Making the Most of May Weather on the Homestead

Did you spot the ammo can?
Did you spot the ammo can?

These are the best weather days of the year. It’s sunny during the day, but the temperatures top out in the upper 60s at our altitude. Then at night, it drops to the high 40s. Great weather for working outdoors; equally great for sleeping. Despite the sun beating down on the roof, the main level of the house has only reached 73°F and is often a few degrees cooler.

It’s been an unusual spring. Wetter than normal. Periods of unseasonal cold followed by a few days of surprisingly warm weather. When I drive my truck, I turn on the AC, but not at the house. In fact, the basement is still chilly, especially after a couple of rainy or cloudy days. Still, it’s hard to imagine that just three weeks ago we lit the wood stove for the last time because the basement dropped to 64°.

The weather makes it difficult to plan. We look at the weather forecast on Sunday and it shows a week with no rain. We wake up Monday morning and it shows a threat of rain on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Then it rains as expected on Tuesday, but missus us on Thursday. On Friday, we get a thunderstorm in late afternoon, which is common in the summer.


Both raised beds are now fully planted, as we added zucchini and bush beans just this week. Depending on how things go, I may slip in some winter squash later in the summer.

The chickens are filing up on greens, mostly clover and grasses, but leaves from whatever else is growing nearby get mixed in. I like to clip the seed heads off the grasses and toss those into the chicken run.

The baby chicks are five weeks old. They get greens now, too. Next week, we move them into the outdoor pen. They will be a section of welded wire fence separating them from the adults. It will be interesting to see how they get along and when we can integrate the flocks. I joke they look like fat crows, but being black, there is some truth to that.

Beehive Report

The bees are doing well. Of my seven hives, I have supers to collect honey on four. Here’s how they breakdown:

Two hives: very strong, bursting at the seams, already on their second super. These will be my biggest honey producers.

Two hives: Doing well, but not as large as the first two hives. They have a super on them, but only a few frames are being filled. I expect these will peak a little later in the season.

The two splits: one is doing well and is already filling the second hive body. This one will get a super soon. The other hive took two tries to get a queen and is a few weeks behind. It will be strong going into winter, but not sure if it will produce much honey for us.

The last hive: Sadly, this hive went queenless and after two tries has not requeened itself. Over the past three weeks, I have given it four frames of brood from our stronger hives, but they have not formed a new queen cell. At this point, I would buy a queen if one was available locally. If they dwindle in population and don’t make a queen cell in the next two weeks, I will combine the bees with the weaker nuc using what is called the newspaper method.

Don’t Bee Foolish

Speaking of bees, some new beekeepers I am assisting found that their new bees are not drawing out their foundation. (This means the bees are not building wax cells on the frames in their new hive, which means they cannot expand. Eventually, the hive could abscond in frustration.) I found out that they bought their bee equipment on Amazon and they can’t tell me if the foundation is waxed or not. Why on earth would you buy bee equipment sold by the lowest bidder and made in China when there are plenty of well-established bee supply companies?

So let that be a warning to anyone thinking about becoming a beekeeper: Buy your equipment from an established supplier who serves beekeepers in your area. They will likely carry products from a well-known brand or build their own, plus they will have experience in your area. Someone on Amazon, eBay, or Tractor Supply will not be able to give you much help while a local supplier is probably a beekeeper and can be a big help.

If you aren’t sure who the local supplier is, join your local bee club and ask at their next meeting. Local and state associations can also provide a great deal of help to new and established beekeepers.

Checking Caches

Yesterday, I hiked up the mountain and visited my first cache. I didn’t uncover it, but the area is undisturbed and everything appears to be fine. A tree had fallen over the logging road, which delighted me because it will limit access.

Because they used heavy, tracked equipment to bury the water lines in December, little is growing on the old logging road and the ground is pretty soft. The dog and I left visible footprints and the only tracks I saw were from a deer. I think I can safely say no one has been up there since my las trip.

It’s different being in the forest with so much greenery. Leaves and undergrowth obstruct my sightlines. If we have to bug out up the mountain, we will be able to hide more easily in the spring and summer, but if someone chases us, it will be more difficult to engage them from a difference. This being our third summer on the mountain, I know this from experience, but the extent of the change from gray woods to green is still a surprise.

Testing Harbor Freight Ammo Cans

Besides the cache area, I also hiked up to an empty .50 caliber ammo can I had left in a small clearing on the side of the mountain for the past three months. It was a brand new, empty can I had purchased from Harbor Freight. Almost all my ammo cans are U.S. military surplus, but they are getting hard to find, so I wanted to test the Harbor Freight model. It held up well. No moisture was inside, meaning that not only was the seal sufficient to keep out the rain, but there had been no condensation. That gave me faith in these cans, despite them being made in China.

Thanks to the rapid growth of weeds and the dappled shade, I almost missed the box. Can you see it in the main photo? Only if you look closely. It would have been easy to walk by it. I may be able to make quick, expedient caches in the spring and summer without digging.

Recent Purchases

I’ve been taking it easy on prepping-related purchases. After spending on ammo a few weeks back, I have exceeded my budget for the month. I did get my monthly load of firewood delivered. This load was mostly locust, and they split it small enough that I didn’t have to re-split any of it. Another two deliveries and we should have six full cords on hand. That should be more than enough for the coming heating season.

I picked up two cans of pork in barbecue sauce at Walmart and a 28-ounce can of Keystone chicken, which was on sale for $6.98. That’s cheaper than buying two of the 12-ounce cans.

We’ve restocked on cat food, bringing the cat back up to a six-month supply. We have a three to four-month stock of food for the dog and the chickens. I’ll be adding two months’ worth of chicken feed in June because we have a trip planned that takes us near our friendly feed mill. I’d like to build up our supply of dog food as well, especially since there is a strong likelihood of a UPS strike in early August. (Because of multiple food allergies, our dog eats a specialty food we have to buy online and arrives via UPS.)

If you count on anything delivered by UPS, get it in June or July. A potential strike is only two months away.