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Summer Fun

I hope everyone else has been having as much fun this summer as I have!

Of course my garden looks like crap but I have to admit the weeds have had a spectacular year.  It was soooo cold for soooo long this spring that the veggies  that actually sprouted are way behind.  I’m not sure if there will be anything at all except some herbs and a few green beans to harvest.  There are a few tomatoes on the vines but they are very green and with the cold nights I’m betting we will have a house full of green tomatoes this fall.

Since it is just plain depressing to go out into the garden I have been keeping busy with other stuff…  Some really fun stuff.

I have been working on my little camper – Rattlin’ Ruby and she is starting to look pretty darn spiffy.  We have the Custer County Fair this weekend, a Sisters on the Fly event in Buffalo WY next weekend and finally a car show to enter her in next month.

 In a moment of total and complete insanity I started polishing her silver aluminum hide.  Of course when I started this little project it was hot and dry but since then the skies have opened up and it rains just about every evening so my polishing has come to a screeching halt.  Only about a third of Ruby’s back-end is polished and about half of one side.  She looks a little goofy right now but that will not stop us from going to the fair.  We leave today and will carefully weave our way through the masses of motorcycles that are on the road this week for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.  It should be fun!

This last few weeks have been filled with even more fun.  I know – it’s hard to believe it can get any better than polishing an old camper, right?  Ha!

The first thing we did was the Days of ’76 in Deadwood.  I have never been to the ‘Days’ and I have lived here a really, really long time.  I didn’t get very good photos but we had a blast!  Dalton and Dani were the ones who came up with this wonderful idea and so we jumped in the pickup and drove to Deadwood where we had a fantastic meal at the 4 Aces Casino – prime rib and crab legs.  My advice – forget the salad bar and head straight to the good stuff.  From there we walked (actually we waddled) down to the Rodeo grounds to the vendors who ended up with some of my hard-earned cash and the grandstands which are amazing on their own.  Built from huge logs it’s like a work of art you can sit in.  I’ll try to post some photos when I get back from the fair.

The 2nd fun thing I did was to go to a party at the Antler’s Bar & Grill which was hosted by the Newcastle Library.  You got to love a library which holds a get together at a bar!  This one was for Craig Johnson – the wonderfully talented author of the Longmire series of books which inspired the TV show – Longmire.

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If you haven’t been watching Longmire on Monday nights you have been missing out!  The story is based on the sheriff – Walt Longmire who lives in the make-believe town of Durant, WY (which is patterned after Buffalo, WY).  Craig lives in Ucross which is a small town close to Buffalo.  The Buffalo Chamber of Commerce have celebrated Longmire Days for the past 3 years and I have wanted to go every single year.  I haven’t made it yet but I am definitely going next year.

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Craig is traveling around the state of Wyoming and visiting all 73 Wyoming libraries to talk about his book The Spirit of Steamboat.  What a nice guy!  He is a wonderfully funny speaker and is so humbled by the amazing success of his books and the show.  Its obvious he loves Wyoming and the people who live there and has become something of a local hero although you would never know it to speak to him.  In fact the Libraries ‘pay’ him to come speak with a 6 or 12 pack of Rainer Beer – which is Sherriff Longmie’s favorite drink.  He says he hasn’t bought beer in 7 years!.  What a great sense of humor.

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As you can tell I was very impressed and inspired by his talk.  I may just have to start writing murder mysteries too!  In my free time of course…  Dang, I’m funny!  I suggest you read his books (and the entire Britannica encyclopedia set) while you wait for my book to come out.  I believe the library also has Seasons 1 & 2 on DVD of the TV series.

The 3rd really fun thing I did last week was to join a few people from work who wanted to do a Mud Run.   This event was hosted by the Campbell County Mudders to raise money for the families of the 3 miners who were killed in a bus/car accident a couple of months ago.  It was for a good cause so I figured why not?  How bad could it be?  There were 5 members of our team – some of which actually like to run (go figure) and some of us who were built more for comfort than speed (myself included).

