Thursday, April 27, 2006

To Bee Or Not To Bee

Over the years when my Uncle Glenn and I used to write letters back and forth talking about living off the land and homesteading he peaked my interest in bee’s. He gave me the impression that it was a good wholesome endeavor to add to this way of life.

So I figured at some point I’d learn more about bee’s and include a little honey operation to what we we're doing here. Then a few years ago our friends Phil and Joanna were simplifying their lives and Phil decided to sell off his bee keeping equipment. I bought it all from him for a very reasonable price. Otherwise at the time, I would not have been able to afford it.

I fully planned on getting bee’s the following spring but, the time came and went and I never educated myself much about how it all works. So I put it off each year thinking, well this winter I’ll learn what I need to learn and then I’ll get some bee’s. If you haven’t guessed by now, I am an expert procrastinator. In fact years ago I had a T-shirt that said “Destination Procrastination”. If I remember right, Kelli bought it for me.

So that is how it has gone these past years, all that nice equipment I bought from Phil has set in our shed taking up space and collecting dust. You know what they say about good intentions. Well, I was finally forced out of my procrastinating ways when our friend Dan was telling me about his desire to go into commercial bee farming. Dan came over for a visit and he was telling me about his plan so I showed him my equipment in the shed. Later that week I got an email from him informing me that he ordered me some bee’s and they’d be here sometime in the
middle of April!

So low and behold last Friday they indeed arrived and Dan came to help me set up. Of course I still had not yet researched the subject of bee keeping so Dan had to show me everything to do. Actually he is in the process of selling his house so I offered to keep his bee’s for him until he and his family get resettled in a different place. I have two of his hives and two of mine.
The bee’s came in little screened in wood framed boxes. Each box holding one queen and about 10,000 to 12,000 bee’s. Yes, that is correct. Ten to twelve thousand. All together over 40,000 bee’s. Yow! Needless to say I was a little intimidated to suit up and release all those little buggers.

Of course the hood on my bee suit had mouse holes eaten in it from being stored in the shed for years. So I only did the natural thing a guy could do and patch the holes with duct tape. Dan said, “do you ever watch Red Green?” I chuckled and got his drift. I don’t know if the Red Green show is aired in your part of the country or not. It’s a hilarious TV show that is made up north in Michigan’s U.P. about some country hicks who do everything in hillbilly fashion. Lots of duct tape on the show if you know what I mean.

Anyway, after a few long minutes we got the holes plugged up and pant legs wound tight with liberal amounts of duct tape then commenced to releasing the 40,000 plus mass of bee’s. I watched as Dan shook the first bunches of bee’s out of their box and into his hive.

Each shipping container had a hole in the top where a tin can was placed which contained corn syrup. The cans road upside down with a small hole in the lid where a piece of cloth acted as a wick of which provided nourishment to the in bee’s in transit. The queens were in little boxes by themselves in the bigger boxes which the rest clung to with determination.

Before emptying the bee’s into the hive boxes the queen had to be taken out. But, first you had to remove the tin can full of corn syrup which was also closing up the only hole. The exit for the bee’s. Dan shook the shipping containers much harder than I would have, thinking such forceful motion would cause the bee’s to become agitated. It didn’t seem to bother them in the least bit. They just dropped into their new home with no fuss at all. Almost immediately though there were lots of bee’s flying around and some landing on us, however with no hostile intent. I can imagine though, that if we had not had our bee suits on they might have crawled down around our collars and we might have been inadvertently stung.

It took quite a bit of shaking and tapping of the shipping containers to get the majority of bee’s out and then Dan just set the containers down near by so that the remaining holdouts could find their way out. The next step was to open the queen’s tiny container which had a small cork in the end and set it inside with the rest of the bee’s. Then the top was set up with corn syrup and pollen cake. The pollen cake comes in the shape of a piece of leather with a waxy piece of paper on either side. The bee’s eat it all including the paper. Apparently this gets them up and going until there is enough natural food in the area and they get established.

