Category Archives: Bees

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.

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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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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,

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and bees and other pollinators love squash blossoms.

 

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

 

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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.

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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.

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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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. ♥

 

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

 

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I have spotted bees in the tickseed,

 

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on this marigold,

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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. ☺

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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As the wax hardens it looks like this.

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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.

 

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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. ☺

Beginning Of Summer Farm Update

It’s been just a few days since summer arrived, but for once the weather seemed to coincide with the calendar. The heat that we have been getting has served to dry things up nicely so things are looking much better at the farm.

STRAWBERRIES

Despite the cool, rainy spring our strawberries did well. We have been picking berries for about two weeks now.

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These berries were from the first day we picked. Since then we have picked about 60 quarts of strawberries. They seem to be slowing down but we will probably be picking for the next couple of days at least.

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Besides eating fresh strawberries (even some right in the field as we pick) we have enjoyed them in fruit salad, as strawberry short cake with homemade whipped cream, I made nine pints of strawberry jam, and we have about 15 quarts in the freezer. We have also been able to share them with family and friends.

As we were picking berries on that first day we came across this well hidden nest in the middle of the patch.

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We had no idea what type of eggs they were and we hadn’t seen a momma bird around at all.

Then a few days ago when my husband was picking berries alone he called to tell me that the eggs had hatched. He also said that momma sparrow was watching him from the fence.

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Yesterday as we picked she stayed on the nest until I took her photo.IMG_5252

I think that startled her and she quickly flew away, so I was able to get a photo of her young.

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Although there were five eggs in the nest I could only make out four babies.

GARDEN

Over the last two weeks we were able to get the garden planted. Although planting conditions were less than ideal we planted cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, squash, pumpkins, basil, parsley and more tomatoes. We also put in carrot, beet, and Swiss chard seeds.

The plants that we put in seem to be taking hold but the seeds that only went in a few days ago have yet to sprout.

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This year we decided to use weed guard around many of the plants. This product is a thick organic paper. It will help keep moisture in and weeds down. It will also break down over the course of the summer and can be tilled into the soil.

Having been unsure when or if we would be able to plant a garden at the farm this year I had planted sweet peas and pole beans in containers and they are growing on our deck.

The peas which were planted several weeks before the beans are now producing pods and the peas are growing inside of them. I picked a few of the pods that had not began to fill out and added them to my beef stew a couple nights ago.

BEES

As always we have been keeping an eye out to see where the bees are foraging. We have seen them in the clover, chives, thyme, and raspberries.

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Last Saturday while my husband and son-in-law were doing some fishing I was moving some bricks with the tractor (I love driving the tractor) and I noticed this swarm of bees in a pear tree. Christmas in June! LOL!

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The guys finished up their fishing and my husband prepared to capture the swarm. We helped him set up the new hive and he got out all of the equipment he would need.

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The swarm was located within reach so he had no need for a ladder.

The hive these bees were placed in is a warre top-bar hive. Since there are no frames to remove and the top bars run across the top of each box it was necessary to have the box upside-down pour the bees in. Then he covered it with a piece of cardboard while he returned to the pear tree to gather the remaining bees.

The bees that did not get captured the first time around were collecting back on the tree limb so he gave them a little time to settle before shaking them into the bucket and taking them to their new home.

After pouring the remaining bees into the hive box he again covered it with the cardboard. then Ken helped him hold the cardboard in place as he flipped the box over and placed on top of the lower box. He then slid the cardboard out so the top box sat directly on the lower box.

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CHICKEN

I thought I would include one last picture just because I thought it was cute.

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Not all of our chickens have names but there are a select group that have earned their names. This one is Honey. She is one of three surviving chickens from our very first batch of chicks in 2013. She earned her name by being friendly and lovable. She is at the top of the pecking order, and while she is rarely mean to other hens she pretty much rules the roost and the bumper as the case may be.

I will leave you with this – one of my favorite scriptures.

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“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

Has summer arrived is your part of the world?

