Friday, October 22, 2010

Fall = Harvest Moon + Fireplace

What better way to spend a cozy night at home than with a roaring fire.  However, having a family of animals that lives in the barn requires periodic trips, no matter the time of day, to check on their well being.  The colder it gets the more hay the horses need to help keep them warm (in horses digesting guts = warmer horses) so regardless of how much I would rather bunker down with Sarah and the cats on the couch duty calls.  In the cold the walk to the barn can be less than pleasant, especially if it's dark.  Add snow, yea, I'd much rather stay on the couch.  Once you get there however the barn is a cozy refuge with a soundtrack of munching horses nickering with the excitement of fresh hay, a snoring pig, Bad Blake chit chatting with me and drowsy chickens.  (sidenote: You should see the amazing work that our "resident contractor," aka my dad, has done in the barn.  STUNNING!)
Where am I headed with this?  On this particular night it appears that we have a harvest (full) moon.  Its beauty stopped me dead in my tracks (go get camera-then resume being stopped!).  It is so bright out tonight as a result and the clouds are whipping past it.  Not a bad reason to be away from the fire briefly.

and I couldn't resist taking some photos of night-time leaves: 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How a Queen Bee Becomes a Queen Bee...

Many of you have been asking how a queen bee becomes a queen bee.  Rather than re-invent the wheel, this is a very good article that will explain it to you.  In light of taking my two hives, that used to be one, became two and are now back together again as one, this article should help shed some light on the (re)queening process.  Each hive had its own queen now they must decide if one of those queens will be THE queen or the hive will choose an entirely different new queen.  I find it so very interesting that the hive picks the queen and does so by feeding her what is called "royal jelly."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bee Update: Two Became One, again. Period (part 2)

For those of you that are new to the blog or did not get to read the previous bee hive update here is the link:
The short version is that a portion of what I will call hive A swarmed and we made a second hive, Hive B, out of the swarm, so I now have 2 hives.  I have decided to recombine them because Hive B has not utilized all of its frames so they may not have enough to survive on through the winter.  (editors note: for those of you that read the first edition of this post, as of yesterday I was going to keep the 2 hives separate but for some reason my gut kept telling me to combine them-that seemed to be what was best for the bees at this point.  So today I did just that.)

The bees have been busy as summer turned to fall.  The crop of golden rod that we get each September into October is heaven on earth for bees.  The use the pollen from the golden rod to make a lot of nectar and in turn honey.  If our hive hadn't split in two we might be getting honey this year but as it stands we will not.  I will let the bees use whatever they have made to get them through the long cold winter as they will feed on it throughout.
Take a look closely at the yellow "beads" on the legs of the bees as they come in for a landing.  That is the pollen that they get from the golden rod and bring back to the hive.  Pretty incredible animals!  I took these photos a few weeks ago when the weather was still relatively warm and the golden rod was still in bloom.  As it gets colder and rainier we are seeing less of the bees as they too bunker down.

The following photos of me in my bee jacket are courtesy of my dad, Jerry, who took them today while I was working on Hive A.

Removing the cover...

Prying the top "super" off.  The bees glue each hive component together with stuff called propylus which is thick, hard and ultra sticky.  Stradavarious used to use it on his violins. 

Here I have already removed the super, which the bees did not use at all.  The frames that I used were made of plastic foundation and the bees resisted it.  The bottom section is called the brood box where all the baby bees are made as is honey etc.  The super is for honey only and baby bees are not made there.  Kind of bummed that they did not use it but as long as brood box is full they will be set for winter.   Next spring I will put the super back on and coat the plastic foundation in bees wax to encourage them to use it. 

First I moved Hive B over to Hive A and put it on top of A.  I put a "feeder" on the hive in place of the super and I am about to pour a sugar solution in the feeder to feed the bees heavily to get them ready for winter.  Since there are most likely 2 queens, 1 per original hive, they will have to work it out as the tow hives once again merge into one.  I wonder if old friends will recognize each other?

You can see how thick the sugar solution is: 2 parts sugar to 1 part water.

That is your truly (the small white thing in the center)...

Here is a cluster of bees hanging on to the queen excluder that I removed from the hive.  The excluder is no longer needed when the super is not being used.  The excluder is used to keep the queen from entering the super so that she remains in the brood box only.  The spaces between are only large enough for the other bees to get through.  The queen is too big to do so.

So two, that were one and became two, are now one again.  We'll see how it goes.  Some of the bees from Hive B that were not in the hive when I moved it to the Hive A location were confused when they could not find home.  I have placed a temporary box where their home was in hopes of gathering them to move them as well.  I put some of the components from their original hive there so that they recognize the smell.

