It’s the middle of winter… which naturally gets me thinking about spring! Seed orders, chick orders and bee orders- oh my! With beekeeping to become more active within the next couple months (and multiple message from members in my bee club finding their hives dead as doornails this week..), I’ve been thinking a lot about my bees lately. And I’ve been suspecting my ladies might not have survived the winter this far. These past few days as temps have warmed, I’ve been walking over to my hive to see if there’s anything happening but have noticed no activity.
Since the temps were over 40 today (!! highest for a while I’d say..) up here in New Hampshire, I decided to pay my ladies a cordial visit (still too early to let myself in, just drop by to see if anything is going on). I went into the bee yard and knocked a few times on the hive and listened closely…. Nothing. Then I notice a dead bee on the ground in the snow in front of the hive. Then another… and another. They were everywhere once I began to see them. It was beginning to get heartbreaking when all of a sudden I thought I heard a bee. I went back over to the hive and sure enough there was a dull noise to be heard inside. Survivors!! I’m not sure how many, or what state they are in but some bees are still living so that was encouraging. When the sun finally peaked it’s head out, I even saw one bee flying out carrying a dead bee (bring out your dead…).
In honor of my happy news, had a lunch of fresh baked bread smothered in honey. Some day in the not too distant future (I hope!) I’ll be using my own honey!
** photo from http://pioneer.utah.gov/research/utah_symbols/insect.html
I had big plans for this weekend! Having chosen to ignore my father’s (good) advice when initially installing the electric fence in the bee yard, and put landscaping cloth down below so the hives weren’t covered in weeds (‘oh, it’ll be fine…’), predictably the bee yard is now covered in weeds and shorting out the electric fence I have protecting my bees.
So I had big plans to cut strips of landscaping cloth under the fence to deter weeds from shorting out the electric charge (fingers crossed this will work!), check in on the ladies and hopefully add a second level to their home and of course mow the lawn (as I wasn’t able to last weekend and with all this rain it’s become a bit of a jungle). And I was going to accomplish all of this before noon when I had to take off to head down to my aunt’s house for a surprise 25th wedding anniversary party.
Well (predictably), that didn’t all happen. But I did my best, got about 2/3rds of the ground cloth laid (fingers crossed the bears keep out just one more week!), added the bees new level (might have been a bit soon…) and got the lawn finished… and I was only 2 hours late for the party! I’ve come to realize that everything takes longer than you expect it to. But that’s just life and there will always be a growing to do list in the background. You just gotta keep plugging away at your goals, but at the same time you also have to know when it’s time to call it a day and just enjoy the party!
Back at it this week and all went great! My mother came up to the house with me and kept me company during my inspection (maybe it was the being alone that kicked up the nerves slightly?) and all went fine. I saw some eggs in some cells, as well as capped off brood, so the queen has been doing her job. There does appear to be a supercedure cell as well (a peanut shaped cell where it looks like the bees are trying to breed a new queen), so maybe they aren’t happy with their current queen? I figure, bees have been doing this for thousands of years, so I’m just going to let nature take its course!
Whew, things have certainly been keeping me busy lately! For a few quick updates, inspected my hive for week 2. All went well, and the queen has gotten out of her cage, but I got a bit nervous and didn’t check all of the frames remaining. Not the end of the world the bees still are fed, and healthy, I just want to make sure that the queen is laying. I am so excited about my bees and love this new hobby that I am taking up, but there must be some kind of deep laying, internal response to the hum of bees growing louder and having them fly around you, that makes a person slightly nervous. This is something that I expect I’ll become more accustomed to over time. It’s just such a new experience there is sure to be a learning curve.
Moving on to my birds- wow they appear to be growing at an exponential rate! So fast in fact, that I’d better get moving on their outside home as they will soon outgrow their cardboard box. Probably the most expensive part of owning a chicken is figuring out their housing. At my new house, I am lucky that there is a large coop already built, however it’s been out of use for probably 25 years, is filled with equipment (as it was used as a shed in that time) and will definitely need some TLC (and cash) before I can turn it into the coop that I want. So in the meantime, and since I have only 3 chickens at the moment, I am attempting (with some help from my dad) to save some money and construct my own movable chicken tractor. I’ll be using the design plans from Ashley English’s ‘Keeping Chickens’ book (love her book and blog!). So dad and I have started out by framing the run of the coop. Just a start but exciting nonetheless. What do you think?
