Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Skirting a Fleece

My Spinning Study Group at Green Valley Weavers had a little fun outside two months ago.  One of the lovely ladies, Heidi, brought FIVE Cheviot fleeces to be skirted and shared with the group.  Skirting involves removing the really dirty parts, anything matted, the course sections along the edges, and any second cuts (where the fleece has been clipped or sheared twice, leaving short pieces).  We skirted . . .
Skirting in process.
and skirted . . .
More skirting
And skirted.  We filled up so many bags that everyone got to take home as much fleece as they wanted.  I got a little bit from three different fleeces, and it's interesting to see the difference in coarseness even between each sheep, much less as compared to another breed.  Additionally, I brought home a big bag of the dirty bits to add to my compost bin.

As part of our "study" we plan on using a variety of methods to scour, or wash, the fleece.  I'll let you know when I decide which method I want to use, and how well the process works.  I better hurry, we're running out of nice days! 

On a more practical note, apparently I should get my tetanus booster updated if I plan on playing with raw wool.  Who knew?
A fluffy Cheviot fleece

Friday, August 16, 2013

Campfire Games

The August challenge for Camp Loopy is out, and I'm still working on July!  THIS ONE I WILL FINISH!  No, really.  I'm on track for this one.  I've finished 4 triangles and am halfway through my Wingspan

From The Loopy Ewe blog:
The Challenge for Project Three – The project needs to use at least 800 yards, single stranded. That’s the only requirement! So you can knit a sweater, or a vest, or a blanket, or a bag, or a shawl, or anything that uses 800 yards in one project.

For those of you who don't knit, 800 yards is A LOT of yarn.  The scarf I'm knitting now is only 500 yards, and I've been working all month on it.  I don't think I've even done a project which used 800 yards before.  Nope. Not so optimistic about this one.

The Wingspan was finished!  Final count was 13 triangles, and I think it turned out beautiful, if I do say so myself.

Ummmm, I haven't even cast-on for my third project yet.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Goin' On A Wabbit Hunt

I can totally sympathize with Farmer McGregor.  Screw Peter Rabbit. 

Since redoing the front yard, I've been chasing rabbits out of there, but it hasn't stopped them from digging holes and eating my new plants.  Some of them haven't made it, and will need to be replaced.  Mr. HPL informed me he's been chasing them out of the garden several times a day, too.

This means war.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Last Steps

Sarah and I performed another hive check on Sunday, and what we found wasn't good.  Actually it was what we DIDN'T find.  No Queen Catherine!  There were actually still bees left in the hive, a very small population, but enough to care for some brood, if there were any.  We went through every frame, and no queen, no eggs.  No dead carcass with a red dot on the bottom board or in front of the hive.  Did she fly away?  Was she killed, even though they appeared to accept her fine?  I hate not knowing what happened!  If I don't know what it was, how am I supposed to correct it so it doesn't happen again?  Arrrggghhhh!!!

Only a few frames of bees left

Both Sarah and I working without gloves. Granted, there was only a small population of bees.
The only good things about Sunday's hive check was that my niece Enya helped out again, and I worked it without any protective gear.  Sarah also did it without gloves.  We did put our veils on when we shook the remaining bees into one box, but I think we're getting more comfortable and less jumpy.  Due to the declining population, we took off the second deep box, and brushed or shook all the bees off of the frames into the bottom deep.  We put the best frames into the bottom box, and packed up the others. 

Enya helping with the honey extraction
 Oh, and we got a little honey.  HONEY!!!  There was one frame we pulled that had 1/2 of one side with capped honey.  Not much, just enough for a taste, right?  Wrong!  With Enya helping, we scraped the capped honey into a strainer lined with cheesecloth, sitting over a bowl.  We crushed it all up, breaking open all of the honeycomb cells, and let gravity do it's work (hence it being called the "crush and strain" method).  After letting it sit for a few hours, with periodic smooshing, we ended up with 2 small jars of golden elixir.  At least the day had a sweet ending!

Our first honey!

