Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Du Khu Bee Restaurant in Beaverton, Oregon

     I don't recall that I've ever done a restaurant review in my blog, but now seems a good time to start.  On Tuesday evening, Chris, my son-in-law, took Chloe and me to a Korean restaurant in Beaverton.  I would have loved this restaurant even if it didn't have "Bee" in it's name. The specialty of the Du Khu Bee is pulled buckwheat noodles that are made fresh while you watch. It was really quite fun to watch and the results were very tasty. I took so many photos that Chris accused me of looking like a Japanese Tourist. (Is that an ethnic slur?). I took a video of the noodle puller but I wasn't able to get it uploaded onto the blog. You'll have to go in person to the Du Khu Bee if you want to see the noodles pulled. They also make their dumplings fresh on the premises.

Squid Noodles on a bed of shredded cabbage, stir fried in a wok
Korean Dumplings and Pickled Daikon Radish
Red Kimchee

The guy with outstreached arms is the noodle puller.

    There were so many interesting dishes from which to choose. I finally settled on the squid noodles. Chris ordered the dumplings as an appetizer while I think the kimchee and pickled radish came with the meal. The freshly made dumplings were so much better than any I'd  had before.  I was not optimistic that I would like the pickled radish as I am not a big fan of fresh radishes. I was pleasantly surprised and will give serious consideration in the future to growing daikon radishes in my vegetable garden. The radishes tasted like they had been freshly cut up and placed in a marinade of sweetened rice vinegar. I was very pleased with the squid noodles, but I knew I liked squid so that was not a surprise. Chris ordered black bean noodles.  Sarah had mentioned them previously and said they don't look very appetizing but are really quite tasty. Chris stated that black bean noodles are one of those simple Korean dishes for which he occasionally gets a craving. Korean comfort food.  I will try the black bean noodles on my next visit, assuming I'm not seduced by some other item on the menu.

    The Du Khu Bee is fairly small. Chris had warned me that it might be very crowded, sometimes with lengthy waits for a table.  That is probably true for weekends, but we came on a Tuesday night so we had no problem getting seated. The waiter was friendly and helpful and we had a wonderful view of the kitchen staff preparing our food. They do a significant amount of takeout business. That means I now have a way to butter up my Korean son-in-law that doesn't involve digging clams.  Not that I don't enjoy digging clams. Its just that the tides aren't always convenient for clam digging. The Du Kuh Bee Restaurant is located at 12590 S.W. First Street, Beaverton, Oregon.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New Beekeepers in the Family

    I successfully transported two beehives to Oregon earlier in the week.  They made the trip in fine shape. Linda didn't even notice that we had a few loose bees in the back of the car. Actually, I didn't notice the loose bees either until I removed the hives from the car early Monday morning.  Both hives are now set up in their new home in the Matiaco family's vegetable garden. I was able to walk Chloe through the basics of doing a hive inspection on Tuesday afternoon. She did very well. She was gentle with the bees and moved slowly and deliberately. She showed very good technique, especially for a newbee. She was able to see honey, pollen, eggs, open brood, capped brood and the queen in each hive. I felt badly that I failed to get any photos of Chloe working the hive. I got too caught up in teaching and didn't even remember that I had intended to take pictures until after we were back at the car removing our bee suits.
Chloe's Hive and Autumn's Hive from Left to Right

     The reason Autumn's hive has two boxes while Chloe's hive only has one box has to do with the history of each hive. Autumn's hive came from a three pound package that I hived on May 4th. Chloe's hive was started from a four pound swarm I hived on May 7th.  When I checked both hives about a week later, it was apparent that Chloe's hive was missing a queen. By the time I was able to procure a queen and get her installed and accepted in Chloe's hive, Autumn's hive had a two week head start in raising brood. A beehive will grow best if it has just the right amount of space relative to their population.  If they have too much space it becomes harder for them to keep the brood warm and the extra space actually slows down their growth.  Chloe's hive should be ready for their second box within another week or so.

