Tag Archives: bees

Calling the season

After much thought – thinking on it for days and days, really – I decided to call it a season, garden-wise. I didn’t want to, and it pains me greatly to technically classify this as another lost season (i.e., a failure), but there has simply been far too many things going on, and I haven’t been well enough to keep on top of it.  I’ve elected to not do another round of tomatoes and cukes, as I had planned, and in fact, will not be doing any new rounds of anything at all, even brassicas like broccoli and cauliflower, which are much easier to maintain as they have fewer pests than other plants.

The peppers are doing well, as are the squash, so those will stay until they have run their course, because harvesting those and processing them is not terribly onerous, although it is time consuming to dry the chiles so they can be stored until the end of the season, nature-wise, in order to grind them into their respective powders.

There are two factors at work here: one, of course, and as my handful of readers know, is my health. I am still recovering from the rounds of pneumonia, and I have a lump on my neck no one seems to know what to do with. I also desperately need to gain some weight, which is a difficult task for me even under normal conditions. Thus far, every gain I’ve made this season is knocked back by work in the gardens – a vicious circle that has to be stopped if I’m ever to gain back even a fraction of what I’ve lost since last November through the various illnesses. When I’m healthy, of course, my body is not trying to burn calories to heal and burn calories for the grunt work that are the gardens here at the ranch. That double whammy is too stressful on my system, and beyond just gaining back weight, puts the removal of this feeding tube further out of reach.

The second factor? Time. I already gave up on the social media time sinks, just popping on to twitter briefly now and again, freeing up large chunks of time. But this season in the gardens, it has been taking me twice as long to do the things that are necessary and second nature to me than they do when I am healthy: I tire more easily, and since my lungs in particular have taken a beating, I can’t catch my wind well, as we say down here. For those of you not well versed in Southern-ese, it means I have a hard time catching my breath during exertion. Thus, the time that has gone into doing all the things that need to be done in the gardens, from starting and maintaining flats, to transplanting, to weeding, to bug patrol has skyrocketed, eating into time I need for other things.

So, the plan: the tomatoes are history, beaten down by too much rain in June, and too much pest and weed burden. Those plants will be pulled for the compost heap and the frames stripped of weeds. The frames where I had cukes and beans will be stripped, weeded, and covered as well. Where we don’t have commercial weedblock already in place, we’ll be putting down heavy mil black plastic to solarize the frames and kill off whatever still lurks in the top inches of the soil – pests and weeds both. The rows of tomatoes have weedblock in place, so will just need covering in the places the holes were punched for the plants.

When the peppers and squash have run their course, those plants will be pulled for the compost pile as well. The rows where the peppers are plants have weedblock, so it will simply be a matter of covering those holes as with the tomatoes. The asparagus rows need to be weeded, but those will not be covered; instead, we’ll use thick layers of straw there, to try to keep the weeds down. Ditto for the strawberries.

And so the rows will lie fallow this season, giving them a break from the constant use we’ve had going for the past however many years. In a month or so, we’ll pull back the cover, and put in some soil-feeding crop – some vetch, oats and winter peas is a good combination that I’ve used before, and I may put in some buckwheat and perhaps some clover as well. After those come up solidly, I’ll cut them off at the soil line, leave the cuttings right in place, and cover the rows up once more, letting it all die off. Before the spring, we’ll pull the covers back, top off the rows with soil and manure, and cover them once again. The rows where we only have plastic down we’ll swap out for weedblock right before transplanting begins. The rows that have bowed out sides from the pressure of soil have to be righted and braced better; that’s a cool weather job, as the edges have to be dug away so the sides can be returned to vertical and braced.

The time I’d otherwise spend in the gardens this season will instead go into the writing bank. I’ve been planning to work on this first book (of about 20, now) in my head since last year’s NaNoWriMo in November, but that got thrown out the window by illness and a bout with pancreatitis (note: the latter is painful as hell). So, I said, “I’ll start in December.” That also was derailed for the same reasons (note again: pancreatitis is a bitch!). I’d lost about 15 pounds over those two months, and headed into January swearing that 2017 would be better, and I’d be able to work on my writing. Enter the pneumonias, the surgeries, the ongoing issue with my neck, the further weight loss, and the time eating monster all of that created when I wanted to get the gardens going this year. The result: a big fat zero on the writing front.

