Monday, December 24, 2007


I has been suggested that I should use my BLOG to post an ongoing status on Liz's mother. In spite of the unquestioned fact that a BLOG is a personal expression, with no other person's opinion or desires relevant in any degree, here is what is happening.

As you know, Grandma fell a week before Thanksgiving, resulting in a subdural hematoma of which we were not aware. At Thanksgiving time, she fell again and hurt herself very much more, breaking her hip (technically the break was in the pubi-lateral portion of the acetabulum in the ischium, or just in front of the socket part of the hip joint), and starting another subdural hematoma. In the weeks following she has been hospitalized most of the time, with the subdural hematoma being the most immediate worry, but the hip being a long-term concern. Both these injuries can lead into a decline and ultimately death.

After she was stabilized in the emergency room, she was moved to Baylor Hospital's physical therapy center in Dallas for a 3 week course of "intense" P. T meaning three hour-long sessions per day. She made great progress during this time of closely supervised therapy and regained her ability to get out of bed and walk with a walker. When she was released, the doctors she should never be left alone. We understood him to mean that there should always be someone in the house who could help her.

Ten days ago, after 5 days at home, I was in the family room when I heard her screech. I went into her apartment and found that she had fallen again. I was a little hesitant because she was only wearing garments, but she needed help. She had been standing in her closet, putting on a sweater with a tight neck and in the process of pulling it over her head she lost her balance and fell forward, over her walker, and in to a pile of stuff. Her head was between two shelves. She was fortunate that the stuff in her closet kept her from falling all the way down, but she was far enough over her walker that she was stuck. I pulled her back and got her seated in her closet chair, then left to get Liz. We determined that she had hit her head against a shelf while falling, so Liz took her to the Emergency room where they saw via CAT scan that the subdural hematoma was bleeding again. At this point we decided that the doctor had not meant merely for someone to be in the house with her, but that she needed someone immediately by her, all the time. Meanwhile, they pretty much stopped the subdural bleeding chemically (it was still seeping a little), but daily CAT scans showed that fluid was building up, putting pressure on her brain. Last Tuesday the local doctor wanted to put a drain into her skull to relieve the pressure. Liz decided to consult with her regular neurologist, so she had the films couriered to him. Wednesday, she talked to her neurologist and discovered he had the films and had looked at them, but didn't realize we wanted him to talk to the doctor at the hospital, so that day was lost. Thursday the doctor came in to get her ready to go into the O.R., but after talking to her for a while, he said, "She looks pretty good now. Why don't we just send her home and we'll do another CAT scan next Thursday and re-evaluate." That was a surprise. So she is home, and we have someone with her 24/7. It is a strain on us because it's not exactly how we planned to spend our holiday, nor did our guests, and Liz and I still have jobs.

Physically, Mom is fairly good. She is getting feeble and we worry that she won't keep up her exercises, which could easily lead to the dreaded gradual decline. She isn't self-motivated and she doesn't remember how to do her exercises like they taught her while in P.T.

Mentally, she is much worse. She still talks intelligently and can easily engage in games and conversation. But she is now forgetting common things. For example, when she tries to get up from a chair, she strains against the arms of the chair or onto her walker, but she doesn't remember to put her feet on the floor. She just lets them wag and wiggle around in air and can't make any progress. When we remind her to put her feet on the floor, she gets enough purchase to get up. More worrisome is that she forgets her limitations. Her last fall, for example, was simply the result of forgetting that she can't stand unaided, so she was getting dressed while standing instead of sitting in the chair at her side. She will turn off a light by leaning way over her walker instead of taking one more step to get in reach. She simply doesn't remember that such moves are risky in the extreme. A full-on fall to the floor may well be the end of her.

We are glad to have her with us at Christmas. Joe's children love her and have been afraid because she wasn't in her apartment when they've come to visit us. She responds to them very well and likes the attention they spawn on her. Now Mark and Kelley are here, too. What joy to have a house full of fun and love!

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â Merry Christmas â ]

J Earl J

Friday, December 14, 2007

Sunday Sluffer

We have had a pretty hectic week this week.  I have to admit that I started it off badly, by playing hooky from church on Sunday.  I wanted to go to the "Woodworking Show" which is held at least once per month somewhere in the U.S., but only in Dallas once per year in December.  I haven't been to it in a few years.  This year, I wanted to see if anybody had anything fantastic in a midi-lathe.  You see, several years ago I bought a Jet woodworking lathe at the Woodworking Show, which Jet is about the top of the line hobbyist lathe.  It cost about $500, but the really big, professional lathes cost several thousand$.  It worked great and I liked it, but it was a full-size lathe and took up one entire end of my shop.  I couldn't easily work around it, so I finally sold it to a friend in the 6th ward, a nice man who lived in Albuquerque in the same stake as the McGees before he moved here.

