Friday, June 30, 2017

New skill! Cedar Baskets

My baskets are wonky, but sturdy. 

One piece of cedar bark folded, laced with cedar.  

There was a workshop going on where I work and I was allowed to jump in and learn.  Very fun.
And a great skill for the self-reliance quest.

Sunday, June 25, 2017


Last weekend my bees swarmed!! I saw them go.  I had stared at the hives at about 8am.  No bees were out.  I thought maybe they were dead or had all left.  But really, 5 hives.  What are the odds they would ALL bugger off the same time?

At 10am or so I walked by again.  There were bees everywhere.  EVERYWHERE.  I heard a hum.  A LOUD hum.  Bees were pouring out of the hive of carniolans.  The hive I had split a few weeks ago.  Both that hive the the nuc I made from had looked plenty strong. Apparently they were.

Then I noticed at a buttload of bees were all apparently trying to eat about 5 flowers on the ninebark bush 10 feet from the hive.  I thought "That looks like a swarm."  Then it hit me.  IT WAS a swarm.  DUH.  It was my first time.  I was a swarm virgin.

Nice of them to wait until I was home and walking around.  Had it been a weekday, I wouldn't have been there and would have lost them all.

I went to the ninebark and sure enough, a beard of bees hanging off a branch.

I literally dropped what I was doing (had to go hunting for various tools after the swarm was dealt with) and ran get my bee stuff and figure out a new home.
I had an extra hive body, a top and inner cover and a couple of crap bottoms that I was going to make better one of these days...oops. 

Anyway, I put it all together and put in frames (note to self: next time put the frames in AFTER the bees). It's up on a pallet.  Didn't have bricks or blocks but perhaps one of these days.

I grabbed a rubber tub with a lid and headed to the swarm.  I shook the bee-jezuz out of the branch and many many bees fell into the box.  I laid the lid on gently and took them to the new hive, quite a ways from the old hive and facing away from the beeyard.  I want them to feel like they really moved.

I went back to the tree and there was a smaller beard on the
branch.  Must not have gotten the queen.  The 3rd trip back to check there was a tiny bee beard so I broke the branch off into the tub and took it all to the new hive.  I did one more trip just to be sure.

I fed them but didn't have a feeder I liked so I put sugar and warm water in a quart jar, put a few holes in the lid, then up ended it on an over turned muffin tin.  Worked just fine.

I didn't have any drawn comb to give them so put in empty frames of foundation.

Then I went to relax, hydrate (it was hot as blazes and I had to wear the bee hat. Didn't bother with gloves), and look up what to do about a swarm in my bee reference book.  I pretty much nailed it.  I have had some classes so I wasn't flying totally blind.  The book said that a swarm is all prepped to draw comb so it is the best time to set up bees in a box of empty foundation if one must do that.  Good to know.

They weren't all that interested in the sugar syrup so that is probably a sign they have plenty of real food out there.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Self-Reliance: Solar System

I went with solar to run the well.

There IS a power line crossing part of my property, and yet it would mean paying to set poles and run line to the homesite or well head or somewhere to get hooked in to that.  It was going to be  extremely expensive.  And then I'd be paying a monthly bill.

So, I skipped it.  As I plan the real cabin to live in properly, I'm planning to stick with stand-alone solar.  Not grid tie.  Grid tie here means paying to set those poles and hook up, and then having a more expensive solar system to avoid feed back and meter it and etc.  So, skip it.  I might get more panels.

Right now the system is 2 panels (I forget the size, but biggish, not crappy little ones), 8 batteries, a 24volt system into the inverter which runs the well and has an outlet on it.  There is also a charge controller, The panels are on a pole that can turn and tilt them.

I have learned that I should have gotten a 220/240V well pump, or a DC well pump, or a special one that can run on any power (220, 110, DC, whatever).  I got a 110.  Oh well.  We can't get it all right the first time.   It draws much amperage especially at start up so one scraped wire dropping volts meant it didn't work right for about a year until I found the right solar guys to figure out the issue.  That wire will be replaced when the real cabin goes in and the solar is moved and that portion will need to be re-wired. 

IF I wanted a fridge and washing machine and freezer and to live like someone on the grid, the solar would be too expensive or too high maintenance for me.  I will have lights, a bathroom fan, a few outlets, the well.  That's about it.  I may get a couple more panels to keep the charge up and I'm exploring microhydro and microwind for the not-so-sunny times, but that will probably end with exploration.

I'm not "self-sufficient" with the solar since someone built the panels and other components and I don't do my own wiring etc. I am self-reliant in that with this system in place, I am currently fulffilling most of my electrical needs.  I did bring the electric weed whacker and battery to work today to charge, but that was because I didn't want to leave the charger unattended, and yet I want to weed whack tonight while it's cool out.  I COULD have charged it at home.

Having the solar run the well pump, even the poorly chosen pump, is pretty darn self reliant.  The whole well/water system is pretty cool but I guess that's another post so I will save it.

Here is a picture of the solar panels and the well pump controller (power thingy) stuck on a post by the spigot.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

I Found the Tree!!!

It was closer to the bee yard than I remembered and I hadn't staked it immediately...then the hay left over from the land's previous life as a hay field grew as tall as the wee tree start.  Totally invisible until I nearly tripped on it.  I put in a stake and it has leafed out nicely.  This is the Wallis Cherry.  I may be spelling that wrong.

Friday, June 2, 2017

One of My Personal Heroes: Tyrone Hayes

Dr. Hayes is a biologist at Berkeley, UC Berkeley that is, who studies atrazine effects.  Atrazine is an herbicide used for a variety of things, especially corn crops.  Lots on corn.  I saw a map of atrazine use per acre of agricultural land and my home town is in the red zone.  For reals.

Anyway, Dr. Hayes studied what this atrazine would do to frogs.  At levels lower than EPA standards, atrazine chemically castrated the male frogs (they not only didn't turn into male-looking frogs, they made eggs, mated with other males, and had live baby frogs come out of those eggs).    The atrazine manufacturer who was paying for this study thought many of which was that perhaps Dr. Hayes could report the results differently.  Perchance in a way that made it look like atrazine didn't do that. He said, "No."  He stuck with that.  He is a hero of mine.

Here he is on Democracy Now a few years ago: