Tag Archives: hives

2016 Honey Flow

Its that time again. Around July 4 seems to be the perfect time to harvest our honey from the hive. I had high hopes this year, as this was the second year that this hive would give us honey, but once getting into it, I was a little let down.

Last year (2015)we were able to get about 11 pounds of honey. Not a fantastic harvest, but still very excited about our first year. This year I truly expected that we would be able to harvest two to three times that amount, as the hive seemed very strong and thriving.

I guess sometime in the spring, we must have had a swarm from this hive. When I opened it up, the bee population seemed very low. Unfortunately, I had my wife taking pictures while I explored the hive and none of those pictures came out for some reason.

In the brood boxes, I found lots of empty cells, drone and female, along with a good amount of brood. There was a layer of pollen and honey, so the house bees seem to be keeping up on their duties. I did not find any queen cells, so the hive is not “thinking” about a new queen. I am guessing that this queen is starting to fail (I did not re-queen in 2015) so I am going to get a new queen and make that change now, so there will be plenty of time to assimilate and grow winter stores.

Back to the honey. I did get almost the same amount of honey this year as I did in 2015, so I guess I can’t complain too much. I will say the honey this year was much darker, so they must have got nectar from a different source than last year. I will be adding 2 more hives in the spring, so I look forward to the coming years of beekeeping.

Please enjoy some of the pictures from our day.

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Bee-utiful Morning

Finally! Had a nice weather day and some actual time in between planned and unplanned projects to see how my bee hives looked.

My one hive is empty because the bees swarmed last year and found a new home. I took it apart first just to see if I could determine any cause in the housing conditions to make them swarm.

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Left empty over winter since the bees swarmed last year

20160413_115817 20160413_120058 20160413_120149I could not

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Threw away all the existing frames. Don’t want to transfer anything to the new hive.

get any definitive information from the empty box. The pest’s that took up residence may have come in after the swarm, so I can’t really blame it on hive moths, veroa mites or other small critters. I may have inadvertently killed the queen at one stage last year and the bees decided to leave with the new queen they had grown. Who knows?

 

I am throwing away all the “guts” of the hive and will burnish the interior of the hive body with a torch to  be able to use it for my next hive. Hopefully this will kill anything that may have survived after the last bees left.

So, on to the good hive. It has been thriving well. This is the hive I got 11 pounds of honey from last year. They seemed to over-winter well, but I felt I need to take the hive down to see what is actually happening.

20160419_104008 20160419_104023I put a honey box on top a couple of months ago because the weather has been strangely warm-and rainy-so I just wanted to see how it would go. Surprisingly, when I pulled the honey today, it was about half full and the majority of comb was drawn and ready to accept more. This may bode well for this years honey harvest in July. But my main concern today was to check and see that we had a good brood, meaning lots of new bees over the next few days.

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Top Hive Body
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Bottom Hive Body
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Switched Hive body boxes and installed Queen excluder between honey box

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When checking the top box of the two deep hive, plenty of activity and lots of capped cells. So we should start seeing an explosion of bees in the next week! But maybe not….

The lower box was empty! I really was not expecting it to be empty, thought I might at least see some eggs or larvae. I went ahead and switched the two boxes positions (Since bees like to work their way up) and I will check it again next week to see if the queen is laying in the top box now.  I am hoping that will be the case, so just have to wait and see.

I will update when I get into the hive again. For now the hive is back together with the honey box on top—-fingers crossed.

 

Two Months….

It has been two months since I have shared anything. I thought it was only a few weeks, but regardless, not good for anyone blogging. These last two months have been so eventful and packed full of activities that it is hard to determine where to start.

Of course, trying to get ready for winter has been a priority. Cleaning the little homestead, pulling up the garden beds, pruning trees and arbor, laying new wood chips around the garden paths, mulching trees to protect roots from winter, cleaning out aquaponics tanks, setting up greenhouse, readying the animals (rabbits, chickens, bees) etc, etc, etc. I have pictures and will post more later….

Fortunately so far this year it has been very mild for us. We have stayed pretty consistently in the 50’s and 60’s-a good 15-20 degrees above normal for the Mid-Atlantic Region. They are even calling for 72 degrees on Christmas Eve, with Christmas Day in the 60’s! It has given me some extra time at least to get our gardens and yard together.

