Thursday, June 30, 2011

Honey Ginger Ale

I've been making ginger ale for a while using sugar, grated ginger, lemon juice and a little yeast. It's amazingly good. You mix a cup of sugar with a couple tablespoons of ginger, half a cup of lemon juice and 1/8 teaspoon of yeast. Leave it on the counter overnight and the yeast eats the sugar and adds the fiz.

I traded Ceebs some eggs for honey so I decided to try a couple with honey instead of sugar. I put in about half a cup of honey. I can't wait to taste it.

Here it is two days later. You can see how puffed up they are.

The one with sugar looks ready to blow. It's standing on its toenails. I put them all in the fridge to slow them down.

I try to wait a few days to drink it so that it soaks up a lot of ginger taste but you can drink it after 24 hours. I strain the pulp out and then put it back in the bottle. The yeast is still working so it will recarbonate.

New Hive Boxes

I got three new boxes for the bees. One is meant to go on top of the existing hive when I get some more bees to put in. If you separate them with a layer of newspaper, by the time they chew through they think they are from the same hive. If there are two queens one will get axed. My hope is to increase the number of bees I have to make the hive stronger. The more there are the better they can defend themselves. Roberta says it's better to have one big hive than two small ones.

But I still got a couple of deep boxes to start a new hive. Here you can see the two sizes, a medium and a deep. The medium will go on the existing hive which already has two mediums. The two new deeps will be to start a new hive. Some people like the mediums because they are easier to move, but I'm hoping that once I get the deeps in place I'll never move them again. Starting with two deeps will give the future hive more room and keep them from getting too crowded. If they feel crowded they will swarm and take half the bees with them.

The boxes came put together but I took them apart so I could glue joints.

The glue should do a good job of holding the sides together but I also added some brads.

I got a layer of primer on them. Paint will have to wait for tomorrow.

Turkey Coop, 3

Today my goal was to get all of the digging done and set the posts.This is where I left off last weekend:

I hadn't done much digging when I came across this:

I know it's hard to see what it is so I'll just tell you. It's a spider inside of a dirt clod. A big spider, tarantula big, in my backyard, just waiting to emerge and start catching birds or cats or something. That sound you just heard was me throwing up a little. That's the bottom of it that you can see where the legs connect to the body. It's abdomen is partially covered by a silky cocoon. I was fascinated by it until it moved a little bit, and then we parted company.

I spent the rest of the afternoon digging.

I had to break up the dirt before I could load it into the wheel barrow and dump it. The bottom of my feet are sore from jumping on the shovel.

The slope of the hill is steeper than in my drawing so I dug down deeper than two feet. Luckily no more jurrasic spiders were uncovered.

This is supposed to be a leveled area rather than just a trench but I decided that I would focus on making space for the posts and cross pieces and then finish digging. It's a little demoralizing to spend 4 hours digging and not be able to notice much of a difference. If I could just drive a screw I would feel some satisfaction.

I'll try to dig some post holes in the morning.

Oh, and here's my bruise from the wheel barrow:

It's still a little tender.

Monday, June 27, 2011


I found this outside my window this morning. I'm assuming one of the half-feral cats got it. Now it's food for ants.

I would have more sympathy for the gopher if they didn't do so much damage. Just last week I had to save a couple of my shark skin agave pups.

The gophers had eaten the roots and left them for dead.

I thought I had a picture of one of the cats sitting in a chair in the yard. There's one that has a squinty eye that likes to hang out in the yard. The cats are always curious about the chicks but they haven't caused any problems so far.

These days I'm not so crazy about animals that don't do some kind of work. I've always been reluctant to get a cat because of the coyotes and after not having one for so long I appreciate having a hair free house. Having the ferals around kind of makes up for it. I'd put some food out but that would just encourage the oppossum that's living under the house. One night I heard an epic battle down there with one of the cats. It just about shook the house.


Ever wonder what bread looks like if you forget to put the yeast in? Like this:

Turkey Coop, 2

It's been hot all weekend so I tried to move the supplies the rest of the way up the hill as early as possible.

I got all the concrete and post up before my will and my knees gave out and I needed to take a break for breakfast.

This is where the coop is going to go, right in the top corner of my property above the chicken coop. This should allow a couple feet in between so I can get over to the bee hive.

Here's the opposite corner of the yard. Before I moved in there was a landslide on the property above my neighbors. Apparently the city required the owner to build a couple retaining walls to keep it from happening again. The started building about three years after it happened and stopped work about a year ago.

It doesn't look like they ever finished the work. I don't know if the crew wasn't getting paid or what but it looks like they walked off the site one day and never came back.

They left a much of trash and rebar stick up out of the wall.

They also left this. I figured I could use it until they come back for it

I just had to get it through all of the shoulder high weeds.

I got it back to the yard with only one minor mishap. At one point the wheel barrow got stuck on something to it came to an abrupt stop as I kept moving forward. I basically punched myself in the stomach with one of the handles. It gave me a pretty impressive bruise.