I figure that by next year, when it’s time to get the gardens going once more, I will have regained some weight, which will help the overall health issues, especially when it comes to help keep something like pneumonia from landing me in a hospital bed with IVs in my arms, because my body will be in a better position to help fight stuff like that instead of trying to fight that sort of thing with little to no reserves available. That will also make keeping up the gardens not carve out huge chunks of time and instead return that to the more normal work time I associate with the gardens, leaving pools of time available for writing. This is the goal I’m working toward, and I do believe it is, ultimately, an attainable goal.

My next step from here is to continue to try to adjust my schedule properly in order to get the novel work done first thing in the mornings. Without the worries and constant “I shoulds” intrusions, about the gardens, my mind be free of the stress and guilt over that, which will help my mindset on the writing front. I’ll still be writing here, too, of course, as this writing supports other writing and vice versa. It all also helps continue building and reinforcing the habit of writing on a daily basis: mornings for the main work in progress, afternoons for things like blogging, fleshing out the ideas that pop into my head for other novels, working on poems, and so on.

So that’s the plan, peeps. I hope you’ll continue to follow along for my musings – even if I’m not working gardens this year, I’ll still be thinking/writing about the things that we will be doing out there this year, my thoughts about what to plant next year (and where and why), and of course I’ll still be working my bees.

Until next time, peeps. Be well.

 

Plans, we got ’em

This weekend: probably more on this server thing, but thankfully that is coming to a close, at least as far as our involvement goes.

Other plans: pepper picking time! The cayennes and paprikas are nice and red  – I noticed while getting some mowing time in. That means harvesting, washing, splitting, and drying. It also means a house full of the smell of drying peppers, which is usually not that bad, although there are times when the smell – of that or any other food – is nauseating to me.

I’ll also be making broccoli cheese soup, because I am getting kind of tired of shakes and formula. If things (like my back) hold up, I might even make some cheesy potato soup (with crispy ham!) as well.

And another trip to the NOC, to set up a machine for someone who is upgrading his existing server to a big dog machine, so that is one ray of sunshine in an otherwise shitty and even more sleep deprived than usual week.

On a completely other note, meteorology really is one of the few jobs that you can be consistently wrong and still have a job. Today’s forecast: no rain, at all. Literally, a 0% forecast. Then a nice cell rolled right over us and brought about .2 inches of rain. Not a lot, and better than none.

Also on the menu for this weekend: taking stock of my sad, sad tomatoes, seeing what can be recovered, going through my seeds and finding some short maturity varieties to start another flat, and, of course, weeding. The weeds are not as bad in the frames where we’ve gotten the plastic or the weedblock down, but the edges are a nightmare because of the bowing of the frame edges (to be fixed in the fall, because that’s a heavy duty job). It’s also time to feed the bees again: the other day, I added additional brood boxes to two of them, so they are making progress.

Right now: more database wrangling, and then a brief stop for a nap before getting back up and doing more.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

The plan was

To write. Because it’s time to, as Neil Gaiman says, make good art.

I’d been moving sites around as we retire older servers, and finally got to bed this morning somewhere between 4 and 4:30. A few hours later, I get a notice to my phone about a customer server. Nothing is responding. I try to log in, get a login incorrect error. Huh, that’s weird, the client is unlikely to have changed the password without telling us. I try it again, same deal. Well, hell.

So by 7:30, I’m up and around and chatting to the client, and something very bad has happened – I won’t go into details except to say it is something so bad it makes your heart stop. The plans to write this morning and perhaps a second, smaller session this afternoon? Gone.

Off to the NOC to do some recovery on this client’s server. Spend a large number of hours reviewing the damage. Build a new machine because all his sites have to be transferred off the existing one. Deal with other client stuff throughout.