OK – I must admit most people who do these runs actually spend time training for them but since it was kind of a last-minute thing we had less than a week to prepare.  I trained by eating as much chocolate as possible and by running 2 laps around the house one evening.  It took me 2 days to recover from that.  Even with that extensive training, I was not prepared for what we ended up doing.   Silly me.  I imagined we would be jogging around the horse track at  Camplex with a few mud puddles to run through.

Lets just say it was a little more intense than that…

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Turns out that this event was one that would be classified as an Extreme Mudder Run.  As I always say “Go Big or Go Home”.

That’s Beth, one of my team mates in the picture above.  She was in the first obstacle.  Who knew they would build obstacles in a race?  They had dug 2 holes in the track, piled the dirt up on each end of the holes and filled both holes with water.  And that was just the first of many ‘fun’ things to come.  The course was 5K (or 3.1 miles) and was run in 2 laps with 16 obstacles in each lap.  The 1st obstacle – pictured above – we had to do 3 times.

Can I just say one word?

BENTONITE! 

If you’ve never had any experience with this powdery grey mineral you might not realize what water does to it.  I on the other hand I have helped seal off stock tank leaks with the stuff and have learned all the fascinating properties of the stuff.  I have found that combining water and BENTONITE creates one of the slickest, gooiest, stick-to-your-body gunk you will ever run into.  And ‘run into it’ we did.

We ran through it, slid down it, swam through it, climbed up it and slithered on our bellies like a reptile in it.

As if the challenge of wet BENTONITE wasn’t enough there were also huge tires from large mine vehicles to climb over, a cable bridge stretched between two tow trucks to fall off of, barbed wire (one with electricity to zap you) to crawl under, culverts to crawl through, structures to climb over, large round hay bales to climb up and over, a large roll-off dumpster lined with plastic and filled with water you had to wade through and duck under wooden walls and a vast plethora of chances to break a hip on.  As I get older I find myself thinking about that stuff more often.

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Thankfully, Beth’s daughter was there to take pictures of us as we worked our way through the course.  I figured I might need them for insurance purposes too.

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Thank goodness for my fantastic team mates.  That’s Jonathan hauling my lazy *%$ through part of the course.  Actually that was one of the obstacles – to carry a team-mate for a distance.  We had to stay together as a team and surprisingly we did pretty good – less than 90 minutes to get through it all.  We even beat out a team of 21-year-old gals who had to ask another team of guys to help them along the way.  Of course that could have been their plan all along – if you get my drift.

Here’s our ‘after’ photo.

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You can’t really see what a mess we were.  But they did direct us to the livestock wash racks before allowing us into the bathrooms if that gives you any indication of how we looked.  I’m still picking BENTONITE out of my belly button.

I have to admit I am rather proud of our team and even myself.   With a little help from my friends I was able to do every obstacle except one – climbing over a 15 foot wall with a knotted rope to pull yourself up with.  I’m going to have to work my way up to that one.  But all in all I didn’t do too bad for a 52-year-old woman who sits at a desk all day and eats massive amounts of chocolate.

Will I do it again?  I just might.  I must admit that when I hit that first obstacle my first thought was “What the hell did I get myself into?”  But completing each obstacle and crossing that finish line was a rush I haven’t felt for a long time.  Yep, I’ll do it again but next time I’ll train a little better – more chocolate and maybe 2 more laps around the house!!!

Now I’m off to have more fun!

It has been a crazy summer – even though summer took her sweet time getting here.

Weather-wise it hasn’t been the best year for a garden which is kind of sad when I look into the greenhouse but since there aren’t any veggies to sell at the Farmers Market I have had some free time to do a few ‘fun things’ that I usually don’t have time for.

Like camping with Hubby!

Dani and Dalton (who are teachers and have the summer off) decided to come to the ranch for a couple of weeks.  Since they have grown into highly responsible adults Hubby and I decided this was the perfect opportunity for us to take off for a couple of days.  I hitched up Rattlin Ruby while Hubby threw in a change of clothes and Steve the Wonder Dog who doesn’t hesitate when he sees an open pickup door.

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Hubby didn’t want to drive or even navigate so I just headed off in a generally north-westerly direction and we ended up here – Keyhole State Park near Pine Haven, WY.  What a nice place to camp and the weather was perfect – not too hot and we even got rained on which makes for good sleeping weather in an old camper.

