Thursday, May 31, 2012

More Bee Disaster

I was going to email the bee guru (Pioneer Preppy) but I thought I would post instead in case another new bee keeper has the same disasters as I seem to be having.

I set out this morning determined to find the queen in my second hive.  Four days ago when we checked the hive it was so skimpy compared to the other hive that I thought the queen was gone.  What a difference four days can make.  

I searched high and low for the queen and never did find her.  There are many tunnels such as these that she can hide in.

We found a couple of frames that had a lot more comb and brood cells capped.

I had my biggest thrill when I saw this....Fresh bee eggs and they are laying right in the very bottom where queens deposit them.  If you enlarge the photo you should be able to see the tiny white sausage shaped eggs in the open cells.  What a I don't have to worry about ordering and introducing another queen or steal eggs from the other hive so another queen could be produced.

Now for my disaster... We decided since we were already at the hives to open up our "good" one just to see if we could find the queen.  There is so much activity in this one and more frames are drawn with lots of capped brood cells so we know she is there but again...lots of tunnels and hiding places so we did not see her.

After we looked at a few frames I hung one on the frame holder.  It was full of bees, more than half drawn out with comb and lots of capped brood.  I heard a loud angry buzzing and looked down and the entire wall of wax, brood and bees had turned loose from the frame and hit the ground.  OK...I have not seen or read about this situation.  Why did this happen?   We didn't know what to do.  I picked it up and laid it on the frame it fell from and then placed an empty frame on top of it and put it back in the hive.  I don't know if the bees will repair it or not or if it is one mass on the bottom of the frame now.    

This is a photo of a small piece that broke off of the large piece when I tried to pick it up.  Papa Bear didn't get any pictures of this as we were panicked trying to get the brood cells back into the hive. Now I am panicked about the queen in this hive.  If she was on that falling wall of wax and hit the ground, is she alive?  If she fell off has she been here long enough to find her way back into the hive?  These bees are going to give me a stroke!

We did get to see something very least to us.  When I was holding one frame of brood we saw several baby bees chewing holes and emerging from their cells.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

HELP!..I think my hives are a disaster!

OK...I wasn't going to do another post until I got caught up with a few things but I know Pioneer Preppy can give me some advice and any other bee keepers out there who may read this.  It will be another month before my inspector comes and I plan to ply him with cool drink and cookies to keep him here as long as possible to answer my million questions.

Papa Bear and I opened the hives this morning.  Haven't done it two weeks.  I am doing the inspection while Papa Bear acts as cameraman.  

 I think I should be pleased with this first frame I pulled out.  My bee book is missing in action at the moment but I think this is capped brood.

 The second frame pulled looked good too.  After this it all goes down hill.

 The next 3 frames looked like this.  I apparently do not have the frames spaced right.  I think this is the reason for the comb all over the place.  When I pried the frames apart some comb tore between the framesThese are dripping with sticky syrup which I assume is the beginning of honey.  I also saw a couple of larva in this thick comb.  Would this be bee larva there or is it something I should worry about?  This is hive one.  There are 5 frames drawn out now.   I am thinking I should go back in and scrape these chunks of wax out and try to get my spacing better.

The second hive is really bad.  There is very little capped.  I am beginning to wonder if I have lost the queen in this one.  I have not seen the queens in either one although I tried to look good today.  Two frames look pretty much like this.

And then this one with just the comb being drawn.

It was so already hot this morning at 8:30, I didn't get to look as long as I wanted too.  I also forgot my glasses so I don't know if there is any eggs or bee larva in any of those cells or not.
I think I am going to have to make an effort to get out to the hives around  5:30 AM so I can breath and look at the same time.  It already is feeling like July here.  We have hit the triple digits two days in a row and the humidity is so high you are instantly soaked going outside.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Busy at the Homestead

We have really been busy the last couple of weeks.  Seems like everything needs doing yesterday.  Our garden is coming along nicely.  I took this picture of the corn almost 2 weeks ago.  Since then it has grown a foot taller, tasseled and now has 1 to 3 ears per stalk. 
This morning while I was out gathering tomatoes, squash,  green beans and peppers I saw honey bees all over the tassels of the corn.  I was curious if they were ours and watched them for a few minutes.  Sure enough, as soon as they were loaded up with pollen they made a beeline in the direction of the hives.  I was excited to see that.

