Saturday, May 30, 2009

"all the dead coyotes are making me sad"

I've written up a summary of the regulations related to hunting coyotes here.

A friend of mine emailed me about the recent coyote posts. "All the dead coyotes are making me sad". You might be a little surprised, but it makes me a bit sad, too.

When I started farming this area I figured I'd have some predator issues, and having decided that, I picked a type of fence that would exclude the majority of them -- or at least form a barrier to entry. I chose a 5' tall field fence with smaller mesh at the bottom, and larger mesh at the top. Coyotes can jump a 5' fence, but they tend not to, respecting the fence lines. I spent $4,000, and fenced in a part of my animal areas.

Part of that was to exclude dogs from the dog park, part was to exclude natural predators. Predators like eagles and hawks I figured I'd just pay the tax on -- I planned on (and do...) lose birds to eagles and hawks, both chickens and turkeys.

Snohomish county Planning and Development services, in the person of Roxanne Pilkenton, have informed me that the only approved type of fencing is 3 strand barbed wire or 3 strand electric fence on metal poles. No other form of fencing is approved. Even electric poultry mesh is not allowed. And that I could only fence 15% of the front and sides of my property. What good is a fence that only covers 15%?

I have Airedale terriers -- who do a good job with smaller predators like raccoons, possums, skunks and weasels and seem to deter the coyotes a little bit -- but both of the coyotes I've shot recently have been killed while the dogs are on the property. They can't be everywhere at once.

So I can't fence, and LGD (livestock Guardian Dogs) are only partially effective. The only thing I can legally do is shoot the dogs and coyotes that are preying on my livestock. I'd rather not handle it that way, but my hands are tied by the current state law and county regulations. I'm explicitly allowed to shoot coyotes without hunting license or permit if they're on my property and preying on livestock.

What would I prefer to do?

I'd rather put up a good fence. 1) I'd sleep better. 2) Livestock escapes would be fewer and less serious. 3) I could then contain my own dogs on the property securely. 4) I wouldn't have to clear out the local apex predators. 5) I won't have to shoot domestic dogs originating from the dog park 6) I won't have to shoot dogs dumped by irresponsible people.

The county recognizes the difference between "floodway" and "flood plain". floodway is that area that is subjected to high current or high flow in case of flood. In a floodway, a fence does become a hazard, and does collect debris. In the flood plain, which is where I am, the velocity of the water is much lower, and fences don't constitute a hazard. But the county is determined to enforce the most restrictive version of the law that they can find, interpreted in the narrowest way possible.

So I shoot coyotes. Thanks Snohomish County, for doing your part to preserve our wildlife.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Building a chicken brooder

[This is a rewrite of an earlier post, with more photos]

I've been brooding hundreds of chicks each month in the past few years, and I've been looking for a better way to do it. I ran across an article that had chick brooder plans in it on Robert Plamondons' site. I looked at it and decided I'd give it a try.

Note: this brooder will cost you around $40 in parts, and about 3 hours of labor. It'll brood up to 300 chicks at a time, or a couple if that's all you have. I relate my experience and thoughts on building this, but it's up to you not to burn down your house or electrocute yourself, ok?

Ceramic bulb sockets, metal lamp boxes, switch box, switch and plate, box nuts (the things in the top right hand corner) and a cord end.

I had originally planned on buying some romex (standard household wire) for the wiring, but then realized that the plug wanted stranded conductors, and then, after looking at the price per foot of the wire that I could buy a cheap extension cord, cut off the end, use part of it,a nd have a ready-made plug at the end -- for about half the price of the plug I show here. So just buy a 25' light duty extension cord and use that.

Here are the tools I used. I use a nailgun because I have one.

Parts list:

qty 3 8' 2x4

1 sheet of 1/2" plywood (cheapest grade, chickens aren't picky)

2 ceramic light bases

2 metal light boxes. Do not cheap out with plastic boxes here. This can get hot.

