Prepper Diary September 4: A Homestead Update

Our dog on the mountain
Our dog on the mountain

We survived the aftermath of Hurricane Ida unscathed. It must have brushed by us, saving its anger for folks in New York and New Jersey. We got less rain and less wind than we did with Fred. The power was out for less than two hours.

There was a period of wind when there was a tremendous banging outside. I had to put on my muck boots and my poncho and head out there to batten down the hatches. The big gate to the garden and had blown open. It was slamming against the pole with every gust of wind. I latched it and added a couple of bungee cords to minimize bounce.

I am not sure whether our chickens are brave or stupid. Most of them would rather hang around outside in the rain than in their coop. As a result, I delay letting them out when it is pouring. Our four roosters are all crowing now, but have not been loud enough to wake me up. Still, the day is coming where we have to eliminate at least two of them before they kill each other.

The End of Summer

The late summer heatwave ended in a blink of the eye, thanks to the arrival of Ida which pushed through a big weather change. We are entering that awkward part of the fall where it is too warm to start a fire yet too cold to walk around the house comfortably in a T-shirt, shorts, and bare feet. We’ve added a wool blanket to the bed because we expect temps to drop to the low 50s at night.

My basement man cave will get colder and colder. It has already dropped from 75 to 71 degrees. (It has no heat, other than the wood stove.) Another four five degrees and I’ll have to wear a fleece.

I like a chilly bedroom, but the master bathroom will be even colder. We got used to it being 54 in there last winter, but the summer has spoiled us. We’re going to have to adapt all over again. A hot shower is the best cure.

Cooler Weather and the Bees

We have asters blooming and are in the beginning of the goldenrod bloom, both of which are good for the bees. I tried pulling honey boxes earlier this week, but a good 50 percent of the honey is still not capped because of the high humidity. There were lots of bees working on the frames, however, which is promising. I’m going to cross my fingers and give it another week or two.

I took advantage of the cooler weather to put Formic Pro in the hives to help control Varroa mites. This should help my hives go into winter with no or a very low mite load. I’m not supposed to feed the bees with the Formic in the hive, so I have to hope the naturally available nectar and pollen flow lasts two or three more weeks. Once I pull the honey supers, I will feed sugar syrup in an open container and once the Formic is out, I will feed win hive-top boxes to help them build up for the winter.

From what I have learned, starting the winter with a high number of winter bees is the key to making it through the cold. An ample supply of feed will encourage the queen to lay in September and October will, which will help ensure plenty of bees going into winter.

Assuming my hives make it through the winter, I will go into 2022 in a much stronger position, thanks to having quite a bit of drawn comb and getting an earlier start than I did this year.

Stung Again

The bees are far more aggressive in the fall than they were in the spring and summer. While I was working on the bees, I felt a tiny sting on my leg. A bee had ducked into my pants pocket and stung me, probably in frustration at being trapped in my pocket. Of course, it’s the same pocket with my .38 revolver, so I have to step away from the bee yard, carefully remove the revolver and the bee without either one doing me any harm.

The only positive about being stung via clothing is that it is simple to remove the stinger.

I am at the point where stings hardly bother me, but as I write about it, this one is itching.

We Should have Named the Dog Chewbacca

Our new dog, the same one that rarely barks, is now talking to us so often we think we should have named her Chewbacca. Her “rowlrorow” verbalization sounds a great deal like a Wookie. She talks when she is curious about something or wants you to play with her. I think it’s how she expresses a question.

In the three weeks since we’ve had her, I’ve lost three pounds because I am going on an increasing number of walks. I’m hitting 10,000 steps per day more often than not. Around here, you can’t walk without going up or down a hill, so that is adding to the number of calories burned. It will be interesting to see how long the weight loss lasts or if it stabilizes.

Pollinator Garden

We have planted a number of flowering plants known for being bee friendly and allowed many plants that would otherwise be considered weeds to flourish. (For example, dandelions are great for bees in the spring). Sometimes we see the honey bees enjoying these plants, but more often it is the bumblebees and butterflies that enjoy the blooms. That’s OK, because we don’t want our honeybees to overwhelm the native pollinators. Here are a few photos of various insects enjoying the flowers this summer.