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Farmette 1769

by Monica Melograna-Ward

 

 

 

 

 

At some point I realized how crazy (utter madness) it was to be hardcore about frequent blogs within a hectic life (KOYAANISQATSI). So I broke off from them in December 2018, planning to return shortly after the first of the year 2019.

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Part 1 – The Wild, Wild West

It’s suddenly May 2019. Here I am now writing amongst a large pile of other projects awaiting my attention. And that’s the thing. One project (or even five) never seems to be enough. I can’t count how many are in the queue right now.

My lack of sole project focus shows up dramatically in beekeeping. But the bees survived the winter well, with no sugar water syrup support from the onset of freezing weather… and none since.  The hive turned 1 year old on March 17th.

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Now Farmette 1769’s honey bee hive has gone hog wild!

My approach is normally as natural & artistic as possible with everything; no pesticides, no tight plan, no frames, reduce/reuse/recycle and so on. The 55,000+ bees could do anything they wanted to their hearts desire/content. Maybe that helped get our hive going full force.

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Part 2 – 110,000+ More Honey Bees!

I know that the main hive is doing really well since it swarmed at least twice this spring. Neither time was I prepared.

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The first swarm formed on March 26, 2019, about 50 feet from the main hive. I tried to drop the mass of bees (surrounding a new queen) into a bin. That was a hot mess. Then I found a few videos on YouTube and made a temporary hive with one top bar.

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After getting the bees onto a tarp, as shown in many beekeepers’ YouTube videos, they funneled themselves right into the box as soon as I placed it where I thought the queen was.

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I was SO excited that this worked and reveled in the bees going in & out of a cardboard filing box for a solid day and a half. The neighbors then saw them swarm and leave.

Apparently, you must capture & cage the queen, or at least screen the swarm in for a few days (with syrup feeder access). A real wood nuc hive box would have helped too.

I was horribly disappointed, but it was still great fun! A second swarm formed a week or two later, but I was too slamming busy to do anything about it.

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Part 3 – The Empty Honey Super

I obviously like to build and up-cycle wood, etc., but both my time and energy are getting sucked up with contract work (I LOVE working for a major online retailer!), raising a teenager/up & coming rock star, nagging my dear husband, chores and the “never-ending livestock and/or pets trying to get eaten by wild predators or die on us” bonanza.

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Since my homemade honey super with top bars only (no framing) has been a bust,

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I finally broke down and ordered a half stack, fully assembled super, with frames and wax-covered plastic comb. The idea that bees would be forced into rectangles bothered me, but if I hope to get honey from our bees this summer, I must give in to the stricter approach.

They had this lovely super add-on box with frames on Amazon. I hope that it comes mint-colored as shown in the pic, but that is most likely bad lighting. It says “painted wood”, but the color is not stated. It will probably be white (that will change).

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I also ordered a metal queen excluder to keep her from going up into the super and brooding eggs amongst the potential honey. Having started off with an awkward, bendy plastic excluder for my homemade super, I decided to pull out the big guns this time.

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The main hive is a maze that can’t be disturbed at this point. There is one spot that is open and the rest is forever sealed with bee goo. I’ll attach the new excluder onto the bottom of the new super and just pop it all on top of the main hive.

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Right now the cap rests on the base hive. I went ahead and took the old super off before the dawn this morning. That top will end up on the new super and we’ll get the party started. There are three big bags of sugar in the pantry from last year, so I’ll have to break those out to help encourage the bees to make us some honey.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to write regularly, albeit maybe not as often as last year.

See you’all soon!

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Last weekend, instead of writing on my blog site, I was prepping for a big, icy extravaganza. Yes, we do live in the Southern most major city area (greater Charlotte region) smack in the Middle of North Carolina (Mount Holly). We’re a 4 hour drive from the beach. Yet, we have had not one, but two 2018 tropical storms that devastated areas on the NC coast as hurricanes. The second one blew our chicken coop roof off.

On Saturday, the 8th our first winter storm was starting up. We filled water buckets, since if we lose power, we lose the well pump. I pulled out the heat lamps, also for the well pump. Laundry was caught up and all the dishes washed. Before that, I had cleared out the garage for the van and also for the duck flock. We didn’t want ducksicles. The coop was shored up a bit for the chickens and guinea fowl. The preparations went on for hours.

So, the third major storm of the year was an early December rain, freezing rain, sleet, snow, sleet, black-iced roads from the run-off event. You can see the honey bee hive near the tree up on the right. I put a piece of spare roofing at the back for a wind chill break. It was nasty out.

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We didn’t lose power, so I then watched the weather channel.

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I had needed to clean and do other chores anyway, so I killed two birds with one stone(s) in tidying up on Saturday. It gave me the time to do some things that I enjoy on Sunday. I love bird-watching.

