Bees, so many, many bees

The hives owner (Son 2) purchased screen bottoms with slide out boards for the hives. He thought that is what he had purchased initially, but the hives came with a solid bottom base piece. Yesterday, my spinning friend/bee mentor came over to help me examine the hives and install the new screen bottoms with out the slide out boards for the warmer weather. We had the smoker but never lit it. The spring bees are so mellow, but busy. Lots of pollen pants on the girls as they flew into the hives. They are making honey in brooder frames so excluders and honey supers will soon be added. All the hives were active, we found 3 of the queens and evidence that all 4 have active queens. Every hive has a Queen cup or two that require watching. The hives look healthy, a few hive beetles that we smushed, no mites (knock on wood). She again gave me so many suggestions to make life easier for the bees and for maintenance. The bottom slide out boards need a rim to pull them from the slots as they will get stuck in otherwise so that will be done before they are installed late fall. She suggested a small vent slot in back end of the spacer to aid with ventilation. When the supers are added and the spacers are removed to place them, those slots will be cut. It would be nice if I had a battery powered jig saw, but mine has to be plugged in. Also she discussed a syrup feeder style that slips into the brood box like a frame that holds a gallon of syrup so it doesn’t have to be made quite as often. I don’t know what you do when it isn’t needed, I guess replace it with another frame. I am still using quart jars that sit outside the front of the hive.

Just before she came over, one of their hives swarmed, high up into the trees. While she was here, a second swarmed and her husband said it settled on their electric box so he set up to capture and move them as soon as she arrived home.

Before she arrived, one of the overstuffed 2 gallon bags of frozen tomatoes from last year was dumped in a sink of warm water, the skins slipped off and dropped in a big pot to simmer with herbs and seasonings while we worked. Two and a half hours later, there was a nice pot of pasta sauce awaiting. We had spaghetti and salad, a pint was frozen and 4 more pints were canned after dinner and put on the shelf to begin resupplying our canned goods. I have plenty of lids this year and need to begin to gather jars as the honey is going to need jars as well, and my supply is just about what I use to can sauces, salsas, and jams in each year.

The hens are producing about 8 or 9 eggs a day. One of the Marans thinks she is an ostrich and lays super jumbos that don’t fit in a carton and one of the Easter eggers often produces “oopsies” a tiny egg that is only an egg white.

And it is definitely asparagus season, cutting many spears each day to enjoy and share.

This week has brought news of the loss of two of our acquaintances, one was a neighbor who has been in very poor health for a number of years. He was my age. The other from my childhood. He was a son of the director at Shrine Mont when I was a child visiting there in the summer, about 11 years my senior, he was a teen and young adult then, later he became the director that replacing his Dad, and the father of the current director. I was told that he also had been in poor health for a while.

And the news this week included the deaths of two young college athletes, both good students, who took their own lives. Suicide is a topic that demands more discussion. As a retired school counselor, experiencing the suicide of a few students over the years, it is difficult to discuss, but it must to save the lives of people in distress.

A most excellent day

Thursday night, Son 1 arrived late and Friday was spent with him, as he made some repairs for us and we all took a walk. Friday in time for dinner, Son 2, a granddaughter , and the bees arrived. We visited, unpacked the pallet of boxes, frames, suits, and other accouterments needed for raising bees, and I found out that the two hives I thought we were starting with was actually 4 hives.

Hubby and I had purchased a post, ground rod, and pavers (for two hives) earlier on Thursday.

This morning, the work began, first pulling a huge pile of Autumn Olive bushes, clearing the space to set up the electric fence to surround the hives, and the guys pounded in poles and dug in the post while I goffered for them and prepped Easter Eve dinner for 10. When the post were set, I strung the electric wire and they determined that the charger wasn’t generating sufficient current to deter bears.