Monday, July 22, 2013

First Steps

7/16/13  It's a good thing I checked on the bees last night.  Queen Catherine was still in her cage!  Even poking the hole in the candy plug hadn't encouraged the bees to eat enough of it to let her out.  Then I was an idiot and placed the cage with plug-side down, completely forgetting that if/when any of her attendants died, gravity would have them falling and blocking the path out.  Which is EXACTLY what happened.  Only instead of falling, it looks like one of the workers actually died while eating.  So strange!  I pulled the screen off of the cage, and encouraged Queen Catherine to walk out into the hive.  Only she didn't want too, and nobody can MAKE a queen do anything.  So I waited.  And waited.  Finally, I pretty much had to dump her out onto a frame.  Even then, she was slow to walk down into the hive.  This gave us (myself, Mr. HPL, Dick, and Dick's neighbors) time to watch her though. 
Queen Catherine (with the red dot) walks down into the hive
She is definitely not as large as Queen Beatrice (may she rest in peace), and I will continue to worry about how well she was mated until I can see a good brood pattern.  Hive population continues to decline.  Refilled the syrup feeders, but only time will tell if these bees will make it.  This is another instance where a second hive would be helpful; I could shake a couple frames of bees into the weak hive to add workers to take care of brood, or I could just swap a frame of capped brood into it, so the newly hatching bees would take care of the queen and housekeeping.

Have I mentioned I don't have much patience? 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Quest for the Queen

We have not had good luck with our hive this summer.  Is there a queen, is there not a queen, is Beatrice dead, do we have a laying worker . . . are they all going to die?
Then, a surprise.  We did a hive check on July 3rd, and low and behold, we had bees!  Yes, there were quite a few fuzzy drones (left behind by the laying worker, no doubt), but where we'd thought to find an almost zero population, we had bees working both boxes!  Our best guess is that our laying worker died, along with some of the original bees, and we collected some foragers from hives that were burned out in the Black Forest fire.  Without a laying worker and a decent population, we could try introducing a new queen.  We added some sugar syrup to them, and I went in on an order for a new queen from Z's Bees.  

This time I got a Carniolan queen, instead of an Italian.  While not being as big honey producers, they're even less aggressive than Italians and suited to cold climates and high elevations.  They're smaller, darker, and just as lovely.  The new queen (Queen Catherine?) arrived last Tuesday.  I picked her up, carried her around in my pocket until I could make it out to the bee yard and install her.  
Keeping Queen Catherine nice and warm
I left the cork in the cage, and placed her crossways between two frames on the bottom box.  I wanted as much access to her as possible for the worker bees.  Then I closed it all up and left them to do their thing.  I'm slightly concerned because her abdomen isn't as large or fat as most of the queens I've seen.  I'm not sure if this is because she's a Carniolan, or if she was poorly mated.  I guess we'll find out in a few weeks.
Queen Catherine and her attendants
I returned on Friday and removed the cork.  I poked a hole in the fondant, so the bees could work on releasing the queen from both sides.  There were a lot fewer bees, but hopefully enough will survive until the queen can produce a new bunch of brood.  Keep your fingers crossed!
Hardly any bees left

Monday, July 8, 2013

Short Corn

The Farmer's Almanac axiom is that corn should be "knee-high by the Fourth of July."  Well, mine isn't.  This is what getting a late start leads to.  Short corn!  It's only about calf-high, and some are even shorter than that.  It just means instead of late July, it will be August before my sweet corn is ready to grill.  

Not quite there yet
My lettuce is going well, and I'll be starting to pick it this week.  The peas are going gangbusters, and I've begun to train them up the trellis.  The cucumbers are also ready to be trained up the trellis, they just need to reach a liiiittttle farther.  
Peas starting to climb the trellis along the back fence
Since none of the bush beans came up (yes, I did soak them overnight), we had an open space in the garden.  Mr. HPL decided he wanted to try tomatoes this year, so we could make salsa and marinara sauce, so we picked up a few and are going to give it a shot.  We also bought a watermelon plant, so that makes watermelons AND cantaloupes.  I'm going to try and trellis the melons too, so that they don't take over the entire garden.
Slanted trellis for cukes, setup to shade the lettuce beneath 
Oh yeah, I'm growing hops too.

Centennial.  There's Cascade and Hallertauer too.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Did I Finish in Time?

NO!  Camp Loopy Project One was not completed by June 30.  FAILURE!  I'm continuing on with camp though.  

Camp Loopy Project Two runs from July 1st to the 31st, and consists of the following challenge:
"Has there been a popular pattern that passed you by? This challenge is to knit a pattern that has been popular with other knitters, that you haven’t knit before. The project needs to have at least 1000 projects listed (or 1000 queued up) on Ravelry, and it needs to use at least 500 yards, single stranded."

