Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Few Updates

What's new, besides the unbridled heat and incredible drought we're experiencing?  Well, besides a thorough report on our current weather "issues", I want to take a moment to fill readers in on the three projects I've posted most recently: the Triangle, the bees, and the yurt.
You may recall from the March post that we're trying to rehabilitate a little section of a commercially farmed field by the garden.  As the record will clearly show, we have not been blessed with regular rain. As result our already confused spring planting of winter wheat has only grown to about six inches high before browning and dying.  I really can't blame it.  The Canadian field peas were troopers, though, and came to full maturity.  We will harvest their pods to plant seed this fall with our cover crops.  And if the field peas were troopers, well, the Canada Thistle is an insurgent, and equally successful.  We'll shortly be chopping and pulling them up for, as CSU's Extension website states, "Persistence is imperative so the weed is continually stressed, forcing it to exhaust root nutrient stores and eventually die."  As if the weather wasn't stressful enough.  The two bushy-looking plants in the photo are our long-standing success: elderberries we planted in 2010.  One has more deer damage than the other, but both are doing very well. Time will tell how the Triangle project progresses.
The bees, the bees.  The bees are fantastic!  The weather that is kicking the tail of everything else is apparently just fine for our new colony.  In early May, you might recall, our friend and mentor Steve called us up to say our swarm was ready to pick up.  It was a biggish one, and he imagined it might give us some honey this year.  Each successive week I went through the hive, adding supers as time went by.  The first week of June showed a population boom as the first brood raised by the colony started hatching out.  The second week of May I had added the honey super, since the two brood boxes had almost all their comb drawn.  It was the second week of June before there was any amount of comb drawn in the honey super, but two weeks later that super was full of capped honey!  Wow!  Is this normal or not?  I don't know, but it was a great surprise to me.

  I added a second honey super then, but it has been so hot since that day that I haven't done anything more than take some water out to them and stagger their supers for better ventilation.  Maybe next week will get cool enough to check again.  Does this picture seem odd? The first evening I went out to look and saw them doing this I freaked out just a little. But a quick internet search brought up the term "bearding," which refers to the way they can hang on each other form the bottom.  Colonies do it in hot weather.  You understand, right?  Who wants to hang out in stuffy overcrowded house after working all day?

The yurt is still a mixed bag, but is quickly transitioning into livability.  A few of the finer points are the 1) leaky roof, 2) the loose rafters, and 3) the method of attaching the wall.  I wouldn't have seen issues past point one if it had not been for the extreme weather we got back at the end of June.  For any of you who lost power in that storm, you are familiar with the high winds that accompanied the relatively little rain.  It was enough to demonstrate that the yurt can withstand severe weather if it is sufficiently prepared (which it wasn't).
 For one thing, the rafters are all meant to be secured to the wall cable by means of a notch and screw, and to the center ring by a metal plate.  They all had the notch and screw, but I had not gotten metal plates for the new rafters I made.  When the high winds came, two rafters fell out of the center ring.  Now I know.

It also showed my method of attaching the wall to be faulty.  Since there were no instructions with the yurt, this point is a matter of my own creativity in problem solving.  It may be hard to picture, but try to imagine: along the top of the canvas wall there are two rows of grommets.  Who knows what Spirit Mountain Yurts envisioned - they have no comment.  So I used S-hooks to attached the top row of grommets to the cable atop the lattice wall (see photo above), and I laced a rope between the lower row of wall grommets and the grommets in the roof. When the wind came it pulled up the roof edge and knocked down many of the S-hooks, leaving great gaps for the rain to blow in.  So I guess it's a good thing we didn't get much rain then.

As to the leaky roof, I caulked it with silicone.  The rains today, gentle and soaking, showed that at least a few spots need better caulking.

 I look forward to sharing overwhelming success with you all as reports come in of weedless plots, gallons of honey, and comfortable, stable, lived in yurts!


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Our Boy

Yesterday afternoon we asked Alten if he wanted to go get ice cream.  His body immediately stiffened, his eyes got wide, and he proclaimed:
 "I love that!  I reeeeeally love that!  Alten's tractor likes ice cream, too!"
This is the boy we swore we would never give processed sugar.  What happened?
 I think it's because Dad sneaked him that chocolate when he was ten months old...