Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Thoughts from the Combine

-Posted by Isaac

Things are winding down in the corn belt. The last of the honey is done, the bees are tucked in for winter. Sister Becky at Dangling Carrot had her last day of picking produce and shut her freezer off a couple days ago. She's now in Iowa visiting sister Molly.
Last Friday, Bridger, baby Eden and I had the pleasure of joining my brother in harvesting his very last few acres of 2014 corn. Justin drove the semi, hauling corn, so we didn't see him much. Grandpa Barnes drove the combine, and Aunt Adrienne drove the grain buggy.

Bridger just loves this. Every night before bed he now requests the "combine song." Somehow every night the song changes depending on my mood, but I always ask, "Was that good, Bridge?"
And he always says, "Yeah, that good."
So I guess I'm doing alright. I think he dreams combines.

What's at the end of the corn field?
Answer: A bean field.

Pickaway County
Excitement Central
When we lived in the mountains we had scenery but almost no production. (Well... skiing, hiking, running, and biking... production for the soul?)
Here in the flatlands it's all production and no scenery.

But there's more than enough in both places to keep your mind occupied. Just differently.
How am I going to fix that loose bearing?
Wonder what the Grice Rd. field is going to yield?

But not everyone is so riveted by bearings, hydraulic lines and crop yields. 

Here comes Aunt Adrienne pulling the grain buggy. 

This is all done on the move. Dad says it cuts 30% off the harvest time for a field when a grain buggy is involved. 
With a thousand acres or more you want to keep moving.

When I was a kid, and even in high school, everything was small.  The hopper on the combine would fill quickly. You would stop, pull out of the row and run to the end of the field to dump in little gravity wagons.
This thing holds about five times the volume of those little wagons:

How's that yield looking, Bridger?

Not bad!
207 bushels an acre in this field.

That's good, because the price of corn is way low.
It seems everybody in the country is yielding over 200.
Supply and demand.

At least this boy will be supplied with cheap corn flakes for another year.

On one end of the corn field we were able to catch a glimpse of Becky slaving away in her organic produce.

Come on, Becky...
Get yourself a combine. Get yourself a semi truck. A little Rush Limbaugh on the radio...

Get with the program!

Becky is about to enter vacation season.
As I said, her last weekend market is over and she has turned off her big walk-in cooler.
And I happen to use that big walk-in for bulk comb honey storage.
Oh boy... better get it cut up:

Most of it became chunk honey, but we still got 40 or 50 decent cut comb sections: 

(You can only find these at the markets. Not the groceries. Yet...)

Justin is finishing, Becky is finishing, and yes, we're finishing also.
Here is the last yard I pulled:

In the hills of Holmes County with the sun dropping and NPR's Folk Alley on the radio.
I love Sunday evening.

Tuesday morning Mr. Blair is hard at work extracting and Jayne is about to cut another batch of soap.

What is that black stuff?
Could that be???
Yes, I think it is!

Inspector Maizy

This honey comes from those 40 Amish country hives I blogged about a few months ago. The "Buckwheat Babies" started from early June package bees.
Almost 700 lbs of the dark stuff. These bees far surpassed my expectations.

Good fall season. 

Overall, a decent crop of rich goldenrod honey and more importantly, the bees are looking strong and healthy. Fat and happy, heavy and ready to go into a long winter cluster.
Their work is done for the year.
Our work goes on. This afternoon we started into placing mouse guards.

It just never ends for a bee farmer.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Legends of the Fall

-Posted by Isaac

It's that time of year again.

Mid October, Pickaway County-- the schools shut down, the routes change, and everyone makes a pilgrimage to Circleville. Everyone in the state it seems, young and old.
The Pumpkin Show, now in it's 108th year sort of puts Circleville on the map.

I wish I had thought to take more photos of the general festival. There are rides everywhere, exhibits everywhere, pumpkin food every which way you turn, demonstrations,

and of course the people-watching is excellent.
Maybe I'll capture some of this next year.

I did however get a few pictures of Circleville's version of overdoing it.
Some of the GIANTS....

The mutants...

The winners, spawned of Pickaway county soil...
"In Umerica we call'em taters."

Talk about a tough one to judge...

There are pies,

...and then there are PIES.

Even the insects are gigantic.

Dr. Bob Liggett, our family eye doctor, seems to be a perpetual name in the winner's circle.

Here, size matters.
1,964 pounds this  year. I think this was a Pumpkin Show record.
I'd love to claim that this beast was pollinated by one of my bees but I'm pretty sure Dr. Liggett handles that job himself.

Cicleville isn't the only pumpkin crazy town. I happened to flip through this week's TIME Magazine and found out that there are alot of pumpkin festivals:

But I'll wager ours is the biggest.

Anywhere a lot of pumpkins are planted, there will eventually be a need for bees.
We did pollination work for three different pumpkin farms this summer. The number of hives required varies with the size of farm but it usually runs around one hive for every two acres of pumpkins. The bees work from mid June through September. And they don't make a lot of honey. (Which is why I charge more for pumpkin pollination.)

On Friday I got the last load home. We now have a giant home apiary-- 45 hives in the back yard to keep us company this winter.

This is our own version of overdoing it.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Golden Season

-Posted by Isaac

Best time of year in my opinion. The golden time.

For a while we had absolutely perfect weather. If Ohio was like this year-round, I'd have much more trouble finding something to complain about. (And I just don't know what I would do with all the extra time.)

What a wonderful string of late September days we happened upon. The goldenrod came on in full brilliance...

And I became very much a recluse in the bees.

The pollen traps went on...


And a month later they came off.

In between, we collected a freezer full of beautiful goldenrod / ragweed / aster pollen.

Gorgeous stuff. And this year, more of it then ever.

So much in fact, we were comfortable asking Whole Foods if they would like to sell it.
(You can find it at the Dublin store right now. Lane Ave. coming soon.)

Strong hives pull in a lot of pollen. And the hives are incredible right now.

Better bees then I've ever seen this time of year.

Of course strong hives also make a decent crop of fall honey.

Buckets and buckets!

And we're still at it. 
Mr. Blair has seen a month of long hard hours in the honey house.
(Without a single complaint I might add. Love that guy.)

Some of the honey has yet to be capped off.

Wax during the goldenrod season has a unique yellow tint.
But that's ok. We just fire up the drying room and get the moisture down to where it should be.
It makes for a hot time in the extracting room. I mean pure hellish drudgery.
Hey, Mr. Blair... not my problem!

I spend my days in the bees!

The last yard I pulled, I was visited by some curious bovine onlookers.



So the busy days busied on. Beautiful weather one day after another after another. It felt like we lived on the Carolina coast.
Then, finally, came the rotten stuff. The rain and the cold.

So we high tailed it to the Carolina coast.

Ha Ha!
Yes, a vacation thrown in, right in the middle of our fall harvest made for some interesting complications. But we managed to endure through it.
And the kids were so sad to be out of school.

Beautiful beaches.
Beautiful babes.

Of course we had our obligatory share of mini golf. This was a first for the kids and they loved it. Not the golf so much, but all the other fun challenges you can invent with a golf ball.
Here's Bridger and the water chute:

And while we're on the subject of fun distractions, let me leave you with one last snapshot. We just returned from the Bob Evans Farm Festival in Rio Grande. The grand finale was a concert by Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys. 
On the right is Ralph Stanley on stage in front of about a thousand admiring eyes:

On the left are the wonderful Barnes children.
Log rolling down the hill.