Thursday, May 14, 2009


First four raspberries are ripe.  Fantastic flavor.  Huge crop coming.  

The only thing that eats raspberries besides humans is hornets and they don't take much.  It is the perfect crop for areas with pest problems.  A few bugs eat the leaves as do chickens but raspberries grow so quickly it is hard to slow them down by being eaten.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A virgin bee keeper no longer...

Two stings today.  One on the eyebrow, one on the forearm.  

 The eyebrow sting concerned me most due to stories about eyes swelling shut under similar situations conveyed to me by friends but it does not even ache.  No pain, no swelling after 30 minutes.  The forearm sting aches a bit.  This may be because I immediately brushed away the eyebrow sting venom sack as I walked away from the hive but did not realize I had been stung on the forearm until after a few seconds.  That was enough time for the stinger to pump some toxin into me.  So it aches a bit.  I really do not know whether the toothpaste does any good or whether it is just the elimination of the pumping apparatus that has reduced the majority of the sting effects.  I doubt I will experiment with this.  The ache is like having a highly localized pulled muscle.

Earlier in the day, about a half hour before the stings at 4:30pt, I had taken the top off an adjacent hive to remove some comb that had fallen to the bottom during the extraction of the bag in which it was ensconced while collected when it was first put together in March.  This is the observation hive that was first obtained as a hive in a paper shopping bag on 3/13/09.  Today is a sunny, warm day and the bees are calm and busy.  I temporarily removed a couple of foundations to get to the comb that was on the hive floor and removed it without incident.  There is some pollen in some of the cells.  This hive has three foundations that are being heavily worked by the bees.  Piece of cake.  No problems.  Closed the hive up w/o incident.

That was so easy I decide to put the new glass observation top, which I had just made, on the massive-number-of-bees hive that I collected on 4/24 and upon which I subsequently put a queen excluder and super because they seemed so active and numerous.  The other hive was complacent so why not?  Seemed like perfect timing.  As I remove the wood top to the hive super I receive a sting to the eyebrow immediately.  The super is amazingly full of bees.  (All three hives I have are thrown from the same mother hive.  Two on 3/13, one on 4/24.)  I wipe the sting off as soon as I see the bee coming at my face and feel the bee on me.  Then I place the glass observation top on the hive, askew, and walk inside with a bee in my hair.  It escapes inside the house.  I put toothpaste on my eyebrow immediately to alleviate the sting effects.  I have read a study that this is the most effective pain relief available other than time.  The bee-errant is found on a window adjacent to me and dispatched then I go back outside to replace the glass and wooden top properly to the hive, receive another sting on the forearm which goes unnoticed for a bit, then I retreat inside again while wiping off the sting sack that has been actively pumping toxins into me.  Not optimal.  Toothpaste goes on it and it stops the pain in moments but it aches.  Two hours later, after dinner, it still aches but only when pressure is put on it.  Two and a half hours later and not even that happens.  Next time, I need to get the pumping apparatus off me immediately.  

Finally, I am stung.  No longer a virgin bee keeper.

I was stung by bees
Being careless and silly
Seemed right at the time

First week of May

 2 inches of rain.  Rain total:  20 inches.

Heavy wind has blown off two of the grafts.  Not expecting a good take for the grafts this year.

Cameo wine bottled this week.  Good flavor for a Celtic Scumble.  Had been racked twice so almost no leas.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swarm collecting

Third swarm collected for the year.

About dinner time the same hive on Van Ness that threw off the other two swarms currently in our back yard threw off another one today and it is a Monster.  It was eight feet up in a tree.  I had to stand on a chair to get the loppers up to the branch it was on to be able to cut the branch.  Maybe it was ten feet up.  Let's say nine so as not to exaggerate.

Anyway, I had to position the box perfectly so that when I cut the branch it would drop into the box.  That took me a while because if I made a mistake the swarm would be all over the ground and then where would I be?  Shoveling bugs into a box is where I would be and I did not have a shovel.  Not a good place if the bugs can sting and you are reduced to using hands in place of a shovel.  The swarm was so big that I took out all but three of the foundations to accommodate it and the branch to which it was clinging.  The ropes to secure the bottom to the top of the box were laid out under and to each side of the box.  I was very careful and took my time positioning the box and the ropes to catch the drop.  The drop was almost perfect but bugs scattered on both sides of the box as well as filling the hive box as I got down from the chair immediately adjacent the box and slowly walked away from the proceedings.  From about 30 feet I turned to observe my doings, the bees' doings, and listened to the noise they were making and how the few that were still around me were acting which was not aggressive at all.  I was never stung during the entire process which then involved going back to the box and putting the top on it (this action squished a few which is not a good thing from a pheromone standpoint of hive alertness), tied the two ropes around the box which, as you may remember, were covered with bees that were outside the box and therefore thick upon the ropes that were to secure the bottom of the box to the top I had just replaced.  This gave me some trepidation as they crawled from the ground up the ropes then up my hands in remarkable numbers.  After tying the ropes I again walked away for a few moments to observe their attitude (and truth be told, mine).  Both were complacent.  (I think this was a wet swarm.  I believe it had been out of the mother hive for no more than three hours which indicates that they were full of honey with no hive to protect.  This is the perfect situation for collecting a swarm other than that it was a bit too high in a tree for perfection from my point of view and my viewpoint is that of a novice.) Then I lifted the box by the ropes tied around it and carried it to the truck.  There I shut it in and drove home.  Upon arrival, I made a clear path to the back yard and hive stand which I had set up for no good reason two days prior and there it was placed immediately outside the slider to our bedroom.  

It is a thing of beauty in aquisition and placement.

It makes a lot of noise.  There are a lot of bees in that box.

Pear bottling

Today is the day to put pears in bottles hanging from trees.  

Two bottles with three pear in them.  The double pear bottle is large.  Both are covered with cheese cloth and choked with same to keep sun/bugs out.  Both were examined for aphids and those found were killed.  Hoping for the luckiest and best outcomes.

Not expecting much.  The odds seem against it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Grafting, bud break and the last Mandarins

Wedge graft used to move Pink Pearl and Fuji onto the Cox's Orange Pippin on 4/3 with Cox bud break on 4/8.   Wind was very strong for two days immediately after the grafts.  Gala bud break on 3/31 blossoms appeared 4/8.  Cecille, Double Delight, and Mr. Lincoln roses grafted onto Cox with apples.  

Harvested the last Mandarins 4/19.  

Moved chicken compost onto blueberries and garlic.  Garlic is rusty for the second year in a row.  No more garlic for two years until that dies out.  

Rain 0.5 inch during the first week of April.

Rain total 18 inches.

Friday, April 3, 2009


The apple buds are beginning to push/break on the Cox's Orange Pippin.  That is the receiver (host) for the grafting I plan on doing this year.  Warmer areas located on higher benches along the coast have already pushed bud and the best grafting period is past.  Timing is everything for completely successful grafts.  Timed correctly and done simply, grafts can be 100% successful.

Timing is accomplished by watching the buds on the host tree.  When the buds are only just beginning to change from the winter dormant mode to the first bud on the host tree showing only the smallest bit of color it is time to apply the scions you plan to graft.  You must watch for bud push/break every day because when it begins it will continue quickly.  The scions should be taken without any leaves and stored in a plastic bag in a refrigerator or the coolest spot available like in the shade on the north side of a house.  They should be taken in January at the earliest.

More later.