Well, Wingspan has 7698 projects, and is in 7814 queues. I think that qualifies. I've had this pattern in my Favorites, but have been putting it off.  I tend to not like knitting the patterns EVERYONE's done, such as Clapotis, or the Hitchhiker.  But I really do love the look of the Wingspan, and well, if Camp Loopy is making me knit it . . . 
© bonewoman
After spending HOURS looking through The Loopy Ewe’s yarn options, I went with the Wollmeise Pure, a 100% superwash merino, in the "No Whale Watching in CO" colorway. I inadvertantly started it, and decided to continue going with the yarn colorway names having a Colorado reference. It kind of makes it more personal that way. This is also my first time using Wollmeise, so I get to see what all the fuss is about.  There are entire fan groups dedicated to Wollmeise yarns.  I hope it lives up to the hype.

For Project One all 'campers' were assigned mountains (Go Mt Fiberopolis!), and for Project Two we were supposed to be assigned to Tree Houses.  But I didn't get one!  I guess I can pick any of them to join, but it's just not the same (if I sound whiny here, it's because I am)! 

Off to wind my yarn so I can cast-on!

No Whale Watching in CO

Monday, July 1, 2013

20 Years Come and Gone

I went to my 20th High School Reunion last weekend.  It was . . . nice.  I wasn't sure about going, but I'm so glad I did.  Everyone who showed up was great.  Twenty years can definitely break down cliques and soften memories.  Once we figured out who was who (especially the guys, sorry, but without the hair you just don't look the same) we had a great time catching up.  I discovered that a lot of my class is living in Colorado now, not too far from me. 

I reverted a bit to my younger self (yes, I HAVE developed a better filter over the years), but I was just so excited about seeing some of my best friends from high school.  Why did we lose touch in the first place?  Yes, college kept me busy, but NEVER too busy for coffee.  The Air Force kept moving me around, but that's what email is for, right?  I'm hoping to keep in touch this time and continue catching up with my friends' lives. 

What I thought would be weird, wasn't.  It was great.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Getting a Late Start

Usually the normal planting time around here is around Mother's Day.  I got a little bit of a late start, and only part of it is my fault!  We had some late snows this year, well into May, then we got busy, then Memorial Day weekend happened, and, well, life happens.  So my garden didn't get planted until May 28th.  At least it wasn't June!

I have some concerns since I'm using seeds from last year, but I've been storing them in a cool, dry place, so they should still be good.  I created a spreadsheet showing the date planted, germination time, and time to harvest as a planning aid (I AM an engineer), and as the germination dates passed I began to freak. 

I don't know if it's because the temperature climbed so high, up into the 90's already, or if it's just my brown thumb.The zucchini, which should have been the last to sprout, was up early.  I haven't seen hide nor hair of any carrots or beets.  I've got some corn, some beans, and some peas.  The cucumbers, lettuce, and canteloupe are going gangbusters.  Wahoo, pickles! 

I've been watering every day, after I get home from work.  I change my shoes, open a beer, and pick up the hose.  I'm not sure why beer and gardening go so well together, but they do.  Normally, Shiner Bock is my gardening beer, but last week when it was in the 90's I chose to switch to my lawn-mowing beer, Karma, from Avery Brewing Co.  What is lawn-mowing beer, you ask?  Lawn-mowing beer is light and refreshing, best served cold, and allows you to drink it down while still keeping the lines on the lawn straight.  For the young or un-initiated, that might be Miller Light or PBR.  For those of us in Colorado, we reach for a nice microbrewed pilsner or Belgian pale ale.  Karma fits the bill for me.

While the garden is hit and miss so far, the lawn is definitely expired.  There's no coming back from dead, and there's no resodding while we're on water restrictions (again).  I've wanted to replace the front lawn with a perennial garden anyway, and figured now's my chance!  So for a carefully compromised budget, I was able to purchase about 50 plants at Harding Nursery, which specializes in perennials that can survive in Colorado.

Some of the 37 trash bags that were filled.
We cleaned up the yard first, one weekend in May, getting rid of 'most' of the weeds.  We're still putting bags out with the trash each week because we had so many! 

I knew I'd regret it if we didn't ammend the soil at all, since the builder laid the sod on about 1/4" topsoil, with nothing but sand beneath.  While I tried to choose plants which would do well in low-fertility, sandy soil, there were a few exceptions.  (Don't judge.  You walk past something beautiful in full bloom without picking it up and then you can tell me how to xeriscape.  Hummphh.) 

