Tuesday, May 5, 2015

May the Fourth Be with You

    Our Grandchildren find this pun to be particularly funny, much like Pi Day (March 14).  This is actually going to be another one of those, "A Day in the Life" posts.  Yesterday, May 4th, was a nominal day off. I ended up having to do some bee store work in the early morning, in the middle of the day, and again in the late evening. Linda complained a little about this. I told her that complaining about the bee store is a bit like a farmer's wife complaining about the farm.

   The main occasion for my Monday bee store work was preparation for a mini package bee day later this week.  I am purchasing some Carniolan packages this year from a couple of local Russian beekeepers, Nikolai and Dimitri.  Months ago, they had offered to make up packages from their Carniolan bees. It sounded like a good idea at the time. Now it just extends the busy package bee season by another week when I am a bit tired of doing this much work. The advantages are it gives me the opportunity to sell Carniolan packages, a different variety of honeybee from the Italian packages I offer in our main package bee sales. Also the packages are produced somewhat locally. Their bees are currently doing a pollination job on blueberries in Lynden, Washington, near the Canadian border.  Thus there is no grueling drive to California so I don't have to worry about transportation costs. This allows me to sell a smaller number of packages and still have it be a profitable activity.

    The main down side is yet another week of package bees. I'm a little tired of being so busy and longing to spend more time on my vegetable garden and preparations for cousin camp.  I didn't have to drive to California, but I did have to gather the cages and make up enough sugar syrup to fill 88 quart sized cans.  I was very grateful that my daughter Sarah and grand daughters Hannah and Autumn pitched in and helped me prepare the sugar syrup over the weekend. Nikolai and Dimitri came by at 8:00 am to pick up the shipping cages and the recently refilled syrup cans. Twelve hours later, I received a phone call from Nikolai informing me that they were en route with the packages and expected to arrive at the Beez Neez at about 9:15 pm.  I met them at the store. They unloaded their trailer while I vacuumed off the hitchhikers.  I finished up the job at about 11:00 pm so it really wasn't painful.

    I was very impressed with how healthy the packages looked, not having made a twelve hour trip from California. Now all that remains is for me to put the queens into the packages.  The queens were shipped this morning from Koehnan's, a queen producer in California.  UPS will probably deliver them to me at about 10:00am tomorrow. Then I will have to pull out each of the syrup cans, install the queens, and then replace the cans, without releasing any more bees than necessary. I will probably end up with more loose bees than I would like, but that's why I have a bee vacuum.

    Nikolai was very happy to make up these packages for me.  It isn't just about additional revenue, as it solves a significant hive management problem for him.  When he puts his beehives in a blueberry field there is a considerable amount of drifting from one hive to another as the bees get oriented to their new location.  The drifting bees tend to collect in the hives towards the ends of the rows, causing those hives to have a lot more bees than they should. These overpopulated colonies would quickly start preparing to swarm if the situation was not corrected.  Nikolai simply collected the excess bees from these overpopulated colonies and put them into the packages.  Simple in theory, but a lot of work in practice.   Their work day started at about 7:00 am and ended at about 11:30 pm.

    Sandwiched in between this package bee activity, I was able to make some significant progress on our vegetable garden and thew task of reclaiming our poor neglected orchard.  I planted Potimarron winter squash and Super Sugar Snap peas. I made a trip to the bee store and did the bank deposits. I bought goat, duck, and chicken feed, along with six bales of wheat straw, at the Snohomish co-op.  The main issue with the orchard is that I had an apple tree go over this past winter because I unwisely thought it no longer needed to be staked. The heeled over apple tree made it almost impossible to mow the orchard and the orchard is too large for me to want to do the job with a weed wacker.  I should have fixed the tree right after it happened. The tree has lost some roots in the straightening process and may not survive. On the other hand, I do have replacement apple trees waiting in the wings and this particular tree has scab issues. After making the tree vertical again, I used the weed wacker to bring the grass down to a level the mower could handle.  I wasn't able to finish the job as the battery on the weed wacker gave out on me. I've included a photo of my "wheat crop". I noticed that heads are forming on the wheat that grew up from my straw mulch. My friend Quentin gave me a sythe for my birthday a few years back.  It looks like I'll finally get to use it.

   I also hived a swarm around 2:00 pm.  My modified Warre hive sent a small swarm into the adjacent cherry tree. It was pretty easy squeezy to collect the swarm.  I moved the orchard ladder into position, clipped off the small branch with my hand pruners, carried it over to a waiting nuc box. There are a lot more bees in the box than it appears as I had removed the middle frames before I shook the bees of the branch into the box.  It took me longer to get Linda to come out side and take a picture than it took to hive the swarm.

About a three pound swarm

The swarm's new home

   As I was working outside, I found an interesting artifact one of our grandchildren had left on the teeter-totter.  My daughter Sarah and son James had visited us over the weekend. We had a total of eight grandchildren visiting so I don't know which one deserves the credit for this piece of random cuteness. Note the map is labeled "Grama's Hows" rather than "Grampa's Hows". Linda is a rock star grandma so I don't really mind that she always gets top billing. The map is also a bit dyslexic regarding the relative location of their favorite places at Grama's Hows.

Map of Grama's Hows - author unknown

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