Category Archives: Bees and beekeeping

Excitement in River City

Some years ago, when the state and city were blowing up (well, technically, down) the pilings from the original Fuller Warren bridge here in town, I was standing on the roof of a building near the river, capturing it. Those pics are around here somewhere. It was the first (and only) implosion of any structure I’ve ever seen live, and it was pretty cool.

Yesterday, two giant cooling towers from a now-shuttered coal-fired plant were imploded. My brother played hooky a bit from his work to go up and try to see it. Alas, the general public was kept well away from the event, only getting to see the tops of the towers over some buildings and trees. The media and the company’s own cameras, though, got the full show. As always, it’s amazing how quickly something can be brought down, neatly, with proper placement of explosives and detonation timing. Clicking the arrow on the picture in this article will show the video of the towers coming down.

Today, I’ve finished mowing the beeyard and whacked around and under the hives. The new bees have also been fed. I was soaked when I came back in because it is simply hideous out there. It’s the time of the year that I wonder just how in the world the settlers to this place got anything done and made it through to the next season. Were they made of tougher stuff? Maybe. Did some of them give up and go back or move elsewhere? Almost positively, they did. I can’t say I would blame anyone who did on days like today. But there’s still work to be done here at the ranch, and I see out my southern facing window the clouds starting to build. Even if it’s just ten minutes at a time, it’s better to work on something versus nothing.

Until next time, peeps: be well. And if it’s broiling where you are, take care of yourselves and any people or animals for which you are responsible.

 

How to spend a holiday

Here’s the first day of my “holiday weekend”. For those of you outside the US, today is Memorial Day here. Some years ago, it would signal the official beginning of summer for us here, and we’d have a giant party and feed  a bunch of people. The kids (and some of the adults) would go swimming and everyone else would just be visiting with one another. That hasn’t happened in years now because we had a falling out with one group of relatives, and of course I’ve been sick on and off for over two years.

But here’s my day.

0730 Up, take care of the dogs, check their food and water, check the weather

0800 Breakfast and work

0915 Out to gather grass clippings from the beeyard and septic mound to add to my new compost pile

0945 Break for hydration and “work” work

1015 Out to sow the second round of green bean seed

1040 Break for hydration and work

1045 Weeding

1310 Break for lunch and work

1520 Wake up from falling asleep in my chair

1540 Feed bees and do inspections

1800 Bring in empty bottles and pulled hive bodies, put away tractor, detach wagon, close up shed, make shake with skyr added, meds

1815 Sit down at desk for feeding and work, empty camera memory card to computer

1825 Actually start feeding after playing with the dogs

1838 ACTUALLY start feeding after taking pictures and video of the dogs

1840 Realize just how much my back hurts now that I’m sitting down

1930 Back outside to bag weeds I turned up earlier today, before Alberto pays us a visit

2100 Back inside, treats for the dogs, refill their food and water

2110 Back to the beeyard to close the hive where I left the top propped open a bit, so there’s no chance of getting rain in there

2120 Make a shake, mix my meds, and taking care of business

2221 Power goes out, right when I’m making a response to a ticket, and Alberto hasn’t even arrived yet. Read on my amazon fire to wait it out

2249 Power comes back. Start the tedious task of booting up my system and then getting all my apps started once more, my screen layout in place, and get back to work

At some point doze off in my chair again

2340 Wake up, get some formula and some kefir, set up for another feed, do some more work

Doze off here and there

0130 Have an itching episode on the left side of my neck. Desperately try to scratch an itch that can’t be scratched; down a slug of benadryl before I wind up drawing blood.

0200 Bed

In other news, Alberto may be paying us a visit. Not in person, but from some of his hangers-on, the outer bands and what moisture he draws up from south of his center.

What a mess

We’re going to get some of it tomorrow, and possibly Monday, as well.

This is why I needed to take care of things I took care of today. Wandering around not doing anything in particular is a recipe for disaster here: you have to focus on what needs to be done (a TON of stuff) and how to prioritize it (take care of the bees before anything). And that’s how it went. It was a VERY productive day at the ranch. Tiring, but worth it.

I have a mound of horse poop (courtesy of a neighbor) in the southeastern area of the property that is heating and composting itself, but I wanted something nearer to the front (north) area gardens, so I started a compost pile there as well. It started off with kitchen scraps, paper, some leaves, downed branches I broke down. But now, it also has the grass clipping I mentioned up above, to get a better mix of green/brown material. This is how it looked after that work yesterday.

How the weeded row where the shelling peas and lettuces were, after getting through another weeding session – I literally worked until dark today, which was almost 9 PM.

How it looked in the dark after I had to stop because it was getting too hard to see,  so I had to head in.

