Category Archives: Campbell Beekeeper

Happy Independence Day to America

A quick note to wish everyone a Happy 4th of July… we hope yours is safe and healthy.

I also wanted to suggest to those who display the American Flag to consider these basic guidelines for properly displaying the flag. In particular, please note the very first line item: it’s customary to display from sunrise to sunset.

http://www.afa.org/members/uscode.asp

Sunrise to sunset.

If it’s dark outside, take the flag down or keep a light shining on it. Not a hard rule to remember, but a key tenet in displaying our flag.

We now return you to our regular broadcast – have a great night!

One day, Two Beeks(!)

It’s Father’s Day here in America, so Happy Father’s Day to fathers everywhere 🙂

Joanne and I headed out on an amble-through-Campbell bike ride this morning (picture perfect weather, btw) and as we cruised down one road through the next, we came across a woman we’d met a year ago… working in her large garden, just as she had been a year ago when we met. Her name is Joanne. In addition to having one heck of a (working) garden, I recalled her husband as being a beekeeper. (A beek)

We stopped to chat for a few minutes and I was astounded to hear that this season he’s already harvested ~400 pounds. At 1 lb. per quart, that’s a lot of honey – and we’re not even half way through the season. As I peppered her with questions, she finally said, “I’m not the beekeeper, go ’round front and I’ll have him come out and talk with you.” And so she / he did.

Nice fella. Like most beeks I’ve met (not many, btw) he wasn’t exactly a fashion plate kinda dresser. In fact, I swear he had on the same sweats as the beek I met a few weeks back over in Saratoga.

Anyway, he came out and introduced himself: “Name’s Jim but everybody calls me Fuzzy”. Turns out (no surprise) he knows Mr. C. We spent about 15 minutes with me asking questions, him answering… probably the longest 15 minutes of his life 😉 He looked like he was starting to wilt a bit so we bid him adieu and pedaled to the next street over where, rumor had it, another beek lived.

One down, one to go.

I think I may have mentioned it in an earlier post, but I’ve come to the conclusion that beeks have a different perspective on flora and fauna and the relationship it plays in our lives. In days gone by, I thought it was important to remove / kill any / all weeds on our property. Ugly. Ruined our lawns. Made the property look crummy.

After becoming a beek, I began to look at weeds as food sources for our bees. Nectar and pollen are what our bees need and, don’tchaknow, weeds have some of both. And when they are converted in to honey that I eat, my allergies get reduced to non-issues – no drugs. no shots. no surgery. The just go away. (or should I say, after 38 years of terrible suffering from hayfever / allergies, I no longer have any symptoms. Could be our local honey. Could be the allergy gremlins just moved on to pimp somebody else – it’s your call as to which you believe.)

Where was I… oh yes, returning to our amble, as I turned the corner on the street where I thought the other beek lived, I looked for the front yard area that appeared unattended… dry grass (if any), weeds… you know, raggedy. And I went up, knocked on the door and asked if this was the house of the beek.

Lucky guess on my part, eh? 🙂

Turned out to be true. It was before noon and it was a Sunday, so she wasn’t exactly ready for unexpected company / drop-in visitors, so we chatted for a few moments (we have a friend in common) and said our good-byes.

Two beeks, nice bike ride and Father’s Day… doesn’t really get any better does it?

Sure it does: I cooked one of the Abalone I caught on Thursday for mid-day Supper. Herbed rice, brocoli and Ab… just like “back in the day”.

Two beeks, nice bike ride, Father’s Day and a wonderful Ab dinner… doesn’t really get any better does it?

Sometimes it does: Owen and Scott called today and we had good discussions about life and the challenges / rewards of being a good parent.

Just doesn’t get any better, does it?

No, I’m not sure it does.

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

hal

Meeting new (fruit tree) neighbors…

Yesterday I was returning from Nob Hill and took an alternative to San Tomas Aquino / Winchester… I took the route I often do when I’m on my bike and I want to cruise a neighborhood and “smell their flowers” a bit. (ok, these days I’m really looking for other beekeepers 🙂

Anyway, I was driving Joanne’s car and not long after I turned on to the new street with lots of old, old houses, what appeared to be a Chihuahua puppy darted out in the street, across my path. Cute little guy with a plastic flea collar on his neck and hanging down by the ground. I slowed and, speaking to him, asked if he’d come visit. Not a chance, but he did run in to the yard of the house immediately to my right. So I pulled in to the property and was immediately aurally assaulted by a wiry small-dog-on-a-rope (very different than soap on a rope, btw) who was making it clear I wasn’t welcome. Not a very attractive dog, kinda like a bottle brush with mange.

