Saturday, May 26, 2012

Garlic best crop ever!

On May 18th we harvested our garlic, usually one waits til June around here to harvest garlic. Our garlic was huge and falling over, time to harvester anyway. The last few times were grew garlic we ended up with little garlic that took a long time to clean when you cook with it, not my cup of tea. These garlic were purchased at the food co op (Weaver Street Market) last fall, the cloves were huge and Meg planted like 24 of them in two short rows.
Here is the garlic right after harvesting it. I'm a big guy and my hands are pretty large, this gives you an ideal how big they are.
Here is the garlic after the mud dried on them and Meg shook off the dirt. Those white bars are one inch apart. We have already cooked with some and it was pretty tasty! To think of all the gardeners who go to great lengths to find special garlic and we did this good from co op garlic! No this is not Elephant garlic.

These is the carrots we pulled up, maybe 4 pounds of them, we still have a patch of them in the ground. That is a 5 gallon bucket lid to give a sense of their size.. Steamed carrots have been on the menu and well as lots of carrots in salad. We have not pulled the salad greens, they are about finished as is spinach. We still have lots of Swiss Chard.

Newly planted in the garden are tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, dill, Thai basil, tomatillos and Armenian Yard-Long Cucumbers. First time planting Armenian Yard-Long Cucumbers they are tasty and huge as one might gather from the name, anyway I am excited about them.

Our flower gardens are lush right now! Best looking butterfly weed we have ever grown, the butterflies are enjoying it. Lots of spiderworts blooming the bees love them. Below is a Oriental Poppy (4-5 foot tall) from the farm where I have a bee hive down the street, These are the poppies I mentioned had 2-3 bees in each flower gathering pollen or nectar.

I spent an hour today in 85 degree heat checking the 5 bee hives here in the yard. The mother hive that swarmed weeks ago and had no brood in it, is full of eggs! The others except the top bar hive are doing well also. The top bar hive had no recent brood, just capped brood. I did see 3-4 swarm cells so they will make a new queen shortly, hopefully not swarm as  they have not grown very much in the 6 weeks I have had them. All the combs were covered in bees.

Yep this is yours truly with my top bar bees. That bar is not fully drawn out on one side. They got their first real inspection today.

Last bit of news, today we had a new male cat delivered. We'll either foster it or keep him. He is a year old and very people friendly, we'll see how he does with Valentine our girl cat. Not going to show you a photo yet, he is sort of like a Siamese cat crossed with an Orange Tabby. His ears are slightly orange and his tail is slightly orange and ringed. Thinking of calling him either Latte and Mel. Mel actually would be short for the scientific name for honey bees Apis mellifera or Mellow.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

OCBA/ACBA joint beekeepers field day

Today our local Bee club the Orange County Beekeepers Association and the Alamance County Beekeepers Association had a joint field day at Lewis's bee yard in the blue berry patch. We opened up beehives in two groups and looked at the bees. Lots of new discoveries were made my some of the newer beekeepers. I brought my friend Scott along and it was his first time with a group of beekeepers. We installed Scott's first package three weeks ago, more on that in a bit.
Above and below is a queen we found. The queen above you can see eggs, the little white specks in the cells around her. The photo below shows the queen surrounded by nurse bees.
Lewis showed everyone how to collect bees and do a sugar shake test for varroa mites. The tested proved the mites were at a medium level, not bad enough to worry about yet.

The video below is Lewis pulling out drone brood looking for varroa mites. The first two brood had mites, that did not look so good. Luckily the other eight he pulled were mite free.

We also did a test for hygienic behavior in the hive. We set a four inch pipe over some capped brood and poured on liquid nitrogen on the brood to freeze the brood. If hygienic the bees would have pulled and cleaned the dead brood in 24 hours. Lewis had done a test the day before and the bees did not clean up the dead brood at all.

After the field day we stopped to check Scott's three week old bees. We found 8 frames drawn and everything looked great! Below is a frame from the hive. You can see honey on the top and a reasonable pattern of capped brood.

I returned at dark to Scott's with the bees that were occupying my swarm trap in a tree. These bees have 8 frames in the trap for eleven days, we looked and found 6 frames drawn already, including 4 that had foundation strips only. One thing I learned taking down the swarm trap 12 foot up in a tree. It was screwed to the tree, very hard to take down and still have a screw gun in you hand with the bee box too. When I hang it back up I'll hook it on  some screws so it can be taken down with out a screw gun.

 Surely the box was 15 pounds heavier than when I placed it in the tree. I'm hoping these bees will be moved to the farm with my other hive there. Six hives in our little backyard seems like a lot to Meg.

Next post will be about the garlic we planted last fall. Biggest garlic we have grown, one can barely get their hand around one.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

First Honey Harvest!

