All growth

2016 was a tough year.  The defining event was the loss of our dog, which continues to be very painful.  Sure, I got even more done than usual, but I get tireder every year and the list stretches out in front of me to the horizon like a never-ending road.

There is every reason to be completely incapacitated by depression.  Natural systems and species are being destroyed, Syria is being destroyed by war, nations are falling apart, and society as a whole seems more incompetent than ever at correcting the course.  I’ve been frightened for our fate, that feeling seems pretty darn appropriate, and I can’t do a whole lot about it.

And so, this sentiment, embroidered by my new friend (one bright light of my 2016), that about sums up the year.  All Growth does not Take Place in Sunlight.  My new favourite phrase.

And a quote:

“You must not lose faith in humanity.  Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”  -Gandhi

Recycling calendars

It’s almost time to turn over the calendar again.

One of my favorite things is re-using an old calendar, because great calendars are works of art worth saving, and the years do come around again (although you have to wait a while longer to pull Garfield 1992 out of storage -2020).  Leap years are tough.

Those 2016 calendars you just about finished with come back around in 2044.

But 2017 is a repeat of 2006, which was only ten years ago.  Cats and Kittens ’06 is probably just under a stack of papers downstairs.

This is my master list of calendar reuse.  Of course, it’s online.img_4643

And if you want a shiny new one, then my photographer brother has a selection of calendars of his work (Iceland, New England, Utah, PNW, horses, etc) available at zazzle.com/derekkind.  They’re amazing; I’m not just saying that.

Since he started making calendars in 2010, I’m saving them all and looking forward to the years returning so I can use them again:)

 

Driving Ms. Daisies

There’s little I enjoy more than driving home new hens.  Usually in some ersatz container – sheet over stock tank, random boxes. Today my coat over a box with no bottom.

I like carrying them hugged in my arm for the first time, telling them they’re going to a new home now, their heads bobbing around looking at everything from 4´ higher up than usual.  Sliding them into the carrying container du jour.  The quiet that falls once we get on the road, broken by a few questioning little chirps from the backseat, some shuffling on tight corners.  I sing to them, or play the radio

Today I picked up three hens I hadn’t known I would be, leftovers from the year’s laying flock that were hanging around as outlaws in the barn.  I can’t resist a good hen, especially when it’s otherwise doomed.

They’re nice.  Low hens, tame and easy to catch. Curious, as they always are, but laid back.  In the dark I carried the broken-bottomed box of birds on my forearms, with their feet sticking through and grabbing onto me, from my truck to the greenhouse  to tuck them into the coop, their new home.

Tomorrow they will meet the rooster.

Time for a nap!

We got snow today, and are now properly snowed in, which is the best.

We were both out in it for awhile too, as more than 15cm fell in a few hours, from 8ish to lunchtime.  It was kind of fun to be out in, in a creeping along an un-plowed rural highway in a blowing whiteout through snow deep enough to rub the belly of the vehicle kind of way.  Things that are funnest once you’ve made it home safe and warm.  Then for extra fun the temperature suddenly rose to change all that snow to heavy snowball snow in the afternoon.

Interestingly, it seems there was snow all across Canada today, including on Vancouver Island– how singular!

Honey part two

The Eastern Seaboard of North America is getting snowed on tonight.  Mostly it’s a question of how much snow are we getting? In our particular spot the forecast is “not as much as some”.   It started about five hours ago here, and a thick blanket has already settled on the world.   Outside the light flakes are floating straight down and piling up with determination, and are predicted to keep at it for another 12 hours.  So on this snowy night, let’s visit some stored sunshine from earlier this year:

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After the honey extraction comes filtration.  Have to get out all the bee wings, wax caps and bits of leaves.

See my super high-tech filtration system.

Wow, it takes a long time!  The honey has to be warm enough to flow, but not too warm, then it’s not raw any more.

The wax is something else.  It acts like glue gumming up everything, especially your filter fabric, but if you can leave it set long enough, it almost hardens into a block sitting on top of the liquid honey that settles out from it.  I have about a one pound chunk of wax, sticky with honey and kind of dirty, from my first year’s honey operation.