Anyway, I called “hello” a few times while bottle-brush kept up the barking attack and after about 5 minutes the proverbial little ol’ guy came out to greet me. I told him about the puppy in the street and he apologized (no need!) and said he’d gotten out a few times lately… the puppy was only 4 months old. Cute puppy, very friendly until bottle-brush started in on me again.

Anyway, while I was standing there, I was struck by the number of fruit trees and beautiful flowers on the property. To tell you the truth, the house and the property could have used some sprucing up but the fruit trees and rose bushes were gorgeous. Clearly, the little ol’ guy had his priorities straight.

Turns out he’s from Austria and as we discussed fruit trees / rose bushes, I made sure to let him know I was a beekeeper… it always leads to interesting conversations. As soon as I mentioned it, his eyes lit up and he told me when he was a boy in Austria in WWII, his father had 30 hives. With sugar at a premium / unobtanium, they used to eat and sell all the honey they could get from the bees. We talked a little bit about his childhood experiences with bees / honey and his current experience with his fruit trees – he consumes all that he grows! (looks like about 10 trees, but I didn’t go in to the back yard area.)

Anyway, if you’re at one of our neighborhood gatherings and you see a “new” little ol’ guy with white hair, twinkling eyes and an Austrian accent, you’ll know it’s him.

I’ve taken some pics lately but don’t have time at the moment to post them… hope to over the next few days.

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

hal

Doves, doves, doves…

You may remember last week when I posted some random pics that included our new baby doves? (http://twobigcats.blogspot.com/2009/06/random-pics.html)

As they say, they grow up and leave so quickly… the following pics were taken of them in the time since that last post. (Click the pic to see full details)

Here they are in the birch over the patio on their first morning as fledglings – who knew they would fly in their first day?! I call this picture, “I’ve got your back” as they are sitting tight, next to each other, facing in opposite directions… likely to keep an eye open for predators (Coop, the vegetarian Cooper’s Hawk that lives in our neighborhood.)


Here they are on the ground, apparently warming themselves on the rocks. Over the next few days I would find them foraging in the bushes / plants for seeds, bugs, etc. No doubt they were trying to retain cover from Coop, too.

Don’t know where this one’s sibling was, but this one was keeping itself pretty warm and snuggly on the patio umbrella. As I went out to shoot the pics, I said in a low-key voice, “Keep your eyes open for Hawk – it’s always looking for food and you’re on the menu.” (No acknowledgment from the dove, btw.)

I took this picture on Wed morning, through the screen in my office window. Here they are sitting on the fence, spending time together again… keeping one another company. As I stood up to take their picture, I said to them, “You be careful of the hawk” and I called Joanne in to see them. She left after a few moments and no more than 5 minutes later, damned if a Cooper’s Hawk didn’t drop out of the sky – wings flapping, legs / talons extended, trying to grab them – and darned near got one of them.

BAM! The one on the left managed to make it to the fir tree not 5 feet to the left, the one on the right flew through the citrus trees to the right. Hawk tried flapping it’s way in to the fir tree but got caught up in the jasmine, so turned around and stood its ground on the fence. I tried to shoo it away but it wasn’t about to leave two oh-so-close meals without a fight.

So I headed out of my office, around the house and (trying to get a picture of it for you), it spooked and flew off. I was sweating bullets about the babies until I saw them later in the day but reached the conclusion that it was Darwin / nature at work and they’d all have to figure it out for themselves. Right?

Yup. So, know what’s really funny? As I’m typing this on Thurs night, the two babies have just landed on the fence outside my office again and are watching me as I sit behind the display.

I’ve got more carving show pics to post and will do that over the weekend.

As always, thx for stopping by, be well and don’t forget to write when you get work.
hal
btw, It occurred to me after I posted this (so I’ve come back to edit) that some might wonder why in the world I would care about a couple of baby doves, or the baby black squirrel who seems to have taken up residence here… or the hummingbirds, finches, etc.

Good question.

I care because their presence is good for the health and well being of our property and neighborhood. Birds eat lots of insects and seeds and “redistribute” them throughout the gardens / neighborhood where they improve the condition of the soil (also spreading weeds, no doubt, but I’ve already told you how I feel about weeds now that I’m a beekeeper 🙂 I also feel like their songs – the hummingbirds are unique (besides, they’re such characters) and the finches sound great, the cooing of the doves is relaxing and if you listen carefully enough, you can begin to hear different meanings in the sounds squirrels make as they chatter throughout the day.

