Something is Eating my Veggies!

Something ate my beans!

This afternoon after I got home from work, I discovered that something has eaten lots of my plants.  I have noticed this in the past few weeks, but previously it has just been the peas and one or two beans.  This time, seven of my bean plants have been eaten as have almost all of the eight cabbages I planted two days ago.  I think the rabbit I saw near the garden a few days ago is responsible.  I’m not quite sure what I can do to stop it.  My current strategy is to just plant lots and hope that some survive.  I suspect that I will end up putting some sort of fence around my garden plot to keep rabbits and other animals out.  I’m not too happy about that, but it may be the only thing that works.

Home Made Frames and Hive Inspection

All of these were made yesterday from 2x4's

Yesterday, I tried making frames for a beehive from scrap 2×4, a table saw, a miter saw and a sheet of plans.  I wasn’t able to make everything I wanted because I ran out of time.  But I managed to make ten top bars, ten bottom bars, and started twenty-two deep side bars and completed one of them.

I only had about two hours to spend learning how to use a table saw in somewhat creative ways, making several mistakes, and then finally making usable products.  All without loosing any fingers.  For which I am glad.  I won’t have another chance to make frames for another two weeks, so I had to break down and order new hive parts for the larger of the two swarms.  The smaller swarm can probably last a while before I need to expand its hive.

A finished vs unfinished deep side

Speaking of hives, all the hives currently have laying queens.  David was here today to help me inspect all four hives.  The blue hive finally requeened itself and there are eggs in at least two full frames. The green hive is still filling supers and drawing out comb.  The one frame with no foundation in it at all still has nothing in it.  I will be putting some foundation in it sometime in the next week.

The larger of the two swarms is doing exceptionally well.  It is quickly drawing out frames.  The bottom of that hive is made up of an open box.  I suspect that the bees will start filling that with comb before I get in the hive body parts, so I will be learning first hand how to do a cut out.

The queen of the smaller hive was spotted today, along with eggs and larva.  It has also done a good job of pulling out the foundation, but for some reason it started at one side of a super.  It has expanded the brood nest to three frames and is working on a fourth.  The frames with bees got moved to the center of the super in the hope the bees will expand the brood nest more quickly that way.


Thinning the Peach Tree and Custom Bee Hives

The peaches I removed went into the compost pile.

I spent most of my time outdoors today thinning the peach tree.  I haven’t finished the entire tree.  There are sections near the two hives I made from swarms I caught this season that haven’t been thinned much for obvious reasons: standing in the flight path of a beehive is a great way to get stung a lot.

From what I have read on the subject, after thinning, I should have about one peach every six to eight inches.  Doing this will result in larger fruit and sweeter fruit as the tree puts the same about of energy and sugars into a smaller set of fruits.  While thinning, I realized that my peach tree set a very large number of fruit.  In some places I had to remove upwards of eight fruit on a six-inch stretch of branch.

The most difficult section to try to thin is the top of the tree.  I think I will be pruning the tree to shorten it a bit so that I don’t have this problem again next year.  I’ve been climbing the tree and using a ladder to get to the fruit at the top, but there are still fruit that I can’t reach.

The second swarm I captured before it all went in the temporary hive.

The two swarms I have caught are still around.  The first swarm I captured was very small and has started having problems with bees coming an robbing it.  I’ve reduced the entrance to about two inches and covered the remaining opening with grass clippings.  This hasn’t completely deterred the robber bees rom coming, but  it does make it easier for the hive to defend itself from the thieves.

I am going to attempt to make some hive equipment for the new hives. There are a lots of wood scraps I can use for the effort and I have access to a table saw, a compound miter saw, and a router. has plans to make Dadant type frames.  I have an idea of what I can do for the hive body, but it will mostly come down to making a box that can hold the frames I make.

Yet Another Swarm!

More bees in the peach tree...

This evening, I found that yet another swarm has taken up residence in my peach tree. I had just finished mowing a section of the yard and was hauling the grass clippings to my compost pile, when I noticed the swarm in the tree.

I have done what I did with the previous two hives: cut the limbs of the tree they were hanging on to and stuck them in a cardboard box.  Unlike the other swarm I’ve managed to keep, this one won’t be able to go into a hive body for quite some time as I have no more hive parts to spare.  If this one sticks arround, I am not quite sure what to do with it.

