Saturday, August 13, 2011


Checked 3 of the big hives since we had some rain lately and the temp was down to 76.  (Although the 72 percent humidity didn't help.)  All had brood and stores.  Not sure yet if we'll get to harvest any for ourselves.  Hope for more rain and lots of nectar producing flowers.  The swarm hive had left after the comb collapse which killed their queen.  So I took some of their old comb and put it into one of the big hives for safe keeping.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hot bees!

It's been going up in 110's lately here.  Last night the hived swarm (of N weeks) had tons of bees bearding for the first time ever.  Gobs of bees outside the hive.  No fighting, so I knew it wasn't being robbed.  So this morning, while it was a mere 80 degrees, I went out to see what was going on.  (forgot to paste this paragraph earlier!)

Several of their combs had collapsed.  It was sad.  Empty frames with large combs falling over.  I had a spare deep box ready and ran into the house and found a whole bag of good rubber bands.  First I put the still standing  combs in the spare deep and set it aside.  Then I did what I've read about for cutouts.  I picked up the fallen comb (which is covered in bees of course) and set it gently on a flat surface inside a frame.  Then I wrapped lots of rubber bands on it to hold it in place.  I did this for the 3 fallen combs that were mostly brood.   I put those back in the bottom deep with a bunch of empty frames.  I put the bits of comb that had mostly nectar on top of the inner cover, covered by an empty deep then the outer cover for the bees to regain their nectar.  (Honey is too heavy to hold in with rubber bands, it just squishes and leaks everywhere.

so now they have 2 deeps, perhaps a wee bit prematurely, and an empty deep over the inner cover.  Shouldn't have problems keeping the brood warm, but might have issues keeping them cool.   I can only hope the queen survived the ordeal
Click on the pictures to see them bigger.

Also checked on the big hive that hadn't worked on more than 2 frames in the 3rd deep.  They had some open brood, and I saw an empty queen cell.  They also have several empty frames in the lower deeps.  I'll just watch and wait on that one.  Might feed it later to get some comb drawn, and not pull "honey" from it, of course.

Update: Saturday July 16.  They are doing well, connecting comb, drawing new comb and they have lots of queen cells a few of which are capped.  Guess the old queen didn't make it through the collapse.  
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Saturday, July 09, 2011

Bee check

The hived swarm:  7 frames drawn, full of brood mostly with nectar and pollen around.  Will add second deep when at least 8 frames are full.
First to the west: Only the 2 frames drawn in the upper (3rd) deep..  Should do a more thorough check.
Second to the west: Top deep FULL of bees, all but 2 combs drawn and filling with nectar, only partially capped.
Last to the west (aka Lloyd's hive from last spring)  Top (3rd) deep full of bees, all but a few drawn, some capped brood including drones.  Saw a drone emerge.  (This is good because the observation hive's new queen will need drones out there when she goes on her mating flight.)
East hive: Top deep full of bees, drawn comb nectar, not yet capped.

All that took about 15 minutes.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

quick bee check

The hived swarm (5 weeks) has 6 full combs now.  The nuc from last year is FULL of bees.  I checked them only because sometimes they seem less enthusiastic than the others.  I saw lots of capped brood and some open and closed them back up.

Saw the first graduating class on the swarm hive do their orientation flights.  :)

Waiting for the glass for the observation hive.  Need to drill a hole in the wall by Thursday, hopefully so I can install bees this weekend.

It's DRY.  The bees go out early and late, but I haven't figured out where.  It's getting dry enough now that I don't know if the sweet clover is producing nectar.  They're heading SW, so their hard to track.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Squash bug's final act.

This morning I used duct tape to pick off as many squash bug eggs and nymphs as I could find. Felt like sisyphus.
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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Making Butter

We got a gallon of raw cream the other day to make butter so I thought I'd document my procedure.  I use a Bosch Universal mixer with the whips.  Put 1 quart of cream in the mixer.  It can be cold still, in fact, if it's too warm the butter will melt and be harder to separate from the "buttermilk" (not the same thing that you buy at the store.)  Most folks say to warm the cream, but with the Bosch it isn't necessary. I do let it set out for 5-10 minutes.

  If you put more than a quart of cream in at a time, when the butter separates it'll slosh around so much you'll have a big mess to clean up later.  So I did the gallon in 4 batches.  Cream is usually about half butter, so we get about 4 pounds of butter from a gallon of cream.  

So, you just let the mixer run on "1" for several minutes.  It passes through all the yummy whip cream stages.

At some point the butter will separate from the buttermilk. At this point, turn the machine off and just flip it to "1" briefly a couple times to get the butter into bigger clumps.

The picture below is how it should look when you're ready to pour off the buttermilk.  Pour it through a strainer and keep the buttermilk for pancakes or something.  Don't try to get the butter out yet though.  Next we want to wash the milk out of the butter.

To wash the butter I add cold water to the mixing bowl to about the same level as it was with the buttermilk, then pulse the machine several times. Our well water is cold enough, but if yours isn't, add some ice.  Then drain, then repeat.  I do this only 2 times and that seems to get the butter fairly clean.