    The jars of sugar syrup in the entrance feeders in the front of each hive represent only the third quart of syrup given to each hive. They both did very well foraging from the Big Leaf Maple trees at my house and consequently didn't take very much sugar syrup.  I told the girls they could probably stop feeding them after these jars of syrup are gone as the blackberries are already starting to bloom in Forest Grove, Oregon. Once the weather warms up this weekend, the bees will probably do fine just foraging.  I suspect I will probably have to continue feeding my bees in Snohomish, Washington for another few weeks.  Our weather is a little cooler and wetter. Hence the blackberries in my yard bloom a little later than they do in Oregon.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Hula at the Ward Talent Show

    The local grand daughters performed some hula dances at the Snohomish Ward Talent Show last night.  They performed the Hukilau, Pupu Hinuhinu, and did some free form hula while I played and sang the Hawaiian War Chant. It turned out pretty well. We had four different videos going. So far, I've only seen Grandma Cozy's video. I'm sure some of them will be popping up on facebook soon. Now that they've performed in front an audience of 100 or more the girls shouldn't have any issues with the smaller audience at our Cousin Camp Luau. We did have some minor problems with a "heckler" as Grandma Cozy called him. John kept wandering onto and off of the dance floor during the girls' performance.  John was wearing a hawaiian shirt, lei, and hula skirt so he looked like he might have been part of the number.
Freeform Hula to the Hawaiian War Chant

     The Ukulele must be undergoing a serious comeback in popularity. Amazingly we were the third act to feature an ukulele. However, we were the only Hawaiian act with an ukulele. There were two singing numbers with ukulele accompanists. Other acts included a pianist, a flutist, and the   "Shoulder Angel" skit performed by the Priests. Marshal Peterson was every bit as funny as the shoulder angel as was the actor on "Studio C".

Enthusiastic performers waiting to go on stage

    There were lots of other talents on display. Many people brought things they had made. Brian Collins works at a bike shop and brought a number of sculptures he had made from bent bicycle spokes. Grandma Cozy brought down some of her famous crocheted dolls as part of that display. Many people had also brought wonderful baked goodies and of course, there were root beer floats.  I brought Heavenly Hazelnut Pie while there were also strawberry cheesecake, chocolate dipped strawberries, Brazilian Mousse, various types of cookies, and a Black Forest Apple Strudel Cake. It took a lot of discipline to save room for root beer floats, with so many wonderful goodies available. Conner particularly enjoyed the goodies as he went around the room helping himself to anything that anyone left unattended on a chair seat.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Incubating Chicken Eggs - Candling

     So it is the evening of May 23 and it has been about six days since I started to incubate 39 chicken eggs. Tonight seemed like a good time to candle the eggs and see how things are progressing.  There was only one of the 39 that was definitely not fertile.  However, the other 38 eggs weren't all exactly the same.  Some of the variation in appearance stems from the fact that a little less than half of the eggs have dark brown shells. That still did not account for all of the variability as some of the blue Ameracauna eggs seemed to be further along than other blue eggs.

   I consulted the incubation book I have on loan along with the incubator.  I found there were quite a few factors that could account for this variation in the progress of the eggs, with the most important probably being the age of the egg, and storage temperature and humidity.  The book recommended that no eggs be kept longer than a week before incubating.  I think my oldest eggs were eight days old. The most recent eggs have the lowest numbers so I should be able to check and see if the newer eggs doing the best.

