Three weeks ago I got a second hive of bees. Yes, late in the year, but they were from my bee guru, and he was confident I could take them through the winter by putting the syrup to them hard.
I brought them home in the night, seatbelted in on the front seat. They were very quiet. I set them in place on the pre-established base of the hive, with the lid right on top of the nuc box.
First thing in the morning, there was a bee walking about, investigating. Later in the day, there were many bees flying around, mostly backwards, getting their bearings (they leave the hive backwards and hover around a bit, getting a visual impression of the hive’s location, before they leave to work), and some already hard at it, carting in pollen.
I transferred them to the super, but because these nuc boxes have slots in the bottom to prevent frames from clanking around, I couldn’t knock the loose bees out into the hive. I had to leave it leaned up against.
The bees inside were all confused, and slowly moved up the box as a group. Where’d everybody go? Gravity just changed direction too.
Since these bees were unexpected and I didn’t have time to make a batch of bee syrup the first day, I opened a jar of wax and honey from last year and set it in the lounge. Just to get them through that night.
The few jars of wax I have are quite solid, with a bit of honey precipitated out on the bottom. I pushed my finger down the side of the wax chunk so they could get at some of the honey, but it wasn’t soft enough to ooze out.
Next day when I went in to give them syrup- WHOA! They cleaned out that jar of wax. In 24 hrs.
In fact, they made quite a mess. Wax flakes everywhere. I took the dry jar out and gave them syrup.
Inside the first beehive, the art studio is still going strong.
They continue to sculpt the chunks of burr comb and wax that I drop in there to their liking, but don’t do anything with it. Just art.
I was out in the garden half the day, putting in some starts. I go back to my pots of broccoli, and I find a mass of competing ticks playing king of the mountain on the popsicle stick (gross!).
Ticks climb up things, and then wait at the very tip of a branch or stick, reaching out their little legs like they want a hug, waiting for a mammal to walk by, and then they will drop or grab as you go by. The two on the right hand pot are in position.
Here, the popsicle stick must have been the highest point, so hot property. They also like to sit in wait on the rim of buckets. While I was taking the picture, and thinking how long is it going to take me to kill all these ticks? a couple dropped and set off at a clip straight towards me. They must have a great sense of smell.
We have lots of ticks. Stand still anywhere, watch the ground, and you can find a tick walking toward you. This is not a fun feeling.
And where there are real ticks, there are phantom ticks. There´s nothing like the first tick bite of the year to start up that feeling of ticks crawling all over you, all the time, even if it´s actually your hair or the tag in your shirt. Less than ten percent of the time, it is a real tick, but ´tis the season to be on edge.
I need several platoons of guineas out here to mop them up. Speaking of which, they all seem to be getting along. This morning when I opened the greenhouse, the new ones led the charge out the door and flowed straight into the woods.
I caught sight occasionally of the new ones in the woods, confused, squawking, but at the end of the day they were all together again, and standing around the greenhouse. Hopefully the new ones will show them around.
We were planning to get a pair of pigs again this year. We have the customers lined up, and we felt “up to it” again. In theory, pigs aren’t a lot of work, but in reality, they escape and rampage or wreck things at very bad times and can be exhausting.
We were not planning to get pigs in March, with snow still on the ground, but they came available. Black Berkshires, raised organic, and born outside on January 31. We’ve had some COLD temperatures since the end of January, so these must be hardy pigs.
The farmer was all business, ready with the plastic garbage can he used for piglet transfer. He grabbed up one pig at a time out of the litter (we asked for females, because they’re “less trouble”), dropped it screaming into the can, and shut the lid. He and H.W. carried the can the short way to the truck, and dumped the can, piglets sliding out, quite confused. we had a tarp and some canvas down in the back of the SUV.
The ride home was long. The farmer had said we might get a piglet up in the front seat with us, seeing as we didn’t have a pet carrier, but we didn’t get a visit, thankfully.
There were occasional sounds from the back, little grunts, with a question mark on the end. Also occasional smells.
It was an hour’s drive home, on Nova Scotia’s winding roads, and still twenty minutes away, the piglets started to get carsick. Little retching noises started, between the grunts.
Home. Two miserable little pigs in the back of the trunk. Is it over?
