2017-08-16

Harvest!

Ten Quarts of honey from one super! One would never guess that each frame in the super would hold a quart of liquid gold! The flavor is delicate, a really excellent honey!
Well, it would be an understatement to say that I am pleased with the production this year. The Italian hive has produced two supers of honey for a total of seventeen quarts. They are working on a third super as well.

The other three surviving hives are doing well also right now. They are filling up the larger frames in the deeps with winter stores. From this point on, I will not harvest any more until late season when I can take a good look at what they have in the deeps. If I find a hive that seems to be short on winter stores, I will use the honey from the supers to supplement. 

The two Carni hives will be of the most concern, though that is only comparative. They are showing strength in population growth right now as compared to production. No real surprise, considering the rough start they had this spring(see earlier posts in the April/May time frame). I am encouraged by their progress. Should they survive the winter, they will produce next year I think. 

The walk-away split is very strong in population and doing well working on winter stores. They may yet produce a super of honey too, as they have already started by drawing comb and filling some cells. However, they are concentrating on filling in the deeps with brood, pollen and honey...as they should be. They will quickly run out of room now though, as the deeps are 90+% full. 

I will be doing installing at least three more hive next spring. I want to try my hand at grafting a queen into a split or two. I also want to build up two or three nucs for growing queens and establishing or supplementing hives in the future.

I am getting a bit better at organizing the tasks required to run a small apiary. It takes a time of trial and error to figure out what works best for each task. It is not all that hard, but one needs to learn the basic craft, then fit that into the resources available. Those resources are different for each beekeeper of course. I am very well equipped, having space to work and a lot of tools here on the farm. 

Thus far I have identified the following tasks, all of which are time sensitive...but based on condition, not on a calendar. That makes it a bit more challenging, considering I live 260 miles from the farm. Never-the-less, I digress....

  • Early Spring/Late Winter
    • Check hives to ensure there are not issues with condensation or disease. This is done quickly, as the temps are low and one does not want to 'chill' the hive. Also check for a queen and ensure the honey stores are adequate.
    • Prepare any new hives for placement and occupation. Ensure they are clean, physically sound.
    • Repair equipment if required.
    • Check the insulation that is on the hive, making sure that it is protecting the hive, but not interfering with circulation or with the bees ability to enter and exit the hive when needed.
    • Provide honey or sugar mix if winter stores seem low.
  • Spring (April/May)
    • Add pollen patties if winter is getting long.
    • Add sugar mix if winter stores are getting low and temps are still cold.
    • Check each hive for a queen.
    • Remove any frames that are very dark in color or otherwise seem in need of repair.
    • Prepare for splitting hives if possible...
      • New queen
      • New hive components
      • Prep the ground where the new hive will be placed. (I use landscaping cloth with gravel on top for weed control and cement blocks set on top to elevate the hives)
  • Summer(May-August)
    • Monitor new hives, queens, population growth etc...
    • Add supers when appropriate
    • Ensure skunks and other critters are not bothering the hives
    • Watch for disease. I have done no treatments thus far, nor have I had to. The bees are disease free. Very fortunate thus far.  i attribute this to the fact that the apiary is very remote and far away from tilled fields, and surrounded by a dense and diverse food supply and good water sources.
    • Ensure adequate ventilation in the hive so hot days do not overwhelm the bees ability to maintain hive temperature.
    • Establish or maintain nucs(future)
  • Fall (August-October)
    • Harvest honey
    • Check population and winter stores progress
    • Leave them alone as much as possible...
    • Prepare insulation for hive wintering
    • Reverse order of deeps, putting the bottom deep on top and the reverse (not sure about this actually, but it is what I learned at the U of Minn. class I took, so will go with it for now)
  • Winter
    • Check insulation and circulation, but stay out of the hives unless there is an obvious problem.
    • Repair equipment
    • Build new equipment
    • Wait....
I am certain experience beekeepers would add to this list. But this is what I have learned thus far. There are many details associated with each of these tasks. Perhaps I will write about them sometime, but am too busy with other farm issues right now to take the time.

Speaking of that, I need to quit writing and get some more things done today. It has been a good day thus far with lots getting done and my feeling pretty darn good!  Onward.....

2017-08-02

August Aggression

The Bees:
Same as last year: August comes along and the bees become territorial. Had to suit up yesterday and today to be able to work around the hives.  That said, they are doing well!  We have four strong hives. The original Italian hive is going very strong.  I harvested one super from that hive yesterday and got one and three quarters gallons of honey from it.  The honey is just a bit different from last year, with a little bit stronger citric aftertaste, but it is still a very mellow honey.  Light and clear.  That hive still has a full super and another which they are working on. I put the super with the harvested frames back on the hive. Hopefully the fact that they won't have to draw comb with give them the opportunity to work on it.  They are well on their way to producing over 100 lbs this year.

