Friday, November 26, 2010

farmer fred, just may have something...

(and not to imply i dont learn a lot from him)
on december 7 2009. we received, what i believe, was a 100 year storm here in diamond springs.

on that day we received over 12 inches of snow. not earth shattering, but here at 1900 foot elevation, and supposedly below the snowline - it was a bit much.

well, if you recall, we had some severe tree damage across our half acre.

we lost one full oak tree and another oak tree saw 3 of its major trunks (out of six) snap from the weight of the snow. a lesser, tree in the front yard also lost a limb. that tree is a japanese maple that had good symmetry and fall color. the tree was in a challenging place, as it had to endure full southern and western exposure.

not a good thing for a japanese maple, but she seemed to endure the heat ok; up until that point.

the limb was obviously weakly attached, and it snapped off and pretty much ruined the symmetry of the entire tree.

the point of this post is pretty much one-fold. take a look at the photo and you will see severe bark defoliation as a result of sunburn on the trunk, just below the location the branch was broken from. prior to breaking off that limb offered enough canopy cover to shade the trunk from the sun.

having listened to the farmer fred (kfbk and kste garden guy on sundays 8:30 -12) for years and hearing the pro's, cons and arguments about the merits of white washing the trunk of a tree to reduce sun burn - and just recently hearing his talk with annalisa stewart, who maintains white washing isnt proven to do anything but paint a tree white - i believe there is sufficient anecdotal evidence to suggest that whitewashing is probably worth the effort.

i would bet there would be an even chance that sunburn would not be as severe. i even offer, if sunscreen is proven to reduce skin sun damage, why wouldnt the same logic flow on trees. paint or sun screen, offers a thin layer to which the rays of the sun hit first, reducing damage to whats underneath. seems logical, but at best - all i have is anecdotal evidence.

one downside, i wouldnt like to have a whitewashed trunk in my front yard. in addition, the lack of symmetry probably will result in the tree getting pulled. it is a focal point in my yard and the way she looks now, is not helpful. i was hoping the tree would push another limb and recover, worst case, i dig it up and plant it in the backyard.

to paint or not to paint - well, i'm thinking i'm back in the painting camp with farmer fred.

Monday, November 22, 2010

got my first 2011 seed catalog today!

got my first seed catalog for 2011 today. totally tomatoes, still looking for tomato growers supply and a couple others - but its looking up!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

when shredders devour themselves

these are the parts, i had to replace on the shredder. somehow one of these guys decided to come loose, and pretty much made the device pretty lethal for all things down stream. these parts are the flail portion of the shredder and are pinned to the flywheel - which is the working end of the device.

october glory maple

the picture isnt as vibrant as the real thing, but its still not bad.

black gold - at least the start of it

what you see here, is the makings of the best stuff on earth - or i should say from earth.

well, i decided i have to completely re-rig my compost system.

it turns out this 2 bin system, just didnt have the capacity for the yard waste i was able to generate in a year. this came apparent late in 2009, when i was cleaning out my garden beds. so, that fall - i ripped out the bins (which are real cool and made from recycled plastic - i bought it about 10 years ago at my last house).

so i did the pile thing and didnt shred the garden waste last year; i just kinda chopped it up and let nature takes its course.

i dont have the time to manage the compost pile, so it never warmed up too much. i added dr earth compost builder - and it didnt do much, but relieve my wallet of $10. as fall kicked it and temps cooled, i will be building a new series of bins.

i have been noodling on it awhile and after referencing an online guide:

and farmer freds blog and radio show,

it looks like i will have a 4 or 5 bin system. at this point, i am planning each bin being 4x4 in size, possibly 5x5 depending upon a few factors i am still working on. that would mean a series of bins 20-25 feet long. a monstrosity, for sure, but with some careful landscape planning and i believe i will be able to mask the bins.
this may be overkill, but with a low compost management time, i would bet 4- 5 years should be sufficient to generate compost the slow way. so the way it will work, will be thus - bin 1 will receive all green and brown for 2010. that pile will move to bin 2, in 2011. bin 1, will then take 2011 stuff. each year, the piles will move up 1 bin, and by the time a pile finishes up in bin 5, it should be black gold.

good compost, like fine wine, cant be rushed, and given more and more trees getting larger and generating more leaves, every year- size will matter for my composting. so to make room for the new bins, i had to haul out all of last years compost pile and while i was at it, i figured it would shoot it thru the shreader this year. and the pile you see here is only the pile from last years goodies. shreding of this years garden commences this week.

