Solar Wax Stalagmite

Stalactite? Not hanging tight to the ceiling any more. Stalagmite. There we go. Stone? Not so much.

Today was a very warm day, which probably explains the wonderful performance of my hobbled-together solar wax melter.  All the wax in the picture melted during the course of today only.  At the very least, it surprised me at the amount.

Tomorrow, I will be checking the supers I put on the hives last week to determine if I need to put another set on.  I hope that is the case as that would mean the bees are on a good nectar flow.  Also, I will get a chance to check out the hives during the day.  I am normally at work and only get to check on the hives at the tail end of the day instead of during the peak of foraging.

Onions and Apple Blossoms

The onion sets have sprouted. So have some weeds

I planted some onion sets about a week ago, and they are starting to come in very nicely.  Roughly half of the plants have broken the surface, so even if I don’t have any more sprout I will have a decent number of onions come harvest time.

I’ve been experimenting with a solar wax melter I hobbled together with things I had lying around the house.  I am using a large glass jar with a glass lid and a dark-colored rag that the wax sits in.  As the wax melts, it passes thru the cloth and falls to the bottom of the jar, where I collect it.  So far, I’ve only rendered a small amount of wax of the handful of brace comb that I have removed from the hives.

White apple blossoms

My apple tree is in full bloom now, as is my cherry tree. I know for certain that it is getting well pollinated because I have seen a swarm of insects around the tree.  I suspect that there are some of my honey bees in among the other insects, but there were so many, I couldn’t distinguish any honey bees.  I know there were at least three types of bees: some small, likely solitary, bee, a large bumblebee and my honey bees.

I was a bit surprised to find out that the tree I thought was the cherry tree was in fact a pecan tree.  I have had virtually no experience with identifying trees before a couple of months ago, so it is not that unexpected that I make a mistake.  The pecan tree is not next to the other three pecans I know are on my property and is in between the apple and peach tree.

I am starting to harden off my vegetables.  The peas have gotten so tall that they should really be staked and for that, they need to be in the ground.  So I have started lugging all the pots out of the greenhouse after work and lugging them back into the greenhouse before I stop for the day.  I am doing this in the hope of preventing transplant shock after putting the plants in the ground outside.  How well that will work is another matter entirely.

Suprise, Suprise! A Swarm Shows Up

A swarm of honey bees sitting in a tree

I was waiting for my brother-in-law to show up today so that we could do a hive inspection, when I spotted a tree on the edge of my property that had lots of bees flying arround it. Upon closer inspection, I found a swarm of bees hanging in the tree. My first thought was, “Oh crap, my hive swarmed”.

After looking at my hives, it was pretty apparent that neither of the hives had swarmed, but they did need to have supers put on as soon as possible to help prevent swarming.

Bearding on the front of my hive.

My brother-in-law helped me get the swarm into a cardboard box with an entrance cut in the side and set it back in the tree.  The last I checked on it, there were plenty of bees coming a going and a couple that looked like they were on guard duty.  Hopefully, I will have a new hive from this. If so,  I will need to order more hive bodies for the hive.

If the information we were able to find is correct, there should be another hive nearby.  I don’t think there is another beekeeper that these bees could have come from, so there is a chance I may be able to expand my hives to a total of four.  I can always hope.

Update:

Looks like the hive went on and found a home elsewhere.  Oh well, nothing I can do now.  It’s the one that got away…

Finally, Its Not Raining

Over the past three days, it has been raining on and off.  So much so, in fact, that I haven’t been able to get hardly anything done outside.  What I have done is rather meager.

Maybe bamboo?

I have obtained seeds for mint, a bag of pinto beans and some onion sets.  The onion seeds I tried to start never did.  I managed to get the sets planted before the rain and it appears that the first bulb is starting to push up from the soil.  Also, I may have some bamboo growing in my garden plot.  I frist thought that they were red onions after looking online at sprouts, but after digging one up, I found not a bulb, but something that looks like a stick.