We didn't have time to plant immediately, so the plants sat on the front porch for a week.  I had my fingers crossed the whole time that someone wouldn't steal them.  Mr. HPL (High Plains Life.  I have to call him something.) helped with the tilling and the digging holes thing (you know, the hard labor), while I researched and planned the design, picked the plants, and made the final decision as to where everything would go. 

I tried to stick to a bright color palette, that would stand out against all the rocks and grey "bleh" that is our neighborhood.  I wanted reds and oranges, blues and purples, not the whites and pastels that I thought would just blend in and disappear.  I tried to get plants that bloomed at various times, so that I would have flowers from early spring, through summer, to fall.  Some of them will bloom all season, and those I think of as my workhorses. 
Taking a break after all that hard work
I also wanted plants that were bee friendly (who, me?), and would attract other pollinators, while repelling rabbits (I am seriously going on a bunny hunt.  Not kidding here.).  
The plan on paper . . .

When possible, I went with plants native to Colorado or the mountain west.  The area in
the front yard I was planting did have a sprinkler system, but I wanted to reduce my water consumption, and I already told you how sandy the sand, I mean soil, is, so I chose plants that could handle moderate to xeric conditions.  It was a lot of work, and I put a lot of thought into it.  I also admit to cobbling together ideas from some of the pre-planned gardens offered through High Country Gardens.  They are a wonderful resource.

The reality.

What do you think?  We could definitely use a few more plants to fill the space in quicker, but there's that pernicious thing called a budget.  The ground covers will fill out and spread a bit more, some of the flowers will reseed and spread, and all of them will just get bigger.  That's the whole deal about growing things.  They grow. 

I really like how everything turned out, and am pretty impressed with my landscape design skills, if I do say so myself.  Now, to keep it all alive.  Today the front yard, tomorrow, the world. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

The World Is On Fire

For anyone in the Colorado Springs area, you already know our world is on fire.  We have fires burning to the south of us at the Royal Gorge, and the Black Forest fire to the immediate north.  The evacuation area is about 4 miles to the north of me.  It smells like a camp fire, but of course it's the pine forest and homes that are burning.

I don't know why this fire is hitting me so hard.  The Waldo Canyon fire one year ago didn't stress me out this way.  I'm having trouble knitting.  Maybe it's because I know more people who are affected by this fire.  Maybe it's because my bee yard is in a mandatory evacuation zone (and I'm still waiting for Dick to email or call me letting me know he got out OK.  Dick, you out there?).  Maybe it's because I'm paying more attention to the outside world this year.  Who knows.

I'm watching a friend's dog for a few days.  They're in a mandatory evacuation zone.  I feel slightly helpless, and being able to do something is making me feel a little better.  Several of my knit group ladies are evacuated, and they're planning a special knit group session this weekend, which unfortunately I am unable to attend.  I would love to be able to hug each of them in person, just to make sure they're good.

Beginning of the Black Forest Fire, taken Tuesday from the edge of my neighborhood.
UPDATE 6/17/13: 75% containment, 511 homes completely destroyed, 2 deaths, and thousands still in the evacuation area.  Dick's place and the hive boxes are OK. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Knit-A-Longs and Camp Loopy

I was drawn into doing a Knit-A-Long (KAL) in March for the Eden Prairie Shawl by Nancy Whitman.  I couldn't help it!  It's beautiful!  And for some reason, I'm on a shawl kick right now.  I know, it's spring, and I should be putting my knitting out of the way (yeah right!) and washing my bike and planting my garden.  However, those of us in Colorado just came out of the snow two weeks ago.  My bike is dirty and my garden barely planted.

I fell in love with the Eden Prairie Shawl because I've always been a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright's designs and the Prairie school, the Arts and Crafts movement, and the Mission style.  I love the idea of straight, clean lines, combined with the sweeping movement Nature provides.  I immediately recognized the familiar in the Eden Prairie shawl, and had to create it. 

I chose a picture of a stained glass window as my inspiration, and made my color and fiber choices from there.  Can you see how I'm using the slightly variegated yarn to pull out the colors of the window?  I'm thinking of adding a slight "spot" of red, too, I just need to figure out how to work it in.

