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.
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. 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.
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:
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.
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.
Oh! There’s a bee!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
House is a generous term. It’s much more of a cabin. This tiny house life closely resembles what most would call camping. Tiny is quite accurate, though.
12 x 16´, 192 square feet (“Tiny house” is generally 200 sq ft or less). It sort of has two stories- there’s an up”stairs” more spacious than the average tiny house loft, that holds a bed and clothes and things, but one can’t walk around with the sloping ceiling.
It is also off-grid. This means we have a couple solar panels on the front with a battery bank, and a wood stove that heats the place. We cook with propane.
I’m really happy that our passive solar worked out as well as it did. A lot of math can be done to achieve the right angles of eave overhang so that the summer sun does not shine in the windows and the winter sun does. We did no math. We looked at the sun at noon, and pointed the house at it. I guessed at the overhang. Nailed it. At summer solstice the eave shadows the front windowsill. At winter solstice the sun hits the back wall.
Space matters I – design
Considering space, and the premium it is at in a tiny house, we chose to give a LOT of that space to insulation. Many square feet of interior space went to a double deep quilt of insulating. R28 in the walls. I think I’ll be happy forever about that allocation of space. It keeps it warm, so warm. With just the sun, even on cold days, the big south windows collect enough rays that it gets comfortably warm. On sunny days, if someone also stirs up the fire in the morning, then windows must be opened.
The woodstove takes up a big chunk of space. To keep code tolerances from stove to flammables takes space, but it’s not negotiable. We have a small woodstove, and a fire very quickly heats the whole place. Often too effectively, and windows get opened again.
Heating the tiny house, we laugh all the way to the woodshed. One cord! One. Cord! A year. That is a massive savings in energy- in our case mostly time, doing firewood.
One of the best allocations of space we have is a mud room. I was dubious about it at first, but it serves so many functions now! It’s a division between the outdoor stuff (coats and boots), and the indoor life of slippers and tea. That’s where the dog sleeps (His choice. He can’t take off his fur coat). It’s a cooler room to put cooler things in, and it’s an airlock. In a house the size of a room, open the door on a -10C night and all the heat whooshes right out the door. I highly recommend the mudroom, even in a tiny house. The odd shape of it, with the angled inside door, turned out to be genius. It works extremely well on both sides of the walls.
Space matters II- Living with less of it
Space matters. Anyone buying or building a house is saying “ok, this is how much space we’re willing to build, maintain, and heat, and we’re going to take on the challenges that come with it”. If that’s a big house, then the challenges might be paying for it, decorating it, contracting out the Xmas lights and landscaping. If it’s a little house, then the challenges are:
1 The first major difference, and also motivation, for the whole tiny house “thing” is that it forces you to face your stuff. Stuff is a major feature of modern life. It means a lot. The stuff you have can enable or inhibit what you are able to do; announce, reinforce, or create identity; and absolutely determine your lifestyle.
To live in a tiny house, implicitly, you are choosing to pay more attention than usual to the stuff you have, and probably, do without a lot of it. If your house is big enough, there is enough room for stuff to come and go, sit and be forgotten, saved – there is slush room. Stuff can be ignored. There is space for that in a big house.
Tiny house? Not one bit. Not one. There is no space, for anything to be ignored. This is a pretty big challenge. It can be an existential one, if stuff defines your identity or enables you. Downsizing into a tiny house means a lot of things. Like: I can live with less. I trust that I can access what I need when I need it (from somewhere other than the garage or attic). I can be different, my identity can be based on other than what I own.
We have largely evaded these difficult questions by having other buildings on the property (a couple of also-small outbuildings). There is NO WAY that anyone can farm, even a little bit, without a great deal of stuff. Chiefly tools. We have a lot of tools. And feed, and seed, and fencing, and hoses, and buckets and barrows. This all just lives elsewhere, not attached to our house, not heated.
I still have quite a bit of stuff, especially things that I need in order to make, build, or create things. H.W. has a lot of bicycles. But we don’t get to forget about the space our stuff takes up anymore. Everything gets critically eyeballed, sifted. Analyses are made.
