Thursday, February 16, 2023

On The Air!

It was great fun to be on the air with Rick Vuyst and Stacey Hirvela. They have a relatively new show called, Gardening Simplified where they share their love of plants. Honey bees fit in quite naturally with a love of plants, so it makes sense to have a beekeeper as a guest. Fortunately for me, I was that beekeeper. Their program airs on WOOD Radio Saturday mornings from 9:00am-10:00am. Their YouTube version has a little bit more content than the radio version. Here is the link to the YouTube version. https://youtu.be/MMB3qLCgMB0

After lighting the smoker, using pine needles and twigs, I put green grass on top. This gives a "cool" smoldering smoke used to confuse and calm the honey bees.
As beekeepers, we can tell a lot about a hive by simply looking up into a box from the bottom as it sits on its front side. This is a useful skill especially in cooler springtime inspections since pulling out frames might chill the bees.
I am removing the weight (brick) on top of this hive in preparation for a hive inspection, or replacing it after an inspection. After smoking the entrance to the hive, I puff a little smoke under the top cover, too, before I remove the lid altogether to perform an inspection of the frames.
 
This frame appears to be filled with honey. It looks dark; probably because the cells were first used for  brood (eggs, larvae, and developing bees) and then as the bees emerged the they filled those cells with honey. The darkness comes from the "cocoon skins" left by the emerged honey bees. That frame in my hands contains about four pounds of honey.
Here I am checking out a brood frame. I look for eggs (so I know the queen is present), healthy larvae, healthy capped brood (under which the bees are developing), and other indications of the general health of the hive.
Honey bees are so amazing. It is a privilege to care for them.
Hey, look who's NOT wearing a veil while he works with the bees! I often say that "I always wear at least a veil when I am working with honey bees." Well, this time I took off the veil for the photos so people could see the face of the beekeeper. I did take a sting to the face that day. Ouch!
Thanks for reading my blog and a special thanks to Kayla from Kayla Marie Videography for all these great pictures on this post. She took many more as well and you can see more of them on my website.

 


 

 

Friday, February 3, 2023

First Ice Fishing of the Season! Finally!

 On February 2, 2023 I finally went ice fishing for the first time of the season. What took me so long? We have had an unusually mild January. December got cold and it was snowy. So, the lakes froze over, but it was "snow ice" and unsafe. Then almost every day in January was above freezing temperatures, so the lakes opened up again. This last week has been cold. It is 10 degrees F as I type this. Our ice re-formed quickly. The lakes were ready to ice over and it only took about one week to become safe enough to fish.

On January 31 I drilled a hole in the ice at my local fast-freezing lake and it was two inches thick--not enough to safely fish, so I went home. Two days later it was 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 inches everywhere I fished. That is a nice thickness when it is fresh, hard ice. It makes me feel relatively safe, and it is easy to auger holes while searching for fish.

This is the auger I use. It is a five inch auger which I find a perfect size for pulling up bluegills and other panfish. I do wish I had a six inch auger for pike fishing, but this old auger of mine has served me well for many years. It is a Mora brand. Check out my YouTube video on how to auger a hole through the ice.


 

It was a super cold day and the wind was whipping besides, so my gloves did not stay off my hands for long. The goggles are nice for windy days and they keep the sun off my face a little bit. You can get quite a sunburn while ice fishing. Note the yellow life jacket under my jacket. Whenever the ice is "iffy" I wear a life jacket. Thanks to my son, whose reflection you can see in my goggles, for taking his gloves off on a very cold morning (on his day off work) to take pics of his dear old dad for dad's blog and YouTube channel.

This speck (speckled bass or crappie) almost pulled my rod into the lake. I had set down my rod onto the ice while I walked away for a short bit. When I came back, I noticed a fish pulling the rod tip towards the hole. I quickly picked up the rod, set the hook, and hauled in a decent crappie (pronounced "croppy" and not "crappy"--it's only crappy fishing when you're not catching any).


Two nice fillets going into the pail. Yum!

Waiting for the next fish to bite.

