Archives for category: injuries

It was Ollie who brought in the lively mouse that sent Rick careening down the stairs. Not that we hold a grudge or anything; cats will be cats. So far, Milt hasn’t picked up the habit of bringing critters in—we’re crossing our fingers that it stays that way. We can’t be sure of Ollie’s motivations, whether he’s showing off, or if these critters are intended as gifts. Either way, we discourage it.

Winter doesn’t inspire hunting prowess in these cats. They are spoiled, and far more inclined to hang out in front of the fire like décor. But each spring renews their feral instincts. The good news is that (other than what they bring in) they keep the areas around the house, chicken yard and barn, rodent free. Or at least, rodent reduced. We would otherwise be inundated with opportunists, mice, voles, shrews, moles, gophers, chipmunks, ground squirrels and rabbits. It’s quite the parade. 

We are cautious about the “witching hour.” Though during the day the cats have free rein, we close the cat door at dusk, and leave it closed until it’s time for them to come in for the night. Then, it is closed all night. This keeps our indoor critter rousting to a minimum. Spring brings changes to our routines.

We usually harvest most of our honey in the springtime. Most beekeepers do it in September, but we leave the honey in the hives for the bees. We get the leftovers. It’s insurance—but no guarantee that the bees will make it through the winter. This past winter was a total bust for us in bee-world. Our lives were so upended last summer, that the bees were on their own. We were not surprised when spring found us with dead hives. We didn’t even treat for varroa. Oddly, when I did the hive “autopsy,” our three hives perished in three different ways. I’d expected a complete varroa mite travesty, but the results were curious.

One hive had absconded in late fall. There were no bees in the hive. Vacant, the remains of its honey stores had been raided (usually by neighboring hives, or wasps). This could be Colony Collapse Disorder, but without bees to inspect, there really is no way to be sure why this hive failed. Another hive cold-starved. This can occur, even if there are ample stores of resources in the hive. In winter, the bees require that there be foodimmediately above them. In cold weather, they use the column of warm air above their cluster as their pathway to dinner. Sometimes, especially in late winter, the bees can have exhausted the overhead stores, and a cold snap can leave them unable to navigate laterally to food that is mere inches away. This was an unexpected heartbreak. Healthy bees, starving, almost within reach of dinner. Only the third hive had succumbed to the varroa mites. These invasive mites attach themselves to the bees’ abdomens, and feed off the fats stored there. While the mites can also introduce viruses, I saw no evidence of that—the bees, diminished by the mites, simply didn’t make it through the winter.

If there’s an upside, it’s that there’s a lot of honey this spring. Hundreds of pounds. Rick and I have some serious honey spinning in our near future. In the meantime, I needed to get these honey-laden supers off the hives in preparation for the new bees’ arrival. Because Rick’s ribs haven’t yet healed, he cannot help me lift and carry these heavy frames of honey. I put a heavy-duty lidded bin in the wheelbarrow and loaded it with honey frames. Only when I got down to the house did I realize that I’d created a problem—a large bin, with about 150 pounds of honey, in the wheelbarrow. Heavier than I could lift. And, with broken ribs, Rick can’t help! So, I sealed the bin with the lid, and left it there, by the basement entry. I figured I could unload it strategically, frame by frame, into another bin in the basement, the next day. 

We didn’t make it that long.

Usually, Milt is the first cat in for the night. Ollie lingers, enjoying the evening. But that night, Ollie was the first to knock at the upstairs door, signaling that he wanted in.  After a bite to eat, he settled in on the rocking chair. After a while, though, he headed down to the basement door and  began meowing up a storm. This is not normal. We thought he might be telling us that Milt was there, waiting to be let in. I trooped down to the basement door and flipped on the outside light to look for Milt. There, poised next to the closed bin of honey frames, was a HUGE raccoon. 

I opened the door and shooed it away. It didn’t scurry. It sauntered. I’d have preferred an energetic retreat—one that acknowledged me as a clear threat, instead of as a mere annoyance. Clearly, that honey wasn’t safe on the back stoop. A “sealed bin” is no challenge to a raccoon. 

Rick came to the rescue. Between the two of us, we hauled that heavy bin into the basement. Ollie supervised. Having alerted us to the threat, he saved the honey. Ollie is redeemed.

For A Good Time…

No, not that kind of good time. I’ve been waiting for a good time to resume blogging. Last year was an emotional roller coaster and, to deal with it all, I pulled back. All of those challenges have since resolved. So, what’s taking me so long to get back my blogging chops?

Maybe I needed processing time. Maybe I was tender and needed space. But we were returning to “normal.” It wasn’t a bad winter. We tend to hole up in front of the fire during the winter—read, and maybe write. I made excuses along the way. My computer died. It’s an ordeal to get a new computer, and to find technical help in recovering the things that were lost. Then the camera died. Fully, initially, and now it’s sort of limping along. That camera must be 20 years old, so I shouldn’t be surprised. Somehow, neither of us is up to the research needed to get a new one. After all, things don’t last like they used to, one should be up for these occasional challenges. The world has changed since Rick bought the old camera; most people just use their phones. We don’t have that kind of phone. We are landline folk. No pics, no texts.

Post Covid has also brought interesting reflections. We’ve become private. Not hermits, exactly, but guarded about contact with the world. I’ve come to resent a little the imposition of normal things—like grocery shopping and errands. Let’s face it, the outside world has been more than a little crazy over the past few years. We live in times when some shrug at an armed attack in the halls of our government—or at a Keystone Cops attempt to kidnap our Governor. What’s up with that?

We have some big projects planned this spring, two sheds to build and a doubling of the raised beds in the garden. We’ve been thinking of it as making up for last year’s torpor.

So, I’ve been waiting for a good time to start up the blog. The usual rites of Spring offered promise, tree-planting, early season prepping for the garden. I even found myself “blogging in my head” a bit, as we worked to put in the season’s crop of trees. We bought 103 trees this year, all of which are getting “the full spa treatment,” that is, planted with all the extra measures we give to orchard trees. We’ve never planted so many trees in one year that required all the extras. We were even using a new auger on the tractor. So far we have 59 trees planted—with many interruptions for weird weather. We’re worn a little thin with it all, but excited at the same time.

Friday night, one of the cats brought in a mouse. This happens from time to time, especially in the Spring. We jump to it, to either capture (and release it) or to dispatch it. There’s an accustomed frenzy in it, usually not a big deal. Rick was in high form, after some initial chase, he herded it to the basement steps. In hot pursuit and stocking feet, he flew down the steps, feet slipping out from him halfway down, and completing the flight on his back and side. Just the sound of it confirmed that we were talking about injuries. Still, he declined the expected ER visit, and curled up in bed to nurse his pride.

The weekend was difficult. By Monday it was clear that, at least, x-rays were in order. A trip to Urgent Care confirmed my concerns, in spades. Four broken ribs. The Doc was amazed that it took us days to come in. When he heard that the fall was about a mouse on the stairs, he offered advice, “You should get a cat.”

We’re rethinking our summer schedule. Rick is in rough shape and has weeks before he can consider projects. I still have trees yet to get in the ground. And, if I was looking for a good time to resume blogging, the truth is, there isn’t a good time. There’s just what is.