Gardening · Lazer Creek Apiary · Natural Food Sources · Queen Bee · Supplemental Feeding

Cooking with Gas – April Updates

Enough propane to last a while!
Enough propane to last a while!

Today we got a very large propane tank to power our tiny home!   This will be the tank that provides propane to the house eventually, but it’s worth it even now — both for the convenience of having a reliable source of heat and hot water and for the cost savings.   We ran out of propane one of those well-below freezing nights over winter break, and we don’t want to make a habit out of that!   Getting up in the dark and the cold to drive 10 miles to get a tank of propane is not fun.   Well, it wasn’t bad for me as I turned the electric blanket up and waited for hubby to return, but it was no fun for him.

Future workshop site
Future workshop site

We’ve made other great progress this week.   Hubby has leveled the site for the future workshop.   He had to take down some trees and scrape off the top soil to get down to clay, so I now have temporary raised beds made from those trees and the soil for this year’s veggie garden.   I’ve also planted more grass, clover, and wild-flower seed to reduce erosion along the driveway while providing for the bees.   The bees are still very interested in the syrup buckets, so I’m impatient to see some nectar plants start supplying them with what they need.

Temporary raised beds
Temporary raised beds

For some reason, the well filter keeps clogging, and I wonder if the tree clearing across the creek has anything to do with it.   We ended up removing the filter after the third after-dark trip to the well house one night, but now silt clogs the sprinklers so they don’t turn off.   That made for an interesting shower last night — five sprinklers were running and I got to wash shampoo out of my hair with  the left over trickle.    After that, walking across the slick clay to turn off all the faucets in the dark was a challenge, but then I looked up at the beautiful night sky and the challenge turned into a blessing.   It’s been too long since we walked down the driveway after dark.   I love the electric gate opener, but I didn’t realize how much I missed our evening walks to go lock the gate.

The really good news is that most of the bee packages and splits we made are doing well.    Bees moved out of one of the hives that took a long time to release the queen, but the rest have eggs and/or brood in various stages and all of the queens are fat and active.   The hives in the old location are still battling small hive beetles, so we’re trying beetle traps made of Borax and Crisco paste in CD covers for the first time.    We’ll let you know how that goes.   The hives in the new, sunnier location have far fewer problems with beetles so far.

More good news is that I received a job offer for next school year, so I’ll be living at the farm full time after June.   That moved the workshop up the priority list as we’ll need somewhere to put all the tools from the garage, but at least we’ll no longer be moving carpentry projects up and down I-20!   I’m enjoying spring break, so I’m trying very hard to not think about packing up everything else in the house and getting the house on the market.   It’s much less stressful to think about being able to monitor the bees on a more consistent basis.

Blue bells
Blue bells – another childhood favorite of mine.




Natural Food Sources

Spring is Here – sorta

We checked our city hives 10 days ago, and one queen is laying like crazy while the other one still appears to be on winter vacation!   Both hives have lots of bee bread, so brood is imminent.  So, is it that much cooler in the corner where the “lazy” queen is or is she just running out of eggs?  We’ll take a peek in the hives again on Sunday if it’s warm enough.

I hate the idea of replacing a queen we have raised from an egg and who has served us so well for over two years, but it’s a fact of life that we may have to dethrone her and find a replacement.  We have three queen cells on frames in the queen castle, but we won’t know if they are viable for a few weeks so the old queen still has time to prove she’s worth her keep.  She has been a fantastic queen — lots of eggs and friendly bees.  I’m hoping she starts filling up those frames by Sunday!

I checked my hive at the farm, and the bees have barely started making bee bread.   It’s odd, because some plants around the farm like Forsythia are ahead of the ones here, but other plants still look dead.  Why can’t spring give clear signals?   It was a little too cool to go into the hives that were not in the full sun, so I guess we’ll check those next trip.

Hubby bought pollen to try to jump-start the hives, but the bees don’t seem to like it.  At least, they don’t like it at this minute!  We know that bees want what they want when they want it and select the flowers that provide the micro-nutrients they need at any given time.   They might want our pollen next week, or they’ll crave something that’s blooming.

After buying the pollen, we read about the downside of trying to create queens early in the season — it doesn’t matter how many queens we produce if there are no drones with whom they can mate.  Bees kill drones when going into winter as their only job is to mate with queens.   So, no drones, no fertile queen — and the bees will kill a queen, or at least kick her out, if she doesn’t start laying eggs as quickly they think appropriate.   Our strongest hive had many drone cells 10 days ago, but are there enough from other hives for a successful mating flight?

As I’ve found out with seedlings over the decades, you can’t rush nature.   It helps to get a little jump-start with the greenhouse, but trying to move nature’s time-table up by a month isn’t in the cards.  Once again it all comes down to patience, which I may learn eventually!