Saturday, April 25, 2015

Just Enough To Be Dangerous Pt 2 after all that, the next day I get a phone call from the Redneck telling me I have idiot bees. Ok. Fine. In the realm of expected reactions out of said manfriend. Plus the cell reception was kind of crappy as he was driving back from somewhere and the phone was cutting in and out and I didn't push the WHY the bees were idiots issue.

Was not expecting to come home to this:

Just to prove how big of a point I am trying to make, note the lack of caption on the photo. Ahem.

When installing your package of bees, you're supposed to, AND I QUOTE: "spray them down, bump the bees back, open the box up, and shake them in".

Got it? Good.

We talked about it in class extensively, and watched videos in class as well. Of people doing this. They showed us how to do it at field day (although I was not one of the few who tried it there....). And then in preparation for doing it myself, I watched more youtube videos of people doing it. Guys and gals with no protective gear whatsoever transferring happy bees into their new happy home happily and probably then turning off the camera and going home whilst singing tralalala through the woods.

So. I sprayed mine down, bumped them back, opened up the end instead of the top where the can is because with the newfangled containers we got that did not match ANY of the videos of bee shaking I watched (but I'll get back to THAT in a minute) you can do that, shook them in and good golly holy hell where there a lot of fucking bees flying around. The acorn, who had been taping up until about this point when the battery on my phone died because I was TOTALLY prepared, started backing away slowly at this point. I can only imagine what thoughts were going through his head as he watched a million gajillion angry bees swarm around my body. I had been told (and told, and told....) that a few bees would be left in the package and that you just leaned it up against the hive body and that they would want to go in after their sisters and would within 24 hours or so. OK. No biggie. Got it. It seemed like a rather large amount of bees that hadn't made it in the hive, but surely that was OK....

Did package #2, although with this one said 'fuck it' and decided to open the middle top of the box where the can of syrup is inserted like they did in ALL the videos I watched (albeit of the older packages, but still). Spray, bump, shake, boom, all in. Lean package up against side for stragglers. Except not nearly as many stragglers on this one. Hrrrm. Went back and checked #1.... only to find a good half of the bees still in the box. Fuck. Figuring I had royally screwed this hive up and probably didn't have enough survivors anyway, I decided I had nothing to lose by opening that hive back up again and spraying, bumping, and shaking the bees into the box again in hopes of getting them all in.

Whew. Mission accomplished. Ish. I think. I've never done this before.

Being a total genius and *not* wanting to burn down the 40 acres of woods and new house we're building, I set the still-lit smoker down on a cinder black a good 15ft or so from the hives and went down and went to bed excited that I finally had bees. SQUEEEE!

Until the Redneck called me at work the next day.

Came home to find all those bees all over the smoker. I figured it was no big deal. I had to feed the bees anyway (um. yeah. because I only had enough sugar for about a quart total of syrup when I really needed close to a gallon....), so sprayed down the outside of the smoker and bumped and shook them back into the box. Yes! Success! Wait. Is that a bee coming out of the spout? Oh! And another! Ok. A few must have gotten inside. No biggie. I still have sugar syrup in my spray bottle, I'll just spray them down and open up the can and bump and shake those into the box, too.

Except when I opened the lid, a million gajillion bees came pouring out of the can of the smoker like a horror movie of some sort. They just kept coming out!!

Loooong story short, it took gasoline and taking the bellows off the back to get all the bees out. Yup. It sucked.


Still. More. Bees.

My smoker's all cool and vintage and shit. Got it from a very awesome local farmer who kept bees 30 years ago....

Old staples... staples!!

Back in action.
So lesson learned. Spray, bump, and shake with confidence.

Or - follow the video of the maker of the new-fangled package we got and set them in the box and let them crawl out on their own.

Or something. But definitely no leaving lit smokers 15ft away from bees looking for a home and a refuge due to an idiot beekeeper not knowing how to bump and shake them properly!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Just Enough To Be Dangerous Pt 1

Because once you've taken a 10-week course, had 2 field days (or a field day and a hive removal at one of the instructor's houses), passed a written and a practical test and trolled all the facebook Beekeeping forums that'll have you, you obviously know tons jack shit.

