• Winterizing the hives

    There is a saying in beekeeping:
    If you ask five beekeepers a question you will get seven different answers. Ask about winterization tactics and you will get you lots of opinionated answers.

    Beekeeping is both art and a science. It is a gamble and your luck may be very different than a beekeeper two miles from you who keeps bees the same way you do.

    If anyone ever tells you that it is easy, know that they are a liar.

    If you’ve heard anything about bees, you have heard that they are dying. Their disappearance is a serious problem, as domesticated honeybees are responsible for pollinating approximately 80 percent of all fruit, vegetable, and seed crops in the United States. There are multiple threats to beehives: pesticides, stress, poor diet, infestation, disease, murder hornets and mismanagement all contribute to the demise of bees.

    With the threats bees face, it may not be ideal for hives to be domesticated in the first place. There are feral bee colonies throughout the country that are able to survive perfectly well on their own, even though many began as domesticated hives, like the ones I have.

    But here I am, facing an oncoming winter with six hives. Six hives that I want to survive. Last year I went into winter with seven. I did not buy any bees this year. I combined two hives a couple of weeks ago as one was small and appeared to be queenless and the other was just small. That hive appears to be doing very well now.

    But back to the ugly word —
    Winter is harsh on bees. If it is cold out, they don’t go out forage. If it happens to be a warm day, there is little to feast on anyway.

    In the past I have tried a couple of different overwintering techniques.
    —I have stacked bales of straw around the hives to create a wind break.
    —I have wrapped them in the rolled pink insulation and then wrapped them in roofing felt.
    —I have concocted a warming tray, by sandwiching a heating pad between two cookie sheets that I placed under the hives and only turned on during the coldest nights.
    —I took the cookie sheets and then sandwiched an electric pipe tape that would kick on if the the temps fit into the freezing zone.
    —I wrapped a hive with electrical pipe tape.
    All my winter endeavors have been hit or miss; each with their own downfalls.

    I went to a winterization workshop last year. It made so much sense. Genius really.
    And of course he made it seem easy. I did it last year and although it wasn’t easy, all the hives survived.

    So this is my winterization plan again for this year.

    6mm black vinyl/plastic film
    2 inch thick rigid foam insulation (which provides for R10 insulation)
    Some electrical tape
    And shipping plastic.

    I had cut the rigid foam to each hives specific height. I have a mix of hive boxes, some hives are a deep box and two medium boxes, some are just a deep, some are three mediums, so the foam was cut to that particular hive’s height. I saved the foam from last year and I will fit them to the hives I have this year.

    The foam encases the hives, then the black plastic is wrapped around the rigid foam. Rigid foam is sensitive to UV light and will degrade, so it needs to be covered or painted. And who has time to paint…

    Then the plastic Saran Wrap shipping tape secures the black plastic —hopefully through, wind and rain, sleet and snow.

    The last portion of the project was to take the inner cover and basically remake it. The inner cover has a middle hole. Unfortunately that middle hole is directly over where most of the brood (baby bees) and the hive conglomerates to keep warm. I have fed liquid sugar water through that hole for the previous four years.
    But temperature changes/barometric changes can force the liquid out which dampens the brood and bees are cold and wet in freezing temps and bees get killed.
    So the instructor said to move the hole—genius! So I layered a thin sheet of plywood called luan—over the hole, drilled a new hole to the back corner, and screened it in so bees can’t get into the top box. I then cut two layers of rigid foam to fit the top box, and cut a circular area for a quart jar of sugar water can be nestled—surrounded by insulation with the bees keeping it warm with their movement in the hive.

    If I have enough rigid foam I may make another layer to fit inside the box over the quart jar which would make it an R30 roof. Pretty cozy.

  • Pruning fruit trees like a pro!

