We may have small stock, but its keeping us busy! From feeding the bees to cleaning chicks with pasty butt, it’s all part of a day in the life of a homseteader.
Five or six days after transferring my bees from their nucs into a full-size hive, I inspected the three beehives. All of them were doing well. Plenty of yellow and orange pollen is being brought in by the foragers and I could see the bees storing it away.
I switched hive bodies in the first hive, which came on medium frames, putting a medium box on the bottom and adding a new deep hive on top of it. The bees had built comb below one of the medium frames, so I moved it to the larger box, along with a full-size frame on which they had drawn comb. I hope the queen will gradually move to top box and lay her eggs there. I prefer to use my large hive bodies for brood and the mediums for honey, but sometimes things don’t always go as planned. I’ll remain flexible and will wait and see what the bees do.
There were three or four frames with brood which had pollen and wet, uncapped nectar around it with some capped honey at the top. There was also a frame full of bee bread and honey. These bees were in the midst of drawing out a couple frames and are in good shape. I expect the hive to keep growing.
They say that when it rains it pours. That was the case today when all the livestock we had ordered months ago showed up on the same day.
We were expecting the baby chicks to show up today on either the 6:30 a.m. mail truck of the 8:30 a.m. truck. Both deadlines pass, so I take a shower, grab the garbage, and head out to pick up my two additional hives of bees.
I dropped the garbage off at the waste disposal and management site and was heading toward a breakfast biscuit when the phone rang. It was the post office. The chicks had arrived—more than an hour later than expected. By now, I’m half an hour away, so they would have to wait. I figure, they’ve been in the post offices hands for 36 hours, another one or two won’t matter. So I get breakfast, stop by the ATM so I can pay for my bees, and then visit the bee lady.
We had a friendly chat about pollen flow, her queen breeding business, and other bee-related matters. Then we bundled the two hives into the back of my truck, and I headed to the post office, which was about 45 minutes away. As soon as I walked in the door, I could hear the chicks peeping.
After a clandestine meeting in which I slipped a woman a wad of $20s and she handed me a small, carefully built wooden box, I was the proud owner of some bees.
The first bee hive is up and running. I picked it up early Thursday and brought it home, dodging raindrops. I waited until about 11 a.m. and installed them in their new hive quickly and easily.
Funny thing: By the time I got my jacket and veil on and marched out at the bee yard, my hive tool had fallen out of my back pocket. There I am with the nuc open and no way to pull out a frame. I unfolded my trusty pocket knife and used it to separate the frames and pry them out.
I don’t recommend prying with a folding knife any more than I recommend digging with it, but it held up well. Good knives, like good tools, are worth every penny.
Work continues between the rain drops as the chicken coop and beehives await their new occupa
I received an email from the hatchery that our order of chickens has shipped. I set our brooder up so we are ready and waiting for them. The brooder is a huge dog crate. We will use it without the top until the show signs of flying out, and then we’ll put the top on it. Once they reach four weeks, we’ll move them into the coop.
Our chicken coop is almost complete. The exterior panels are on and all I have to do is set up the hinges and latches on the access doors and set up the chicken door and ladder on the end.
I am also picking up one of my beehives today. I am getting the other two on Friday. (The mystery is solved, and it looks like I am getting three hives and not four.) As you can see in the image up top, all three hives are ready and waiting for their bees.
When Charlie Sheen famously said “Winning!” it came back to bite him, but we’re still declaring victory over COVID-19. For now, at least.
Fourteen months after the start of the COVID-19 outbreak swept through the U.S., I am putting what I hope will be a definite hold on our Monday report that has ran every Monday for months. We’ll be back if COVID-19 is back, but we hope that won’t be necessary. Coverage of fallout from the virus will continue.
This blog started as a way to kill time and report on my self-imposed quarantine, but has evolved into much more. Thanks to the many people who have checked in from time to time and especially to our regular readers.
India is still adding 1.5 million cases per week and may eventually overtake the U.S. to become the worst-hit country in the world.
The weather interferes with our plans, but work progresses on the homestead as we continue to ready for our chicks and bees to be delivered.
After a couple days of rain, yesterday dawned dreary and cold, but I had hopes I would get to work outside. The “late afternoon showers” arrived early, cutting my plans short. I hand to stop measuring the chicken coop to cut and fit exterior panels. I had time to install the three chicken nesting boxes pictured in the main image, above, but not to cut any wall panels.
