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evan's ant village log  RSS feed

 
Lab Ant
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Day 33

I've almost got all the logs staged near my building site, being sure to leave enough space for excavator access and whatnot. I know I just started, but I'm glad that I'm as far along as I am on this building project. I've built a wofati once before, out in New Hampshire; this time last year I was just barely starting to look at potential sites and hadn't even started gathering materials. I felt like I was rushing through everything then, and even though I did end up getting the roof on and covered with dirt before it started snowing, I'm hoping to be more ahead of the game this time.

I'm also pretty excited about the site I have selected. While being on the top of a hill as opposed to on the slope may technically disqualify it from being a true wofati, I'm thinking the superior drainage it affords is worth the downsides. The southern exposure is just awesome, too. It seems to get full sun almost all day. And the views of mountains in every direction... well you can't beat that.
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octagonalish schema
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building site
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bull pine
 
steward
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What's a bull pine?
 
evan l pierce
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Day 34

Took down some saplings for the fence around my garden. Been hacking the limbs off with a hatchet. The limbs will double as mulch too.

Brian and Matt arrived this afternoon. It's nice to have some company. After dark we hung out in the ring of fire, an outdoor rocket mass heater / cooking stove with some sweet fire-viewing windows. Check out that sideways flame.
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removing mulchy bits from fency bits
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sideways fire
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some kind of bug
 
steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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Julia Winter wrote:What's a bull pine?



Also known as "Ponderosa Pine"
 
gardener
Posts: 323
Location: AB, Canada (Zone 4a - Canadian Badlands)
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I think the bug is a cricket. They are beneficial insects that eat grasshopper eggs.
 
evan l pierce
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Day 35

I've been thinking a lot about an ant alliance lately. Matt and I have been brainstorming potential plans for how to make ant village even more awesome. I think I'll be starting a new thread soon to get my thoughts organized and to bounce some of these ideas off of all you lovely permies.

As I write this, we're sitting around the rocket stove eating chips and salsa. Aww yeah.

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rocket stove burn
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chips and salsa by the fire
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another kind of plant
 
evan l pierce
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Day 36

I feel like I've been moving at a fairly snail-like pace so far. But taking time to observe before making any drastic changes has been giving me lots of ideas. I have a fairly good idea of how I'll be slicing up some of the paddocks now.

It rained today. A real good soaking. And it even hailed for a minute. All the plants seem happier. There was even a nice rainbow.

I started eating into some of my excavator time too, now that the ground is a bit easier for digging. I'm digging a duck pond in the first paddock, and building a big hugel berm along its north and west borders.

Let's see, today y'all get a snail, a rainbow, and an excavator. Bases covered.
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snail-like pace
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rainbow
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excavatah
 
evan l pierce
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Day 37

Focused on the southernmost quarter acre today. I've taken to calling this first paddock here Téjas. Made some progress on the hugel berm along it's northern and western borders.

Also, since I had the excavator down in there anyway, I roughed out a spot where I'd been planning to build a little earthen structure. I'm thinking a debris hut I can throw together in a few days. Could be a shelter, or maybe a tool shed, or kind of a cellar. I just really like the spot. And it should be good practice before I build the bigger octagonalish structure.

To the untrained eye, it might look like I'm all over the place with my efforts. And that might be a fair way to put it. But I'd like to think I'm just giving nature and my projects the time and space to evolve and develop together into a coherent whole. The vision is coming together with increasing clarity in my head. In the meantime, please excuse the mess.
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The Great Wall of Téjas
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roughed out debris
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unidentified growie
 
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I am guessing your growie is very very small? it looks like you have moss and fringed edge lichen on the same scale, so they would be less than a cm across?
 
Posts: 155
Location: North Texas, Dallas area suburbs, US zone 8
49
books cat dog forest garden fungi homestead hugelkultur kids cooking purity trees
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To the untrained eye, it might look like I'm all over the place with my efforts.


Evan, your efforts are awesome and seem to be progressing fast. The mistake my local permie friends and I keep making is to start too many things to the point they need labor and aren't self-supporting as part of a permaculture system. So we overwhelm ourselves with labor demand. So far, it doesn't look like you are doing that.

Are you driving the excavator yourself? If yes, did you have previous experience and how hard is it to learn for a never-ever driver to do the kind of work you are doing here?
 
evan l pierce
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Day 38

Moving and unsuccessfully attempting to use the tractor to auger post holes wasted some valuable tractor time, which was slightly frustrating. Later Brian had a look at it and let me know it was the sheer pin on the auger, apparently a fairly easy fix. Of course, I didn't need the tractor anyway. The excavator was right there but it seemed to me like a more precise tool was called for. Eventually we just went medieval on it. Matt and I managed to pick and shovel out a post hole 4'+ deep and then sunk the first of the debris hut's two posts.

