Goldenrod and Asters Help our Bees Prep for Winter

You could consider bees preppers. They stock up nectar (carbs) and pollen (protein) to help carry them through the long. cold winter.

The goldenrod and several varieties of aster have been blooming for a couple weeks, but I haven’t seen bees on them until this week.

Both flowers are known for providing bees with critical nectar and the pollen they need to bulk up their stores and get prepared for the winter. It’s possible last week’s rain washed out some resources, and they weren’t worth gathering from them until things dried up. It’s also possible that the Jewel Weed, the Iron Weed, and other flowers were a bigger draw for the bees. Now these plants have gone to seed, so the bees are focusing on the goldenrod and asters, which are among the final blooms of the season.

Just another sign that fall is here. Time to get the hives prepared.

Continue reading “Goldenrod and Asters Help our Bees Prep for Winter”

Taking Advantage of the Cooler Weather on the Homestead

We are working to make fall plantings, clean up the homestead, stock up, and generally make sure we are ready for winter.

We are enjoying the break from hot summer weather and the end of the rain to get some work done and enjoy ourselves around the homestead. The chickens are benefitting as we are throwing armfuls of weeds and uprooted garden plants into their run.

Weed Whacker Upgrade

I was using 095 string in my string trimmer, but the larger plants would just destroy the string. It would break it off so close to the hub that new string would not come out. I’d have to stop, flip the string trimmer upside down, disassemble the spool of string, and re-string it. After three or four times, this got annoying.

I finally upgraded to a metal blade. I was looking for the big three-point blade, but no one had one locally. Instead, I installed one of the four-point “grass” blades. What a difference! I am now mowing down thick woody plant stems, green and dried grass, and small trees (about half an inch) with ease. It works so well, I may never return to sting. It also looks like the blade will simple to re-sharpen with a file, although I only hit two rocks, so far. You definitely don’t want to use the metal blade close to your house or a fence line.

Continue reading “Taking Advantage of the Cooler Weather on the Homestead”

How to Screw Up Your Electric Fence Build

I’ve never installed an electric fence before, and it showed. Sometimes watching YouTube can’t replace trial and error.

I have had the supplies on hand to install the electric fence for months, but I was always busy working on something else. We had the welded wire fence and two gates, so I wasn’t in a big hurry to complete it. I set a goal to the electric fence up and running by September 1 to prevent any bears that might find my beehives a tasty treat before hibernation.

Bears can destroy beehives. While cartoons and storybooks have led us to believe that bear like honey, they also eat brood, or the eggs, larva and pupae of bees which provide protein.

Let’s just say I missed the goal by a long shot.

Continue reading “How to Screw Up Your Electric Fence Build”

Prepper Diary September 4: A Homestead Update

We face our second hurricane in two weeks, prepare for cooler temperatures and ready our bees to get through the winter.

We survived the aftermath of Hurricane Ida unscathed. It must have brushed by us, saving its anger for folks in New York and New Jersey. We got less rain and less wind than we did with Fred. The power was out for less than two hours.

There was a period of wind when there was a tremendous banging outside. I had to put on my muck boots and my poncho and head out there to batten down the hatches. The big gate to the garden and had blown open. It was slamming against the pole with every gust of wind. I latched it and added a couple of bungee cords to minimize bounce.

I am not sure whether our chickens are brave or stupid. Most of them would rather hang around outside in the rain than in their coop. As a result, I delay letting them out when it is pouring. Our four roosters are all crowing now, but have not been loud enough to wake me up. Still, the day is coming where we have to eliminate at least two of them before they kill each other.

Continue reading “Prepper Diary September 4: A Homestead Update”

Good News from the Bee Yard

It’s finally time to harvest some honey and see how our bees performed this year.

We harvested frames of honey today, sliced open the comb and spun it out in our hand-crank extractor. My daughter came to help. She could not make it up the road in her front-wheel-drive car, so she parked at the bottom of the mountain and I drove down to get her.

Unfortunately, I had only five medium frames that were fully drawn out and 100 percent capped. I tested honey in some of the open frames and it was over 20 percent water, so we could not harvest it yet. Apparently, the rain and high humidity have made it difficult for the bees to concentrate the nectar and turn it into honey. The capped honey tested at 17.5 percent water, which is ideal.

One frame I harvested had no foundation, so we cut it into four blocks of solid comb honey and stuck it in the freezer. The other frames spun out to make 10 pounds of honey. We filled up 12 eight-ounce bottles and four one-pound bottles. Counting the two frames of comb honey we have harvested, this brings us to fifteen pounds of honey so far this year.

Continue reading “Good News from the Bee Yard”

Prepper Diary August 15: We Get a Dog and New Bee Equipment

Adding a good-size dog to our prepper property has been a goal of mine since Day One.

We got back from the road trip to pick up our new dog, an Anatolian Shepherd. She is settling in nicely and has made herself at home. Most of our basement (she is not yet allowed upstairs) is carpeted, but she threw herself down on the tile floor in the utility room, where it was cool. She even tried out the shower floor, which I found amusing.