A couple of beautiful yellow perch. Their bellies are loaded with spawn. Perch may be the finest eating fish in the state of Michigan. Yes, walleyes are delicious, too, but I think perch are better. See the tiny bluegill on the ice at the bottom right side of the picture? I usually don't leave fish on the ice for long since they are calling cards to anyone looking to find fish. 


 It felt sooo good to stare at a sneaky bobber over a hole in the ice again. It has been a long time without any ice fishing. We usually start ice fishing by at least the middle of January and usually earlier. I often say that all I want for Christmas is safe ice on the area lakes so I can go ice fishing.

Nothing to brag about here, but it is a meal and that was my goal for the day. Plus, we walked off the ice dry. That is always a good thing when ice fishing.
 

Thanks for reading my blog. It sounds like the weather will be warming above freezing again soon, so I think this may be a very short ice fishing season. I hoped we would get a month of fishing, but now I think it will be just about five or six days. This has been the latest start ever for me in over 50 years of ice fishing. My 89 year old father said he can not remember this late of a start in his lifetime either. We will enjoy it while we have it. Sigh. Oh well, I guess I can tap the sugar maple trees soon by the sounds of the forecast.





Friday, December 2, 2022

'Tis The Season--For Making Mead

When the weather cools and beekeeping work subsides, and the boat is put away for the season. It is time to make some mead. Checkout the strawberry melomels in this picture! A melomel is mead with fruit additions.

After the honey harvest, I have beeswax to melt (render). A bi-product of this is a honey water mix we can use for cooking or mead making. I prefer the latter. Since the honey has been heated in the wax melting process, some of the sugars in the honey are caramelized, producing a slightly sweeter mead, since those caramelized sugars will not ferment. I call this honey "melter honey" since it came out from the wax melter. The dark liquid below is melter honey. It does not look very appetizing here, but add some more water, a little bit of the right yeast, and give it time and you may find it very appealing.

I am teaching a mead making class locally in early December, so mead has been on my mind as I prepare handouts and make simple bread yeast mead(s) for participants to sample since they will be receiving a kit to make such a mead. I want them to know how their final product may taste. 

In the above picture you may notice the mead is JAOM (Joe's Ancient Orange Mead). I am suggesting to class participants that this is another simple bread yeast mead option for them to make. So, I posted a video of me making JAOM on my YouTube channel for folks to watch. In a few days, I will post another video highlighting the mead that class members will make with the "kits" we provide on class day.

Here is the "kit". An extra lid grommet, an airlock, a box of raisins, a small bag of both dried lemon and dried orange peels, a teabag of black, decaffeinated tea (hidden under the yeast packet), one packet of active dry yeast, and the bucket in which to ferment.


 Everyone receives one quart of honey (paid for by participants). 


And, I will bring one gallon of sweet well water per person, so anyone who wants one may take one for their mead making kit. Some may opt to purchase spring water instead and that is totally fine.

Hopefully, people will end up with something they can enjoy. Unfortunately, the class is full, but I hope we can do it again sometime.


 


There is a chrysanthemum under all that snow from a mid November blast of cold and snow. Hmmm, could this be why some people move to warmer climates in winter? Enjoy!!






Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Lazy Hazy Days

 I have decided that The Lazy Hazy Days of Summer is a total misnomer. The days of summer are busy and fly by every year. And they fly faster as I get older. Enjoy!

We have been to several locations to speak about honey bees already this summer. Check out this library in Linden, MI. It is an old mill house. What a setting. The next two pics are views from just outside the library....



Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park hosted us a couple of times recently. I love speaking there! Here we are all set up and ready to make some hand rolled beeswax candles after the presentation.


 


I love to see it when librarians set out books related to what we are speaking about and here are some honey bee books for patrons to parooz.

 At another library here. What a thrill to speak about something I so much enjoy. Honey Bees!



On one of our walks I found poison ivy. No big news there. I find it all over the place and am often telling my wife not to get too far off the road because, "that's all poison ivy over there". In this case, I found poison ivy growing out of a rock! Pretty amazing. In the second pic my finger is pointing to the area where the plant originates....from the middle of the rock.


We have enjoyed the foliage from our hydrangea plant for the 22 years we have lived at our home. This year, for the first time, it is blooming! Just one blossom, but hey, after 22 years, it's a big deal to me!