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We only spent one night at Keyhole but it was such a pretty night.

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Steve travels really well.  He’s just the right size to fit into a little camper.  He especially likes watching out the door – guarding us against the evil squirrels who inhabit campgrounds.

The next day we drove a whooping 26 miles to our next stop.  You’ll never guess where we’re headed.

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OK – you guessed.

We went to Devil’s Tower – our nation’s first National Monument and camped in the KOA campground where parts of the Steven Spielberg classic movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind was filmed.  How cool is that?

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It was a beautiful campground with a great view no matter where you were parked.

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And to prove it just look at the view outside Ruby’s back window.

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And what a photo for her scrap book!

I had to laugh though – this was a huge campground filled with many large & very expensive motor homes and campers.  As my sister would say “It was a veritable plethora of gleaming and perfectly painted mansions on wheels”.  Steve and I walked up and down every row to check out all these beauties and when we returned to our humble little abode I told Hubby that there was ab-so-lutely no doubt in my mind that Ruby was the oldest girl at the ball (so to speak).  But even with this mass of “Trailer Perfection” parked in all their glory Ruby still seemed to get a lot of second looks.  What a Hoot!

We thought about hiking around the base of Devil’s Tower but we had done that years ago with the kids and since dogs are not allowed on the trail we would have had to leave Steve behind – which wouldn’t be right.  So we stayed at the campground and were basically lazy.  We didn’t even stay up for the free viewing of the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind which they show every night throughout the summer – of course they do.  Just imagine the thrill of watching Richard Dreyfuss sculpt a replica of Devils Tower out of mashed potatoes with the real Tower looming just past the screen.  But for us it was early to bed and early to rise so we could go see something that Hubby has driven past many times but has never stopped to see.

Wah-La.  I give you the Vore Buffalo Jump!

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Sitting right beside the interstate is an amazing thing that you really should stop and see if you get the chance.  Starting in the mid 1500’s this natural sink hole was used to kill large amounts of buffalo by the Native Americans.  They would slowly start to move the herds of buffalo toward the hole then stampede them at the last minute.  The buffalo in the front probably tried to stop when they saw the drop off but the animals behind them would have forced them over the edge.  The buffalo that weren’t killed by the fall would have been finished off by the hunters.  Then the work of butchering and preserving the meat for winter would begin.  It was a very interesting stop.

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Originally the interstate was supposed to go right over the top of this area but when an engineer testing the sink hole to see if it was stable enough to support the road came back with core samples filled with bones they decided to do some investigating.  There are many Buffalo Jumps throughout the area – even one not far from our ranch but this is one of the better known ones.  This particular site was used for about 250 years until the introduction of the horse made this form of hunting obsolete.  Every summer they work to uncover more of the site and learn a little more.

When we finished the tour – and I bought a T-shirt – we stepped outside to see this in the parking lot.

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Ruby, Ruby, Ruby…  You roll with the best of them.

(And no, that was not me spinning cookies in the parking lot.  LOL!!!)

Then it was off to Rapid City where we stopped at the Windmill Truck Stop to top off the gas tank before heading home.  As we waited in line for the pump a small gray car pulled up beside us and stopped.  Inside, an elderly man motioned for Hubby to roll down his window so he could tell us something.  I must admit, my first reaction was to look in the rear-view mirror to see if Ruby had scattered parts across the parking lot but to my relief the pavement was clear.  There was a glimmer of tears in the man’s eyes as he introduced us to his wife sitting in the seat beside him.  Although he didn’t say so, we could tell she wasn’t well and it appeared she wasn’t able to speak but she smiled as her husband explained they had seen us on the road and had followed us into the truck stop because he wanted to tell us that our little camper had made his wife laugh.  He must have seen our confusion as he continued to explained it was especially funny to his wife as her name was Ruby.  When she saw the name “Rattlin Ruby” plastered across the rear end of an old camper she couldn’t help but laugh.

He said it made her day…

With a shared laugh between strangers and a simple wave of his hand they drove away leaving Hubby and I laughing to ourselves and knowing that this would be the highlight of our whole trip.  I eased the pickup and trailer ahead to the pump wishing I could have told them that they had made our day too.

