Rosey the Riveter

Friday, August 16, 2013

Exciting News!

I will be blogging for Mother Earth News!  My first post is up, and it's all about how/why to start/join a Homesteading group... so head on over and check it out!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Honey Update

We extracted the second hive today and I was shocked that we only got 3.5 lbs even though it seems the frames were more full than yesterday's super.

So, 10 lbs total from 2 hives.  Not really that great... but we learned some lessons.  Now that we have our own extractor, we can take the honey next spring as soon as it's capped.  I think the bees uncapped a lot of it and either moved it or ate it, as I swear the supers were much more full earlier in the season.

The honey today was darker and thicker, which was also interesting.

Here are the labels I came up with (not that there's much to give away, only 5 of the 10 pounds are ours!).  I think they are cute.  I hate the plastic bottles but I won them at the VA State Beekeepers meeting, so I'm using them up!

Why "Can Do Bees"?  It's a nod to the Seabees, whose motto is "Can Do"... our permanent apiary will have a permanent name once we can settle down in one spot, but this will do for now!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

First Honey Harvest

We decided to harvest some honey today and give the new extractor a whirl (heh.  No pun intended!)  The first step is to rob the bees.  I used Bee-Gone and a fume board to send the bees in the top box back into the lower boxes.  This allowed me to remove the top honey super with no problems at all.

We brought the super back to the garage, where we uncapped the frames.  Joanna remembered exactly how to do it from the one lesson she had last year at the Honey Bee Festival!

Then, we put the uncapped frames into the extractor and we were pleasantly surprised at how quick and easy it was.
 We only had about 3-4 frames worth of honey, but it was such a joy to see it flowing!
We ended up with about 6 pounds of liquid gold.  It's very light... and very delicious!  Now I just need some cool labels to make the jars pretty.
We still have the other hive to extract, and there should be even more honey in there.  Fingers crossed!  As it is now, those six bottles of honey cost us about $150 each!!!!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

EAS 2013 Conference

I just got back from an amazing bee conference in West Chester, PA.  My friend Donna Rae and I left Tuesday morning and got back yesterday afternoon.  It was a full schedule of classes and seminars, so my brain is mush right about now.

The highlight for me was Thursday, when we spent all day learning about Apitherapy and how bee stings and hive products are used to treat many, many medical conditions.  It was absolutely fascinating! 

We got to hear some renown speakers... Dennis VanEngelsdorp (above), Tom Seeley, Wyatt Mangum, and Buddy Marterre to name a few. 

And... I bought an extractor!  This means that in order to harvest honey, I don't have to wait until I can go pick up the extractor from the Guild, and I don't have to worry about bringing it back.  I am excited to taste our first drops of liquid gold!

We met some really nice people... Hi Kenny!  and Mary, who actually teaches at the same school my mom used to (small world!) and lots of other beekeepers from all over the eastern seaboard. 

The five hour trip home turned into ten, because we stopped at every non-scary looking thrift store and farm stand we saw on the way!  Next year's conference is going to be in Kentucky and the year after that it's going to be in Quebec, so it will be a few years before I can go again... but I definitely will be back at some point!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Integrating New Members of the Flock

Whenever you add new chickens to your flock, it's good to isolate them at first to make sure they are healthy and don't infect your other chickens with respiratory issues, cocci, mites, or any of the other problems that can come with our feathered friends.

Clara Belle and Windy came from a local woman who has lots of chickens and is a certified wildlife rehabilitator.  There were peacocks and turkeys and deer and goats and ducks everywhere!  It was important to me to get our new chickens from someone local, and who I knew took proper care of them.  Unlike our current chickens (before we bought them, anyway), these have free-ranged and know what it means to forage.

There was, however, an outbreak of cocci earlier in the year, so Becky recommended I treat for it because it can flare up with stress (moving to a new home, being handled by kids, etc.)  This is a fairly common problem in flocks, as they are bacteria that live in the soil and can be spread via poop.  Thankfully, Tractor Supply carries Corid, which is the medicine needed to treat cocci (which can certainly be fatal).  It comes in a powder form, and it's as easy as mixing 1/2 tsp per gallon of water.  Chickens should drink that water for 5 days.

