Construction · Gardening · Lazer Creek Apiary · Relaxing

Cattle Panel Greenhouse

Last weekend was all about curled hair and eye-liner as I gussied myself up to go to the school’s homecoming dance.   The DJ played a good mix of music, my students were all handsome / beautiful, and I had a whole lot of fun.   The students were very appreciative, and that made the evening even more special.   Of course, getting ready took up much of Saturday and recovering from a late night (anything after 9:30 is late these days) took care of Sunday — well that and the normal Sunday grading and lesson planning stuff.   I still hadn’t really recovered by Friday, and I was creaky and achey from sitting around too much all week, so I welcomed a day of walking, tractor driving, and construction yesterday.

Homeless plants
Plants on the move!

Apparently people buying houses in the city don’t appreciate beautiful flower beds that require lots of maintenance, so Hubby has been digging up and re-potting plants while simplifying our garden.    This is just a fragment of the things we need to overwinter and plant. We gave our greenhouse to a friend when we started getting the house ready to sell as we didn’t think it would survive a 300 mile trip, so we needed a new solution.  Hubby has been watching videos about greenhouses made from cattle panels — they are inexpensive, sturdy, and don’t take much time to build, so that became yesterday’s project.

Greenhouse 1
Planning size and location

He’d already done the math and knew what to buy, so, after a trip to Tractor Supply and Home Depot, all we had to do was put it together.   First we laid the boards out and then moved them a few times.  We’re both very visual people and just have to see whether we’re going to have enough room around anything we build.    Hubby then used the tractor to level the ground while keeping a slight slope to enable drainage.

The next step was to see just how much headroom Hubby would have.   With the original configuration of the foundation boards, he wouldn’t have been able to stand up and we’d have a lot of unusable space under the slope of the sides.   Reducing the width by just one foot made a much more usable and comfortable workspace.

 

Hubby cut the boards and created a nice, square foundation which we placed on top of heavy duty landscape fabric covered with gravel.    He hammered spikes into the ground to keep the foundation in place and then we started putting the cattle panels in.   We chose to overlap the panels by 4 inches to give a little more strength to the middle of the structure.    Cattle panels also have a section with smaller mesh at one end, and we made sure these were on the ends for stability.   We also made sure that the ribs that go across ended up on the inside to reduce friction on the plastic.    (That sounds so simple now, but it involved a lot fighting 12 foot lengths of panel!)

 

We secured the panels to each other with cable ties and covered the ends with plumbing insulation to protect the plastic.   Hubby then framed the supports and the door frame at either end and stapled the panels to the wood frame.   While he finished that up, I put the more delicate plants in the greenhouse with the least cold tolerant ones in the center.   We’ll plant some of them over Thanksgiving break, which will free up some room to get our shelves in and make the space usable for spring seedlings.

By this point, I was tired and hungry, so I abandoned Hubby and headed for the kitchen.   He managed to get the plastic over the frame without me — something I thought we were going to do this morning — and today he is finishing up the door.   He’s also decided that we need a window in the back — preferably an automatic one as today’s sunshine has turned our greenhouse into a sauna.

 

But for now, I have a place to keep the plants alive on frosty nights.   With the spring-fed creek on two sides of the property, we have frosts when the weather forecast predicts temperatures in the low 40s, and I’ve already had to scrape the windshield once this week.

As for the bees, I only saw about 30 yesterday, but today’s sunshine has them on the move again.   They are now taking an interest in the pollen substitute so I’ll be sure to keep the pollen feeders stocked.   I still have some pollen patties made with sugar syrup in the freezer, but I’ll save them for cooler weather as they tend to be beetle magnets.   I’ll also put a test syrup feeder out up by the greenhouse.  I don’t want to put one anywhere near the bee yard as I’m still seeing yellow jackets and hornets and don’t want to lure them into the apiary.   I think all the hives are able to defend themselves now that we’ve collapsed them down for winter, but European hornets might still be in the neighborhood and they won the battle with one strong hive this time last year.

It’s amazing how physical labor can make a mind and body feel so much better, but it does.   As teachers, we also don’t always see the results of our hard work for quite some time, so a project that we can actually finish in a weekend always does us good.   Even more than that — I just like working with Hubby!

Greenhouse 10
Finished Greenhouse

He just sent me one more greenhouse picture and the dog is so cute I just have to add it here before I go hit the books!

Life is good here on the farm, and I hope it is equally good where you’all are!

 

 

 

Lazer Creek Apiary

Another storm?

With Hurricane Michael on the way,  it was fortuitous that the DMV was closed for Columbus Day today as that gave me more time to go through hives.   I checked 15 this morning, but that’s not as impressive as it sounds as a couple were empty.   One of those is the one I watched swarm right as I arrived home from work a few weeks ago.

Taking  advice from Beekeeping365 to heart, I removed barely used honey supers, both to eliminate space for hive beetles to run around and to lower the height of the hives in preparation for possible high winds Wednesday night.   We have one hive that had two deeps and 3 honey supers from which I was able to remove the top (very light) honey super, but the second one is too heavy for me to lift with it being so high up.   To make things worse, that hive stand is starting to tilt, so Hubby is making a quick trip down here to help me secure the hive.   He will probably drive fence post pickets in again and strap the hive down.   We wanted to split that hive a long time ago because it’s just too tall for me to check, but that’s one more thing we haven’t gotten to this very hectic year.

