Lazer Creek Apiary · Relaxing · Supplemental Feeding

December Time Warp

20191128Clouds
Clouds – Thanksgiving 2019

December 21 is not the ideal time to discover that I actually only have 5 have Christmas cards in my desk drawer instead of the anticipated full box.  I guess I didn’t buy my normal stash on clearance at the end of last year.  Or maybe I did, and they are in some weird place.    Despite my best intentions, I still have not yet organized my side of the office since we moved the big desk in here.   When was that?   Sometime in the past 6 months, I think…..

Then I received a text message to remind me of a follow up appointment with my doctor.   Has it really been two weeks since I was there?   Is the new blood pressure medicine doing it’s job?  There are more questions than answers in my head right now.

The good news is that yesterday was the last day of school until January 2 and maybe I can find my missing brain cells over the next two weeks.  The weeks since Thanksgiving have been as hectic as any other school year for Hubby and me, but we have been less stressed than in years past.   We’re determined to put a Christmas tree up in our 13 x 13 foot living room this year, and Hubby is on his way to the storage building to see if the one we have will fit.   Not only did we go from 2400 square feet to 740 square feet, we went from 10 feet ceilings to whatever they are in this mobile home.   I know the ceilings aren’t high enough to risk installing a ceiling fan, but how tall is the tree we’ve had for years?

It was warm enough to check hives and add some candy boards last week.  Some of the hives we were concerned about now have enough bees to ease our minds, and adding a little sugar for cold, wet days should help them make it until spring.   We’re not adding a large quantity of sugar this year as we ended up with a wasteful mess last year.  Now that we’re living here full time, it will be easy to add sugar as needed.  We seldom go for more than a couple of weeks without at least one day above 60 degrees here, so we have a huge advantage over beekeepers to the north.   We are also keeping the pollen feeder full of pollen substitute mixed with powered sugar so that the bees have something to find when they insist on foraging.   I went to check the feeder this morning, and bees were already on it despite the 50 degree temperature.

The November swarm we caught is even doing well.  There was only one frame of bees the day after they moved in, but they now have three.  Maybe more bees showed up after that first day, or maybe the queen was determined to bump up her numbers.  It was not a good time of year for them to swarm, but luckily they did so on a day when I was in the bee yard.   There’s so much logging going on around us that we suspect they are wild bees whose home was destroyed.    Maybe they are even renegade bees that swarmed away from us sometime in the past and have now come back to where it’s safer and there’s a buffet set up!   Either way, we’re always glad to add to the genetic mix.

Well, I need to run to the store and buy whatever Christmas cards I can find and then get busy doing what I always intend to complete Thanksgiving weekend!   More about the bee yard later…..

 

Cooking · Lazer Creek Apiary · Relaxing

Sachertorte – second attempt

20191126_SachertorteIt’s that time of year ago — time to open up the cookbooks and use family members as guinea pigs for new holiday recipes!   Last night’s Sachertorte was more like a Sacher-pancake.  It had the chewy consistency of a cake-like Brownie, but Hubby enjoyed it.    At least the second attempt rose in the oven and looks pretty good except for some overly brown bits on the bottom and sides.  I guess I should have adjusted the oven temperature to accommodate the switch from too-big cake pan to smaller glass dish.   Regardless, it is done, and covered in chocolate, and I know my family will eat it even if it would evoke negative-but-friendly comments on The Great British Baking Show.   The final step is to write “Sachertorte” on top with melted milk chocolate, but I’m going to quit while I’m ahead!   It’s not like my handwriting is overly legible when I’m writing with a pen, never mind with a piping bag.  This is a recipe that is better sliced a day or two after baking, so it was a good one to start with.

20191126_SRollsThis morning’s sausage rolls (BBC Food recipe) were more successful than either version of Sachertorte.   The rolls that survive the first hour actually taste better cold, but we usually can’t resist them when they come out of the oven.    I was going to make a second batch, but Hubby just called to say the frozen puff pastry is sold out, and I have no desire to make my own today.   I actually don’t think I’ve made my own since high school cookery class!    I stopped making my own pastry after moving to the U.S. because it was just awful.  Now I know that European butter contains less water and more fat,  so I can blame my made-in-American dry and crumbly pastry on American butter — at least until I give it another try with European butter that is now available here.  But that’s not happening this week….

As we only like turkey in small doses and have no desire to have a lot of it hanging around after Thursday, we’re having beef for Thanksgiving.   And not just any beef — Italian Pot Roast (Stracotto) from The Joy of Cooking.    We love this recipe, but it involves reducing red wine and beef stock down a couple of times which takes time and has in the past made a huge mess on and around the stove.   It’s hard to boil 2 cups of liquid down to half a cup without some splatter, and red wine stains so very badly.  It may be worth getting my deep pressure cooker from storage to use for that stage — or to be more patient simmering away at the sauce over a lower temperature.   You also have to be careful to keep your face away from the pot as inhaling the fumes from a total of 2 1/2 cups of wine can make one quite light-headed.  Maybe that’s why I made such a mess the first time I cooked it!