Things I have done nothing with appear to have made the most progress in the past few days.  The apple tree is on the verge of blooming, some other tree I’m not exactly sure of its identity is starting its bloom,and both the grape vines and the pecan trees are putting on leaves.

Grape vines have a few leaves already

This saturday, I’m planning on doing the second hive inspection of the year and hopefully the hive is far enough along that I will be able to put on a super.  The hives have been very active when they weren’t hiding from the rain.

I’ve also discovered three pots of herbs by my back porch, of which I have identified two: thyme and rosemary.  Unfortunately most of the thyme plant looks dead. The rosemary is doing amazing.  I’m not too worried about the thyme because I am trying to start several new plants in my greenhouse.  I’ve put seeds in 24 pots and if I get only a fraction of that germinating, it should leave me with plenty of thyme.

Nice looking rosemary along with mystery herb

Hopefully things stay dry for a bit so that I can get my hive inspection done on Saturday and possibly get a few other things done outside. The forecast has this weekend looking rain-free, but that can change at a moments notice. I also want the sun to be out to help the plants along so that I can start hardening off the plants for transplant.

It’s a Rainy Day

A very wet day.

Not much is going on today, nor will it: all day today, it has been raining. I don’t enjoy being stuck inside. Well, hopefully it will only last today. Yesterday, I started a new batch of charcoal. The last batch cooked very unevenly because there was a very large difference between the thinnest piece of wood and the largest. This time, I used a hatchet I found in the garage to split the wood before putting it in the paint can. Hopefully this works out better and I can get down to only two times cooking it.

Foundation, Charcoal and Plants

Wood outgases as it turns to charcoal

I have started a new batch of charcoal, but this one is taking longer than my first.  I am fairly certain this is because I have larger pieces of wood than in the first batch.  Well, I’m not surprised as I am still trying to work out the kinks.

I finally got the foundation for the supers in yesterday, and now I have foundation in all but 20 of the 60 frames.  10 of the frames I am going to use as an experiment in foundation-less frames. I just haven’t gotten back around to putting the foundation in the last 10.  I have enough supers for a while, so I am in no hurry to finish the frames.  None of the frames are wired yet, but that is yet another item on my to-do list right now.

Elephant garlic in a hole

I have planted the first plants outside of the greenhouse this weekend.  I have 4 cloves of elephant garlic, 10 strawberry plants that I don’t think are going to make it, and a about 70 yellow onions. I tried starting onions from seed, but they never sprouted.

I think I waited too long from when I purchased the elephant garlic and strawberries before I planted them, as one of the garlic cloves was moldy and the strawberry starts weren’t looking that good.  I don’t know what they are supposed to look like, so they may be just fine, but I won’t know for a while.  Also, I tried planting the garlic and strawberries without any guide and managed to have extremely crooked lines.  I pulled out some rope for the onions, which resulted in a much better line.

The grape vines survived the winter and the puppies' teething

In the past week, the grape vines decided that it was time to bloom. I was worried that they had not survived the winter because the two puppies, dogs really, decided that the grape vines were a good thing to chew on while they were teething.  These are green grapes of some sort; I don’t know what variety they are.  I intend to eventually get a few concord grape vines, but probably not before next year.

The plant starts that actually germinated

Finally, an update on my plant starts: I’ve moved all of the starts out of the trays as they were getting too large to fit with the lid on. Most of the plants are starting to grow their first set of true leaves.

I initially started 12 pots of each plant type, most of them didn’t germinate. I started new pots for each of the ones I removed as well as some thyme.

I want the thyme for use in bee feed for anti-fungal properties, and it makes sense to grow a lot myself.  I also want to grow chamomile and mint for use in the bee feed as well, but so far I haven’t found seeds for chamomile. I think I may end up having to order it from online.

Bees Hanging out on the Porch

I think I'll hang out on the porch for a while...

