Friday, January 25, 2013

Planning Pinterest Style…

Winter has finally arrived, it even snowed and due to the cold gripping the area it didn’t melt!  It is such a grand gift though I highly doubt the majority of the population appreciates it.  It’s due to snow again tonight, I’d be happy if it stayed cold and snowy until March.  I’m not crazy, I just need a break and time to dream and plan.
Have you ever been to Pinterest?  It is a great place for dreaming and planning let me tell you, you can see things that you imagined but didn’t think had ever been done, it’s magical. I have a lot of boards but adding to the ‘oh I love that' Gardening Goodies board is so much fun!  The things people create with wooden pallets, is just incredible, gardening benches, outdoor couches, herb gardens, walls, chicken coops even!  The uses of jars, pots and cans for various ways of growing things, the faerie houses, the use of rocks for making herb beds it just goes on and on.
I want it all!  I want my own garden shed, I want a sunny spot for herbs and heaven knows I want to grow vegetables as well.  I want to plant a fruit tree of some sort, I want to redesign just about every garden bed I have, I want so much to turn the visions that I have in my head, on my garden boards into reality.  I have a beautiful canvas to work with, although it is far from blank.  So if one wants to makeover a landscape, where in the garden to you start?
Good thing it’s going to be cold for a while, I need time to think!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

With wood, comes hope..

The first of several boxes arrived today, I could hardly wait to open them!
Box number one came from Ashley Bee Supply these lovely integrated pest management bottom boards are great for trapping and killing small hive beetles and varroa mites. 
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You fill that white tray with oil or soapy water and the beetles and or mites fall through the screen (which is too small for the bees to get through).  Ingenious!  These lovely trays are made from cypress and all the joints for nice and snug, the kicker, they are made in the USA and that makes me all too happy!
Box number two..
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It doesn’t look like much now but it will be a lovely 8 frame Nuc once assembled!  I’m using this (at least at first) as a hive trap that will be baited with a bee lure and mounted on a platform several feet off the ground.  My hope (please, please, please) is that when swarm season arrives a swarm will find it so irresistible that they will move in!  That’s the hope at least!
Like I said there are more boxes on the way and each one brings me a little hope for the Spring…

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Planning, Plotting and Praying…

What’s a girl to do?  She loves honeybees, she wants more than one hive and she’s suffering from a winter that currently isn’t.
SHOP!
In the last two days I’ve researched beehives, swarm trapping and places to purchase packages.  I’m knee deep in bee information!  The good news is progress is being made, after much reading and discussion we (because I do ask for his input and assistance) decided to go with Langstroth 8 frame mediums.  I stayed away from Langs because of the height and the weight involved because a fully loaded super can weigh a lot and I wasn’t about wrenching my back.  I also wasn’t sure that Langs were the most natural of means for my girls.  It seemed like there was a lot more fussing about that needed to be done, I’m hoping that this isn’t the case but only time will tell.  In any event we will have two 8 frame mediums and the top bar.  We went with Evans Cedar Beehives because they won’t require painting and they are lighter.  Being a woodworker means Randy is very picky about wood, he’d rather pay more for something of quality than get something that isn’t going to last.  If we could find cedar as thick as he’d like to build with he would be building them himself, but since that seems to be a serious challenge around here, we ordered! 
Now I spent a lot of time reading about catching swarms because the price of packages is crazy.  I guess with more and more people becoming beekeepers, CCD still being an issue and the losses that seem to be widespread during the winter bees are harder to come by.  I figure since all of this got started because of some honeybees in my tree, that I should be able to lure some more right?  So in addition to all our other supplies, I ordered a medium nuc box (which is short for nucleus) to use as a swarm ‘trap’.  It’s not really a trap, it’s a small version of a beehive that I’m going to put ‘bait’ (which is basically lemongrass oil) and try to convince any scout bees that are out and about that it’s a good place to move in.  If I get lucky and that happens and they make a home in the nuc box, I’ll be able to take their frames out and put them in another box, thus creating a new hive.  Sounds easy lol!
Finally, the packages..sigh this is the hardest part. I really have nothing against bees from Georgia, I just don’t think they are especially suited for Maryland.  I’ve been told that I can get the package from there and then (ugh) kill the queen and replace her with a Maryland or Northern bred one but um, yeah that ain’t happening.  So I’ve been trying to find bees from either north of Maryland or at least from places that have a winter, so far I’m not having much luck. I’ve emailed several places and asked and one place that I was excited about that is in Maryland not only charges a lot but no discount on multiple packages.  I’m not sure what to do, I may go with them and hope the third hive can come from a swarm catch.  I know without a doubt though that we will have two hives and not one when Spring arrives..

Thursday, January 10, 2013

And we will begin again…

I hope that I never become numb to the loss of animals.  I hope that for all of my life that twinge of sadness permeates me and I grieve for each life lost.  For I truly believe that once we stop aching for the loss of their lives, we are missing a very important part of our souls…
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I hoped against hope and tried with every ounce of knowledge that I have to stop something from happening.  I guess that even though the logical part of me knew that it was a long shot the bigger part of me really, really, really, wanted that logical part of me to be wrong.  On Tuesday the weather had warmed into the mid 50’s and I went down to add a winter pattie to the hive.  With the weather having been cold we hadn’t gone to check on them since we’d installed the insulation panels.  The discovery I made was grim and yes, even though logically I knew it was probably coming, it still hurt.  All my beautiful, gentle little girls were deceased. Most where in the bottom of the hive, some were head first into the comb, there was still capped honey there but I guess it just wasn’t where they were or needed it to be.  I’ve spoken with a friend that is also a beekeeper and he lost two of his hives in recent days as well, I grieve for his girls too.
The odds were stacked against them heavily after the loss of most of their stores this fall and logically I knew that.  I did everything I could to provide food and protection for them from this insane weather, in the end all I can do is learn from my mistakes and move on.
We had (yes we because Randy has now decided that he is more than willing to help and participate!) already decided that we’d be getting more bees this spring regardless of the girls making it or not.  We are still toying with hive ideas, but since he has agreed to assist with it, we are going to be getting a Langstroth and possibly a Warre.  Since we aren’t in this to be massive honey producer we have the options to try other hive designs.  We also will be modifying the top bar hive that we have to incorporate some much needed improvements.  Without the girls there we can now use the large tractor to work in the area, leveling off the ground and putting in place a nice level surface for all the hives, which means we will officially have an apiary! 
We have much planning ahead of us and a lot of plants to move in the earliest days of Spring so right now we need the cold weather to return, the snow to blanket the ground and the heralds of Spring to continue their quiet sleep.  Give us a chance to make sure that new and much improved homes will await our new arrivals and to make sure that we are on the right path to being the best Honey Bee Guardians we can be!

Compost is going to happen!

I have had bins, I have had big round compost heaps and they have all had the same frustrating outcome…no compost.  I admit it, I want to du...