Monthly Archives: May 2012

First Hive Inspection

The first hive inspection, performed with my bee mentor Deborah Gideon, was fascinating. I’ve been to open hives before, but to have an up close and personal view of my own hives was so cool. A bee colony is really something to admire, all the organization and effort that goes into their minute by minute existence.

Hive One (“the blue hive”) – found eggs and brood in all stages and supersedure cells (one developed but not capped and one immature). It turns out it might be a good thing if  the colony is replacing the queen, at least according to what I’m reading on bee source. I’m determined to let nature take its course as long as it means loss of honey not bee life. On an end note on the blue hive – great news, because the bees had filled most of the deep (first box) we added a medium! This is great news for honey production (keeping fingers crossed). (pics from inspection below)

Mediums prepped (unfortunately, only the blue hive was far enough along to warrant adding one)

Hive Two (“the gray hive”) – we think is queenless and the colony is in the process of replacing her. There was no sign of a queen or eggs, one (or two) supersedure cells were found (one deconstructed) and the bees were far more agitated (a sign things are not all well). That said, we are going to check back in 8-10 days to see what’s happening. Deb, whose been a beekeeper for several years, was not worried so I’m not either. I’ll just keep feeding them and hoping the next inspection goes well and I don’t have to introduce a new queen.  Deb’s assessment, and I agree as this is the natural approach, it is it will be better in the long run to have a queen the colony made that one they don’t know. It can just set back honey production a few weeks.  (no pics from this inspection)

The hives after a week and two days:

Queen cage and catcher (hopefully I’ll need these for my second inspection to mark the queen bee in each hive)

Keeping up with the Girls

Week four had the chicks moving into their coop!!  They are happily ensconced in a spacious abode (their run will be finished this week) with a view of outdoor life, and I after a couple hours cleaning now have a home primarily free of dust and chicken poop. A day before I knew they’d be moving outside (because it was the right thing to do – they were getting too big for their brooder), I felt a bit like a mother hen sending her gals off to university. Granted this academic institution would be a few yards away, but still…they were leaving the nest heading out to the unknown. As it turns out they are enjoying their space and I, with the teary-eyed exception of today’s episode when I came face to face with a  garden snake (ugh, I even hate writing that reptilian funk’s name out) am as well. Truthfully it had more to fear than I, though I was sure it was something like that Jennifer Lopez film’s villain in Anaconda that eats whole houses.

The smallest of the chicks, a Buff Orpington who I named “Sylvia” after Sylvia Plath (she has primarily been a loner since the start) is truth be told my favorite. She loves to be held and will stay in my hands as long as I allow. She’s calm there and just so simply sweet. The Australorps are becoming friendlier and some will not fight me picking them up (which I don’t force as I don’t want to create a negative experience between us). All in all things are going well. I look forward to their run being finished this week and sharing photos of their new home. A few pics of them in it for now….

Happy (almost) Memorial Day Weekend

Next Monday the United States of America will observe Memorial Day and remember the men and women whose lives were taken often several decades too soon. Daughters and sons, husbands and wives, who walked or rode horseback a few hours from home or flew 7,000 miles into arid plains where lawlessness reins day and night. While I may question the cause in some circumstances (truth be told, I limit my intake of news to BBC headlines and the occasional Sunday edition of The New York Times), I always support the troops.

I sleep more soundly at night knowing U.S. Special Forces help keep terrorists at bay protecting U.S. and foreign civilians from attacks, am grateful there are able men and women protecting our borders (it’s a sad reality that this is necessary and sadder still some politicians take advantage of it by glossing over realities for their own agendas i.e. the invasion of Iraq) and cannot begin to imagine the sacrifices, challenges and deadly risks military men and women and their families face every day.

I’m not going to launch into the lyrics of a Toby Keith song, but I believe in putting your hand over your heart and standing during the national anthem and think my generation and younger ones need to do more to support the troops. With the exception of a fleeting few months where I thought President Obama might actually be true to his tagline of CHANGE And HOPE, I could not be more disappointed in our politicians.  The less hope I have in our government the more I believe we need to support our soldiers, sailors and airmen who give so much to this country. It’s as if they are sent out into the wild at night with nothing but a beginner’s manual and told to stand up. Cogs of the Washington, D.C. war machine.

