No, I am not handing out tiny eviction notices to the bees, although some days, they make it difficult to coexist.
That is a bee stinger in the bridge of my nose. I’ve been stung plenty of times, including just under one of my eyes, but I have to say that having a sting where it’s primarily cartilage hurts quite a bit more than the others I’ve had.
It’s amazing that something this small can be so painful. I feel like I’ve been punched in the face. Between the sting and the walk back in from the beeyard, my nose was already swelling, as you can see there, and it took a little work to get the stinger out of my face. It’s still swelling, and it won’t be long before I can’t breathe out of my nose. Fun times with bees!
How’d I get stung? I foolishly thought – on an overcast kind of day – that my using the whacker to cut grass, etc., down to the dirt (for reasons I’ll make clear) would be fine without a suit, as I was well away from them.
This is how it looks right now.
My eye is not swollen shut (yet), but the color is creeping into it and I would not be surprised to find it that way in the morning. Or maybe I’ll get lucky and the swelling will go down ovenrnight. Who can say?
So what was I doing? Sorry, that will have to wait until tomorrow when I complete the project.
Ah, yes. Violet the gum chewer who did something stupid at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
While I might not have a three course meal with blueberry pie in gum form, I do have blueberries here at the ranch. Well, potential blueberries.
One of the blueberry bushes is taller than me.
That’s fine, though. I’ll haul a ladder out to pick them if I have to.
We’ll be awash in berries in the very near future. They freeze extremely well, so we won’t lose any of the harvest. I need to prune these back in the fall. They’ve had a wee bit of lack of management over the past few years, for obvious reasons. The same goes for the blackberries and raspberries: their canes need to be cut back after this season. I also need to run another trellis wire on my posts to train those. one more thing on the todo list!
Speaking of todo lists, I have been putting a dent in mine. I transferred all the “work” work stuff into a journal, and I’m working on getting the other items transferred over.
The only thing on my lists I have not gotten to is the reading. By the time I finish doing the normal daily things and some of the items on the lists, I am dog tired. i’m falling asleep at my desk as I try to get this done, so time to wrap it up. Tomorrow is another day filled with possibility. Until next time, peeps: be well.
It is not yet spring here, if you go strictly by the calendar. If you go by the weather, however, Mother Nature is telling a far different tale.
This is not to say she won’t change her mind about bypassing winter entirely here. It’s possible she will bring some random freeze and drop it on our doorstep with the same pride a cat has when it brings a dead critter home. Our forecast for the next ten days, in fact, has a random evening with a forecast overnight temperature of 34F. This is mildly concerning to me, as I have directly sowed some things, and if they have germinated and are up, it is possible they could get zapped by a sustained freeze (or even frost, in at least one case).
I’m not going to worry about that, though – I can sow those same seeds again, as they are plentiful and cheap. I sowed them early because that allows me to get them out of the way of when transplant time comes. That’s a very busy time for me, both in the gardens and in the bees. Anything I can knock out of having to do then is a plus.
Right now that means weeding and cleaning out hives that are not in active use. I lost some colonies in 2018, and also have other gear that needs to be cleaned, so I got to it.
One of the things that happens as you are recovering from a couple of years of constant pneumonia and being in and out of the hospital, and then a year of recovery from that,v is that some things miss the boat as far as getting done. This didn’t rank high on the list, and what happens is that wax moths will move in and start using brood comb for their grossness. I got a late start (in the afternoon, as the rain that was forecast never quite made it) and managed to get three stack done.
As part of that doneness, I picked out some of the larvae so the girls (and Sir) could have some nice extra (live!) protein in their diet.
They loved these. I’m sure I’ll have more for them as I move through the rest of the hives to clean them. The best thing is that when I give them food – this or other food – they transform it into eggs for my family.
The hive cleanup is one of the items on the bees section of attractions on Todo Lake, and while I did not get through all of them today, I got a start, and that is what matters. It isn’t always the doing that is the difficult part. The difficulty is in the starting. Then it’s just a matter of allowing momentum to take over to power through, as many of the things on my list are not things that can be done in one sitting.
Once I get the hives cleaned and the frames and foundation dealt with, I’ll need to repaint a few of these hive bodies. And then, these condos will be ready to be put back into service by some of the new bees I’m getting and from the splits I’m going to have to make from the existing hives, as they continue their population levels. Except for a few packages, the rest are varieties I’ve never had before: Russians, Buckfast, and Carniolan. It is going to be fun learning the traits of these newbees in my beeyard.
The other day, I pulled some weeds in the rear gardens as I continue the race against “No Winter”and schedule my transplants.
One row was infested with lesser swine cress. Nice rosette pattern. Deep taproot, though, so it’s a hard one to get out completely, and if you want it done well, you cannot half-ass it.
Even the baby ones have long roots.
Tomorrow – as long as the rain holds off, or at least whatever time I have before it arrives for a visit, I’ll be continuing my bee gear clean up adventure.
That’s it for today, peeps. Until next time: be well.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.