Category Archives: Bees

Wrapping Up Summer

It’s hard to believe that autumn is here. I just wanted to hold on to summer – perhaps indefinitely. Since it is humanly impossible to stop time, the best I can do is hold onto and treasure the memories that Summer 2019 gifted me.  I have decided to place some of these precious memories in this post where, like keepsakes in a trinket box, they will be safely stored and I can return to them whenever I like.  I will also share them with you.

At The Farm 

In early August I used my hours at the farm for picking blueberries, watering plants, and mostly weeding the prayer garden (this is the time of year that weeds really start to take over if they are not kept in check). IMG_5686 (2)

I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts that the prayer garden was in full bloom. My husband said he wanted to correct that statement but didn’t. He is right of course – by design the prayer garden is in continuous bloom, from early spring, when the daffodils appear, until late fall, or at least until we get the first frost of the season there is always something blossoming.

By mid August my chore list had changed. We had some decent rain so we didn’t have to do much watering. We began picking tomatoes and peppers and I began cleaning our 2019 garlic crop.

IMG_5708

For the past four weeks or so the focus has been on harvesting our garden and either cooking and eating or preserving the harvest. While most of the tomatoes have been frozen so far, I did manage to get 15 quarts of tomato sauce canned. We have been enjoying fresh red skin potatoes (boiled or made into potato salad), Swiss chard (sautéed with garlic, cooked into an omelet or added to a cream cheese stuffed chicken breast), baked butter nut squash, tomatoes (fresh on the side, on a sandwich, or cooked into homemade pasta sauce) and stuffed green peppers. I also cut up three small cabbages and started the process of turning them into sauerkraut. This is the time of year that all of the work pays off.

The Bees

Busy, busy, busy.

IMG_5611

We have eight healthy hives right now and our son-in-laws hive is thriving as well.

 

IMG_5619

We have harvested honey three times this summer from three different hives. Each harvest yielded approximately 30 lbs. of honey. After we harvest the honey and wax from the frames my husband sets the frames back out for the bees to finish cleaning them up. The picture above shows the bees completing this task.

IMG_5756

A few weeks ago one of the hives swarmed. My husband captured the swarm and put it in an empty hive. He then placed a feeder with honey in it on top. The next day the bees had left that hive. We are not sure why they weren’t happy there but they did fill up on the honey before leaving.

The Chickens

The eight Jersey Giants that were cute little chicks this spring are now full grown hens. They began laying in eggs in August and will hopefully keep us in fresh eggs through the winter months.IMG_5650

Soap Making

Normally I don’t make a lot of soap during the summer months but I found I was out of a few varieties. I decided to have some fun with it.

IMG_5695

My sister had given me some silicone mini molds so I made a few small bars using them. I can see making holiday themed sample soaps or using teddy bears or duckies as favors for a baby shower. They would however need to be clearly labeled  “Don’t Eat It!” as I would want someone thinking they were white chocolate.

IMG_5697

I have also been practicing using my soap stamp and getting better at it. It’s really a matter of stamping the soap when it is still just a little soft.

Family and Fun

In early August we planned a family picnic at the farm. Not all of the girls could make it but Tina and Ken brought our grandkids and Kara also came out. After we ate, our three year old grandson, Jackson, went fishing with his dad and grandpa and caught his first fish. I didn’t get any pictures of this because Tina and Kara and I had taken (granddaughter) Addy to pick blueberries.

Not only did Addy enjoy picking the berries she enjoyed eating them as well. The cutest part was that each time Addy, who is learning to talk, picked a berry she would say appo (apple). The first time she said it we thought it was so cute we laughed before telling her “berry”.  So after that each time she picked a berry she would say “appo” and laugh then when we told her berry she would say “ber-ry”. Her laugh was so contagious that we were all laughing each time she said “appo”.

IMG_5529

In August my husband and I went plant shopping. Normally I don’t like shopping. The exceptions are going to a greenhouse or nursey and shopping for yarn or other craft supplies. Each spring we usually go to a local green house and pick up a least a few plants for the year but it’s quite easy for me to get carried away and buy way more plants than I need.

You may remember from this post that my husband was working at a greenhouse this spring and was able to bring home many plants that would have otherwise ended up in the dumpster. With all the free flowers we had there was no need to go plant shopping…until August. While working the landscaping job that he started in July my husband had to make a trip to a nursery where they purchased anise hyssop plants that would be planted at one of the jobsites. “They had pretty purple flowers and the bees were all over them,” he said as he told me about the plants. I knew this herb had some medicinal  properties and if the bees like it then we should definitely plants some.

I did a little homework and found that anise hyssop is generally a plant the deer avoid because of it’s strong fragrance. This sounded like the perfect addition to our prayer garden.

