Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ready, Set Go

Yesterday was the first day of spring and it was minus 12 degrees when I woke up. I am fed up with this winter, fed up I tell you. March has been colder than January and we keeping getting more snow. Ordinarily I might not care so much but our bees are getting delivered three weeks earlier than usual this year. A deliberate decision no less.

You see every single year we have missed the apricot tree blooms and the apple blossoms. Between that and having so much comb we decided to get a serious jump start and hopefully hit the fruit trees blooming. Our land owner is so very generous, the least we can do is maximize the pollinating services! However I am a little worried about this cold spell we can't seem to shake. The bees really really really like it above 40. At least they will be going into hives with completely combed out frames with lots of pollen and even some honey so they don't have to forage right away if it is too cold.

We have been working our butts off getting everything in order. The back room in our condo has been a make shift work room for over a month now. Every single box has been scrapped, repaired and painted. Today we assembled all four hives, stacking the hive stands, screened bottom boards, brood boxes, inner covers and telescoping covers. This might seem like an easy job but trust me, it isn't. Our equipment is a mix match of different sizes and configurations. It took about three hours to get it all right, hall some excess equipment down to the basement and organize our bee yard tool boxes.

Can I just say I love to organize! So very satisfying in the end. I just love looking at those four newly painted and neatly staked hives, just waiting!

Sometime over the first weekend of April we will organize the frames for the first boxes, another daunting task. We will transport all the equipment to the bee yard,  get it all set up and in place, ready for the bees. If all works out as planned the post office will call bright and early on Monday April 8th, long before they actually open and beg us to come pick up three packages of bees, each containing 3 pounds of bees. Don't ask me how they weigh 3 pounds of bees, I have no idea. Our forth package won't come until the end of April. It will be interesting to track the growth and production of the late arrival.

In the mean time we are ready for another season, set to go!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cleaning The Bee Yard

I knew we had a mess on our hands especially when another foot of snow fell last week burying our equipment deeper in the snow. When we went down to the bee yard two weeks ago to see how the girls were doing it was too much to face. Two hives standing with three boxes each,  three or more hive stands and a pile of equipment thrown behind the hives which was now frozen solid in place. None of it would budge. We agreed, we needed to come back another time with a shovel and more energy.

I was sort of dreading the task but it would give Paula and I time in the car to visit, catch up and hatch a plan for managing the equipment, especially the frames. I get completely overwhelmed just thinking about the frames.

We trudged through a foot of snow from the car to the bee yard, probably a good long city block, sinking into the snow. Each hive needed to be dismantled and all of it carried back to the car.

You can see the piles of dead bees, so very sad. We got as many of them out of the equipment as possible and left them to the land. If either of us were gardeners we would have taken them home for fertilizer.  It took a fair amount of work on Paula's part to shovel and pry the equipment out of the frozen ground but she did it, all of it. A few pieces of equipment are broken but they can be repaired.Once we got to the bottom of each box we discovered our fury little friends had returned and had taken up house,  nesting under the bottom board of each hive. Several mice darted out of the each nest, clearly disrupted by our work. Unfortunately we discovered a very recent casualty, most likely our doing.

Poor little guy, at least his nest mates made it out safely. We carried all of the boxes, full of frames with comb, honey and dead bees up to Paula's vehicle and loaded everything up. I must admit, 6 months ago this would have been an enormous physical undertaking for me but even Paula noticed how easily I lifted and carried the boxes through the snow and up to the car. 

Once we got home we moved everything to the porch while we organized the all ready over crowded workroom, making room for everything.

I remain overwhelmed but grateful to have this part of the job behind us. Paula is coming back on Thursday where we will spend the day tackling the rest of the equipment, scraping, cleaning, repairing and painting everything. After that we will simply have to face the chaos of the frames. I am trying to stay calm and focused, knowing it will all get done by April 4 which is my deadline for having every thing back in place in the bee yard to welcome four new packages of bees.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Patrick's Pollinators

Meet the newest member of The Flight of The Turquoise Apairy! After four years we are retiring Crazy Comb who always lived up to her name. In the spirit of better karma and less crazy comb we hope the girls in Patrick's Pollinator live up to their name as well and pollinate the dickens out of our land owner's apricot trees, apple trees and expansive vegetable garden.

