Archive for the ‘bees’ Category

Swarm Capture – Take Two

Monday, May 14th, 2012

My last blog post about capturing a swarm that took up residence in our old cabin shed ended with Si and Bernie leaving the box of bees there, in the hopes that they queen was in the box and the rest of the swarm would join her.

Later that same evening, Bernie and I went back down to check on the progress.

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And when we went inside the shed and looked on the wall, we saw that bees had left the box and gone back to the wall.

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Dangit!

We talked with Si and decided to go to Plan B. Just as soon as we figured out what Plan B was…..

The next evening Si and Mary Ann went back to check on the bees and when they opened the shed door, the bees were gone.

Dangit again!

But, as they were driving out the bottom gate, Si spotted the swarm on a cedar tree branch! And, just to prove that miracles do indeed exist, the bees were within reaching distance from the ground, and not 40 feet up in a tree.

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Hallelujah!

Mary Ann gave us a call and Bernie and I rushed down to meet them there. Bernie brought his trusty smoker.

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And the men folk quickly got busy removing branches for easier access to the bees.

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There were a few small clumps of bees that they cut away first. Bernie put them in the box Si had brought for them.

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And then they went after the large clump.

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And those bees were not terribly happy with any of that.

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But Si got them in the box.

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And Bernie spent some time tucking them safely inside.

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I would say they looked nice and cozy in there, but basically they looked mad and unhappy.

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Just a couple of small clumps remained.

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But they were quickly removed.

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And then Si put the lid on the box.

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And placed it in the bed of his truck.

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And then Si had a little chat with the girls about what was going to be expected of them.

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And they knew better than to argue with Si.

And today they are living happily ever after in Si’s apiary.

The end.

I Think We Captured Swarm

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Remember I told you spring came early up here? And remember I told you we’ve had swarms?

Well it did, and we have!

And recently we saw a bunch of bees going into the old shed next to the old cabin we have at the front of our property. When we went into the old shed, the first thing we noticed was that there were bee hives in there!

Dangit! We completely forgot about those bee hives. They’ve been in there five years. Five whole years. And they were a complete mess.

Five years ago the last of our six hives died off. We were so heartbroken and disgusted we put those hives in the old shed, with the intention of moving them into the sea container when we made some room for them.

Only we forgot about them. Completely forgot about them.

It’s dark in there, and we removed the top boxes on each hive and didn’t see any bees – so we decided the bees we saw going into the old shed must have smelled the small amount of wax left and come in to check it out.

Only a few days later Bernie noticed that the bees going into the old shed had full pollen baskets. And those pollen baskets were “glowing with pollen”. That’s exactly how he described it….. “glowing with pollen”.

So Bernie casually mentioned to our Bee Guru, Si, what he had seen. And he told Si that he was going to go into that shed and find those bees. And Si, being our local Bee Guru said “What do you plan to do with them when you find them?” And Bernie said “Give them to you.” And Si said “Let me know when you do that. I’ll be there.”

Well, today was the day that Bernie decided to do that. I had to work, but Bernie took my old camera.

And when he and Si went into the old shed, this is what they saw:

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There are a couple of things about that picture that I should mention……

To the left is a stack of old bee hives. And notice the snake skin hanging above where they decided to build their hive. And finally, they chose an old lawn chair hanging on the wall to build their hive around.

Aren’t honey bees just the most awesome things ever? They don’t care anything about following rules or being scared of stuff. They just do what honey bees do.

Lordy, how can you not love honey bees????

So, anyhoo, these girls built their hive ALL around a lawn chair. A simple, redneck lawn chair.

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We raise up our honey bees right around here, ya’ll.

They appreciate the simple life.

Just look at that beautiful comb.

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Those clever little girls.

There was brood, pollen, and honey in that comb, too.

Si gently removed the lawn chair.

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And he was gonna put it in this box.

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Only he quickly realized that box wasn’t big enough. So he got a brooder box – only Bernie didn’t get a picture of that. So just imagine a much bigger box. Because it was. And he put them in there.

Oh, and please notice something else. To the left is the cabin porch. And on that porch we needed some seating. So our buddy Tex supplied us with seats out of an old van. Complete with seat belts. If you look closely you’ll see one of them.

Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t know how to party around here.

Because we do. And we’ll even strap you in when the riding gets rough.

That’s just how we roll on this homestead.