Finally, I’m shot at about 2-3 AM or somewhere in there. Crash out, wake up again at 7:30 (I am now typing this on Monday, the next day here), realize I have to go get blood drawn to check various things, drive out to the hospital (again) where I was in the ER back in February to get my records for that visit, as two previous requests to relay those records to Mayo resulted in the records not being sent because they didn’t have my fax although the transmission was good, then the records not being sent because the form I hand delivered to them, in person, wasn’t done (and a bonus: they lost my form and couldn’t find it when we called asking them where the records were), and then to Publix to pick up my meds.

Off I go right out the door, because the bloodwork has to be fasting. Do all of these things today, and I am back, in my chair, at my desk, at 10:50. That is not bad at all, and shows that focused work can be truly productive – and those tasks involved other people, as well. I wonder how much writing I could get done in three hours without people (real people, anyway) being involved in things I need to get done.

Sine we’re still dealing with this server, and some defacements of pages, and because I had to mow beeyard #1 as it hasn’t been mowed in three weeks, and because I needed to feed the bees and add a second brood box to one hive, and because work has been a steady drip, drip drip of things going wrong for people, no writing today. In fact, right now I am very sleepy, and if I didn’t have to transfer this guy’s sites off his server to the new box, I’d probably go hit the sack for a bit. I actually may not do that immediately, but run something that I won’t go into detail about, and then transfer the sites after that.

Now, I wait for something else to finish on that server, and I have titles popping in to my head, so I’m writing those down. Something productive in the writing arena after all! And the day has been productive otherwise, even if it seems like treading water.

Treading is better than sinking, though.

More later, peeps. Be well.

Hotties

No, not those kinds of hotties, you pervs – get your mind out of the gutter!

I’m referring to this sort:

This was just before 3 PM local time, with a temp of 93F and a heat index of 110F. You know that phrase “It isn’t the heat, it’s the humidity.”? This week has matched that phrase. This morning I popped out to the beeyard to check a few hives to see who needed a second brood box and to generally make sure there were a good number of bees and stores in those hives. At that time, about 9:30 AM, it was already 84F with a heat index of 92F. I was so soaked with sweat when I came in I had to change all my clothes. It was like wearing a swimsuit, and I had to peel all my clothes off my body, they were that soaked – including my socks.

But that’s ok. This is Florida, after all, and while some days are not all that pleasant, I expect this, and I chose to live here. Making it through the summers is my version of climbing Everest: how far can I push myself without keeling over?

I rolled out of bed at about 7:30 this morning, and this is what greeted me:

Foggy morning at the ranch, which turned into a burner of a day. It all burned off by the time I went out to the bees, and then Mother Nature did her thing by bringing the heat.

The gardens are still a work in progress, and there is still more work to be done. However, each year, I keep refining the processes out there, and I think next year will be even better because of the changes I have in mind. That refinement is what I’m trying to do in other areas of life as well, from outdoor work to the helpdesk where a new user accused us of selling his email address to spammers. He had registered a domain, and naturally, since WHOIS information is public, and the spammers watch new domain registrations, he started getting spammed. He also told us this was “very unprofessional”. I counted backwards from five, then pointed this fact out to him and offered to use our masking info for the domain, so that we would get the spam and the phone calls. He took up that offer. Problem solved, and for me, no being pissed off because of the rudeness some people shoot our way for no reason.

I’ve now posted to the blog here daily since the 24th. It’s a start, and helps me get into the groove of making writing a habit. It occurred to me that I wasn’t making writing one of my top priorities, being too busy with the business, doctor visits, and so on. I made the decision to make it a priority, just as the business, my gardens, and my bees are. I had started a web site as a hobby type of thing, tracking deaths in any given week, I realized that was a major timesink, since I had to pick from the lists, then go do research to build the short blurb I’d give to each. That one had to go, because it took away time I wanted to assign over to my writing instead.