1 switch, switchbox, plate

1 25' light duty extension cord

about 60 1 1/2" vinyl coated nails

handful of 3 1/4" framing nails

about 30 5/8" wood screws, bugle head

5 box nuts (fits into punchouts on box, 3/8" size)

2 250 watt infrared heat bulbs (I like one clear, one red for the reasons below)

20 crimp-on spade connectors

5 Tube-style crimp on connectors

5 round crimp on connectors

Crimp on connectors are required for the stranded wire you'll find in extension cords. they look like this:

You crimp them on the stranded wire. You could also tin the wire (coat it with solder) and make it a solid wire that way. You can't reliably attach the stranded wire to the fixtures; there will always be stray strands. So crimping or tinning is required.


Cut the plywood into 5 pieces. 1 4'x4' square, 4 1'x4' strips

Cut two 45" lengths of 2x4

Cut two 42 3/4" lengths of 2x4

Nail the 2x4s to the 4'x4' plywood piece, as shown.

Then trim off the little rectangle at the corner.

Next cut 4 16" lengths of 2x4, and put it together as shown below

The 2x4 legs are flush with the top of the 12" strips of plywood. You want a 4" gap at the bottom to allow the chicks to run in and out as they want. Later, when the chicks get older, you'll put bricks under the legs to raise the brooder. You'll use the longer framing nails to attach the legs to the brooder frame, the shorter to attach the plywood to the 2x4s.

You put a light on either side, facing each other. I mounted my light switch on the outside, so that I could turn it on or off. In thinking about it, I might build my next one with two light switches so I can individually control each 250 watt bulb.
This is the top view of the brooder. To use this thing, put it legs-down on a bed of wood chips or sawdust or whatever it is you put under your chips. Make sure that the material on the floor has at least 3" of clearance below the bulb. turn it on and let it warm up overnight. If you're paranoid (like I am) you'll do the first test outside.

The light bulb installed on one side
Both light fixtures installed, wire run to switch location on outside of brooder.

After 24 hours, I moved it into my brooding building, an unheated construction trailer. Air temperature was 38 degrees. The wood chips on the surface under this device registered 98 degrees, the air inside was comfortably hotter, maybe 104. I piled 4" of wood chips on top of the brooder for insulation.

The picture above is the first night with 500 day-old chicks. I took this picture after dark because I wanted to see if the chicks were using the heated area or bunching up too much. Everything looks good.

I listed the capacity for brooding at 250 chicks, but you can do a few more chicks when they're small but I'll be building another 4x4 brooder to move half the chicks to tomorrow. I used a roll of 18" cage wire to form a circle around the brooder, and then put food and water on all four sides of the unit, so no matter which side a chick was on food and water wouldn't be far.

Red vs white heat lamps: Chicks are attracted by light, and I think that they're more attracted by white light than red. But red is good to reduce feather picking. So i decided to split the difference and put a red and a clear bulb in. The picture shows the clear bulb side on the left. you can see a redder tone under the edge of the brooder from center to right.

The chicks seemed to stay right on the edge of the brooder mostly. They circulated a little; chicks outside moved in, chicks inside moved out. There's a range of heat zones inside this unit, and the chicks have the ability to move around to regulate their temperature. So far so good.

This is a picture of the full setup. You can't really see it very well, but I use 18" tall fencing around the edge so that I can walk around without squishing chicks when I'm filling water and food. The brooder has 4" of wood chips on top of it to act as cheap insulation. There's 500 chicks in there, most of them are under the brooder itself. You can see a few on the left edge, and a couple of yellow chicks on the edge facing us. For the chips on top of the brooder it's worth it to buy dry chips or use dry chips -- damp chips will mold.

Here's the other side of the brooder. The chicks are pretty skittish, so they're running around the edge of the pen as I move around to take photos. I've lifted the brooder a couple of times, and propped it on a 5 gallon bucket so I could look underneath for dead chicks. Most of the chicks are doing well.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Got a second coyote today

I've written up a summary of coyote hunting regulations here.

