Monthly Archives: September 2014

rooster1

Wake Up! Wake Up! (A Rooster Comes of Age)

One of our roosters has discovered the sun.

For most of my life, I’ve been given the gift of sleeping through just about anything.  When growing up, I would often hear stories about crazy things that happened in the night (lightning striking trees within 10 feet of our house, loud wild animals that sound like women screaming, etc) that I slept right on through.

Except for twice when I tried to convince my parents that I chased after a squirrel in our house with a pot from the kitchen cabinet at two o’clock in the morning.  They both told me I must have been sleep walking (in their defense, I sleep walk and sleep talk more than the average person).  They found out that they were mistaken when a flying squirrel ran across my dad’s chest while he was watching TV late one night.  He caught it.  I named it Petey and took it to college with me.  We fed it a diet of salted peanuts. It soon became lethargic, so we eventually set it free after it bit a few folks.

But I digress.

I don’t sleep as deeply as I used to, now waking up constantly through the night – afraid that the walls are caving in (a fun recurring dream during renovation), or that the room is full of bugs that are trying to kill me.  But I often hang out in the state between dream and reality.

Recently, my wife asked me “did you hear the chickens this morning?,” to which I said “no.”  Then I realized that I had stressful dreams of a really strange sounding dog that was right outside our bedroom window.  Apparently, every morning when the sun is now peaking over the Tennessee trees, at least one of our four roosters is so excited about it that he wants everyone in a half-mile radius to see it too.

Wait – four roosters?

Yes.  Out of the five eggs that hatched, I’m pretty dang sure that four of them are roosters.  I’m not positive – because they don’t give the normal tell-tale signs of gender – but my big plan to gather eggs and survive off omelets and huevos rancheros seems to be slipping away.

roosters2

The other three roosters, in addition to the one at the top of the post

The sad thing about a bunch of roosters and one hen is that I’m basically raising them as pets.  Sure – tasty pets – but until they end up in the frying pan, all they do is eat my food and offer their services as off-grid alarm clocks.  (Have I mentioned that I don’t like waking up early?)

The whole reason I love the idea of chickens so much is that they are so productive.  A hen lays around an egg a day – and once she stops doing that, she’ll grace our plates with a final provisionary sacrifice.

The lonely hen

The lonely hen, hiding from her suitors

Roosters have a different job, though.  (Mark Turner told that me I’m the perfect person to talk about the birds and the bees, so…)  When you need more baby chicks, a stud just needs one short romantic jaunt with a hen to fertilize her eggs for two weeks or so.  Meaning – every egg she lays after that union can be incubated to lay another chick for 14 days (or longer).  You can’t have your egg and eat it too.  So, if I only have one hen, and I’m needing eggs to raise more chicks, the carton in my fridge remains empty.  Of course, that’s when she starts laying, which is probably still a month away.

Another problem is that roosters are good at their job.  I read on a blog recently that if you have multiple roosters, it’s good to have about 10 hens per rooster, so that they don’t get too competitive.  So, something tells me that a 4 to 1 ratio will spawn the greatest cockfight in history.

And on top of that, it’s very likely that they’ll kill the lone hen, or at least injure her.

I’m hoping I’m wrong, though…  The two brown ones are a little questionable.  I’d love to be wrong.

But if I’m right, I’m planning on eating one of them soon.  They’re nearing 12 weeks, so they should be in prime condition for frying.  I’ve got a few friends who want to be there when I ‘dispatch’ and clean the first one, so maybe we’ll just make a strange party of it.  (Let me know in the comments if you want to be on the guest list)

My brother also said he’d swap out the rooster that might be a full-fledged Delaware for one of his hens, since all of his Delaware roosters died.  We’ve already talked of me getting more chickens from him, but I need to finish the long-term coop and run before I take them on.  And that hasn’t been moving forward as fast as I planned.  For some reason, the trees that I chopped down haven’t cut themselves into neat stacks of firewood.

In other news, I also found out last week that my well is working very… well…  (smirk)

I decided to start poking around at the components, plugging some stuff in, and flipping breakers that had not yet been flipped.  Within 5 seconds of flipping one breaker and hearing a click, I heard an explosion in my back yard, and all the power to my house was out.  When the power guy came out to look at it, he said that the power for a number of houses around me was also out.  I tried to act as innocent as possible and simply told him I was trying to figure out what the breakers went to, and didn’t know if that was related.  But – luckily, it was not my fault.  A squirrel committed suicide on the transformer at the exact same moment as I flipped the breaker.  (I just hope it wasn’t Petey.)  After the power was back on, I flipped the breakers again, and water gushed out within 10 seconds.  I’ve still got a lot of work to do to make it usable, but I’m extremely excited about that.

