The new Rabbitat. First steps.

I’ve been planning to put a nicer rabbit colony along the back fence for years. But I’ve been more than a little wishy-washy over the details. Last year IFA sold its customers contaminated rabbit feed and I lost 6 rabbits. Over the winter the opportunity came to pick up some replacements, which got a little out of control.

In October I picked up a pure-breed Satin buck, now named Mr. Darcy, and started putting some of the remaining ladies in with him one at a time. I thought for a while that Spring was pregnant, but no babies ever appeared. But her sister, Cocoa, had 10 babies on Dec 21st. About a week prior to that, the same woman who sold me Darcy also offered me a young Giant Chinchilla named Sweet Pea. She was too young to be put out with the others, so I kept her in the garage, and brought Cocoa in to keep her company. I don’t like rabbits being alone. Soon after that someone came through the area with a good deal on a trio of Rexes, also young, who were also put in the garage. With Cocoa and her babies, that was a lot of bunnies in the garage. I’ve been scrambling to try and put together a bigger cage to give everyone some run-around room. 

A few days ago I finally finished enough of a new cage to put the Rexes and Sweat Pea together. This is the current result. It’s nothing too impressive, but it works for now. 

A few notes, I should have added more supports to the front panel. That’s why there is a box and piece of styrofoam in the middle. It’s acting as a temp support until I cut a few more pieces. The whole structure will eventually be 6-7 feet tall and each colony setting will be twice as wide. But this works to give everyone more freedom in the mean time.

Additionally I re-arranged some current groups. The New Zealand male and female my friend from Idaho brought me hadn’t produced a litter. I’ve decided to move the male, Mairelon, in with Spring and Splash. And the female, Corri, is now in with Mr.Darcy and Bonnie. That freed up the rabbit hutch and run for Cocoa and her babies. Cocoa will be pulled out this Wednesday, which is when the babies will be 8 weeks old. Now everyone has plenty of space. There has been some chasing and stomping with the new arrangements, but things are largely peaceful. 

First Fruits

There is a single small hole in the otherwise pristine green cabbage head I hold. I remove another layer. Across from me Kristi is frustrated. She’s removed so many layers of slightly bruised or holey leaves that the head of cabbage is now easily held in the palm of her hand. The work to render it flawless has made it too small, and it is set aside in the “seconds” pile. It has failed inspection. Buckets at our sides gradually fill with slightly imperfect leaves. When full they are swiftly hauled to the compost pile, then returned to be filled again.

The woman in charge is frowning at something over my shoulder. I turn to glance at what has disturbed her, but only see a small cluster of men talking. “Inspectors,” she explains. “They’re constantly watching us. Last time they were here we got these.” And she holds out her hands, covered in blue latex gloves.

I frown as I continue to inspect cabbages for imperfections, my own gloved hands slipping a bit on the surface. “Who is protected by them? Us or the consumers? The cabbages were out sitting in the dirt in the field. We’ve been handling them constantly without changing the gloves. Just rinsing them off.”

She shrugs.

“Food handler rules I guess…” I mumble.

She smiles faintly.

The Huffington Post, among other publications, have been buzzing with the injustice of wasted food. 6 billion pounds of food a year wasted because it isn’t pretty enough. Business Insider estimates 133 million pounds of food are wasted each year, with 10% being from grocery stores and restaurants. A few small groups are attempting to change that. 6 billion pounds of food could go to a lot of hungry people. But as Business Insider notes, the problem with giving people ugly food is a matter of liability and logistics. Today I don’t have to worry about logistics. As I stare at the large compost pile filling with cabbage leaves that had maybe one tiny hole, it is the former issue that presses on me.

We finish the cabbages and move on to the zucchini. Ah zucchini. The bane of children everywhere. Their own personal proof that there is a devil and that he hates them. Our zucchini requirements are much easier then the cabbage: remove the flower, rinse thoroughly, discard any that don’t have at least 1/2″ of intact stem. Extra large and odd lumpy ones are also discarded. But at least a small marring of the zucchini skin isn’t enough to disqualify it. If it were, no child would ever have to eat a zucchini again.

