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Posts Tagged ‘Bees’

Enjoyed watching this happy bee collect pollen on the beautiful magnolia blooming in our backyard.photo 2(7)

So happy to see bees in the back yard. So happy to see his back legs covered in pollen.

Sincerely, Emily

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I love this time of year. The herbs and other flowering plants start to come alive and bloom. Sage grows really well in our hot South Texas  dry summers and it requires very little water to survive and thrive.

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I have several types of sage planted throughout the gardens and when they start to bloom they are always completely covered with bees. Alive and buzzing!

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The buzzing sound almost drowns out the sounds of the birds that are chirping away.

Sage in bloom 1Four more sage plant were added to one garden this spring. In fact, Sage, one of the writers that I met here at Not Dabbling in Normal, came over to help me plant somethings shortly after I got out of the hospital. She planted three sage plants amongst several other herbs and plants around the back yard.

Thank you Sage – they are all flourishing! I am very grateful for your help and I think of you every time I see the plants that you planted for me!

I have two sage plants in one garden on the east side of the house that aren’t getting enough sun to really do well (never thought I would say that about a plant here with such hot scorching summers) so I will move them this fall to a better spot.

I continue to see planting more sage in the future.

Do you grow sage in your gardens?

Sincerely, Emily

 

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We live on 10 acres, mostly pasture with a small stand of evergreens and lined at the edges with wild blackberries.  Our property is a perfect square, with our house smack dab in the middle.  To the north of our farm is a small family run dairy farm.  To the south is my mom’s acrage  To the east is another 10 acre farm that raises beef and sheep.  To the west…well to the west used to be over 50 acres of just open space with a creek and an old dilapidated saw mill.

Now it is a housing development with homes on lots from 1 to 2 acres.   On our Western flank we have 3 neighbors.  It is the #3 neighbor that I will be speaking about today.

As I was driving home the other day I noticed that the blackberries along the fence line bordering #3 neighbor were turning yellow.  I stopped the car and got out to take a look.  As I got nearer it became obvious they had been sprayed with some sort of herbicide (all of our roadways around our town are sprayed the same way so I knew immediately how it looks)

I got back into my car grumbling about the nerve of someone to spray the blackberries on my property.

The next day and the day after that I visited #3 to speak to her about spraying on property that wasn’t her’s.  She was never home.

Meanwhile I have called the county to find out the rules about this.  They were clear that no one had the legal right to spray on another’s property, even if it was blackberries (which if you lived in Western Washington you realize that they are considered a nuisance plant.)

Anyway on the 3rd try I stopped by her daughter’s house at the beginning of the housing developement and was going to leave a message to have her mom call me.

Of course the daughter was concerned about what I was wanting to contact her mom about (I would be to if a neighbor wanted to talk to my mom who lives on her own)

So I proceeded in the nicest way possible to tell her daughter that I was concerned that her mom was spraying my blackberries.  I explained that not only did my kids pick and eat the blackberries all over our property but we also were beekeepers and that these berry bushes were an outstanding source of pollen for them.

I was clear that there no legal standing to do this.

The daughter although polite kept asking me “you mean you want blackberries?”

I explained to her about making jam and gardening organically and feeding bees.

She told me how she and her husband had spent months and months clearing their 2 acres of the native ‘weeds’ so they could put in their expansive lawn and borders.  She certainly didn’t want my blackberries infesting her mother’s equally manicured lawn and she didn’t blame her mom from spraying.  She frankly thought I had a screw loose…

It finally boiled down to yes I want those blackberries and they are on my property and could she please tell her mother to call me when she returned from vacation so I could speak to her.

Why do people want to move to the country and then clear out all vestiges of said country and plant lawns that look just like those in town?

Why would someone think that just because they want to keep their perfect lawns that it could possibly ok to use killer spray on someone else’s ‘weeds’?

Have we come so far from our roots that the manicured lawn is now the norm and I’m the oddball?

Kim can also be found at the inadvertent farmer where she raises organic fruits, veggies, critters, kids, and…a camel!

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“There is no blue without yellow and without orange.”

Vincent van Gogh

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Here at Chiot’s Run, I love grouping images together by color. Over on my Flickr Photostream I have a few sets that are organized by color. For today’s YELLOW theme I made a snapshot of my yellow collection on Flickr.
Yellow is such a happy color, it really does look beautiful against the blue skies. Is there anything more lovely than a sunflower towering above you against the sunny blue skies of summer?