There’s another major shift I made that freed up a ton of time. But that’s a story for tomorrow.

Be well, peeps, and I’ll blather more at you soon.

Where there’s a will

The thing about owning old-style crafted anything – like desks, for instance – is that when it comes to repair and you don’t have a full woodworking studio and all the tools that come with it, sometimes you have to improvise.

One of the drawers has been sticking, badly, and I finally got fed up with it tonight. I unloaded it and found the sides of the drawer were bowing out of their joints at the front. There are no nails or screws in the construction of the drawers except in the handles: the sides were simply groove cut in a tight fit and glued. So, to get them back in order, I brought out my handy wood glue. On a tangent here,I also use the glue on the joints of the bee frames when I’m building those, as well, to supplement the staples, as the bees propolize everything and the top joints get the most pressure when you’re trying to get them out for inspection. Tangent over.

I reglued the joints and then used some heavy things I happen to have around instead of going outside for (wet) bricks. Books, of course. After this dries, I’ll turn it over to do the other side, using the same weights. There’s a notch toward the front so a metal frame for folders can be placed, but the frame joints are 1/4 inch, and the notches are slightly smaller than that – no doubt this is what has caused the tops portions of the sides of the drawer to lose their grip and not seat firmly in their joints. Luckily, I do have a 1/4 inch wood chisel to open those notches just a hair in order to get the metal frame to sit evenly.

Once this is repaired, it won’t be such an ordeal to get the drawer open and then closed once more, and that is a Good Thing.

 

Hello, sports fans

It’s been awhile, yes. A big thank you to Damian, who noticed I had a script kiddie “hack” the site – not a hack per se, just a defacement, like a tagger on a building wall more than anything else, but annoying. If you’re running WordPress, you need to update to 4.7.2. This is pretty much their equivalent of a hair on fire announcement.

“WordPress 4.7.2 is now available. This is a security release for all previous versions and we strongly encourage you to update your sites immediately.”

So, thanks to Damian, I cleared out that defaced post and got this here blawg, plus the others I maintain, updated.

Speaking of updates, what’s been happening at the ranch? A bunch of things, bleeding over from the suckage that was 2016. Last year was rather a horrible one from every single angle: professional, personal, ranch. I was sick off and on most of the year, and late in the year I found a big lump on the right side of my neck. Those of you who have followed me know that the cancer back in 2005 was on the left side of my neck. This thing ballooned up so big that it finally burst – or, as the doctors say, “spontaneously drained”. There’s a very hard lump in there, surrounded by infection. At this time, since I have kept draining it (which is disgusting) it is much more contained at the moment, but still painful.

After five months, we are now heading toward surgery to remove it. Tomorrow. We’re not entirely sure ow long that will take, since even with multiple types of scans,  they can’t quite tell how large it is or how deeply it goes. We’ll see tomorrow – well, they will, and they’ll let me know afterwards. They have a 23-hour “observation period” which means I will be stuck in hospital overnight, dangit. No day surgery for this one, because, as I mentioned, there’s no way to tell how deep it is or how much they will have to cut if the pathologist says there’s something there and the margins are not clean. That means I’ll be hauling my laptop up and leeching off the hospital’s wifi, which should be at least marginally better than the sucktastic ISP I have now.

So what happened in 2016?  Pneumonia a couple of times, for one. General grue some others, including when my sister came back to the US for a visit, bringing whatever German germs they have over there. The garden was a disaster, since one of the times I was quite ill was around Memorial Day, when things are starting to go full blast in the gardens. I was sick for a couple of weeks, managed to keep the bees fed, and that was about it: everything else spiraled out of control for the most part. We had no significant harvest as we’ve had in years past, and only a handful of tomatoes.

(Insert four days here, as I did not finish this post on the eve of surgery on my neck. Surgery: done. Recovery: continuing. No hospital stay: hooray!)