Oh – and on another note.  If you are the guy who has decided that my property is a good alternative to the dump…  Stop.  The actual dump (or “convenience station,” as it’s called) is literally 3 miles away.  And it’s free.  So, I’m looking at it as some sort of challenge – because I figure it took you longer to find my property than it would have to simply google “where to dump trash.”

Photo Sep 12, 1 24 49 PM

Sheesh.

shotgun

Meat on the table? 7 reasons I suck at hunting

I’ll have to make a confession here.  When I played Duck Hunt on the Nintendo as a child, I would be 1 inch from the screen.  And I still wasn’t a great shot.

And while I’m being honest, I also shot the dog when he laughed at me.  (Just to clarify for any non-80’s kids: the dog in the game, not the actual family dog.)

Both of my brothers hunted when I was growing up, but I never really got into it.  Every Christmas, they would ask for a camo shirt or some sort of bottle of deer urine – but I would ask for a book or video game or some other inside oriented thing.  Any surprise I’m a computer programmer now?

But, I saw this in my front yard this morning:

deer-front-yard

Three deer, in case you can’t see… I took the picture through my window.

And I saw this in my back yard while we were renovating:

turkey-backyard

These days, I definitely see the benefit of hunting, and I want to hunt – but there are some things about myself that I’m going to have to get over.

1. I Hate Waking Up Early

The last few years I’ve been self employed, which means instead of waking up to an alarm I generally work from when my wife goes to sleep until I can’t keep my eyes open.  There have been a few times that I went to bed after my my wife woke up to get ready for work.  So it’s safe to say I’m a night owl.

Hunting, on the other hand, is early.  Early early.

I went dove hunting with my brothers-in-law this past weekend, and Ben said we could sleep in until 7am because it was “vacation.”  Generally, in hunting, if you get to your spot after the sun is slightly up, you’ve lost your chance.  Actually – there seems to be a trend among men that in order to prove your personal commitment and general manliness, you get up earlier than everyone else.  6am bible studies…  5am mastermind groups…  3am golf tee time…  (Ok – maybe last one hasn’t happened yet, but just wait.)

I get it, for the most part.  The reason most people do those things that early is because they have to get to work by 8 or so, and they have full evenings.  I’m very blessed that I’m “in the office” whenever my laptop is on.  But I’ll always opt for the later slots – the men’s groups and coffee appointments that are in the evening.

But still no decaf – I’ve got work later.

2. I Don’t Like Being Cold

The further south you go, the warmer it is – so moving from Kentucky to Tennessee did give me slightly warmer winters and summers.  My perfect temperature is upper 70’s inside or mid 80’s with a good breeze.  I prefer ‘extreme’ hot to ‘extreme’ cold hands down.  But don’t go crazy…  If I had to choose between 140°F and 40°F – even though 40°F is “colder,” it’s the obvious choice.

But, TN is not immune to ridiculously cold temps, especially the last few years.  Early this year, my band decided to schedule our outdoor photo shoot on what turned out to be the coldest weekend of the year, in the teens.  Or – if it wasn’t actually the coldest, it was the coldest that I was outside all year.  Oh – and we took pictures by a lake.  All day.  I shivered uncontrollably, and when I was given the “action” signal from the photographer, I put my best acting abilities to use.  “I’m not cold,” I tried to tell myself.  “It’s blazing hot out here.”

But I was cold.  And it was not blazing hot out there.

So, a number of the photos had to be thrown out simply because I looked like I was in horrible pain – and I was.  (To be fair, though, mine were not the only grimaces that caused us to toss some of the shots)  I’m pretty sure the “keeper” shots we have now have been photoshopped so that I don’t have extremely pale skin with an extremely red nose.  I’m not going to ask Johan though, because then I can act like he didn’t.  But you and I know he did.

Anyhow, most of the “worthwhile” hunting seasons are scheduled during the freezing cold. I’m planning on going bow hunting this year, and the season starts at the end of September – so I’m hoping the temp won’t drop too much by then.  (Though the immediate drop in temp over the last few days squashes my hope a bit.)

I suppose this year I’ll be the one asking for warm camo for Christmas.

3. I’m A Very LOUD Person

Holly often whispers “shhhhh” to me when I think I’m talking in a normal tone of voice – especially when we’re getting ready for bed.  She’ll follow it up with a soft, “You don’t have to yell” – and again, I think I’m simply being audible.  I always say it’s because I’m a Stevenson.  (Hey, Stevensons – admit it.  We’re loud.)  But it also could be because I’ve been in a rock band for almost 8 years, was in another one in college, and have been playing loud music for a really long time.

When you’re lying in wait for your prey to approach, any noise you make lets them know that you’re there and that they probably don’t want to be.  I suppose I won’t be making as much noise when I’m hunting by my lonesome (I don’t think I’m loud when I talk to myself), but so far I’ve only gone hunting with other people.  And I have the uncontrollable urge to socialize with them.

