Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dead Bees... In The Snow

Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's normal for the hive to contract in size through the winter. It will go from a peak of 60 - 80,000 bees in the Summer to about 10-15,000 bees in the dead of Winter.

I tried doing this a few weeks ago and my battery died on me. So here's some video of the hive in snow.


Snow Beehive Dec 23, 2008 (a) from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

There's been a LOT of snow here this year. Or maybe I should rephrase that. We usually get some snow, but then within a day or two, it warms up enough that it turns back to rain and melts it all away. This year, it's been at freezing temps for about 2 weeks now with no end in sight.


Snow Beehive Dec 23, 2008 (b) from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


Snow Beehive Dec 23, 2008 (c) from R. Upshaw on Vimeo.


Snow Beehive Dec 23, 2008 (d) from R. Upshaw on Vimeo.


Snow Beehive Dec 23, 2008 (e) from R. Upshaw on Vimeo.


Snow Beehive Dec 23, 2008 (f) from R. Upshaw on Vimeo.

See You Next Time~

Monday, December 22, 2008

Gerty the Dog in for ACL Surgery...

So our dog Gerty blew out her ACL in her back knee a few weeks ago. We've been trying to get her in for surgery for a while now, but this winter snow storm has put a damper on getting it done.

I spoke with Dr. Paul last night and we were all set to go this morning. Little did I know we were going to get about 8" of snow over night.

It took me and the Cowgirl about 45 minutes to dig me out of the driveway this morning, but I finally got on the road and on my way to the surgery.


GERT-SURGERY 01 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


GERT-SURGERY 02 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


GERT-SURGERY 06 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


GERT-SURGERY 04 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


GERT-SURGERY 05 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


GERT-SURGERY 07 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


GERT-SURGERY 08 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


GERT-SURGERY 09 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


GERT-SURGERY 10 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


GERT-SURGERY 11 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

Now we've got several months of rehab,and the Gert should be back to her old self.
She's asleep next to me on the couch as I type this...

See You Next Time~

Sunday, December 21, 2008

90mph Winds? Not so much...

So all the weather guys here in Seattle including ME were saying there was a huge wind storm that was going to hit our area. The prediction was wind gusts up to 90mph.

I was not going to be unprepared. I got the generator all fueled and oiled up. I bought it last year but never had to crank it up. Obviously there are three different manuals you have to go through to get the thing running. Nice work Coleman. But I finally figured out how to put the oil in, and it started up on the 4th pull. I plugged in a light to check it out, and it worked just fine.

Lucky for us, the Cowgirl's dad is an electrician, and he installed a new electrical service panel with an outside generator input. So we are all set. It's interesting trying to figure out how many watts you need. We are prioritizing our water pump (1hp = 2500w) and the heater in the well house is 1500w. The water heater in the house is 4500w and the TV is 500w. So if you do a little math, we can't have everything on at once. The strategy is to heat the water at night, then turn the water heater off at the panel. Then turn on the pump, and after showers, you can turn on the tv and some lights.

Here's my prep work getting ready for the storm:


Forecast: 90mph Winds - Not So Much... from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

We were shocked that power did not go out. The winds were definitely howling, but the gusts on the news were more like 50mph with sustained winds of 30mph.

And here's the day after...


Forecast: 90mph Winds - Not So Much... II from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

I guess it's ready to be prepared and not need it, than to need it and not be prepared!

It's really snowing now as I type this... good times.


White Christmas? from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


See you next time

Snow on the Beehive

If you live in Minnesota, this weather is not a big deal, but for Washington, it's COLD!

Last time I went to my local bee supply store, Trees 'N Bees, I was talking with the master bee keeper Loren. He told me a bit about hive maintenance in the winter.

First thing I did was to feed the bees about 6 weeks ago with a medicated batch of syrup. Here's an old post about how that works.

Next, I kept feeding to make up for the honey that I robbed from the hive. I fed the girls about 50 pounds of sugar over the next few weeks.

The next thing Loren told me to do was to make sure I cleaned out the hive entrance so it wouldn't get clogged with dead bees. The hive population goes from its peak of 60-80,000 in the summer to around 10-15,000 in the winter.

You can see a bunch of bees right there on the porch. My camera battery died, so I don't have any video. But all I did was take a coat hanger out there and just scrape out all the dead bees. If you don't clean it out ever few weeks, the entrance can become clogged. Then the rest of the bees won't be able to get outside to go to the bathroom. Loren told me they go about every 6 weeks when there's a mild day.