I grabbed one and set out for pigland. HW followed behind me. I carried mine in my arms, which exhausted both of us. HW put his over his shoulders, which got him kicked in the face. My pig periodically screamed, kicked and struggled, then rested up for the next bout. By the time we got there, her eyes were closed like she was ready to fall asleep. I set her down inside the fence and she stood still and calm.
Then HW came up with his piglet, now hanging over his back, apparently pretty comfortable (the pig).
HW set her down inside the fence, and we both looked up to see Piglet 1 blithely trotting through the two-strand electric fence (yes, hot) like it wasn’t there.
I sprinted away, trying to circle out in front of the pig, to send her back towards our land, where she’s obviously going to want to rejoin the other pig, right? This rapidly turned into trying to gain on the pig (“running” a ways to one side of her, through dense brush), and then, trying to keep the pig in sight. A $100 bill, scampering off straight into hundreds of acres of Crown land and woodlot. Pigs are FAST, and she wasn’t even running, she was out at a steady, relaxed trot. I´m not even sure she was running from me, or the memory of the garbage can.
I lost her. HW came up behind me eventually, saying that pig’s gone, give it up. He had thrown his pig into the greenhouse, which has doors to shut. The birds were in an outraged uproar.
Oh, and now it was almost dark.
We went home. Piglet 2 was a dark shadow shape in the greenhouse, scuttling from one end to the other. The birds, any that hadn’t already gone in their coops before the intruder came in, were treed on the roofs of the coops, furious! Most of the layers were crowded on the guinea house, the highest point in the room.
Completely beaten, we retired, debating the feasibility of calling and buying another pig. “Hey, we lost one, can we have another?” Maybe not.
We can’t have just one pig, it will be unhappy. It can’t live in the greenhouse, and if we put it in the electric fence, it will just run out too, looking for the other pig. The lost pig is going to be sad, and lost, and cold!
Well, pigs are smarter than that.
I consulted Google. Other pig bloggers were encouraging. Advice item #1: Don´t chase them. No point at all, they will run farther if you chase them and you won’t catch them. Encouraging item #2: Piglets are champs at surviving in the wild. They will almost never be gotten by predators. Too smart and fast, and they are, in their wild form, a top species. They also rapidly revert to wildness, once escaped.
What to do? Feed them in the woods. Move the food closer to home every day. They like food, so they can be baited back with food, until you’ve baited them right into their pen and shut the door behind them. Maybe a week or two.
That allowed me to sleep, although I was still worried for the lost lonely pig (spoiler: I needn’t have worried).
Oh, and the best possible way to contain pigs? Two-strand electric fence.
Actually he spent most of his first day trying to avoid them. They were following him everywhere, grooming his ruff, and generally crowding him. The girls couldn’t get enough of him and he just wanted to figure out where he was.
They were just determined to follow him around.
He is very handsome as described, with his Copper Maran feathered feet.
He got some peace on the roof of the coop.
We were checking on him frequently during the first day, not knowing whether there would be a bloodbath (there wasn’t). Once we both went to the GH and he wasn’t there. We looked all over, under boxes, in the corners. He wasn’t even in the coop. With nowhere left to look, I lifted the lid on the Silkie coop, saying “Well he can’t be in here!” He was. He was in the corner of the coop with one Silkie hen on the other side, probably there to lay an egg. I guess the hens really got out of control.
He’s like a member of a royal court, with breeches, buckled shoes, and maybe a rapier.
I thought I might call him Jacques, since when I was driving him home I couldn’t remember any lullabies but Frére Jacques. Over and over and over… But I’m not sure it fits.
Things have settled down since the first day. He started doing his job, announcing food discoveries and doing a bit of dancing.
He crows a lot. He’s got a deep voice. And I’ve seen him mating a leghorn. But I’ve seen more unconsummated high-speed chases around the greenhouse.
Then the Silkie rooster, one third his size, automatically responds to the sounds of a screaming, running hen. He in his white pint-size majesty comes lumbering over silently, looks at “Jacques”, and Jacques runs off to hide behind something. Very funny. I’m real glad that they don’t fight at all, but also hoping that this guy will get a bit less timid over time.
He likes to be up high. On the bales, or the coop, or…
I was standing in the middle of the GH, bent over at the waist to knock some persistent ice out of a water fount. There was some warning flapping behind me, and the new roo flew up and landed on my back. It was a nice shelf. The times I’m not carrying a camera! When I finished laughing, and messing with the fount, I transferred him to my arm, where he contentedly settled down on my elbow as if to stay a while. He’s a big heavy bird. Friendly though.