So after the baseball, Indianapolis 500, beer and barbecue..while you are wrapping up the red, white and blue streamers…truly give pause to think how little you could do that would be giving so much to those with the daunting task of protecting what we hold so dear. They stand so we can sit in the shade, sip our iced tea and watch our loved ones grow old.

How to support our nation’s service members:

When you see someone in uniform thank them for their service. It’s free, takes a few seconds and will make their day and likely yours too.

Write letters or send care packages to soldiers – visit  www.army.mil/howyoucanhelp.  I adopted a friend of the family’s platoon when he was stationed in Iraq a couple years ago and just adopted another platoon via contacts made from this site a month ago.  For the next several months (as long as they are deployed) I’ll send packages with DVDs, Ziploc Bags, Batteries, Air Fresheners, Toiletries (shampoo, shaving gel, toothpaste), Hard Candies, Chewing Gum, Gummy Snacks and Pringles. Thanks to Rock City Roasters, I was able to send over several pounds of coffee, and a local video store and friends in the film business are ensuring these soldiers get a box of new DVDs a month. People can be SO supportive if you give them the chance!  Time wise this is a trip to Target or Walmart and UPS. Cost wise (including contents and greatly discounted postage) we’re talking around $100 a month, but that’s me…your boxes don’t have to be so big and you don’t have to send as many. I can’t help myself. I love supporting the troops, it selfishly makes me feel good.

Wounded Warrior Project – donate to this amazing organization providing unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.

Top image CSU Pueblo.

Recipe of the Week: Martha Hall Foose’s Copper Pennies

It should be noted Martha Hall Foose’s Screen Doors & Sweet Tea and A Southerly Course are two of the most important cookbooks in my collection. I’ve cooked more from each of those than most others combined. If it is Southern food  you want look no further than Mrs. Foose. Her recipes are accessible, dishes you actually make. While Edna Lewis and the Lee Brothers cookbooks sit on my shelves (I love them all), Foose’s are the ones I regularly pull out and reference for the week’s meals.

There is a fun story behind this recipe for Copper Pennies from her most recent cookbook A Southerly Course. (as exerted from her book) The rhyme that goes “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue and a silver sixpence in her shoe” has sent many a bride down the aisle. A sixpence is hard to come by these days, so many brides in these parts (Mississippi) use a copper penny from the year they were born to help ensure a prosperous marriage, good luck and protection against want. A few have a trinket for their charm bracelet made after the honeymoon. Foose goes on to recommend “Cutting carrots into rounds and marinating them in the dressing gives them a burnished look like copper pennies. It’s nice to serve this at engagement parties celebrating a bride-elect.”

Nucleus Colony Install

Yesterday I installed two nucleus colony (nuc) of bees into two hives on my property. Nucs are small honey bee colonies created from larger colonies. The first install went perfectly, the second not so much. All is well now, but here’s the rundown (or a recap for all those who ended up on the phone with me yesterday afternoon for a play-by-play).

The instructions from Bee Pride and in CAPS what I did.

Before coming to get your nuc, make sure your hive is already. That means painted & set up in position. You should have a feeder (with 1:1 sugar & water) ready at room temperature.

DID (TWO OF THESE WERE IN MY CARE)

Drive directly home making sure they get adequate ventilation and they are positioned so they won’t fall over.

NO WAY WAS I STOPPING. TOOK ABOUT AN HOUR TO GET HOME, MAYBE A FEW MINUTES MORE SINCE I TOOK THE TURNS A BIT SLOWER ON THE RETURN.

Install nuc as soon as possible when you get home depending on the time of day & the weather.

GORGEOUS DAY, ABOUT 11:00 A.M. LIGHT WIND. GREAT TIME FOR INSTALL.

When you arrive home set the nuc box next to the hive.

DID

Put on your protective gear & you can remove the screen to let them fly.

DID (HERE’S WHAT THE SCREEN LOOKS LIKE AS REMOVED WITH THE HIVE TOOL)

Lightly smoke the colony. Remove all frames from your hive box.