I learned another lesson by harvesting that honey at this time: It would be a good idea to put the full frames of honey in the freezer for an hour or two.  The wax is too soft in this heat and taking the caps off the cells tends to smear the whole comb. I have to remember that next time.  However, the process is pretty simple, and our equipment works very well.  The centrifuge is very much a time saver!  I think I will invest in a comb capping tool though.  A hot knife works, but not as cleanly as I would like.  I want to leave as much comb intact for the following year, and too much comb gets damaged when using a knife.  Live and learn.

The other three hives are also doing well.  The walk-away-split of Italians is coming along strong. There are lots of brood, lots of honey and pollen.  Clearly, they have made their own queen and she is healthy. I would not be surprised if they actually produce a super of honey this year yet.

Both of the two new Carni hives that survived the spring debacle are doing well also. The East one has a full super on it and they are beginning to work on a second, drawing comb at present. The West one is not quite as strong, but coming along very nicely. Plenty of brood, and a good supply of honey for the winter.  There a many capped brood cells, so I think the queen was a bit of a slow starter, but is now coming on strong.  I have pretty good confidence in these two new hives.

From a production standpoint, I am guessing we will have a total of 4 or 5 full supers this year.  That is a lot of honey for a mixed first/second year of hives.  I am amazed at how much hone is in a 10 frame super.  It does not look like all that much when looking at the frames, but when extraction starts, it is pretty impressive.  Essentially, two gallons of honey comes out of each super. That is a lot of bee work!

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The Rest of The Farm
The pastures look good for this time of the year. The rain we have gotten has been good for both pasture and CRP land. There is a lot of wildlife in our fields now. Amazing how quickly the land and animals adapt to a healthy change.  There are downsides of course. I have been fighting thistles and loosing the battle.  There are thistles out there that are 8 feet tall, and some areas where they are so thick that nothing else except a little clover can compete. i am going to have to address that this coming spring. I have a lot of field work to do...

The apples are beginning to turn red. I tried one of them and it was really quite good.  They are small, but I think they will work well for things like dried apple slices, pie and cider. Next year I hope to be able to clean up that tree (pruning) and get the competing trees away from it.  It will produce much better when those other trees are gone.

Wild plums are swelling up, and there is a good crop of them this year. Am guessing that in another three weeks or so the elderberries will be on along with gooseberries and wild grapes. I hope to be down here for that, chemo schedule allowing for it of course.

The replacement building has arrived and I submitted docs to the insurance company. Now I have to find an inexpensive way to get footings and knee-walls in, then assemble the building before snow flies.  Am running out of time...as usual.  Had an interesting time unloading it from the semi it came in on.  Most of it sat on one pallet weighing 3500 lbs. My skid loader could not lift that much, so the trucker and I had to break the stack on the pallet, remove a 1000 lbs via strap and skid loader. After that I was able to get the pallet down, though it made the back of the skid loader mighty light. Another 100 lbs and it would have tipped forward I am quite certain.

I am finally getting the building cleaned out. I have a plan for equipment placement so I can get to what I need when I need it, and store that which I don't need out of the way. It is a simple logistics problem, but not all that easy to accomplish. It will get done, but slowly, as everything I do now.

I have to go back to Albertville tonight or early in the morning.  Chemo day tomorrow, and it will be the start of a new protocol.  The new stuff is not nice like what I had been taking. But we are running out of options now. The reading I have done indicate side effects of nausea, intestinal disruption, and hair loss.  Guess I am getting down to the nitty gritty... the old broad spectrum stuff. Maybe I will get lucky and be one of those that does not get the side effects so much. Maybe.....  The last tests were not so good, showing that the cancer is creeping back faster now. Will be interesting to see how this all pans out... I hope I can still come back to the farm.  The treatments are once a week now instead of once a month, which really sucks.  Oh well, whatever it takes....  ....onward... .


2017-07-21

Hot and Humid & Lots of Bearding

I am unsure whether this weather is good or bad for the bees.

On the one hand, the rate honey production is high and a lot of population is being added to the new hives.

On the other hand, there is a lot of bearding going on.  The bees are not clustering on the outside of the hive like I have seen in other photos where they clump up.  They are spread out in an even layer stretching any where from a couple of inches above the entrance to all the way up onto the second brood deep in some cases.

