Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hive check: check!

Today was the big day to do our first hive check. It's been a bit over a week since we installed the bees, and the weather was cooperating. This is the inner cover, which goes under the outer cover and feeder, and directly over the super with all the action. You can see a bit of the burr comb on it that we had to scrape off.
Here's the lower deep super with the queen cage still in it, and more burr comb. If the frames aren't spaced right, they will fill in gaps with comb that has to be removed before they glue things in the wrong places. There was honey in it that was light and clear and tasted lovely. It might have been made mostly from the sugar syrup we're feeding them now though.

Here's one of the frames pulled out for inspection. We use a smoker to puff smoke at them which calms them and makes them go lower in the hive. But as you can see, plenty hang around for the inspection.

Check out the intrepid beekeeper peeking over the top of the frame, through her handy dandy veil. The bees are actually pretty calm right now, since they're busy making comb and stocking up lots of honey, nectar & pollen.

Here's a close up of a frame showing what else is going on. We never did see the queen, but you can see lots of babies in the brood cells if you click on the picture for a bigger version. Toward the bottom are bigger larvae, little curled up white things. The darker cells in the middle have yummy pollen snacks for the bees-to-be, and the upper cells have teeny tiny eggs. Next week we'll look again and hopefully see the brood cells capped and waiting to hatch. Bees only live about 3 weeks, so it's critical to have a healthy productive queen to keep new workers growing.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spring Update

The weather is finally warming up at least a little. Had a few days of sunshine albeit cool out still, but enough that the dandelions are popping out as are tree buds, grass is finally growing... all signs it just might really be spring! I have mowed 2x this week alone, if that is any sign of the long awaited thaw.

Honey Bee update. About all we have done besides gawk at them while they are working whenever we have a few moments, is change the entrance opening from the smallest to the slightly bigger 4" opening, and refill the feeders located inside the top honey super. This picture is looking down into the honey super at the feeding jars. A few bees get in here and spend the night, and you can see bees that were feeding on the jar that is being removed. The feed is a 50:50 mix of sugar to water, and some Honey B Healthy a feeding stimulant with essential oils that is supposed to aid in hive "build-up" with new honey bees. It is also supposed to calm the bees when used in a spray bottle in lieu of smoke or in addition to, during honey season when the bees are more protective.

Baby chick update. The new laying flock is rapidly feathering out, likely thanks to the cool spring temperatures. They often act like little raptors, rushing at each other and leaping as if to spur their opponents, and generally practicing at other grown up chicken behaviors, even roosting on the perches. Sadly the cute little peepers are growing up, but we can look forward to some healthy new layers.

Dog update. Stewart will do anything for a tennis ball, even twirl like a ballerina. Fergus has teeth, will bite ankles.

Cat Update. This is what goes on while we are at work. As a matter of fact, this goes on when we are home as well. No doubt about it, these kitties know how to sleep.

Except when Magnus is having play time. The two older cats are only minimally interested in play any more, but Magnus waits for me to get home from work each day, and rushes to find me so we can play. Here's a creative cat hide out of box and newspaper with some old New Years beaded string that he loves to attack. Two paws up!

Here's Newt having a little break in the grass out back. Notice the sour expression at the photographer? Newt is about as happy to see a human wielding a camera as the Brangelina clan!

Coming soon: Photo montage of the Honey Bee hive check to make sure we still have a queen!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Honey Bee Installation Day

Here's the hive in place with everything painted. We took a few days to observe and see what kind of sun it would get in this spot and it seemed the right amount from all we'd read... best sun/shade mix with appropriate wind breaks, via our trees.

Of course as soon as you get anything built these days some pesky job site inspector shows up, in this case, Newt. She scented some plants in the area with a few face rubs, then pawthorized the new structure and moved on. Whew!

While the hive has been ready for a bit, today was actually Honey Bee installation day! Carniolan honey bees to be specific. Carniolan's are the second most popular honey bee after the Italian. We went with Carniolan because they are more cold hearty, are good at defending themselves against insect pests, are resistant to some bee diseases, and are very gentle with bee keepers. Latter being very important to us newbies! The first thing we did was prep the hive zone, above.

We brought the box of bees with their queen home in the back of the subaru, and left them there to stay warm, but out of the direct sun while we got setup. Here Doug is close to the fence checking out what we are doing. I am pretty sure he wanted to know, "What is all that buzzing???"

Next we sprayed the bees well with sugar water, so they'd be full and happy when we set them free.

One last thing before we released them was to change the cork holding the queen in her excluder to a mini-marshmallow. The queen and bees are shipped together, but with the queen in the excluder, so the bees will be exposed to her pheromones and accept her prior to release. If they don't have some time to get to know her first, then they might kill her. The bees actually eat through the candy plug to release her, taking a day... even two, or so we'd been told. The delay also gives the bees some time to draw out comb, so the queen can get right to laying when she does get eaten free.

This is 3 pounds of honey bees in a shipping box.

This is 3 pounds of honey bees, in the hive, on the hive, in the air, on the ground, in and on the shipping box, and on the photographer. The lighter color stick like object is an entrance reducer, which we had opened further so the bees could better find their way in the hive. After dark when the bees settled we put it in the opening to make it smaller for a time. This helps keep the new bee colony safer from pests and warmer, until they get established.

Here's a video of the bees getting poured into the hive. The queen is in her excluder already hung in between frames as we pour them in. Please note that within a couple hours of installing the bees, we discovered the marshmallow [that should have taken the bees at least a few days to eat through] intact, discarded about 18 inches in front of the hives opening. Apparently the queen was released TODAY, and with author-i-ty! We have to wait almost a week, until we get to peak again to see if our queen made it out alive. Stay tuned!