LIT THE SMOKER, THEN WENT TO OPEN THE NUC BOX. HERE’S WHERE THE FIRST, YOU DON’T READ ABOUT THIS IN ANY MANUAL PROBLEM CAME UP. THE NUC BOX WOULD NOT OPEN WITH A HIVE TOOL, BECAUSE IT WAS SCREWED SHUT. AWESOME. TO BE CLEAR, IT WAS MY RESPONSIBILITY TO NOTICE THIS BEFORE LIGHTING THE SMOKER AND REALLY UNDOING THE MESH WITH ALL MY GEAR ON.  THOUGH NOT WEARING A FULL-BODY PROTECTIVE BEE SUIT, I WAS WEARING RAIN BOOTS WITH KNEE HIGH SOCKS, JEANS, TWO OXFORDS TUCKED IN, A LONG-SLEEVE SHIRT, HELMET/VEIL AND GLOVES. I WAS SWEATING! IT WAS IN THE MID TO UPPER 70S SUNNY AND I WAS A LIMITED AMOUNT OF TIME AND WATER AWAY FROM HEAT EXHAUSTION. OKAY, RAN BACK INTO THE BARN (THANK EVERYTHING THESE HIVES WERE AT MY HOME, OTHERWISE MAJOR PROBLEMS) GRABBED A SCREWDRIVER AND UNSCREWED THE TOPS OF THE NUC BOXES. OKAY, PHEW THAT’S DONE LET’S GET THIS GOING. NOPE, NEED TO RE-LIGHT MY SMOKER AND WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT NEWBIE BEEKEEPER THAT I AM I NEED TO REPLENISH THE DRY PINE NEEDLES AND GET MORE MATCHES (NOTE, CHECK MATCHBOX AND CARRY ONE MORE FULL THAN EMPTY). ANOTHER TRIP TO THE BARN AND VOILA SMOKER IS LIT. I GAVE A COUPLE LONG GENTLE PUFFS OF SMOKE AND WAITED A MINUTE.

Gently move the nuc frames into the hive box making sure they are in the same position. Then center them in the hive and add the rest of your frames & foundation or drawn comb. If you have drawn comb, put that next to the bees & foundation on the outside.

DID THIS FOR BOTH AND HAD NO PROBLEM. I WAS ACTUALLY REALLY PROUD OF MYSELF FOR BEING SO CALM AND ENJOYING THE PROCESS.

Check the nuc box carefully for the queen. Tap the corner of the box on the ground and shake or pour the remaining bees onto the hive box frames & give them a minute to go down or smoke lightly.

