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!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Right Up My Alley

What a great afternoon!
Our boss arranged a "team building" event for us last
Friday afternoon.  We met at the bowling alley near
work for lunch and a couple games.

I have not bowled in about 10-12 years, ever since I
hurt my knee in an auto accident.  I wasn't sure if I could
do this but it's still fun to go and watch everyone.
I actually ordered the "ramp" just in case I decided to play.
It's the thing that kids use, along with the bumper guards-
which I did not specify!

Well, I gave it a try without the ramp  and while I 
got a gutter ball, I could do it!
Yea Me!! 

There were prizes too:  Best Dressed, Best Team
Spirit and Best Form.  Can you guess who won the
Best Dressed category?  He was never in a league, 
he just liked the shirt and bought one in a resale shop.

I will say they were pretty impressed with my gear!
One of the guys pointed to my ball and said
"It says KATHY!"

We used to bowl a lot so I have a ball, shoes and a wrist
brace in my bag.  My husband will say it is his brace, 
but I stole it.  I helps but if we decide to do this more
regularly I better start lifting some weights.  I never
had great arm strength but whatever I had is long gone.
By the middle of the second game my arm 
was starting to give out.

After not bowling for over a decade I was pretty bad, 
but it was all in fun and I had a fantastic time!
In fact, I received Best Form!
Yea me again!!
(I did manage a couple of spares)

My leg was pretty sore on Saturday and a little Sunday
but it was worth it.  We have my son's ball here and it is
just about a perfect weight for Taylor.  We may find a slow
time and take her to the alley in Union, MO so she can 
give it a try.  I think she will like it.

I asked my boss if we could do this monthly- 
a half day off to bowl together.
I don't think it will happen but you never know,
he may decide to do this again some time. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Rendering Lard

We had a slim window of opportunity while the weather was 
nice, no snow, no frost and no rain, so my husband built a fire
in our court yard pit.  He added the tri pod and suspended the 
cast iron pot filled with pork fat that had been in the freezer.

I'm not certain how much it weighed when we started
but we ended up with five quarts of lard by the time
we had finished.  Last time we rendered inside
the house which I didn't care for.  Our house smelled
like pork for quite a while! Not a pork steak sort of
pork smell, but a pig sort of pork smell.

We pressure canned it a couple days later, 
taking the lard out of the refrigerator and 
reheating it so it would pour.

I was at work so he prepped the lids and kept
the jars warm in the oven.

He filled the jars

He got the pressure up 

End result, 5 quarts of lard
and more room in the freezer!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Bee Gear Arrived

We are getting ever so much closer to becoming beekeepers!
Today the gear arrived packaged in three large parcels.
We have a new smoker

and a nice gear box that is now filled with 
foundations, handles, brush and scraper and
a couple other things.  The smoker attaches to
the rear of the box so you can carry it all together.

Then there are the hats and veils, gloves and suits, all
of which look much, much bigger than I anticipated.
We followed the directions on the sizing charts
but I am afraid mine is going to be pretty 
long- I'm all of 5' 2" !

My husband got the cinder blocks to level up the hives
so we'll be working on that this week.
He gets the bees the end of April, just a few
days after our Cornish Cross chicks will arrive.

We're also adding meat birds to the mix.
We'll increase the size of their yard, segregating them
from our layers.  I've become increasingly concerned
about the cleanliness of store bought chicken.
This will be our first year to butcher but we do have
access to a whiz bang chicken plucker plus our
neighbors are going to try and coordinate butchering
days with us and set up an assembly line.

We will be pretty busy with the bees, the birds plus the garden.
And work too! 

We still have some nights where it will dip to or below freezing
which means I won't plant too early. They say our last frost is 
mid April but it's not true.  You are really never safe until May.

I have a collection of seeds ready, including this one
for the bees. They will have wild flowers and herbs in 
addition to the zucchini and other flowers that will bloom
in the garden.   I will mix in a few that I purchase from 
the nursery too so they have a head start.

Monday, March 21, 2016

100 Blocks, What a Challenge

We are 11, 6-inch blocks in to our Splendid Sampler Facebook
group challenge, hosted by Pat Sloan and Jane Davidson.
I am participating for skill building and I will tell you that
creating these tiny blocks is truly a challenge for me.

The photo above is a Quilt Shoppe which still needs
its embroidery. When it is sewn to sashing or another block
it will lose a quarter inch on all sides so the block will 
appear as if it does not line up, remove the quarter
inch in your mind and you will see the end result.

What did I learn here? Don't use polka dots if you need
to see a straight line.  This was a pre-cut fabric strip that 
I had to cut the width for, less than the standard
2 1/2 inches.  I should have been more mindful of 
the pattern, making sure the dots lined up.
I would use a very light mixed up print next time.

You can always embellish it as you want so some people
have added shrubbery with embroidery or curtains, etc. 

This is the Ohio block, or some may see it as a
"Hug and Kiss"  if you sewed the top two blocks below
the bottom two blocks you would end up with an X.
One of the Splendid Sampler participants did just this and
it looked fantastic.  Remember to lose the quarter
inch to see what this would look like finished.

One caution here was the boat pattern.  Did I put it 
on top so the bears would be upright or on the bottom
like it is here so the boats would be upright?  The consensus
was that the boats are what your eye is drawn to so they
should be upright.

The next block is embroidery and piecing but the 
embroidery will end up looking like crochet, a little doily.
At first I thought it might be actual crochet tacked to the 
block, it looks so real when you see a photo.  

With 100 blocks and working it is hard to stay up to date
so sometimes I work on it for a half hour, sometimes more
over the course of several days.  I know some cleaning is
being neglected too.  Well, it's skill building- that's educational
right?  So worth putting the cleaning aside.  At least that is
my excuse!