Sunday, May 30, 2010

4000-6000 Italians Arrive at Czar of the Woods!

No we're not having a festival! The bees have arrived!!! Between 4000-6000 bees (once the hive is established it will be upwards of 60,000!), of the Italian variety arrived at their new home. Friends of ours; Steve and Cindy from Never Rest Farm in Concord, NY brought a newly established hive over and we transferred all the hanging racks of bees into our hive.

In the photos you will see Steve in a cloud of smoke. This is from the bee smoker that is used to control the bees. As Steve will tell you it is an art form. You don't want to oversmoke them so as to anger them but you want to smoke them just enough to calm them to make them workable. It also allows you to put large groups of bees where you want them to be. This helped as we moved them from one hive to their new hive.

People think that working with bees is scary, and it can be, but they are so focused on working that they will not bother you unless you bother them in a big way (swinging arms/swatting, etc). It is actually quite, and oddly, peaceful to be standing amidst all the buzzing as the bees come and go. Within minutes of us setting up the hive the bees were already off working to pick up pollen and nectar to bring it back to the hive, in the process getting to know their new neighborhood. Steve and Cindy informed me that they have an ~ 3 mile range! You can see many of them rerturning to the hive with brightly colored pollen beads attached to the tiny hairs on their legs. Very cool!

Last night about 11pm I walked up to the hive which is located at the back of our property on a hill between the horse pasture and large open fields behind us, right next to an apple tree (they will love this!). The reason I did this was to give them a water source (in hopes of them not using the neighbor's pool which is about 200 yards away). It was a beautifully star filled quiet night and when I got to the hive i was surprised that it was completely quiet, with all of them tucked quietly inside, safe and sound for the night. After a hard day's work they too were re-charging-i guess I didn't expect this but it made lots of sense. I was picturing lots of bees spooning and cuddling.
this morning before work I took a walk up to check on the bees and they were still sleeping! No activity at all and the sun was already up. Apparently they didn't have to be at work at 8am like I did!

So why are bees important to humans? Because bees are very much responsible for pollinating the worlds fruits and vegetables that we eat and the plants that make our oxygen. Without them humans would not exist. We feel like we are doing some good for the environment.

Thanks again to Steve and Cindy. Steve is a breathing text book of bee knowledge and this would not be possible without them!

The box on the left, aka the hive, is what the 4000-6000 bees arrived in.  Notice the ratchet strap so the box doesn't open on the ride over.  Steve was telling me a story about a guy who took a turn too quickly and his mini van soon became the hive!  YIKES!  The box on the left is what they will soon be moved to and living in here at COTW farm.
Steve and his wife, Cindy fire up the bee-smoker.
No Steve is not on fire; he is getting the smoker prepped.  I did mention that the smoke is used to calm the bees.  I think it may have the same affect on the keeper so that you can work with them!  Not really but it appears that way.
Steve begins by opening the box.
Once opened all these removable racks/frames contain bees, honey, nectar, larvae, comb, brood and a queen!
Steve has begun moving them.  You will see 2 frames already moved to the box on the right.
A shot up close of the frame.  The white area is capped honey, yellow comb below that; the capped areas within that are known as brood (aka new bees yet to emerge).  Not visible in the photo are the larvae and nectar.
Steve rubs an under used frame with beeswax to encourage the bees to start using it.  As all the frames get used up you add another box to the stack making the hive taller, allowing the hive to grow.  Notice his lack of gloves as the bees are inches away.  Again if you are peaceful so too are the bees.
One of the bees checking out the sign that I designed for the hive.  Painted the hive white as well...bees have color preferences and it keeps the hive cool in the summer by reflecting the sun light.
The comings and goings of the hive began immediately.  Trying to figure out where the air traffic control tower is!
Please check out my previous post on bees here

Things that Glow

Sorry no photo for this one.  I would ask you to close your eyes but then you wouldn't be able to read this.  Tonight I sat out in the yard to look at the stars.  I saw the following things that glow (and permit wishes): millions of stars-they say there are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on the earth!  shooting stars, 2 satellites that seems to be chasing one another and fireflies!  It was breathtaking.  As Memorial Day approaches and I looked into the night sky.  I also thought of all the soldiers that lost their lives for our country.  Probably some as I write this.  THANK YOU!  

Where Are We?

