Monday, October 30, 2006

A Taste of Winter

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Prepping the bees for winter

We did some of the final preparations of the bee hive for winter this week. Our recent inspection showed so much stored honey and nectar that we decided a fall feeding was unnecessary. After the bees filled all available space in the deep frames with honey, they must have got busy building burr comb in nearly every crack and crevice and filling them up. When we pulled the frames to inspect the upper deep, we cracked some of this burr comb and the honey leaked out below. The picture below shows the view down inside the upper deep box, with some of the spilled honey. The capped honey can be seen on the outside frame. Some of the burr comb also remains between adjacent frames.

So with plenty to eat, we needed to focus on treating for the mites. Still being new to this, we chose to go with a natural product and stayed away from the chemical fumigation processes. We chose to go with Apiguard, but some shipping problems delayed our installation until the weather cooled off last week. We began the treatment on October 10th.

We also added some top ventilation to the hive in the form of a homemade 1”x 2” spacer that sits directly above the upper deep box, just below the inner cover. I notched a portion of it to match the middle opening of a standard entrance reducer. This opening sits at the top of the hive, increasing ventilation and air-space above the hive, and makes room for the Apiguard tray. The bees can also learn to use this as a secondary entrance while it is installed.

Finally we installed the mouse-guard entrance reducer. This is a metal cover for the main hive opening that is tacked in place and has small holes for the bees to enter & exit. It helps them defend the hive against raiding bees and keeps the mice out. The upper spacer and the mouse-guard can be seen in the photo below:

Sunday, October 01, 2006

2006 Harvest Summary

As of Oct 1st, most of the 2006 harvest is over. We had a very early freeze this year, which hit us on September 17th. This ended the production more than a month earlier than in recent years. We've also had a severe draught this year, with only 4 inches of rainfall between April 1st and September 30th. The spring was very, very dry with only 1 inch of rain for the critical period between April 1 and June 30. We kept the irrigation going in the garden this year at normal levels, but it doesn't seem to satisfy in the same way as natural rain. We cut the watering of the lawn areas way back to barely maintain life in the lawn and the trees.

One notable difference this year was the addition of the bees. They arrived too late for the spring fruit blossoms and perhaps as a result, or maybe from the draught we had virtually no fruit harvest this year. No apples, no cherries, no blueberries, no strawberries, but our vegetables did well overall with a total production of 801 lbs.
  • This year our overall champion for single plant production goes to Colin's pumpkin which produced 112 lbs.
  • We set new records this year for production of carrots, cucumbers, garlic, tomatoes, peppers and rhubarb
  • And we harvested our first honey!

This year's harvest totals compared to last year:

  • Cabbage: 11.2 lbs (new)
  • Cantaloupe 10.3 lbs (new)
  • Carrots: 74 lbs (up 89%) [updated 11/27/06]
  • Cucumber: 83 lbs (up more than 2x previous record)
  • Garlic: 4.2 lbs (up 24%)
  • Green Beans: 15.4 lbs (up 57%)
  • Honey: 48.5 lbs (new)
  • Mixed Salad Greens: 5.8 lbs (down 49%)
  • Onions: 23.4 lbs (up 23%)
  • Peppers: 54.4 lbs (up 11%)
  • Pumpkins: 121 lbs (down 25%)
  • Rhubarb: 23.3 lbs (up more than 2x previous record)
  • All Squash: 83.3 lbs (down 48%)
  • Tomatoes: 175.7 lbs (up more than 100 lbs!)