April 30, 2011

Garden Prep

Over the last few days, the temperatures have been warm enough and the the soils moist enough that the grass practically greened before our eyes. And almost immediately afterward came the shocking revelation lawn mowing season was upon us and we hadn't even prepared our potato plot. Time to get our butts in gear.

Kerstin burned the brush pile that was situated right where we planned to put our potato and squash/melon patch right before Alden and I left for Passover. The wood was still green and it had rained a whole bunch, thus we managed not so much a burn pile as a smoke pile that smoldered for a few hours and then wimped out. Seeing as we were picking up bees the next day and our pile was immediately upwind from their hive, we had to burn under less than optimal conditions. Enough brush burned that we felt we'd made a dent, but there was too much left behind to simply till it in. Kerstin worked all yesterday evening and this morning moving the remaining charred branches to our new pile further back in the yard.
Burn pile before...
Garden plot after! Kerstin tilled in the smallest pieces of charcoal, and lawn to create one large, new garden plot. Hooray for husbands!! I trenched the perimeter to allow fencing to be placed about 1 foot below ground and Kerstin put in the posts and the fence itself. We should be ready to plant our potatoes within a week or two.Alden and I picked up our potato order from Fedco today and I'm so excited about the varieties we're trying this year. Left to right: Yukon Gold, Romanze, Adirondack Blue, Adirondack Red, and Desiree. I've also ordered some northern-adapted sweet potatoes that will join these guys in the plot in mid May.
Alden got his first tractor ride of the season and had a great time wearing his industrial ear protection.
We grew kale in a corner of one garden last year and it self seeded, almost to a ridiculous degree. The emerging seedling cohort looks and feels like a lush ground cover. They have practically taken over a whole row of our garden.
The first asparagus shoots are starting to emerge. It's officially spring!

April 25, 2011


Easter Sunday!

Saturday was rainy and cold and I spent most of the day mad at the weather for not being cooperative for yard work. Sunday was great however, and we spent the first part of the day faffing about the garden, raking leaves and planting seeds.
We started getting ready for Easter guests around 2pm and by 3 folks started showing up.
We relied on Karen to bring the holiday cheer (eggs to hide) which she was happy to do.
Karen brought a basket of six plastic eggs, two cardboard eggs, a frog and one metal egg. Before she came inside our house she scattered them around the yard for Alden to find. Darrell came by with a giant Kinder egg with seven smaller eggs inside... Very awesome.
It turns out that Alden did not need all of the eggs. After he found all the ones Karen 'hid' we just walked around the yard hiding the same egg over and over. Wander wander wander. Hey Alden, is that an egg over there? Alden looks to the left. Drop the egg that was in my pocket next to the tree. Alden looks back and sees the egg. An Egg! Alden picks up egg and looks inside. Alden hands egg to me for safe keeping. I put egg in my pocket. Repeat.
We also had some good bee looking time. It was a warm day and they were nice and active.
All in all it was a lovely, quiet, Easter.

April 23, 2011

Passover 2011 - Trip to the D.C. Zoo

Alden and I did Passover in Maryland at my Uncle Rob's and Aunt Kay's house again this year. Like last year, Kerstin had to teach a class and was unable to join the fun. This was my nephew Levin's first Passover trip and the first time that he and Alden have been old enough to enjoy each others company. They got acquainted by playing on Rob's exercise bike.
We then sallied forth out to the zoo in D.C. We took a train into the city, which both boys thought was pretty great. It culminated in the largest escalator ride that Alden had ever experienced. I think we had to climb about 5 or 6 stories to get back to the surface. Alden's mind was completely blown.
At the zoo, we rented a double buggy for the kids to get around and they had a great time mostly sharing snacks. Alden helped himself to Levin's stash of Cheerios and Goldfish, but made sure to give some back to Levin. "One for me... one for baby Levin". Levin was satisfied with this arrangement, although I'm confident Alden ate more than he shared.We also met up with Alex's (Ben's girlfriend) brother Greg, who has a plush government job giving tours at some big house on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. He and his girlfriend April also joined us for the first night of seder. My cousin Sarah was back in the states for a brief respite from her veterinary studies in Scotland.
Alden's favorite animals were the meerkats and tamarins and other little creatures in the Hall of Small Mammals. The bigger animals (lions, apes, elephants, etc.) were a big yawn for him. Levin seemed to be more interested in a wider variety of critters.
At the end of the day, both boys got pretty tired and that's when the squabbling in the buggy began. Alden was banished from his seat when he started hitting Levin, and Levin passed out shortly thereafter so Alden got his place back. He then promptly fell asleep within minutes of the deadline to return the buggy. Luckily, Uncle Ben had the arm and back strength to carry Alden a mile or two uphill back to the train station. Both cousins had great naps on the way home.

My camera ran out of battery life shortly thereafter and since I forgot my charger, I don't have any more images of Passover. I should be receiving more from other family members soon and I'll post them as they come in.

April 21, 2011

The Queen is Free!

