Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Great Flood

Well, we survived.

We had no power for several days. We would run the generator long enough to cool the refrigerator, and while it ran, we'd get online and send reassuring emails to our families.

We're not likely to forget September 2011.

September 7, 2011. Debbie wrote to Steve at work:

"Croom Station flooded!"
"Croom Rd too!  Heading to Molly Berry!"
"Molly Berry flooded, too!"
"Duley Station to Croom is OK."
"NOT! Croom closed at store!"

September 8, 2011. Steve wrote to work,

"I am not likely to be coming in today.

"Between Upper Marlboro and Waldorf, approx 15 miles, there are TWO small roads which are still barely passable. If I come to work, with the expected weather, I will not be getting home.

"301 is closed. Brandywine Rd is closed. Croom Rd is closed. Croom Station is closed. Molly Berry is closed. It's a royal mess.

"Plus, I have water on the floor of my basement. Not much, but enough to make MY day complete."

September 9, 2011. Steven wrote to his sister:

"Hey, happy birthday, Sis!

"No doubt, I would have remembered yesterday if I hadn't been distracted by the power being out, and by being almost trapped in our neighborhood by the flooding.

"Yes, I'm sure I would have remembered.

"After Debbie reminded me the next day."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Looking Back and Moving On, Part 5

We are getting about 3 eggs in 2 days from our chickens. The chicken killer managed to kill our BEST layers, and leave us our low-end hens. But we are using at least 2 eggs EVERY day, so we worked our way through that 5-dozen egg overstock pretty quickly. We needed to build up our flock again.

Debbie went and bought 4 new chicks. We brought them home, made them as comfortable as any chick could hope--food, water, heatlamp, towel. One ingrate went and died overnight. The nerve!

But the other three grew! When they were too large for the storage bin, we set up a dog crate in the coop and moved them out of the sewing room before the smell grew overpowering. Our theory was that the older chickens could get used to the 3 new chickens, and vice versa, without anyone being killed establishing pecking order.

It seems to have worked, in part, because we now let the chickens all mingle together, and no one gets hurt. But if you look closely, they're NOT mingling. The four older chickens hang out together, and the three younger chickens hang out together, and they all live in the same building. But it's more like 2 small flocks in the same coop.

I don't care. As long as they don't kill each other, and produce eggs, I'm OK with whatever social order they establish.

Now if they would just PRODUCE EGGS. We expect them any day.

Looking Back and Moving On, Part 4

Several weeks passed.

Opening the hive for an inspection, Debbie found that the workers were planning a revolt. They had built queen cells.

Before that happened, we decided to intervene. We took the queen cells, some brood frames and some bees and used them to recolonize the empty hive. Then we sat back and watched.

It seems to have worked!

We have two hives again, although we aren't sure about this new hive. It just doesn't show the same kind of activity as the older hive. But there are bees in the hive, and they seem to be storing lots of pollen and raising lots of brood. We just don't see them flying very much, and they don't seem to be making honey.

But the older hive! You can SMELL the honey, 10 feet away! We've had to add another box to the top of both hives, and maybe we'll be able to get some honey this fall. We intend to let them keep MOST of their work for the coming winter. But it would sure be nice to taste something for all our efforts!

Looking Back and Moving On, Part 3

Back in January, I was cheering about how both hives of bees had SURVIVED the winter!

I was premature.

Spring came, first flow was starting, and the bees were buzzing away.

And a week later, there were dead bees on the porch of one of the hives, and in the grass. The ones in the hive were sluggish and slow, and nobody was flying.

And 3 days later, they were all dead. And that had been our STRONG hive.

Our best guess is that they found an attractive source of nectar or pollen that had been sprayed with an insecticide, and the whole hive was busy collecting poison.

It's also possible that some of them starved in the midst of plenty, as we had provided food over the winter, but this hive hadn't seemed to notice.

The hive stood empty for awhile. Then the other hive swarmed. Thousands of bees were coating the branches of the peach tree next to the hives.

I got a cardboard box and the ladder. We swept the bees into the box, and watched as some of the workers started fanning the queen's pheromones from the edge of the box, saying "Here she is! Come home!"

The circling bees started settling into the cardboard box. We walked away for a few minutes to give them a chance to collect into the box.

When we came back, they were all gone.

But the hive seemed to have just as many bees as ever. Did they all decide to move back IN?

Looking Back and Moving On, Part 2

I had trimmed back an overhanging branch at the coop. We were trying to put the chickens away more promptly. But we didn't really know what to do NOW, since we couldn't identify the killer.

One evening, with the boys off with friends for the weekend, Debbie and I went out for dinner and a movie. We got home after dark.

The killer had struck again.

Two more chickens--one DEAD, which is the normal state for being HEADLESS--and the other badly injured, and again destined to die overnight.

Our egg production, once 3 dozen per week, dropped to 1 dozen. The roosters keep eating, just as much as before. The surviving hens have lost feathers.

And we STILL don't know what is killing them.

Looking Back and Moving On, Part 1

I used to joke about having SO many eggs, we should eat a couple of the hens.

As it turned out, something beat me to it.

When spring came, and the days started getting longer, we didn't always get the chickens cooped before dark. So, about 9:00 PM one fine night, I heard the chickens making noise--which was odd, since they're usually bedded down by then.

I ran out to the coop--perhaps I had a premonition?--and found that two chickens had been badly injured, and two more had lost large patches of feathers.

