Monday, May 23, 2016

Honey, What's all That Buzzing?

My husband brought home two more nucs (colonies) of bees
over the weekend to replace the hive we initially lost.  We
ordered two before we found some of the second hive; however,
that hive is not as strong so this should help.

They were pretty agitated after riding in the truck so we used
some smoke to calm them down and transfer them into the hives. 

There are still some in the nuc box, and many in the 
void created by the box ends.  We had to pry them
open and shake them into the hive.  There were a few
stragglers that I shook out and quickly put the lid back on.

We inspected our existing hives and found either the queen
or evidence of the queen (babies).  Hopefully they will build
up their population sufficiently before winter and make 
enough honey to eat until Spring.  We can help them out
with food but it would be good if they made enough themselves.

We are not experienced enough to know everything we need
to know; however, the person my husband obtained the bees 
from turns out to have been in the same industry and they have
mutual acquaintances.  He spent five hours walking my husband 
through his set up (which is extensive) and how the process
should work.  He's been raising bees since he was 16, now in 
this 60s, and offered to help any time- and he is only about 
20 minutes from our house!  

We have about 20-30,000 bees now.  Most of them will not leave the hive; 
however, there are plenty that will. As I was watering flowers yesterday
I noticed that there were several bees circling me, trying to get water.  They
were not aggressive and didn't have any intention of hurting me.  They 
also buzzed me on the porch and wanted to land on me constantly.
Then I realized I must look like a giant flower with my light pink
T-shirt on.  I quickly changed to muddy brown and the buzzing stopped.

The property two lots up is for sale. I sure hope they like bees. 
And chickens, chicken tractors and coops! Up on the ridge top most
of the neighbors, regardless of "subdivision rules," do what they want
and no one complains as long as you don't bother anyone else.  We have
 a pretty good mix here too from carpenters, two nurses, engineer, and 
those that garden and like to build things.   

 More and more people from higher end communities are moving out this way.  
It has gone from pickups to BMWs, probably those that want a more quiet area and definitely the horse crowd.  We have a couple of horse farms, 
one very high tech, on the county road plus people with their own 
horses.   There are three or four $1 million plus properties within 
three or four miles from us.

I am still struggling with some health issues, more on that later but
I start insulin on Thursday.  It may be a temporary situation since
I have done everything right with meals- no cheating and eating donuts
which I dearly miss!  I have found some sugar free cookies that work into
my carb count plus fat free-sugar free pudding in case I have a sweet
craving.  I've lost almost 55 lbs but will need to start exercising every
day once I start insulin so it won't store in fat cells.  I won't have far
to travel since we have almost a complete gym in the basement.
(You'd think I'd use it more since it is only a trip downstairs!)

It should rain most of the week so a good time to get started!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Arden Usher

My mother-in-law, Arden Usher, was laid to rest on Tuesday, May 10, at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. We had a visitation at Nieburg-Vitt Thiebes funeral home in Pacific, MO with Mass at St James Catholic church in Catawissa.

We received a beautiful rose from Pauline and Bob Masson, friends from our Pacific, MO PCAC volunteer work and my husband's ham radio club. 

They selected it so our bees would enjoy it for years to come. 

 My son, Sean, flew in from Seattle and it was very nice to see him after a couple of years away. 

Sean Usher, Tom Usher, Dan Usher, Gina Usher,
Kathy Usher, Taylor Usher, Becky Usher and
Becky's boyfriend, John, behind her.

After the funeral the family, Fr. Mark and my daughter's boyfriend, John, had lunch at Joe Boccardi's which has just reopened after a complete removel due to the floods in December. We then gathered with family and friends at Dan's place which is next door to us.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Big Changes

What can you see as you look to the left of our fountain?
It's a wonderful thing, well, maybe our neighbors won't think so
but it will only be there for a few weeks.

