September 20, 2014
Beekeeping, Gardening, Healthy Lifestyle, Relationships
bee hive, hive maintenance, honey
Houston had some huge downpours at the end of this week. I had noticed that my hive had a slightly forward leaning stance but wasn’t too concerned. I should have been! The ground softened and the weight in the upper portion of the hive caused the soft ground to give way and it apparently toppled.
Today is Saturday and based on input from my wife the hive was upright on Wednesday. Because of the rains she had not checked on my little guys. I arrived home Friday night and decided to spend time with my bride rather than in my garden and with the bees! That was a good choice and it paid dividends, but……….
So up and out to see my bees fairly early on Saturday morning and oops, the hive was upside down in the mud! The bees acted lethargic and many dead ones scattered about in the area! I scrambled to get some of my gear on, the smoker was just barely lit but I needed to help my little buddies out! I moved slowly and calmly as I added more support to the pedestal that the hive had previously sat upon.
I slowly restacked the hive, shimmed the hive so it was level and left them alone for a couple of hours. In the meantime I poured a portion of my quart jar of honey into a small a jar for a friend. Rather than rinse, or lick the excess honey from the funnel I decided to give my bees a treat and let them lick it clean. It doesn’t take long for the word to get out. A waggle dance here and a waggle dance there and the feeding frenzy is on! Those dang littl sugar ants find the treat pretty quickly too!
Once one bee has a sip of the good stuff the response is amazing!
September 14, 2014
Beekeeping, Healthy Lifestyle
bees, beeswax, extracting honey, honey
While inspecting my hive this past week I was pleased to see that the medium super above the brood box was chock full of capped honey…..all 10 frames. The medium super above it was not showing any signs of activity so I decided to move some things around and in the process, harvest some honey.
I removed the top super and set it off to the side. I then pried loose the bottom super. It was heavy and loaded with honey. I removed two of the full frames and took two untouched frames from the top super and inserted them in the bottom one. I shooed the bees off of the full frames, took them inside and began the extraction process. I used the scrape and squeeze method. I used a fork to uncap and scrape the honey and beeswax into a big pan. I then used a spatula to scrape as much as I could from the frame without disturbing the base layer. I poured the honey and beeswax through a sieve. I then gently squeezed the beeswax sitting in the sieve to get as much honey as I could. My reward, about 4.5 lbs. of tasty and dark honey.
A quart jar for me and a pint jar for Lisa. The extracted frames in the background.
Once the frames were mostly cleaned up and barely dripping I placed the wet frames into the top super as a lure to begin filling the top. I had four and half pounds, that is ~ 1.5 quarts of honey. My beekeeper daughter gets the pint jar and I have the quart jar. Retail – at about $ 5.00 per pound, that is $ 22.50 toward paying out my investment…The CFO is curious when that threshold will be met. Hmmmmm, 1.76 year payout Hun!
Clean-up easy and minimizes or eliminates waste. The honey coated beeswax after the extraction process is placed out near the hive and in less than an hour the message gets sent and the clean up begins. I was tempted to chew all of the beeswax to get most of the honey out, but, I had licked the bowl and spatula enough! Let the bees take it back into the hive!
Bees working on the honey coated beeswax. They were making great progress.
I hope I don’t gross you out but this is a wad of beeswax that I had chewed on for a bit. Less than two seconds after I set it down the work had begun.
iPhone photos….batteries had died on my other cameras and I had not been diligent! They turned out well enough, I think!
September 11, 2014
California, Gardening, Healthy Lifestyle, Travel, Vegetables
chickens, environmentally friendly, garden, gardening
Los Osos, a little town near Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo, is gardener’s paradise. It has that Goldilocks weather, not too hot and not too cold, it is just right. The soil may be a bit on the sandy side but add some compost and it will drain well and produce amazing crops.
I have been wanting stop and look at the corner lot in town near my mother’s place for several years and finally decided to stop and look. It looks a lot like my hair on a windy day, disheveled yet remnants of a part still visible. There is obviously a plan but the owner of the plot, I am sure, never worried about staying in the lines while coloring.
Cool weather crops can pretty much be grown here round and warm weather crops benefit from the warm sun and soil after the morning fog rolls back. By stopping and looking, I noticed his “girls” in the fenced run at the far side of the garden. Looks like 8-10 well feathered hens of various colors and varieties. I am certain that they produce some tasty and beautiful eggs.