These nesting boxes came from Tractor Supply and cost about $20 each. They are plastic, so they should be easy to clean and won’t mold or rot. The slanted roofs prevent birds from roosting (and pooping) on them.
The boxes were easy to install and should be easy to remove or move to another location. I don’t expect to do that as I am cutting a slot in the siding and installing a flip-open panel to allow easy access to get the eggs from the nest. If I move the nesting boxes, then I’ll have a hinged access for no reason.
The weather turned warm and sunny, allowing us to continue to work on our bee projects and our chicken coop. We are now ready if the bees come early. The coop needs more work.
Over the past couple of days, I finished caulking the chicken coop, I painted the rafters and fascia that will be exposed, and I finally put on the roof. The corrugated metal roof was much easier than dealing with asphalt shingles, and we wrapped it up in just a few hours.
I was surprised at how much cooler the coop was once the roof was erected. Not only does the metal provide shade, it reflects much of the light and heat out of the building.
I also cut and fitted three of the eight exterior T1-11 wall panels that will make up the walls of the chicken coop. I still have to finish the other five. However, I paused that work because I need to buy or build the nesting boxes and door before I can complete the walls. I have to incorporate a hatch in the wall so we can get the eggs out or clean out the laying boxes without opening the coop.
With cold weather bringing a halt to work on the chicken coop, I worked in the shop assembling bee hives until it was finally warm enough to paint them.
Over the weekend, I assembled four deep hive boxes and 30 frames. I also built a spacer with a hive entrance, a bottom board, and a custom lid for a swarm trap. I worked inside as the cold weather dominated our area. Things are warming up and I will revert to working on the chicken coop again. My goal is to have the roof on by the end of the week.
I am having fun building the bee equipment, which surprised me. Of course, when I’m on my one thousandth frame some years from now, I might not feel that way, but I am enjoying it now. There’s something satisfying about working in the shop building something with power tools. I can see why so many retired men become woodworkers, and I think it is at least in part because they finally have time to do the job right.
Can you believe each frame required eight staples and two tiny nails? I was happy to have my pneumatic brad nailer and stapler, which I reviewed just a couple days ago. I even bought a second air hose so I could run both at the same time.
To paint the components, I strung a rope between two fence posts and suspended the hive bodies over the rope. (See main photo.) I primed these yesterday and they are ready for their final coat. Once I paint two sides, I rotate them on the rope and paint the other side. I set the bottom boards and other items on the grass to paint them. My bee yard now has white rectangular outlines on it.
We put some miles on the truck and some wind in our hair as we cruised the back roads in search of beekeeping equipment.
Since it was too cold to work outside, my wife and I made the long trip to the bee supply store yesterday. There are only a few in the state, so we had to drive two hours. On the way home, we picked up supplies for our chick brooder and more bags of soil at Tractor Supply. We made it all the way there without using a single mile of Interstate highway.
The drive took us up and over mountains, all around twisty-turny backcountry roads, and through some pretty valleys where colorful wildflowers and trees were in bloom. We passed cows and horses, goats and sheep, and fields that looked like they were recently plowed. Our ears popped multiple times. It was a pleasant drive.
We even stopped for lunch at an old-fashioned diner. Unfortunately, the food was not as good as I would have hoped. They had “help wanted” signs up, and I’m guessing their best cook is still home collecting unemployment checks.
When we got home, we loaded up the stove and started the fire. The house had dropped to 63 degrees after we didn’t stoke the fire this morning because of our expected absence.
You would not think twice about feeding your chickens, your goats, your pigs, and other livestock. Feeding your bees is important for hive health and honey production.
In the wild, bees manage without a kindly beekeeper feeding them. Of course, no one is robbing their honey, except for the rare bear or other critter.
You will find plenty of arguments online over whether you should feed your bees, when to do so, and what to feed them. That decision is ultimately up to you.
I consider my bees are a type of livestock, and I feed them when they are short on natural food, just as I would offer pasture-raised cows hay or other feed during the winter when the fields are covered in snow or the animals are locked in their barn due to the weather.
Because I believe my job as a beekeeper is to make sure my beehives are healthy and the colony can overwinter successfully, I feed them. It increases their survival rate, can boost hive size, and can ultimately increase your honey harvest.
My thoughts on what to feed, when, and how to feed your bees follow. Click on 2 learn about various foods, 3 to learn about feeders, and 4 for the four best times to feed your bees.