 On Saturday Dave, Ursula and Wyatt came over to help with a honey harvest, my first. They brought a 2 frame extractor and we put it to good use. Ursula and I did the frame pulling and inspections, while 8 year old Wyatt helped with covering the honey as we brought it to him.  All said and done we got between 35 and 40 pounds of honey! They did not have a lot of time to stick around so I ended up uncapping and spinning  most of the honey after Ursula and David showed me how.

At the very end of harvesting the honey in the screened porch I closed up the 5 gallon bucket. Then figured out I could still get a few more tablespoons of honey. So I leaned over the small extractor over a small bowl in the back yard. Then the amazing part happened, a lone bee came in flying into the tiny honey stream and surfed the honey stream down without falling into the honey, she did this 3-4 times as it slowly trickled out of the extractor

We also started on building Ursula's top bar hive. Cut the main box wood and glued the wood planks up to 14 inches wide. We worked the hive as clamps held the glue tight, I have only so many clamps.

Here is a brief report on the hives from May 12th

 The Tree Hive is really busy. Trying to figure out where to put them.

The Hillsborough cut out hive now has lots of brood, the new queen did the trick. They are still ignoring the honey super I installed on top of the 2 deeps they are in.

The Lindsey Hive is slowly growing. They did not accept the small combs we tied inside several frames. Only one piece about the size of a slice of bread was used, the rest had fallen into the hive and was a mess. The yarn we tied the combs up with was removed. Feeding these bees and they are quick to use the feed.

Our Mother Hive which swarmed last Sunday now 6 days later has only a little drone brood (we saw several emerging drones), no worker larva was found. Nor were there any pests like small hive beetles or wax moths which made me pretty happy! We did find 8-10 emerged swarm cells and one swarm cell not emerged yet. The queen if she was there was not seen, yet the hive had lots of bees. We harvested 35-40 pounds of honey!

Mother's Split Hive doing well growing slowly 8 of the 10 deep frames are drawn.

Top Bar Hive Moving is slowly moving, maybe 10 bars with comb, yet none are full combs. Saw lots of pollen coming in this weekend.  These are my calmest bees by far.

The Farm Hive is going strong, no inspection was done, the bees are starting on the center of the honey super installed last week. I found the beetle trap bottom(dry pan currently) full (50 or more 1/4 to 3/8 inch long) of wax moth larva and fed them to the chickens. Saw 3 bees at a time on flowers in the patch of Oriental poppies, took lots of video. The video for some reason did not stay on the memory card:(. No photos or video I took in the past week was on my memory card, I hate this memory cards are no longer reliable.

The garden:

Weeds pulled and our cover crop of Crimson Clover was tilled in on Sunday. Too muddy to get the garden planted the way we'd liked. Now the next 3 days it'll be rainy, so the garden still waits.  One thing I noticed about the Crimson Clover, it appears it crowded out the bindweed roots in the garden. I have been hand removing bindweed roots for 2 years, just maybe we have a handle on it.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

6:30 am after the rain

Bees look as if they want to swarm. No resources to hive them if they do swarm currently on a Sunday morning.
Update 8:30AM

The bees have slowly dispersed and look to be back to normal. I might be wanting to get some frames this week to do a second split on this hive.

Update: 2:30PM

They swarmed and they swarmed big time. See the video below of my bees 50 ft up an oak tree.

Update 5:30PM
The swarm is still high in the oak tree and have not moved. Been seeing scout bees 3-4 at a time checking out the swarm trap I have 12 foot up a tree not far from the swarm. I cut back a small maple tree so they would be more in the open which they like better. We wait as rain clouds linger above them.

Update 8:00 PM
The swarm is still in the tree! The clouds have cleared and the bees will be staying in the tree tonight. Where they go in the morning is up to them. I'll post an update about 7:30AM

Update the next day at 6:30AM
The bees are clustered tightly in the oak tree still. These bees likely came from our mother hive which we did a 5 frame split on March 15th. To be honest that hive still looks fairly normal although I only opened the lid and the super on top was still full of bees.

Update the next day at 7:00PM
Looks like the bees might have entered my swarm trap in the tree. Here is a video of them coming and going. Will wait a few days to retrieve them, that is if I'm correct and they are in the box.

Update two days later 7:30AM
This morning I checked the swarm box, maybe a dozen bees inside. So the bees are gone.

Update two days later 7:30PM
Eating my words from this morning. Those bees this morning where indeed scout bees. Tonight the swarm trap is loaded with bees coming and going. This time I think there is a swarm in there. Is this my bees or bees from elsewhere, I have no idea. So time to set up hive 7. Tomorrow is expected to be stormy all day, hope I can get the items I need to pull together a hive.

Update three days later 6:00PM
Picked up deep frames and assembled them with wax starter strips. Opened the swarm box still in the tree. The 2 frames with foundation were covered in bees, 3 small combs being built from the top of the box. Lots of bees at least 3 pounds or more! Carefully removed the combs on the lid. Added 6 frames with starter strips, closed them back up. Only one tried to sting me. I'll let them adjust for several days and move them to a 10 frame deep down at the farm.