Pea Sprouts and Flowering Cherries

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A honey bee on a cherry blossom. When I took this picture, the whole tree was buzzing with insects.

The last chance of frost is quickly approaching.  Already, one late frost hit the peach tree pretty hard and almost all of the blossoms died before starting to set fruit.  Compared to last year, only about one in ten or twenty flowers is setting fruit.  I hope the tree will compensate by making larger fruit, but even if it doesn’t, I’ll be happy with whatever fruit I do get.  I still have several jars of canned peaches in the pantry to use.  The cherry trees and the apple tree missed that freeze and are in the process of blooming, and hopefully the soft freeze forecasted for next week does not affect fruit set.  At least this year, I know which tree is which.  Last year, I mistakenly though the cherry tree was actually an apple.

One of the first five peas that have sprouted.

One of the first five peas that have sprouted.

About a week and a half ago, I started direct planting peas and beans in the garden. So far, the results have been rather mixed.  I have had five pea plants sprout and several of the beans also sprouted.  However, the beans don’t seem to be surviving the cold night temperatures, so it is just as well that the majority of the beans to sprout yet.  I have plans to plant the beans close enough that they basically form a blanket over the garden bed.

The grape vine is starting to put on leaves.

The grape vine is starting to put on leaves.

The grape vines are just starting to put leaves on.  Last year, the grape vines had this happen almost a month earlier.  In general, this growing season seems to be taking its time to get going.  Not that I mind too much.  I just am anxious to start seeing the results of my work.  Last year, was not able to do very much with the grapes I harvested, and almost all of them went into the freezer. Because they are seeded grapes, they are not really useful for eating straight, so grape juice and wine are really the only uses for them and only the grape juice is really an option for me because I refuse to drink alcohol of any form.  The only way I could get juice out was to cook the grapes and then strain them thru cloth.  The resulting juice had oxidized and was not very good.

The steam juicer I used to make fruit juice.  This is the same style of juicer that my wife's grandmother used.

The steam juicer I used to make fruit juice. This is the same style of juicer that my wife’s grandmother used.

About a week ago, I got a steam juicer in and was able to easily turn the grapes into very good tasting grape juice, along with the peach peals and apple peelings and cores.  The juices will probably need to be mixed to get a good final product, particularly with the peach as it is quite tart, but overall, they taste quite good.  The grapes in particular were quite good because the juicer keeps the grapes from oxidizing and giving the juice an off taste.

Garden is Finally Doing Something Again

Finally, some more bean pods.

I just got back from a week-long trip for work and came back to find that the beans are putting out pods once more.  The last round of beans I planted were pretty much a dud as I got not even a full handful of beans out of the crop.  So far, this is looking to be my largest crop yet.  The plants are packed in much closer than my first attempt at beans and there are flowers on everything.  Some of the last round of beans  decided to start flowering as well, so I will probably end up getting a some beans from that as well.

One double row and a partial single row of pinto beans.  There is communal bee feeder  at the very top of the picture.

The two latest plantings were both directly seeded into the ground in double- and single-rows. I am liking how this is turning out much better than my first plantings started in the greenhouse and I will probably be doing this for all but very earliest crops started before the chance of frost has completely passed.  I think that I will be doing that from now on to try and get as much in before the high summer heat stops everything from producing fruit.

Flowering chives. I hope I can get some seeds off of this.

When my grandparents came to visit, they left me with a bunch of chives in addition to other plants and flowers.  Regardless of what I get out of this plant, the flowers are quite beautiful. I think it was worth getting for just for that.

Once the summer heat wave broke and we were no longer dealing with highs of 115, the plants have sprung back quickly and the flowers are seem to be trying to make up for lost time.  I’ve seen more growth in the past couple of weeks than I have in the rest of the time I’ve had them.  It makes me hopeful that I’ll have some really nice flowers to show off next year.

The pecans are getting nice and big as the harvest starts getting closer.

After I finish with harvesting all the apples, the only tree harvest remaining will be the pecans.  This will be the first pecan harvest I have here.  I’ve had one other place that I have lived where there was a pecan tree, and that produced a freezer full of pecans from a single, giant tree.  I don’t think that any of the trees I have will produce that much, but I do have four trees, so I might end up with more pecans.

A bunch of bees and one wasp on the communal feeder.

While I was gone on my business trip, my brother in law stopped by to build a communal hive feeder and to do inspections.  This should make it quite a bit easier to provide large quantities of feed to the hives without a lot of work.

During the inspections, it looks like the blue hive has no eggs in it.  This may be because the queen stopped laying, or because the queen died.  I hope it is just the first.  But to be safe, a frame of brood has been moved from one of the other hives so the bees are able to raise a new queen if the old queen died.

The Dead Hive Cleanup

Wax moths quickly invaded the dead hive.

Today, David came by to help tear down the dead hive.  When I last checked the hive, I found zero brood, larva, and eggs, so it was only a matter of time before the hive was dead.  I sealed the hive up so that the other hives wouldn’t be able to rob the honey and contract European Foul Brood.  Today we finally were able to pull the hive apart and start sterilizing the hive body parts for reuse.  The first step of this was getting all the wax out of the frames.  When we did this, we found lots of wax moth larva on the wax.

Baking a bee box.

After clearing off the wax, we sprayed everything down with a bleach solution to kill any bacteria on the parts.  European Foul Brood is caused by a bacteria that eats the larva from the inside out and it is not something I want getting into my other hives.  After that, we also put the parts into the oven for thirty minutes at 275°F (135°C) to kill off any bacteria that survived the bleach treatment and to further clean things up.  I’m just finishing things up as I write this post.

Looking in the top of the blue hive.

We also inspected the other hives to see how they were holding up to the drought and to check for any European Foul Brood.  In all three other hives, we found a few dead larva, but at this point, we are not sure if it is EFB or starvation that is the primary cause.  Unlike the hive that died, the remaining ones are doing alright.  As a precaution, we are administering antibiotics to the three hives and putting on hive feeders either until winter or the drought breaks, whichever comes first.  The surviving swarm was very aggressive today, causing myself to get stung four times today and David to get stung seven times.  Because this is not the first time this hive has been aggressive, we are planning to requeen the hive in the spring with a more docile version.

New Hive Parts Assembled

All setup to add the new hive parts.

I got the new hive parts from Dadant yesterday.  I managed to get them completely assembled and painted yesterday night.  It took about two and a half hours all told, but it was worth it because of what I was able to do today.

Today, I put the new parts onto the larger of the two swarm hives I caught this year.  All told, it was a bit more work that I thought it would be.  As I had feared, the bees built comb onto the bottom of the super frames when they finished filling out the supers entirely.

A bad picture of the extra comb the bees built. It is a bit hard to take pictures and work the hive when daylight is fading fast.

I removed all of the extra comb from the bottom of the frames and did my best to encourage the bees to move into the new deep hive body.  There was a little honey, pollen and capped brood in the comb I removed.  All told, it took up almost a 5 gallon bucket without compressing anything down.

I don’t like working with bees after dark as they have a tendency to crawl up my legs and sting me.  This hive also stung me on the legs when I captured it. and it happened to be dark then as well.  This time, two managed to sting me through my socks.

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.

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.

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.