DID NOT CHECK FOR THE QUEEN, SOMETHING I WILL DO IN A FEW DAYS DURING THE FIRST INSPECTION. OKAY, SO THE TAP AND SHAKE…WELL THAT WAS FINE ON THE FIRST HIVE BUT NOT SO MUCH FOR THE SECOND. WITH THE SECOND I REALIZED THE BEES (AND I STILL DON’T KNOW WHY AFTER INSPECTING THE NUC BOX) WERE NOT COMING OUT OF THE OPENING WHERE THE MESH WIRING HAD BEEN. I REMOVED ANOTHER SECTION OF WIRE AND WAITED. THIS TIME THEY CAME OUT. WHEN INSTALLING A NUC I WAS TOLD IF YOU DON’T CREATE THIS RELEASE IN ADVANCE OF OPENING THE BOX THEY WILL ALL FLY UP. WELL, I FOR ONE IN NO WAY WANTED THAT EXPERIENCE. SO I WAITED A MINUTE WHILE RE-LIGHTING THE SMOKER (NOW MY KIT INCLUDES A FULL BOX OF MATCHES AND A CONTAINER OF DRY PINE NEEDLES). AFTER REMOVING THE FRAMES THOUGH I FOUND A LOT OF BEES STILL ON THE BOTTOM. WAY MORE THAN THE FIRST BOX. NO DOUBT THIS WAS A RESULT OF THEM NOT HAVING MORE TIME TO GET THROUGH WHERE THE WIRE HAD BEEN REMOVED. SO I DID WHAT I REMEMBER SEEING IN THE NUC INSTALL VIDEO AND HAD A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE THAN SAY THE MASTER BEEKEEPER. I, THE NOVICE BEEKEEPER MADE THE ABSOLUTE NOVICE COULD KICK MYSELF I WAS SO STUPID MISTAKE OF PROBABLY TAPPING A BIT TOO HARD WHILE STANDING IN FRONT OF THE ENTRANCE. LET’S GIVE THIS AWESOME TWO EXCLAMATION MARKS!! I GOT STUNG AND THAT MOTHER HURT!  ON MY INNER-THIGH, WHERE I LATER THOUGHT I WOULD FIND A WELT AND INSTEAD FOUND A TINY BIT OF REDNESS AND A MARK. I WALKED AWAY (AFTER YOU ARE STUNG YOU HAVE A CERTAIN SMELL ON YOU AND ARE NOW A TARGET FOR STINGING). KNOWING THIS I ALSO KNEW I HAD VERY LITTLE TIME TO GET THE TOP ON AND GET OUT OF THERE. I MANAGED IT, BUT HAD TO GO BACK HOURS LATER AFTER THEY AND I HAD CALMED DOWN AND ALL HAD HYDRATED AND TIDIED EVERYTHING UP. I WAS DISAPPOINTED IN MYSELF FOR MAKING SUCH STUPID ERROR AND NOT BEING MORE PREPARED OVERALL (EVEN WITH ALL THE READING, HIVE VISITS…), BUT AS MY FRIENDS TOLD ME THIS IS WHY I AM A BEGINNER AND LOOK HOW MUCH I LEARNED. AFTER GOING BACK TO CHANGE THE SUGAR WATER FEED BAG TODAY I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER. NO MORE STINGS, EVERYONE CALM AND EVERYTHING LOOKING LIKE IT IS SUPPOSED TO – AT LEAST AS FAR AS I CAN TELL.

Put on the inner cover, notch up & to the front. Add a feeder (with 1:1 syrup at room temperature) To use a pail feeder you will need a deep box. Put pail on top of 2 sticks on the inner cover, another brood box to surround feeder pail and then the telescoping cover, pushed towards the front and with a stone or brick on top. If you use a baggie feeder system you will need a shim about 2 inches deep. If you are using a deep box with feeder pail you should add a cork to the vent  hole.

DID (I USED BAGGIE FEEDER)

Put the empty nuc box away so the bees cannot find it when they go out.

WAS ABLE TO DO THIS AT THE END OF THE DAY.

In a few days check if they need more syrup in the feeder. Continue feeding depending on weather & flower conditions.

FEEDING GOING WELL.

In one week you can check hive for queen & brood condition. Add a second hive body when 2/3 of foundation has been drawn into comb in the first box.

HAVE AN EXPERIENCE BEEKEEPER COMING BACK FOR THE ONE WEEK HIVE CHECK.

Chicks Week Three

The chicks are three-weeks-old today!  They are sleeping now, because I cannot hear them upstairs.  When are they not sleeping?  At 1:30 a.m., 5:00 a.m., and then through most of the day. I’ve been like a walking zombie the past week till I have a cup of chai, which between the black tea and sugar gets me to where I am more aware of my surroundings.  When they sleep they are adorable, well okay they are all the time even in the middle of the night raising havoc. I feel like Kanye West is downstairs leading the hit parade onto the dance floor and I’m obligated to check out what all the excitement is about. No Kanye, but eleven chicks dancing their own kind of jig who’ve made another masterpiece of shredded newspaper with their water bottle. In two or three weeks (we’re all hoping for two here) they’ll move into the hen house with a nice fenced in yard they can shred. The dance party will have moved outside and I’ll sleep soundly again. Till then I’m the nocturnal handler of poop paper (okay I call it something else, but that word’s not appropriate here), more food and a clean bottle with fresh water. These gals have it good I tell ya. Of course, I will too come fall with all those delicious organic eggs from my backyard and till then and after super sweet feathery pets. The gals…week three…

Painting My Hives

The painting of my hives took two Sundays. Well, two half-days. Gorgeous days when I opened up the barn doors, plugged in my iPod Stereo or Laptop and tuned into Pandora, munched on peanut-butter covered pretzels and tuned out while prepping homes for thousands of new residents. Note, you ONLY paint the exterior of the boxes.

