Sunday, November 22, 2015

Wasp Wars

It was a good thing it was below freezing yesterday morning when I went out to the barn to feed.  It's probably the only reason I didn't get stung a zillion times.
 
I was on the inside of the barn side of feederbunks, doing my usual morning routine - pitching hay to the cows and high protein screening pellets to the ancient horse, trying to ignore Lucy the Welsummer hen who demands to be at least petted if not picked up and packed around like a pet bunny or something, and avoiding the barn cat trying to trip me, winding in and out of my legs.  When I got to Pony's end of the bunks, the first wasp buzzed me like an F-14D on a strafing run.  I was startled; it was below freezing, and by now, most of the workers should be long dead, only a few hardy queens were still around, trying to find a hibernation spot for the winter.  And then a few more buzzed by.  I watched where they were going/coming from, and was shocked to see an enormous nest - right inbetween two hay bales, right where I had been climbing around on the hay all summer, pulling bales down from all summer, and still doing those things into the fall.  And that nest was alive with workers and queens, and they were reasonably unhappy for some reason.
 
Tucked into the hay like they were, they were all warm and cozy and probably saw no reason to not continue their lives all winter as they did all summer.  Now, in general I have zero love for those creatures; overly cantankerous, they will hunt you down and sting you for absolutely no reason.  Poor Gem the BC got one tangled up in her fur on her back leg that stung her Lord knows how many times before I found it and killed it. The only good they do is pollinate the melons and pumpkins, but I do have the Bee Girls for that, altho the wasps do a better job.  Otherwise, we keep cans of spray close to hand everywhere during the summer - two on the tractor, several in the puttputt, a couple in the greenhouse, under the gazebo by the greenhouse, on the deck, in the dog run, etc.  We buy it by the case every year and go thru several cases a summer.
 
I texted Dale that we had a BIG problem in the barn, and he arrived with two cans to augment the two in the barn.  I was pretty sure that a flamethrower was the better choice to battle these unhappy little monsters.  They had a large hole on the bunk side and a smaller 'escape hatch' on the chicken coop side of the hay stack.  He hit the bunk side opening first, which of course made them even more angry than they already were, then we went to the other side and foamed that hole as well.  NOW they were beyond mad.  So, Dale thought it a good time to take the 12' 2X4 laying there and push over the bales on top of the nest to expose it to the cold and spray.  Which he did.
 
By the time we escaped out of the barn, we both had furious little buggers on our clothes, trying to sting us thru the layers.  And more were coming after us.  We were OUTSIDE the barn, a relatively long way from the scene of the carnage, and they were STILL hunting us down!!  We got them off of us while heading for the gate to the pasture, hoping that was far enough to discourage pursuit.
 
We figured to give the nest time to get cold and the angry mob a chance to either freeze to death or at least slow down enough we could finish them off, so we headed in to town for a quick bite to eat.  The entire time, we were both jumpy about anything little thing that felt like something on our clothes or body, especially me.  I love my Bee Girls, but they are, for the most part, gentle, docile, accepting of my being around the Bee Box, and not much likely to go all commando on me.  Unlike these guerilla fighters.
 
When we got back, Dale suited up in the bee suit, I duct taped every loose opening I could (it's an old suit, and the elastic isn't anymore), he armed himself with two fresh cans of spray, and I brought up the rear with camera and three backup cans.  By now, the cold and spray from this morning had pretty well decimated the population, so we finished the nest off, took it outside and mercy killed the remaining queens and workers.  With no place warm to call home, the rest would have succumbed to the cold last night and this morning.
 
Of course, now every time I go near that hay stack, I'm gonna be just a little bit gun shy.....
 





First Big Chill of the Season

Our first foray into the 20's this season came this morning.  It actually hit 28 while I was outside doing morning feedings.  It was good to put on the fuzzy hat, gloves, socks (for only the second time since last February) and I could have used a scarf as well.  My pal Shelly from SoCal (where summer continues) quick-knitted two neat scarves in Duck colours and I'm guessing she 'accidently' left them here in October.  I should have grabbed one this morning.
 
We have nearly finished all our cold weather prep, just a few little things to cross off the list and then, the snow can fly.  Hopefully, it as well as the rain will make a return to the parched Pacific Northwest this season.  We've upped our yearly total, but are still nearly 10" behind with only a month and a half left.  So we will see how it goes this season.
 

 Chilled cabbage, anyone?
 Guess I'm gonna have to call the season, as the tomatoes and peppers look a bit, well, frozen
 'Water!!  Must have water!!'  Cricket knows the routine, but Hoke has to be all manly (below) and try to show her how to do it.  She finally let him fail miserably before going ahead and breaking the ice on her own








 The eerie stump of the Legacy oak that came down several weeks ago stands out in the early morning mist a few days ago

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Glorious Season Shots

More fall from around the ranch
 





 The 'Limelight' Mexican sage I got this spring from Annie's Annuals (www.anniesannuals.com) finally decides to bloom.  Now to see if it will indeed survive single digit temps, assuming we actually get some this winter
 There are many reasons to plants lots of Japanese maples

Yeah, Those Kinda Cows


Friday, November 13, 2015

Chelsea, 12 Days


Grandpa Roar and Uncle Gerry

The Trees are Flying Again

You know it's close to Thanksgiving when the aerial ballet, 'Flight of the Christmas Trees' starts
 
 Picking up a bundle.  The spotter is the little orange guy next to the bundle to be picked up.  The cutters fell and bundled that entire section of hillside in one morning
 Airborne to the drop point




 To the left is the section of fell and bundled trees waiting for pickup.  To the right is the idling chopper getting refueled at the drop zone.  That distance is covered, pick up to drop and back to pick up, in about 15 seconds
 The entire section of trees, from newly planted ones in the section harvested last year, to this year's harvest, and sections all in between
 Cricket was paying more attention to the loose cattle in the pasture in front of us.  For her, that was way more interesting





Thursday, November 5, 2015

Early November, in Pictures

Every post starts with a picture.  Usually many pictures.
 
Early November, with a few good, solid storms having moved thru, upping our rainfall to nearly 20" for the year, still almost 20" behind normal but welcome nonetheless
 
 The morning mist and light paints such mesmerizing pictures


 Three years of rain, wind and two massive snowfalls, and the last storm with its moderately strong winds finally fells the canopy in the south pasture.  The removal of which earned me the (hopefully) last wasp sting of the season from a queen looking for the perfect hibernation spot.  It's in the wasp version of Valhalla now

The View from the Top

While high atop the haystack, shoveling bales down for feeding, I chanced to find myself with camera in pocket and a view that just needed to be captured.
 
That's Lucy, the Welsummer hen, supervising the morning chow call.  She's bossy, that hen