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Swarm!!!

Swarm!!!

I no sooner get my bee journal updated and my husband comes in the house and tells me he thinks one of the hives is swarming. So I went out to the apiary and before I even got there I could see a swarm had begun clumping in a tree just above the new hives. I was pretty sure which hive was swarming and I was right. That hive seemed rowdier than the other one when we initially installed the two new nucs as well as during the first hive check. Plus they had built a huge line of comb under one of the frames but it didn’t look like any swarm cells were developing there. Besides, we’d only had them a couple of weeks when we did that hive check. Odd that they’d swarm like this but I suppose it happens.

The coolest part was scooping up a bunch of nurse bees from the ground with my hands. They can’t really fly well when they’re young, and I put a board up for them to climb up to the hive. They’re so sweet and adorable and it’s an honor to help them up to the hive.

We started with existing comb so they could begin right away increasing the colony and then had to add new empty frames within a couple of weeks, so it’s not surprising that the hive got a little crazy. But this is a sign of a really healthy hive, so the new one should be excellent. When we dumped them in the nuc, we had frames with existing comb along with a frame of honey from last year. We’ll keep them away from the apiary for a while and then transfer them to our original horizontal hive. But we may move that one farther away from where it is now, possibly into the backyard. We have a nice place right next to the pond and it would be perfect for them. I posted some video on my YouTube channel, but I’m posting them here as well.

We have swarm boxes up, in fact, the nuc box we put the swarm in is actually a swarm box and it’s cool when you get some free bees. That’s not what happened here technically because the swarm is from one of our own hives, but at least they didn’t go flying away to someone else’s property.

I posted some video on my YouTube channel, but I’m posting them here as well. Swarms are so cool!

 

 

 

 

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Adding A Warre’ Box To The Hive

Adding A Warre' Box To The Hive

 

When we went out to the Warré hive to fill the feeder with more syrup we noticed that they had begun building comb on the feeder. Lovely. Like many beekeepers in our area, we lost all of our hives during our unusually long, frigid winter. I had ordered bees for some new hives we were adding to the apiary so I knew we’d have some eventually, but losing them was just awful. The one advantage we had, though, was existing comb. I installed the bee package I ordered for another Warré in the original hive that we lost and they went right to work cleaning up the existing comb. Bees prefer to build natural comb instead of attaching it to a fake insert and there was a full box of comb for them to fill up with brood, pollen, and nectar. The best part? We don’t have to wait as long to add another box.

Warre’ with extra feeder box

My husband, Jerry, made an inner cover to set a feeder on and added a box above the original box to create an inside feeder set up. He did a really nice job on it and it’s worked well, but now it seems that they’re attaching comb to it so we’ll have to deal with that soon. Warré hives are different than the typical Langstroth hives that many beekeepers use. Jerry made two horizontal Langstroth-style hives by putting two deep boxes side by side and then attaching them together, cutting the center section out to create the larger hive space. We put follower boards in each to create a smaller space for the 5-frame nucs I purchased for them.

But the Warré is unique, not only in its interesting structure but also with how we add a new box. On a normal vertical Langstroth hive, new boxes are added on top, while new boxes are placed on the bottom in a Warré. The theory is that bees like to build downward. They’re already checking out the top bars as we see in the top picture. Warré boxes can be ordered with inspection windows and both boxes have one so that I can take pictures through the window without disturbing the hive itself. Pulling up frames to inspect when they’re only supported by a piece of wood at the top is tricky and comb can break off so easily, so last year I didn’t look much at them.

The Warre hive

The bottom two boxes are where the bees will build comb and create the colony. A package contains 10,000 bees and a queen, but once she’s back from her mating flight, she can lay a massive amount of eggs per day, new bees emerging around three weeks later. If you look closely, you’ll see that awesome inner cover that Jerry made for inside feeding. Sugar water attracts all sorts of interested parties and feeding inside the hive is a better option to control that problem. We added a third box on top to protect the feeder. The quilt box that helps absorb moisture goes on top of the third box followed by the roof.

 

Horizontal hives

Jerry showed me a video of a guy in Africa who makes his hives out of grasses, mud, and other natural components. It was amazing to watch as he created a new hive. Bees will live in practically anything. Some beekeepers are creating hives from logs and some put their Langstroth hives in trees. Less a beekeeper and more one who is kept by bees, I confess to liking the horizontal hives along with the Warré more than the vertical Langstroth hives we have and I can use Langstroth-style frames instead of top bars like in the Warré and horizontal top bar hives. Langstroth deep boxes are heavy to lift when separating them for inspection them so not having to do that with the new horizontal hives is a blessing.

