May 30, 2011

The Latest Garden-scape

For 2011 this is how our garden has expanded. There is an entirely new garden-plot and (of course) bees. There are also a few more blueberries and a new blackberry patch. The fruit trees are pretty much the same, but we cut the top off the hemlock to get better sun in Garden 1 and we also did some major pruning to the old apple tree to remove the big vertical growth.
2010 garden
2009 garden
2008 garden
2007 garden
Not bad from where we started (what came with the house) in 2007.

May 29, 2011

The Bees are All Right

Latest check shows that there is a queen (below) and there are larva and capped brood so everything looks good. I think the scare is over.
Last week I swapped the position of frame 1 and 2 and frame 9 and 10 at the ends of the hive. I did this so the bees would not forget to build wax on them. My trick worked and every frame was ready to go this week, which means I could put another hive on top.

This is how the bees were acting mid-week. I think the new queen was on her mating flight and so the workers buzzed on the hive to spread pheromones to help he find her way back. Usually bees do not loiter around the front of the hive.

May 28, 2011

Alewives Running

The Alewives are swimming upstream! There is a fish ladder in Damariscotta/Newcastle where they bottleneck and you can get a good look at them as they ascend uphill. Yesterday was the first hot day of the spring and Karen, Alden and Darrell went to pay our regards to the swimmers.
The last time I saw the alewives migrate was about ten years ago. The fish ladder has developed a lot since then and there is even a campaign to develop it further. There's even a fish ladder celebration already in its fourth year. One of the best/worst developments is that they have put nets over the stream to keep predators from grabbing the fish, which makes photography difficult.
There are also a couple of basins on chains and motors that occasionally are activated and lucky fish get hefted upstream a ways.

May 25, 2011

Fixin' the Truck

On the edges of the spectrum there are repairs and patching. 'Repair' is getting as close to a restoration of original quality as you can manage, 'patching' involves making something functional with the least amount of effort. In the middle are stages of the 'fix'. There is 'fixing', 'fixin', 'fixun', 'fexun', 'pheksen' and so on. I would say I am somewhere around fixun the truck.
The truck accident last week TOTALED the truck, but for something like $600 I was able to retain ownership and get the insurance settlement. All the damage was to the truck bed (none to the frame) so my pal Darrell came by and we went at it with hammers and pry-bars.

The two best tools of the afternoon were the come-along, which we attached to a tree and then pulled the point of impact back to original position. This move fixed about 50% of the problem. The next best tool was a pipe we used to extend the handle on my ratchet set to remove the bumper and lift-gate bolts.
We made good progress and I ordered a new bumper, bumper-brackets, and driver tail-light. When they arrived I continued/ finished the fixun... and voila !

May 24, 2011

They see me Rollin'

He still gets distracted and drifts off the sidewalk, but all-in-all I am psyched that Alden is riding his trike.

May 23, 2011

Bee Confusion

The hive seems to be developing a little slowly because of the cool damp weather, but it is developing well, with new brood, pollen and nectar filling the comb. So it is distressing to see the queen cell still hanging on the frame... are the bees really discontent with their queen? Ilana and I love queen Isabella and hope they don't depose her. I suppose we are bee royalists.
There seems to be more bees in the hive (this is good) but the young bees are a little funny looking. Their eyes are kind of far apart and their heads are fuzzy.
We caught this little gal chewing her way out of the comb. Welcome to the hive newbe(e)!

May 22, 2011

2011 Groundhog

Here is the first groundhog of 2011
We noticed activity around some of the holes from last year, suggesting a new brood had arrived. About a week ago we baited the traps and put them out.

The rain and cool weather may have kept them underground until this point, but the sun yesterday and the overcast-but-not-rain day today got them out.
We took this one to Peacock beach as per the tradition. Alden was excited to see that the groundhogs were back and enjoyed taking him to the beach with me. Alden wanted to pet him, but we told him you only pet rabbits, not groundhogs.

May 21, 2011

Drone Bee

For those of you who do not know there are three kinds of bees in my hive. One queen, dozens of drones, and thousands of workers.

The queen is the most important, she lays eggs and creates pheromones
The workers are also important, they work all day and night all their lives making honey
The drones are male, they do not lay eggs, or work. They hang-out and eat, if a new queen needs to be mated they are useful, but they can go years without doing anything.

The plus side of drones is that they can easily be identified (Big eyes and non-pointy abdomen) and they do not have a stinger. So if their wings get wet you can pick one up and let it crawl around on your hand.