The first little seedlings are popping up in those garden beds I planted. An encouraging sign. I'm not sure what this particular growie is yet. Maybe a pea? Maybe a radish? If I can finish getting this paddock fenced/bermed off soon, hopefully the deer will let me find out. Either way, I plan on planting tons more seeds in the near future.

The warmer weather and occasional rainstorm is nice. And the pace is picking up, I think.
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shoo fly
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first seedling
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rabbit-like pace
 
Posts: 1947
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Rabbit for lunch??
 
Posts: 121
Location: zone 6a, NY
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Yep, that's a radish, or at least something sowed from the brassica family.
 
Posts: 109
Location: Southern NH zone 5b
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Hi Evan, I'm assuming that you are using a laptop for sketchup. Can you elaborate on your solar setup and if it is working well for you? I'm trying to figure out how to keep a laptop charged using a portable system like yours. The best option I can see I this thing here (http://chargetech.com/product/portable-power-outlet/), plus the solar. The problem is the battery needs AC power to charge.
 
evan l pierce
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Day 39

Did some thinning in Téjas today. Should get some more sun on the debris hut site. And peeling bark off of freshly felled trees is so luxurious. It just comes off in big beautiful sheets. Much better than waiting and letting the logs dry out.

Also attended a lovely potluck dinner down at basecamp. I made up some sweet potato guacamole as a kind of experiment and it went over surprisingly well.
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drawknife action
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like peeling a giant carrot
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biscuit root?
 
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Evan, all the bark you are peeling is valuable for tanning hides. Ponderosa pine is not the highest in tannins ever, but it is decent and highest in May-August. In other words, if you feel inspired to make real leather on the land that bark doesn't need to just become mulch.
 
evan l pierce
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Day 40

Reporting in from the wild and wonky western frontiers of post-industrial neo-feudalism.

Spent a little time today helping Brian build a quick log structure on skids for another of the laboratory's many experiments.

Also made some progress over in Daboree, Téjas. Both of the structure's two posts are now in place, the twenty foot beam is cut to length and the first of two notches made in it, and I've been picking rocks out of the excavator's wake and those will become a sort of rubble trench foundation for the log sidewalls. With any luck, we oughta be able to put the structure's first and only beam up tomorrow. At that point, the debris shelter should start coming together faster than shit on skids.
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on skids
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skiddable structure
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another unidentified growie
 
evan l pierce
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Day 41

Today was fairly productive. With Brian's help I got the main beam of the debris hut up. And while it still looks a bit messy, Téjas is coming right along.

I just laid out some of my thoughts on ant village in a new thread, and I'd like to encourage anyone who's following along to check it out and give me some feedback there: Http://www.permies.com/t/47159/labs/Ava-ant-village-alliance-autonomous#375996
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Daboree beam
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Téjas
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another flower
 
evan l pierce
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Day 42

Gathered lots of rocks and worked on digging and filling the rubble trench foundation for Daboree's log walls.

Also drew up a very rough draft of Ava, showing some ideas for how I might go about dividing the land into paddocks for critters and/or urban lots for fellow permies.
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rubble trench
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ava map rough draft
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fungus among us
 
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Thanks for sharing your daily adventures Evan. It seems like a really wonderful experience you are going through, although no doubt with its fair share of challenges.

I am really enjoying seeing things grow and improve daily on your lot. How fun to build something out of nothing.

Although, having worked on some projects with a similar modus operandi, I must say it all seems a lot easier and more pleasant when viewed leisurely on the internet then when you're actually down in the dirt But of course you are getting all the learning and all the rewards of being on the ground. And you get those incredible mountain views at the end of the day.

Good luck!
 
evan l pierce
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Day 43

Biked down to basecamp this morning to find that I'd received mail from my friend Kate Muller! Kate's doing awesome permaculture work in New Hampshire, and you can follow her project here: http://www.permies.com/t/45065/projects/Homesteading-Live-Free-Die-state

She sent me some seeds! Many of which seem to have been harvested from her own gardens! Thanks Kate! I can't wait to get these in the ground.

I ended up spending the day at basecamp, and knocked out a little bounty work for Paul. Howard, the PDC instructor, arrived this evening, and I'm looking forward to picking his brains and helping him to make this upcoming PDC a huge success.
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seeds from Kate
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maybe a bee visiting my sandwich
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another nother flower
 
pollinator
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Location: Longbranch, WA
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My wild lettuce is producing seed would you like to have some? It can survive much harsher conditions than domesticated lettuce.