We’re quick this evening, and it isn’t long before the acceptable produce is being driven over to the store-house. A few crates of the rejected vegetables sit off to the side. “Well, if you want any, it’s yours!” A few boys jump in grabbing misshapen zucchinis and starting mock sword fights. I’m not worried. Their fathers calls them to order if it gets too realistic while helping other children pick cabbages. Three end up in my bag, as well as a particularly lumpy zucchini. I, for one, love zucchini.

And what of the poor and needy? Theirs will be the first fruits. The store house will distribute the beautiful produce to those in need, undeterred by the new rules and inspections that constantly come through. And those of us who volunteered are perfectly happy with our ugly vegetables. Though that could change when the zucchini is served up to the boys later on.

My First Swarm

Crazy bee day today. I ran to grab some lunch from Smiths when my roommate called in a panic. According to her, our house was “being attacked by bees!!!” I didn’t ask questions, just drove home. Didn’t really see anything. But I entered the house through the garage. She heard me come in and showed me a teeny tiny cluster of bees near the front door, hanging from the gutter.

I was not impressed.

But I did think to myself that they were just starting to swarm and started gathering my equipment to see if I could grab them. At some point I went out to get a better look, and noticed a pretty darn good sized cluster of bees up on the roof. The bit hanging from the gutter was not even the tip of the iceberg. At that point I called The Honey Company and offered to pay them to come out and help me catch the swarm. Two gentlemen showed up. The bought a spare lid and bottom board for me. I had an extra box and frames, but not a proper lid and base. We climbed up and started gingerly scooping up bees on small pieces of paper and stiff envelopes, then deposited them into the box. It didn’t take long before the rest started an enthusiastic march to the box. After about an hour we’d gotten most of the main cluster and were content to let the rest work their way in. I left the box up there for everyone to settle in. The gentlemen from The Honey Company headed out, and I headed to the backyard to check my main hive.


This is where it goes downhill. There are still a lot of bees in there. But while there is a good amount of capped brood, including drone brood, no uncapped larvae or eggs. So probably safe to say the swarm is from my own hive. On top of that, I broke open a large chunk of brood burr comb in the hive between the first and second brood box. That had me in a right panic. I’m worried I killed my queens. But I cleaned up the burr, and closer inspection looks like the whole group is drones. But with no eggs, it could still be a queenless hive. I’m probably going to order a new queen tomorrow.

brood1 brood2

It was (not at all) a great deal of fun pulling the full box off the roof this evening in the blowing wind. Thankfully Christopher came over and helped. I duct-tapped the lid down, and wrapped the hive in a sheet. I passed to sheet to Christopher on the ladder, who was steadied form below by Victoria. Victoria also guided his steps down the ladder. Once down, I took the hive to it’s place in the back yard.

The real annoying part about all this is that I was planning on trying some splits this week or next after the nasty weather passed. I guess they’re split now. Hope they handle the cold tonight.

Yoga and fitness

So I’ve figured out why Yoga helps you to lose weight. Most Yoga poses involve contorting yourself into a position that makes a super bulge out of your stomach even if you’re a super model (as for the rest of us…). Once in that position you’re ordered to stare intently at your navel. So you can expect to spend the better part of an hour to hour-and-a-half session intently focusing on your worst feature. But remember, “we don’t judge.” I did have one stellar Bikram instructor put us in Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Janushirasana and then tell us to remember that even Cindy Crawford hates her stomach in this pose.