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Kim here…yellow has so much energy in it.  It wakes us up and makes us smile!

Sunshine and sunflowers and daffodils…

Pollen on little bee legs and yellow peppers…yum!

A pale blushing rose to take one’s breath way!

And even this…

The ornery yellow jacket is even beautiful with his coat of yellow stripes!

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Yellow is a definite sign of spring here in Tennessee.

rainsoaked buttercup

Barberry

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Yellow blossoms are such a happy, vibrant sign of life – but we cannot forget that other great things come in shades of yellow too!

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meyer lemons

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What’s your favorite yellow thing?

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As a farmer you get used to the rhythm of the natural world.

Animals are born and others die…it is the way of things.

You may be saddened but you know that it is the way it is supposed to be…

This is not something that is remotely in nature’s rhythm.

We have lost 7 different colonies to Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD.

Our last hive was lost last fall…

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How does one get so attached to honey bees?

Could it be the delicious honey that they share with us each year?

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Is it their unequaled work ethic?

Maybe it is the indispensable way they pollinate our garden and orchard…

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It is probably a combination of all of these things and just the allure of the mighty little insect that is the honey bee.

We have always been so careful to not use pesticides on the farm for fear of harming our tiny friends…

Wild flower field

They have always been surrounded by a buffet of things to feast on, both wild…

Borage vintage

And purposely planted.

Yet they still disappeared…

Leaving us perplexed and saddened.

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The honey bee is being lost at a rate faster than they can reproduce…

I shudder to think what that means for the bees…

And for us.

We are more dependent on these little pollinators than most people could possibly realize.

“Perhaps nothing on our list of disappearing America is so dire; plummeting so enormously; and so necessary to the survival of our food supply as the honey bee.  ‘Colony Collapse Disorder,’ or CCD, has swept beekeepers throughout the U.S. and Europe over the past few years, wiping out 50% to 90% of the colonies of many beekeepers — ”

(quote from the top 25 things vanishing in America...the bees were #3 on the list with the family farm being #1, but that is for another post.)

I am pleased to say that this weekend we brought home the beginning of what we hope to be a healthy colony of bees.

We have cleaned and disinfected and repainted for your new charges…

I sure hope they are happy in their new home…

And I pray they find a cure soon for this devastating disease.

Kim can also be found at the inadvertent farmer where she raises organic fruits, veggies, critters, kids, and…a camel!

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You’ll never believe it, but some folks sort of look at us beekeepers and wonder if we lost every last ounce of sense that our Mommas slapped into our heads when we were younger…well, that’s how my Momma did it. Anyhow, we also have a reputation as being a fairly dull bunch. Wait, I know, it is hard to believe. So, to prove any doubters wrong, I am here to describe a great winter project that some beekeepers work on to keep the cabin-fever-crazies from setting in…candle making!

Honeybees make beeswax. That’s how they roll. Every egg that the queen lays and every ounce of food (honey and pollen) that they gather is stored in beeswax. They are industrious builders and sometimes become a little over-zealous in their projects. You see, honeybees like they hives to be orderly. One huge part of that is “bee space“. Bees like to have 3/8” space to crawl between frames and throughout the hive. If they have left, they typically fill it with propolis, a super sticky product they create to patch holes (or spaces smaller that the required bee space). If the hive has spaces larger than 3/8″, the bees will fill it with burr comb. Burr comb is just “filler comb” that they use to tidy up spaces and make every part of their hive the proper bee space. It works great for them and settles their nerves (which is good for beekeepers!), but it makes inspecting the inside of a hive difficult for a beekeeper. You see, we use those nice frames to keep things straight inside the hive so we can remove the pieces. Bees don’t see it that way at all and build their burr comb in every direction they feel inclined.

What does that have to do with candle-making you ask? Beekeepers cannot allow too much burr comb to build up or the hive becomes very difficult to manage without greatly disturbing the bees (by the way, bees have stingers and aren’t afraid to use them!) which is never a good thing. Each time I get into my hives (once a month…sometimes more often, sometimes less), I scrape the burr comb into a box I carry with me. Some beekeepers just pitch that comb, but that seems like a huge waste. I gather it and toss it in a solar wax melter and let the sun add its magical heat to melt the wax (the process, by the way, leaves the wax mostly free of impurities…the wax flows into a collector while the dirt, twigs, etc that I introduce by accident stay in the melting tray. Similarly, I also keep every bit of wax I remove when I harvest honey (honey cells are capped with wax which must be removed for harvest).