I think at one point my facebook status read something along the lines of 'I hope passing a certification test in beekeeping is more helpful than High School French was in France'. Totes magotes. I know *just* enough to be dangerous.

I was SO EXCITED to get my bees. Finally the day I had been waiting for had arrived! Weeks of anticipation on top of 4 years of wanting to had finally come down to one day in which I would go to work at 6am (where we were down a person) on 2 hours of sleep, dip out at 9:20, get my bees, drive them home, go back to work by 10:30, stay until 5pm, go home, feed childs and manchild and the menagerie, and then! Oh! And then! INSTALL MY BEES.

Oddly enough all of *that* part went off without a hitch. Seriously surprised the shit out of me that it did. I left my bees under (what will be) our back porch so they could stay cool and wait for dusk.

Adorable! This is what 6lbs of bees comes in!
Wait. Hold up.

A few days BEFORE the arrival of my bees, because I've totally reinvented myself this year into a planner/organizer extraordinaire, I actually set up the hives outside where they're going to be. The phone call that day to the Redneck went something along the lines of "...oh. yeah. I set up the hives.......Where did I set them up?......You remember where we talked about them going? Where I showed you?.....Yeah, I didn't put them there." Thankfully he is amazeballs awesome and this is a typical conversation for us.

So I actually had them all set and ready to go for bee arrival day.

If my life were an old book, this plate would read "where we find that the Element, indeed, acts as a farm truck"

SO MUCH HELP hauling heavy-ass cinder blocks and commercial pallets. Sidenote: that was the pallet the cinder blocks for our house foundation got delivered on, so pretty damn sturdy methinks.

Because CUTENESS! And ready for BEES!
There's a lot of equipment involved in setting up your bees. And I'm not even talking frames and supers and whatnot.  Syrup to feed them, syrup to spray them (so they can't fly AND so they're distracted while you're shaking them around in a box they've been cooped up in during transport for 2 days....), protective gear, rubber bands (!), the list goes on and on.....

Checking the equipment.
But I had help.
Bee buddies!
First thing you do is check the queen cage to make sure she's alive and kicking.
The queen in her cage with her attendants

Yay for 10 year-old videographers.

Then you get her situated on the frame. She'll stay like this for a few days while she and the other bees chew through the candy plug that's keeping her prisoner. Then she'll get to the business of laying eggs as soon as she can. The hope is that by the time she gets out (3 or so days) the hive has accepted her as their queen and they have drawn enough comb for her to have somewhere to lay said gazillion bajillion eggs. The game here is to boost the population enough that they store a LOT of food for the winter and so that they still have an OK population to start out with next spring.

Queen cage installed onto frame. Note the super professional rubber bands. Next up: install the rest of the bees!

The Acorn's fancy shmancy shot
Needless to say at this point I kinda screwed some shit up that took another day to fix. But that is another story for another blog post.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


So excited to see spring springing. I was talking to my dad on the phone the other day, and as I was gushing on and on about the first leaves popping out on the apple trees I bought and planted, he responded with a "what did you expect to happen?". So he's not the most outwardly sentimental of folks, but dammit if nature doesn't surprise the shit out of me every year when it does EXACTLY what it's supposed to. I don't feel like I emerge from single digit temps as enthusiastically as my plants do - I seem to have to spend some time licking my wounds and reminding myself that it's a whole 9 or 10 months until I have to go through that again. Our plants, with their lack of dwelling on the past, just burst forth and make the most of the turning tides of weather. Gosh darn it I gotta take a hint.

But I'm trying. I almost finished hemming in our meadow garden this year, although putting in 3 rows is more than enough (so says my back) for now. My trapezoidal gate is awaiting chicken wire and then it's done. The onion starts are ready to go in the ground, and I've got rabbit-poopy hay to go between the rows and mulch/fertilize. My starts up in flats are ready to be joined by more starts of the warm-weather variety. Holy hell it's gonna be a busy growing season!

Handsome dog amongst the flowers
Embarrassed to say I'm not sure what this sweet little white flower is. Damn you eastern flora!!
Three rows. 3!! About 10 more to go...
Not everyone has a trapezoidal garden gate. BOOM. Lucky girl, this one.
Red maple.
Bradford pear.
Daffodils + vinca = Spring!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Preparing for Bees....

I am so so so very excited to be getting bees this year. And so so so very excited to cross #2 on my list off for the year.

