Thursday, June 30, 2011

I HATE chiggers!

Chiggers are a fact of life in the South. I usually take some care in preventing getting chewed up by them, but they caught me off guard this year.
  • I tended bees out at Honey Grove and applied insect repellent. No problem.
  • I tended bees at the new place in Gunter, TX and forgot to apply insect repellent. No problem. Whew! Dodged a bullet on that one.
  • I worked in the yard last Friday and got two bites. Drat it! I put applying insecticide on the yard on my list of TO DOs, but not right at the top.
  • Sunday when we got home from church, Liz parked close to the lawn and I had to take two steps on the grass. I got absolutely eaten up!
  • Monday I put a heavy dose of insecticide all over our yard and onto the neighbor's yard where we might wander while running around the house. I applied insect repellant on my rubber boots, but before I poisoned I adjusted the sprinklers and must have washed it off a bit because I got a few more bites. I don't like to put insecticide on my yard. I don't like poison where I live, and I don't believe it is beneficial to kill everything that lives in my grass. But chiggers tip the scales in favor of a total wipe-out.
The troubles with chiggers are these:
  1. You can't see them or tell where they might be lurking. They are tiny little light-red mites. The test for them is to put little black cards sticking up out of the grass. They crawl to the highest point and the card will turn red as thousands of them crawl to the top of it.
  2. You can't tell when they bite you. You could easily brush them off if you knew you had them, but you can't tell. The bite only begins to irritate you the next day and the chigger is dead and gone by then.
  3. They don't bite you where they get on you. They crawl up your body looking for a soft place where it is easier to chew. They can't actually get any good out of biting mammals, and it is difficult for them to do it. So they keep crawling until they find a place where it is a bit easier. This is most often the back of the knees and the groin area, or sometimes under your arms. Little buggers!
  4. You can't do anything about the bites that really helps. They itch like the dickens, but if you scratch or rub them it makes it worse. Some people put nail polish on them, but I can't tell that it makes any difference. After about 3 days the tube the chigger left behind kind of pushes up and if you care to risk an infection you can scratch it (and attached skin) off at that point. Or you can suffer through 2 or 3 more days and it will be over.
Did I mention that I really, really hate chiggers? Little buggers!

Do you want to join the DAR or SAR?

The DAR - Daughters of the American Revolution, and SAR - Sons of the American Revolution, are both ancestry-based organizations. Membership requires that you prove descendancy from a participant in the Revolution. The DUP - Daughters of the Utah Pioneers is also such an organization.
To all my children: If you want to join any of these organizations you CAN.
My bro. Jim sent out an email some time ago with information on John Kennedy Jr. who was captured by the British and confined in a prisoner ship. People in those days were pretty casual about caring for prisoners, and Jn. died of starvation in 1781, a common fate.
So, I have verified that this is indeed our ancestor, the father of Josiah Ashurst's wife, Rebecca Kennedy. This image is one of three images containing an application for membership in SAR based on descendancy from Jn. Kennedy Jr. It was approved and can thus be used as the basis for further applications. You just have to prove your descendancy from Jn K. and you will be IN. I can help with that. The important thing is that the document lists the source of the short narrative about his service.

"John Kennedy was a soldier of Virginia in the War of the American Revolution and was at the Battle of Guilford Court House, North Carolina, where he was taken a prisoner and he died aboard a British Prison Ship of Starvation."

It also states that his wife was Esther Stilly ( my records show the spelling as Esther Stille, but spelling was quite variable in those days, so that is no worry.)

Monday, June 20, 2011


I've been pretty busy with bees for the last week or so. I set out last Tuesday to retrieve honey from my two hives at Honey Grove. One hive had died out. The other had lots of nice honey. I planted sweet clover out there a few years ago and every other year it blooms copiously, and this honey seems to have clover mixed in with the wild flowers. I also picked up several frames of honey from my friend, Dan's, hive so I could extract it for him.
Then I stopped at my friends, the Hubers (sadly, Harold died last winter) to pick up honey from there. I had two hives there and both did very well, but one of them has become Africanized, meaning the bees were MEAN, violent, aggressive, persistent, unpleasant jerks! I was wearing a full bee suit and still got 15-20 stings. Some of them got inside my veil, which I need to be more careful about.
My intention had been to take all three of those country hives to a new place with mesquite (it starts blooming now when most nectar flow is over and lasts about a month), but I was tired of bees and left them there.
At home, I unloaded the honey and the one hive I'd brought from Honey Grove and hit the rack. Next day I rested until afternoon, then took the Huber hives out to the mesquite. I had another experience with the mean bees, but at least it was short - all I had to do was drop them off.
Thurs. I got all my equipment washed up, bottles out and washed, all the flat surfaces in the garage covered with paper, and started extracting honey. That is a messy job. Honey gets spread around in small amounts and pretty soon everything is sticky. The process is this:
  • Pull out a frame and put it over a tub.
  • Use a serrated knife to cut off the caps (thin wax the bees put over each cell when the honey is ripe).
  • Use a scratcher tool to remove caps I couldn't get with the knife.
  • Insert the frame in the extractor - a plastic tub with a cage that holds 2 frames and has gears to spin them around - with the opened cells facing out. Centrifugal force pulls the honey out of the comb and throws it against the side of the tub, where it flows into the bottom of the extractor.
  • Carefully spin the frames until the honey is out. If you spin too fast, the comb can break and send big chunks of wax into the extractor where it tends to clog things up. This year I have mostly all-plastic frames which are not so prone to breakage, but I have a few all-wax, unreinforced frames of comb and I broke most of them.
  • Take the frames out of the extractor, and cut/scratch the caps off the other side of the frame, and put them back in the extractor.
  • Spin the second side. Sometimes I only partially spin out honey on the first pass because there is so much honey and the total weight might break the frame. In that case I have to reverse the combs and spin again, then reverse a second time and do the final spin on the second side.
  • Put the empty frames aside and start two more.
  • After 4 or 6 frames are extracted the honey level is up to the bottom of the spinning cage, which makes it hard to spin, so I open the gate in the side of the extractor and let the honey (which has some wax in it, too) flow into a filter, which is two 5-gallon buckets. The top bucket has a bag filter in it with the top folded over the top of the bucket and rubber bands holding it up. The top bucket has holes drilled in the bottom to let the honey flow into the lower bucket. The lower bucket holds clean honey and has a pouring gate in the side of it. When it gets full I carry it in to the kitchen and fill bottles, using the pouring gate.
This is a photo of the kitchen after extracting honey from the country hives and the 2 hives here at the house. The double bucket filter is at right on the higher level of the counter. Notice lids in the foreground, bottled honey on the lower counter, bottled honey on the far counter, boxes of bottled honey, and you can't even see all the boxes.

Liz made a couple of movie clips of me extracting, so I hope she sends those out.

I made a mistake this year. I left honey supers on the hives at the house last year after I extracted. Here in TX, the good honey is in the spring (and summer if you have mesquite), but honey made in the fall is very dark and smells strong like molasses with a bitter aftertaste. My mistake was that the bees stored some of that Fall honey through the winter and it was still there when they started making new honey this spring. This is a photo of a decapped frame with an area where Fall honey was stored. It made a lot of honey a bit strong, but still usable. Just not as good as I like it.