Daughter, her kiddos, her friend and his daughter arrived and we had a scavenger hunt style Easter Egg hunt for the kiddos. The two younger ones had clues from one egg to the next, finally to an Easter basket of mostly crafts. The two teens and Son 1 had escape room type puzzles to solve to move them from egg to egg and finally to their baskets. Son 1’s prize was Easter dinner, a huge spread with lots of delicious food, ham, roast beef, au gratin potatoes, green beans, asparagus, deviled eggs, rolls, and a honey cake with strawberries and whipped topping.

After we gorged, Sons 1 & 2 donned the bee keepers garb and moved two of the nucs down to install two of the hives. I sat at a reasonable distance and watched, one of the nucs had allowed a lot of bees into the net sack around it and that batch was angry, but settled nicely once their queen was in the hive. The second nuc may not be as healthy, though they did find the queen.

Sons at work in a cloud of angry bees

Then I got my jacket, gloves, and veil and Son 2 and I installed the third and fourth hives, he did one and showed me, then I did one. They were both healthy hives, though we didn’t see the queen in the last one, there was evidence of one.

Me setting up a hive while supervised.

These two were much calmer, but wow, what an experience to be setting up the hive with the swarms of bees surrounding you. He has two more nucs to take home tomorrow to set up two more hives there.

Today was great, all three kids, some of the grands, good food, good company, and a brand new experience and addition to the farm.

Market Day

We have snow showers in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow morning. They salted the roads yesterday which will send everyone scurrying to the grocer to buy up all the bread, milk, and beer (it is Super Bowl Weekend). I don’t drink, don’t need milk, can make my own bread or get it at the Farmer’s Market, so I will avoid the grocer. We supplied up on dog foods earlier in the week, but are having difficulty getting hubby’s preferred cola. The shelves have been stocked with lots of options, but not caffeine free diet and this has been an off and on problem all fall and winter. I don’t drink soda either, but it is his preferred beverage. I’m not braving a grocery today for it though.

My preorders were be ready at the Farmer’s Market and I scanned the other vendors to see if there was anything else I want. The Market was a zoo, too many people for my comfort level. Hubby wanted one thing for breakfast out that could be picked up and eaten in the car, I didn’t want that and figured to just get breakfast at the market. All of the lines were too long to wait, the local coffee shop near the market had people out the door, the local bagel shop near where we drop off eggs was mobbed. Fortunately, after trying two other places, we found one that I could get a bite and coffee. Weekly eggs were delivered, we took our walk and came home. There are a few chores to do like vacuuming, but there is an obstacle in my way.

The old guy won’t get up on his bed, but he does use it as a pillow and since we have to use a beach towel under his belly to help him get on his feet now, I don’t want to disturb him.

We may or may not leave the house tomorrow depending on whether we get a dusting or several inches, there is no need at our ages (or any age) to risk going out on snowy roads when unnecessary. I can always make chili for lunch or dinner. And since I got fresh cornmeal last weekend, corn bread is always favored, hot from the oven. I once ordered a tiny skillet of cornbread that was topped with goat cheese, it was maybe the best cornbread I have ever had, but have never been able to duplicate it.

This afternoon is Zoom day with the spindle group. A visit with them is in order as I missed last weekend because we went into town to get a pizza from a small chain restaurant but when we arrived the line was out the door. There was an indoor track meet with 4 Universities over last weekend and three hotels within walking distance. As we sat in an Asian fast food drive thru line instead, the waves of college students swarming around our car was a good indication that we had chosen the wrong night to get the pizza.

The month is almost half over, we will celebrate our 44th anniversary on Monday. Four years ago we were on a cruise to celebrate the 40th. Maybe someday we will be able to safely travel again. With only the couple of weeks behind me, I have already nearly finished my batt of colored wool that was my February spin challenge, have finished 25 grams of another fiber for my second blanket, knit two breeds on to the blanket. I have picked another fiber sample new to me to spin and it and plying the fiber below and the one for my blanket will occupy the rest of the month.

A relatively quiet weekend, just the two of us.