Another long, busy day in the books. Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

 

 

Posturing

Today: a respite from the rain. It wound up being hot and humid and miserable anyway, because it’s just that time of year for us.

While watching another storm blow up the other day, though, and waiting to see if I could capture some lightning on my camera (alas, no), I met this guy, looking fabulous.

Just one of the may critters that hang out at the ranch now, thanks to years of patient (and not so patient, sometimes) rehabilitation of the property.

The break in the rains allowed me to get a lot of mowing done – a good thing, as some areas were getting pretty hairy. One last section to go: in the beeyard, right up to the hive stands. I got most of yard mowed late, without having to climb into the beesuit to do it, luckily. The last bit will probably take all of ten minutes to complete, but since the vibrations from the tractor will disturb them, better to suit up and be safe.

Tomorrow is also supposed to be clear for much of the day. That will allow me to get more cuke seed in and – as ever – do more weeding. I really need to find a way to mulch or weedblock for things like carrots and lettuce to cut down even further on the overall amount of weeding that has to be done. I’m sure it will come to me when I least expect it.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

What the season holds

My apologies, dear readers, for the unplanned hiatus. Those of you who are aware of my chronic aspiration-induced pneumonia issues will be happy to know that the latest round of grue was not pneumonia. It was, however, a gigantic sinus infection so bad that it made me want to chop my head off. I wound up in the ER last week for fluids, since I spent one day with everything coming out one end and the next with dry heaves virtually all day (that was the day of the ER visit). Why sinus? Probably coughed something up in there that didn’t come out. Thankfully, that’s over, my head is intact, and I’m back to the things I need to do. Well, almost there. The strength is coming back slowly. I also lost four pounds over the course of two days, so I’m working on that, too, although the food intake is just making me nauseated all the time – an incredibly unpleasant sensation. Pain you can usually work through or around. Nausea is just different. For me, anyhow.

On to better things!

I got my new packages of bees Friday a week ago. Unfortunately, my camera battery croaked after my sister and I were already out there, and since I was in the end throes of the crap I had, there was no way I was going to go get the other one. So, no video of the installs this year. I did take video of several days after that, though, and I’ll be editing those – time to really learn Adobe Premiere instead of screwing around, I guess – to put up on the Lazy Dogs Ranch channel on YouTube.

We had some challenges with the package installs. The shipper is no longer putting a feed can in the package, but just throwing some marshmallows in. The bees don’t seem to really care one way or the other about sugar products, so I understand this is an effective, cheap method of dealing with the feed can issues. However, when pouring the bees into the hives, the marshmallows also go in, which means reaching in and fishing them all out (ditto for pine needles, etc., that win up in them). That was annoying.

We also had big issues with drifting. For those of you unfamiliar with this, it means when bees drift from their own hive to another one that is close to it. Usually, this sort of thing happens if you’re making splits and don’t move the split hive a bit away from the original. For the package installs, since the bees weren’t really imprinted on their caged queens yet, it meant some hives wound up with a ton of bees in them, while some wound up with half or less of their package. I worked on this the Saturday after the install, moving frames and just taking handfuls of bees from one hive to another. It seems to have worked out all right.

One package obviously had a queen in it, though: the bees killed the caged queen and swarmed away before I even got into the yard on Saturday. So I had an empty box and a dead queen.

They were insured, so the shipper is going to send me a replacement. I’ve also asked for a package without a queen, to bulk up the hive that suffered the most drift.

Meanwhile in the beeyard, the monster hive #8 is still performing well. After the last split I did, it had three deeps and one super on.

I peeked in, and they were ready for another super.

I grabbed another super and popped it on to give them some room. I’m going to have to do a deep inspection at some point.

For now, though, I’m letting them do their thing.

That’s all for now, as I need to deal with the nausea here. Until next time, peeps: be well.

Negative, Ghostrider, the pattern is full

There are times when I go out to the beeyard just to watch the activity at the hives. The girls zipping in and out, guards on the landing boards (along with drones, hanging out, drinking honey and talking up the girls), the occasional midair collision that harms no one, the (at times) clumsy landings and then crawling over other bees….it’s all a day in the life in the yard. The bees I see foraging today will be dead by next month, having worked themselves to death, and will be replaced by newly graduated foragers, heading out into the world to find its bounty and return it to the hive for the benefit of all. Have I mentioned I’m a writer?

I captured this with the new camera (a Canon Powershot SX730 HS as my pocket camera to replace my Fuji FinePix, which is good, but very old). I stuck it on a tripod in front of the mega hive (#8) while I went and had a look at the second split from that hive (#11). It’s very relaxing – so much so that the other night I almost fell asleep watching it. I should keep that in mind the next time the insomnia is really bad. (Of course, it could also be because I was sick, on meds, and had been doing some things outside that absolutely had to be done when I should have been resting. Who knows?)

