Category Archives: Bees and beekeeping

Calling the season

It’s official: I’m calling it a season in the gardens.

For the fourth year in a row.

This does not make me happy. On the other hand, in previous years I was going through yet another bout of pneumonia. This year, it was just a sinus infection – but recovering from it took a month and a half. That month and a half is arguably the most important time for the gardens, as it took over May-June. If you get behind right there at the beginning of the real season, it’s likely you will never catch up, and indeed I did not. The plants I’d managed to transplant suffered, the plants I had yet to set out remained in their flats far too long, and the weeds absolutely strangled everything.

So as I looked at the gardens as I mowed today, despite that little voice telling me that yes, I could in fact get that next round of tomatoes planted and have them bear fruit as the calendar season closed out, I realized it simply was not going to happen.

Instead, what I’m going to do is just put the rest of the plants out of their misery and pull them for the compost heap (which, I might add, has a very thick layer of pine shavings and chicken poop on it now). And then: pull the weeds. Go to battle once more with the wisteria, which is well on its way to taking over the entirety of the east to northeastern corner of the front gardens. Take the metal sides off the rows and just have them as regular raised beds. Scoop all the rubber mulch out of the walkways in the gardens (and figure out what the hell to do with it all afterward). Lay down the commercial weedbarrier in the walkways, the same weedbarrier that covers the frames as they are right now, which is effective, although inevitably there will be weeds wherever there are holes in it, like where holes have been cut to do plantings or where the landscape staples puncture it. Get the cover crop seed in place so it can establish before we go into “winter” (I have half a row already germinated and really thick; the buckwheat came up first and has delightful little flowers on its tops.) Check all the grow light fixtures and toss the dead ones, order new ones.

There is more, of course. There is always more. There are still chickens to take care of (and one set to butcher around the first week of October) and bees to maintain. But when the list looks a bit overwhelming, I just take a deep breath and think: one step, then another. It can be done.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Chicken tractor

A work in progress for the meat birds. They do not range or scratch and peck well as they get older and heavier, and they are generally not fast enough to take cover when a predator appears. So, they get to hang out in their own private space. But they’ll be on fresh grass, have clean air and water, and will be mighty tasty when the time comes to process them.

The bottom of the build, looking from what will be the front to the back. This was a dry fit.

Then, a look at the back toward the front. There’s one more cross pipe that will go through the center of it.

Once everything was double checked and arranged, I moved on to the cement phase of the build. The left side and the front and back are glued in this view from the front.

And a look from the back – the right side and front and back are glued.

I also managed to drop the can of cement thanks to the issues with my left hand (fuck you, cancer!). Half of it is on the driveway now. At least I have plenty left to get the rest of the build done.

A work in progress  that needs to get done quickly, because the meat birds are getting huge. All of them were a little skittish about the watermelon rinds I put in.

I know chickens are bird brains and not terribly smart, but they peck pretty much anything – just not tonight, i guess. All they did was walk on those rinds, pooping on them.

Tomorrow: onward with more mowing (did the beeyard today) and more assembly of the chicken tractor. If we get it done in the next couple of days, I’m going to kick the meat birds out of the brooder and into their nice, spacious, outdoors condo.

Don’t forget, space nerds: the Pleiads are peaking on the 12th, so look to the skies.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Making your insides glow

So I had a CT on my guts yesterday, because I’ve been having some pain around where the balloon is  in my stomach. This time around, I got the great thrill of “drinking” barium as well. I’ve done barium swallows before, and the stuff is not totally off-putting, but at least this time I didn’t have to taste it: right down the tube, two 450 mL bottles.

We’re going into the next nectar flow down here, and I’m hoping the established hives will be laying in good amounts of honey I can take off them next month/into October. Word of mouth for our honey is terrific: we heard from a person who knew someone who knew someone who got a bottle of our honey at some point, and that person wanted some. After she got some directly for us, she contacted us not too long after, with eight(!) people who wanted some.

What this means, of course, is that I need more bees! I’m planning on expanding pretty seriously next spring via splits of the hives out in the beeyard right now. This year, I made two splits from hive #8, the hive who kept their 2016 queen well into 2017 but then replaced her on their own. That queen is still there (for now) and she is a laying machine. The two daughter hives: also laying machines. Her genetics are those I want to establish more of in the yard. Better layer = more bees – more production = more honey = better split maker. This is a photo of some larvae and some eggs (the rice-looking things in the cells just below and left of center).

There are also some bee butts just above center: the nurse bees crawl into the cells to feed the larvae as they develop. To the far left is capped brood; the larvae in those cells will develop into bees who will then chew their way out of the cell and then start working in the hive.

The cover crop germinated and is taking over the half frame row that I threw down. More to come of that for soil building!

Today, mowing, including some areas that have been under water for two weeks and avoided the cut they needed. Today, though: down with the high grass!

Until next time, peeps: be well.

The lost day

There’s an old movie called The Lost Weekend. Ray Milland stars as Don, an alcoholic writer willing to pawn anything or steal from anyone  to get a few bucks to buy whisky. (It’s an excellent movie and you should watch it – Milland rightfully won an Oscar for his part in the film, and Billy Wilder took home a Best Director statuette.)