But I still want a lathe to do those projects which just aren't easily done with anything else.  One trend of the last few years is that turned wood pens have become popular, and bring big prices at all kinds of swap meets, office business dealings, etc.  I'm not especially interested in turning pens, but the market for lathes to suit the pen-makers has resulted in most of the tool makers introducing a mini-lathe and/or a slightly larger midi-lathe.  They are benchtop machines, so they don't have to take up so much floor space, but they are also very smooth operating because they are designed to turn tiny pieces.  And if you really want to do a piece longer than their 14-18" bed, they all have optional bolt-on bed extenders.

So, back to the woodworking show:  The last time I went, it was a big exhibition with hundreds of companies tools, so I was amazed to see that there were only about 20 booths set up this year and not a single one had a lathe on exhibit.  Of course I found a couple of other things I couldn't live without, but I basically returned home without accomplishing my goal.  The only thing left to do was watch the Cowboys come back to beat Detroit before packing our suitcases to go see Ruthie perform in the semester recital. 

So I will wait until the coffers have recovered slightly from Christmas and I have a new job lined up, and then I'll order a midi-lathe via the internet.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The old West

We grew up with guns.  When my oldest brother, John, was 12, Dad gave him a .22 and a single-shot .410 shotgun for Christmas, or maybe the shotgun came the next year.  At that time, John kept his guns in the front, basement bedroom he shared with Jim.  All of us boys had rooms in the basement, and only John & Jim's room had a finished surface - the rest of the rooms had plain, concrete walls.  But the front one had wood lathe attached to the concrete, with plaster troweled over it, which was what they did before sheetrock was invented.

  One afternoon when we were all home and I was in my bedroom, John was showing Jim how to clean the shotgun.  You probably already know the next part.  I heard a big bang, followed by little dribbling sounds as BB's and little pieces of plaster rattled around the bedroom next to mine.  I walked over there to see John and Jim sitting on a bed with the shotgun across their laps.  Just to their left there was a 4" hole in the lathe and plaster.  They both looked kind of stunned, but at least there was no blood.  About a second later Mom and Dad came running in and I got pushed out, so I never heard a first-hand account of exactly how it happened.  Over the next couple of years, that whole wall slowly fell apart.  It seems like the blast cracked the plaster throughout and little pieces kept working loose as the hole slowly grew until it was all that was left.  That was the end of keeping guns in the bedrooms.  I never really knew where the guns went until John made a gun cabinet in high school wood shop.  That gun cabinet got screwed to the wall in the garage (it never had a car in it - just like mine) and Dad kept the only key.  That didn't mean we didn't have access to the guns as we grew up, but we had to get permission and return them to the gun cabinet when we were done with them. 

John soon traded his single-shot .22 for a repeater of some kind.  Jim got a single-shot .22 when he was 12.  When Jim was 14 and I was 12, he got a 12 gauge shotgun and I got a .22 bolt-action.  2 years later, he got a deer rifle, and 2 years after that I got a deer rifle.  The .410 shotgun was used by each of us in turn, but it became Dad's somewhere along the line.  I never had a shotgun of my own back then, but there was always one available if I needed one.

After I left home and entered the World, when I'd talk about living in a small town, people, especially city people, would ask, "But what did you DO for fun?"  I always thought that was funny.  I'd answer that we had a movie theater in town, and between the church, American Legion, and school there were dances quite often.  But the real answer is that when we could get away we headed for the hills, either going up the creek to fish, swim, tire swing, or catch tadpoles, or into the foothills to hunt jackrabbits.  Mostly we pretty much ran wild.  Jackrabbits are a large hare and were plentiful, and they had the habit of stopping to look back when they got far enough away to feel safe.  They make great targets.  We thought of them as vermin, and since they sometimes carried a disease called tularemia, it was thought that the best thing to do was to kill them off, which suited us kids just fine.  Hunting them was THE standard activity almost all boys in the rural West shared.  But you should know that while we did keep a sharp lookout for jackrabbits at all times, the term "rabbit hunting" was used very loosely.  What we really did was shoot anything that moved - song birds, squirrels, spiders, owls, crows, cotton-tails, mice, and ant-hills come to mind.  When we got tired we'd sit down and rest where we could see something stationary to shoot at.  Sometimes we'd find a box or something and we'd just shoot at that until it was either time to go home or we ran out of ammunition.  We also spent quite a bit of time searching for arrowheads, and this too was covered by "rabbit hunting" since if we saw a rabbit while looking for arrowheads, we'd naturally shoot at it.