    My birthday was a couple of weeks ago. I received a birthday present from my brother and sister in law. A battery operated pruner. I was less than enthusiastic when I opened the box. Who needs an electric pruner? But I put the battery on the charger and the next day I used it around the outskirts of my garden—all the little tree that were sprouting up from the forest encroaching too close to my garden. All the branches that were stealing sunlight. And I was happy and I called and told them how excited I was about my gift. Obviously I need an electric pruner!

    Today I used it again. And I am still so super happy with it. I pruned some of my fruit trees. It made short work of the job of pruning 3 trees back to a manageable tree. Tomorrow it will get another workout.

    Highly recommended!

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  • It is fig time in Virginia

    Well it is just the beginning of fig harvest time. I plucked twenty of the ripe brown jewels last week and another ten today.

    Little brown figs and buena mulata peppers

    I turned last weekend’s bounty into a couple of canned jars of sweet chutney. And today’s batch was canned into a sweet and hot fig chutney.

    The subtly sweet figs in this recipe get a boost from brown sugar and red wine, with a swift kick in the pants from buena mulata peppers (spawn-of-the-devil hot peppers), some ginger along with apple cider vinegar. Some softened onions and a mix of cardamom powder, cinnamon, and allspice successfully straddle the line between sweet and savory.

    My plan for this delectable topping will like be served with a warm Brie and spooned onto crackers. Yes please!

    Fresh Fig & Hot Pepper Chutney


    1 teaspoon olive oil

    1/4 cup minced onion

    2 small buena mulata or other hot pepper like jalapeno, seeds removed (or not) and finely minced

    1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

    1 teaspoon cardamom

    1 teaspoon cinnamon

    Dash allspice

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    10-12 fresh figs, diced

    1/2 cup brown sugar

    1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

    1 cup red wine

    In a medium sauce pan, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the onion, hot pepper and ginger until translucent and fragrant; about 5 minutes.

    Simmer the chutney. Add all of the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Simmer the chutney for 1 hour, until thickened. Taste the chutney and adjust the seasoning if necessary with salt or cider vinegar; it should be a balance of sweet and tart with some hot pepper heat on the finish.

    Water bath can for 45 minutes (preserved for one year after). Or allow to cool and place into container; refrigerate up to two weeks.

  • Absconding bees

    To abscond: To leave hurriedly, surreptitiously to avoid detection.

    One of my hives absconded.


    All but a handful of bees were left in the four story hive. The hive appeared to have been robbed also, not a lick of honey left, but there were plenty of cells with pollen.

    The bees were a happy bunch when I did my last inspection in early June. They even got another super placed as they were going gang busters on bringing in nectar and making honey.

    So what happened?

    Was it hot? Absolutely. We have had numerous 90+ days with a heat index over 100 degrees. But my other hives didn’t abscond.

    Did they have a high mite load? They shouldn’t have. I treated in early March. I have solid bottom board and I did not see mite bodies when I was doing the hive autopsy today. There were some hive beetle larvae underneath the wax capping remnants. But hardly any adult hive beetles in the hive boxes.

    There weren’t traces of wax moths, or their destructive slime.

    As I inspected the empty frames…I wondered. I went into another 3 story hive which was a foot away from the empty hive. Booming. Lots of bees, lots of larvae, lots of capped larvae. Some honey but not as much as I would expect for a hive that large. Is it early dearth? Do I need to start feeding?

    The middle hive had no one sitting on it’s front porch.

    I gave the 3 story hive the brood box from the absconded hive. I should have frozen the frames for two days just in case the enemy was there…but I didn’t. I will check in a week to ensure all is well.

    I placed the other boxes/frames in my garage and will have a further look at them and then freeze them as good wax cells are like gold.

    And then the decision to treat or not to treat my other six hives. And if I decide to treat — what to use—i have oxalic acid and I can dribble of vaporize, but oxalic isn’t to be used when brood present. I could just do successive vaporizing treatments. I can’t do apivar – it is too hot for that. I could do hops. I guess it’s time for an alcohol wash.