The dogs got a skunk yesterday and I'd read on the internet that skunk scent is an effective mask for human scent. After briefly considering rubbing the dead skunk on me, I decided that putting it somewhere downwind of me would do the same job, and be more popular with the other people i deal with.
So up at 3am, in my position at 3:30. I shot this fellow about 5am at the door to the chicken coop, a 220 yard shot. At that distance I didn't want to get fancy; a shot to the torso just behind the front legs. It was quick.

I think that this is the coyote I saw out on the road. His front is a lot lighter color than the other coyote. I'll do a couple of more mornings to see if any more show up. I've been running a coyote buffet for too long.

Both of these coyotes were male. Anyone know how to tell how old a coyote is? I'm wondering if they're young males that are looking to establish a new territory.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

what IS THAT SMELL!!?!

The dogs killed a skunk sometime last night. They're quite proud of their kill; they brought it right to me. In fact they're growling and squabbling about it.

The problem with this squabbling is that all three of them are liberally coated with the EU DE skunk, and to tell you the truth, it's making my eyes water.

They don't seem to mind the scent at all. I've gone through this a couple of times; skunks seem to be one of their favorite things to kill, but they don't eat them, just kill them and play with the body.
Removing skunk oder from dogs
1 pint hydrogen peroxide per dog
1/2 cup baking soda per dog
Mix the peroxide and baking soda into a thin paste. Smear it on the dog, paying particular attention to the mouth, nose, chin and chest. That's where the skunk will touch them if they're shaking it with their mouths. a little on the front legs doesn't hurt. Don't use it all in the first dose, reserve a little for a second dose if need be.
Skip the whole tomato juice nonsense.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Blue ribbon wild turkey hen

This hen is an "eastern wild turkey" breed, but a bird that I purchased as a poult and raised. So calling her a "wild turkey" doesn't mean that I've captured a wild bird, it's the breed. That said...

She showed up on the driveway this morning with her brood of 11 poults. She's in this picture at the far right. Can you spot them? Click on the picture for a bigger version.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sleeping piglets

I'm always worried when I see the piglets between parents who weigh hundreds of pounds. They like the big warm bodies. Moms the pink pig on the left, dad is the big boy on the right.
Sleeping next to mom is not a s good as sleeping next to mom on top of everyone else. Or maybe the best position is in the center somewhere. No matter, they're all snoring.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Something about this year and swarms

Captured another swarm today. Four swarms and counting so far. Happy to have the bees multiplying themselves this early in the year. There's plenty of good forage for them, so I don't have to feed them out and they've got lots of time before the winter to bulk up.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Got the coyote

I've written up a summary of coyote hunting regulations here.

I got up at 3am again today, and headed out to watch for the coyote. I was watching the road and the area where I'd seen the coyote last time, but didn't see anything. 4:00, 5am... 5:30... 6am. Its getting pretty light, and I haven't seen anything. Over to my right I can see my two goats moving across.. whoa. wait a second. there's three goats. I don't have three. I'll be damned. It's this coyote messing with the goats. I guess he got tired of eating turkeys and chickens. The billygoat is backing away, the doe is walking away, and the coyote is following slowly. the goats are heading over to the hay barn where the sows are.

Bring the rifle up, inhale, exhale slowly, bring the crosshairs up, 150 yard shot, air is still so no windage needed, goats are clear of the line of fire... aim an inch low because the rifle is sighted for longer range, half my breath gone, hold... squeeze, BOOM!

Looking downrange I can see the coyote tail spinning in a furrow in the field. I hit him! Excellent! Sling the rifle, go down the ladder to the ground and walk over to the coyote. Headshot, clean kill. Twitches.

Decided to skin it. there's a tannery that will tan the hide for a few bucks.

Using a fence brace, I hang the coyote by running some rope through the tendons in the back legs

Make a circle cut around the back leg, and then a long cut across the rear of the animal. Separate the tail while I'm doing this, work the skin loose from either back leg.
Then start pulling. Alternate pulling and cutting, skin comes off in one piece. Pack it in salt and it'll keep for a while. I'll ship it packed in salt to the tannery. It's not a top-quality coyote skin -- winter coat is better, but I don't want to waste it.

Now I can sleep in until 7!

Friday, May 22, 2009


Trying a few ducks this year.