In addition to that, we had the usual formal hunting/fishing seasons.  The opening day of fishing season is a fun time that comes in the spring.  If Dad could get away we'd go somewhere with the boat; Fish Lake, Koosharem, the reservoir west of Beaver, or some place like that.  Sometimes we had to settle for going up Chalk Creek and catching "planters" which are innocent, young trout recently planted in the stream by Utah Fish & Game.  They were easy to catch, but they didnt taste as good as the ones whod been in the creek for a few months.  It might have been the fish food pellets theyd been eating, or it might have been that they were flabby from growing in tanks instead of a stream.

The big hunt of the year was deer season, of course.  All the years when I was growing up, Dad put an ad in the Los Angeles papers that he would guide deer hunters and guarantee each paying hunter a buck.  So it was a big deal in our household.  The hunters arriving the day before opening day had to be fed and Mom would go all out and put on a big spread.  The older boys got to go along on the hunt and the family rule was that anytime you saw a buck you'd shoot it whether you had a tag or not, because somebody would need that deer.  We had some great times, even though we were kind of the unpaid gofers / dishwashers / personal servants and horse handlers.  When we got home we'd hang the deer in the garage to age.  After the dudes left, we'd skin and butcher whatever was left and package it up to go in the freezer.

Pheasant season was usually sometime around Thanksgiving.  Deer hunting is kind of an individual thing because we'd spread out to cover the most territory, but pheasant hunting we always did in drives where we'd walk along through weeds or fields about 15-20 yards apart, and we could talk to each other as we hunted.  We'd always get some pheasants and Mom was very good at cooking them.  If we were a little short (rarely) she'd fill in with some chicken, so we'd have big platters of fried pheasant with mashed potatoes, fresh home-made bread, and all the fixings.  It was almost like Thanksgiving all over again.

The informed reader will note that several things I've described are currently against the law.  What I've described took place many years ago when rules were not as tight as they are now, and we did not willingly disobey any laws.

J Earl Ashurst  J

Friday, November 30, 2007

Nolan Taylor and I

So you want more stories from back in the olden days, huh?  Tired of hearing about bees?

As I grew up We lived in a big house on a huge lot - 42 East 4th South, in Fillmore.  Next door there was a smaller house, and beyond that was our corral where we kept the milk cow(s) and horses.  My first memory is of the day we all piled into the station wagon and drove to that big house and we boys got to stake our claims to the bedrooms downstairs.

  The Taylors lived in the smaller house at that time and Nolan Taylor was only a year older than I.  Later they moved to a big old house that they sold to Oleve, my dad's second wife.  Nolan was a nice kid and I liked hanging with him.  But one day when we were still pre-school, we were playing in his yard and somehow I got a rope around his neck.  I really don't remember how that happened.  Maybe he put it there himself.  Anyway, I had the end of the rope and I thought it would be cute to rope him like the cowboys do to calves.  So I yanked on it and instead of coming closer he dug in his heels and started to choke.  So then it became a power struggle and neither one of us wanted to give in, but he was choking this whole time.  We wrastled around some and he grabbed a rake that was laying on the lawn - not a little lawn rake, a heavy garden rake - and he hefted it over his head and brought it down on my head, tines first.  Now a 5-6 year old can't do a lot of damage like that, but they used to make tools like rakes pretty substantial, so it put a row of holes across the top of my head.  Of course I bled like a stuck pig, so I headed for the warmth and comfort of home, and Nolan did the same, both of us bawling.

  I was fine, but I did have a row of scars across my head.  Last time I checked (20 years or so ago) they were getting faint, but could still be seen.

  The funny thing about it is that when Oleve died, Nolan came to the funeral.  I hadn't seen him in about 40 years and first thing he said to me was an apology for hitting me with that rake.  Liz thinks it's weird, but that's what it's like in very small towns.  Everyone remembers everything you ever did that was the least bit remarkable.

J Earl Ashurst  J

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bee Cutout from the castle - Part 2

I wish I thought to take photos of this house.  But this is a shot of the comb after I got a couple of 2X4 uprights out of the way.  The light colored comb on the right is new comb.  The older combs are dark from bees tracking mud inside the house in spite of all the queen can do.  Seriously it just gets dark as they use over and over.

Soon after that I was too sticky with honey to handle the camera, so no more photos.

This job was hard because I had to do it all on a ladder which makes your feet sore and doesnt give you good leverage when you need it.  And because I had to do this one alone.

And I had to leave the hive there until all the bees were inside, which took 4 more trips out there over 3 days.


