Wednesday, July 23, 2014

We Bee Hiving

Today  the bee keeper showed up to help us with our swarm.  At first he wasn't too confident that we could get them to stay put after removing them but he went ahead and as of 10PM tonight the bees are staying in the new hive.  But let me start from the beginning.

Sunday we purchased the start up hive and Sunday night I primed and painted until 4am.  The bee keeper was busy on Monday in his own bee yard so we had time to run to the store to purchase 6 cement blocks to form the pedestal for the hive to sit on.  I know this isn't important but if we are to have multiple hives they must all look the same and sit level.  It would drive me nuts.

The original cement block set up was two blocks high with solid 8X16X4 inches high blocks sitting on top of the two rows of cement blocks.  Once we set the hive on top we realized that it was too high.  The bottom two layers of a hive are for the bees so the layers you will be removing are on top of that and are usually two layers.  So we removed a row of blocks after this photo was taken..
The first piece that you start with is the bottom board.
Then you set the super on top of the bottom board.  See how the bottom board juts out in front of the super?  There is a little sliver of space between the super and the bottom board which is the door to the hive.  The bees goes in and out through that space.
 The next step is installing the frames.  The frame can have a wax foundation or a black plastic foundation like these frames.  The next super will have frames with wax foundation because that is the preferred method for our bee keeper.
Here is an up close photo of the foundation.  The bees build their honey comb onto the foundation.
Everything fits just so and the frames are slightly craved out on the sides so the bees can go around the frames without going all the way to the bottom first to get to the other side of the frame.

On top of the frame you set the top cover........
and then the lid which is covered with metal for rain protection.  Notice how the lid allows for runoff by having a slight overhang.
Here is the beekeeper after he removed the wood under the bay window.  This window will be replaced with replicas of the original double hung 6 over 6 windows so removing the bottom of the bay was no big deal.  But on a side note.....look at how little framing there was to support that window.....shaking my head.
The beekeeper set up the hive under the area where the bees had started to build honeycomb.  He smoked the area to calm the bees and moved pieces of the honeycomb into the hive between the frames.  He then used a soft brush to aid in removing the bees.  Once he had a lot of the bees into the hive, he started looking at each frame looking to see if he could find the queen.  Sure enough he found her and brought the frame over to me to see (I was sitting in the car because I am allergic to bee stings).  I took a photo of the frame covered in bees with the queen (she's huge but not full grown yet).  Where's the photo? I accidentally erased it when I was uploading photos to the blog.  My computer is acting weird and my cursor for no reason at all moves up to a previous line without any warning and before I knew it, I had deleted it.

By 6pm almost all the bees were in the hive.  The beekeeper had left the lid ajar so that the bees could get into the hive from the top.  He wanted R to go outside after dark and completely close the lid.  So at 10pm R closed the lid.  He said he only saw a few bees flying around.

The hive has to stay there until cold weather and then we can move it to the back side of the barn. Until then the hive stays put.  In three weeks we will add another super with frames with the wax foundation.  That layer is for the bees to store honey to get them through the winter.

Once the hive is moved back to behind the barn, it is not guaranteed that the bees will stay there. Normally after a swarm, the bees are moved at least 2 miles so they do not go back to the original area. But I am hoping that they weren't too attached to the window area.  The beekeeper smoked the area really well after the bees were mostly in the hive.  He did this to cover up the queen's pheromones.

Bees are quite interesting.  The queen lays 2000 eggs a day and can live for 8 years.  She does nothing but lay eggs.  Drone feed her and remove her feces.  Bees do not defecate in the hive so during the winter they need to make cleansing flights to basically poop outside the hive.  When the weather is too cold some of the older bees will collect the feces and go out into the cold.  Since they are old and if it is too cold they basically sacrifice themselves for the good of the hive.  This past winter was brutal for the bees here in Michigan.  Once it got cold, it stayed cold and we had a lot of strong bitterly cold wind.

The beekeeper, believe it or not, worked with my husband and they retired around the same time. The beekeeper is the father of my daughter in law's sister in law.  So we had to talk automotive biz for a while.

Now I need to find R a smoker, a bee suit, brush, and gloves.  I'm sure there is more but this will be a learning process for us.  R is looking forward to beekeeping and the honey.

Please help the bees by no longer using Round Up or herbicides and pesticides.  Genetically engineered plants have insecticides built right into them.  Europe and Canada are in the process of banning these but here in the US we are looking the other way.  NO fruit, no veggies, etc.  Not all plants can be pollinated by the wind, some need bees for pollination.  The beekeeper said to plant only heirloom veggies as they are safe for bees.