At the end of the year, I go this lump thing going, and in the bee yard, I lost 20 – yes, 20 – hives.  I think some of that was due to the incredible weird weather we had deep into the year. In October, we were still seeing temps in the 80s, the queens had not been shut down by their respective bees, so they wanted to swarm and had to be split. I suppose I could have just continued to pile brood boxes on them, but I don’t think it would have made a difference in how things turned out: there simply would not have been enough bees to cover all of the brood as the 80-degree days suddenly snapped to low 70s and the overnights to 40-ish, in exactly the same way a swarm or split would not have enough bees for the same thing.

Another problem: absconding. I hesitate to call it colony collapse disorder, although at least three I know fit the conditions: plenty of food and pollen, no masses of dead bees, and the queen left behind with a tiny group of young bees. As in plenty of cases I’ve read about, there didn’t seem to be any problems inside the hive at all. They were healthy, not overly burdened by mites, beetles, or other pests, and then one day they were just gone. One, in fact, disappeared in the course of a day: I’d checked the hive the day before, and the next day, poof! No bees.

It’s disheartening, to say the least, when you’ve busted your ass on 100+ degree days taking care of the hives only to find them gone. A few of the hives had dwindled to almost nothing and were holding their own, but eventually got robbed out by other, stronger, hives. That, too, is strange: the strong hives had plenty of stores, so didn’t need the piddly amounts that were in the weaker hives, and in one case, didn’t have anywhere to really store that excess anyway. It’s an odd life, taking care of bees.

One thing I tried in late 2016 was in-frame feeders. They take the place of one or two frames in a hive body, depending on what size body you’re running in the yard. These have a cap and ladder system that is supposed to allow the bees to go down and gather up the syrup the frames are filled with and crawl back up without drowning. I know a lot of people use them. They’ve had great success. The migratory keepers use them a lot. What I got? A bunch of drowned bees in some, and in other hives, a ton of drowned bees. I pulled every single one out of the hives. While they are convenient, holding a gallon (or two) of sugar syrup to reduce the number of times you have to make syrup and refill, the tradeoff in dead bees did not work for me. If I have to hump 50 jars out for feeding when it’s necessary, then that’s what I’ll do. Lesson learned, in that those types of feeders are not for my beeyard.

This year, I’ll be rebuilding the beeyard. I picked up four nucs from Jester’s down in Mims – almost two and a half hours from here, one way, and it was funny driving back two and half hours with the back of the car humming. All of those are doing great, as they should. Nucs, for those not in the know, are smaller versions of hives. They usually have five frames, with brood, honey, and pollen. The queen is in the box with her bees, and when you get them home, ideally you should swap them over into regular hive bodies. When I returned home that day, it was late and starting to spit rain, so they hung out in the nucs until the next day when I hived them. They didn’t seem particularly bothered by the delay, and I had to add second brood boxes already to all four of them. If you need bees, you’re a small keeper, and you live somewhere that isn’t too far away, give Jester’s a call – I’m pleased thus far with this group that I have, and I can’t wait to see how they perform once spring arrives.

I also ordered 15 packages from Rossman to rebuild the beeyard.  It’s a fairly big expense, but not an overwhelming one, and will get us back up to the numbers I want faster than dealing with splits would, especially since I don’t have a huge number of hives to work with relative to splits.

For the gardens: I have flats in the barn under the lights, and they are all up. In a couple of days, I’m hoping to have this neck thing not hurt so much so I can do the next round of flats. I also sowed carrot, radish, and beet a week or so before surgery, and was planning to do a successive round of those today, but that’s going to have to be pushed back as the flats have been. My goal this year is to have better succession planting and thus better management of what’s on hand and growing throughout the year. It would also help to not be seriously ill this year, and I’ve decided I’ll just have to start wearing a mask if I have to be out amongst large groups of people. In fact, my sister warned me yesterday that there is some kind of nasty flu-like thing making the rounds out in the world, and my brother in Orlando is ill, and says there’s something down there, too. So, masks it is. I’d rather look silly than be down for the count for three weeks and not be able to tend things normally.

