Monday, November 28, 2011

our house - as google sees it

its amazing to me the detail that our satellites can ferret out from way out in space.  this is the latest google earth photo of my house.  it was taken sometime in summer of 2009 - as i can tell from what is done and not done in the photo. 

even more amazing is you can see the lattice work on my cucumber trellis up in the garden (2nd bed on the right, light brown smudge).  that is made from 2x2 cedar and, well you can see its there.  to the left of that is a green garden hose.

as you can also tell, i still have a lot of projects to be done around the house - but, its obvious that i had my priorities straight that day.

the boat is hitched to the truck and looks like i just got home from a fishing trip. 

its a good life, no complaints here.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

2011 fall color

the trees are getting bigger and thier color is getting better year over year.  downside - those leaves will be hitting the ground and that means more work in the next week or so. 


awesome compost.

last harvest of 2011

this wraps up the 2011 garden  - potatoes.  take a gander at those spuds.  those red ones are huge.  and there is another box full of these babies in the cellar.

the 2012 seed catalogs are on thier way.  i cant wait.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

this was last weekends project.  big pile of cuttings that made way for the fence. 

pretty scratched up from all the oak - but its a nice pile of mulch now.

got a lot done, still alot more to go.  if you are lookin' for some work - i can share.

the back fence

its done, but you get to see the bones here.  nice to have this long-on-the-honeydo-list project complete.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

other projects this summer

well, i finally fenced in the back property line.  the neighbor wanted the fence in, i hadnt prioritized it - we did some horse-trading. 

end result?

3 big grey pines dropped in the backyard.  these trees were leaners (~60-80 feet tall) and when we had the 18 inches of snow during the winter of '09 - they were leaning too far for my comfort over my boat.

so with a little quid pro quo - he got a fence in sooner and i got 3 huge trees cutdown.  pretty sweet.  i even found a taker for the wood - so my boys and i got it cut and stacked and the wood is now up in pollock pines ready to keep someones house warm.

i have some pretty cool pix of the fence and the guy up in the tree - but for life of me i can t make this blog take them vertically - even though they show up properly on my desktop.  go figure.  so you get to see 3 of my fav guys who helped out on the project.  (l-r) austin, andrew and jed. 

and thats my boat to the far right.

7.5 gallons - hmmm baby...

yup - the weird weather didnt seem to impact honey production too much.  if you followed my 12 swarm captures (mostly from my own hives) i figured i would experience a poor honey harvest.  well, we saw a 50% increase from last year (2010 saw 5 gallons).  i also had queen issues early in the year - which i believe was the result of me swapping the brood supers - resulting in queen supersedure and subsequent swarming.

so 2012 will see no brood box swaps and as i re-queened with new world carniolans in late june, i am hoping that they will avoid swarming - as that trait is downplayed in the nwc strain. 

time will tell.

as of this week i have applied the winter prep medicine to reduce the varroa mite and have 6 strong hives.  i do have 1 hive (the 7th) that i will be break down shortly, its having wax moth issues - and that is an indicator of other factors causing a failing hive.  i will set out the honey in that hive and have the other hives rob it and add to their winter stores.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

from there to here...

well, i did it again. no summertime posts, no updates - you would think i would know better. however, it is what it is. so lets jump back a few months to the garden. my last post showed a pretty good hail storm, a week after i planted my tomatoes in May. well, old mother nature did her best, er- worse -  but we were able to pull out ok, but it was a tough year.  tomatoes didnt produce until august, we had cool weather throughout the summer and didnt get the intense weeks of heat which really kick the tomatoes in high gear.

as you see in the picture (mid june timeframe) the garden did do well early.  2011 was a challenge, but gardeners are an optimistic lot, by nature - otherwise why would we plant seeds and dirt?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

and i planted tomatoes a week ago


on may 15. who du thunk it.

my tomatoes are covered by black plastic pots, so i am not overly concerned, but, darn - this is supposed to be may - you know, warm, shorts weather. we'll see of this stunts the tomatoes too much.

thankfully the pots covering the tomatoes will provide good protection from the hail, marginal from frost.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

#13 and the last one? well maybe....

i'm off the bee store swarm list, but various folks from past year swarm pickups still have my number. after i pick up a swarm, i always mention to keep my number in case they or a friend get re-swarmed and i will come out and pick it up.

today, i got just such a call.

so off i go. it was a pretty easy swarm. i cut the branch off with the swarm ball intact, placed it in the hive and came home.

this should be the last one for 2011. it'll be combined with one of my existing hives that is having some issues with eggs and brood.