The fifth and sixth were hiding behind a rooster in the coop. It's the only service that the roosters have ever done for us ;-)

I got them all into the coop. I was scared, and angry, and sad. I didn't expect the injured chickens to live.

I was right.

One died that night, and the other the next. I should probably have put them out of their misery earlier. How the hell should I know?

Now, there's no holes UNDER the fence, and there's no holes IN the fence. But there's no FENCE over the hole on the top. I'm pretty sure something came in from overhead, and left the same way. Problem is, I have NO idea what it was. It may have been a raccoon, or it may have been a raptor bird. But I'm pretty sure it wasn't fox or skunk. It has to climb or fly.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Lost Blog Entry

Buried on my netbook, I found the following file, from 25 November 2010. Since we had the biggest storm of the season (so far!), it seems reasonable to resurrect it for your reading pleasure!

Well, it's November and winter is coming. If it's anything like LAST winter, we will spend a fair amount of time stuck in the house with the snow.

You remember, we have a 1/4 mile long driveway, and last winter we had to pay $500 to get it plowed. THIS year, however, we have a TRACTOR.

We purchased a second-hand 27 HP Cub Cadet with a front-end loader. We are shopping for a bush-hog mower, a tiller-cultivator, and a plow-blade attachment for the 3-point hitch. But we haven't even had reason to drive it around, which will make it more problematic when/if it snows. I don't think I should learn to drive it in the snow.

Of course, since we HAVE the tractor, we won't NEED the tractor. I predict the warmest winter ever, which will also give more fuel to the Anthrogenic Global Warming advocates. I don't particularly care about AGW--if we were reducing pollution in general, we would be reducing carbon in specific, which is Just A Good Idea. And the number 1 greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere? It's that hazardous chemical, dihydrous monoxide (DHMO).

In other words, water vapor.

If we were to move to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, we would end up trading CO2 for H2O. We don't actually KNOW what the results of that would be. We only suspect it would be an improvement.

We might as well create legislation to restrict cow farts.

Methane is another potent greenhouse gas, and grain-fed beef makes lots of methane. "Henceforth, all beef cattle must be grass-fed or fed a diet to minimize the output of methane. Furthermore, all cattle must be individually fitted with an Automated Collection and Methane Extraction (ACME) system, and each individual shall be indelibly tattooed with its methane creation license number, as issued by the Department of Homeland Flatulence, the Social Security Number or Taxpayer Identification of its owner, and the production records of each individual shall be submitted to the DHF. Overproduction shall be cause for termination of the genetic line. All costs will be borne by the owner of the cattle..."

OK, maybe not. But I wouldn't be surprised.

So that's the lost blog. I used the tractor this morning to plow that 1/4 mile driveway, and it has actually been a fairly COLD winter. Go figure.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Still Alive!

This was a triumph!

I'm making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS! It's hard to overstate my satisfaction!

The bees (now that I'm done channeling GLADos ;-) are still alive and buzzing in BOTH our hives.

One hive hasn't even touched the sugar we put out, while the other (see the picture?) has carved away the mountain and taken the newspaper with it.

But they're still alive!

Friday, January 7, 2011

TRAPPED! With the Chickens, Part III

OK, what were the alternatives? Walls. Floor. Roof. Windows. Door.

To get through the walls, he'd have to knock loose dozens of nails and whole sheets of plywood. The floor was even less likely--he was on the wrong side, he'd have to PULL nails, and there wasn't THAT much room under the coop.

The roof would be hard to get any force applied, and more expensive to fix--new plywood, new tar paper, new shingles. And the windows were already too small.

But the door...

The latch was only held by 2 screws on the door side, and 3 on the latch. If he kicked the door, HARD, something HAD to give.

1... 2... 3!

On the second kick, the door sprang open. He was free!

He inspected the latch. Sure enough, the string was wrapped below the latch. And now the latch was bent, too.

He inspected the door. Every screw on both parts of the latch had held. But the steel post, as thick as his pinky, was bent back 45 degrees. THAT impressed him. Either it was a very MANLY kick, or really WIMPY steel.

Probably wimpy steel.

"G'night, ladies!" he called to the chickens as he closed the door and leaned the ramp up against it. This one was going to have to go in the blog, no question about it.

No question at all.

TRAPPED! With the Chickens, Part II

What had happened?

Steve's best guess was that the string, which was several inches too long, had wrapped itself UNDER the latch. So, every time he pulled the string to lift the latch, he was pulling it down tighter.

He looked around. The walls were all attached, although he supposed he COULD break through one, given time. The windows were jalousie-style, and much too small for him anyway.

He was over 200 feet away from the house. Debbie wouldn't hear him shouting, although the dogs might...

"What's that, Sadie? You say daddy is stuck in the chicken coop? And he's cold?! And his LEG is BROKEN and he needs a shot of INSULIN!?!"

"Woof! Woof!"

Too much to hope for.

He was planning to put a wireless phone extension in the barn, but that wouldn't help him in the chicken coop. If he had his netbook or his PDA, he could try to email for help--he might be in range of the Wi-Fi, there weren't any OTHER networks around to interfere.

And if he were a hen, he could lay eggs.

He remembered that Debbie hadn't waved as he went out. Had she seen him go? He remembered how tired she looked--what if she went to bed? Worse yet, what if she woke up and couldn't FIND him?

He knew exactly how she would react.

She would quickly become convinced he had suffered a heart attack, and was laying somewhere, dead. Panic would ensue.

He had to get out of this alone, and he had to do it soon.