For the log/online life: I got off facebook at some point in the middle of last year, and at the end of the year, I deactivated my account. That has freed up a lot of time, removed some stress and pressure, and in general has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I maintain my author page via an account I created just for that purpose: that account has no friends, follows no groups or people, and never will. It’s just there to give me entry to the page I set up, which is not updated on a regular basis right now – because really, do you see established authors hanging out on facebook all day long? No. They are either there to post once in awhile, or they have assistants to take care of their social media. Seriously, the next time you’re on any of the social media stuff, start a timer and see how long you’re on them when you finally exit. It’s astonishing how much of a time sink they are. If you have other things you need to do (write words, repair the sink, do a workout) use social media as  reward – set that timer for 30 minutes or an hour or whatever after you’ve done the task you want/need to do, and when the timer goes off, you’re done. Close them out and go do something else. Maybe one of these days, people will once again appreciate the nature of long form exchanges, like this, instead of 140 character bites or the inanity (“I had nachos!!!”) of most of what people post on social media. Life is too short to watch bad movies, read bad books, or waste years of your life on social media.

One of my goals this year is to post regularly here – ideally, I’d like to do that daily, even if it’s just an image from wandering around the gardens or bees. Notice that I did not say resolution, but goal. I’d like to make it into a habit, and I suppose this post is the beginning of making that habit.

Speaking of habits, I stumbled across a gamified (how I can’t stand that word) habit creator/to do application. It’s over at Habitica.com – it’s free and it’s fun. Some of the functions are not things I’m using (battling monsters with friends, for instance) because I simply want the to-do portion of it. I do still like Todoist, but I find Habitica the one I turn to more these days.

And now? Time to get back to doing some work – work work, as I’m not quite ready for the other work for the gardens and bees just yet. I’m getting there, though.

Hope your new years are falling into place for you, my handful of readers.

AIC

That stands for Ass In Chair, and is the hallmark of people telling you how to get things done (like writing). Like anything else, it can also be used as a shorthand way of a way to get things done. Obviously, you can’t improve your batting by having your ass in a chair, but the equivalent – spending time in the cage on a regular basis – is true. Likewise, you can’t keep your gardens in shape if you’re sitting on your ass, but again, the equivalent – get out there on some kind of schedule and do the weeding or the pruning or whatever else needs to be done – is true.

And so it is in the tech world. Yesterday, after a disaster of an update by a vendor, I basically spent 20 hours with my ass in my chair, fixing things that the update had crapped on. It also meant I missed out on visit time with my sister and the kidlets, and also that I missed some of the cleanup things that she and my mom were doing – although, to be honest, the former is always a lot more fun than the latter.

Today, and for the next couple of days, “winter” is among us. Tonight’s low is forecast for 27F, which for us likely means a few degrees colder at least. Tomorrow’s forecast  isn’t much better. But to demonstrate how weird our winter is, Tuesday will see us climbing right back up the thermometer, to the mid-upper 70s.

The peppers and tomatoes bought it in the last freeze, which left the broccoli and cauliflower as the last survivors. I did the fourth and final harvest from those as the temperature dropped, and in the coming days will pull all the dead/spent plants for the compost pile and turn my attention to getting some things done in the rows so they will be ready for the first transplants or seeding as we move into the beginning of the main season this year.

Earlier today, I covered the surviving hives to help keep some warmth in them as we go through our cold snap. Those will remain in place until next week when we’re back to milder weather.

Now that my ISP has finally gotten itself together and allowed the upload of that pic there (after six tries), my picks for the weekend wild card playoff games.  I had picked Houston over Oakland, and had this crap ISP allowed me to finish this in a timely manner, that would have been in place before the game ended. Houston did win. Tonight’s game, Lions at the Seahawks, I’ve picked the Seahawks. For tomorrow’s games, I’m taking the Steelers over the Dolphins (although I’d like for Miami to pull off that upset), and the Packers over the Giants (duh).

For Monday night’s national championship game, my pick is Alabama over Clemson.

And now, time for another cup of tea – decaf alas.