Monday, May 9, 2011

the 2011 tomato team hit the dirt this weekend

and the day after, we had cold weather and snow 15 miles up the road. :0 21 of those babies in the ground. lets hope for a very tomatoey 2011.

trouble in the apiary :(

did the bee inspection about a week ago. i have seen numerous swarms come from my hives and i needed to see whats up in the hives.

it didnt start off too well.

hive #1 - found zero - nada - not one egg or capped brood in the hive. saw a lot of drones and quite a bit of workers. i couldnt find the queen. not good. so as i go frame by frame and getting realizing i may be witnessing a dying hive, i decide to move a recent captured swarm into the hive.

the plan goes like this. i strip the hive, right down to the bottom board. i inserted the 'russ brett' swarm and proceed to shake out all of the bees, frame by frame, down in the garden - so the bees can fly back to their hive and integrate themselves to their new queen. about 4 frames into the shaking process - and i find the queen.


so - what to do. i'm not going to pull out the recently inserted nuc. so - off with her head. live and learn, well i know that hive will make it, but i wish i would have seen the queen earlier in the process.

hive #2 - its the same - deja vu all over again - no eggs, no brood, just a bunch of drones and workers. learning from the first hive, i looked and looked and actually found the queen. i put the hive back together and moved on to #3.

hive #3 - dude, whats up with these hives. same thing. no eggs, etc. i did find the queen. closed the hive up and moved on to the others.

all the other hives, i saw eggs and brood.

so here's the game plan next weekend will be 2 weeks since the inspection. should be plenty of time for the queen to establish herself. if there are no eggs, then the hive will be integrated with one of the extra swarms, i gathered for just in case of an emergency. these swarms have laying queens and good egg/brood patterns, so i'm hoping this saturday goes well and makes it easy on me.

what was the cause of this mess? unknown , but my attempt at hive super reversal earlier this spring, may have been less than successful. next year, super reversal is not in the game plan. i will look at splitting the hives.

stay tuned.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


my next door neighbor reported he had a swarm over at his rental. so off i go. located at the base of a fence - overgrown with weeds. i was able to scoop the bees into the hive. scoop after scoop - it was a small swarm, but they just werent cooperating too well.

a few more scoops and BAM - i found the queen, grabbing her by the wings and popped her into the nuc hive. this one was pretty easy.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


got a call from a neighbor about a swarm hanging on a fence pole at his house. the neighbor is pretty allergic to bees, but has a real positive attitude about the bees in general. i plan to keep them supplied with honey.

this swarm was hived while it was raining - not overly tuff, but makes the bees a bit testy.

while hiving it, i was able to ID the queen, grabbed her by the wings and showed her to the neighbor. i placed her in the hive, and after that - it was a slam dunk to get the bees in the box.

i have room for 1 more swarm.


this was the second one i hived friday night. pretty decent size swarm and i saw the queen, so this one should do well.


came home work on friday and found two swarms awaiting me.

this one was a pretty small cluster, but i needed to clear this one to get to the fatty further up the tree. this was a quick and easy capture.

but it didnt last long. swarm #11 came in saturday afternoon. and i needed the box this swarm was in. this cluster was very small and prior to grabbing #11 i looked at #9. didnt see a queen, so this cluster lost its queen and was doomed.

they are now co-mingled with #11.

tomato starts update

keith dropped off the starts in early april - just as they were ready to be potted up out of the 6 pack cells. wasting no time, these babies went right into the next size pots. then, they didnt look so good.

it seems that the move to larger digs, resulted in some shock. the starts just didnt look good; clearly unhappy, the leaves yellowed. growth stagnated. are these guys going to make it? about 9 days later, things started to look better.

leaves greened up, new ones sprouted and as you can see - looks like these babies are getting ready to rock and roll.

tomato season 2011 - lets roll.