My fancy setup worked, but it was pretty clearly less than ideal! Embroidery hoop, sewing pins, nylon mesh, and rigid styrofoam blocks.

Next time (there’s always a mythical next time when everything will be better), I’m going to have all the honey out of the extractor in one large vessel, and filter/fill it into gift/sale ready jars in one step.

Aha!  I just figured it out! A bucket with a tap at the bottom.  The wax will float to the top.  Decant the honey from the bottom, and there will be little wax to deal with;  the minor other detritus will filter out easily.

 

Gift wrapping the bees

It’s time to wrap up the bees for the winter – December 1st or before the snow flies.

This year my hive is much stronger, and larger, and they will be wintering in two supers, plus the Salon.

One 2×8´sheet of rigid styrofoam is perfect for a two-super hive – three 32″ pieces.img_4765

Three sides get wrapped with foam, tar paper only on the front, so the black helps them heat up inside on sunny days, maybe enough to go for a cleansing flight.  All this is what I learned from my “bee guru” at Bello Uccello.img_4766 I cut the foam very precise to use the overlap designed into the foam (which means the back piece is custom).  Otherwise the corners will leak cold.  Then a couple of pieces of Tuck tape to hold it all in place for the tar paper wrap.

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The white tarp stuff is actually the normal lid- built with scrap lumber and some tarp stapled over the flat top.

The 2″ thick foam sticks out farther than the outer cover/lid, so I also cut a step in the foam to nest the lid into.  I’m doing it a little different than last year.

Then the paper:img_4768

It wraps flat around the front of the hive, covering the doors and shutting the bees in completely for a few minutes.  They can’t love that.  img_4769

There’s a little artful paper slicing required to make everything fold flat and smooth around the alighting board.  Lots of staples on the front – no wrinkles.

Then it’s time to cut out the doors.img_4772

Oh!  There’s a bee!img_4775

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No one at the downstairs door.

The Salon, aka drone cafe – the empty/feeder box above the inner cover (I’ve called it the Salon since they started doing art installations in there) is already filled with straw (to help insulate and absorb moisture), and the bees just finished their second last jar of syrup for the year.  Now they will be closed in with their last jar.

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The Salon filled with straw
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Last jar full, situated directly over the inner cover hole

I did this thing last year with the lid/outer cover, and it worked quite well so I’m repeating it.  One piece of basic “pebble” styrofoam cut exactly to size, jammed into the underside of the lid.

Then a piece of corrugated cut to size as well, so the bees aren’t in direct contact with the styrofoam ever.  This gives them an inch of insulation on the ceiling.  When I took it apart last spring the cardboard was damp on the edges and I threw it away.

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Just after I closed the lid and was doing the final touches on the edges of the tar paper, the bees started buzzing outside in droves.

I thought I’d agitated them, but it may have been that time of the day, or the sunny day had warmed up enough right then to go for a fly, but they were on a group cleansing flight, which I realized when I noticed all the bright yellow poop dots on my hands and sleeves!

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This is what I’m doing differently this year.  My final step was taking another piece of tar paper over the top of the lid, folding gift corners and taping it down to the sides (instead of tacking the tar paper to the lid).  In theory, if I need to get a jar in there in the early spring, I can take off the lid by slitting the tape and tape it back up; it won’t be very disruptive.

Then I put a metal sheet (actually a piece of shelving that happens to be a perfect size) over top of the whole thing and ratchet-strapped it down.  The oversize temporary winter lid puts an extra 8-10″ of eave over the front doors.

Only two days late- that’s as close to on time as I get around here.  Seconds after finishing, while I was carrying tools away, snowflakes started to fall.

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Last year I was so worried about them.  They’d re-queened three times in the year, their first,  I got them late, and they didn’t have good numbers.  But they made it through.

This year I’m a little more confident.  It’s interesting to me, all the local former beekeepers (no one nearby currently has hives) never wintered their bees!  They bought nucs in the spring and they died in the winter.  Sounds expensive.

Having been told how to do it, it seems easy.