Category Archives: Beekeeper

Bee doody…

Well, it’s been an interesting time around the ranch the past few weeks.

The pole beans, various yellow squashes, leafy green lettuce and tomatoes have gone crazy. (All the plums from 1 tree are now gone, the other’s about to start dropping so if you’re in the hood, stop by for plums. Please.) Turns out these things are so simple to grow that even I can do it (of course, I’m constantly supervised by the Missus, but that’s another thread.).

Here’s an update on the bees:

Last week I removed the top brood super from Ray and moved the bees to the bottom brood super, keeping the honey frames for harvesting. Today I went in and inspected the lower brood for a Queen and brood of any type – sadly, none to be found at all (though I did witness a baby bee emerging from her cell.) Since I did not locate a Queen or brood of any types and because I’d harvested and jarred the honey (a couple of gallons, it appears) from the top super, I exchanged the lower brood / honey frames and replaced them with the upper super / harvested honey frames… don’t worry, there is still a lot of honey and nectar for the remaining bees). I would like to install the remaining colony members of this hive on top of Freddie (the very strong hive), but because the honey super on Freddie is doing so well (read about it in the next paragraph), I’ll keep them in their current brood super / hive for another week.

About 10 days ago I corrected my improperly installed (don’t ask!) honey super on Freddie and let the girls have some time to settle in. Yesterday I checked in on them and they’re going great guns (!) with 9 of the frames in the honey super completely built out in fresh comb (which is very, very pretty)… and the comb is filled to ~2/3 capacity with uncapped nectar (remember: nectar is >21% moisture content and shouldn’t be combined with honey for storage because the moisture will cause it to ferment). So, I’ll give them another week or so to fill and cap that super (at which time it will be between 21-17% moisture, and therefore, honey) and based on what’s going on in Ray’s hive, I’ll either steal, er, harvest Freddie’s honey super or just place Ray’s remaining super on top of Freddie’s honey super and let nature take it’s course. During this wait time, the bees in Ray will eat and clean up the frames / cells and, I suppose, continue bringing in pollen for stores. (They’re worker bees, it’s what they do.)

Tomorrow I’ll harvest the remaining honey from Ray’s lower brood supes, filter and jar that, too. Then I’ll take those cleaned frames and install them in a “bait hive” that I’ll also dab a bit of lemongrass oil on (the inside) to attract any swarming bees looking for new digs. To sweeten the pot a bit, the cleaned frames will also include brood cells so the bees will have a nice & comfy, proven home to hang their tiny little hats.

If you ever hear anyone say that beekeeping’s easy, ask them to define “easy” for you… It’s not like digging ditches, but there are times when a long-handled shovel or the 9:21 train looks like a pretty good option.

As always, thanks for stopping by, be well and don’t forget to write when you get work.

btw, from the initial harvest I also recovered a 9″ x 1/2″ round chunk of beeswax that I’ll break up, melt down and form in to a more usable block of wax (via quart milk carton).

Welcome back, Steve Jobs


I thought it was as great day when he returned to Apple years ago and am very pleased that he’s recovered from his health issues enough to return to work on a limited basis. I’m sure his family and friends are very relieved, but still concerned for his long term health.

With Steve Jobs back on the job today, the world seems a better place.

And in case you’re wondering, no, we don’t own aapl stock, but Joanne was part of the Mac launch activities in ’84 and we’ve been Apple – and Steve Jobs – fans since then.

As always, thx for stopping by, be well and don’t forget to write when you get work.

Hold your honey…

Yep, it seems in all my excitement of seeing jam-packed honey frames in the 2nd brood supe of Freddie (hive #1, ~75,000 bees in residence) and putting on the 1st honey supe, I may have over anticipated how much honey would be coming our way. I’ll explain.

Yesterday when I went out to check on Freddie’s honey super, it was like a GM factory with a night watchman walking around with a flashlight in there… maybe 3 bees, tops… and not a lick of fresh comb. (Remember that I’d put on a queen excluder – kind of ironic to be using that on a hive named Freddie (Mercury, of Queen), isn’t it? Anyway, I wasn’t feeling the love so I put the cover back on and let them be. (Hive #2 – Ray (Davies) of The Kinks – is filling up nicely with honey and larvae so maybe another week before putting on Ray’s honey super.)

Anyway, I came back in, called Mr. C and explained the “no bee left behind” situation. He ever-so-gently explained to me that the honey flow (nectar collection from flowers used as basis for honey) was just about over and I may have missed it this year.

Fine, I’ll just throw myself in front of the local train.

“Well, how about if I harvest a few frames of honey for our use and let nature take its course?” Well, you could do that but you need to leave enough for them to winter. Ah. The bees have to “winter” and I have to use brown sugar in my coffee instead of TBC Honey. (Man, what’saguygottadotogetabreakaroundhere, anyway?) We hang up and I head to Mr. C’s to rent an electric capping knife (don’t ask.)

This morning Joanne and I headed to Santa Cruz to see the Woodies on the Wharf (no, it’s not an all-nude Chippendale show!) and were back home by 11. We swung by Fuzzies (local beek I mentioned last week) and told him of my situation.

Fuzzy: Are you using an excluder? Yup.
Pull the excluder and they’ll work up, no problem.