#6 and #7 - at rest - and bill, see its not only you...

my gardening friend and fellow beekeeper, bill bird of natomas, - yeah you know the guy - a well known blog and gets some good press from the sacbee - he was concerned, as his hello kitty hive swarmed, not once but 4 or 5 times this spring.

at 1900 foot elevation, my hives are about 3 weeks behind bills, but i am going thru a similar process. humans like to think they can control things. we plan and work and do what we can to impose our will upon the workings of nature. it usually doesnt work. occasionally we get lucky.

this year not so much.

i have witnessed at least 8 swarms, all issued from hives that i own, i reversed the brood chambers - which is about all one can do. but i did know this was inevitable. the swarms in the attached picture, are still on the tree limbs 30 feet up, it has rained 2 times since they landed, hopefully they will make it. i think it would be pretty cool if they do.

all of my hives - save 1 - came from swarms captured in 2010. i did not requeen any of them. so swarming is a part of their genetics - of which i did nothing to improve. so in 2011, i intend to change that.

i have 4 new world carniloan queens on reserve to be picked up in mid-june. nwc's are a well established controlled breeding line - which among other things, utilize a small winter cluster. small winter clusters, usually come into spring with less proclivity to swarm.

no swarms = happy neighbors. happy neighbors = bees get to stay.

so in june, new queens will be introduced, by the time fall hits all of the bees in those 4 hives, will be nwc strain. my plan is as follows.

the 4 hives that are not requeened will be joined with the 4 with nwc queens. these 'super hives' will go into winter strong. some time around march, i will split the hives, essentially giving each hive room to grow, without the need to swarm.

this will create 4 hives with new queens. these hives will be requeened with 2012 nwc's queens. the hives requeened in 2011, should be ok thru 2012.

like is said these are my plans - if you have any questions as to success - please refer to paragraph #2.

#6 and #7

if you look real close at the picture, you will notice a bunch of black dots. those are the bees that made up - what turned out to be 2 swarms flying at one time. i never had a chance with these, as they came to rest on branches about 30 feet up in a digger pine in the backyard.

its amazing how loud a swarm of bees are - if you ever get a chance to witness such an event, just relax, sit back and enjoy. they arent aggressive and its a marvel of nature. something akin to entropy in action.

#5 - the sequel

this is the one i left behind - when i went to get the fatty - you remember, the one on the lower branch. well they stayed put overnight and early sunday morning, i was able to get them hived. it wasnt an easy job, these vertical trunk hugging swarms are a challenge.

so sugar spraying and sweeping, i go, actually getting them into the nuc hive - and at one point i actually see the queen - she dropped on the hive cover and just as i am set to grab her by the wings, she takes off. this would have been a slam dunk. queen in hive = pretty much a done deal. i was unable to see where she went to, but hoped she went back to the original branch.

so with most bees in the hive, i go on to my other chores. later in the day the only thing left in the hive is a few straggler bees. 15 feet further up the tree - way out of reach - is that nice swarm, which i will never be able to reach. win some, lose some.

i like to look at it as giving back to mother nature, who has sent a lot of swarms my way this spring. good luck bees.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


this is the one left behind - the one a few feet down, which hopefully will still be there sunday morning for me to capture.


this one awaited me after a long day working a derby for a fisheries group i lead. it was about 10 feet off the ground, late evening and to add to the challenge; their was a second swarm in the same manzanita, but a few feet lower.

so what to do - i cant do both swarms, when i knock one, the other will fall also and being that i have to hang on to the ladder, position a box under the target swarm and also keep from falling - a choice had to be made.

so i go for the fatty.

squirted pretty thoroughly with sugar water, i pulled down the branch holding the fatty. they dropped like dress on prom night - right into the target box. descending the ladder, i was able to get the swarm poured into the nuc hive; at the cost a stung middle finger, that is swelling up pretty good right now.

this one will be combined with another swarm in a few weeks.


its that time of year, where a beekeeper looks all around - not at the flowers, or pretty ladies - but for swarms. this one showed up on friday 4/15 - hanging on the garden fence. anything other than a swarm hanging off a horizontal branch, can be a challenge.

i approached this with the usual heavy dose of sugar water, generously sprayed all over the swarm. being that one cant rap the fence hard enough to kick-off a dramatic swarm drop into a hive i had to come up with a plan b.

once well soaked, i used the hive tool and scraped the bees into a cardboard lid and poured the mass of bees into the nuc hive. it took a few scrapes and the bees were in the hive. by evening time, the bees were all snug in their nuc hive and at 5 AM saturday morning, they were moved up to hive position #8 - filling up my apiary.

still looking for a few more good swarms - to combine with new swarms to get them going even more.


this one landed on a tree, not 10 feet from 2011's first swarm. this one was a little easier to get to - but still required a severe tree cutting to get it out of there. so far, all my swarms have been issued from hives on my property. not a great thing - but with gas hovering at $4 per gallon, at least i am driving all over the county to get my bees.