Swarm box

We have swarm boxes placed around our property with one right outside my kitchen window, apple blossoms tempting the scouts that are looking for a new home. We might get lucky and capture some bees this year to replace the colonies we lost over the winter. That would be wonderful! One of our hives swarmed last year to the tree above the hive. We caught them and then they decided to go back to their original hive. It was odd but at least they didn’t leave the property. The sound is telling, you know it instantly even if you’ve never experienced it before. And no words adequately describe the feeling I had when standing in the middle of a swarm of bees as they vortex upward to surround their queen on the branch where she landed. It’s peaceful and loving and fully resonant.

And while I await the possibility of colonies finding their way to our apiary, I’ll sit by our hives in complete wonder at their unified presence. They compel me to align with their resonance and as I lean closer, our vibrations become one.

I am forever in love with these amazing beings!

Arriving home
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A Circle Of Protection To Bind Their Fate

A Circle of Protection To Bind Their Fate

Protection can take many forms. It can be defensive or offensive in nature as with martial arts, or it can be born of inner awareness. Rune magick is a method of bringing runic influences together in sigil form for a specific purpose. It can be divination-oriented, or it can bring about a change of some kind. I use sigils in general because they represent a focused intention. I like how they organize my thoughts around whatever situation I’m concerned with. Lately, my thoughts have been on protection.

I was listening to a woman speak today on a podcast who was talking about how unsustainable it is to provide financial assistance to people in our country. She had a Darwinian bent and appeared to believe that survival of the fittest was the best way to solve our problems. I don’t share her premise or perspective because I know that we’re one collective consciousness and how we live should reflect that truth.

It would be like expecting each cell in our bodies to survive on its own without the integration required so that our bodies exist and function properly. The same concept is true in a bee colony. I’m someone who is kept by bees. I’d say I’m a beekeeper, but bees don’t need a keeper so it feels odd to call myself that. Anyway, the hive wouldn’t survive long if a survival of the fittest attitude swept the colony. Then they probably would need a keeper. You know, like the so-called new guy seems to need.

Today’s runecasting centers around protection. But it doesn’t necessarily reflect the intention of protection against something or someone. Sometimes our greatest protection involves how we interpret what’s happening around us. As A Course in Miracles tells us, we give everything we see the meaning it has. Now the bulk of humanity may agree with our assessment, but we’re still giving everything we experience the meaning it has.

If we can look dispassionately at situations that are concerning, then we’re better able to view them with more clarity than when we’re caught up in our reactions to whatever is occurring. So in a real sense, protection should also involve our choice of reaction.

Additionally, our state of mind, be it loving or not, should also influence our feeling of protection, again reflecting that dispassionate view that helps keep us centered and aligned. So when I was looking at some bindrunes I’ve created over the last few months, I selected those that protected, aligned, extended love, and invoked a centered and unified presence to surround today’s runecasting creating a greater a circle of protection to support its message.

Othala, Gebo, and Hagalaz are today’s runes and bring influences of our Akash and ancestral heritage, balanced energy exchange, and then a little destruction in preparation for impending change with some hawthorn twigs rounding out the protection influences. Othala represents our collective nature, both in physical and nonphysical form. It asserts that our greatest achievements are accomplished together, Darwin be damned.

Moving deocil around spread, the witch invokes change and Hagalaz as the witch rune accomplishes this task. It provides the balanced structure necessary for positive change to unfold and provides blessings to speed the process.

Gebo reflects both inner and outer balance and teaches us to live in harmony with each other. Again, Darwin’s not finding a home here. Using the example of our bodies again, when the body is not in balance then disease or ill health results. If the imbalance is left unchecked, the body may not survive. It’s the same with humanity. We won’t survive if we don’t bring our polarities back into balance. The masculine has run amok and the feminine has had enough. The answer is a more balanced approach but the masculine energy disagrees and here we are now, in need of some protection.

But we don’t need a savior, even if he’s back from vacation. We need clarity. We need truth. And when we have that, the answers will be clear. But until that happens, we need to remain as aligned as possible in Higher Self awareness, viewing what’s unfolding with discernment, taking a dispassionate stance.

