Sunday, July 26, 2015

Honey Harvest. Yum! Yum!

We checked the hives about ten days ago to see what we would have for the honey harvest. We counted twenty frames of good capped honey, but when we went to collect the frames on Friday (July24) for the harvest on Saturday, some of the frames were not 90% capped and the bees had eaten some. (I guess they're entitled!)

If the uncapped honey cells are opaque and "dry" you can treat it same as capped, but if it is shiny and "wet" looking it can make the honey ferment and spoil it. We picked out 17 good frames for the harvest. One frame got dropped (and then there were sixteen), but even though we couldn't put that frame in the spinner, I salvaged the comb and put it in jars which makes a very pretty addition. And some people really like a bit of comb to chew on like gum. We ended up with 48 pounds of beautiful light honey which was probably primarily from the early spring nectar flow since one box was and capped before mid June. What does that mean? The honey taste and color depends on the nectar flow --- what the bees are working and what kind of honey it makes. Our honey probably came at least partly from the locust trees, one of the earliest to bloom in the Spring. We also have a street nearby lined with Golden Rain Trees which we've seen covered with bees. Also our neighbor attracts bees with his oregano patch and has often commented that our bees are over visiting. So all those are probably crops our bees were working.

At the harvest, it was fun to compare the look of our honey with what came from Gordon's bee yard which is only about two miles away from ours as the crow flies. Very different as you can see from the photo below. What's near Gordon's  I'm not sure, but his bees obviously were working different plants since the honey is very different both in color and taste -- much darker than ours, an amber color. Our light honey, on the left below (the dark at the top is a bit of honeycomb), has a flower-life taste; The honey from Gordon's bee yard is more robust. They are both absolutely delicious. And beautiful too. So stop by for a visit. We'll have tea and toast with butter and honey. Yum!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

4th of July Parade at Camp Kreitzer

What a great day! It began with Larry and I going to Mass with granddaughter Sophie and then taking patriotic balloons to the nursing home. Unfortunately, I forgot the camera so no pictures. But there were lots of smiles and we gave away sixteen balloons to residents and a few staff members. One sweet lady accepted a balloon and then gave it back to Sophie who was thrilled. Another resident was crocheting crosses which she stiffens with glue to make lovely bookmarks. She gave one to Sophie and one to me. I look forward to visiting her again.

Back at home we made plans for a parade. We teamed up and each group decorated the tractor, bikes, a stroller, etc. Lots of creativity going on! Fun was had by all. A big thank you to Alice for planning it and providing so many of the decorations! And here are the results.

The tractor parade entry

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Camp Out at Colonial Beach

Last weekend was our square dance camp out held at Harbor View Campground in Colonial Beach, VA. Last time we were in Colonial Beach the only thing we did was go to nearby Ingleside Vineyard. This time we went down a day early to see the sights. What a great place with so much to do. We only scratched the surface.

Our first stop was George Washington's birthplace which is right on the Potomac River.

This is NOT the original home which was destroyed in a fire. This was a more
 elaborate home built for the bicentennial of Washington's birth in 1932. At that time they
had very little information about the original house. During the excavation for the house, 
they found the foundation for the original a short distance away.

Most homes built on the river had the front door facing the river, 
but when the original foundation was found it showed 
that the sideof the house was toward the river.

Washington lived there until he was three and, later after his father died and his brother Augustine inherited the estate, he spent time there off and on. It's probably where he first learned the surveyer's trade. The Washingtons were not wealthy, but they were land rich. They farmed crops for their table and tobacco as a cash crop for the luxuries they wanted to purchase from England.

The farm reminds me of Jamestown. The grounds are beautiful and there's an informative short film and small museum. We spent several enjoyable hours taking the tour and walking the grounds.

I had to laugh when I saw this poor headless scarecrow dressed
in colonial garb. He reminded me of Ichabod Crane. If you've never read 
Washington Irving's story about the headless horseman, remedy the situation immediately!

 These two handsome creatures cooperated by coming close 
to the fence around their enclosures.

On the way to the burial grounds we passed a fence behind which were several beehives and two beekeepers at work. We stopped to say hello and ask how the bees are doing. It was a young man with his mentor and we chatted for several minutes in beekeepers' jargon. He said his bees were doing well and we shared that ours are also. It is always fun to find other beekeepers on our jaunts.

 They say "knee high by the 4th of July," but with all the rain 
the corn is growing super tall this year. this was next to the burial ground.

 Washington's brother Augustine and his wife are buried here. Also Washington's
 baby sister who only lived six months. So many children died young in those das.

This replica of the Washington Monument greets visitors at the front gate. 
If you get to Colonial Beach don't miss this great attraction. Best of all --- 
it's free. It's a hidden jewel. There were very few people visiting when we got there at 11:00.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

June 18 - Bee status: All's Well!

