Prepper Lessons, Cold Weather, and a Possible Blizzard

Pumping oxalic acid into a beehive to kill varroa mites.
Pumping oxalic acid into a beehive to kill varroa mites.

Wearing a gas mask is a pain in the neck, especially at my age. After wearing a gas mask for about 30 to 40 minutes, I developed a stiff neck. It’s worse than wearing a helmet, possibly because the weight is forward while a helmet is more evenly distributed. My mask plus filter is heavier than my night vision equipment, but I expect wearing one would be good training for wearing the other.

Why, you ask, was I wearing a gas mask? Because you are supposed to wear a respirator when you treat your beehives with oxalic acid vapor. This stuff kills the varroa mites, and it doesn’t thrill the bees. It’s also bad for human lungs. I wear a gas mask instead of a respirator because that’s what I have. It’s also a good excuse to use my survival equipment, and it protects my eyes as well as my lungs.

Despite the stiff neck, it was good practice. Besides dealing with the weight, I learned wearing a gas mask is not the most pleasant experienced if you have a runny nose. I also learned that I would not want to run up the mountain while wearing one. Breathing through a gas make is hard enough doing little physical labor. I would hate to be breathing hard while wearing one.

These are important lessons. If you have a gas mask, wear it for an hour or two and see what you learn. If you own a tent, set it up in your backyard before you need to use it in an emergency. Likewise, if you plan to use a ferro rod to make a fire, practice it a few times before you use it in the wilderness. Once you get it down, practice it on a rainy day and try to find dry tinder. In short, practice with all your preps so you aren’t learning on the job.

Oxalic Acid Vaporization

I used the Lorab Bees vaporizer I purchased last year, and it works well. After the heat chamber comes up to temperature, I fill a silicon cup with crystalized oxalic acid and place it on the vaporizer. Then I stick the vaporizer’s spout through a hole drilled in the back of the hive and turn the apparatus over. This causes the crystals to fall into the heat chamber where they sublime, shooting gaseous acid out the spout and into the beehive. In just a few seconds, the hive fills with vaporized oxalic acid, which then leaks out of any cracks in the hive. In the hives with mesh bottom boards, the gas swirls out the bottom, as seen in the main image, even though I have the plastic sheet in place. Unless you block it with a rag, the gas will also leak out of the hive entrance.

This treatment is supposed to kill more than 90 percent of the mites that are not in capped brood. As I suggested yesterday, I’ll do this again in a few days and probably a third time several days after that. Although I doubt there is any capped brood in the hive, it was cold enough today that I didn’t want to open the hives and check.

Cold Weather Coming

Speaking of cold, it was 61°F in the bedroom when we woke up this morning. I was quite warm under our down comforter, but trips to the bathroom were less comfortable as it was 53° in there. The main part of the house was 63° and the basement, where the wood stove is, was 68° or so. We’re not trying to show solidarity with our European friends; it’s just that the stove doesn’t crank out the same amount of heat after five or six hours as it does when the wood was first loaded into it.

My wife, who gets up earlier than I, threw some fresh wood in the basement fire and lit a fire in the upstairs fireplace insert. By noon, it was 74 in the basement and 68 upstairs. It was nice to return to a warm house after I was outside in the gusty wind treating the beehives.

That’s one downside of living on a mountain. It’s always windy. We moved to the mountains because we wanted cooler temperatures. We got them; the wind was an unexpected… bonus. I’m glad we are not on the ridgeline. I can stand in the road, which is a low point of the hollow, and hear the wind whipping overhead. When it’s bad, I’ve heard trees crack and fall over up on the mountain.

I know you’re familiar with the concept of wind chill. Living here makes it far more than a concept. This time of year, one develops an appreciation of wind-proof outerwear.

Blizzard Warnings and Christmas Travel

The weather forecasters are predicting a potential blizzard across the East Coast over Christmas weekend. Too early to be sure, but some forecasts are predicting overnight temperatures on Christmas weekend in the low single digits in our neck of the woods.

Looks like it is time for me to go to the store and buy 12 bags of raised bed garden mix I can leave in the back of the pickup to give me traction. That and the four-wheel drive will help if the snow is’t too deep.

Whether you are driving or flying, a blizzard is likely to cause delays and cancellations. If you are planning to travel for Christmas, please keep an eye on the weather and equip yourself and your vehicle accordingly. Think back a year ago to people who were stuck in their cars on I-95 for up to 24 hours. IIs that how you want to spend your holiday? I’d rather be stuck in an airport than on the side of an interstate, but better yet, I’d rather be snowed in at home.

My wife is already talked to my daughter about the possibility of postponing her Christmas visit. Not only does she have to worry about getting here, she has to worry about getting back. If we get heavy snow, she may not be able to leave the house for a week, longer if it doesn’t warm up. We’ll make a decision about whether she visits on Thursday or Friday. Either way, plans for some range time might have to be postponed.

Tomorrow, I’m planning to take the generator out of the garage and give it a test firing and let it run for half an hour under a load. That will make sure we’re ready if the power goes out in the blizzard. While I am at it, I think I may run the log splitter and burn up any gas left it in the tank. I don’t foresee using it again for months, and I’d like to run the carburetor clean and dry for winter storage.