I filled up the bird feeders and made some home-made suet with duck fat leftover from Thanksgiving. This pic is in my old bird book. We got one of the male Towhees that day. He was spectacular!

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Three of the five photographs above are from my daily work week art project. As noted in a past blog, it was something that I started to make sure that I took in the day a bit, no matter what was going on. It’s actually a challenge to keep up with. But, it is a good reminder to attempt to seize the day.

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This last one was taken at night instead of in the morning. Now that I have been doing the daily pics for about two months, I think that I’ll let myself slide here and there with timing. And, since “Tis the Season to be Jolly” is now, ending with our front stoop lights seems appropriate.

PS – It rained all day today and yesterday. The ice and snow have melted all the way down finally. The ground has been over-saturated for a while now, and it’s a mud pit outside.

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Our honey bees are quiet right now. This pic was taken yesterday, which was rainy. Even if they were out and busy, they wouldn’t have bothered Barry unless he had poked his head up to entrance level.

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I was going to write some more about wintering honey bees, but I was pleasantly interrupted by our teenage son and delayed this blog until today, which turned into tonight.

He had wanted something interesting for dinner. This is the same child that loves to feast on Hot Pockets and Flavored Doritos.

To say the least, I jumped at the chance to make a few suggestions. And then that turned into us making a somewhat Mediterranean meal together. There was falafel mix in the cupboard and dry rice in the pantry.

We took advantage of a fresh red bell pepper that was leftover from Thanksgiving, a few grape tomatoes and a bag of fresh spinach I had acquired at the farmer’s market just that day. I had picked up one dragon fruit which he insisted on including in the meal, albeit a Central American fruit.

He topped dinner off with store bought hummus (another Thanksgiving add-on) and pretzel crackers (yes, another holiday purchase). He reveled in the fact that we made international cuisine that was also healthy. When did this junk food junkie change his attitude? Maybe just last night…

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On Saturday, one lone worker girl honey bee rests on the front side of the hive at 11:43 am. Fall has come full force to Southern North Carolina in the Greater Charlotte Region.

At 12:56 pm, the temperature had come up to 55 degrees. This Saturday, a sunny one, made it enough for our honey bees to venture out to take advantage of the mustard flowers and other fall bloom on the outskirts of our little farmette.

I didn’t realize until I viewed this short video that there were bees hanging onto the lid of the jar. When I saw that I took a look. And, yes, they were still there, so I let the whole jar drop to the ground.

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As you can see, the mason jar front entrance holder has honey bees in it. I’ll fill the jar with sugar syrup and give them boosts throughout the cold weather season. I’m adamant about keeping this hive going. At the least, pollination for the flowers and our spring gardens will be enhanced. But, hopefully, at the most, we’ll be able to harvest honey for our own use this coming summer 2019.

I’ll purchase another bee box in March to start a second hive. Between the bees and the poultry flock, I keep plenty busy, so this is our livestock limit plan for the near and distant future.

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We lost one of our two Swedish Flower roosters (Agador) during:

Hector, our remaining Swedish Flower Roo, fell victim to:

For three weeks, every day, I woke up to finding Hector surprisingly alive. His comb had changed from red to pale pink. He was coughing, sneezing and choking. His comb turned partially yellow. Hector miraculously survived, but he hasn’t crowed since. He has not attempted to mate with his hens either.

So I drove out yesterday, across the border into South Carolina, and purchased a second rooster. He is a;

White Yokohama.

“Yokohama chicken is an ornamental breed originated in Germany and came from the Japanese long tailed breeds. It was developed from two different Japanese Natural Monument breeds. One was the Onagadori and the principal ancestor was the Minohiki or Saddle Dragger.

Yokohama is not the place in Japan where the breed developed. It is the port from where the breed was first exported to Europe, where further breeding would create the Yokohama known today. Today Yokohama chicken is a long tailed breed kept as an ornamental breed and also used for exhibition.

The breed was admitted into the American Poultry Association’s Standard of perfection in 1981. And the Yokohama chicken is globally endangered. Now it is listed as Critical on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List.”

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Albeit they appear to be a “gamey” bird, this is not their temperament. They’re pretty chill. It’s the first thing that I asked about after “Is he still available”. We don’t keep any aggressive pets or livestock here and want to keep it that way.

He stayed overnight in a mesh-topped plastic crate in the garage. Then he was transferred to an open cage for the day. Tonight he gets to sleep with his new flock. I’ll confine him like this for a few days until he knows that this is where the food is, and that this is home. Then he can run around with his new friends at will.

Since I was unable to track down another Swedish Flower rooster, I went for an equally spectacular breed. I hope to find a hen of the same breed at some point.