4. I’m Not Good at Sitting Still

I can lay still – that’s easy; I enjoy sleeping.  But sit me down with nothing to do and you’ll get the least amount of focus possible from me.  Hyperactivity was my best friend as a kid.

I can focus hardcore.  While I’m programming, it’s easy for me to get into the zone and lose track of time because I’m coding up a storm.  But when I don’t have an all consuming focus, I’m as distracted as a cat chasing three laser pointers.

With nothing to do, my mind wanders.  I think that can be a good thing – because of that, I’m a songwriter, and I recently finished writing my first novel (more on that later).  Letting my mind wander allows me to create other worlds in my head, and I try to put that down on paper when possible.

But when you’re hunting, you have to sit still and be focused – because otherwise, all of your preparation and still-sitting is for nothing when you either scare something off, or something passes right in front of you and you’re unaware.

5. I’m Still Not Fond of Killing Things

The first dove I killed, I prayed over it, thanking God for creating animals for us to eat, because I needed to remind myself that it was a good thing.  The first chicken I killed, I had to put my head between my knees because I was getting incredibly nauseous.  We, in the “civilized” world, are so completely disconnected from our food source that we generally don’t think about the death of animals anytime we bite into a juicy steak or a glorious piece of bacon.

I’m trying to get better about that, eating less processed food, and paying attention where everything actually comes from.  (I started writing a separate blog post about that – maybe I’ll finish it one day.)  I’m getting better in terms of killing and cleaning animals…  I’ve slaughtered a handful of chickens since my first one, each getting easier.  After hunting this weekend (I shot at a bunch, hitting nothing), a friend of my bro-in-law killed a squirrel, and three of us huddled around it and a youtube video, figuring out the best way to clean it.

But…  Blood can still make me faint.

6. My Eyesight is Getting Worse

I have a computer programmer’s eyes.  I code in the dark, with an dark color scheme.

coding

If you turn on the light in whatever room I’m in, I will invariably hiss like Dracula seeing the sun.  When going outside, I have to wear sunglasses even when it’s overcast, else I’ll end up with a headache in no time from all of my squinting.  I don’t think that sunglasses will help me see deer/birds better.

I also have floaters in my eyes, which oddly look a lot like birds when I look up in the sky.

And lastly, I had a doctor diagnose me with Convergence Insufficiency, which means that when I’m tired, I have a hard time focusing my eyes on something.  When people talked about “double vision,” I never thought that they were describing what I saw.  And, unlike Foreigner, it never gets the best of me.

7. I’m Extremely Cheap

Extremely.  Cheap.

Just ask my wife.  One of our most memorable fights early in marriage was caused by her finding a deal on some shirts.  For me.  She got three for the same amount that we agreed that she’d spend to get me one.  She thought I’d be excited, but instead I was mad because she could have still only bought the one, and saved 2/3 the money.

I’ve loosened up a bit since then.  And it helps that we’re both making better money than a part-time hotel room service attendant (me) and an ice cream scooper (her).

But hunting is not cheap.  It’s expensive.  Guns cost, like, a lot of money.  And ammo prices have been rising almost as fast as gas.  It pays for itself – as long as you kill some big game – but the initial cost could easily finance my bees, chickens, and whatever’s next for a number of years.

But, as a man, I like guns.  So I’ll take the hit and buy some guns.  And luckily, I got a crossbow for Christmas last year.  And I’ve been practicing.  So, watch out, trees right beside my future target.

crossbow

Bonus! I Can’t Tell Birds Apart

This  is a bonus, because it only pertains to bird hunting, which won’t make up the majority of my hunting experiences.  Whenever birds flew overhead this weekend, I pretty much always looked at someone else to see if they were raising their gun first – because I had no idea what kind they were, and if they were in season.  At the end of the day, I still didn’t know which ones were doves for sure, but I at least knew which ones I’d be thrown in jail for shooting.

I’ll let you live this time, bald eagle.

And, in general, I simply have no idea what I’m doing.

Kill the Invaders! …or… How I’m Protecting My Bees From Small Hive Beetles

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed something every time I’ve opened my hives.

These jerks:

At first it wasn’t a big deal – I’d only see one or two, and they’d be running from a swarm of attackers who were unhappy with sharing the same living quarters. But… Lately…

Photo Aug 11, 10 13 00 AM

Yeah. They’re everywhere. In almost every corner of every super, there’s a mound of them. Interestingly, they’re gathered together because the bees are shoo-ing them into the corners, putting them in time out. I watch them do it – if the beetle isn’t running, the bees curl around it as if they’re planning on both eating it and stinging it at the same time. I don’t think they do either, but it’s fascinating.

One of the first Nashville Area Beekeepers Association meetings I attended was about pests, and for some reason I felt like that was something I wouldn’t have to worry about until a couple of years down the road… Fewer bees, fewer pests, right?