They are not overly aggressive either. I am able to manipulate the hive using only smoke as protection.  The temp has been in the 90s with a heat index above 100dF.

I have decided that I want to start self-sustaining.  This means that I want to start establishing nucs for a couple of different purposes:

  1. Breed my own queens for replacement/loss
  2. Ability to replace hives that did not overwinter or have for some other reason died off.
  3. Ability to boost weak hives
I found a site that shows how to build nucs and I like the simple design. I link it here so I can get back to it easily.

I also found a site that does a pretty good job of describing how to do what I want to do.  The apiary is located in a norther climate like mine and the advice is solid, based on doing what it takes to let the bees do their work and supporting that, and otherwise staying out of the way.  

I am in my second year of beekeeping and I have made some mistakes and had some tough luck along with those mistakes.  I learned from them.  I am sure I will make more mistakes as I transition my thinking to this new method of beekeeping.  But I now have some clear goals:

  1. Production is important.  I want the bees to pay for themselves at some point.
  2. I want to breed my own queens for my own use.  If I have more, I will sell them.
  3. I want to reach an apiary size of 20 hives, as I believe this size will be manageable and self-sustaining from a financial perspective. (I assume 100lbs of honey/hive)
So the name of the site I really like is The Outyard. I still have some reading to do. My intent is to make step-by-step, time sensitive, processes out of what is written there. Perhaps I will use MIT's Exhibit to do this.  ( Simile Exhibit ) I need a visual to put together a process, and exhibit allow for that with the timeline extension.  It also allows one to lay out step by step using the same data-set. So it saves a lot of time by only requiring a single data-set for multiple ways of viewing things. Very handy.


2017-07-07

Thistle Down and Downed Thistles

It has been hot and humid, and we have had plenty of rain recently. The fields of native grasses and clover are doing very well .. and so are the thistles.  My current job is to take the six foot mower and cut the thistles out of the fields.  They are about to seed out, and that is bad, bad news.  There are 150 acres that have to be gone through before the damn things seed out.  They are already at full bloom, which the various pollinators love, but which means that in a few days, there will be thistle down everywhere.

This should have been done more than a month ago, but I ended up in the hospital for a week, and then Mom died.  So needless to say, May and June were not very productive from the perspective of the Farm.  On top of it all, we lost half of our North cattle shed to a wind storm.  Ahhh well.  That is farming.

The plan moving forward is to mow down all the blooming thistles, and when they start to grow back, which they inevitably will, to then spot spray to hopefully kill them off at the root.  I am estimating this will be between 70 and 80 hours spend in the fields in the next month.  That is a lot of tractor time!  I hope my body holds up... :-D

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I spent this morning doing a little wiring in the shop.  We are short on outlets in there.  Now that I installed LED workshop lights and we can actually see something ... It is time to start really organizing it. Removing all the old metal and getting rid of that which is no longer needed is about 85% done I would gauge.  At least in the workshop: I will exclude the rest of the buildings for now. Anyway, once the wiring was done, I went through the tractors and added oil and coolant where required and generally checked the rest of them over. All this takes time, and when I was done it was past noon and my back was feeling the three hours of activity...and complaining loudly.

I am in the milkhouse now, which is where I stay when here at the farm.  I converted it to a three season living space for myself.  It is a bit rough by some standard I suppose, but it works for me. I pilfered a gas oven/stove from the camper I used to stay in, so cooking is no problem.  There is a small microwave and a mini-fridge.  The bed was also stolen from the camper and is set up as a Murphy bed, so it is easy to get out of the way so I have more room to work when I need it.  The original 50 gallon stainless steel sink is still in place where it has been for more than 30 years, and it works just fine!  I have a fairly solid network connection on a wireless bridge from the house.  My tablet and a cheap sound bar make for all the stereo I want to listen to.  All in all, it is pretty comfortable.  I have stayed here when the temps were below freezing, it is not bad, but it can be a bit challenging.  The only downside to the milkhouse is the lack of a bathroom.  For that I have to walk up to the house.  No big deal...

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My uncle Bob will be coming soon. He needed to get out on his motorcycle and I was his excuse. He will camp here at the farm for a day or two and it will be good to have him here.  Bob is not only my uncle, but also one of my best friends.  I don't know why, but he has always had time for me, at every stage of my life.  And he is still making time for me.  Family....a good thing.