Monday, November 1, 2010

i am a bit less organic today....

its been over a month since i last posted. i would LOVE to say i was diligently working at bill birds rental assisting him in his painting chores - but to tell the truth, between scout stuff, work stuff and other stuff, i have gotten about zip done around my house this past month.

my last post showed the rating of several types of tomatoes, and between now and then the garden moved into steep decline and i started to pull out the remnants of the plants. as i started to shred the plant remnants, my shredder began to shudder and made moves that any break dancer would be proud.

the sound - oh the sound - it reminded me of an engine coming apart. i was able to shut it down and the flail parts of the shredder decided to disintegrate and actually punched a hole in the chute housing; i am glad i wasnt downrange of the dismemberment of the shredder. so $150 in parts on order later and my garden cleanup tasks are on hold.....

now for why i am less organic. if you recall a previous post:

it was april 2009 and i decided to go organic for grass fertilizer. it was the right thing to do. now, 18 months later, i have changed back to 'best turf supreme'. why? you ask? well they started showing up about 10 months ago. 'they' are worm castings. not a bad thing at all, and in fact i welcomed them. from what i have learned from farmer fred's radio and the organic advocate steve zion, worms and the resulting castings are a real indicator of a well balanced soil eco system.

'GREAT!' i thought at the time. well several months later and an increasing volume of castings and i am finding - at least for me in my turf areas - castings just arent going to work out.

really -its me, not you; mr. nightcrawlers. as referenced in my april 2009 post, i am anal for a lush green, leave it to beaver style front yard. and in my zeal for that lushness, i used the dr. earth lawn fertilizer. and it did its job. the lawn responded and so did the crawlers. castings pushed up daily. the subterranean bulldozing - which they do - left an uneven lawn. worst of all - when enjoying the lawn, you would leave it with mud spots on ones derriere.

not cool. i figured i could live with the inconvenience of the castings. but as time went on and it continued to get worse and worse. there is no way i can get rid of the offending critters; however my hope is a return to a fertilizer based upon salts will diminish their numbers and will, hopefully, get my lawn as green as i like - sans the mud spots.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

big beef

well not so big this year, but a good producer. hybrid vigor and expected tomato flavor. good one to have. sometimes gets mealy at times, but not too bad.

grade = 3


another good producing hybrid that i will have in the garden year after year. standard tomato taste and production was very good inspite of 2010 weather challenges.

grade = 3

cherokee purple

a great heirloom that i will grow every year. purple flesh, with a bit of green shading up near the top. juicy, well flavored mid-size tomato. production was less than stellar this year - but we all know why. this will be on tap for many years to come.

grade = 4

super fantastic

for most of the remaining red tomatoes, i gotta tell you - taste is pretty consistent across the board. its expected, they are hybrids and are bred for consistent production with other admirable attributes, which make them a winner in adverse weather years like we had in 2010.

this is super fantastics third year, and will be in my tomato posse - just because i know i can count on it for production - and this year was a good test. although fruit size was smaller than expected, it still had a lot of them. good standard tomato flavor. a keeper

grade = 3

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

mr stripey

thought this would be a larger bi-colored tomato. turned out pretty much to be redundant to black zebra. moderate production, no noticeable blossom rot issues. fine taste, but no better than black zebra. sorry mr. stripey, black zebra wins.

grade = 2

sweet gold

a yellow cherry tomato that was planted to compare to sungold. typical cherry production, but didnt seem as prolific as sungold. taste wasnt bad, in fact quite good - but not as good as sungold. late season production seemed to taper off sooner than sungold. if i hadnt already been a sungold fan, this would be in the winners column. in light of sungold - it pales in comparison.

grade = 2

early girl

my go-to for early production and this year it was the earliest tomato. medium/smallish in size, 3-4 tomatoes per cluster. typical hybrid tomato taste. main strength, early season producer and given 2010 weather, it did a good job. continues to produce throughout the year.

definitely should be on the list every year - if only for getting an early tomato.

grade = 3

gregori's altai

marketed as an early russian heirloom. wasnt too early, but had heirloom taste and qualities. pink colored tomato, bigger than mid size. not a prolific producer, but given 2010 weather, that might be a different variable.