So yeah, tonight, I went to 3B yoga in Provo. The class was good, but I don’t know if I can afford to go there regularly. To make matters worse, it’s directly across from The Rocky Mountain Chocolate factory. That must be gold for those businesses, but it’s murder on the Yogi. One hour of yoga undone in a single truffle. I wish I’d had only a single truffle…

In other fitness news, we did receive Fitbits from work yesterday. And there is a Bluehost Fitbit group. My competitive side has already reared it’s ugly head, and yesterday I walked Mari 10 miles and put just over 23,000 steps on my fitbit. That was enough to land me in the top 10, or it would have if I had finished the setup before the workout yesterday. Sad to say, it all dropped off when I set up the fitbit this morning. Silver lining: I can manually enter the workout. Even better, I tracked several workouts with my Endomondo app on my phone, which also had details for a 2 mile run last week, and a hike up and past the Y on Saturday. That was enough to land my in the top 5 on the leader board. 6 mile walk with Mari tonight put me at #4. Ha! However, the fitbit is quite limited in its tracking abilities, and only has walking, running, biking, and swimming on its activity list. No Yoga credit. And due to it’s limitations, it believes hiking the Y is a light workout. You only made 4.15 miles in 3.5 hours? WIMP! Forget the 2000 feet of elevation gain. We’ll see what it says tomorrow when I actually track my steps instead of just entering the workout. I plan on being #2 at Bluehost by the end of the week. #1 seems to be averaging about 9 miles a day. Ain’t nobody got time for that! I hope to break into the top 100 of the Linux group. Man Linux guys are FIT!

Health bees, healthy me

Yesterday I decided to open up this hive. It’s been in the 60s all week this first week of February. I was a bit nervous about getting in. The reduced entrance, plus a lot of activity means the air outside the hive is full of bees, and I’m out of practice with inspections. So one smart thing I did was bring my camera along. The bees are using the sugar board entrance as their main entrance right now. A few are going after the sugar board, but upon inspection I found several frames of honey still intact. I pulled two frames out, then just peaked in the rest. The center frames look very very empty. Hopefully the existing sugar and honey will help them hold out. I’ve observed some sort of pollen coming in, but darned if I know where they are getting it. I’ve seen a few violets, petunias, and forget-me-nots peaking out, but not much. The pollen looks like putty, a very light yellowish-grey. I did move on of the honey frames in a bit more. But I didn’t want to disturb the main cluster too badly. By the time I closed up the bees were getting ticked at me. But I came through unscathed this time.

Today was a work Saturday. So far I’ve managed to get dishes done,  trash and recyclables taken out, the floor vacuumed through most of the house, laundry done, and my bathroom thoroughly cleaned. After a nap Mari, Lindsay and I went for a hike up Y-mount. Still haven’t summited, but we got quite a ways before our 60-degree attire became a bit useless. At least Mari loved the snow. She’s passed out next to me right now using my Sys Admin books as a pillow. Such a funny dog.

Howling at the full moon

Victoria’s facebook status this evening:

When your roommate has been howling with her beloved dog two days in row, should you be worry, or just assuming they are in special training?? Or they are in process turning to wolves??? Well, I am worry.

It’s true. The last few days I’ve renewed my effort to teach Mari to “sing.” I started this effort when she was just a puppy. I played videos of baby wolves learning to howl and I would howl along. She ignored me. At the time she was the puppy among three adult dogs. She only barked when she was left alone. I got it into my head that she was just going to be a quiet doggie.

Fast forward to the new house and becoming a solo doggie. With Zen no longer around Mari starts barking at intruders. And one day, the local alert system (I think it might be air raid sirens left over from WWII) goes off. They’re fairly close to our house. Mari runs outside, her hackles raise, and suddenly she starts howling.

And doesn’t stop.

By this I mean she didn’t stop for air. I was becoming quite concerned about how long this howl lasted and finally called her out of it. A few weeks later she’s having doggie dreams in the middle of the night. It starts with her paws twitching and the soft but rapid “wuf wuf wuf wuf wuf” barking she does in her sleep. Then suddenly, another long howl. So long that once again I wake her up in concern.

