My first three grandchildren burst upon the scene in the past year or so.  Wanted to get to business with my grandfatherly duties.

Made some solid wood toys for the kiddo's for Christmas.  Especially, the 18-wheeler semi truck for the solitary girly grandbaby.   Annalise may appreciate that the truck is made of scraps left over from installing oak flooring in our home.  The truck cab is from a chunk cut from the end of a bannister end-post.  I tried to copy as near as possible a similar toy truck my father made for Paul when he was a toddler.

I also made Jacob's Ladders for the kids.  See this video.

I am posting a photo of an assembled puzzle here.  The 3-D puzzle has interlocking pieces in all 3 dimensions.  Except for a couple careless cutting errors, no two touching pieces are made of the same type (color) of wood (just 'cause it looks cool)

And the puzzle is loaded with "hints," to encourage Nolan's use of logical reasoning.  If Nolan simply looks for clues, the puzzle will "speak" to him about how to put it together.  (Although, the first time I tried to re-assemble the puzzle, it sure didn't speak to me very much.)

Now, here's a puzzle for you...
I wanted to make the puzzle without any two touching pieces made of the same kind (color) of wood.  How do you suspect I knew in advance that no matter how the design would come out I would need exactly four different kinds of wood?  Not three.  Not five.  Four.  Guaranteed.  Every time.

We covered it in a Topological Mathematics course in 1966.  No matter how crazily the politicians may have revised international boundaries, an inexplicable law of math has provided that no map in history has ever required more than four colors in order that no adjacent countries have the same color.  (It's kinda refreshing to know there are at least some laws that lobbyists cannot bribe Congressmen to violate.)  Ancient Greek mapmakers knew of this four-color phenomenon, but could not prove or disprove it. 

You can Google "Four Color Map Theorem."  Or read this paper, written in plain English by a mathematician at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, home of the A-bomb.

So, Nolan...hope you enjoy the apolitical puzzle.  Annalise, enjoy the 18-wheeler truck (don't all girls?).  Cole, I'll send the Jacob's Ladder asap. 



Lee experiments with a fancy new video boom  (hand held electrical conduit) while enjoying a late-fall Saturday afternooon hikelet with Thuh-Boyz.



Goats were getting barnyard fever. But November is hunting season. So we all donned our garb for hunting season and took off. A beautiful crispy-air day with no wind and visibility enough to see Chicago.  We mozied all the way, sampling dried oak leaves, pine needles, tree bark, ground holly and various weed seed pods.  A truly delicious walk-in buffet.



The Black Hills Pack Goats have been enjoying an especially sanguine fall season. Can you tell? Custer decided to convert a feed trough to his private lounge. Harney even snuggled up to Custer for an afternoon nap.  And, of course, Custer had to pose for a glamour portrait to use in press releases to his fans.



Added 2" styrofoam temp insulation on three sides, 3/8" thick mouse guard with 3/8" holes on bottom entrance, and new top entrance with 3/8" spanning entire front width. All this for first wintering of new hive and newbee beek. Please comment and advise. Thank you. -Lee



The new barn kitty starts the day going for one wounded chicken, then two hours later taking on an entire flock of wild turkey. Look close to see the incredulous deer watching this new predator unleashed on the forest. This might be a good time for our barn mice to seek alternate housing arrangements.



Always something new at Ten Green Acres in The Black Hills of South Dakota. We got a new barn-kitty/mouser from the animal shelter. So...we needed to build a hay barn for him. All the while the Black Hills Pack Goats were certain it was all about them, stocking in supplies for their winter pantry. Whoofda. It was all about me, getting a live-in farm hand who never calls in sick. See the video and watch all three plots unfold...



I have opened the hive for quick checks several times, but by the four-month mark, it was time to do a detailed walk-through of the ladies' four story home. It was also time to make some decisions in preparation for the coming winter. Since I'm a newbee, I'm still processing what was inside. But anyway here's a photo record of what the ladies have been doing inside the past four months.

This is the #2 Frame in newest (second) super.

#5 Frame in 3-Month (Upper) Deep

#7 Frame in (oldest) 4-Month (Lower) Deep

Looking in to The Abyss.
Middle of the lowest hive box.

What IS that Monster ? !

It's not easy re-assembling a hive when
10,000 of its inhabitants are angrily seeking
an opening in your clothing to sting to the death.



When a community loses tens of thousands population over winter then has to repopulate with tens of thousands of newborns in the spring, get them raised and slotted among six job descriptions, all without a top-down presiding leader, then "family planning" takes on a whole new meaning. So how do bees do it? I'm a newbee, but this is what I understand. Also watch the video. But caution. It includes violence and adult bee content.

Honey bee drones have about one function in life. Which, by the way, leads to immediate death.

Each hive of 75,000 females needs a few drones around, so that when the queen takes one mating flight in the spring...well...you know. Birds n bees and all that.