Disinformation and distraction seem to be the mantra of the new regime. But in time the proverbial man behind the curtain will be revealed and then heads will roll, the circle of protection binding their fate. We’re being shown a future that few anticipated or wanted. A country reflects everyone within. The people make up its heart and vitality, its blood supply extending life to all.

We’re not a business decision, a deal to be made, or a company to be closed. We’re the very life force without which this country would not even exist and we have always been more than the sum of our parts. We cannot be dismissed as irrelevant because we most certainly are not.

We see you, in all your predatory ugliness. We know what you’re doing and you’re not going to get away with it. You believe you can strip mine us into oblivion all while making a buck off of the deal.

But then you’re a fool.

You’ll create a mess that you won’t be able to clean up. But don’t worry. The rest of us, in our unity of purpose, in the protection of all that we have co-created together, will be happy to do that for you.

Blessed Be

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In Love With Bees

In Love With Bees

I installed a new package of bees in the Warré hive today. The queen was moving around in her small cage when I pried out the cork in the end replacing it with a small marshmallow, only then placing her in her new home. We shook the bees from the container into the hive and put a feeder along with a small pollen patty on the top of the frames to give them some food while they become accustomed to their surroundings.

We lost all four hives last winter. It happens more than beekeepers wish but sometimes there’s nothing we can do when the snow’s so deep we can’t reach them. The colonies just got too cold. They went into winter healthy and never came out again. I was devastated.

So today, when the bees were climbing all over us I was thrilled. I missed them so much and I finally got to experience their trust and unified resonance once more. Growing up, my mother taught me to be afraid of bees. I stepped on a bee in our chicken coop thirty some years ago and received my first bee sting. Six weeks later it happened again. Although my husband has always wanted bees, I couldn’t quite get there until a couple of years ago.

Now beginning our third season as beekeepers, with each year my comfort level grows. The first year I hung back primarily assisting Jerry but by the second year I had purchased the Warré and a horizontal hive and any fear I had was gone. And when I got the call yesterday that the package was in my tears flowed.

You can’t know what it’s like to pull weeds in the garden with bees only inches away, all of us doing our own thing, in synchronicity with the garden itself. The next best gardening companion is a chicken. I used to have one that would come running the minute I began weeding. She loved to help.

But as the fruit trees began blooming this Spring, only local pollinators were visiting, with only a few bumblebees around. The sound of honeybees simply wasn’t there and although I knew that the package and nucs we ordered would eventually be here, I had no idea if they would be here in time to place their essence on the trees. Because it’s a give and take between bees and the plant life that sustains them, there’s nothing like a colony of honeybees to make everything bloom!

The garden flourishes now, prolific and abundant, made so by the bees who visit. And I await the moment when I sit out in the gazebo where a curious honeybee hovers in greeting a couple of inches from my face. It first happened only a day or so after our first colony arrived. She hovered a few inches from my eyes, looking at me. I sat there while she and I sized each other up, and then she was gone. But in that moment, I fell in love and my devotion to the colony has grown exponentially.

Although I regularly perform Reiki on the colonies, today I took a 432hz tuning fork out to the colony after they had settled in for a bit to align with their resonance, essentially tuning the biofield of the hive. As I struck the fork on the puck and moved it around the hive their resonance changed a bit and they seemed to settle down even more. The bulk of the colony was inside the hive surrounding their queen. They may have already eaten through the marshmallow I placed in the opening to her small cage and when she’s released and ready, she’ll take her maiden flight to breed with drones. She takes this flight only once creating millions of bees over the remainder of her life.

An empath, I feel the resonance of the colony, their hum and their unified presence. Performing Reiki with or without the tuning forks is an experience like no other. So it’s as much for me as it is for them. There’s so much stress in the life of a colony with pesticides and parasites and other problems our world forces them to contend with. All they want is to sustain life. They’re an integral part of our lives and yet are at such risk so I do what I can.

But without them, there is no us. The sound of bees is the sound of love and joy. We have an emotional connection to this unified presence if we would only stop and listen to their message. They survive together, never working at cross purposes but only in the preservation of the colony. A beekeeper sits next to her hive, listening to, learning from, and loving these incredible creatures. Their reverence for one another as well as for their queen is astonishing to observe.

Saving them, in turn, saves us. So how about we do that.