Stay well, folks.

Saved

Our forecasts out here in the boonies, in the winters, are horribly off. In summer, we can simply count on the high temperature being higher than what they say and be done. It’s summer. It’s hot. It doesn’t really matter if the high is forecast to be 94F and it turns out to be 100F, relatively speaking. In winter – what passes for “winter” here – we do count on it being cooler than the forecast, but the measure of cooler-ness varies wildly. That matters, greatly.

Sunday: the forecast was for the low 40s (all temps are F, for those of you in C lands). Here at the ranch, actual overnight low: 31. Half the tomatoes and peppers took hits.

Monday and Tuesday forecasts were for 34F and 37F, respectively. I had decided on Sunday that I was not going to go through the routine of covering any of the second round of plants, because (frankly) it is exhausting, and I actually did not have the things I needed to do it. But, me being me, with my tilting at windmills and all (corn!), Monday morning I decided that I would, in fact, cover them.

The big orange supply store. Two trips. Lots of plastic sheeting. Lots of cursing from me because my body, post-cancer, is not the same body it was – fuck you, cancer! But, with a bit of help from my mom, I got the peppers (40′), broccoli/cauliflower (32′), and one 50′ row of tomatoes covered. The other two row of tomatoes (one 50′, one 32′) were left to their devices, as I was exhausted, having run through all the calories I’d taken in. Since I can’t eat like a normal person any longer, my daily intake is pretty damned small. After Monday’s dusk work to get covers in place, I came in, laid down on the dog bed with the puppy, and promptly fell asleep for an hour.

Actual temps at the ranch overnight Monday and Tuesday: 31F and 29.8F.

I don’t mind that the forecasts are off, but I would love for them to be in the same general vicinity.

As it stands, most of the peppers are unlikely to make it, along with most of the tomatoes – many of both plantings had fruit set on them. The broccoli and cauliflower don’t seem to have minded any of it – there were about a dozen plants that wouldn’t fit in the main rows I had designated, and these were not covered. They’re fine.

In addition, I lost one hive to the freeze. I knew this would happen, as the weather well into October was unsettled, and we still had 90 degree days. There simply were not enough bees in the hive when the weather started to slide, and I had no more bees to give them to populate the box. I looked in it yesterday, and found the queen and her tiny clump of bees frozen on a patch of honey on one of the frames. There are two other hives that are iffy: the late swarm I caught from someone else’s beeyard that clustered in mine, and another one that simply does not have enough bees. A third is on the edge – I killed a ton of yellowjackets trying to rob out that hive, and reduced their entrance to the smallest possible to make things easier to defend with a light load of bees.

Overall, the sum of it pissed me off and made me terribly sad at the same time, and I started beating myself up for not being better at taking care of both of these things. We generally  hold ourselves to higher standards than we do other people, and I think I probably do this to an even higher degree than most – it’s a “perfectionist/you can never fail or have a setback” mindset that I’m working on (not very successfully – ironic).

It’s all a work in progress. I have to remind myself that I am, too.

 

Snapping

As in cold snapping.

Yesterday and today, we’ve had a taste of what passes for winter here. Not by the forecast, no. That was more spring- or fall-like, with the forecast in the low 50s overnight. Last night the low bottomed out at 38.8F at the ranch. Not ideal, especially since in the past two weeks I’ve made up some nuc boxes for the bees, and had made no real preparation for them for cold temperatures because the forecast seemed to be rather mild. Now, I’m dreading what I’ll find out there a bit later as it warms up and I head to the beeyard to check them. Worse, I also had several new queens out there, and if they’re goners, that’s going to be a shame.

On the plus side of things, at least it didn’t freeze. We are trying to sneak a second harvest in, and if the temp had dropped further and zapped the tomato and pepper plants I have out there, it would have just added to the overall disappointment at not mentally adjusting the forecast lower – which is something I do during the winter, as we are in the boonies and our lows are always lower (and highs, in the summer, generally higher) than the forecast. I usually don’t have to start that until the time changes – have I mentioned lately how much I don’t like the “fall back” routine? I hate it. But, the weather has been weird all year, and I suppose adjusting my expectations will have to be a year round thing instead of a seasonal one.