a bit of cat facing, didnt see any blossom end rot. solid taste. overall, not bad, but given small number of fruits on the plant, dont count on it to provide much.

grade = 2.5

Monday, September 13, 2010

black from tula

planted to compare to cherokee purple. similar in flavor, color and size to cherokee purple. possibly slightly more roundish and offers a cute 'belly button' on the bottom end. did see a slight propensity for end blossom rot, but not too bad. must pick when ripe or it quickly goes over ripe with a watery bottom end. prone to catfacing, but that and cracks dont really slow me up or become a hinge factor in my decision. if i had to choose between tula and cherokee purple - purple wins.

grade = 3

black zebra

a favorite from last year, and still a favorite. doesnt seem to have the bit of saltiness that last years plants had, but the weather could be a factor. near perfect size and prolific producer. i love the bi-color skin. seems to avoid cracking. still a real winner.

grade = 4


sure looks and tastes like your typical red hybrid tomato. nothing great or bad about this variety.
grade = 2

insights on the tastes of some tomatoes

this kicks off, what will be, a non-scientific, biased and subjective review of the tomatoes i grow. i do this mainly so i can have a report of a particular variety going forward. i hope to give enough detail to make each tomato standout or fail on its own merit, but i expect most tomatoes to pretty much taste like - well, a tomato. so unless i clearly state that 'this tomato stinks' most will be just that - average, no outstanding attributes, no real drawbacks. i am keeping in mind that the weird weather in 2010 impacted tomato production and when the plant finally produced.

tomatoes will be graded on a scale of 1-4:

1 = bad, will never plant again

2 = ok, just doesnt standout, not good, but not bad, i'm agnostic about it, average.

3 = good, a solid performer, better than average.

4 = great, definitely a must have in the garden.

so the first tomato we run through is Sioux.

its a smallish tomato that is borne in clusters of 4-6 tomatoes. plant was vigorous. taste is typical hybrid tomato flavor. a nice looking tomato, with no evidence of cracking or end blossom rot. it was bred in the 1940's so not real old heirloom, clearly a hybrid. nothing to make me want to grow it again.

grade = 2

Sunday, September 12, 2010

2011 garden layout

well, the 2010 garden hasnt even been ripped out yet, but i believe i have the bed layouts for 2011 dialed.

some challenges i had this year:

1. the two sisters plan - sharing corn and squash in the same bed, didnt work as anticipated, and i really have enough room, so i probably will not try that again anytime soon.

2. corn didnt produce as expected (2 years in a row, same ultra super sweet hybrid), so i am going to go back and use pa's favorite and try silver queen and a variety keith uses and see how those do. also, i will plant an entire bed at one time, the staggered bed didnt work as i expected - now the weird 2010 weather may have had something to do with that but i will change it up and see how 2011 rates. yes, we may see too much corn at 1 time - but i would rather have that challenge, instead of too little corn at one time.

3. 25 tomato plants is still too much, i am backing off to 21 and that frees up an entire bed, so i can land squash in its own bed - again (see challenge #1).

4. i think i have my rotation down so i will not have a nightshade relative in the a bed year after year. i squeeze out 1 tomato and plant bell peppers as companion planting (bed 8) and that arrangement moves to the left in 2012 (to bed 2). so each bed will have a 1 year hiatus from the nightshade family (potatoes, peppers, tomatoes).

5. 1 summer squash plant is enough and i found a variety that is kind of shaped like an acorn squash, and matures quick like the long summer squash, but is the right size for the family.

6. thank goodness for tomato hybrids, the wacky weather really slowed down the heirlooms, just now getting a cherokee purple - which is on my must have list, but black from tula, seems comparable. overall i have an abundance of tomatoes - now - but boy did it take too long.

7. i have pretty much decided that sun gold is the ne-plus-ultra for cherry tomatoes and will no longer look for a superior variety, that will free up at least 1 spot for another tomato. 1 caveat - if farmer fred finds something in the future, i *might* be convinced to see if sun gold reins supreme. :)

8. hybrids and heirlooms will be roughly split 10 of each.

so heres looking at 2011 and hoping for a good year.

5 gallons baby....

today was honey extraction day. as i learned my first year of beekeeping -oh so many years ago, you gotta do it when its warm, or you will pay a dear price in labor to get at your honey.