After Dan got his two hives all set up then came my turn. When I got to the part of shaking the bee’s out I was again amazed at how hard you had to shake the shipping box to get them out. I suppose an experienced bee keeper develops an knack for doing this so it doesn‘t take so long. I was shaking it and tapping the sides and thumping the whole time to get them into them out but, eventually it worked. If I wouldn’t have had Dan there I don’t know what I would have done. But, once the queen is in place they want to go to her anyway. That’s what the stragglers did and all the ones flying around. It’s amazing how God made bee’s so smart. They bond with their own queen and know which hive to go to. Just watching the complexity of a bee colony should show people that evolution is a bunch of bunk. And bee’s evolved the ability to know how to do this. Yeah right!

After me and Dan got every thing buttoned up we got our bee suits off and stood there watching these complex little communities go right to work. Truly amazing. Actually it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I wish I would have done it a lot sooner.

I still don’t know much about bee keeping but, I know more than I did last week. I noticed that I was having a hard time in times past reading about them because I couldn’t understand the lingo. Now that I’ve seen the set up I think I will be able to better grasp the educational materials out there.

We have a science video around here that we used for home schooling which has a segment about bee’s. I plan to dig that out and watch it with renewed interest. I imagine there will be things I didn’t notice before, now that I’ve seen it up close.

I’m still surprised that I like bee’s as well as I do now. It gives me a good feeling inside to see them being “busy as bee’s” working non-stop, just doing what God designed them to do, and for my benefit. If I under stood right, each hive can have up to a hundred pounds of honey by the end of the season. By the second day you could already see bee’s bringing in pollen on their back legs. I had no idea there was even pollen out there to be found yet. Talk about Gods economy, extravagant abundance. God provides, no need to fret and no need to worry.

These are three of the shipping containers that the bee's came in. The little thing on the top of the first one is what the queen comes in. It is only about 2 1/2 inches high to give you an idea of size here. The bee's where clinging to it. The hole in the top of the shipping crate is where the tin can of corn syrup goes and also where you shake the bee's out of.

These are a couple night shots I took of the hives earlier. The top photo is of my two with the fancy landing ramps. The bottom photo is of mine and Dans. Dans being the closest.

These are in the beginning stages, we will build higher as the bee's do their work. A friend of Dans will be stopping by from time to time to check on the progress for me and I'm sure Phil, who I got my stuff from, will be checking up also. I'll need all the help I can get. There are things I will have to watch for as to how they are developing. There are certain things you do for certain developments.

All you bee people out there are probably cringing at my lack of bee understanding but, I learn best by doing.

Well Jonathan I think that's about it. Can't think of anything else at the moment. Like I already indicated I'm a total novice here and an ignorant one too, as far as bee's go. All I know is I do like them a lot. More than I figured on.

Until Next Time

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Consumer

I’ve been wanting to address the term “consumer” and how the mainstream media uses it fluently in describing the typical American citizen. Northern Farmer touched briefly on it in his April 16th post ( bottom of the third paragraph) and I thought this would be a good time to sit down and share some thoughts. I was going to draw a picture of a pig snarfing down a plate of food but, came across this gruesome picture that I thought would do better at illustrating the point I’m trying to get at here. I hope who ever the photo artist is that created this picture doesn’t get upset that I used it. I have no idea if it has copy right protection or anything. But the fact that I’m not profiting off of it I would hope will make using it alright.

It seems everyone from the media to the mega corporate merchandisers refers to the public as the conSumer. Some years ago I came to the realization that I was deeply insulted to fall under that definition. I do not like being called a consumer. I imagine the person who coined the word must have been some high and mighty looking down their nose on all us lowly common folk. “How can we squeeze out more from all the conssssumers?” Now I’m probably getting a little far fetch here but, that’s how degrading a term I feel that it is.

Is this what it has come to though? Is this what we become when you follow the industrial culture to it’s ultimate conclusion? Is that all we are? ConSumers? Maybe. Maybe to the lords of commerce. Maybe to those who want to put a number on all the people. (And animals for that matter. Lets not forget the NAIS.)