2 The second major difference that I notice, is that in a tiny house, you practically live outside. One is intimate with the outdoors. A tiny house is too small to “contain” a whole life. I am always aware of the weather, the season, the time of day, the temperature, because I’m always out in it. I’ve wondered how often the average exterior door gets opened and closed on a house. I figure it’s far greater in our house. From first thing in the morning to moments before sleep, we are out and in that door. The wood’s outside, the water’s outside, the tools are outside – everything other than the basics is somewhere else, so we are constantly scampering out.
I like it. There is no way to get disconnected from time, season and place.
3 Small things are desirable. Everything is little. Space is at a premium. It’s the opposite of the wild west (unlimited promise of the frontier)- infinite expansion is not an option. Therefore, things that are compact, that cleverly use space efficiently, that have multiple uses, are valued and appreciated (smallness and efficiency are not always qualities that anyone cares about).
Then again, some things are valued out of proportion to the space they take up. We have two (!) manual typewriters in prime space.
4 Privacy. Considering we lived together for over a year in the tiny camper, the tiny house is luxuriously capacious. Still, it’s essentially one room. Smells, sounds, temperatures are all shared. Often this sucks to negotiate, but on the other hand, there’s no distance. We do things together, even unintentionally. We are always in earshot.
5 Oh yeah, money. Much, much, much, absurdly, cheaper. Even with a ridiculous amount of insulation and eleven windows, our tiny house cost less than $5000. It could have been even cheaper, but I didn’t ferret out the rock bottom price on every single thing. Commonly, a pre-built tiny house can run a lot more, but they can also be really fancy, with Scandinavian everything and sneakily hidden washing machines. Like everything, there’s a spectrum. We are nearer the primitive end of this one. No plumbing. No laundry.
Similar to the off-grid life, tiny house life costs the currency of energy and time. Much less money to build, or to pay for, or pay the mortgage on, but there are non-monetary costs. More time paying attention to stuff, moving it around…
One big thing about a tiny house is that it does not absorb “mess”, at all. If you have a long marble countertop and at one end you have a pile of bills spread out that you were sorting, there is still the impression of “clean”, because it’s mostly clean, except for that pile, which is obviously temporary – a work station. In a tiny house, one pile of bills, or a project spread out, or a batch of canning – any workstation takes up the whole counter, maybe the whole room, and no matter how temporary it might be, it gives the impression of MESS! All surfaces are covered therefore everything is a mess! A cataclysmic mess can happen as easy as bringing in the groceries etcetera from a town trip. On the flip side, it can tidy up in about ten minutes. A thorough, comprehensive total house cleaning, vacuuming included, is a two hour job.
As everyone knows, the world is filling up. Some people still do have “unlimited space”, some do with exceedingly little. Tiny house means a mindset that’s the opposite of sprawl. If there isn’t enough room for anything and everything, then you have to bring the energy and time of attention to choosing what to bring in and keep; you have to be conscious.
For those considering tiny or just tiny-curious, I highly recommend the wonderful, thoughtful, funny, why-to and how-to book on going small, The Big Tiny, by the incomparable Dee Williams.
I finally saw my first Blanding’s Turtle! Blanding’s are an endangered species in Nova Scotia, with only three small areas with known populations. We just happen to live almost on top of one of those three areas.
Yet, I hadn’t seen one yet. I’m always helping turtles cross the road, but they aren’t the special turtles.
This turtle, we saw passing through our neighbour’s yard, of all places. We were just stopping by, and I noticed “Hey, a turtle”, as we parked. It was marching past the garden. I went and picked it up, and then we had to take pictures, to report the sighting.
This turtle may appear to be smiling, but he/she was not happy about being picked up or diverted from his mission. She may also appear to be limp, but he was very actively trying to push my fingers off. She knew exactly what the problem was – my fingers on the side of his shell. Let me go! They are strong.
Also fast. I don’t buy the tortoise and the hare thing. Our rabbits loll around. Turtles can move. There’s a big snapping turtle that lives in the culvert at the end of our road that I’m dying to get a picture of (so tall, so armored dinosaur looking), but he/she’s way too fast, gone by the time I whip out my camera.
She did not stick around for canapés after the photo shoot.
November has been harsh. We’ve had three hard freezes. That’s not supposed to happen yet! I’ve been throwing a duvet over the hive on the cold nights, hoping it helps some.
