Showing posts with label Honey Bees. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Honey Bees. Show all posts

Thursday, September 5

Farming in the White House


This year the garden has been incredible! We owe that, in no small part, to the amount of time that Mr. White spent studying seed catalogs, perusing which varieties would be best for our growing season and climate, and generally taking the entire thing very seriously. The majority of our produce was started from seeds, which sat in our dining room from March on. All of which were either heirloom varieties or organic, specifically seeking those that were non-GMO.

What have we had going on this year in the garden? Tomatoes, carrots, apples, yellow squash, tomatoes, green beans, apples, beets, tomatoes, and garlic and tomatoes. Lots of tomatoes. Lots of apples. Our goal was to be able to get enough tomatoes to can our own sauces and salsa, and perhaps try to make our own ketchup.

DSC_0242As for the apples, we still haven’t picked anything off the trees. Matt has several crates of apples in refrigeration to turn into cider, and we’ve already canned a dozen quarts of apple sauce, and turned another half-dozen into apple butter {a favorite of Matt’s}.

We probably have enough apples still in the tree to fill several pallets full of apples. Next up is canning apple pie filling, or something along those lines for cobblers, crisps, and pies. The kids have just been picking apples up off the ground {I check them} and eating them. They are delicious! We, of course, have no idea what kind they are.

I also attribute a large part of the success of our garden to not being inundated with squash. Matt planted all of the squash in other parts of the yard, away from the delicate things, giving it room to just go crazy, which it will do with or without ones permission.

The other side of this is that I will actually venture into the garden, since the chances of seeing a snake amidst the raised beds is less likely. I do not like snakes. The one day we were in the backyard, barefoot, and I heard then saw a snake slither past a few feet away. I shrieked and bolted for the deck. Only to realize I should probably grab Henry, who had been standing next to me.


The only real issue we seem to be encountering with our garden is the two little urchins that keep stealing tomatoes. They pick one, no preference as to the ripeness, take one bite of it, and they’re done. We’ve gotten over this and have now taken to using them despite the bite marks. We have a baby corral on one side of the garden, which seems to give us a few more seconds to catch them before reeking more havoc.
The raised beds were great! This is the first year we’ve had them. In the past we’ve just had a plot about 12x15’ that contained everything, and the squash got crazy. We have the tomatoes, carrots, garlic, and beets in raised beds; we actually got carrots that were bigger than my thumb…a lot bigger.

The bees have been busy! I can’t wait to see how the bees are doing. We’re probably not going to take anymore off the hives, but Matt’s going to check how much comb they’ve drawn and then decide. When it’s a hot day, if you’re down by them you just smell this sickly sweet stench in the air…so much honey! But the bees need some for the winter.

Tonight there’s a frost warning; we spent about an hour picking what was ready to pick and covering everything else. It was delicious though: The cool air, the tang of leaves and rotting apples, damp grass between the toes. The sun glowing on the mountain side as it began to set. Perfection.

How’s your garden doing?
Did you notice, you even got a glimpse of me in my muck boots Winking smile I tell ya’ the pinnacle of fashion around here!

Wednesday, July 3

“Could you spare a small smackerel?” Winnie the Pooh

Last Fall I had shared with you about our honey bees. They survived the winter and we seem to have a relatively health hive! On and off during this Spring, Matt opened the hive once in a while just to see how things were going and to make sure there were no mice or snakes living in the boxes. We did have a few mice, but they left and haven’t come back. I can’t imagine why they would want to live with the bees.

bee-bearding In the Spring, Matt had put a couple of swarm traps in our trees, so that if the bees did swarm {meaning they decided to fly the coop, err hive, if they were too crowded} we wouldn’t lose them.

Our bees didn’t swarm, but they did do what is called “bearding”, which was kind of freaky looking, and if it was any other insect besides bees, would have been absolutely disgusting. I thought a took a picture of it, but I can’t find one (but here is one I found online).

Bearding is when the bees basically all gather together outside of a hive, literally hundreds or more bees. All of them flapping their little wings trying to cool down the inside of the boxes. It was pretty interesting to see.

During Matt’s inspections he noticed that the bees were going to town with the honey. He’s collected almost a gallon of honey so far,  and that was only from a few of the frames. I’m not sure how much we’ll get total, but let me just say, this stuff is delicious!


