I figured I better check in if nothing else but to ramble about life here on the homestead. Thanks to the ones who commented that they were thinking about us. We have only left the homestead when absolutely necessary so we have managed to keep the Marine and ourselves well for the first time in a long time through December and January. Several months ago the Marines pulmonary doctor recommended us giving him 5000 IU of D-3 daily. He said he and his staff took it to keep flu and colds away. All three of us began taking it after the doctors suggestion and I suspect that is what is keeping us well plus using a whole lot of hand sanitizer when out in public. Most stores have the sanitizing wipe at the store entrance. I always grab one and wipe my shopping cart handle down and try hard to remember not to touch any parts of my face while in public.
Since last month we have been trying to re-think things here, we have not come up with anything major. I've been trying to rearrange the food stores and not have them in only one location. I am just about out of room everywhere. When Papa Bear and I built this house in 94, it was to be our retirement home. We did not want a large home to keep up with in our "old" age. Now I wish we had a couple of spare rooms...Hind sight is always 20/20. It will soon be time to plant the spring garden and that will be more space that I need to find for canning. I planted a winter garden and harvested a huge head of cabbage the other day. I steamed it with some smoked sausage and boy was it good. I don't think I have ever ate a cabbage fresh from the garden and you can really tell the difference from the grocery store varieties. There is cabbage, carrots, turnips and a few greens awaiting harvest and I will need to start on that soon. Need to find space for those things.
This past week we butchered 30 or so chickens. Some of the young ones we had intentionally put aside to use for baking or smoking on the grill. The others were egg layers. We have gone from no eggs to several dozen a week and you can only eat so many eggs. By butchering these we will cut down on the egg gathering and a little on the feed bill. We have too many turkeys so they will be next to go into the canner. Now I have got to find room for 16 jars of meat and 14 jars of stock. Makes me want to pull my hair out!
Several weeks ago I lost one of my two beehives due to my stupidity and not remembering what to do. A swarm of yellow jackets attacked my weaker hive and wiped the bees out in a matter of hours. I now know I should have had an entrance reducer. The guards can handle one or two yellow jackets but not a swarm of them. A hard lesson learned. I did gain some experience on honey extracting by practicing on the dead hive. It had several frames of capped honey and I was itching to try the JR extractor I ordered in anticipation of honey later. I extracted a little over 2 gallons from the brood box. My refractometer tells me it is not true honey as the moisture content was between 18 and 19%. I did bottle up 1/2 gallon of it and if it does not ferment, I will feed it back to my other bees if needed. I highly suspect it is goldenrod "honey" as it does not have a pleasant smell. It's not really bad but it's not good either. I mixed the remainder up with a bucket of water and gave it to the goats for a sweet treat.
I don't even know if my one remaining hive is good or not. It has a lot of bees (it seems like a lot to me) but the brood box is almost honey bound. There is hardly any empty cells for the queen to lay. I only have a couple of frames of capped brood and there are several drone cells. I did not see any evidence of queen cells. I wish last fall when we had so much goldenrod in bloom, I had added a honey super but I went by my inspectors advice to wait until all of the frames in the brood box were drawn out before adding one.
After seeing all the honey in the box I placed a queen excluder and a super on top of the brood in hopes the workers would move the honey up to the super to give the queen more room for brood. I checked the super a few days later. There are bees all over it but no evidence of comb being drawn. I did some more reading and came to the conclusion that I should remove the excluder so the queen could climb around up there to release more of her scent. I haven't checked the hive since I did this. If there is still no activity, I am going to remove a couple of the frames of honey, freeze them for future use and put a couple of empty frames in the brood box. Because there was so much honey, I removed the feeders in hopes that the bees would start to eat some of this excess. We have had very mild weather in the 60's and 70's most days. The girls are steadily bringing pollen in. I don't think I have to worry about them starving.
I have made a couple of nucs in hopes of splitting the hive, after the first honey flow, to start a new colony and to rear a new queen. I have also purchased the materials to make 12 swarm traps. I plan on putting them up in various locations on the property. Surely I will be able to catch one. Keep your fingers crossed for me. If any of you raise bees, I would appreciate any suggestions.
I am going to drag out all the bee stuff I've ordered and just see how many brood boxes I have with a cover. I am thinking 3 but not sure. I will repaint them all. I have only had my hives 8 months and the paint on them look like crap. I bought some light blue and light green exterior paint from the goof section at Lowes. If I get some yellow my hives will look like a rainbow....LOL
I got my first bee sting last week. It wasn't as bad as I was dreading, it itched more than it hurt. It was my fault too. I was looking at a frame and had it propped on my mid-section. Apparently one of the girls was on the bottom of the frame and did not appreciate getting squashed. I figure one time in 8 months is not too bad!
Have a great week everyone!