Tag Archives: bees

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

Uncatchable

Sometimes you get a swarm in the yard, but it is simply uncatchable.

This is a zoomed-in image of a swarm that was likely from the monster hive #8*, about 50′ up in a water oak near the beeyard. It looks a lot larger than it was, but it was still a nice swarm, and if it had been lower, I’d have made a big effort to get it. As it was, the only thing I could do was set up a bait box about four deep bodies high under the tree, with a touch of lemongrass oil, to try to lure them down. They didn’t go for it. The next day, they were gone. I’d already done two splits from #8, and if this swarm was from that hive, that queen’s genetics are still in that hive, which is what I want: it’s a survivor queen, the last of my bees from 2016-2017, two years lost to chronic, recurring pneumonia.

*I say probably from #8 because that is the largest hive out there. however, #1 was acting a little squirrelly that day, and it may have been from that hive. Weirder still: when the swarm vanished, #1 had an absolute ton of activity going on. I’ve seen swarms return to their home, and if this was from #1, they may have gone right back to the original hive, as we were being pounded by big storms every single day during this period (this pic is from June 1) and hanging out in trees, unprotected, isn’t a good thing.

I’m planning on going into #8 and #1 on Thursday, to see what the girls have to say for themselves, and possibly to make another split from #8 to keep those good genes alive.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

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.