Archive for September, 2011

Ever Seen One Of These By Your Beehive?

September 15, 2011

I was working my hives the other day and had a visitor…

For some reason there seems to be a greater abundance of these creatures this year.

As with everything else this year, we’ll blame it on the weather.

Better yet, we’ll call him an opportunist!

This the Giant Robber Fly or “Bee Killer” and they feed on honey bees and other insects.

But because the honeybee supply is so abundant and accessible here, they are called “Bee Killers”!

They’re fast when they snatch a bee out of the air and they’re very noisy so it’s easy to know when these insects are around.

However, they have eternal patience while they wait for just the right moment.

Grab and Go meals 🙂

I like the fact that these are predatory insects, just not wild about the fact that around here their prey are my bees.

Here’s some other interesting information about the Giant Robber Fly:

There are over 7,000 species of robber flies world wide; nearly 1,000 in North America.

All robber flies have stout, spiny legs, a dense moustache of bristles on the face (mystax), and 3 simple eyes (ocelli) in a characteristic depression between their two large compound eyes. The mystax helps protect the head and face when the fly encounters prey bent on defense. The antennae are short, 3-segmented, sometimes with a bristle-like structure called an arista.

The short, strong proboscis is used to stab and inject victims with saliva containing neurotoxic and proteolytic enzymes which paralyze and digest the insides; the fly then sucks the liquefied meal much like we vacuum up an ice cream soda through a straw. Many species have long, tapering abdomens, sometimes with a sword-like ovipositor. Others are fat-bodied bumble bee mimics; the effect is quite convincing.

Candid Corner – It’s So Hard to Switch Tracks

September 14, 2011

I went out last night to check on Marbles, our goat.  She’s been sick for the last couple of days. Not really sure what’s wrong with her – a lot of educated guesses.

By symptoms and signs, the consensus  has been a urinary blockage or stone.  I’ve used all the conventional means:  a shot of antibiotic for fever, pain reliever to give her some comfort, this other stuff to hopefully break down the stone or blockage… and I’m still waiting.

Marbles has had no appetite for the feed we normally give – man made.

Last night, the girls and I attended our weekly Traditional Chinese Medicine class.  Dr. Liang talked about plants and their ability to heal and why.  I’ve known this and have believed it for some time, using almost solely herbs and minerals for the family.

But when it came to my animals, I hadn’t switched my thinking.  My first recourse has always been chemicals or conventional means.

I learned the hard way with my honeybees.  I was told to use a chemical to control mites or they would kill my colonies.  So I used the chemical and instead – it killed my colony.  There may have been some other factors involved but definitely, the chemical was one of the components for their demise.

I was at a loss last night regarding Marbles.  I stood in the pen with her  – it was a beautiful night with a full moon, bright stars, slight breeze.  I started to love on her, touching her, rubbing her ears.  As I ran my hand along her neck, I noticed she was really tight so I started to massage her neck…remembering that massage is often used for healing.  Pretty soon she relaxed and pushed her head into my leg.  I rubbed her face and ears and along her spine and sides.  The look in her eye calmed down.  I talked with her as I continued to rub her neck.  After a 1/2 hour  or so of this, I said goodnight and went in the house.

While I was out there with Marbles, I was thinking about our class and the plants.  I remembered what a FB friend said about dock root.  I determined that in the morning, I would pick plants for Marbles and see what she would do  with those.

This morning I went into her pen and she seemed better, a little perkier.  Rubber her neck some more… offered her some grain and she nibbled but not really interested.  I knew enough though, that she wanted something to eat.

Oh yeah,plants.

I’d been told that with urinary problems, they needed acidic feed.  We’d been giving her apple cider vinegar which she hated.  So I went to get some oak leaves – they’re acidic.  She ate them right away.

I walked around the yard and picked a little of this and that.  I knew some of the medicinal properties of some of the plants.  Found Feverfew and the dock.  It looked like a bouquet when I took it into Marbles!  I offered her the dock and she ate it right away – the most enthusiastic I’d seen her in several days.  I offered her the Feverfew and she ate that right away.  Some of the other plants, not interested.  I figured she knew what she needed.

I guess what I learned this morning is, I’ve been trained under the conventional medicine for animals and I need to explore the natural remedies with them also.  There’s not much info out there for this kind of medical treatment.

I need to remember that I’m not always smarter than the animals when it comes to figuring out what they need.  Marbles is penned up – how could she get what she needs if it’s not available to her?

I don’t have answers, just sharing my musings with you this morning.  It’s difficult to switch my train of thought when it’s always been a certain way and “this is how it’s always done.”

I’ll continue to explore the use of plants and herbs with my animals because I know it can work for humans so why wouldn’t it work for them?

They’re even closer to the earth than I am in what they eat 🙂

Indiana Farm – Combine and Corn Header

September 13, 2011

I had the privilege of going to Boonville, Indiana to look at a commercial farm.  I’d only seen the equipment used for these large farms in magazines.