Bee Day

Today is bee day at our farm. It is the day that the honey bees that we ordered have arrived and we must set them up in their new homes (hives). This year, as in the past two, we ordered our bees from Osage Bees in Avoca, MI. Osage Bees do not raise the bees here in Michigan. Instead they take orders from local customers then travel to Georgia where they pick up the bees and bring them back to Michigan. We find this to be a great option for acquiring bees, especially after our tragic mail order experience a few years back.

Our order was for five 3 pound packages of bees.

This is what three pound packages of bees looks like. There is an estimates 9000 – 12,000 bees in a three pound package.

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The bees are huddled together in a ball surrounding the queen cage to keep her warm and protected.

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There are a few dead bees in the bottom of each package but that is to be expected.

My husband did all the hiving today, but I wanted to be there to take some photos to share with my readers. You won’t see me in the photos, but in case you are wondering I was wearing a bee suit similar to the one my husband has on.

Before I get into todays activities I should mention that a lot of the prep work has been done over the last few weeks. That involved making sure that we had five hives ready (clean, assembled and set in place).

This morning when he went to pick up the bees I made syrup that we would use to feed the bees for the first week or so. We generally don’t like to feed sugar syrup because it does not have the nutrients that the bees would get from nectar or from honey.  We try to keep enough extra honey on hand to be able to feed the bees if necessary, but this year we did not have enough honey to make that happen.

I will also say that there are many methods for hiving bees and for bee keeping. What is right or wrong is largely a matter of opinion, and what works for one bee keeper may not work for another. If you have seen things done a different way or do things differently feel free to ask why we did what we did.

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Before opening the package of bees my husband opened up the hive that he would be putting the bees in. He also removed the center two frames to make room for the bees.

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He next removed the small piece of wood that sealed the top of the package shut. Removing the piece of wood gave him access to the feeder can. The feeder can has syrup in it and small holes that the bees can suck the syrup out of. There is enough syrup in the can to keep these bees alive for several days. This can was still pretty full.

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As he removed the can he remembered to slide the small piece of wood over the hole because he still wasn’t ready for the bees to come out of the package.

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The next step was removing the queen cage. The queen cage is a very small box with screened sides that contains the queen bee and a few attendant bees. The queen is kept separate during travel to protect her. The safety of the queen is of utmost importance because a hive can not function without a queen.

You don’t get to see the actual queen cage because many worker bees were clinging to the cage. Protecting their queen is a large part of their job. Because it was chilly outside my husband held the queen cage in the hive while shaking and brushing the excess bees off.

The next thing he did is not recommended practice, but because of his schedule for the next few weeks it was necessary. He placed the queen cage in the hive and removed the screen so that the queen could get out.

Normal procedure would have been to keep the cage intact and allow the worker bees to get her out by eating the sugar candy that is used to plug one end of the cage. This process usually takes a few days but it is important to check after a few days to make sure she is out. My husband is just not going to have the time to do that check.

 

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After the queen was in the hive my husband emptied the rest of the bees into the hive. In past years when we have done this we have found that when the package is open many bees are eager to get out and bees begin flying out and around the area. Our experience today was different. Presumably because of the cool, cloudy weather the majority of the bees stayed in a ball – huddled tightly together.

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Shaking the package

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and smacking it on the bottom is what needs to be done in order to get the bees out of the package.

There are usually a few bees left in the package so he sets the package on the ground next to the hive so they will find their way in.

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Since we don’t like to open our hives often and disturb the bees he adds a queen excluder and a honey super (the third box). He then put the feeder on top and puts sugar syrup in it, before placing the top on the hive.

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This one is finding it’s new home.

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As I was taking pictures I felt something tickling my hand. I looked down and found this girl checking me out.

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She  seemed to be tasting my skin but certainly had no ill intentions. One of the precautions we take when working with the bees is to not wear anything scented (perfumes, deodorant, hair care products) as the bees might be attracted to it.

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So maybe I am just that sweet. LOL!!!

I only stayed around for the first hive but my husband repeated this with each of the other four hives.

He then reported to me late this afternoon that all of the hives were active and after the sun came out there were busy bees all over the dandelions.

This was a good day!