I am sure a few of them are wondering.
You see, it's the only flat spot we have.
What is it?
A Chicken Tractor!!!
(you might hear a band playing or imagine confetti floating in the sky)

The awful smell is gone.
The twice daily litter cleaning, gone.
All out in the tractor.

They will stay locked up in the coop area for a few days
to get them used to the new food and water location and
then we'll let them out to peck around in the grass and 
run around looking for bugs and the like. You can raise and lower 
the wheels so it is elevated or flat on the ground.
The entire thing is a cage so nothing can get in or out.

My husband's boss loaned it to us so we don't have to make
a coop addition yet. 

We also have a compost barrel now.  The compost
pile is pretty far from the house, up by the garden
and wasn't easy to access to throw away the daily egg
shells and vegetable scraps.  This one will sit closer to the house.

We had to bit the bullet and get a new tiller.
The old one isn't working and since we didn't have
a garden last year due to the rains, it has 
completely covered itself in grasses.
We found this one on sale.

The roses are doing well so far

as are the iris.

Hopefully the bees will discover the bee balm

and the blackberry blossoms that are starting to open.

The peony plants are smaller this year, maybe 
due to the cooler spring with all the rains we have had.

The bees seem to be OK.  We think we have saved at least
one Queen and maybe another.  One hive is coming along better
than the other.  My husband will check today to see if he sees
progress.  We are expecting new bees towards the end of the month.

More details later but we have had a couple of setbacks.

My mother in law passed away on Tuesday night.
We were able to sit most of the day at the nursing home with her.
She has been there several years and was pretty non-responsive
for quite a long time.  My son is flying in for the funeral which 
is scheduled next week at Jefferson Barracks national cemetery.

Secondly, I was diagnosed with diabetes, probably from the 
prednisone I had been taking for a few months.  They say if you
genetically lean towards diabetes, it can flip you over.  My sugar
was very high and they sent me home with medicine; however, 
no guidance whatsoever!  I get classes today but it's been a week
and I have no idea what to eat or if I am high or low.  It's not a good
thing.  A one page diet example would have been nice.  I looked on
line and found lots of diets but I need one that will also work with 
the colitis since they seem to want me to eat different things.
I'll work it all out today.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Things are Buzzing Around Here

The Bee Arrival

Are hives were ready, everything seemed good
but this is a bee story with hard lessons learned.

My husband brought back three boxes of bees from 
Des Moines yesterday, that equates to about 30,000 bees
 flying around our garden area.  

They are packaged in wooden screened boxes which are linked
together.  There are also hobo bees that attach themselves
to these boxes, trying to get to the queen and they just
come home with your packages.  It's a good thing that
my husband's truck has a shell because the hobos can
fly around at will Inside your vehicle

While my husband was gone I prepared the sugar syrup that
we must feed them until there are enough blooms to
sustain them.  It's a 2:1 ratio with basically 16 lbs of
sugar to a gallon of water.  We put it into mason jars
that have a drip lid and sit in a holder which we put
inside the hives.  Some put them outside the hive.

We suited up and brought the bees and gear up to
the garden area.  My husband used a tool to pry up the
wooden bar holding all the hives together.  Bees start coming
out at this time so you need to work quickly.

You spray them down with sugar syrup to calm them.
Then remove the syrup feeder can that is dropped into
the box.  

Here was our big error:
Although there is a difference of opinion on releasing
the queen, the direct release method did not work
for us.
There is a metal handle that you slide
out of the box and which holds the queen.
You brush off the bees and pull the plug out of the 
queen holder and put that into the hive.

While we got these bees from Des Moines, they get their
queens from California, which unbeknownst to us, 
packages differently.  Most queen cages have a plug on one
end and then a sugar syrup candy plug between the 
exit hole and the queen.  When you put the queen in the 
hive she is released slowly as the other bees eat through
the candy plug to reach her.