It has a very attractive leaf shape. the white spots on the leaf are the seed umbrellas.
 
Rhys Firth
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That wild lettuce looks like Puha. The local Maori name for Sow Thistle. good stuff if it is, boil it up with pork for a good feed of kai.
 
evan l pierce
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Day 44

Got a bit of work done peeling logs and levelling the rubble trench foundation of Daboree this morning.

Also caught a ride into Missoula to pick up some groceries and other supplies.

Today I received some mail from my lovely friend Sharla! You can check out her personal blog at http://sharlakpit.tumblr.com She sent me some rad survival supplies: a water-filtering straw, an emergency foil blanket, and a sweet solar lantern, not to mention a delightful handwritten letter. Thanks Sharla! I have such awesome friends.
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survival stuff from Sharla
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on the level
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dough-like fungus
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Hey Evan,

Just wanted to give you some generic props for what you are doing.

I've realised today that your updates are the first thing I look for on the forums each morning. Keep em coming

Mike
 
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Hi Evan,
I use calf panels for fencing and greenhouse/shadehouse, with both I force them into an arc. Having lived in high deer population pressure areas (Humboldt County in N.CA, Orcas Island, WA) clever tricks like high flags above fence, soap, adult male human urine, coyote piss, etc. only work when either population is low or other deer food options exist. I've seen a wiley deer force themselves under a poorly anchored fence too. I have observed that an outer fence set at 45 degrees 6' feet out from the inner vertical fence seems to discourage deer from walking up to then leaping over the fence.
BrightHeart
 
evan l pierce
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Day 45

Did a little more bark peeling and some prepping of the foundation for the side walls of Daboree. Then I hopped in the excavator to dig the uphill patio out, dig a wraparound drainage ditch, and finish building a nearby hugel berm.

I wish I could say that everything went perfectly smoothly and I didn't make any mistakes, but the truth is I totally screwed up and threw a track on the excavator. I didn't notice the precise moment it happened, but I was probably foolishly trying to turn too sharply while walking the machine. I let Paul know and hopefully Brian will be able to help me get it put back on when he arrives next week. Paul has been a really swell dictator the whole time I've been here, often sharing his food and giving me paying work, not to mention providing the opportunity to play on his land and with his heavy equipment. And he's so compassionate and understanding, when I make a mistake, he doesn't have me immediately thrown into the volcano.
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drainage ditch
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thrown track
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tiny bug visiting my knuckle
 
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Depending on the length of time it takes me to get the EX back up her tracks will be directly correlated to your likelihood of being tossed into the volcano. LOL
 
evan l pierce
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Day 46

Cassie emailed me a couple weeks ago asking if I wanted to try this "predator scare tape" stuff to discourage deer and other critters from my gardens. And anyway it arrived a few days back but I didn't get around to putting any up until today. It's quite shiny, and it does make an annoying crinkly sound in the wind, so maybe it will deter deer and whatnot. My fence is definitely not deer-proof yet, so I'm willing to try this stuff out for now, but I'm not sure I like the aesthetic long-term, and I don't want to stress out my ducks when I start keeping ducks. I hung two strips like pennants at opposite corners of my garden, so a deer would have to stand between them to eat my growies. We'll see how it goes. Thanks Cassie and whomever it was who sent this stuff: http://www.amazon.com/Predator-Guard%C2%AE-Scare-Tape-Installation/dp/B00MTN6J4M/

I made some progress on the fence today, wiring 8'+ wood poles to the calf panels. It is time-consuming, to be sure, but it's meditative and low-intensity work, and I really like the way it's turning out.

Also, Fred arrived today! He's a gapper here for the free PDC, and he's also considering antville. He brought some plants, and he seems pretty rad so far. I'm looking forward to working with him over the next few weeks.
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shiny scary flutteryness
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southern tip of Téjas
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sunchokes near the tipi
 
evan l pierce
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Day 47

I helped Fred get a bunch of plants in the ground down at basecamp, and we put a few in up here on Ava too. Besides a variety of seeds, Fred brought horseradish, day lily, walking onion, garlic chives, oregano, comfrey, and black raspberry. We found a little spot on Ava where it seemed unlikely that the excavator would disturb them, and planted them. There's still a few more waiting patiently in shaded pots for me to build hugel beds to plant them in.

Made some progress on the fence this evening, in a spot where I'm having the garden beds run right up next to the fence, so I wanted to make sure I got that section of fencing finished so I wouldn't have to disturb the bed later.