With our business I get a first hand look at all that is discarded from wanton consumption. Let me tell you, there is A lot of waste. It breaks my heart to throw out much of it. But, I couldn’t possibly keep all the good stuff I see. Some I save out or salvage. I try to think of someone who could use it or I just hang on to it incase some need comes along. And we’ve had a few instances were it was just the right thing at the right time for someone who needed it. It does my heart good when ever that happens. And sometimes we profit if we sell it on eBay or at a yard sale. We’ve considered starting a second hand store just to give the thrown away stuff a second life. But, then again who’s got time for yet another venture, remembering that the rat race was something we wanted to avoid. I think human beings who, being made in the image of God, deserve a little better title than that of being called a consumer. But, there are some who must think it is appropriate.

My Grand Parents had a lot of influence on me. They lived through the depression. I grew up with all the stories of life during that time. My great- uncle John hopped railroad cars and traveled around the country looking for work back then. He once got so hungry that he ate grass to have something in his stomach. Uncle John said, it was a great mistake to do that, since he got a terrible case of diarrhea.

Over the years a lot of the things Uncle John did like saving used nails, straitening them and reusing them rubbed off on me and I have found my self on many occasions doing exactly the same thing. It’s bad for me being in the trash business since I tend to save too much. If I had a good outlet for it then maybe that would be a different story. On the other hand I feel good about being thrifty and maximizing the usefulness of things instead of throwing everything out in this throw away society.

Earlier today my dad and I were having a conversation about this. We were talking about Craftsman cordless drills. When the batteries are shot it is hardly worth buying a new one. Sears jacks the price up so high on the batteries that it’s more economical to throw out the entire drill and buy a new unit entirely rather than simply replace the battery and keep using the perfectly good drill. And then they have the nerve to call us consumers when they themselves designed into the system, planned obsolescence.

Homesteading and biblical agrarianism in it’s simplest form runs contrary to the modernistic consumer mentality. Rather than being a consumer one nurtures creation and brings forth abundance. Providing for their own need and the needs of others. Not using up precious resources but instead creating a sustainable and renewable system which becomes an almost limitless means of self support.

When I look at Gods economy I am blown away by the extravagant abundance. Before we moved to Wisconsin we began raising rabbits in a shed in the back yard. That was when I first began to fully realize how God takes care of us. We started with one male and two females. Each female had around 7 babies. The gestation of a rabbit is 31 days if I remember correctly. You can do the math, it doesn’t take very long for three rabbits to turn into hundreds. That’s Gods economy. I stand in awe because it’s everywhere you look even in plant life. Take one kernel of corn, put it in the ground and that ones turns into hundreds more. What an extravagant abundance! Or look at a field of wild flowers. A sea of color before your eyes. That’s Gods economy and it’s sustainable. There’s no room for greed or over consumption with such prolific production of resources. A family who is close to God and close to such vast wealth of which the earth so richly provides is a family who’s strength is hard to measure.

I"ve never hear of anyone feeling insulted by being called a consumer like I do. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m being too sensitive. But, do me a favor and listen for it. See if it doesn’t seem like we all are just being herded along like some dumb beasts being manipulated and controlled into doing what the masters want us to do, CONSUME. I mean, consumer is what they call us.

How about we play a trick on them and instead of being a consumer, consuming everything, become one who brings about something that is sustainable. Someone who adds true wealth instead of just ripping out all the natural resources from the earth and giving nothing back in return. How about creating strong independent families who think for themselves and help each other out in neighborly love instead of isolating our selves and living just for our own worldly pleasures.

Now, I realize I’m probably over blowing this a little to make a point. But, there is something beneath the words we use and we should consider the underlying influence they have on our thinking. If we are going to break free from the things that enslave we almost have to develop new words in order to deprogram ourselves from what the controlling institutions have slipped into our minds all these years.

