Honey bees are movers and shakers

The honeybees are amazing. They are taking more time than I had anticipated on a regular basis. When the hive split we managed to catch the swarm and put them over in the orchard. Annmarie had just given them a short box to allow them some more space after we added in the rest of the large frames to the brood box. We were talking about the bees yesterday and I suggested we go out and look at the orchard bees. We walked out and she popped the roof off and you could see bees and comb in the center lid portion. This meant they had probably filled the entire short box with honey already!

So she suited up and went out to inspect the hive. The hardest part of beekeeping is in figuring out how to keep the smoker lit with smoke and not flames! So after fussing with it for a while we managed to get it going. We lifted the hive boxes up onto the stand. This helps keep the insects away from the hive. I helped but I told Annmarie I had to be in the back of the hive as I did not have a bee suit on. We are getting pretty comfortable but I am not that comfortable that I want to be on the entrance side bending down to lift the hive boxes! Maybe eventually we can do all the bee care with no protective gear but I am not sure that will ever happen. Annmarie has been reading and now just uses nitrile gloves so she can have better dexterity when working the bees. So far this works great, she says she can feel the bees bouncing off the gloves but she has not been stung through them yet. I have not reached this level of comfort yet. She scrapped the lid clean but the lower boxes had been welded together by the bees. Once she got them loose the inside frames were still stuck. She is going to have to take the entire thing apart frame by frame to get everything cleaned up and correct. We think the entire upper box is already full of honey. So this weekend she will get two supers on the bottom and then one honey box on top so we can get more honey. We get about 3/4 pint from each frame. The one thing we have found out that we did not anticipate is how much beeswax is being produced. We don’t have a ton of it yet but we are close to having a pound of it already. That doesn’t sound like much but it way more than I anticipated. She peeked at the second hive but that one has the young queen and she is not as proliferate as the old queen. She needs to be a better leader!

Annmarie is looking at making wax impregnated cloth wraps for sandwiches and bowl tops. They work pretty dang good, I was pleasantly surprised and have been using them for my sandwiches. The sandwich bread is just as fresh as if I had used plastic wrap and its a whole lot easier to eat the sandwich from the cloth wraps. I think we are going to figure out how to get a store setup on our blog site for the cloth wraps and maybe even the honey if we can collect enough. If the wax keeps piling up we may even sell that but honestly if we mail it there could be issues with it melting in the mail system. We may only be able to mail beeswax in the fall/winter/spring time.

Bee swarm success!

The bees are helping us out. We had just purchased two more used hives with miscellaneous bee working tools and ordered a second full hive kit. I had just assembled the new hive and we were deciding where to store all of the stuff when Mr Rainman spotted a bee swarm. We were outside working and the bees started to swarm and he came over and asked me what was going on. They are very loud and become a cloud of bees before they settle down onto something. They ended up in a tree on an old magpie nest. Way too high to mess with trying to catch them. I thought it was a missed opportunity. About an hour later Mr Rainman spotted them all massed up on one of our lavender plants! It was one of the grey plants that have not yet started to green up but they were inside the bush.

I decided to give reclaiming it a go. I had never attempted it nor worked the bees. Annmarie does the bee work usually but I did not want to miss out on a free colony. I donned the bee suit, Mr Rainman had to help me zip it up as I could not figure it out once I had it on. He took some pictures and attempted to film it until he got stung on the forehead. I just knelt down and started scooping the bees out of the bush and putting them into a plastic starter set we had just picked up. I did that for a while until the bees were good and upset. I could not reach down into the bush and was only able to get about half of them and I figured the queen was still in there. I had a full honey frame that I slipped into the starter box in the hopes that it would attract the bees into it. It did attract the bees but they just went in and ate all of the honey! They took it back to the mound.

I was working on the driveway when Mr Rainman spotted them swarming again. They flew up into a tree near the barn, again out of reach. They came back to the lavender about an hour later on a different greener bush this time. I had the starter box out there already so I had Mr Rainman take the new hive box I had just assembled and put it out in the lavender with the hope that they would migrate into it.

By the time Annmarie came home they had not moved. My set out houses idea was not working. So she went out and took the super, removed some frames so there was only five in the box and set it on a diagonal over the bees with the lid on it. Just before we went to bed I put on a bee hood and gloves only and went out to check on them in my short sleeve shirt. They had gone into the box and were on the frames. So I picked up the box, put it on a bottom and put the lid back on. I was going to do more but working in a bee hood with a head lamp is not super conducive to actual work and the bees were starting to get upset. I realize that as we get more comfortable around the bees we will wear less protective gear. If you are calm and don’t hurt them they are pretty passive, you just have to stay calm and move in a controlled manner. It definitely takes some practice.