When we’re not catching bees. Which we are right now. So…… Si went back and got the comb that was stuck to the wall.

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In this picture you can even see the uncapped honey at the top of the hive.

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And then Bernie and Si put a lid on the brooder box and left it inside the shed. In the hopes that they actually got the queen and the remaining honey bees will join the hive in that brooder box by nightfall. By which time Si will be back down at the shed to see if he can seal up the brooder box and take it home with him.

So…. I *think* we caught a swarm.

I sure hope we did.

I’ll let you know…….

A Queen is Born and Hussy Hen

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

With this very early spring we’ve been blessed with, our honeybee hives sprung to life early this year. Really early. And our first hive inspections were late.  Really late.

Because that’s just the way we roll on this homestead.

By the time we did our first hive we found multiple swarm cells, and a couple of supersedure cells.  Fortunately, our neighbor from up the road, Si, came up to help with that first hive inspection. And Si knows bees. He also happens to raise queen bees.

So, naturally, when we discovered the swarm and supersedure cells,  we calmly looked at Si and screamed “WHAT THE HECK DO WE DO????????”

And, naturally, Si offered some solutions.

We could split our hives to give the girls more room, but that would leave us with four hives.

We don’t want four hives.

We want two hives.

Or we could remove all the swarm and supersedure cells and go back into the hives every two weeks or so and continue to remove them. Because once a hive decides to swarm, there is really nothing that can be done to stop them from trying to raise a new queen.

Our weather is a little kooky now and we stay pretty danged busy, so we worried we wouldn’t be able to keep up the constant removing of cells.

Finally Si offered a solution that we agreed was a good approach. Si would take our queens with him, allowing the hives to hatch out new queens and most likely to swarm with one of them.

We would lose bees to a swarm, no doubt. But, with the original queen gone, the number of bees that would leave with a new queen would be small in comparison.

So that’s what we did. Si took our queens.

And our beehives did, indeed, swarm. I saw them.

But when we went back into the hives last weekend, the number of bees left was astonishing.

It appeared to work!

Only, we didn’t find the new queen in one of the hives.

We looked and looked, and there was no queen.

Fortunately, as I mentioned, Si raises queen bees, and he brought three tubes with those little beauties on the verge of hatching.

So our plan was to put one of those new cells into the hive with the missing queen so she could hatch there and reign supremely.

But…… before we did that, Si decided we should take a look at those supersedure cells that had failed to hatch out. Maybe they weren’t viable, because surely they should have hatched the day or two before…….

And when he removed it from the frame and started to gently pick at it, he was greeted by a queen bee chewing her way out!

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Holy Bee Hive!

And Si birthed a new Queen Bee!

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I apologize for the blurriness of that picture – I was shaking with excitement!

And here she is, joining her hive.

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I almost peed my pants.

There is more to this story. Remember I told you there were a couple of supersedure cells? Well, I was holding the other supersedure cell, and it had a queen chewing her way out, too. But I gave her to Si to birth.

Cause I don’t know nothing about birthing no babies – let alone Queen Bees.

So we left two queen bees in that hive. And, sadly, there will be only one next time we check.

There can only be one Queen Bee in a hive, under normal circumstances.

Although, nothing we do around here is very normal so……. we’ll see.

And speaking of “not normal” things, today I looked out the window at the chicken coop and noticed something just wasn’t quite right.

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No, it wasn’t that the new addition that Bernie painted is TOTALLY brighter than the old side that is dusty and faded – but thanks for noticing that I need to paint the old side. Seriously. Bernie needed someone to take his back when he declared “I painted the addition – the other side is YOUR responsibility”.

But back to what I was saying….. do you see anything unusual here?

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How about from this angle?

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I don’t even have a clue how she managed to get tangled up in that mess.

I got a step stool, which was woefully short, and managed to get her into this predicament.

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And then Bernie came to the rescue with his he-man ladder so I could free her.

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She was totally unappreciative.

I won’t even begin to tell you the words that came out of her mouth.

But she was free as the breeze, complete with attitude.

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Hussy Hen.

Jake Gets a Beak Trim and What is She Doing?

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Jake has decided Bernie is a threat to him. For the past few months, anytime Bernie goes outside, Jake has gotten very aggressive with him.

We can’t have that.

Not at all.

So….. Bernie built the turkeys a pen.

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Their pen runs out a bit, and then back behind their coop. It shares one side with the goat’s paddock.