Well, I suppose I should wind this post to a close. You may have noticed I haven’t been able to make as many posts as I did when I first started blogging. Winter has for several weeks given up it’s icy grip and spring is here, there is much we want to accomplish this year. The changes I see coming are almost dizzying. I’ll try to keep posting even if it’s just a picture with a caption or a note to say that I’m still around. But, you never know it might have an opposite effect and I’ll blog even more sharing all the exciting things that have been happening around here.

Like just the other day we got some bee’s. I’m very excited. I didn’t expect to like it so much. So I hope to do some posting about my crash course in bee keeping. Hmm, I can feel a post coming on now so I’d better sign off now or I’ll be up all night.

Until Next Time

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Resurrection

This is the weekend that we celebrate the most momentous event in history. The death burial and resurrection of Jesus. He proved he was who he said he was by rising from the dead. If Jesus had not rose from the dead then our faith would be in vain. Christianity would be no different from any other religion around the world. Lots of people have been martyred but, it was only Jesus who had power over death. Death could not hold him in the grave.

Today our family is planning to watch Mel Gibson's movie The Passion. I commend Gibson for not sugar coating Christ's suffering but, I wish he would have spent more time on the resurrection because that is were our hope lies. Our hope lies in the fact that Christ lives and is in heaven at this very moment interceding for our sins. First we receive through faith the salvation of our souls and then we look forward to the redemption of our bodies on that day when we see Christ as he is, when we ourselves are transformed from death to life.

In this time that we live, the validity of that hope has come under attack. The enemy of our soul knows he has but a short time and seems to be pulling out all the stops when it comes to attacking the authenticity of the Holy Scriptures, the truth of which our hope is placed. And most recently the enemies offensive has taken form of a book called the Da Vinci code which is soon to be out in movie form come next month. One can only imagine the bad fruit that will come from these blatant fabrications. The seeds of doubt will be planted in perhaps millions of people. I'd hate to be amongst those who have perpetuated this nonsense come judgment day.

But, to get back to a more uplifting theme. We can be sure that our faith in Christ is a sure thing. History proves it. All the things that Jesus did were not done in secret. It was all out in the open and there were a multitude of eyewitnesses. We have proof in their testimonies. And we hope for the future when Christ Jesus finally returns. Which I believe is nearer than we think.

To me even the call of so many to go back to a life more closer related to the land is another sign that it is getting closer, even at the door. Have you noticed that those who are leaning in this direction also have a great distaste for the corruption brought on by the modern developments of, as Northern Farmer says, "the culture of death". The world system is spiraling towards a life separated from truth and goodness. It is heading for a hedonistic orgy of self gratification. The modern world is fast becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah. But, Gods people are naturally repelled by this. Like Abraham of that time we are migrating away from those wicked places and are heading for places were God is leading.

I firmly believe that when Jesus returns he will restore the world to peace like it was in the Garden of Eden. Animals didn't eat each other. All of creation was at peace with itself. As the scripture at the heading of this blog states, the implements of war will be turned into the implements of agriculture. Every man under his vine and under his fig tree.

Early in the wee hours this morning I was reflecting on these things and I thought I'd share them on this most wonderful of holidays. It is a most wonderful holiday because it should remind us that it's all true. Christ is risen! He's alive! Seated at the right hand of the Father. And soon He will return. Christ will bring peace to the earth. People of all walks of life will return to an agrarian way. The way God intended from the beginning. And if it is close at hand it would only stand to reason that the Lord would begin to pave the way. I believe we are part of that plan as we take the initiative to follow that call.

Happy Resurrection Day

Until Next Time

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"Wild Speculation"

As all the saber rattling continues over Iran one can only "speculate" the outcome of yet another round of political brinkmanship in the volatile middle east. The other day there were a multitude of reports that our beloved leaders have put on the "table" the "option" of taking out Iran's nuclear facilities. And one of the options being the possible use of nuclear equipped bunker busters. In other words there would be the "possibility" of nuking Iran.