On Friday I was working on the back pasture fence and something with a very large wingspan landed in the woods next to where I was working. It made me poop my pants a little and if the horses were wearing pants they definitely did as they scattered. When I finally found what it was I was shocked to say the least. It was a female peacock! Yep! I ran in the house to get my camera and was snapping away when I came across the male strutting around on the ground! A beautiful pair of peacocks that seemed a bit lost. These are not wild animals so they must belong to someone and got a bit lost. Truly beautiful animals that one usually only sees at the zoo!

Morgan May Be Taking My Place!

The bond that Sarah and Morgan have is truly something special. Time and time again, whenever Sarah is reading in her lounge chair Morgan will come over and plop down right next to her like the most loyal of dogs. I caught the two of them lying together multiple times and got some great photos. We had some really great music playing at the time on our outdoor iPod dock and it just about brought a tear to my eye, to see this wonderful pig and my wife cuddling and bonding. Morgan repays us every day for us giving her a second chance.

So yea, I'm a bit nervous that Morgan may be taking my place. If I start looking a little rough, straw in my hair, etc, etc. You'll know, it happened!

Tell me Morgan isn't smiling here!

Starring Bad Blake as a book mark and Morgan as an arm ottoman!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Morgan's New Digs

We were feeling kind of bad that the only time Morgan could be outside was when we were home so that she was supervised so last night my Dad and I built her a turnout right off her stall.  Now when the weather is nice she will be able to decide if she wants to munch grass all day and lay in the sun or snore the day away in her bed of straw!  What a life.  
The area that we used is off the back of the barn and it has very rich grass that is used as a treat for the horses.  Some of it had grown to waist level so I mowed it down for her so that she didn't think she was back in Vietnam!  She is a Vietnamese Potbellied Pig!  To a pig at her level it was a jungle.  Morgan spent a good portion of the day out there today!  What a life.  She is some pig!

One Proud Husband!

Today Sarah graduated from Medaille College with her Masters in Business (MBA)!  I couldn't be more proud of her!  She finished the program back in November but the pomp and circumstance was today.  We celebrated by having a Thai food lunch with my parents at Saigon Cafe on Elmwood Ave in Buffalo.  Tonight I took Sarah to one of our favorite restaurants, Left Bank, for dinner.  Hands down one of the best meals I/we have ever had!  If you've never been we highly recommend it.  
So proud of you Sarah! 
I designed this for her when she finished the program back in November:

The Genius of a Sleeping House...and Barn

For those of you that have ever been to the Erie County Fair, you'll know the feeling I'm talking about.  It happens at night, each night, just before the fair closes until the next day.  The barns cast a soft glow as the animals settle in for the night with all they need, a safe place to sleep and food.  The smell of the barns, the smell of hay.  This is one of my most favorite things about the fair, night time, the barns, the animals.  Cozy.  When I was a kids heading home at night from the fair in the car was one of my coziest memories.  Once I got home I would always pretend that I was one of the animals in the barns, using blankets as my straw bed.  
This time last year I never would have thought that I would be able to experience this on a nightly basis at home (Sadly I no longer pretend that I'm one of the animals)!  It's pretty great.  
Today Sarah and I were talking about how wonderful it is out here, how beautiful and how lucky we are.  As spring starts to feel more like summer the bugs keep time at night and the leaves make a steady whooshing sound.  The sound of already familiar trees.  The heat starts to hang heavy and night time in the country this time of year is so quiet despite all the life around.  Where as winter is a static quietness and it is quiet enough to hear.  Late spring/summer at night is kinetic.
So yea, one of my favorite times of day around here is night time.  Last night about 10pm I set up a chair to sit in the barn so that Czar and I could spend some quality time together.  The sound of him munching on hay is almost hypnotic.  Midnight and Ember were outside yet.  Morgan was sound asleep in her bed of straw, snoring.  Bad Blake was sleeping upside down in his bed.  In the background were the outside noises.  There is nothing quite like that kind of peace.
I wrote this poem a few years ago and it still rings true. 

#73 familiar trees

it’s the sound of familiar trees

or merely their presence.

it’s the weight of blankets,

not necessarily the warmth.

it’s the womb-like walk,

all for the pleasure of drinking water 

straight from the bathroom faucet.

it’s the bed as it makes note of shifts in position,

and the snore of the fridge.

it’s the genius of a sleeping house.

