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.
With spring giving way to summer and summer storms rolling through, we have to plan our work around the weather. There always seems to be more to be done.
We tackled multiple projects this week, some inside and some outside as we received more than 2.5 inches of rain and plenty of mountain fog over the past few days.
I built a new desktop computer for my wife, after ordering all the components online, moving her from her creaky Windows 7 box to a new Windows 10 computer. Transition was pretty seamless and all her old peripherals and her wireless network card worked just fine, which was a relief. That filled a rainy day and then it took part of the night for Windows to update repeatedly.
Now that the beehives are set up, we need to get our fencing up before the bears sniff them out and come for a visit.
After spending a good part of the day installing our fence, I feel like I need a horse and a cowboy hat.
There are seven sections of fence to pull. First, to surround the garden and the beehives. Then I will subdivide the big rectangular area to create a chicken run around the chicken coop. I’ve pulled three of the seven sections and I have at least another day’s worth of work before we even get to the electric fence. But it’s going faster as I gain experience. The biggest challenge is pulling fence in the area where the ground is uneven, and since our lot slopes, there are multiple areas where it is uneven.
Right now, I am pulling a 5-foot-high 2” x 4” welded wire fence. Around the chicken coop we are adding half-inch welded wire with a foot or two lying on the ground to prevent predators from digging under the fence. After I finish installing the welded wire fence, I’ll pull a multiple single-strand wires for the electric fence. I will cover the electric fence design and install in a future post.
I never worked a forge or done any blacksmithing, but that’s all going to change. Now I just have to decide what to make.
I have three hours booked on a forge this coming week. I’m going to forge—or at least start forging—a fixed blade knife that may become my new field knife.
I probably have at least 18 or 20 knives, both fixed and folding, but I only carry three different blades on a regular basis. Most of them sit in a box or are tucked into a bug out bag or vehicle emergency kit. I think every young man has bought a knife that they thought was cool, only to realize some years later that it was foolish. I kept mine around along with some inexpensive blades. They may have little value now, but in a post-SHTF situation, I can trade, give, or lend them out to someone who realizes any knife is better than no knife.
With the weather improving and the sun shining again, we embark on a host of gardening and other outdoor activities
Now that the last frost date is behind us, our gardening activities have stepped up a notch. For example, the tomatoes and peppers are on the deck hardening off.
While in town the other day, we bought mulch, compost, pots for the container garden, and checked out plants, from herbs to bushes, including annuals and perennials for the pollinator garden. We’re getting to know the folks at the general store, where we go for our soil amendments, garden supplies, and chicken feed, so it’s nice to see them and chat for a few minutes.
We also ate our first post-mask mandate lunch. As soon as we walked in, we noted that the restaurant had added a chunk of its tables back to what had been a sparsely populated room just a few weeks ago. I would guess they were somewhere close to 75 percent of their “normal” tables present, a big increase. About half the wait staff were wearing masks and about half were not.
As a blast of cold weather rolls Eastward, we fall back onto old winter habits and prep for possible snow fall.
We’re heading back into winter for a few days as a system packing cold air punches its way through the region. Forecasts predict overnight temps in the low 20s.
To prepare for cold weather and the possibility of snow or ice trapping us on our mountain again, we went grocery shopping and stocked up on eggs and other essentials. We picked up the mail and ran some other errands. Then I loaded up the largest indoor stack of firewood I’ve had in a month or six weeks and split some kindling. We haven’t burned a fire in the upstairs fireplace for weeks, but we put enough wood up there to cover at least two days.
Unlike deep winter when cold weather could last for days or weeks, this system should clear out quickly and we hope to see warm weather return in just a few days.
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.
If you’ve purchased a basic beekeeper kit or a beginning hive, congratulations! This article will help you understand how to use and assemble the wooden Langstroth hives, which are the most common hive type in the U.S.
The components of a Langstroth hive should go together in a particular order, but since they are modular, a new beekeeper could conceivably get them out of order. This guide will help you assembled your hive components in the correct order so that your hive is ready to receive and house bees.
This article is intended for someone who is just starting their beekeeping journey. It is a simple step-by-step guide to setting up your first beehive.
Did you leave the rat race only to find you moved it to your backyard? I see this in YouTube creators who drift away from their authentic selves in pursuit of subscribers and the all mighty dollar. Avoid this trap and get back to your roots.
I have started to jokingly refer to watching how-to videos on YouTube as going to “YouTube University.” Over the past two months, I’ve stepped up the number of videos I watch on a variety of homesteading topics, such as:
The many aspects of beekeeping
Raising chicks and setting up a brooder
Building sturdy gates for our garden
How to set up the framing and rafters on my chicken coop
How to install fencing including corner braces
Building raised beds
Much of this is stuff about which I have an idea, but I find YouTube helps me confirm that what I planned to do is right or it sets the bar higher and builds my knowledge. For example, when I started raising bees in 2009, I had a book on backyard bee keeping, but not much else. Today, I can pull up almost any topic I want and watch several videos on it. For example, my understanding of the development of a bee from an egg onward and how a bee’s role in the hive changes based on its age has been enhanced by watching beekeeping videos. SO has my understanding of mite control.
More sunny weather allowed us to make substantial progress on our chicken coop yesterday. We expect to pick up with roofing late next week.
Work on the chicken coop continued thanks to the nicest weather we’ve had in all of 2021. All four walls are framed and up.
We also experimented with different lengths of rafters for the roof and the overhang. We settled on a 7-foot roof. It stick out about two feet in the front and 9 inches in the back. You can see the 2×4 we pinned up there to give us an idea of what it would look like.