Author Archives: twentyacres

Bees in winter

It’s supposed to be winter in North Carolina. Not so much this year. Two years ago the temperature was 3º, today it is almost 70º.

The bees are gathering pollen from somewhere. You can see where this bee has completely stuffed her pollen sacks with yellow pollen. She will take it just inside the hive where other bees will removed the pollen from her and store it, and this bee will be on her way to gather more.

Bee with pollen.jpg

National Privacy Day

Here’s an excuse for a great party: Data Privacy Day, on January 28!

Privacy Day

Protect yourself from advertisers: Adblock Plus

Stop advertisers from tracking you: Ghostery

Update your Facebook settings: This link

Use a Virtual Private Network.

Start using a more-private email: something like ProtonMail

Use a Password Manager: 1Password

Protect your messaging, and message securely between iPhones and Android phones: Signal

Use 2-factor authentication: Google Authenticator is a good manager for 2FA

(Tips taken from



Community Emergency Response Team

 CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) is a nation-wide organization that was started after the California earthquakes several years ago, when the 9-1-1 and emergency systems were overwhelmed. At it’s core is ‘first, don’t be a victim’, that is, don’t you become a victim yourself so that someone else has to come rescue YOU! Next, take care of your family, then your neighborhood. CERTs are also trained to organize small groups of non-trained volunteers. CERT members only participate in  the tasks that are comfortable for them and to the level of their training, so everyone is welcome.


CERT training focuses on emergency self-rescue, immediate first aid, small fire fighting, search and rescue, communications, and so on for those times that professional first responders are not available. Training consists of three long days, or can be spread out over several weeks at one evening a week. Neighborhoods, churches, schools, 4-H clubs, and businesses all can host CERT teams.
We have been trying to get CERT organized in our home county for about 18 months. While CERT teams consist of community volunteers, they have to be under the sponsorship of a government agency – normally a fire department or emergency management department. We have an enthusiastic sponsor now, and the number of volunteers for the first training class has exceeded capacity.
These are ‘interesting times’: hurricanes, earthquakes, snowstorms, forest fires, landslides, and many other potential disasters. We all need to be ready to take care of ourselves, and plan on not being victims for someone else to rescue.
You can find out more information about CERT here:

Our bees made it through the worst of the winter (so far!). We had the longest below-freezing period on record for North Carolina, with night-time temps down to -4º one evening. Would the bees survive? We can’t open the hives to check as that would let in cold air.

Bees do not hibernate in winter. Instead, when the temp inside the hive drops to between 54º and 57º they form a bee cluster, and vibrate their flight muscles to generate warmth. That cluster moves around the inside of the hive eating reserve honey stores for food energy. At the center of the cluster it stays a balmy 92º!

Yesterday, the cold spell broke and went up to almost 60º outside, and all four of the hives showed they survived and were out foraging for water and food. Great news!

Wood – keep it covered

2017 wood

Yesterday we stacked almost a cord of freshly cut and split hardwood.

I had read in a homesteading book that it makes no difference whether stacked wood is covered from the weather, or just left stacked to air out without a cover.

That’s wrong. We have three wood stacks – that which was split in 2015, split in 2016, and now in 2017. The 2015 stack was covered across the top with a tarp and is in great shape: dry, and burns very well. The 2016 I left uncovered. Autumn leaves have blown in and rotted in the fall rains, and started to rot the wood. Lots of mushrooms growing on the wood, along with decomposed bark and leaves, and wet wood.

So, after unstacking, cleaning out the debris, and restacking, I think it will get a tarp just like the rest of the wood.