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Archive for August, 2013

Summer has gone by really fast.  The local kids are back in school and tonight you can almost smell a touch of autumn in the air.  It has been awhile since I cleared off the memory card in my camera so I thought I would just see what was on it.

We have never had as many flowers in the garden as we have this year. 

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And what can I say about the veggies?  It is amazing what a little rain and a few happy honey bees can do.

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These are some of the veggies I picked last Friday for the Farmers Market. 

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Amazing!  Just check out that BEA-UT-I-FULL box of tomatoes.  I was so impressed with them that they rode to town Saturday morning on the console beside me so I could admire their beauty.  And I did…  right up till the moment I turned down into the narrow road through Hell Canyon and a sweet little speckled white-tail fawn jumped out of the ditch right in front of me!

I slammed on the brakes…

Our eyes met in wide-eyed horror…

Time stood still…

And foul, four lettered words spewed from my dainty, pink lips.

With white knuckles I clutched the wheel and waited for the impact of tender flesh against hard, cold metal…

I missed the fawn – Thank goodness!

But before I could heave a sigh of relief all hell broke loose in the pickup.

In one felled swoop all the veggies and supplies which had been in the back seat unloaded onto the floor – wedging themselves into a jumbled mass between the seats.  In the bed of the pickup it was even worse.  The pumpkins, beets, squash and gourds which had been neatly stacked in lovely, hand-woven baskets slid forward followed closely by the little red wagon, tables, shelf unit and canopy (complete with the 4 cement blocks I use as corner weights) which slammed into the front of the pickup bed leaving a pile of damaged veggies and busted wicker.  I can still see their multi-colored veggie ‘faces’ pressed against the back window. 

And last – but not least, that whole flat of luscious, BEA-UT-I-FULL, red-ripe tomatoes hit the dash causing them to jump out of the box, and cascade down the side of my leg onto the floor where they rolled around like a class room full of kindergarteners hyped up on cherry Kool-Aid and sugar cookies on the first day of school.  They frolicked around my mud-caked boots before finally lodging themselves under the gas and brake pedals.

It wasn’t pretty.

Hell, it wasn’t even funny.

I pulled over and put the pickup in park before lifting my feet out of the tomato soup on the floor.  I picked up the split and bruised tomatoes that I thought I could salvage then opened the door and kicked out the ones that were beyond hope.  I tell you, there is nothing sadder than smashed tomatoes on the side of the road – unless it is a smashed baby Bambi.  I was glad he had avoided the bumper and hoped he had at least learned a lesson about fast-moving vehicles.  

Yes, I was thankful I had not hit him – at least until I came home later that day and noticed that all the tomatoes I had left bleeding on the side of the road were now gone.  The greedy little deer.  I don’t know how he knew which vehicle to jump in front of but I’m convinced that was his evil plan all along.  Nasty little bugger – I’ll be watching for him this week.

Now, one week later,  there are still tomato guts on my floor mat…

and the dash…

and console…

But even after all that my little booth still looked pretty good and I sold more veggies last Saturday then I ever have. 

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I even sold a bag full of mangled tomatoes.  Am I a salesman or what?

But last week’s trip wasn’t my only memorable trip to the Farmers Market – in fact – the trip the week before was a bit bazar too.  I was just glad I had my camera handy because no one would have believed me without the photographic evidence I now have.

Flashback to Saturday, August 17th –  6:47 am:

It was a beautiful summer morning.  The sun was shinning brightly, its brilliant golden rays glittering across the rain-soaked highway – which was still wet from a storm the night before.  There were no deer in sight and I had almost made it to the outskirts of Custer when I topped a hill and saw this:

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Yes…  Those are vultures!!!  Yes… 24 vultures all in a row!!!

One vulture on each fence post as far as the eye could see. 

I had coasted past them before my groggy brain cells registered what I was seeing.  I grabbed my camera and turned into an approach, checking the traffic from both directions.  I would be late to the farmers market but I had to go back.  Really, how many times does a photo opportunity like this present itself?

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You should know – I am a rather superstitious person so coming across 24 vultures, lined up in a row beside the highway next to a speed limit sign could be taken as a warning or even worse – A REALLY BAD OMEN!!!  Especially to someone like me who has seen every Final Destination movie they ever made.