Our Horses Welcome Fall

Ember and Czar have been loving the cooler weather having a run in the pasture last week.

It's hard to keep a white horse clean!  Sounds like a country song.  It's actually impossible.  I gave Czar a bath last weekend and he immeditately rolled in the mud!

No we did not get a camel!  Czar is always very curious about the camera.

The horses love the morning around here as much as I do.

This photo of Ember was taken by my dad, Jerry, today as he and I worked on the fences.  I have been planning a new pasture fence that I will either put in this fall or next spring.  Either way the pasture in back will soon be closed to the horses as it is taking a beating with the ground being soft.  A good portion of it was closed off to the horses all summer in order to give it a chance to re-establish itself.  The horses have been more than patient and I can't wait to let them out in the 'new pasture' next spring.

Autumn's Here!

This is one of my favorite views on the property.  I am standing at the northeast corner looking to the southwest.  Stunning!

Fall sunrise...

"Endless rain, endless rain" = endless MUD!  We don't typically get this much rain in the fall.  The mud has been worse than it was this past spring. 

ps: for more pleasant photos and musings on fall please visit my mom's blog here: 

Nothing Says Fall Like a Trip to Allegany State Park

For those of you that live in the WNY area you know well that fall is arguable our best season.  You get the sun of summer with a bit of crispness in the air, the smell of leaves, pumpkins, sweaters and cider.  Halloween is not far away and fall is the start of that time of year that brings families close together for the holidays: Thanksgiving, Hannukah or Christmas, New Years.  Fall TV is on at night and you no longer feel bad about wanting to bunker down on the couch in front of a fire.  This fall has been a mixed bag.  Tons of rain with intermittent sun.  Last weekend was the ideal fall weather that I speak of so Sarah, Traveler and I took a ride to Allegany State Park.  It has always been one of my favorite places since childhood and it screams fall this time of year!  If you've never been I encourage you to go.  It's in Salamanca, NY just south of Ellicottville, NY.

Most handsome dog ever!  It's true, don't even bother to argue with me!

Beautiful wife, handsome dog!  Exactly where this photo was taken in the park is where a few years ago the three of us went to watch the sled dog races that they have there each year.  Sure does look different in October than it does in February.

Alaskan Malamutes are typically not much for water nor does Traveler get much opportunity to go in water so we were surprised to see him go in so eagerly.  It was very cute as he waded around!

Chickens Adjusting to the Cold

As the days get short and the nights get cold the chickens of Czar of the Woods Farm have some adjusting to do.  No longer do they get to spend the days in the warm sun until late into the evening.  Now they make the most of their time outside catching the sun while they can and trying to stay dry in this very wet fall that we have had so far.

The chicken on the left is a Black Cochin and we call her "Penguin".  When she was a chick she was white and black and looked like a miniature penguin.  The chicken to her right is a White Cochin and we call her "Special One".  Cochins, even as chicks, have feathered feet and walk somewhat awkwardly,if not downright special.  She is a gorgeous bird and we jokingly call her our show chicken!

The inside of the coop is quite cozy!  The roost is the elevated structure on the right and the next boxes are at the back with hemlock branches hanging above them for added coziness.  Bottom left you will see the door to the outside run (where the ramp is).  The chickens here have it good even though they have yet to start earning their keep.  They were born May 1st and should start laying eggs any day now.  For any of you that are interested let me know and I'll let you know when I have enough.

Morgan Welcomes Fall

Morgan (our Vietnamese Pot Bellied Pig) took advantage of the beautiful weather that we had last weekend to catch some sun before she doesn't see it until next May!

You know she's is content when her little legs stick up when she is sleeping!

So close and yet so far!  Those same little legs can't get her up onto the hammock so the next best thing is to lay next to it.

Took these photos this morning before it starting raining as Morgan rooted around in the leaves.

Future Box Turtle Habitat Location

Next summer we will be rescuing between 3-4 eastern box turtles from the Colorado Reptile Humane Society.  Why Colorado you ask?  One of my best friends, Gangloff, lives in Denver and volunteers for the rescue group. 
Our property is perfect habitat for these turtles and I have already picked out a location.  The orange flags mark the corners of the enclosure and the small trees that you see in the background are baby willow trees that are growing out of a fallen limb from the big mama willow tree.  I will clear some of the high pasture grass out to make the habitat perfectly suitable for the group.  Will post plans once I have them more concrete.  Hi to James Gangloff!