Could We Have Some Rain Please?

A wildfire just off the side of I-35 in Oklahoma.

It is getting dangerously dry here in Oklahoma.  Case in point: on the way home from work today, I passed a large wildfire just off the side of I-35.  At one point the traffic was stopped on the freeway due to smoke, fire and emergency response vehicles.  This is just another very visible sign that we are going deeper into drought.

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One of the Hives is Doomed

The hive in healthier days.

This morning, I went out to dust the struggling hive again.  Before I did it, I did a full inspection of the hive.  Turns out that The hive is already dead and just taking a while to die completely.  There is no sign of a queen in the hive.  No eggs.  No larva.  No capped brood.  I’m not too happy about this setback.  The silver lining on this all, however, is that because this was a swarm, I am not out any significant money because of this.  Pretty much just what the foundation cost.  I’m going to end up melting down all the wax in this hive as I don’t want the European Foul Brood to get into any of the other hives by accident.

Peach Harvest in Full Swing, and Grape Harvest Finished

The peaches a week ago. I got the first round of peaches on Monday.

I’ve been working like crazy over the past two weeks because the grapes decided to ripen last week and the peaches decided it was time to ripen this week.  I ended up not being in the mood to post anything last week because I managed to cut the tip of one of my fingers.  Two weeks and a preventative Tetanus shot later, my just about completely healed. I’ve hurt myself more in the eight months since I’ve moved here and started gardening than the previous two or three years.

Two bags of grapes and a bunch of tomatoes.

For the most part, the grapes ended up being frozen.  This was the simplest way and while they wouldn’t do very well with a power outage, they will otherwise be fine and it gave me time to take care of other things.  A portion of the grapes I turned into grape juice that I later used for canning peaches.

The first batch of peaches filled four five-gallon buckets full.  And that ended up being only about half of the harvest.  Tuesday and Wednesday were spent busy pealing, pitting, heating and canning all the peaches I could.  Not all of the peaches were good.  A number of them were partially eaten by some large ants while they were still on the tree and several were partially rotten or otherwise bad and had to be discarded.

One shelf in my small pantry is nearly completely filled with peaches. Tomorrow, there will be even more here.

Even after throwing away a lot of the peaches, I ended up with four and a half gallons of canned peaches.  As of now, I have six quarts and twenty-two pints of peaches canned.  I am definitely going to need to start making peach cobbler and start looking for other peach recipes.  It is not much use to can so many peaches and have them go bad before they can be eaten.

My second batch of the peach harvest.

I got another three five-gallon buckets full of peaches again today.  I plan on spending a large portion of Saturday pealing, pitting, heating and canning peaches.  I am not sure how much this will end up as, but the majority of this will be going into quart-sized  jars.

Completed Bee Box

Completed deep with ten frames.

I have finally completed building a deep hive body out of scrap 2x4s.  It ended up taking me a lot longer to get things put together than I would have liked, but that is mainly because the tools I have available for use are an hour and a half drive from where I live.

Because I wanted to be able to make the box entirely out of 2×4, that made it a bit difficult to make the sides of the box.  I ended up slicing the board into slats 3/16″ thick and then nailing several together along a nailer to close up the sides. I used these Hive Body plans I drew up to build the box.  As this is a prototype, I ended up making changes while building it. I ended up adding an extra strip on the along the ends because there was not enough room for the bees to move arround on top of the frames.

The first homemade frame I got put together.

The frames were as easy to put together as the frames I have ordered from Dadant previously. Building them was quite a bit more work. In particular, getting the slots on the top and bottom of the two side pieces took a while to find the right tools. I tried using a chisel at first, but that just destroyed the wood. Using a razor blade and carving the slot out works, but took a massive amount of time. I ended up using a reciprocating scroll saw of my mother’s to get all the slots done in a reasonable amount of time.

Honey Harvest!

The results of the honey harvest, minus one quart given away by the time I took this picture.

I finally have my first honey harvest.  My brother-in-law, David, came over today to help with the harvest.  I had hoped that the Green hive would have filled out the super, but did not.  We ended up taking only five frames out that super.  We got two more super frames out of one of the swarm hives, one from the White hive, and two deep frames from the Blue hive.  So far, the honey harvest it seven quarts and one pint of honey.

Tangential extractor in the kitchen just after being built and before the tarp was put down.

The whole process was very messy.  Even with a tarp covering most of the kitchen floor, we still got honey all over the place. I’m still not sure what was the messiest part of the process, flipping the frames over or uncapping the frames.  Both ended up putting a lot of honey on the floor where we could step in it and track it around the room.  I still have honey all over my clothes from the work.  At least I didn’t have to spin the extractor by hand as it used an electric drill to spin. I’m sure I could have done the extraction by hand, but it would have taken at least twice as long as it did and likely much longer when I tired.

Capping wax and the several pieces of comb that came off because I ran the extractor too fast.

After all the honey we could easily get had been bottled, we took all the equipment outside and set it down near the hives, where it will stay for the next day or two so the bees can clean it up.  All the frames that had been extracted have been returned to the bee hives. Once the bees have cleaned up the equipment, I will start running the wax thru the solar wax melter I built earlier this year.  If the small amount of wax put in the melter today is any indication, the wax should go thru very quickly.  This is good because this time, I have a lot more wax than I have had previously.  Because the deep frames were too large to fit in the extractor, they had to be extracted using crush and strain, which leaves a lot of wax.

Bad laying pattern and dead larvae…

Unfortunately, today wasn’t all good news.  While pulling out some frames from the White hive, we discovered all is not well in the brood nest.  Several cells housed dead larvae and after consulting online sources, it looks like it may be European Foulbrood.  We have already ordered some terramycin, which will be given to the hive as soon as it arrives.  I’m just glad it is not American Foulbrood.  If that were the case, I would have to burn the hive.