    We had hula practice at our house this evening. The local grand daughters will be performing in our ward talent show on Saturday.  They are going to do the Hukilau Song and Pupu.  Some good friends provided us with some nice shells for the little girls' Pupu dance. Pupu means seashell in Hawaiian.  I've also got them doing some back up vocal and less structured hula dancing while I sing and play the Hawaiian War Chant. I think it will be pretty fun. I need to make sure we get a video of their performance.
"Pupu Hinuhinu E" translates loosely to "Very Pretty Shell"
    We had a shipment of 100 Carniolan queen bees arrive for the bee store this morning. I spent an hour or so in marginal weather conditions getting them transferred to a queen bank.  It is so much nicer to work with honey bees when the weather is warm and sunny. Just as I finished up with the queen bank my niece Katherine arrived with her two little girls and a friend who is interested in taking up beekeeping. We had a nice lunch followed by a little tour of the Beez Neez.  As the little girls tried out Linda's new teeter-tooter it occurred to me that I was their "Gruncle" as in Gravity Falls.  If I carried that contraction to its logical conclusion I suppose that would make them my "Grieces"which doesn't sound as nice as "Gruncle".

The corks in the end of the queen cages need to be replaced with candy plugs

The light bees on the outside are Italians while the dark queen inside is a Carniolan

Queen bees installed in the rack

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Incubating Chicken Eggs and Garden Update

     I started a batch of 39 chicken eggs in the incubator on Saturday, May 18th.  That means they will be due to hatch out on about June 8th as chicken eggs only take three weeks to incubate. This is far below the capacity of the incubator as it will do 300 eggs at a time. However, we can only handle a certain number of chicks.  The battery brooder that I have borrowed will handle about 32 chicks from hatching through eight weeks. I will feel very lucky if I'm able to hatch out 32 chicks from 39 eggs.   I will candle the eggs later this week so I can discard all of the infertile eggs. However, I am not counting my chickens before they hatch. Hopefully we will get enough pullets for us and all of the other poultry keepers in the family.

Antique Montgomery Ward 300 Egg Incubator

     I am really happy with our new setup for starting plants. I just finished setting out all of the cucumbers, zucchini, pattypan squash, and dill that I had started indoors. A movable grow light is the only way to go. These transplants didn't turn out leggy and spindly like my previous efforts. Even right next to a big picture window it just was never enough light. My recent transplants looked just like the ones you might buy from a nursery. This system also has a water wicking pad that draws water from a tray and waters all of the plants from beneath. Thus I only have to water the plants less than once a week and there is no danger of overwatering.  The only problem is the lack of sufficient room to do as many starts as I would like to do. Happily, I'm working on a second grow light setup to remedy that problem. My sweet daughter Rachel already contributed an additional grow light to the cause,

Fancy grow light weeks ago when I had just planted the seeds

    I've carefully examined all of our fruit trees and it looks like we have very good fruit set on most of the trees. The one big exception is our plums. I have grafted three varieties onto our plum tree, Shiro, Obilnaya, and Santa Rosa. The earliest to bloom is the Shiro and those branches set no fruit. Obilnaya is in the middle and it set less than half the fruit it did last year.  The only branches with good fruit set are the Santa Rosa. Fortunately, that should still give us enough plums for fresh eating and plum jam. Our plum season will just be shorter than it was last year as we won't have the succession of three varieties ripening at different times.  All five of my sweet cherry trees have good fruit set as well as the two little pie cherry trees.  Our "Korean" pear tree has set a bumper crop, at least twice what it had last year. Last year most of the Asian pears were only one variety, Chojuru, from the lower branches. This year we should have a much better selection as there is also a lot of fruit set on the upper branches. It also looks like the apples have good fruit set as well. It makes me want to give our honeybees and mason bees a standing ovation. Well done girls!

    While, I'm on the subject of honey bees, I just got home from doing a presentation on honey bees to a high school physics class. So you may be wondering how honey bees are relevant to a physics class. Among other things I explained how honey bees see light in different spectrums than the human eye. Hence blossoms that look red to us probably appear black to the bees.  The fact that they can see ultraviolet light actually causes patterns to be visible in what looks like a white blossom to the human eye.  This also allows the bees to see a color change in some "white" blossoms when there is nectar present in the flower. I think God had a lot of fun making honey bees.  I also demonstrated how a refractometer is used to measure the moisture content of honey by measuring the angle of refraction of light passing through the honey.  The kids asked a lot of good questions and of course it didn't hurt that  I took two frames of bees in an observation hive and passed out honey sticks.

