Taking Advantage of the Cooler Weather on the Homestead

Stihl trimmer with metal blade installed
Stihl trimmer with metal blade installed

We are enjoying the break from hot summer weather and the end of the rain to get some work done and enjoy ourselves around the homestead. The chickens are benefitting as we are throwing armfuls of weeds and uprooted garden plants into their run.

Weed Whacker Upgrade

I was using 095 string in my string trimmer, but the larger plants would just destroy the string. It would break it off so close to the hub that new string would not come out. I’d have to stop, flip the string trimmer upside down, disassemble the spool of string, and re-string it. After three or four times, this got annoying.

I finally upgraded to a metal blade. I was looking for the big three-point blade, but no one had one locally. Instead, I installed one of the four-point “grass” blades. What a difference! I am now mowing down thick woody plant stems, green and dried grass, and small trees (about half an inch) with ease. It works so well, I may never return to sting. It also looks like the blade will simple to re-sharpen with a file, although I only hit two rocks, so far. You definitely don’t want to use the metal blade close to your house or a fence line.

Initially, I installed the blade upside down, meaning the cutting edge was facing the wrong way. I knew there was a 50-50 chance this would be the case, so I was paying attention and noticed the problem as soon as I started the machine. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to unbolt the blade and flip it over. That’s what I get for assuming the Stihl logo went face up; that was not the case.

I’ve sliced and diced weeds two days in a row and expect I have another three or four days ahead of me. I am holding off on some areas until the last of the blooms are gone. The bees are enjoying the golden rod and many are loaded with yellow pollen when they fly onto the landing boards and enter their hive.

Getting the Beehives Ready for Winter

I evaluated my honey supers and pulled four more frames of honey from the hives. I consolidated ten partial frames into one super and left it on what looked to be the hive with the least stores to help the bees get through the winter. The colonies appear to be quite strong and are flying vigorously during the warmest parts of the day. Nonetheless, I re-installed the entrance reducers to help them stay warm at night and prevent robbing.

Since the mite treatment is over, I put a protein patty in each hive and mixed up a batch of sugar syrup for the bees. They are all being fed with hive-top feeders. I have almost finished up the bucket of sugar I took from my survival stores that was packed back in 1998. My plan is to refill the bucket with fresh, 2021 sugar and then seal it back up. I’ll open another old bucket if I need more. The original bucket was part of my pre-Y2K purchase and a Mylar bag and oxygen absorbers protected the sugar. When I pack my own buckets, I use Mylar bags for the wheat, rice, oatmeal, pasta, beans and other foods, but I don’t use them for sugar. My understanding is that it isn’t necessary since bugs won’t eat sugar. If I open a bucket without the Mylar bag, it will be interesting to see if there is any difference in the sugar.

I decided it was not worth getting the honey extractor dirty for four frames of honey, so I am extracting honey the old fashioned way: letting the honey drain out via gravity. I expect it will take a few days, especially since the temperature in our garage is in the low 60s, but I am in no rush.

Inspecting our Water System

Once I got the weed whacker working, I cut away all the weeds, brush, and trees that had grown up in the sunny part of the trail. Only one tree was large enough to require me to use my pocket saw.

Then the dog and I hiked up the mountain to inspect the spring, the piping, and the storage tank, which make up our gravity-flow water system. I am happy to report it all looked fine. The vents we installed to prevent vapor lock were still there, and the screens we installed to prevent tiny critters from gaining access were in place. The overflow was gurgling away, meaning the cistern was full. Even if the spring slows down to give us only half a gallon of water a minute, that would add up to 720 gallons a day, far more than we would use.

Spring overflow
Our spring-fed, gravity-flow water system fills up a large cistern 160 above our house. When it is full, the excess water runs out this overflow hose.

The big test will be to see if the system freezes again this winter.

A rock formation on our mountain.
This rock formation is partway up the mountain, not far from our spring.

Shortages at Walmart

I went to pick up ice cream at Walmart the other day to have with our apple cobbler, and it shocked me to see empty spaces in the Walmart frozen food section.

I’ll be the first to admit that I rarely shop the frozen food section. But seeing the gaps on a Wednesday was a surprise. The shortage seemed to be worst in the meat section, with chicken being in particularly short supply. I do not know if this is a local issue or seen more broadly across the U.S., but it is consistent with some news reports I have read showing the shortage of meat that started in during COVID-19 remains.