Jeff came by this morning and started getting his oats out of the Harvestore.  He won't need that storage this year, so I will have to try and rent that storage space to someone else.  Same with the small grain bin.  That is 10,000 bushel of storage available for someone. I hope I can find them...

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I drove over to Ezra's place yesterday, picked him up and brought him over to the farm to estimate some work I want done and can't do myself.  Ezra is an Amish man and a joy to know.  I just met him a week ago and already find him to be intelligent, open minded and with a propensity to smile often.

He is one of those folks that one feels confident in.  Not only in his skills in carpentry and construction, not to mention mechanics, but also in his ability to engage in conversation about anything.  I am going to enjoy working with him I think.  As it turns out, Ezra's eldest son does small engine work, so now I have a place to take my chain saws and other small engines.  Ezra used to do the work, but he has taught his son.

As I looked around Ezra's small farm, I saw what I want my farm to look like.  Not that our Farm looks all that bad, but it needs some TLC. And I simply can not do it by myself.  That said, Ezra's place is neat and tidy.  A nice big garden, a greenhouse to get plants going early in the spring, a good solid barn, and a great workshop.  The wind mill pumps the water for the place and is located perfectly to catch the wind no matter what direction it is coming from.  Their place is on one of those ridges that are the main feature of the Driftless Area.  There is often a cool breeze.

Ezra is starting to do beekeeping also.  He has three hives and a book entitled "Beekeeping With A Smile" written by a Russian guy who is located South of St. Petersberg Russia.  I will be getting that book....

As we walked around our Farm, Ezra offered up suggestions about how things might be done better than what I had planned, or in some cases with a lot less money.  Turns out Ezra was the guy that put the metal roof on our barn back when Nola was alive. That is good to know. That roof job was well done and gives me confidence because of the fact that Nola had hired him and that I have an example of his work right in front of me on the largest building on the farm!
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2017-06-13

Looking Ever So Good!

I headed out to the apiary to put syrup in the feeders of the two weakest hives. It is a rather hot day with the temp hovering around 90 degrees F. There is an occasional breeze which helps some, but only when the stray cloud wanders by. The tractor ride out to the apiary is about a half mile, and it became clear that this was going to be a sweaty trip.
I generally don't do the selfie thing, but figured one would not make me a complete narcissist. Was glad the bees were docile today as it was hot enough just wearing clothes to keep from sun burning. A bee suit would have been the ultimate in masochism. 

Winding between the fields of what is now primarily bird habitat, I saw that they are very healthy! Lots of clover and orchard grass, foxtail and timothy and assorted other grasses.  There is some milkweed and the ever present thistle of course.  I don't mind the milkweed, but the Canadian, Russian and bull thistle are a problem. I am going to have to spot spray and do some spot mowing as well. That said, there are birds everywhere. The redwing blackbirds are prolific. I have seen turkey, starling, killdeer and others.  And there are a lot of them! It always amazes me the way they will fly up and land on a tall plant that is swaying in the breeze and just stay there. It is fun to watch.

By the time I reached the apiary on the far NE corner of the farm I was pretty well heated up. I pulled the tractor and trailer next to the hives and shut off the engine, then just watched the hives for a bit.  There were bees flying all around, heading out to the fields and coming back. That made me feel good... lots of activity of that sort means the ladies have things going well enough in the hives to spare the effort to go out and gather food. I also noticed bees collecting at the entrance and some on the hive front; a good sign that they are too warm. Beyond that, the hives themselves looked like they made it through the last wind storm just fine.  A previous windstorm had blown the telescoping cover and the inner cover off of three of the hives, so I am a bit paranoid about wind.

I did not want to be in the hives for long today. Too hot, and I have been checking a bit more often than is optimal to be honest. The rough start this year with the cold and rain has had me worried, and then having to re-queen all three new hives, then a storm that left four of the hives exposed for a half a day...it has been a bit nerve wracking. On top of that, I am inexperienced and thus worried that I will do something stupid or miss something that I should have seen. Never the less, they seem to be doing a good job of recovering in spite of circumstances and my ignorance.

There is absolutely no sign of disease that I can see. No verroa, no AFB...nothing. And that is encouraging!

The Italians are of course going like a bat out of hell.  They have already filled one super 70%, and that super was put on less than ten days ago. Population is heavy. One would not even notice that I used this hive for a walk-away split. I added another super and left these ladies alone.

The Carni hive from last year really took a winter beating, but it is recovering nicely now. Brood pattern looks good and some honey is being stored. This hive will be left alone to recover this year unless they really take off and populate fast. I find that unlikely, but think they will recover nicely and be ready for winter when that time rolls around.