We have had a few health scares as well, both myself and my wife. My Melanoma keeps spreading, so keeping on top of it with my doctor has to be a priority. I was also diagnosed with C.O.P.D. not bad enough yet for oxygen, but fatigue and shortness of breath set in quickly.

My wife ended up with the hospital with what they determined a cardiac “episode” I guess they determine an episode when they cannot truly find anything, but all symptoms seemed like a heart attack to me. AT least enough to transport by ambulance instead of taking a chance driving her. She is back to normal, just have to be sure to see a heart specialist after Christmas to, if nothing else, get baseline readings.

We moved into our little homestead in 2005, with a plan to remodel the bathrooms and kitchen within a short time. We did do our guest bathroom about 4 years ago when my brother-in-law became disabled and moved in with us, but have not made progress on the other bath or kitchen. The beginning of November came and we made the determined decision to gut our primary bathroom. This is currently a work in progress, which was hoping to have done by Christmas, but things happen. We should be done early in the new year and I will do a post on the rehab as well as having a lot of pictures. Stay tuned…

Well, for now, I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I will start posting more regularly again very soon!

Preparing for winter-too much to do!

I am taking advantage of the nice-but cool weather today to start preparing the suburban homestead for winter. Bees, chickens, rabbits, fish, the greenhouse, the aquaponics systems the garden, canning, freezing, dehydrating, and I am sure there are a few other things that will need my attention over the coming weeks.

This morning started at 5:30, fixing breakfast for the little woman. Yes she still works outside the home, which is why I became here “Homestead Hero”, as she calls me. Hero I am not, but it is a full time job to take care of a homestead-even a small 1/5 acre suburban homestead.

After getting her off to work, its time to gather food scraps and greens (grow in the garden and greenhouse) to feed the chickens. Taking food and water to the chickens is not as easy as walking out the back door since we can not legally keep fowl on our property. (In Baltimore County-must have 1 acre for any chickens) So I have to take a short drive of about 1 1/2 miles to get to the chicken coop on our friends property. This isn’t so bad and I really do not have to go every day since we installed the solar electric door to let them in and lock them up at night. But it’s nice to feed them greens and scraps to keep our feed bill low.

Once back from the coop, I focused on getting the bees wrapped all warm and toasty. We have had a few nights now at 30 degrees, so why wait until the last minute.

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I start the wrap with a layer of 2″ foam board around three sides. This is held tight with a metal plumbing strap. Then I can surround the hive with straw bales. These serve as a great wind break and an insulator for the cold weather accompanied by high winds that we usually have here on the east coast.

In the third picture, many of the bees came out to see what was going on, almost looks as if they are getting ready to swarm, but they quickly settled back inside to their routine.  I was going to start feeding them today, but with the activity I will just wait until tomorrow before I disturb them again.

While I was outside, I just checked on the rabbits. We have a mating pair of Florida Whites, of which our female is currently pregnant. She is due on the 27th, so I just added some straw in the cage so she could build a nice comfy warm nest to deliver the litter. I have the plastic wrap put up but have not surrounded the hutches with it yet. That only takes a few minutes to unroll and attached to the outside of the hutch, so I can wait until later this month.

Our buck-Columbus
Our buck-Columbus
Our female-Sweet Pea, Just 7 more days to delivery!
Our female-Sweet Pea, Just 7 more days to delivery!
Plastic ready to wrap
Plastic ready to wrap

 

 

 

 

 

Chickens, bees, and rabbits-check, check, and check. So on to the greenhouse. I have not been real active in the greenhouse over the summer, since all of my attention has been devoted to the outside garden projects.

Of course the last few weeks have been filled with canning, freezing and dehydrating our spring and summer crops. “crops” that makes it sound like we have so many acres, but we have just enough for one little homestead hero to handle.  You would be amazed at how much can be grown on a 1/5 acre!

Anyway, back to the greenhouse. I wrote a couple of months ago about our cherry tomato plant in the aquaponic grow bed. I figured today was a good day to say goodbye to it-after 11 months of growing and fruiting. Yes it was still delivering cherry tomatoes, but the growth had taken over the greenhouse and the vines had rooted in several places throughout 2 grow beds.

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winter 008It took some time to clean out the remains of the tomato plant, along with some lettuce, spinach, and mint that the growth had been hiding from me. But now that the grow beds are empty, except for a thriving mint plant in one corner, I can start to plant for winter growth.

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Our outside Bean Tower during season

While working outside I found some bean plants that had sprouted around my outside grow tower. I guess when I let some stay on the vine to dry for use as seeds next year, they must have fallen off and germinated in the ground around the barrel.  There were six small plants that seemed to be thriving, even after the frost we encountered the last two nights.  I thought this would be a perfect time to try green beans in our aquaponics system.

I installed one of our larger tomato cages into the center of the grow bed. Then I dug up the 6 bean plants and cleaned the roots for transplanting. This will be a first for me trying green beans so I am excited to see how well they do.

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The other grow bed, with the mint in the corner is now planted with seed for lettuce, mescaline, spinach, and arugula. It is nice to be able in the winter to feed our chickens and rabbits fresh greens.

Part of preparing for winter is also thinking ahead to spring, so today I had a full load of wood chips delivered. I use these to spread on paths and walkways between the raised beds, as well as around fruit trees to keep roots warm in the winter.

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Anyone like pumpkins this time of year? I did not plant pumpkins this year because it absolutely took over our garden beds last year. But I guess God had other plans for the garden this year as I have a great amount of pumpkins that grew. I think it fascinating that they are hanging from my tomato cages and green bean tunnel.

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winter 003While working around the homestead today, I had an engineer here all morning checking, measuring, taking pictures and asking questions, readying our house for a solar panel installation. We are really looking forward to adding solar to our property, hopefully to help get our utility costs reduced and be more in line with our belief in sustainability and eco-friendly.

I think this is the first time I have ever written over 1000 words for one post. I hope I did not bore you, but there is always a lot going on at the little suburban homestead this time of year. This hero, although tired, really enjoys the activity.

 

The @#&*+$% Waterfall Pump is Clogged Again!

Growing Duckweed
Growing Duckweed
Water pond for my bees
Water pond for my bees
Fishless pond
Fishless pond

This spring I finally got around to really cleaning out and around my pond. The weeds throughout the rock beds were getting far too dense and it really looked bad in an otherwise interesting yard.

My pond, unlike many others, has no fish. The pond serves two primary purposes:

1) It is situated just in front of my bee hives, so the bees will have water without invading the neighbor’s pool

2) Grow duckweed to feed my aquaponics fish and my chickens.

If you have a pond, be sure to read my friends article below about an easy inexpensive way to filter better.

 

Mind Your Dirt

It creeps upon me like a slow death, void of meaning or romance. From my bedside I can hear the daily lessening of its once mighty cry as it slowly dies. A single tear forms in the corner of my tired eye as I realize in the dreamy state that something is terribly wrong. The deafening roar of water that once dominated my senses begins to weaken to a soft purr of drip-drop failure.

My failure. My shame.

My waterfall pump.

Waterfall Pump Clog 01b_A clogged up water feature dripping away

Were I a better man, I would have cleaned out its sterile, dwarfed and paltry mini micro filter daily. But I didn’t. Because it’s @#&*+$% God-awful annoying to do that. I curse the pump filter demons that have taken hold of my once amazing water feature! Just look at this pathetic thing; after three solid days of “work” it’s all gummed up.

Waterfall Pump Clog 01_Useless mini filter that comes with the pump “Hi, my name is Useless the Blob. Can…

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BEE-utiful! A Honey of a Season!

Three years in the making! Three years to get a colony of bees to over-winter, but worth it!

It has been tough going getting our bee hives to grow. Starting the bees three years ago, we have lost every colony through fall and winter each year. But I made a commitment to myself (Actually the wife made a commitment for me) that I would give it a minimum of three years to over-winter a colony.

The original goal was to add a new colony each spring until I had three colonies, but each spring I have been starting fresh with one colony.

I have always bought Italian bee’s, but this past year through a special deal from our local club, I purchased two nuc’s with Russian bees. I think changing to the more aggressive and hardier Russian bee made some difference, although I did still lose one colony through 4 different swarms.

The colony that did survive the winter, turned out to be a very strong and thriving colony. Yesterday we removed the Illinois honey box and proceeded to extract our very first run of honey.

