Sunday, April 27, 2014

Things are Buzzing Right Along

Today Ellie and I picked up 3 pounds of bees and an Italian Queen bee. Last year we started two new hives and things did not turn out as well as I had hoped, so I was not going to get more bees this year, but Grandpa Don really wanted me to, so we compromised on one batch of new bees, instead of two.
We get our bees from Apis Hives out of Grand Junction. Last year was a terrible year for bees; He says that this year is so much better. Last year he was luck to get 500 packages to sell. This year he has over 1,000.

(This box contains 3 pounds of bees and one queen, tucked into a special box of her own.)

We've decided to move one of the hives to a new location to see if more sunlight will increase the honey production. I was a little nervous since I did not have Ethan or Aaron to help me this year.

I begin by spraying down the bees so that they cannot fly away so quickly.

Then I remove their feeding can and the box containing the queen. I replace the cork with small marshmallows. She will eat her way out of the box in a few days. This gives the bees time to get the hive cleaned and set up for business.

By this time the bees in the box are creating and interesting, continual loud buzzing sound. I gently tap them out, similar to how I would tap out cereal from a box. Sometimes I have to knock the box a bit to gather more bees in a similar place in the box in order to remove them easily. I then use the soft bee brush to help them find their way into the box. When I am reasonably sure that they are tucked in enough, I add another box on top of that one. The new box also contains frames that have a special rice paper that will support the new honeycomb. I put a special lid on that has a slit in the top. I place a large jar (a 2 gallon pickle jar that has been emptied and cleaned) that has a 50/50% solution of water and dissolved sugar upside down on that slit. I have made a series of small holes in the lid so that the bees can lick the sugar water out. This will help them eat while there are still very few flowers for them to feed from. In the end there will still be some bees in the box that I cannot tap out. I leave the traveling box next to the hive. Worker bees who are getting things set up will come out and show the lost bees the way to their new home.

Later in the afternoon I tilled a small bed out front to ready it for peas, only to realize that the peas should have been planted about 5 weeks ago. Now I am trying to decide if I should plant them anyway, or want to plant something else next month in that same spot.

I also tilled the coldframe that my dear husband had cleaned out. I planted "Giant Caesar" Lettuce, "Icebuerg" lettuce, "Black Seeded Simpson" lettuce that was sent as a tape (super easy to use!) and "Cherry Belle" radishes. I only planted one row of each. I will add more rows next weekend so that there is a staggered harvest.

Out in California, The Lady Washington is docked in Crescent City where he has gone tide pooling and visited a lighthouse on his day off. He was also happy to find that the community among sailors is strong there. Some sort of handle broke on the ship. Ethan and Sophie went to purchase a new one. They did not have any luck. However, the people who run an industrial shop near the dock invited him in and let him use their welding equipment to make a new handle. The captain was thrilled with the fact that Ethan could replicate the handle and has made duty roster arrangements that will allow Ethan to go back to the shop on Monday and make a few more much needed items. Ethan really enjoyed being able to spend some time welding and he felt good about being able to contribute something important to the ship. Today he and a few of the other guys on the ship will go visit the redwood forest. The ranger there used to be on crew, so he has been coming down to the ship to get people from the crew and take them for a tour of the part of the forest that he oversees.

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