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.
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.
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.
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.
We got off to a slow start back in mid-March and the weather wasn’t the most cooperative, but we’ve finally finished building the chicken coop.
The chicken coop is complete! All the doors are in place; I trimmed and screened all the windows with hardware cloth; the locks are installed; the door has tested just fine; and I built the roosts.
Now all we have to do is wait for our chickens to get at least another 10 days older.
I am continuing to improve the fencing as well. I have used 6-inch landscaping staples to anchor the welded wire fencing to the ground. Then I started to install the half-inch hardware cloth on the fence that goes around the coop. This is four feet high and I am installing 18 to 24-inches on the ground to keep predators from digging in and the balance above to keep small rodents out. We also installed the garden gate.
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.
Why do we say “Happy Memorial Day?” Shouldn’t it be a more somber holiday? This year the weather was cold enough that no one on the East Coast felt like celebrating the start of summer.
Depending on which digital thermometer you believe, it is either 68 degrees or 65.7 in my basement.
So much for the accuracy of digital thermometers.
The old-fashioned analog thermometer agrees with the lower temperature, and my toes are inclined to believe it. As temperatures have plummeted this weekend, with highs in the low 50s and night time temps back into the 30s, I have had to decide it I want to start a fire in the wood stove or just put on another fleece.
I am opting for the latter, but only because sun and warmer temperatures are supposed to lie in our immediate future. We also added another blanket to the bed, and our Memorial Day picnic at the neighbor’s has moved indoors.