 Inspiration window from Stained Glass & More, Inc
I had a great time casting on and following along with the KAL group on Ravelry.  The helpful hints and instructions for making it through the more difficult parts of the pattern came just when I needed them.  I didn't finish with the group at the end of March (actually, I'm still on stripe 6), but I had so much fun I'll definitely do another KAL.  I made a major mistake on where I started stripe 6, instead of picking up from the diamond, I started from the stripe end, so I took it to knit group to solicit suggestions.  I was looking for ways to fix it without having to rip back. While suggestions were provided, the concensus was I wouldn’t be happy (especially with the color changes) if I didn’t rip it out. Since I didn’t have the heart to do it, Linda very kindly frogged it for me, and picked up the live stitches.  MJ bought me a chocolate cookie to ease the pain.  I love my knit group!  I’m almost back to the row I was on before ripping out, only this time with the full stripe length!
Initial start of stripe 6.  Can you see where I made a mistake?

My Current Knitting Status
WIPs (Works In Progress): Eden Prairie Shawl, Montego Shawl (stalled), My First Socks (travelling along with me and slowly being worked, I'm about 2" past the heel of the 2nd sock), and my PrimaDani socks

FOs (Finished Objects): J's Navy Cabled Sweater Wrap and A's Summer Tank (of which I need photos of both from you little sis!), Converse baby booties, and my Ashton Shawlette (see previous posts)

PrimaDani sock in progress!
As if I don't have enough WIPs, I got dragged into joining Camp Loopy!  It's a summer program offered through The Loopy Ewe in Fort Collins, CO.  Project One begins on June 1st, and then a new project begins on July 1st and August 1st, finishing up at the end of August.  There's prizes for everyone who finishes.  Yeah!  My first project is going to be the Skew sock out of Biscotte & Cie Felix in Loopy's Mountain Hike colorway.  It's gorgeous!  I'm swatching now, and will be casting on Saturday!
My Loot!  Yarn, pin, and project bag

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Where's Waldo? Where's Beatrice!

Spring is always so busy!  In the last six weeks I have checked the bees (twice!), co-hosted a Derby Day party, gone to eight various doctor appointments, one vet appointment, cleaned the yard up, and planted my garden.  Whew!

This post will focus on the beekeeping, and I'll get into my garden progress in a later post.  I've discovered a new online tool called HiveTracks that I'm using to record weather conditions during inpections and overall status of the hive.  I really like how it gives range rings showing how far the bees might forage.  You can also see where other hives are at, if users have chosen to share the location.  I'll give it a go this year, and see how well it works out.
Beautiful frame with capped honey
4 April 2013They're alive! Yes!  The girls made it through winter!  There appears to be a fairly decent population, mostly in the top box, covering about six frames.  We can still see honey on the edges, so my fears about starving over the winter appear to be unfounded.  However . . . we couldn't find Queen Beatrice!
Frame inspection:     
  Top box (the previous bottom box which was swapped last fall), using # on frame vs location in box, going left to right
     2: 50% comb drawn on both sides, bees present on right side
    13: from nothing to 90% drawn comb on both sides, heavy with honey, bees present

    14: 95% comb drawn on both, with capped honey and nectar on both sides, bees
     5: 100% comb drawn, really heavy with capped honey, bees     
     6: 80% comb drawn on both sides, some honey, pollen, open brood comb, bees

     7: 90% comb built on both sides, wonky comb, stuck together with frame 11, some bee bread, open brood comb, bees
   11: 95% comb built on both sides, wonky comb, heavy with nectar/honey

   15: 95% comb drawn on both sides, really heavy, ~15 lbs, 75% capped honey on left, 30% capped honey on right, no bees
   12: 50% comb drawn, no bees at all
   19: 95% drawn on left side with 80% capped honey, 10% comb drawn on right 
Bottom box
   16: 100% comb drawn on both sides, with some nectar and honey
     1: 100% comb drawn on both sides, some bee bread, 20% honey on right

     8: 50% comb drawn on either side, some pollen
4: 100% comb, some pollen    17: 100% comb drawn, 10% capped honey and lots of pollen
   20: 100% comb drawn, 10% capped honey and some pollen

     9: 30% comb drawn, empty
   18: 100% comb drawn, lots of capped honey, heavy
     3: 100% comb drawn, 40% capped honey
   10: 95% comb drawn on both sides, 50% capped honey on left,

Overall impressions - left plenty of honey to overwinter, they did a great job drawing out comb near the end of the summer, seems like a good population of bees to start spring buildup with, but we didn't find Queen Beatrice.  This is the most worrying.  We didn't see ANY eggs, larvae, or capped brood.  Even though they slow down during the winter, there still should have been something.  Plus, we've always been able to spot QB, even when the hive was full.  Not sure if we should be worrying yet or not.  They were pretty calm if it is a queen-wrong hive.