I’m so excited! I’ve got a shipment of little guinea chicks!
They were in a Pepsi box when I picked them up – a loud box, objecting to being moved around. They settled down on my lap for the ride home, and then I carried them gently to the hen yard.
The guineas are going to get the chickery for the time being. The former residents got bumped up to Silkieland the night before – their final promotion. I also moved Silkieland, so that everyone in there would have maximum entertainment on the chicks’ first day. Inside the box. Seven little striped brown heads – they look nothing like they will when they grow up.I tore open the box and placed it in the chickery to let them come out on their own time.A half hour later.
There they are, all settled down.
Another half hour later.
They are approximately one centimeter nearer to the door of their box.
Their own time is never fast enough for me. I tore the lid further open (alarmed cheeping!) and left them alone againAn hour later.
All of them hiding behind the box!
And then, a bit later, busy foraging like normal chicks:
Adorable. They have these wide orange beaks, like tiny puffins, except they look mostly like striped chicken chicks.
They happily darted about being chicks all day, and at night we went to box them up and move them into the greenhouse. This is what we found:
They were all tucked up, nearly invisible, as concealed as they could manage in the short grass. So clever, already.
I’m going to attempt an adoption. It’s a bit of a stretch, but these are little African birds that just came out from under a lamp, so they are going to be cold without a heat source.
I took a hen out of the Silkie coop that just went broody, and I’m going to swap out her eggs tonight for a bunch of guineas.
Surprise! Your eggs hatched super fast! And the chicks are unusually large.
The Adoption failed. I tucked the guineas under the broody hen in the night and slipped out the eggs and no one was very perturbed.
In the morning though, the hen utterly refused to mother them, and completely ignored them when I put them all in the chickery.
She was NOT fooled.
In fact, she was clearly pining, staring through the bars of the cage. To underline her disconsolation, while I was watching her she lifted a leg and wistfully rested her foot on the mesh wall like a hand, in appeal.
I couldn’t resist, I promptly put her back in a box with a set of eggs.
Another box has started peeping – the peeping in that end of the greenhouse is my first clue there’s been a hatching. Mother hen is maintaining eye contact from the background.
This summer, except for the only chick, the hens have all hatched 5 or 6 chicks from 7 or 8 eggs, and if there’s an odd number, it’s to the advantage of white. The white hen (only one, of two, has gone broody), is a terrible setter (three times failed) while the brown hens are all models of success, although none of them have ever done it before. All the brown hens are last summer’s chicks – baby pictures. But the whites seem to get their eggs in the right place, like cuckoos.
This is the strenuous objection pose. They press their wings down into the floor as a barrier so hard their body tips up until they practically do a headstand.
We have pigs! Our lovely neighbour dropped off our pair of piglets on his way home with a trailer load of his own and other neighbours’ pigs.
His exact words as he handed me a piglet were “Here’s the tame one”. He carried the other. My piglet immediately commenced thrashing and screaming bloody murder and fighting for its little pig life to not be carried. Put me down! I insist! I set it down for a moment to get a better grip – instant silence.
Wow, what an introduction. Pigs are loud! “Earsplitting” takes on a whole new literal meaning. That pig screamed til my ears rang. Naturally that made the pig he was carrying scream too, and they chorused all the way to the pig yard.
Pigs are also very very strong. These are 35# pigs, and holding one feels like holding a 35# block of solid sausage shaped muscle. His pig rested amenably in his arms and mine kicked and thrashed and threw back its head with all its strength, so that I was afraid of losing a couple teeth on its skull, and I had an awkward grip of it, around the belly and a fistful of back legs.
Hooo, what a relief to drop them inside the electric fence.
Clearly pleased to be unheld, and in the tall cool foliage, they just stayed, exactly where we dropped them.
I left them to their own devices, checking on them every little while, and they did not move at all.
I should have picked them up and deposited them in the shade of their pig palace, which is what HW did right away when he came home an hour later.
They had already had a ride in an open trailer, and it was a blazing hot day. A couple days later they had bad sunburns. The extra hour outside probably put them over the edge.
They were both painted up, numbered 5 and 7, in blue ink, a lot of which transferred to my shirt during the transfer of the pig.
HW promptly pointed out that we already have a Seven, so we won’t be calling them 5 and 7, and named the boy pig Rudy.