It’s been some time since I last posted photos of my favorite vintage camper – Ruby but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on her.  In fact I was looking back at the old photos recently and was amazed at just how far she has come.  I thought maybe you’d like to see the difference too.

This is my first photo of Ruby – her baby photo.

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And here’s what she looks like today with her new paint and decals.  I’m still working on getting her shined up a little but she looks pretty good to me.

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Here’s the kitchen before – complete with a large mouse nest in the lower cabinet.

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and the kitchen after:

No more mouse nest!

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Her ‘kitchen’ hasn’t changed much except for the finish was sanded off the cabinets and they are now sealed with a coat of clear poly.  The biggest difference is one you can’t see – her stove, oven and fridge all work now and she has a new propane line that goes to them so hopefully we won’t blow up.  That would tend to ruin a camping trip.  Another big change is that Ruby has a new fresh water tank that runs water into the sink.  Will the wonders never cease?  Life is good when you have running water.

Remember this?  The dining room before:

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And the dining room after.  The seat cushions were redone (to how they looked originally).  The cabinets were refinished and the walls were papered with silk wall paper.  And don’t forget those mosaic windows on either side.  It’s amazing what you can do with a jar of broken glass.

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The bedroom before:  Can you say Yuck?!

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The lady who reupholstered the sofa stripped it down to the springs and built it back to better than it was originally.  She also did the bench seats and I love the way they turned out.  It’s a very comfy place to sleep now and looks much more inviting.  I did leave the supports for the hanging cot (bed).  Originally she had 2 cots – one above the sofa/bed and one above the table which also converts to a bed.  When I bought Ruby she only had one cot left which was in surprisingly good condition so I decided to leave the back bunk but took out the supports for the front.  The canvas cot and the two steel pipes it hangs on stows away in the ‘pocket’ above the back window (there’s a matching pocket under the front windows by the table too).  I don’t know that I will ever sleep on the hanging cot but I figured it would work great for extra storage if needed.

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I still need to strip and refinish the cabinet under the bed but I’ve got some good ideas to work into that area when I get the time.

Do you remember this hole by the door?

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There used to be a rather large (and completely rusted out) furnace which was sold for scrap metal shortly after I ripped it out of the wall and threw it out the door.  Instead, I now have a cute little fake fireplace (electric) heater which is much easier to use and works really well so what could I do to fill this opening?

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How about a nice cabinet with spots to hold fishing poles, books, nick-nacks and a fire extinguisher?  I still need to fill it with stuff but you get the idea.

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And the bottom opens to reveal a first aid kit in an old tool box.   I just need to label it so everyone can see what it is.   Just around the corner of the new cabinet is now a cork bulletin board for memories and a new mirror but this time the mirror is actually made of plexiglass.  I had no idea they even made such a thing.  I even remounted the clock into the hole where it belongs.  I haven’t hooked it up to the battery yet to see if it actually works but I’m working on it.

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There’s still 16 items on her to-do list along with lots of little touch ups here and there but she’s getting better and I’ve been having a lot of fun too.  I can’t wait to get her back on the road.

Happy Trails!

It has been a very eventful weekend in my little apiary!

Matillda and half of her hive decided Sunday was a good day to swarm.

In the spring it’s common for bee hives to split when they become overcrowded.  The worker bees will prepare for this split by raising a new queen.  They will choose around a dozen eggs which will be fed Royal Jelly exclusively.  This special diet will allow the eggs to grow into fully formed females complete with all the reproductive parts needed to mother a whole colony of bees.  It will take 16 days for the queens to mature in their specially built honeycomb cells which are large and look something like a peanut.  When the first queen hatches she will start making a piping noise which makes all the other possible queen candidates start piping too.  Hearing the un-hatched queens in their cells, the first queen will make her rounds – killing the other queens before they can hatch or fighting to the death of any others that may have hatched before she could get to them.  Common belief is that each colony will only have one queen but it appears that is not always the case.  Studies have shown hives can have 2 or more queens.  Survival of the fittest at its best.  But before all the power struggle for the crown starts the old queen (Matillda) and half of the worker bees will just pick up and leave.  They will form a cluster or swarm somewhere as the scouts venture out looking for possible nesting sites.

Fascinating, don’t you think?

