

Yeah, so school is back in session today and the kids were somewhat less than delighted. Isaac, in particular, was a mix of excited to begin middle school and not excited because it is not cool to be excited. Both youngsters have gotten used to staying up late and sleeping in. They both are used to goofing off all day and eating ice cream and funyuns for breakfast, lunch, and supper.  Life has been pretty easy this summer as they didn’t even go to summer care.  Ah, but life turned on them this morning.  Reality struck them hard.


Emily and I take special joy in waking the kids on the first day of school.  We flip on the light and holler, “Good morning childrens…it’s time to get up childrens” in our best non-native-English-speaking voice.  They try to pull their blankets over their heads at which time we throw a cat on their blanketed heap.  Oh yes, the first day of school is excellent fun for Emily and me.

I like to make a movie of their first day back too:

Isaac – First Day of middle school      Abigail – First day of 3rd grade


The thing I do not like much, though, is that summer is over.  It will still be hot as blazes and we’ll still have a ridiculous electric bill as the AC runs, but summer is over.  School’s in y’all!  Let’s go childrens!  It’s time for school!

WV to PA to WV

Abigail and I went to my parents’ house in Tionesta, PA last weekend so Abigail could stay several days before school started.  Isaac made the middle school soccer team so he has practice 6 days a week.  Anyhow, I took pics along the way and thought the mess of them was pretty interesting…




A landmark a few towns from home

It’s so pretty driving there

What a salad I had!


It isn’t any good without a campfire!

Marshmallows were bigger up there!

Too big for the graham crackers!

It was sort of funny…

Oh yes, there were clouds…not sure why I got so many pics of clouds!   

Well, I made it back Sunday and my Mom and Abigail made it back on Wednesday.  More of a ricochet than a trip but still a pretty good time!

I love this picture

Isaac is trying out for middle school soccer and practices have definitely stepped up a notch from the rec leagues in which we have been playing.  The poor boy was exhausted after the first practice.  I picked him up and we talked all the way home.  I pulled into the driveway and we just crashed on the steps.

We didn’t talk about anything in particular, but I so loved sitting there, relaxing and just talking with Isaac.  Middle school is going to be ok…

Getting plowed

It wasn’t too long ago where I was getting tanked.  Now I am getting plowed.  The underlying theme there makes me wonder if I have been working a bit too much lately (the answer is yes).  But really, I got plowed this week.

I acquired 2 old plows and I am trying to decide what to do with them.1  I have considered turning them into mailbox stands and/or planters for flowers out at the property.  That might clash with the bathtub and toilet planters I have in mind though.  Then it occurs to me that I might be able to restore them and use the kids to pull the plows to turn over some garden space.  I guess I could use the Subaru instead of the kids.  We’ll see.  Anyhow, I guess a third option is to paint them up and make them sort sort of decoration inside whatever building we eventually build on the property.

So what do you think?  Do you have any other ideas?  They are too cool to junk but I just do not know what to do with them.  Help!

Green beans. That is all

We love to plant a garden and watch as everything shoots up through the ground.  I don’t think much is any prettier than a recently plowed garden with loads of young plants poking up all around.  We eat a lot of our meals out of the garden in a typical summer.  I am a fairly new vegetarian of the year-round sort but we are all pretty much vegetarians in the summer.  Well, most summers.  Not this summer.  We got off to a rocky start with the near constant rainfall that we had during the planting season.  Stuff was late going into the ground…everything but the weeds.  They thrive no matter what.  Couple all of that with the incredible heat and dryness now and we have found the garden to be pretty pitiful.

Just part of the haul

I guess if I had to pick one thing that would succeed in the garden though, it would be green beans.  I love green beans and could almost live on them and mountain dew.  Luckily, the green beans and corn are doing exceptionally well this year.  We picked and canned 34 pounds of green beans last weekend.  It was a marathon canning session ending somewhere around 2 am…a mere 4 hours before the kids usually get up.  Anyhow, we are in the beans this year for sure.  There are tons more following the ones we picked so it will be another busy weekend.  Of course, it can’t all be smooth and easy.  We planted a bag full of bean seed clearly marked tenderette bush beans.  I have no doubt that some of the seeds were in fact tenderettes.  The majority of the beans, however, are some other sort of runners.

Ain't they purdy?

Bush beans grow in a somewhat compact bush where all of the beans can be picked from individual plants.  Folks usually do not have to manage the plants in particular which is one of the reasons we like them.  Runners, on the other hand, send out vines and are meant to be trellised or otherwise tied up.  Thinking we only had bush beans, we didn’t pay any attention to the beans growing like mad in the garden until it was too late.  So, instead of having nice individual rows, we have a freakin’ blob of bean plants chocked full of beans.  With machete in hand, one can venture into the bean jungle and harvest, but it isn’t easy or fun.

They are prettiest in the jars waiting to go into the canner

There is still plenty of growing time left so we may yet be surprised with what the old garden will produce.  It’s all good though.  Even on my deserted island of a garden, I have to one thing I could not bear to do without…Jack Sparrow needed rum…I need green beans, savvy?


Gimme a call

My baby boy is growing up!  It seems like just yesterday he was born and here we are preparing to send the boy off to that wasteland that is middle school.  I grew up in BFE so we had k-6 in one school and 7-12 in another.  It was somewhat terrifying because of that age span but there were a lot fewer kids and most everyone’s family knew everyone else’s family so trouble was somewhat minimized.  Anyhow, Isaac will soon be headed to “real” middle school where there are hundreds of kids…my little baby!

As a sort of “nerve pill” for Emily and me, we decided that we wanted Isaac to be able to reach us at any time.  So, we ventured out to the mobile phone store and were thrilled by the technological spectacle that presented itself.  Well, actually, we were flabbergasted by the price of phones and mobile plans.  Holy cow!  Anyhow, we decided that with soccer practice starting soon, Isaac needed to be able to contact us and, more importantly, contact his friends.

Isaac put up quite a sales pitch for a full-blown smart-phone.  The sales guy was all too willing to help Isaac make his case.  Fortunately, we held our ground and got Isaac a poverty-level phone…you know, one with calling and texting only.  I sure hope he can survive.  My poor baby!

I know, lots of people made it through middle school without phones.  I don’t care.  Technology is around us and we embrace it.  We are trying to be sensible though and are using this as a way to teach responsibility.  Any time I see a way to expand communication, I am for it!

None of us is too worried about middle school.  We are building it up so we all have positive expectations of the next school year.  A little bit of trepidation crops up now and then in the back of my head, but I know it is going to be alright.  Heck, my baby boy is only a phone call away!