Experience is a brutal teacher. But you learn, my God, do you learn.

-C.S. Lewis

Stream In January

Stream In January

Friday, February 27, 2009

Catching Up

The last week of February has been typical. Two days of a dusting of snow and several mild days in between. It's been raining since last night and will probably continue through tomorrow and then turn to snow on Sunday. Looks like after Monday, we will get some warm days again. Hope March is going to be mild.
The bees have quite active on the days when the weather has been mild. Yesterday was low fifties and there was a lot of activity. They are feeding and bringing in some pollen. I took a quick peek under the inner cover and saw lots of bees. I'm beginning to be very encouraged that the hive will make it safely through the winter.
We spent last Saturday with our friends Kelley and Quintin at Balltown Bee Farm. They hosted a shitake log workshop. About 30 people attended. We innoculated 200 logs with shitake spore. I forgot my camera, but Sue and Pat were kind enough to forward their pictures to me. Thanks! Follow this link to some great pictures. http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/sredir?uname=Catspaw851&target=ALBUM&id=5305639001424713857&authkey=kCGpa4De6j0&authkey=kCGpa4De6j0&feat=email
Notice all the beehives. Kelley has about 50! and I'm jealous. I hope to be so successful.
I planted some pansies on Wednesday, but when I went to the garden this morning, something had rooted them out the ground. Whatever the critter is, it also dug some dahlia tubers that had overwintered and took a few bites. I used bone meal when I planted the pansies and have had trouble in the past with the dogs digging, but the gate was closed last night and the dogs were not out. I hope I don't have voles, but I'm not sure they would cause that kind of damage. If anybody has any thoughts, let me know. Anyway, the pansies were not damaged so if it happens again, I'll just plant them in my flower boxes on the deck.
My experiment with starting seeds indoors was not successful. All the seeds germinated, but because my light is high above the seedlings, they are just stretching up and flopping over. I'll stick with planting seeds directly in the ground or buying plants from my local farm store. All is not lost, however. I'll put everything in the compost pile.
I'll be in the garden next week with my camera. Everywhere I look there are perennials beginning to show through the soil. The daffodils are up a couple of inches and a few already have big buds. Can't wait to see those first lovely yellow flowers!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Greg Rogers at Smoky Mountain Beekeepers Meeting

We were fortunate to have Greg Rogers, a local professional beekeeper, to speak at our February meeting of the Smoky Mountain Beekeepers. Greg manages over 300 hundred hives and, like most beekeepers, is experiencing losses. He spoke of treating his hives with chemicals and also using softer treatments. The losses continue with both. I'm not sure there is a good answer to the ailments bees are facing right now. I will continue to treat organically. So far, my hive seems to be holding it's own. I know the numbers are small, but they are surviving this very cold winter and on days when the temperature permits, are out flying vigorously. Another cold, snowy week is forecast. Greg also demonstrated how to split a hive. I plan to do this in the spring if my hive is strong enough. I'm going to let them raise their own queen. I'm not keeping bees for honey production, but rather for pollination purposes. I don't mind if I lose some time while they are raising the new queen.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"A Sky Burial"

A lovely passage from A Recipe for Bees, a novel by Gail Anderson-Dargatz.

"Most bees dies outside, while foraging. But some die inside the hives. The undertaker bees carry the dead body through the hive and deposit it outside the opening. They leave it there a day or two until it's dried out a bit, so it's lighter. Then one of them collects the dead bee and flies into the sky, away from the hive, where it drops the body. Isn't that a fitting funeral for a bee? A sky burial."

Describes my bees' recent behavior perfectly.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Seed Starting

I started 2 flats of seed today. I think the picture looks like big pans of brownies, but it's actually lettuce, cilantro, parsley and pansies. I should have enough seedlings to share with the young gardeners at the Boy's and Girl's Club and some for my own use. I'll post follow-up pictures as the seeds emerge.

The weather is spectacular. Yesterday and today the temps have been close to 60. The bees are quite active. They have consumed almost a half quart of sugar syrup in the last 2 days. I'll keep feeding until I'm sure they can survive on their own.

Not much else today. Just enjoying the weather.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Life Inside Walter Bee

February weather is truly tricky. Our high mid-week was 15, today, it's almost 60. Needless to say, I am loving it and so are my bees. I've been wanting to get a good look inside the hive and decided today would be a good one to risk taking the inner cover off for a short time. I didn't smoke the bees because I how much stress they've been under due to the cold weather. I very quickly removed the outer cover, removed the inner cover and snapped these pictures. I got about 15 seconds before they let me know, in a very loud way, that my presence was not welcome.

As you can see, there are a good many bees in the hive. (Again, based on what? I'm not sure at this point what is a lot. I need a second hive for comparison. Will have it in the spring.) Also notice the grease patty has not been eaten. I'll leave it on for a while. I don't think it's doing any harm. Need to read up on the grease patty again. I can see some drawn comb in the shallow super, but I don't think there is any honey. This was a very quick inspection. Regardless of the lack of visible honey, the hive is alive and has been extremely active for the past 2 days. Looks like the weather will stay mild for the next several days and I will continue to feed for as long as I need to do so.

The girls have done an excellent job of housekeeping over the past 2 days. Not a dead bee in sight. I noticed this morning they are not content to just drag the dead out and drop them to the ground, they literally pick up the bodies and fly them away from the front of the hive.

This is propolis the bees had built up in the opening of the inner cover. This cover needed to be repaired, so I removed it and put the new one on. I cleaned the propolis and left it on the bee stand. Am curious if they will clean it up and use it inside the hive again. There is also some propolis between the frames in the shallow super. I have a feeling I'm going to have quite a clean-up job in the spring.

I planted my peonies this afternoon. Dug a nice deep hole, worked in a bucketful of compost and set the roots in the ground about 2 inches deep. There are some pretty red buds on the roots. Hope they do well. I hope to get some seeds started tomorrow.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Will Winter Never End?

Of course it will, but at this point it's just cold, cold, cold. More snow and very cold temperatures for the past few days. One yesterday, zero this morning. I checked the hive earlier today and was again reassured because I hear a lot of buzzing going on inside, but I also see lots of dead bees on the screened bottom board. I think this is normal since there has been no housekeeping since Sunday. Thankfully, the long range temperatures are predicted to be in the 50's for the next ten days. This has been the coldest winter we've had in Western NC for a long time. If Walter Bee survives, I will be most impressed with that little hive since I know their numbers are small.

I created my little bee from a link off The Park Seed Garden Journal. At least she looks happy. She's not out in the cold!