 

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Flowing in Awen ~ Runecasting for 31 Dec 2016

Flowing in Awen

2016 began well enough. I published my first book and my herbal coursework was proceeding nicely. I completed the herb course early in the year and went on to publish three more books, the last one, Empath, just the other day. As I write this, I’m awaiting proofs for the paperback copy.

We put in a dome greenhouse and expanded the raspberry bed. We hugeled as much as possible, a new approach to raised bed gardening that we tried this year with wonderful results. The vegetables in the dome did so well in this type of raised bed. The idea is to dig down if possible and then line the hole with logs, sticks, and and other plant debris such as compost which will absorb and retain moisture. This reduces water requirements over the course of the season which is great for areas that experience drought. Living on the High Desert of Central Oregon, everything is volcanic and with our temperature swings it makes growing anything a challenge which is why we thought we’d try this method. We’ll be hugeling all raised beds from now on.

The bees did well on the one hand and then we appeared to lose two new hives at the end of the season. The split probably went back into the original hive we took it from, but what happened to the Warre’ bees is a mystery. One day they were there and the next they were gone. All that beautiful comb they had built sat empty and silent. I was devastated. We learned the hard way not to listen to the more experienced in our area, with some bad advice possibly at the heart of what happened. So we’ll continue on next year, unfortunately having to buy more bees to help the process along. The new long hive was doing well as was the original at the end of the season so with any luck, they’ll survive the winter. Jerry will be building some hives patterned after the long hive this winter since we really like that setup for use next year. And we’re going treatment free. After two seasons of vacillating back and forth about whether or not to treat, we’ve decided on the natural approach. It’s how we do everything else so it makes sense to continue with that method. The bees know what to do. They don’t need us at all.

We found out that our youngest son and his wife are expecting their first child in July. As this is our first grandchild, Jerry and I are over the moon! We spent the Christmas holiday together, both boys and their wives in our oldest son’s new home. It was wonderful! Even the animals got along after Puff Cat drew first blood. Boundaries..synonymous with cats. Essential at any holiday.

An election happened that has upended our country and quite possibly the world. We didn’t exactly throw the baby out with the bathwater, but instead we’re about to install him as president. Because it’s less of an inauguration and more of an installation by the Russian government I think. Greed, misogyny, racism, sexism, along with tiny, grabby hands gave the Kremlin exactly what it wanted, any thought of which, in times past, would be called treason. But now it’s just another day.

The schism that we’re experiencing will go on and no doubt increase in the days to come. Each side will blame the other and may not notice as the man-child and his minions send us off into the abyss until there’s nothing left. Instead of doing what other president-elects do, he still feels the need to have rallies, to hear the roar of the crowd, instead of listening to daily briefings. He’s nothing short of a game show host-in-chief and his narcissism is sickening to watch. And to think the more qualified person won by almost 3 million more votes and won’t be taking that office. Instead, we’re stuck with this guy.

Of course, I drew some runes before I started this post for both divination and to create a bindrune for the coming year. Perthro, Kenaz, and Uruz were the three runes I drew and placed them on a larger altar piece I created that depicts Awen. Flow, alignment, and inspiration are felt in the three rays of Awen. Clearly we’re going to need to experience all three to get through dark times ahead.

Perthro reflects fate. It’s both the well of Wyrd and the cup from which runes are cast. It’s the womb that births experience; the unknown mystery of fate that blends both cause and effect of physical form with the synchronicity of Higher Self awareness. A rune of Elemental Water, Perthro suggests flowing change and evolution with an awareness of the past as influence for the future.

Kenaz, as the Torch, catalyzes our intuition and illuminates our path. The witch’s power to know is reflected in Kenaz as secrets are revealed. When Kenaz is drawn, transformation and awakening is at hand. Our creative presence is enhanced and a feeling of well-being surrounds us. We are purified in the light of both physical and spiritual enlightenment, aligned in our Source Presence.

Energy or thought shapes form. Uruz is considered an archetype in that it represents the pattern of creation and it’s from that energy that we derive our inspiration. Another rune of Elemental Water, Uruz is the rune of the aurochs depicting strength and endurance. It removes self-doubt and through sudden change overcomes obstacles and difficulties. Courage and increased personal power are delivered with this rune of manifested will.

Flowing in Awen bindruneThese runes combine their energies to create a bindrune that holds the intention of acceptance of our fate, of what is, to see the truth of the moment without being swayed. We stay in present moment awareness, alert to any truth that might appear giving us more clarity than previously felt. And as the unknown unfolds, we’re prepared to act in a way that overcomes any obstacles placed in our path. Aligned in our truth, we possess the strength required to meet any challenges which arise, manifesting our own will to transmute the effects of darkness into powerful loving light.