After work I rushed home to check on how the queen was doing. The bees were upset that I was checking in on them. It was 41 degrees F today and windy, which is too cold for my bees, so they did not appreciate me lifting the top off their house. I managed to grab the queen box however and -- hurray! The queen was out.
I suspect she was in the hive leading the bees on activities. I hope so anyway. I won't know for a few more days. When I check the hive again hopefully there will be drawn comb with little bee eggs. If I see that I can rest easy for awhile.
I am not sure how I could have avoided this blunder, but putting the queen box between the frames separates the frames and creates a big enough space to build extra comb.
Instead of making comb on the frames provided, the bees decided to get creative. The smaller comb pictured above was on the queen's box and the larger comb was hanging off the side of a frame. The bees got snarky when I took their comb away, which is understandable. I was impressed with the amount of work they did in five days, but if unchecked it would have caused big problems. In hindsight the queen was probably on the comb when I yanked it which likely led to to the colony snarkiness. I didn't get stung, but one bee really wanted to get to me through my glove.

In any case it looks like things will be better and now that I've removed the creative comb and queen box, the bees are on the right track. I will check in on the little ladies in a few days.

April 19, 2011

Queen Check

When starting a hive with a new queen the instructions are to check the hive in three days to see if the queen has been let out of her queen-box,

There is a 'candy' plug (the white stuff) that the queen and her bee sisters eat through to make a little tunnel for the queen to escape. This is done so the queen and the workers have time to get to know each other in the new hive (accept the queen).
My favorite tool so far is the paintbrush. I can sweep the bees where I want them without hurting them or upsetting them too much.
Here is the hive on day three. The queen-box is wedged between the two frames about 3/4 the way to the far end. It is where the gap-space between the frames is connected with bees.
The queen was still in her box, but it loos like they had made good progress eating through. I will give them another day and a half and check again. When I put the queen-box back I dropped it in the bottom of the hive. I used a piece of bent wire to retrieve it instead of putting my hand in the hive. I feel like a bit of a wimp about that but I think it was the right thing to do.
I was able to grab the little piece if wire-mesh hanging from the box with my wire. As you can see, the bees have already started making comb on it. I didn't have the heart to take it off.
Later in the day I got to see my bees kick-out a small half wasp half bee looking thing from the hive. I also got to see bees returning to the hive with pollen (pictured above). Which is impressive since not much is blooming yet.
Since Ilana is gone I took the liberty of moving this bush, which I have been wanting to transplant for about a year. It is a privacy bush to keep people on the street from seeing my bees... a modesty shrub. As you can see it is pretty big and and transplanting it might kill it, but I am glad I did it.

April 18, 2011

New Hampshire Bee prison

Scott keeps his bees in a big cage to keep the bears away. These pictures are for uncle Rob, who started keeping bees before any of us and wants to take it back up... but the bears keep assaulting his hives. I hope these pictures give you some good ideas.

Note the center post, to keep the top fence from caving in when the bears climb on top of the cage.

April 17, 2011

Zom -Bees

Yesterday, after I installed my package of bees, I left the box they came in by the front of the hive. This was so the bees that weren't shaken out could climb/fly into their new home at their own speed. I then took Ilana and Alden to the airport (around 3:30) and when I got back all the bees in the box seemed to be dead. It was still and quiet and none of the bees were moving. It was in the low forties yesterday and windy and pretty cold so I figured they got stressed and I was a bad bee keeper for losing around 200 bees on my first day. I brought the box inside, thinking that one or two bees might still be alive and I could reunite them with their family tomorrow. I put the box (with a cover on the opening) on the kitchen counter and over about three hours all the bees woke up and started buzzing angrily. When I turned off the kitchen light and they calmed down. When I went back in the kitchen to get a sandwich they all got upset and made their high-pitched, back-off-pal buzz. Anyway I am glad they are alive and I need to figure how to get them to their hive today despite the rain and wind storms...

Here are the remaining bees that I thought were dead . I I am calling them zom-bees. Fortunately, there was a break in the bad weather and I timed putting the zom-bees out really well. They all went into the hive by 3pm. I am a good bee keeper after all.

April 16, 2011


Here we are Friday . I took the day off work and set up the bee boxes on their stand. Alden helps by sticking a screwdriver in the extra escape hole of the hive. On Saturday the bees arrive. I bring them home and chat with them over a cup of coffee. Alden and Ilana welcome them as well. A package of bees has about three pounds of bees in it, which amounts to about 10,000 all together, although I didn't count. They are all huddled like that because they are cold. Despite being mid-April it was only about 45 degrees F on that day. I thought we had some good video of me banging the bees out of their box into their hive, but my doing that coincided with Alden deciding he was scared of our neighbors totally friendly and harmless dog. So Alden was being wrangled and soothed and the moment was not captured. After I poured the bees into their hive I gave them some food (sugar water) and medicine and put the box outside the hive so the remaining stragglers could find their way in. Here is a close-up of them checking out their new home.

April 1, 2011

April Fools Weather

Three days ago here is the scene. Sun is out, the porch is warm, little sprouts are coming up... It is so warm Alden feels compelled to take his clothes off and streak around.
Actually Alden will take is clothes off and streak around for any number or reasons, but in this case I do believe it was because of the warmth.

Here is the picture today.
We got about a foot of heavy, wet, sloppy snow. The high today was 32 degrees.
In four days they say the high will be 54 degrees, but it is a hit to the psyche to have to shovel the driveway one last time after you thought you were done with that nonsense.