I mentioned that I had like a 1 in 4 chance of getting a cost share - AND I DID!! Whoopee!!! The list of things they give you is long so I won't list it here.... suffice it to say that I really just need protective gear, a smoker, and a bee brush. And so many people have come out of the woodwork to give me old equipment they found or no longer use, or whathaveyou. Which means I have to find a bee brush and some leg bags and possibly an old white shirt.... and then I'm good. Everything else has been supplied through the Farm Bureau's cost share, or friends. AMAZING. Thank you thank you thank you!!

I don't know yet who my mentor will be, but I know a lot of the members that live near me, so very excited. A bunch of really cool people.

OOOH. And one of the women working in the county planning and inspections office put this little map together that shows all the locations of beekeepers in the county with a one mile radius around them, emulating the bees' range. SO COOL. I grew up in a household with maps in the bathroom, and now that I am going to have 2 GINORMOUS bathrooms, I ordered a 38 x 48 copy.

Starting on hive bodies!

Finished hive bodies!


25 done. 15 to go....

Couldn't resist getting started on these. Such a yummy yummy smell.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lift off!

We have lift off, folks. I was going to do it last weekend, but the damn snOMG 2105 screwed all that up. And I was freaking out because I didn't want to plant seed trays only to have them reach -3 Fahrenheit in an un-insulated shed, but I didn't want to keep the lights on 24/7 to keep the trays warm enough..... duh. Idiot. We're not living in it yet, but we (more or less) have a HEATED HOUSE. Idiot.

So this weekend.... I planted (what will be) our garden.

I feel so very (overly) organized this year. I used a planner and planned both the back garden with raised beds and the meadow garden with rows. I calculated the numbers of each plant that I want. I tried to put friends with each other and keep plant enemies separated. I incorporated pollinator and pest attracting flowers in the plans. I got soaker hoses for the blueberries (they have been in my car for a week now, and will continue to rattle around in there most likely until our first drought-like conditions, thankyouverymuch). I am prepared. I hope I don't fuck it up.

Planning his own garden. Or world domination. Or just destroying a new notebook we (thought we'd) hid



Ta da!!!

Monday, February 09, 2015

Blink and You'll Miss It there went that plan. It really does seem that farmsteading, and life these days in general, is all about taking a giant leap forward, and then getting knocked several steps back. It's frustrating, it's annoying, it's heartbreaking, and the few victories that you have (however brief) are so addicting you go back for more. In this day and age it would be easy enough to hide my head in the sand and not do ANY of this. No garden, no chickens, no rabbits, no house building... just do what 99% of our countrymen and women do - work, pay rent, watch TV, sleep, rinse, wash, repeat....

But I can't. I'd be miserable. I have been miserable without my garden DESPITE my being preoccupied with being pregnant, giving birth, and not sleeping taking care of my baby. I've been miserable not PRODUCING anything here off the property, so I have chickens, a rabbit and will put in the garden this year. All is peachy.

Except this morning, when I went to check on the rabbit and chickens in the pre-dawn gloom... no bunny. Wide gaping hole in the side of the pen, and a few tufts of fur. I'll save you the gory details, but it wasn't our dogs, although it was something comparable in size and potentially smarter. (Sorry guys)

Got back to down where our dogs are, and the wall of skunk smell hit me. Looks like Luke got skunked, although it's still fresh enough it could be either of them - you can't tell. And then I saw a small body in the driveway behind my car. Obviously my first thought was that it was the bunny and something and dragged her 1000ft down the driveway and left her behind my car. Upon closer inspection, it was a possum. I sat and tried to tell in the light of the flashlight on my iPhone whether it was dead or just playing dead.... it was dead. No idea by what. Dogs won't go near it, but Zora is walking very stiffly this morning which usually means she ran hard the previous day. her poor old arthritic bones can only take so much....

We will rebuild and try again. I feel terrible about the rabbit. It is so easy to get lulled into a false sense of safety... we've been so lucky so far. The only animal massacre we've had was in broad daylight when a fox (we think) got several of our chickens and our poor dogs were tied up and couldn't get to them... and our chickens have always been secure in their coop. But just because they have been safe doesn't mean they ARE safe. We will persevere. Lesson learned.