Buying a lot in Los Osos to vegetable garden would probably not payout in several lifetimes. Unless, of course, it was inherited from way back when they were begging people to buy lots there in the 60’s and possibly earlier. I have tried to talk my mom into allowing me to put in some edible borders at her place but I haven’t convinced her yet. Yes, the cost of water in this extended drought they have been facing is a real concern, we could use drip irrigation. Whaddya say Mom?
From this angle it looks disheveled, yet interesting!
Now I see some organization and pretty decent spacing.
Looking back toward the street .
Look closely and you can see a few of the girls.
I am going to use this as a model for my fall peas!
August 29, 2014
Beekeeping, Composting, Gardening
I was tending to both my bees and my garden this morning. My bees just typically go about their business and I go about my business without conflicts. I am still giving the hive sugar water to help as they continue to grow in size. I noticed that the quart jar in the Boardman Feeder was empty so I gently eased down, removed it, shooed the few bees that had clung to the lid and took it into the house for a refill. A few minutes later I returned, slipped the quart jar into place without event. I always do this without any beekeeping gear, so it was shorts and a t-shirt with my camo Crocs on my feet….the ones that my daughter Lisa hates to see on my feet at the coffee shop or for that matter….anywhere in public. Too bad, I like them and they are comfortable.
Bees just continued to do what they do ignoring me. I spread some pine needle mulch and grass clippings around to help suppress the weeds. My son had mowed our neighbor’s lawn and brought the clippings home. I decided to add that “black”, key word, bag of clippings to the compost bin next to the hive. I grabbed it and swung it up onto the bin’s cross bar to untie it….not even thinking about how the bees would react to this big black object swinging through their air space….
So, a big dark black object coming quickly into their space is seen as a threat. Me, being attached to he black bag was also, apparently seen as a threat…..dark red shirt worn by this dummy in addition to the black bag threat made it doubly bad. Well 8-10 bees tried to encourage me to leave and I just tried to ignore them. Trying to untie the knot must have been see as a aggressive act so, one of the protectors gave up their life and stung the hand that also feeds them…..OK, I get the message. I walked away, used my knife to scrap the stinger out and left them alone for about 15 minutes. I put a dab of cortisone cream on my hand and all was fine.
After 15 minutes I went back out and as usual – they ignored me, I untied the bag and slowly dumped it and finished my chores. I believe I learned a lesson…..I just hope CRS doesn’t kick in and I forget the lesson.
Just doing what they do best…… I just need to make sure that I am not an irritant or look like a bear. Photo from earlier in the year when someone else’s bees were pollinating my lemon tree.
August 20, 2014
Beekeeping, berrries, Berry Preserves, jam and jelly, Making Jam, Strawberry
blackberries, strawberries, strawberry jam
I used up the last of the 2014 strawberry harvest today. I made a low sugar recipe resulting in 2-12 oz. jars, 4- 8 oz. jars and 1-4 oz. jar of wonderful Strawberry Jam. This was a banner year for my strawberry harvest. I am not sure if my bees will make much difference next year as strawberries are largely self pollinated, but, they can’t hurt!
I do love my morning toast with a healthy dollop of backyard jam, whether it be my strawberry jam or my blackberry jam….wild or domestic! No domestic blackberries this year as they met with a breakdown in communication with my hired help. The sprinkler installation guy, my son Ben, was a little too rough with the existing plants, they all died….next year or the year after may be a good year.
So, what does lite jam mean? Standard recipe calls for 5 cups of strawberry mush and 7 cups of sugar…..so danged good. The lite recipe is also 5 cups of mush but only 4 cups of sugar. I really like the lite recipe as I think more of the fruit flavor comes through. I will admit that the last batch of Dewberry Jam, a wild blackberry, was made as a full sugar recipe….wow…very good!
An 8 ounce jar of my very good Strawberry Jam.
Now…clean the kitchen and bottle my Russian Imperial Stout! – Tomorrow, I just sampled a couple of Kona IPA beers and they were awesome. That should be detailed in my beer blog in a day or so.
August 6, 2014
Beekeeping, Gardening, Healthy Lifestyle
bee sting, boardman feeder, feeding bees, honey
If you are going to be a bee keeper you are going to get stung! I am still using a Boardman feeder holding a quart sized jar of sugar water. The hive is healthy and growing. They will consume a quart in about 10 hours!