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It looked like a Highway Patrol commercial meant to scare teenaged drivers into following the speed limit.  All it needed was camera men filming the scene and subtitles printed across the bottom of the fence:

“Go ahead and speed.  We’ll be there to pick up the pieces.  Bahahahahahahahaaaa!”

I looked around.  There weren’t any camera men.

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Frankly, it freaked me out – especially when every one of the birds stayed put and let me move in close enough for some good (and creepy) pictures.

The thunderstorm the night before had been pretty nasty so the logical part of my brain knew they were just enjoying the morning sun, perched there ‘spread-eagled’ (LOL – I crack me up!) to dry their feathers off.  I had seen lots of vultures do this many, many times before. 

The superstitious part of my brain wasn’t so sure.

That part of my brain reminded me that I had never seen a grand total of 24 vultures all in a row, near a busy highway with no sign of road kill and only a speed limit warning sign in the middle of them for good measure!  It also didn’t help that I was the only one out on that lonely stretch of road that early in the morning. 

Talk about your Twilight Zone moments.

Needless to say, I have followed the speed limit ever since and so far I haven’t seen the vulture patrol again. 

After the last two weeks I’m not sure what to expect this week but I’ll be sure to report back to you if anything out of the ordinary happens on Saturday. 

Otherwise, I’ll see you at the Farmers Market…

I hope!  Bahahahahahahahaaaa!!!

 

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Have I mentioned lately how awesome my children are?  Well, I should and I should do it often because –  they are.  Especially the wonderful daughter we got when our son married her.   I love my daughter-in-law Dani.  She is fearless!

When Dalton & Dani came back from Cheyenne (with the new hat, pretty little filly & sweet tattoo) they helped me do something else I had been putting off.  Something they got stuck doing the last time they came to the ranch and something they will probably have to do next time they come for a visit – we added more boxes to the bee hives.  Even though Dani is afraid of bees she has always jumped right in and helped out. 

I told you – she is fearless!!!

For the last month or so I had been watching those busy bees.  Watching as they came and went, packing in load after fat-legged load of pollen.  So far they’ve gathered white pollen, pale yellow pollen, bright yellow pollen and now it’s such a dark orange that it’s almost red.  Sometimes you’ll see 2 bees arrive at the same time with different colored pollen – obviously from foraging at different flowers.  And, if you sit there long enough, you’ll see the girls who have loaded themselves down with too much pollen.  These ladies are easy to spot because they’ll misjudge the landing pad and crash into the side of the hive or even miss the hive completely and fall to the ground.  It’s better than watching TV. 

As you can tell I watch them a lot.

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“Does this pollen make my butt look big?”

Besides pollen, they have been packing in other things too – stuff you can’t see like water.  We have an old galvanized bath tub under the eaves of our house.  It gathers the rain from our roof which I usually use to water the flower beds but this year there is always a bunch of bees at the tub.  They land on an old board floating on the water and get a drink before heading back to the hive.  Occasionally, I’ve seen them resting on the back of the large fat toad that lives in the plants beside the tub and swims in his own private pool.  When he’s not swimming he’ll sit on the board and be literally crawling with bees.  I think he likes it. 

Whenever I pass the tub I always look for bees – especially ones that have fallen from their perch and are swimming the best they can.  Which I have to admit, bees don’t do very well.  That’s probably why they are so quick to grab onto the end of my finger and crawl up my hand to escape a watery grave.  It’s fascinating to watch as they dry themselves off – needing the warmth of my hand and the sun as they wipe the water from their body and spread their wings to dry.  In less than a minute they are on their way back to work.  Once in a while one will slow down long enough to buzz my face before they leave. 

I always say “You’re welcome, Honey”.

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Some bees search out the sticky tree sap which they convert to a substance called propolis.  This is an antibacterial goo they use to seal every crack & crevice in their hive and basically glue everything together.  I’ve seen pictures of mice that have been stung to death in a hive and since the carcass is too large for the bees to throw outside they have sealed the whole mouse in propolis – sort of a sticky molasses-colored mouse mummy at the bottom of the hive. 