I’m not sure the turkeys are all that thrilled with being penned, but it makes Bernie happy. And that makes me happy. He can now go outside and move about without concern, and he’s working on finishing my chicken coop. It’s a win-win as far as I’m concerned.

Remember my post about how I have to occasionally trim Duke’s beak because it curves over and grows too long? Well, Duke got a beak trim this morning. And so did Jake.

Letting a beak grow like that is really not good. They can’t eat properly with a top beak that grows over the bottom beak. And, like I mentioned in the post about trimming Duke’s beak, it is painless to trim the beak if you don’t trim too close to the quick. Think of it like trimming your finger nails. That really is a good comparison.

This is Jake before he got his beak trimmed.

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Notice how the top beak is well over the bottom? I trimmed it by myself, so there are no pictures. I simply straddled him as he was standing, so that he was between my legs. Then I closed my knees to keep him in place, picked up his face, and snipped his beak. It was over before he had time to gobble about it.

And here he is, all trimmed up.

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And here he is, strutting about afterwards. Look how long his beard is getting!

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And here is the last male that hatched out last year.

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He’d make a great pet. Want him?

While I was in the turkey pen, I kept hearing a bee buzzing about. And I quit hearing the buzzing when it got around this log we put in the pen for the turkeys to sit on.

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I got to looking at that log and I noticed this hole.

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And as I was noticing the hole, I saw a honey bee land on it.

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And then, she BACKED into it!

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Here is a close up of the hole.

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As I watched, the honey bee would back into the hole and then leave. And then come back a few minutes later and do the same thing. A few times she went in head first, but the majority of the time she backed in.

I took several pictures, and I’ll post a few of them below. I apologize in advance for the quality of most of them – she was fast!

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Now, a few things I want to mention…….

I moved this log all over the run yesterday when we installed the new gate. There was no sign of bees at that time.

Today, I *think* there was only one bee. I never saw more than one at any time.

There are several of those tiny holes all over this log.

We have Carpenter Bees here. Lots of them. And they are huge. I do not believe they made these holes. But I don’t know what did. And I do not think the honey bee did – I think the honey bee found the hole she’s interested in…..

So…….

For all you honey bee experts out there – what is this honey bee doing?

Honey Bees – I’ve Sure Missed Them

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

The day finally arrived…… we picked up our bees! And even though it started as a cloudy and rainy day, the sun was shining brightly when we arrived in Stanley to get them.

Paul Kinser is a wonderful man to deal with, and the nucs he started for us were healthy and bustling with activity. Bernie and I purchased two nucs from him, and Si and Mary Ann purchased three.

As he loaded each frame into our hive boxes, we inspected them and looked for the queen.

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I get a little excited during the queen searches, so I elbowed my way right up to the closest spot. I can’t help it. There’s just something so satisfying in being the first to spot the queen. And, even though I only managed to “win” the first queen location round, it didn’t stop me from crowding everyone out for the next four either. Dangit.

Look at this pretty little queen:

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*sigh* Doesn’t she make you want to just kiss her wings right slap off of her?

And look at what some of those silly girls did while drawing out this frame – see that big blob of comb poking up there?

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Paul said they did that in one day – he had just checked them the day before. Those girls keep pretty busy. I like that. But we may need to have a little chat about how to properly draw out frames…….

This is the last nuc. It’s one of Si’s. Look at that beautiful frame loaded with brood and bees.

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Bernie and I strapped our boxes closed for the trip home.

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Si strapped his.

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Paul put screen in the opening, and we loaded our boxes for the trip over the mountain, to the girls’ new home.

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It was dark when we got home, so we left them in the jeep for the night. The next morning, just at daybreak, we put the bee boxes in the apiary, and Bernie removed the screens.

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It was early, cloudy, and chilly, but a couple of girls came out on the porch to see what the heck was going on.

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My heart smiles every time I see those little bees. I’ve sure missed hearing them buzz about. It feels right having bees on the homestead again.

I hope they like their new home. I hope they like us. And I hope we can do right by them.

Pass the Cheese Please and Share that Honey

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Well, it’s only been about a little over a month since we made cheddar cheese and although we are supposed to let it age about six months, we decided to cut it tonight and see how it is doing. It’s pretty good! Very cheddary, but a bit soft still. Bernie thinks it would make a great spread, so I’m going to research that a bit.