Therefore, I, or my daughter Lisa, have to refill it daily. We don’t put our gear on or use the smoker. We just calmly approach the hive, remove the jar, shoo away the few that hang on and refill the jar. Once topped off calmly replace the jar.
A few days ago I was apparently too abrupt on my approach. As I removed the empty jar, four or five bees came at me. Most were just bumping me, trying to discourage my presence. Apparently one Lone Ranger bee saw me as a bigger threat and popped a stinger through my shirt on my left pec. Fortunately I don’t react to stings, just itched a bit for a day or two. Lesson learned, be gentle and the bees will respond in kind!
Lisa and I added a super and the queen excluder over the past weekend. We were appropriately attired in our beekeeping gear. The bees are busy making honey and more workers! I hope to have my first harvest/extraction by the end of summer.
I will leave them alone for the next three weeks or so before doing a more thorough inspection of the hive and the queen. Who knows, I may get lucky and be able to split a hive! I do have an empty NUC hive box. Maybe I should try and capture a swarm. I do have some extra full sized frames! Waste not, want not.
Boardman feeder similar to the one I use.
July 17, 2014
Beekeeping, Gardening, Healthy Lifestyle, Tomato Growing, Vegetables
cucumbers, gardening, melons, tomatoes, worm poop
I do believe that I am a 6 year old trapped in the body of a 63 year old man. We have had a couple of good downpours today – I wish I could send some to my California friends – mixed with gentle sprinkles. During one of the misty lulls I went out to the garden inspect and snack….
Inspecting how the bees were doing, I am happy to report that they are doing very well. Here is where the curiosities of a 6 year old kick in. I stand off to the side of the take off and landing pattern. I marvel at the roles visible at the entrance….some bees just hang out there as guard bees preventing “robbers” from getting in and fanning at the entrance to help maintain proper hive temperature. The others that were zooming in and out are the foragers, the last period of a worker bee’s life. They are on a mission! When they arrive at the entrance from a foraging flight, it is all business and they disappear inside immediately. The foragers departing don’t display quite the same sense of urgency…. some wander around for a few moments…possibly checking out the proposed flight plan and then off they go. Others, the hesitation is very brief and then off they go. I feel such a sense of wonder, almost mesmerized, as I watch the choreographed activity!
If you haven’t had the opportunity, follow a 3-6 year old child as they wander around outside. Watch to see what they find fascinating and attempt to see it through there eyes….some amazing things are taken for granted in this natural world around us….never lose the ability to see and appreciate the simple wonders around you.
Post rain – the bees are slowly beginning to forage and defend the entrance.
Snacks…My Juliet tomatoes are such a sweet snack. I picked a large number of the little cherry tomatoes and have about a dozen or more of the Juliets ready to be picked for the kitchen. Post rain they are so picturesque! Beads of rainwater still clinging to their skins and begging to be picked and consumed. Who am I to argue! Several found their way into my mouth!
Small, probably 2 ounces, but prolific and tolerant of the Houston heat and humidity.
Going vertical….Cucumbers and yes, even watermelons. My pickling cucumbers succumbed to the nasty white flies….the Lady Bug beetles were working hard but not enough to keep them in check. I still have Straight Eight and Armenian type growing and beginning to develop fruit.
An Armenian Cuke developing.
I am growing a variety of small watermelons. A refrigerator type and growing them vertically. As the fruit develops I will have to hang a sling to keep them up off of the ground…..I can’t wait. In the background is a banana plant that should bear fruit next year. I met a Mexican worker on a pipeline job that I am supporting that gave me the corms. He grows many varieties of bananas in his yard south of Houston. It is an apple banana, Manzano Banana tree! Looking forward to harvesting!
A developing melon. Full sized will be just a bit smaller than a volleyball.
The vertical climbing vines with the banana tree in the background.
I finally got a “round to it” handed to me concerning my worm farm. We have all used that phrase I am sure….”Yeah, I’ll get a round to it.” – But we never do…..I had a coworker who had a bunch made up – they look like wooden nickels and he hands them out to procrastinators…..I received one…what does that tell you about me? Yes, I fit the description! I harvested at least 10 pounds of wet worm poop and made several gallons of diluted worm poop tea! After spreading the gathered goodies I heard some “oohs” and “ahs” as the garden absorbed the delicious feeding!