J Earl Ashurst  J

Phone: 469-220-8206

Bee Cutout from the castle - Part 1

I can only post one photo at a time, so thats why the parts.

This colony of  bees moved into the framing under the balcony on this monstrously large and fancified house.  They had comb right behind where the two 2X4s are bent in at the bottom.

There is already marble on  the floor of the balcony, so I dont see why the builders left it open so long.  Unfortunately, I had to break out 3 2X4 supports and I had to cut the flashing back before I could get at the bees and comb.


J Earl Ashurst  J

Phone: 469-220-8206

Bee cutouts - Sept. old Plano house - Part 3

This photo was taken near the end of the job and shows the inside of the wall near where the bees were entering.  You cant see too many bees, but there were thousands more that had fled into all those cracks and hiding places.  I never did get the queen and I left a lot of bees in the wall.  I covered the holes I made with plastic and we sprayed wasp killer into the space.  The homeowner called me that night to ask why Id left bees and I got him to spray them again.


J Earl Ashurst  J

Bee cutouts - Sept. old Plano house - Part 2

And this is me trying to vacuum the bees up so I could get at the comb without getting punctured.  The vacuum is a double container affair designed to capture the bees without hurting them.  Notice all the bees flying around in both photos?  Bees hate you when you start cutting their comb.


J Earl Ashurst  J

Bee cutouts - Sept. old Plano house - Part 1

I thought you might be interested to know what it’s like to cut a colony of bees out of a house.

·       How hard is it?  Usually VERY hard!  It’s hot in the protective suit, it’s usually done during hot weather, you usually have to stand on a ladder for hours at a time or are hunched down to get at them, and you always get stung.

·       Do you get to keep the bees and honey?  Yes, although it doesn’t often amount to much.  The bees in the photos below were very irritated at me, so I’m not sure I will keep them.  But found bees are possibly Africanized, likely to leave your new hive and fly away to their own idea of a dream house.  The honey can be good, but sometimes you don’t know whether the homeowner has sprayed the bees, and if they have, you can’t risk using the honey.

·       Is it worth it?  I got $425 for the job in the photos – not bad for 4 hours’ work, and Joe and I split it 50/50..

This first photo is where the bees were entering the house under the siding.


J Earl Ashurst  J

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

6 things you might not know about me.

Recently my daughter(s) challenged me to list 6 little-known things about myself.  Liz promptly told me that we dont have to respond to any such demand, which leaves me puzzled as to why.

But being ready to brag at the drop of a hat I thought I would take a stab at it.  Since it is supposed to be things they might not know, I thought Id focus on the days before even Angela became fully sentient.

1.      Fire: Before I was old enough to go to Kindergarten, Brent Baker and I were playing in a lot about half way between our homes.  There had been a lot of big cottonwood trees there, but some time before they had all been felled, leaving a tangled “jungle” in which we loved to play Tarzan.  This particular time, Brent had a little box of matches he’d swiped from his sister’s purse (she smoked!), so naturally we lit a campfire.  We didn’t bother to put it out, or more probably didn’t know how, nor even that we should.  That night at bed time there was an orange glow down the street, and the city volunteer fire department spent a lovely evening in training for real fires.  And that was the end of the wood lot, which made us sad.  What made us happy was that nobody even suspected two cute little tow-headed pre-schoolers had anything to do with it.  So that should make Mark and Joe feel better about the fire on Candy Loop.

2.      More Fire: When I was about 8-10, Brent Baker and I repaired to the old horse sheds behind his house to try to figure out how to smoke.  His older sister gave us the makings because not only did she smoke, she only had about a dozen cards in her deck of 52.  Those old horse sheds were made of cedar posts, with bales of straw for a roof.  They were probably about a hundred years old and the bales of straw were down to about ¼ of their original height; and they were dry, dry, dry!  In addition, they had never been cleaned out, so there was a deep layer of “compost” under them.  Horses, you know, leave a lot more fiber than cattle, or goats, or other ruminants.  Anyway, we had a little fire so we wouldn’t have to strike one of our few matches for every light.  We never did figure out how to smoke, because nobody had ever told us that you inhale.  Good thing, too.  So we eventually gave up and stomped out the fire (See? We were getting better.)  But ancient beds of dried compost are resistant to stomping, so late that night there was an orange glow through the block, and the city volunteer fire department spent a lovely evening in training for real fires.  That time it came out who done it.  And after that I didn’t play around with Brent Baker much.