Me: What about the honey flow being over?
Locally, we’re running a few weeks behind so it’ll be good for 3+ weeks – the sprites are just now blossoming and they’re a great source… be patient and by the end of August you’ll have two full honey supers on each hive.

So I returned the knife to Mr C, told him of my plans and returned home to an air conditioned house (it was ~100F here today). Ahhhh.

Until about an hour ago when I went out back to remove the excluder. No smoke, just suit / gloves, etc. Popped open Ray to see how they were doing and, boy howdy, they sure move fast when they think they’re being invaded, don’t they? (Note to self: Always use smoke) Popped open Freddie (with Ray’s bees crawling allllllllll around my suit / net, trying to get in my ears, nose, eyes – you name it, they were out for revenge!) and found another roiling mass of 50,000+ bees coming up from inside the hive.

Removed the honey super, queen extractor, put the lid back on, then the cover and I was outtathere… my suit and netting crawling with verrrry angry bees. Eventually I walked over to the sprinkler that was running to water the lawn and stood in the spray until the bees left me alone.

All except the one that stung me in the neck… well, more appropriately, in one of my chins 😉 I seemed to have scraped the stinger out before I got out of my suit but went over it again with a knife and have had ice on it for the last 40 minutes or so.

So far so good but the hive is down at least 1 bee as a result of tonight’s work 🙁 Hate to lose a good worker.

Back to the honey: we’ll see how things progress over the next week or two and if it looks like things “ain’t happenin'” in the honey supe, cover me, I’m going in!

As always, thanks for stopping by, be well and don’t forget to write when you get work.

Plums. Man, have we got plums…

It’s that time of year again. Our two plum trees are ripening and fruit is beginning to drop (in addition to the walnuts the squirrels throw at us… but that’s another thread.)

Anyway, Steve and I had guitar practice yesterday and between songs you could hear, “thump”, “thump”, “thump” coming from the back fence / corner area. Yep, it was the plums dropping to the ground… kinda like a towel-covered base drum being hit (almost) in perfect time. After practice I headed out and picked them up… probably about 5 lbs in the bag (with another 5 lbs on the ground that we won’t keep).

If you’re a local, in the neighborhood and want some fresh plums, shoot me a note / gimmeacall and you’re welcome to have some. (This big bag is going to my barber and her shop but there will be another bag that will hit the ground today, so no worries.)

And squash… well, the squash have exploded, too, so if you like squash (we have 4 types), stay tuned.

As always, thanks for stopping by, be well and don’t forget to write when you get work.

TwoBigCats Campbell Honey available


Having put on my first honey super the other day (as opposed to Super Honey, which happened years ago. ahem.), it appears our girls are in full production mode and making tons of TwoBigCats Campbell Honey (a product of Bright Orange Software, Inc. – hey, honey’s soft and some people wear it from time to time. OverSharing, are we? 😉


I need to review / understand / follow Fed / State / Local / Natural laws on making honey available to “the public”, but since I’ve started getting inquiries about getting some TBC Campbell Honey, I thought I would outline the basics as I see ’em:

I don’t really want to be in the honey-selling business but I DO want to get rid of the honey our gals produce, so I’ve decided to make it available via two methods:

Allow people to “sponsor” 1/2 frame of a hive and when harvest time rolls around, they receive 1/2 of the honey from that frame. What’s a frame you ask? Read on and find out…

  • Each “hive” consists of boxes called “supers”. Each hive has two large “brood” supers .

  • Each “super” has 10 wooden frames with a piece of “foundation” in them. The bees use each side of the foundation to build comb for eggs / larvae / pollen / honey storage.

  • Our honey supers are “medium” supers, as opposed to “standard” or large. (the reason for using medium vs large is ease of handling… a full, large supe weighs 90 lbs 🙁

Our “reserve program” consists of:

  • A donation of $10 to reserve one side of a frame’s honey production. My sense (Because I don’t have great experience with it just yet) is this should produce slightly > than 1qt / lb of campbell honey, though there are no guarantees. (As I understand it, honey is sold by the pound). By comparison, a qt / lb of our honey sold post-harvest will likely be $15+.
  • Participation in harvest day… much like when everyone got together to make Pomegranate Jelly over the years, but stickier and Pooh-Bear delicious.


You’re gonna pay out the kazoo for it – at least $15.99 a qt / lb and likely $18+. Times are hard, bees gotta eat. If you need it shipped, you’re gonna need another kazoo 😉

So if you’re interested in reserving / sponsoring a frame / helping with the harvest of this year’s honey (You can choose your hive, Freddie or Ray ;), just shoot me a note and let me know and we can take it from there.

And, just in case you’ve never had any of our honey, well… it’s uh-mazing stuff.

Although in some ways I wish it did, our honey really doesn’t pour like some dreamy, backlit commercial or film you’ve watched. No, our honey is so jam-packed with pollen (great source of protein and – apparently – has helped eliminate my hay fever / seasonal allergies this year) and has such a low water content that it doesn’t pour (at all) unless the jar is heated in hot water first. Great stuff, but not for honey-sissies.

As always, thanks for stopping by, be well and don’t forget to write when you get work… I’m off to research the issues surrounding selling Bright Orange Software’s, TwoBigCats Campell Honey 🙂