Here, have a video of a honeybee emerging from a cell. The bees are booming, with the queens still laying non-stop and filling frames. This temporary dip in the weather may slow them down, but we’re going right back to 80F degree days, according to the forecast, so we’ll be anywhere between 76-86F by my estimate, and that will probably get them going again at a higher rate.

Baby swarms are still swarms

And even baby swarms can be a massive pain in the ass. Case in point: yesterday while I was out feeding some of the hives (as they are getting established), I noticed some oddball behavior in front of a couple of the hives. It was getting toward dusk, and at first I thought it was just all the troops returning for the evening. Looking around, though, I saw some flying activity about 25-30 feet east of the hive stands near the Japanese maple in the beeyard. I wandered over to take a look, and at first didn’t see a thing, but closer inspection revealed a baby swarm, no larger than a grapefruit, hanging from a branch just barely over my head. Hooray for easily reachable swarms. Boo for swarms that are very small and thus unlikely to survive if they are too late in the season. It’s still hot as the surface of the sun here, and we have a long season anyway, so I decided to go ahead and drop them into a box. Then the weirdness began.

As I was setting up, I noted that there seemed to be a great deal of fighting going on within the little cluster of bees. I pulled the branch toward the box I’d put on the ground, gave the branch a quick shake, and dropped them. I followed up by gently brushing the bees that didn’t fall off on their own. But, alas, they all flew right back up and I knew then that I had not caught the queen in the drop. I gave them a few minutes to recluster, and then dropped them again. This time, they stayed put in the box and I started to hunt for the queen. Then, more weirdness: the fighting because even more brutal and there were a ton of bees swirling around – far more than could be accounted for by the swarm alone. It seems to have been some kind of war, or possibly attempted robbing (as I’d put some recently extracted, but cleaned, frames into the box), and it was just like a war zone.All this time, I was hunting the queen, and finally found her in a ball of bees trying to kill her – another oddity, and nothing I’d ever seen before in this particular situation. I managed to catch and mark her, and put her into a queen cage so as not to let any of the bees kill her, because who wants to just give up on a queen?

I wound up moving the frames with the comb away from the swarm box itself, but they showed no signs of slacking up, so I covered the swarm bow and kept the top cover braced open just a tiny bit, hoping the attacking bees would go home, and the swarmed bees would join their queen in the box. Just before real darkness got here, I moved the swarm box over to the area in front of the barn, to try to stop the battling that was simply leaving an enormous number of dead bees on the ground. I closed them up for the night, and left them.

Today, first thing (before I had to haul off to the NOC) I checked the queen: she was still alive, with perhaps two dozen bees left, hanging out with her. I couldn’t do anything with them just then, and it was not until this evening that I managed to get back out there, thanks to work. Since it was quite clear the queen would not have enough subjects to hive them by themselves, I pulled two frames of brood and workers from another hive, put them in, got the queen and the remaining attendants over to the top of frames I’d put in a second box above the brood box where the transferred frames were, put some feed on, and buttoned up the hive for the night. I’m hoping the transferred workers will simply continue to do their jobs in taking care of the brood on the frames, and in a couple of days, I’ll release the queen manually as they should be used to her pheromone by then.

Did I mention that it was in the upper 90s(F) both yesterday and today while I was out there, with a heat index of 104-108F?

I hope they stay. And I hope I’ll be able to figure out which hive of mine that little ball of bees came from, if they are indeed from mine. I checked some of the more active hives after I had gotten the queen into a hive with the rest of the hives on the stands, but none of them seemed to be in any dire need of more room, they had plenty of stores, and in general seemed fine. I will need to do a deeper inspection on some of the hives – actually, it’s time to do a full, deep inspection on all of them as we head toward fall – to gauge their relative health, and perhaps find which of the hives had this tiny swarm emanate.