Unlike the previous swarms, this one was quite a bit larger and more aggressive.  I ended up getting stung on the neck and having to kill several bees because they would just not leave.  I really hate to kill any bees at all, even when they are trying to sting me.  The bees that tried to sting me were at least half the normal bee size, which is a bit puzzling to me.  Scouts, perhaps?

This is the first year I have seen a swarm, and now I’ve seen and tried to capture three in about a month.  I hope I don’t get any more swarms this year as I have no place to put them or anybody I can give them away to.  That, and I don’t think my peach tree can take many more swarms.

Just Chugging Along

Roman Chamomile seedlings

The past week has been very slow for things at the homestead.  I finally started some of the last seeds I have: the chamomile and lavender.  Today, the chamomile is starting to send up some small seedlings.  Only the lavender has yet to make an appearance.

Most of this past week, I’ve spent my time either waiting for plants to do something, or cutting up a bush that was cut down as it outgrew its area and was growing thru a fence.

Wood cutting area with unprocessed branches to the left and a stack of wood on the right.

All I’ve really been doing with the wood is cutting up the thicker sections of the wood and putting it on the wood pile, or binding the branches together with twine.  The latter is the more interesting of the two.

To make bundles of sticks, I take a 5 gallon plastic bucket and just start cramming it full of branches that I cut off at the rim of the bucket.  I tie it together with some twine to keep it from falling apart.  The result is a nice bundle of sticks that can be used later as fuel.  I don’t have a wood burning stove yet, so for now, I will just be using the wood for making charcoal.

Bundles of sticks.

I can make about two or three in a day before my hands get sore from the hand pruners I use.  I have lots of wood that will end up going into the bundles, so I am in no hurry to get it all done.  There are still at 4 more bushes that are overgrown and I haven’t been able to fully process a single bush in a week.

My garden plot is soaked.

The past few days have really put a damper on my ability to work outside.  We have been getting storms here as part of the sever storm outbreak across the midwest US.  This has soaked my yard to the point that I sink into the ground a bit when I walk.  The garden plot is no exception.  There is standing water in the normal corner as well as another  spot that doesn’t usually get it.  A few of the plants got done in with the runoff, but most survived just fine.  I lost a couple of tomato plants, most of the strawberry plants, and possibly a cabbage plant.

Plants ready to go into the ground.

I have more tomatoes and cabbages ready to go into the ground as soon as it dries out a bit so that I can work the soil.  In addition, the first batch of pinto beans are ready as well as the remainder of my zucchini starts.  Unless I have a massive loss of tomato plants, I will not start any more tomato seeds for the garden this year.  If all the plants I put in the ground produce, I’m going to have more tomatoes that I will be able to eat or preserve for later use.

Peaches. My hand shown for scale.

The plants and trees have been making decent progress during the last week. I am fairly certain that I will be thinning out the peach tree in the next week, weather permitting.  Some of the fruits are almost 2 inches in their smallest measurement.

The swarm I pulled out of the peach tree is still in the box I put it in. My brother-in-law, David, ordered a new set of hive bodies for the hive, which I will transfer the bees into once they arrive.

Homemade Chicken Stock

Today for easter, my wife and I had Cornish hens in little chicky sauce.  I don’t know what the “correct” name for it is, but that is what my wife, and hence I, call it.  All I know is that it tastes really good.

Boiling chicken bones.

Anyways, I’ve wanted to try making chicken stock since about the time I learned how it is made while browsing the internet. Since I had a small pile of bones on the cutting board and was feeling a bit adventurous today, I decided to try to make chicken stock.  In the worst case, the bones would end up where they would have if I didn’t grab them: the trash.

The finished stock. Looks pretty good to me.

Anyways, it seems to have worked out well.  The bones and  trimmings simmered for some time between one and two hours and I don’t have a more exact number because I wasn’t paying attention to the time, but the coloring  of the stock.  After that, I filtered the stock thru a clean dish cloth I found in the kitchen into a jar.  I didn’t get a lot of stock, but for something that was going to go into the trash, it turned out pretty good.

Another Swarm

The first box I put the swarm in after I got it out of the tree.

Today, as soon as the sun came out, I had a swarm in my peach tree.  I am certain the bees swarmed today as I was out working in the yard an hour earlier, and they were not in the tree then.

I am fairly certain that the swarm came from second of my two hives.  I’ve added another super onto that hive in cause that is not the case, but I doubt that it didn’t swarm.  I won’t be certain until I do a full hive inspection that will have to wait until my brother-in-law can come to help with lifting the hive bodies.  When they are full and have propolis all over them, they are too heavy for me to lift alone.