This is an interesting article that explains the link between colony collapse and neonicotinoids. Here is another article by Bayer about what they are doing to help the bees.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Curbside Treasurer

R is on quite the roll when it comes to finding goodies that have been placed out to the curb.
Check out this vintage trunk.

It needs some loving but check out the curved wooden straps on the lid.

It also needs some new hinges but they can be found on a variety of different websites devoted to restoration.

Hive update....hive is painted and is setting on cement blocks in anticipation of the beekeeper possibly arriving on Tuesday.  He was busy in his own bee yard on Monday.  Keep your fingers crossed that all goes well and the Queen is agreeable and her subjects follow her to the new hive.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Swarming Bees and Our New Hive + Racing with Tony Stewart

Like we really needed another project but when swarming bees show up what can you do?

I won't lie, R and I have talked several times about setting up bee hives so that we could have honey.  R loves his honey and can go through a large bottle of honey in one month.  But we have so much on our plate right now that setting up a bee hive was the last thing on our mind.  That was until Saturday afternoon.

We've been busy weeding and clearing out the bed in front of the house so that I can start painting. Several times we have tried to plant this bed with absolutely no positive results.  The entire front of the house was completely hidden by large junipers when we purchased the house.  It was quite the job to dig and then pull out the huge stumps.  This left large holes that we filled with new top soil.  We then planted three expensive bird's nest spruce and 2 twisted junipers.  They all completely died within 3 years despite watering and fertilizing.

We then replanted with Knockout roses, coneflowers, and irises.  The Knockout roses died within a year and the irises are so so, but the coneflowers are doing great.  No more planting.  Obviously the soil is bad or it is too hot.  Who knows, but we have enough flowers on our property, so it's rocks and boulders for the front.

While we were weeding and removing poorly performing plants, we noticed the lack of any honey bees even though there were plenty of flowers around.  We continued weeding when R noticed a swarm of bugs near the far corner of the house.  The insects were flying willy nilly all over the place. It really didn't look like swarms of bees that I have seen before.  Those swarms all flew in unison back and forth, these were just everywhere in a jumble.

I went in the house and looked out the window to try and get a closer look.  It was then that I saw the honey bees.  We watched the swarm land on the seam in the shingles under the bay window in the family room. These are the windows that we are replacing because they are not original nor appropriate and were poorly installed.  The swarm, once it landed was about 12 inches X 14 inches and about 4 inches thick. Slowly the bee mass got smaller as they went inside under the bay window and soon only the guard bees could be seen flying around outside the small opening.

This seemed like the perfect time to get a hive so I checked CraigsList to see what could be found in the immediate area.  We actually found a seller who makes hives and who lives in my township and is located about 7 miles from us.  I called him and arranged to buy a new hive on Sunday evening.

Realizing that we knew NOTHING about bees except that they make honey meant that I needed a book fast.  Did I go to a book  I went to Tractor Supply Company in Fenton.  I needed to go there anyways because our tree cutter showed R this little gadget to sharpen your chainsaw blade that they sell there.  That's an entire post on it's own but they were out of the sharpener until Monday so I walked around looking at all the cool stuff.

I noticed an area of books on homesteading, canning, and raising chickens so I was hoping that I could find something on bees.  There were bee magazines but I needed beekeeping 101 for the newbie.  I rounded the corner and there it was....the last one.  The Backyard Beekeeper by Kim Flottum.
I quickly ran through the book and there a pre beginner's book?  Luckily we were able to pick the brain of the guy we purchased the hive from and that really helped.  I'll go through the steps that we are going through to set up this hive and retrieve the swarm but first I have to paint the exterior of the hive to protect the raw wood.  This has to be done before the bees are brought to the hive.  From what I read and from what I was told today the best method is to use a latex primer and paint and let it dry overnight.  It is also best to paint the hive to blend in with the surrounding so as to help it go unnoticed. The hive and hopefully hives in the future will be located behind the barn protected from the west and storms that generally come from the west and also protected from the cold wind coming from the north. Behind the barn will give the hive morning and early afternoon sun but protect it from the middle and late afternoon sun which is the hottest.

More later on bee hive set up later.