As for the garden, I thought I had been doing so well in my planning this year, but as these things go life gets busy and plans inevitably fall a little behind schedule. My asparagus is up from last year, I was gifted some rhubard from my aunt which I’ve added to my garden, the peas, radishes and lettuce have begun to come up and I’ve been enjoying the spinach and lettuce that miraculously overwintered in New England without any help from the gardener!
My bee package has arrived!! Let the honey production begin! I picked up my bee package yesterday afternoon, which I must admit was FAR quieter than I expected. They were fairly silent in fact. With 3,000 bees I guess I was expecting some sort of pulse-raising humming going on. But it was cooler than it has been, and windy, and I think all the bees (including the 20 or so on the outside of the package for some reason) were all clinging together in a massive ball for dear life.
Well so began the rest of my action packed weekend. After picking up my bees, I drove the 2 hours up to my house (with the windows open the whole way I might add… didn’t want any of those bees on the outside to get too comfortable and start flying around my head while I was driving on the highway. Met my dad at my house and we got to work installing the electric fence netting that I had ordered from here (http://www.premier1supplies.com/) and got the hive prepared and set up. Sunday was the big install, which wasn’t nearly as frightening as I thought it might be. The bees were relatively calm and didn’t seem to mind me pouring them into their new hive. As extra bear protections, I also strapped down the hive so let’s hope Yogi keeps away!
Well it’s been quite a month so far! My mother is finally home and recovering well, I’ve had the opportunity to catch up and hang with my close local girlfriends (and even a non-local friend who dropped into town for a quick dinner), had some home maintenance repairs to attend to and lots of general preparing for exciting upcoming events.
That’s right folks… it’s the year of the birds and the bees! Bee school has been going well and keeping me bus(zz)y (yup… a it of bee humor!) each week . I’ve been learning so much and in my spare time have been working to build and paint my hive. My little winged beauties are scheduled to arrive at the end of April, so I am very much looking forward to (and ever so slightly nervous for) their arrival.
In addition to the bees, my lovely boyfriend bought me a backyard chicken workshop at Cold Antler Farm for Christmas. So I am looking forward to making the trek over to CAF again soon, and coming home with the first members of my future flock! I’ve been reading up on chickens and chicken tractor plans to build (the next project!), but at the moment have been focusing on setting up a brooder for them to be nice and comfy. So that’s all for now. Lot’s of exciting changes that will be coming up in the next couple months so stay tuned!
A month between entries- not a great habit to get into! But I’m new at this and it’s been a pretty hectic month here (my mother recently undergoing a pretty serious spinal operation) so I’m gonna cut myself a bit of slack.
So I’m sure you’ve been eagerly awaiting to hear what happened to the lye-heavy (I think) soap that I created last month??? Well I attempted to ‘re-batch’ it by basically goggling that phrase and seeing what I found online. First I checked the ingredients, then added a bit more water and fats (in same ratios as original recipe) and finally I crumbled up my concoction and heated it over the stovetop. Worried that the mixture might get too hot or burn, I then changed my mind and decided to cover the pot with some foil and placed it in the oven. Long story short- the mixture never fully melted and I think a lot of the essential oil scent might have escaped in the process…
BUT…. it appears to be soap! It certainly aint pretty, but after sitting for a couple weeks I tried it out and no slimy feeling (apparently slimy means that means it’s not ready / or there is still too much lye). Have been washing myself with it for a few days now with no ill effect yet. So success or failure? I vote success but you can be the judge. I figure all learning is a step in the right direction, right?
Well it’s ramping up to be an exciting few months in this neck of the woods and I’ll try to update often as I prepare for all the hope and possibility that spring brings with it. I’ve been making plans for my 2 gardens (one at my parents house and creating plans for one at my new home!), I just began bee school last week and plan on starting my first hive this spring and finally my lovely BF got me a spot at a chicken workshop in April that might send me home with a few chicks so looks like my household will quickly be expanding. Think this’ll be enough to keep me out of trouble for a few months! Oh and in addition to that am busy knitting some baby blankets for two of my very best friends who are expecting their first babies! More on all this later – life is good!