IMG_5711

We purchased two large plants that were in full bloom and two smaller (less expensive) plants that should continue to grow each year until they are about a foot wide. I understand that these plants also drop seeds each year that will readily sprout into new plants. These plants are still blooming more than a month after we planted them and I saw bees foraging in them yesterday. 🙂

As we were walking through the green house I noticed a table full of flowers that I was not familiar with. They had bright orange and yellow flowers. They were marked $5 each. After asking an employee if the deer would eat them and being assured that it was not likely, I picked out two yellow and one orange. (There I go getting carried away.) The plant is called lantana. It wasn’t until we got them home that we realized that they are an annual so will not be coming back next year. 😦

We took a Sunday off in August to visit the Armada Fair and watch the tractor pulls.

20190818_123437~2 (3)

My husband and I wore our matching tractor pull t-shirts so my daughter snapped a photo of us. We were joined by daughters Kara and Lindell and Lindell’s boyfriend Brysen.  We arrived early enough to walk through the animal barns and view the exhibits before the tractor pulls began. I’m not sure which is cuter baby goats or baby cows. I love seeing them both.

We also filled up on lots of expensive fair food. I wonder which was higher the calorie count or the price.

For those of you who, like Brysen, have never seen a tractor pull, let me sum it up. Basically tractor pulling is a competition to see who’s tractor can pull a weighted sled the farthest. If you would like a little more information see this article.

IMG_5576This tractor, named Cruel Intentions, is owned by the Capozzo family. They also own and operate the excavating company that dug our pond. This is the tractor we were rooting for that day and they did take first place in their class.

 

After the tractors were finished they brought in a couple of semi’s that did an exhibition pull.

In the photo below I was trying to get a shot of the score board that electronically records each tractor’s speed and the distance they pull but my aim was a little high.

IMG_5577

After viewing this photo I did spot something I hadn’t noticed before. The street signs to the right of the score board mark the intersection that leads to the adult beverage tent. If you can’t make out the signs they say “Good RD” and ” Beers LN”. That made me chuckle.

The beverage tent was the other place we visited at the fair and while I mostly stuck with non alcoholic beverages that day I did end up drinking a glass of hard cider when Lindell ended up with an extra one.

IMG_5572
Lindell, Me, Kara

Even though autumn has arrived, and the temperatures have been slowly cooling, we are forecast to have at least one more of summer-like day today and I will happily take all that we can get.

Have you ever seen tractor pulls?

What is your favorite memory of this summer?

Mornings At The Farm

September 5, 2019

My plan this morning was to clean garlic. There were about 150 bulbs that I wanted to get done. I figured it would take me about an hour to complete this task so I also took some time to enjoy the day. Would you like to join me?

IMG_5708

As I walked past the garden I was greeted by this sunflower. I wonder, is it possible to look at a sunflower and not smile? As you can tell I was not the only one happy to see this flower. The honey bees were all over it.

IMG_5611

This was the view from were I was working. Nothing but blue sky and sunshine this morning.

IMG_5717

While walking through the prayer garden I discovered that the honey bees were also foraging the anise hyssop. This is a recent addition to the prayer garden and was largely added for the benefit of the bees.  I only see one bee in this picture, but I assure you there were more that the camera did not capture.

IMG_5711

My husband discovered that bees like this plant while working at his landscaping job. They had to go to a greenhouse to purchase some anise hyssop plants for a job they were doing, and he said the bees were all over the plants. A couple weeks later he took me to that greenhouse to purchase some for our farm.

Another visitor to the prayer garden this morning was this Hummingbird, searching for nectar in the hanging plants.

IMG_5713 (2)

It is a bit camouflaged by the green plants in the background. Do you see it just left of center?

IMG_5714 (2)

It is now to the right of this basket.

In recent weeks we have seen the return of an annual visitor. For at least the past 5 years we have seen this bird (or one like it) in and around our pond in the late summer. I am assuming it is the same bird and although we usually see just one at a time on rare occasions we will see two.

Since it was not a bird I was familiar with and was unable to positively identify it through our bird books or internet searches, in 2016 I turned to my blog readers for help through this post. While the answer did not come through the post comments, I learned  that our bird was a Green Herron.

IMG_5719 (2)

He or she is a quiet bird and blends well into the grasses that surround the pond.

IMG_5722 (2)

Can you believe this is the same bird? It’s appearance certainly changes as it makes a quick getaway.

Before noon I return to the house with that batch of garlic cleaned.

September 6, 2019

Though there was rain in the forecast I was hopeful it would hold off and I could finish up cleaning the last batch (about 100 bulbs) of garlic.

The sky was gray and the sun was hidden. Before getting started I took in some of the surroundings.

IMG_5732

Maple leaves are indicating that Fall is not far off.

IMG_5736

Squirrels have been collecting nuts.