It would be our generation to see the release of the nuclear genie from the bottle. The taboo that has existed ever since Nagasaki and Hiroshima would vanish into thin air with such an under taking and our world would be forever changed. Nuclear weapons would then be an option on the table for everyone in the "nuclear club" and not as an absolute last resort. Preemptive tactical nuclear strikes. Who would ever have imagined such a thing.

But, yesterday we hear that all this talk about an eminent bombing campaign against Iran is just "wild speculation". So one wonders, what should you believe? How should you plan?

Already we've been gearing for another stock up on certain provision's. Not out of paranoia mind you but, rather it seems to be a practical common sense thing to do.

Over the past couple weeks we hear of dire predictions coming from Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that if the U.S. tries to stop Iran from enriching uranium that there would be serious consequences. Some speculate that it could be in the form of messing with the oil markets.

Hmm, we are pretty dependent on oil. And just a few of us rely completely on the use of gasoline. So that ol' common sense starts kicking in and you think maybe we'd better start looking over our supplies and see if we are running low on anything?

So, we went to Aldi this afternoon and did a little stock up in area's we are weak in. And we'll do a little every week until we feel that we have a good enough cushion should gas prices take a big jump. We live just under 20 miles from Rhinelander where all the major convenience stores are and if fuel goes way up it would be no small thing to drive that far just because we're out of a few things.

With our business we are maybe a little more conscious about gas prices because it plays a major role in whether we make a profit or not. So the cost of driving is on our minds a lot.

Today gas is up to $2.799 for low grade unleaded, so a trip to town in our Jeep which gets about 20 miles to the gallon costs us right around $7. That's 20 miles there and 20 miles back home. And it's easy to put on an extra 10 miles running around Rhinelander. So you can put on a minimum of 50 miles just to pick up a few things at the store.

When we first came here we used to go to town very sparingly but, we have become just like everyone else and we jet off to Rhinelander every couple days for any little thing. Our business takes us through there nearly everyday but, besides that, we go an awful lot any how. We have some good friends there also, so visiting them makes for another good excuse to have to run down.

We need to be prepared to not have that convenience should gas cease to be affordable.
These are uncertain times. So I do my own speculations based on the limited information that I have at my disposal. You hear this and you hear that and who knows what to believe. Just a lot of "wild speculations". That’s all it is really. But, even so I try my best to plan my life around what I know or what I think I know. And when things are uncertain I opt for being prudent and conservative.

I remember well the days after 911 when our president got on TV and told everyone to "spend, spend your money, keep the economy going". To me it seems wise to save during "speculative" times, not spend. At least not to spend frivolously. If you need to spend in order to gear up then that's an investment.

Yet, with all the uncertainty in times like these, we can be sure of one thing. That God is in control. Nothing takes Him by surprise. Not even us with all our speculating.

I always like the picture I get in my mind when I read the passage in the bible about when Jesus and the disciples were in the boat and a storm brewed up. The disciples were getting alarmed that they were going to perish, all the while Jesus was sleeping. To me that is a great picture of how the Lord was at perfect peace with the Father. Even during the storms of life He was able to rest. That’s how I want to be. That no matter what comes our way, good or bad, that I can trust our Father in heaven enough to still be able to rest.

Keep looking up. Our redemption is nearer today than it was yesterday.

Until Next Time

Monday, April 10, 2006

House Guests

Last week our kids got these cute little lambs. They’re Shetlands. I don’t know a lot about the breed. They are a small breed of sheep. Our kids have been missing having livestock around so here we are with more pets. But, that’s OK I kind of like having them around and for once they’re from good stock. Not someone’s cast offs. We already have a Navajo Churro sheep and a dwarf goat so in time these babies will be put with them. And we will probably get a Lama for protection since I can imagine predators would love to feast on these little cuties.

They’re both females. One is all black and the other is white mixed with black and brown. They say that the colors change as they get older.