The walk-away split worked! There is a nice brood pattern with plenty of capped and uncapped brood. Population is clearly growing steadily. There are honey stores being worked on and comb being drawn. I really look forward to a second(and maybe more) hive of Italians. They are very strong through the winter and incredible producers too!

The three new hives took to their queens! I was unsure a week ago and actually started preparing to re-queen them myself. I rendered wax from last year and made some queen cells, attaching them to a frame.  They are ready to go. I would still need to build a nuc and a finisher, but that would not take long.  However, that is not needed right now. There is brood in all three new hives.
One of the new hives of Carnis. This one will be working into the second deep (not shown ) very soon. I had a bit of cleanup to do removing the burr comb. The ladies were very tolerant of me doing that task... no sting today. 

The weakest hive is still short on population, but it is coming around. I see young workers in the mix and there is a small but well formed brood pattern. Very encouraging!

Both of the other two new hives are in good shape, with the far West hive already breaking into the second deep.  If things continue, these will be good hives next year!

One thing I did today was shimmed the inner covers to allow more air exchange in the hives. I need to drill some entrances in the boxes to enhance that and also to allow the bees to get to the upper chambers without having to work their way all the way through the brood chambers.  I will do that this evening when it cools down a little bit.

Always something to be done....

2017-06-10

Days Remembered

Some days one looks at the common, even mundane perhaps, and finds wonder.  I think the photos speak for themselves. At least they do for me.

Where cattle graze and bees draw nectar 

Across the Vale

The Old Deer Stand

2017-06-06

June Bee Check..

Hive Check

Well, the first week in June is just about over and after a couple of weeks away I finally got back to the farm, rested for a day or two, and just today went out to check to see how things look. The first hive I checked was one of the new ones which had such rough start. It looked very good! I added a second deep, as the population and the full frames indicated it was needed.  Lots of capped brood and larva in this hive.  Clearly the new queen was accepted.
Example frame from strongest of the new hives.

The second and third new hives are not nearly as strong with the second being what I would call very weak.  Not much capped brood, and almost no eggs or larva.  Population in these hives is much lower too.  I need to do something but am not sure exactly what.  I am not sure whether the queens introduced were accepted. I think I may try and graft a queen for these hives. I have most of what I need to set up for a starter nuc. Will see ....

The original Carni hive is also struggling.  I don't see any sign of disease. It just seems these girls are a bit lethargic.  Will watch and see...

The walk-away-split of Italian is well populated.  I don't see a queen yet though, nor sign of one.  It may be a bit early as the split took place only a bit more than two weeks ago.  Otherwise, this hive is very active and looks good!

Frame Cleaning and Wax Processing

I spent the evening cleaning up frames. I am keeping all the wax for further use in restoring frames. My frames use a plastic foundation. My plan is to use a hair dryer to apply a thin coat of wax prior to putting them back into the hives. Nice clean wax comes off the super frames, but the wax from brood frames tends to have a lot of gunk in it. Thus, once the wax is removed from the frames, it is added to a pot with two inches of water in it. The water is brought up to about 175 degrees F, and the wax added. When the was is melted, the heat is turned off and one just lets it sit overnight.  Then the gunk  is scraped off the bottom of the chuck of wax that has solidified as it floated up to the top of the layer of water.

The whole process is repeated one or more times to ensure that all the gunk is separated.  What one ends up with is a nice chunk of wax to use for foundation coating, or candles or whatever crafty thing one might do with bees wax.  I will have to try making a candle or two at some point.

Propolis

Propolis is a sticky substance that the bees use to plug holes and cracks in the hive.  The term propolis comes from the greek, and means pro(before, or in front of) polis(city).  Propolis is often found at the entrance to a hive, more in nature than in domesticated settings.  So what is the big deal?

Turns out that propolis is also full of good stuff to boost the immune system. In fact it is theorized that the fact that bees DNA has very little assigned to their immune system is because the make and consume propolis.  That said, there are folks that buy this stuff and pay really well for it. It is not the most prolific substance. If one had 100 hives, one could probably collect enough of it over time to get a pound or so and sell it.  But that is not my interest....

I hope to make my own tinctures out of it. I have looked around and found recipes to make everything from essential oils to plain old simple tinctures. So I am going to collect what I have from my few hives and when I get enough, try a tincture. It is not hard to collect it, just time consuming.  What the hell, I might as well... 