I knew this would be a possibility since both the hives had survived the winter so I had split my first hive – Bee-A-Trix and was getting ready to split the 2nd one when the bees got tired of waiting for me.  So after a morning spent rooting around in the garden, I was in the process of getting cleaned up to go to a wedding – blissfully ignorant of what was going on outside.  At least until I glanced out the window and saw something caught in the fence.

I had just stepped out of the shower and didn’t have my glasses on so at first I thought it looked like one of my poor hens hanging upside down in the fence.  This type of thing has happened before.  Thomas, our turkey tried to fly over the fence one day and somehow managed to get his feet caught in the wire.  He was hanging upside down like Thanksgiving dinner ready to pluck when I saw him.  I’m not sure how long he had hung there but by the time I found him he was totally exhausted and a little ‘loopier’ than normal.  Of course seeing a brown mass caught in the fence – I panicked.  Shoving my bare feet into my fuzzy slippers I ran out into the back yard.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – It’s a good thing we don’t live in town!  I did mention I had just stepped out of the shower, right?

By the time I got close enough to see that it wasn’t a chicken I realized it was a beautiful swarm of honeybees clustered onto the boards and wire of the fence.

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It was exciting and beautiful!!!  I stood there in awe – my jaw slack and agape till I realized I had way too much exposed skin to be dealing with something like this.  I high-tailed it back to the house in a mad dash.

You should have seen the chaos that ensued – a buck naked blur of glow-in-the dark white ranch wife flesh which hadn’t seen sunlight for the last 8 months of the longest winter in recent history!

There was no time to waste.  I was throwing on clothes and gathering bee gear as fast as I could before the bees decided to move on.  Of course this was a long, three-day weekend so all the kids and their dogs were home but thankfully it was only me and the dogs at the house while all of this was going on.

I’m not sure if the dogs will ever recover…

They still look at me funny.

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But at least I’m not writing this from a padded cell which I would be if the kids had been home (or the dogs could talk).

Any-hoo.  I managed to get dressed and find everything I needed before whipping the table-cloth off the dining room table and running out the back door to the shed where I grabbed extra hive parts which I tossed into the back of the pickup.

Since the cluster was mainly on the outside of the fence I had to drive out of the yard and around to the other side of the fence.

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I misted them with a couple squirts of sugar-water from my handy-dandy spray bottle and right away their hum dropped down a notch as they went to work cleaning the sticky substance off each other.  I snapped a few pictures and then just knelt there beside them – watching as two bees waggle-danced in the mass.  I assume they were giving detailed location information for possible new housing they had found.

Right then Hubby and our son, Morgan showed up so I ran to them and asked them to keep an eye on me while I tried to gather the bees – you know – for safety purposes.  Needless to say they were less than thrilled and failed to see how they would be able to help if things went wrong.  It appears I might be willing to run into a swarm of wild bees to save them but I’m pretty much on my own if I’m dumb enough to venture in on my own.  Finally, I talked them into keeping an eye on me (from a safe distance of 1/4 mile) and calling 911 if things went bad.  But I shouldn’t have worried as the swarm seemed very calm.  Even the one bee that found its way inside my shirt didn’t even sting me.

 I tucked the table-cloth over the bottom board and gave them another light spray of sugar-water then using my bee brush I swept the cluster of bees onto the cloth.  Some remained on the boards but the majority of them came off in about 3 swipes.

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Using the cloth, I flipped the ball of bees into the box and then opened one corner so they could find their way in.

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Worked like a charm!!!  It didn’t take them long to figure it out.

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A little bit of wild, gaudy canvas and a box of sawdust on top for insulation and the bees seemed happy to move in.  As it turned out it was just in the nick of time.  I added the top cover as the last of the bees found the entrance & the heavens opened and rain poured down on us.

Matillda and her subjects spent the night right there on the soggy ground but early the next morning I was able to move it to the other side of the greenhouse where it will probably remain.  I think I should add the cover with Matillda’s name on it as this is the old queen from the original hive and I will have to come up with a name for the new queen which will hatch out shortly.

Oh, what will it bee?

Well, it’s official.  Summer must be here because the fire season has started – right in our ‘back yard’.