Framing for the new bees

No, I’m not framing up walls so they can move in to the house here. I’m building frames for the hives that need to go to the beeyard so they’ll be ready when the new bees arrive on Wednesday. I’ve been sick most of the week, which scuttled my plans to be building frames during that time and making sure the new setups were ready to go. Such is life, though.

I also did some cleanup of bee gear, which was rather unpleasant in some cases, as I’d let frames hang out in hive bodies on the driveway until I could get to them. And I never got to them, which is how this saga happens. Both wax moths and small hive beetles love it when you do this, because it allows them to go in, undisturbed by bees, and create messes in the unprotected frames.

You can’t really see it in this image, but when you open a hive and get hit with a sickly-sweet, rotting sugar kind of smell, you’ll know there have been wax moths and small hive beetles in the box. Then you pull out a frame.

This is web and cocoons of wax moths. They like the dark comb where brood have been, and will invade it if the hive is not strong enough to fight them off or – as in this case – the hive bodies are just sitting around outside, empty.

This is a closeup of some of the crap: some webbing and dead cocoons. The larvae will eat into the wood of the frames and the hive bodies. The moths will happily go right into the carveouts the larvae have done and lay more right in them. It’s a nasty business cleaning up damaged gear and sometimes just not worth it.

Some of the frames in the hive bodies had honey in them – good honey, not honey rendered worthless and useless by small hive beetles and THEIR larvae. The bees will find the good stuff, go to the frames, chew open the capped honey, and start transferring it back to their home hive. The bad honey that has (or had) small hive beetle infestations they will not take. We also do not take it: it goes in the trash.

All those open cells that make sort of a rainbow above the bottom middle have been painstakingly chewed open by the other bees in the yard, and their content transferred just as painstakingly back to their home hives. Here’s a closeup of how ragged it looks afterward.

The edges are jagged and you can see some of the cappings inside the cells. normally, were this just a frame of honey that for whatever reason we wanted them to take – in this case, we wanted the beeswax from this rainbow area, because it was lighter in color and that is what we want for our beeswax melting – we would wait for the girls to do their thing, then put the frame into a hive. The bees would then clean this up, taking out the debris and repairing the outer edges. This frame, though, had hive beetle-contaminated honey on the other side and was trashed. On this side, I scraped the wax off into the bucket where we hold our wax that is to be melted so it can be turned into whatever it will ultimately be (lip balm, candles, and so on).

I wound up making about 60 frames today, and between that and what I’d already done pre-sickness, we are now ready to give the newbees their spaces. I have a video of some of that process on my youtube channel, and I’ll put it here in a post tomorrow.  There are videos dating back to a few years ago, before chronic pneumonia and hospitals became my besties.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Welcome to spring, Florida style

Finally.

We’ve had a bit of unsettled weather here at the ranch – Mother Nature has been a tad ambivalent about letting our “winter” go. Overall, it was a mild winter, with only a handful of overnight freezes, and if I ever get a greenhouse up, even those won’t matter. How mild was it, overall? So mild that these guys were all over the place at the end of December.

He and his pals vanished to wherever it is they hide out during cold weather a short bit later, as January brought with it not just a freeze, but sleet/freezing rain at a time it is normally dry here.

While that didn’t last long, it surely did make for some fine pictures: icy pines above, my iced over pear tree below.

Usually, I start the flats in the barn under the lights just after the first of the year. I’ve found, though, that the seedlings tended to get a bit leggy even with the lights right over them, and they were definitely getting rootbound before I’d be able to plant them out after two months in. The transplant date was also kind of iffy: do we go with our “official” last frost date for this area, which is around my birthday in March? Take a chance as I did several years ago and kick the seedlings out of the barn in early March, hoping there will be no surprises? Or do I change the entire thing?

Of course, it’s the latter: I started the flats in February this year, and just started putting out the seedlings over the past week and a half. I also waited to direct sow the other crops until April. That gut instinct turned out to be the right one: we had ourselves some random overnights right near freezing at the end of March, and some coolish temps in early April that would not have been all that great for germination of the directly sowed items beyond the shelling peas (and even half of those croaked because a few days later it was 87F before returning to milder temps).

Speaking of germination: for the first time ever here at the ranch, we have had 100% germination of all the tomatoes and peppers. It is astonishing: 274 tomato plants, and  227 peppers. I also have assorted brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.) and those appear to be at 100%, but let’s face it, the stars of the gardens are tomatoes and peppers, by far. This is also about the time of year I usually decide to tilt at my personal windmill and try corn (again), but I’ve decided to let that be this year and not deal with it.