We’re being given a chance, although why we need this is beyond me, to see the life we don’t want, that the very structure of our world is threatened by this man, supported by the numerology of 4 contained in the runecasting. A lifetime of reaction has overshadowed a more reasoned approach, and many believed what amounted to nothing more than lies and hype. He’s not even formally our president yet and many are already having buyer’s remorse. I can already feel the groundswell of I told you so’s beginning.

Of course none of that will matter when our health care insurance costs skyrocket and cover nothing. Or if our new game show host-in-chief tweets something that causes a nuclear war. Did his supporters really believe he was telling any of them the truth? That he was their savior? That he would fix everything?

It’s going to take a whole lot of forgiveness in the end. As hard as that will be, maybe we should begin the new year forgiving everyone before anything else happens. Get ahead of the game as it were. Because if we wait to forgive after experiencing the mess those tiny hands can create, there may be nothing of us left.

Blessed Be our One Family..in the end..we’re all we have.

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The Enduring Cycle of Bees

The Enduring Cycle of Bees

We finally pulled the last honey super off the original hive and gave them a pollen cake and a candy board to help them through the winter. We had already done this for the Warre’ and the long hives. Temperatures are still warm enough during the day so we’re feeding syrup as well to help them with honey stores for the winter. But the candy board is filled with sugar syrupa solid sugar solution, with small pollen cakes hidden inside for them to work their way to during the winter months. I also dotted the top of each candy board with chunks of pollen cake. They loved it last year.

candy board

Unfortunately, the new split didn’t survive. We believe they went back to their original hive since the split was sitting next to it. But we had received some bad information from a local beekeeper recommending that we pull our honey supers at the beginning of August. In reality, we shouldn’t have taken it until September. But we’re new, and we believed someone we shouldn’t have. We waited until almost the middle of the month before pulling it because we just didn’t think it was ready. The dearth she described wasn’t evident on our property as flowers were everywhere and the bees were constantly out bringing back both pollen and nectar to the hive. But we decided to listen to her and pulled the super off the split, putting the frames of honey in the freezer.

The hive was fine until just a few weeks ago when we opened it and found it was fairly empty. Since there were no dead bees and no evidence of a swarm (which probably wouldn’t happen this time of year anyway), we’re really not sure what happened. But we have a feeling that it was related to pulling that honey super. It was just too soon.

honey framesWe left the super on the original hive because there was also brood in there. We don’t use a queen excluder between the brood box and the super so there’s always a risk that she might want to lay up there. That particular queen did just that and we had to wait until today for the brood to hatch and the bees to cap the remaining honey. Not all of it was capped completely, but we wrapped it in plastic wrap anyway and stored it in the freezer with the other frames from the split.

Warre' combI have to say that I was devastated to find that we lost the split. It was my hive and to lose it that way was just awful. But the new Warre’ hive is doing well although they’re somewhat confused on where to build their comb. Or I am. Not that I care or anything because I brought that one into the apiary to simply see how they function in a hive like that.

foundationless frameThe horizontal long hive was probably the most successful new addition. It’s essentially two Langstroth hives put side by side. Sort of. But the idea is that you can have a top bar hive that accepts Langstroth frames. Other top bar hives don’t do this. And we ordered the new hive with foundationless frames so that we could watch the bees as they built their comb. Most hives use frames with foundation already in them, but bees prefer to design their own comb without the help of an existing frame. They know how to create a perfectly sized cell in which new bees will grow. They really don’t need us and we’re typically just in their way.

We plan to put up a windbreak this year in the apiary although they probably don’t need it. Some beekeepers wrap their hives, but so far we haven’t felt the need to do that. But we can do so if the weather dictates. The bees don’t come out much in the winter, but on the occasion of a warm day, some take flight. We look forward to such days because we miss them so much during the winter.

And then Spring arrives and out they come and we almost can’t contain our excitement! But for now, they’re snug in their hives, making their last preparations for winter. They’ve reduced their numbers and will huddle together in the middle of the hive, keeping a perfect temperature. And then sometime after the Winter Solstice, the queen begins laying brood for the coming year.

It’s this blessed cycle of the bees that has endured forever. Humans would do well to embrace their unity of purpose, each doing their part for the survival of the colony. They are in truth one organism.