2 hives produced surplus honey - the first serrano hive and the folsom hive. the rest are just cruising into early fall with, what i believe to be is enough honey to survive the winter. one more look into the hives in a few weeks to confirm, shuffle some frames to prep for winter and a dosage of essential oils to help ward off the varroa mite and hopefully we will see a good number of the hives make it into spring 2011.

between the two hives i had about 4 honey supers and once extracted and strained, we have a 5 gallon bucket that is brim full of the magic gold elixir that takes millions of bees to produce.

lets hear it for the girls! without the hard work ethic of those worker bees (all female - btw) and we would not have the abundant honey harvest we got this year.

in the attached picture, you see just 2 of 40 frames that held our 2010 harvest of el dorado counties finest honey.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


my first attempts at espalier action of fruit trees. a few broken branches - but hey they will grow back. i filled up the last holes in the regular orchard this spring and am now turning to the fence line - and espalier - for apples and pears.

only certain varieties of trees are suitable for espalier - those with long lived spurs or other fruit bearing wood which isnt renewed every year. like i said - apple and pears, good. cherries, yeah probably. nectarines and peaches - not so much.

so in went my first two asian pears. hosui (totally awesome - juicy, Bartlett type flavor and crunchy). and shinko (never tried one, but the description sounded great and i needed a pollinator).

even though its totally against my normal rules, i let one of them set fruit this year (usually wait at least 2 years for bare roots) and will see how it goes. i will also be grafting other varieties of pears to these trees.

espaliered apples will start next spring with about 4 varieties, that i will get from trees of antiquity - and the bar is thus for a tree to be accepted:

1. an uncommon variety that you cant find, possibly even at farmers markets

2. must be on old variety - early 1800's is the newest acceptable; preferably older - much older.

3. has a characteristic which makes it stand out. i.e. colored flesh, scent, others?

4. most likely not red skinned, i just have a thing against red skinned apples - probably from the hundreds of red delicious apples i threw out as a kid because they were pithy or other such reason.

as these espaliered trees mature and grow in number - i will begin to graft additional varieties to them to further increase my diversity. california rare fruit growers offers a scion exchange - usually in mid-january, where for a small fee you can buy cuttings suitable for grafting. grafting - i have done before - trained by my grandpa and had success, so i am looking forward to doing it again. the scion exchange is not well advertised, so listen to farmer freds show as he is usually the only way i hear about it also (sundays - 1530 am 830-10, 650 am 10-12). he's a hoot - you wont regret listening to our local radio gardener.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

top heavy tomatoes

looks like the garden for 2011 will have to have some guy-wires installed to prevent the top heavy tomato plants from toppling over. seems the weather didnt stop the tomatoes plants from getting tall, only keeping the fruit from getting red.

an utter failure - at least for me

i had the idea to pair up my corn and winter squash in the same bed. seemed like a good idea when i heard about the three sisters idea on farmer fred's show.

so i planted my corn and two weeks later - in went the squash seeds.
well, it turns out that waiting 2 weeks wasnt necessary, as the corn completely outstripped the growing rate of the winter squash. and as you can tell in the attached picture, the puny squash plant has struggled since it broke ground.

as i am downsizing tomatoes to only 20 plants next year, that will free up an entire bed for winter squash, so i will probably not co-mingle corn and squash. BUT - if i do, you can bet the corn seeds and the squash seed will go in at the same time.

the fence keeps them out...

the electric fence seems to be doing its job. the only intrusion of deer into the garden, i believe is when i had the doggy entrance open and surprising to me the deer went thru and chewed up a few plants.

subsequently closing the doggy/deer door and no more evidence of deer in the garden. lets keep our fingers crossed.

jimmy durante doppleganger?

what do you think?

and the abundance begins - finally....

well the wierd summer weather has had a big impact on my vegetable production. nearly 4 weeks late for initial planting, resulted in a huge delay for my veges. didnt see my first tomato until late july. we are now getting an abundance, but still have a remarkable number of green tomatoes.

but, in spite of odd, off-beat weather, we have been doing well. cukes, once rolling along have done well. i am sold on the japanese climbing variety. vertical is good for the vine and they are crisp, good flavor and havent found a bitter one yet.

corn - ho-hum year. we did get some ears. the staggered planting, didnt seem to improve any yields and am betting that a lack of concentrated pollen may have resulted in less than optimal pollination. this is year 2 of using the extra sweet variety - mainly selected for a shorter growing season. i am pondering going back to pa's tried and true silver queen variety and see how that works. also, the stalks of corn fell over , so i am betting i need to plant the seeds deeper next year.