In the meantime, while dealing with the swarm, I get a text message from my daughter in law with a photo attached saying "guess who's here, it's your fav driver.  You still have time to get here."  The text message had a photo attached of a race hauler.  I didn't recognize the hauler but I guessed that it was Tony Stewart's.  My son races a winged sprint car with the traveling sprint car series called Sprints on Dirt or SOD. Tony has raced with SOD before when he has an opening in his NASCAR schedule.

We couldn't make the race but my son, G, had quite the night.  He started the feature in the 6th position outside of Tony Stewart in 5th position.  G actually passed Tony at one point but a lap later was passed back.  Tony went on to win and G finished 7th.

It was quite a night for my son.  There were articles on all the sports sites, including ESPN, because this is the first time Tony has returned to racing a sprint car after his bad accident last year that resulted in a broken leg and multiple surgeries to correct the damage.

G is in the #187 and Tony Stewart is in the #14
So now I'm off to paint the bee hive.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Another big tree bites the dust

Yup.  Tree number 2 came down on Wednesday.  It was just slightly smaller than the first one (36X32 inches) and came in at 32X34 inches.

I haven't counted the rings just yet but I did a quick scan of both trees and there is an area on both trees where the rings are very close together for about 5 or 6 rings.  Both trees show this around the 25-35 year mark.  I wonder if this coincides with a known drought like maybe in the 30's?  It will be interesting to see where this all falls when I start mapping out the rings.

My batteries in the camera were dead the day the tree was cut down so today was the first time I had a chance to take a photo.  I had R and Grandma Cat climb up onto the tree trunk so that you could have something to judge the size of the tree against.

The above photo shows the tree truck after it already had about 6 ft cut off the end of it.

We finished the clean up of tree number one and all that remains is the stump which we plan to remove in the fall.
Both of these trees were dead dead but because of their size they still offered some shade.  Now that they are gone we are noticing that some areas of the yard are getting more sun which is good but the yard looks bare if you ask me.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Vintage Pink Oven

I love these pink appliances.  It isn't my style nor would it look good in my kitchen but I thought I would pass it along just in case someone needs a pink oven.

Here is the Craigslist link.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Curbside Treasure

R picked this up two nights ago about 2 minutes before it started pouring.
It's really not my style, even if it was painted and had different cushions.  I think I'll dig through my stash of glass because I might have a round piece of glass for the table top. Maybe flip it on Craigslist and buy more hostas with the money.  Keep saying to myself...I have enough hostas....I have enough hostas.
 Grandma Cat says "I did not put that dirt on the cushion.  I think R did it."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


We have or had three very large and very dead trees in our yard.  Over the years we have cut down and removed many of them ourselves but we wanted these gone now.

In the past, we have cut down the trees and then cut them into fire place sized logs.  Our wood pile is over flowing so all the wood we cut up from the winter storm damage was advertised for free on CraigsList.  But I just can't handle dealing with no shows and people who can't find my house despite explicit instructions.  I have even stood out by the road after someone called and said they couldn't find our house.  I asked if she was driving a certain car and she said yes.  I told her that she had driven by my house 3 times.  So I stood at the end of my driveway by the curb and she drove by my house again as I was talking to her on the phone. This lady was a professional with influence and power over people's lives.  She said to my husband "here's my business card"  so my husband said "here's mine."  I think it went right over her head.  I don't handle pretentious people very well.

But back to the dead trees.  I advertised on CL yet again, but I was very very explicit that you cut, you haul away, and it would be listed until it was gone.  No saving, no promises.  First come, first served.  Third time was a charm.  Two no shows.  I knew when I got his email that he had it together.

He showed up without getting lost.  He was able to negotiate my driveway with a big truck and long trailer without driving on my lawn or driving over my rose bushes. AND he had two chainsaws and one was HUGE.

He studied the tree, he figured out the center of gravity, and discussed his plan of attack with my husband. He took his time and the tree fell exactly where we and he wanted it to fall.
My husband helped load the trailer and in the time of 2 and a half hours he dropped and cut up a tree with a crosscut of  32X36 inches. Part of the trunk remains because his trailer was full.  He'll return on Wednesday.

The photo below is of the wedge that he cut out of the tree.

As we talked, he told me that you can make syrup from hickory bark and hickory nuts.  Who knew...not me. So I ordered a bottle off of Etsy to check it out.  I'll let you know what I think after I do a test taste because truth me told....I love me some maple syrup.  I've been known to store the bottle upside down when it's empty to make sure I get every last drop of amber goodness.

I've received some of my hostas and once they have all arrived I'll do a post about the various methods that you will receive hostas through the mail.