    I had a chance to open Chloe's beehive yesterday while the weather was still warm. The marked queen I installed last week has been released and has started laying eggs. I have included a photo of "Chloe the First" below. Maybe instead of "Autumn the First" and "Chloe the First" we should refer to  their respective queen bees  as "Autumn the White" and "Chloe the Red". I'll leave that momentous decision up to the owners of the beehives. Neither of the girls' hives have taken much sugar syrup as they did very well off the big leaf maples. It is also possible that they collected honey from some other source as we had almost two weeks of very unseasonably warm weather. Many nectar plants are very temperature sensitive so they might have collected honey from something different this year.  Maple honey isn't very dark while some of the honey the bees collected this spring was fairly dark.
Queen Chloe the First and her adoring subjects

Note the honey the girls have gathered.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Babysitting the Bedlamites

     A week ago Saturday (May 11th) we celebrated my son James' birthday. The party was held one day early as his actual birthday fell on Mother's Day this year. We had a little cookout at our house. I flipped burgers in the back yard. Linda made her wonderful potato salad and strawberry lemonade. We had two cakes. James' favorite cake is a dirt cake and he has had one on his birthday for years. Beth also made a coconut cake for the benefit of those looking for a more traditional cake. Dirt cake is a lot closer to pudding than cake. Following the customary cake and ice cream I was presented with an opportunity to babysit their children while James and Beth went to attend a Mystery Dinner Theater. I am always happy for the opportunity to spend quality time with grandkids so it was a pretty easy sell for them.

      While at the Tunnell home in Monroe I got to see first hand how the kids have been developing their climbing skills. I wonder if Grandma Cozy has told them the story of how she used to climb trees when she was a little girl.  When she lived in Detroit, Michigan there was a man who lived near them who would pay Grandma Cozy a nickle to climb down from the tree.  That was probably pretty easy money to a six year old. 
John Wesley Tunnell

Lucy Tunnell

    After the tree climbing demo we took a walk around the neighborhood so the kids could introduce me to the local characters and show me all of the finest tourist attractions in their part of Monroe.  The local characters consisted of Bruce and Captain.  Bruce being the rather outgoing owner of Captain, a large and very friendly golden retriever. Captain gave John such a face washing that would do any mother proud. Oddly enough, John didn't seem to mind having the mother of all lick washings.  The ultimate destination of our little walk was the bowling ball house. I have to admit I had a difficult time imagining just what I would see.  As it turned out, the bowling ball house is simply bowling balls run amok as lawn and garden art. There were probably close to 100 bowling balls stacked and placed throughout the lawn and garden area of the house. While on one hand it was kind of cute. On the other hand I don't think I want to try this at home.

Bowling Balls and Wheelbarrows

Bowling Balls and Tree

Bowling Balls and Bushes
     While I was driving to church early in the morning of May 12th, Mothers Day, I noticed this hot air balloon.  As it happened it passed very close to my route to church so I couldn't resist pausing for a few photos. I have no desire to go up in a hot air balloon but they rate pretty high on the picturesque scale. I'm glad that someone is nuts enough to want to ride in them.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Autumn's Bees and Chloe's Bees

   I was able to examine some of my bee hives this past week. It was nice to have so much warm weather. I don't recall ever having a full 10 or 12 days in a row in which the highs were in the 70s in May. Usually we don't even get that kind of weather until late June. The warm weather is nice for working the bees. I can't do hive exams at temperatures below 60 without risking the brood being chilled. The warm weather has been good for the fruit trees too.  At this point I have good fruit set on all five of my sweet cherry trees and the Asian pear. I'm assuming the apples will all be well pollinated as they bloomed when the weather was so lovely.  The only negative so far on the fruit front is my very earliest plum. I have three varieties grafted onto my plum tree. The earliest, Shiro, bloomed before the weather warmed up and I have only a few plums developing on those two limbs. I'm hoping that I've done better on the two later plum varieties.