Another favorite beef recipe of ours is Coastal Bend Texas Beef Tenderloin from Better Home and Gardens.   The downside to that one is that the whole refrigerator will reek of garlic for the 24 hours I allow it to marinate, but it sure does taste good.  The salsa is the perfect complement to the beef as well as to other recipes.

I am going to try one more new recipe from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible tomorrow:  Austrian Curd Cheesecake.   European desserts are generally less sweet than their American counterparts, and I always enjoyed German cheesecake recipes.  Well, there was one that didn’t set and just burst out of the shell and flooded the table….  that was not the best birthday cake I ever made for my daughter!    I hope that the Mary Berry recipe will be a good substitute for my favorite recipes until I find my German cookery books which will probably stayed boxed up in storage until after we build the house.

I always like to think that I’d enjoy cooking this much if I just had more time, but summers prove me wrong.  I enjoy cooking for family get-togethers, but on a day-to-day basis, I’m much rather be outside working with the bees or gardening.  I guess I need to be excited about seeing friends and family to voluntarily slave away at a stove.

Lazer Creek Apiary · Nature · Relaxing

Doctor’s orders: eat butter!

I know, a doctor telling me to eat more butter sounds too good to be true,  but I’m back to dealing with a pinched nerve in my neck and a little saturated fat like coconut oil or butter will help my body restore the myelin sheath around that angry nerve and get me back up to speed.   I was about to say that it all started three weeks ago, but that isn’t true — all those high stress days and sleepless nights set the stage for me to lift something wrong after my tricep had been slowly losing strength.   What happened three weeks ago was just the result of missing a lot of warning signs.   I don’t know what I did, but I’d been working the bee yard in the morning and then I woke up in pain in the middle of the night.   A trip to the first doctor yielded meds that dulled the pain but didn’t solve the problem.   Luckily a friend recommended someone else and I’ve been making steady progress for a week now.   Still, it’s going to take a little while for me to be lifting honey supers again…..

In the meantime I need to practice patience, dealing better with stress, and paying attention to what my body is saying.   Yep, any of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while have heard that before, but the long-term prognosis if I don’t change my ways is even more of a wake-up call than three weeks of constant pain.

On to the good stuff:   

The lily pond is a great success and becomes more popular with bees daily.    It’s such a joy to watch bees on my flotation devices and on lily pads, even if I have to occasionally rescue one with a lemongrass blade.    After we set up a similar pond in the city, we caught swarms on a regular basis and that is starting to happen here, too.   The sound of running water attracts bees and solar fountains create just enough splash to make me and the bees happy.    We had our first water-lily flower last week and there is another bud surfacing today.

20190812 cats
Grayson and Raylen

Hubby drove back to the city a couple of weeks ago and returned with two of the kittens that our daughter needed to find homes for.   They have been such a joy already and now follow us everywhere, when it’s not too hot.   While they are almost identical in appearance, Grayson is far more adventurous.    They keep Maggie busy by bringing out her Catahoula herding instincts.   Once she has them corralled, they even let her lick them and she lets them play with her tail.   See, it is possible to herd cats!

One huge bonus to being couch-bound much of the day is that I have plenty of time to re-read the books I assigned for summer reading while taking detailed notes.   I always intend to start that process early, but most years I end up speed-reading in the last week before school!    I even have lesson plans written.   Once I get my classroom organized, I’ll be setup for a low-stress start to the school year.   I’m really excited about my new school, but glad I have a week or so to heal before the year starts.  On the other hand, I’m so impatient to get started because the students, parents, and faculty I’ve met so far have all been so nice.    Hmmm, what was I saying earlier about learning patience?

My shoulder is letting me know that it’s time to put the laptop up for today.   I’m so happy to be able to get back on the computer, and, of course, to be able to add butter-flavored coconut oil to my veggies without feeling any guilt for a little while!

 

 

Lazer Creek Apiary · Nature · Relaxing · Supplemental Feeding

A Walk in the Woods

A view of the creek.

Over the past few days, we keep walking down to the bluff that overlooks the creek. It’s so peaceful there. Even though the water is up a little, there is still a soothing sound of water running over granite rocks. Add to that the sounds of a happy dog bounding through fallen leaves and the occasional bee flying by to get a drink, and it seems like the perfect place to have 50 feet from the back porch of the house. We plan to put a bench out there in the near future so that we can just sit and daydream together and maybe decide once and for all where the house will go.

My walk down there today started out as a simple pollen feeder check. Even though we have candy boards on all but two hives (one has lots of honey, the other we apparently overlooked), the bees are feeding heavily on the pollen and powdered sugar mix. On just one of feeder, they consumed 2 cups of mixture in an afternoon a couple of days ago. I love listening to their contented hum, which is really the main reason I wandered down there this afternoon. I took this picture, and the one above, and then the camera died.

