Friday, June 19, 2009

Back to School

This has been an interesting week!  I went back to school this week.  Although, this time I was a teacher.  Our local community college held a "Kid's College" for local school children.  They had a variety of classes for the children to choose from and they operated it a lot like high school.  The kids picked 4 classes and then moved from class to class...well actually we escorted them to each class.

I taught "The Lost Art of Herbal Medicine" and was so excited to see these young ones display such keen interest.  We made teas, compresses, poultices and even a salve.  They learned about tinctures, how to make herbal capsules and on the last day we even had time to make colloidal silver!  I had a great time, met some wonderful kids and am looking forward to doing this again in July when I'll be teaching soap making to the older kids.  What fun!

Our local college, Walters State Community College, really reaches out to the local school kids.  They staff are great to work with and make the whole thing a pleasant experience.  I always enjoy my time there.

Now it is time to get back to my routine at home.  I've a very busy summer ahead of me.  I've just finished making my strawberry jams - more on that later.  I've been cleaning out, had a terrific yard sale and am now getting ready to list some things on E-bay. We are doing some things in and around our home in addition to garden and farm work.

Simplify, simplify, simplify has been our rallying call.  Less is more...more peace, more time, more fun!

I think our Internet connection problems have been solved - I was told that our modem had been re-setting itself hundreds of times an hour...they thought we might need a new ya think?   This week, except for the thunderstorms which knock everything out, we seem to be staying online.  So, hopefully, I will be back to posting on a regular basis.

I have a list of posts and pictures to get you caught up to what we have been doing around here.  Life is so exciting and so much fun...our Father is amazing and we are so blessed by Him.

For now, we are off to the garden to prepare for Farmer's Market this week.  The boys will be taking green beans, new red potatoes, (perhaps some Yukon gold potatoes too) and salad greens (and reds, and freckled!) and maybe a few squash or zucchini,  along with farm fresh eggs!  They are learning about marketing, presentation, finances and more and having a ball while they are getting a wonderful business education.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Honeybees....catching a swarm!

Our Beekeeping Association held a  field night this spring.  The plan was to grill out, share side dishes and work a couple of hives at a local farm.  When we arrived everyone was very excited...lots of running around, shouting etc.  We parked and walked to the picnic area and found out what all the "buzzzzz" was about.  One of the hives had just swarmed and the swarm was still there!  These new beekeepers were going to get to see first hand how to capture a hive!

When bees swarm they don't sting...or so theI've been told.  No one was stung that night and we were all pretty close.  If this had been planned, they couldn't have done a better job.  The dark spot on the limb is the swarm.  It was down low and easily accessible.

The Swarm!

A cloth is spread so that the queen isn't lost in the dirt and leaves...then a hive body is placed under the swarm so that the bees can be "knocked" into the hive.

The swarm!

Then the limb was lowered over the box as close as they could get it.  Once positioned, they gave it a good hard knock which caused the swarm to drop into the box.

Lowering the limb

They continued to work to brush the bees that clung to the limb down into the box.  It seemed like many of them were flung all over the cloth and I wondered how they would get them all into the hive...

Brushing bees!

They were hoping the queen (who is usually in the middle of the swarm) fell into the box.  Seems that once she is there, and if she likes it (you know how picky we can be about our homes!) then she sends out a signal that this is the place and all the worker bees just line up and march was unbelievable!

Heading home!

The bees began climbing the cloth and headed right for the door (that little ledge on the front of the hive!).  They marched in and got of the gentleman began knocking on the hive...he knocked repeatedly....over and over......and over and get the drift...have I mentioned that repetitive noise gives me a headache?  The knocking went on for an hour!  I asked some of the older, more experienced beekeepers why the knocking was important .....some of them said bees were attracted to the noise and some of them told me it made a good show....ahem...

The class went on to work the other hives and they were loaded with busy bees....

Hard working bees!

The tan places are capped brood and the holes within the tan are either hatched bees or uncapped brood.  Brood, of course, means babies!

Can you find the queen?

The bee in the above picture with the long brown body tipped with black is a virgin queen that has been newly hatched.  Either she and the established queen will fight to see who rules the hive or she will take part of the bees and swarm before the other queen can kill her.

By the time they were done working the established hives, these bees had completely entered their new home.  The "front door" was secured so they couldn't get out, a strap was placed around the hive so that the pieces wouldn't separate during travel (what a horrifying thought!...hordes of angry bees in your vehicle!) and they were placed in a truck to head to their new home!

This is a very inexpensive way to increase your apiary and one that we hope to employ over the years.  The trick is to be always ready with a hive body and a cloth.  I have also heard that a drop or two of lemongrass essential oil placed in the hive acts as a lure.

One of my readers left a comment that I wanted to share with ya'll...

Dan was kind enough to share....
May I recommend the book “Natural beekeeping : organic approaches to modern apiculture”
by Conrad, Ross

I read this one this past winter and I think there are some really helpful ideas and tips for reducing the reliance on chemical aids for mites, etc. I found it in our library.