Meanwhile, the blueberries, which I’d basically ignored and which I had not cut back, as “they” say should be done, are coming along nicely. I noticed the first blooms at the end of February, and at the end of March, even through some weird, drastically changing temps, it had started forming berries,

And now, we’re here in April. Lots of tomatoes and peppers in the rows, the directly sown zucchini and squash plants are nice and big, and they are now beginning to flower and form fruit, going from this

To this

In just five days.

Things are looking up at the ranch.

One other programming note: I was doing pretty well a couple of months ago, writing up something every day. Then life intruded at some point and once again, I did not see it through. This time, however, I am: I will post something, every day. It may just be a picture of something and a few words. It may be a recap of what’s going on in the gardens or with the bees. It may be about tech. Or it may just be ruminations on things. Whatever the case may be, the discipline to do this will help feed the discipline of writing every day on the novel side of my world, which has also suffered from my neglect.

No more.  I don’t need anyone’s approval, I don’t need to care what people may think, I don’t need to worry about failure – this is one of my worst fears – and I don’t need to worry about anything else in this world beyond calming my mind, focusing on the story I’m telling, and then tell it: write it straight through, without going back to edit until the work is complete. I hope my handful of readers, whoever you may be, will be watching my journey through all this, but even if you aren’t, I still have an audience of me, and sometimes that is (and has to be) what carries me through.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

 

Spring?

Possibly. Who can say, Florida being what it is? That image is from yesterday, as I got caught up in other things before I was able to come back and finish the post. BUT: the forecast now is the same as it was on the 8th when I took that screenshot. It will be around 80F during the days, and around or slightly above 50F in the evenings.

Mother Nature can decide at some point to hammer down on us with more winter days, and she may still get around to that. For now, I’m cautiously optimistic to the point that I weeded out both the carrots/beets/radishes/kale row and the peas/cukes row in order to sow a few varieties of carrots, radishes, and shelling peas. If we get a hit of freezing weather, and sprouting stuff is killed, seed for these things is cheap. I can just throw some more seed into the rows.

Having said that, there are still carrots from last year in the row. I found today that something has been nibbling at the leafy carrot tops. Usually, that equals a bunny – and I have found rabbit nests in the asparagus and carrot rows before. That means another item for the todo list: do a walkaround of the fence, as there’s a gap somewhere that needs to be closed.

Things I did not get completed? Lots. many things. I’m not going to have one of those conversations with myself about why things didn’t get done and how I’m a slacker and bad person, though. Instead, I’m just going to recognize it for what it is: illnesses threw a wrench into the grand plan, and there’s little I can do about that.

I did get the hive equipment out of the barn, as the barn bees didn’t make it. I also cleared the last of the honey off the floor in there, and tested my grow lights. The fixtures I use have two lights. On some of those fixtures, one of the sides will not work, for whatever reason. That’s a bit of a bummer, as I like to spread light out across the entirety of the tables. Instead, I’ll use those at the sides, and let the dead portion of those fixtures be on the outside of the table.

Speaking of bees, with the warmer weather comes the rampup of queens laying and the possibility of swarming. I’m going to inspect hive #8 to make sure they have plenty of room to expand without being overcrowded. When spring officially arrives, I’ll be splitting that hive at least once, and possibly twice. That’s the plan, anyhow: keep this queen’s genes in as many hives as I can.

Time to wrap this up and get back to the various work I need to do.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

 

Cowpie bingo

There is such a thing. Anyone who lives near or has lived in ranching country knows what that is. For the rest of you: divide a pasture field into a grid. Number the resulting squares, and then have people put money down on a square they think the cattle you let into that pasture will take a dump. The winner gets something as a prize, but the event is generally a fundraiser kind of deal.

Winter in Florida is a lot like cowpie bingo. Every so often, Mother Nature drops by to take a dump on us, just to remind us that while we may be tropical most of the year – and sometimes even all of the year, in some cases – she can and will come down for a short stay, even given her very busy schedule.

We’ve already had six days in a row with freezing overnight temps, with one in the 20s. Then things went back to a rather Florida-like “winter”. Tonight and tomorrow, however, actual winter is back for a two day show, roping us in with the misery it’s creating up north.

Tonight, just before I geared up and went out to turn on a couple of the far taps around 10PM, it was 32F. Two hours later, and it’s dropped to 28F.

The wind has also picked up, as the blue line at the bottom shows. It’s cold. Very cold. And a terrific reminder why I will never live in the northern reaches of the country again. Had enough of that in my childhood, and I’m not anxious for more. We, unlike people in the great north who have to spend a quarter of the year at least playing host to winter, will get right back to our version of it.

In other news….see below the fold, as there’s a pic that may make some people a tad squeamish. If you don’t like blood, don’t go there.

Continue reading Cowpie bingo