May 17, 2011

Trouble in Bee city

Last Saturday I checked the hive to see if everything was okay and found a queen cell (top middle). This is worrisome. A queen cell means that the workers are not happy with Queen Isabella and want to replace her.
At first we thought Isabella was killed or injured or missing, which would cause the workers to make a new queen, but we found her in the hive, so it is a confusing state of affairs.
IF Isabella is 'failing' then there are two options. Either let the bees sort it out themselves, or buy a new queen and re-queen the hive. We decided that since we don't know what we are doing we should make the bees some sugar-candy and hope they can sort things out.

We will watch the hive closely and if there is still worry by mid-June we will re-queen. Until then I hope they can settle the matter among themselves.

May 16, 2011

New Hampshire

We had a quick trip to New Hampshire this weekend. Scott came up to visit on Friday and Saturday and enjoyed the Friday Gardiner Artwalk and then helped with chores on Saturday.
Saturday night we drove to the Casa de Scott and slept over. On Sunday it was rainy and cool, but we still did farm stuff like look at chickens and ride the tractor.
There was also some extra tractor equipment in the barn we checked out.

May 8, 2011

Truck Broke

I was rear ended on my way home from work Friday. It was one of those guy-stops-quickly-to-make-a-turn-while-everyone-behind-him-slams-on their-brakes kind of deals. I didn't hit the car in front of me, and the guy behind me managed to steer into the soft shoulder and miraculously missed both my truck and a large tree. The guy behind him didn't realize what was going on and slammed into me. I wasn't hurt and neither was the man who hit me, but poor Mel really took it in the rear. She was carrying a whole load of composted manure back from Boothbay and she managed to get most of it home despite the accident. What a trooper! We really hope the insurance company doesn't scrap her.
On a happier note, the garden was manured this weekend, both by this load and by a huge pile of llama manure we bought from our neighbors and things are finally moving forward with the garden. Pictures soon.

May 7, 2011

Found the Queen!

Kerstin and I took stock of the frames in our hive to see how the little bees were getting on. I learned that they start building comb in the inner frames and work their way towards the outer ones. As such, most of the inner frames looked similar to the image above. The yellow-tinged comb is where the brood are reared. The combs are open while the larvae (white blob pictured below) develop. When the larvae pupate, the combs are sealed until the adult worker bee chews her way out of the comb. She then cleans her comb to make way for a new egg and takes a job as a nurse bee, feeding and tending to the larvae. Once she is older, she'll become a guard bee and eventually a forager. The capped comb at the top with the white wax cover is nectar that's being aged to become honey for feeding the baby bees developing below.

Kerstin took out each frame in turn and we examined both sides while taking note of the amount of comb construction, larvae, nectar, pollen and capped comb. We also took stock of drone vs. worker larvae. Most of the brood we encountered were worker brood with an occasional drone cell here and there. This is what you want to see in your hive because the drones serve little purpose other than being colony's testicles. Workers, on the other hand, are its lifeblood.
The workers peeked out at us as we removed their frames one by one, but remained calm and collected throughout the whole census. As someone who hasn't ever handled bees, I thought it was remarkable how well they tolerated the inspection.
We located our queen, Isabella, shown below at the bottom right with her attendants surrounding her. She has a much larger abdomen than the worker bees and unlike the striped abdomen of her daughters, hers is completely golden, . She was laying eggs on frame 7, which had not been fully drawn out. She seems to be doing her job making babies quite well. We may be ready for a new super in just a couple of weeks!

May 1, 2011

Two week bee check

The bees have been around for two weeks, so it is time for a check. We don't have any reason to think that they are in any trouble, but we have not looked in since the queen was released and wanted to make sure everyone was doing their jobs.
Today was a great day for bee-peaking. It was warm (70d) and the dandelions started to appear a couple days ago (when dandelions come up you can stop feeding bees sugar water). Kerstin took his time smoking the bees, which paid off. He puffed a few clouds under the lid and then kept the lid on for 30 seconds. when he took the lid off all the bees were down inside the frames being mellow.

We pulled out an outer frame first, which had some bees on it, but no work was being done.
The frames in the middle had the action. There are 10 frames in the hive with 2 sides per-frame. I would say that the middle five frames (10 sides) had a good amount of work done to them and were full of drawn comb, caped brood, honey and pollen. The outer frames (2 on each side) were pretty empty, but this is what the book said we could expect, so we were happy to see it.
We checked to make sure the queen was laying, and managed to see some larva in the comb. Everything looked legitimate so we put the frames back in a hurry. In hindsight we should have examined more and made some notes.
After the lid was put on I wanted to get another picture. The bees had already started coming to the frame-tops... the smoke was wearing off