The dog is crate trained, which is nice, and had no hesitancy entering or remaining in her crate while we ducked out for a couple hours in the afternoon. She walks pretty well on the leash, but tugs more than I would like. We started working on that right away as I took her around the property and down the road.

When the chickens saw her, they ran to the opposite end of their run, which I thought showed good common sense. The dog glanced at them, but did not display any interest in them and no motivation to chase them. That’s a good sign because we don’t want our livestock guardian dog to attack our chickens. I’m going to station her outside the run for a couple of hours tomorrow under close supervision and see how that goes.

She and the cat have looked at each other, but the cat is keeping her distance upstairs. The dog seems nonplussed by the cat. Later, when she heard the cat meowing in excitement as my wife fed her, the dog perked up at the sound of the cat’s vocalization.

With the dog, my homestead wish list for year one is complete.

Continue reading “Prepper Diary August 15: We Get a Dog and New Bee Equipment”

Our First Honey Harvest is in and it Tastes Delicious

I didn’t expect to harvest any honey this year, our first with the hives, but just 60 days later, we pulled our first frame of honey from one of the hives.

We harvested our first honey yesterday. Technically, we harvested our first comb honey, a frame of honeycomb made by the bees with about four pounds of honey encapsulated into it. As seen in the photo above, we cut the honey off the frame, creating rectangular chunks that we could fit into Tupperware containers. Two of these went into the freezer for temporary storage and the other one stayed out to be eaten.

We froze the extra comb as a precaution. Freezing kills any wax moth eggs and larvae that may be present in the hive. We don’t have wax month, as far as we know, but we played it safe. The last thing someone wants to do is open their comb honey after a few weeks and see something crawling around in there.

The honey itself was delicious! We made biscuits from scratch and enjoyed them with the honey for breakfast.

Continue reading “Our First Honey Harvest is in and it Tastes Delicious”

We Test Out the BeeScanning App on Hive Inspection Day

We opened up three hives and took a total of 62 photos to test in the BeeScanning app as a tool to measure a varroa mite infestation.

Four or five days ago, I noticed the bees were zooming about like there was a big nectar flow going on. You can tell because they don’t waste any time lollygagging about on the entrance platform. The bees rush out of the hive entrance and immediately launch themselves, taking off in what I can only assume must be a “beeline.” There is a constant flow of bee activity as they come and go. This behavior is continuing, but they do not seem to be carrying pollen when they return, so I can only assume they are getting just nectar.

I am not sure what is the source of the nectar. Yes, there are wild flowers in our meadow (you might think of them as weeds) and in our early stage pollinator garden, but while I see bumble bees in there, I don’t see honey bees. I have guides to what is blooming when, but they do not take into account our altitude. My best guess is that it is the American Basswood tree (Tilia americana), also known as the Linden. I’m know they are in the woods all around us, but there are none in sight that I can look at and confirm they are blooming. There is also a possibility that it is clover. Or both.

Continue reading “We Test Out the BeeScanning App on Hive Inspection Day”

The Chickens Graduate from their Brooder to their Coop

After a month, the garage had started to smell, well, like chickens. Or maybe chicken poop. The time had come to move them into their permanent home.

We moved the chickens from their brooder into the coop yesterday. We did this by carrying the brooder (a large dog crate) out to the coop and trying to coax the chickens to move from the brooder into the coop. The change of scenery scared them, and they cowered at the back of the brooder, refusing to go into the coop.

You’d think they would want more room, but perhaps that much space was intimidating. We had to drive them from the back of the box until they ran into the coop in a panic. Once there, they quickly adapted to their new environment and immediately started scratching and searching for edibles in the straw we use as bedding.

One of the nice things about the move is that we can now give them larger food and water containers. I was filling the old food container three times per day and the waterer twice per day. The chicks found the food right away. Because it is larger, there are more feeding stations, so less crowding.

We also gave the pieces of zucchini, along with plenty of grass and clover. They like their greens.

Continue reading “The Chickens Graduate from their Brooder to their Coop”

Warm Weather and Nectar Flow Sends our Bees into Overdrive

Only four weeks after we added bees to our hives, they have doubled in size, the bees are drawing comb, and the queen is laying lots of eggs.

Our beehives have kicked it into high gear. Look at the photo above, is that a box full of bees, or what? Not bad for a hive that started out as a nuc four weeks ago.

All three of our hives have multiple frames of brood in nice patterns with good amounts of honey and beebread. Two of the hives are filling out their second hive body and in each case, the queen is laying in both boxes.

While I was not planning to get any honey this year, this hive looked so strong that I decided to add a super to it and see I have any luck. They will have to draw out the comb, but if we get a good flow, they should be able to do that. If I don’t end up with any honey, hopefully I can get some drawn comb out of them so they can get a head start next year.

Continue reading “Warm Weather and Nectar Flow Sends our Bees into Overdrive”