A few guard bees poked their head out when I was scraping around - so I'm confident they are doing OK in there. Keeping things at 95 degrees. I did not remove the ice on the top half of the entrance. I thought it was better to have just half of it open. That's what the bees have kept clear, so I didn't change it.

It's been really cold for the past few weeks here. I'll go out and check the hive again here in the next few days, and take some video.

See You Next Time

Winterize Da' Garden

I actually did this a few weeks ago, but I've been a bit busy with the holidays. We're snowed in today, so I'm catching up on the blog posts.

This was my first year of growing a garden, and it was pretty interesting. I didn't get the amount of food I though, but I also learned that I HATE weeding. For next year, I'm going to have to figure out a better system on controlling the weeds. I'm also planning on installing a drip watering system after seeing my brothers system.

My gardening book said I needed to winterize the garden.


Winterize The Garden from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


Winterize Part 2 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


Winterize Garden 3 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


Winterize Garden 4 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

Next year I'm going to make the raised garden beds deeper. I think they were too shallow to really grow good veggies.

I also saw a write up on a new garden gadget that should help me figure out what to plant. It's called the EasyBloom. You put it in the area where you want to plant, leave it there for 24 hours, then plug it into your computer and it tells you what you should plant there. They're $60, and I'm putting my request in to Santa.

But for now, the garden is pretty much winterized.

Hopefully I'll have better results next year.






See You Next Time...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stall Mats - The Best Money I've Spent In A While...


As a new horse owner, I have to tell you that they are still very confusing creatures to me. We've got two horses - The Squid and June Bug. They have identical stalls in every way - same size, same fences, same gates, same buckets... everything. But for some reason, the ground in each stall looks incredibly different.

June Bug is tearing the ground up. Squid's stall looks pretty good. She poops in the same spot every day, doesn't walk around in it, and generally keeps things pretty orderly. June on the other hand poops all over the place, paws at the ground, walks grooves in to the ground, and generally creates a bunch of mud.

We really need some stall mats, and fast before we're in the heart of winter. One big problem: I'm cheap. I didn't want to spend $100 per mat, because we need about 12 of them. Luckily I got a lead on a Craigslist ad, and scored a bunch of stall mats for $200.

The videos pretty much tell the story...


Stall Mats 1 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


Stall Mats 2 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


Stall Mats 3 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


Stall Mats 4 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


Stall Mats 5 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


Stall Mats 6 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


Stall Mats 7 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


Stall Mats 8 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


Stall Mats 9 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

I have to say, the stall mats have been working great so far. June's stall is level and much easier to clean.

The conveyor belt has helped some, but it's getting pretty muddy about now. I'd like to get some more and cover some more area and see if that helps...

See you next time

First Snow of '08

We just had a major cold snap here in the Puget Sound, and we had several things to deal with.


Snow Day - Dec 13, 2008 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


First: we just dug a trench in the ground to put water and power out to the horse stalls. It was much easier digging the trench than filling it back up with dirt. Sooooo, we let it sit for a month or so, and now that it was going to be freezing temps, we had to do the back fill a.s.a.p. I don't have it pictured because I went to Lowes at 8pm and bought 15 bags of dirt. Then we woke up at 7am and filled in the trench so it wouldn't freeze.

Then the hits just kept on coming.

Second: The ol' well house.
This one's on me. There's a space heater out in our well house, and I swear that it was on and ready to go. But I didn't check it to make sure. So we wrapped the pipes up in front of the house, and let the water drip at the faucets on the 9 degree night, but the heater wasn't on out in the well house. So when it came to shower/give the horses water time, the well house was frozen.

I went out and turned the heater on, and when things started to thaw out, a pipe burst to the well house spigot. Neighbor Bill came over and turned off the pump. Luckily, we had a valve that fed just that one pipe. So we could turn it and be back in business. We still decided to insulate the well house. [Soapbox time: why do people cut the stupidest corners when they build stuff? I mean, out of all the places to save money, why insulation in the one place where it needs to stay warm?]


Frozen well house from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

So we got that fixed, I went in and took a shower, and I kid you not, 20 minutes later I see flashing cop lights in the driveway followed by two horses. It was dark outside, so my initial thought was that our horses got out. The County Sheriff was out there by the time we got outside and we figured out they weren't our horses. There wasn't much we could do - it was 9 degrees - so we just herded them into our pasture and threw them some hay.


Lost and Found - Ponies from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

Luckily, the owners came by the next day and picked them up. I don't know if I could have made it through our winter storm having to thaw out water buckets for 4 horses.