These are peking ducks. I chose them for egg laying and for meat purposes. They just got here today; they'll go into a separate pen from the chickens and turkeys. Not really going to try hard to sell too many of them. Duck is pretty tasty; Friends and family will eat most of these.

If I'm going to farm on the floodplain I might as well experiment with livestock that floats.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hunting the coyote

Stalking this coyote has been interesting. I'm pretty impressed by this critter.

I've been getting up at 3am and out at the farm at 3:30am sitting on the roof of an outbuilding waiting for the coyote to show up. I've been doing that for a week now. The coyote showed up this morning at 4:34 am. It wasn't very light, and I couldn't really see it well as it trotted up the road in front of my property. Its head was a light brown/tan, and its butt was darker, so at first I thought it was a domestic dog, and before I realized it was a coyote it was gone.

I'm a patient fellow though. I shifted so that I was looking straight downwind, and sure enough, about 45 minutes later, there the coyote was. The critter had made a complete circle around my property to enter at the point farthest from the buildings, and right downwind.

I could see the light colored head but not much else, as it trotted here and there, gradually working its way through the pasture towards where the turkeys are nesting. I was surprised to see it walk within 20' of sleeping pigs without any reaction by either. As it got closer I brought the rifle up slowing and watched it through the scope of the rifle. When it was about 200 yards away though, it raised its nose, sniffed a couple of times, and then turned around and started back the way it came. I'm sure that it scented me.

The coyote was moving away from me at a slight angle, and presented a pretty small target at 300 yards. I took a shot BOOM! and the coyote jumped -- I believe that the bullet went under the belly -- and then paused as the echo of the gunshot reflected off the trees in front of it. It must have seen like there were two shots; one from behind, one from in front. It started running at right angles, from left to right across my field, and I took another shot BOOM!, working the bolt quickly, and then another BOOM! and it was gone. I went and looked for blood or body, but found neither. I think I missed clean.

I don't think that this will deter this particular coyote. I'm going to shift location so that I'm closer to where it appears, so that I'm not upwind of where it usually comes in.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Black and White ball

...well, not really. But the most recent batch of chicks is now in the brooder. Pearl white leghorns and black australorp hens. So it's kinda formal. There's a total of 550 chicks.

Coyote hunt update-took a shot this morning but missed

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

capturing another honey bee swarm

Note: If you are in the king or snohomish county area and you run across a bee swarm, call me and I'll come get them for free. 206 940 4980. If you want to try capturing a swarm yourself, I'll describe how to do it with a cardboard box or two at the bottom of this post.
My bees surprised me again with another early swarm. Bees swarm at the warmest part of the day, usually around 2pm. So these guys are right on time. This time they flew about 200' before they landed, and they picked an odd spot to land in -- underneath my chicken brooding trailer.

you can see the mass of bees right above the wheel. This is about 15 or 20 minutes after they've swarmed, so most of the bees are in the lump.

So I go get a box from a hive that starved out last winter and do a quick check of the frames, making sure that everything is ok. Bees wax turns dark with use, or when the bees use that comb for raising larvae, so this is an old brood comb. I'll scrape off the extra wax, shake off the dead bees and look (and smell) for signs of disease. If it looks ok the drawn comb will give the new swarm a headstart on making a go of it.

Here's a sheet of wax that the bees had only partially drawn out. you can see it's flat at either end, but in the center there's a raised area. The new hive will finish out this comb.

Now back to the swarm. Still quite a few bees flying around, but most of them are bunched up.

I'm lucky that they've chosen an area about 2' above the ground. Makes the capture easy, again. Well, not as easy as the last time, but pretty easy.

Same process. Need a space in the box, so I remove two combs and then carefully slide the hive in underneath the swarm. The opening is directly below the biggest mass of bees.

Now carefully and gently, I take my bare hand and brush the bees off the bottom of the trailer onto and into the box. I want complete masses of bees to fall in, so I'm running my hand across the bottom of the trailer and huge clumps of bees are falling about 12-18" into the box. this picture is seconds after the masses of bees fell into the box. Most of them are filling the opening where the two frames were.