So that’s why I care. (in case you care why I care 😉

Birds, Bees and garden update…

Ah, Monday evening… nice to make it through the day in one piece, eh? There’s been a lot of activity around here over the past few days, so I thought I’d bring you up to speed on what’s what.

As you may recall (or re-read, if you like at http://twobigcats.blogspot.com/2009/04/bees-are-back-in-town.html, ten days ago I brought home two 4lb packages of bees and installed them in the late / warm afternoon. Normally, you’d check the hive out @ day 4 to make sure the Queen had been freed from her transport cage (I’ll get a pic of that and post it up here, soon) and was working around the hive. But with last week’s cold, rainy and windy weather, I opted to wait until it warmed up and settled down before taking a peek. The perfect day came yesterday.

I suited up in my bee-wrangler’s outfit, fired up the smoker and grabbed my frame tool (to lift the frame out of the hive) and headed out to hive #1 (the one on the left). I gave them a few good whiff’s of smoke through the entrance, then cracked the top and gave ’em a few puffs down the chute (as it were). Ah, that got them buzzing – an intruder with fire and smoke, what next?

Looking inside I could see a very large amount of freshly drawn comb – very, very pretty milky white comb laid out in a wonderful pattern… like honeycomb 😉 Next, using the frame tool, I separated the two (center) frames where I’d embedded the Queen’s cage and withdrew the cage for inspection. Great – sugar plug had been eaten through, the Queen was free and (having just taken Mr. C’s class) I could see the fresh laid larvae filling some of the chambers… there were also a number of cells with freshly-delivered pollen, too. Ok, nothing more to see here – move along… so I placed the frames as they should be and I closed the hive. Groovy, I’m back in beesnuss. Next to hive #2.

Same routine – stand back, it’s gonna get smokey here.

This time, though, when I checked the Queen’s cage she was still inside. They’d eaten almost all of the plug but not quite enough to free her. Damn – what to do? Hive open. Fire and Smoke in my hands. Queen trapped. Bees cranky and flying around me like, well… like an ex-wife.

Help Mr. Wizard – what now?!

I removed the Queen’s cage, closed the hive and took the cage to the patio table to see if I could free her and then place her back in her hive. I cracked open the cage and guess what happened next?

Yup. She flew away. WTF was I thinking?

Luckily for me, she only flew about 6″ and placed herself on the umbrella… where (using the Mr. C technique I learned) I scooped her in my hands, covered her (buzzing all the while, I think) and made my way back to the hive. I managed to open the hive and drop her back down in the center of the hive, closing it up as I made my retreat.

Alrighty-then, Whodaman? Yeah, I’m the man… and I was feeling pretty good about it, too, until I was almost back to the patio when I thought, “Well, shoot – I wonder what a real beekeeper would do???”

So I called Tom @ http://www.honeybeegenetics.com/aboutus.html (he’s the guy on the right in in the pic) and darned if he didn’t answer the phone… on Easter Sunday. I relayed what had happened, he told me what he would have done but assured me that my approach was do-able, too… just check on the Queen in 4 days to make sure she’s laying and I’m good-to-go. (If she’s not laying by then, I’m roadkill. Just kidding, I’ll order a replacement Queen and give it another shot.)

Now here’s an interesting point (if you care about these kinds of things): since their Queen wasn’t yet freed and laying, many of hive #2’s worker’s headed over to hive #1 to take care of a real Queen who was laying – the only thing they live for. So hive #2 is somewhat under-populated at the moment. Tom suggested that once hive #2’s Queen is laying / productive, to switch the hives during mid-day and when the returning hive #1 bees return, they’ll actually return to the hive formerly known as #2 and vice versa… so they should build their population’s up in a short time. I like Tom’s thinking and hope things work out just as he says (it’s all in the execution though, isn’t it?).

So that’s the latest on the bees.

As for the birds, well the Junior Bob’s are living in the citrus grove and adapting to my traipsing through a couple of times a day to move the garbage cans out for pickup tomorrow. Good looking birds, though noticeably smaller than mature doves… they seem to acclimate to my voice pretty well, as they did to Joanne while she was working around them yesterday.

The garden’s first crops are ready as we speak: we’ve got lettuce coming out of our kazoo’s! The tomatoes seem to be doing well in their earthboxes and the potatoes look to be doing nicely, too. Our latest trees, peach and pomegranate are having mixed success – the peach is doing great, the pom appears to be DOA… time to return to summerwinds.

And finally, Joanne processed and cooked several batches of tangerine marmalade yesterday… it’s “steeping” in the fridge, likely to be cooked / jarred tomorrow night; orange marmalade on deck after that, as is another gallon or two of limoncelli.

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