3.      Skinny Dipping:  When I was 12 I started working summers on farms.  My first job was driving the hay truck for my older brother while he and his partners walked along picking up bales and throwing them onto the truck.  I could do this at 12 because it was only driving in a big field and you drove it as slow as it would go.  The most important thing was to avoid driving over bales of hay (that would rock the truck so much that bales fell off and they had to be thrown back on.  Plus, it usually broke the  bale you ran over.)  I got paid ¼ cent per bale for doing that.  Later, I worked for my cousin and then for a farmer in Meadow named Bushnell.  His son, Cleve, was my age, and we did the walking and throwing while his younger brother drove.  The Bushnell farm was West of meadow some distance, near the old volcanoes, and one of the attractions of the volcanoes was a hot spring.  It was just a deep pool, about 30 feet across, with shelves of stone every few feet as it went down, and was known to drown careless divers who got stuck under those shelves.  It was pretty muddy and a long way away from everything, but we often went there near sundown and skinny-dipped for a while to get all the dried sweat and salt and dust off us.  It was nasty smelling water, full of minerals, and nothing lived in it except those big “bargemen” water bugs, which are the only water bug that will bite.  The biggest thrill was that sometimes somebody else would go out there, and we only had a very short time to get decent before their headlights would reveal us. 

4.      Girls:  After my junior year of High School I went to band camp at BYU, even though it meant I got fired from my job with the Kimball Ranch.  What a great place that was!  I never even thought about any other college after that.  I only applied to BYU, staking my entire college future on that one application, and was delighted to go there the next year.  The summer after my senior year I went to work for my father at Big M service (a Conoco station), where I worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Dad was good to work for, paying regularly and generously, but he insisted that you WORK!.  It made it so that with my music scholarship I didn’t have to work while I was at college.  BYU has orientation week for freshmen the week before classes start and for the next 3 years I always told Dad I had to be there for it.  The draw was that there was a nice dance every evening of orientation week.  The girls were dressed to the 9’s and the guys all wore suits and it was just a big musical round of dancing every dance with a new partner.  After a summer of working so hard with never a break, it was a little hard for me to be there with so many pretty girls, but I sure loved it.  I’m sure I embarrassed myself pretty regularly since at that time I didn’t know how to talk to girls.  I still associate BYU with crowds of beautiful girls wearing very nice, long dresses, even though I married a girl with exceptionally nice legs that I saw marching in modest shorts.

5.      Librarian:  I spent most of my time in the Marines at the Recruit Depot on San Diego harbor.  I was a computer programmer by training, but only an operator in fact.  We worked Mon-Fri, 8-5 for the most part, with occasional other duties such as mess duty, riot control, annual rifle qualification, etc.  One of the programmers who graduated in the class 2 weeks ahead of mine got himself a job in the Depot Library, and when he was transferred he recommended me.  So I got a call from Mrs. Cross, the librarys director, who offered me the job.  I was surprised to be offered it because I hadnt applied or anything and I didnt really have an urgent need for a paying job.  But it was too good to pass up.  The job was 5-9:00, 3 evenings a week.  I was told I could sort the books on the shelves if I wanted to, or I could read, but it was critical to properly check out the books and process the returns.  Checking out was :  Check ID and write name on the books card, stamp the date on the books card, stamp the date on a Due card and put it in the book, File the books card.  It was not that difficult and I was surprised when Mrs. Cross told me I was the only librarian shed ever had who didnt make mistakes.  That was good because what I did most of the time was read whatever suited my fancy.  I worked there for about a year until I got out of the Corps.  By the way, I got a phone call one night for a Commander Cross.  I was surprised that Mrs. Cross answered the call.  She was a Navy officer and I had thought she was a civilian.  A commander is equivalent to a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marines.

6.      Mailman:  After I finished with the Marine Corps, I went back to BYU to get a degree in biology.  The GI Bill helped a lot with expenses but it was still tight so one year I dropped out and took a job with a bank in SLC.  I really hated that job, so late in November I quit and Liz and I took our two sweet babies with us to Chicago for a month until classes started again.  Lizs parents were very nice to put us up.  Since I still needed to work,  Lizs mother lined up a job for me assembling Christmas fruit baskets at minimum wage (If I remember correctly, it was $1.75/hour at that time).  I didnt much like that idea, and after a flash of brilliance, I called the local post office and landed a job as a 30-day Christmas mail carrier.  So I spent the month of December walking around the neighborhoods in suburban Chicago with a big leather bag over my shoulder.    It was cold, but I loved it, and I made a lot more $$ than I would have making fruit baskets.  Then I went back to school in January.

So, did you know any of that?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Christmas Shopping.

