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Friday, August 26, 2016

Post #53 The Importance of a Balance in Nature


Wife and I were encouraged to move into Wife’s parents’ home after they died.  Initially, we didn’t think we wanted do this.  But the idea grew on us.  The house was built sometime around 1920.  Wife had moved into the home when she was around age seven.  The house had a lot of character, and it had a lot of room.
Once we moved in, we realized the house needed some updating.  The electrical wiring was ancient, it had settled quite a bit, and some of the fixtures needed to be replaced.

One of the first things to go was the old bathtub.  We decided to replace the tub with a marble tub with jets for Wife’s back.  The plumbers came out and removed the old tub for us.  Under the tub we found a lot of plastic grocery bags and a “Jesus Loves You” banner. 
Rats!  “But at least they were Christian rats” I tried to explain to Wife as she threatened to burn down the house.  I stopped up all of the holes with wire and steel wool.  The new tub was put in place the next day, and all was fine.

The house sat on pier and beam.  It was three to four feet above the ground, depending on which side of the house you were on.  This made for a nice nest for a variety of animals.  With dogs, you can’t really allow possums and raccoons to just live under your house.  Besides the risk of eating the wiring, they infest the yard with fleas, and will fight back if challenged by a dog.
So, I bought a live trap and began catching the possums and the coons.

I caught at least one possum or raccoon every evening.  Sometimes, I’d get a “two-fer” and find a pair of small possums in the trap.  I put the trap in the bed of my pickup, drove a few miles out of town, and released the animals.
Finally, the numbers started to dwindle.

My neighbor began to complain about the cat population.  The cats were monitoring his wife’s bird bath and eating the birds.  He asked if he could borrow the trap.
For the next few months, he trapped cats.

A short time later, we began hearing noises in our attic and between the walls.  Wife’s parents had carpeted the old house, and we knew the house had wood floors.  So we pulled up the carpeting in preparation for getting the wood floors finished.  The molding between the wall and the carpeting was now hanging about a half inch over the floor, while we waited on the workers to come in and sand and finish the bedroom floor.  That night, we could hear noises in the walls in our bedroom. 
Henry and PD could hear and smell something, too.  They began barking at the wall.

I got my flashlight, lay down on the floor and shined the light.  Little eyes were shining back at me.  The rats had returned.  I was able to pitch some rat poison through the gap between the wall and the floor, and then removed and replaced the floor molding.
For the attic, I bought a Rat Zapper.  The Rat Zapper was a cool trap that electrocuted the rats when they went in for food.  We killed several.

I finally “got it.” 
We needed the possums and coons to keep the cat population in check.  We needed the cats to keep the rat population in check.  Once I quit trapping animals, we were able to return to a natural balance.  The rats were gone.  There was an occasional possum killed in the back yard by the dogs, but for the most part, the possums left us alone.

Well, then there were the occasional skunks.  I had no mercy for the skunks, and they had no mercy for us.  You can read about poor Henry and his skunky encounters in a previous post (#27, I believe).
But, for the most part, I developed a “leave ‘em alone” attitude unless they became a nuisance.  It wasn’t as much fun.  But at least we had no rats. 

Not even Christian Rats.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Post #52 Bee Having


A Beekeeper is someone who “keeps” bees.  Today, that means that the beekeeper cares for his or her bees, and provides for the bees those things that help a beehive stay healthy.

When I had bees in the 1980’s, I was what is now considered to be a “bee haver” rather than a beekeeper.  I went out to visit the hives every once in a while.  I was aware of the diseases that bees were prone to back then, but did nothing to watch for the disease or treat it. 

Back then, the major concerns were American Foulbrood (AFB), European Foulbrood (EFB), and Wax Moths.  AFB was the most deadly.  If a hive was found with this dreaded disease, it needed to be destroyed and the woodenware burned.  EFB could be deadly, but burning the boxes and frames wasn’t necessary.  Wax Moths were messy, and difficult to come back from.

I usually harvested honey from the bees whenever we began to run low on honey.  I would pull a couple of frames from the honey super and stick them in my solar wax melter.  I made sure my bees had empty frames with wax foundation to work on.  But mostly, they were a novelty, and very easy to have.

The whole family became involved in the bees.  I was even able to get Wife suited up and sent out to do a hive inspection.
 

The last time I went out to check on the hives I was surprised to find a huge mess inside the hive.  Ants had made their way in.  And so had the wax moths.  There was webbing all over the hive.  Small grubs, baby moths, were crawling in and out of the comb, and the wood had long grooves eaten out of it by the hungry moth larvae. 

My bees had left, and in their place was this mess. 

This was 1991 or 1992.  By now, the Africanized Honey Bee (AHB) had made its way up from Hidalgo, Texas and was present in my county in South Texas!  There was a lot of fear associated with AHB, and counties were being placed in quarantine as the AHBs infiltrated.  I probably could have imported a new hive from Weaver Apiaries, but the novelty of having bees had worn off.  The mess made by the ants and the wax moths seemed really big.  And finally, my life had become really busy. 
By now, I was working in a new job and I was back in school.  So, I walked away from the bees, and left them alone for 25 years.