The Amish paste tomatoes are growing well but my method of tying and staking failed so now I am trying to put cardboard underneath the plants to keep them off of the dirt.  I noticed those lying on the ground will rot and the snails just love those damp, dark areas and are feasting on them.  The chickens are loving the bad ones I am tossing over the fence to them. 
I am not getting enough ripe at the same time to do any serious  canning but I did have enough to do 5 jars of the crushed yesterday. I had 6 prepared but as soon as I put one of them into the canner I heard a pop and knew I had lost one.  I dumped the water and started over with the remaining 5. I hope I have enough ripe to start canning sauces next week.

We are getting a lot of the Campari tomatoes I saved from seed.  They are great in salads and just the right snacking size if you want just a couple of bites of a good tomato.

This is the green bean jungle.  There are five rows.   Y'all are gonna laugh at this one.  I planted what I thought was Roma bush beans.  Imagine my surprise when in a few weeks I had vines creeping everywhere.  I had to do something or would have to pull them all up and start over.  Papa Bear collected some landscape timber that was around the drive and put them in the ground for me to use as post.  I then stapled deer netting to the timbers.  Mom and I spent the better part of two mornings untangling vines and trying to coax them up the netting.  What a mess but it is mostly working.  I have harvested twice with enough for 2 good meals with leftovers.  Now the vines are loaded and I imagine I will be canning beans in a couple of more days.

The bell peppers are doing well also.  I am slicing all of them into strips to later use in stir-fry.

I thought I had a picture of the pile of yellow squash I harvest every two days.  I only have 5 or 6 plants but you know how it is with squash.  I think I have blanched and put about 15 quart bags in the freezer so far.  I canned it last year and it wasn't that great.  It's OK to use in casseroles but we love it sauteed with onions in a little olive oil.  

That is okra next to the squash.  It hasn't decided if it wants to grow or not.  Today I got 2 pods off of it before they got too tough.  There are several small pods but not enough to talk about.  Okra does well for me about every 3 years.  I do pretty much the same thing except I plant it in different areas each year.

I planted one row of sweet potatoes by the corn.  This is my first time planting these so I don't know if they are growing as they should be or not.

The chickens have went crazy with their egg laying now that the days are longer.  This is 2 days worth I finally got washed and refrigerated.  I use a lot of eggs in cooking and baking,  Mom takes some to church and passes them out and I have sold some on eBay for hatching.  A younger couple  a few miles away started buying some from me.  One day he asked if we liked salt water fish and if we'd like some so now he and I barter for the eggs!  He deckhands on the weekends for extra money and gets a lot of fish vacationers don't want to bother with...Works for me!  So far he has brought us beeliners (vermillion snapper) yellow fin tuna, grouper and king mackerel.  I am in heaven. 

I decided to can one of the king mackerels as I have heard they are not good frozen.  I know they are not pretty to look at in the jar but let me tell you, I made fish cakes from a jar that did not seal and I have never ate any fish cakes finer even if I did make it!  I drained the liquid, poured the fish into a bowl, added a beaten egg, some flour,  a minced onion, a little bit of fresh dill from the garden, black pepper and a little salt.  After forming into palm size patties I fried them in a little peanut oil.  I sure won't mind my trader bringing me a lot of king mackerel.  I'll have my canners working overtime! 