Apparently, the stronger a hive is, the better a colony will be prepared to keep the small hive beetles at bay – and if a colony is weak, the beetles reign supreme. They damage the wax, honey and pollen, and – if there are enough of them – can cause the colony to abandon the hive. So – more bees, fewer pests, then?

Well – not really. As my bee numbers grew, so did the number of these little punks. It’s just that as the hive grew stronger, they were able to coral them better. Almost every time I peeked into the hives, I saw this:

Photo Aug 11, 10 10 40 AM

At the bottom of my hives I have screened bottom boards, which basically means that the structure itself is open, with only a screen covering the bottom.  (“Screened Bottom Board” is a great name, then, eh?)  I’ve had corrugated plastic slipped in since the beginning to basically seal it shut, because I’ve been told that the bees like to draw out comb in the dark. They’re done drawing out comb in the first super (otherwise known as a brood chamber), and it’s been pretty hot, so I could probably leave it open. (I literally just realized that as I was typing this)

However, besides ventilation, the screened bottom board is there so that the bees can push anything they don’t want in the hive out of the hive, without dragging it to the entrance. There’s plenty of trash that they’ll have to drag to the entrance, but hive beetles are small enough (and numerous enough) that it’s convenient to drive them to the bottom of the hive and let them drop through the screen.

Until recently, I’d see just about the same amount of small hive beetles on the plastic and I’d kill as many as I could before they flew away. But the problem is that if they’re just sitting on the plastic, just an inch away from the screen, there’s nothing stopping them from crawling back up into the hive after they catch their breath. So – even though I was seeing around the same number when I pulled the plastic out, the truth is that there were most likely a bunch that came and went when I wasn’t looking.

So – I bought some lunch trays online (had to get them online to get the right size), and they arrived a few days ago. Why? By replacing the plastic with the lunch trays, I can pour in a little cooking oil into the tray, so that when the beetles fall in, they get stuck and die. (I didn’t come up with this idea)

I suited up, including my new ankle guards, protecting me from the curious bee:

ankle-bracelet

Be honest… Do these make my feet look fat?

All I could find in the kitchen was olive oil – which I know is much more expensive than most cooking oils, but… I used it anyway, with a very thing layer.  Don’t tell my wife.  Success!

Photo Aug 21, 4 22 14 PM

In about 24 hours, more than the usual amount of small hive beetles were stuck in the oil! There were also a bunch crawling around on it, telling me that my thin layer wasn’t going to cut it. Luckily, I ran to Kroger while I was running errands earlier that day and brought back a big jug of canola oil and filled them both up after dumping the first batch out.

So… Another 24 hours later…

Photo-Aug-22,-2-03-50-PM

 

Booyah!  With more oil, I have less beetles!

Wait – that doesn’t sound like a win, does it?

It does to me.  Because I got so many the first day with a thin layer of oil, and then far less the next day, that means the numbers of the beetles had already drastically lowered.  As I said before, every time I pulled the bottom board plastic out, I had a consistent number of beetles – which says to me that the bees were dumping a consistent number out through the screen at regular intervals.  Before, if I shooed them off the plastic and came back the next day, I’d see the same number.  Because the little buggers now drop into the oil, they couldn’t get away – so seeing less hopefully means less overall.

I was away on vacation for a week, and I checked them again yesterday.  (If my present/past/future tense gets a little crazy in this blog, it’s because I started it before I left, and am finishing it now that I’m back)

Photo Sep 01, 10 03 34 AM

I did not dump out the previous bath of beetle-juice (I had to fit that in somewhere), so everything above includes the old amount.  There isn’t that many – which makes me very excited!

You can also see a whole lot of pollen that fell through the screen, which means that they’ve been busy little bees during the week, too.  There were also some moths and moth larvae in there, so the trap is doing double duty.

Regrettably, there are also a handful of bees in the bath.  However, I’ll bestow honor on them, and say that they gave their lives in the line of duty, corralling the invaders to their death.  Truthfully, they can’t fit through the screen, so they probably didn’t follow them into the oil…  It’s more likely that they were on the underside of the screen when I slid it in place – but I think I’ll tell the other bees that they’re martyrs, so that they don’t come at me angrily next time I pop my head in.

I always hate losing bees – but since a good colony has more than 50,000, and the bees only live for about 6 weeks during the summer, it’s happening all the time.  Still…  I’d prefer not to be the reason that they go gently into that good night.

honey-super

On another note, I added a honey super, because they’ve drawn out all of their existing comb!  I still won’t get any honey this year, because they need to be set for winter, but they’re on a good path to hopefully be self-sustained.  (Instead of me feeding them sugar water to get them through)  I’m hoping there will still be enough in bloom for them to fill that super up – and I actually planted a few perennial flowers around the hives, so that next year (or possibly this year), they’ll have some pollen close by.