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!


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 yellow brown? hoping it’s not nosema
February 14, 2011, 8:21 am
Filed under: bees, farm | Tags: , , , , ,

The bees were out yesterday, and man did they have to go! I checked the hives this morning and here’s how they looked.

bee poop everywhere

It’s supposed to be yellow poop. And when it’s brown it indicates that they have nosema–a fungal infection. Yuck. I looked around online for pictures, but couldn’t find a lot of images that would help me confirm. So, bee friends, what do you think? Yellow or brown? Should I be worried or not?

a closer view

some spots on "Louis"

uh oh bees are at the top in "Stelle"

I put some granulated sugar on a paper in Stelle. The bees were walking around the top so I think they’ll find it ok. When I opened Louis, I was surprised that I really couldn’t see any bees!! There were one or two walking around up top, but I couldn’t see the ball o bees. Oh no, I thought, I’ve lost a hive. But listening in, I could hear them. They’re still somewhere down in the second  stack. So Louis is doing extremely well. I hope!

Sure am getting excited to see how they fare into the spring. We’re going to take Beekeeping 102 (the second season) in March. Looking forward to that, as I’m not really sure what we do if we get them through the winter.

36,000.00 value of 2 beehives!
January 3, 2011, 3:55 pm
Filed under: bees | Tags: , , , ,

Wow, who knew? Check out this interesting analysis. Apparently having honey bees is a great economic decision. We were just interested in helping with pollination in the garden.

According to Joshua Levin, while the startup costs are a bit large (he comes up with 465.00 and 100.00 in yearly maintenance costs), after a first year harvest of 15 pounds (that stuff we couldn’t bear to steal from our girls), each hive will produce 100 pounds of honey. Commercial honey is about 4.00 a pound, and you can get from 15-22 a pound for fancy honey. You know, local terroir and all that. Guess we’d need to make some good labels to charge that much. Anyhow he does the ongoing calculations and comes up 1400 a year (after costs) in profit. He does some analysis and says that if you think of the hives as a bond (with yearly payout), they have a present value of 18,000 per hive!

Who knew our biggest asset would be a beehive? Weird!

a nice warm up–bees are happy!
December 31, 2010, 3:25 pm
Filed under: bees | Tags: , , , , ,

Happy New Years. I have a lot to catch up on with the blog. Alas, it’s been a busy time, and then I got a new computer. So, I’m a bit behind.

We went through a big cold snap. It was nice to have a white christmas, and to see that the chicken heater lamps work, but it’s also nice for a warm up. The chickens ran around outside, the goats had fun, and we all watched the ice rink melt.

The best part though, was this…
The bees came out!! Whew. It was a amazing to see them. They seemed a bit confused, they were all swarming all over the place. But they are alive, and there are lots of them. I checked the honey stores earlier before it really warmed up, and they seem to both have lots there. So that’s good.

dec 31 bees out to play

honey laundering–US bees provide less than half of honey demand
September 28, 2010, 7:34 pm
Filed under: bees, food issues | Tags: , , , , , ,

Great piece of investigative reporting in Seattle Pi. This came through a bee list I’m on. It’s from 2008, but there is so much interesting stuff in here about how food products are shipped packed reshipped, tracked, etc–definitely worth another look! The article has some nice graphics about which countries are big exporters. And he talks about why we should care–the prohibited antibiotics being used, watering honey down, cutting it with corn syrup, etc. Basically it boils down to the Chinese trying to avoid high tariffs and anti-dumping regulations.

I need to look around and see if there have been any new developments on this.

Ok, I do loooove the google. I googled the reporter’s name, Andrew Schneider, and came up with this. As it happens a big arrest came through on this topic just this month.

A group of German and Chinese are charged with conspiring to import more than $40 million of Chinese honey to avoid paying anti-dumping duties of approximately $80 million! That’s a lot of honey. Customs seized 3200 drums of it! It makes me so sad to think of all that wasted bee labor.

The label changing game is interesting as one honey packer noted, “We estimate that millions of pounds of Chinese honey continue to enter the U.S. from countries that do not have commercial honey businesses!” Here’s a longer version of the article for AOL.

A nice discussion of the Chinese honey trade practice is also found here.

According to that article, “The United States produces less than half the honey that it consumes, relying on imports to make up the difference from major honey producers such as Canada, Argentina and Brazil. This article suggests that as much as a third of total imports come from countries with no significant commercial honey exporting business.

And four of the top eight countries – India, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Indonesia – export far more honey than their domestic bees produce!”

It sounds like a hard market to be in…and tough to be sure about the origin of your honey if you’re buying any of the big brands.

beginner bee luck!
May 30, 2010, 10:29 am
Filed under: bees | Tags: , , , ,

Ok at long last we opened up the hives to take a look. We knew we needed to do it– as one of the hives was making some crazy burr comb up above the frames– but we hadn’t tried the smoker and hadn’t inspected the bees. But they’d filled up their first storey and we needed to add another level. SO…this morning, we fired up the smoker and took a look!

doode adding wood shavings to the smoker

and it makes smoke!

the burr comb

While we had the hives open, I wanted to lift some frames to see what was going on. We had never checked to see the queen, we just removed the empty queen cages and assumed everything was ok. I pulled one outside frame to try it. Cool. Then I pulled the second frame in–it had more activity. And voilà there she was!

queen has blue dot near my thumb

Can we go for double stroke of good luck? Here I am pulling from the second hive–Louis–the one with the burr comb.


i look like michelin man!

there she is! see the blue dot?

Somehow we managed to pull the frames with the queen. Must be beginner bee luck.

This frame shows a bunch of different bee activities. I’m not quite sure if it looks good or what. This frame is from the least developed part of the hive, so i think it’s ok. Looks like capped brood on the right side there. Some other stuff elsewhere. Good news is–the hives seem to be progressing well! It was easy to do, quick too. We put a second storey on, replaced their feeders and closed them up. There were a few ants in Louis but not too many. And none present in Stelle. So that’s good.

How do you like our nifty inspector jackets?!