IMG_5729

This sunflower with a fancy hairdo.

IMG_5735

The Norway Spruce that is loaded with pinecones.

IMG_5738

With the threat of rain it was not a good morning for cleaning garlic so my plan B was to work in the prayer garden.

IMG_5746

As I brought out my garden tools the rain began.

Perhaps plan C, canning tomatoes, is a better job for today.

Thanks for joining me. Are you seeing signs of Fall in your area?

 

Sweet Summer Time

I can’t believe July is nearly over. I certainly have been enjoying the summer weather we have had this past week, but I fear that summer will to be gone before I know it. I am trying to make a conscious effort to take at least a little time each day just appreciating what the season has to offer. Sometimes that involves taking a dip in the pond or kicking off my shoes and going barefoot in the lush green grass. Other times it involves observing nature in all of it’s glory. Last week it also involved a homemade blueberry pie. ☺

Below are some of my observations from the past week.

 That’s Just Ducky!

One day last week, when I was working in the prayer garden, I noticed we had a visitor in the pond.

In the past when we have had ducks visit they have not stayed long. This one doesn’t want to leave.

IMG_5414

I can’t say that I blame her as it is a very lovely environment. I am not sure what kind of duck she is so if you know please leave me a comment at the end of this post.

We don’t want ducks or other water foul living in our pond so we have made many attempts at letting her know she needs to leave.IMG_5415

At first I thought it would be as easy as letting Trooper chase her off, but as he entered the pond she swam quickly to the other end of the pond. Trooper lost sight of her and interest. As I walked around the outside of the pond to the area where she was swimming she again just swam to a different spot. My husband attempts at throwing small stones in the water near her didn’t seem to deter her either. She certainly is persistent!

Finally on Friday when I had family over for a picnic lunch I told my niece, as she and my cousin set out in the paddle boat, that their job was to chase the duck away. A while later my niece announced that the duck had flow away. Good Job Ashley and Abbey! It was maybe a couple of hours later, after we had finished our pond activities, that we saw her land in the pond again. Good Grief!!!

I do think that she has since gotten the message that we don’t want her there because now when she sees my husband or I approaching the pond she flies away – only to return when we are not around. Perhaps she figures “what we don’t know won’t hurt us – or her”.

Unapproved Housing!

So far this year I have written about robins building a nest in a flat of pansies and the sparrow who was raising her young in the middle of our strawberry patch but this is the oddest nest yet.

This past winter my husband noticed that what we assume was a confused woodpecker had made a hole in our U.S. Coast Guard approved floatation devise that our township requires be kept near the pond. It is not made out of wood!

IMG_5439

Last week he told me that he looked in that hole and saw what he thought was a sparrow inside.

IMG_5437

I decided to try to get a photo. As I approached a small bird flew out. It was similar in size and color to a sparrow but I noticed that it had a long pointy beak. After doing a little research I have decided it is probably a house wren. While it seems to have found a cozy home I am not sure that the U.S. Coast Guard would approve.

Birdseye View

Hawks soaring high above our farm is not an unusual sight; it’s just one that I have difficulty photographing. It does get concerning when their search area comes close the area where our chickens are foraging as we have had several chickens fall prey to hawks in the past. Such is the nature of allowing chickens to free range.

IMG_5461

As I watch the hawk gracefully circling I envy its view from above.

A Berry Good Year

While our garlic crop was disappointing this year, all of our berries performed beyond our expectations. As I have mentioned in previous posts it has been a wonderful year for strawberries, currants, cherries, and blueberries. Grapes seem to be following suit.

IMG_5431

One day last week I noticed that the grape vines were sagging. Upon further inspection we discovered that the top wire that supports the grape vines had broken.

 

IMG_5433

The vines are so heavy laden with fruit that the wire could not support their weight. My husband was able to place a couple of wooden stakes under the vines to keep them off the ground, but repairing the wire will have to wait until after the harvest.

If A Tree Falls and Nobody Is Around To Hear It Does It Really Make A Sound?

As of this writing that question will go unanswered.

IMG_5456

My husband was standing in the garden, perhaps 100 feet from this tree last Sunday when the storm came through. He estimated the wind gust at about sixty miles per hour. As he felt the gust, he heard a loud crack and watched the tree fall.

The dead ash tree has been standing dead in the wood line for several years and we have been waiting for the right winds to come along and bring it down. We can now cut it up to use for firewood this winter.

The Garden Was Busy This Morning

Perhaps I should say buzzy. The squash and pumpkins are blossoming heavily right now,

IMG_5445

and bees and other pollinators love squash blossoms.

 

IMG_5448

 

IMG_5446

It is not unusual to see two or more pollinators in the same flower.

 

IMG_5450

The bees were also foraging in the buckwheat.  They moved quickly from flower to flower and I was not able to capture a photo of one.