All this was still a while back. But I like to regularly work on new tricks with her. She’s gotten very good at sitting up and balancing a treat on her nose, then catching it when released. I decided to re-visit singing. It takes a long time to get her to join in. Once I start howling, she paces, and paws at me, then whine and fusses for a bit. She might lay down, then sit up, then look like she’s bored. She’ll then yawn a few times, when suddenly the yawn will end in a howl or a long grumbling “a roow roow rooooooow.” The latter is hilarious and I usually start choking on my own laughter. Then we have to start over. Apparently Victoria didn’t originally realize that I was teaching Mari to do this. All she heard was howling. She became very concerned that something was wrong with Mari, when she suddenly heard a second dog howling. Apparently I make a very convincing dog.


Animal Report:


  • 1 egg
  • Pen cleaned
  • Food refilled
  • Bandi and Fern eating out of my hands and lap more
  • Bandi is still touch shy, but Fern lets me pet her when I offer food
  • Reservation in for two more chicks in three weeks


  • Lots of hive activity today
  • Seem keen on adjustments to water dish
  • Increasing activity at the candy board


  • Working on howling
  • Continued improvement at staying
  • Starting to be a bit more helpful in chicken herding

I found a treasure chest – Antelope Springs trip report

On Friday I left with several friends to explore the Antelope Springs cave near Delta, Utah. We arrived after dark at the base of the cave and set up camp in the falling snow. I wish I had brought my camera, for while the night was a bit damp and chilly, the morning was beautiful, with a dusting of wet snow and low clouds moving among the cliff faces. As is my way on a one day trip, I quickly broke down my tent and had everything put away before we even started. The others kept their tents up to change in afterwards. It was cold enough that I started out wearing full winter gear: wool base layer, mid layer jacket, down coat and wind breaker. But Trent assured me it would be very warm in the cave, so I changed to pants and cami top and a sweater, but kept the down jacket and wind breaker.

Trent and Bryson made it up the hill first, and I followed after them. Thus I was third into the cave. Trent set up a hand line to help us get into the slippery entrance. He was right about the cave being warmer, and I quickly stashed the down and sweater, opting to keep the windbreaker, for it was lighter and less likely to catch on things than the sweater.

Bryson and I quickly made our way to the base of the entrance chamber. Soon Jayce and Ben were down with us and we opted to explore the small hole at the very bottom of the chamber, though two other holes up the walls seemed more promising. I tried it first, but became nervous about the size. Jayce decided to have a go and sure enough managed to crawl through to a more open space. Bryson, Ben and I followed. The hole was very small, but after moving just a few feet to one side it opened up enough for all of us to fit, then went vertical before splitting off in several directions. We each tried a path, with Jayce and Bryce quickly dead-ending. But my more vertical path opened into a large domed chamber with two wide branches at each end. One, which I believe headed north had a series pits connected above and below. The other headed off roughly south, and at the time I couldn’t see much into the darkness. With paths splitting off, Jayce and Ben opted to head back and check the progress of our group and let them know where we were. Bryson and I remained and just enjoyed the domed room. The ceiling had a few small stalactites whose tips had a metallic glow in our headlamps. I climbed up a side lip of the chamber in an attempt to look closer.

As I started to climb back down I noticed something wooden among a pile of rocks. The wood had stars etched in it. I called to Bryson and moved the rocks aside, thinking I’d found a registry. Bryson said it looked more like a geocache. We opened it and found a book in a ziplock bag. When we pulled it out we found a note on the back:

Dear Adventurer,

If you found this treasure it is because you successfully followed the coordinates posted on our website or you stumbled upon it. Either way, the book and treasure box are yours and I hope you enjoy them. Remember to share your adventure with us on our facebook page ‘The Dark Eagles’ and include the secret code NJ342.

May your life be full of adventures!