Last, but not least, some pictures of our baby Magnus, after his own tail. This is best done hanging upside down while on the cat tree. See that pesky tail... I'm getting you!

Getting a bit plump these days, he soon lands with a thump on the shelf below. Usually not head first. Usually.

That tail was probably sour anyway...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Dances with eggs

We don't celebrate Easter at Seven Trees, aside from taking advantage of Hempler's ham being on sale. But we're always interested in some of the oddball ways our ancestors observed the holidays, so I'll share a little bit about the Egg Dance....
The picture above is The Egg Dance, by Jan Steen c. 1674. The Essential Vermeer website describes it thus: "To the hypnotic music of the fiddle and a bagpipe peasants dance wildly around an egg lying in chalk circle drawn on the floor of sordid inn. In front of rustic tavern, villagers and their children listed with rapt attention to a beggar playing a hurdy-gurdy while the reek of cheap drink and tobacco hang over the scene. Even the innkeeper has been lured to the doorway to listen to a few notes of music."

In the dance pictured above (Pieter Aertsen, 1552), green leaves and early flowers were strewn on the floor. A circle was drawn with chalk in which one or more eggs were laid, sometimes in a little dish. The participants were allowed only to dance on one foot, with their hands on their sides. While dancing they had to move the egg out of the circle and back into it again with their feet, leaving the egg intact. In some areas, the dance had to be performed blindfolded!

Another version of the Egg Dance, this time painted by Pieter Brueghel the Younger.

So why in the world were these partying peasants fixated on this ancient style of bunny hop?
Consulting the all-knowing wiki oracle sheds light on the question with this historical anecdote:

"An early reference to an egg dance was at the wedding of Margaret of Austria and Philibert of Savoy on Easter Monday of 1498. The event was described in a 1895 issue of The American Magazine as follows -
“Then the great egg dance, the special dance of the season, began. A hundred eggs were scattered over a level space covered with sand, and a young couple, taking hands, began the dance. If they finished without breaking an egg they were betrothed, and not even an obdurate parent could oppose the marriage.
After three couples had failed, midst the laugher and shouts of derision of the on-lookers, Philibert of Savoy, bending on his knee before Marguerite, begged her consent to try the dance with him. The admiring crowd of retainers shouted in approval, "Savoy and Austria!" When the dance was ended and no eggs were broken the enthusiasm was unbounded.
Philibert said, "Let us adopt the custom of Bresse." And they were affianced, and shortly afterward married.”

So it seems the age-old association between Easter, eggs, springtime and fertility came together in an amusing display of marital interest called the Egg Dance. Another term for this celebratory jig was the Hop-Dance, which made its way into everyday slang for a certain kind of dance party.

Streetswing says:

"The first known Hop dance was the 'Egg-dance or Hop-egg' dance, as it was also called. It was a dance generally performed by women, who, in much the same manner as of a version of the Scottish sword-dance, who performed their figures with eggs placed Around the floor. This practice has also been described by the writer 'Chaucer' (1340-1400) in his 'Canterberry Tales'(1387,) who says " the performers are called hoppesteres." Also the eminent antiquarian named Strutt, in his "Sports and Pastimes," written about 1790, mentions that the so-called slang phrase, "Going to the hop tonight?" (which appeared to have been old even in his time) evidently came from this get together dance!
Later, the Hop was a term used for many different styles of dance as well as a term for a get together with dance. These "Get Togethers" were very popular in the early 1900's and
were called "Hops" by the College kids. The Hop (get togethers/ dances) which again resurfaced in the 1950's were called Record Hops and or Sock Hops."

So as you celebrate the return of spring in whichever way suits you best, take a moment to be thankful that modern wooing and Easter observances no longer involve this kind of shenanigans. Gorging on baked ham & hard-boiled eggs is tough enough without having to hop around with a bunch of drunken peasants....unless of course you're one of the drunken peasants!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Bee-ing ready for bees!

Here's a few pieces of the beehive that we purchased at Beez Neez apiary supply in Snohomish, WA. with most of the primer coat of paint.
These need to be ready to go in just a short few weeks when our bees arrive, a variety called Carniolan which are supposed to be very gentle. Let's hope so!

Above are the deep supers. Just below is the outer cover.

The cover is insulated, made special for our climate, to help the bees winter over.
Below are the deep supers, a shallow super and part of the base assembly.
These are painted the same color the main part of the house will be, if all goes as planned this summer. This is the same color that our small barn and run-in are painted.

Hive stand and bottom board as well as the lid are all painted to the new trim colors our house will be painted this summer.

This is the painting supervisor. Newt made sure I did a proper job on everything for the entire painting project.

And like any job the bedroom has taken us longer than intended, but should be worth the wait. This weekend most of the trim got finished up. Painting the top trim was slow and arduously completed with a small artist brush and a steady hand. Also in this picture you can see the new light fixture/fan. This'll be handy come summer!

Last, but not least, Magnus demonstrates his patented tail chasing abilities in the kitchen!
What a cat!!

Friday, April 03, 2009

The peeps are here!

It's that time chickies!
We're still not done with the big painting project. Funny how things always take way longer than you plan for. One of us just switched to night shift for the next few months, so we're adjusting to that schedule. It means we can't really work on any projects until the weekends.

Not much new news at Seven Trees this week. Just finishing up the first big chore list of spring so we can start on the next big chore list.
I'm hoping to try a really unhealthy recipe this weekend, basically a giant casserole made of ham & cheese sandwich layers, with egg/milk poured over and baked. I'll share the recipe if it turns out, and we don't have heart attacks ;)