  • Bee-ing

    Well the queens in the little hive hatched but I don’t know what happened. There should have been some eggs… there were none. So I combined them with the big hive next door using paper to separate them so they could get used to each other’s smells without warring. They will eat through the newspaper and be one big happy family.

    I did the same to the hive next to the now ginormous hive as they had no queen. Two ginormous hives on the front line of hives.

    I took 8 more frames of honey from the two strong hives when I was combining them. And gave them back 6 that I had extracted…

  • When hobbies collide

    Ohhhh myyyy gawdddd. Honey! So much honey!!!

    These guys were camping outside because there was no place inside for them to be—honey bound—so much honey that the bees were storing honey in the brood cells leaving no place for the queen to lay eggs.

    I initially thought that they were outside as it was so hot. It was 8 AM when these pictures were taken and it was the coolest it would be all day at 71 degrees. It is supposed to be 98 degrees today, breaking a record by several degrees. I really had no desire to get into a thick hot bee suite but I had to for the sake of the bees.

    I examined seven of the nine hives. And I pulled honey frames out of each one; some I pulled more than one frame. Four hives got another hive box (called a super). One hive got combined with another as neither one had a queen . They both had capped queen cells two weeks ago and I should have seen eggs today. No eggs. So I recombined them and gave them a frame with eggs and another frame with capped brood so they would hopefully make a queen. I put all 15 frames of honey in the freezer for now. Each one weighs anywhere from 8-9 pounds. So somewhere around 100 pounds of honey. I will start harvesting this week because I have got to get my garden in!!

    I have another tomato plants and another 15 or so peppers to get in the ground, and I have to sow seeds.

    I wrestled three cattle panels into place last weekend. I managed to put 36 bamboo stakes in a line with my tomatoes. I am going to try a “Florida weave” to keep them upright this year. In prior years my indeterminate tomatoes way out grew the little tomato supports so trying the 8 foot bamboo poles instead.

    I also have to get the baby chicks out of the house. They need their own space as they are getting bigger now…they are all feathered in and it is certainly hot enough outside!

    And soap. I have to make soap. So much to do…so little time…

  • Croatia dreaming

    I knew something magical was happening.

    I was on the pub patio, having a craft beer, and in the corner was hostel entrance. There was a door before the corner where music flowed out. Old music with mandolins and guitars and fiddles. More people started to arrive and a door on the other side wall was opened. Musicians from one room dawdled with beer but eventually moved to the other room.

    And then that’s when I started to talk a guy that didn’t speak English well. And my Croatian is limited to ordering drinks… there was a lot of miming on my part.

    I learned that the musicians were practicing, and dancers were dancing as there was going to be a film made of the 100th anniversary of this particular club. We drank and I watched for an hour. The musicians then joined us. One spoke better English and they told me their story and I told them mine. Some of them have not seen each other for years. Their harmonies were incredible. Then we went deep into a restaurant in the palace. The evening turned to night and night eventually turned into a downpour.

    My cheeks still hurt from smiling. Isn’t it a wonderful life.

    jedínstvo noun
    (Cyrillic spelling једи́нство)
    1) unity

  • 48 hours off is not enough

    Well shit, tomorrow is already Monday.

    I planted 30 tomatoes, 30 peppers, 3 basil, 6 eggplant, 15 climbing things (cucumbers, cantaloupe, a couple different kinds of squash, and loofah) on the arches, along with 6 pumpkins and two artichokes. Not sure about the spacing on the arches but I am sure that will figure itself out.

    Right now the garden looks like a homeless camp with a ton of cardboard laid down… I use
    Cardboard to smother the weeds so I don’t have to weed as much.

    The way back flower garden (aka fire pit area) has lots of coreopsis coming in and a lot of flowering weeds. It is gonna take me a good amount of time to get my vegetable garden sorted, and I am afraid those flowering weeds will seed…

    I then mowed the front lawn as it was too humid to do real work.

