Friday, April 20, 2012

Spring kids and bees

I'm guessing we have a couple more weeks of spring before the days start to blur into summer. Our snow is fast melting. Our roof is still dripping. Puddles and mud abound, and small rivers run down the road. The goose and ducks are in heaven. We've been staying home most days so we let the ducks and chickens out of their outside pens each morning and close them in again before bedtime. Watching the ducks and goose waddle up and down the road and trails, splashing in all the puddles, well, it almost makes it worth watering them all winter long. Our nights are in the twenties and thirties, with our days reaching into the fifties and sixties. I've washed and put away our snowsuits and we've switched over to rain boots and mud pants. These pictures were taken about a week ago. We still have more snow on the ground than dirt showing, but not for long.

Today I set several goose eggs in the incubator. Rosie, our lone goose is starting to go broody. Today I felt guilty taking two eggs out from under her. She is getting more attached to her nest. I am going to let her start sitting on the remaining eggs. I want her to hatch out some eggs just for the fun of watching a mother goose with her goslings for the summer. We don't plan on keeping any geese next winter.

I'm well into seed starting. I'm feeling a little behind where I'm usually at. But I keep reminding myself that I usually plant seedlings out too early anyway. They don't usually die from the cold, but instead they just take a long time to take off - but I do plant a lot earlier than our official planting out date. So I'm going to try and hold out a little later this year for transplants. Today I started Brassicas, medicinal herbs and 4-6 wk flowers. I made decisions like cutting out the savoy cabbage and just growing a dozen storage cabbage. I started twenty four broccoli plants, five different varieties so we'll have broccoli early and until frost. I made sure to keep the kid's gardens in mind when sowing flower seeds. Both of them are really into the color red. So I started extra red zinnias and a bright calendula for them. Avery helped with the Brassica tray, so I'm pretty sure we might have no plants in some cells and three in others.

We are getting into the summer routine of busting out on house and kitchen chores in the morning hours and then spending the afternoons and early evenings outside. I finally have some sun on my face and arms, the first of hopefully much sun to soak into my skin this season.

Noah turned six last week. He asked and received a bee suit for his birthday from D and I. We picked up our four pound bee package with two queens a couple days later and then hived them on a lovely sunny afternoon. This is my second year doing bees and we are doing it differently last year in an attempt to improve upon our honey yield. I have had a hard time trying to decide the best spot for the hive. Our best early morning sunny sites are in the garden, and beings that the kids and I spend a lot of time up there I didn't really want to have the bees take over a corner. So, we thought we'd try putting them into our abandoned greenhouse. The pluses are that the greenhouse get's great sun, some of the earliest sun on the property all the way till sunset. With the bees being inside the greenhouse, their hives will also stay warmer. I'm hoping that their flight path will be mostly above our heads. The disadvantages to having the bees high up is that we have to climb a ladder up and down to check on them and at some point we'll have to carry all the heavy honey frames down the ladder :) Today we smoked the bees to check and see if the queens had been released from their cages, and Noah and I got smoked out. So, another disadvantage, with the smoke not dissipating as easily as outside. Beings that warmth and sun are some of the biggest challenges for bee keepers up here, I'll take the smoke and the ladder climbing, if the bees do well and don't interfere too much with our garden play space.

 Noah, squirting warm sugar water on the package before opening it.

Hives from the outside. We split the hive into half, putting roughly two pounds of bees into each hive and a queen into each. The plan is to combine the hives at the beginning of the honey flow to maximize population numbers and have the best sized work force. We'll see how it goes. Everything is an experiment each year isn't it? Bees, garden, poultry -egg setting, goats - kidding, and the list goes on. Wouldn't life be boring without experiments?


Anonymous said...

I really enjoy reading your blog! Good luck with the bees. We're trying our hand at keeping bees this year and I hope ours turns out well too. Enjoy your spring!

off grid mama said...

Life is frazzling with too many experiments ... lol Kansas and Alaska are two different experiences. But do the bees die in winter?

Emily said...

If the bees have enough honey and the beekeeper knows what they are doing, they often make it through the winter. Since I am starting with new equipment and the bees are spending lots of time on building comb, my hive and bees will probably not be prepared to make it through the winter for another year or two. It is common practice to kill the bees before winter so they don't starve and freeze to death. I look forward to wintering my bees over. Our winters are so long that the bees need a lot of honey to make it through - more than my bees are making in a summer yet.

Bovey Belle said...

Here's another one enjoying your blog. I was amazed at your bee-keeping, but wasn't sure how they survived the winter! How wonderful that your young son is so interested in bee-keeping too.

I was reading back a post or two about your midwife duties for the goats. Sounds like they are quite a challenge sometimes, when they present wrongly (I mean, head turned back . . .) Well done.

As for wanting winter to end - we are in Wales, UK and had a coldish winter, then one splendid HOT week in March, and now we are back to winter temperatures again and I just want to be WARM once more and be able to enjoy being outdoors. I can sypathise with your feelings after an Alaskan winter.