Third: Eve The Cat.
The Cowgirl and I have been trying to train Eve The Cat to be comfortable inside. Especially when it's below freezing. Now don't get me wrong, I do NOT want an inside cat, but when it's this cold, it just seems like the right thing to do.
But she is not having it. When I get her inside, and close the sliding door, Eve has the habit of running into the glass and making a lot of noise.

So for now, she's staying outside. I'm pretty sure she's built a lair under the house where it's pretty warm. Probably under the furnace or something.


Eve The Cat - Come In Out of The Cold... from ron upshaw on Vimeo.



Eve The Cat - Come In Out of The Cold... from ron upshaw on Vimeo.



Eve snow Friends from ron upshaw on Vimeo.





































See You Next Time

ROAD TRIP!

If taking a plane to Denver can count as a road trip?

So the family isn't going to be able to get together for Christmas this year. I planned a trip with my Dad and brother to meet up in Denver for some pizza and a Denver Bronco game.

It was the most beautiful December weather in the Mile High City that I can remember.

Here's a video diary (the graphics are from my work...)



See you next time

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Fancy New Winders...

I have to start this post by wondering what people are thinking. Let me clarify, how could a house be 50+ years old and there be no insulation? Or new windows, or new electrical? I guess I'm the kind of person that tries to make some improvements when I live somewhere. Even if it's just one thing a year.

So now that I'm off my soap box, I did not want to go through another winter without new windows. Here's how things look to start off with.


New Windows Part 1 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

Ok, I need to get back on my soap box for a minute. The genius that designed the ol' farm house put two EXTERIOR storm windows back to back to cobble together the window in the kitchen. Seriously? How do things like that even happen?


New Windows 2 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

I think there was one room that had windows from the 1970's, and it was actually in worse shape than the original windows.


New Windows 3 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

Lucky for me, I just signed a deal to work with Champion Windows here in the Puget Sound. I went down and met the guys. It's a really impressive company. They are one of the few that actually have a factory that manufactures the windows.

The install guys started by ripping out the old front picture window. It wasn't insulated, and it was not able to be opened in the summer. The new window will actually be a slider on the bottom and a picture window on top... nice!


Windows 4 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

I thought there would be a sophisticated way to pull out the old windows. I figured that they would have some custom tool that would work like a charm. Not so...


Windows part 5 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

He just broke the glass and pulled it out piece by piece.

While the foreman was working on the big window, the other guys on the crew were making quick work of the more standard bedroom windows.


New Windows Part 6 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

Just to show how much of an improvement the new windows are, check this out. There was a slight measurement error on one of the bedroom windows. So they are making a new one for that opening. But here's a side by side comparison... amazing!


New Windows Part 7 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

And here's the dramatic reveal, as they say on Extreme Home Makeover...


Windows part 8 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

Let's just say it's an understatement to say I'm thrilled with the results. Not just in terms of looks, but also I've noticed a big difference with our heat bill.

So basically, I'm on course to replace this entire house piece by piece.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

This Makes It Worth All The Effort...

As the top of my blog says, "What Happens When A City Boy Buys Some Land And Moves To The Country..." To be honest, a lot of the time, the city boy wishes he was back in the city going to breakfast in Freemont or cruising downtown to go shopping or to the library. I can't lie, I'm not a huge fan of chores, never have been. My mom spoiled me by mowing the lawn when I was a kid.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not allergic to hard work. I knew living in the country would be a lot of hard work, but I guess I didn't know how much hard work there would be.

But as many times as I wake up in the morning and would give anything just to stay in bed for 20 more minutes rather than muck the horse stalls, there are moments that make it all worth while.


Horses In Pasture from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

I'll take that view over living 10 feet from a neighbor almost every time.

See You Next Time...

Hard Cider? Proves to be TOO hard... for me.

We've got four apple trees in the back yard. Last year we were so busy getting the property horse ready, that most of the apples just fell to the ground. So this year I thought I'd try to make some hard apple cider.

I borrowed a grape press from my buddy Charles, of blackberry liqueur fame. I had everything all set. My amateur wine making kit, all the supplies, and my champagne yeast ready to go. A few friends from work even came out to see how it was done - Libby and Jane.

This first part we actually did right. I made a 10% meta solution in a spray bottle to clean all the gear. Meta is available at all wine making stores.

Cleaning The Cider Gear from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

Now here's where we made the fatal mistake. We just cut the apples into chunks, when what we really needed to do was to grind them into a pulp. Evidently, there is a special piece of gear for this that looks like a big sausage grinder.

