a hard winter
February 22, 2014, 2:49 pm
Filed under: bees, chickens, farm, gardening | Tags: , , ,

Yep. We’ve all heard it. It’s been a hard winter. I believe it! Luckily for us, we were able to escape for a week. Hawaii. Mmm hmm. We were lucky indeed. We’ve never done that winter sun holiday thing, and yes, it was nice!!!

Now we’re back. And without our constant pressure, the wildlife creeped ever closer. They were hungry.

Hard work for naught

Are you hunrgy enough to eat a garbage can??

Are you kidding me? Someone ate a hole into the garbage can?? We’re not meat eaters. We compost. What the heck was it smelling?


recycle bin

Check it out. It even tried the recycle bin. Guess the yellow plastic doesn’t taste as good as the green?

But then I ventured out to the garden. The fenced garden. I am devastated.


a girdled apple tree

My little espalier apples–girdled. I am so upset I can’t believe it! 4 of six carefully planted, pruned, tended, perhaps they might fruit for the first time this year, apple trees. All that work. Good bye Newtown Pippin, so long Duchess of Oldenburg. Nice seeing you Calville Blanc. Whatevs Golden Russet. Blech. Gardening is too hard.

I took a spin out to the back garden just to see what else had been going wrong. The two trees out there are without damage. Sydney’s disaster–aka the Gala apple tree she knocked over and broke last fall–showed signs of animal gnawing on the smaller limbs which are now on the ground. But the other two seem fine.

I heard some buzzing. I looked down and saw a lone bee on a branch. Over at the hive, some signs of activity. Silly bees. It’s only 50. And it’s surely not spring yet! But nice to see some activity there.


A few hardy bees testing their flight legs

In other news, that hungry raccoon gave me a scare yesterday too. Unlike the possum sighting, this time I screamed! I opened the feed room in the barn. Goats were in the aisle, and chickens were crossing the tundra to the barn for their afternoon scratch and peck. I opened the door and a raccoon scurried over away from me. The lid to the chicken food was off. ARGH!!

I rushed to get the chickens back to their safe house. When I returned he was gone. But he’s still around. He escaped the trap last night, but opened up a few bags of chicken food. Yes, you really need to put all chicken food into metal bins. With lids that can be locked. He was a cute little guy. Not one of those huge ones, but not a tiny one either. Poor guys are so hungry out there!

It’s nice and sunny and warm today, but we hear that winter is coming back this week. Oh Hawaii, yes we miss you already!


whole food “local” honey–not local! Oranges in W.PA?

Local food seems easy enough to define. Or at least define what it’s not! Shipping bees across the country and then selling the honey as “local” is pretty misleading! And pretty impossible in any definition of the word in this case–orange honey in Pittsburgh??!

Visited our newest neighborhood Whole Foods the other day. It’s a nice big store with a great beer cafe! We’ve been waiting a long time for it to open. Unfortunately it’s exactly equidistant to as the other Whole Foods in Pittsburgh. Sigh.

Taking our first tour through we noted some different items. And we noticed a lot of signage. Everyone is on the Local bandwagon these days, and Whole Foods is using a lot of Local tags on its shelves. To wit:

whole foods wexford PA marketing orange honey as local!

Yep. That label shows the apiary has locations in NJ and FL. So, um wait a minute here. It’s interesting to think that New Jersey–around 8 hours away qualifies as “local.” Clearly not a 100 miles version of “local”.

But the real problem–dudes, listen–since when are we growing oranges in Pittsburgh!!! Sheesh. Get real Whole Foods!!

As for the company–I do like the fact that this label gives such a thorough picture of how the honey was produced. Itinerant bees shipped around the country. You know sort of, what you’re getting!

marketing the garden lifestyle

Whew, I think i’ve seen it all. Williams Sonoma is now carrying chicken coops!!! Whaaa??!

