Failing Forward

Failing Forward (and My Quoddy Ringboots)

My friend Sarah Brown interviewed me for her “Failing Forward” podcast which resulted in this mini episode¬†about beekeeping…the “failing” parts aren’t explicit here, but believe me, failure undergirds it all.

Very listenable at 6ish-minutes long.

Also, in this image you can see my favorite Quoddy Ringboots (they don’t touch the floor because at 5’3″, I’m shorter than I sound). They are the most comfortable shoes you can imagine. Ever. In the world.

Failing Forward

One-of-a-kind hand-forged top-bar hive tool

Hand-Forged Top-Bar Hive Tools: They’re pretty, they feel good, and they do the job

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If you want one, I can make one for you

I use these top-bar hive tools a lot at this time of year. They’re terrific for reaching deep into the hive to gently detach brace comb the bees have attached to the side walls.

I’ve hammered the curve in the handles flat in order to pry apart those propolized bars.

I think they’re pretty! I like it when a tool is not only functional but is pretty and feels good in the hand.

I’m hand forging these myself, and I have a few for sale…no two alike. If you’d like one for yourself, contact me for images and pricing (liz@two-honeys.com).

Soon we’ll have the Products section of the website working…which means you won’t need to contact me via email to place your order. It’s a process though, Reader, and right now I’m still deep in bees.

Package of bees

First Bee Order for 2012—DONE!

Yesterday I placed what is probably the first of my 2012 bee orders. I ordered 20 packages (each package comes with its own queen). For a number of years, I’ve order my bees through Dave Heilman of Ohio Honey Farm, and I’ve had good luck with them…each spring, Dave drives a big truck to Georgia and then, as he drives back to his place in Wooster, Ohio, he drops the packages off to his customers. This first call of the season to Dave always brightens my day. Not only is he a nice guy and we get to talk a little bit about bees, but it’s a sign that winter is blowing out. Things start perking.

So long as the weather holds up, we can expect to receive our bees on Saturday, April 14th.

Which means there’ll be a lot of commotion that day. And the next. I can hardly wait.

Now, some of you know that I’m trying to build a sustainable apiary of local bees and local survivor queens, so eventually I’ll not need to order packages of bees from elsewhere. But it’s slow going. This year I plan to raise local queens. And I’ve ordered a few queens with good reputations (from Zia Queen Bees in New Mexico and from Russell Apiaries in Mississippi) from which I hope to eventually raise more queens. We’ll see how it goes.

(As I type this, I hear a mouse eating something in my cabinet. It sounds as if an entire family of mice is eating through the entire cabinet and all its contents. And the cat curled up here is useless.)

Deb’s uncle Doyle wants me to supply him right this minute with queens from my apiary. I asked him to try holding his horses until June.

Below is a picture of my very first package of bees:

We're Making Some Changes around Here

My weekly Sunday hive inspections yesterday revealed:

Amazons—No signs of the queen yet. I’m choosing to remain patient, though, because I think it’s a little too early to see signs of her post swarm. Amazons swarmed 16 days ago, and it should take about 22-25 days for the new queen to be born, orient, mate, and begin laying.

But I was surprised at how few stores the Amazons had in their hive. They need a queen, and soon.

Tomboys—Loads of new bees hang out and orient to this hive, but the inspection shows no sign of a queen…no eggs, no larva, etc. And there were supercedure queen cells on several of the frames. This really surprised me, but it’s becoming a common story in regards to packaged bees and their queens (another reason to begin using locally raised, hardy, disease-resistant queens. Or learn to harvest the queens raised by my own bees). These supercedure cells (they look a lot like peanut shells) are a sign that the colony either doesn’t have a living queen or they don’t have faith in the quality of the queen they have. They’re making plans for a new one. You gotta hand it to them. They don’t tolerate disfunction.

Girls of Summer—These girls haven’t required much attention at all. They’re the quietest of the three colonies, and though there are some new bees orienting, I thought I’d be disappointed in them. Not so. They are healthy, and the queen is laying in a great brood pattern.

I replaced three old frames in Girls of Summer because the bees are avoiding them…the frames I removed are three I inherited from Chris last year. I replaced them with three frames of fresh foundation, but I wasn’t thinking well when I did that. I need to go back in and replace those three new frames with foundationless frames…frames in which I’ll use popsicle sticks to guide the new comb building.

“Iddee” on Beemaster forum suggests I take one frame of brood and larvae from Girls of Summer (because their queen is a good-laying queen) and put it in Tomboys. After 7 days, he says, I should check for queen cells on that frame; if I find more than one, I’m to cut one out and put it into Amazons. He gave me directions for doing this procedure.

This, Reader, is the direction I’ve been waiting for. It’s time to start managing my bees. It may be the only way I can develop strong hives organically.

I’ll totally keep you posted. With pictures (sorry about no pictures. Yes, I take my camera out there, but it’s cumbersome. And I get so involved in things that I forget).

Marion Ackerman and several of his hives

Mister, I Am Now Your Student

My bee buddy Chris and I took a little roadtrip. Well, we didn’t really go far. He calls, he says, “You wanna go with me?,” I say, “Sure!,” he says, “I’ll be by in about 28 minutes,” and we go.

Today he took me to visit a bee guy. Yard full of bee equipment both in use and out of use. Stacked as high as it’ll go. Garage full of extracting equipment, wax melting equipment, the works. Sheds full of more equipment. More sheds full of more equipment. Beehives everywhere. Kitchen full of honey. I cannot begin to tell you the extent of this.

Marion Ackerman lives and breathes bees. He uses chemicals in his hives, but he could tell by the way I was talking that I’m learning my stuff. No shit. I am. And I intend to learn from Marion Ackerman, too, even though I remain convinced that avoiding chemicals will mean stronger bees for me.

Marion already asked me if I wanted to go with him to look at Simpson’s place. Without a moment’s hesitation I said, “Yes,” and he knows I’m serious.

I told him he might as well start calling me his shadow. I told him I’d see him tomorrow. I may just go pop in on him, too.

Marion Ackerman and several of his hives
Chris Stevens and Marion Ackerman and some bee equipment
Some of Marion Ackerman's not-currently-in-use bee equipment (well, a swarm took up residence in one of these boxes)
A very few of Marion Ackerman's active beehives

Whatever Goes in Your Yard Goes in Your Honey Goes in You

The Scott’s lawn service truck just pulled up to my across-the-street neighbor’s house, and now the guy is out spraying chemicals on the grass. Deb calls them the honey-bee eliminators. Friends—pesticides and herbicides are bad for bees; and they’re bad for your honey. Whatever goes in your yard goes in your honey goes in you. How hard is this to understand? Let’s keep it raw and sweet. Dandelions and clover are very very good.