    On Friday (May 10)I looked at the package I had installed for my grand daughter, Autumn, on Friday, May 4th. I was very pleased with their progress considering I had just installed them in the hive six days earlier.  The bees had made very good progress on drawing out the comb on the middle five frames.  In beekeeping lingo "drawing out comb" means the bees are making wax and building the honeycomb in which the queen lays the eggs, the brood (baby bees) develop and the pollen and nectar are stored. I took photos with my iPhone and was amazed at the results.

Good progress for just one week

Note the different colors of pollen

The cells at the top are filled with pollen. Eggs can be seen at the bottom of the middle cells..

Queen Autumn the First

     I looked at Chloe's hive on Saturday.  This hive is from a swarm I had hived on Tuesday morning (May 7).  The bees were making very good progress drawing out comb and had stored a lot more nectar than they could have gotten from the small amount of syrup they had taken from the feeder. The bad news was that there was no evidence of a queen.  Considering how well they had drawn out the comb I should have been able to find some eggs. Usually when I hive a swarm they turn out to have a laying queen.  On rare occasions, the swarm ends up queenless.  Possibly she was damaged when the bees were sucked into the bee vac. It is also possible that this was not a prime swarm.  A prime swarm is the first and often only swarm to leave the colony. The reigning queen leaves with the swarm so that swarm starts out with a mated queen.  Sometimes after swarms or secondary swarms will issue from a hive. Usually those swarms are much smaller than a prime swarm and are accompanied by virgin queens.  In this particular case the swarm had about 4 pounds of bees and seemed much too large to be a secondary swarm. It is more likely they left with a mated queen and something bad happened to her in the process of the swarm being collected. My current plan is to check the hive again in a few days. If there is still no evidence of a queen I will try installing a new queen. I currently don't have any queens in stock at the bee store, but I have a shipment of queens that will arrive Tuesday morning. My plan is to install a marked queen from that shipment and give this hive another week to get things sorted out before I move them to Oregon.

    Autumn's queen is marked white because I always ask our package bee supplier to use white. Most of my customers want the queens marked white as it easier to spot a queen with a white mark than any of the other four colors used to mark queens. They actually have an official five year rotation with a different color used each year in the cycle. This year the official color is red, not a particularly helpful color to the new beekeeper.  The marked queens  I will receive on Tuesday will therefore be marked red.  The girls' beehives will be like "Through the Looking Glass". There will be a white queen in one hive and a red queen in the other.  Although in this case, both queens will probably have somewhat of an attitude.

Baby Chicks

    Over the past three weeks one of my Domenique hens has been setting on a clutch of ten duck eggs and two of her own eggs.   Yesterday morning I was greeted with some very loud "peeps" as I went out to feed the chickens.  It was obvious something had hatched.  Sure enough, there were two little chicks inside the chicken coop. Sadly, all of the duck eggs were still in the nest, which the hen had appeared to have abandoned. Duck eggs take about four weeks while chicken eggs will incubate in just three weeks. When I checked the duck eggs they were stone cold so there was no option to transfer them to my incubator.
Our new chicks.
     The chicks look really cute in my chicken pen, but its not a very good environment for them.  First of all, they can easily pass through the fencing and wander back and forth in and out of the pen throughout the day.  This means they have the option of becoming cat food whenever they choose to leave the safety of the chicken pen.  The second problem became apparent as evening fell. The hen wanted the chicks to return to the safety of the chicken coop. That seemed to be beyond their present skill set. They managed to descend the ramp, but seemed unable to climb back up.  The two little chicks were under the chicken coop peeping their loudest while the mother hen was set up to brood them inside the coop several feet above them.  In order to give them a safer environment I transferred both hen and chicks to the Parrot house where Cassie is supervising their welfare in the chicken tractor I made several years back.