As are we.

Blessed Be

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As Garden Season Ends…

 

The dome we put in was a complete success. The hugel beds which we also put in exceeded our expectations as everything we planted both inside and around the outside of the dome went crazy. I’ve frozen more beans than I did last year and even though it’s October and we’ve had some frost, they’re still growing. The gourds are finishing out and I’m letting them hang, curing a bit before I cut them down.mini bottle gourd

tomatoesThe year has been odd though for tomatoes. I have a section over by my cannabis plants that came up as volunteers, mostly of the Roma variety. They’re loaded with tomatoes but they’re taking their sweet time to ripen. The same with the Big Mama Roma plants in the dome. But we have some warm weather over the next week or so and if I need to, I’ll hang them inside to finish out. I have no blossom end rot this year. I added epsom salts to the planting holes before dropping in the transplants. It really does make all the difference. But I’ve been able to make a bunch of tomato soup so far and last night I canned 5 quarts of pasta sauce.pasta sauce

apiary greenhouseThe apiary greenhouse had a hard time getting started, but then it took off. My clematis died out, however, but it was fairly root-bound when I bought it, so I didn’t have much emotional investment in it. The two over at the dome made it though as did the honeysuckle I planted. It’s all about the bees you know. I listened to someone in our local bee community and pulled my honey too soon on my new split and I lost the whole thing. I’m sure they went back to the original hive, but I’m done listening to anyone other than Michael Bush and a few others who are more into the natural side of beekeeping. He’s amazing and his videos are full of great information and Jerry and I have learned so much from them as well as his books.

celeryThe Thai pepper and celery continue to grow in the dome while temperatures remain above freezing. This is the first year I’ve grown celery. I had no idea it would grow here on the High Desert and it was so adorable coming up. Each one came up with tiny celery leaves and while the stalks didn’t get as big as those in grocery stores, at least mine don’t have a bunch of pesticides on them, and they taste great!

The new herb garden was prolific even though my arnica, elecampane, and wood betony didn’t come up. They might come up next Spring though. So I’ll get more seeds, but wait to see what actually comes up before replanting. My white sage and skullcap came up at the end of the season, so you never know. I’m just thrilled it worked out because creating the space with eight foot game fence isn’t exactly easy. But everything I planted is perennial and I’ve already harvested all kinds of herbs to dry for tinctures, salves, and teas, and after one last weeding and mulching, the garden will ready itself for the coming year.

herb garden

We have spuds galore! I grew six different varieties in the dome and some of them are huge. A few had obvious water spots and we chucked those, but that was probably due to running irrigation water through the dome. We have another bed outside of the dome as well as two structures that typically yield tons of spuds, but as of yesterday, we’ve harvested over one hundred pounds. We’ll probably harvest the rest this weekend.

spuds

 

snakeI would be remiss if I didn’t include my helpers in the garden. A snake has been my constant companion in the dome and his watchful eye was always present, crawling all over the dome, hiding among the beans, melons, and gourds.

bee-on-borageOf course butterflies, bees, and lady bugs were ever present. It’s odd to harvest herbs next to a borage plant vibrating with hundreds of honeybees and bumblebees. But we all shared space and it wasn’t until I was watering over by some comfrey that I got stung. Multiple times. That never happens over at the hives. If I’m stung, it’s on the finger while moving frames or something.lady-bug-copy

 

butterfly 2Butterflies were all over the garden, seeming to follow me everywhere. But the best one was the praying mantis. I love those guys! They all stood ready to pollinate and protect. And our gardens simply cannot do without them.

praying-mantis

Fall is here with winter soon after. My garden gets better and better, with full credit going to the bees. Observe them and watch as they show us the way forward. They operate as one organism. It’s their reality, just as it is ours.

~Blessed Be

Oh..one last picture..of Agent Orange. Wonderful medicine!

agent orange

 

References:

  1. Michael Bush ~ The Practical Beekeeper.

 

 

 

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Hive Inspection: The Split is Queen Right!

apiary

 

Apparently after the winter we had a rockin’ bee colony. Both brood boxes from the original hive were full so to try to avoid swarming, a month ago we did what’s known as a walk-away split on the original hive. We took the top brood box splitoff of the second hive on the left, and moved it to the other side of the hive stand, placing it on top of an empty brood box. The idea was that the bees would hopefully build their brood nest downward. Most folks put the new boxes on top, but the Rose Hive and Warre methods favor inserting new boxes either below the others or in between and after researching, we like that idea.