In my imagination I pictured myself beginning work by digging the post holes and making the hill level where the coop will go. My imagination apparently forgot about the lupine bushes that were growing there.

They are nice bushes so I thought I would dig them out and transplant them. I didn't realize that they have a thick trunk that goes straight down and doesn't seem to end.

I ended up having to just break them out. They gave as good as they got though.

I broke my shove in the process. So that was the end of work for a while...

...until I could get a new shovel. I got my last shovel thinking the fiberglass handle would last longer than a wood handle. It turns out the Huskey wood handled shove has a lifetime warranty. That would have been a nice thing to advertise.

Look at that Super Socket. That's right where the last shovel broke, so maybe Huskey knows what they are doing.

I headed back up the hill but now that the lupines were gone I didn't need the shovel, at least until I took care of some other problems. Again my imagination had not accounted for this janky fence.

It goes about a third of the way down the hill and is collapsed at the both ends. Once I took a look at it from the top I could also see that it angles off into my yard. I'm not sure what the purpose of this fence is but it seems to have outlived it's usefulness. I decided it was time to retire it.

The post in the corner had come down but before I could move it I had to take the chain link down from the rest of the posts.

Looking better already. I used bolt cutters to get the fence off and dragged the mess away.

I had to cut the fallen post out before I had a clean corner to begin working. It was only about 4 hours after I started and about 95 degrees.

That's when the hard work started: the digging. My favorite. The plan called for me to dig down two feet on the uphill side to level the site and then 3 more feet for the post holes. The top 12" of dirt was dry and crumbly and came up pretty easily. After that I hit a layer of somewhat wet dirt that was much more reluctant to move. We're still early in the Summer but I was surprised that there was so much water under there. I guess that's why the lupine have such extreme tap roots. They must have access to water for most of the year.

I dug a 16 foot trench about 12 inches deep. I'm already starting to reconsider my plan. There's no way I'm going to dig a 3' deep post hole and I'm not sure I need to. If it was a fence it might need that much support but the coop will have cross braces to keep it rigid and unless it starts to slide down the hill it shouldn't fall over. Maybe I can set some 1' deep footings just to pin it to the ground.

I was thinking that I would start a second pass to get down the second 12" but I got interrupted.


As I was digging the tail end of the trench for the turkey coop I looked over at the bee hive which is only about 15 feet away. It seemed like there was an awful lot of activity on the front of the hive. I've been reading my beekeeping book for the last couple weeks and one of the topics it covered was robbing, when another hive tries to rob my hive of it's honey. The conditions it described were very similar to what I was seeing.

It looked like the bees were having a party on the porch. It was covered with bees as well as the bottom third of the front. I couldn't see any bees locked in combat but I did see bees crawling up the front of the hive and then taking off. The book says that these could be robbers that are loaded with honey and therefor have difficulty taking off because they are so heavy. Normally a forager would leave the hive empty handed and take off from the porch.

I suffered a moment of indecision but figured it would be better to overreact than under react. I ran down the hill to get my bee jacket and a sheet. When I got back to the top of the yard there were fewer bees but still a lot more than I'm used to seeing. There seemed to be an frenetic character to their movements rather than the deliberate coming and going that they normally show. There were also still bees crawling up the front. This photo does nothing to capture what I initially saw that sent me running down the hill.

This video might be too compressed to see anything but you may be able to see the bees crawling up the front of the hive.

I uploaded the video to youtube which shows more detail.

I blocked the door with a piece of wood to make the opening smaller and easier to guard. Then I covered the whole hive with a wet sheet. This is supposed to make the entrance harder for the robbers to find. As I was putting the piece of wood at the entrance I began to have doubts that they were being robbed. As soon as I touched the hive a bunch of bees came out to get me. I would have thought they would be too occupied fighting on the inside but maybe I was the more important threat. They didn't spend too much time on me.

My phone chose that moment to die so I didn't get a picture. I'll go up in a little while and check on them. Hopefully if they weren't being robbed my intervention won't cause them too much trouble. My grandmother's sheet, on the other hand, may never be the same.

I just checked on them and things seem much calmer.

The bees don't know how to get in though. They are congregating near where they would normally go in. I guess I'll leave the sheet on for now, not sure what else to do.

Morning update:

I took the sheet off this morning. There were still bees clustered near the entrance outside the sheet.

I left the piece of plywood in front of the entrance to make it easy to guard. Roberta says that I can add some bees to make the hive stronger so they will be less vulnerable. She has another cut out that she can give me. I need to get more boxes for the hive though.

I was afraid they might chew through the sheet but it was ok. They just left a yellow pollen smudge.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Squash Alert

So it's getting hot here and the squash don't like it. They tend to go limp during the heat of the day and then perk up again once it cools down. I would think that this would stress them out so I'm going to water them a little more frequently. I think once their roots get down to the reservoir they will be a little less vulnerable to the heat.

With the leaves so limp you can see inside to the little treasures. The Golden Glories are coming along.

And the green zucchini is almost ready for dinner.