I truly though it would be a lot of work, so I asked a couple of new beekeeper friends to come and help, but it was truly not to bad. Pulling the frames of honey, de-capping the comb and spinning the frames proved to be a pretty easy experience.

I was really thrilled with our first year’s production, considering we extracted over TEN POUNDS of honey from just 6 1/2 frames! It was the best tasting honey I had ever eaten, but that could be just the excitement of eating our own honey talking.

Here are a few pictures from the day, sorry I did not take more!

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By the way cleaning the equipment was really simple. (buckets and honey extractor) I just set all the equipment in front of my bee hive for the rest of the day and the bees cleaned it all up for me! Just a little soap and water this morning and the equipment is back in storage for next year!

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Here is a quick video of the honey extractor at work. I can’t wait til next year!

Lot’s more pictures HERE.

 

Retirement….Not what I thought!

I wrote the other day about my Love/Hate Relationship with Spring, which got me thinking about the last 3 years. The first 3 years of my retirement which have proven to be nothing like I expected.

My wife has about 5 more years before she leaves the work world, so I thought I would have a few years of playing golf and puttering around in the gardens. Little did I know how my interests would change and the amount of time I would be involved pursuing these new interests.

In the last 3 years, I have built a chicken coop, raised and lost 7 chickens (Thanks to the county), built a 10 X 20 greenhouse attached to our house, started building aquaponics systems and teaching aquaponics courses, added another 18 raised garden beds, turned my front yard into a “food forest” (permaculture), started raising rabbits, added 3 bee hives,  and now finishing our second chicken coop on a friends property who is allowed to keep chickens. (We now have 13 new hens which are still awaiting the completion of their permanent home.)

Truthfully having a garden has always been a thing. I enjoy getting out in the spring and summer working the gardens, watching them grow, and eating many fresh vegetables right from the vine. I actually grow snow peas strictly to snack on while I work outside!

Falling into aquaponics, expanding the scope of gardening to a year round project, has taken on a life of its own. I love this new hobby and have become excited about sharing the opportunity with other interested hobbyist’s.

Our new chicken coop is about done and I think it is turning out pretty good. Here are a few pictures but I will post more about it when its completed. We got more rain today and tomorrow, so hopefully finish on Wednesday.

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I have played golf 3 times in the last 3 years and have been busier than I ever was when I “worked”. Needless to say retirement, although I am loving it, is nothing as I expected!

 

Love/Hate Relationship with Spring

Share homeacreI love spring because I can get back into the yard and garden to clean up the winter mess and start the renewal process!

I hate spring because I can get back into the yard and garden to clean up the winter mess and start the renewal process!

When the weather breaks from a grueling cold, wet winter, it is great to be able to get out and start doing the things I love again. There is just so much to do and it seems I work from sunup to sundown just to get ahead of the curve on cleanup and preparing the yard and garden beds. This year adding the additional pressure to myself of teaching local enthusiast’s about aquaponics.

I do love aquaponics. I enjoy sharing with others, as well as

Greenhouse AP tank set
Greenhouse AP tank setup-fill & drain systems

learning from others about aquaponics. It seems to me that possibilities are endless with what I can accomplish with an aquaponics system.

16 new chicks
16 new chicks

Insult to injury, this year we are also adding a new chicken coop for our 16 chickens. I have been working daily, at least on the non-rainy days, to get our coop built from recycled wood pallets. I think it is coming along pretty good! Tomorrow, if the rain stays away, I should be able to get the roof put on.

0414 010 0414 011 0414 012 0414 013 0414 014Of course, if you have followed our story, you know we can not have chickens on our property (County took them in 2013). I made a deal with a friend to use his property, which is about 1 mile away and has the proper amount of land, according to our county’s governing body. Our group is still working with the county to eliminate their ignorance when it comes to chickens, but it is a long slow process. Isn’t it always when dealing with any government agency.

Today is supposed to be 70 degrees and partly sunny, so I guess I should be out taking care of the rabbits, bees, and garden beds while it’s not raining. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice too, so hopefully I can get the chicken coop almost done!

I love spring because I can get back into the yard and garden to clean up the winter mess and start the renewal process!

I hate spring because I can get back into the yard and garden to clean up the winter mess and start the renewal process!