And beehives. Wow. Some kind of sea change is happening out there that people think there’s enough interest and moola behind this “agrarian” urge. Their new line is called agrarian and it’s available at some stores. It is no cheap friends. The funniest thing is a roll of hardware cloth 25′ long for 59.95!! It’s called predator control kit for your coop. Guess it is hard these days to find an old fashioned place that sells this stuff, but really if you look hard enough you can find it at home depot. For WAY cheaper.

They are also selling plants. A tiny rosemary for 12.95. Cute burlap package though. And some apple trees. This makes me sad–they’re selling golden and red delicious??! Guess their market wizards said that they should stick to recognizable things. Interesting times–can’t believe the big retailers are trying to cash in on this. Kind of cool, but I don’t see how it’s going to work!

death on the farm-bee edition
September 9, 2011, 7:03 pm
Filed under: bees | Tags: , ,

Ooof. Our first death on the farm. Went out to check on the hives and noticed that Stelle wasn’t at all active compared to Louis. I opened it up and a wasp flew out. And only a few bees hovering around. Now really concerned I got the dude out and we took it apart. Imagine our sad faces as we realized that the ENTIRE hive was completely empty. The shelves were bare. All of the cells cleaned out! Unbelievable. So sad. Sure hope the split survived.
The hive swarmed (split) on May 29. On July 9, we saw larvae in there and I took a frame of honey out. And now they’re all gone. Sad news.

When is honey not honey?
August 20, 2011, 6:13 pm
Filed under: bees, food issues | Tags: ,

I wrote about honey laundering a ways back. Here’s an updated view of the story. Honey being shipped from China and moved around from country to country, labels changing, hoping to find its way to our shelves. What’s interesting about this story are the new lengths that people can go to mask the fact that the honey comes from China. Ultrafiltering can be done to remove all traces of the originating pollen sources and antibiotics. They can even make a fake honey–blending artificial sweeteners with a tiny bit of honey. Now that’s sad! The US produces only 48 percent of the honey it uses each year, so there is a big demand for imported honey.

we have honey!!!
July 16, 2011, 9:00 am
Filed under: bees | Tags: , , , ,

Ok, I am ridiculously excited about this. We have honey!!! We extracted honey!!! It’s so cool! Last weekend I went to a honey extraction class with Burgh Bees. We got into the hives and saw that Stelle had produced a deep super honey and also filled up their topmost medium. Louis was still working on their deep. So, the ever conservative beekeepers we are–we took out exactly one frame from each hive!!

I put them in dude’s beer bucket and hauled them over to the class.

good work girls!!

can't resist another view of that great comb!

The class was pretty cool. About 15 people there–all so super keen and excited about honey. I used a manual two frame extractor. I wasn’t sure how much honey we’d get from two frames, I brought a few jars and wasn’t sure if I was being super optimistic or what. Check it out…

celestial bells! we have a LOT of honey!!

Turns out there’s a lot of honey in them thar frames! And most deceivingly, there’s a lot that’s left in the bottom of the bucket. I drained the cappings overnight in a sieve over a baking sheet and we later filled up that half full jar in the picture.

Oh, and to answer your burning question–yes, people–the stuff tastes AMAZING!!!

Today, must figure out solar wax melter–to filter the cappings for beeswax.

May 29, 2011, 3:09 pm
Filed under: bees | Tags: , , , , ,

Big day at the acres. Dude went out to the back garden this morning, and then he called me over with some excitement. As I approached the fence, the noise was amazing. Bees make a lot of noise when they’re on the move. And they were on the move alright. There was a huge mass of bees swirling around the front of the hive. Bees were streaming out the sides, and coming out the front. Apparently the lazy beekeepers waited a bit too long to do the hive management this spring, and the bees decided to move out. Good luck girls!

like orange snowflakes

they filled the sky

good luck girls!!

45 feet up in a beech tree

amazing sight!

I felt bad that we didn’t provide adequate housing for them, but I was really really excited to see them go. It was an amazing sight, and it really only took about 10 or 15 minutes so we were lucky to see it. When we got back to the house a few hours later they were gone. I was happy that we’d managed to overwinter them and they were happy and healthy enough to think they should split. Very cool experience! It was really a ton of bees!