Friday, October 27, 2023

What A Time!

It has been a busy time of programs and presentations for us. We have done more shows this year than ever before in the history of our business. I do not know if it is a post Covid bump or what, but wow, what a time!

Now the beehives are buttoned up for winter, the fishing boat is put away, and it is time to get back to the blog.

I love it when librarians set up a section of books appropriate for the subject of our program at their facility. Here, we are providing a maple syrup program, and the librarian has a few displays such as this with maple related books to check out. Classy!

Have you seen a pile of greenish gunk, like this, lately? Fall is the time for walnuts. Squirrels like walnuts. But, the walnuts have a greenish outer "garment" that must be removed to get at the hard shell. Squirrels remove the outer part with their teeth and drop it. Then they take the walnut somewhere to gnaw at the shell to break into it for the sweet meat inside. When I am walking for exercise, I often hear squirrels chewing at the outer shell of walnuts. Sometimes I stop to search and find the squirrel in the crotch of a tree gnawing away. The toe of my shoe is pointing to a pile of the outer "garment" of a walnut left here by a squirrel.

The beauty of the fall season is all around us now. I hope you have had a chance to enjoy its awe-inspiring glory.

In early May, we bought 8 Barred Rock chicken chicks. We usually buy ISA Browns, but these were on sale. I think they were about a week old already because I saw wing feathers growing. So, they made it through that first week when mortality is usually fairly high. Still, I purchased 8 chicks because we almost always lose 2 before they become adults. Guess what, none died this time. So, now we have more eggs than we can use. Want to buy some eggs? Email me.
And here they are all grown up. I see only 7 in the picture. Must be one is in the nesting box laying an egg since I took this pic in the morning.
First Eggs! It seemed like eggs would never come. Our previous hens (ISA Browns), usually started laying at 18-20 weeks old. These Barred Rocks waited until about 24 weeks of age.
Eggs start rather small and increase in size in a few weeks as egg laying continues. The white eggs are store bought medium sized eggs showing the size of our new brown eggs. It has been so strange eating eggs with white shells the last several months as we awaited our browns ones.
First time getting five eggs in a day. Lately, I have been gathering 7 per day. I am still awaiting our first 8 in a day. What are we going to do with all those eggs!? There is supposedly a way to store them safely long term to eat later in winter when the laying rate diminishes. I might have to do some research. If you know someone who has successfully preserved eggs un-refrigerated for several months, please let me know.
We do not wash the shells because the eggs apparently keep better unwashed. That is why you see a few smudges on some of them.
Check out those yolks! "Orange" you glad for fresh eggs? Yes!
I spent a summer in Mexico in the early 1990's, and there I "learned" that corn tortillas are good with eggs. It is a practice I have continued. I just wish I could find corn tortillas that taste as good as those from the village tortillerias in Mexico. Mmmm, good.

It was an honor for me to make applesauce with my mother, who is in her upper 80's. She is an amazing woman. I have to work hard to keep up with her. I cut up apples as fast as I possibly could. She taught me what to do and then had to go away for a while, so I finished up on my own. Usually my wife and kids did this with grandma, but they grew up and she had to work, so I had all the fun. The jar in the second row left side looks different because it is. It contains some of the juice from cooking the apples. We save it to drink straight or, as in this case, to add to mead and make a cyser. Good stuff!
My wife met with a friend east of where we live, so I drove her there and fished the Grand River from shore for smallmouth bass. I caught and released some little ones and it was fun.
Thanks for enjoying the blog with me.

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.

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.


What A Time!

It has been a busy time of programs and presentations for us. We have done more shows this year than ever before in the history of our busin...