So, finally, we get back to candle-making. When I get a little stir crazy in the winter, I have a good stash of clean wax that is just begging to be made into candles. We melt the wax in an old crockpot so the wax heats slowly and does not get too hot. Wax, as you hopefully have never experienced, is very flammable and if heated too fast or hot, will give you problems. In my opinion, the only safe way to melt wax is in a solar wax melter or an old crockpot. So, we add chunks of wax we collected and melted all summer into the pot and wait for it to melt.

Once melted, the wax can be poured into all sorts of molds. To be sure, there are tons of candle forms that one can spend an entire inheritance on. I prefer the simple approach though. We add a wick to a simple jelly-jar or a small decorative jar. No wax is melted during the burning of the candle and I like how easy they are to store in jar-form.

By the way, pure beeswax is always some shade of yellow. Colored candles, by definition, are not pure beeswax. Pure beeswax candles are sootless when they burn and are the smoothest burning candles. Candles made from parafin (most candles) put off black soot and are simply not as pleasant to burn in my opinion.

There isn’t a lot to making candles in a simple form. Beekeeping is pretty straight-forward, but candle-making is even simpler. Many beekeepers in your area probably collect wax but don’t bother to make candles. If you are interested, you may consider approaching them and buying some beeswax. It’s great family fun and a simple, easy, wonderful gift you can give for any occasion!

Warren can also be found at My Home Among the Hills writing about the adventures of life in WV.

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When I first told my Momma that I was getting bees, she said, “Warren, what are you thinking? Don’t you know that bees are mean and nasty by nature? And you have small kids!” There is a lot to say about the nature of bees and I won’t pretend to know more than a little about the nature of bees, but there are a few things that I think are interesting and noteworthy.

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Contrary to my Mom’s initial fears, bees are not mean and nasty…most of the time. Bees, like any wild creature, protect their own (unless you are a gazelle in a herd and you see a cheetah bearing down…then it’s every gazelle for itself). But bees are absolutely protective of their home. Most folks encounter bees out on clover or bopping between their asters and mums (this time of year anyhow). In general, bees on flowers are not in the least interested in people watching them. Now, stepping on them is an entirely different issue, but that one makes sense I think. So, foraging bees are typically not aggressive, especially if left alone. Messing around with a bee’s home is another story. One would probably not fare well if one walked up to a hive and beat on the side of the boxes or did something even more foolish. It’s hard for me to blame a bee though. I am not much different in that regard.

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This time of year is often considered “late Fall” for honeybees. Bees have been working since August to pack away as much food as possible for the winter. The nature of bees drives them to fill the pantry while there are still flowers blooming. They gather nectar and pollen from Fall-blooming plants including asters, mums, and goldenrod as quickly as they can. Once the frost comes, bees typically must survive the winter on what they have stored away. They need nectar (which they convert to honey) as a carbohydrate source and pollen as a protein source. A winter hive hopefully will have a good supply of both.

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The queen slows her egg-laying (which peaks somewhere between 1000-2000 eggs per day in mid-Spring) so that there are fewer bees to feed through the winter. Typically, during peak honey season, a female bee’s life is approximately 6 weeks. They work around the clock (much like my wife and many wonderful women…thanks!) and eventually wear themselves out. Starting in the “late Fall” for a bee, the work greatly diminishes and female bees last much longer, typically through the winter.

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I am not sure if you are catching my reference to female bees lasting through the winter. Males are absent in my “through the winter” discussion because they are…uh, absent through the winter. Male honeybees are needed only to breed with a virgin queen in the spring and early summer when new queens are made. In the winter, they would only eat…they wouldn’t even clean up after themselves (no comments!). Being practical, the nature of female bees is to “thin the herd” so there are fewer mouths to feed. Between mid-September and now, the female worker bees physically drag the male bees to the hive entrance and throw them out. If they come back, the females pull their wings and/or legs off and send them over the edge again. There are no male bees in a healthy wintering beehive.

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So, the nature of bees is simple in one way, while very complex in another. They are ancient creatures who live only to feed another generation. To have done that for millions of years astounds me. They are practical and unforgiving and demand a genuine contribution (guided only by genetics/instinct). As a community, honeybees make a beautiful, and possibly scary (if you are a male), example of nature at its finest!

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