tomatoes - ok, yields are getting there and no doubt i will be composting a bunch of green ones. oh - i will be only planting 20 plants in 2011. 2010 had 25, 2009 had 41. this will free up 1 full bed for other plants - and i know we will still have more than enough tomatoes.

beans - just fine.

bell peppers - did well, but the yellow and orange varieties didnt seem to color up as expected. maybe due to the odd weather.

summer squash - a new variety and worked well.

winter squash - a near failure, look for a future post on that.

potatoes - *AWESOME*

there will be honey this year

the bee hives have been a challenge. as you know, i hived a few swarms and also raided some feral hives and had 6 hives by july.

turns out the feral hives, just havent grown as hoped, and i have combined them over time, hoping that combining the hives will give them a critical mass to survive the winter. so i am now down to 5 hives - not that i am complaining, mind you.

i have been treating the hives with powdered sugar, to protect against varroa mites. my goal is to follow organic methods for the hives - as i have for the garden. there is some scientific evidence to suggest that the sugar kicks off the bees cleaning activity, which results in more mites getting cleaned out.

next up will be honey extraction the weekend of september 11 and at that time i will treat the hives w/ thymol and other essential oils to assist with varroa eradication - but in an organic method.

and now gophers?

i swear, the dirt that would become my garden had not seen a mole or a gopher - ever. and once i decide to turn it into a raised bed garden - they show up.

its like they dropped from the sky and now i have to deal with these guys. my orchard has been over planted w/ clover and i would bet that gopher had been there for awhile before i found it.

the real issue is the damn tunnels they dig, which redirects the water away from the roots - infact, thats how i found the damn thing, my blueberries, which were planted as bare roots this spring, started to get crispy and when i began investigating i found a tunnel - which was a bad thing.

Monday, July 19, 2010

caller #5!

no applause necessary - really folks - its all in a days work. but yesterday, 7/18 - i was caller #5 on the get growing with framer fred show. his garden grappler was to name a determinate tomato.

easy question, as i usually have a tomato catalog handy - hard part was i was at home depot when he asked the question. apparently, it took folks some time to come up with the answer and dial into the show, as i was able to complete my shopping trip, go home find a catalog and still call in.

the prize was an awesome master gardener catalog, which i really wanted, but some time ago, the fred made a deal, the next time i got caller #5 he would offer me a vintage krak 1140 marketing glossy with all the dj's on it. it seems when i was a kid, fred was the late night dj - while i knew joey, rick, jim and hal when krak was the 50,000 watt country music powerhouse in nor cal (alabama? conway twitty?, mel mcdaniel? anyone, bueller?, bueller?) - fred's work day was a bit after my parent imposed bedtime and i didnt ever hear him on the air.

so true to his word, the 1981 vintage marketing glossy is on its way courtesy of usps. thanks fred, this prize is the best one yet.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

the current project

between fishing trips and scout events, i get a few things done at the house. albeit, not as fast as i did back in the day. this started right i after finished the kiester boards in the garden. i had to keep the deer out my garden.

i currently have a 5.5 foot picket fence surrounding the garden. i knew that wasnt enough to keep deer out. deer can clear a fence, upwards of 8 feet high - maybe higher, depending upon the athletic prowess of the deer and how hungry they might be at the time. but i do have aesthetics to be aware of. so just couldnt install an ugly barrier to make the garden 100% deer proof. the compromise is an idea i picked up from joe lamp'l a tv gardener guy who happens to be a facebook friend. behind the fence is a series of poles that are almost 10 feet tall. these poles, once electrified, it is hoped that the deer will find food easier to obtain elsewhere.

these poles have been waiting for about 2 years to be put to use. so this week i started to electrify the fence. there are 4 strands that surround the garden. 1 waist high, and 3 that are about 6 feet, 7.5 and 9 feet off the ground respectively. next step is to add in a feature that will compensate for wire expansion/contraction throughout the seasons and connect the wires to the solar powered charger.

first harvest of 2010

radishes dont count - they are too easy. but i got the first purple bells of the year. sliced up, placed in ice water and yum, yum!

somethings eating up my garden

over the past few weeks, i have noticed something nibbling at my plants.