Apiculture 101

As I prepared to welcome pollinators to my backyard the more reading, attending open hives and speaking with experience beekeepers I did the more confident and better beekeeper I felt I would be. According to Ross Conrad, a beekeeper’s lack of knowledge is probably the single greatest cause of colony demise. I cannot agree more with his opinion that a novice beekeeper should make every effort to learn as much as possible from a variety of sources in an effort to reduce the margin of error. Learn from those who have gone before you, and with beekeeping know the more you learn the more you need to learn. There in an infinite amount of information. During the installation of my nucs things came up no book or beekeeper mentioned and one could only learn by doing.

Becoming a Beekeeper.

First thing first…

  • Make sure you are not allergic (can be life-threatening). You WILL get stung. Even if you purchase a full-body beekeeping suit (and good luck with that, my guess is you’ll get a heat stroke before you get a chance to be stung).
  • Beekeeping requires little time and space, but a sizeable initial investment of between $1000 – 1200. I was advised by all the beekeepers I spoke with that beginners should start w/ one or two hives, so I am.  If you decide to go bigger it will cost more. I strongly encourage you to not start with more than two or maximum three hives.
  • Check with your local town office to make sure it is legal to keep hives in your area.
  • It is generally recommended two colonies on ¼ acre, two to four on ½ acre.  If you don’t have the space at your home, put the word out to your gardening/bee curious friends to see if they will loan you some space in exchange for pollination.
  • Bees are capable of surviving in a range of climates (Georgia to Maine) so the climate you live in should not be a deterrent (though, of course defer to someone with more knowledge than me).

Bee Colony
Understanding how a honey bee hive works is fascinating and essential to being a beekeeper.

Queen – There is one per hive, except when one is being replaced (a new one is being made i.e. when the existing one can no longer make babies (A well-mated and well-fed queen of quality stock can lay about 2,000 eggs per day during the spring build-up). She is the longest bee, and therefore easier to spot than the others.

Worker – They make up the majority of the hive.  Duties include cleaning cells (removing dead bees and debris), capping cells of brood, caring for brood, feeding the queen, receiving nectar from foragers, making honey, packing pollen, building comb, regulating the temperature of the hive (“bee bearding”), guarding and taking orientation and foraging flights. The average worker bee will have traveled 500 miles during her lifespan of four to six weeks.

Drone – The only males in the hive, and their only purpose – to mate with the queen. They are larger than worker bees and do not have stingers.

Beekeeping Equipment
A beehive is removable framed housing for a honey-bee colony.

Your choice will be a 10-frame or 8-frame hive. I went with the latter.  Two 8-frame hives, one with a Deep and three Medium Supers and the other hive one Deep and four Medium Supers.  The Deep (also referred to as the “Hive Body” is placed on the bottom and is where the young bees are reared, this is the largest box in the hive). *When the hive becomes full of honey you add stories called “Supers” (they are Meduim or Shallow) for honey storage.

Deeps and Supers contain brood frames (in my case I have 8 frames in each, the other option is 10).  Each frame has comb foundation where the bees can build their combs….

As to the question of assembled or unassembled, this depends on your time and carpentry skills (I purchase assembled and personally recommend that for beginners).

As part of Hive Kit:

  • Hive tool (one broad thinned out end used for prying apart Supers and frames). A screwdriver is a bad idea here as it can cut into the wood and damage the hive.
  • Helmet and veil (the veil is a must if you want to avoid the chance of getting stung on your nose or around your eyes).
  • Entrance reducer
  • Screened bottom board – few dollars extra
  • Smoker (the most important tool used in beekeeping, one should not open a beehive without a lit smoker. It subdues the bees with just use a few puffs…as Brushy Mountain Bee Farm puts it “Smoking honeybees should be a gentle procedure for both the bees and the beekeeper.” Dried pine needles are a common fuel source.)

Question of buying used bee equipment. Best to buy everything new, a beginner’s kit should have all the necessary equipment to start and operate one hive, except for the book(s) and gloves. If you buy used equipment you risk it not having been assembled correctly and more importantly contaminated.