It was such a nice, warm day today – in the 70’s! Such a nice treat after weather that didn’t get out of the 20’s for a while. In keeping with my resolution to wander outside every day, I went with Bernie down to the cabin this afternoon to take care of some things. While we were there, we noticed a lot of activity around the hives our poor little bees used to occupy. Our hearts started pounding. Are those honey bees buzzing around those hives? We quickly gathered up our bee suits and went into the apiary to investigate. The hives were indeed full of honey bees – but they were simply robbing the left over honey. We noticed right away that there were a lot of fights happening on the porch of each, and that was the first clue that we had robbers. We opened each hive and while they were all full of bees, there was no brood and no queen. Just little hungry girls happy to find the bounty.

We left the hives out this winter hoping that they would get cleaned up, and I guess that’s happening. The bees could be from a close by neighbor that raises them, or from one of our swarms that we never could locate. In any event, it was really nice seeing honey bees around those hives again and we are really looking forward to starting again in the spring. In the meantime, I’m happy to know the leftover honey is going to help out some other hungry little girls. They were so darn cute digging honey out of the combs I could have just kissed their little wings right off of them.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I do have to work tomorrow, but since I work from home, it won’t be all that bad. And any day I don’t have to leave the homestead is a good day. I’m not even going to the dump either – so don’t even ask me, Bernie. Happy Birthday to me.

Bee Free,
Penny

Random Stuff We’ve Been Up To

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

This blog and our website have been such great experiences for us. I started the website because when we first considered homesteading, I found lots of site about people who were homesteading, but very few that explained how they got started with it. I figured we were bumbling our way through it, and maybe someone could learn from the mistakes we make as we go and the stuff we do right. I never dreamed we would make so many new friends, and hook up with so many old friends we had lost touch with. It’s been great! Now if we could only get our families to look at it…… they’d rather call and ask “So what have you been up to? Anything new on your website?”

I think I told y’all that Senator Obenshain asked us to get a bunch of bikers together and ride in a parade for him the second weekend in October. Senator Obenshain has been a great friend to us, and we love riding, so we got a crew together and made him proud. Here’s a group shot at the end of it. If you’ve ever been around bikers you know that trying to get them in one place in one time is as easy as nailing jello to a tree, so this picture is missing a few. But it’s a nice picture anyway, so I’ll post it here:

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I also posted some additional pictures on the VFR website. Check them out!

We were having a lot of trouble with yellow jackets robbing honey in one of our hives. We ended up screening in the bottom entrance, so the girls would all use the top entrance and hopefully be able to ward off the predators a little better. Well, they were still struggling. So I put out some wasp traps that I hope will give the girls a little break. I talk about how to make the traps on The Bee Buzz if you are interested in reading it.

Tonight I made some coffee soap that is supposed to be great at getting rid of cooking smells (like onion, garlic, fish) off your hands. I have always wanted to make those pretty swirl soaps, but I never had much confidence that I could actually do it, so I didn’t try. Well, tonight I decided to give it a shot. I made the swirl color out of cocoa powder. The coffee soap is a dark tan, so I thought the deep cocoa color would be pretty in it. And it probably would. But I learned what I suspected all along. I am swirl challenged. So instead of swirled soap, I have blobbed soap. But it really smells nice. I’m hoping when I take it out of the mold tomorrow and cut it, it won’t look as bad as it does in the mold. But did I mention it smells really nice?

Bee Free,
Penny

Oh Deer!

Monday, October 1st, 2007

It’s that time of year, and the deer are really starting to move on the homestead. We could barely look out a window today without seeing a deer or two. Last night we saw two bucks lock horns on the side of the house. They are truly fascinating and beautiful creatures.

We’ve had a couple of mamas coming with babies to munch acorns in the yard throughout the summer. The babies are big now – no more spots. But they still hang with mama. One mother in particular has peaked our interest. She has a deformed or injured front leg. It doesn’t seem to slow her down much though. She has two daughters that are always with her. One of them has a scar on her side. We’ve been watching them all summer. They now come right up to the windows. It drives our cats wild. They’re not quite sure what to think. This morning one of the babies came right up to the window of the room I use as an office. Elvis and Priscilla were sitting in the window, quietly watching. Then all of a sudden the deer looked up and stared at them. The cats looked shocked! The three of them just stared at each other for about two minutes, and then the deer just started grazing again and wandered off – with two set of cat eyes watching her the whole way.

