A Day at the Fair

Part of country life is the county fair.

Kyle at the Southwest Washington Fair under a hot and hazy sky.

I go almost every year, even if it is cool and rainy. Despite the hazy sky, caused by forest fires in Canada, the days of the fair were some of the hottest of the year. It was so hot the organizers had fans blowing mist, for the animals, not the humans. Although, I admit to stopping in the fan breeze a couple of times.  

As I walk along the main route of the fair I almost always meet friends. It’s a good time to get reacquainted and they always ask about my latest or next book and, of course, I’m happy to tell them.

Kyle in the cow barn.

I didn’t see the beekeeper display this year, perhaps I missed it. Lorraine enjoys looking at the various cattle, chickens, and rabbits on display. I like those too, along with the horseback events. During my teen years, I was in the 4-H and brought animals as part of the competition. I don’t show livestock or compete anymore, but I still enjoy watching events like the dog show, dressage, and barrel racing. I also like the food.

Click on the following links to read my author bio, about life in Lewis County, or more about my life on the farm.

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The Deer and Other Animals

The deer spend less time in our backyard now.

Sometimes during the winter, when snow covered every bit of pasture, there would be five or six deer waiting near our backdoor in the morning. My wife would talk to them like friends as she tossed out apples for them to eat. That happens less often during the summer, but they still know that this is a safe and welcome place to come. They often spend the night in the forest just beyond our yard.

My son, James, throws apples to deer in our backyard

Over the years we have seen a wide variety of birds that return to the area every summer. These include eagles, hawks, doves and, pigeons. Just like in California, we have swallows that return each year.  

Rabbits and squirrels don’t hibernate during the winter, but they do hunker down in their homes, try to stay warm, and sleep more. So, we don’t often see them in the winter. However, this time of year they are out in abundance. We have to keep the barn doors closed or they would both be inside eating the chicken food.

Living in the country can be hard work, but I wouldn’t want to live in a city or even a suburb ever again.

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Click on the following links to read my author bio, life in Lewis County or more about my life on the farm.

Water and Rain in the Northwest

There is a saying that people in the northwest don’t tan—they rust. The coastal region of Washington is well known for ample precipitation. However, most of the rain falls in late autumn and winter. By the time the crops, garden, and orchard are really growing in the late spring and summer the rains have faded to a trickle. That means we irrigate and water.

Kyle checking the hand pump (Click for a larger image)

My place is small, more of a hobby farm than a real one, but watering remains a daily chore. In the picture I’m beside the well house, checking the hand pump. Fortunately, this is just an emergency backup and the electric pump is still working. 

This time of year we water the younger fruit and nut trees in the orchard and all the plants in the garden daily. Each beehive has a water bottle and there are several for the chickens that must be routinely checked. We also have flowers and ornamental trees.

Right now, with both my wife and I working, it takes about an hour each evening to water everything. As the summer continues, and days get warmer, we’ll be doing this in both the morning and evening. But, I'm not complaining, I love the life I have here and wouldn't trade it for anything.

Click on the following links to read my author bio, life in Lewis County or more about my life on the farm.

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The Volcano Erupts

A minor earthquake at 8:32 a.m. on Sunday, May 18, 1980, caused the bulging and weakened north side of Mount St. Helens to collapse into the largest landslide ever recorded. The gas, steam, lava, and pulverized rock that it exposed, exploded toward Spirit Lake. Then a column of ash rose 80,000 feet into the air.

Our home at the time in Centralia. Notice the brown sky.

I was twenty-five at the time and worked as an assistant manager at a drugstore in Centralia, less than seventy-five miles northwest, as the ash falls. But the winds were blowing east that day. Friends as far away as Indiana sent pictures of their cars covered with dust. Those of us in Centralia watched the awesome display of nature’s might from vantage points around town.

As the day progressed we learned that entire forests near the volcano had been leveled, homes and bridges were swept away in the resulting flood and over fifty people died.

But in Centralia that day, no ash fell.

The following Sunday was when Mount St. Helens came to Centralia. At 2:30 a.m. the mountain erupted again.

My wife and I were asleep, along with our infant son, but some time before dawn the phone rang. My wife picked it up. “Hello?”

The street in front of our home at 9:00 a.m. on May 25, 1980

“Lorraine, do you have any windows open?” my mother asked.


“Close them. Mount St. Helens erupted again and we’re getting covered with ash.”

While Lorraine secured the house, I went outside. Standing on the covered porch with the lights off the darkness was so total I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. With my foot I felt for the steps. It felt like snow falling on me.

After a few steps onto the sidewalk, I returned to the house before getting lost.

It was well after nine in the morning before there was enough light to take the pictures seen here. We escaped the worst of the mountain’s fury, but those of us who were there will never forget that May.

An outstretched hand

I have a wonderful life.

Yes, I made some good life choices, but I also know that the grace of God has shined in my life. I am fortunate to have been born here in America and at this time. I thank God that I met and married my wonderful wife, and that I can do what I love for a living.

So, when my writer and friend Julie Zander asked if I’d be willing to donate a copy of one of my books to the Lewis County Gospel Mission fundraiser, I quickly agreed.

Author Kyle Pratt with Gospel Mission director Fay Ternan

Earlier today, I met with the director, Fay Ternan. She told me the mission was formed in 1996 as an independent Christian outreach to the widows, runaways, the homeless, poor and those just out of jail. In addition to clothing, bedding, shows, and other essentials, the mission provides thousands of meals every month. This is the work of Matthew 25:35 and 36.

The fundraiser is a dinner and live auction at the Centralia Christian School this Saturday. I’ve donated a copy of each of my four paperback books to the effort. I hope to see you there.

Honey Harvest for 2015

The honey harvest this year was very good.

Kyle Pratt ready to harvest from one of his hives.

We have only two hives on our small farm, but even so, the harvest takes nearly all day. After breakfast we set up the equipment, including our honey extractor (basically a hand-crank centrifuge), stainless steel buckets, a couple of food-grade plastic pails, strainers and assorted tools.

Kyle Pratt harvesting honey.

Then we don all of our protective gear because the bees really don’t like what we are about to do. By nine in the morning we are at the apiary and I pulled off the lid of the first hive. The top of the frames in the honey super were covered with thousands of bees and more were inside. Every bee had to be brushed off before the honey frame could be taken. 

By the time my wife and I were done the bees were very mad. That’s why I do the harvest inside. If I harvested outside all those outraged bees would crawl over everything and try to sting me. After I removed the appropriate frames and brushed off the bees, I passed them to my wife. She took them to our garage, where we had everything ready for extraction.

Lorraine Pratt looks over twenty pounds of honey.

When I finished, and closed the hives, I joined my wife inside for the harvest. Using a long knife we cut the comb open and place the frames into the centrifuge. Then I cranked and cranked. It takes a lot of arm work, but the honey soon begins to flow and continues in a slow stream for hours. By the end of the day, my wife and I harvested 308 fluid ounces of honey or over twenty pounds.

Don’t worry about the bees. We take only the excess; most of the honey is left in the hive, so they can eat during the winter.

Opening the Hive

Spring time brings extra chores for those living on a farm.

Normally, I keep two bee colonies, but only one survived the winter. On a warm day earlier this month I opened the remaining hive to check on the colony. I try to find the queen, see if she is laying eggs, ensure there is enough food and, check to see if they workers are planning to swarm (break away and form a new colony).

Taking the hive apart gets the bees very mad. I was fully suited up and not worried, but my brave wife, Lorraine, did the video. That meant she needed one hand uncovered to control the camera. At one point several bees landed on her hand. Fortunately, for both of us, she didn’t get stung.

I didn’t find the queen, but everything else looked healthy. I’ve have another colony of bees on order. They should arrive in April.