Additional items you will want to have in something with handles you carry with you on hive visits:

  • Notebook and pen so you can keep a hive records (activities and timing by season). Take photos too.
  • Gloves (some more advanced beekeepers might not wear them, but beginners should)
  • Beginner book(s) on beekeeping (I carry Ashley English’s Keeping Bees)
  • Band-aids (hive tools are sharp and if you’re a little klutzy like me…essential)
  • Matches (for lighting smoker)
  • Container w/ extra dry pine needles (for smoker)

Resources:  In Maine I’m a fan of Bee Pride and for mail-ordering supplies Brushy Mountain Bee Farm.

Location of the Hive
Windbreak (whether natural or man made, something that protects the hives from heavy winds), afternoon shade, access to water (pebble filled birdbath, puddle…), out of public view (low-key area i.e. not near recreation areas or schools, sidewalks…), southeast entrance should not be obstructed and accessibility.

Obtaining Bees
Package vs. Nuc (nucleus of bees)– visit here for installation of a package. I am going with nucs, because that was what was available from the folks I know in Maine and who had overwintered (= adapted to Maine weather) bees. A “nuc” is comprised of a box of a few frames of bees in all stages of development. The frames should contain brood, baby bees, worker bees, food and laying queen. A nuc might be more expensive than a package, but the colony population will grow faster.  *Go with a trusted local source for nucs, do not order them by mail unless as a last resort (honestly, I don’t know why this is not true for packages…but there it is from a trusted source).

More experienced beekeepers may acquire their bees via swarm.

Popular Hybrids & Strains in the U.S.:

Carniolan – (what I went with) Originated in southern Austrian Alps and North Balkans of former Yugoslavia. Adapted to a climate of long hard winters, short springs and hot summers. Known for calm gentle temperament, rapid spring buildup and efficiency.

Italian – Race originated on the Italian peninsula. Has difficulty surviving long winters with late springs. Low inclination to swarm, but prone to robbing and drifting between colonies.

Feeding Bees
Next to honey, sugar syrup is the next best alternative for feeding your honeybees in the spring. I’m a fan of the Baggie Feeder (place a Ziploc quart size bag ¾ full of sugar syrup on top of the Super or Hive Body below the inner cover and cut two slits about 2” or 3” long with a razor blade). The Boardman entrance feeder is popular (a wooden base holds a screw-top glass jar into which syrup is added). Syrup is 1 part granulated white cane sugar to 1 part hot water from the faucet (2:1 ratio in the fall). **I’ve yet to figure out what method I’ll use during the winter here in Maine. This is where books like Ashley’s (mentioned later in the post) can come in super helpful as can advice from experienced beekeepers in your area (found via a state or regional association).

*If you decide to use a Baggie Feeder think about using a reusable plastic take-out container to hold new bags and then store used bags in during first week after installation. Also, carry a utility knife in your kit to slit the Baggie Feeders after placing in the hive.

Plants for a bee garden (not necessary, but a nice offering to your new guests): Blueberry, Catnip, Clover, Dandelion (let them grow), Goldenrod, Raspberry, Sage, Thyme and fruit trees (Apple, Cherry, Peach, Pear, Plum). High Mowing Seeds sells a nice package.

I was advised by to plant mint or spearmint in front of the hives to help prevent Varroa Mites (I will use one of the more friendly pesticides in late summer, but otherwise I’m using organic methods to keep my bees healthy).

Bee Etiquette (working bees)
In general bees are friendly. Just a few rules to mind….Best time to work on a hive is on a sunny day (I do my visits around 10:00 a.m.). Do not wear dark colors (bees are big fans of the rule “wear white after Memorial Day” think bulls and red, just wear light colors).  Do not block the entrance/flight path (route bees use to leave and return to the hive and how I got stung during my install). Stay calm and move slowly and steadily (this is actually easy to do while handling thousands of bees, I talk to mine).   ***I strongly recommend having an experience beekeeper on hand for your first few inspections (the first one should be one to two weeks after you install depending on whether it was a nuc or package).

Pests, Colony Collapse Disorder
Varroa Mites are not your friend, and unlike the vampires in “True Blood” there is nothing sexy about them. (Will post more on this later this summer.)

