Monthly Archives: July 2009

We’ve got fresh peepers

We’ve got fresh peepers
Turns out we’ve got a just-hatched batch of red headed house finches in our back porch eaves… judging by their “feed me” sounds, they hatched a few days ago (a late brood, it seems), so we should be seeing them in flight school in ~10 days. Great to hear / see another bunch of them hatch.

Another new family

We came across this new family in the perc ponds by the drains yesterday as we were returning from our morning bike ride. There are 10 ducklings in the group and we estimate they hatched a week or so ago.

This guy’s a real drone
(sorry he’s slightly out of focus)

Note the large eyes of the drone? Since he only exists to locate and breed with Queen, the drone has the largest eyes in the hive… “the better to see you with, my dear”.

The great thing about the drone (from some women’s point of view)? After mating with the Queen, he dies… there’s no uncomfortable “what shall we do later today”, “your hive or mine?” chatter to deal with 🙂

Rosy Peach?

Our new peach tree never made it in to the ground this year, but (if you don’t look too closely) it appears it’s got quite a few roses blossoming on it. (not) The good news is it appears to have survived the season in the pot, has 4 peaches on it and may actually make it in to the ground by year end.

It seems we are the latest to join the trend (apparently began by Incline Mike and Mimi) to add an island to our landscape.
Several years ago we began to seriously consider how to reduce the amount of water we use on our lawns / gardening for non-productive purposes. We considered replacing the front lawn with soil / drought resistant plants that would also attract more bird / friendly insects to our area (while reducing my ability to break the sprinklers each time I mowed the lawn 🙁 The island out front is our initial attempt… we’ll have to see how it does and take it from there. (And, yes, this is where some of the 10 cubic yards of soil I moved went….)

Just-fledged baby doves

Our two newest doves fledged this morning and found their way to the cool area near the fireplace, as their siblings did before them just 2 months ago. Cute little dovettes 🙂

The other day Al told me his doves had just hatched their 7th brood of the year. (I hate to say it out loud but, boy, maybe it’s time to break out the herbed rice and salad 😉

Busy as a, well….

BEEK’S LOG 7/2/09:
The past 10 days have been pretty busy with beekeeping activities.

  • Normal hive / colony maintenance
  • Hive reduction / frame removal
  • Frame partial harvest
  • Replace frames, remove non-harvested frames
  • Remove honey / comb from frames
  • Two-step strain of honey / mash
  • Jar / label honey (thx for the labels, toots! This year you-know-who has “Beeks Reserve” for his own use. BR includes pollen to desensitize allergy issues.)
  • Rinse / de-junk wax 2x
  • Bring wax chunks to boil in large pot of water
  • When water has cooled, wax forms beeswax cake @ top of water.
  • Remove wax cake, place in double boiler, bring to melting point, then pour in to qt milk carton
  • Tear away milk carton for, dare I say it (dare, dare!) block of pure TwoBigCats Beeswax ready for adding some essential oils to make lip balm / hand creme. Might even keep a bit of pure wax for treating wood.

Here are just a couple of early pictures from this past week+ of effort:

This was the first batch of honey I prepared and jarred last week. Note the beeswax cake underneath the jars. (We now have ~2x this amount jarred and likely 3-4x in honey frames waiting to be harvested over the next couple of months – turns out the honey / nectar flow is still going strong.)

Here’s what the beeswax cake looks like, ready for being broken up and placed in a double boiler to melt / form in to a block of pure wax.

Looks like a pot of butter and, um… dirt (I guess), doesn’t it? This is the filtered wax that I have pulled from the partially-harvested frames. After this step, I poured in to a quart milk carton where it cooled and began to firm in to this block of beeswax:

This morning I removed the milk carton from around the firmed wax and, voila – one hunky chunk of beeswax that has the faint smell of honey to it.

Note the top of the block consists of the foamy wax / particulates, while the bottom 1/3″ consists of various types of comb (brood / pollen store / pollen). I’ll remove the fuzzy stuff @ the top and leave the bottom stuff as a base while using the good stuff in the middle.

Quite an adventure, keeping bees….

Bee Doody

A couple of quick notes to mention:

  • Fuzzy brought over a recently-attracted swarm and I installed it in a new hive, appropriately name, “Fuzzy’s place” 🙂 In transferring the frames from his nuc(leus) box – don’t ask right now – I was pleased to see of the 5 frames he brought over, all were drawn with comb and 1 1/2 – 2 of them are loaded with larvae and / or capped brood. Since they showed up @ his place ~10 days ago, that means some of the capped brood ought to be emerging in ~7-10 days.