Okay, now put all the butter in the strainer, then dump it all into a big bowl.  Don't try hard to get all the butter out of the mixer because the butter will help the next batch separate faster.  Now is the time to put the next quart of cream into the mixer and turn it on.  It will separate about the time you're done washing this batch.

The next goal is to get as much water out of the butter as possible.  I just tilt a bowl and smash the butter up against the high side.  The water will run down and you can dump it out occasionally.
Next, I put the butter on some wax paper and shape it into a long piece roughly the size of the usual butter sticks.

Then just wrap it up and throw it in the freezer.  If you're going to leave it in the fridge for a really long time rather than the freezer, you need to do a really good job of getting the buttermilk out and maybe even add salt.  I do neither, so I keep it in the freezer till we're ready to use it.
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Friday, June 17, 2011

Hived swarm at 4 weeks.

They've built out another comb in 2 weeks and brood still all looks good.  Just going to take a bit more for them to get large enough to really take off.  I really like taking these pictures and looking at them (high res).  I see eggs in the bottom pic that I couldn't see while I was out there.
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Sunday, June 05, 2011

Bee inspection

This morning I added a third deep to the 2 hives that were still at 2 boxes and checked in on the hive from the swarm.  I took a picture of each of the combs they had, front and back.  Three they drew themselves and one from the anchor.  Click for larger images.

On picture below the queen is left of the Q.  This is the comb I put in there and the bees should be hatching out soon which will give them lots more nurse bees.
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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Swarm inspection at one week.

Checked on the swarm that we hived one week ago.  They had drawn out a about 2.5 frames.  I saw eggs and saw the queen.  So it's looking good.

The frame above has eggs which can be seen at full resolution.  Also saw nectar.

The above frame is the one I added from an existing hive to help anchor the swarm and give them a population boost in a few more days.

Above and below: second drawn frame where I saw the queen.  I saw her in the section below, but can't tell if she's in the picture...  Must try video next time.  Click on the pictures for high res.  You may see the queen and a black bee with no wings.  
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Bees on the elder

Found the bees happily pollinating the elder this morning:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Honey Bee Swarm Caught

Homer caught a swarm yesterday 2011 May 21 from an asparagus patch. It was about half the size of a basketball. I gave them a frame of brood (mostly open) from another hive. The frame had a few queen cups.
Thinking I might feed them to help them get started.
Later in the day I checked the four older hives. Two had enough bees to add a third deep. Two were doing well, but still had enough empty space I figured I'd leave them with just 2 deeps for a few more weeks.
Also figure I should've given the swarm a frame of capped brood so they wouldn't need to feed them and they'd have a lot of nurse bees soon... maybe next time.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Whole wheat roll recipe

This is how I make my rolls. You can vary the recipe however you want, but I have found whole wheat works best when the dough is wet and gets to spend some time in the fridge. (Cold wet dough is not as sticky.) Next time I make them I'll add some pictures or videos, but it might be a while because I will probably switch to pitas I can cook on the grill for the summer.

1700 g fresh very finely ground hard white winter wheat (I use a Wolfgang mill)
(grind extra for shaping the rolls and put it in the freezer)
680g water
680g milk (raw, whole)
170g honey (from our bees)
2 eggs (from our chickens)
140g butter (from raw cream)
2T SAF yeast
2.5 T sea salt

While the wheat is grinding, put the water, milk, honey, eggs and yeast into mixer (I use a Bosch universal with dough hooks.) Start adding the flour. After about half is added, pour in the melted butter and salt. Now make sure you got everything in there :)

Let the Bosch mix it for 10-15 minutes. It should be climbing up the center post of the mixer and very wet! Wetter than you'd ever want to work by hand.

Next put all the dough into a big pot, cover and leave a room temp four a couple hours or until the dough is rising well, then put it in the fridge. Ideally, you want to wait at least overnight before continuing and not more than a few days. The chilling and the time will make the dough less wet and develop the gluten more.

A few hours before you want to eat the rolls, butter your pans, get out the extra flour you ground and the dough. This amount of dough makes 64 rolls. I usually just keep cutting it in half till I get to 64... You'll need to use a little bit of flour for shaping the rolls, but try to use as little as possible. Whole wheat flour needs to be much wetter than white flour products.

Okay, the shaping of the roll is very important: take the dough and start stretching the top of the roll around to the bottom. Your goal is to make the top a stretched skin. Keep doing this until the dough starts to firm up a little (maybe 30 seconds?) If you are not familiar with shaping dough find a few youtube videos on it. The key things for good 100% whole wheat are wetness and shaping, so put your effort there.

Let the shaped rolls rise until doubled. This can take a while since the dough was cold, so be patient. It's not unusual for it to take a couple hours. They WILL rise!

Preheat oven to 350 F. Make sure it is very well preheated. Bake the rolls for about 20 minutes. Let them cool as long as you can stand it before eating.

Let me know if you have questions or suggestions.