Cutting Apples from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

I'll put our results up so you can see what not to do. After the fact, some people told me that if I had made a pulp, we probably would have got at least 5 gallons of juice.

Filling The Press from ron upshaw on Vimeo.



Pressing The Apples from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

We were very excited at this point, thinking the juice would just flow out. Um, not so much.

Did We Get Any? from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

So we just added some more apples thinking we just needed more pressure for the juice to pop out.

Apple Pressing - Take 2 from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

I will say that the actual set up and operation of the press was done correctly. Just use pulp or grapes, and you'll get tons of juice.

I did get a cool tool out of the deal. I got this fruit picker at Home Depot. It works great.

Harveting The Apples from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

We did end up with enough juice for a great pork loin that Jane made later. And we had a few glasses of cider left over to drink. But over all, very disappointing.

Fail to make cider from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

Live and learn I guess. Next year, we can try again, but make sure we have the grinder.

We did have a great time after with some food and a bonfire.












See You Next Time...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Trenching + Rain = Mud

Well, it's been a while since I posted a blog. I've been super busy with some extra hours at work. I haven't blogged, but that doesn't mean there's been no chores.

One of the really big projects that's been on the list is to get water and power out to the horse shelter that I built last year. We found that one of the major drags about winter chores was when the water hose would freeze.


Pre-Dig Power Line from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

Lucky for us, the Cowgirl's dad is an electrician. He ran the electrical wires out to the horse shelter and had one of his guys wire the place. He did a nice job and put in a sub breaker box and new light fixtures. It makes a huge difference to have lights all the way around the shelter. He also brought out a trencher that he rented to make things go faster.

One thing we had to figure out is where the water line came into the house. So I was nominated to crawl under the house.



How'd I get This Job? from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

Theoretically, it should be a pretty straight forward job: make a trench, put the pipe and wires in, then fill it back up with the dirt you took out. We, however, subscribe to the "let's make things more difficult" school of thought. We dug our trench over a stone walkway, our water line, our septic line, and a fence. Nice work Cletus.


So here's how the trencher works.


The rain finally let up for a while, and after a trip to a few hardware stores, we had the plastic water pipe, and frost free water spigot to put by the horse shelter.


Trench project from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

At this point I stopped shooting video because I became entirely covered in mud. We had to dig a little tunnel under the septic line to accept the water pipe, and let's just say, it was a Mud-a-polooza.

I did this stuff about a week later...

Trenching, when will I be done? from ron upshaw on Vimeo.


Trenching - Fill from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

We had a to wait a week or so to get all the parts we needed, and The Cowgirl's dad had to bring out his pipe threader, but we finally got it done. Just need to bring in some more fill dirt, and button up the ground. It's not pretty now, but it works great. I'll put some grass seed down next spring in the trench scar, and I'm sure in a year or so, you'll never know the difference.


Worst Project... EVER! from ron upshaw on Vimeo.

See you next time

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Adam & Steve Update - Time To Capture and Fix

We've been trying to capture these feral cats for a while, and we weren't able to get them into a carrier. A co-worker of mine and his wife run a cat rescue charity. He brought me a couple of live animal traps. If you're in the Puget Sound Area, it's called Whisker City up in Shoreline.

Here how things went.



The next day, I was trying to capture Steve, and this is what I found.



Steve has learned his lesson, he will not go into the trap. So we're going to wait a while and bring back his family.

See You Next Time

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Adam and Steve Update - The Cat Hunter....

After a few weeks of training Adam and Steve, our feral cats, to go into the carrier to eat, we thought it was time to attempt a capture. Then it would be off to get them fixed so we don't have 27 feral cats next year. Things did not go entirely as planned.



So next up I'm going to try and get some live animal cages for the guys, and see if that works.
See you next time.

When life hands you crappy cherry wine....

Make Cherry Wine Vinegar!

So I tried my hand at taking the thousands of cherries on the tree in my backyard and turning it into delicious Cherry Wine. Cherry Wine - yes... delicious - not so much. So I was left with a decision: either drink this very tart wine, throw it out, or figure out something else to do with it.

So I decided to make most of it into Cherry Wine Vinegar, and some of it into a Cherry Wine glaze for BBQ.

