Re: smoker fuel bonanza
sqaurepeg, I know what you mean about the pinestraw being harsh. I even had some capping honey that I can smell/taste the pinestraw smoke in. My mentor told me to get some wood pellets and use them...better smelling smoke and it doesn't stink up your clothes as bad. Now don't get me wrong, I have a big pine forest on the property and would love to use the straw but...
Anyhow, I couldn't get the pellets to light and stay burning using a propane torch (what my mentor uses). I complained to my mentor and he off-handedly said "well get some grass and stuff in there". That's what I do now....ball up a wad of mowed yard grass between baseball and softball size, hold over the top of the smoker and light the bottom, let it flame up and then lightly push it down into the smoker. Start pumping. Get that thick rolling smoke going and push the grass down into the smoker more solidly with your hive tool. Make sure it's still smoking thickly. Pour about half a smoker full of pellets on top of the grass and commence to pumping again until the smoke is rolling out thick. Add some more pellets if you want to. Once your satisfied with it then wad up some green grass/weeds and put on top of the pellets to keep them from rolling out when you point your smoker downward (you'd probably do this anyway to keep ashes from blowing out). Close her up and start working. I can work my five hives with no problem of the smoker going out or running out of fuel. A full smoker (I use the Kelley Cloud Chief) will be good fuel-wise for probably three inspections. I simply pour the used pellets into a metal pan when I get ready to relight for another inspection, add a ball of grass to get it going and gradually add by the semi-burned pellets....seems to burn good. After three inspections I figure pellets are cheap enough and start over with some new ones. The grass has a strong smell to it but it doesn't last long...the oak is a sight better than pine (and I've smelled a lot of pines being burned off!!).
Anyhow, just thought I'd throw that at you and looks like I got long-winded. I had thought about using some field cotton, too, but always wondered about the defoliants and whatnot. I think Dennis was giving you his gut feeling on that...and I trust gut feelings.
Warning: Rookie beek...take my postings with that grain of salt you keep in your pocket.