first it was my bean sprouts missing their new leaves. next it was my watermelon plant. a leaf here, another leaf there. the beans were chewed in a manner that was reminiscent of slugs or snails - but there was no tell-tale slime trail and i hadnt seen any up here at all.

maybe it was deer, but when they get in the garden, they typically will not chew a few leaves; they mow through everything. i mean everything, from tomatoes, to trees. so i was a bit stumped. and whatever ate my watermelon seedlings, set the plants back a couple weeks.

then today. today i witnessed the guilty party. while i was up in the garden taking a water break, the wife that is lisa brought up a nice glass of melon water and with her came the ever faithfull dog jed. he who is the head of ranch security, the dispatcher of the deer, the eater of the doggie snacks. he non-chalantly walked over to the bean patch and took a nibble off one the plants.

'A-HA!' i found the culprit. right in broad day light, in front of witnesses, i found the leaf nibbler. to wit - the wife said 'oh - isnt that cute he is eating his greens.'

if my eyes could have bugged out like a stomped on toad, i would have. 'What?' i said. 'now i know he's been doing this, he has lost all garden privileges.'

so i had grandpa cut a plywood door - which will keep jed on the yard side of the garden. its a sad day in mudville, but if you cant trust your bird dog - who can you trust.

hives 7,8,9

i have a problem.

i collect far too many hives until it becomes a chore and its not as much fun. there i said it and i feel better.

the bottom.line is - if i know a wild hive is destined to be destroyed, due to circumstances beyond its control, i feel an obligation to do what i can to save it. martyrdom? do-gooder? dont really know, but off i go to help out.

well, thats what happened, when keith and i got another call from the construction site, where we had pulled 3 previous ferral hives. he had 3 more that had to go. so, one early saturday morning keith and i set forth and did our duty. keith got into his ritual bee gear, but did go sans gloves - so he is getting tougher :)

the process of clearing out a wild hive is pretty messy and sting prone. bees are pissed and dont appreciate thier home being wrecked - even if it is to save thier lives. one wild card is always - did we get the queen - you will never know until you go back later in the day to pickup the hive box. if th e bees are in there - you got the queen. no bees in the box, you missed the queen and the whole prcoess starts over again.

through the series of photos, you can see keith smoking up the hive and as we progress on through claiming the brood comb and honey comb. finally we see the end result of wearing no bee gear.

thats right, i am wearing a fat lip, two quick pops by 2 different bees, pretty much showed the bees sometimes get the last word in the deal. well, 3 new hives are up in the garden and ready for combining into other hives to strengthen them up. as for the chore - i have taken my name off the swarm list at the bee store. now its all fun again - even the stings.

Friday, June 18, 2010

hive update 6/18....

well, i got into the hives tonight to see if any of my predictions were true.

1. the garbage can hive, which i thought i had injured the queen has started to re queen itself. the injured queen was no where to be found and there are 2 queen cells. so it looks like that hive is in the reforming stage, but they have brood and i'm thinking it'll be alright.

2. the new queen hive. 2 queen cells still, good worker numbers and brood, so this looks ok.

3. the original bill bird hive (originally the first construction hive). :( this one is just not going to make it. even with brood, the hive isnt replacing its queen. and honestly, i dont know if this hive ever had a laying queen, there were eggs, but i am betting it was laying workers. if you recall, this is the hive i found a queen under the bottom board and when i placed her in the hive, she was balled up by the worker bees and dead by the end of the day. in fact, tonight i will shake out the bees and use this box for my hive pickup tomorrow.

4. looked into the third construction hive (refer to picture on previous post) and i saw newly laid eggs and saw a nice fat italian queen. so this one is the new bill bird hive (renamed in adjoining picture). so bill, we are still in the game, this one is looking good. we need to plan on day and time to make the drop off.

tomorrow 6/19 - keith and i will be up early to wrangle 3 more hives from the construction site.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

the apiary lineup

so when i am talking about the hives - you know which one is which.....

garden update 6/15

planted round 2 of corn yesterday. 1bed down 1 left. we should see a good succession of corn this year - 75 days away - i cant wait.

challenges in the apiary

this past weekend, i was able to carve some time and go thru the hives, see whats up and whats the next steps i need to take.

i have the hives named - based upon where i got them and allows me to keep somethings straight in my head.

