Sunday, June 26, 2011

The bees and I

 So I checked on the bees yesterday. I had a friend over, so we had D watch the kids while we escaped outside for a peaceful quiet bee visit. I try and check on the bees during the middle of the afternoon. We were a little late, about five-ish. It was still very warm and sunny, but the tall spruce and birch on the west side of us were shading the hive area from direct sun. It was the first time since I put the second brood box on, that I'd checked on the bees. At first I was hesitant to get into the bottom box because of all the comb they'd built and filled that was in between the two boxes. I put the second brood box on a little early, before the very outside frames were drawn out. The bees had moved up before filling the bottom box completely- my error for being so eager to add on. I wasn't sure what the proper course of action was. But I decided to replace the outside bare frames with the partially drawn out frames that were filled in the middle of the top box.

 Everything else looked good. We found the queen doing her thing. There were just a few capped drone cells. I'm thinking I've got an ok queen but not great, from what I've observed of the population over the last several weeks.
 Two brood boxes are mandatory in Interior Alaska - or so we were taught in class. I'm not sure if that is standard elsewhere or not. 

When I am looking at the frames, I look for the queen, for eggs and larvae. I look to see how much pollen there is and how much capped sugar water or other stores. I also look to make sure there aren't any queen cells or too many drone cells. This is my favorite part, just pulling frames and checking them out.

 And this is right about when I got stung for the first time since keeping bees. I was partially stung a few weeks ago, but the stinger didn't stay in and within minutes there was no pain or swelling. This time it hurt. I got stung on my middle finger on my right hand as I was picking up the frame. It took me a while to get the stinger out. It didn't just brush off like I thought it would. 


 Trying to get the stinger out without squeezing the sack of venom into my finger.

 And time to finish up since my right hand is throbbing.

After closing up the hive I chewed a plantain leaf and put that on my finger. It helped but didn't relieve the symptoms as much as I'd expected. Then I tried some plantain tincture I made up last summer. As long as I kept the cotton ball on my finger it was soothing. Then I dabbed my finger into the honey that had come out of the comb I'd broken off, and the relief was instant and complete. I have reapplied plantain and honey throughout the day today as the tip of my finger is still still red, swollen and throbbing. I'm sure I'll be exploring bee sting remedies more in the future. 

For those of you with bee experience, feel free to lend some advice. I'm sure I'll look back on this and laugh at myself. I think it is time to consult with the local bee expert and make sure I'm on track. Regardless, at least there will be honey for us.Our honey pot is empty. I don't feel like I can afford to buy any local honey right now. So maybe I'll just hold out, even though going honeyless for a few months is unthinkable. I do relish a good drought when there is certain to be an upcoming abundance. I'm not buying beets or carrots now, or much vegetables at all. We are eating lots of greens and herbs. I'm enjoying clearing out the freezer. We just ate our last chicken from last year. We are almost out of jam, but still have lots of berries in the freezer, so jam day may be the next rainy day.

We butchered a goat this week, for the first time. I think the subject warrants it's own post, but I will say that it went well. I feel good about it. The meat is great, pleasantly surprised by the goats once more. We've been enjoying having our own red meat for dinner and in the freezer. The last two nights I rubbed sea salt, pepper, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil into assorted cuts; mostly goat chops and a front shoulder roast. Then I threw them on the grill over high heat and cooked them until medium rare, and then let the meat rest. Some bites could have been choice steak, others were a bit chewy - but great flavor. A pot of bone stock and another with goat fat rendering into lard, bubble away on the stove top.

We are just beginning to put food into the freezer. Forty Copper River Red Salmon, check, one full sized fatty goat, check. Oh, and is it officially summer finally - well feels like we are in mid summer here. Happy late solstice everyone.


Plain and Joyful Living said...

Thank you for sharing about your hive. We hope to keep one in the next year or so.
So envious about your freezer full of salmon!
Warm wishes,

Lindsey said...

Major respect for you. I am deathly afraid/mildy allergic to bees but beekeeping has always appealed to me. I'm just not mentally strong enough to get over my fear of them!!
I have never heard of putting honey on the sting - but that makes perfect circular sense.

Anonymous said...

Wow!!! I'm always in awe of you. I'm a Soldier that will one day get back to my roots and enjoy growing/producing much of my family's food as you do. My wife calls it my "hobby" and wants very little to do with it, forcing me to sell or butcher everything before deployments. I'm back and over the next couple of years there will once again be pigs and chickens on my ten acres. Now I am inspired to get a hive of bees early next year.

Anonymous said...

Ahh your first sting! Around here we give a big hung and pat on the head when someone get's stung. I will say you do have some nice docile bees if they didn't get aggressive after the first one got squished. I've never really found any good solution for the discomfort of a sting. I have found that the less I mess with it, the less the venom spreads and then the 'itchy phase' is not as bad (the stings never get me that bad, its 24-36 hrs later that it itches like CRAZY) I'll have to try honey next time. (I like using my hive tool to scrape the stingers out)

I want to hear/see about your goat you butchered! I got some lamb from another blogger down here in Washington (CollieFarm) and wonder how much meat I would get off of a dairy goat. We started with egg chickens, and have moved to butchering chickens, so I can hope that we see goats the same some day...

Denise said...

Emily, two bee sting remedies you can explore. First, a homeopathic called apis mel. Second, an essential oil of helichrysum.

I'm intrigued by the grilled goat!! And I'm jealous about the salmon. We need to take a break and go dipnetting!

Emily said...

Denise, thanks for the reminder. I knew but had forgotten about the apis remedy. Never heard of that essential oil for stings, but I'll have to try it.

I should have taken some pictures on goat butchering day. We brought back a large milk crate full of wrapped meat. It went well enough that I'm seeing our four bucklings in a new light, November meat into freezer.

Jewel said...

Hi Emily,

A sleeveless sundress with no veil checking your bees...very brave!! I have been keeping bees for several years, and have learned the hive is quite mellow when they're new. Once they are so full and brimming with thousands of bees and you're going after the honey in late summer, watch out for your face, that is the first place they'll fly to sting you.

I have a full one piece suite with a veil attached for those times, and a separate veil just for quick checks inside. I don't really use my smoker anymore. But the full suit makes me feel so relaxed even with thousands of bees all around me.

Fun to see you enjoying them. They have brought me many happy times in the garden, watching what they're bringing into the hive. I also collect some pollen (with a pollen trap) at different times of the year, it's full of almost every vitamin and mineral.

:) Jewel
PS. I use apple cider vinegar for stings.

foxboy77 said...

use an old credit card to push out the stinger. start a bit away from the sting and push the edge towards the stinger. this forces it out without allowing the venom to get in. we keep several attached on strings to the hives to use in such moments. also a few away from the hive attached to the fence in the garden. it works amazingly well.

Mattias said...

Hi Emily, great bee post. Any chance of you posting about your goat slaughtering? We have an extra buck and would like to put him in the food chain by the end of the season. Thanks!


Emily said...

Mattias, I have been thinking of doing a post on goat butchering. I didn't take any pictures and I didn't weigh the final quantity of meat. We didn't do anything special. We shot her with a twenty two in the back of the head while she was browsing. She dropped immediately. My brother processed her as he would have carribou or moose, except that she was smaller. We mostly have lots of roasts, stew meat, goat chops and ribs. I rendered the lard. Next time I might work the hides or give them to someone who will. I don't like throwing anything away. I've got a bag of stew or grind meat, that I've thought about making sausage with. I did come across a good goat butchering post a while back with pictures. I might just try searching online through some other goat blogs. Good luck, Emily