Now I set the top of the hive on, but very loosely. The bees can get into the hive from all sizes. Notice the two bees that are sticking their rear ends up in the air. they're "fanning" -- they're broadcasting the smell of the queen by fanning their wings, giving the swarm a better chance of regrouping. If all goes well the queen is already in the box, and this fanning will draw the rest of the swarm into the box.
Ok. Now 20 minutes later i carefully lift the lid and look. The bees are all over the combs, they're liking their new home. I've probably captured the queen. So I carefully lower the lid on properly, limiting the entry/exit from the hive to the front only. When I lower it I lower it .25", and then raise it up, then lower it again, then raise it up. That allows any bees that would be squished a chance to get out of the way. you can feel the top land gently on bees, so after 4 or 5 raises and lowers, I feel it start to hit wood, so i put it on for good.
Tomorrow I'll go back and insert the two frames I removed, and then I leave the new queen and her hive alone for a week or so so they can make themselves at home. After dark I'll put a piece of wood across the entrance and move the hive to where I want it to be. When the bees wake up they'll be in their new location.
capturing a bee swarm with cardboard boxes
I'm describing what I do to capture swarms. If you find yourself covered in bees and running through the neighborhood begging for death, that's not my fault.
First, it's handy to have two medium sized cardboard boxes. One box you'll use to carry the bees from where ever they landed, and the other box you'll use to contain the captured bees. This is the way to deal with a swarm of bees that is formed into a lump like I've shown above.
if the bees are somewhere you can put the box under them, open your capture box and do that. leave it open. Gently dislodge the bees into your capture box, and then close it. you don't have to close it tight -- just enough that the bees see the dark and feel secure. Any openings will allow stragglers to join the hive. Your goal is to get the queen. If the queen is in the box, all of the other bees will follow by dark. If she is not, they'll reform around her and you get to try again.
If you cannot get the box under where the swarm is, close your capture box up but cut a hole about the size of a quarter in it, near the bottom of one side. Weave the top so that if you push on the flaps a hole opens in the center. Put your capture box as close to the swarm as you can.
Now take your other box, which I'll call your collection box, put it under the warm and brush or dislodge bees into it. Quickly carry the lump of bees in, and put them into your capture box. Repeat as many times as necessary to get any grouped bees.
Then stand back and watch. Are most of the bees in the box, and the ones that are flying around slowly going into the box? If so, you're done. Wait until dark, seal the box and carry it to their new home. If not, watch where they go and repeat.
A swarm of bees is worth roughly $100 early on. Later in the season they're not worth as much, until September when they have a negative worth. That's because the later swarms have trouble surviving the winter because they don't have enough time to collect honey to carry them through. So you have to feed them all winter.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Followup on 3 government agencies: Zoning

I've received roughly 100 email messages about this post, and thought I'd make an entry that talked about the most common element. Here's a summary:

"In [insert name of state] we don't have zoning or issues like you've been having. This is why zoning land is evil"

Actually, if there wasn't land use laws in place, the chances of this land being available for me to farm at all would be pretty low. It's relatively close to a city, has good access to highways and if there weren't some zoning protections it'd probably be light industrial storage. Think crane booms and heavy equipment.

I don't really have an argument with the basic concept of zoning. Yes, it does drive up the price of everything -- look at housing prices here vs anywhere with less restrictive zoning. If it were just the base zoning for this land, AG-10 in my case, my operation is entirely consistent. It's zoned farmland, riverbottom commercial farmland, and I'm farming. It's even consistent with Snohomish counties stated goals -- take a look at Focus on Farming.

So the overall zoning isn't really an issue. What is an issue is the impact that an increasingly large body of regulations have that aren't obvious, administered by different agencies with different agendas.

If you measure the animosity of an agency by its conversion of farmland into something else, the department of Ecology stands out in front. I'm going to assume that what the department of ecology puts on their website is what they're proud of, or want to be known by. Let's take a headline from their website: "Transforming Farmland Into Wetland and 725 Jobs, The Chronicle online, Sept. 30, 2008"

Once farmland is converted into anything else, that destruction is likely permanent. Now there's some wiggle room there -- to Ecology, farmland and wetland are identical -- so they can claim there's "no net loss of farmland", but as someone who wants to actually farm, there's very few places where the land is cheap enough to farm and I'm sorry, farmland destroyed and flooded isn't' the same as farmland.