Jessica loves to shop all the sales on the day after T-Day. And when I say "all the sales" I mean including the ones starting at 4:00 am or even earllier. This year, she talked Liz into going to Kohl's at 4:00 am. They went to bed early to make ready, but I stayed up watching football. Sadly last night was one of those rare times when I had a headache, and it started at about 5:00 am. I finally got up and went to work (no days off for us contractors unless we don't want to get paid). As I was driving in at about 6:30 the radio had traffic reports. It went something like this:

"Let's check on today's traffic. Northgate Mall's parking lot is 85% full, but traffic is moving through with no serious problems. Collin Creek Mall is only 40% filled. Up in Frisco, the StoneBridge Mall is 100% and traffic is backed up along Hiway 121 from Preston Road to the Dallas North Tollway. . . . "

and so it went. I can't help thinking, "What WRONG with these people?" They have the day off and do they enjoy it? No. They stand in lines out in the cold, waiting to get into stores so they can save 40 cents in the big sale. They could be out fishing for goodness sakes!

Liz called to tell me I didn't have to plunge into the fray at W-mart to get our selected gift for Joshua because she got the last one at Kohl's at at even better price. Thank heavens, and amen!


T-Day is always satisfying for me. As a "fine figure of a man", an English achronism for a portly soul, I take great pride in enjoying the feast in spectacular fashion. I'm not quite up to Bob's standard (See Bill Murray in 'What About Bob?' ) but I do enjoy it so.

One of my particular delights is that without my gall bladder (removed about 10 years ago) I can't process big, fatty meals. Fatty foods go down my gullet with all the satisfaction of mortal beings everywhere. They pass through my stomach and get drenched in acid, squeezed and churned as other people know. They leave sugars, carbs, and proteins in the small tubules just as they should, but without bile to break the fats into separate pieces, it remains as large puddles of fat which cannot be absorbed in any place. When it hits the large pipe, it is almost like hitting the handle in the loo (although that actually comes later). Whoosh and down it goes! I get to eat fatty foods and I don't get much of it to inhabit my blood vessels, and that is why I do adore Thanksgiving.

Of course, I also enjoy watching football on that day. And a nap.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

One of my frustrations is that I can't post to my blog, nor see photos in other blogs.  Well, this morning Joe helped me get set up so I can post via email.  So now I can post more frequently than once every 3 or 4 weeks.  (Hopefully)

The colony of bees I cut out from under the balcony of that fancy house is doing quite nicely in a hive out at joe's place.  Within a week, I had another one that I removed from under a playhouse.  It is a huge colony with tons of bees.  They are in a hive next to the balcony one.  Both are looking healthy and happy, but I will have to feed them all winter because I had to remove most of their honey (it is too heavy to tie the combs into a new hive).

I wonder if I can post photos via email?  I'll try to put a photo of the bees under the playhouse foundation.  <<DSCN1005.JPG>> What you cant see in the photo is that each of those 22 combs go back about 30  What makes it even more remarkable is that it is all new comb less than a year old.  The bees are thus very productive, and they were remarkably gently.  Good bees to keep around!

Last week my Mom-in-law fell over and broke her pelvis.  I am just backup for her, but the experience has had big impacts on Liz and I.  Liz is terribly stressed over having her mother in the ER, so I am trying to be supportive and not add to her stress.  One impact is that all of a sudden Liz and I are the only ones home.  Wow, that's different.  We were just getting used to having our sweet grandkids under foot all the time, with Yoe and Yessica hanging around, and Mom lurking in her apt. and now we are alone.  If we don't watch out, we'll have to actually talk to each other.  :-)

Just a week ago, Liz and I took off on a wild weekend with the Taylors going to San Antonio for no better reason than that we haven't done anything together recently.  We spent a lot of money, but it was nice.  We did one thing I didn't even know you could do - visit some of the other missions besides the Alamo.  It turns out there were 5 missions in San Antonio.  The best preserved is Mission San Jose, which we spent a couple of hours touring around.  Here is a review:

"Except for the Alamo, all of San Antonio's historic missions constitute San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Established along the San Antonio River in the 18th century, the missions stand as reminders of Spain's most successful attempt to extend its New World dominion northward from Mexico. All of the missions are active parish churches, and all are beautiful in their own ways. Start your tour at the stunning Mission San José (6701 San Jose Dr. 210/922-0543), the "Queen of Missions," where a National Park Service visitor center illuminates the history of the missions. San José's outer wall, Native American dwellings, granary, water mill, and workshops have been restored. Here you can pick up a map of the Mission Trail that connects San José with the other missions. Mission Concepción (807 Mission Rd., at Felisa St. 210/534-1540) is known for its frescoes. Mission San Juan (9101 Graf Rd. 210/534-0749), with its Romanesque arches, has a serene chapel. Espada (10040 Espada Rd. 210/627-2021), the southernmost mission, includes an Arab-inspired aqueduct that was part of the missions' famous acequia water management system."