     I later broke open the unhatched duck eggs in an effort to figure out what went wrong. The hen had abandoned them for good reason. It appears that none of them had developed and most were infertile. That means I probably don't have a slacker hen, but I probably do have a slacker drake. That is very unfortunate as I was planning to hatch out more ducklings. For the information of those who are curious about such things, if you break an incubated egg that didn't hatch and it looks like a normal egg, the egg was infertile.  If the insides of the incubated egg look really nasty, then it was fertile but didn't develop properly for some reason. This is according to a book on incubation I have borrowed from a  friend.
Antique Montgomery Ward incubator

Battery Brooder

     A friend had just loaned me his old Montgomery Ward wooden chicken incubator along with a battery brooder.  The large forced air cabinet incubator has the capacity to do about 300 chicken eggs at a time.  The battery brooder will brood 32 chicks at a time and is stacked on top of two cages that will accommodate 16 pullets each after they reach four weeks and no longer need brooding.  I wasn't planning on hatching 300 chicks, but I was hoping to hatch out several dozen ducks and chickens.  I figured I could sell the extra ducklings on Craig's List while I was hoping to supply family members with pullets and raise the roosters to eat.  The chicken portion of the plan is still on, but I may have to look elsewhere for fertile duck eggs.  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Chloe's Bees

    I'm in the process of setting up two of my grand daughters with beehives.  The last time I visited Autumn and Chloe I got them started with the apprentice level book of the Master Beekeeper program of the Washington State Beekeepers Association.  Hopefully they are making progress on their homework and will have at least finished reading the booklet by the time I deliver their bees to them. We also spent some time repainting some used bee boxes, lids, and bottom boards. I have some 3/4 deep boxes which are somewhat of an odd size. I carry them in the store, but very few people use them anymore. I inherited them from my daughter, Rachel, when she stopped doing bees. I had two cans of exterior latex house paint I had left over from a painting project.  The girls opted to paint their hives a light yellow color, a good choice for Western Oregon, where the weather averages about five degrees warmer than what we get in Snohomish.

    I had hived a package of bees for Autumn this past Saturday and had intended to do a package of bees for Chloe at the same time.  Unfortunately, Quentin, my sole employee at the Beez Neez had been  very diligent in selling off the extra bee packages so we only ended up with two "extra" packages.  I had the only two extra packages already loaded in the van to take home as we were getting ready to close up the shop at 4:30 pm on Saturday afternoon. Then up walks a customer who we had already crossed off the list by mistake. My heart sank as she asked to pick up her bees. That left me with only one package to take home for the girls instead of the two I had planned.

     Fast forward to Monday afternoon. The Beez Neez is closed on Monday but Quentin had just happened to stop by the store to place orders with some of our suppliers. While he was at the store a swarm call came in that appeared to be "low hanging fruit". That translates to a good sized swarm in an easy location, in this case on a bush, a few feet off the ground. Quentin suggested we retrieve the swarm for the grand daughters in Oregon.  We arrived at the location in the Silver Lake area at about 2:15 pm. About ten minutes before our arrival the bees had decided to change locations and was in the process of moving to a rhododendron bush across the street.  This was the honeybee equivalent of a "Chinese Fire Drill". The air was filled with bees and there was nothing we could do but wait for them to settle down at their new location.  This took about 45 minutes.  Quentin then vacuumed up the bees while I supervised (watched). There were still  a fair amount of bees in the air when he finished so we placed the vacuum cage full of bees in a shady spot so the remaining bees would eventually coalesce onto the cage's ventilation screens.