Yesterday evening, I managed to catch a bunch of my bees hanging out on the front porch of their hive after sundown.  They had run out of feed and I was refilling it while they were all hunkered down for the night and not out where they could sting me when I took this picture.

Besides the bees, my apple tree has finally decided to move towards blooming.  The flower buds are starting to get green and grow, but are still small enough that I can’t get a decent photo of them with my phone.  Also, the peas are making quite good progress.  Unfortunately, I’ve had a couple of seedlings die. I think it is damping off because the soil has been damp for quite some time.

May I Have a Volunteer

A very small, volunteer cabbage.

I was finishing up moving my compost pile off my garden plot today when I discovered what appeared to be a weed growing in the middle of my garden.  As I went to pull it, I realized it looked suspiciously like the cabbage that was growing there when I moved in three months ago.  I am not sure yet if I will be leaving it to grow where it currently is or if I will transplant it to another location to allow for crop rotation.

I have completely finished moving my compost pile next to the Full Metal Shed.  Now that the grass and weeds are growing, I have started adding clippings to the pile.  This has resulted in a very noticeable increase in the pile’s temperature.  In spots, it is so warm that it feels hot to the tough even thru gloves.  I don’t have a compost thermometer, but I suspect it is well over 100°F.

The green hive is doing well

My hives are still doing wonderful.  I’ve been keeping feeders on both hives and they are going thru feed like crazy.  The jar in the picture was full two days ago, which puts it about 7 oz of feed a day.

In the greenhouse, more peas are starting to emerge from the soil, but it looks pretty much like it did a couple of days ago.  I am planning on starting another batch zucchini seeds sometime this week, as there are still only two plants sprouted.  Those two plants have gotten so large, I’ve had to remove the covers as they are touching.

Progress on the Veggies

Since the first tomato sprouted this year, I’ve had several more plants sprout: tomatoes and other varieties.  Here’s some pictures:

Quite a few of the tomato seeds have sprouted

First up, here are the tomato sprouts.  There are currently a total of 21 plants growing.  I planted two seeds to a pot in an attempt to make sure that I got at least one tomato plant per pot.  In a week or two, I will be thinning out the plants so that only the strongest plant remains in each pot.

Also coming soon is hardening off the plants for outdoor planting.  I intend to do this after I’ve thinned things out and it warms up a bit more outside.  I’m willing to take a few chances with early planting, but I want the veggies to have a chance of surviving.  I doubt that they could survive outside of the greenhouse right now.

Cabbage sprouts are doing well.

Next up are the cabbages.  These were planted after the tomatoes were, so I am not surprised that not as many have sprouted. I’ve never grown plants from seed before so I’m learning what plants look like at an early stage.  For a while, I was not sure which plants in the pots were the cabbages and which were very large weeds.  A quick check on the internet resolved that issue and now only the cabbage sprouts and weeds that are still too small for me to grab remain in the pots.

I seem to be having a problem where the pots closest to the wall are not sprouting.  I suspect it is because the soil temperature is not a warm as those further inside the greenhouse and cool off quicker at night.

Here be giant zucchini sprouts.

Now, the largest sprouts I have are the zucchini.  These things a monsters compared to the other sprouts I have.  So far, only two plants have sprouted. Not much more to say about these.

I suspect that for several of the varieties that I am starting from seed, I am going to need to do a least a second batch of seeds, if not  third and fourth batches.  Part of this will be because not all seeds sprout, but the rest will likely be because of my skill, or the lack thereof.

Some Alaskan peas are sprouting

Last, but not least, the Alaskan peas I started this last week are sprouting. Nice to see another plant sprouting.

Unfortunately, not all of the plants I have started have sprouted.  I planted seeds for bell pepper within a few days of when I started the tomatoes, but I haven’t had a single bell pepper sprout.  Or if I have, the sprout resembled the weeds I am getting closely enough that I accidentally removed it.

Also missing are the yellow onions.  However, the seeds I am trying for those were left over from last year’s planting by my home’s previous owner, so the seeds themselves are a bit suspect.