My friend Patrick is an adventuresome spirit full of compassion. Hopefully his spirit of adventure and love will rub off on these girls. Like myself Patrick is a Tibetan activist. The guy loves honey and is always encouraging the efforts behind The Flight of The Turquoise Bee Apiary. Most importantly though I am hoping Patrick's Buddhist influence will infiltrate this colony and give the girls a mild tempered spirit.

As always, hive  namesakes will hopefully enjoy a bountiful harvest come September.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Procrastination, Propolis and One Overwhelmed Beekeeper!

I am just kicking myself for the mess I have on my hands. It is my own fault and now, I am completely overwhelmed with the task at hand. I can't imagine what on earth I was thinking last fall when I junked up the basement with all our bee equipment straight from the bee yard. You can only see about a third of my mess in the picture. Boxes covered in propolis strewn about, nothing organized. Large Tupperwares filled with stinky sticky frames all combed out but scattered with unhatched brood. It is nothing short of a disaster.

I am not a procrastinator. My nature is anything but. I never stall. I am a get done now kind of gal. I make lists, I organize and I get stuff done. I never do this kind of thing! It is so unlike me. Right now, I am not even sure where to start. To make matters worse we left equipment in the bee yard.When we went down to check on the bees last week I was a little dumb founded to find the bee yard the way we left it. Behind the two dead out hives we had thrown bottom boards, hive stands and hive boxes. We would have pulled that stuff when we were there last week but it was snow covered and frozen in place and we couldn't pry it loose. We are expecting another foot of snow today so who knows when we will be able to get that equipment home for restoration.   We also have stuff in Paula's garage. All of this makes it very difficult to inventory, organize and clean.

I finally faced it all this morning and started hauling the hive boxes up to the work room to begin the daunting task of scraping, cleaning, repairing and painting.

I am trying to tackle one hive at a time which is hard since not everything is in the same place. Today I pulled Colleen's Royal Ruckus upstairs and spent the morning scraping Propolis off every nook and cranny.  Propolis may have its purpose and it may have great medicinal properties but frankly the dark sticky resinous stuff that the bees seal everything with is a bitch to clean up! I probably shouldn't be so callus in my dismissal of Propolis and take more care in actually harvesting it but right now I have four hives that need to be scrapped clean, repaired, and painted before April 6th.

Do the math, each hive has a screened bottom board, a hive stand, three brood boxes and three honey supers. That is 6 boxes plus 2 hive stand parts times four. That is 24 boxes and 8 hive stand parts that need to be restored people.  That isn't counting the frame work. Each box holds 8 to 10 frames. Did I mention I am overwhelmed?

Once I scrapped all the Propolis off  I vacuumed each box and cleaned them with a wet rag. Then started painting. I hope to get the bottom board, the hive stand and all three brood boxes painted with two coats of paint by the end of the day.

Once they are dry and labeled I will  stack them neatly in the corner of the room until I make my way through all four hives. Eventually I will need to tackle the supers and the frames. Right now I need to prioritize so that we have hive bodies ready for the four new packages of bees. The supers can wait.  If I can finish a hive a day I might make my deadline. Our bees are coming three weeks earlier than last year so the heat is on to get this done!

I got started painting this morning and didn't notice that the door to the work room was open. You can imagine how interesting this work is to a pair of kittens. Ziva Jane worked her way around the room and the activity like a little lady but not Tashi Losar he managed to get a wide swath of white paint on his beautiful dark coat.

In all honesty this pales to rest of the organizing and preparing that needs to take place before the bees arrive in early April. I have bee suits that are sorely in need of repair, feeders to clean, syrup to make and our record keeping logs to get organized. Like I said, OVERWHELMED!

I sure wish I had done a better job cleaning and storing last fall which would make all of this feel far more manageable right now. The good news, it is work I like doing and it is fairly physical which is all good. I couldn't be happier smelling the wax and tackling all that Propolis, knowing the girls will be here soon.