 We finally completed the milking stall so I could start milking.  I got the two kid feeders in, separated the babies away from their Mama's, filled the feeder with milk and proceeded to try to make the babies take the nippled feeder.  Notice I said try.  I tried for 2 hours.  Not a one out of the nine would have anything to do with it.  I thought after spending the night without their Mama's they would be good and hungry in the morning.  I was wrong again.  I tried another hour or so trying to make just one take the nipple.  I figured if the others saw one drinking they would all join in but it didn't happen.  On to plan B.  We share the milk.  The babies are with their Mama's all day and I lock them in a separate pen in the evening.  In the mornings I milk the mama's but not completely so the babies can have a little when they join the herd.

I milk about 3 to 3 1/2 quarts each morning.  I am finally getting enough milk to make cheese!  My first attempt was a disaster.  I cooked the curds off too fast.  That first attempt became chicken food.  I studied my books and the web a little bit more and.....

I have my first wheel of farmhouse cheddar and the second wheel is in the cheese press as I type.  I did not order the coloring to make it the yellow orange you see in the stores.  I really don't care if it's colored or not.  As soon as this wheel air dries a few days I will wax it.  I am waiting on a wine cooler we ordered to come in .  I will use the cooler to age the cheese.  The cooler won't be in until next Friday so I will have to improvise until it gets here as I am sure the cheese will be dry enough to wax in a day or two.  Since I used raw milk the earliest it can be sampled is 2 months but it gets better if you let it age for 4 to 6 months.  I am going to make some Chevre in a day or two just to have some fresh homemade cheese to try now.  I made some really good yogurt last week.  Some we had with blueberries and some I mixed with vanilla and honey.  You just can't beat fresh!  My next attempt will be a Colby cheese.  These are all suppose to be easy to do until one gets the hang of cheese making.  When folks say it is an art...I believe them now!

I have ordered a cheap little manual cream separator from the Ukraine so my next attempt will be butter!  I feel we are getting closer and closer to being self sustained.  What a good feeling!

Our last pregnant doe gave birth yesterday.  One boy and one girl.  They are so cute.  

The girl has a bat on her side like her Mama.

If you have made it this far reading...I thank you.  I don't know if I will have time to write another post in the next day so I want to wish all of you a safe and happy Memorial day.  My heart felt thanks to all of you who serve in the military and those who have served.  Those who wear the uniform have a special place in my heart.

Mamma Bear

Friday, May 11, 2012

Attic Storage Questions

or maybe I should say attic crawl space because you really can't stand in it but there are areas off to the side of the cathedral ceilings that are maybe 3 or 4 foot high.

What items can I safely store in my attic if I lay some plywood down over the roof trusses (I guess that is what they are called) Papa Bear is not in here to ask.  It gets very hot up there in the summer.  I have no problems with bugs or vermin and don't want them to start.  I know it gets too hot for food but what about toilet tissue, paper towels, laundry detergent (powder form) would I have a problem with those sort of items?  Any more suggestions?...I am running out of room and need more storage area.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bee News

Last night I went to my second bee club meeting of the Tupelo Honey Association.  As usual I learned a lot.  Two men who are members created the better beetle blaster traps and I won one of them as a door prize.  I had to ask what do I do with it?....LOL  Boy will I be glad when I don't feel like a total idiot.

A fellow from the department of agriculture was there and I found out all of our bees has to be registered in the state of Florida even if you are only doing it as a hobby so now I have all that paperwork to do and will have to have my bees inspected on a regular basis.

Today Papa Bear and I checked the hives to see if the queens had been released.  It was the first chance we've had since we have had rain off and on this week. I got the smoker going with only a little trouble with the first attemptThe first hive had released the queen from her cage.  I checked 3 out of the 10 frames and never did see her but comb was being drawn and I think I saw a few eggs so I assume she is in there and doing her job.  It was starting to cloud up and I wanted to get to the next hive so I didn't examine things as long as I would have liked to.

The queen was still in her cage in the second hive.  There were bees all over the cage but none looked to be trying to sting her so I brushed the bees off and used a wood screw to remove the cork on the opposite end of the candy plug.  I barely touched the cork with the screw and the cork fell inside the cage and I almost stabbed the queen with the wood screw!  I got her out and into the hive without murdering her.