We had a medium honey super on top of the original hive that had quite a bit of honey in it so we pulled two or three frames of honey and added them to a medium honey super box that we put on top of the new split. That way, they’d have enough food to get them through the month-long re-queening process. Once a queen is either dead or gone, the bees will make a new queen. It was clear from the beginning that the queen was still in the original hive because all activity basically ceased in the new split. The nurse bees were still inside tending to the brood and it took some time before we saw bees flying in and out to bring back pollen and nectar.

capped honey

 

Eventually, we began to see some activity and we calmed down a bit. Going in the hive today told the rest of the story. Although we didn’t see the queen, we did see eggs so clearly she’s there. The lower box had nothing really happening in it yet so we swapped the boxes, putting the box with the brood on the bottom. Because the medium honey super was nearly full of capped honey, we added another super below it, creating an empty area in between the lower brood box and the upper honey super. The bees should fill in both now. So not only are there two medium honey supers on the original hive, we have the same on the new hive. All in a month’s time. We couldn’t be happier.

 

eggsYou can see in the picture on the right little white spots in most of the cells which are the eggs in various stages of development. The bees will eventually cap the brood and it will look brownish. The capped honey just above is cream or white in color. The picture below illustrates this difference nicely.

 

queen right 5Typically the brood is somewhere in the center of the frame, with drone brood more toward the outside of the frame. That brood cell sticks up more than the others do and it’s easy to see. What you don’t want to see is a bunch of it because then you know that their queen isn’t functioning properly. There should always be more worker brood than drone brood. There will also be nectar, pollen, and honey on the frame as well. Some folks use a queen excluder between the brood boxes and the honey supers to keep the queen from going up in there and laying eggs. It’s a metal screen-like plate that’s big enough for the worker bees to pass through, but not the queen. We didn’t use one on either colony and it doesn’t look like she’s been up in there, so all honey!

 

queenAs I said, we didn’t see the queen in this hive, but we did see her in the new long hive we put in. This particular queen was crawling all over the place, very active. There was no way to miss her. And it’s the coolest thing ever to see the queen. We’ve never seen her in any of the hives other than the Warre’. And the only reason I saw her was because I purchased a package of bees for that new hive. In a package of bees, the queen comes in a cage and you have to release her into the hive and hope they accept her. Because they’ve had a few days with her already before they arrive at their final home, typically queen acceptance isn’t an issue. I pulled the plug out of the cage and inserted a mini marshmallow and then placed the cage in the bottom of the hive. The bees will eat the marshmallow and release their queen. She takes her maiden flight, flying up around 300 feet in the air where she’ll mate with a drone or a series of drones. Then she comes back to the hive and begins laying up to 2000 eggs per day. In her lifetime she may lay up to a million eggs.

warre combAnd my post wouldn’t be complete without a picture of a Warre’ foundation. We’ve been using foundationless frames in both the new long hive and the Warre. Typically, frames have plastic foundation with a hive cell pattern stamped in it. Foundationless comb can be tricky because it can break off and fall into the hive. The long hive has a different type of foundation than the Warre’ in that it’s a four-sided frame. The Warre’ foundations have only a top, no sides or a bottom. In the long hive, we’ve alternated foundation-type frames with foundationless. This reportedly keeps the comb straight on the foundationless frames which apparently matters when you harvest honey or need to pull frames for inspection.

So that’s what we did in the long hive. But in the Warre’, alternating frames wasn’t possible, so we won’t be pulling frames much. The boxes are much smaller than the Langstroth style long hive, so we can simply lift the boxes up to see what they’re doing from beneath. With a Warre’ hive, boxes are added underneath and the bees build downward. Eventually, the initial brood box will be converted by the bees into a honey super and we’ll harvest the comb from there. But not this year. And maybe not the next. The bees get all honey until there’s too much. Then and only then do we take any honey.

But I can tell you in all honesty that there’s nothing like bees. And becoming a beekeeper will be the best thing you will ever do with your life. Truly.

~Blessed are the Bees for they will save us all!