The aforementioned Acequia is mostly in decay, but there is a section that still works and they use the water to run the restored Mill at M San Jose.  I really enjoyed that, because it is all mode of wood, with only a little ironmongery to fasten critical junctions.  But all the controls, gates, and valves are made of wood.

We will have a small, but merry group for T-day: Yoe & Yessica and clan, Ruthie, Liz & I.  I heard that the food channel has an article on "brining" your turkey, so I printed it out.  The ladies here at Citi say it makes the turkey very, very moist, and that sounds pretty good.  I am cooking the turkey and the sweet potatoes this year, and I'll try it.

J Earl J

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Bees 2

Last Thursday I had a job cutting out a colony of bees from a new house under construction. They were in the built-up place under a little half-round balcony and the construction workers were afraid of working with them around, or so the nice lady told me. When I got there I had 2 surprises: 1. the bees were not new-comers and had obviously been there for many months. 2. it wasn't a typical house. It was a castle, and I am not kidding. I wish I'd thought to take photos, but my bad. It had two huge iron doors in front and upon entering you find yourself in a large, circular room with a marble circle in the floor under a domed ceiling about 40 feet above. A circular stairway led to the second floor, where you could see another dome above the somewhat circular balcony. There were carved, embellished, fancified niches in all the walls, and 14" molding around the floors, and 24" crown moldings. There were 3 wings, but I didn't go down any of their halls - I just stayed in the main part of the house. I did notice two large rooms off the entrance (about 60' away) that had identical fireplaces, about 6 feet wide with mantled 30' high, and more fancy niches.
The guy led me upstairs to where I could reach the balcony and we went up the staircase, along the hallway with 3 cupolas in the ceiling and matching circular areas under each with marble circles in the floor, and on into the entertainment room with a huge, wood bar at one end. The bar probably used about 1500 board feet of mahogany and it was beautiful. At the opposite end was a step down into an area in front of the full-wall screen.
So this house had domes on its roof. The house next door had minarets. The house across the street had Italian towers. Diagonally, there was a Tudor. And on the other side of the house was one with crenellated towers. Nice!
The bee cutout was fairly straight forward. I had to pry out a few short pieces of 2X4s, which left nails hanging down that I couldn't remove because there was already marble on top. I removed a lot of comb, quite a bit of honey, and a load of bees. The owner agreed to let me leave a hive there to gather up all the bees, so I put as much comb as I could in the hive along with attached bees. I couldn't find the queen, which is usual with cutouts, but I figured there was a good chance of getting her to move into the box because of the comb with brood in it, and the box was only inches away from where they'd been - on top of the balcony. Good news I only got a half dozen stings.
Next evening I went back and there was a huge ball of bees hanging where the comb had been. So I suited up again and used a spare helmet to scoop the bees out of the space and dumped them into the hive box. That gave me a much better chance of getting the queen in the hive, because she usually hangs near the center of a clump like that. It was pretty full dark by then so the bees stayed clumped for the most part, after I dumped them in the hive.
Next evening, I went out and all the bees were in the hive, except for a small clump on top of the box. I put a veil on - no suit - and carried the box (bees on top all the way) out to my Jeep and took them out to Joe's new ranch and put them near the fence-line in a remote spot, with the clump of bees still hanging on to the top of the hive. I am anxious to go out there again (probably Saturday) and make sure they are doing OK.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


This year I was moved to put my name on an obscure website for people willing to remove problem bees. It is actually a mid_Western beekeeper's web site, but they say they were getting so many calls from all over the country that they decided to set up a nation-wide reference page. I didn't have much confidence that it would bring me much, but it did. What I really wanted was to pick up some swarms (clouds of bees looking for a new home), because swarms don't sting, and settle into beehives quite readily.

The web site had a question, whether I would be willing to remove bee colonies from buildings. I said I would under SOME CIRCUMSTANCES because I have enjoyed doing some out in the countryside near the farm at Honey Grove. Nobody in their right mind wants to remove bees from homes, though.
First it's destructive because you have to be able to get at the bee's comb and they always put it in protected spots, like between floor joists and you have to cut out walls, studs, or structural timbers, to expose them. This makes for sticky customer relations. Law suits are a distinct possibility.
Second, it is hard, dirty work, and you get stung every time - often multiple times. That would all be good, but people don't like to pay what it's worth. Amazingly, though, some will pay whatever you ask.

