Saturday, April 25, 2015


Today we got to get our bees!  This is a project we've been talking about for years, so it's really exciting to have it finally happen.  I got Adam a beginner's beekeeping kit for Christmas, which had a starter hive and some tools to get going.  We assembled it a week or so ago, and the bees were ordered sometime in February.  We were very lucky that there's a company warehouse and storefront in Wilkes-Barre, as asking our post office to deliver a box of bees and another of baby chickens in the same week might be a bit much.

This morning we headed down to Wilkes-Barre and got in line with quite a few other people there to pick up bees.  I can't say enough good things about Mann Lake; they were really helpful and the shop has a mind blowing selection of supplies.  It was very exciting but also very nerve wracking because that's a lot of stinging insects, all at once.  And we were expecting a box.  The kind with solid sides and maybe some tape.   Or a lot of tape.   A secure bee containment facility.  And then Adam was handed this:

That is some very thin pine wood and window screen holding in three pounds of bees.  That is also the face of a man who is both thrilled and a little bit terrified to be holding three pounds of bees.  

We got them home ok, although that was one of the scariest drives ever.  While no one ever wants to be rear ended, you really, really, really don't want to be rear ended with a box of bees in the back of the SUV.  

We were really lucky that a coworker of Adam's sister had raised bees with her husband, so he came over to give us a hand and help get them settled into the hive.  Being able to get some lessons from someone with firsthand experience was priceless.
First they got into protective gear.  (You'll notice Niobe watching from the hill the whole time.  Yaks are a nosy and judgy audience.)

The the box was opened and the queen was removed and carefully placed inside.  

The bees were dumped into the hive.  Really.  Dumped.  It's a very concerning process to watch, even from far away, but our mentor did it like it was no big thing.  Pro.

The bees are brushed down into the hive so that the next layer and the food can be placed on.  Because they're starting from scratch, we have to make sure they have enough food and water to get established.

And then the lid goes on.  

There were quite a few bees still outside the hive when the lid went on, and we were convinced that they would never find the small opening in the front that they use as a door.  Our mentor kept reassuring us that they had the scent of their queen and would find their way in and sure enough, within twenty minutes everyone had gotten inside.  It's pretty incredible to watch them.  They were actually amazingly calm during the process.  Adam didn't get stung once!  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Field of (Pie) Dreams

It's finally really spring.  Not so much based on calendar date which hits sometime in heartbreakingly cold March, or temperatures- which are notoriously fickle.  It's spring in the sense that we saw our first red winged blackbird.  I know most people believe robins are the harbingers of all things warm and sunny and I did too, until I moved up here.  My husband firmly believes that robins are lying bastards.  They'll stand in three feet of snow, with more coming down, and chirp merrily to you about spring.  Lying.  Bastards.  Red winged blackbirds are a lot more reliable, at least in these parts.  So seeing one is always exciting, because it means that we start to believe that winter is finally behind us.

One of the big projects this year was putting in more fruit trees.  We have a big open space on one side of the driveway and it needed filled with something more useful than grass for the deer.  Adam has dreams about a "Field of Pie", so we added 14 new apple and peach trees, taking the space from this:

To this:

We had a little help from Schnicklefritz:

We also got two blueberry bushes planted, so it's a good start for pie.  And the tomato plants are going crazy, although I'm having much less luck with my peppers.  I'm not sure that it's warm enough, even with a grow light and heating mat.