Monday, April 4, 2011

1950's era documentary on beekeeping

this short clip is certainly dated, but i long for an era - in which i never lived, and perhaps its viewed with rose colored glasses. but it seems the 1950's just was a good time to live, simpler life, safer world (after all - we just stomped on the bad guys in ww2) and the classic leave it to beaver presentation just resonates with me. production values are low, but this is the type of movie we would watch at elementary school back in the 1970's. before digital - everything was analog, very analog. the info is still relevant. enjoy!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

first swarm of 2011

i got called out last week on a swarm that scooted to wherever, before i could capture it - more common than one might think, as swarms that land on branches typically are only waiting for a better place to live. today, late in the afternoon, heading out of my garden, i spotted a swarm of bees that had settled on a pine tree.

a swarm clustered on a tree trunk isnt an easy swarm to hive. the nice fatty i punted to keith, over at bill birds, is a text book perfect swarm. a nice heavy swarm on a horizontal branch. juice them up with sugar water and 'BAM!' into the hive they drop.

this one - as you can tell, decided to take up abode along the trunk, extending vertically for about 3 feet. not an easy one to get to, much less hive. fortunately, it was on a tree which i would have to cut down sometime anyway - and no better reason than to get a swarm.

a few hacks with my loppers and i was able to lean the swarm over the hive box and dropped them in. well, they didnt drop real well - it some brushing, sugar water spraying, and more brushing and finally most of the bees were in the hive. tomorrow, they will move over to their new home.

Friday, March 25, 2011

seedling update

mr. groundhog predicted an early spring - stupid groundhog....

at least my seedlings are making progress - as little has been done in the garden due to the incessant rain for the last few weeks. keith the seed guy is making good progress and these babies will be hitting the dirt in my garden mid-may.

for you valley tomato growers - like 'fish' jimmerson, you need to plant on april 28; the official tomato planting day, and coincidentally farmer fred's bday. up here at 1900 foot elevation, we can get a pretty good frost, past that date and mid-may is chancy, but we should be good.

btw - we got about 2 inches of snow again last night on 3/24 - which we preceded by snow last weekend. stupid groundhog....

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2011 tomato seeds have been started

Kieth the seed guys blog - tracks progress here:

varieties for 2011 are:

ananias nore <-- new variety
black <-- new variety
better boy
early girl
first lite <-- new variety - supposedly early, we'll see
cherokee purple <-- best purple one i have found
black seaman <-- new variety
bloody butcher
japenese black trifele <-- new variety
isis candy <-- new variety
sun gold <-- *AWESOME* will always have this one
big beef
black zebra <-- *AWESOME* will always have this one
orange flesh purple smudge <-- a new one, unique coloring
super fantastic

i will be planting 21 plants (down from 48 a couple years ago) and some varieties will get 2 plants - others only one. i have a good number of new varieties (at least for me) and also a good number of trusty hybrids - if 2010 taught me anything, tomato growing is a crap shoot, and you gotta have your bets covered.

its been awhile - but not to worry

way too long - thats just what its been.

but as winter hits, i really dont get a whole lot done in the garden. the garden has been cleaned up, bees mostly made ready for winter and then the holidays. in addition, we got some new flooring, in the kitchen great room, stairs and landing - which meant i had to paint and lots of it. still not done with the painting, but you get the idea.

if you recall the post:

i was pondering on the compost bin i was to make - well, i decided upon 4 bins, approximately 48 inches in width and height. i didnt want to burn a lot of money on new wood for a compost bin, so i have been scrounging for used redwood and once complete, about 2/3 of the bins will be reclaimed redwood.

a lot of the stuff was just laying around the house, my dad kicked in a bunch of 4x4's which i ripped into 2x4's. all in all its coming together quite nicely. i have 2 bins complete and will roll thru the rest as time permits. the compost pile in the above link will soon be moved over into bin #2 to continue its compost work - bin #1 will be the recipient of 2011 green waste.