Saturday, February 12, 2011

Last of the first days of spring

One of the impressive things this weekend was how much Eric got done with his finger like this:

Just kind of hurts looking at it. But not as much as our excitement on Wednesday, when he accidentally removed the pin holding the tip of his digit in place. Whoo-ee, that was something. Fortunately he had an appointment at the hand surgeon on Thursday, and instead of re-pinning the joint, the good Dr. just had a splint ready for it. Apparently banging the hard plastic splint hurts a lot less than banging a large needle holding your joint still. Go figure.

Eric also finished stapling chicken wire to the tractor, and added a little in-out flap for the top. That should be a lot easier than dropping the box over them!

Another task Eric took on was bringing some order to the storage sheds under the deck. I've asked for this for a while, and I'm pleased with the ingenious kinds of storage. I can think of more hooks and things that would customize it even more -- this is actually going to be a pretty fun project.

Some garlic is definitely doing well so far. The leeks and onions I thought I'd planted next to it are much less robust. Drat it all. They really have to be started indoors, and I'll try to remember to do that next year.

I meant to do this digging over the course of the week, but oddly enough life got in the way, so it wasn't done. Today I got to one of the small fence-side beds, I did the dig a trench, toss it in semi double dig method of mixing in the horse poo and bedding and some blood meal. The bedding is the bulk of this stuff. If I'd done it sooner, I would have kept some more of the goodness in, instead of letting it all evaporate as ammonia, but we do what we can.

I was impressed at how lovely the soil is. Every year, it's showing improvement. And now, after being raked smooth, that part of the bed is ready to go. Into what, I'm not sure. More sunflowers? They sure were happy last year.

Whenever we work outside, at least one member of the family is happy to just hang out. Here, he was chewing an old bone, but generally he'll chew on anything available. A fruit tree, a pepper stem, the edge of a bed, a boot. . . He really enjoys cold, so being outside on the ground is better even than being on the couch inside. Although he'll do that if it's the only option for Being With The People.

So, the update on the bees is as follows. I was quite afraid of what I would find when I went back into the hives. Did I in fact kill my best queen by slopping too much paint on her (talk about feeling terrible, in fact so badly I didn't detail it on my blog), or did the feeding help the hives at all? Did I attract more bothersome ants to my smaller hive? What was going on?

So, today's warm afternoon meant a trip to buy more sugar to mix syrup for them, and I made a new cover, hopefully one that would allow me to cover the hive securely and allow room for a gallon plastic bag of syrup.

The weaker hive was still there -- this time, two frames covered by bees. This was an improvement. I got out a non-warped cardboard nuc box, and shrank the hive down into it. There were three good bee frames, with babies and nurse bees, and the nicely-marked queen, and a couple of frames of capped honey. On top of all of it I placed a nice full bag of syrup. The cover has enough room so I think the bees can get to it and also be covered. I may have to double-check. Being me, sometimes I overslash the bag and it drowns bees, sometimes I manage to keep them out of it entirely, wasting the whole effort. It works pretty well, when operator error isn't factored in.

The "good" hive was also doing very well. They're filling frames with syrup, and maybe nectar too. I saw brood, and then I saw the queen -- overly marked, sure, but walking around as though nothing was amiss. Oh, what a relief!

The top is not really going to work, at least not with a full bag of syrup. I had to tilt it and then block the opening with a large piece of bamboo. That worked for the two sides, but the front and back are open. If they're too open, the hive is vulnerable to robbing by other bees. I think a 2" tall "extension" around the hive would work best, with the top separate from that. If it were warm enough, I'd put an empty super on top, and then put the top on that. But that's 6 vertical inches of empty space to lose heat to, from the bees' perspective. I don't want to stress them any more than I have to. Back to the drawing board!

I wish we were having more weather like this for them. Unfortunately, it's a week of cold and rain predicted ahead. Oddly enough, the apricot tree, which is covered with blooms and directly in front of the hives, was deserted when I was stalking bees late in the afternoon. The Anna apple, 20' away, was just buzzing with them. Go figure.


Mr. H. said...

I'm so glad to hear that your bees are doing OK, much better than your husbands poor finger...ouch. It sounds like the two of you have been very busy...spring is not too far away. Looks and sounds like the newest family member is fitting right in.:)

Joni said...

Hi Steph, Your husbands finger looks really painful. I'm in love with your dog and I want him ♥ I'm so amazed at your gardening/bee skills. My father in law is deathly allergic to bee stings, so I will NOT be showing him your beautiful pictures, he would probably go into anavalactic shock just by seeing them!

Erin said...

I cringed reading that! Things are coming together it looks like! And those darn Bernese, we always said ours reminded us of lichen - always attached "to the people"!

Heiko said...

Good to see things coming on nicely with you. Our almond has started flowering and now we too have rain. That dog seems to be a happy chappy. All the best to Eric and his finger. Ouch!!

Kristin said...

So glad Eric's finger is better. I'd like to know how much horse manure you add and how much blood meal and how long will you let it rest? My apricot isn't blooming yet, but my almond is and I only saw one honeybee on it. Go figure.

Stefaneener said...

Mr. H., thanks. We're only busy on Saturday, usually, but it makes for a nice post.

Joni, you wouldn't want him if you could have him. On the other hand, if we trained him more, we'd like him more. . .

Erin, it is much better than it was, believe it or not! Mikey is a foot sittin' dog, no doubt. Very very cuddly.

Heiko, good to hear from you. The front yard trees are two weeks behind the back -- just less sun.

Kristin, it's not very scientific. I go to the stables and ask them to put as much bedding/manure/urine as they can cram into the truck, then spread it on the beds about 8" thick this time, to bring them up to the level of the tops. Then handfuls of blood meal, about 1/2 cup per 4 square feet. Churn it all up and either plant right away, as I did with the lettuce bed, or let it sit because I can't think of anything to plant. Eventually it all works.

Kristin said...

Hello Again,

What does the blood meal do because I read that manure is enough.

Your dog is too cute.

Stefaneener said...

Kristen, the horse bedding has a high level of wood chips. The additional nitrogen in the blood meal helps restore the nitrogen used in breaking down the bedding in the soil. It would be better if it were composted, and I lose a lot of nitrogen by letting the urine evaporate, but it's better than adding nothing to the beds.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

AAAAAAAAugh! The finnnnnnnnger!!!!!!

Hey, do you want some plum scions? I was a greedy pig, and took more than I can use.

(My secret word, that proves I'm not a spam-spewing robot is "knits." Nice.)

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

I'm so glad to read your bees are hanging in there, and increasing in number. Why is it that feeding bees seems to have never been perfected? I know not to use entrance feeders, well, not in the entrance anyway. You raise a good point about adding the extra super, which is how we thought we'd feed when necessary, but I'd forgotten about the extra space on cold days being difficult to keep warm, especially for a struggling colony. Top feeders with floats drown bees. Division board feeders require constantly taking the lid off the hive. Jar and bag feeders leak. Sometimes I think there's got to be a better way LOL. Decisions, decisions, and always something to learn!

kitsapFG said...

That finger looks positively paintful! Ouch! He made great progress on the projects though and your work over of that bed is a nice accomplishment too. I have to tell you I am really relieved to read that you did not kill the queen with the marking. I was worried for you after I read that initially and am glad you gave an update.