Lovely.

On calm evenings I like to stand beside the hives with my ear pressed against the sides – listening to the hum of happy bees as they put up their winter food supply.  A steady stream of bees coming and going with their pollen pouches full keeps the entrance of the hive hopping but if I’m off to the side nobody seems to care.  I think they have even gotten used to me being there.  It is a documented fact that bees can recognize human faces – amazing!  I imagine it would be a little like us buzzing the faces on Mt. Rushmore.  But I got to tell you, it would totally freak me out if Honest Abe moved and said “Your welcome, Honey.”

But I digress…

Over the last couple of weeks it’s been pretty easy to tell that things were changing in the hives.  I have been noticing lately that the bees spend a lot of time at the entrance with their butts in the air and their wings going really fast.  My theory is that the humidity is so high that they are madly fanning the hive to dry out the honey and help it cure.  I have no proof if this is what they are actually doing and not some weird ‘happy summer’ dance.  Until I find out different this is my story and I’m sticking to it.   I’ve also noticed as I’ve listened to the hives that the real ‘hum’ of the hive has been getting lower and lower so I was pretty sure the hive was nearly full.  I bet with a stethoscope you could really pin-pointed their progress but I don’t have one – so I guessed. 

When I suggested we add the boxes our selves Hubby was less than enthusiastic so we (Hubby, the bees and I) were glad to see the kids return.

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Here are my two lovely assistants.  The beautiful and brave Dani – complete with long gloves and you will notice she will be working without a veil this time.  She is overcoming her fear of bees.  And of course, we have the handsome Dalton who has never worked with a net and is waving to his fans in the audience.

The plan is simple.  They grab onto the handles of the bottom box and lift – hopefully leaving the floor of the hive on the stand.  I am ready with a mirror in one hand so I can look up into the hive and see how full it is and an extra box at my side – ready to slide it onto the floor so they can set the hive down again.  Easy-Peasy. 

It sounds good in theory but there is always the possibility of problems. 

The first hive – Beatrix’s hive was heavy.  Dani and Dalton lifted the boxes and the floor came with it.  I quickly loosened it and set it back on the stand. 

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This is the base of the hive complete with a whole bunch of bees doing the whole ‘butt in the air – madly fanning’ thing. 

Forgetting the mirror for the moment I grabbed my camera and snapped off some pictures – looking straight up into the hive.  I was a bit confused that the camera seemed to be having trouble focusing but once I stuck the mirror in to look I could see why.

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The bottom box was nearly full of comb.  In fact the comb had probably been attached to the floor and that’s why it stuck.  I love this photo! 

The bees in Beatrix’s hive have almost filled 3 boxes of comb and chances are good that the top two are full of honey.  Now if they can fill more boxes we just might get enough to harvest some this fall – as long as we leave them at least 2 boxes of honey to get them through the winter.  It takes a lot of honey to keep warm in this country!

Next we moved to Matillda’s hive.   This one is just a little behind the other hive – they are just getting a good start on the 3rd box.  The honey making still seems to be going strong so who knows how much more they can accomplish before fall sets in. 

We worked quickly but this time it just wasn’t fast enough.  As Dani & Dalton held up Matillda’s hive I was trying to get another picture when Dani started squirming and stating in a fairly calm voice that she was getting stung on her right cheek just below her eye.  I was horrified but so proud of her – she didn’t scream, she didn’t drop the hive and run, she just gritted her teeth and scrunched up her face till I could get the new box in place and brush away the angry little bee.  They quickly set the hive down and Dalton held it in place untill we could regroup.

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I am such a bad mother-in-law that I reached for my camera and snapped this photo as the rain started to fall and Dani carefully stepped away from the hive.  Our bee girls have drawn first blood!  And poor Dani was the target. 

We rushed to the house and found the ‘Sting Stick’ medicine in the cupboard.  Thankfully, Dani isn’t allergic to bee stings – since this is the first time she’s been stung she didn’t know.  The sting didn’t swell and she is as beautiful as ever!  Thank goodness.

And what did Dani say about this whole episode, you ask?

“That bee-sting hurt worse than the whole tattoo did!”

I love my kids.

 

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