The next morning she went out, closed off the hive and moved it to the new area we set up out in the orchard. Eventually, we will get the hive from the lavender patch moved out into the orchard, but it is full of bees and heavy so it needs to be moved as an entire unit early in the morning when its cool.

Annmarie watched a You Tube video on how to clean bees wax and make wax pellets. There was a full honey super of no plastic insert frames in the used hives we just purchased. So I cut them all off and am now filtering the honey out so we can harvest the bees wax also. She cleaned up the little bit of wax we had collected last year and made pellets out of it. Once I get the honey out of this crushed wax mess we will take the wax out to the hive and the bees will clean it all up then we can harvest the wax. They are far more efficient at finding all of the honey then I am.

Cow sorting gone bad

I was up early, ready to go out and load the steer at 0730. We had kept him in the corral for the last two day so we would not have to sort everyone. Sorting can take 2-3 hours on a good day. We had even kept the dogs in the back yard, otherwise they can get right next to the corral and harass the animals. We had let the sheep back out into our yard for one day and then I pushed them over into our orchard area. The orchard area is getting tall and I did not want them to knock the clover back down. Even though it had already grown about two inches since the last time they had been on it. It grows pretty aggressively when it is grazed on. The yard is a little out of control, the sheep may have to come back in soon so I can be eco friendly and not run the gas powered lawn mower! The trade off is you have to dodge sheep poop on your way to the front door.

The customer came with a horse trailer. It had a solid door on the back that was much wider than the opening of the chute. I figured if we backed up on one corner then got the cow in we could pull forward and quickly shut the gate. I backed him up to the corral and there was about an eight inch gap. Annmarie came out to the yard and the dogs got out, Chance was still pissed about getting rolled two days ago and just started tearing it up, barking and running the length of the corral and trying to get through the fence into the corral. She would not give it up, or listen to us. I had to catch her and Annmarie drug her off by the collar to the back yard. She listens when she is on the lead, but not off when we are around livestock. She will listen off leash now to us but now we have to get her “off” switch wired so she will drop down no matter what is going on around her. This is harder than you think to teach. It means constantly exerting your will over the little things so she learns to just obey on command. It takes time.

Cow top left of picture, me from road on tractor, not where it belongs

I had money in my pocket from the sale and we loaded the cow. It went into the trailer then I shut the chute gate so it would not get out and it spotted the 8” opening. Once it had its head through it was all over! It got stuck twice but just kept bucking and hollering and got through in about 15 seconds. I rearranged the barn lot gates so we could just push it back into the lot and try again. I went and got the tractor to shoo it back toward the now opened gates. It jumped the fence into the fallow wheat field. I had to drive down to the corner then up the road then out into the wheat field. Annmarie had to come out with Chance and open the gate out into the wheat field. I was just going to drive the cow along the fence line to the gate. The crazy cow was not scared of the tractor and I had to keep blocking the fence line with the bucket to keep it from going past me. This worked until it jumped the fence back into the main house area, Chance was involved now and then it eventually jumped the fence again into the small seven acre fallow field, then jumped back into our main pasture area by the school house. I went to go talk to the buyer while she did the chasing into the school house field.

Chance (1 year old puppy) is the white Border Collie, Mouse is the grey/white one

I gave him his money back then we discussed options. I told him that if he called around and could get a carcass cut and wrapped that 243 therapy and assistance in cleaning and skinning would be available but he was going to have to plan on a few hours to do that hard work. Damn cows! He left without a cow and us without any money. He will reach out next week after making some enquiries.

I spent the rest of the day assembling a new bee hive. We purchased it before I knew about someone else wanting to get rid of their two hives. So now we have four full hives and a bunch of extras. I am going to have to clean up an area for all the extra bee supplies. I am thinking about moving the old lamb shed and creating a clean sub room inside it. I can use an old road side billboard sheet. They are fairly inexpensive, line the entire inside of the room, seal the edges and put in an airtight door. I will have to look into this more. I have a lot of extra stuff laying around and if I cobbled it all together I think I could do it fairly cheap.

Weekend, all better, maybe

I did have to do a few things this weekend. On Friday I went out and cleaned up the baby chick area in the chicken coop. I have a separated 4’x4’ section that is in my main coop that I use for babies until they are fully feathered about three months old. This lets the adult chickens get used to them and it means I don’t need another building for the babies. The chicks were too big to stay inside anymore. I got the new bedding in, big hanging feeder and hanging nipple waterer all set then put the 12 chicks into their next two month home. I had to use a heat lamp and this time I zip tied it into place in two separate locations so the chicks cannot knock it off its holder. No more fires allowed in the coop. We have another 25 chicks coming in the next month. So by this fall we will have a very nice egg production rate.