Ours had no candy and we didn't know how she would
eat if we didn't release her.  Since that time I found out
that the bees would feed her through her cage. So Next Time,
we will not release immediately and allow her more time
to socialize with the bees and get used to her environment.
One beekeeper told us that the place we purchased from
does have the queen inside the box with her bees for
several days and it should have been a clean install; however,
there was something they didn't like.

There is also a difference of opinion on releasing the bees.
Some put the box of bees inside the hive and some shake them
out.  We put them inside, along with their feeder which 
has the option of being external as well.  The raccoon would
have a field day with external feeders- they steal my 
hummingbird feeders - so we placed it inside too. 

The next day we would remove the box of bees.

Back to the good part for awhile.

There was a lot of bee activity once we had everyone
taken care of.  You could see them buzzing everywhere.
None were aggressive but some did fly around us.
The suits will help protect us but there is still a possibility of
 a sting, something that we want to happen occasionally.
Some research says that if we are exposed to the venom 
all the time without a sting, we could become allergic
or the beekeeper's family could become allergic by being
in contact with the clothing and mixed in the wash.
So to get stung is OK once in awhile assuming you are not allergic.
We do have EpiPens on hand just in case.

Now the bad part.

When we returned from church my husband saw the swarm.
We opened the hives and the queens were gone along
with most of the bees, just some residual bees left.

We picked up some of the bees that were in a cluster by 
a fallen tree, hoping there was a queen in the middle.
My husband put them into a hive and we are hoping for the best.

The next day he saw a queen up at our plastic greenhouse.
He suited up, picked up the ball of bees and put them into
a second hive.  The queen immediately flew down into the 
frames, which is a good sign.  We will watch them to see if
it was successful.

In the meantime I am on the beekeeping site asking for advice.
My husband is also asking his friends and as it turns out one
of them has a friend that can sell us bees in 3-4 weeks,
some that have already started making honey on the frames
which will encourage them to create a queen and stay.
On the advice of the bee group I picked up some lemon grass 
essential oil.  It says to wait for the hive to be healthy and 
use it around the bees as an anti fungal and antibiotic.
It also simulates the pheromones of the queen which is why 
some beekeepers use it when establishing their hive.

Trying to keep them happy.

I also had weeded a bed nearest the bees and planted some 
already blooming or soon to bloom flowers.  I also have
a Save the Bees seed collection and want to plant
herbs such as borage for them.  From what I can see,
if we need to use a tiller we will need to do that just as 
the bees are going in for the night, so we don't aggravate them.

We also have to have an education session with Taylor
(my granddaughter) and the neighbor girls so they stay
away from that area and don't scream and yell, running
around there.  We're on 5 acre minimum lots so there is
plenty of room to play elsewhere and we are far from 
the neighbors' yards.  I don't think it will be a problem.

This is my bee suit.
Yes it is HUGE.  Between being only 5' 2", and no option
of Short sizes, I have lost a great deal of weight since ordering.
Even if I had not, it would have been big.  I suppose big is better,
too tight might mean a sting.  The gloves are huge too but it is
what the sizing chart said to use based on hand measurement.

More on the bees as things develop.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Wings and Things

Welcome to the New Guys!
These are our Cornish Cross chicks that arrived
from our local feed store by special order from 
Cackle Hatchery in Lebanon, MO.

These are our first meat chicks so a very different
experience for me.  They grow very quickly,
and are trying to eat and drink us our of house
and home!  We will borrow the chicken tractor that
belongs to my husband's boss and house them in there
for a few weeks until butchering time, that is once
they are large enough to leave our house.

They arrived Wednesday and were very different than
the chicks that I incubate.  They can't be very old
to be transported so I can tell they have grown
much larger and sturdier than my normal buffs.
They are always "ON"
It's like a party every hour, then the crash for a bit,
and then it's back to the party.

We lost one today.  It wasn't looking very well this 
morning but seemed to perk up a bit; however,
when we got done with our errands it was gone.
The others are looking well though.