Before we arrived at our destination, of course, we had to stop at the local Farmers Market just outside of Boonville 🙂

Newburgh is right on the banks of the Ohio River and it’s a quaint little town.

People were very welcome to their market, but not pets 😦

It was unusually hot the Saturday we stopped and it was close to the end of the market so some of the vendors had gone home.

One interesting note.  I talked with a local beekeeper who had a booth.  He was getting $5 a pound for his honey.

He was surprised to find out that the going rate in GA is $8 per pound.

On we drove…

Lots and lots of fields with soybeans.

But more than soy beans…


Whether you looked north or south,

East or west.

Some houses were surrounded by fields of corn making natural walls around the home.

I’d never seen so much corn.

Who eats all this corn?  And why does it look so dry and almost dead?

I thought you were supposed to pick corn to eat while the stalk was still green.

It was here, on the beautiful Cornell farm, that I would find lots of answers to the myriad of questions I had about commercial farming.

The Cornell farm consists of approximately 3,000 acres, most of which is covered in soybean and corn.

The tillable  acres are leased and farmed by the Durchholz brothers.

Generations of farmers and hundreds of stories find their home in these rolling hills.

Al Durchholz stopped by to pick Lynn and me up to go to the barns to look at the equipment they use for all these acres.

First – the combine.

I couldn’t get past the massive tires on this piece of equipment!

The price tag for commercial farming is staggering.  The overhead on the all the equipment we looked at to run this farm is over a million dollars!

Some of the machinery they lease, others they buy.

The cab was amazing – air conditioning, a stereo system, comfy seats…

And a fairly intricate computer system!  I swear you need a Computer Science degree to understand all that this computer does for and with the combine.

In simple terms, when all the settings are input into the computer, and the computer “talks” with the GPS system, it’s like auto-pilot and the farmer doesn’t even touch the steering wheel!  Unless of course there happens to be a big hole or tree that the computer can’t see.  But once that’s avoided, the computer recalculates and puts everything back on track.

Margin of error on rows and distances between each row for thousands of acres?  6 inches!

This is the view from the cab and though you can’t see it very well, there are rows and rows of corn just outside these barn doors.

The inner workings of this incredible machine.

Not only do you need to have a Computer Science degree, you also need to have a Mechanics degree.

The cab, the corn header on the front, and all the rest sit on 6 tires- 2 in the front on each side, and 1 in the back on either side.

Why all the tires?

To lessen the compaction of the soil when a machine this size rolls over the ground.

This part of the combine is called the header.  There are different kinds of headers for different kinds of crops.

Normally all those red points would be facing the ground.  They were up because they were working on the chains that run the machinery underneath.

This particular corn header is 30′ long.

Those points run in between the rows of corn and the stalks are cut.

The stalks are run through the auger right behind the red pieces…

This section is like the throat of the machine.

All the stalks go through here and end up…

In the “stomach” of the combine.  The heads of corn are removed and the corn is taken off the cobs.

The cobs and stalks are spit back out onto the ground where they will be tilled back into the ground later – adding nutrients to the soil.

Al patiently explained how all this works.

The corn kernels are deposited in a hopper at the top of the combine.  The hoppers hold 400 bushels of corn.

The hoppers were not open because there’s not enough room.  The beams you see in this picture hold up the roof.

Once these hoppers are full, the corn goes through this pipe and empties into a grain wagon which holds 1,000 bushels of corn.

Okay – here’s the part for all the math people who like numbers.

This combine is able to harvest 100 acres of corn in a day.

There are approximately 150 bushels of corn per acre.

So, providing all the planets are aligned, the weather is perfect, and nothing happens to the machinery –

They’re able to harvest 15,000 bushels of corn per day.  A bushel of corn weighs 56 lbs which equals 840,000 lbs of corn a day!

This farm has 1500 acres in corn so it would take 3 weeks to harvest all of your corn if you took off weekends.

Oh, did I mention, they harvest the corn when the kernels are at 15% moisture rate?  If it’s over that moisture rate, it will mold in the storage bins and you could lose your whole crop – your whole year’s salary.

Who needs all this corn???

Cows do and most of the beef that’s grown for commercial use.

And you do – it’s amazing how often corn is listed on the ingredient labels.  Even in soda!

An ethanol plant can process 90,000 bushels of corn a day!

The farmers now are receiving about $7 per bushel for corn.

But think about these questions:

How would you like to work really hard all year and only receive a pay check once?

How would it be if you worked really hard all year and the week before you got your paycheck, something out of your control happened and you didn’t get your money?

That’s how it is for these commercial farmers.  They work all year and if Mother Nature is kind, they get a paycheck.  And if not, they take the debt and hope next year is twice as good so they can pay off that debt.

This was a very eye-opening trip for me.  I learned so much and was challenged in some of my thinking.

When you meet the people, eat with them and sleep in their home, who live on and work the land – there’s a deeper understanding of decisions that have to be made.

Here’s some more info on corn and it’s use in America: