Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Happy Frogs, sad tomatoes and rescued goat

Tonight it is raining! First good rain in a while here. The frogs are at level 10 calling so happily! I'm sure we had next to no rain to amount to much in June, yet most days it reached 90 degrees.
 Here is one of the groups of tomatoes and peppers we grew from seed in our garden on June 23. Sprinkling them almost daily for some while. We left for 3 days and found deer had been grazing them a little. Right now we have lots of green 2 inch tomatoes, we both agreed these are some of the best organic tomato plants we have ever grown. Meg found some horn worms on a few of the front garden plants today as well. Meg finds caterpillars much better than me.

So to  keep the deer out of the garden I installed some 4 foot tall fencing, no not tall enough yet a deterrent hopefully. When I get time I'll set it up the fencing permanent with a gate and small arbor next to the bee hive.
 Goat rescue number two. This was a different goat than the last one I rescued. It was mid day on Monday and I figured his owners were at work. picked some wild blackberries as a reward. By dinner time another goat was stuck in the fence, they must have freed it, as it did not call long.
One thing about tonight's rain, could have filled the rain tote. I have the 300 gallon rain tote in place. The PVC piping in ready to install. I bought two 16 inch fake concrete decorative pots, that look old. I'm going to cut a hole in the bottom of the pots and run 3 inch PVC pipe through them one to fill the the rain tote, the other to a drain that empties into the pond. The rain chains should be here in the next day or so. Then the gutter guy will install gutters, I'll drop the rain chains into the decorative pots, it look nice on our big deck. And we can watch the rain chains from the windows or sit on the porch and enjoy both the visual and sounds they will make as it rains.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bees, pollen and flowers

The bees have been very happy since we inspected the hive last week! Hoping to install another brood box this week. Here I was filming and the bees are bringing in pollen three at a time. The first week I had the hive it took 5 mintues to see three bees with pollen.
 This hollyhock we planted last year, it did poorly, this year it is blooming. I would love to trade for some assorted hollyhock seeds? These old fashioned gardens full of hollyhocks really delight me.
 A day lily I have had for many years. I saw a honey bee hanging to the tips of the flower petals, no noticeable pollen on them.
 Yummy blackberries planted by the birds and pollinated by our bees. Not enough for cobbler yet.
 Pipevine Swallowtail on our summer phlox.
 One of my girls hard at work. They just started visiting the mountain mint on Wednesday.
  Honey bee on mountain mint with another honey bee on her way in.
 Honey bee on mountain mint.
 Pearl Crescent on the mountain mint.
This is our Mountain Mint patch, it is about 4 ft wide by 7 ft long. These plants were given to me by a friend who lives in the NC mountains from her garden. It will be full of bee, butterflies and wasps for the next three months!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Happy Bees, 5 weeks

Yesterday I had two long time friends come over and help me with a bee inspection. Jan has been keeping bees for 4 years I think and David has been keeping bees for a few years I believe. The three of us smoked the hive and sorted through the frames. The bees were pretty docile considering the 90+ degree heat, David got the only bee sting.

We searched with three pairs of eyes looking for the queen and did not find her. The photos I took revealed the queen on my second pass of examining the photo. She is the long bee in the photo above. This the first time I have seen her since she was released in the hive with the package 5 weeks ago.

We also looked for newly hatched brood, Jan thought in a week I should have plenty.  The photo above revealing these two gray fuzzy bees in the center and top left that are in fact some of my first babies!! Looking though all the photos I did see 5 cells that had been exited by new bees. I did not note any drone brood, please let me know if you see any in these photos. They do not need drone brood right now if I am correct.
This worker bee was in this honey cell at the top of the hive. I though she might have been killed when we opened the hive, but she moved when I touched her. Covered in honey or syrup maybe she is OK?
Jan tells me this is a moth cocoon , we found one on the front and another on a back of the hive under the cover. These were the only pests found in the hive thus far, crossing our fingers. I looked long and hard at the photos and saw no mites or beetles!
This frame had lots of capped honey (the white cells on the top left and center). I was told I need to add horizontal wire to these frames for more support when we spin honey out of them. The honey we have right now would likely not be very tasty because it is mostly from the sugar syrup we are feeding the bees. A colony of bees needs about 100 pounds of honey the get them through winter. So no honey harvesting this year.
Another frame of honey and the bees drawing out the wax comb.
This was the most impressive frame we took out to inspect. It weighed maybe 10 pounds alone, both sides looked like this.
Another good frame with lots of capped brood and honey at the top. Honey was dripping from Jan's gloves!
Here we have lots of larva being tended by nursery bees. These cells will be capped pretty soon.
Both Jan and David agreed we have a hive that is doing very well. I plan on adding another brood box next week. They also though our location was ideal with lots of water and nectar sources. We estimated the hive likely has 20 pounds of honey in it right now.

My big Vitex tree is in full bloom and we estimated seeing at least 75 bumble bees in it, not sure if the honey bees are using it or not. Neither of my friends had seen so many bumble bees in one place, it was impressive.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Many of you that have followed this blog for some time might recall our frustration with the neighbors peacocks calling all hours of the night. We built the new addition just so we could enjoy the night breeze and sounds with the windows open. These ^%$# birds call every 15 minutes all night long during the males mating season 4-5 months a year. Yes they are very loud even though they are 150 yards away from our bedroom window.

Yesterday mid morning I heard a call that seemed extra loud from the living room. After 3-4 called a walked into the bedroom and looked out the window. There in the old shed roof not 15 foot away was a peafowl on the shed roof! Then she jumped into the fenced yard we let the dogs out into. I had just let out Daisy our B dog, she saw the peafowl and looked at me all scared like..... I took a few photos then noticed the male peacock on the other side of the fence. Took a few more photos and went and woke up Dot the Wonder Dog sleeping in the living room.

Dot is a 15 yo Jack Russel Terrier and was known to terrorize Meg's chickens in her past. I got Dot to follow me outside into the fenced yard with the peafowl in the yard and the peacock looking in. Dot is now nearly blind, she never caught on to the peacocks at all. Finally I scared it into flying over the fence and both went back home. Funny first thing this morning when I let Dot outside she ran to the gate and barked like crazy at nothing.

 These two photos were taken with the camera that I though was broken a month ago!
A little more about the neighborhood peacocks. Apparently there is three home owners nearby all with peacocks. My neighbor Beth had different peacocks staring in their windows at night. They set up motion activated sprinklers to keep them away. Another neighbor grows and sells produce, their new greenhouse had peacocks perching on it tearing the plastic. They shot one and I think the dog killed one. Yesterday was the first time our neighbors peacocks had left the property and came onto ours as far as I know.

I told Meg about this invasion and she was a bit shocked.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Undertaker bees

Yesterday I witnessed three bees carrying out dead bees at the hive during a period of two to three minutes. This goes on everyday, but you really have to be watching closely. In the morning yesterday I went to fill up the bee feeder and forgot to return to fill it and place it on the hive. So the bees went 9 hours without their supplement food. I was a tad worried when I saw the bees dragging out dead bees.

This video shows a worker bee hanging on to a drone bee at the hive entrance. Not sure if was being expelled or what. The females are known to kick out the drones when they are not needed any longer.

Today the bees were orienting around the hive. If I'm correct the workers at three weeks of age do this when they start foraging. The orienting flight helps them to learn the way back to the hive. Early next week I'm checking the hive to look for hatched brood.

The weather report calls for 90s the next week everyday, got to love the Carolinas.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The birds and the bees the truth be told

We feed the birds sunflowers. In turn the birds plant sunflowers for our bees. So yes the birds and the bees are connected once again. The cycle goes on in many many different scenarios every single day of every season.