    No clue if his queen made it to my new hive, but since the great majority of the swarm / Fuzzy’s place new inhabitants were still here this morning (lots of orientation flights going on as we speak) and only a few (who apparently didn’t get the “we’re moving” memo) showed up @ their old nuc-hive location, I think we’re good to go.

    And if they’ve gone, well… bummer… I’ve got 4 more frames of honey to pull 😉

  • Freddie’s honey super is jam-packed w/comb and honey. Last I saw (a couple of days ago), they were beginning to cap the comb so with the intense heat we had (low humidity), I’m thinking Mother Nature has kept them very busy capping / protecting the labor of their hard work… that frame should be ready to pull any day now.

    Having said that, I installed a new, medium honey super under the current honey super so they have someplace to go / build out… otherwise, it’s pretty likely they’d have swarmed. (It’s an extremely healthy, active and very defensive hive… intruders beware.)

  • Ray’s still lagging behind, but I may have spotted some new eggs from the just-mated virgin queen… film @ 11.

Thanks to Francesca and Bill (!)

For hosting – and feeding! – the neighborhood gathering the other night. We had a wonderful time catching up on “the latest” with current and former neighbors. Oh, and… Olivia had a wonderful time at the sleep-over! (And – who woulda guessed this – she needed to take a bit of a nap later that day to catch up on her beauty sleep 😉

Thanks again, we had a wonderful time! Do let us know if / how we can help in the upcoming transition.

Nuclear ‘mater

As some of you know, over the past couple of years we’ve added veggie gardening and beekeeping to the TwoBigCats list of things to do instead of riding our tandem 🙁

Given the very positive results we’d read about using the Earthbox, we opted to buy a few direct from the manufacturer and give ’em a whirl. Turns out that was a fortunate decision on our part – all of the Earthbox plants have been putting out a truly prodigious amount of veggies compared to their ground soil / water counterparts.

But true to form, some of our Earthbox plants are doing just what our lemon and apple tree have done in the past – we’re getting multiple fruit in a single piece of fruit. (Perhaps I can find out apple / lemon photos to add to this @ some point in the future.) The latest example is from our Purple Cherokee tomato.

Truth be told, when I picked it and brought it in the house, I thought, “Huh, that’s weird”. Joanne looked at it and said, “Whoa, three tomatoes have grown in to a single fruit.”

(Ah, that’s really what I was thinking, too. Not 🙁

Anyway, here are some pics so you can judge for yourself. (The name, “Bertha Butt” – one of the Butt Sisters of Troglodytes song “fame” comes to mind.)

Bertha’s bottom.

Bertha’s, um… something.

Another of Bertha’s “something”.

After making the initial post, it occurred to me that Bertha’s a bit like Queen’s album cover for “The Miracle” back in the ’80’s:

FWIW, we had part of Bertha last night with our honkin’ big quesadillas… pretty good stuff.

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

(I’ll try to post pics later today from my “beeswax from honey-frame to melted and molded block” efforts of the past few days.)

Honey harvest (w/Olivia)

Liv’s up for a long weekend so we attacked the 2nd brood frames from Ray, the under-producing hive and here’s where we are as of this moment. (Btw, Ray Davies of The Kinks has said many times that The Kinks didn’t live up to their potential – maybe I should have chosen another frontman’s name for the hive.) Remember to click the pic to see greater detail.

Liv and I both thought the visual on the honey oozing out of the strainer was pretty cool. Even though it was ~90F @ the time, the honey still wept through very slowly.

Ah, the Pot o’ Honey….

Liv’ and I are in complete agreement that keeping bees is like having your own candy factory 🙂

(After harvesting, Liv’ and I picked up some lunch goodies, we ate lunch and I headed off for a nap. Upon waking, I discovered Liv and Joanne had snuck off to see the new Harry Potter… everybody’s a winner, eh? 🙂

I get a little misty…

Ok, so I’m stretching for the cleverness button and it ain’t happening… sigh.

Anyway, I turned on the mister on the back deck and darned if it didn’t turn in to a visual experience with a spider web that had been developing on the gutters. (Note to self: To reduce the number of spiders around the house, remove spider webs.)

If you set aside the fact that this is home to a handful of arachnoids, not so bad, is it?