Sometimes a dead battery is a good thing, because I wasn’t ready to go back inside and just meandered along the creek bank for a while and took in the beauty of my surroundings. Even though I called the dog, she kept going to all the places she expected me to be and therefore never found me. Once we reunited at the lower apiary, we walked that loop together and just had fun exploring.

While organizing the office feels only a little less overwhelming than before, the impromptu walk was restorative. Now I just need to narrow my focus to one stack or box of stuff at a time instead of staring at the chaos created when we moved clutter in here so that we could install the laminate flooring in the living room. Maybe I’ll take just one more short break in the now very tidy living room before I dive in……

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!

 

 

 

Bees · Lazer Creek Apiary · Queen Bee · Relaxing

A Bee-filled Spring Break!

Violets
Violets

Spring break is finally here, and we are spending it with the bees and the trees!   The blackberries are starting to bloom and we see pollen coming into the hives, so the pace should be picking up in the apiary very soon.   Hubby drove down last weekend to check our walkaway splits from the prior week while I stayed home and rested my foot.   Yep, his back is getting better and my foot got worse, but we now both feeling better daily.

While hubby was here, he saw a post on LetGo about an apiary that was being liquidated because the apiarist had sadly passed away.   It seemed worth checking out, and it was; hubby made the 200 mile trip to Jesup, GA and returned with 10 packages of bees and 10 mated queens.   He installed the packages and two queens before returning to SC on Sunday and the remaining queens took a road trip!   We were able to get them all through the week in the city and back to the farm without any losses.

So, of course yesterday afternoon was all about making sure queens were out of their cages and finding homes for the other queens.   We had a couple of walkaway splits that had not produced a queen cell, so we added queens to those.   We decided to break up our evil hive into nucs with new queens and found that they did not currently have a queen, so our timing was perfect on that one.   They did have a recently opened queen cell, so we tore the hive down completely and moved the nucs to another part of the apiary, just in case there was a queen out on a mating flight.   That hive has remained aggressive through multiple requeenings, so we really don’t want their genetics to be perpetuated.

Bee yard
Bee Yard – March 2018

Last week and yesterday afternoon were a whirlwind of action,  so today will be about cleaning up the bee yard and figuring out how many hives we actually have now!   We’ll then start on complete inspections of established hives, including mite counts, and then get all of the new hives inspected over the next few days.   We have to pace ourselves so that our creaky old bones don’t pitch a fit again but balance that with figuring out where we stand.   My brain does not like not knowing  our numbers or inspection status any more than my ankle likes being twisted!

We remain hopeful that this will be our last spring of long-distance bee keeping.   I have some interviews lined up over spring break and my current school knows that I hope to move to Georgia.   Big changes like this make me nervous, but being here in the woods relieves all that stress and some…..

Hive equipment · Lazer Creek Apiary · Relaxing

My favorite time of year.

Little evokes as much childlike joy in me as the sight of the first crocus or early daffodil.  I think it has a lot to do with the long winters of England and Germany those first 27 years of my life.  A daffodil pushing up through the snow and blooming bright yellow was always such a welcome sign.  I’m not sure that people in warmer climates can ever quite grasp just how long and dreary winters are in other regions!

Daffodil
Daffodil

Not only are daffodils blooming at the farm and in the city, the buckwheat at the farm is sprouting with its promise of nectar for the bees.   Of course, the blackberries are too, but I’ll forgive them for snagging my pants so long as they feed the bees.  I see many colors of pollen coming in right now, but the bees are all over the syrup buckets now that I’ve tipped them so the remaining syrup can drain out.   I guess that means nectar is still in short supply out there.

According to my phone, it’s only 58 degrees, but the bees are very active despite that.   Of course the hives in the sun are more active than those in the shade.   I plan to check for space and the likelihood of swarms this afternoon, but it’s not quite warm enough yet.   I’ve spent the morning staging equipment for inspections and possible splits and doing the tedious job of scraping propolis off frames and wood ware.   That’s not a job I relish, but it’s sunny and the sky is blue so I’d rather do that than sit inside.  (Unless of course I’m grabbing another cup of coffee and blogging.)

I’ll start the inspections with the hives that had the lowest numbers of bees first just to make sure they haven’t experienced a population explosion and need another brood box.  By the time I finish that, it should be warm enough to check frames on the hives that I suspect are running out of space.   We had to limit ourselves to putting an additional box on top of the English hive last trip because, although they were jam packed, temperatures were starting to fall and we didn’t have time to do anything else.   That hive is also no longer centered on the bottom board and the second box is tipped a little, which is making the rest of the hive look precarious.   I think I’m going to have to bite the bullet and re-stack the whole darn thing.  It’s tempting to start with that one, but it’s always been our strongest producer so it’s the most likely to need to be split.

It’s 60 degrees – time to head back outdoors,  enjoy life and keep myself busy until it’s warm enough to do what I really came here for!