I had a dream the other night where Robert Redford (of all people) for some reason asked me what I really, really wanted to do. I had no answer, which was odd, because I do know I want to write and run my business and have my dogs and my bees and my chickens, and that’s what I’m doing. I don’t recall the actual context around the question in the dream – was I someone else, or myself, doing something other than I am now? Maybe.

Anyhow, I missed yesterday’s blog appointment because I was dealing with a massive issue with work that I’m not going to go into except to say it sucked. Royally.  Today, we’ve dealt with two majo spamming issues related to peoples’ contact forms on their web sites. For the love of whatever you hold holy,  put a fucking captcha on your forms. And DO NOT enable any “send a copy of this to yourself, submitter” crap. It’s an invitation to arbitrarily insert anyone’s email address and spammers will find it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but they will, eventually, unless you secure it.

There ends your tech lesson for the day.

The chicks continue to live by the tenets of their lives, which is to eat, drinks, poop, and sleep, in any order they feel like it. At least they know what they really, really want to do. The meat birds, bred to get big, very quickly, are certainly living up to it. After a mere week, they are twice the size of their layer bird companions. Some of them just sit in front of the feeder and eat, sleeping in the same spot. When they go out on pasture, I’ll only be feeding them once during the day. What they eat in the daylight hours will be it until the next day. Letting them eat freely 24/7 for all their time will be too hard on their bodies, and they’re not terribly good about reining in their eating habits.

Got a start today on dry fitting the pieces together for the chicken tractor the meat birds will call home. It’s probably too large for the ten of them, but it’s easier to get more chickens down the line and have the space available than it is to decide to get more in a batch and have to scramble to make a new, larger tractor for them.

We’ll also have the mobile layers to move around the place. At first, there will only be five in there, but we would be able to put more if needed, and if the whole meat bird thing works out, I’d really like to get some turkeys next year in addition to more meat birds, to have for the holidays. And they would be hanging out with the layer birds, so it would be nice to be able to move them with the layers and let them range alongside.

Tomorrow, I get to pour barium down my tube and go get my guts scanned. I can’t eat anything, either, which is why I’m about to have my last meal, as it were, just after I post this. It’s gonna be a thrill, I’m sure.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Hot and buzzy

With a side of humid.

Time for another hive inspection as we go into the second nectar flow of the year. It was a brilliant but hot day.

All the hives are still with us (yay!)

There’s nothing quite like a freshly-mowed piece of land.

Also, if you’re a beekeeper with more than one hive, you should keep notes about your inspections.

Especially if  you find the (unmarked) queen in a survivor hive from 2016 . This is the granddaughter of the original queen from in this hive . It’s also the hive I’ve been making splits from, as the bees are vigorous and the two queens since 2016 are just laying machines.

This queen’s genetics are jamming.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Look to the skies

Space nuts, unite! The Perseid meteor shower will peak on August 12. Get out and do some sky watching. If it’s mosquito season, as it is here, and you have lots of standing water from constant rains, as we do here, put on something to repel them. I was out taking some pictures of Mars this evening, and they were horrific.

Speaking of Mars….

Taken with the Canon.

Taken with the Nikon. Mars is just below and left of center. Hit the image to see the fuller version. This was taken with an extended shutter time, because of course it’s dark as hell out here at the ranch, and I wanted to capture more as we have a rare clear evening here in the summer tonight. It’s gorgeous and rather humbling to gaze up at the night sky.

Back here on the mothership, though, we still have things to do, people and animals to take care of, and on and on. I spent several hours at the NOC today, redoing a server for someone who wants a testing server in addition to their production server, and crawling around, tracing lines. It’s time for our location audit, and at least one part is done: the physical locations of every piece of gear. Tracing power cables and ethernet cables, though, is tedious, dirty, sweaty work (because you’re on the heat side of the row, with all those servers blowing hot air on you) and takes more than one trip (unless it’s a completely epic trip where you get to ignore everything else in your life for eight hours).

I had stepped outside last night to look off to the east where a storm was passing, to see it was viable to set up a camera to try to capture some lightning. It was not, but I did find this fat bumpy guy hanging out on the porch.

He didn’t budge, even when Einstein was sniffing him.

And because I have 21 chicks hanging out in my garage, here’s a pic of a bunch of them piled up in the corner after I had changed out the pads in the brooder. You’ll notice there’s already poop on the new pads. Apparently they cannot go more than two seconds without pooping. But, they are all still alive, happily peeping away when they’re not sleeping.

After the NOC work, I popped by Tractor Supply to get some pine shavings for their bedding. They’ve had enough time to understand what their food is and where, so they should not be trying to eat giant volumes of the bedding.  At first, they didn’t want to walk on it.  But as I spread it out all around them and then into the corner they all ran to, they got themselves together and went back to their pooping, cheeping ways.

The Cornish X bird – the yellow ones – are growing much more quickly than the layers. You can tell already. They are going to be good eating when their brief, but happy, lives comes to an end.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

Adversity

As you, dear readers, know, I’ve had my share of adversity lo these 13 recent years. This morning, one of those annoyances made their appearance: a nasty headache. I managed to get up, then thought it would probably be better if I could get a little more sleep and not endure the worst of it.