I wrapped up the beehive for the winter, with 2 inches of rigid styrofoam and roofing felt. I don’t love this. What did people do before plastics and tarpaper? There has to be another way. But anyway, I made the tri-fold foam into a three-sided box (the front doesn’t get foam), using the lap joints and taping it up with Tuck tape. Then I wrapped it all in the felt, stapling it on.
As I worked, a few sentry bees came rocketing out, angry. It was cold though, so these were suicide missions. They would come out, buzz around angrily, then land on something, and be too cold to get back into the hive. I picked one still bee body up off where it was clinging to a branch and placed it on the upper hive doorstep. Within a second, pffft! The bees threw the body back out. I guess that one was dead. I put another motionless bee on the doorstep. They pulled it into the hive! Maybe for a little bee cpr. I put two or three more bees back in when I finished, in case they weren’t dead yet.
I did the front last, because for a few minutes, the bees are entirely closed in, until you cut out their entrances out. They may not like that.
When I cut out the upper entrance, there were two bees sitting inside, looking out. Hello bees!
It’s not easy to find a better way for two people to travel 4000km for $175. 16 rides, 79 hours, 5 provinces. And the majority of that big spending was for one lovely night of luxury in a hotel.
I’ve been hitchhiking a LOT, for 20 years now, and I still hitchhike by choice. It’s not because I can’t afford to drive, but because it’s so much more interesting in every way to hitch there when there’s someplace to go.
The book I “mean” to write about how to change your life through hitchhiking isn’t writing itself, but someday, it’ll come out. With well over 2000 rides on my hitching thumb, I stand by my advocating that more people should hitchhike. It is safe, it’s fun, it is always educational, and of course it’s nearly free. Oh, and of course, environmental.
I want more people to get out on the road and embrace the adventure. You never know who you’ll meet, and I promise, you’ll meet people that you just wouldn’t get to know in any other context.
Just on this trip, we got rides from a dentist, an actor, a farmer, a grandma, a young mother, a student, an accountant, and a geologist. We were often in big trucks, and truckers are a whole subculture of their own (they’re going to get a whole chapter.) We heard stories to beat the band, got invited on a detour to see Norwegian horses, and delved for free dental hygiene advice.
I haven’t done a cross-country winter trip for some time, nor done it with company, but I just crossed the cold country of Canada in December, with my new husband in tow. It went spectacularly well. I think it may be a PB speed record, too, considering we maximized our mid-trip hotel night.
Winter weather definitely adds a significant variable to the whole hitchhiking game, but as is often the case, it’s about being prepared. Besides, it’s just not an adventure until there’s some challenge or at least, a sense of throwing yourself on faith in the unknown (that’s the best part). It always, always turns out just fine.
We had great weather on the whole. There was one night in Regina when we got dropped out of a truck at 4 am and thought we could wait it out on the road until the sun came up, but we couldn’t. Continue reading Why I love hitchhiking→
The leaves have fallen from all the trees but the oak now. More sky, more sun, more wind, and fewer tourists parking on the road to take pictures of the horse with a blazing background of red sugar maples.
I’m grateful for all the mulch, but I haven’t had time to pick it all up yet. I made a city trip this weekend past, which was necessary and good, but provoked a minor mental collapse today. I have endurance, and I have a healthy stress response, but my stress response has no endurance.
The city for three days stretched my stress capacity to its limit, and I found myself in a terrible place of being unable to cope with, well, life in general. I feel helpless and incapable; the panic rises in my chest and feels like a fluttering bird trapped in there, and I can’t draw a satisfying breath. Worst of all, I feel like my antennae are numb and I lose the sense of being connected to my guidance system, so I flounder around unsure of what is the right thing to do, and that leaves me feeling quite unsafe.
I have serious compassion for people for whom this is a chronic condition. For me, losing my connection to soul and nature and my own spirit is terrifying and temporary. But I think some people sleepwalk half their lives without that, feeling only a suspicion that there is something they’re missing, just off to the left.
I saw lots of them in the city.
It’s amazing to me that the larger “we” can collectively build these sprawling, sick, unhappy, disconnected organisms (cities) that really don’t nourish most of the citizens in them, and in fact the majority of the world’s population now lives in urban settings. Ie., disconnected from the places where the food that feeds them is grown. This is very very sad to me. I am again, grateful for the luxury and personal opportunity I live in and the grand abundance of space and nature that Canada holds.