David R. Smith

The box and book were so beautiful, and I wanted to take them. But I felt bad for not being a participant in its hunt. Just a lucky passer by. And I was elated at having found such a marvellous thing in such a place. I wanted others to be able to enjoy that feeling too. I wish I’d had a pen on me. I would have signed the back of the note and left it for another person. But having none, I simply decided to leave the box. Jayce and Ben soon joined us and we showed them our treasure. We talked of how fun it would be to add our own books to this spot, and started calling the area “The Library Room.” In the mean time,  Trent was leading the group through a different set of passages that happened to join our library from the south end, and we showed them the treasure as well before putting it back and continuing our explorations.

I wish I could describe all the chambers and passages of the cave, but it is something you simply have to experience for yourself. But I will tell you this much. We continued to follow the northern path out of the Library Room, and eventually wound up in a chamber full of stalactites hanging spindle-like from the ceiling. A few broken pieces on the floor resembled magic wands, and as we waited for everyone to climb into the room for a fuzzy picture (only Candace had a camera and in the moist heat it had fogged up), we came up with several names for this room. “Olivander’s” was pretty popular until someone piped up that it should be “The Boom Stick Room.” That one stuck. After pictures as people worked their way back out, Sharon overheard us talking about the treasure book. Somehow she had missed it. We told her which room it was in and assured her we would pass it again on the way out. After more exploring (and in my case many bruises and a scraped knee after sliding down a slope), we believe we covered most of the northern section that we could safely squeeze into.

We headed back to explore the southern chambers and passed into the spacious library room, with me bringing up the rear. I wanted one last look at the box and note, so I could be sure I had the details right to contact the author. Sharon shouted to me that I couldn’t look in the box again and that it would be bad luck. But I just smiled and opened the box back up…only to find a glow stick in it. Sharon sheepishly admitted she was taking the book for me. She insisted that I had found it and that it was now mine. Unable to dissuade her, I also packed up the box. She was even reluctant to hand me to book to store in it for easy carrying, and watched to make sure I was bringing it.

We headed out via the south entrance, which put us close to the entrance chamber. From here a few people opted to head out for a breath of fresh air and some food and water. Those of us who stayed behind were getting tired. But that made us more determined to remain in the cave, for tired explorers find it hard to start back up after a break. It’s easier to keep going, and with a small group still in the cave, the others would be more motivated to return. Trent took the box and his group out the cave, while the rest of us started south. We found the Junction room and explored several of the short junctions before they returned. I particularly liked an upper chamber that had #7 on the wall and required a bit of climbing to get to. Trent soon returned with his group, and we decided to make a push for the Moon Milk Room before our 3pm deadline. Josh had returned with his camera and took a few more pictures. We never did make it to our destination. With time running out, and more people dropping out, the final group, Trent, Sharon, Candace, Josh, and myself finally turned back. Josh and Trent took off for the Boom Stick room on their own. Josh was insistent on getting some shots of those stalactites. The rest of us made our way back out. It only took Josh and Trent about 10 minutes to get to the Boom Stick room and back out after us.

When we exited the cave the sun was shining in a brilliant blue sky. Only snow on the north facing slopes had survived it, though it was still pretty chilly. It didn’t take long to pack everything back up and head out. As a final bonus, on the drive home we passed by a small heard of mustangs. This was the first time I’ve seen them. A little further on we also passed a heard of antelope. A wonderful weekend, with wonderful people, and an incredible bonus. I’d love to build my own little box to take back to the cave and leave for another explorer to find.




I convinced a vegetable hater that brussel sprouts are delicious.

Last week I found un-frozen brussel sprouts at Costco. Bought two massive bags and started bringing them to work for breakfast. One of my co-workers piped up and asked what the smell was. He said it smelled like an omelet. I told him it was probably my brussel sprouts and let him and a few other co-workers try some. Only Jason declined. Jason hates vegetables. Today I made another round and let folks sample them. Michael and Rafael were talking about how eager they are to try cooking their own. Michael just got a Costco membership and had found the brussel sprouts. He was planning on cooking them up tonight. Jason was listening and finally caved. He tried one of the brussel sprouts and his face lit up. Even he wants the recipe! I told my co-workers that if I die, I want the following engraved on my tombstone:

“Made amazing brussle sprouts!