Now I also know the genius of a sleeping barn!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

EXTRA! EXTRA! Read All About It!

Hi everyone! Below is Morgan's (and our) interview with the Buffalo News. This particular series of articles does not appear on the Buffalo News web-site so I have scanned it for you to view. It can be found on today's cover of the Life and Arts section. I realize that it is a bit small so simply click on each page of the article and it will open it up much bigger/readable. We're very happy with the article. Thanks to Anne Neville and to Sharon Cantillon from the Buffalo News for writing it and photographing us, respectively, and to both for capturing the essence of our pig, Morgan!


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chicken TV: Chicks Arrive at Czar of the Woods!

Our baby chicks arrived yesterday (Courtney, don't worry they won't hurt you...yet ;) )!  We purchased the chicks from McMurray Hatchery on-line and the chicks were shipped overnight to our friend Pat and Dick's house in Arcade; we actually split the order with them as you need to order at least 25 total (it helps keep these 1 day old babies warm and safe to ship in a larger number like that).  
So all the way from Iowa these chicks flew to plane.  It's pretty remarkable to go through such an ordeal at such a young age, and to boot they arrived the morning of one of the coldest nights of the spring so far!  
Dick got an early call from the post office yesterday morning telling him that they had arrived and he quickly went to get them.  All 25 were in a very cute box that doesn't even measure 1 square foot.  Again, safety in close numbers.  Pat and Dick are experienced with chickens and have long had them.  They helped get them off on the right foot by dipping each of their little beaks into water to teach them how to drink (a big thank you to them!)  After work I picked them up and they made the second longest journey of their young lives, from Arcade to East Aurora.
Why chicken TV you ask?  Well we had a pretty serious wind storm on Saturday that knocked the cable, phone and internet out in the area (only today did it go back up).  What does one do without TV (not blog either without internet, sorry)?  Watch baby chicks eat, sleep, poop, eat, sleep, poop of course.  You get the idea.  Hence (no pun intended): chicken TV.  They truly are adorable and a lot of fun to watch.  Many already have personalities and each looks different from the next as we got several different breeds.  The order includes the following: (click links to learn more about them and see what they will look like as adults: the Polish already have little "puffs" on their heads.  So Cute!)
Once they are bigger they will end up in the coop in the barn but for now they are in a large box (read dog crate) with a heat lamp.  It's been around freezing at night so we're keeping them warm inside.  So yea, we've got hot chicks at Czar of the Woods Farm!  Names to follow...

That inquisitive little girl, is a Polish chicken (notice the puff top on her head).  She has quite the personality already.  Gorgeous eyes too!  Love her!  Love them all already. 

PS: keep an eye out in the paper this Thursday May 13th as Morgan's interview is scheduled to be published.  That particular series is not made available on the Buffalo News web-site so I will do my best to scan it and make it available here.

That little grey one in the middle is the Blue Silkie.  He is the only one that we are not sure the sex of.  The other breeds you pay extra to get females.  Some breeds you cannot tell what they are at such a young age.  They are also considered Bantams or Banties, smaller breeds of chickens.  She may be a rooster!  Time will tell.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Bees are coming to Czar of the Woods Farm!  In cooperation with Steve (and Cindy) Mead of Never Rest Farm in Concord, NY we will soon have our first bee hive!  Steve is a bee-keeper extraordinaire and is bringing a hive to our property to help pollinate the property and make honey as well.  The other day Steve dropped off the 2 boxes that are used to start a hive and soon he will be bringing the bees over as well.  Today I spent a few hours with him at his farm tending to his bees, learning from a master!  It was pretty great to be standing amongst millions of bees from several hives.  It's pretty intense yet paradoxically calming at the same time.  We wore bee suits that keep the bees out but when you are calm so too are the bees!  None of us got stung once.  Steve doesn't wear gloves when he works with the bees.  I'm not that brave...yet.  
For those of you that don't know just how important bees are.  It is said that if bees ever died off so too would humans because they are so incredibly important to pollinating the fruits and vegetables that we eat and the plants the animals eat, that we end up in turn end up eating.  Thy are one of the most important living beings on this planet.  To play a small role in that here at the farm is pretty great!  The hobby of keeping bees is both a science and an art.  Much to learn!
I placed the hive at the back of the property where they will have access to our open pasture full of all kinds of flowers, and the open property behind us.  They are next to an apple tree and honey berry bushes.  Depending on the time of year and where the bees get the pollen and nectar from will determine the flavor of the honey, and color.  
So until the bees come we are thinking of 20,000 names for them and Sarah is knitting each of them sweaters for when it gets cold at night. :)

Weed Eater for Rent!