But, in the meantime, I’m looking forward to his morning (and all day) crowing. I miss it. I enjoy the soft crows that start around 5 am. I like the stronger ones with the dawn at 6. Then come the full on, cock-a-doodle-doos at sunrise, around 7 now, that continue into the sunlight.

This makes for a beautiful day. The birds and the bees. They all make my day brighter.

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Pics from November 10, 2018

It was a working weekend for me, and last Saturday evening’s activities revolved around the 17th wedding anniversary of my husband and I. I squeezed in a few photos and a last minute queen excluder topper project that day also. There was no time to edit pics or write a blog article.

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This is what was happening last Saturday around 2 pm at 55 degrees, sunny and crisp. One lone girl wandered out to greet my potential invasion. The rest of the honey bees had retreated back into the recesses of the hive.

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I popped the top off to check the added super box situation out around 6 pm, having discovered that the overnight temperature was going to drop below freezing. It was projected to be 28 degrees. I had forgotten all about insulating the empty space from the queen excluder, into the additional super, and up to the top cap.

So my poor husband had to wait for me to speed hack together a solution, before heading out for our celebratory dinner date.

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A used board and a new 1″ x 2″ pine strip was available in the garage.

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We have both a hobby sized table and miter saw. The board was chopped to size. The strip was cut for gap fill and a cup hook added for future removal. I was doing it on the fly – fast. I managed not to chop my fingers off.

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When I opened the top of the hive again, the honey bee workers decided to come storming up through the queen excluder.

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I put the make-shift excluder top on, took a photo, and placed two strips over those gaps. Then the bees came to get me, so there’s no pic of that step.

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But here’s one of my big, loose jacket. It’s the one I threw off as I ran away from the hive. A bee had gotten up the sleeve. I didn’t get stung. I’ve only gotten stung 4 or 5 times since starting the hive and never really wearing any gear.

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This pic is the only one from tonight, November 17th. It shows those stop gap wood strips. I’ll probably use the battery driven screwdriver to attach those to the main board with some type of braces. It does not now nor will it look pretty, but it’s doing its job. Our 55,000 honey bees are staying warm and toasty in their complex little world – all inside a bee box.

 

 

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After a few extra rough weeks here on Farmette 1769, I was thinking about the idea of stopping to smell the roses. I’ve done it in horrible life cycles before, but I thought of a way to really force it into my life to a higher degree.

I am a morning person that loves the still and quiet breaking of the dawn. It is not being welcomed by rooster crows right now. We had lost one during the early October onslaught of terrible events. Our remaining rooster, Hector, barely survived the second issue with the flock. I really don’t know how he survived. His comb had drooped and was not only pale pink, but also had a yellowish tinge to it.

But, Hector is running around full speed now, albeit lingering on the floor of the coop at night. I hope that he gets back to crowing soon. Either way, we’ll need to locate a second Swedish Flower rooster. It’s nice to have a back-up to help protect the flock. And, two crows are better than one.

But back to seizing the day, no matter what is going on in one’s own life; I started to take sunrise photographs. They are taken with just my iPhone. It’s quick-ish to do that. I can just edit with the light and color controls that come with my phone software. Then, posting right onto social media is easy.

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October 16, 2018
Noles Drive

Weekdays start with the morning drop-off. It’s nice to have some car talk time with our teenage son. He rides the bus home from school and could do so in the am. But, it gets us both rolling for the day.

I started this new project on 10/16/2018. It’s a Monday through Friday, one final photo per day, type of thing.

 

October 17, 2018
Noles Drive / Side Street, Mount Holly, NC

I couldn’t decide between these two pics, so I posted one personally and one publicly.

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October 18, 2018
Old NC 27 Hwy

This one was taken just across the way, in front of our neighbor’s horse field.

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October 19, 2018
Noles Drive

At some point, the people that own the house (down the driveway from where I have been stopping) may grow weary of my visits. But they don’t seem to be home on weekdays, so I may be able to get away with this for a while.

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October 22, 2018
Woods to the side of our house.

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October 23, 2018
Railroad Tracks – Downtown Mount Holly

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October 24, 2018
Noles Drive

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October 25, 2018
E. Central Ave. & S. Lee St.

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October 26, 2018
Catawba River, Mount Holly

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October 29, 2018
Catawba River, Mount Holly

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October 30, 2018
Willowside Drive

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Stockbridge Drive

I parked at the top of the drive at our son’s friends home. It had one of the best views on the street, and no one would think I was a stalker there. So, that is where I got out of my truck to take in the crisp, fall day aka Halloween.  It was my last October sunrise photograph for the year.

On the weekend following the last weekday of November, I plan to blog that whole month of pics in one fell swoop.

Next Saturday, I’ll stalk the honey bees.

 

 

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