so i have the following hives:

first serrano hive
folsom hive
second serrano hive
nuc hive
first construction hive
garbage can hive
second construction hive
third construction hive

not soon after i started working the hives, my neighbor called up to me and said she saw one of my hives swarm. my neighbor isnt a fan of bees, but she has a good attitude on it. but i wasnt sure if she might have confused a swarm with a big orientation flight.
i worked first serrano and folsom hives, sorting frames in both and adding a honey super on the folsom hive. got to the second serrano hive and found the neighbor was right. there was about 7 sealed queen cells (see pix) and it was obvious this was the swarmed hive and the neighbor was right. why did it swarm? who really knows, as hives based upon swarms and not requeened do have a tendency to be swarmy - but i bet i didnt place a second story on the hive soon enuff. so on a second story went - kinda like closing the barn door after the horse got out - but better late than never.

the nuc hive looked, good found the queen and added a second story to it.
the garbage can hive needed to be moved from the nuc box to a full size hive (it was sitting on top of the first construction hive). there was old comb in there that bees had made a mess of. in transferring to the new hive, i may have injured the queen. time will tell, but this hive may be re-queening itself, if i dented her too much. although i thought i was being careful, its obvious i wasnt careful enough.

the first construction hive (destined to be bill bird's hive) i saw eggs laid in cells - but numerous eggs (usually a sign of laying workers or a young queen). upon further inspection, i saw a cluster of bees under the bottom board on the metal screen - and there was a queen bee. thinking it was the queen for the first construction hive, i marked her and placed her in the hive - where she was immediately balled up by the resident bees. not a good sign. by the end of the day that queen was dead and the future of that hive is up in the air. so bill, this hive may or may not make it - but i have others, so we are still on track - no worries.
the second and third construction hives were still in the nuc boxes they were placed in upon capture and it was time to liberate them to full size hives. when the hives were originally captured - i placed the brood comb into the nucs to help the hives in their transition to a new home.
the second construction hive cleaned up pretty quick - found the queen, marked her and moved the brood comb to frames and all is well. the third construction hive was bit more of a challenge. in it i found the same sealed queen cells that i placed in there from the original capture - but i saw evidence of eggs. so what to do.

i created new hive (lets call it the new queen hive) - i moved the queen cells to a nuc, shook off some worker bees and now its a waiting game.

luckily, i got a call this week from the construction site and there are another 3 hives that need to be gathered - so keith and i will be up early saturday morning to gather them. 2 to my apiary and 1 to fill up keith's extra hive. so bill - as you can see, we will get one to you and venus no matter what.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

solar wax melter

i have had the kit for almost 10 years and finally put it together. the melter renders beeswax from old hive comb and hive scrappings. painted black and a glass top, and it gets pretty hot in there.
you can see the old comb i placed in there earlier today.

garden update 6/6

most of the seeds popped this weekend - 1 week after planting. still mia? carrots (they take forever), potatoes and watermelon.

i planted 1/4 of the corn and will follow with an additional 25% every 2 weeks.

see, i told ya bill....

it has your name on it....

the other picture shows some his girls in action. i was unable to see if the queen was there when we captured the hive, so a few more days and i will cleanup the old comb and look for the queen and if i cant find her, i will look for new eggs. i will keep you apprised of its progress.


keith - bee keeping action hero - got a call about several established hives in a construction area that needed to be cleared out or they would have to be exterminated. he, being the very eager newbee (pun intended) beekeeper, saw this as golden opportunity to jump start his beekeeping hobby.

at that point, i had three hives already from swarms i captured and was not as eager as keith to bust into existing hives, duke it with bees defending their home and hope to convince them i was the good guy and was there to help.

our first trip , brought home a smallish hive, that seemed to sulk about 2 weeks before it starting taking sugar water. i havent even looked for the queen in that hive yet (i know she went in, so not worried about it being queenless), hoping the hive is able to survive.

memorial day weekend came and keith and i were out to wrangle some bees. 6 am and we were busy. the bees had taken up home in concrete forms.

using sugar water, smoke and patience, keith and i were able to get most of the bees into our smaller portable nuc hives. bees typically arent too cooperative when you try to move them to a new home - but for the most part we won. keith used full beekeeping gear and survived without a sting. i prefer to work without protective gear (not as hot, and usually i dont need it as swarms are very docile) and ended up with 10ish stings, i lost count, but typically just power through stings and all.

so up in the garden i have 2 hives that are in rehab - and one has bill birds name on it.