Thanks Dan! I know that I will be looking for this book since we won't be using chemicals in our hives.  We are also planting spearmint around the hives as this is supposed to be helpful in controlling well as adding spearmint essential oil to some sugar water when they are fed.

If ya'll know of any helpful "natural" tips in raising bees, please leave a note in the comment section!


Friday, June 5, 2009

Honeybees...a new beginning!

This is the first year Josiah and Elijah have tackled honeybees.  We began attending meetings in late February.  We were fascinated....although we have had bees here on the farm previously they didn't fare well.  They died almost every year and we continually had to re-purchase bees in the spring....expensive and not how things are supposed to work!

We found out two of the main reasons why at our first meeting!  I share them here in the hopes it will help someone else avoid these mistakes.  The first hand-out we received showed two sketches....where to put your hives and where NOT to put your hives.  The correct place was on a rise with some trees for cover (during summer - not winter) and a close source of water.  It was explained to us that we might not have all those conditions but to search for a location that would provide as many as possible.

The sketch that showed where NOT to put your hives blew us away!  I think perhaps the artist visited our farm when we weren't home and sketched where our hives used to be!  At the bottom of a hill, under trees with a creek behind the literally looked like our former apiary!

Josiah asked his mentor to come out and give him some advice on where to place his hives....we certainly didn't want the wrong location.  She came, walked all over the farm and picked a place....right behind my greenhouse (oh joy!...right where I need to be all spring and early summer!).  Josiah leveled a place, built some supports for his hives and began to ready them.

All "wooden ware" for bees (hives, supers etc.) come as raw wood.  You need to paint everything that the bees aren't in contact with (the outside of the wooden ware) white or another light color of your choosing.  You don't want to get any paint on the inside of any of the boxes - bees are picky about their home and don't like our paint so we leave the interior decorating to them...besides....theirs tastes much better!  Josiah, Elijah and I set up a painting station in my Mom's basement (thank you Mom!) and began re-painting some old hive boxes after a thorough cleaning and scraping.  We also painted the new wooden ware that he was given.

We got everything ready and all of the hives set all we needed were the bees.  I got my gloves, hat and veil ready for the hour drive with bees in my car.  As it turned out, I didn't need them because it was snowing. Turns out that snow makes bees very sleepy and kind.  We picked them up and brought them home are their first pictures in our happy home...

6,000 bees!

We are so grateful to the two men at church and my Mom for believing in Josiah and Elijah and investing in their lives this way....the beginning of a business for two young boys...does it get any better than this?

The bees began to buzz in the basement.  We fed them sugar water....they buzzed louder...once they thawed out from the snow they didn't like their little apartments and wanted into the big diggs!  As far as I am concerned...that little bit of wire netting just doesn't seem strong enough to keep the bees from invading the basement!

We want out!

We couldn't put them in their hives for several days...we needed a day that was at least 55 degrees or above.  That day came and the boys took them down to their new apiary so the bees could "move in"!The hives in place!

A waiting hive...

Move in condition!

Elijah  sprayed the bees with sugar water so the bees began to groom themselves (and each other)...this makes them "pourable".  So, Josiah began to pour them into their new home.

Welcome home!

The boys worked their way down the row adding bees to each hive.  They were covered with bees but no one was stung.  Gotta love those head to toe suits!  Elijah has just about outgrown his and will be needing a new one.  Once those suits get tight they loose a lot of their protective power!

Last one!

Inside these hive bodies are 10 deep frames filled with wax foundation.  This gives the bees a good start on building out their comb.  On top of these hives are feeders.  The feeder box holds 2 to  3 gallons of sugar water.  When the bees arrive you need to feed them for awhile.  If there is nectar available outside, they will eat that before they touch the sugar water, so, you feed them till they stop eating.  This way you know they have enough of an outside supply.

Once they fill 7 frames of this hive body with brood (babies!), then you add another hive box.  This was the second mistake we learned about... that had never been done here.  Supers were always added which was incorrect.  The second hive box will be filled with honey...and you never touch it!  The bees need at least 60 lbs. of honey to feed a hive through the winter.  A hive box full of honey is between 60 and 80 lbs.  Without that the bees will die during the winter...every time!

Once the second hive box is full of honey then you can add a smaller box called a super.  This is what we get to harvest! Don't expect to harvest any honey the first year of keeping bees.  Unless there is an unusually strong nectar flow (honey flow) and you have exceptionally strong hives, it will be another year before you get to take any honey.  What a great lesson in patience and in working now for a future return on your investment!

There are many godly lessons you can learn by keeping bees.  Their society is fascinating and many of our Father's laws and principles are lived out inside the hive.  It makes a fascinating unit study for school with many life lessons.  If you can't keep a hive of bees (and many people in the suburbs do this in their own back yard!) then I encourage you to do a study next year and let our Father speak to your hearts through bees!

Stay tuned to find out what happened at the next bee meeting....what a rare gift to see....and I've got pictures...lots and lots of pictures!


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