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This was the view from our front porch earlier today.  We had heard the lightning hit close by but didn’t even know we were on fire until our neighbor John stopped by to let us know.

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I had to drive down toward my in-laws house before I could get a good look at it.  The lightning had lit up an old snag – a dead tree that had already burned once several years ago when the mountain burned off in one of the previous fires.   It always amazes me that Elk Mt continues to burn even though there isn’t much left to burn.

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Thankfully, it appears every fire department for miles around are ready and just waiting for a call.  We were very lucky to have trucks and firefighters from Elk Mt Volunteer Fire Dept., the Forest Service and the Weston County Volunteer Fire Dept. – they even brought out a dozer (which I failed to get a picture of) just in case things got out of hand.

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But the guys were quick to put the flames out.  Even the horses were impressed.

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Thank you to all our friends and neighbors for coming to help.  We know this isn’t the easiest country to fight fire in and we really appreciate it!

And just check out the four-legged firefighter in this photo…

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That’s Hubby’s horse Smokey earning his name with a chain saw strapped to the back of his saddle.

Thank you all!!!!!

Bee College

I never thought I’d be able to say such a thing but I have been to Bee College – Wyoming Bee College no less!

I would guess there were around 300 people attending and they had classes on commercial beekeeping, making salves and products from your honey and beeswax, selling strategies,  baking and cooking with honey and one very nice lady told us all about the bumble bee.  I spent last weekend meeting all kinds of nice people who love bees and I learned all kinds of wonderful things about them like:

1.  You should harvest your honey on Mothers Day – winter should be over by then and the nectar run should have started.  That means any honey in the hives should be extra.

2.  One skunk can destroy a hive in less than a week.  They scratch on the side of the hive and eat the bees when they come out to protect their hive.  Bad Skunk!

3. You can dehydrate honey to make powdered sugar.  Sweet!

4.  Beeswax lip balm is easy to make and works really well.

5.  Bumble bee queens can grow up to 3″ in length.

6.  A raindrop falling can kill a bee.

And the most frightening thing I learned:

7.  Snakes will sometimes move into a hive for the warmth and possibly to eat a mouse who has moved in.  Yikes!  Good thing I learned that because if I had lifted a hive and had a snake pop out I would have dropped the hive and wet my pants!  At least now it won’t be a total surprise.  Perhaps I need to add a hoe or a long handled shovel to my beekeeping kit.  I thought about a pistol but I would probably just shoot lots of holes into my hive and totally miss the snake!

I had tried to get a couple of friends to go with me to college but no one could make it so at 3:30 am I hit the road.  Actually, I think that early morning departure time might have had something to do with no one going with me.  Ha!

A storm had moved in Friday night and by the time I left a couple of inches of light, fluffy snow had piled up and it was still coming down but I took off anyway.  The roads weren’t bad and I was only slowed down because of the snowplows that were out.  Those guys take their jobs seriously.  The snow was so light that it was easy to push but following behind the plow there was no way to get close enough to pass because they stirred up such a cloud of snow you couldn’t see a thing.  So since I prefer to arrive at an event alive I just backed off and took my time.  You have to love Spring!  It snowed all day Saturday and then melted and totally disappeared on Sunday and the roads were great coming home.

It has definitely been a ‘bee week’ around here.  Monday night I gave a talk about beekeeping to our garden club in Custer.  This is what my pickup looked like.

Does anyone else ever think about what would happen to you if you rolled your vehicle when it’s loaded like this?  It wouldn’t be pretty.

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I’m not sure if my talk convinced anyone to become a beekeeper but we did have some laughs especially when it came to my crazy ranch wife ‘ bee suit’ which has gotten a couple of new accessories – and I didn’t even have to fight the dog for them.

Happy Spring!!!

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I bet you thought I had fallen off the face of the planet – didn’t you?

Well, I didn’t – but my computer nearly did.  After a long time and a small pile of cash things are finally getting back to normal.

It has been a cold, dark and dreary winter and we are all ready for spring to roll in like a run-away Mac truck without brakes but winter has been pretty stubborn around here.  Even so, I have been watching for any sign of spring and am happy to announce that even though it is only March the first spring flowers are blooming here at the ranch!  Of course they are dandelions and they are growing inside the greenhouse.  I really should take the hoe to them but after last winter I am content to watch them bloom – for now.