Lots of bloggers have been asking about beekeeping. I'll give you the readers disgest version of how it works. First we set up the hive and order bees, this is best done in the fall or early spring. I was on the late side getting my bees and got lucky to find some.

The bee packages are usually 3 pounds of bees of all ages and a mated queen comes with the package. During the winter bee brood production is a trickle, so spring has the ramp up so the package bee people can grow bees to sell. Therefore late spring is when one getting a bee package. The bad news on this is our best pollen source is Tulip Poplar and it was finished before we got our bee package.

Once the bees have been placed in the hive along with the caged queen.  She is protected so the workers can get used to her, otherwise they might kill her. After 3 days she is released. First the worker bees have to draw comb on the new foundation and start collecting pollen and nectar before she starts laying eggs. Depending on how the workers are doing and the weather it could take a week or longer for them to draw out the comb.

In the comb the bees store pollen, nectar, honey and brood. Below is a little information about the bees I borrowed from a beekeeping website.

Queen Bee
There is only one queen per hive. The queen is the only bee with fully developed ovaries. A queen bee can live for 3-5 years. The queen mates only once with several male (drone) bees, and will remain fertile for life. She lays up to 2000 eggs per day. Fertilized eggs become female (worker bees) and unfertilized eggs become male (drone bees). When she dies or becomes unproductive, the other bees will "make" a new queen by selecting a young larva and feeding it a diet of "royal jelly". For queen bees, it takes 16 days from egg to emergence.

Worker Bee
All worker bees are female, but they are not able to reproduce. Worker bees live for 4-9 months during the winter season, but only 6 weeks during the busy summer months (they literally work themselves to death). Nearly all of the bees in a hive are worker bees. A hive consists of 20,000 - 30,000 bees in the winter, and over 60,000 - 80,000 bees in the summer. The worker bees sequentially take on a series of specific chores during their lifetime: housekeeper; nursemaid; construction worker; grocer; undertaker; guard; and finally, after 21 days they become a forager collecting pollen and nectar. For worker bees, it takes 21 days from egg to emergence. The worker bee has a barbed stinger that results in her death following stinging, therefore, she can only sting once.

Drone Bee
These male bees are kept on standby during the summer for mating with a virgin queen. Because the drone has a barbed sex organ, mating is followed by death of the drone. There are only 300-3000 drones in a hive. The drone does not have a stinger. Because they are of no use in the winter, drones are expelled from the hive in the autumn.

So when do we get honey? The new beehive needs to build up strength the first year and needs all the honey they can make to survive the winter. So if the bees do well and over winter we might get to collect some honey this time NEXT YEAR.

Back the the sunflowers. Look at this bee's hind leg see the orange pollen. Pollen is kept in a sac behind the bees rear legs. Notice the yellow pollen on the sunflower, these bees are feasting on it.
The pollen sac is very clear in this in flight photo.
Wading through a small forest of pollen trees. Looks like sunflowers are a great pollen source. These sunflowers are 30 foot from the hive, yet only one bee was see at each flower. As the flower matures more pollen opens up.
Bees must visit up to 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey!
Below the pollen sac is clearly seen, hope this is one of my bees. There are three other hives only 300 yards away from here on a property nearby, not mine. I did not know this when I decided to keep bees.
This photo shows clears how the sunflower dispenses pollen. The pollen starting at the outer edges and works its way towards the center (green) of the flower.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

300 Gallon Rain Totes and Bees Orientation

Sunday I called this guy on Craigslist and he delivered two 300 gallon totes that we plan on using as rain barrels. These totes had contained brown mulch dye and can be used for agricultural use. So now I have to fit them up.