    I returned at about 6:00 am the following morning and picked up the vacuum cage, now with about an additional half pound of bees clustered on the vent screens. I put the cage in the back of my beater cargo van where the loose bees calmly stayed put for the ten minute ride back to Snohomish. I took
the video above of the bees filling the air.  The video turned out well but I had some difficulty uploading it to the blog. I finally got it to upload but I wasn't able to make it bigger. I think it still gives a good sample of the air filled with bees.  Next time I won't delete videos that I want to upload to the blog so I can try to upload it directly from the phone.

Chloe's bees in the process of relocating to a different bush.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Calm in a Crisis

   I experienced a little bee crisis Thursday as I was removing a few queen bees from our queen bank at work.  The queens are stored in the queen bank, a small 5 frame nucleus colony, in little cages with no worker bees within the cages. If the customers aren't absolutely certain they will be able to install their newly purchased queen into a hive within the next two hours we have to add worker bees to the queen cages. That involves catching three of the worker bees crawling on the outside of the queen cage and putting them into the cage, abdomen first. This is a job that some dexterity so it has to be done bare-handed. I always rub fresh spearmint or peppermint leaves on my hands prior to bare handed bee work as it masks my scent and makes the bees less inclined to sting my hands.

   My crisis consisted of feeling a worker bee crawling up my leg as I was busily engaged in adding worker bees to two queen cages I had just removed from the queen bank.  With the added distraction of  an audience of several customers, I focused on finishing the task of catching two more worker bees by the wings and adding them to the second queen cage. By this time the bee inside my pants had just passed my knee cap and was continuing her journey upwards. I then very gingerly walked to our rest room (thankfully it was unoccupied) and carefully lowered my pants to remove the intruder. The bee was released unharmed and all was well that ended well.

    In the first draft of this post I wrote that I didn't recall that I have been stung yet this year. Part of that I attributed to good luck and part to careful technique on my part in working a hive.  It was obviously not a good idea to make a statement like that as I was stung twice today. The first one occurred as I had to open the queen bank as soon as I got to work in order to pull out a queen for a customer.  I am never anxious to open a bee hive first thing in the morning before it is warm enough for the foragers to leave the hive. The older worker bees are the foragers and they are much more inclined to sting than the younger worker bees who function as "house bees".  One of the older workers decided my intrusion was appropriate justification for the ultimate sacrifice and stung me on the hand as I removed a queen cage from the queen bank. Later I received a second sting as I was removing hitch hikers from a package for a customer. I often ask the customers if they want the free bees on the exterior of the shipping cage.  Most of them decline and request that we remove the "free bees" before they leave with their package.

    One of the first questions usually asked of a beekeeper is how often do you get stung.  I honestly have a hard time giving an exact answer as I really don't keep track of it. I will say that I doubt that I average even one sting a week during the warmer months of the year when it is warm enough to work the hives.  An important factor in the small number of stings I receive is the fact that I am somewhat used to the bees and am usually pretty comfortable and calm when I work the bees.  It is essential to remain calm when working honeybees. They have a very sensitive sense of smell and they can literally smell fear. If you are nervous or scared while working a bee hive, the bees will be able to detect that and will respond in a negative manner.

Soil Test

  I bought a soil test kit a few days ago and finally got to try it out.  I was a little surprised with the results.  Our soil is okay for phosphorus, which I expected to be low and low for nitrogen which I expected to be high.  Potassium was also good in both places I sampled. Of course there is always the possibility of operator error. I should probably read through the instructions more carefully to make sure I correctly followed the test procedures.  I'm thinking the chickens should get the credit for our good phosphorus levels.  Chicken manure has high phosphorus levels compared to horse, cow, or goat manure. I'm not sure where duck poo falls in this spectrum as it appears their poo has not been as carefully scrutinized as chicken poo. This is probably due to the fact that ducks are not raised in the large quantities that chickens are. I suspect duck poo is probably also high in phosphorus.