2017-05-19

Further Apiary Encouragement

Checked hives yesterday post-storm:  Two hives had their lids blown off, but no apparent impact on the bees.  The new queens have been realeased from their cages by the colony (ate through the sugar plug) in all three new hives.  Lots of activity.  Comb is being drawn, there is new honey in the deep frames.

The Italians are hard at it.  The walk-away split seems to be doing fine.  The source hive is still heavily populated and very active.  I put three supers on the source hive. Plan to just leave them there until the end of June and not bother the hive much. I figure the frames may not fill evenly, but will fully over that period of time which is fine with me.

Looking really good overall. 

2017-05-17

The rest of the Farm

Our apiary has been the focus recently as it is a new project which requires a lot of guess work, planning, research, and learning in general.  That is fine, but there are 234 acres here and plenty going on besides bees.

We have three feed lots here on the farm and we leased them to my next door neighbor this last winter.  I was concerned about the fensing around the lots, some of it is very old and I was not sure how well it would hold up to a rather large number of confined 300 pound young stock.  Not to mention folks from another farm using our buildings.  It actually worked out well for both us and our neighbor.  Well enough in fact that we have agreed to repeat the operation this coming winter.  That is good for the Farm.  Buildings that are used don't fall down.  The weterers were another concern of mine.  Cattle drink a lot of water and it is very important that they stay hydrated during cold weather.  Problems with such equipment in the winter is not a good thing.  It is expensive to fix if something goes wrong.  We were fortunate and these critical pieces held up just fine.  So this new activity was a good success.

Having sold off un-needed equipment has left us with room to work in and on the buildings finally.  We had been pretty crowded which meant some equipment sat outside, which I hate.  There are still a few pieces that need to be sold, but almost everything can now be stored inside.  That makes maintenance easier and keeps the place looking a lot better.  There are some pieces  of equipment which have not been used in years but will now have to come into service.  It all has to be stripped down and checked over: bearings, belts, shafts and pretty much any moving part has to be checked over, replaced if required or just cleaned up.  Whatever, it is a lot of work to do.

I did a fence check the other day as best I could.  We are in reasonable shape in that area, though some work needs to be done around the feed lots.  My neighbors are helping me out with this.  There is no way that I can accomplish that kind of physical labor.  These folk have gone out and patched where needed.  All they ask is that I provide the materials.  I can't even begin to say how grateful I am.  It is humbling...

The yard around the house is cleaning up nicely.  The kids that rent the house really like making things look neat.  They have cleaned up two of the larger flower gardens and are working on the rest as they have time.  It is really nice to have young renters that give a damn.  Agian, we have been and are fortunate in this regard.

The  workshop is a work in progress.  Part of the challenge is that there is so much stuff that is brand new but no longer needed for our operation.  Stuff like drive chains, sprockets, bearings, filters.  What does one do with this stuff.  It is too valuable to toss, too bulky to store.  I guess I am going to have to have a garage sale and hope I can get rid of some of it.  That too takes a lot of time, and being that I split my time between MN and the Farm, time is a challenge.  That said, the shop is looking better than it has in a while.

The CRP ground looks darn good to me.  I was worried because we had not done a burn down (herbicide) prior to planting the native grasses, thus allowing a lot of weeds to propegate through the new planting.  I did a lot of mowing last year to try to mitigate that.  It seems to have paid off.  The fields look good with most of the weeds being crowded out by the intended grasses.  I still see a lot of thistle and suspect that I will be spending some time with the hand spayer this summer.  Probably a lot of time...   The new polinator habitat is comeing along well.  No gullys in spite of some heavy rains right after plantinng.  The oats is up about 4" and that will help establlish the other 15 varieties of flowering plants that are the target of such a planting.  I have to say that the expense of three acres of pollinator habitat is daunting.  The shit is expensive!  I hope it is worth it.

The pasture is rented out again for the summer to the neighbor to the East.  He is taking good care of it, having fertilized this spring with clearly visisble results.  The smaller pastures near the buildigs will have a few head of cattle in them just to keep the weeds down.  I am going to look into getting a few goats to help keep down the muti-floral rose and other brush like plants.  Maybe we could have some goat meat in the freezer this fall.....I like goat stew.

Ran into an odd problem a couple of weeks back.  The renters called to say that the pump on the well would not work.  Breakers were re-set, wires were checked, no clue.  Turns out ants got into the pressure switch and prevented it from closing when there was demand for water.  Easy to fix, but I would never have guessed.  The damn things have gummed up the works twice since.  Kind of strange having to put Terro arond the well to keep ants out of the pump workings.....  Well, now we know.