Added some 1:1 sugar syrup to stimulate brood buildup.  I was hoping to get a split off of this hive this spring, but not so sure that will be happening now.

17 April 2013: Added a pollen patty and checked syrup, they hadn't touched it.  Pulled a few of the center frames and still saw no brood.  DH came with to "ease into it."

16 May 2013The population appears to be dropping, only covering about four frames fully now, although they've spread out a lot as it's warmed up.  DH came out and helped too!  Still didn't find Queen Beatrice.
Frame inspection:     
  Top box (using # on frame vs location in box, going left to right)
     2: 50% comb, some pollen, scattered bees

    13: 90% drawn comb on both sides, some capped honey, nectar, pollen, bees
    14: 95% comb drawn on both, capped honey and nectar, pollen, bees
     5: 100% comb drawn, capped honey, wonky comb cut off, drone cells, bees     
     6: 80% comb drawn on both sides, some honey, pollen, scattered brood with drone cells, empty queen supercedure cell, lots of bees

Possible peanut-shaped queen cell?

     7: 90% comb built on both sides, wonky comb, stuck together with frame 11, bee bread, scattered brood, drone cells, lots of bees
   11: 95% comb built on both sides, wonky comb where stuck to 7, nectar/honey and pollen, scattered brood with drone cells, larvae; might have cells with more than one egg laid in them

But it's empty . . . already hatched or never used?

   15: 95% comb drawn on both sides, really heavy, 75% capped honey on left, 30% on right, 
   12: 50% comb drawn, some bees
   19: 90% comb, about 1.25 frames of capped honey, smattering of bees 

  Bottom box
   16: 100% comb drawn on both sides, with some nectar and honey
     1: 100% comb drawn on both sides, some bee bread, 20% honey on right

     8: 50% comb drawn on either side, some pollen
4: 100% comb, some pollen, some scattered larvae   17: 100% comb drawn, 10% capped honey and lots of pollen
   20: 100% comb drawn, 10% capped honey and some pollen

     9: 30% comb drawn, empty
   18: 100% comb drawn, lots of capped honey, heavy
     3: 100% comb drawn, 40% capped honey
   10: 95% comb drawn on both sides, 50% capped honey,

Overall impressions - hive is still pretty calm and quiet if they are without a queen.  Our bees appear to be backwards though, as smoke seems to rile them up and make them louder, vs calmer.  Removed the top feeder for cleaning, but added two entrance feeders with 1:1 syrup.  Put remainder of pollen patty back on top of frames, even though they are bringing in some pollen.  Not sure if we've got a new queen who just wasn't mated well, which could happen due to bad weather and distant location from other hives, or if there's a laying worker.  Guess we'll find out soon enough. 

If there's a laying worker, one of the solutions would be to swap out a frame with one of eggs and capped brood each week until they make a new queen.  Since we don't have a second hive, this isn't possible.  Another solution is to buy a new queen and introduce her to the colony (and hope the laying worker doesn't kill her first), or to buy a new queen and do a shakeout, where you walk your hive boxes at least 100 yards away, shake off each frame, then place the boxes back in the original location, making sure none of the bees were transferred with it.  Then, all the foragers will be able to make their way back to the hive, but the nurse bees (including the laying workers) won't know how to get there.  It's all kind of iffy.  Most places I've looked are sold out of packages and queens for the moment.  It was another rough year for beekeepers.

We also did a sugar roll to test for mites.  Our numbers were really small (hopefully we did it correctly), but we did a powdered sugar treatment anyway, since it doesn't hurt them.  Turn them into candied bees, yes, fatal, no.
Applying the powdered sugar to the top box
I'm trying to work the bees without gloves this year.  While I did put them on for the mite count, I've now managed two hive inspections without them.  I have to remind myself to move slowly without any jerky movements.  Sometimes it's hard when I get tickled by the bees wings!  There was a happy moment when a bee landed on my finger to drink some nectar I'd accidentally got on me when I'd cut off some comb.  The bees tongue is called a probiscus, and it's basically a tube that sucks the nectar up.  It's WAY COOL to watch close up.

Bee drinking nectar off my finger
 2013 Sting count: Me = 0, Sarah = 0, Jason = 1 (or 2? that man's a target)
Reminder that all beekeeping photos taken by Jason R. unless otherwise noted.  Thanks Jason!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Host a Hive Program

Would you like to host a hive?

