Like a walk through the country side living on a small farm is full of daily surprises, sometimes wonderful and amazing, and other times puzzling and sad. I hope you will walk with me as I live out my dream of living on this tiny farm. You will come to know the dogs, cats, Shetland sheep and chickens that make up this farm and what goes into keeping them happy and healthy. Come and join the journey with me.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Busy Bees

Crime scene photos--the bees were still pretty mad at this point

Here is the parts of the fleece I had to separate from the rest to isolate the little brown nest thingie.

This is the brown thing the bees were defending so heavily. It isn't very large yet

This is the dead bee I found embedded in the wool. Bumblebee?

Six pounds of fleece ready to ship!

As the humidity and heat squish out most of my ambition, I've been looking for quieter projects to tackle in the evenings after work. Sorting fleeces had gone by the wayside, with other pressing tasks taking up most of my time.

I had worked up several batches to send to the processors a month or so ago--some nice dark moorit shetland for roving and some of the white dorset/merino for pillow stuffing. The upshot is that I still have about 15 or so fleeces out in the garage, still in black garbage bags, waiting their turn on the skirting table. I leave the bags open so the fleeces can breathe, but I cover the bags over with a lightweight sheet to keep dirt and other vile things out of the wool.

There are also quite a few bags of last years fleeces and this years fleeces in the breezeway, which have been skirted but not sold. Since I was getting low on Dorset roving, I pulled out Gracie's fleece from last year which was in the breezeway, to sort through it and get it ready to send off. Gracie is my only Dorset that I have left, so I always save her fleece to have processed. As I looked through the fleece, it was clear that it wasn't as nice as her fleece from this year. Since I like to use some of the best fleeces for roving, I decided to relegate last years fleece to the pile I'm going to send off for quilt batting. So off to the garage I went to pull the sack with her fleece from this year.

Boone has been having a hard time lately, getting in trouble more often than not, so I tucked a treat in my pocket and off we went to the garage. I had him sit, and 'wait' while I squeezed past my truck into the front of the garage where the fleeces were. All the time, I was sweet talking Boone, telling him he was a good boy! and 'wait'. I pulled the sheet off the fleeces, poked around a couple of the bags, looking for Gracie's. Nope that's not it, not that one either. Crawling over bags, I got right in the middle of the pile, and found her bag. Good deal. Boone was still patiently waiting. I backed out of the pile, squeezed back around the truck, swinging the bag as I went. Boone, such a good boy, I cried, making a big deal of his doing something right. Wait...wait... Lay down....good boy! Okay! Then it was time for the well earned treat, but wait, what is that noise? What the dickens? Bzzzzzzzzzz. The sack is buzzing! The sack I had right against me is buzzing up a storm. The sack went sailing and I went running. Yikes. Boone just chomped his treat. Of course Boone also eats bumblebees for breakfast.

I was not willing to relinquish Gracie's fleece to these, these....bees, or whatever was buzzing in the bag! But I'm also a big chicken when it comes to flying stinging things. (Childhood trauma involving cows, cousins, and an underground yellow jacket nest.) So I went and got my pitchfork, and shut Boone in the yard. Thus armed, I advanced on the buzzing sack, speared it with the pitchfork and attempted to dump the wool out on the ground. It wasn't very smooth and I did abandon ship twice, screaming run! run! at the top of my lungs as I did indeed run--even though I was the only one in the vicinity. I can run like the wind when I think bees are thinking about swarming me.

Finally I got the fleece out, and was able to poke it a bit with the pitchfork, until I could see a brown mass, with bees hanging on it. I'm not really up on my bees, but I'm guessing this was their nest (hive?) and they were just starting to build it. They really look like bumble bees, but they are pretty small, I think. In the end, I got the brown mass separated from the wool, speared the wool and threw it up on the bed of the pickup and left it overnight. The next morning, I pulled the wool off the truck (still with the pitchfork) onto a sheet and let it set out in the sun until this evening. I skirted it very thoroughly and found one dead bee in the wool, but no other 'things'. So Gracie's fleece was saved with about six pounds of it use able.

The bees, they weren't so lucky. Their little brown thing is still laying out by the garage, abandoned by the bees. I will be carefully pulling out one sack of wool at a time (with my pitchfork) over this next week, to see if there are more bee sack nests. I sure hope not. Always something to keep a person on their toes! Or at least a person should be on their toes..not poking around paying the least bit of attention to what she is doing. At least I haven't gotten stung....yet....


Pamela said...

Wow! I can't imagine carrying a buzzing bag like that. Thank goodness it wasn't HORNETS!

You will definitely have to keep us posted in case you find some more!

Deb said...

I'm no fan of bees either....if it's buzzing I'm running in the opposite direction.
We keep two hives. I help my husband with them from a distance :) They are great to have on the farm but if I picked up a bag that was buzzing, I wouldn't be opening it!

Be careful with the rest of them!

Star said...

I'm off insects at the moment because my right leg is covered with mosquito bites! Bees, I love, but I don't want to be stung, thank you. No, no, no. Your post was very interesting, as usual. I have two sheep fleeces in my bedroom. Do you sell the whole fleece sometimes? If so, how much do you sell them for?
Blessings, Star

corinne said...

LOL! You and I are kindered spirits. I recently had an incident where I warded off a skunk with a broom....why not bees with a pitch fork? Although, I didn't feel it was necessary to yell, "run" when no one else was around...very thoughtful of you though, just in case.

Nancy K. said...

I'm not sure if I would have run...

I'd have probably dropped dead from a heart attack as soon as I realized the bag I was carrying was buzzing!

My fear of bees borders on PHOBIA!

I'm glad you escaped unstung...

thecrazysheeplady said...

Since you and Boone didn't get hurt, we can all laugh about

Kathy said...

Bumble bees do like something like a fleece or box at about ground level to make nests in. (Former beekeeper here...)Bumbles don't really sting except if you were to hold one in your palm and try to squish it. Heck, even I would sting if that happened to me, too.
To prevent future bumbles and bees of all sorts, as well as moths, try to find a place where there is light and a lot of air movement. Insects absolutely hate that.
Glad you and Boone are OK.