While at Lake Michigan, I found a dead fish in the water. When I got close I saw it was a big carp. 


I have started speaking about the basics of fishing. In this pic you see an ice fishing tip-up and a swimming toy that I used to simulate a pike to show how to hold it properly along with other show and tell items. Plus, my fishing poles are lined up in the background. I used them to demonstrate the various types of fishing.


It's cucumber time of year. I have not usually cared much for cukes. This year, I like them more than ever before. My parents' garden has been producing some beauties and they are mild and quite delicious. My wife makes awesome pickle relish with cucumbers, too. This pic shows a bowl full of shredded cukes ready for relishing (pun intended).


 We are so blessed to have Lake Michigan and its beauty nearby. Thank you for reading my blog.




 





Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Bird and the Bees


We participated in the Kent County Parks Discover! event yesterday at Millennium Park and had a unique experience involving an oriole.



My wife was talking to the Birds of Prey ladies so I walked over and saw an oriole in an autumn olive bush. I didn't want to interrupt, but I didn't want them to miss it either. It looked so pretty amidst the creamy white blossoms. I said, "Look, an oriole." They all exclaimed in delight.


 As we watched, the oriole flew over to our display and sat watching the live honey bees.


We wondered if it saw a lunch buffet in the observation hive.




I gradually walked closer, taking pictures all the way, expecting it to fly.


Instead of flying, it perched on our honey straws and pecked at one. So, I eased the bag up and the oriole rode along. Look at the amazing colors on the bird. The breast has hues of yellow and orange I found remarkable up close.

Finally, it hopped onto my wrist where it sat for 30-40 seconds and then flew away. 

It was a unique experience indeed!





Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Finding Beauty

In the springtime it is easy to find beauty. Why is it we thrill every spring to see the same glorious wildflowers? Are we happy to have come through another long winter? Does it remind us of hope for new life? There seems to be something built into us that enjoys the cycles of nature. Each first snowfall is "exciting" as are the first flowers of a new season.

I love seeing fields of dandelions blooming. That means my honey bees can find pollen and nectar in abundance. Let your dandelions bloom if you live in an area where you can do that without any troubles from neighbors. The bees will thank you. And, you can eat those fresh new dandelion leaves as they start to grow in spring. They are good in a salad.

We have a scrawny little peach tree that seemed to die a few years ago. Then, almost miraculously, it seemed to grow again from a different part of the root area. So, here we are again. I marvel at the beauty of its blossoms and the fact that is still grows. The shade of our woods keeps it from developing mature fruits. They stay small and green but I have eaten them sometimes when they soften. 

Pear tree blossoming at a nearby park. Later in the season I like picking up the fruits from the ground if they are soft. They can be delicious. Two other pear trees next to this one produce rock hard fruits. Those two trees were not blooming on this day. They must bloom a little later in the season.

Spring Beauties. Yes, that is what these beauties are called. We like seeing them and they seem to be multiplying in our woods and in our "lawn". Honey bees visit the blossoms as well. 

Myrtle/Periwinkle enjoys our woodland floor. In springtime it is fun to see how it pushes above the dead leaves on the ground. As the weather warms, I sometimes pause and look to see how the myrtle has become prominent where once were mostly dead leaves. I do become a little bit concerned with its spread. It covers a huge area now. I periodically weed-wack the trees that try to grow in it throughout the growing season.

Purple violets are pretty, too, but also a pain. They are hard to pull successfully when growing in areas I'd prefer not to have them. The flowers are a handsome addition to a lettuce salad.

Glorious tulips next to our door make us smile and remember year after year. 


 


Time for a nice trail walk to see what's blooming out there.

We found our first trillium! That is a sign that we are heading into the best time of year.




I like to see trillium blooming. I watch for jack-in-the-pulpit at the same time, but saw none on this walk.





The red bud trees where not quite blooming but it won't be long.

I hope you get a chance to get out there and enjoy spring's beauty. Thanks for reading this blog.







On The Air!

It was great fun to be on the air with Rick Vuyst and Stacey Hirvela. They have a relatively new show called, Gardening Simplified where the...