The Bees arrive tomorrow!
We've got everything ready,
We both have EpiPens just in case.
Thirty thousand bees.
That's a lot of bees!
Especially when my husband is driving
them back from Des Moines- a 12 hour trip 
tomorrow but he has a friend to go with him.
I have to stay and take care of the chicks.

We will have to feed the bees for awhile but I did 
buy some flowers at the nursery.  It is sort of a 
gamble planting them now. April 15 is our last frost
date but you can't count on it.  It's just a few flowers
to start them off, I saw bees on them at the nursery so
I figured ours would like them too.

Our big garden is not near ready, just our little side garden.
I'll get the smallest bed up there, which is by the hives, ready
either this afternoon or tomorrow before the bees arrive.

In the meantime I am trying to win that lottery!
$251 million in tomorrow's draw.
That's worth a $2 investment, you never know, you might win.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Just a Garden Post (because I hate naming my posts)

We avoided the frost and now the plum tree is 
covered with pretty little babies!
If I can keep the worms under control we may
just have a great harvest this year.

The mystery tree out back, a complete volunteer,
I believe is another peach tree.

It looks very much like the tree out front.

The horseradish is looking good and such pretty flowers.

I can't complain about the worms either, huge!

We now have almost all the panels up on the side
garden where there is kale, collards, swiss chard,
cabbage and radish and a few varieties of lettuce.

The new meat chicks arrive tomorrow 
and the bees on Saturday.  My husband found 
a neighbor that will ride up to Des Moines and back
with him - 12 hours in the car in one day!
I'm sure they will have fun.
I'll be here watching the new babies, catching up on
my quilting and looking at the library books that I 
will surely have by then.  Library sales are always good.

I had a surprise this week too.
Our old office complex used to hire a landscaping
company to plant the flowers of the season.
Once that season was coming to a close, they
would pull them up and leave them on the street for
anyone to take.  At one time I had lots of tulips.
That was maybe 10 years ago and since that time
they have disappeared.
Until this week.
LOOK!!  A lone tulip!
That must be a good sign. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Finding the Morels

The morels are up!
One day they are not there and the next day there 
is a huge mushroom to be found.

We have three of these in a row by a decaying tree,
just where you would expect them to be.
I have marked them because it's easy to overlook
when we still have leaves on the ground.

I don't know if we will eat these but rather let them
spread their spores to make more next year.  I know
we will have more in the leafy area near the dead tree
so we'll wait for those before eating.  I have to wait for
my granddaughter to be here anyway, she loves them.

More information on morels can be found here and here.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Handy Clips for Chicken Wire Fencing

Before we get eaten out of house and home this year
we thought we had better protect the small side garden
where we grow lots of salad greens, radish, collards
and a few beans or peppers along thee way.

My husband picked up a few cattle panels and a roll of
chicken wire.  He cut the panels into sections and lined
them with chicken wire to make swing out gates.
We used to wrap the chicken wire to the fencing with twisted
wire but he found this neat little tool that will do the job easier.

You take the metal pieces and align it into the jaws of the clamp.

Then you just put the jaws around part of the wire 
and the cattle panel to attach them.
Each section will swing out so I can get in there
to weed or replant another vegetable when the 
first has gone past its prime. 

They love munching on our salad greens and 
beans.  The raised beds are narrow enough that 
I  don't think the deer will jump into them.
Currently there are two beds that will be fenced.
We won't fence in the horseradish or the soon to be 
garlic bed.  We are going to move the potato box.
It was not successful last year due to the large amount
of rain we got.  I think they got way too wet, along with 
everything else!  

We just had a freeze warning but it looks like we didn't get hit.
The plum tree was blooming well this year and I hope to get some
if I can keep the worms away.  I can't spray anything that will 
hurt the bees which will be arriving at the end of the month.  
My husband will be driving to Des Moines to get them
but our new meat chicks will arrive here on the 20th
so I won't go with him as I will be babysitting- or chicken sitting
the new ones.   I have to remind myself- don't love them too much,
they will be my dinner in a few months!