First the Cherry Wine. I needed to measure one gallon of the Cherry Wine to be made into vinegar, and the rest I was going to reduce into the glaze.
video

So here's a gallon measured off. It's pretty simple stuff here. Pour the cherry wine into a 3 gallon car boy (glass container.) I guess the Mother of Vinegar needs a lot of air to do it's thing. I got the mother of vinegar online. It was about $10.
video

It takes 3 months for the conversion to happen. So I just mixed the Mother with 8oz of water and poured it in. Watch towards the end of the video, you can see the "Mother" slide into the funnel. She will float around in there and convert the alcohol into vinegar.
video

Then I put some cheese cloth over the top of the car boy to keep any bugs out. Again, it needs a lot of air. The directions call for 80-90 degrees, but fall is in the air up here. I put it in a closet closest to the furnace, and we'll see if it works.
video

The BBQ Glaze is super simple. Just put in the Cherry Wine, about a cup of sugar, and reduce it by at least half.
video















Here's how the glaze looks when it's done. Now just find some pork or chicken, and put it on near the end so it doesn't burn. Yum.
See You Next Time!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Adam & Steve

Ever since we've moved out to the ranch, we've had a feral cat that has been roaming around. This spring, she gave birth to 4 kittens under our deck. Two of them are gone, I don't know what happened to them. But I started putting food out for the other two when they were really little. They are not even close to being tame. We can't pet them or touch them, but they're a bit less spooked by me since I bring them food every day.

We are currently trying to capture them so we can get them spay/neutered. So I usually put their food in the crate, so I can rig it up here soon to close the door on them and take them to the vet.

We've decided to name them Adam & Steve.



When it comes time to capture them, I'll make sure I video it.

See you next time...

My World Famous Blackberry Jam...

Last year I made some blackberry jam, and it was a major hit with everyone I gave it to.
So as the berries ripened, I thought I'd blog about how easy it is to make.



One of the biggest pointers I can give is to get everything, and I mean everything ready before you put heat to your berries. I pretty much take over our entire kitchen. Lay out all your stuff - berries, sugar, pectin, spoon, clean jars and lids, and anything else you think you might need. I also put a piece of tin foil down wherever jam might fall. Makes for easy clean up.



Next up I pulse the berries for a few seconds. No need to completely macerate the berries. The heat will do a great job later.



My very precise recipe is that I just wing it. One colander of berries (about 3-4 pounds) about 5 cups of sugar, and one packet of pectin. Wait till it comes to a boil before adding the pectin. The high temp activates the thickening power of the pectin.



When it comes to a boil, it will expand tremendously.



Last year my jam was a bit thin, so I boiled it for about 4-5 minutes this time to see if would be a bit thicker.



Now I just pour it into a measuring cup, then transfer to my clean jars.


This year I got 9 jars out of this batch.


My "poor mans water bath" method of preserving did not work so well. Some of the jars had a vacuum, and some didn't. I give most of this stuff away. So it gets used quickly, but next time, I'm going to try the immersion method of preserving so when I want to preserve something else, I've got it down.

See you next time...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ron Saves The Porch From Falling In...

This was a repair that I really needed to do before winter. Especially since we had quite a bit of snow last year. The posts holding up the porch
were just about completely rotted out.

Luckily for me, my buddy Doug has a sawmill, and he milled me up 3 posts from some fir logs that he had.






video
We build some bracing around the center post, and built some 12" squares as forms for the cement pours. I decided on the outside post to put the new cement right next to the old posts. I also raised it up a few inches. The old posts sat right down at dirt level. That's probably why it wicked up water and rotted. Lifted up a few inches, the new posts should last a lot longer.






video
First off, we had to grind out the old metal strapping that was on the old rotted post.

video
Here's the new post out in the shop. I wanted to plane the posts down to remove the saw marks from the mill, but the planer only goes to 6". The post is about 6 1/4". So it was time to hand sand them.

video
I used a forstner bit to put a hole in the bottom of the post to go over the stainless bolt we set in the cement. Then to prevent water from wicking up the post and rotting it out, I put two layers of metal flashing tape on the bottom.

video
Here's the tape.

video
I had to flip the post over and run it under the chop saw on all 4 sides to make the cut. It worked ok. It was a bit uneven, but nothing too bad. I little sanding and it was all good.

video
I had to remove one side of the brace that we made to lean the post in there. I just banged on it with a piece of scrap wood and a hammer. A bit of tweaking, and I finally got it plumb and level.

video
I was able to get two out of three of the posts done today. I couldn't do the third because I had to re-pour one of the footings. It wasn't deep enough. So once that it set up, I'll do the 3rd post.

I also need to buy a piece of fir to make a moulding detail around the top and bottom of the posts.

Check another thing off the never ending list.
See You Next Time...