I wonder if I can get Lorraine to film that? 

Busy Bees & Keepers

Spring is a busy time for bees and beekeepers.

For most of the country this winter has snowy and cold, but in western Washington state the weather has been mild. As a beekeeper this is both a blessing and a problem.

If the winter is short and mild it is a blessing in that the bees use less food and plants bloom early. This gives the bees a longer period to build up supplies for the next winter. However, the weather is mild, but winter returns, the entire colony might starve because of the postponed spring. Right now it looks like winter will continue to fade away.

I have three hives (the boxes), but only keep two colonies of bees for to pollenate my garden and orchard. While I’ve done this for eight years, what I know I learned through trial and error (many errors) and by reading books. I’ve never taken a class—until now. I took this picture as the second session of the apprentice beekeeping class ended today. While I’m probably beyond the apprentice level, I’ve learned things during both sessions. The class has three more sessions.

The smiling woman, with lanyard, is Susanne Weil, one of the officers of our local beekeeping association. She is standing behind two hive boxes.

I have only one colony of bees, but I’ll be ordering a package of bees in a couple of days. A package consists of a queen and around 2000 bees in a box. While they arrive I’ll do a blogpost about it.  

An Evening with Charlie

For the first time in over ten years I had the chance to see, hear and speak with Charlie Albright.

Kyle Pratt and Charlie Albright

In 2004 Charlie Albright was a freshman in my civics class at Centralia High School. Even then I knew he would achieve things in life. He worked hard in class and turned in every regular and extra credit assignment. I don’t believe he got less than an “A” on anything.

While still in high school, Charlie earned an Associate of Science degree at Centralia College, but that was just the beginning. He was accepted into the joint program with Harvard and the New England Conservatory. At Harvard he earned a Bachelor’s in pre-med and economics. While at the New England Conservatory he earned a Masters of Music. Moving on to Juilliard he graduated with the prestigious Artist Diploma.

Today he performs around the nation and the world, but last night he was back home in Centralia at the Corbet Theatre of Centralia College. While I enjoy classical music, I’ve never studied it, and cannot judge Charlie’s performance except to say that for over two hours his hands flew across the keys in an incredible flurry of movement and created sounds which held me, and the others who were there, in rapt silence.

A quick way to see Charlie perform is to visit his YouTube channel

After the performance I was walking toward the door, when my wife encouraged me to stay, buy a CD and speak with Charlie. I didn’t expect him to remember me and there was a long line, but she persisted. It turned out Charlie did remember me, so with an autographed CD, a handshake and a picture we ended our evening with Charlie.

Living What I Write

I don’t just write survival or prepper themed books, I live the life.

Kyle Pratt with a bee frame

Many of the people who aren’t involved in prepping think of those who are as crazy. I think of prepping as insurance against unforeseen problems. Where I live in Lewis county, Washington state, it can flood this time of year. During winter storms the power can go out. I like knowing that I’m prepared.

As part of my chosen lifestyle I live on a small farm. Most farm activities lend themselves naturally to a prepping lifestyle. One thing we do on the farm is raise bees. It’s a small operation, only two honey bee hives, but we usually harvest a nice amount of honey.

Lewis County Beekeepers Assn. meeting

I’ve been a member of the Lewis County Beekeepers’ Association for years. A few days ago I showed up for a meeting and noticed a sign by the door, “Capacity 82.” The room was nearly full when I showed up so, just to amuse myself, I counted heads. There were over seventy people in the room. It was nice to see that many people interested in bees from our rural county. Especially, this time of year when the bees are in their winter cluster in the hive.

Orchard Mason bee homes and supplies

The topic that night was the orchard mason bee, a native bee of North America that is also dormant this time of year. The speaker, Tim Weible shared some great information about how to build mason bee houses (they don’t live in hives), their biology, coping with mites and more.

I live close to nature and when the animals, insects and planets on the farm are doing well I know that I’m better prepared for whatever might come.