Golden Rain Tree is good choice for attracting bees.
We had a revelation last week on what NOT to do with your bees. Putting a bee escape on Queen Bianca's hive before we were ready to harvest honey was REALLY DUMB. We ended up with the full box of capped being invaded by robber bees and ants who uncapped some of the honey and helped themselves. Can't really blame them, but, after wising up and removing the bee escape, the poor bees have lots of work to do to repair the damage. 

We checked them today and they are, in fact, busy refilling empty cells with nectar and recapping the honey. Hard lesson learned for these two beekeepers. We won't make that mistake again.

We only checked the top box in Queen Bianca's hive today because we put on a new box with new foundation last week. We did a more thorough examination in Queen Rachel and Queen Anya's hives. We only went as far as the second box from the bottom in Queen Rachel's hive where we found plenty of frames of capped and uncapped larvae. We didn't see the queen but, once we were sure things were A-okay, we stopped looking and put the hive back together. No sense disturbing the bees more than necessary. They are doing fine.

Queen Anya's hive still has room to work. We added a new box on June 6th, but the queen is so busy laying we need to prepare another super (bee box) so they don't run out of room. Go, bees, go! 

Another good week in the bee yard. 

We stopped down on Water Street because the trees there (Golden Rain Trees) are blooming. There were honeybees all over them. We plan to buy some next Spring and plant them. They are fast growing so we should see results within three years. I was reading comments on one nursery website and a customer said his tree grew six feet in one season. Wow! Sounds like it takes three years until they bloom. I think we'll plant a few in the Fall.

Why are you using toxic chemicals in your garden?

....I sprayed the weeds in my circle garden a few days ago....with vinegar.  Why would anyone use toxic chemicals when good, old, cheap, white vinegar does such an outstanding job? Actually I don't mind weeds in the lawn. Dandelions are a great nectar source for the bees and so is chickweed. But my gardens are another matter.I like to keep the paths clear of prickly things and I enjoy a little order in my otherwise chaotic life. Also, pulling weeds is good therapy and I don't like to spray anything in the garden beds themselves.

Now check out the results of vinegar as a weedkiller.

This is a broad-leafed weed common in the garden path and around the outside.

This is the same weed thirty minutes after spraying with 100% vinegar

Same weed three days later.

This is a narrow-leafed weed that grows like ground cover.
Compare weeds onthe  path to the same  non-sprayed weeds in garden bed.
Yes, it's high time people stopped using toxic chemicals when good, old-fashioned home remedies work as well or better. Vinegar is one of my favorites. It's a great cleaning agent as well!

And here's a picture of my circle garden with the lavender in bloom and. attracting our honeybees. Not too much color at present but my daylilies are about to bloom and they will brighten things up considerably. And now....I need to refill my sprayer and finish the job of spraying all the weeds on the outer edge of the garden. Why is it that weeds always grow so much more easily than everything else?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Fun at the Pittsburgh Zoo!

We just returned from a short visit to Zelienople, PA where one of our daughters lives. (Don't you love that name? Zelienople is near Mars and Cranberry. And Mars actually has a flying saucer in the middle of town.

But I digress. The Pittsburgh zoo is wonderful. We spent the afternoon visiting most of the exhibits, riding the tram, playing (or sitting) at the playground, and enjoying all the antics of the animals. I describe some of them here.

But the best part of the day was the company. What a delightful group of little girls (and their mom).

June 12 -- All's Queen Right in the Bee Yard!

Blue hyssop is a great plan for attracting pollinators of all sorts.
Hot and sunny today, already in the upper 80s at 11:00 a.m. and calm -- a great day for busy, working bees.We only inspected the middle box.

Halleluia! And thanks to St. Ambrose and St. Valentine for their intercession. We had to go down to the bottom of the five boxes, but there she was -- a nice fat queen and brood. So she is mated and laying and all's right with her world. The bees were very calm and are working hard to draw the new foundation we put in the hive last week. Lots of honey in the top two boxes as well.

So it is time to name the new hive. We will call that pretty gal Queen Rachel Lauren. And may she be a great producer for her colony.

We took the entrance reducers out of all three hives so the bees have more room for going in and out. In hot weather they sometimes congregate at the door and fan the hive to cool it off so this will make their efforts more productive.

This afternoon we will add a working box to Queen Bianca's hive since they were so busy last week. We don't plan to inspect first. We presume all is right there and will wait until next week to inspect.

Last week we planted some bee attracting plants in our circle garden: a blue licorice hyssop and two blue mints (can't remember the variety). So far they seem to be attracting bumble bees as is the lavendar. The honeybees must be finding something they like better nearby. But we will continue to plant bee friendly flora to offer honey and nectar. The three plants we put in the circle garden bloom from now until the frost and are perennials. I hope they do well so we can spread them next year to other parts of the yard.

I plan to take a big jar of our honey to the Poor Clares in Alexandria in thanksgiving for their prayers. It is such a relief to finally be queen right in the bee yard!