Annmarie ordered a Bluetooth controlled single outlet. You plug it into a preexisting outlet then you can program or control on/off with your cellphone. It was only $15 and she uses it now for her laser exhaust fan. So she can leave a job printing in the office and then just program or manually turn off the fan from the house instead of having to walk back out to the office. My chicken light controller burnt out a couple of months ago and I am going to go with this same item for the coop! It’s a great idea and it remembers your last program even if Wi-Fi access goes away.

I fed the last two large bales of alfalfa, one to the sheep and one to the cows. The cows really are not interested as there is plenty of fresh new grass. The sheep have eaten all of the grass in the barn lot so they liked it better. I even locked the cows up into field 4A & 4B and the alleyway only. This will let the upper fields grow so that they can be turned into hay. I spent the rest of the day resting.

Saturday Annmarie worked on the garden. I cut 4×4’ cow panel wire sections for her to use in the garden as trellis. We had to order in garlic and I ordered two Carolina Allspice bushes. Those are now out in the berry area, we will see if we can keep them from dying in the winters. We are going to plant garlic and potato in laundry baskets. She managed to get the carrot seeds planted. I went out and worked on wiring the horse trailer. I worked on the trailer for three hours. It was too much. I spent all of Sunday doing nothing and had to take a nap. So I will be pacing myself better for the next couple of weeks. I think I can get the horse trailer done in another three hours. It needs to be functional to take the cows to Lagrande on May 4.

The honey bees are finding lots of pollen! In the picture you can see the pollen stores on their legs. We got a second hive, I still need to assemble it and I have found a third for sale and we are contemplating getting it. We are going to move the hives out into the orchard but I need to make some concrete block risers to keep the weeds away from the hives. I am hoping we get a lot more honey this year.

Spring really is coming

We have finally given up on the sheep having any more babies. So we tossed the last five ewes in with the rest of the main herd. It is a lot easier tracking one herd than two. There is a third (now second) herd down below. They are the eating ones of which we already have nine sold. We know spring is here as I have commenced the inaugural lawn mowing of our front yard with the sheep. It takes 2-3 days for the sheep to tear the lawn down. They like the shortest grass so clumps of tall grass tend to standout. I had just tossed out a pound of clover seed on the hillside before letting the sheep out to graze. They will push the seed down into the ground. The clover also does great with trying to stay alive after getting eaten so it will spring back twice as thick as it was before the sheep grazed on it. We are finally starting to get some clover all over the hillside now. Due to the clover we have now given up chemical weed control on the hillside. All thistles and stinging nettle are removed with a shovel. I spent a couple of hours this weekend digging weeds.

Since the bees have survived the winter I dug up a couple of patches of dirt and planted flowers on the hillside. I will need to add a small fence around them to keep the dogs out but we should have blooming flowers in 45 days. We are going to use our circle planters in the back yard to plant marigolds in and around our garden. We are hoping the marigolds will help with insect control. We are trying to get more flowers growing for the honey bees. I have a couple of other spots I want to toss out some flower seed on.

Saturday, Meathead and I worked on getting the five new half wine barrels ready for herbs. I drilled holes in the sides so that water could drain and then she filled each barrel with five gallons of gravel to cover the bottom. I would like to say she carried a full bucket of gravel but that is not really realistic. She carried it in two half filled buckets. We had a long discussion about me using the tractor to scoop it up and drive it around but by the time we go through all of the gates and still carry it the final way in a five gallon bucket we have not saved any time so she got to carry gravel in buckets. It takes four buckets of soil to fill the barrel the rest of the way. We have a big tote with gardening soil in it that we are using to fill them.

I took chance out with me to put the sheep in and she did great! The picture of her above is in the lamb shed when we were feeding the ram and bull. She kept them from coming into the shed when I opened the door to feed. She did so well after everyone was put away I let her off the 30’ lead. Huge mistake, she took off running and would not listen to me. I may have gotten upset and hollered repeatedly which caused her to look at me, come within six feet and stay out of reach. I finally calmed down, bent down on one knee and called her, she came running and got hugs and licks in. She is too smart for her own good. It turns out that Annmarie had tried to use Chance to get the sheep out of the yard earlier in the day but only had her on a a six foot leash. The puppy did well enough that Annmarie let her go and then Chance dove for a lamb and would not let it up. This incurred the wrath of Mom which may explain why she was so good working the animals with me later in the evening. Once I got her back onto the lead I used the alpaca as training fodder. This works for the dog and me and the alpaca don’t really care for the dogs so it gives Chance a shot at moving a difficult animal. She did really good.

Our second bee hive arrived, I just need to assemble it. We are going to keep them in the lavender patch. I was out working today and had 4-5 honeybees land on me. I am unsure what they were looking for and as long as you just ignore them and don’t accidentally squish them they are harmless. It takes a while to get used to ignoring them.