The best news though is that it appears both of the beehives have survived the winter.  As cold as it was I was getting a little worried about them and had even sent off an order for 2 more packages of bees to arrive the end of April.  But then it happened – we had a few nice days above 50 degrees and we saw the first activity at the entrances.

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They’re moving slow and they don’t get very far from home but they are moving.  I was sad when I realized they were moving dead bees out of the hive and piling up the little carcasses on the ground out front.

It was a really tough winter.

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I am amazed that they can survive temperatures of -30 (or colder) with just a loose wrapping of tar paper to help block the wind.  We did leave them with plenty of honey – 4 boxes instead of the 2 that all the books suggest so I didn’t really worry about them starving to death but I did worry about the wind.  With those extra boxes the hives were a little bit top-heavy but the straps and cement blocks held them steady enough – at least until last Tuesday morning.

I heard the wind before I even climbed out of bed.  It was howling pretty steady then around 6:00 am the house was hit with a gust that sounded like it was trying to tear the roof off.  One huge blast then 15 minutes later the wind died down and had nearly quit.  It was a bit eerie, but we still had a roof so I figured everything was OK until I stepped out to feed the chickens and found Beatrix’s hive tilted to the side at about a 45 degree angle!   Steve (our Corgi) nearly jumped out of his skin when I screamed and ran across the yard.  He hasn’t seen me run very often and frankly – he doesn’t like it.  He believes I was built for comfort not speed and I tend to agree.

It didn’t take long to realized it wasn’t as bad as it looked.  Thankfully, the blue strap, with the snazzy chain adapter, was cinched down tight enough that the hive had tilted as one solid piece and didn’t break apart in the middle.  The green strap had also caught the top and kept the whole hive from tumbling off of the cement blocks too so it was just hanging there like the leaning tower of Pisa.  It didn’t take much to stand it back up, re-adjust the straps and move a few more cement blocks in beside it.  The roof is still a little tilted like it got crammed down really hard but hopefully our girls are OK inside.  It was too cold to open the hive right then so I will wait for the next nice day before I check.

I have been reading and thinking a lot about bees this winter.  There are some great books out there with lots of good information.  I have also been building 2 new hives (for the bees that are coming), and there’s also plans for a ‘Honey Hoist’ (so I can lift the hives by myself) and a couple of swarm traps to see if I can catch a wild swarm – free bees is a wonderful thing.  From everything I’ve read it’s kind of like fishing.  You set out bait – a swarm trap made out of a hive box that has been used and smells like honey and beeswax and then you sit and wait for someone to fly by and take a whiff.  Since it’s more of a dumb luck kinda thing I should be really good at this.

I have even given a couple of talks to different organizations (and basically anyone who would sit still and listen).  Since I am becoming something of a local ‘Honey bee expert’ (that’s code for ‘crazy bee lady’) I have decided to purchase a few props for my next talk which will be for the Custer Mile High Garden Club next Monday night.

My lovely assistant Steve has offered to model them for you.

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It’s like doggy camouflage for when we’re working bees.  The bees will never suspect that he is a dog and not a actual winged member of the colony.  At least that’s what I’ve told him and so far he believes it.  The wings and antenna really do look better on Steve than they do on me – but even he admits he doesn’t have the legs for the tights – yellow and black strips – way cool!  Now if I could just find a yellow tutu…

Yes, it should be a fun-filled discussion at the old garden club but before I impress the gardeners I will spend this weekend in Cheyenne, WY at the first (but hopefully not last) Wyoming Bee College.  2 days of beekeeping classes, banquets and lots of people who will teach me everything I ever wanted to know about bees but was afraid to ask.  The conference is  presented by the Laramie County Extension Office and is a really good deal at $50 for both days.  It sounds like they have some great speakers lined up and even a few vendors who will sell me wonderful things I simply can’t live without.

So I will leave Steve in charge while I am gone.

And I’m sure things will be fine…

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“Look deep into my eyes.  You are getting very sleepy.”

“Now repeat after me,  I must feed the dog…  I must give him bacon…”

Steve, you crack me up!