I was happy to see that none of our hives have beetles in the occupied boxes, so removing the unnecessary supers will allow the bees to put their efforts into preparing for winter.   Even better, I only saw one wax moth and it was dead and lying on top of a screen inner cover.   The bees appear to still be bringing in lots of Goldenrod nectar, but I didn’t see much pollen coming in today.   Every hive had a good stash of bee bread, but I only remember seeing a couple of bees per hive with pollen.

The bees totally ignored my watermelon slices yesterday, and I figured out where the bee that chased me away yesterday lives!   The hive has multiple frames of brood, so the queen is really strong, but her offspring are mean.   And curious….. one found a way into the wrong side of my hood, despite my  careful attention to zippers and Velcro.   I’ll wear the more dependable suit tomorrow while I see if I can reduce the height of a few more hives.    I really don’t want a driver’s license picture with a sting-swollen face.

Here’s hoping for a weakening of the storm as it’s predicted to dump more rain on areas of the Carolinas that really don’t need any.    I’m lucky to have had today to secure things around the farm.   If a hurricane has to pass through, it’s polite of it to do so when I have a day off to prepare.

Lazer Creek Apiary

Taking a Deep Breath.

Friday afternoon, a friend invited me to join her and some friends on a trip to the Cotton Pickin’ Fair in Gay, GA.    My first inclination was to say “No;”   It’s time to remove the Apivar from the hives and there are three hives I need to check for queens.  The weeds are encroaching on four other hives.   I have two unit plans to write, and I want to get a jump start on lesson plans.   Then it hit me:  I haven’t done anything fun since I started work on July 23.   True, we had the entire family over when our daughter was here Labor Day weekend, but I spent most of the afternoon in the office writing emergency lesson plans.   True, we spent most of last Sunday with Hubby’s aunt who was at our farm for the first time while visiting from Texas; then, after she left, I worked until 10:00 pm just to get ready for Monday.   So, I said “Yes” and spent a wonderful morning looking at arts and crafts and laughing with friends.   I could have spent thousands of dollars if I had them, but most of my purchases were small:  bee earrings for $5, a bee dish towel for $6, a bat house for $25 (more work for Hubby), and a beautiful Damascus knife for Hubby (something to offset the addition to the honey-do list).   Now, the knife was supposed to be a surprise, but my new bank wasn’t sure it was me spending money so I had to pull out the joint account debit card!   He got to see pictures of the knife last night and is impatient to get his hands on it next weekend.

mini-melon
Mini watermelon — this year’s harvest!

I did some school work yesterday afternoon, but spent this morning outdoors doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that.   While tidying up around one of the raised beds, I found a mini-watermelon at the end of a dead vine.   I like watermelon, but I was mainly growing these because I’ve seen posts of bees feeding on watermelon slices.   I quartered the softball sized melon and took it down to the apiary, but I have no idea of what they think of it because a persistent bee took immediate interest in my hair.   That may not sound like a bad thing, but the last time that happened I ended up with a bee behind my glasses, which was about the scariest bee situation I’ve encountered, so I briskly started to walk away and then commenced to jog.   If it wasn’t so late in the season, some-bee-body might be getting requeened about now!  (And yes, I did get stung right below my eyebrow last week, and, yes, I did look like I’d been in a fist fight for a few days.)

rosemary
Rosemary in bloom

After loosing the curious bee and returning to the vegetable garden, I was able to pull the rest of the grass from around the rosemary plants.   Some of them have recovered from being transplanted well enough to start blooming, and I was very happy to see bees on the flowers last weekend.   I’d love to have enough rosemary and lavender growing for it to have an impact on the taste of our honey.   That day will come…..

There were a few honey vendors at the fair yesterday, but I was disappointed to see no long lines at their stalls.   Cloister Honey out of Charlotte, NC was doing steady business with their infused honey, and my friend bought a gift package with vanilla, bourbon, and Tupelo jars.   I love the simplicity of the label on their jars, and their displays were simple to the point of being high end and clean while also being very inviting.   They had a single honey frame in a display case in the center of the counter.  The rich colors of the wood and honey stood out against the white counter, and there were just enough bees on the frame to draw attention to it.    Can you tell that they impressed me with their marketing strategies?   It’s so diametrically opposed to what we have been thinking of doing, and I don’t know that it fits our personalities, but I do like what I saw!

I have two days off for fall break, so I am looking forward to inspecting hives while it’s still cool tomorrow morning.   Then I’m off to get my Georgia driver’s license.    I’ve been warned that that may become an adventure as our closest DMV doesn’t handle many naturalized citizens……   Hmmmm – what’s the biggest adventure — a long wait at the local DMV or fighting traffic in the big city?   At least I’ll have Tuesday to recover — and register my car.   But it’s a beautiful day and the Goldenrod is still in full bloom providing lots of lovely food to our bees, so life is good.