As usual, the amount of work exceeds the amount of time, money, and other resources by a factor of at least  10 to 1.  And I move so frigging slow that one might as well take that ratio to 100 to 1.  That said, I would not know what to do with myself if it were not for the Farm.  Again, I can't express the gratitude I have for the opportunity to be a part of this land.  

Respite....

Yesterday we received three new Carni queens to replace those that died in the cold and rain while I was off convelescing.  To recap, we had three 5 frame nucs ordered and recieved April 30th.  Due to circumstances beyond our control, those bees did not get into their hives right away and the nucs sat in the cold and rain for three days.

When I checked, the queens in the queen cages had of course died along with probably a third of the worker population.  I transfered those which were left alive to the new hives and then was away for a week.  When I got back to check, all three hives showed lots of activity including drawing comb, bringing in pollen and nectar.

That of course was encouraging.

We decided to order new queens as a result.  The little buggers are not cheap: $30.00 each, but stacked up against the original investment and encourging signs of hive health, it seemed worth it.  I installed the new queens yesterday.  The queens came in three hole cages and I put each cage in its new hive, pulling the cork on the candy stuffed side so that it would take tme for the new queens to get out of the cages and into the hive.  This hopefully allows the existing worker bees to become familiar with the new queen through pheromone familiarization, and to then become a single working colony.  It is said that if this time is not allowed, the existing bees will see the queen as an interloper and kill her.  Not sure of that, but figure it makes some sense.

It is supposed to rain today again, so probably won't check until tomorrow to see how everybody is adjusting in each hive.  Should be interesting...

On a separate note, the Italian walk-away split seems to be going ok.  The source hive is active.  The target hive is less so at the entrance, but there is plenty of population working the frames inside, which means they all didn't just get up and go back to the source hive.  It indicates to me that they are setting up house and hopefully recogniing that they don't have a queen and will start making one from the brood that was transferred.  Will know by the middle of next month.  If there is evidence of new eggs and brood, that will mean they successfully generted a new queen that subsequently went out and mated, came back and started her job.

I am hopeful for this split.  The Italians are very agressive producers of honey based on last years production.  I hope we can build up more colonies of Italians with this walk-away method as it is much less expensive as compared to purchasing package bees.  Our bees also have no evidence of diseases or infestations thus far, and not bringing in bees from outside the farm will hopefully help maintain that trend.  Our apiary is quite secluded and the closest other apiary is a good five miles away.  That means our bees are somewhat quaranteened.  There will be expsure to the wild bee population of course, but I think that will be mostly healthy.

I note here also that our bees are a quarter of a mile from the nearest tilled field. That is intended to keep them away from pesticides and herbicides which are so prolific on such fields.  The bees have both running and standing water sources within 100 meters of the hives as well.  Their food sources are pretty much all native plants such as the various trees and wild flowers that one finds in woods and pastures throughout Wisconsin.  Right now, the food sources look really good.  Dandilions are thick, and the trees are now at the middle stage of full blossom.  Black berries, wild plumb, oak, maple, basswood, walnut and hickory as well as wild apple and grape are all full blossom right now too.  So the bees have plenty of source for pollen and nectar.  Should be a good year from that perspective.

We shall see...... 

2017-05-13

Recognize, Adapt, Carry On...

Well, the late April bee keeping trip turned into a saga.  We had invested in some growth of the apiary this spring, ordering three new colonies of bees as well as equipment to house and maintain them.  Additionally, we got a bit of extra equipment due to the fact that one of the existing hives grew outside its capacity to stay in one hive.

The new bees arrived on time, and I went to pick them up on April 30th around 19:30.  It was a cold and rainy day, and pickup was rather miserable for bees and people.  After loading and securing the bees to the truck bed, I headed for the Farm.  A  long drive, and I was already under the weather with what seemed to be bronchitis.  Got to the Farm about 03:00 and was too tired to get to bed, so just slept in the truck for a few hours.

Monday was wet and rainy as was Tuesday, and I was starting to feel really ill.  By Wednesday it was sunny and cool.  I did the best I could getting the bees established, but was simply too weak to do the job properly.  I headed for urgent care...and ended up in the hospital for the next seven days with atypical pnumonia.  By the time I was realeased, the queens for the three new hives had died of exposure.  About half of the rest of the beees survived and I got them into hives properly.  They seem active and reasonably healthy, are bringing in both pollen and nectar.  I ordered new queens for all three hive yesterday and will introduce them on Tuesday when they arrive here at the farm.  I think the new hives wll be fine once the queens are established.  Time will tell....