The temporary hive I setup made from supers and some boards I had in one of the sheds.

The good news is that this time, it appears the bees are staying in the temporary hive I set up.  I won’t declare it completely captured until it hangs arround for a week or so.  The other swarm I’ve seen this summer promptly left the hive I set up.  In that case, I have no idea how long they had been in the tree and they were likely close to deciding on a new home when I tried to capture it.

So it is very likely that both of the hives on my property swarmed this year.  I home that they requeen soon enough to get a decent honey surplus.  If not, I would just be happy to have all the hives survive the requeen and the winter this year.  I know it is still a long ways off, but if I am not mindful now, it could fail later.

Hindsight being 20:20, I should have added another super sooner.  That would have probably kept the hive from swarming, assuming that it did indeed swarm.  Being very new at this, I am not surprised that I had something like this happen.  The other thing I have worried would happen is to have the hives die on me.  I will learn from this and hopefully only have this happen in the future when I want it to.

Plants in the Ground

Peas, tomatoes, and strawberry plants

Today was a big milestone for me: I finally put plants I raised from seed into the ground.  The peas have gotten so tall that they have been needing support for a while now.  Putting them in the ground allows me to have a support system to prop up the plants.

Also, I took this opportunity to plant all of the first round of plant starts.  I know it is still before the last average frost date here, but I think it is close enough to the date that I can probably get away with it.  It also helps that it has been unseasonably warm this year.  All told, I got Alaskan peas, zucchini, tomatoes, strawberries and cabbage in the ground today.

Close up of the tomatoes

Close up of strawberries

We got rain today, which has made working in the garden a very muddy affair.  One big upside to that, however, is that it made dealing with the heavy clay soil much easier.  I had been tilling the soil to help with the weeds that have been coming up in the garden plot for a few weeks now, but the soil has been drying out horribly in the process.  The rain has made it workable again.  I hope to have a few days where it remains that way.  I will probably end up spending a great deal of time and effort over the nxt few years amending the soil with compost to make it easier to work with and more fertile.

Peach fruit set

All of the flowers on the peach tree have finished their bloom and the fruit is setting very nicely.  I don’t know how long it will be before I need to thin the fruits so that I get nice sized peaches at harvest time.  Also, the apple and cherry trees and the grape vines have all started to set fruit as well.

In the greenhouse, I have another set of cabbage and tomato seedlings in reserve in case the ones I’ve planted don’t make it.  Also, I have started some pinto beans I got from a local whole foods store.  Supposedly, I have some mint and thyme started as well, but they are taking their sweet time to germinate.

Pinto beans sprang up over the past two days.

One thing I have realized is that the larger the seed, the bigger the seedling.  I suppose that makes sense, as larger seeds would have a bigger energy supply to pull from when germinating, but it caught me off guard.

I still have a few more plants that I haven’t started yet.  I have some lavender and chamomile seeds I need to start fairly soon and I will be able to now that I have several plastic pots to use from the seedlings I just transplanted into the garden.  I have a bit of mostly dry soil stashed away in the greenhouse that I can use to fill the pots, but I will probably end up waiting a while for the ground to dry out a bit so that I can get more soil from the garden plot.

Hive Inspection and a Swarmed Hive

I checked both of my hives yesterday and I am almost positive that the blue hive swarmed between now and last week. I was intending to check the supers added to the hives last week to see how they were coming along and if I needed to add another super to each hive.  The super on the green hive was coming along very nicely.  The super on the blue hive was barely touched.

Remember this? My hive did the same thing a few days later, though I only saw the aftermath.

The super on the green hive had almost all the frames drawn out, but not capped.  I expect the super will be filled out by the end of the week and I will be checking in the middle of the week to see if I can add another super.  I will be getting some honey for sure from the green hive this year, for which I am glad.

I opened up the blue hive and pulled and inspected all the frames in the top hive body. I found queen cells on the bottom of one of the frames.  I saw zero eggs on any of the frames and only a handful of larvae.  All the rest was either capped brood, pollen or honey.  Also, there were a lot of drones hanging out on the comb.

I will be attempting to let the hive requeen itself.  If that fails, I will end up ordering a new queen to save the hive.  In the absolute worst case, I will need to get a nucleus colony to restart the hive.  I doubt it will come down to the worst case.