A week of Thanksgiving and Frustration

Thanksgiving week in our lives is full of birthdays and family gathering. Five of us celebrate birthdays in a 9 day span, with one born on Thanksgiving Day and celebrating her 11th birthday this year again on Thanksgiving Day. Son 1 came for a week, preparing me a scrumptious birthday dinner and then offering to cook again another night, again preparing a gourmet meal. Grandson 1 came a few days later to be here for Thanksgiving. On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, we drove to Weathertop Farm to pick up our 19.36 lb turkey. Nearly a decade ago, after reading about spatchcocking chicken, Son 1 and I decided to spatchcock the turkey. The first time, we lacked the proper tool to do it, but managed and learned that it produces a delicious, golden, juicy bird in less than 2 hours cooking time and we have never looked back. Though I have managed to spatchcock a couple alone, it is Son 1’s “job” to butterfly the bird and rub the herbed butter under the skin, then he also is the carver when it is done.

As this year, granddaughter wanted Thanksgiving at their house for her birthday, Son 1 and I went over early enough to prep the turkey and for me to work with daughter to get the rest of the meal prepared together. Son1 and Grandson 1 went on a bike ride then returned home to pick up hubby and bring him over. Eleven of us gathered, enjoyed our meal and birthday celebration together.

Early, very early, the next morning, Son 1 was put on the bus to the train to go home to finish out his semester of teaching and working on a project for the Dean. And the following morning, early, but not quite as early, Grandson 1 was put on his bus home.

Today is Daughter’s birthday, the last of this flurry. She has to work all day, so we are going to take her to lunch tomorrow.

The birthday girls with another of daughter’s awesome cake creations for her girl.

Right at the time when eggs are needed in quantity for holiday cooking, the hens all decided to blow their feathers at once. The just cleaned coop has more feathers than wood chips at this point and egg production has virtually ceased. Two of the girls molted a bit earlier than the others, so one or two eggs about every other day appear, but I actually had to purchased a dozen and a half during the holiday to make pie and breakfasts.

Christmas decorating at our house is always on hold until after daughter’s birthday. It used to begin the day after Thanksgiving because as an educator, I always had a long weekend to get it done. As soon as she was old enough to catch on, she decreed that it had to wait until after her birthday, which only seemed fair. The snowman pillows, ceramic snowman, and sled were brought out already, the dried flowers pulled from my fall wreath and put in a vase and three carved wooden birds added to the wreath with a plaid bow, but other decorating will wait, maybe for a while. December is bittersweet for me. It ends with the holiday that represents family to me, but it is also the month in which both of my parents passed away. This year we enter December after 3 months of stress, doctor’s appointments, treatments, and pending treatments for hubby. Yesterday’s treatment was postponed due to a side issue, this is the second time that has happened. It should have been his last treatment based on the original schedule, but now he is only half finished with this round. There are still many appointments in our future with the various specialists. It has been a stressful and frustrating period for us.

Many months ago, our aging Mastiff reached a point where he could no longer manage the stairs and settled himself in the living room at night. He will turn 11 in 4 more days, very old for a Mastiff and he can no longer even get to his feet unassisted. A folded beach towel is used for me to assist him getting to his feet. About a month ago, the German Shepherd, who is a few months younger than him fell down the stairs and though she limped around for a day or two, still insisted on coming up when we were upstairs. In the past couple of days, she has fallen down all or part of the stairs 3 times, so a baby gate was erected yesterday to prevent her from coming up. This caused her, an already anxious pup, to be even more anxious as she paced around the living room and dining room for hours. Last night, she even urinated on the floor which she never does in the house. We had purchased the Mastiff a mastiff size bed last year. He uses it as a pillow with about half his body on it, but won’t get totally up on it. Last evening after I took her bed down to try to comfort her, I looked down to this.

She was totally up on his bed, he was resting his head on her much small one. I guess she will adjust to not being allowed to come up and it certainly will reduce the dog hair dust bunnies upstairs.

We continue on, taking one day at a time. That is all we can do. Decorating will happen to some extent when it happens, likely a much smaller tree and fewer shelf decorations, but some holiday festiveness.

Poor Bees

The remaining hive doesn’t have as many bees as I would like with the winter now here. The past few days have be hovering between freezing and 40 f and windy with nights in the 20’s. I gave them all the stores I could scrounge from the hives that had been robbed and killed and added chunks of sugar bricks.

Today the first 10 lb sugar board was made. As soon as it is dry and we have a slightly warmer day next week, the board will be added to the hive and any bricks left added on top.

I don’t want to have to open the hive any more than absolutely necessary to add more sugar. I explored the Mountain Camp idea of just placing newspaper down and pouring loose sugar on it, but saw mixed reviews of the idea and my local friend said they would never do it that way again. To provide a bottom to my sugar board, I stapled on a queen excluder and placed a single sheet of newspaper on it with a hole in the center for the cluster to move up under to feed.

The frames that were brought up from the dead hives have all spent at least 3 days in the freezer, then placed back in the boxes and sealed in large bags to prevent wax moth destruction.

I hope that by keeping this hive fed and not opening it unless to add feed, they will survive the winter and become a strong hive next year. Then adding a second or third hive back will be explored using the built out frames and working with the medium boxes. I am disappointed with my first season of bee keeping/learning, but medical issues interfered at a critical time and sometimes life just gets in the way.

Not a good beekeeper

The past 9 weeks have been stressful with hubby’s issues, many, many appointments, and responsibilities. We had a stretch of very cold weather, then a return to spring. This afternoon, I finally set out to add 2:1 syrup and put the newly purchased, assembled, and painted sugar block trays in place. Everything needed was loaded into the back of one of the cars and driven down the field to the bee yard.

Once there, a notable lack of bees moving about caused some alarm, but determined to see what was what, the suit was donned, the smoker prepped if needed and the cover of the first, formerly strongest hive was removed. There was no life at all in the hive. Upon disassembling it tier by tier, this was what was on the bottom board.

Moving on to the second hive, it was a repeat of the first and when I reached the third hive, one that had been weak and was combined with another hive and given a new queen, it had life, not as strong as I would have liked, but alive. The hive was broken down far enough for me to place a sugar brick tray right on top of the queen excluder, all of the honey I could get from the first two hives added to the honey super for this hive and it placed back on, and three quarts of 2:1 syrup added to an empty medium box, and the hive closed back up. All of the parts from the other two hives were brought back to the house and I am going to have to get some large bags to load the frames into and put in the freezer for long enough to kill off anything that shouldn’t be in them, but it will take several loads to accomplish as our chest freezer is very large. Once they have all been frozen and bagged for storage, the freezer needs to be defrosted.

The sole remaining hive. Son 2 entrusted me to this project and I failed hugely. I hope the hives he has at home are doing better and more knowledge on my part can be gained to try again come spring perhaps.