Snohomish county itself rates high as a destroyer of farmland. Let's use the Smith Island restoration project as an example. First, the name sounds pretty good. We're going to restore it. The problem is that "restoration" in this case is the destruction of hundreds of acres of farmland that's been in use since the turn of the century. Biringer farms produces lovely strawberries that I've enjoyed for years. But that's scheduled for destruction. Don't miss the comments on the end of that article.

The port of Everett is doing its part. Here's the breakdown of that project.

All of this activity is happening a mile or two from my farm, on the same river. They're acting as if the farmland they're destroying is a hazardous waste dump site that must be cleaned up, and at any cost, by the way. The total dollars spent on these projects exceeds $60 million.

In review:
* "restoration" projects are providing a market for farmland far in excess of its value as farmland. "Wetland mitigation banks" quote asking prices of $60,000/acre compared to $4,000 an acre for farmland. This huge difference in price means that farmland is being converted to wetlands at every opportunity. Over 663 acres of farmland that has been used to produce local food and produce has been lost in the last 4 years in a series of "cost is no object" projects. The resulting land is then permanently off the tax roles -- in fact, requires maintenance, so the net effect on county and state budgets is a permanent loss.

* Without farmland, farmers cannot farm. What Snohomish county (and the state of Washington) is doing with these and other projects is exporting farming to other counties and states. So much for local food and localvores.

* in areas where farming is "allowed" -- zoning and land use regulations are present that seem to make farming a viable use of the land -- an increasingly dense tangle of regulations make any economic activity difficult. This multiple-agency regulatory bed of nails is something that the average small landowner is ill-equipped to deal with. Snohomish county offers a "farming coordinator" -- who also happens to be the enforcement arm of Snohomish county PDS. If I'm a small farmer who wanted to talk through some issue to see what the options are, I'm disinclined to do that with the very folks who can fine me for that same activity, whatever it is, even if it is allowed.

* the net effect of this punitive approach to land governance is that most of the farmers in this area quietly construct their buildings, fences, manure ponds, and so on out of the eye of local government, which defeats the purpose of the zoning and land use laws and regulations in the first place.

* Farmlands are a useful, vital part of our society. They are large tracts of land that are "low value" -- similar in fact to wetlands. The department of ecology spends a lot of time promoting the value of wetlands and NO time on farmlands. Both are necessary, but so far the emphasis has been on one to the exclusion of the other.

* All of the hundreds of millions of dollars of "mitigation" work has not stopped or even slowed the rate of decline of any measured species. All of this money spent, all of this land destroyed, all of these people drawing a salary and no benefit to the animals and fish that are the ostensible reason for this destruction.

* We don't even know what was there before the dikes anymore.

Tyler and the never ending row

I was driving by the neighbors P-patch, and noticed this fellow working hard on a .25 acre plot that he's gardening. I didn't think much of it until I went by about 3 hours later and this industrious fellow had constructed two rows of raised bed the length of his plot. That's a lot of work. That's an awful lot of work.

Now I have to admit that these rows look great. And to do it all by hand is amazing. So I offered to do a bit of tractor work if he'd go patronize a great local business -- Ebey Island Gardens. They've got vegetable starts, 4 for $1, 1 gallon tomatoes for $4, and lots of varieties of both. Including tomatillos, which make great salsa verde.

Now I'll say that my rows that I made with the tractor aren't as nice as Tylers' -- mine are 4' or so wide at the top, but I figured I was saving his life, and it was my good deed for the day. I did one pass with the moldboard plow in each direction to heap the dirt in the center, and then did two passes per row with the tiller, to break up the clods raised by the moldboard. The passes with the plow were free, the tiller I charged him $50, but probably saved him 4 to 6 days of back-breaking labor, so I figure that was a fair price.