Bernie managed to get a few pictures of them through the window tonight. Here’s one of Gimp Mama and her babies:

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Gimp Mama is the one on the far right. Cute as little buttons. No question they will end up on some one’s table by the end of hunting season. Maybe even ours. But that’s the way nature intended it. And before we butcher any animal, we take time to reflect on cycle of life and appreciate that this animal lived a beautiful life, and now provides sustenance for our lives. I believe that shows far more respect for these wonderful creatures than what is shown for the animals that provide the meat bought in a grocery store.

We’ll continue watching in awe as animals travel across our homestead. We will also take care not to take any of the young ones when deer hunting is in season. We’d rather allow them to grow up and procreate.

Other than our Extreme Deer Watching, Bernie has been busy as a beaver on his back hoe. He’s just about got that bucket fixed. I’ve been working and then walking around identifying trees. We discovered this afternoon that we have a Persimmon Tree on our property – and it’s full of delicious fruit. The fruit is just becoming ripe, and I intend to can a few jars of it in the coming weeks. Thank the stars for Bernie’s extension ladder!

The bees are doing great. We watched them for quite a while this afternoon. I could just kiss their little wings right off of them!

Bee Free,
Penny

Busy as Bees on the Homestead

Monday, September 17th, 2007

The past couple weeks have been very busy here on the homestead. Between moving, house guests, a biker event, and making soap, bath gels, and bath salts, we’ve been happily realizing our dream of living on this beautiful homestead.

I’ve had two businesses agree to sell my home made bath products and they seem quite excited about it. I made a big batch of oatmeal honey bar soap last week and set it on the rack to cure for the next six weeks or so. I’m pretty excited about this recipe, as I came up with it all on my own and attempted to make a very moisturizing, lathery soap – and I used the honey from our hives. We’ll see how it turns out in a few weeks…..

I hope to have a page up on The Bee Buzz website soon to sell my products in the next few weeks. I’ll let y’all know when I do that.

Bernie still doesn’t really feel that he’s quit work. Probably because he’s working so much around here. He gets up early and gets busy right away. It amazes me how much he’s accomplished in the past two weeks. I have noticed a big difference in him though. He’s much more relaxed and layed back – almost to the point of annoyance. I mean he’s always been fairly calm, but now he doesn’t seem to get riled about much of anything around here. If I take off on a rant about what a mess the house is with this move, he volunteers to stay home the next day and clean it. When I got worried about one of the cats not acting right, he told me to make an appointment and he took her in to the vet. He’s never taken an animal to the vet without me. He HATES taking cats to the vet! At least the “old” Bernie hated it. The “new” Bernie just loaded her up and took off. He even does the dishes now without me saying a word. And he puts them away when they are dry. Weird. It is down right weird. But I do think I can get used to this.

The bees seem to be doing really well, although there is another hive we are now concerned about. We’ll take it apart next weekend and be sure the queen is ok. I hope this cool weather is to blame for the inactivity in that hive. We’ll find out this weekend.

Life is good on the homestead. And it only gets better and better.

Bee Free,
Penny

Loving Life on the Homestead

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

We’re really enjoying the feeling of being on our homestead permanently. My Dear John wrote to tell me that this euphoric feeling will pass as soon as the burden of responsibility takes hold – but I have news for you, My Dear John. As much as I know you are absolutely right, you are not going to rain on my parade! I am going to take advantage of this feeling for as long as I can convince it to last.

We robbed honey from the bees yesterday and ended up with 77 pints! We are quite thrilled about that. I can not describe the flavor it adds to a cup of coffee. Possitively exquisite. I wrote all about it on The Bee Buzz blog and even put up a few pictures. Check it out!

Eddie and Gigi came out this morning and spent the whole day helping us get this place ready to start moving stuff from our house in town into it. It was a full day job. Bernie and I are pack-rats and you’d be amazed what we can collect in a year. At any rate, we’re all set to start moving tomorrow. Thanks a million Eddie and Gigi! Afterwards Bernie grilled us some burger and dogs over an oak wood fire. We eat good on the homestead.

That’s it for now from the homestead. Check out The Bee Buzz blog and think about getting your own hives. They are very little trouble, a simple joy to watch, give you plenty of honey to enjoy, and are so necessary for plant pollination. You’d have a difficult time not falling in love with them.

Bee Free!

Penny