My husband is afraid of bees.  There, I said it.  He's working really hard at overcoming his dislike for flying, stinging insects, but in the meantime, I can't have a hive in my own yard.  To get around this, our first hive is in an outyard at Dick's place.  But it's a long drive out there, mostly coniferous trees (not ideal forage for bees), and I want some bees closer to me.  So I'm starting a hive hosting program.

Our local beekeeping association, PPBA, has something of an informal program for this (it's how I found Dick's place), but it has no online information, registration, or formal way of matching up beekeepers with locations.  I'm hoping to change this, and have something running for next year.

I'd like to model this hive hosting program on other successful programs, so I scoured the internet.  There were hive hosting programs that charged flat fees, monthly fees, or no fee at all.  Almost all provided honey for the hosting party.  Some programs had specific requirements to be met before hosting a hive.  I narrowed down the options to something I think will work for my area.  So here's my idea/pitch:

Great brood pattern, with pollen around edge and nectar in corners
Wondering what it’s like to keep bees but don’t have the expertise, equipment or time?  Host a honeybee hive for us instead. Hive hosting is easy and FREE!  Hosting means that you will receive all of the benefits of bees without the hassle.  You provide the location and then just let the bees do their magic. You will see increased yield in flower blooms as well as a more productive garden.  We'll set up the hive, install the colony, and drop in periodically to tend the bees.  If the hive produces more honey than the bees require to make it through the winter (normally after the first year), we'll extract the excess honey and you'll receive one free pint of raw, chemical free honey for each hive sited on your property.

Why should I host a hive?

The world needs bees.  Currently there is a huge shortage of bees in the U.S.  Approximately 40% of American hives didn't make it through the winter, due to a variety of problems including pesticides, mono crops, diseases and pests.  Every third bite of food requires pollination, making honeybees a vital part of our food chain.  Local honey has been said to reduce allergies.  What's more local than your own backyard?  Also, bees are endlessly fascinating.  Sit on your porch and watch a fuzzy forager buzzing from flower to flower, filling up her pollen baskets.  Hosting a hive is a great way to help increase the honeybee population in your local area and save the honeybees one colony at a time.  If you want to help pollinate the neighborhood but aren’t sure if beekeeping on your own is right for you, why not participate in the Hive Hosting Program? 

What are we looking for?  The perfect hive location can be complex to describe.  Ideally, the hive should be easily accessible for inspections, and a hand truckable route would be even better (those honey supers can get heavy!).  As far as the bees are concerned, they would prefer a sunny place with a south or east exposure.  All they really need though is a bee safe location, free of pesticides, near a good sources of pollen and nectar.  Community gardens, large yards, mature areas full of flowering trees and native plants are the perfect home for our honeybees.  Giving your neighbor a heads up will help ease any concerns they might have.  If you're not sure that your site is a good location, contact us and let us determine if it will work.  We are in need of locations that are willing to host 1-5 hives.   We’ll provide the bees and everything else they need. 

So, would you like to host a hive?
Contact us for more information, a site visit, and to learn more about helping honeybees.

(Thanks to the Ballard Bee Company 2013 Hive Hosting Program, Nectar, and Beverly Bees, whom I blatantly stole verbiage from.)

What do you think?  Is this a good idea and do you think it will work?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Catch-Up Continues, August Hive Checks

Please Forgive Me, I'm a Dork.
I wrote this last August, and just realized it had remained in DRAFT format vs being posted.  I think I was waiting to include some photos before posting, but seeing as how it's May 2013, I think I'll just go ahead with this.  Pretend you're in the TARDIS and go back in time about 9 months . . .

Last month we had our niece visit, and this month my parents came out for the weekend.  Of course I had to drag them out with me to see the bees!  I wasn't sure if my dad would be interested in visiting the beeyard, due to an "unfortunate incident" when he was young (shout out to my Uncle Rick here, who had to be rescued from a swarm of bees), but he seemed enthusiastic about the trip and wasn't nervous around the beehive at all. 

Sarah and Jason think the girls were a little more irritated than usual, especially in the bottom box, and I'm not sure if it was that, or if we're just finally getting a larger population of bees.  Plus, ripping through their home doesn't really make them happy. 

At least four full frames were drawn out with fresh comb, nice and even, so it was either the additional wax on the foundation, more consistant feeding, or the population growth, but it was great to see the progress made when the girls work together.