Did not work out. Part of that was because I’m an insomniac even at the best of times, and it takes me forever to fall asleep anyway unless I am totally beat. The other part was because my brain wouldn’t shut up with scenes for the current novel, ideas for the next one or two or ten, snatches of dialogue, the things I needed to get done today, and the things I had planned to do today.

So I got back up and used tylenol and caffeine to deal with it. That has worked out okay, but it’s like a small piece of my brain noggin is on an acid trip (or what I imagine it would be, since I’m not into that sort of thing): a little out of myself. No hallucinations, thankfully. I almost  blew off today’s blog, because let’s face it, who is reading this? But I reminded myself that this is more me than anyone else, and it warms me up nicely for the other writing I need to do. Thanks, Brain!

One of the things I needed to get done was to feed the bees. We’re heading into the next nectar flow, and they’ll probably only need this week before they’ll be able to forage what’s blooming in the area. They’ll likely be able to fend for themselves through August and September, and perhaps (if this year is like last year) into October. It’s kind of a dicey time for a beekeeper: if  you get a swarm going in October, that’s probably a death sentence for the swarm and the hive it came from, even if October is warm, as it was last year (in fact, this is how I lost a hive last year: they thought it would be a good idea to swarm in October, when it was in the 80s, only to have October turn into fall and be substantially cooler). I captured the swarm, but they died and the original hive died as well. So, that’s going to take at least weekly inspections, during the muggiest, swampiest time of the year for us here. It was brutally nasty when I fed them today AND I got stung, twice, on my right quad while getting some rainwater out of one of the feed holders on a hive. Bitches.

Last night I went outside to get some audio of the peepers because they were SO LOUD. As I was coming in, i did the usual check for frogs, to try to keep them on the outside, where they belong, instead of the inside, where they sometimes die and mummify, leaving us to find them in the weirdest spots – and then yours truly has to clean those up, because no one else likes to. Sissies.

Here’s the video from last night: the Green Frog Rescue Follies. The two with hair on them were the ones I kicked out of the house as I went outside to get that audio.

Until next time, peeps: be well. And be on the lookout for tiny green frogs.

Feeding before the storm

It’s been a vicious storm of a day for my great state. There were two things I absolutely had to get done: feed the girls, and get some grass knocked down back in the beeyard. Today, I’m pleased to say, I did both, ahead of the massive storm system that hammered down on us and knocked us offline twice (the latter is not especially difficult to do with our provider).

If you want a very quick glimpse at the beeyard, this is the video for you! As it was cloudy and nasty, most of the bees were at home, and some really did not appreciate the vibrations of the tractor as I mowed the yard (and even less so when I drove past their front doors).

Note: there is a fairly loud tractor noise here, so keep that in mind if you don’t want to make your eardrums explode from the sudden cacophony.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Stung

I mentioned previously that I was working on editing a video of the last hive inspections I was doing. That still isn’t finished, but it is still in progress and not abandoned.

Until then, I present to you this: yes, you can and probably will get stung even if you’re in a bee suit. On the upside, once you’ve been stung x number of times, your body will likely be used to it and after the initial sting – which, to me, still hurts for a second – it might not even swell any longer, as with these I got while doing the inspections: four each on and around the knee, and four on the upper arm. The mosquito bite on my forearm I got the other day while weeding itches more than the stings did at all. Unlike [nerd alert!] some people, I lost none of my strength or abilities after taking the stings.

The knee – and if bee venom therapy really works, I should never have arthritis in this knee. Ever.

Three of four on the upper arm. I have to say the inside of the bicep tends to be the most painful, initially. And I say this after having taken about five over the years to that same area, mainly from accidentally crushing a bee that has landed there when I bring my arm back close to my body. The fourth sting is not visible; one of the girls got me on the tricep.

It’s a good thing the bees produce useful things.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Newbees

After being sick with pnuemonia almost constantly for two years (2016-2017), the beeyard ad taken quite the hit. I lost a number of hives over that two year period, as I simply was not well enough to manage them as they needed to be managed. I’d ordered some packages of bees to pump up the colony count on the ranch. I’d been planning to take video of the installation of the packages when they arrived in May, but the camera had different ideas about that. Instead, we only got a couple of action snaps. It was toward dusk, and I observed quite a bit of drift as wee got each package in their new home. That resulted in some hives having more bees than they would ordinarily.

In the end, though, that’s perfectly ok. The hives that suffered drift repopulated without issue, and the hives that were the beneficiaries of the drift simply built up more quickly, which is fine with me.

My sister lent a hand with this, and she’s also been very helpful in working with me to keep the colonies going as they get themselves built to a point they no longer need much help from us mere humans.

This time around, I used feeders inside the hive instead of entrance feeders, to avoid hives robbing one another of the syrup. A couple weeks ago, I switched them all over to entrance feeders, as they were all strong enough to withstand any incursions into their territories. A few of them have even had a second box added to them – quite exciting, as we may be able to get a late season honey harvest from them as we move into fall and our second nectar flow begins.

Until next time, peeps: be well.