One will go under our porch, it is in there right now, needs pulled out and placed on leveled concrete blocks. The dirt under the porch is hard clay like bricks has not seen rain in 3 years, very hard to dig in. The other tote we are not sure where we want to put it maybe on the back side of our shed, it is very high ground there. These were a pretty good deal at $75 each plus $40 for delivery.
 This is our first tall phlox of the summer to bloom. Meg and I bought a nice assortment of tall phlox at Big Bloomers when we first started gardening together.
 Above is a single dianthus flower from one of the six gallon sized planted I rescued from Home Depot. They looked pretty bad, but planting them and giving them water they are picking back up. Four of these went in one of the front beds the other two went in the school garden.
Another Home Depot rescued plant Coreopsis grandiflora. I picked up 4 gallon pots of these, on Saturday they looked down right pitiful when we planted them. Saturday night it rained and look what showed up on Monday!
Here is a short video of our bees in an orientation flight. They did this for 10 or more minutes, the bees were swarming around the front of the hive and above it swirling around. Very interesting to see, they completely ignored me. Hoping our first brood might have been out for the first time. Today marked 4 weeks since we got our package of bees.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Potato blossoms

Well today was the 16th day this year of temps over 90 degrees, only 94 today. Luckily a storm system is here wetting everything down currently. Last night we got a scrap of rain, others nearby got up to 3 inches!

I have located two people on Craigslist with 275 gal containers for rain barrels, the best one is food grade, but 2+ hours away. The other maybe 1 1/2 hours away, these contained soap. Yet for $50 or $80 these are a steal. Believe we have a new rule here, when the handyman trailer goes to the dump, it brings back a yard of compost ($28), so the trailer is full of compost as I took a ton of building waste to the dump yesterday. The trailer would have to be unloaded before we go and get the 275 gallon containers.
Potato blooms from our garden today. The labyrinth of potatoes is so full of foliage the labyrinth is not noticeable any more.
Our first ever eggplant, well for me anyway.
Salvia guaranitica ‘Black & Blue’ it does not grow well where we plant it, so it moves to where it likes to grow?
Here is one of the Cosmic Purple carrots we planted on February 20th this year.
 The purple is a thin outer layer inside they are orange like any other carrot.

Oh and I also posted on my other blog The Liberal Handyman Blog today with photos of my most recent porch project. I've neglected the blog for over a year and a half.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

14 days so far over 90 degrees

Last year we had over 70 days in the 90s. Here it is June 9 and we have had 14 days in the 90s already, today up to 98 degrees. Hot and dry, a good rain seems to disappear in hours here. We have had a wet spring, now spring is long gone with these 90 degree days at 14 days already.

The soil here has 1/2 inch cracks already, some years they open to a full inch. Today I returned the 100 garden hose I got at Costco, we unrolled it and it had 6- 8 serious kinks in it. So I went to Home Depot and got a kink free hose like my 5 year old ones that work great still. A new sprinkler and a timer so we can run the sprinkler and it'll turn itself off. We use a well and have 3 rain barrels that we use when we have the time to use them.

Finally we are getting gutters on the addition! Meg wants rain chains. I have a customer that I built a deck and screened porch for that has lily cup rain chains these are beautiful, but clog with debris quite quickly. I like these tear drop cups yet Meg has not looked at them yet. We have an oak tree over our deck so a rain chain that does not need cleaning weekly would be great. And we don't want it to splash water everywhere either as the door had leaked due to heavy rains splashing off the roof. The door leaked because we bought a door without a solid one piece threshold. We might just seal the door off and make into a fixed door lite.

Our rain chain install will be quite different as the chains will drop onto the deck into a custom made planter with a PVC drain going to a  rain barrel then over flowing to a drain pipe into the pond. I am looking for one of these 275 gallon square containers to have under the deck for our rain barrels.

Speaking of dry weather, here is a plant that remained in a 2 gallon pot neglected for over 10 years. One hardy day lily don't you think?

Also the Beaver Queen Pageant did raise the money it was hoping for $7028! Yeah for preserving wetlands!!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Peace, Love, Beaver!

