Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Two Bee or . . .

Heat wave has us going to water this week -- a second day at the municipal pool. My niece recovered after being splashed and spent some quality time with her cousins. I can just imagine: "Someday, you, too, will eat salame."

On the way home I got a call -- did I want a swarm? Thanks, Esperanza!

I did, very much, but we had to unload all of the swimmers who were awake, leaving crashed-out Mr. Salame asleep. I gathered my swarm equipment, including a lovely cardboard box, and headed to find them.

Some judicious clipping and shaking moments later, the bulk of the swarm -- really, nearly all -- were boxed up and wrapped in a favorite sheet I inherited from my grandmother. I actually think of her every time I use it. Wrapped swarms always look like presents.

Looks like no one's here. . .

But they are. So I poured them onto the waiting hive box.

One branch came along for the ride.

Nearly all of the bees poured out from the box now.

They spread like buzzing molasses. I even took a video but can't figure out how to get it to upload. Just imagine noise and movement and it will be just like it!

Always a few left in the box.

One good tap and there's a small blob still to go.

I slid the cover nearly closed. As it got later in the day, I figured they'd move inside the hive.

After spinning with my friends at the library, I came back to an empty box

And, presumably, a full hive. The hanger-outers might have concerned me but it is really warm.

Even the established hive has some outdoor activity at 8pm.

Esperanza said she's got another hive I can have if I want to do a cut out. Since three was my likely target (with four as a crazy possibility) it seems as though I'm finally going to have a bee season this year. The cool spring must really have delayed swarm season, as we're easily four months past normal time. Never dull.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Busy Summer

We're busier than usual right now. That seems to be a hazard of summer. Three days a week, Tor is working on riding:

Both his instructor and Coda are very patient, and he's happiest out there. We have big hopes - see those heels? Now if we could only chase down footwear and breeches I'd rest easy.

In the garden, we're starting to see the effects of a recent heat wave. Things are springing along, and I cooked my first planting of fall seeds. Should have just put them under lights downstairs.

These were all taken with a telephoto lens, so I had trouble getting a good overview. The back kale/lettuce/carrot bed features some bolting chard. We're eating kale all the time (I had a large handful in my smoothie for lunch today - mmmmmm) although I anticipate this planting of Lacinato following the chard into BoltLand soon, I'm really enjoying it.

Before the heat hit, the lettuce was just beautiful. I had already started giving heads away, and last night had an entire salad of bronze romaine.

Unfortunately, there seems to be some kind of blight on the tomatoes. I'm still thinking that there's something wrong with the Target-bought Romas, but currently I'm tearing off the diseased branches to see what happens. We also sprayed soap to see if getting the aphids off helps the tomatoes cheer up. The other varieties seem happier. Plus, there are volunteers everywhere. I let two Cherokee Purples go in the Seascape strawberry bed, just to see what's what, so there should at least be some this summer.

The Anna apple is gracious under its load. Today I disturbed a branch and ate the one that fell. It wasn't ripe, exactly, but it was edible. I'm greatly looking forward to these beauties.

Overview of the right hand side. I'm tickled about the Italian beans on the right side. We'll have soup! In front of the beans in the long vertical bed are the possibly-too-many-plants of squash. Why do nurserymen insist on planting multiple seeds and not thinning? Why don't I notice before transplanting? Peas in the pea bed are almost ready to gather for seed, and then I have to figure out what to put there. Behind the peas are the Tristar strawberries. They taste better, to me, than the Seascape, but they're still unhappier. Smaller plants, smaller berries. We'll see what amendment will do later, although it might be a climate thing. Seascape is supposed to do well here, with the implication that others might not, I suppose.

The front bed is sparsely planted, mostly flowers. We caught the rain perfectly for some seeds and missed the window for others. Again, maybe I'll troll the garden centers for sales once this week's heat breaks.

Left side. From back to front, empty bed, lettuce/kale, Ellie's corn and maybe more corn (must buy seeds. . .) bed, then the Seascape berries, the leeks and garlic and kohlrabi that I just pulled today along with half a dozen garlic heads, and the peppers. Each week as warmer weather has come along, I'm seeing more sprouts on overwintered Padron. Hopefully there will be much good eating. This winter, I think I'm going to try to root some cuttings and overwinter them under lights instead of outside. Much easier!

The lavender out front is doing pretty well, too. I wish I had more gals to enjoy it, but the other day I was out early enough to catch one bee working in lambent light:

Just realized I left a pump running. Ack.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bee happy

I finally got my ducks in a row and spent some time over the past few days inspecting hives. On Thursday, I went to the hive at a friend's house in order to see if they were ready for a super. This is a hive which, two or three years ago, was in a top-bar hive. Then I cut out the comb and rubber-banded it into frames for a Langstroth hive.