    Bonanza rode with me on the floorboard of the mower. I cannot tell you that I haven’t called him…Moose, or Sydney…because I have; but most of the times it is “hey baby” followed “Bonanza, NO”. I love him so. He is the best thing that has happened to me in more than a moment.

    He does have his own instagram page now… you can follow his reels at Bonanza_the_Borador

  • Cracked eggs


    It was a long walk on a short plank, but I have finally done the craziest thing.

    I am dehydrating eggs. I have an abundance of eggs. I have been selling some to workmates. I have contemplated leaving a self serve egg stand at the end of the driveway. I have scrambled the eggs and fed them back to the chickens, the dogs use to get some scrambled eggs on a weekly basis. I anticipate that Bonanza will also get some scrambled eggs in what I hope to be his long life with me.

    But what if…what if there was a way to store them, but not take up precious counter space, refrigerator space or freezer space?

    Low and behold there is.

    Dehydration! One of my Facebook groups had a post. So I started delving into the research behind it. Sold.

    I bought a fairly cheap dehydrator On Amazon but it also serves as an air fryer. My brother and SIL rave about their air fryer but poor Nina few days ago, I wasn’t yet ready to take the plunge into yet another thing that makes my life “better”.

    There are two ways to dehydrate the eggs. In the first one, the eggs are scrambled and then dehydrated. Not such good reviews with this method—“gritty” was the common theme.

    So I went with the second method, of blenderized eggs, poured onto the fruit leather mat. 165 degrees seems to be the safe temperature to kill salmonella. For 10 hours.

    Many sources say the eggs are best used for baking, not so much for scrambled eggs. But hey..I bake. And I still have chickens that lay fresh eggs for scrambled, over easy and poached. Winning!

    I’ll let you know tomorrow how this worked out.

  • 36 years

    Today starts National Nurses Week.

    When you’re a nurse you know that every day you will touch a life, or a life will touch yours. ~Author Unknown

    To all the peers that I have worked with in my 36 years…thank you for mentoring, consoling, and standing shoulder to shoulder with me. I couldn’t have asked for better co-workers and friends!

    To my patients; thank you for allowing me to insert myself into your hours of need. I hope that I helped you heal, grow, or lessen your pain. I have learned from you.

    36 years…

    36 years of learning. An associates, a bachelors, and a masters degree. The hours of continuing education, the conferences, the presentations, the meetings, the journals, the grand rounds. And the everyday “aha” moments.

    36 years. A varied career with jobs on the east coast, west coast, in the north, and in the south, and more than a couple places in between.

    36 years of jobs that were always full-time, sometimes working two full-time jobs, some years working a full time and a part-time job, and now just working an overly full-time job. A job where I stayed two weeks—a nursing home setting that I promptly quit. I never saw my patients, and decided that wasn’t how I wanted to practice. A six month job at a Veteran’s hospital, and I decided that wasn’t how I wanted to practice either. Travel contracts that were supposed to last 13 weeks which then lasted a year. Permanent ie “long term” employment that has lasted as long as 9 years now. My wanderlust is strong siren song, and I continually fight the urge to move along to another “permanent” fabulous position.

    I have worked in emergency departments, pediatrics, family medicine, med-surg, orthopedics, and occupational med. I have worked at incredibly busy 700+ bed hospitals with a Trauma 1 designation and laid-back, tiny community hospitals with 24 beds. I have also done a smattering of teaching; volunteered with the Red Cross; worked in EMS; sat on a county health board; and still love my hospital medicine position.

    36 years. Thousands of patients. Some patients a few days old, with a wondrous life ahead of them; a few patients 100 years old with a wondrous life behind them. Thousands of families, thousands of diagnoses, circumstances and predicaments. Some happy, most sad. I hope that I added dignity and compassion to the sad endings and joy to the happy beginnings.

    36 years. Thousands of coworkers, peers and friends. Nurses, physicians, technicians, paramedics and patients that honed my knowledge with their expertise.

    And 36 years later, I am still honored to a nurse.

    Happy nurses week!