Brussel sprouts recipe:

Get non-frozen brussel sprouts (freezing them makes them gooey in a terrible way)

Cut them in half. If there’s a lot of stem you can trim it down.

Coat them lightly with olive oil.

Sprinkle with salt.

Put on a tray. If you’re feeling fancy, make sure all of them have their cut side facing up.

Cook in an oven or toaster oven between 325 and 350 degrees until golden brown on cut side, and dark brown on the pan side. Small leaves that fell off should be crispy. Approximately 20 minutes.

Remove and let cool for a few minutes.


Winter Beekeeping Woes

I’m in the final stretch before I can officially call myself a beekeeper. The instructor at the IFA said you’re not a beekeeper until you’ve gotten a hive through the winter. The experience has completely reshaped certain aspects of my personality. And not necessarily for the better.

1.) I have a new hatred of winter. I used to love winter. So many unique adventures present themselves only in winter. But as I think of my bees clustered together, holding off the cold and weakened from the effort, I find myself longing for spring. The green-eyed monster reared its ugly head when a friend in Oregon posted a picture of her budding borders, and I’ve been scanning my property for any sign of life. But I will be lucky if anything peaks through in late March. Each day I check the flower beds for signs something might be coming up.

2.) I’m cheering for global warming. This has been one of the mildest winters I’ve ever known in Utah. While reports stream in from the rest of the country of freezing temperatures we’ve been largely spared winter’s wrath, Though I’m concerned about whether we’ll have enough water stocked in the mountains, I’m ever so grateful for only a few weeks of sub-zero temperatures. I find myself intently scanning weather websites multiple times a day for the slightest hint of a warmer forecast. Though I think that if my hive does make it through the winter, I won’t have earned the title of “Beekeeper” of my own merits.

3.) I hate facebook. OK, never liked it a ton in the first place, but the regular reports of losses in our Utah beekeeping community have been murder on my nails. It may be my salvation when it comes to quick answers to crazy beekeeping questions, but the bad news among backyard hobbyists is ageing me.

4.) I don’t want to fly anymore. You know that old party question: “If you could have one super power what would it be?” I was never creative about it. I always just wanted to be able to fly. Now? X-ray vision. Oh what I would give to be able to see into my hive without disturbing the precious seals they’ve armed their home with. I’d probably settle for heat vision. I’ve spent too much time online ogling infra-red cameras that are far outside my price range.

5.) I’m paranoid to the point of incarceration. If my attentions were directed at a person I’d probably be locked up by now. I frequently find myself out in the bee yard with my ear pressed against the hive and peering through any and all access holes like some wacko bee stalker.

6.) I’m considering blasphemy. Just how much DO my home teachers want to help out in my life? Enough to give a priesthood blessing to a bee hive?

At least two more months before spring revives my poor hive. They didn’t mention how attached you would get in the classes.

Current hive status: Still alive. Minimal flight activity today, but I can still hear them inside.

The accidental garden experiment

Before I had a house I grew a little garden off the porch of my apartment. I had great success at the time with lettuce in a flower box. I decided to use that method again for seed starting lettuce. A bit more than a week ago I sowed seed into one of my flower boxes. I cut the bottoms off of milk cartons and placed those over the material as mini greenhouses to trap moisture in the soil.


I’ve glanced at the left end one on occasion and seen a few small sprouts.


Today for the first time I went to water the seedlings and found a surprise. The left end is still growing, but at a slow pace. The middle two sections have very few sprouts in each. I’m not sure why.


But the right end that is usually slightly in the shade had a splash of healthy happy greens. I know lettuce is supposed to do better during colder periods, and thrives in shade, but I didn’t know it would be such a pronounced difference.


These guys are all going to be moved to the shade.