But. . . then nothing. Last year (?) I found only drones in the hive, so shook everyone out and either requeened or put a swarm in or something. I know, I should really go back to see what I did. But anyhow, we've never gotten more than the odd bit of honey from the hive.

For Thursday's visit, I even brought a full super's worth of drawn frames, reasoning that if they were ready, they could get right on to filling those frames rather than working to make wax. This friend has been so gracious about hosting the hive that I figured she really deserved a good year.

When I cracked the lid, I saw something to cheer the heart of a beekeeper: it was almost fully covered with busy bees. Unfortunately, I had also closed up the hive last fall with only nine frames in it, so right against the wall of the hive there was a perfect frame-sized comb of capped honey. It took my hive tool and a cookie sheet to get that out.

A quick inspection revealed open and capped brood, so I put on a queen excluder and the super. I'll go back and check in a couple of weeks.

And today, at home, Ellie and I suited up to check that swarm I'd hived about three weeks ago. It was still just the two deep boxes, so I cracked the top one off and we started going through the bottom.

Odd, I thought, it's mostly honey. Well, honey and pollen and unevaporated nectar. A tiny bit of brood, but every single one of those were drones. For a bit, I entertained the thought that I had somehow managed to get a queenless bunch, but they seemed awfully calm and pleasant for that to be the case.

It was nice to have Ellie with me, because I told her what we were seeing and sort of talked her through it. We set up the lid of the hive as a stand of sorts for the top box, and began to go through that. First frame, honey. Next frame, some drone and some honey. Frames 3-8? Solid, solid, perfect, textbook worker brood. Boy, oh boy was it pretty.

I practically jumped up and down, and Ellie was pleased and oh so helpful. She ran to get another deep box because I figured I'd give them another place to put brood going up rather than rotating the boxes. I still don't know if that was the right decision. At any rate, I figured I'd concentrate on big hive rather than big honey for now.

But wait. . . who was that I spied between the frames of that brood-heavy box, wandering around on the upturned lid? It was the queen! (Sorry, no pictures. We were busy and the only lens I have functioning is a super telephoto -- good for sports, bad for gardening.)

Back Ellie had to scurry to get the queen marking pen and the tube. She was so resourceful and quick that I didn't even worry about the queen, just carefully lifted the box up and set it on the bottom box, then coaxed the queen into the tube.

It was, alas, a new paint pen, so while Ellie kept the bee down in the tube, I shook and jabbed the pen against the fence until the paint flowed, but not so badly it would overwhelm her. Just a few quick dabs and she had a nice white dot on her back. Without planning, it turns out to be the "right" color for the year.

When the paint was dry and the new box rested on the getting-very-tall-now hive, I tipped her out onto it. She looked confused -- I wonder if she was thinking something along the lines of "where'd everybody go?" and then as if on cue, up popped a worker and like a tiny Border Collie, chivvied the queen back down into the hive.

Although I was thoroughly wet through from sweat afterwards (talk about beekeeper's glow), it was a great feeling to have a happy hive. I just wish I'd had more of them.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Just a quick walk

I went out this morning just to grab some oregano for some spaghetti sauce I was making from the very tail end of last year's tomatoes. That freezer had to be cleaned out to make room for this spring's grassfed beef, and we are enriched by it.

A funny thing happened on the way to the herb bed --

So a quick run down: morning fog, check. Afternoon sun, check. Summer squash, check. Strawberries, both varieties, check. It must be summer!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Two Heads are Better than One

Gardening out here can sometimes seem like a solitary activity, but it's really not. How could it be in a family of six? There's all the help with hardscape from Eric, and the evenings I force him to walk in the yard with me while I talk about plants, to the kids' various levels of interest and help. So it's always a multi-person effort.

For instance, I only get to see the strawberries so far. Eating seems to be a kid assignment (edited to add that tonight we discovered that the DOG is also eating them -- aaagh):

The flowers that Ellie and I planted together are coming up under the onslaught of more rain than our area has seen in over a hundred years. Sigh. I miss summers. Anyhow, these are blue bread poppies. I'm looking forward to harvesting seeds and then baking:

I thought it was only one, but another of the Padron peppers has decided to return for another year:

Two of the Anna apples are very close to each other. I've never seen this before;

And of course, our prime garden helper also takes seriously the "no empty bed" approach -- to gardening and, er, other things:

He's not alone in his philosophy: