Saturday, March 29, 2014

Buzz, Buzz, Installing Bees

When we first got bees several years ago, we ordered and installed two colonies.  One of them left after two days!  Everybody, gone!  We didn't replace them and since then we've been flying solo with one hive. 

Well, one hive is great, but when an ice storm comes along and a fallen limb blows apart the only one you have, you decide a second hive might not be such a bad thing.  Though this scene looked bad and we questioned whether they would survive, there was still a cluster in one of the hive boxes, so I assumed the queen was still alive.  We put everything back together, fed them sugar water for a few days and watched and waited.  I checked them after a week or so, and I saw capped brood, which means babies on the way and a laying queen, pollen and the start of honey.  As of today, they are working like gangbusters bringing in pollen and nectar.

I picked up and installed my second colony today.

When you order a package of bees, this is what you get. This is 3 pounds of bees. The small rectangular box beside it is called the queen cage, and it holds the queen as well as a few of her attendants.

Here is a close-up of the queen cage.  The white end is actually candy, and this is what she and her attendants eat while trapped in her cage.

The end of the queen cage with the candy is capped with a small cork. The cork is removed to give the new bees access to the candy. They will eat their way through the candy to release the queen. Once the cork is removed, the queen box is suspended in the hive body where the bees will be installed. She is still protected by her cage, but she will be able to send out pheromones to establish herself as queen. At this point, she is not their queen, but by the time they get through the candy and release her, she should have sent out enough pheromones to establish herself as their new queen.

This is where the bees are going to be dumped. It's a hive body with 10 frames.

The blue push pin is holding the queen cage in place. The top is pried off the package of bees and you basically shake them out of the package into the hive. Most of them come out in a large mass and they proceed to work their way down into the hive body.

After you've shaken out as many bees as possible, the package is placed in front of the hive to encourage the rest of the bees to migrate into the hive body.

Finish with a nice container of sugar water to feed them since they don't have any honey or pollen collected yet.  Let's hope this one stays put!

Happy beekeeping,


Friday, March 28, 2014

Meet Novalee!

In the span of 14 months, we had to put down all three of our cats.  Anyone who has ever had to do that knows it is heart-wrenchingly painful.  For us, we had barely gotten over one when we had to turn around and do it again. 

In November 2012, we sadly lost our 18 year old cat, Lucy.  She was me personified in a cat.  She was my kitty soul mate. 

In August 2013, we lost our outdoor cat, OP2.  She came to us as a stray.  Nate said he used to see her going in and out of the trashcans on the street looking for food.  We had her for about 6 years.  She was an excellent mouser! 

In January, we lost our 19 year old cat, Onyx.  She was as sweet and unassuming as any cat could be, the complete opposite of Lucy.  She was Nate's girl. 

For 20 years we have had a least one cat in our lives. 

The house was terribly lonely after Onyx, and the pull of having feline companionship was strong.  So, I started surfing  This went on for at least a month, and one cat kept grabbing my attention.

This past weekend, we welcomed her home.  Her name is Novalee, and she is estimated to be a little over 1 year old.  She is every bit the love bug, and to me, she is beautiful.  It has been so long since we've had a rambunctious playful young cat in our house.  We are enjoying every minute watching her play and act a fool.  Based on her personality and physical characteristics, I believe she is part Maine Coon, which is my favorite breed.

So, without further adieu, meet Novalee.  As you can see, she has made herself right at home.

Happy homesteading,


Monday, March 24, 2014

Ever Evolving

It seems like it has been forever and a day since I last posted.  We've had some major projects happening here so I've been busier than a one-armed paper hanger lately.  If I've said it once, I've said it one thousand times.  I am always looking for ways to make my space more efficient.  Therefore, I am always assessing whether a project done in the past works for me today, especially as I expand, and how a project on my to-do list will make things run a little more smoothly.  Late winter to early spring seems to be our time for big projects.  I don't have too much going in the garden and it's not 100 degrees outside.

So, here is a run-down of this year's projects.

The GA Henitentiary came down.  The run portion was in prime growing territory, and since I made the decision a few years ago to move all of the animals to the back half of the yard, having animal housing here just didn't make sense anymore.  Plus the termites were having a field day with it, and it was only a matter of time before it came down on its own. 

In its place went a new 10x12 greenhouse.  Doing this opened up the bed where the run used to be and also freed up my smaller greenhouse, which is actually in the animal yard, for feed storage.  This greenhouse was almost grounds for divorce at our house!  Ha, ha!  It will have to last forever because Nate will NEVER construct one for me again. 

And, as if the greenhouse wasn't a big enough chore, it was followed by another whopper.  What was originally my rabbitry and then storage was converted to a four stall barn.  This was my major expansion project for this year giving me greater versatility in animal housing.  The raccoons had figured out that the lattice was easily ripped off and they were helping themselves to the feed, removing the lids from the containers, and making a huge mess in the process. I was limited by the henitentiary because I could only grow-out one rabbit litter at a time.  Now I can breed more than one rabbit at once and not worry about grow-out space.  Plus, it gives me the option for separating animals when needed.  The really fun part of this was digging out all of the stalls to a foot depth, in the Georgia clay mud I might add, laying down chicken wire and stapling it around the perimeter and then back filling with mulch.  The mulch has been wonderful for providing drainage.  Because of the density of the clay and the high water table of this area, it was always muddy.  I've noticed a huge difference now after a big rain storm.  The chicken wire serves two purposes, to keep predators from digging in and baby bunnies from digging out.  By the way, a stackable organizer from the Dollar Tree flipped sideways and screwed to the wall makes an excellent hay feeder.

Since I lost my feed storage area, my old 6x8 greenhouse became my feed storage shed.  Nate finished the shelving for it, and it is perfect.  It sits in deep shade during the summer so with the ventilation windows and the door open during the day, I'm not too concerned about the feed getting too hot.

And, here are a few photos of the animal yard as it is today.  The rabbits are to the right.  My feed storage is above that.  The chicken coop is just behind the barn.  I'm digging it!

Happy homesteading,