So, during these 5 days, CB and Windy will be isolated from our girls, and will be kept out of our yard. It's quite probable that we have cocci in our soil (everyone does) and that our girls have developed immunity, but since there are like 9 different strains, I'd rather be safe than sorry.
Last night, CB and Windy slept in a crate but this morning we brought them in to the bathroom so they could stretch their legs.  They are eating fine, but I haven't seen them drinking, so I made a mash with the Corid Water and their feed so at least they are getting some of the medication that way.

Once their 5 days are up, we will bring the crate outside and set it near the chicken tractor, so our girls can become familiar with their scent but won't be able to peck the snot out of them (It's Scarlett I'm worried about.  She's the boss!)  Then one night, we'll just place these girls in the coop on the roosts and hope for the best in the morning when they awake and find themselves all together.  Unfortunately, most of this will fall on Stephen's shoulders, as I'll be away at the EAS Conference next week!

Incidentally, look at Windy's legs (the one on the left).  They are not yellow like CBs, which makes me think she might be a Light Sussex instead of a Colombian Wyandotte (this means her name is all wrong, but it's stuck!)  She's larger then CB, too, even though they were hatched at the same time.  I do admit to wondering if we again fell victim to the Wyandotte late-maturing rooster trap, but since the Sussex mature faster than Wyandottes, that would make total sense.  Time will tell.  (The other reason to buy from a local person is that if 'she' turns out to be a rooster, we will return it and not be left up the creek without a paddle.)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

More Chickens

I knew almost immediately after Clara Belle went to his new home that we would have to replace him.  Three chickens were barely keeping us in enough eggs (each kid can eat a 4-egg omelet like nothing!) and this was the height of the laying season, not the dead of winter.

And then Scarlett stopped laying (she's recovered from her abscess but now she's molting, so she's still not laying) and Rosie went broody.  One egg a day wasn't going to cut it.


Allow me to introduce Clara Belle (II) and Windy:

They were hatched in April, so they are actually even smaller than CB and Rosie were when we got them.  They should start laying sometime in late September/early October.

Clara Belle (on the left) is a Silver Laced Wyandotte.  It made my heart sing that Joanna now has a chicken she can actually hold (the first CB was huge.  I thought it was the breed.  Nope!)

Windy is a Colombian Wyandotte.  These birds made their debut at the Colombian Exposition (also known as the Chicago World's Fair) in 1893.  Having read "The Devil in the White City", I learned all kinds of neat facts about the Fair... one of which is how Chicago came to be known as "The Windy City".  Contrary to popular belief, it has nothing to do with the wind.  It has everything to do with the fact that New Yorkers were upset they didn't get to host the Fair and pretty bitter about how Chicago talked up their city.  So, the New Yorkers started referring to Chicago as "The Windy City" because they were bragging so much.  Anyhoo, all that to say that's how Windy the chicken got her name.  I also suggested 'Bernie' after Daniel Burnham who was the ingenious architect behind the White City, but the kids latched on to 'Windy' and that was that.
These are not chickens that have been used to human handling, but they've seemed to enjoy the petting they've gotten so far.  The plan is to keep them in the pen, separate from the others, for a few days to ensure they are healthy.  At that point, we'll slowly introduce them to the older girls by placing the cage in/near the chicken tractor.
Welcome home, girls!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Welcome to Athens

I've been MIA all week...  because I've been knee-deep in VBS.  The theme this year was "Athens" and I was snack coordinator.  I had a ton of fun coming up with authentic Greek dishes for the kids to try.  There was homemade red pepper hummus and tzitziki, homemade bread with dipping oil, nut-free baklava made with dried fruit, olives, grape leaves, Feta, octopus, figs, dates, and apricots along with rustic crackers and grapes and melons.

The kids loved it, even though it was all 'real' food and not typical of the usual VBS fare.  And they ate all the octopus!  I was so proud of them for trying new things.  There were no sugary drinks, either.  Just water from "the well in Athens."

 They loved the bread, of course!
 Colorful veggies, dried beans, and wheat berries served as decorations.
 It was truly a feast!

Now it's on to other things... like packing for my trip next week to the Eastern Apiculture Society Conference in PA.  I am very much looking forward to it, especially Thursday when I will be immersed in Apitherapy classes.

But first... we are anticipating several new additions to the Homestead.  Stay tuned!