Anyway, while we humans do spring cleaning, bee home makers do their major house cleaning in the fall. They need to get ready for the cold, starving winter. And, since these ladies know there won't be any queen flights for a few months, what to do with those remaining drones who never got any action?

All winter, drones just lay around, eat precious food, eye the girls, and contribute nothing. (Sounds like football season?) So at one point in the fall the ladies boot most (but not all) the boys out. No one knows how the ladies arrive at a consensus decision on what day to do it. Or how they rate the guys to decide who's in line for lucky in the spring.

If you watch this video close you can see this ritual in action. The video is shot at the front door to a hive. One little guy (actually the drones are the largest) just won't give up and tries to sneak back in.

No big deal. If the girls run short of queen-ready drones in the spring, they know how to re-breed some new drones next spring (the female worker bees know how to set gender by size of honeycomb cell, feeding regimine and larvae uncapping/recapping schedule). But they must do it all in time to date the queen. Then from that one mating the queen will have over 100,000 babies over the next few months. Some of whom will be drones that they'll have to kick out in the fall.



Caught some early morning bee-grazing. The Ladies are still at it.

Also, tonight we opened the hive again, while Amanda, Ryan, twin babies Lidya and Grant were with us. Only Ryan came close to observe. The Ladies are hard at it. Lots of comb on new super, but only 10% filled with honey, and only 2% of comb capped with honey inside. ... i.e., "room to grow."
Got to admit, though. The photo is just a bumble bee passing thru, near my Ladies. The bumbler is a real ham, right?



Please click on these photo's. It's the best I could do with a cheap instamatic, but still it is fascinating what these ladies do all day, every day. Soon as the sun opens flowering blossoms the ladies take flight en mass to bring back the pollen and nectar. If you've ever seen a hang glider come in for a landing, it sure looks like the ladies here have it knocked solid. Also, see the leg-sacks of pollen. On this day they were bringing back material from bright orange flowers. A dew even showed up having found white blossoms, that made it appear they were wearing white bloomers. The girls are so focused on their tasks that they ignored my bare hands holding the camera just six inches away. And this morning I discovered they have resumed the consumption rate of 1/2 gallon of sugared water per day.


We live in such a scenic wonderland. It was Motorcycle Rally week, with 17 gazillion motorcycling tourists. The Pack Goats wanted to go sight-seeing, too. So we went up to (our privately named) Picnic Point. Appropriate to the setting the goats asked if I would snap some photo's of them posing like tourists, with Bear Butte and Piedmont Valley in the background. (Hey. It gets kinda "isolated" out here in the Black Hills now and then, so we entertain ourselves.)


We opened the hive on July 22 (about 6-weeks) to check on things. One frame (#6) in the upper hive box was fully covered with comb that was 2/3 capped with tan wax (brood) and 1/3 capped with white wax (honey to eat later). The outer frames (#1, #10) were much more proportionately covered in white-capped honey stores. All seemed healthy. Too healthy! I was caught with my frames down. Needed to expand the hive asap to disuade "swarming" (colony abandonment of hive). Rush-ordered new hive eqpt from Georgia.


Portrait of Lee'z B'z

Well, I tried anyway. Ever tried to get 13,000 hard working little girls to sit still for a portrait? These little ladies are HARD workers !!!


Harney the Black Hills Pack Goat Gets His Day

This is about Harney, the herd runt:

Bear Butte, Buffalo Chip CG at Sturgis Before the Rally

I squeezed in a short afternoon flight to catch the shadow on Bear Butte and the Buffalo Chip campground. The Chip sure feels empty without the 10,000 motor homes and 30,000 bikers. In the center photo you can just make out the visitors' center on the southeast side.



Some folks will remember our over-engineered, over-sized smelter oven food dryer from 2008. We’re cutting back for 2009, with a new, improved more compact but higher capacity model.

We started with a $5 used window pane from the Re-Store here in Rapid City. Then added some lumber and screws. First-day performance is fine.

Sure is simpler than the “high performance” model in the books, with all the hardware, hinges, handles, sliders, etc. Heck, just make the darn thing, pick some vegies, lay them on the rack, and get on with life…

Oh. BTW. Here is a columbine flower growing next to the new dryer. It merits some attention. Don’t you agree?


We opened the hive at about one month old on July 4, 2009. In some spots comb was completely bridging between the tops of the three central frames. Therefore I broke some comb when pulling out the central frame. Never did see the Queen.

July 4th Picnic Hike With the Pack Goats

Some good friends joined us for an old time down home Independence Day family time. DeAnne, Jeana, July, Jolie and Alan stopped by for a quick lesson on making home made soap. Then we went for a hike, catered by The Black Hills Pack Goats. Then we opened the new Lee'z B'z (www.Leez.Bz) bee hive. July is one quite cool dude. See the next post...