 

foraging

 

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Hugeling the Dome and Other Gardening Adventures

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A couple of years ago, we bought a dome kit and then life got in the way of assembling it. But we had the area prepared and this year we put it up. I hijacked my vegetable garden for a medicinal herb garden. Witches are like that. We had put in a living greenhouse over in the apiary and I thought doing the same with the dome would be a cool thing to do iIMG_0054 - Copy - Copy - Copynstead of trying to decide on what kind of cover to use. So we got to work and began assembling the dome.

We used a dome kit from Sonostar Hubs. There are a variety of options from simple kits to kits that come with everything. We decided on a kit that was 12 feet tall and 24 feet in diameter. This particular kit went together flawlessly and I highly recommend this company. We bought a kit that included pre-cut PVC pipe but you can buy your own locally and use their dome calculator to see how much and what length you’ll need. Jerry painted each section with white paint and then he pre-drilled each hub. When it came time to assemble the dome, he used the holes in the hubs to drill each section of pipe, while I dutifully handed everything to him. I’ve doing that for the last 37 years so I’m an awesome assistant.

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We assembled the bottom portion and then I arranged the first level using the enclosed diagram. Of course there were high winds throughout the process, averaging between 13 and 16 mph. But then wind is a part of life on the High Desert of Central Oregon.

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The sides went up followed by a cross section, each level building upon the last. We had no problems with the kit whatsoever. Each section was color coded, making assembly simple.

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A note about the ladders used. One was appropriate, one was my late mother’s. It’s the sketchiest ladder ever and no one has any business on it, least of all my 62 year-old husband. But he loves that ladder. So I held onto it for dear life during the wind gusts until he remembered he had a real ladder to use. We’re old now and sometimes the obvious escapes us. But you can see how the pattern emerges as more of structure goes up.IMG_0084 - Copy (2)

As you can see, a step ladder is now inside the dome, but I’m using it as a table of sorts. He tried to use it, but as a witch, a black belt, and his wife of 37 years, I have mad skills. Just a look. No words necessary. And in the picture to the right, he’s on the appropriate ladder.

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With the final piece in, we’re ready to begin the raised bed. We’ve opted to incorporate hugelkulture in our raised bed design. We did the same over in the apiary, and it’s supposed to help with moisture control. Hugel beds are used in dry climates as their structure soaks up water, holding it for future use by the plants. You can either dig down or begin at the top of the soil, but the idea is to lay wood down first, logs and sticks are great, logs in particular because they soak up and hold a lot of water. Then compost is added followed by soil. Compost can continue to be added throughout the growing season. Eventually, many hugel beds look rounded with plants growing everywhere. Jerry had heard about them and thought they were just the ticket for our dry desert home. Between the wind and the volcanic soil, we can water and then it’s dry again shortly thereafter. So it will be interesting to see how this raised bed design works.

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We began initially by creating an outer hugel bed around the edge of the dome using the same process in the picture to the left. We used logs and long sunflower stalks from last year’s garden as well as small branches. Then we watered it well, soaking all the wood debris, then covered it back up before beginning the dome assembly.

IMG_0203We raked back the soil around the inside perimeter of the dome, adding small logs, bark and other wood debris, watering it well. Next we added compost and soil that we prepared using top soil we had delivered from a company that usually has good top soil. Unfortunately this time around, it was full of rocks. So we won’t be buying any top soil from them anymore. It cost a fortune and the last time I actually got decent top soil.

After waterIMG_0225ing it all again the beds were completed and I began to plant. Eventually, the beans and peas will crawl up the netting on the outside of the dome. The tomatoes and peppers will flourish and the different varieties of lettuce will keep us in salad throughout the summer. Melons, cucumbers, zucchini, celery, radishes, onions, and spinach round out the veggies planted inside the dome.

Last but definitely not least is the center potato bed in the shape of a hive cell. 6 different varieties of potatoes are growing there and are already coming up. Everything else is coming up as well. One clematis I put in at the entrance isn’t doing as well as I would have liked but the other one is. It’s still alive though, so I’m hopeful. I have a honeysuckle I’ll put in next to it just in case. The grapes at the entrance are beginning to climb as the arbor and when my passion flower seeds arrive, I’ll plant a few at the entrance as well.

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So there you have it. I finally have a dome greenhouse. I’ve wanted one for years. The beans will grow up at least to the top and if my hops ever come up in the herb greenhouse they’ll go on the outside as well.

And then, in the evening, I’ll sit out there with a cup of tea, experiencing the sacred geometry felt inside a living dome, life growing all around me, the hum of the bees providing all the music I’ll ever need.

~Blessings!