Only in Durham!! On Saturday the 7th annual Beaver Queen Pageant was held in Durham! It is a fund raiser to save Ellerbe Creek in Durham by the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association of which Meg and I are members. We heard about the Beaver Queen Pageant last year shortly after the fact. This year I heard them talking about it on NPR and Told Meg we are going!

The goal was to raise $7000 by voting on your favorite Beaver Queen. It was more fun than two people should be allowed to have in one night.
Here is the 2011 Beaver Queen Fur Pelton John Here is his bio:
Fresh off his front-row appearance at the Royal Wedding of Wills and Kate, Fur Pelton John embodies all that is a true Beaver Queen. Dedicated to both the environment and fashion, he’s slapping his tail in anticipation of the 2011 Beaver Queen Pageant. The furrier twin of another well-known entertainer, Fur Pelton is ready to put the glam in Stream Punk. Mark his words…the beaver is back! Join him at the lodge at the end of the stream on June 4, 2011.

Second Place went to Cherry Cherry Bang Bang DaBeava (get a load of all that beaver tail!)

Her bio:
After Cherry’s father disappeared in a mysterious plane crash in the deep bush of the Congo, she was forced to flee her evil uncle Baron Von Burstedam, her bodice stuffed to the brink with secret family recipes. She found a home in Beaver Country and has won the heart of the locals by becoming a generous purveyor of her family’s Bang Bang DaBeava sweet treats. Whether adorned with cream or doused in dark chocolate, Cherry always seems to have a warm pie ready and waiting to keep all of the citizens satisfied, men and women alike. She hopes to turn her hand soon to cataloguing obscure flora and fauna and designing elaborate and unreasonable shoes for women. In the meantime, she invites you to sample her delicious wares anytime.

Here is Syntheia Finklepott  get a load of her beaver tail!!
Now you can see the theme of the beaver queen pageant "peace, love, beaver"
Her bio:
Mme Finklepott tours the USA with her confidant and traveling companion, Montague Jacques Fromage. They raid airships and sell the booty. Mme Finklepott is a misfit and troublemaker of the most enjoyable sort. She is easily bored by rules and holds little regard for the status quo.
Lots of playing going on as you can see. The judges tables are behind the hoopsters with all their bribes.
More beauties on stage at the beaver lodge, remember peace, love, beaver! I just loved tha green parasol with red feathers. Meg got a very fine pink hand painted parasol too.
More of Fur Pelton John with a portion of his entourage.
Cherry Cherry Bang Bang DaBeava!
Syntheia Finklepott performing. Sure hope Way Gay gets re-elected!
Here is Muddy Waters, she was killer on the harmonica and a strong contender for Beaver Queen. With Elmwood and Jake.

Her bio:
Muddy Waters was born in a ramshackle lodge at the wrong end of Ellerbe Creek. Suffering came easy and early. She was given her first blues harp by her mammy who lay dying beneath a tree that had fallen the wrong way. With that harp in her paws, Muddy blew with all her heart. It wasn’t long before she attracted the attention of beaver-loving brothers Elmwood and Jake. When the threesome finally quit messing with their slimy logs and started playing some music, the result was a band so powerful it could turn bull piss into gasoline.  Muddy has been pelting out a bluesy mix of swamp music ever since.
On the left the blond in the black dress is Muddy Waters another contestant next to her is Miss Magnolia Beaver another contestant. The gal with the skirt made from ties was a contestant, but I've failed to recall her name.
Below is one of Cherry Cheery Bang Bangs entourage.

If you feel inspired you can still donate money for the cause by using this link. This event with be on our calender for next year perhaps we'll be VIBs next year.

Links to some video from the Beaver Queen Pagaent
Muddy Waters

I hope I have not offended any of you with this posting, it is off topic. Here in Durham we embrace diversity as much as possible. When I first moved here Durham was one city I did not care for, the streets were confusing on the most part to me. Now I'm at home here!

And don't forget PEACE, LOVE, BEAVER!