Yesterday was warm and sunny and I had a bit of energy, so decided  to do the anticipated 'walk-away-split'.  What that means is that a very strong hive is litterally split into two hives.  The walk away part means that one does not introduce a new queen into the new hive.  Only nurse bees and brood are transferred to the new hive.  The queen stays behind.

Theoretically, the bees in the new hive will understand that they no longer have a queen and will make a new one out of the brood that is transferred with them.  I am really looking forward to seeing just how this works.  Last year I managed to save a weak hive doing something similar, adding brood to a hive that had lost its queen and letting them create a new queen on their own.  It worked.

This split though is to prevent the bees from  becoming frustrated with too little space and leaving.  The hive that was split yesterday is very strong!  I hope the child hive does as well.

Overall, the apiary looks rather nice.  The new deeps and supers are well assembled and strong as well as looking rather nice I think.  There is a lot of activity around the hives in spite of the beating the bees took due to my not getting them taken care of properly.  I am hopeful.....

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Side note:  I met with a local bee-keeper who is getting out of the business due to health reasons.  What a trove of information!  It is like sitting down with a book one does not have to read.  The stories  this guy has to tell about bee keeping and just life in general are interesting and entertaining.  I learned some, and had some things I already knew re-enforced. Just really cool to sit with this old guy and listen...  very cool! 

2017-04-09

Minor Disasters and Optimism

Finally warmed up and dried out enough that I could get out and check the hives.  The Italians are doing great!  The Carnie's took a late beating due to defective feeder buckets which leaked and soaked the inside of the hives.  Both survived with much reduced populations for starting out this year.  That is a major setback, but not catastrophic.  I think they will survive.  Both hives have queens which are laying eggs and being cared for.  There is activity outside the hives with bees bringing in pollen which is really important in the spring, as it provides the needed protein to maintain all that activity.  So this will be a rebuilding season for these two hives as compared to a production season.  That is fine, ...one lives and learns.

Looking forward, I have four new hives all set up and ready to receive shipments of new bees.  We are taking a new approach this time around.  The new bees will be coming in what are called 'nucs'.  Instead of a little cage with three pounds of bees and a jar of sugar water, these bees come in what looks like a small hive made of cardboard.  They come on established frames on which the queen has already been laying eggs.  On simply transfers the frames from the nucs to the hives, adds some empty frames and lets the bees do what bees do well.  A much better starting point.  And the cost is minimally more.  I am optimistic about this approach to purchasing bees.  So that accounts for three of the new hives that have been placed in the apiary.

The fourth hive will be a walk-away split.  The hive of Italians which is heavily populated will have half of its brood frames removed and placed in the last of the new hives along with some frames of capped honey and some of the worker bees.  The queen will stay with the existing hive.  Once the worker bees in the new hive realize they are without a queen, they will make one.  That process takes about four weeks.  There is an option to buy a queen to place in the new hive, but I think it makes more sense to have the hive generate its own queen.  There is less chance of rejection, and the new queen will mate with drones that have been reared and have acclimated to the local surroundings.  Better genetics I think.

Anyway, this has been yet another learning experience.  I expect there will be more...

Loaded with pollen and resting in the sun for a bit...

Apiary expansion.  Last years hives are white.  The new hives are natural wood.  

video

2017-04-06

Early April Farm Trip

Arrived at the Farm Sunday evening.  It has been cold and rainy, so I did one day of inside work putting together hive components (see previous post).  Tuesday and Wednesday were cold, windy and wet, and I simply did not have the energy to get out in it.  I slept most of both days and nights. Am probably still a bit weak from last Wednesday chemo blast.

Today, however, was sunny and very windy.  I have some panels on some building that I am going to have to re-screw on.  Damn wind is brutal!  I now have all the hive deeps assembled and and the wood treated.  All that is left of assembly work is five supers, which I don't need right now, and a lot of frames.  This work can wait as I won't need the supers or the frames until nectar flow comes on strong.

The assembled parts are now loaded on my work trailer behind the 686.  Had to get some sixteen foot posts off the trailer first.  Good thing my renter was around, I can't even come close to handling those posts. Justin seemed glad to help out and I appreciate it.

My next door neighbor to the East called this afternoon to ask if he could spread dry pasture fertilizer on the pasture that we rent to him. That is fine of course. Taking care of those pastures is part of the deal and I know I can count on Tim to do that. After all, it benefits his cattle as much as it does my pasture. The pasture is already greening up a bit, and seeing that feels good.  The cold rainy weather is good for something....