Books: (listed from super helpful to least helpful to a new beekeeper)
The Beekeeper’s Handbook by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile is essential to your success as a beginner beekeeper. If you take a class, more than likely this will be the book they provide. Go ahead and purchase highlighters with this one. There is a LOT of information and those neon lines will help you find that section on winter/spring management. The illustrations are easy

Keeping Bees by Ashley English (in my opinion the best of her homesteading series, this is the easy to understand with pictures book that acts as a companion to the information rich academic Beekeeper’s Handbook. This is the first book you should purchase when you start to consider whether you want to be a backyard beekeeper).

Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture by Ross Conrad (informative for those like me who want to know more about the natural approach to dealing with pests such as the Varroa Mite.

Fruitless Fall: the Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis by Rowan Jacobsen tells the bigger story of bees and their documented disappearance in recent years due to Colony Collapse Disorder. A fascinating read.

How to Keep Bees and Sell Honey by Walter T. Kelley (published in 1966 and out of print).

Plan bee by Susan Brackney (a friend gifted it to me and for some reason Oprah’s magazine likes it, but it’s really not for someone serious about beekeeping).

The Honey Cookbook by Juliette Elkon (information on storing honey, history of cooking with honey and terrific assortment of recipes ranging from Gingered Carrots to Honey Orange Cake). I scored a first edition of this at Bonnie Slotnick’s. Once I start producing honey I’ll have plenty of ways to cook with it.

A World Without Bees by Allison Benjamin and Brian McCallum (terrific book focuses on mystery of disappearing honeybees – solid read just no beginner beekeeping advice).

Further research: Contact a local beekeeping chapter and find out when they hold open hives (an invaluable experience – go to as many as you can) and classes. This is also a great way to meet new and experienced beekeepers, a valuable network as you enter the honey world. American Bee Journal and Bee Source are informative outlets as well with articles, research, USDA updates…

Ulee’s Gold

I saw “Ulee’s Gold” for the first time recently and what a treasure!  One of my bee school instructors had mentioned it to the class so when I came across it on TV (there is almost never anything decent on) I sat down with it. This low-budget film is a breath of fresh air amidst summer’s flurry of tech action blockbusters (anyone seen “Captain America” – is it good?).

Peter Fonda’s Oscar-nominated performance (his first as an actor) as reclusive beekeeper Ulysses “Ulee” Jackson, a widower and Vietnam veteran was worth it’s due. The scenes of him harvesting the tupelo honey in Florida’s panhandle are beautiful and inspiring to this about to be backyard beekeeper.

When you can watch this as part of a double feature with Ashley Judd’s equally awesome performance in “Ruby in Paradise” also directed by Victor Nunez.

Back to the Land Permaculture Style

I am learning what it takes to provide my own food and realizing positive solutions for every day needs (i.e. clothesline) which avoid waste and save money i.e. my gray water system and a rain barrel to to collect and store rain water runoff. I use the former to water my non-edible plants and the latter I will harvest fresh water for the chickens from and serve as backup in case of well I guess an emergency. (The barrel is in my barn for another week till the gutters are put in.)

My friends Dave and Gretchen are permaculturists who are showing me the way. Yesterday, Gretchen worked in the garden with me for the better part of the day. It was so much fun being outside on a gorgeous day with dirt underneath all my fingernails, listening to Bluegrass (such a luxury having electricity in my barn) and talking about companion planting (or mixed planting in gardens to discourage pests – I’m going to have Gretchen do a guest post on this for Delicious Musings soon). I think my kitty Kirkland had the best time, she was so tuckered out from running all about she slept most of today. Here she is overseeing the planning and sorting of seeds process.

Dave, an incredibly talented permaculture designer and creative re-user of materials, created these fantastic hanging planters for cilantro and parsley out of repurposed burlap coffee bags. They are shown hanging on the back of my barn.

While Dave worked on the chicken coop, Gretchen sat in the tree and I laid back to take in the beautiful day with great friends.

about this blog

About Me Sharon Kitchens and Delicious Musings. Welcome and thank you for visiting my blog. I write about all the things I enjoy - Culture, Food, Photography &Travel. Read more on my about page.

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