Of course they’re in the house at night. And the kids are bottle feeding them. The little white one in this photo is checking out a basket of laundry. They nibble on and taste everything and already love to munch on hay. God sure did make babies cute! When they run around the house frolicking and kicking up their heels they're too cute for words.

Another Chicken Feed Up Date

Our chickens started eating the barley a couple weeks ago. Yay! They even cleaned up all the wasted stuff that was on the floor of the green house most of the winter. I don't know if they just figured out it was edible or if it has something to do with the warmer weather or what. Hard to say why but, at least they are eating it.

We went out for a family walk today and we were all just soaking up all this nice warm air. It was almost 70 degree's out. It's nice to see spring.

Until Next Time

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Eyes to See and Being Prepared

I’ve been enjoying Mountain Fire Keepers latest video recording of the “Powers Out” workshop. The predicament we all find ourselves in of complete reliance on the electrical system is something that is almost continually on the back of my mind. Just try going without electricity for a day or two or three and see exactly how much our lives are intertwined with the grid. Even now as I write this post I can hear the hum and buzz of the washing machine in the background. Since the washer is using warm water, the power vent on the water heater is humming along as well. The refrigerator is also mingled in with all that background noise as it is calling for another cycle of cooling. Or how about the constant drone of the this computer I’m sitting at.

We are so used to the noise it’s almost deafening when the power does go out. It becomes so quiet that it’s almost eerie. That fact alone makes me realize just how much electricity is a part of my life.

I remember a time as a city kid when I took all that for granted. You just flip a switch and the light goes on. No thought of how it happened. It just magically comes on, presto the whole room is illuminated, you don’t need to know why or how it happens, it just does. The hardest thing about it is having to replace a burnt out light bulb. Or there was the occasional outing during a thunder storm and that was always a cause for excitement because we got to go around the house with lit candles and flash lights, a great novelty for a young boy.

The older I got the more I realized that the electrical system was just that, a system. Just an elaborate piece of machinery. And machines are subject to failure. That to me is enough to consider having a plan in place to do without electricity if need be. To be prepared. The fact that if at any time and for whatever reason the system could break down either for the short or long term is a very good reason to have a real working plan ready to go into effect should something happen. And really it’s not a matter of if, but when, because there is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine. All systems and machinery need energy, fuel and maintenance. Which is all subject to breakdowns. Break downs in the system and or the machinery itself. Just ask people living in Iraq how easy it is for the power supply to become disrupted. How many years has it been now, for them? Many of them are having to make do with major disruptions or go without entirely.

For us in America we are used to having our conveniences. Many of us are just born into it and we don’t know any other way. Not just with electricity but, also with our food supply. Our food is provided to us by a system and machinery as well. We don’t know any other way. We grew up just going to the store and buying everything we need with no real thought to it. Not much different than just flipping on that light switch. It becomes automatic and you don’t even have to think about it.

With that in mind it’s a real shock to us when we are forced to have anything less than what we are used to. It seems we are dependant on and even addicted to these conveiences that have become vice. We almost can’t do without. It’s like pulling teeth to release the level of comfort we are used to. Look how so many people were taken back when the levies failed in New Orleans. Actually that is a perfect example of what I’m talking about right now. Any body with common sense can look at those dikes and see that it’s just a matter of time till something happens and the whole place is sitting under water. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know it’s gonna happen eventually which it did. I mean duh, the entire place is below sea level!

The same thing can be said of the system that we have become so used to. It’s all interconnected and if there is a major disruption it has a ripple effect and it wouldn’t take much for the whole system to come grinding to a hault. It just makes sense to have a plan and not just for a few days disruption. A few days disruption is only a minor inconvenience or to some, an annoyance. It is entirely possible that even us who live "securely" on the other side of the planet, could have long term major failures in the system. For those with eyes to see it’s just like looking at those levies and dikes in New Orleans.

The Turtle Mountain folks have most definetly got eyes to see, because they are taking it seriously and are taking practical steps to be prepared. It’s just common sense.

Until Next Time