11 Aug 2012sunny and clear; refilled feeders; lots of progress (Yeah! comb building!) and population growth, propolis sticking frames together; many more bees with the yellow markings on them, it's either pollen or they flew through a paint sprayer
Frame inspection:     

  Bottom box, using # on frame vs location in box, going left to right
     2: 40% comb drawn on left side, pollen, 90% drawn on right side, some pollen present; comb is built beautifully even, they've repaired the previous cut out and it looks great
    13: nothing

    14: nothing on left, 95% comb drawn on right, nice and even (!)
     5: 100% on left side, ~5% capped, 100% right side, rebuilding wonky comb     
     6: 80% comb drawn on left side, still wonky comb present, some brood, none capped, 60% comb drawn on right, pollen; some bees with pollen

     7: 40% comb built on left side, 10% comb on right side,
   11: 5% comb built on left, just starting on right side

   12: nothing 
     8: 10% comb built on left, nothing on right
     9: nothing
Top box

   15: 5% comb drawn on left side, right side 20% comb
   16: 5% comb drawn on left side, right side 100% comb (YES!!!) with pollen and nectar
     1: 100% comb drawn on left side, 85% capped brood, 95% drawn on right side, about 5% capped honey, some larvae, some brood

     4: 100% on left, good brood pattern, 100% on right side, with about 50% capped brood, pollen, capped honey in corners;  drone cells
   17: 100% comb drawn on left side, 100% on right side (BAM!), some larvae, some capped honey     
   18: 100% comb drawn on left side, 95% comb drawn on right, lots of honey

     3: 100% comb built on left, Queen Beatrice spotted, 100% comb on right side    10: some wonky comb on left side, 5% comb drawn on right side
   19: nothing 
   20: nothing

My parents, suited up as assistant beekeepers!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Colors of Dreams

My spinning study group picks a different fiber to focus on each year.  The "Fiber of 2013" is silk.  Silk is everything it sounds like, luxurious, decadent, rich, expensive.  I was a little afraid of spinning silk (who wants to mess up with something so precious?), but that's what the study group is for, providing knowledge and support to try something new.  So I dipped my toes in and bought two silk caps.  Raw silk can be purchased in several preparations; caps, mawatas (a Japanese word that loosely translated means expanded cocoon) or hankies, roving, bricks (kind of like a thick roving folded up), noils, or straight from the cocoons.  I'm going to talk about silk caps here, but will probably mention another preparation later as we are studying it all year.  

Silk caps are made by boiling the cocoon, killing the silkworm, and degumming the silk.  Then each cocoon is opened and stretched over an arched bamboo strip, as shown below.

Workers stretching silk cocoons over arched bamboo strips to make silk caps.
The final silk cap is sort of a flat bell shape.  I purchased two caps for about $4 each, and each one weighs about 15 grams.  It doesn't sound expensive, but I just paid about $1/gram for undyed, unspun silk.  I decided at this point to just jump in with both feet and dye my silk.  You must understand, I've NEVER dyed anything before, and I decided this on spur of the moment on a Sunday when they needed to be ready to spin on Tuesday.  So I did a you-tube search (what did they do before this?) and found a video of hand-dying silk using food dyes (thank you ChemKnits!)  Who knew that
Dyed silk caps drying on a clean towel
I spent the morning soaking the silk caps in water (enough to cover the fiber), plus about 1/2 cup of white vinegar.  Next time I will definitely soak the silk overnight, as it absorbs liquid slowly and I still had a few undyed spots where my silk wasn't fully saturated.  I set the oven at 175 deg F, and then got out my McCormick food dyes.  That's right, food coloring my friends.  I basically just added drops of colors that I liked, sticking with a blue/green color scheme.  I tried to make each one shade from light to dark, but they blended a bit more than I wanted.  Then I threw them in the oven to bake, he he.

My silk caps dying in the oven.
When all (or almost all) of the dye had been absorbed and the water was practically clear, I removed my fiber from the oven.  This took several hours, because of the low temp.  I heard that if a higher temp is used though, the silk may lose it's luster.  Don't want that to happen!  I removed the fiber from the dye bath and placed it in a strainer in the sink.  Then I ran tepid water over it until the water ran completely clear, and squeezed out as much water as possible with twisting or mauling the fiber.  Silk can take a little rougher handling than wool, but you still need to be careful with it.

At this point almost all of the dye is absorbed out of the water.
Removing the fiber from the dye bath
Rinsing leftover dye out of the fiber

The Final Product
Final Product 2 - Layers separated from each other in preparation for spinning.