IMG_5453

We don’t harvest buckwheat but it does serve a dual purpose. It acts as a cover crop, enriching the soil in areas where we are not growing food. It also helps feed the bees.

Thanks for spending a little time with me. What are you doing to make the most of summer?

 

So Much To Say – So Little Time

In case you are wondering – tilling, feeding, watering, weeding, mowing, growing, picking, preserving, and even time for a little fun- that’s what we’ve been up too.

We are truly blessed – let me show you.

IMG_5324

The blueberries are coming on strong. We have picked and frozen about 5 quarts so far.

IMG_5376

I picked elder flowers to make tincture, but I haven’t got to the stinging nettle yet.

 

IMG_5374

The hot summer temperatures have done wonders for the garden. Weeding has been minimal but we have needed to water every few days.

 

IMG_5349

The prayer garden is in full bloom. It has also requiring watering and much weeding.

IMG_5307 (2)

The kids and grandkids came for a picnic. Berry picking (eating) was a hit with Addy. She loved strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.

IMG_5313

Jackson had been eating a chocolate cookie. The evidence is still on his face. Aunt Kara is amused by her little buddy.

 

IMG_5318

Hail! Hail! The gang’s all here! It happens so infrequently now days, that all four of my daughters are together, I always like to get a photo of them. ♥

 

IMG_5363

We are not the only busy ones. Check out this hive.

 

IMG_5352

I have spotted bees in the tickseed,

 

IMG_5368

on this marigold,

IMG_5377

and on the sweet clover. They are also foraging in the birds foot trefoil, the white clover,  Canadian thistle, oregano, lavender, and thyme.

We hope to harvest some honey soon. ☺

IMG_5347.JPG

Bonus Photo: Since this dragon fly posed so nicely for me how could I not include it?

If I seem to be MIA over the next week or two check for me in the garlic field. It’s time to start the harvest. Until next time – be well.

 

 

Filtering Bees Wax

This post was originally published in 2016.

IMG_1313
Honey Comb Inside A Warre’ Top Bar Bee Hive.

To clean the bees wax that we harvest with the honey from our hives I have seen and read about several methods. I first tried what I thought would be the easiest, which involved boiling the wax in water, allowing it to cool and then scraping all of the non-wax particles off the bottom of the hardened wax, it was exactly the way I would render lard or tallow. I was not happy with the results of this method for cleaning wax. I found that scraping the particles off the hardened wax was difficult, and it took several times repeating the whole process to get the wax as clean as I wanted it. The wax also lost it’s sweet bees wax fragrance.

I next decided to try one of the filtering method that I read about. I will start by saying that all of the pans and utensils that I use when working with wax are dedicated to working with wax. Once it is there the wax is extremely difficult if not impossible to wash off.

IMG_1331

I always start by rinsing the wax. Today my husband did this for me. The wax was in a five gallon bucket that has small holes drilled in the bottom. He took it outside and ran water from the garden hose though it until it seemed like most of the honey was rinsed out. I then just let it drip for a while.

There are two important things I will point out about rinsing the wax. The first one is never rinse the wax in the house. Beeswax is a very hard substance, its melting point is about 147 degrees Fahrenheit. A drain clogged with beeswax could be a very expensive fix.  The second is that once the wax is rinsed and drained as much as possible, it should be cleaned or filtered right away. If it is not possible to filter it within a few hours, I freeze the wax. The reason for this is that the wet wax will grow mold. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way last year and ended up throwing away quite a bit of wax.

IMG_1329

To melt the beeswax I use a double boiler or two old pans that stack together (again they are only used for this purpose). I put water in the bottom pan and the wax in the top pan. I heat the water and let it boil the water until the wax is melted.

IMG_1338When the wax is completely melted the non-wax particles can be filtered out. To do this I use a strainer lined with several layers of cheese cloth.

The strainer fits nicely into this old ceramic crockpot insert that I picked up cheaply at a Salvation Army thrift store. I pour the wax through the cheese cloth into the ceramic pot and then pour the filtered wax into some of my soap molds.

IMG_1340

As the wax hardens it looks like this.

IMG_1341

When it is taken out of the mold it looks like this. Some of the bars may still have some dark spots in the and will go through one more cycle of melt and filter.

 

IMG_1342

While I always use news paper on the counter, when working with wax, I have learned that the finished bars should not be placed directly on the newspaper because the ink will transfer from the paper to the wax.

I have read that one pound of beeswax holds 22 pounds of honey. These numbers are very close to the amounts of honey that we harvested and the wax that I filtered. Most of this wax will be used to make my balms and some may be used to make candles.

Not to have any of this valuable wax go to waste, we have begun using the cheese cloth, that is now coated with a wax film, as fire starter in the fire place. It works wonderfully.

Thanks for reading. ☺