Fred also made a thread here on permies where he's sharing his pictures too! Check it out: http://permies.com/t/47311/labs/Fred-photos-Wheaton-Labs
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plants waiting in the shade
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classy fencing
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a microscopic green bug
 
evan l pierce
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Day 48

Built some little hugels by hand along and near the new section of fence, and put in some of those plants Fred gave me. It's starting to rain a bit now, so they should be happier soon. Thanks Fred!

Found a spot where it looked like maybe the cows used to be bedded down, and gathered up lots of good old cowpie-rich mulch and put it around the new plants.

I was having some trouble uploading pics the last few days, but with the help of the fantastic staff here at permies, I think we got the bugs ironed out.
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cow patty mulch pile
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hardworking immigrant plants putting down roots
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a big bug visiting my sleeve
 
pollinator
Posts: 287
Location: 7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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Hurray, the photos are back!

The other day, I was on a hike up some mountains with a group, and we came across an old homestead, with one building still standing but no roof. One of the group members suddenly remembered that they had been there in the 1950's as a child, to collect rhubarb. They said that at the time, the place was obviously abandoned, but the building still had some roofing.

There was still rhubarb, and we were able to collect some for baking.

I am amazed - at least 60 but more likely 70 or 80 years after someone last cared for those rhubarb plants, they were still providing for passerby. So, who knows, even if for some reason your anting has to be abandoned soon, maybe you'd be able to come back in 8 decades and still find some of your plantings!
 
Julia Winter
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Your fence looks very nice with the added poles!
 
evan l pierce
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Day 49

Fred and I helped Michael with fixing the rocket mass heater in the tipi. We were rerouting the exhaust to go under the floor across the entrance and then up and out right next to the barrel, the idea being to get a second heat pumping effect. If camping in the tipi is glamping, then digging in the tipi is gligging, right? Did some gligging today, and then we found some rocks and had to break out the glickaxe.

Also, the bees swarmed today! We were working in the tipi, which is pretty close to the skiddable bee hut, when we heard a buzzy commotion. We went out and saw a huge swarm of bees heading southwest from the bee hut. Fred followed them and found where they stopped and were hanging out in a dead tree. Later we went back to get pictures and Fred might even have gotten some video.

Also also, a couple nice people, Sarah and Pat, sent a little money via paypal a while back. Thanks Sarah and thanks Pat! And thanks for handling the transaction, Nick! At the time, Nick was thinking he might be here longer-term, so I asked folks who wanted to send ant love via paypal to send it to Nick. But now Nick is off on a grand adventure and it doesn't make sense to send ant love to him anymore, though I'm sure he would appreciate Nick love. If you want to send me ant love via paypal, sorry, but you can't, because I don't have a paypal account, mainly because it's tied into systems that are tied into systems that I generally try to avoid. You can mail me ant love though:

evan c/o paul wheaton
2120 s reserve #351
missoula, mt 59801

And I also accept bitcoin, if anyone happens to want to send ant love that way:

1PYMdBWGnadwsTdQq5hczyRx6UAbu19Ug5

I just want to say again how grateful I am to have received so much support and love from my friends, family, and the permies community. I'll do my best to keep pumping out pictures and posting about my projects. Thanks for coming along for the ride!
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glocket glass gleater
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bee swarm
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western larch, also called tamarack
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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You should have tried to catch that swarm!
 
evan l pierce
Lab Ant
pollinator
Posts: 753
Location: ephemeral space
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greening the desert
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Day 50

Brian and Michael set a trap hive for the swarm and baited it with honey. It's just a few yards away from the big dead tree the bees are all clumped up in, but as of this evening they haven't colonized the trap hive yet.

Brian, Michael, Fred, and I all worked together this morning to get the excavator track back on, and after much prying and sledging and levering and lifting, we did it! Thanks guys! Tomorrow Brian and I will run through a complete checklist on the machine, greasing up all the joints and checking all the bolts and whatnot, and then it'll be ready to get back to digging.

Today I got some human-scale earthworks done, shoveling out paths and building little hugelkultur keyhole beds. I want to do a bit more touching up, but soon I'll be ready to put lots more seeds in the ground.
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limping out to be worked on
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back on track
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spidey
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1947
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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evan l pierce wrote:
Brian and Michael set a trap hive for the swarm and baited it with honey. It's just a few yards away from the big dead tree the bees are all clumped up in, but as of this evening they haven't colonized the trap hive yet.



To bait hives you need to use lemongrass extract. It is similar to the bees own pheromones and works well to attract swarms. Old brood comb is also good... the older, darker and nastier the better.
 
Fire me boy! Cool, soothing, shameless self promotion:
DIY solar dehydrator - have you built one?
https://permies.com/t/90672/DIY-solar-dehydrator-built
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