We did put the bucket feeders I ordered a few weeks ago into the top of an empty brood box on both hives I put 1/2 gallon of syrup into each feeder.  Each hive has been going through a quart of syrup every two days since we put them in the hives.  This will give me an extra day or so without disturbing the bees too much.  I would have put a couple of gallons into each hive but I don't know how long the syrup would last in the heat before it ferments. 

Unfortunately for me and the bees I will have to disturb them again tomorrow.  I forgot when I was in the hives that I was suppose to remove the  clumps of wax the bees had made on the frames beside the queen cages.  I guess I need to make a checklist of everything I need to do while I am tending the hives.  Seems like I always forget something.  I am still amazed at how gentle the bees seem to be and I made it though using the smoker,  opening the hives and not getting stung which I think is amazing.

I did find out that I do want a frame holder and the clamp you use to pull up the frame.  I ordered those today.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Happy Birthday to our Marine

Our Marine celebrated his 36th birthday this weekend.  His usual request is to go to Pineapple Willy's on the beach.  We have been doing this now for several years.  It is one of few places that has a deck out over the beach where one in a wheelchair can enjoy the scenery.  The weather was just perfect with a nice ocean breeze.  Sunday was also the last day of Thunder Beach where 1000's of motorcycle riders come to enjoy the beaches.  This was an extra treat for the Marine as he is crazy about motorcycles.

His brother called him from Afghanistan the night before to wish him a happy birthday but we missed the call.  By the time we got the message it was too late to call him back.  There is a 9 1/2 hour time difference.

We recently found out if the Marine has a little taste of lemon he can swallow a small amount of liquid without aspirating so he was able to have a little bit of Pineapple Willy's famous frozen Daiquiri. 

 It was a very nice day.  
Happy Birthday Marine!


Sunday, May 6, 2012

A reminder for me and you.....

  Psalm 91:4 - 5, He shall cover thee with his feathers. and under his wings shalt thou trust. His truth shall be thy shield and buckler.  Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Buzzzzzzzz...they're here.........

The post office called this morning to let me know our bees had arrived!   I grabbed my bottle of sugar water, a dry towel, a wet hand towel and a flashlight.  I am ready.

My instructions were to make sure there were no more than an inch of dead bees and to make sure the queen was alive in both cages.  If I had more than an inch of dead bees or if the queen was dead then I was not to leave the post office without filling out a form so they could be replaced.

Eddie, the post master helped me shake the bee's down so we could get a look at the cages the queens were in.  I'm glad I took the little flashlight as it was needed to see around those thick shadows of bees.  After determining that all was well (there were only a few dead bees...I was really expecting a large amount) , and answering a few questions from curious folks inside the PO I took the bees outside, set them on the tailgate of the truck and gave them a good spraying with the sugar water.  I was amazed how quickly they stopped buzzing and just mellowed out.  I put my dry towel down in the floorboard and set the bees on it for the trip home.  I knew I was going to be a sticky mess so my wet towel was for cleaning my hands. 

When I got home I brought the box inside to show the Marine.  I also needed to take another quick lesson on putting them in the hives.  I knew how excited I would be and just forget everything I have been studying.

Papa Bear and I both suited up to install the bees as I did not want my first experience with the bees to be a painful one. I hope I get comfortable enough to only wear a hood cause that suit was boiling hot at 9am.

I did not take any pictures of us placing the bees in the hives but it went rather well except the first hive.  I forgot to hold onto the tab of the queen cage and dropped her into the bottom of the hive and had to fetch her out.  It was no big deal.

I just went out a few minutes ago and they are still buzzing all around the hive.  I did not suit up...just wanted a picture.  I got within 5 or 6 feet and a few landed on me while I took my picture.  Not one sting today for this rookie....I am happy.  Now we wait 5 days to make sure the other bees have released their new queen into the hives.  We are starting with two hives but already know I want more!

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