Sarah and i will rent Morgan to eat dandelions in your yard.  She loves them.  Connecting the yellow dots in the yard.  Quite possibly the most eco-friendly weed killer on the market.  Take that Round-Up!  You can tell she's happy here.  We couldn't ask for more.  A 9 year old pot bellied pig having been at the SPCA for a year and a half.  She too is loving life all over again!

Bad Blake...Good Cat!

Bad Blake is our barn cat.  Some of you may know that he is named after Jeff Bridges' character in Crazy Heart.  It's out on DVD now, see it soon!  Bad is one of the sweetest cats I have ever met!  When I first me him as an unsocialized (with people) stray he was a bit of a jerk.  Due to that and an upper respiratory infection (that could have infected MANY other cats at the SPCA) he was inches away from being euthanized.  It fills my heart with joy and is so wonderful to know that given a second chance he is able to love life and repays us each and every day for saving him.  He is one of the happiest cats I have ever met; always talking and running.  He runs wherever he goes, as if he is going to miss something.  It just about brings tears to the eye to think that he almost wasn't.  Yesterday his day consisted of exploring, finding a snake (which I moved to a safe crop of rocks in the back pasture) and sleeping in a sun warmed wheel barrow.  We're glad your here Bad and we're lucky to have you in our life!

(One of) My Favorite Places on the Property

When I was a kid we had a weeping willow tree in the backyard, as did my Uncle Tom, who lived across the street.  The tree in our yard was always big, they grow like weeds and are not the cleanest of trees.  I didn't care though, I loved it.  It was an umbrella of sorts over the yard, great to climb, it ate many a ball and when you stood under it the light danced through the mane of branches; it seemed to go on and up forever.  A few years ago I was very surprised to see a photo of myself, as a young child, next to the tree and it was really small at that point.  By the time I was 12 it was huge.  It obviously grew with me.  One time when I was in grade school I carved a beautiful letter opener from the very soft wood of the willow.  How I wish I knew where that was.  Haven't seen it in years!

When we first saw this property that came to be Czar of the Woods Farm I was very excited to see the willow tree on the property.  Not only that but a large limb had broken off of it and fallen to the wetland ground below.  Several baby willows, ~ 15-20 ft high now are growing from that limb; it's pretty great.  So yes this, amongst many, is one of my favorite places on our property.  It's very cozy.  The birds love it and someday our kids will make forts under it too.


Over the weekend I planted several bamboo plants along one side of the barn. That particular side is parallel to the outdoor arena and creates a alley way of sorts heading toward the chicken yard. The particular bamboo specie that I chose is fargesia rufa aka "Green Panda." It is a cold hardy bamboo that will grow to be 6-8 ft high. Once mature it will create a beautiful Japanese inspired frame to that alley way. Very cozy! There are 2 kinds of bamboo, running and clumping. This is of the clumping variety and will only get so big as far as spreading without taking over. The running bamboo can take over. This is not the "bamboo" weed that we have in the area that is considered invasive.

A friend of mine at work asked me the following very good questions: "I was wondering why they consider bamboo products "green". Aren't pandas an endangered species (due primarily to deforestation)? Isn't bamboo their main source of food? Doesn't bamboo take a LONG time to grow?"

In case more of you are wondering the same thing, here is my answer:

"Great questions! Just the opposite actually. Bamboo is one of the quickest growing plants on earth, some species achieving heights of 80+ ft in no time at all where as a pine tree would take at least 50-70 years to do so. Bamboo as a result is highly sustainable because it can be harvested/cut down to make wood products such as flooring or dishes, furniture, etc and it will quickly grow back so that they can make more stuff from it. Grows like a weed. The bamboo that is used for these purposes is grown on bamboo farms, not wild harvested so as to remove precious habitat and food for pandas."

A friend of mine recently planted ~ 50 of this same species of bamboo plant on his property to create a "living fence" of sorts between his property and his neighbors.