How do we get all the honey though? Matt scraps the whole frame down into a fine mesh bag, then it sits for as long as necessary, for all the honey to dribble through the beg. It’s been real fun! Under my desk is a 5 gallon bucket that constantly drips honey onto the floor, most of it goes in the bucket, but there’s a little puddle.

The next thing we have to figure out is how to collect the wax. I’ve been watching and reading a few different things, so one of these weekends when we have time we’ll try and purify some wax!

I asked Matt if we would have any to sell this year, and based on how much honey we use ourselves, it will be a few years before we have extra to sell. But someday….

Monday, March 18

March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb

In my experience, it’s usually the reverse that’s true. March teases us, letting us think that maybe, just maybe spring is around the corner…and then lambasts us with snow and horrible weather as the month wears on.

Last week (March 10th) we were outside for most of the afternoon, inspecting the “grounds” to see how things were coming along and what needed to be done, now that the nicer weather was coming.Sun Day

The bees were out, the dilly-daffols were beginning to poke up their heads, the sun was shining and the weather was beautiful.

A couple days later it was gray and rainy, everything turning to icky-sticky mud.


If my Oma were still alive, she would be freaking out over this child not only playing, but sitting in the mud :-)

And this is what it looks like outside, right now….DSC_0475

Yea….more snow. We’re supposed to be getting another 5-9”.

Thursday, September 20

"Eat honey, my child, for it is good." ~ Proverbs 24:13 Honey BeesLast year I shared how I was making beeswax candles. During the summer I had briefly mentioned our new “pets”, our {or I should say my husband’s) honey bees and promised a future post. Today is the day I make good on that promise.

For quite a few years Matt had talked about wanting to get bees, I just pawned it off as another of his ideals of being a Gentleman Farmer. This year he made good.

He started building a hive in March, ordered a hive in April, picked it up from the finger lakes in May. The thing with bees is, they really need to be fenced in, to prevent bears and other such critters DSC_0026from getting them {yes, we do have bears around here}. It was a win-win: Matt had incentive to fence the yard in and the yard was fenced in so that Ave could play.

All summer Matt’s been busy, well, as a bee, but he finally got to open up his bee hive a couple of weeks ago. I was lucky enough to secure a bee suit from a friend, so that I could document {aren’t I stylish?!}.
{All captions are below the picture}.


Opening the hive: We’re currently transitioning from a Langstroth Nuc {a smaller bee-family} Hive to a Warré Hive (the bottom 2 boxes). There are a lot of reasons as to why Matt has chosen this method. Warré hives are a much more hands-off method of beekeeping; allowing the bees to dictate comb construction.


The hive when opened…all the bees are busy! You can see the slats that are strung along the top of the box, allowing the bees to build their combs downward, as is their natural method.



The Warré Hive: Notice how the combs are not of equal sizes, they’re rather wavy and look like snakes.


Matt inspecting the bottoms of the comb.




in flight 1

You can see the clusters of pollen around their legs from their recent expedition.


Langstroth hive (the top box): You can see the previous beekeeper had plastic frames in which the bees would create their combs. The yell0w-brown stuff on the top is a combination of wax and propolis.

The comb is very square, you can see the space in which the bees are filling up the honey. If you notice, there is a large thing-y hanging off the bottom of the frame, that is the Queen Cell. It’s basically the Lady in Waiting’s room. Once the bees are “grooming” a new queen that is where she will reside, until it is time for her “coronation”.




The top has a film over it, which is the bees method of “capping” each comb that has been filled with honey. It’s their way of keeping the honey they’ve made from fermenting. The bottom 2/3s of the frame is where they are currently storing honey. Once it has been dried they will then cap each cell of honey.

We won’t be getting any honey or wax from our bees this year. We need to give them time to grow and develop themselves. If we were to harvest, they wouldn’t make it through the winter, as the honey is their food. In the next few weeks we’re getting a couple hundred bulbs (tulips, daffodils etc) to plant near the hives for the bees. Hopefully, providing them with some new food once the flowers begin to bloom.

I have to admit. I wasn’t that excited by having bees, but now, having looked at their hives and how they work, it has been fascinating. Ave loves sitting down by the hives (we have a wire fence around them) and watching the bees going in and out. There is definitely something to the phrase, “Busy as a bee!”
If anyone has any questions about honey bees, Matt is more than willing to answer them. Oh, and just a note. Matt’s actually allergic to bees: He’s never been stung by our bees. Honey bees are very docile, once they sting you, they die.