Phosphorus, Potassium, and Nitrogen Tests

   The little kittens are becoming quite active little explorers.  Mrs Buzz Saw has pretty much lost containment.  Stan Sessions, our home teacher, came by this past Sunday afternoon with his older children. The girls were pretty gaga over the kittens. It s nice that the kittens like the attention. They come out to greet me whenever I come near the closet and they're awake. The friendlier they are, the easier it will be for them to find homes. I'm pretty sure we will get homes for them all in a few Saturdays at the bee store.

Jerusalem Artichoke that will eventually top 6 feet.
    I was looking out in my garden today and noticed that my Jerusalem Artichoke plants are emerging. I also have beets that are up, although I'm planning on putting in more beets. I'd like to plant enough beets to do a lot of pickled beets. I thought my garbanzo's had failed to germinate, but now I realize that the plants just look very different from what I expected.  When they first emerge they look more like vetch than beans or peas.  I almost gave up on them and was considering replanting those beds. The only thing that saved them from being weeded out of the garden was that I finally noticed the even spacing of the plants.
Italian Parsley

Newly emerged beets

Friday, May 3, 2013

Package Bee Day, Round 2

  I made my annual trip to Palo Cedro, California this week to pick up our second load of package bees. Alan Pomeroy, a good bee friend, had volunteered to make the trip with me.  I enjoy the trip but I really do need help with the driving. Besides, I really really need to travel with someone who knows how to back up a trailer. That and not being able to whistle ( I guess my penny whistle is kind of a prosthesis) are two serious deficiencies in my skill set.   Alan was good company, pointing out every different variety of sheep and cattle we passed. He has raised some kind of animal since childhood to include various breeds of milk goats and Jacob's sheep.  He is a serious herdsman at heart. We discussed everything from religion and life's tragedies to cattle, sheep, and of course beekeeping. Alan has been into honeybees since he was a teenager. The trip down was somewhat leisurely and we were able to stop and eat in restaurants. The trip back was quite different as we could only stop for gas and nature calls and were limited to whatever fast food was adjacent to the gas stations.
Alan did me a huge favor helping transport the bees then thanked me profusely for letting him come.

A pallet of packages waiting to be loading into the bee trailer

The loading crew

    Every time I'm picking up the bees it seems I get to see something I haven't seen before. One year I got to watch them make up packages and last year I watched them graft queens.  This year I got to watch several of Steve Park's employees removing queen cells from the incubator. They pulled out quite a number of wooden bars from the incubator. Each bar had about 15 queen cells attached to it. One guy checked the queen cells to make sure they were all good. He held them up against a light to make sure each cell had a queen that was vertical in the cell. If the queen was curled up in the bottom of the cell it meant that she had died.  I watched him do quite a few cells and I only saw him cull two queen cells.  After this quality check he would use a hot knife to detach the entire line of queen cells loose from the wooden bar. Then he would use the same hot knife to separate each individual queen cell. The separated queen cells were then put into an insulated basket for transport to a mating yard. At the mating yard each queen cell will placed into a different mating nut, a minature beehive. The queen will emerge from her cell in the mating nuc and a week or so later will take one or more mating flights.

Wooden chicken incubator used to incubate queens

Candling the queen cells for quality control

Detaching the queen cells

Separating the individual queen cells

A basket full of queen cells ready to be transferred to mating nuts

    We did things a little differently this year, loading up early in the morning in Palo Cedro, California. We left with the bees at about 7:45 am.  I enjoyed the trip much more traveling in the daytime. We arrived back in Snohomish at 8:30 p.m.  Quentin had lined up the usual suspects (the missionaries) to help unload the trailer. It went very quickly. We had the bees unloaded, the trailer deposited at Quentin's house, and the rental truck returned by about 11:00 p.m . It was very nice to get a good night's sleep before package bee day.

A nice looking package with minimal dead bees on the bottom of the cage

A member of the "Bee Team" stacking packages

Alan Pomeroy moves a package while one of the Elders vacuums off the hitchhikers.