Well, I've diverged. I put my name on the web site hoping to pick up a swarm or two. Instead I got call after call from people wanting me to remove bees from their homes.
I always talk to them and explain what it takes to do it. I also always tell them why it's not a good idea to just spray poison on them. Usually when I get to the part about how much I charge, and the fact that I do not fix the damage I have to cause to remove the bees, they decide they want to live with bees in their walls. Great! I don't want to do it anyway. A few still want me to come and I tell them , "No." because the bees are apparently Africanized (killer bees), or they are in the roof of a 2 story house, etc. But no calls for swarms for months.

Swarms are a spring event, normally. There is an olde saying:
A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay.
A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm of bees in July isn't worth a fly.
That's because they need time to build up enough strength to overwinter. In Texas, summer is usually HOT and dry and bees stop swarming naturally, anyway. This year, though, was unusual. It rained all through the summer. It didn't get at all hot until mid-August and it cooled off early in Sept. So the grass didn't shrivel up and die like most summers, and all the plants are looking fabulous. And then the bees started swarming again. I finally got a couple of calls for swarms in October. Weird!

Through all this, I have finally decided that maybe doing removals from homes is not too bad. I get 2 or 3 calls per week. When I do one, I charge $300-600, which is pretty good money. I do get stung, but I finally ordered an actual bee suit, which will help.

Joe had a great idea. He said I should hire a young person and teach them how to do the work and handle the bees. When the person is up to speed, I could take the calls, make the appointments, and collect the money. Then I could train another one. Of course these slightly mythical employees would be paid minimum wage.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The new rooms

My sons tell me I need to post to my blog more often. Probably true. Shortly after I returned from SLC, I started a project I've had in mind for some time. This came about because my son and his family are moving to Texas and we agreed to have them stay with us while they look for a new house. Suddenly we need more room! There is a large, open space in our attic that I thought would be easy to convert to a bedroom, maybe two. Well, I did it, but it wasn't easy. I'd return from work and start re-routing wires and a/c ducts, etc. I thought this would take a day or two and it took 2 weeks of working until 1-3:00 in the morning. Needless to say I was getting sore and tired. I got it done with only one setback when I put a nail through an electrical circuit cable and shorted it out. Next phase was to lay subflooring. It was supposed to be as easy as laying the panels on existing rafters, but no two of them were on the same level. So I spent another week nailing new 2X4s in place to get the floor support somewhat level. Then I had to build new stud walls and nail plates. We were getting close to the day by then, so we hired a sheetrock guy to come help. Some help! He took 2 weeks and it still wasn't done. We paid him off and painted it. Now our grandkids have had a play and bed room and we've really enjoyed having it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Roscoe is our newest deacon.

It was a real joy to join Mark Ashurst-McGee, his bishopric, and Mark Ashurst in ordaining Roscoe. His Dad gave him a great blessing - thoughtful and inspiring.
Roscoe clowned around a bit, but I am sure he will be an outstanding deacon.

We took the time for a family photo after church.

Roscoe has beautiful parents.
And he's a good-looking kid, too, if you can penetrate all that hair.

And the man of the hour, himself.

Trip to Utah

Went to Utah to visit Roscoe as he was ordained a deacon. But first I visited my Dad and took Sam and Logan out to the volcano lava tubes.

188: In the BIG lava tube. We didn't go in any of the small ones. This one is about 30 feet tall and portions of the roof have caved in. On the other hand, the dirt road into here runs over the top of this lava tube and it hasn't fallen in ....... yet.

Another shot of them. Notice that Sam has flip-flops, a problem that haunted him as he slipped and slid on the sharp rocks. Logan has sandles which are better, but still somewhat short.
All of us drew blood before the day was over, but after this point I knew to keep to flat areas as much as possible so Sam wouldn't get his toes shredded. As we left here, I stepped on a large rock that rolled under my foot. As I lost balance, I grabbed another rock and it came off in my hand. So I fell on my butt, leaving skin on the rocks from my hand, forearm, elbow, and shins. It was embarassing. And painful, too.

192: Logan is touching a stone illustrating how the lava flow declined in stages, leaving ledges and cracks where the heat melted the rock above it making little stalactites.
The boys thought this was all very cool, and I couldn't get them back to the car until they were exhausted.
The upside of that situation is that they fell asleep on the way home and I had a peaceful drive.

194: Descending into the crater. There were 1, 2, or 3 ridges all around the crater, where the former crater melted into the lava flow. Notice that this ridge is leaning towards us in this photo? That happened as layers of the softened stone separated from the rest of the surrounding rock and melted on the side towards the crater's greater heat, slowly rolling in to it. This ridge is a frozen moment in time.

196: Walking out into the crater bottom, which is surprisingly flat although there are some depressions out in the center where Sam is walking. Sam is just visible above Logan's head near the center of the crater.