So that was yesterday. I drive by today and he's out there again working on the rows. When someone works this hard to farm, I'm glad to have him as a neighbor.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hiving a bee swarm

click on pictures for bigger versions
One of my bigger hives surprised me today and swarmed. I thought there was a possibility, so when I was walking by and saw the "beard of bees" hanging out the entrance, I figured it was today. It was warm and sunny -- the bees think that this kind of day is the day for a road trip.
Bees swarm when they think that the hive is too crowded. For me its unusual to see a swarm this early in the year. I usually see them in mid to late june, but that's ok. An early swarm is actually better -- they have a good chance to grow big enough to survive the winter. So this isn't a bad thing for me. it's like lambing, but with bees. I get a new hive out of it.
What bees do in preparation for a swarm is they start feeding and raising 4 to 8 larvae as queens. A day or two before the larvae hatch, the old queen leaves the hive emitting a "follow me" scent. A big group of bees does follow. The process looks like a tornado. In taking these pictures I'm surrounded by 20 to 30,000 bees. Just before they leave the hive they gorge themselves on honey for their trip. So they're full and not really into fighting. They bump into me as a take the picture, but I'm not stung. I'm wearing a t-shirt and jeans. no protective gear.

I walk off to give them time to settle, and about 15 minutes later see that they're gathering around a blackberry bush. The queen has landed there, and the rest of the workers will surround her, forming a solid mass of bees. I'm able to look at this group of bees and I'd estimate it at 3lbs of bees -- call it 25,000 workers.

They gather in smaller and smaller flights, eventually forming a very tight mass

Back at the hive are the bees that know that a swarm is going out, but missed the smell of the queen. They'll hang out in the entrance, but since the queen is gone, they'll not fly off.

The bees have formed two lumps under a blackberry vine. It's a handy spot, about 2' above the ground. I'm grateful for that. It makes hiving them very easy.

I grab an empty hive I have, but you can do this with a cardboard box with a couple of holes cut in it, and remove two frames from it. I remove the frames so that the swarm will drop into the hive when I shake the blackberry vine. I want the largest number of bees into the box at once. I'll replace the two frames in a few hours if things go well.

Ok. Having shaken the bees into the hive, I slide the top of the hive in. There's still a couple of bees hanging there, and there are bees all over the branches on either side, and flying around. I'd guess I've got about 12,000 bees in the hive, and the rest are flying. Now I wait.
If the bees go into the hive and stay, I've captured the queen and all is well. If they reform a ball or fly a short distance and reform the ball that means I didn't get the queen, and I start over again.

They're going into the box. Now I want as many of these bees as I can -- the more bees I can capture the better the colony will do later. Every worker is needed. So I leave the frames out and the top a little off so that there's plenty of places for the bees to go in. I'll go back around sunset, remove the top, replace the frames and then put the top back on the hive. Now I haven't been wearing any protective gear while hiving them but when I go back a few hours later and put those frames back in I'll want to be wearing a head protector. At that point the bees will have decided that's their hive and they will defend it. Review: A new swarm can be handled with low risk of being stung. But if they've colonized something and have been there for a few hours, they'll sting you if you mess with them.

You can see the lid of the hive at the bottom right of this photo, and the frames I took out at the bottom left. They only flew about 25 feet before settling on the bush. Very agreeable bees.

Here's what a hive looks like that isn't swarming. There's a few bees here and there, but not the masses hanging out of the doorway. I've narrowed this doorway with a stick (the unpainted wood in this photo) so that this hive can easily defend itself against other hives stealing its honey or supplies.
When you capture a swarm, you can take that opportunity to have the hive make new comb. In this case I had drawn comb (comb that was already fully formed by other bees) to give them, so they've got a huge head start, but if I were giving them wax sheets to make comb out of I'd be inclined to feed them some sugar to help that process. Since we're at the start of the bloom in this area, and they've already got drawn comb, I will not feed these bees unless they don't thrive for some reason. I'll leave them alone for 7 days and then pop the top on the hive and look to see that everything is ok. If things go well I should see newly laid eggs.